NTS LogoSkeptical News for 22 March 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Creationism to be in GCSE papers

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4793198.stm

Creationism is not taught as a subject in schools

Creationist theories about how the world was made are to be debated in GCSE science lessons in mainstream secondary schools in England.

The subject has been included in a new syllabus for biology produced by the OCR exam board, due out in September.

Critics say the matter should only be discussed in R.E. because there is a danger of elevating religious theories to the status of scientific ones.

The government insists creationism is not being taught as a subject.

The exam board says students need to understand the background to theories.

Its new "Gateway to Science" curriculum asks pupils to examine how organisms become fossilised.

Teachers are asked to "explain that the fossil record has been interpreted differently over time (e.g. creationist interpretation)".

Contentious

OCR, one of the three main exam boards in England, said that the syllabus was intended to make students aware of scientific controversy.

A spokesperson for the exam board said candidates needed to understand the social and historical context to scientific ideas both pre and post Darwin's theory of evolution.

"Candidates are asked to discuss why the opponents of Darwinism thought the way they did and how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence," he said.

"Creationism and 'intelligent design' are not regarded by OCR as scientific theories. They are beliefs that do not lie within scientific understanding."

The area is contentious, with critics claiming that inclusion of creationist or intelligent design theories in science syllabuses unduly elevates them.

James Williams, science course leader at Sussex University's school of education, told the Times Educational Supplement: "This opens a legitimate gate for the inclusion of creationism or intelligent design in science classes as if they were legitimate theories on a par with evolution fact and theory.

"I'm happy for religious theories to be considered in religious education, but not in science where consideration could lead to a false verification of their status as being equal to scientific theories."

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which oversees the development of the national curriculum, in effect guiding exam boards, said discussions of "intelligent design" or "creationism" could take place in science classes.

The National Curriculum Online website says for science at Key Stage 4 (GCSE level): "Students should be taught how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence (for example Darwin's theory of evolution)."

Classes should also cover "ways in which scientific work may be affected by the context in which it takes place (for example, social, historical, moral, spiritual), and how these contexts may affect whether or not ideas are accepted."

A spokesperson for the Department for Education and Skills said: "Neither creationism nor intelligent design are taught as a subject in schools and are not specified in the science curriculum".

In the United States, there have been court cases over what schools should teach.

Last month scientists there protested against a movement to teach intelligent design - the theory that life is so complex that it must be the work of a supernatural designer.

In December, a judge in Pennsylvania said it was unconstitutional to make teachers feature the concept of intelligent design in science lessons.

In England, the Emmanuel Schools Foundation, sponsored by Christian car dealer Sir Peter Vardy, has been criticised for featuring creationist theories in lessons in the three comprehensives it runs.

Sir Peter has said the schools present both Darwin's evolutionary theory and creationism.

In 2003, he said: "One is a theory, the other is a faith position. It is up to the children."

Did Pope John Paul cure nun of Parkinson's?

http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/03/19/vatican.miracle.reut/index.html

Sunday, March 19, 2006; Posted: 7:59 a.m. EST (12:59 GMT)

ROME, Italy (Reuters) -- Last year, Monsignor Slawomir Oder opened one of the many letters he receives from people who think Pope John Paul should be declared a saint.

He felt a strange sensation. This letter was different.

In it, a French nun said she had been suffering from a precocious form of Parkinson's disease but that the symptoms disappeared after she prayed to John Paul for nine days.

"The letter was very simple and delicate, not triumphal," Oder recalled in his cluttered office in the Basilica of St. John Lateran as the Vatican prepares to commemorate the first anniversary of John Paul's death on April 2.

"The way she described what happened was humble, not demanding. She did not say 'I have been cured by a miracle.'"

The softly spoken 46-year-old Oder, who is in charge of promoting the sainthood case for the late Pope for the diocese of Rome, went to France to see the nun and talk to her doctors.

"I am encouraged because from the medical charts and medical history, we so far have not found a human explanation," he said.

John Paul suffered from Parkinson's disease in his last decade. He trembled violently and could not pronounce his words or control his facial muscles. In the end, his throat was so ravaged that he needed tubes for air and food.

An initial probe by doctors and Catholic Church investigators did not find a rational medical explanation for the cure. Investigators will now start a more formal and detailed inquiry of the suspected miracle cure. 'Reputation of holiness'

Last May, Pope Benedict put his predecessor on the fast track to sainthood by dispensing with Church rules that normally impose a five-year waiting period after a candidate's death before the procedure that leads to sainthood can even start.

That same month, Rome archdiocese published an edict asking Catholics to come forward with evidence "in favor or against" John Paul's reputation of holiness.

One proven miracle is required after John Paul's death for beatification -- the first step to sainthood. The miracle must be the result of prayers asking the dead pope to intercede with God. Another would be necessary for full sainthood.

The French nun, whom Oder declined to identify, worked to help unwed mothers keep their babies rather than abort.

"I see this as a sign of God's creativity because there are two aspects that are particularly linked to John Paul," he said.

"First, she had the same illness we all saw in him in his last years. Second, she was dedicated to helping life in its early stages and we all know how dear defending life from the moment of conception was to John Paul," he said.

Many Catholics are convinced of John Paul's holiness. Crowds at his funeral chanted "Santo Subito" ("Make him a saint now").

Oder, who is charged with compiling the evidence into a long report for the Vatican, has received more than 3,000 e-mails or letters from every continent, most from people professing to have been helped after praying to the pope. 'Shards of a relic'

Others say they need help with a problem. Still others ask for a relic of the late pope and usually get a tiny thread of his white cassock glued to a card with his picture and marked "ex indumentis," Latin for "from the clothing."

Twice as many letters, around 800, came from Spanish-speaking countries as from the pope's native Poland.

"There has been incredible interest ... I am always feeling people breathing down my back asking 'when is everything going to be ready?' I don't see this as pressure but rather as a sign of affection so many people had for John Paul," Oder said.

Pope Benedict will travel to Poland in May and while many there would like to see swift movement towards beatification, Oder said there was no pressure from the Vatican.

"We are not going to allow ourselves any shortcuts. We are doing this with the utmost seriousness," he said.

Oder will send documentation on John Paul's life and his "reputation for holiness" to the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

If the Congregation approves the cause -- seen as certain -- Pope Benedict will issue a decree recognizing his predecessor's "heroic virtues." If a miracle is definitively recognized, John Paul will then move on to beatification.

In past centuries, the saint-making procedure was often long and expensive, but modern communications have made it faster.

Many Catholics believe John Paul's life of suffering and service was clear to all, and many who knew or worked with him are alive. This will speed things up significantly.

Oder said he was also processing testimony from people who believed John Paul should not be made a saint.

In December, 11 dissident theologians said they opposed sainthood, saying the Church should also consider the "negative evaluation" liberal critics have of his 27-year papacy.

"It would be unthinkable that someone with such a great, rich, varied background, who had so much impact on history, would not prompt criticism," Oder said, adding those who wrote to him to oppose sainthood accounted for less than one percent."

"This process is something that has to be done in all seriousness, not only to demonstrate his holiness ... but above all for history, to leave behind all the richness of this man and all his contribution to the life of the Church."

Copyright 2006 Reuters.

CU professor explores origins of life

http://www.longmontfyi.com/Local-Story.asp?id=6748

Publish Date: 3/19/2006

Focus on divisive evolution vs. intelligent design debate

By Erin Feese The Daily Times-Call

The origins of life are mystifying and intriguing, as well as controversial. Sometimes it is hard to know what to believe.

Jamie Nagle, associate professor of physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder, explored this dilemma with his talk, "Evolution, Intelligent Design Creationism and Physics."

Nagle began his Saturday afternoon lecture by highlighting some of the mentions of evolution and intelligent design in recent news.

For instance, Georgia state school superintendent Kathy Cox proposed removing the word "evolution" from the the high school biology curriculum and replacing it with the phrase, "biological changes over time."

Another example Nagle mentioned was President Bush's comment saying he believes intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution as competing theories so students could be exposed to both ideas.

However, Nagle went on to explore whether evolution and intelligent design have the same scientific merit.

Evolution is generally defined as the theory that life on Earth has developed from a common ancestor.

The definition of intelligent design is harder to pinpoint.

"It's more than just a belief in God or an intelligent Creator," Nagle said.

Even members of the Discovery Institute, who have effectively lobbied many states to promote intelligent design, do not agree on an exact definition.

Some intelligent design proponents believe all species were created exactly how they are now and Earth is only 10,000 years old, while others believe Earth is billions of years old and early molecular structure indicate intelligent design.

Nagle said supporters of intelligent design often demean evolution as "just a theory," but this disregards the scientific process that goes into developing a theory.

He said no one would tell Einstein his Theory of Relativity was "just" a theory.

Science is "more than words," he said.

To demonstrate his point, Nagle took a bowling ball suspended from the ceiling and held it to his face. He then let the ball fall away and then swing back toward him, flinching ever so slightly as the ball nearly brushed the tip of his nose.

Nagle said he had confidence that the bowling ball would not smack him in the face because of tried and true laws of physics.

He said science is a process in which accuracy and sophistication increases over time.

"One of the greatest strengths of scientists is their willingness to change their mind when new evidence comes to light," he said.

Intelligent design arguments are not backed up by scientific research or testing, despite offers of research funding from organization such as the Templeton Foundation, which is devoted to exploring links between theology and science, Nagle said.

Furthermore, there are more than 100,000 scientific publications on evolution in peer-reviewed journals, and only three such publications on intelligent design, Nagle said.

He also pointed out the argument that intelligent design is creationism in disguise.

Nagle said the definition of life beginning abruptly through an intelligent agency is used by both creationists and intelligent design proponents.

Nagle also mentioned a 2004 case in which a Pennsylvania school board was taken to court after attempting to require teaching intelligent design in high school biology.

The U.S. District Court ruled the Discovery's institute's arguments were unsubstantial, and intelligent design was a re-labeling of creationism.

"Intelligent design, as detailed in this talk, is not only not a science, but an attack on science and an attack on the pursuit of scientific knowledge," he said.

Erin Feese can be reached at 303-684-5336, or by e-mail at tcnewsintern1@times-call.com.

South Park 'declares war' on Scientology

http://breakingnews.iol.ie/entertainment/story.asp?j=176840998&p=y7684y7x4

22/03/2006 - 13:31:50

Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of the animated cable television satire 'South Park', are digging in against the celebrity-endorsed religion after a controversial episode mocking outspoken Scientologist Tom Cruise was yanked abruptly from the Comedy Central schedule.

There are rumours that pressure from Tom Cruise led to the episode's departure.

"So, Scientology, you may have won this battle, but the million-year war for Earth has just begun!" the 'South Park' creators said in an article, blending a parody of megalomaniac overtones, nonsense words and cult-like apocalyptic concepts.

They go on to say: "You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail!"

The battle began in earnest last week when Isaac Hayes, another celebrity Scientologist and longtime show member - the voice of the character Chef - quit the show, saying he could no longer tolerate its religious "intolerance and bigotry."

Move Over Intelligent Design, Here Comes Bhartiya Creationism

http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Mar06/Ravishankar22.htm

by Ra Ravishankar www.dissidentvoice.org

March 22, 2006

Even as the intelligent design controversy rages on, California recently witnessed a concerted push by a coalition of three Hindutva (Hindu supremacist) groups -- Hindu Education Foundation, Vedic Foundation and the Hindu American Foundation -- to doctor sixth grade social science textbooks. Their strong ideological and organizational links with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in India makes them all the more dangerous, for any success here would provide a much-needed fillip to the RSS family of organizations in India. [1] Fortunately, interventions by a group of Indologists led by Professor Michael Witzel and strong mobilizations by the South Asian community resulted in a resounding defeat for the Hindutva groups.

