NTS LogoSkeptical News for 25 March 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Evolution education update: March 17, 2006

The lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Understanding Evolution lawsuit was dismissed. Meanwhile, writing in Science and Theology News, Robert T. Pennock assesses the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover. The Entomological Society of Canada adds its voice for evolution. And the New York Academy of Science is holding a major conference on teaching evolution and the nature of science.

UNDERSTANDING EVOLUTION LAWSUIT DISMISSED

A lawsuit challenging the Understanding Evolution website on constitutional grounds was dismissed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on March 13, 2006. Understanding Evolution, a collaborative project of the University of California Museum of Paleontology and the National Center for Science Education, was originally intended as a resource for teachers; it subsequently expanded to appeal to everyone interested in learning about evolution.

Among the resources for teachers is a brief discussion of the idea, labeled as a misconception, that evolution and religion are incompatible. The website notes, "Of course, some religious beliefs explicitly contradict science (e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in six literal days); however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings," and provides a link to NCSE's publication Voices for Evolution.

A California parent, Jeanne E. Caldwell, subsequently filed suit, complaining that the Understanding Evolution website thus endorses a number of religious doctrines, thereby violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by favoring certain religious groups over others. Caldwell is the wife of Larry Caldwell, who also filed a suit against the Roseville Joint Union High School District after it declined to implement his proposals for evolution education.

In granting the motion to dismiss in Caldwell v. Caldwell et al. -- the first defendant is Roy Caldwell, the director of UCMP -- Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton held that the plaintiff failed to allege that she had federal taxpayer standing, failed to sufficiently allege state taxpayer standing, and failed to establish that she suffered a concrete "injury in fact." Since those considerations sufficed for dismissal, Hamilton did not consider the merits of the Establishment Clause claim.

For the judge's order to dismiss (PDF), visit:
http://www2.ncseweb.org/caldwell/2006-03-14_Order_Granting_Dismissal.pdf

For the Sacramento Bee's story on the filing of the suit, visit:
http://www.sacbee.com/content/community_news/placer/story/12042011p-12912026c.html

For the Understanding Evolution website itself, visit:
http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

PENNOCK ON DOVER: THE CRUMPLING OF THE WEDGE

Robert T. Pennock, the Michigan State University professor of philosophy who testified for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, assesses the outcome of the trial in a recent essay for Science and Theology News. "Creationists had been spoiling for this fight since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against so-called 'creation science' in the 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard case," he writes, adding, "For 15 years they had been sharpening their arguments, skirmishing now and then, and preparing for such an epic showdown. They were even cocky. William Dembski publicly wagered a bottle of single-malt scotch that should it ever go to trial whether ID could be taught in the public school science classes that it would pass all constitutional hurdles. Now it was time."

Despite their assiduous preparation for the trial, Pennock relates, "the Wedge crumpled. This was not just because the court found that ID advocates on the school board had lied to disguise the religious purpose of the ID policy. The judge seriously considered the ID claim that it is not religion but real science, but he found the arguments completely unconvincing. The court found that even the defense had to admit that ID was trying to redefine science. As in earlier creationism trials, the court ruled that calling something science does not make it so. ... Zealots will never see reason, but let us hope that more pragmatic heads understand that it is time to lay down their swords and shields and wedges. The ID battle was lost at Dover."

Pennock's essay was one of a suite of articles responding to the Kitzmiller decision. Also contributing were Robin Collins (suggesting that "intelligent design" should be regarded as "not as a part of science but as a hypothesis that could potentially influence the practice of science"), Evan Fales (taking issue with "two unsound arguments used to deny that ID is science"), Steve Fuller (expressing concern about "the idea that religious motives alone can disqualify an inquiry from being considered scientific"), Paul R. Gross (arguing that Collins's suggestion merely reiterates the claim that "mainstream science unfairly and unnecessarily excludes ID from the study of life's history"), and Alvin Plantinga (wondering, with respect to the philosophical aspects of the Kitzmiller decision, "how can one hope to settle these matters just by a judicial declaration?").

For Pennock's essay, visit:
http://www.stnews.org/Commentary-2688.htm

For the rest of the articles, visit:
http://www.stnews.org/Commentary-2601.htm
http://www.stnews.org/Commentary-2604.htm
http://www.stnews.org/Commentary-2600.htm
http://www.stnews.org/Commentary-2605.htm
http://www.stnews.org/Commentary-2690.htm

CANADIAN ENTOMOLOGISTS ADD THEIR VOICE FOR EVOLUTION

The Entomological Society of Canada adopted a strong resolution on evolution education at its 2005 annual meeting. The resolution reads:

Whereas, entomological science is firmly based on the theory of evolution by natural selection, which is the robust, well-proven and congruent foundation of biological science, and

whereas, proponents of Creationism and so-called Intelligent Design have promoted the teaching in public schools of explanations of natural phenomena based on religious faith or political positions, while denying evolutionary theory, without offering evidence or convincing arguments, and

whereas, Creationism and Intelligent Design further undermine science education in general, by presenting misleading arguments, invalid methods, and false definitions, for example regarding what constitutes theory, fact, and hypothesis, and

whereas, scientific organizations have a duty to maintain the high quality of science in research, education and service to society,

therefore, be it resolved, that the Entomological Society of Canada, like other scientific societies and their members, affirms that the body of knowledge referred to as the theory of evolution is the foundation and unifying principle of biological sciences, and further that the Entomological Society of Canada opposes policies that would allow the teaching of Intelligent Design and other faith-based beliefs in public school science classes.

The Entomological Society of Canada represents hundreds of entomologists from all parts of Canada and around the world.

To read the ESC's statement (PDF), visit:
http://esc-sec.org/resolution_evol_DJ_Nov4_05.pdf

TEACHING EVOLUTION AND THE NATURE OF SCIENCE

The following is a press release from the New York Academy of Sciences.

Not since the infamous Scopes "monkey" trial of the 1920s has the controversy over the teaching of evolution exposed deep divides between sections of the American public. The Kansas Board of Education's announcement that intelligent design would be taught alongside evolution ignited a nationwide debate over what constitutes science education and what are actually nonscientific approaches to education. At a time when many studies show that the U.S. lags behind other countries in the quality of its science education, the definition of what science education is and what it is not has more serious ramifications than ever before.

What are the basic tenets of the concept of evolution and how does understanding evolution play an essential role in comprehending science, and in particular, modern biology? How can science educators from elementary schools to college campuses respond to challenges from those who claim that intelligent design is as valid a theory as evolution? How can we prepare and support teachers so that they will be able to teach evolution effectively despite the controversy? How can state and local officials in charge of education policy respond to attempts by religious groups and others who seek to change the investigative nature of science education?

To assist science educators from all levels of American education as well as state and local education officials responsible for their schools' science curriculum respond effectively to the controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution, the New York Academy of Sciences will present a two-day symposium, Teaching Evolution and the Nature of Science, on Friday-Saturday, April 21-22, 2006, at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater, John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Among the goals of this symposium are: (1) to provide science educators with the tools, both rhetorical and scientific, that will help them deal with issues relating to the delivery of science education; (2) enable science teachers to increase science literacy and develop skills of scientific inquiry among their students; (3) ensure that students understand that evidence is a necessary component of the scientific process; and (4) discuss the investigative nature of science, and how to recognize approaches to the teaching of science that reflect non-scientific propositions.

Among the eleven researchers and educators scheduled to speak are:

Glenn Branch, National Center for Science Education -- Topic: "Academic Infiltration of Intelligent Design"

Bruce Alberts, UCSF and Past-President, NAS -- Topic: "Discovery and Evolution of Protein Machines That Make Life Possible"

John Haught, Professor of Theology, Georgetown University -- Topic: "Evolution and Religion: What are the Issues?"

Kenneth R. Miller, Professor of Biology, Brown University -- Topic: "Science, Darwin and Design: Teaching Evolution in a Climate of Controversy"

Robert T. Pennock, Professor of Philosophy, Michigan State University

Topic: "The Nature of Science"
Jennifer Miller, Biology Teacher, Dover High School -- Topic: "Teaching Evolution at Dover High School"

The symposium is geared towards secondary school science teachers; college faculty of science and science education; state and local officials who have responsibility for education policy; and all others with an interest in evolution, education, and the nature of science.

Support for this conference came from the Wenner-Gren Foundation.

Seating is limited. To RSVP, please contact Jennifer Tang, Manager of Media Relations, at 212.838.0230 x257 or email jtang@nyas.org.

Founded in 1817, the New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, non-profit organization of more than 24,000 members serving science, technology and society worldwide.

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

"Total Truth"--A Bold Manifesto for the Christian Worldview

http://www.crosswalk.com/news/weblogs/mohler/?adate=03/17/2006

Albert Mohler

Author, Speaker, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Friday, March 17, 2006

Books come and go, with hundreds of new titles released each week. Most of these books will quickly go out of print, make their way to remainder tables, and eventually be forgotten. On the other hand, sometimes a book comes along that demands immediate attention and will earn long-term influence. That is certainly the case with Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey, which may well be one of the most important Christian books of our times. Total Truth, subtitled "Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity," is a manifesto for Christian worldview thinking in the 21st century. The book is a masterpiece of cultural analysis and intellectual engagement, tracing the odyssey of its author even as she provides virtually an entire education in Christian worldview understanding in a single volume. This is no small achievement.

Nancy Pearcey is a gifted writer, and one of the brightest minds serving evangelical Christianity. Raised in a Scandinavian Lutheran home, she grew to know about Christianity as a child without coming to faith in Christ. She eventually became an adult convert to Christianity, but only after an intellectual and spiritual pilgrimage that took her from one side of the Atlantic to the other--including time at Francis Schaeffer's L'Abri, a study center for young people asking big questions.

Pearcey now serves as the Francis A. Schaeffer Scholar at the World Journalism Institute and as a Visiting Scholar at the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. She is also well known for her work as a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. An articulate opponent of evolutionary theory and one of the church's most gifted authors, Nancy Pearcey brings a wealth of credibility and passion to this book.

Total Truth serves as a basic introduction to Christian worldview thinking, but its depth and clarity of thought sets it far above the usual fare. Throughout the volume, the influence of Francis Schaeffer is apparent. One of the twentieth century's most significant apologists, Schaeffer was an eccentric and magnetic figure who helped an entire generation of struggling young evangelicals find their way into biblical Christianity. Schaeffer served as a prophet of cultural engagement during an age of rebellion among America's youth, and he shaped the thinking of an entire generation of theologically-minded Christian young people.

Nancy Pearcey's conversion came when she recognized that "God had won the argument," and that her response must be to "give my life to the Lord of Truth." In other words, she came to believe that the gospel is true, and that its truth demanded obedience. "Once we discover that the Christian worldview is really true, then living it out means offering up to God all our powers--practical, intellectual, emotional, artistic--to live for Him in every area of life. The only expression such faith can take is one that captures our entire being and redirects our every thought. The notion of a secular/sacred split becomes unthinkable. Biblical truth takes hold of our inner being, and we recognize that it is not only a message of salvation but also the truth about all reality. God's word becomes a light to all our paths, providing the foundational principles for bringing every part of our lives under the Lordship of Christ, to glorify Him and cultivate His creation."