As repeatedly pointed out by groups at the forefront of the California struggle, the edits proposed by the Hindutva groups sought to negate the "great pluralism within Hindu practice, as well as the religious diversity within Indian society." [2] For this purpose, the Hindutva forces hired the PR firm Ruder Finn which has a reputation of targeting liberals, feminists and Jews and mobilizing public opinion for American intervention in the Balkans. [3] However, "His Divinity, Dharm Chakrvarti" Swami Prakashanand Saraswati, the spiritual leader of the Texas-based Vedic Foundation has dug them such a deep hole that even Ruder Finn –- with all its ruthlessness -– would have a hard time salvaging any respectability for its clients. Saraswati's magnum opus, "The true history and the religion of India", reeks of megalomania from start to finish and is bound to be an embarrassment for any practicing Hindu. [4]

If Saraswati were one of those dime-a-dozen Swamis, his book could have been dismissed as a failed attempt at humor. However, as the Vedic Foundation's aggressive posturing in California demonstrated, they are out to mythologize history and science. In the last few decades, the rationalist currents in Indian philosophy have gradually been supplanted by the ideology of Hindutva and the megalomania of the Vedic Foundation nicely dovetails into the Hindutva agenda. [5] What follows is a fictional account of a tκte-ΰ-tκte between Prakashanand Saraswati and a Hindutva activist; except for questions #6 and #7, Saraswati's responses are taken almost verbatim from his book.

Q1: The Western mind seems incapable of comprehending the significance of our sacred places and rivers. Why would anyone want to take a dip in the dirty waters of say, the river Ganges, they ask. [6]

A: The holy rivers or places that come in the Puranas eternally exist as the Divine personalities, or the Divine existences in the Divine abode of the supreme God. Their representation in the from of rivers or places on the land of India is a kind of holy manifestation of the Divinity on the material plane for the devotional benefit of the devotees of God, just like the Vedas and the Puranas are in a book form in the material world and they are in their Divine form in the Divine world.

Q2: How different are the western religions from our Bhartiya religion? [7]

A: In no way could there be any comparison of the western religions (which are based on mythologies) with the Hindu Vedic religion which is eternal, universal and is directly revealed by the supreme God.

Q3: The California textbooks refer to some of our sacred texts as myths ...

A: Divine writings cannot be analyzed in a material way. How could a worldly being, possessed with the vehemence of his own passions and desires, try to argue with the writings of Sages and Saints whose entire life was a divine benevolence for the souls of the world? You should know that all of our religious writings are Divine facts, and facts always remain facts, they cannot become myths. Using the word myth for our religious history is a serious spiritual transgression.

Q4: In the California struggle, the anti-Hindu side has gotten a lot of support from scholars and academics specializing in South Asia. Is this of any consequence?

A: It is a fact that in the world almost all the academic literature in English about Hinduism, even by Hindu writers, bears the western influence, and that, none of these books represent the correct view of total authentic Hinduism. Historians forget that one cannot determine the history of Bharatvarsh on meager archaeological findings of coins, toys and pots. Whereas the general history of Bharatvarsh is already written in its scriptures and the Puranas whose texts and the philosophical descriptions are the outcome of the Gracious and benevolent minds of eternal Saints.

Also, arguing about the proven facts of the Bhartiya history (which are re-authenticated by our great Masters) by a worldly person (even if he is a higher degree holder) who is attached to his intellectual, emotional and sensual enjoyments of a pure worldly nature, is like a school going science student, who has read some science fiction stories, happens to visit NASA Research Institute and sneaks into the research chamber and starts telling the scientists how they are. But, this is the age of the freedom of speech, anyone could say anything; still the fact remains the fact and the fiction remains the fiction.

Q5. But, Swamiji, some people dismiss such attitudes as anti-intellectualistic ...

A: Some people have a critical nature and a leaning towards non-Godliness which is the sign of the impiousness of their heart and the biased structure of their mind. It is the nature of such people that they cannot tolerate to read or hear about the authentic and eternal Divineness of Bhartiya religion and Bhartiya history which is described in the Puranas especially in the Bhagwatam. It is thus wise to leave them to live with their own beliefs and don't try to unnecessarily argue with them to accept the right thing.

Q6: Swamiji, you write in your book: "We find that the ancient society of Greece had adopted certain social customs that were prevailing in India. Such as: the husband headed the family and the wife ran the household affairs; parents arranged and decided their children's marriage; a girl was controlled and protected by her parents before marriage and by her husband after marriage; and many more such customs." The California textbooks say the same -- that "men had many more rights than women" -- but the Hindu Education Foundation has called this a distortion of truth and the Hindu American Foundation has threatened to sue the California State Board over this (and other things).

A: I don't take much interest in such worldly matters, puthra (son).

Q7: In two years, Texas school textbooks (dealing with Indian history) will be up for review. "Anything is possible in Bush-land" your devotees say, and a friend has claimed that the "Hindu American community of Texas has already started gearing up for quite some time now, and has been historically very well organized for over a decade." What are your thoughts on this fight closer home?

A: Puthra, the whole brahmand (universe) is the creation of our Lord. Such geographical differences don't matter to us Swamis; California or Texas or New Delhi, it's all the same for us. And if we don't succeed the first time, we won't quit. As Swami Vivekanand said: "Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached."

Q8: Swamiji, could you comment on the Divinity of our scriptures?

A: Bhartiya scriptures are the Divine powers eternally residing in the Divine abode of God. With the will of God they are introduced in the world through Brahma who transfers this knowledge to the Rishis (Sages). Later on those Rishis reproduce them in the form of scriptures; their very first manifestation was trillions of years ago when our Brahmand (universe) along with the planetary system was originally created by Brahma. Our scriptures also reveal the various sciences (Sanskrit grammar and language, astrology, sociology, defense and medicine etc.) for the good of the people of the world in general. It is an axiom that everything that is produced by God is eternal, because God is eternal. Thus, the knowledge of God and the knowledge of the path to God are both eternal, and the scriptures containing those knowledges along with the Sanskrit language are also eternal. And the Vedas and the Upanishads themselves reveal their own eternity along with the other scriptures as well as the Sanskrit grammar also.

Q9: Papal infallibility adds an aura to the Catholic Church. Are Bhartiya scriptures infallible too?

A: Bhartiya must know that our scriptures were produced by God Himself Who is the creator of the entire universe, and they were introduced in the world by Brahma who is the creator of this very brahmand. Thus, they are the absolute truth and there could never be a mistake in their philosophy. Whatever theoretical discrepancies are found between Bhartiya scriptures and the modern science, they are only in the theories of the worldly scientists because they are the products of material minds.

Q10: What can (potential) participants in the 4-week study course (based on your book) offered by the Vedic Foundation learn about Bhartiya scriptures?

A: In the Bhartiya scriptures, sincere intellectuals find all the answers of their intellectual quest; pious scientists find the consolence of their heart and a guideline for their future research; truthful scholars find the philosophy of their liking that opens the path to God; and the selfless devotees of God find such a sure and simple path of devotion and adoration to their beloved God that fills their heart and mind with the sweetness of the devotional love. An impious mind does not accept the Divine truth.

Q11: Thanks, Swamiji, for your concise definitions of sincerity, piety, truthfulness and selflessness. But why have the scientists ignored the wealth of knowledge in our scriptures, and instead propounded such fantastic theories as the Big Bang? Are they all impious?

A: Hindu scriptures reveal the scientific axioms that are extremely helpful in the research and the development of science. But, the intelligentsia of the world as well as the researchers of the physical sciences, being skeptical of Hindu religion, never thought of using the scientific knowledge of the Upanishads and the Puranas to promote their study and researches in the right direction. Had they trusted the Divine greatness of our scriptures, the scientific achievements of the world would have been much more positive, productive and directed towards the right direction.

Q12: Do our scriptures discuss the science of creation?

A: Of course, they do! Our scriptures describe the origin, evolution and the creation of this universe which is apparently the manifestation of an endless, eternal and lifeless energy that works with the help of God and involves unlimited number of infinitesimal souls which remain under its bondage. They are the manifestations of the same Divine power which has created this universe and so they bear the true principles of the creation and the evolution science. According to the Bhagwatam, which represents the total knowledge of all the Bhartiya scriptures, our planetary system (along with all the celestial abodes) was originally created by Brahma 155.5219719616 trillion years ago.

Q13: Thanks, Swamiji. Such accurate estimates of the age of the universe are indeed a tribute to Vedic astronomy and mathematics. However, when Christian theories of creation have failed in the west, how can we hope for acceptance of the Bhartiya theory of creation?

A: One thing we must know is that most of the scientists, archaeologists and geologists, who directly deal with the natural phenomena all the time in their life, do not believe in God; because the dogmatic God of the Bible does not appeal to their intellect and they are mostly unaware of the universal Graciousness of the Hindu religion. So, they don't want to bring God into their theory. However, I share Dr. Deendayal Khandelwal's hope that "the facts brought to light in this book about creation and languages will lead to new research in the fields of anthropology and astronomy and will lead (both Indians and non-Indians) to search for new directions for research in the fields of physical sciences based on the Hindu scriptural statements." I also hope that more people will echo the thoughts of Dr. Mahesh Mehta, founder of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America: "The time has come that the scientific knowledges of the Upanishads in relation to the Creation should be considered as a guideline for further researches in cosmology."

Q14: Your thoughts on Sanskrit ...

A: Sanskrit is the language of the Divine abodes, which are inhabited with unlimited Saints who are always drowned in the felicity of the Bliss of their beloved God. Being the Divine language it is perfect by its own nature. The perfection of the pronunciation and the uniqueness of the grammar that stays the same in all the ages (from the very beginning of human civilization and up till today) are such features which themselves prove that Sanskrit is not man-made; it is a divine gift to the people of this world. Sanskrit language has never had any dialect, and in every age and in every corner of this brahmand (and the earth planet) it always remains the same. To understand the Divine greatness of the Sanskrit language, you have to know the origination and the shortcomings of the western languages.

Q15: For the uninitiated, could you describe the salient features of our religion?

A: The religion of Bharatvarsh is the direct descension of the Grace of God which is manifested in the form of our Divine scriptures. They reveal the total philosophy of each and every aspect of God and the creation of this universe, and, at the same time, they also reveal the process of God realization with all the necessary informations, whatever a devotee may need during his devotional period ... The history and the religion of Bharatvarsh are not like the history and the religion of the western world which contains the accounts and the ideologies of the material beings; this is the description of the Divine personalities, Divine acts of our Sages and Saints, Divine descensions, and the knowledge of the Divine approach to God that enables a soul to receive God realization.

Q16: Thanks, Swamiji, that was very enlightening! But why doesn't the West appreciate the Divine Divinity of our Divine culture?

A: This is the age of materialism called kaliyug that started 5,101 years ago (3102 BC). The effects of kaliyug are to despise the Divine truth and to elevate the anti-God elements in the name of God. In the last 200 years such despisations were much greater when the English regime tried to destroy the culture and the religion of India by all means, and, during that time, they deliberately produced such derogatory literatures in huge quantities that confused and misguided the whole world. Trying to impose the worldliness of their own culture upon the Hindu faith, they introduced such fictitious theories and disparaging dogmas that produced a derogatory and demeaning view of Hinduism. These publications affected the minds of Hindu writers to such an extent that they also began to think and write on the same lines.

Q17: Swamiji, you say: "Through its unbroken [1,900 million-years-old Ganges valley] civilization, India provides an unbroken Divine facility to obtain the Divine knowledge and to proceed on the path to God realization to the souls of the whole world." How do we account for our current subordinate status?

A: Our Divine teachings were restricted from reaching the souls of the world by extensively promulgating the adverse propagations about Bhartiya (Hindu) religion and culture by the Britishers of that time, and in this way the whole world remained bereft of the true knowledge of God realization. Thus, they deceived and misguided the whole world by such acts that damaged the spiritual growth of millions of people of the world. Its effects have gone so deep in the Hindu society that many of the followers of Hinduism are not bereft of its damaging effects and it shows up in their writings. All this has ruined the image of the Divine greatness of Bhartiya religion and history.

Q18: In your 800-page masterpiece, you describe in copious detail the damage caused to Hindu society by British rule (and also due to the Muslim invasions). I am glad that there's hardly any mention of caste in your book, all this noise about caste and caste-based discrimination is very unnerving and so anti-Hindu.

The swami flashes a knowing smile and takes off on his Pushpak Vimana, "which could fly at the speed of thought" [8]

Ra Ravishankar is a graduate student in Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He can be reached at: ra.ravishankar@gmail.com.

NOTES

1) The California struggle's significance for the Sangh Parivar is best illustrated by the Organiser's (the RSS's English mouthpiece) keen interest in this issue, the active participation of numerous Hindutva ideologues from India, and this premature proclamation of victory by an activist during a global RSS meeting held in Ahmedabad in December 2005: "Through the Hindu Education Foundation run by the RSS in California, we have succeeded in correcting the misleading information in text books for primary and secondary classes." [The Times of India, Ahmedabad Edition, Dec 31, 2005] The political significance of this struggle was not lost on the other side as well, as numerous activist (including Dalit) groups and academics who had fought against the RSS's saffronization project in India also wrote to the Board

2) Friends of South Asia is an excellent resource page for the California struggle. For a concise overview of this issue, see "History Hungama: California Textbook Debate." The South Asia Citizens Web has an excellent resource page on Hindutva attempts at writing history in India.

3) Ruder Finn's President James Harff once said, "We are not paid to be moral." That he really meant what he said is evident from Ruder Finn's activities in the past few years and their current support of Hindutva. For more on Ruder Finn, see PRWatch.org.

4) Not surprisingly, the book has won laurels from senior Hindutva ideologues like Tarun Vijay [Editor of the RSS's Hindi weekly, Panchjanya], Vishnu Hari Dalmia (President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and Mahesh Mehta (founder of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America).

5) The invention of a distant Golden Age is one of the cornerstones of the Hindutva ideology. As Christopher Jaffrelot explains, upper caste Hindus sought to maintain the basic elements of the (hierarchical) traditional social order by simultaneously stigmatizing and emulating those who allegedly threatened Hindu society. "The tension between cultural preservation and modernization was solved through the invention of a distant Golden Age which was both indigenous and in accord with modern values." Prakashanand Saraswati's fulfils both objectives -- it invents a Golden past whose accomplishments not only measure up well against the present, but were better in all respects!

6) White America is often uncritical of its own practices while sneering at others' irrationality, but that doesn't make the latter any more respectable. Institutional racism cannot be fought by glorifying irrational practices and beliefs as minority rights, as the Hindutva forces unsuccessfully attempted in California. Hindutva's cynical invocation of minority rights in California, even as their Indian buddies are celebrating one of their Nazi-loving leaders, is just one more example of their doublespeak. [Golwalkar, the second dictator of the RSS, endorsed the Nazi Holocaust and called it "a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by." For more on Golwalkar, visit here.

7) As Saraswati claims (and the RSS would gladly agree): "'Bhartiya' and 'Hindu' terms are synonymous. But when an emphasis is needed to represent the spirituality of India we normally use the terms Bhartiya and Bharatvarsh. Bharatvarsh (and its short term Bharat) is the original Sanskrit term for India; and, that which is related to Bharatvarsh is called Bhartiya."

8) The Hindu Education Foundation's "resources on Hinduism" page points to this website that seeks to historify the mythical Pushpak Vimana "which could fly at the speed of thought"!


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Actor Charlie Sheen Questions Official 9/11 Story

http://www.wnymedia.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1164

Written by PrisonPlanet.com Tuesday, 21 March 2006

Actor Charlie Sheen Questions Official 9/11 Story

Calls for truly independent investigation, joins growing ranks of prominent credible whistleblowers

Alex Jones & Paul Joseph Watson/Prison Planet.com

March 20 2006

Actor Charlie Sheen has joined a growing army of other highly credible public figures in questioning the official story of 9/11 and calling for a new independent investigation of the attack and the circumstances surrounding it.

Over the past two years, scores of highly regarded individuals have gone public to express their serious doubts about 9/11. These include former presidential advisor and CIA analyst Ray McGovern, the father of Reaganomics and former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury Paul Craig Roberts, BYU physics Professor Steven Jones, former German defense minister Andreas von Buelow, former MI5 officer David Shayler, former Blair cabinet member Michael Meacher, former Chief Economist for the Department of Labor during President George W. Bush's first term Morgan Reynolds and many more.

Speaking to The Alex Jones Show on the GCN Radio Network, the star of current hit comedy show Two and a Half Men and dozens of movies including Platoon and Young Guns, Sheen elaborated on why he had problems believing the government's version of events.

Sheen agreed that the biggest conspiracy theory was put out by the government itself and prefaced his argument by quoting Theodore Roosevelt in stating, "That we are to stand by the President right or wrong is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

"We're not the conspiracy theorists on this particular issue," said Sheen.

"It seems to me like 19 amateurs with box cutters taking over four commercial airliners and hitting 75% of their targets, that feels like a conspiracy theory. It raises a lot of questions."

Sheen described the climate of acceptance for serious discussion about 9/11 as being far more fertile than it was a couple of years ago.

"It feels like from the people I talk to in and around my circles, it seems like the worm is turning."

Suspicious collapse of buildings

Sheen described his immediate skepticism regarding the official reason for the collapse of the twin towers and building 7 on the day of 9/11.

"I was up early and we were gonna do a pre-shoot on Spin City, the show I used to do, I was watching the news and the north tower was burning. I saw the south tower hit live, that famous wide shot where it disappears behind the building and then we see the tremendous fireball."

"There was a feeling, it just didn't look any commercial jetliner I've flown on any time in my life and then when the buildings came down later on that day I said to my brother 'call me insane, but did it sorta look like those buildings came down in a controlled demolition'?"

Sheen said that most people's gut instinct, that the buildings had been deliberately imploded, was washed away by the incessant flood of the official version of events from day one.

Sheen questioned the plausibility of a fireballs traveling 110 feet down an elevator shaft and causing damage to the lobbies of the towers as seen in video footage, especially when contrasted with eyewitness accounts of bombs and explosions in the basement levels of the buildings.

Regarding building 7, which wasn't hit by a plane, Sheen highlighted the use of the term "pull," a demolition industry term for pulling the outer walls of the building towards the center in an implosion, as was used by Larry Silverstein in a September 2002 PBS documentary when he said that the decision to "pull" building 7 was made before its collapse. This technique ensures the building collapses in its own footprint and can clearly be seen during the collapse of building 7 with the classic 'crimp' being visible.

The highly suspicious collapse of building 7 and the twin towers has previously been put under the spotlight by physics Professor Steven Jones and Kevin Ryan of Underwriters Laboratories, the company that certified the steel components used in the construction of the World Trade Center towers.

"The term 'pull' is as common to the demolition world as 'action and 'cut' are to the movie world," said Sheen.

Sheen referenced firefighters in the buildings who were eyewitnesses to demolition style implosions and bombs.

"This is not you or I watching the videos and speculating on what we saw, these are gentlemen inside the buildings at the very point of collapse."

"If there's a problem with building 7 then there's a problem with the whole thing," said Sheen.

Bush's behavior on 9/11

Sheen then questioned President Bush's actions on 9/11 and his location at the Booker Elementary School in Florida. Once Andy Card had whispered to Bush that America was under attack why didn't the secret service immediately whisk Bush away to a secret location?

By remaining at a location where it was publicly known the President would be before 9/11, he was not only putting his own life in danger, but the lives of hundreds of schoolchildren. That is unless the government knew for sure what the targets were beforehand and that President Bush wasn't one of them.

"It seems to me that upon the revelation of that news that the secret service would grab the President as if he was on fire and remove him from that room," said Sheen.

The question of how Bush saw the first plane hit the north tower, when no live footage of that incident was carried, an assertion that Bush repeated twice, was also put under the spotlight.

"I guess one of the perks of being President is that you get access to TV channels that don't exist in the known universe," said Sheen.

"It might lead you to believe that he'd seen similar images in some type of rehearsal as it were, I don't know."

The Pentagon incident

Sheen outlined his disbelief that the official story of what happened at the Pentagon matched the physical evidence.

"Show us this incredible maneuvering, just show it to us. Just show us how this particular plane pulled off these maneuvers. 270 degree turn at 500 miles and hour descending 7,000 feet in two and a half minutes, skimming across treetops the last 500 meters."

We have not been able to confirm that a large commercial airliner hit the Pentagon because the government has seized and refused to release any footage that would show the impact.

"I understand in the interest of national security that maybe not release the Pentagon cameras but what about the Sheraton, what about the gas station, what about the Department of Transportation freeway cam? What about all these shots that had this thing perfectly documented? Instead they put out five frames that they claim not to have authorized, it's really suspicious," said Sheen.

Sheen also questioned how the plane basically disappeared into the Pentagon with next to no wreckage and no indication of what happened to the wing sections.

Concerning how the Bush administration had finalized Afghanistan war plans two days before 9/11 with the massing of 44,000 US troops and 18,000 British troops in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and in addition the call for "some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor," as outlined in the PNAC documents, Sheen stated, "you don't really put those strategies together overnight do you for a major invasion? Those are really well calculated and really well planned."

"Coincidence? We think not," said Sheen and he called the PNAC quotes "emblematic of the arrogance of this administration."

A real investigation

Sheen joined others in calling for a revised and truly independent investigation of 9/11.

Sheen said that "September 11 wasn't the Zapruder film, it was the Zapruder film festival," and that the inquiry had to be, "headed, if this is possible, by some neutral investigative committee. What if we used retired political foreign nationals? What if we used experts that don't have any ties whatsoever to this administration?"

"It is up to us to reveal the truth. It is up to us because we owe it to the families, we owe it to the victims. We owe it to everybody's life who was drastically altered, horrifically that day and forever. We owe it to them to uncover what happened."

Charlie Sheen joins the rest of his great family and notably his father Martin Sheen, who has lambasted for opposing the Iraq war before it had begun yet has now been proven right in triplicate, in using his prominent public platform to stand for truth and justice and we applaud and salute his brave efforts, remembering Mark Twain's quote.

"In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, brave, hated, and scorned. When his cause succeeds however, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot."

Rewriting The Science

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/03/17/60minutes/main1415985_page3.shtml

cbsnews.com

March 19, 2006(CBS) As a government scientist, James Hansen is taking a risk. He says there are things the White House doesn't want you to hear but he's going to say them anyway.

Hansen is arguably the world's leading researcher on global warming. He's the head of NASA's top institute studying the climate. But this imminent scientist tells correspondent Scott Pelley that the Bush administration is restricting who he can talk to and editing what he can say. Politicians, he says, are rewriting the science.