One of Francis Schaeffer's key insights was the split in the modern mind that separated "religious" truth from all other truth. This "two-story" division of truth into secular and sacred spheres ultimately undermines the Christian truth claim and leaves believers with nothing more than a claim to "spirituality" and "meaningful experiences" rather than objective truth and biblical authority.

Nancy Pearcey conducts a thorough autopsy on these deficient patterns of thought, demonstrating throughout her book that all too many Christians fall prey to this kind of thinking. She tells a story of a theology teacher in a Christian high school who drew a heart on one side of his blackboard and a brain on the other. He told his class that the heart is what we use for religion, while the brain is what we employ for science. What this teacher was insinuating is that Christianity is a matter of feeling and emotion, while science is a matter of fact and objective truth. As Pearcey laments, "Training young people to develop a Christian mind is no longer an option; it is part of their necessary survival equipment."

Too many believers, Pearcey insists, "have absorbed the fact/value, public/private dichotomy, restricting their faith to the religious sphere while adopting whatever views are current in their professional or social circles." She continues: "We probably all know of Christian teachers who uncritically accept the latest secular theories of education; Christian businessmen who run their operations by accepted secular management theories; Christian ministries that mirror the commercial world's marketing techniques; Christian families where the teenagers watch the same movies and listen to the same music as their nonbelieving friends. While sincere in their faith, they have absorbed their views on just about everything else by osmosis from the surrounding culture."

In Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey offers a solid theological engagement with the critical intellectual issues of our times. While she presents a devastating critique of secular philosophies ranging from scientific materialism and Darwinism to rationalism, she also gives a constructive and biblical theological framework for establishing the structure of the Christian worldview. She lays this out in terms of three great themes: Creation, Fall, and Redemption. Every worldview, she explains, must provide a theory of how the world came to be, explain what has gone wrong with humanity, and point to some hope of redemption. By using such a theological grid, Pearcey suggests that "we can identify nonbiblical worldviews and then analyze where they go wrong." Furthermore, Pearcey explains, the first great affirmation of her worldview grid underlines the importance of asserting the truth of Christianity at the very point of creation. "If the grid of Creation, Fall, and Redemption provides a simple and effective tool for comparing and contrasting worldviews, it also explains why the biblical teaching of Creation is under such a relentless attack today. In any worldview, the concept of Creation is foundational: As the first principle, it shapes everything that follows. Critics of Christianity know that it stands or falls with its teaching on ultimate origins."

In other words, we cannot create a synthesis of biblical truth and evolutionary theory. This is absolutely correct and urgently important--for to surrender the Bible's truth claims on the origin of the universe is eventually to abdicate the totality of the Christian truth claim. After all, Christian truth does not come as isolated claims linked together by an underlying spirituality. To the contrary, Christian truth is a comprehensive and unitive whole that produces transformed lives precisely because the Gospel is true.

If believers allow Christian truth claims to be pushed into an "upper story" of mere opinion, while suggesting that science and other forms of knowledge deal with "facts," we surrender the integrity of faith itself and are reduced to offering Christianity as a form of spiritual therapy rather than as a message of transforming truth.

As Pearcey explains, "To be loyal to the great claims of our faith, we can no longer acquiesce in letting Christianity be shunted aside to the value sphere. We must throw off metaphysical timidity, be convinced that we have a winning case, and take the offensive. Armed with prayer and spiritual power, we need to ask God to show us where the battle is being fought today, and enlist under the Lordship and leadership of Christ."

So, why are evangelicals so vulnerable to intellectual timidity? Nancy Pearcey has a quick answer. While theological liberals were busy denying cardinal doctrines of the faith, evangelicals were simply retreating into an upper story faith where Christianity was reduced to an experience. Furthermore, many evangelicals bought into various philosophical movements that undermined clear-headed thinking. Others are simply blinded to their own intellectual, moral, and spiritual compromises by the pervasive seduction of contemporary culture.

Total Truth is one of the most promising books to emerge in evangelical publishing in many years. It belongs in every Christian home, and should quickly be put into the hands of every Christian young person. This important book should be part of the equipment for college or university study, and churches should use it as a textbook for Christian worldview development.

Why does all of this matter? As Nancy Pearcey remarks, "These are not merely abstract intellectual matters fit for philosophers and historians to debate in the rarefied atmosphere of academia. Ideas and cultural developments affect real people, shaping the way they think and live out their lives. That's why it is crucial for us to develop a Christian worldview--not just as a set of coherent ideas but also as a blueprint for living. Believers need a roadmap for a full and consistent Christian life."

Serious Christians ought to be developing an entire library of books intended to apply the Christian worldview to every area of life, thought, study, and culture. Total Truth will be an important part of that library, and may also be the catalyst for other good books that will follow. In the meantime, quickly get a copy for yourself and send another to a young college student. In so doing, you just might be sending an intellectual life preserver to someone about to drown in a sea of secularism. Never underestimate the power of the right book put in the right hands at the right time.

This article originally appeared on September 8, 2004.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. For more articles and resources by Dr. Mohler, and for information on The Albert Mohler Program, a daily national radio program broadcast on the Salem Radio Network, go to www.albertmohler.com. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to www.sbts.edu. Send feedback to mail@albertmohler.com.

See also the most recent entries on Dr. Mohler's Blog .

Bigfoot in Texas?

A museum exhibit and lecture series. A joint collaborative effort by the University of Texas San Antonio's Institute of Texan Cultures (http://www.texancultures.utsa.edu/public/index.htm) and the Texas Bigfoot Research Center.

April 7–July 30

Do you believe? There are many documented sightings of Bigfoot right here in Texas! You are invited to join us as we explore many theories on the existence of Bigfoot. This exhibit will feature unidentifiable hair as well as foot and body casts of a being that many believe can only be Bigfoot. Guest speakers will also lend their expertise to both sides of the debate.

At the end of your visit, we'll ask you to vote: do you believe Bigfoot really exists?

April 8, 2006, (Saturday) lectures from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

* Daryl G. Colyer, field researcher for the Texas Bigfoot Research Center, former Airborne Cryptologic Russian Linguist for USAF Intelligence. Daryl G. Colyer will examine the history of Bigfoot research in Texas. Colyer is a field researcher for the Texas Bigfoot Research Center. He has investigated hundreds of reports and continues to lead field research efforts in Texas and other states. It is Colyer's assessment, based on hundreds of interviews, that Sasquatches are indeed real and do inhabit parts of Texas.

* Kathy Moskowitz-Strain, forest archaelogist and Heritage Program manager at Stanislaus National Forest in Sonora, CA, and presenter of paper titled: Mayak datat: An Archaelogical Viewpoint of the Hairy Man Pictograph. She has worked extensively at Painted Rock on the Tule River Indian Reservation, where the only known Bigfoot pictograph in California was discovered. Her primary research involves the traditional Native American stories of "Hairy Man," as well as the application of archaeological methods to the study of Bigfoot. Moskowitz has been researching a project for the Texas Bigfoot Research Center for the last six months, compiling the legends, folklore, and traditions of the Native American tribes of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Her presentation will be based on that research project.

* Peter Byrne, executive director of the International Wildlife Conservation Society and author of The Search for Bigfoot : Monster, Myth or Man? (Acropolis Books, 1975, 1st ed.). Peter led the Tom Slick Expeditions to the Himalayas in search of the Yeti. He ran the Bigfoot Research Project in the 1990's.

* Catherine Cooke, former president and CEO of The Mountain Istitute, former executive director of The Mind Science Foundation, one of Tom Slick's foundations, for a decade. She is Tom Slick's niece and author of Tom Slick Mystery Hunter (Paraview Books, 2005). Book signing by local writer Catherine Nixon Cooke. Cooke, the niece of Tom Slick, will be signing copies of her recently released book, Tom Slick, Mystery Hunter. Slick, a local visionary, philanthropist, and entrepreneur, funded expeditions to the Himalayas in search of the Yeti and to the Pacific Northwest in search of Bigfoot in the late 1950s and early 1960s before his untimely death in a plane crash in 1962.

May 6, 2006 (Saturday) lectures from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

* Jeff Meldrum, associate professor of anatomy and adjunct associate professor of anthropology at Idaho State University, researcher of Sasquatch in the north Cascades and southern Colorado.

* Jimmy Chilcutt , forensic consultant, retired Conroe police officer with nearly two decades of fingerprint and crime scene investigation experience, and developer of unique latent fingerprint procedures requested by federal, state and county agencies.

* Rick Noll, long-time research of Bigfoot, principal member of the expedition group that found and collected the Skookum Body Cast in 2000, involvement in about a dozen documentaries on the subject, including Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science and Giganto: The Real King Kong.

June 3, 2006 (Saturday) lectures from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

* Loren Coleman, World-reknowned cryptozoologist and adjunct associate professor of "The Documentary: Its Social, Political and Emotional Impact" at the University of Southern Maine. Author of Tom Slick: True Life Encounters in Cryptozoology (Linden Publishing, 2002), Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America (Paraview Pocket Books, 2003) and The Field Guide to Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates (Anomalist Books, 2006),

* Benjamin Radford, managing editor of The Skeptical Inquirer and Spanish-language Pensar, author of dozens of articles on urban legends, mass hysteria, mysterious creatures and media criticism, and director of publications at the Center for Inquiry-International in Buffalo, NY.

July 8, 2006 (Saturday) lectures from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

* Daryl Colyer, field researcher for the Texas Bigfoot Research Center, former Airborne Cryptologic Russian Linguist for USAF Intelligence. Daryl G. Colyer will examine the history of Bigfoot research in Texas. Colyer is a field researcher for the Texas Bigfoot Research Center. He has investigated hundreds of reports and continues to lead field research efforts in Texas and other states. It is Colyer's assessment, based on hundreds of interviews, that Sasquatches are indeed real and do inhabit parts of Texas.

* Alton Higgins, field biologist for the Texas Bigfoot Research Center, wildlife biologist and associates art advisor and assistant professor at Mid-America Christian University, presenter of several papers on Bigfoot-related topics.

* John Kirk, RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), founder of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, editor and publisher of the organization's quarterly journal, and founder of Cryptosafari (a field research organization involved in the exploration and search of unknown animals of West Central Africa)

Craig Woolheater
Texas Bigfoot Research Center
www.texasbigfoot.com

Mark Davis: Let Don Knotts - and everyone else - rest in peace

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/viewpoints/stories/DN-markdavis_15edi.ART.State.Edition1.13611323.html

MARK DAVIS has had enough of con artists who claim they can speak with the dead

08:01 AM CST on Wednesday, March 15, 2006

This column has been in my head for years. I tripped over a piece of news the other day that uncorked it, so here goes.

I have long held a special contempt for the charlatans who purport to be able to talk to the dead. Many people write off such things as entertainment, in the same category as psychics and tarot-card readers.

I don't. I believe the sickening exploits of scam artists like James van Praagh and John Edward are harmful to people.

I groaned upon discovering that Ghost Whisperer on CBS – a fairly entertaining piece of fiction starring Jennifer Love Hewitt as a woman who can chat with the dearly departed – lists Mr. van Praagh as a producer. I assume his involvement is supposed to lend heft to the show by suggesting to viewers that people can actually do this. There is no reason to believe they can, and there are plenty of reasons to believe they cannot.

A few days ago, one of the tabloid showbiz news programs revealed that Mr. van Praagh was lurking around in the aftermath of the death of Don Knotts, claiming that he was somehow in touch with the actor, who died Feb. 24.

That tore it. You mess with Barney Fife, you mess with me.

In all seriousness, Mr. van Praagh's nauseatingly pompous claim was exacerbated by an odd coincidence. I have seen precisely one episode of Larry King Live in the last year or so, and it was a week before last – a wonderfully nostalgic round table featuring Andy Griffith, Jim Nabors and Ron Howard and their memories of Mr. Knotts.

Also on the panel was Mr. Knotts' daughter Karen, who seemed to enjoy hearing the old yarns spun by her dad's fellow actors. I took great offense at the notion of a creepy impostor using this wonderful man's death to attract more gullible victims who will buy his cruel act.

Karen Knotts needs this like a hole in the head. She is left with real-life memories of her father and does not need to have those recollections sullied by some quack who says he is continuing to chat with him from The Other Side.

That's why I consider this fakery to be genuinely cruel. Surely you have seen people moved to tears of ostensible joy by these practitioners, thrilled that Mr. van Praagh or Mr. Edward or some other phony is hearing the voice of beloved Aunt Mildred.

There is no basis for that belief. Any examination of these faux-séance dog-and-pony shows reveals they're practicing the same types of shams that psychics have used for eons – asking leading questions that can yield good guesses, using stealth colleagues to chat up guests and relate data secretly to them and a dozen other dirty little tricks that make them look like ethereal visionaries.

Mr. Edward, the most stylish of these vultures, used his salesman's glibness from 1999 to 2004 to sugarcoat the daily ghoulishness of Crossing Over. It was an hour of severely edited TV that conveniently omitted any bad guesses as he schmoozed a studio audience into thinking he had the power to look across a line drawn by God.

The blasphemous hoaxes perpetrated by these conscienceless cheats deserve nothing but public scorn. Their dark trade interferes with the normal and healthy coping that must accompany the death of any loved one.

I still hurt from my parents' death in 1998. Time heals, but only so much. I am comforted every day by a brain and heart full of memories of their real words and actions. It would be a challenge to suppress the urge to bust the chops of any fraudmonger who says he hears their voices today.

The solution to this is not violence, of course, but market disdain. No more TV shows for these monsters. No more free passes as they try to con grieving people.

My faith tells me I will speak to my departed relatives after this life. My sense of decency tells me that those who say they can do it sooner deserve not fame but rebuke.

The Mark Davis Show is heard weekdays on News/Talk 820 WBAP and nationwide on the ABC Radio Network. WBAP airtime is 9 a.m. to noon. His column regularly appears Wednesdays on Viewpoints, and his e-mail address is mdavis@wbap.com.


Friday, March 24, 2006

Swords and smoking guns

http://www.stnews.org/Commentary-2688.htm

The battle to get intelligent design into school books was lost in Dover, and it is time for proponents to lay down their swords.

By Robert T. Pennock (March 6, 2006)

Creationists describe their mission to overturn evolution in military language, calling it the fundamental dispute of the culture wars. We recently saw the resolution of one of the most significant battles in this war: the end of the Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District trial in Pennsylvania.

This was the first case dealing with creationist attempts to introduce intelligent design into public schools. The Thomas More Law Center, which defended the school board's ID policy, calls itself "the sword and shield for people of faith." The ID movement itself, led by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, wields a different but equally sharp metaphor — that of ID as a wedge to split the materialist heart of modern science.

Creationists had been spoiling for this fight since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against so-called "creation science" in the 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard case. The ID "Wedge Strategy" was the brainchild of law professor Philip Johnson, who convinced young Earth, old Earth and other creationists to call a truce in their internal battles and to unite against their common enemy.

The important agreement is that God — not evolution — created the world. They could save questions about the age of the Earth for after they got the generic design view into the schools. For 15 years they had been sharpening their arguments, skirmishing now and then, and preparing for such an epic showdown.

They were even cocky. ID leader William Dembski publicly wagered a bottle of single-malt scotch that should it ever go to trial whether ID could be taught in the public school science classes that it would pass all constitutional hurdles. Now it was time.

For years, the Discovery Institute had been pushing ID by lobbying elected officials; publishing legal guides, op-eds and videos; and offering legal advice. The Dover school board consulted both the institute and the Thomas More center before it voted for a policy to include ID. The Thomas More center had scoured the country for a school board willing to be a test case, pledging their sword and shield to defend the expected challenge. When it came in the form of a suit by 11 Dover parents, both groups were ready.

The center's lineup of expert witnesses listed five Discovery Institute Fellows, including Dembski and Michael Behe, their two most powerful advocates. The ID movement would have its A-team in the courtroom to present its argument in the strongest terms. Moreover, their opponents would be under oath and would be forced to answer the supposedly damning questions they otherwise purportedly dodged.

Dembski provided Thomas More attorneys with detailed questions that would squeeze the truth from "the Darwinists." He called this the "vise strategy," illustrating the idea with pictures of heads — including that of a stuffed Darwin doll — being crushed in vises. To top it off, they got to argue their case before a Republican judge appointed by President George Bush. Judge John E. Jones gave them all the time they needed in the long six-week trial to fully lay out their arguments that ID is not religion but legitimate science.

So, what happened when the creationists unsheathed their swords and their wedge in these ideal circumstances? They suffered a rout.

As evidence and expert witness reports were gathered during the discovery period, it probably became clear that they could not win. Dembski and two other Discovery Institute experts abandoned the field just prior to being deposed. At an American Enterprise Institute forum during the trial, the Thomas More center publicly berated the Discovery Institute for encouraging school boards to include ID and then abandoning their defense. This may be unfair, as the institute allowed its fellows Scott Minnich and Behe — certainly their greatest champion — to testify, and submitted supplemental arguments in an amicus brief.

But the Wedge crumpled. This was not just because the court found that ID advocates on the school board had lied to disguise the religious purpose of the ID policy. The judge seriously considered the ID claim that it is not religion but real science, but he found the arguments completely unconvincing. The court found that even the defense had to admit that ID was trying to redefine science. As in earlier creationism trials, the court ruled that calling something science does not make it so.

The judge wrote: "[We] have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not." Moreover, the court found that ID, like other forms of creationism, is religion. "We conclude that the religious nature of ID would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child."

A long paper trail made these conclusions easy. It made no difference that they avoided using the "G-word" to name the agent, speaking instead of the world as designed by a master intellect or a transcendent, immaterial intelligence. Appealing to such transparent word substitutions is, as I put it in my testimony, even less persuasive than if the person who leaked a CIA agent's identity defended himself by protesting that "I never said Valerie Plame Wilson. I only said Ambassador Wilson's wife." The court also got to read the Discovery Institute's internal Wedge document, which omitted the linguistic fig leaf and stated their governing goal of replacing materialistic explanations with "the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God."

Besides the Wedge document, there were many other smoking guns. The ID textbook Of Pandas and People was shown to be a minimally reworded creation science text. Following the 1987 Supreme Court ruling, a quick edit of the manuscript draft switched out the words "creationism" and "creation science" with "intelligent design theory," and "creation scientists" with "intelligent design proponents" but left definitions unchanged. ID, the judge concluded "is creationism re-labeled." Nor does simply omitting the words "intelligent design" disguise the concept.

ID's backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny, which we have now determined that it cannot withstand, by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard.

What has been the response of ID proponents to this humiliating defeat? The Discovery Institute labeled Jones "an activist judge" with "delusions of grandeur." Eagle Forum president Phyllis Schlafly called him a "false judge" with a "bias for judicial activism" who "stuck the knife in the backs" of the evangelical Christians who elected the president who appointed him to the bench. Judge Jones had predicted this and responded in advance in his opinion:

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy.

Forgetting his discredited claim that ID is about science, not religion, Dembski reacted defiantly, saying that "this galvanizes the Christian community. People I'm talking to say we're going to be raising a whole lot more funds now." Creationists will need the money after this defeat and not just for the bottle of scotch that Dembski now owes.

The creationists on the board left taxpayers with more than $1 million in legal costs. Judge Jones called the inclusion of ID a decision of "breath-taking inanity" that resulted in an "utter waste of monetary and personal resources." Dover voters eventually recognized this, and after the trial they voted out the creationist board members who were up for reelection. The cost in money and votes ought to make other conservative school boards and politicians, who might have thought that supporting ID would help them in the polls, think twice before following the creationist call to arms again.

Of course, we know that the ID battle cries will be heard again. Although he acknowledged that the Dover defeat was a setback, Dembski said it was not ID's Waterloo: "We can expect agitation for ID and against evolution to continue. School boards and state legislators may tread more cautiously, but tread on evolution they will — the culture war demands it!"

Zealots will never see reason, but let us hope that more pragmatic heads understand that it is time to lay down their swords and shields and wedges. The ID battle was lost at Dover. It's time to study war no more.

Robert T. Pennock is professor of philosophy, computer science and engineering, and ecology, evolutionary biology and behavior at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. This Essay Breaks the Law http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/19/opinion/19crichton.html

By MICHAEL CRICHTON

Published: March 19, 2006

• The Earth revolves around the Sun.

• The speed of light is a constant.

• Apples fall to earth because of gravity.

• Elevated blood sugar is linked to diabetes.

• Elevated uric acid is linked to gout.

• Elevated homocysteine is linked to heart disease.

• Elevated homocysteine is linked to B-12 deficiency, so doctors should test homocysteine levels to see whether the patient needs vitamins.

ACTUALLY, I can't make that last statement. A corporation has patented that fact, and demands a royalty for its use. Anyone who makes the fact public and encourages doctors to test for the condition and treat it can be sued for royalty fees. Any doctor who reads a patient's test results and even thinks of vitamin deficiency infringes the patent. A federal circuit court held that mere thinking violates the patent.

All this may sound absurd, but it is the heart of a case that will be argued before the Supreme Court on Tuesday. In 1986 researchers filed a patent application for a method of testing the levels of homocysteine, an amino acid, in the blood. They went one step further and asked for a patent on the basic biological relationship between homocysteine and vitamin deficiency. A patent was granted that covered both the test and the scientific fact. Eventually, a company called Metabolite took over the license for the patent.

Although Metabolite does not have a monopoly on test methods — other companies make homocysteine tests, too — they assert licensing rights on the correlation of elevated homocysteine with vitamin deficiency. A company called LabCorp used a different test but published an article mentioning the patented fact. Metabolite sued on a number of grounds, and has won in court so far.

But what the Supreme Court will focus on is the nature of the claimed correlation. On the one hand, courts have repeatedly held that basic bodily processes and "products of nature" are not patentable. That's why no one owns gravity, or the speed of light. But at the same time, courts have granted so-called correlation patents for many years. Powerful forces are arrayed on both sides of the issue.