But he didn't hold back speaking to Pelley, telling 60 Minutes what he knows.

Asked if he believes the administration is censoring what he can say to the public, Hansen says: "Or they're censoring whether or not I can say it. I mean, I say what I believe if I'm allowed to say it."

What James Hansen believes is that global warming is accelerating. He points to the melting arctic and to Antarctica, where new data show massive losses of ice to the sea.

Is it fair to say at this point that humans control the climate? Is that possible?

"There's no doubt about that, says Hansen. "The natural changes, the speed of the natural changes is now dwarfed by the changes that humans are making to the atmosphere and to the surface."

Those human changes, he says, are driven by burning fossil fuels that pump out greenhouse gases like CO2, carbon dioxide. Hansen says his research shows that man has just 10 years to reduce greenhouse gases before global warming reaches what he calls a tipping point and becomes unstoppable. He says the White House is blocking that message.

"In my more than three decades in the government I've never witnessed such restrictions on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public," says Hansen.

Restrictions like this e-mail Hansen's institute received from NASA in 2004. " there is a new review process ," the e-mail read. "The White House (is) now reviewing all climate related press releases," it continued.

Why the scrutiny of Hansen's work? Well, his Goddard Institute for Space Studies is the source of respected but sobering research on warming. It recently announced 2005 was the warmest year on record. Hansen started at NASA more than 30 years ago, spending nearly all that time studying the earth. How important is his work? 60 Minutes asked someone at the top, Ralph Cicerone, president of the nations leading institute of science, the National Academy of Sciences.

"I can't think of anybody who I would say is better than Hansen. You might argue that there's two or three others as good, but nobody better," says Cicerone.

And Cicerone, whos an atmospheric chemist, said the same thing every leading scientist told 60 Minutes.

"Climate change is really happening," says Cicerone.

Asked what is causing the changes, Cicernone says it's greenhouse gases: "Carbon dioxide and methane, and chlorofluorocarbons and a couple of others, which are all the increases in their concentrations in the air are due to human activities. It's that simple."

But if it is that simple, why do some climate science reports look like they have been heavily edited at the White House? With science labeled "not sufficiently reliable." Its a tone of scientific uncertainty the president set in his first months in office after he pulled out of a global treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"We do not know how much our climate could, or will change in the future," President Bush said in 2001, speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House. "We do not know how fast change will occur, or even how some of our actions could impact it."

Annoyed by the ambiguity, Hansen went public a year and a half ago, saying this about the Bush administration in a talk at the University of Iowa: "I find a willingness to listen only to those portions of scientific results that fit predetermined inflexible positions. This, I believe, is a recipe for environmental disaster."

Since then, NASA has been keeping an eye on Hansen. NASA let Pelley sit down with him but only with a NASA representative taping the interview. Other interviews have been denied.

"I object to the fact that Im not able to freely communicate via the media," says Hansen. "National Public Radio wanted to interview me and they were told they would need to interview someone at NASA headquarters and the comment was made that they didnt want Jim Hansen going on the most liberal media in America. So I dont think that kind of decision should be made on that kind of basis. I think we should be able to communicate the science."

Politically, Hansen calls himself an independent and hes had trouble with both parties. He says, from time to time, the Clinton administration wanted to hear warming was worse that it was. But Hansen refused to spin the science that way.

"Should we be simply doing our science and reporting it rigorously, or to what degree the administration in power has the right to assume that you should be a spokesman for the administration?" asks Hansen. "I've tried to be a straight scientist doing the science and reporting it as best I can."

Dozens of federal agencies report science but much of it is edited at the White House before it is sent to Congress and the public. It appears climate science is edited with a heavy hand. Drafts of climate reports were co-written by Rick Piltz for the federal Climate Change Science Program. But Piltz says his work was edited by the White House to make global warming seem less threatening.

"The strategy of people with a political agenda to avoid this issue is to say there is so much to study way upstream here that we cant even being to discuss impacts and response strategies," says Piltz. "Theres too much uncertainty. It's not the climate scientists that are saying that, its lawyers and politicians."

Piltz worked under the Clinton and Bush administrations. Each year, he helped write a report to Congress called "Our Changing Planet."

Piltz says he is responsible for editing the report and sending a review draft to the White House.

Asked what happens, Piltz says: "It comes back with a large number of edits, handwritten on the hard copy by the chief-of-staff of the Council on Environmental Quality."

Asked who the chief of staff is, Piltz says, "Phil Cooney."

Piltz says Cooney is not a scientist. "He's a lawyer. He was a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, before going into the White House," he says.

Cooney, the former oil industry lobbyist, became chief-of-staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Piltz says Cooney edited climate reports in his own hand. In one report, a line that said earth is undergoing rapid change becomes may be undergoing change. Uncertainty becomes significant remaining uncertainty. One line that says energy production contributes to warming was just crossed out.

"He was obviously passing it through a political screen," says Piltz. "He would put in the word potential or may or weaken or delete text that had to do with the likely consequence of climate change, pump up uncertainty language throughout."

In a report, Piltz says Cooney added this line the uncertainties remain so great as to preclude meaningfully informed decision making. References to human health are marked out. 60 Minutes obtained the drafts from the Government Accountability Project. This edit made it into the final report: the phrase earth may be undergoing change made it into the report to Congress. Piltz says there wasnt room at the White House for those who disagreed, so he resigned.

"Even to raise issues internally is immediately career limiting," says Piltz. "Thats why you will find not too many people in the federal agencies who will speak freely about all the things they know, unless theyre retired or unless theyre ready to resign."

Jim Hansen isn't retiring or resigning because he believes earth is nearing a point of no return. He urged 60 Minutes to look north to the arctic, where temperatures are rising twice as fast as the rest of the world. When 60 Minutes visited Greenland this past August, we saw for ourselves the accelerating melt of the largest ice sheet in the north.

"Here in Greenland about 15 years ago the ice sheet extended to right about where I'm standing now, but today, its back there, between those two hills in the shaded area. Glaciologists call this a melt stream but, these days, its a more like a melt river," Pelley said, standing at the edge of Greenland's ice sheet.

The Bush administration doesnt deny global warming or that man plays a role. The administration is spending billions of dollars on climate research. Hansen gives the White House credit for research but says whats urgent now is action.

"We have to, in the next 10 years, get off this exponential curve and begin to decrease the rate of growth of CO2 emissions," Hansen explains. "And then flatten it out. And before we get to the middle of the century, weve got to be on a declining curve.

"If that doesn't happen in 10 years, then I dont think we can keep global warming under one degree Celsius and that means were going to, that theres a great danger of passing some of these tipping points. If the ice sheets begin to disintegrate, what can you do about it? You cant tie a rope around the ice sheet. You cant build a wall around the ice sheets. It will be a situation that is out of our control."

But that's not a situation you'll find in one federal report submitted for review. Government scientists wanted to tell you about the ice sheets, but before a draft of the report left the White House, the paragraph on glacial melt and flooding was crossed out and this was added: "straying from research strategy into speculative findings and musings here."

Hansen says his words were edited once during a presentation when a top official scolded him for using the word danger.

"I think we know a lot more about the tipping points," says Hansen. "I think we know about the dangers of even a moderate degree of additional global warming about the potential effects in the arctic about the potential effects on the ice sheets."

"You just used that word again that youre not supposed to use danger," Pelley remarks.

"Yeah. Its a danger," Hansen says.

For months, 60 Minutes had been trying to talk with the presidents science advisor. 60 Minutes was finally told he would never be available. Phil Cooney, the editor at the Council on Environmental Quality didnt return 60 Minutes' calls. In June, he left the White House and went to work for Exxon Mobil.

Produced By Catherine Herrick/Bill Owens MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc.

Cultural Indicators of the Paranormal: Tracking the Media/Belief Nexus

Matthew C. Nisbet

March 20, 2006

Scientists have long lamented the public's persistent belief in the paranormal. In this area, recent Gallup polling shows both good news and bad news.

Every few years since 1990 the survey organization has asked Americans whether they believe, don't believe, or are not sure about a range of paranormalphenomena. The good news is that compared to 2001, fewer Americans say they believe in extra-sensory perception, fewer Americans say they believe in the ability to communicate with the dead, and fewer Americans say they believe that extra-terrestrials have visited the Earth. While the percentage believing in telepathy shows change that remains within the margin of error for the two surveys, the percentage saying they don't believe in telepathy has increased. (See figures at end of this column.)

The bad news is that public belief in other forms of paranormal phenomena shows little or no significant change. Specifically, there remains relatively strong belief in psychic/spiritual healing (55% say they believe, 17% say they are unsure, and only 26% say they don't believe), in devil possession (42%, 13%, and 44% across response categories), and in haunted houses (37%, 16%, and 46% respectively).

Tracking paranormal beliefs remains an uncertain business. Unlike major political issues, polling organizations rarely measure paranormal beliefs using exact question wording across years. The Gallup data remain the only consistently administered items that allow for historical analysis. Therefore, absent other poll items, it's not possible to say with confidence whether the 2005 results are a blip or part of a real trend.

To Read More of This Article Visit:
http://www.csicop.org/scienceandmedia/

Matthew C. Nisbet (Ph.D., Cornell University) is Assistant Professor in the School of Communication at The Ohio State University. His research on the interplay between science, media, and politics appears in the journals Communication Research, the Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, the International Journal of Public Opinion Research, Public Opinion Quarterly, and Science Communication. Nisbet maintains the blog FRAMING SCIENCE, which tracks news coverage of technical controversies. Email: nisbetmc@gmail.com

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Lake Monster Resurfaces

by Joe Nickell

"Is there a monster in Lake Champlain?" asked Good Morning America, on their February 22, 2006, program. ABC News had obtained exclusive video footage of "something" just below the surface of the water that was possibly "Champ," the lake's fabled creature. It has been dubbed "North America's Loch Ness Monster."

Two Vermont men, Dick Affolter and his 34-year-old stepson, Pete Bodette—had made the digital recordings the previous summer while fishing from Bodette's boat. ABC consulted two retired FBI forensic image analysts, who concluded that the video appeared authentic, although they could not say what it depicted.

The incident added to a long list of Champ sightings, which have described a chameleonesque creature that is black, gray, brown, moss green, reddish bronze or other color, and is between 10 and 187 feet long, with multiple humps or coils as well as horns or a mane or glowing eyes or "jaws like an alligator "—or none of those features.

To Read More of This article Visit:
http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/

Joe Nickell, Ph.D. (University of Kentucky, 1987), is Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) - an international scientific organization - and investigative columnist for Skeptical Inquirer magazine.

A former professional stage magician (he was Resident Magician at the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame for three years) and private investigator for a world-famous detective agency, Dr. Nickell taught technical writing for several years at the University of Kentucky before taking the full-time position with CSICOP at its offices at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York.

Mind Medicine: What Proof?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content//custom/2006/03/21/CU2006032100647.html

A research review published in 2002 in an Australian medical journal linked transcendental meditation (TM) to decreased hypertension. The authors concluded that the technique was promising for prevention and treatment of heart disease.

A similar review published last year in the Journal of Hypertension found insufficient evidence to conclude whether TM lowers blood pressure.

Inconsistent results like these leave people understandably baffled about the value of so-called mind-body treatments, a branch of alternative and complementary therapy that includes meditation, hypnosis, imagery and mindfulness-based stress reduction. Each of these techniques assumes that altering one's mental state can affect bodily health. Enthusiastic testimonials and gripping media reports notwithstanding, the research record on mind-body medicine remains thin and inconclusive.