In addition, there is the rather bizarre question of whether simply thinking about a patented fact infringes the patent. The idea smacks of thought control, to say nothing of unenforceability. It seems like something out of a novel by Philip K. Dick — or Kafka. But it highlights the uncomfortable truth that the Patent Office and the courts have in recent decades ruled themselves into a corner from which they must somehow extricate themselves.

For example, the human genome exists in every one of us, and is therefore our shared heritage and an undoubted fact of nature. Nevertheless 20 percent of the genome is now privately owned. The gene for diabetes is owned, and its owner has something to say about any research you do, and what it will cost you. The entire genome of the hepatitis C virus is owned by a biotech company. Royalty costs now influence the direction of research in basic diseases, and often even the testing for diseases. Such barriers to medical testing and research are not in the public interest. Do you want to be told by your doctor, "Oh, nobody studies your disease any more because the owner of the gene/enzyme/correlation has made it too expensive to do research?"

The question of whether basic truths of nature can be owned ought not to be confused with concerns about how we pay for biotech development, whether we will have drugs in the future, and so on. If you invent a new test, you may patent it and sell it for as much as you can, if that's your goal. Companies can certainly own a test they have invented. But they should not own the disease itself, or the gene that causes the disease, or essential underlying facts about the disease. The distinction is not difficult, even though patent lawyers attempt to blur it. And even if correlation patents have been granted, the overwhelming majority of medical correlations, including those listed above, are not owned. And shouldn't be.

Unfortunately for the public, the Metabolite case is only one example of a much broader patent problem in this country. We grant patents at a level of abstraction that is unwise, and it's gotten us into trouble in the past. Some years back, doctors were allowed to patent surgical procedures and sue other doctors who used their methods without paying a fee. A blizzard of lawsuits followed. This unhealthy circumstance was halted in 1996 by the American Medical Association and Congress, which decided that doctors couldn't sue other doctors for using patented surgical procedures. But the beat goes on.

Companies have patented their method of hiring, and real estate agents have patented the way they sell houses. Lawyers now advise athletes to patent their sports moves, and screenwriters to patent their movie plots. (My screenplay for "Jurassic Park" was cited as a good candidate.)

Where does all this lead? It means that if a real estate agent lists a house for sale, he can be sued because an existing patent for selling houses includes item No. 7, "List the house." It means that Kobe Bryant may serve as an inspiration but not a model, because nobody can imitate him without fines. It means nobody can write a dinosaur story because my patent includes 257 items covering all aspects of behavior, like item No. 13, "Dinosaurs attack humans and other dinosaurs."

Such a situation is idiotic, of course. Yet elements of it already exist. And unless we begin to turn this around, there will be worse to come.

I wanted to end this essay by telling a story about how current rulings hurt us, but the patent for "ending an essay with an anecdote" is owned. So I thought to end with a quotation from a famous person, but that strategy is patented, too. I then decided to end abruptly, but "abrupt ending for dramatic effect" is also patented. Finally, I decided to pay the "end with summary" patent fee, since it was the least expensive.

The Supreme Court should rule against Metabolite, and the Patent Office should begin to reverse its strategy of patenting strategies. Basic truths of nature can't be owned.

Oh, and by the way: I own the patent for "essay or letter criticizing a previous publication." So anyone who criticizes what I have said here had better pay a royalty first, or I'll see you in court.

Michael Crichton is the author, most recently, of "State of Fear."

Dam Break for "9/11 Truth?"

Webster Tarpley and Charlie Sheen hit the Mainstream

CNN and New York Magazine interview Webster Tarpley, author of "9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA." Actor Charlie Sheen says the wildest conspiracy theory is the official line.

http://www.Free-Press-Release.com/news/200603/1143065487.html

Released by: John Leonard 2006-03-22 16:11:27

For_Immediate_Release:

It will be a first for America's mainstream media tonight. CNN Headline News will air an interview with "9/11 Truth" author Webster Griffin Tarpley on Showbiz Tonight (7-8 p.m., replay at 11).

Tarpley will comment on Sheen's remarks and size up the various schools of "9/11 conspiracy" thought on CNN. The new edition of Tarpley's "Synthetic Terror" points out the different viewpoints on 9/11, which range from the Bush administration version, to the "bungling negligence" theory partly espoused by the 9/11 commission, to the "Let It Happen on Purpose" or LIHOP theory, a compromise popular among liberal intellectuals like Michael Moore.

CNN's move comes in the wake of a far-reaching article in New York Magazine on the 9/11 controversy this week at http://www.nymag.com/news/features/16464/index.html , which cited Tarpley, plus hard-hitting comments by actor Charlie Sheen on the Alex Jones talk radio show, infowars.com, on Monday, see http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/march2006/200306charliesheen.htm

Tarpley's book, "9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA" presents the radical view of no hijackers, controlled demolition of the WTC, and an inside job by a "rogue network esconced in key nodes of the establishment." His Tarpley's publisher, John Leonard of www.ProgressivePress.com, is adamant that "LIHOP" is useless because it leaves intact the story of Arab attackers, and thereby the pretext for war on the Middle East. He and Tarpley subscribe to the "MIHOP" or "Made it Happen on Purpose - from A to Z" explanation.

The precedent is Operation Northwoods, a 1962 plan by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to fabricate an atrocity and blame it on Cuba. The plot was nixed by Kennedy. Northwoods documents were released under the FOIA act before Bush took power.

According to Alex Jones' website, "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....

"The star of current hit comedy show Two and a Half Men and dozens of movies including Platoon and Young Guns, Sheen.... agreed that the biggest conspiracy theory was put out by the government itself... 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."

Tarpley's message to people of good will: "If you want to stop the war in iraq, and prevent the attack on Iran, the only way to do it is to put 9/11 truth on the front page everywhere. Make the official version explode, or the bombs will."

P.S. www.911blogger.com wrote:

Tarpley got a very short clip, but the piece was a major hit for 9/11 skeptics, great stuff... we will have a version up shortly so you can check it out.

The CNN website is http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/showbiz.tonight/ We hope a transcript of the show will be posted tomorrow. Video clips have been posted at: http://www.911blogger.com/files/video/911truthCNN.mov http://www.stoplying.ca/media/showbiz1.wmv http://www.911podcasts.com/files/video/ShowbizTonight20060322.wmv http://www.911podcasts.com/files/video/ShowbizTonight20060322.rm

Evolution education update: March 24, 2006

In a newspaper interview, the Archbishop of Canterbury announced his opposition to the teaching of creationism. In Arkansas, a piece on evolution education in Arkansas is the cover story of the Arkansas Times, while in New York, antievolution legislation is still alive. And biogeographers voice their support for evolution education.

ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY OPPOSES CREATIONISM

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, told the Guardian (March 21, 2006) that creationism should not be taught in science classrooms. "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 was quoted as saying. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the leader of the 70-million-member Anglican Communion, often identified as the third largest Christian religious body in the world.

The question of creationism in the schools of the United Kingdom was in the news earlier in the month, due to a new biology syllabus in which creationism is mentioned but not endorsed. A spokeswoman for the OCR examinations board justified the inclusion of creationism to the Times of London (March 10, 2006) by saying, "Candidates need to understand the social and historical context to scientific ideas both pre and post Darwin." But James Williams of Sussex University's school of education worried, "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."

For the story in the Guardian, visit:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,,1735730,00.html

For the complete transcript of the interview, visit:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,,1735404,00.html

For the story in the Times of London, visit:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2078747,00.html

"THE MISSING LINK"

Jason R. Wiles's article "The missing link" -- detailing the ways in which evolution education is neglected in his home state of Arkansas -- appeared as the cover story in the weekly Arkansas Times (March 23, 2006). Relying on both anecdotal and statistical data, Wiles concludes, "evolution is being squeezed out of education systematically and broadly," adding, "The fallout is widespread ignorance of the tools and methods of science for generations to come." Wiles is a Ph.D. candidate in science education at McGill University, where he is also co-manager of the Evolution Education Research Centre. His article originally appeared in Reports of the National Center for Science Education.

Accompanying Wiles's article in the Arkansas Times were three letters of support, including one from Susan Epperson, the plaintiff in the landmark case Epperson v. Arkansas. Epperson wrote, "I wanted to say 'thanks' to you for this article about all the difficulty teaching evolution in Arkansas. ... I really feel for these teachers and administrators having to deal with the attitudes of folks who have been taught that scientists are atheists and not to be trusted. A crying shame." In a related article, Jennifer Barnett Reed investigated to what extent the Arkansas Department of Education ensures that teachers comply with the state science standards -- minimally, she concludes.

For the trio of articles in the Arkansas Times, visit:
http://www.arktimes.com/Articles/ArticleViewer.aspx?ArticleID=e7a0f0e1-ecfd-4fc8-bca4-b9997c912a91
http://www.arktimes.com/Articles/ArticleViewer.aspx?ArticleID=7d62ef31-fcfc-4055-9365-3c5e949ef950
http://www.arktimes.com/Articles/ArticleViewer.aspx?ArticleID=f435343b-f871-4548-99b0-f4e11f55aa44

To subscribe to Reports of the NCSE, in which Wiles's article first appeared, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/membership.asp

"INTELLIGENT DESIGN" LEGISLATION IN NEW YORK REBORN

Assembly Bill 8036 is back. Originally introduced on May 3, 2005, the bill would have required that "all pupils in grades kindergarten through twelve in all public schools in the state ... receive instruction in both theories of intelligent design and evolution." It also charged New York's commissioner of education to assist in developing curricula and local boards of education to provide "appropriate training and curriculum materials ... to ensure that all aspects of the theories, along with any supportive data, are fully examined through such course of study."

NCSE previously reported that the bill died in committee when the New York State Assembly's legislative session ended on June 24, 2005. But apparently not: on January 4, 2006, the bill was again referred to the House Committee on Education, where, after two amendments, it remains. The main difference is that the bill now would require pupils to receive instruction in "all aspects of the controversy surrounding evolution and the origins of man," including but not limited to "intelligent design and information effectively challenging the theory of evolution."

For the current text of the bill, visit:
http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn=A08036&sh=t

For NCSE's coverage of previous events in New York, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=NY

BIOGEOGRAPHERS ADD THEIR VOICE FOR EVOLUTION

The Biogeography Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers adopted a strong statement on the teaching of evolution on November 1, 2005. The statement reads:

The Biogeography Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers affirms the fundamental importance and validity of evolutionary theory for understanding the origin, distribution, history, and diversity of life on Earth and thus its importance to the field of geography.

Evolution is a foundational principle of modern biology and the geosciences. It is supported by overwhelming evidence, and is accepted by the vast majority of scientists. We support extensive inclusion of evolution in state science standards and science curricula at all educational levels. We oppose all efforts to compromise, downplay, or diminish its centrality in science, including efforts to incorporate "intelligent design" (ID) into science curricula. We strongly endorse the resolutions of the American Association for the Advancement of Science regarding the place of contemporary evolutionary theory in science and science education.

We conceive science to be a systematic endeavor to describe, explain, and predict the material world in terms of natural forces and processes subject to empirical testing and verification. While it makes no overt references to a particular deity, ID is a metaphysical proposition. As such, it is unrelated to scientific inquiry and should have no connection to science instruction. Intelligent Design produces no testable hypotheses, its assertions can never be rigorously tested. Moreover, by invoking a supernatural to explain phenomena we do not yet understand, ID forfeits the possibility of deriving naturalistic explanations, and

We recognize that metaphysical viewpoints play important roles in all cultures and societies, respect the rights of all individuals to believe and worship as they see fit, and affirm the worthiness of religion as a subject of geographic inquiry. We support the study of the rich diversity of religious belief in comparative and neutral contexts, but metaphysical concerns have no place in science classrooms.

Americans' lagging understanding of science and math threaten our global economic and technological competitiveness. Science instruction must not be distracted by unrelated subjects. Intelligent design and other pseudoscientific concepts do not contribute to developing the basic understanding that will allow students to navigate the world they will inherit: quite the opposite, they are distractions we can ill-afford. Biogeography Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers opposes their inclusion in school science curricula.

The Biogeography Speciality Group of the Association of American Geographers seeks to promote interactions between biogeographers, stimulate active research and teaching development in biogeography, and facilitate the exchange of ideas.

For the BSG's statement, visit:
http://www.departments.bucknell.edu/geography/The_Biogeographer/6-1_2005_Fall.html#Evo

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

'South Park' Fans Threaten To Boycott New Tom Cruise Film

http://www.kfoxtv.com/entertainment/8232038/detail.html

Fans Push To Get Scientology Episode To Re-Aired

POSTED: 10:02 am MST March 24, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Turning Chef into a child molester and then having him mauled to death by a lion and bear apparently isn't enough for some "South Park" fans.

The Washington Post said fans have started a campaign urging people to write, phone or e-mail Viacom threatening to boycott "Mission Impossible 3" -- unless Comedy Central reruns the episode spoofing Scientology that caused Isaac Hayes to quit.

The rerun of that Scientology episode was mysteriously pulled off the air last week amid published reports that Cruise, another Scientologist, had used his clout to get the episode yanked.

Series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker said there would be retribution, and came through with their promise when Hayes' Chef was skewered with the episode that kicked off "South Park's" 10th season Wednesday night.

Stone and Parker took a big shot at Scientology, too, on the show, albiet through a thinly veiled metaphor. In the show, the boys of South Park try to save Chef after he is brainwashed by "The Super Adventure Club." The club, as we come to find out, is a group of child molesters.

At the end of the show, Kyle said they shouldn't be mad at Chef for leaving, they should be "mad at that fruity little club for scrambling his brains."

Comedy Central said that an estimated 3.5 million viewers -- including 2.3 million in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49 age bracket -- tuned in to watch the show.

The network said it's the show's biggest season debut since 2002.

Judge in Dover case reports hostile e-mails

http://www.ydr.com/doverbiology/ci_3634734

Jones and his family were under marshals' protection in December.

By LAURI LEBO Daily Record/Sunday News

Mar 24, 2006 — In the days after U.S. Judge John E. Jones III issued his decision in Dover's intelligent design case, outraged people sent threatening e-mails to his office.

Jones won't discuss details of the e-mails, or where they might have come from, but he said they concerned the U.S. Marshals Service.

So, in the week before Christmas, marshals kept watch over Jones and his family.

While no single e-mail may have reached the level of a direct threat, Jones said, the overall tone was so strident, marshals "simply determined the tenor was of sufficient concern that I ought to have protection."

"They decided to err on the side of caution," he said.

Jones, a judge with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, decided to speak publicly about the e-mails this week in light of recent reports about threats of violence against federal judges. He said statements made by "irresponsible commentators and political figures" have gotten so extreme that he fears tragedy.

"We're going to get a judge hurt," he said.

Jones pointed to a Sunday New York Times article about U.S. Supreme Court justices speaking of the recent threats.

The article concerned a speech in which Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg revealed details of an Internet death threat targeting her and recently retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

A February 2005 posting on an Internet chat site addressing unnamed "commandos" said: "Here is your first patriotic assignment. ... If you are what you say you are, and NOT armchair patriots, then those two justices will not live another week."

In another speech this month, the Times said in the same article, Justice O'Connor addressed comments made last year in the Terri Schiavo case by Rep. Tom DeLay and Sen. John Cornyn, both Texas Republicans.

Cornyn hinted after the judge's decision that such rulings could lead to violence.

"It builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in violence," Cornyn said. "Certainly without any justification, but a concern that I have."

'It saddens you'

Jones is also concerned with a statement uttered recently by conservative pundit Ann Coulter regarding Justice John Paul Stevens' past votes upholding Roe v. Wade.

At a speech in Little Rock, Ark., this month, Coulter was quoted as saying, "We need somebody to put rat poison in Justice Stevens' crème brulee."

Jones said such remarks could fuel irrational acts by misguided individuals thinking they're being patriotic.

"There is an element here that is acting like it is open season on judges," Jones said.

"It saddens me that it's come to the point, where we're talking about what ought to be an honest disagreement, then you heighten it to something that is darker and much more disturbing."

Last year, Pinellas County, Fla., Circuit Judge George Greer and his family were under the protection of armed guards because of death threats over his ruling to allow Michael Schiavo to remove the feeding tube from his wife, who doctors determined was in a persistent vegetative state.

And 13 months ago in Illinois, U.S. District Judge Joan H. Lefkow's husband and her mother were killed, both shot in the head. Authorities determined that their killer was a disgruntled, unemployed electrician who was a plaintiff in a medical malpractice suit that Lefkow dismissed.

This is the first time Jones, who was appointed to the federal bench in August 2002, has availed himself of marshal protection.

But he said most federal judges who have spent enough time on the bench will need security at least once in their careers.

"It doesn't anger you," he said. "It saddens you. The reason I chose to talk about it now is that attacks on judges have really gone beyond the pale."

An attempt to educate

In a 139-page opinion, Jones ruled that intelligent design was not science but merely repackaged creationism, which courts had previously ruled should not be taught in science classes. Jones struck down Dover Area School Board's curriculum policy that required biology students to hear a statement that told them "intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Charles Darwin's view."

And he referred to the "breathtaking inanity" of the school board's decision. "The students, parents and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."

While most judges are reticent, Jones said he's opted to use his recent exposure - Wired News named him one of 2005's top 10 sexiest geeks - to educate the public about judicial independence.

In the wake of his decision, the pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute dubbed him "an activist judge."

And conservative commentator Phyllis Schlafly chided him for going against the wishes of fundamentalist Christians.

"Judge John E. Jones III could still be chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board if millions of evangelical Christians had not pulled the lever for George W. Bush in 2000," Schlafly wrote less than two weeks after the decision. "Yet this federal judge, who owes his position entirely to those voters and the president who appointed him, stuck the knife in the backs of those who brought him to the dance in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District."

Jones, a Republican who received the judicial endorsement of Pennsylvania conservative Sen. Rick Santorum, said he anticipated such reaction, but "I didn't know what corner it would come from."

People who hurl such accusations don't understand the role of an independent judge, he said. A judge's responsibility is not to interpret the desires of a political base. Rather, it is to interpret the law based on existing legal precedent.

He said decisions can't be determined by political affiliations. They must be made without bias.

"Had I ignored existing precedent," he said, "that would have been the work of an activist judge."

DISCOVERY'S DISCOURSE

Discovery Institute, an organization championing intelligent design, has released a book critical of U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III's ruling in Dover's intelligent design lawsuit.

The book, "Traipsing Into Evolution: Intelligent Design and the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Decision" dissects Jones' December decision, in which he ruled intelligent design was creationism posing as science.

Intelligent design is the idea that the complexity of life demands a creator.

The book, which is 15 pages shorter than Jones' 139-page opinion, is written by Casey Luskin, a Discovery attorney, and Discovery fellows David K. DeWolf, John G. West and Jonathan Witt.

The writers argue that Jones' decision was the work of "an activist judge" and that he ignored the science behind intelligent design.

The book is priced at $14.95 and is available at bookstores throughout the country and online at Amazon.com. It also can be ordered directly by calling 800-643-4102.

WHAT'S NEW

Robert L. Park Friday, 24 Mar 06 Washington, DC

MIRACLE MEDICINE: WASH POST HYPES PRAYER STUDY ON PAGE ONE.
Today, in a major front-page story, staff writer Rob Stein tells us that "the largest, best-designed study of intercessory prayer" is being published in two weeks. What does it say? The secret is guarded as tightly as the Academy Awards. However, as I write this, the world population clock reads 6,505,424,096. Most of them pray. A bunch of them pray 5 times a day. They pray mostly for their health, or that of loved ones, making prayer by far the most widely practiced medical therapy. It's a wonder anyone is still sick. No one doubts that personal "petitionary" prayer benefits believers. Optimism is good medicine. To the believer, prayer is a stronger placebo than sugar pills. Stein, however, has his facts wrong. The controversy (if there ever was one among scientists) was settled in 1872 by Sir Francis Galton when he published "Statistical Inquiries into the Efficacy of Prayer." Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, recognized that remote prayer by strangers would be blind to the placebo effect. Since the Order for Morning Prayer of the Church of England includes prayers for the health and long life of the monarch and the archbishop, he compared their longevity to that of the general population and found no difference. So who is doing this new study? Herbert Benson, founder and president of the Mind-Body Institute, who touted the health benefits of prayer in his 1975 bestseller "The Relaxation Effect." It would be a miracle if he now discovers there's nothing to it. It's in our hands now, we have two weeks to pray that the study turns out to be objective.

MOUSE MEDICINE: CONTROVERSIAL CURE FOR DIABETES IS VERIFIED.
Today's Science magazine carries reports by three separate groups verifying a controversial cure for Type I diabetes in mice. First reported by Denise Faustman in 2001, the treatment induces the pancreas to repair itself in half to two-thirds of the cases, which many researchers thought was impossible. The findings are encouraging, but there is a long history of cures for disease in mice that do not work out in humans. However, a waiting list of 600 is clamoring for human trials. The alternative is prayer.

THE H-PRIZE: WOULD INCENTIVES HASTEN TRANSITION TO HYDROGEN?
Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC), Research Subcommittee Chair, announced that next week he will introduce legislation to create a major new incentive of perhaps $100 million to overcome scientific and technical barriers to a hydrogen economy. Like maybe the First Law of Thermodynamics? Inglis was inspired by the "success" of the Ansari X-Prize, which awarded $10 million for bringing a few minutes of space sickness into the lives of the rich and bored.

JUST A THEORY: ANGLICAN LEADER SPEAKS OUT ABOUT CREATIONISM.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, told The Guardian on Tuesday that creationism devalues the Bible as "just another theory." His choice of words was ironic in view of the anti-evolution slogan.

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

Researchers Look at Prayer and Healing

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/23/AR2006032302177.html

Conclusions and Premises Debated as Big Study's Release Nears

By Rob Stein Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, March 24, 2006; A01

At the Fairfax Community Church in Virginia, the faithful regularly pray for ailing strangers. Same goes at the Adas Israel synagogue in Washington and the Islamic Center of Maryland in Gaithersburg.