Still, these techniques are used, both with and without standard medical treatments, by millions of people seeking relief from conditions ranging from stress to heart disease. Many users report benefits; risks are low. The chart below examines the uses and research findings for several mind-body approaches. Scientific investigation continues.

— January W. Payne

Archbishop: stop teaching creationism

http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,1735731,00.html

Williams backs science over Bible

Stephen Bates, religious affairs correspondent
Tuesday March 21, 2006 The Guardian

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has stepped into the controversy between religious fundamentalists and scientists by saying that he does not believe that creationism - the Bible-based account of the origins of the world - should be taught in schools.

Giving his first, wide-ranging, interview at Lambeth Palace, the archbishop was emphatic in his criticism of creationism being taught in the classroom, as is happening in two city academies founded by the evangelical Christian businessman Sir Peter Vardy and several other schools.

"I think creationism is ... a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories ... if creationism is presented as a stark alternative theory alongside other theories I think there's just been a jarring of categories ... My worry is creationism can end up reducing the doctrine of creation rather than enhancing it," he said.

The debate over creationism or its slightly more sophisticated offshoot, so-called "intelligent design" (ID) which argues that creation is so complex that an intelligent - religious - force must have directed it, has provoked divisions in Britain but nothing like the vehemence or politicisation of the debate in the US. There, under pressure from the religious right, some states are considering giving ID equal prominence to Darwinism, the generally scientifically accepted account of the evolution of species. Most scientists believe that ID is little more than an attempt to smuggle fundamentalist Christianity into science teaching.

States from Ohio to California are considering placing ID it on the curriculum, with President George Bush telling reporters last August that "both sides ought to be properly taught ... so people can understand what the debate is about." The archbishop's remarks place him firmly on the side of science.

Dr Williams spoke of his determination to hold the third-largest Christian denomination together in its row over the place of gay clergy. He was also highly critical of parts of the church in Africa and said he did not wish to be seen as "comic vicar to the nation", speaking out on issues where he can make no difference.

Speaking of the church's situation in Africa, the archbishop issued snubs to two of the region's archbishops. He described the position in central Africa, where Archbishop Bernard Malango has just absolved without trial Bishop Norbert Kunonga of Harare, accused by his parishioners of incitement to murder, as "dismal and deeply problematic" .

Dr Williams also criticised Archbishop Peter Akinola, leader of the largest single national church in the Anglican communion, in Nigeria, who has been accused of encouraging violence against Muslims during recent rioting by warning that Christian youth could retaliate against them. Dr Williams claimed the African primate had not made himself sufficiently clear: "He did not mean to stir up the violence ... I think he meant to issue a warning which certainly has been taken as a threat, an act of provocation."

Speaking of the gay debate which threatens to split the church, Dr Williams insisted he would continue to try to hold the communion together. "I can only say that I think I have got to try ... For us to break apart in an atmosphere of deep mistrust, fierce recrimination and mutual misunderstanding is really not going to be in anybody's good in the long run." But he accepted there might come a moment where the Anglican Communion says "we can't continue, we can't continue with this".

Fears over teaching creationism

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4828238.stm

Creationism is not part of the national curriculum

Schools should not be teaching the Bible-based version of the origins of the world, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

Asked in an interview with the Guardian if he was comfortable with the teaching of creationism in schools, Dr Rowan Williams said: "Ah, not very."

However, he said this did not mean that it should not be discussed.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said creationism was not taught as a subject in schools.

He said: "Neither creationism nor intelligent design are taught as a subject in schools, and are not specified in the science curriculum.

"The National Curriculum for science clearly sets down that pupils should be taught that the fossil record is evidence for evolution, and how variation and selection may lead to evolution or extinction."

If creationism is presented as a stark alternative theory alongside other theories I think there's just been a jarring of categories

Dr Rowan Williams

Dr Williams said: "I think creationism is, in a sense, a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories.

"Whatever the biblical account of creation is, it's not a theory alongside theories. It's not as if the writer of Genesis or whatever sat down and said: 'Well, how am I going to explain all this... I know: in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth'.

"So if creationism is presented as a stark alternative theory alongside other theories I think there's just been a jarring of categories. It's not what it's about."

Asked if it should be taught, he said: "I don't think it should, actually. No, no. And that's different from saying - different from discussing, teaching what creation means.

Darwinism

"For that matter, it's not even the same as saying that Darwinism is - is the only thing that ought to be taught. My worry is creationism can end up reducing the doctrine of creation rather than enhancing it."

The National Curriculum Online website says for science at Key Stage 4 (GCSE level): "Students should be taught how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence (for example Darwin's theory of evolution)."

Classes should also cover "ways in which scientific work may be affected by the context in which it takes place (for example, social, historical, moral, spiritual), and how these contexts may affect whether or not ideas are accepted."

OCR, one of the three main exam boards in England, recently announced that creationist theories were to be debated in GCSE science lessons in mainstream secondary schools in England.

Theory

The exam board said candidates needed to understand the social and historical context to scientific ideas both pre- and post-Darwin's theory of evolution.

A spokesman said: "Creationism and 'intelligent design' are not regarded by OCR as scientific theories. They are beliefs that do not lie within scientific understanding."

The area is contentious, with critics claiming that inclusion of creationist or intelligent design theories in science syllabuses unduly elevates them.

In England, the Emmanuel Schools Foundation, sponsored by Christian car dealer Sir Peter Vardy, has been criticised for featuring creationist theories in lessons in the three comprehensives it runs.

'Faith position'

Sir Peter has said the schools present both Darwin's evolutionary theory and creationism.

In 2003, he said: "One is a theory, the other is a faith position. It is up to the children."

In the United States, there have been court cases over what schools should teach.

Last month scientists there protested against a movement to teach intelligent design - the theory that life is so complex that it must be the work of a supernatural designer.

In December, a judge in Pennsylvania said it was unconstitutional to make teachers feature the concept of intelligent design in science lessons.

South Park 'battling' Scientology

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/4819826.stm

South Park is famed for lampooning religion

South Park's creators have renewed their "battle" with Scientology, after a US TV channel dropped a show which mocked its church and actor Tom Cruise.

"So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun!" Trey Parker and Matt Stone told trade paper Variety.

Comedy Central said the schedule change enabled it to screen two extra episodes featuring Isaac Hayes, who played Chef.

Hayes left South Park this week after objecting to it sending up religion.

Parker and Stone added in their statement to Variety: "Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies."

Curses and drat! You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu!!!

Trey Parker and Matt Stone

Comedy Central's spokesman said the channel wanted to "give Chef an appropriate tribute by airing two episodes he is most known for".

The channel also denied it had axed the episode featuring Cruise after reports of pressure from the actor to drop it from its schedules.

And the actor denied reports suggesting he had threatened not to promote his latest film Mission Impossible: 3 if the episode was broadcast.

The film is being brought out in May by Paramount, which is owned, along with Comedy Central, by Viacom.

"Not true," Cruise's spokesman said about the reports. "I can tell you that he never said that."

Cruise said he had nothing to do with the episode being dropped

Variety reported that the spokesman added: "He never said any such thing about Mission: Impossible 3."

Paramount were unavailable for comment.

Cruise, an outspoken follower of Scientology, starred in the first two Mission Impossible films.

The initial 1996 movie grossed $454m (£250m) worldwide and the second took a total of $546m (£300m) in 2000.

Animated series South Park tells the story of four boys in a dysfunctional Colorado town and regularly deals with sensitive subjects and sends up famous figures.

In a recent episode, one of the gang, Stan, did so well in a Scientology test that church followers thought he was the next L Ron Hubbard, the late science-fiction writer who founded Scientology.

Hayes, 63, had been a regular on South Park since its US TV debut in 1997.

The show was insensitive to "personal spiritual beliefs", Hayes said.

But Stone said Hayes had "never had a problem" until the Scientology Church, to which Hayes belongs, was parodied.


Monday, March 20, 2006

A scientist looks at 'intelligent design'

http://www.evangelical-times.org/Articles/Dec05/Dec05a21.htm

Life in focus

David J. Tyler

As a boy, I was able to use a microscope to explore the world around me. It was fascinating to look at printing in books. Under magnification, the letters are no longer crisp and well formed. Printed pictures are a chaotic mixture of coloured dots. A razor blade has such a jagged edge that it is amazing it can cut at all!

By contrast, living things reveal exquisite details that are unsuspected without magnification. The eye of a fly, the texture of a leaf, the surface of a butterfly wing — these evoke a growing sense of wonder as we uncover new levels of detail. The contrast with manmade objects could hardly be missed!

Looking deeper

Our understanding of the natural world has continued to grow as scientists have painstakingly explored more and more of these levels of detail. The human body, for example, is an extraordinary system of interdependent parts. Whether we look at the workings of the eye, the ear, the liver, the kidneys or the heart, the closer we look the more we find systems so complex and intricate that they boggle our minds.

Looking deeper still, we find that every living cell is a marvel of miniaturisation. Each cell has the molecular equipment to carry out a wide variety of tasks, including the amazing ability to replicate itself. The component parts of cells have all been studied in great detail, only to find more and more evidence of complexity.

When Charles Darwin proposed his views on origins, the cell was thought to be nothing more than a blob of jelly — a simple building block of life. At that time, many found no reason to doubt Darwin's mechanisms for evolutionary change.

However, as scientists got to work with microscopes and other tools, the huge complexity of the living cell emerged. Nevertheless, these scientists were so well schooled in evolutionary theory that they never lost faith — if they looked closely enough, they reasoned, ultimately they would find simplicity.

Molecular machines

Today we know better. Living cells are described as nanotechnology factories, packed with molecular machinery, with vast numbers of different processes going on in a harmonious way. New revelations about cell complexity continue to be announced and they often lead to expressions of astonishment by the researchers involved.

An enormous change of gear in thinking came with the discovery in 1953 of the cell's information system. The genetic code is built into the structure of the DNA molecules that lie at the heart of every living cell.

Chemical units ('nucleotides') of four different kinds are arranged along each DNA molecule. Their function is analogous to the letters of the alphabet. Just as a sequence of letters is used to construct words and then meaningful sentences, so these chemical units arranged in appropriate sequences are used as a template — from which the proteins needed by the cell can be copied.

Just as the arrangement of alphabetical letters on this page constitute a code spelling out a message that you can read and (hopefully!) understand, so the nucleotide sequence strung along the DNA molecule is a code that spells out a meaningful message. Of course, the code has to be read and decoded before it can be used to control actions within the cell. Molecular biologists are only just beginning to work out what is going on.

Codes and computers

The codes we meet most frequently today are computer codes. Intelligent programmers convert real-world problems into a code that is then fed into the computer system. Indeed, both software and hardware have to be intelligently designed, otherwise they would not work together.

The analogy with the genetic code is very close — the biological molecules within the cell are the 'hardware', while the encoded genetic information is equivalent to the 'software'.

In our daily lives, whenever we see coding, transmission and decoding taking place, we know that someone has sent a message. A simple example is making a telephone call. You dial a number (a code) which is transmitted to the telephone exchange and interpreted (decoded) as the telephonic location of the person you are calling. Using that information it rings the phone you are calling, and you know the rest.

Not just noise

The existence of a code points clearly to an intelligent agent at work. Codes do not just 'happen', they have to be designed. One vastly expensive research project is built on this premise — SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.

Huge sums of money are being spent to employ powerful radio-telescopes to search for signals from intelligent life beyond earth. How do scientists hope to distinguish intelligent communication from all the radio 'noise' from outer space? By discovering signals containing — you guessed it — coded information!