In churches, mosques, ashrams, "healing rooms," prayer groups and homes nationwide, millions of Americans offer prayers daily to heal themselves, family, friends, co-workers and even people found through the Internet. Fueled by the upsurge in religious expression in the United States, prayer is the most common complement to mainstream medicine, far outpacing acupuncture, herbs, vitamins and other alternative remedies.

"Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism -- every religion believes in prayer for healing," said Paul Parker, a professor of theology and religion at Elmhurst College outside Chicago. "Some call it prayer, some call it cleansing the mind. The words or posture may vary. But in times of illness, all religions look towards their source of authority."

The outpouring of spiritual healing has inspired a small group of researchers to attempt to use the tools of modern science to test the power of prayer to cure others. The results have been mixed and highly controversial. Skeptics say the work is a deeply flawed and misguided waste of money that irresponsibly attempts to validate the supernatural with science. And some believers say it is pointless to try to divine the workings of God with experiments devised by mortals.

Proponents, however, maintain the research is valuable, given the large numbers of people who believe in the power of prayer to influence health. Surveys have found that perhaps half of Americans regularly pray for their own health, and at least a quarter have others pray for them.

"It's one of the most prevalent forms of healing. Open-minded scientists have a responsibility to look into this," said Marilyn J. Schlitz of the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

The contentious enterprise is at something of a crossroads. Two new studies are about to report no benefit of having people pray for the sick, the only study underway is nearing completion, and the largest, best-designed project is being published in two weeks. Its eagerly awaited findings could sound the death knell for the field, breathe new life into such efforts, or create new debate.

"I will guarantee you that study will have a very interesting impact on a lot of people's thinking," said Mitchell W. Krucoff of Duke University, who wrote an editorial that will accompany the closely guarded findings in the American Heart Journal. "But how you interpret the results will probably depend on your point of view."

Many studies done over the years indicate that the devout tend to be healthier. But the reasons remain far from clear. Healthy people may be more likely to join churches. The pious may lead more wholesome lifestyles. Churches, synagogues and mosques may help people take better care of themselves. The quiet meditation and incantations of praying, or the comfort of being prayed for, appears to lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, slow the heart rate and have other potentially beneficial effects.

But the most controversial research focuses on "intercessory" or "distant" prayer, which involves people trying to heal others through their intentions, thoughts or prayers, sometimes without the recipients knowing it. The federal government has spent $2.2 million in the past five years on studies of distant healing, which have also drawn support from private foundations.

San Francisco cardiologist Randolph Byrd, for example, conducted an experiment in which he asked born-again Christians to pray for 192 people hospitalized for heart problems, comparing them with 201 not targeted for prayer. No one knew which group they were in. He reported in 1988 that those who were prayed for needed fewer drugs and less help breathing.

William S. Harris of St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., and colleagues published similar results in 1999 from a study involving nearly 1,000 heart patients, about half of whom were prayed for without their knowledge.

But these and other studies have been called deeply flawed. They were, for example, analyzed in the most favorable way possible, looking at so many outcomes that the positive findings could easily have been the result of chance, critics say.

"It's called the sharpshooter's fallacy," said Richard Sloan, a behavioral researcher at Columbia University. "The sharpshooter empties the gun into the side of a barn and then draws the bull's-eye. In science, you have to predict in advance what effect you may have."

Other studies have been even more contentious, such as a 2001 project involving fertility patients that became mired in accusations of fraud.

"I would like to see us stop wasting precious research dollars putting religious practices to the test of science," Sloan said. "It's a waste of money, and it trivializes the religious experience."

Even some advocates of incorporating more prayer and spirituality into medicine agree.

"I don't see how you could quantify prayer -- either the results of it or the substance of it," said the Rev. Raymond J. Lawrence of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. "God is beyond the reach of science. It's absurd to think you could use it to examine God's play."

Perhaps most important, many scientists say, is that there is no rational explanation for how this kind of prayer might work.

"There's nothing we know about the physical universe that could account for how the prayers of someone in Washington, D.C., could influence the health of a group of people in Iowa -- nothing whatsoever," Sloan said.

But supporters say that much about medicine remains murky or is explained only over time. They say, for example, that it was relatively recently that scientists figured out how aspirin works, although it has been in use for centuries.

"Yesterday's science fiction often becomes tomorrow's science," said John A. Astin of the California Pacific Medical Center.

Proponents often cite a phenomenon from quantum physics, in which distant particles can affect each other's behavior in mysterious ways.

"When quantum physics was emerging, Einstein wrote about spooky interactions between particles at a distance," Krucoff said. "That's at least one very theoretical model that might support notions of distant prayer or distant healing."

Krucoff, a cardiologist, published a study last summer involving 748 heart patients at nine hospitals. That study failed overall to show any benefit. But Krucoff said he did find tantalizing hints that warrant follow-up: A subset of patients who had a second group of people praying that the prayers of the first group would be answered may have done better.

That underscores one of the many difficulties that critics and advocates say makes studying prayer problematic: There is no way to quantify the "dose," and no way to know whether people outside the study may be praying for its subjects, diluting the effects.

Two smaller, more recently completed studies illustrate yet another problem. Each involved about 150 patients with brain tumors or AIDS. Only some were targeted by "distant healing" and only some knew they were the recipients. But in addition to traditional prayers, many of the dozens of "healers" used other approaches, such as visualizing patients and sending a "healing intention" or "energy" or "light." Both studies, which will be published later this year, did not show any effect. But neither of the researchers who led them is advocating giving up, saying their studies may have been doomed by including too many healing variations.

The only ongoing study is also testing whether a spectrum of healers can help -- in this case, women who are recovering from reconstructive surgery after breast cancer. Doctors are inserting tiny tubes under the skin of about 90 women to measure the growth of collagen, which is necessary for healing, to see if those targeted by healers accumulate more than those who do not. The study will end this spring.

Krucoff and others say it is also important to study prayer as an adjunct -- not a replacement -- to standard medical care, to make sure it is safe.

"Human physiology is a very delicate equilibrium. When you throw energy you don't understand into this, it would be naive to think you could only do good," he said.

In the hope of shedding light on that and other questions, researchers are awaiting the results of the study led by Herbert Benson of Harvard University, which involved about 1,800 heart-bypass patients at six centers who were divided into three groups. Only some of them knew whether they were receiving prayer.

"What that study finds will help tell us which way to go -- whether there are intriguing findings or the book ought to be closed on this topic," said Harold Koenig of Duke University.

But researchers on both sides, as well as those who believe in prayer, say the results of that and other studies are unlikely to change many minds.

"I don't think it will alter my beliefs one way or the other," said Trish Lankowski, who started a healing room at Immanuel's Church in Silver Spring this past Sunday night. "I believe in the power of prayer wholeheartedly. I know it works."

FHSU Faculty Senate rejects intelligent design

http://www.fhsu.edu/leader/archive.php?issue=20060317&type=news&read=2facultysenate.inc

Danielle Dinges drdinges@scatcat.fhsu.edu

Evolution vs. intelligent design; this particular scientific debate has been rehashed numerous times by educational leaders.

These same individuals were shocked in November 2005, when the Kansas Board of Education approved standards for teaching intelligent design. This not only challenges the current theory of evolution, but it draws many religious and political questions into the classroom setting. The decision also caused a significant uproar with school officials throughout the United States, and made Kansas the target of educational mockery.

Following the state's decision, school boards across Kansas had to determine whether or not to support the new announcement.

Lynn Zimmerman, a Hays High School science teacher, said that the curriculum hasn't currently changed on a local level. Since the Hays High school board supports the teaching of evolution, there is no reason to change the material.

"We will still teach evolution … The only real change will be in state assessments," said Zimmerman, where questions regarding evolution will be weeded out.

As the Hays High school board opted out of the changes, FHSU was soon to follow. The Faculty Senate recently made the decision to not support the new state standards.

"We (members of the Faculty Senate) feel the Board of Education has not acted in a manner consistent with the education of science students," said Win Jordan, assistant professor of accounting and information systems and president of the Senate.

After this conclusion, the Senate asked for the University Affairs Committee to create a statement that opposed the current state standards; thus Resolution 05-02 was born. This particular resolution, which explained the reason FHSU no longer supported the state board of education, was passed during the February meeting of the Faculty Senate.

Jordan said, "As such, the Faculty Senate of FHSU does not support the inclusion of material, such as intelligent design, which has so far failed to withstand scientific scrutiny based on rigorous and verifiable peer-reviewed research."

Soon after the passage, the Senate members approved a new scientific claim created by the Kansas Association of Teachers of Science. The group chose this particular statement because it "was in accordance with the stand we had taken on scientific curriculum content," Jordan said.

This group, also known as KATS, is the leading association for science teachers within the state of Kansas. Their statement opposes the state BOE decisions, and supports the teaching of science rather than unproven phenomena. It also indicates that the decision will blur the already hazy lines of religious beliefs and verified scientific discoveries.

David Pollock, president of KATS, said that the "broad risk involved is the continued attack on the teaching of evolution."

As the Faculty Senate firmly stands behind their decision, the FHSU science curriculum will see little to no change. Meanwhile, other schools across the state of Kansas must decide whether to allow the new science standards to enter their science classrooms.

Although this debate may continue for years, Pollock suggested that "with the recent court cases, intelligent design is losing acceptance."

Junk medicine: spinal manipulation

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,8123-2100577,00.html

by Mark Henderson

The rules of science apply

Spinal manipulation is one of the fields of alternative medicine to which sceptics are generally most willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

The manual therapies offered by chiropractors and osteopaths have a plausible physiological mechanism for their supposed effects, at least for the musculoskeletal problems for which they are most commonly used. Several clinical trials have suggested beneficial effects, principally for back pain, though evidence has been mixed.

Many mainstream medical voices are willing to accept that, like some acupuncture and herbalism, manipulation therapies might have something to offer. That was not, however, the verdict of a "review of reviews" published this week in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (JRSM). The study, led by Professor Edzard Ernst, of the University of Exeter, looked at 16 reviews of the evidence on spinal manipulation and found the data in its favour wanting.

While it was not surprising to learn that the technique is useless for period pain or allergies, it fared badly even with complaints for which benefits might be expected. For neck pain it was "not of demonstrable effectiveness". Even for back pain it was no better than conventional treatments, such as exercise. "There is little evidence that spinal manipulation is effective in the treatment of any medical condition, " it concluded.

As the British Chiropractic Association predictably pointed out, this does not sit neatly with the findings of other reputable research. A Medical Research Council study published in the British Medical Journal, for instance, found evidence of a moderate but significant effect for lower-back pain. How could the Exeter team have made so withering a judgment? There are two good answers to this question. First, it is important to consider the nature of the JRSM paper. While it did not involve any fresh experiments, it sought to combine the results of multiple reviews and analyses of existing data. This is an important tool for assessing the benefits of therapeutic techniques because individual studies, and even small and selective reviews, can often reach misleading conclusions.

Perform enough studies and some are going to produce apparently significant findings because of a small data set, methodological flaws or just through chance. A review of reviews like this will, by its nature, contradict the findings of some of the basic studies it includes.

Next, Ernst considered not only whether manipulation was better than a placebo or sham version of the therapy but how it compared with other forms of treatment. It is not enough when setting guidelines for best practice to know simply whether a treatment can have positive effects. These — and any risks — must be weighed against those of a range of therapies that might also be prescribed. Manipulation performed poorly here: it is a riskier treatment for back pain than exercise but there's no strong evidence for greater benefits.

These issues are regularly overlooked in considerations of the effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicine and, indeed, with orthodox medicine, too. Single studies that show an apparent benefit for, say, homoeopathy are often claimed as compelling evidence, while others, including larger reviews, that find otherwise are ignored. The effectiveness and safety of alternative remedies also tend to be considered in isolation and are not often compared with the other options that their advocates want to replace.

Ernst's review isn't the end of the story on manipulation: he calls for more research. But there is a clear need for more systematic reviews of this nature, if patients are to be properly informed about which alternative treatments are worth trying and which are not. It is to Ernst's credit that he is applying the normal rules of medical science to therapies that have too often escaped its critical gaze.

Mark Henderson is the Times science correspondent


Thursday, March 23, 2006

The missing link

http://www.arktimes.com/Articles/ArticleViewer.aspx?ArticleID=e7a0f0e1-ecfd-4fc8-bca4-b9997c912a91

Scientist discovers that evolution is missing from Arkansas classrooms.

Jason R. Wiles Updated: 3/23/2006

In the fall of 2004, I received an e-mail from an old friend back in Arkansas, where I was raised. She was concerned about a problem her father was having at work. "Bob" is a geologist and a teacher at a science education institution that serves several Arkansas public school districts. My friend did not know the details of Bob's problem, only that it had to do with geology education. This was enough to arouse my interest, so I invited Bob to tell me about what was going on.

He responded with an e-mail. Teachers at his facility are forbidden to use the "e-word" (evolution) with the kids. They are permitted to use the word "adaptation" but only to refer to a current characteristic of an organism, not as a product of evolutionary change via natural selection. They cannot even use the term "natural selection." Bob feared that not being able to use evolutionary terms and ideas to answer his students' questions would lead to reinforcement of their misconceptions.

But Bob's personal issue was more specific, and the prohibition more insidious. In his words, "I am instructed NOT to use hard numbers when telling kids how old rocks are. I am supposed to say that these rocks are VERY VERY OLD ... but I am NOT to say that these rocks are thought to be about 300 million years old."

As a person with a geology background, Bob found this restriction hard to justify, especially since the new Arkansas educational benchmarks for 5th grade include introduction of the concept of the 4.5-billion-year age of the earth. Bob's facility is supposed to be meeting or exceeding those benchmarks.

The explanation that had been given to Bob by his supervisors was that their science facility is in a delicate position and must avoid irritating some religious fundamentalists who may have their fingers on the purse strings of various school districts. Apparently his supervisors feared that teachers or parents might be offended if Bob taught their children about the age of rocks and that it would result in another school district pulling out of their program. He closed his explanatory message with these lines:

"So my situation here is tenuous. I am under censure for mentioning numbers. … I find that my 'fire' for this place is fading if we're going to dissemble about such a basic factor of modern science. I mean ... the Scopes trial was how long ago now??? I thought we had fought this battle ... and still it goes on."

I immediately referred Bob to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). They responded with excellent advice. Bob was able to use their suggestions along with some of the position statements of numerous scientific societies and science teacher organizations listed by the NCSE's Voices for Evolution Project in defense of his continued push to teach the science he felt obligated to present to his students. Nevertheless, his supervisors remained firm in their policy of steering clear of specifically mentioning evolution or "deep time" chronology.

I was going to be in Arkansas in that December anyway, so I decided to investigate Bob's issue in person. He was happy for the support, but even more excited to show me around the facility. Bob is infectiously enthusiastic about nature and science education. He is just the kind of person we want to see working with students. He had arranged for me to meet with the directors of the facility, but he wanted to give me a guided tour of the place first.

Self-censorship in defense of science?

I would like to describe the grounds of the facility in more detail, but I must honor the request of all parties involved to not be identified. It was, however, a beautiful place, and the students, fifth-graders that day, seemed more engaged in their learning than most I had ever seen. To be sure, the facility does a fantastic job of teaching science, but I was there to find out about what it was not teaching. Bob and I toured the grounds for quite some time, including a hike to a cave he had recently discovered nearby, and when we returned I was shown to my interview with the program director and executive director.

Both of the directors welcomed me warmly and were very forthcoming in their answers to my questions. They were, however, quite firm in their insistence that they and their facility be kept strictly anonymous if I was to write a story about Bob's issue. We talked for over an hour about the site's mission, their classes, and Bob's situation specifically. Both directors agreed that "in a perfect world" they could, and would, teach evolution and deep time. However, back in the real world, they defended their stance on the prohibition of the "e-word," reasoning that it would take too long to teach the concept of evolution effectively (especially if they had to defuse any objections) and expressing concern for the well-being of their facility. Their program depends upon public support and continued patronage of the region's school districts, which they felt could be threatened by any political blowback from an unwanted evolution controversy.

With regard to Bob's geologic time scale issue, the program director likened it to a game of Russian roulette. He admitted that probably very few students would have a real problem with a discussion about time on the order of millions of years, but that it might only take one child's parents to cause major problems. He spun a scenario of a student's returning home with stories beginning with "Millions of years ago …" that could set a fundamentalist parent on a veritable witch hunt, first gathering support of like-minded parents and then showing up at school board meetings until the district pulled out of the science program to avoid conflict. He added that this might cause a ripple effect, other districts following suit, leading to the demise of the program.

Essentially, they are not allowing Bob to teach a certain set of scientific data in order to protect their ability to provide students the good science curriculum they do teach. The directors are not alone in their opinion that discussions of deep time and the "e-word" could be detrimental to the program's existence. They have polled teachers in the districts they serve and have heard from them more than enough times that teaching evolution would be "political suicide."

Bob's last communication indicated that he had signed up with NCSE and was leaning towards the "grin and bear it" approach, which, given his position and the position of the institution, may be the best option. I was a bit disheartened, but still impressed with all the good that is going on at Bob's facility. I was also curious about other educational institutions, so I decided to ask some questions where I could.

The first place I happened to find, purely by accident, was a privately run science museum for kids. As with Bob's facility, the museum requested not to be referred to by name. I was only there for a short time, but I'm not quite sure what to make of what happened there. I looked around the museum and found a few biological exhibits, but nothing dealing with evolution. I introduced myself to one of the museum's employees as a science educator (I am indeed a science educator) and asked her if they had any exhibits on evolution. She said that they used to, but several parents — some of whom home-schooled their children, some of whom are associated with Christian schools — had been offended by the exhibit and complained. They had said either that they would not be back until it was removed or that they would not be using that part of the museum if they returned. "It was right over there," she said, pointing to an area that was being used at that time for a kind of holiday display.

Later that evening, I had a visit with the coordinator of gifted and talented education at one of Arkansas's larger public school districts. As before, she has requested that she and her school system be kept anonymous, so I will call her "Susan." Susan told me she had overheard a teacher explaining the "balanced treatment" given to creationism in her classroom. This was not just any classroom, but an Advanced Placement biology classroom. This was important to Susan, not only because of the subject and level of the class, but also because it fell under her supervision. Was she obliged to do something about this? She knew quite well that the "balanced treatment" being taught had been found by a federal court to violate the Constitution's establishment clause — perhaps there is no greater irony than that two of the most significant cases decided by federal courts against teaching creationism were Epperson v. Arkansas and McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education.

Susan sincerely wanted to do something about it, but she decided to let it go. Her reasoning was that this particular teacher is probably in her final year of service. To Susan, making an issue out of this just was not worth the strife it would have caused in the school and in the community.

As the discussion progressed that evening, I learned that omission was the method of dealing with evolution in another of Arkansas's largest, most quickly growing, and wealthiest school districts — an omission that was apparently strongly suggested by the administration. I tried to check on this, but made little progress, receiving the cold shoulder from the administration and the science department at that school. However, I spoke with a person who works for a private science education facility that does contract work for this district: "Helen" — she, like the other people I had visited, requested that she and her employers not be identified. I asked Helen about her experiences with the district's teachers. Her story was that in preparation for teaching the students from that district, she had asked some of the teachers how they approached the state benchmarks for those items dealing with evolution. She said, "Oh, I later got in trouble for even asking," but went on to describe their answers. Most teachers said that they did not know enough about evolution to teach it themselves, but one of them, after looking around to make sure they were safely out of anyone's earshot, explained that the teachers are told by school administrators that it would be "good for their careers" not to mention such topics in their classes.

Inadequate science education

How often does this kind of thing happen? How many teachers are deleting the most fundamental principle of the biological sciences from their classes due to school and community pressure or due to lack of knowledge? How many are disregarding Supreme Court decisions and state curriculum guidelines? These are good questions, and I have been given relevant data from a person currently working in Arkansas. We will call this science teacher Randy. I was introduced to him through the NCSE. He made it clear that his identity must be protected.

Randy runs professional development science education workshops for public school teachers. He's been doing it for a while now, and he has been taking information on the teachers in his workshops via a survey. He shared some data with me.

According to his survey, about 20 percent are trying to teach evolution and think they are doing a good job; 10 percent are teaching creationism, even though during the workshop he discusses the legally shaky ground on which they stand. Another 20 percent attempt to teach something but feel they just do not understand evolution. The remaining 50 percent avoid it because of community pressure. On an e-mail to members of a list he keeps of people interested in evolution, Randy reported that the latter 50 percent do not cover evolution because they felt intimidated, saw no need to teach it, or might lose their jobs.

By their own description of their classroom practices, 80 percent of the teachers surveyed are not adequately teaching evolutionary science. Remember that these are just the teachers who are in a professional development workshop in science education! What is more disturbing is what Randy went on to say about the aftermath of these workshops. "After one of my workshops at a [state] education cooperative, it was asked that I not come back because I spent too much time on evolution. One of the teachers sent a letter to the governor stating that I was mandating that teachers had to teach evolution, and that I have to be an atheist, and would he do something."

Of course it's false to suggest "you're either an anti-evolutionist or you're an atheist." Many scientists who understand and accept evolution are also quite religious, and many people of faith also understand and accept evolution. But here was a public school teacher appealing to the governor to "do something" about this guy teaching teachers to teach evolution. Given that evolutionary science is prescribed in the state curriculum guidelines, and given that two of the most important legal cases regarding evolution education originated in Arkansas, how exactly would we expect the governor to respond? I am not sure whether Gov. Mike Huckabee responded to this letter, but I have seen him address the subject on "Arkansans Ask," his regular show on the Arkansas Educational Television Network. I've seen two episodes on which students expressed their frustration about the lack of evolution education in their public schools. Both times, Huckabee advocated the teaching of creationism in public schools. Here is an excerpt from one of these broadcasts, from July 2004:

Student: Many schools in Arkansas are failing to teach students about evolution according to the educational standards of our state. Since it is against these standards to teach creationism, how would you go about helping our state educate students more sufficiently for this?