Since, by common consent, coded signals point to intelligence, why should biology be any different? Within every living thing there exists an extraordinarily rich and complex coded system. Why should all that have happened just by chance?

No explanation

After enormous effort by the best scientific brains, using advanced technologies, we are just beginning to discover how the genetic code works. The closer we look, the more pointers we find to intelligent design.

For example, the discovery of cases where more than one message is encoded in the same DNA sequence reveals unexpected sophistication. Another example is the mechanism that repairs faulty copying. All these findings provide powerful evidence that an intelligent Designer has been at work.

No one has yet proposed a coherent explanation of how such a complex coding--transmission--decoding system could arise by natural processes alone. Nevertheless, evolutionists persist in their view that, one day, an explanation will be found. It is a case of taking an 'evolutionary belief' position contrary to clear scientific evidences of design.

Russian doll

Over the years, discovery of complexity within complexity made the Darwinian approach to biology less and less convincing. Nevertheless, people held on to the theory, thinking that it could be rescued if simplicity were found at the most fundamental level of living things. Any such hope has now vanished.

It is as if biologists have been given a Russian doll to examine. Open the case of the outer doll and another is found inside. Split that apart and yet another pops out. Molecular biology has now probed the most fundamental level of biological structure possible — the molecules themselves — and still there is no simplicity.

Gradual transformation from simple to complex (as taught by Darwinism) will always be a problem as long as organisms are found to be sophisticated. Darwinists need to find the equivalent of a doll that has something inside that will allow their gradualistic mechanisms to work.

Hallmark of design

What have researchers found? Have they uncovered at the molecular level some simple system on which Darwinian mechanisms could operate? Or is the final doll of the set empty, forever blocking Darwinian-type transformation?

Darwinism has always claimed to explain the origin of complexity. However, the more scientists look at the data the less it appears that evolutionary theory has anything helpful to say on this subject.

Returning to the Russian doll analogy, the last doll of the set has been opened by the molecular biologists. It is empty. There is nothing at the core that can be described as simple.

Complexity exists wherever we look in living things. Consequently, there is no level at which Darwinian processes of transformation can work. This complexity is a major hallmark of design.

The Master's handiwork

Believing the Bible does not mean that we become irrational. The Bible portrays the Christian as one who has been renewed in his or her mind — who has come out of darkness into the light. Included in this mental renewal is a right understanding of the world around us. Here we see the handiwork of our Creator God.

And consider this. If God indeed constructed the genetic code, with all its intricacy and information content, can he not also communicate life-transforming truth to human beings? The Christian faith is concerned with God's speaking directly to our world.

He used prophets and teachers to bring his message to mankind in the form of the Holy Scriptures. Supremely, he has come himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, 'Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father' (John 14:9).

The apostle Paul writes that God's invisible qualities (his eternal power and divine nature) 'have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made' (Romans 1:20). What was apparent in Paul's day is even clearer today, knowing as we do so much more about the things that have been made.

Animals and plants are revealed to be the handiwork of a Master Craftsman, who is wise, powerful and divine. 'How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures' (Psalm 104:24).

For further reading see the author's book Creation — Chance or Design? published by Evangelical Press (available from bookshops or from sales@evangelicalpress.org).

Big boys' toys end riddle of the UFOs

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=VKDYGSOJWAJQFQFIQMFCFFWAVCBQYIV0?xml=/news/2006/03/21/wufo21.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/03/21/ixnewstop.html

By Catherine Elsworth in Los Angeles (Filed: 21/03/2006)

A spate of flying saucer sightings that alarmed residents of Orange County, California, and attracted attention from UFO researchers worldwide have been traced to the garages of a local heart surgeon and engineer.

For the past few months, police have been logging reports of mysterious discs hovering and weaving over Aliso Viejo and nearby towns. In one sighting, recorded on a UFO research website, a witness reported seeing four craft studded with bright blue lights "dance around one another in the night sky".

But now the men behind the UFOs have revealed that they are radio-controlled models and that night flights are not just to shock people but also help sell the craft.

Dr Gaylon Murphy, a cardiovascular surgeon from Aliso Viejo, and Steve Zingali, an engineer in Mission Viejo, built the fleet of carbon fibre-reinforced foam flying saucers in their garages.

The discs are 3ft in diameter, about 1in thick, weigh less than 17oz and can reach 40mph powered by a tiny electric motor. The flashing lights are fitted around the edge of the disc.

"We fly them in formation. It's pretty funny," Dr Murphy told the Los Angeles Times. "People stop, people scream; one cab driver ran his car off the road."

The men have already sold four flight-ready saucers for $1,000 (£570) each.

Not everyone has found the displays entertaining, however. Erik Strong, the manager of a restaurant in Aliso Viejo, accused the duo of scaring his staff by making the discs hover near the restaurant.

"It looked like something right out of a movie, a little too real," said Mr Strong.

Local police chief, Lt Richard Paddock, said the men were not breaking the law. "These guys have really done something quite controversial, scary to some people, quite fun in the eyes of most, and who knows where it's going to go," he said.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

TV health news comes up short

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-he-tvnews13mar13,1,1206196.story

Trying to explain complicated medical subjects in a minute or less can lead to reports that lack context and are often inaccurate, a survey finds.

By Jia-Rui Chong, Times Staff Writer

March 13, 2006

Lemon juice is a good contraceptive. Exercise may cause cancer. And — this just in! — duct tape cures warts.

Local television stations often add health reports to their usual coverage of crime, sports and weather, but the information they dispense is not all that useful, according to a new study. Sometimes it's flat-out wrong.

In the first survey of health information in local television news, researchers found that about 40% of broadcasts in the top 50 markets around the country, including Los Angeles, aired at least one medical story in each news broadcast. But the median airtime for these stories was a slim 33 seconds.

The study also found that most of the health segments lacked important context, such as the prevalence rates for a disease or condition.

And in about 2% of the health reports, which were all taped during October 2002, the information was dangerously skewed, said Dr. James M. Pribble, an emergency physician at the University of Michigan Hospital and lead author of the study, which he conducted with colleagues at the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Four broadcasts, for example, suggested that lemon juice could be used as a contraceptive or prevent HIV transmission, even though the original study, by a scientist at the University of Melbourne, was only conducted in a test tube.

Only one of the broadcasts mentioned that human tests had not been conducted.

Even more harmful, Pribble said, was the suggestion by one news segment that lemon juice could be a substitute for "costly HIV" medications.

"We just want people to understand that you need to take TV news with a grain of salt," Pribble said.

Pribble and his team chose to examine local television news for health information because previous studies have shown that most Americans' main source of information is local television news.

For their study, which was published last week in the American Journal of Managed Care, researchers reviewed 2,795 of the top-rated news broadcasts taken from the 50 metropolitan areas.

Among the 1,799 health stories that were aired during those broadcasts, the researchers found 27% included an interview with a health professional and 26% included specific recommendations for how to prevent or ameliorate a medical condition. Only 12% of the reports mentioned the prevalence of a disease, which is important in assessing the level of risk a disease presents.

Another major disappointment, said Pribble, was the choice of topics.

Though it was reasonable that breast cancer was the single most common topic because it is a significant cause of illness and death in America, he said, it was not appropriate that the second most common topic was West Nile virus.

Pribble said he understood the appetite for information about West Nile in October 2002 because then it was still a relatively unfamiliar disease. But he thought the disease was not placed in perspective. The danger of developing a severe disease from contracting West Nile is about 1%, a fact which was not mentioned in any health segment, he said.

There were also 23 reports on the effectiveness of duct tape in removing warts based on a study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. This issue, said Pribble, was trivial compared to more serious and widespread problems such as heart disease and obesity.

Dr. Jonathan Fielding, public health director for Los Angeles County, said the study reminded viewers they should double-check TV information with websites for local public health agencies and other reliable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. People can also consult with their personal physicians.

"Generally speaking, the stations in Los Angeles do a credible job, but I don't think that they should be the only source of information," he said.

Marty Kaplan, an associate dean at USC's Annenberg School of Communication, saw the study as a call for stations to devote more time to health reporting and improve its accuracy.

"Thirty-three seconds is barely enough time to clear your throat, let alone to explain a public health issue and give people accurate advice," he said.

But, he added, "It's certainly enough time to scare you."


Friday, March 10, 2006

Evolution education update: March 10, 2006

Good news from South Carolina, where a "critical analysis of evolution" proposal was rejected by the state board of education, but bad news from Nevada, where a petition to amend the state constitution to require teaching of the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution was filed, and sad news from California, where the ICR's founder Henry Morris died on February 25, 2006. Meanwhile, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports on renewed efforts to rally the scientific community to defend evolution education, and NSTA offers a new publication to help teachers to present evolution accurately and effectively in their classrooms.

ANTIEVOLUTION PROPOSAL REJECTED IN SOUTH CAROLINA

On March 8, 2006, the South Carolina Board of Education voted 11-6 to reject a proposal from the state's Education Oversight Committee that would have significantly expanded the "critical analysis" language already present in the section of the new state science standards that deals with evolution. Despite authoritative criticism from science educators surveyed by The State (February 8, 2005), the EOC voted 10-2 on February 12, 2006, to recommend the expansion, just days before the Ohio Board of Education voted to remove similar language from Ohio's state science standards. The State (February 13, 2006) quoted State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum as saying, "'Critically analyze' is not just wordsmithing ... It carries with it a whole campaign against evolution."

As if to corroborate Tenenbaum's diagnosis, The State noted that the vote "handed a victory to state Sen. Mike Fair and his allies who have pushed education policymakers to include alternatives to evolution." In 2003, Fair proposed a textbook disclaimer about the origin of life. Subsequently, he repeatedly but unsuccessfully attempted to pass legislation to establish a committee to "determine whether alternatives to evolution as the origin of species should be offered in schools" and to require "teaching the controversy" over evolution. Thus The State (June 17, 2005) described him as "the dominant voice advocating for S.C. schools to teach more than Charles Darwin's theories of evolution."

Between the EOC's vote in February and the Board of Education's vote in March, Mary Lang Edwards, a professor of biology at Erskine College, wrote in a powerful opinion column (The State, February 25, 2006), "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." Edwards also noted that the EOC's vote not to approve the standards was despite the "overwhelming support of the standard by the state Department of Education and S.C. biologists."

In a letter dated February 25, 2006, the authors of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute's comprehensive review of state science standards encouraged the Board to reject the EOC's proposal, writing, "We hope South Carolina public education will not be pushed into defacing science standards to simply satisfy political pressure," and warning, "The claim that evolutionary theory ... needs critical analysis by schoolchildren is the last-ditch effort of a renewed creationist attack on public education." Ursula Goodenough, a professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis, told The State (March 1, 2006), "If this were to happen, it would transform the document into something [the people of South Carolina] would be ashamed of."

Although the EOC reportedly lacks any power to revise the standards, it still retains the power to approve or reject the standards as a whole. Superintendent Tenenbaum told The State (March 8, 2006) that if the Board and the EOC deadlock over the new standards, the state will continue to use its old standards until the deadlock is resolved. But state representative Bob Walker (R-District 31) presented the Board with a letter, signed by 67 representatives, saying in part that the legislature may intervene if the EOC's recommendation is not accepted. So the story in South Carolina is anything but over. Concerned South Carolinians are urged to get in touch with the grassroots group South Carolinians for Science Education.