Huckabee: Are you saying some students are not getting exposure to the various theories of creation?

Student (stunned): No, of evol … well, of evolution specifically. It's a biological study that should be educated [taught], but is generally not.

Moderator: Schools are dodging Darwinism? Is that what you …?

Student: Yes.

Huckabee: I'm not familiar that they're dodging it. Maybe they are. But I think schools also ought to be fair to all views. Because, frankly, Darwinism is not an established scientific fact. It is a theory of evolution, that's why it's called the theory of evolution. And I think that what I'd be concerned with is that it should be taught as one of the views that's held by people. But it's not the only view that's held. And any time you teach one thing as that it's the only thing, then I think that has a real problem to it.

Huckabee's answer was laced with important misconceptions about science. Perhaps the most insidious problem with his response is that it plays on our sense of democracy and free expression. But several court decisions have concluded that fairness and free expression are not violated when public school teachers are required to teach the approved curriculum. These decisions recognized that teaching creationism is little more than thinly veiled religious advocacy.

Furthermore, Huckabee claimed not to be aware of the omission of evolution from Arkansas classrooms. From my limited visit, it is clear that this omission is widespread. But it's certain Huckabee had heard about the omission before. This is from the July 2003 broadcast of "Arkansans Ask":

Student: Goal 2.04 of the Biology Benchmark Goals published by the Arkansas Department of Education in May of 2002 indicates that students should examine the development of the theory of biological evolution. Yet many students in Arkansas that I have met … have not been exposed to this idea. What do you believe is the appropriate role of the state in mandating the curriculum of a given course?

Huckabee: I think that the state ought to give students exposure to all points of view. And I would hope that that would be all points of view and not only evolution. I think that they also should be given exposure to the theories not only of evolution but to the basis of those who believe in creationism …

The governor goes on for a bit and finishes his sentiment, but the moderator keeps the conversation going:

Moderator (to student): You've encountered a number of students who have not received evolutionary biology?

Student: Yes, I've found that quite a few people's high schools simply prefer to ignore the topic. I think that they're a bit afraid of the controversy.

Huckabee: I think it's something kids ought to be exposed to. I do not necessarily buy into the traditional Darwinian theory, personally. But that does not mean that I'm afraid that somebody might find out what it is…

Sisyphean Challenges

How are teachers like "Bob," administrators like "Susan," and teacher trainers like "Randy" supposed to ensure proper science education if politicians like the governor consistently advocate the teaching of non-science?

It is telling that none of the people I spoke with were willing to be identified or to allow me to reveal their respective institutions. In the case of "Bob" and his facility's directors, they were concerned about criticism from both sides. They did not want to lose students by offending fundamentalists or lose credibility in the eyes of the scientific community for omitting evolution.

The shortcomings of evolution instruction in Arkansas don't end at the state's borders. But we seldom realize the wider influence our local politicians might have. For instance, the Educational Commission of the States is an important and powerful organization that shapes educational policy in all 50 states. Forty state governors have served as the chair of the ECS, and Governor Huckabee currently holds this position.

Because anti-evolutionists have been quite successful in placing members of their ranks and sympathizers in local legislatures and school boards, it is imperative that we point out the danger that these people pose to adequate science education. The science literacy of our future leaders may depend on it. Although each school, each museum, or each science center may seem to be an isolated case, answering to — and, perhaps trying to keep peace with — its local constituency, the examples suggest that evolution is being squeezed out of education systematically and broadly. Anti-evolutionists have been successful by keeping the struggle focused on the local level. The fallout is widespread ignorance of the tools and methods of science for generations to come.

The author, Jason R. Wiles, is co-manager of the Evolution Education Research Centre at McGill University in Montreal. The center's mission is to advance the teaching and learning of evolution through research. Wiles, an Arkansas native, has a bachelor's degree in biology from Harding University (with a minor in Bible) and a master's degree from Portland State University. He's currently a Ph.D. candidate in science education at McGill.

A slightly different version of the article was originally published in the Reports of the National Center for Science Education, a peer-reviewed journal.

Legal Experts Analyze the Impact of the Dover Intelligent Design Trial Decision in the New Book, 'Traipsing Into Evolution'

http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/03-23-2006/0004325597&EDATE=

SEATTLE, March 23 /PRNewswire/ --

Traipsing Into Evolution: Intelligent Design and the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Decision is the first published critique of federal Judge John E. Jones's decision in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case, the foremost trial to attempt to address the constitutionality of teaching intelligent design. In this concise yet comprehensive response, Discovery Institute scholars and attorneys expose how Judge Jones's Kitzmiller decision was based upon faulty reasoning, non-existent evidence, and an elementary misunderstanding of intelligent design theory.

Despite Jones's protestations to the contrary, his attempts to use the federal bench to declare evolution a sacred cow -- unquestionable in schools and fundamentally compatible with all "true" religion -- are exposed by these critical authors as a textbook case of good-old-American judicial activism. "The Dover trial was hardly the final word in the debate over evolution," says attorney Casey Luskin, a co-author of the new book Traipsing Into Evolution: Intelligent Design and the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Decision (DI Press 2006). "Mark Twain once allegedly refuted his own obituary proclaiming that 'reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.' Traipsing Into Evolution disproves similar exaggerated reports from Darwinists about intelligent design in the wake of the Kitzmiller vs. Dover decision." The authors conclude that the Judge's ruling will have "teachers seeking to 'teach the controversy' over Darwinian evolution in today's climate will likely be met with false warnings that it is unconstitutional to say anything negative about Darwinian evolution."

"The impact of this ruling is that even students who ask critical questions about Darwinism, or about intelligent design theory will scare administrators' about whether that puts the school in constitutional jeopardy," said Luskin. "There's already been a negative chilling effect on open inquiry in places such as Ohio and South Carolina. Judge Jones' message is clear: give Darwin only praise, or else face the wrath of the judiciary." The book is priced at $14.95 and is available at bookstores throughout the country and online at Amazon.com. It also can be ordered directly by calling 800-643-4102. Review copies are available by contacting the publisher at cscinfo@discovery.org.

"The mainstream science establishment and the courts tell us, in censorious tones that sometimes sound a bit desperate, that intelligent design is just a lot of fundamentalist cant. It's not," said Steven D. Smith, Warren Distinguished Professor of Law, University of San Diego and author of "Law's Quandary" (Harvard University Press, 2004). "We've heard the Darwinist story, and we owe it to ourselves to hear the other side. Traipsing Into Evolution is the other side."

The book was written by David K. DeWolf, professor of law at Gonzaga University, Dr. John G. West associate professor and chair of the political science department at Seattle Pacific University, Casey Luskin, attorney and program officer for public policy and legal affairs at Discovery Institute, and Dr. Jonathan Witt a senior fellow and writer in residence at Discovery Institute.

The book is part of a series published by Discovery Institute Press. Previous books include Are We Spiritual Machines?: Ray Kurzweil vs. The Critics of Strong A.I. by Jay W. Richards et. al., Getting the Facts Straight: A Viewer's Guide to PBS's Evolution by the Discovery Institute, and Why Is a Fly Not a Horse? by Italian geneticist Giuseppe Sermonti, published in 2005. Chapters in Traipsing Into Evolution look at: Kitzmiller's Partisan History of Intelligent Design; Kitzmiller's Unpersuasive Case Against the Scientific Status of Intelligent Design; Kitzmiller's Failure to Treat Religion in a Neutral Manner; Kitzmiller's Limited Value as Precedent; and The Need for Academic Freedom.

The book also includes a lengthy response to the ruling from Dr. Michael Behe, entitled "Whether ID is Science: Michael Behe's Response to Kitzmiller v. Dover." Dr. Behe was the lead expert witness for the defense at the trial.

SOURCE The Discovery Institute
Web Site: http://www.discovery.org

Scientology vs. South Park mud-wrestling matchPosted in Scientology

http://www.cultnews.com/index.php/2006/03/23/scientology-vs-south-park-mud-wrestling-match-ends/

at 7:05 pm by Rick Ross

'Return of Chef' What a difference a week makes. Last week it seemed as if Scientology had beaten South Park, but this week South Park took its revenge.

Isaac Hayes' character "chef" met with a violent end on South Park's premiere 10th season episode titled ""Return of the Chef." The Comedy Central show's co-creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker decided to use Isaac Hayes' voice again, but this time it was spliced together to create a very different dialog.

In the rich baritone that made Hayes famous Chef tells the children of South Park, "How about I meet you guys after work and we make love . . . come on children, you're my sexual fantasy, let's all make sweet love."

From the "Shaft" super-stud that sang "Chocolate Salty Balls" to pedophile?

But Chef was "brainwashed" by a cult-like group called "Super Adventure Club," "thought to be a veiled reference to Scientology" reports BBC News.

Chef the child molester?

The South Park kids call the group "that fruity little club for scrambling…brains".

After a failed deprogramming attempt Chef falls off a bridge and then is burned, stabbed and mauled by a lion and a grizzly bear.

At his funeral one child offers a fitting eulogy as follows:

"A lot of us don't agree with the choices the Chef has made in the last few days. Some of us feel hurt and confused that he seemed to turn his back on us. But we can't let the events of the past few weeks take away the memories of how Chef made us smile."

Sounds more like a parting words to Isaac Hayes, who quit South Park protesting their Scientology show "Trapped in the Closet," going so far as to accuse the co-creators of religious "intolerance" and "bigotry."

It seemed as if Hayes had re-imagined South Park as some sort of warm, fuzzy, friendly, politically correct show instead of the stinging satire it has always been.

However, as CultNews has reported South Park is not 7th Heaven.

Payback can be hard and Stone and Parker got the last word. And Scientology and Hayes should have known that a weekly show like South Park always gets the last word.

Hayes a Scientology pawn?

Though according to Roger Friedman of Fox News there may be a sad twist. Isaac Hayes, who had a stroke, may not have actually acted on his own. Scientology may have staged the star's resignation using him like a pawn to upstage the coming rerun of "Trapped in the closet."

However, in the end Scientology seems overmatched in this "slap down."

"So, Scientology, you may have won this battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun!" South Park creators told Daily Variety. "Temporarily anozinizing our episode will not stop us…You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid…will fail!" they warned.

There is an old axiom: "Never mud-wrestle with a pig, you both get dirty, but the pig has fun."

Matt Stone and Trey Parker may not be pigs, but they appear to have had quit a run with the press and a lot of fun wrestling with Scientology. And arguably at the controversial church's expense, which seems to have walked away with mud on its face.

"Return of Chef" even exceeded the ratings triumph of "Trapped in the Closet" drawing the largest audience of any South Park show run in the past two years.

Adam Finley writing for TV Squad observed "Parker and Stone's humor has always been drawn from anger…The guiding ethos of South Park has always been a deep-seeded anger towards people and institutions that take themselves too seriously."

And Scientology seems to take itself very seriously.

Who really killed off Chef?

The most telling scene in "Return of Chef" is when Stan screams "You killed Chef!" shaking his fists at the cult-like "Super Adventure Club" and adds "You bastards!"


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