For coverage from The State, visit:
http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/local/13817519.htm
http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/local/13865980.htm
http://www.thestate.com/mld/state/news/opinion/13958660.htm
http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/local/13986706.htm
http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/local/14048833.htm

For NCSE's previous coverage of events in South Carolina, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=SC

For South Carolinians for Science Education, visit:
http://www.sc-scied.org/EE/index.php

ANTIEVOLUTION INITIATIVE PETITION IN NEVADA

A petition to amend the Nevada constitution to require the teaching of the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution was filed with the secretary of state's office on February 24, 2006. The "Truth in Science" initiative calls for students to be informed that "although most scientists agree that Darwin's theory of evolution is well supported, a small minority of scientists do not agree," listing five specific "areas of disagreement" to be discussed.

The initiative petition was introduced by Steve Brown, whom the Las Vegas Review-Journal (March 1, 2006) described as "a masonry contractor who has lived in Las Vegas for more than 30 years." Brown told the newspaper, "I've looked at a middle school textbook that says that all elements of evolutionary theory are proven science. That's not so. ... Evolution has occurred, there's no way to argue that," he said. "Some parts have been proven, but some is just theory."

In order for the initiative to reach the November 2006 ballot, Brown must collect 83,184 signatures by June 20, 2006. Brown acknowledged that he lacks financial and organizational support for a signature drive, but expressed a willingness to make common cause with Christian conservatives. The chairman of Nevada Concerned Citizens told the Review-Journal, however, "I am curious to see what he has to say ... But there are other issues we're working on."

Even if the initiative wins a spot on the ballot, it would have to be approved not only in November 2006 but also in 2008 in order to take effect. But it may have already had its effect: state senator Maurice Washington (R-District 2) told the Associated Press (March 5, 2006), that while he disagrees with Brown's strategy, he is now thinking about introducing legislation allowing "intelligent design" to be taught as an elective in Nevada's public schools.

In its editorial about the initiative (March 1, 2006), the Review-Journal was critical, arguing, "we must teach science as best we know it, in order to train succeeding generations of chemists, doctors and engineers. And despite the word games that allow a fundamentalist minority to insist that 'evolution is just a theory,' it is a scientific 'theory' that has been vetted and refined over more than a century."

For the text of the initiative petition (PDF), visit:
http://sos.state.nv.us/nvelection/int_ref/TruthInScience.pdf

For the Las Vegas Review-Journal's story, visit:
http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2006/Mar-01-Wed-2006/news/6129541.html

For the Associated Press's story, visit:
http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/nevada/2006/mar/05/030510762.html

For the Las Vegas Review-Journal's editorial, visit:
http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2006/Mar-01-Wed-2006/news/6128872.html

HENRY MORRIS DIES

Henry Morris, the founder of the "creation science" movement, died on February 25, 2006, in Santee, California, at the age of 87. Speaking to The New York Times (March 4, 2006), NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott described him as "the most important creationist of the 20th century, much more so than William Jennings Bryan." And the historian Edward J. Larson, whose Trial and Error is the definitive treatment of the legal history of the creationism/evolution controversy, told the Washington Post (March 1, 2006), "He had an enormous influence ... He literally set the terms of the debate for the second half of the 20th century."

Born in Dallas, Texas, in 1918, Morris graduated from Rice University in 1939 and earned a master's degree and a Ph.D. in hydraulic engineering from the University of Minnesota. He taught engineering at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Southern Illinois University, and, beginning in 1957, at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, where he served as department chair. As early as 1946, with the publication of That You Might Believe (which he described as the first book "published since the Scopes trial in which a scientist from a secular university advocated recent special creation and a worldwide flood"), he was also attempting to establish creationism on a scientific basis.

With the theologian John C. Whitcomb, Morris wrote The Genesis Flood (1961), the catalyst for the modern creation science movement. Although the basic idea of flood geology was already presented by George McCready Price a generation earlier, The Genesis Flood succeeded in popularizing it among fundamentalist Christians, especially those with scientific and technical training. Subsequently, Morris was among the founders of the Creation Research Society, established in 1963, which sought to promote and publish research supporting scientific creationism.

In 1970, Morris retired from mainstream academia, even declining Auburn University's offer of a chair in civil engineering. Instead, he moved to California in order to establish the Creation Science Research Center, a creationist auxiliary to Tim LaHaye's new Christian Heritage College. After a split over tactics, the center was severed from the college; Morris reorganized what remained as the Institute for Creation Research. Morris served as the president of the ICR from 1970 to 1995, when his son John Morris succeeded him; he remained president emeritus of the ICR until his death.

At the ICR, Morris was a prolific writer, with such books as The Genesis Record, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science, History of Modern Creationism, What is Creation Science? (coauthored with Gary E. Parker), and The Modern Creation Trilogy (coauthored with John Morris) to his credit. Perhaps most influential was Scientific Creationism, intended for use as a textbook; two versions were issued, a general edition and a public school edition, from which a chapter that "places the scientific evidence in its proper Biblical and theological context" was omitted.

In his ethnography God's Own Scientists: Creationists in a Secular World, the anthropologist Christopher P. Toumey wrote, "For most of the creationist activists in North Carolina, Henry Morris and his organization, the Institute for Creation Research, are the only important sources of creationist knowledge and belief. For information, they refer to Morris to lead them through Genesis and geochronology; for inspiration, they turn to Morris himself to steer them past doubt and difficulty. No other authority or influence matters nearly as much."

Although Toumey was writing in 1994, before the rise of the prominent young-earth creationist ministry Answers in Genesis and the visibility of "intelligent design" creationism, Morris's influence is still widely felt. AiG's Ken Ham told The New York Times, "All of us in the modern creationism movement today would say we stand on his shoulders." And Paul Nelson, a Fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times (March 3, 2006) as saying, "Ideas can die because there is just no one to think about them ... I love the fact that Dr. Morris kept alive dissent from Darwinian evolution."

While opposing the scientific bankruptcy of his views, Morris's opponents credited him with sincerity and cordiality. Brown University's Kenneth R. Miller told the Los Angeles Times, "I found Morris to be unfailingly polite, a real gentleman and a person who was a sincere and committed Christian." And NCSE's Scott also described him as gentlemanly to The New York Times, adding, "I feel that he was absolutely sincere about his convictions that the Bible was literally true and that science would support it and creation science was good science."

For the cited obituaries of Morris, visit:
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/04/national/04morris.html
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/28/AR2006022801716.html
http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-me-morris3mar03,1,4692551.story

ON THE FRONT LINES

In "On the Front Lines in the War Over Evolution," in the March 10, 2006, issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Richard Monastersky reports on recent efforts to rally the scientific community to support evolution education -- "to recruit new troops," as he puts it, "for the escalating war against creationism and its spinoff doctrine, intelligent design."

The article begins with a description of a speech given by the president-elect of the National Science Teachers Association, Linda K. Froschauer, at the AAAS's annual meeting in St. Louis in February 2006. "Go home," Froschauer, a middle school science teacher, told the scientists assembled in the audience. "Identify science teachers in your own neighborhood. Offer to help them ... Go to the board of education and speak up."

The speakers at the AAAS's "Evolution on the Front Lines" event -- most of which is available in RealPlayer video form on-line at the AAAS's website -- also included Alan I. Leshner, Gilbert S. Omenn, Russ Carnahan, Peter Raven, the Reverend George V. Coyne, Jeff Corwin and, in a panel discussion, Robert M. Hazen, Kenneth R. Miller, Scott Sampson, and NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott.

Monastersky noted that NCSE's Scott was in increased demand: "She has spoken at the AAAS meeting several times and is a regular at gatherings of evolutionary scientists. But for the first time, she has been invited in the past year to speak at meetings on astronomy, biochemistry, human genetics, and microbiology. She has also started receiving requests from medical schools." Scott was quoted as saying, "it's finally trickling down ... These scientists are saying, I've got to do something."

Also featured in the article were two praiseworthy initiatives to defend the teaching of evolution: the Alliance for Science, which seeks to "heighten public understanding and support for science and to preserve the distinctions between science and religion in the public sphere," and the Clergy Letter Project (and its spin-off, Evolution Sunday), which lists more than 10,000 clergy who attest to the compatibility of faith with science.

For the article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, visit:
http://chronicle.com/free/v52/i27/27a01401.htm

For "Evolution on the Front Lines" at AAAS, visit:
http://www.aaas.org/programs/centers/pe/evoline/index.shtml

For the Alliance for Science, visit:
http://www.allianceforscience.org/

And for the Clergy Letter Project and Evolution Sunday, visit:
http://www.uwosh.edu/colleges/cols/clergy_project.htm
http://www.evolutionsunday.org/

VIRUS AND THE WHALE

A new publication from the National Science Teachers Association is designed to help teachers to explore evolutionary concepts with students by taking them on a journey with real scientists. Virus and the Whale: Exploring Evolution in Creatures Small and Large introduces students to some of today's most exciting and up-to-date evolutionary research through the stories of scientists who study evolution -- from the arms race between viruses and their human hosts to the long-term evolutionary changes leading to the emergence of whales.

The lead author of Virus and the Whale is Judy Diamond -- professor and curator at the University of Nebraska State Museum -- who directed Explore Evolution, an NSF-funded project that includes exhibit galleries for six museums on evolution research. Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, provides an insightful introduction. Sample pages (PDF), including Scott's introduction, and ordering information are available on NSTA's Science Store website. The 204-page book is priced at $28.95, discounted for NSTA members to $23.16.

For sample pages from Virus and the Whale (PDF), visit:
http://www.nsta.org/main/pdfs/store/pb196xweb.pdf

For ordering information, visit:
http://store.nsta.org/showItem.asp?product=PB196X

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

again in the body of an e-mail to majordomo@ncseweb2.org.

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

Sincerely,

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204
800-290-6006
branch@ncseweb.org
http://www.ncseweb.org

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

WHAT'S NEW

Robert L. Park Friday, 10 Mar 06 Washington, DC

BUBBLE FUSION: NEWS OF SCIENCE THAT WON'T CHANGE YOUR LIFE.
The story sounded vaguely familiar. A claim was made in the month of March that deuterium fusion had been produced in a desktop experiment. However, experienced nuclear physicists, using the same experimental setup except for better detection equipment, found no evidence of fusion. By early summer, the bubble burst. "Cold fusion" in 1989? No, "bubble fusion" in 2002, http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN02/wn030102.html . But like cold fusion, the corpse of bubble fusion keeps twitching. In 2003, Rusi Taleyarkhan, who made the claim, moved from Oak Ridge to Purdue University. There he claimed to confirm fusion. Others found nothing. Last week, citing "extremely serious" concerns, Purdue announced a full review of Taleyarkhan's work.

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

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

American Public Overwhelmingly Support Teaching Both Sides of Evolution, Zogby Poll Shows

http://sev.prnewswire.com/education/20060307/SFTU08607032006-1.html

SEATTLE, March 7 /PRNewswire/ -- A new nationwide poll by Zogby International shows that 69 percent of Americans support public school teachers presenting both the evidence for Darwinian evolution, as well as the evidence against it.

"This poll shows widespread support for the idea that when biology teachers teach Darwin's theory of evolution they should present the scientific evidence that supports it as well as the evidence against it," said Casey Luskin, program officer for public policy and legal affairs with Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture.

By more than three to one, voters say that Biology teachers should teach Darwin's theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence against it. Approximately seven in ten (69%) side with this view. In contrast, one in five (21%) feels that Biology teachers should teach only Darwin's theory of evolution and the scientific evidence that supports it.

Not only do a majority of people in virtually every sub-group agree that both sides should be presented when teaching evolution, but people in every sub-group are at least twice as likely to prefer this approach to science education. Among the biggest supporters are 18-29 year-olds (88%), 73% of Republicans, and 74% of independent voters. Others who strongly support this approach include African-Americans (69%), 35-54 year-olds (70%) and 60% of Democrats.

"While we don't favor mandating the teaching of intelligent design we do think it is constitutional for teachers to discuss it precisely because the theory is based upon scientific evidence not religious premises," added Luskin.

Even though Discovery opposes efforts to require the teaching of intelligent design, the public is strongly supportive of students learning about it in biology class. Three-fourths of respondents (77%) agree that when Darwin's theory of evolution is taught in school, students should also be able to learn about scientific evidence that points to an intelligent design of life. Furthermore, a majority (51%) agrees strongly. In comparison, one in five (19%) disagrees with the statement.

Seventy percent or more of people in just about every sub-group agree that when Darwin's theory of evolution is taught in school, students should also be able to learn about scientific evidence that points to an intelligent design of life. Just over two-thirds of Hispanics (68%) strongly agree with the statement, as do good majorities of Republicans (57%) and residents of the South (57%) and rural areas (58%). Others who highly agree include over four-fifths of 18-29 year-olds (87%), African Americans (83%), and Catholics (83%).

Website: http://www.discovery.org/

Whether ID is science isn't semantics

http://www.stnews.org/Commentary-2690.htm

Judge John Jones gave two arguments for his conclusion that ID is not science. Both are unsound, says Alvin Plantinga

By Alvin Plantinga (March 7, 2006)

Alvin Plantinga: Science needs a dose of humility.

Judge John Jones' 139-page opinion in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District raises questions that go far beyond the legalities of this specific case. I won't offer an opinion on whether the judge's decision is correct — although apparently he's never met an objection to intelligent design he doesn't like and some of his "findings" seem vastly more sweeping than is appropriate.

First, a general question: What sorts of issues can a judge decide just by fiat?

Jones rules, among other things, that:

Consider, for example, the claim that ID is just creation science in drag, as it were. That ruling is relevant in that previous court decisions have gone against creation science. But the kind of creation science those decisions had gone against is characterized by the claim that the world is a mere 6,000 to 100,000 years old, rather than the currently favored age of 4 billion or so years old.

Second, those creationists reject evolution in favor of the idea that the major kinds of plants and animals were created in pretty much their present form. ID, as such, doesn't involve either of these two things. What it does involve, as you might guess, is that many biological phenomena are intelligently designed — indicated by their "specifiable complexity" or "irreducible complexity" — and that one can come to see this by virtue of scientific investigation.

Indeed, Michael Behe, a paradigmatic IDer and the star witness for the defense, has repeatedly said that he accepts evolution. What he and his colleagues reject is not evolution as such. What they reject is unguided evolution. They reject the idea that life in all its various forms has come to be by way of the mechanisms favored by contemporary evolutionary theory — unguided, unorchestrated and undirected by God or any other intelligent being.

Anyway, isn't this question — whether ID is just rewarmed creation science — a question for philosophical or logical analysis? Can one settle a question of that sort by a judicial ruling? Isn't that like legislating that the value of pi is 1/3 rather than that inconvenient and hard to remember 3.14?

And consider that presumably the judge means the scientific community has successfully refuted the criticism of unguided evolution brought by the IDers. Otherwise, what he says wouldn't be relevant. But again, is that the sort of thing a judge can legislate? A judge can declare until he's blue in the face that an objection has been successfully refuted. Couldn't it still be perfectly cogent? But this is not the place for that interesting question. Instead, let's examine the judge's reasoning in support of his decision. Here is part of his ruling:

After a searching review of the record and applicable case law, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the court takes no position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980's; and (3) ID's negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community (p. 64).

The judge gives at least two arguments for his conclusion that ID is not science. Both are unsound.

First, he said that ID is not science by virtue of its "invoking and permitting supernatural causation." Second, and connected with the first, he said that ID isn't science because the claims IDers make are not testable — that is verifiable or falsifiable. The connection between the two is the assertion, on the part of the judge and many others, that propositions about supernatural beings — that life has been designed by a supernatural being — are not verifiable or falsifiable.

Let's take a look at this claim. Of course it has proven monumentally difficult to give a decent definition or analysis of verification or falsification. Here the harrowing vicissitudes of attempts in the 50s and 60s to give a precise statement of the verifiability criterion are instructive. But taking these notions in a rough-and-ready way we can easily see that propositions about supernatural beings not being verifiable or falsifiable isn't true at all.

For example, the statement "God has designed 800-pound rabbits that live in Cleveland" is clearly testable, clearly falsifiable and indeed clearly false. Testability can't be taken as a criterion for distinguishing scientific from nonscientific statements. That is because in the typical case individual statements are not verifiable or falsifiable.

As another example, the statement "There is at least one electron" is surely scientific, but it isn't by itself verifiable or falsifiable. What is verifiable or falsifiable are whole theories involving electrons. These theories make verifiable or falsifiable predictions, but the sole statement "There is at least one electron" does not. In the same way, whole theories involving intelligent designers also make verifiable or falsifiable predictions, even if the bare statement that life has been intelligently designed does not.

Therefore, this reason for excluding the supernatural from science is clearly a mistake. But, there is the judge's claim that science excludes reference to the supernatural, independent of concerns about verifiability and falsifiability. Reference to the supernatural just can't be part of science. This idea is sometimes called "methodological naturalism." But what is the reason — if any — for accepting methodological naturalism? Apparently, the judge thinks it is just a matter of definition — of the word "science," presumably. Here the judge is not alone. Michael Ruse, a philosopher of biology, said in his book Darwinism Defended:

The Creationists believe that the world started miraculously. But miracles lie outside of science, which by definition deals only with the natural, the repeatable, that which is governed by law.

Do Ruse and the judge really mean to suggest that the dispute can be settled just by looking up the term "science" in the dictionary? If so, they should think again. Dictionaries do not propose definitions of "science" that imply methodological naturalism. Therefore, it looks as if Jones and those whose advice he followed are advancing their own definition of "science." But how can that be of any use in an argument or controversy of this sort?

Suppose I claim all Democrats belong in jail. One might ask: Could I advance the discussion by just defining the word "Democrat" to mean "convicted felon"? If you defined "Republican" to mean "unmitigated scoundrel," should Republicans everywhere hang their heads in shame?

So this definition of "science" the judge appeals to is incorrect as a matter of fact because that is not how the word is ordinarily used. But even if the word "science" were ordinarily used in such a way that its definition included methodological naturalism, that still wouldn't come close to settling the issue.

The question is whether ID is science. That is not a merely verbal question about how a certain word is ordinarily used. It is, instead, a factual question about a multifarious and many-sided human activity — is the very nature of that activity such as to exclude ID?

Does this important and multifarious human activity by its very nature preclude references to the supernatural? How would anyone argue a thing like that?

Newton was perhaps the greatest of the founders of modern science. His theory of planetary motion is thought to be an early paradigm example of modern science. Yet, according to Newton's own understanding of his theory, the planetary motions had instabilities that God periodically corrected. Shall we say that Newton wasn't doing science when he advanced that theory or that the theory really isn't a scientific theory at all?

That seems a bit narrow.

Many other constraints on science have been proposed. Jacques Monod, the author of Chance and Necessity, says that science precludes any form of teleology. Other proposed constraints are that science can't involve moral judgments — or value judgments, more generally — and that the aim of science is explanation, whether or not this is in the service of truth.

Additional constraints that have been proposed in various contexts include: Scientific theories must in some sense be empirically verifiable and/or falsifiable; scientific experiments must be replicable; science can study only repeatable events; and science can't deal with the subjective but only with what is public and sharable.

Some say the aim of science is to discover and state natural laws. Others, equally enthusiastic about science, think there aren't any natural laws to discover. According to Richard Otte and John Mackie, the aim of science is to propose accounts of how the world goes for the most part, apart from miracles. Others reject the "for the most part" disclaimer. How does one tell which, if any, of these proposed constraints actually do hold for science? And why should we think that methodological naturalism really does constrain science? And what does "science" really mean?

I don't have the space to give a complete answer — as one says when he doesn't know a complete answer — but the following seems sensible: The usual dictionary definitions suffice to give us the meaning of the term "science." They suggest that this term denotes any activity that is:

(a) a systematic and disciplined enterprise aimed at finding out truth about our world, and
(b) has significant empirical involvement. Any activity that meets these vague conditions counts as science.

But what about methodological naturalism and all the rest of those proposed constraints? Perhaps the following is the best way to think about the matter: There are many related enterprises, all scientific in that they satisfy (a) and (b). For each of those proposed constraints, there is an activity falling under (a) and (b), the aim of which is in fact characterized by that constraint. For each or at any rate many of the proposed constraints there is another activity falling under (a) and (b), the aim of which does not fall under that constraint. Further, when people propose that a given constraint pertains to science just as such, to all of science, so to speak, they are ordinarily really endorsing or recommending one or more of the activities the aim of which is characterized by that constraint.

Now how does this work out with methodological naturalism? Well, there are some scientific activities that are indeed constrained by methodological naturalism. The partisans of methodological naturalism are endorsing or promoting those scientific activities and recommending them as superior to scientific activities not so constrained. But of course there are other scientific activities — Newton's, for example — that are not so constrained.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing science in accord with methodological naturalism? There is a good deal to be said on both sides here. For example, if you exclude the supernatural from science, then if the world or some phenomena within it are supernaturally caused — as most of the world's people believe — you won't be able to reach that truth scientifically.

Observing methodological naturalism thus hamstrings science by precluding science from reaching what would be an enormously important truth about the world. It might be that, just as a result of this constraint, even the best science in the long run will wind up with false conclusions.

Alvin Plantinga is a leading philosopher known for his work in epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of religion. He is currently the John A. O'Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.

Americans Want Both Sides of Evolution

http://www.family.org/cforum/fnif/news/a0039794.cfm

March 10, 2006

by Josh Montez

According to the latest Zogby poll, sixty-nine percent of Americans support teaching both evidence of evolution and problems with the theory.

Casey Luskin with the Discovery Institute says the latest Zogby poll backs up previous studies that Americans don't want a one-sided presentation of evolution taught to their kids.

"I think that most people recognize Darwin's theory of evolution is a theory that is not beyond scrutiny and it has scientific problems. They want to see objectivity, and they want to see truth taught in the classroom."

One of those problems is Haeckel's embryo. It claims to show various stages of animal embryos proving a connection to humans. It was altered and proven false in 1874 but is still being used as evidence for evolution in today's textbooks.

"So what we need to tell students today, is that this is in some ways evidence for evolution, but if you really look at the data, you find out that it's often very different than the way that it's represented in many of the textbooks."

The study also found that eighty-eight percent of eighteen to twenty-nine year-olds think public school teachers should present evidence for and against Darwin's theory of evolution. Seventy-seven percent of those interviewed agree that Darwin's theory should be taught alongside scientific evidence that points to an intelligent design of life.

So why aren't public schools giving Americans what they want? Retired Judge Darrell White with the Louisiana Family Forum says the ACLU intimidates school boards into believing that questioning Darwin isn't allowed in the classroom.

"The weaknesses of Darwinism certainly can be taught and should be taught if we are to avoid indoctrinating the students by only giving part of the story and sadly that's what too many of the textbooks do."

Luskin says teaching evolution objectively teaches students to think critically, an important aspect of studying science. We tried to contact the ACLU for a comment on this story, but they declined to be interviewed.


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