NTS LogoSkeptical News for 15 April 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Media Overblows Claims of "Human Evolution": Examining the Newest "Missing Link"


Recently I highlighted how the coverage of Tiktaalik revealed the fascinating phenomenon that only after discovering a new "missing link" will evolutionists acknowledge the previously paltry state of fossil evidence for evolution. This behavior is again witnessed in coverage of the discovery of Australopithecus anamensis fossils in Ethiopia. The media has also exaggerated and overblown claims that this evidence supports "human evolution."

The latest "missing link" is actually comprised of a few tooth and bone fragments of Au. anamensis, an ape-like species that lived a little over 4 million years ago. Incredibly, claims of "intermediacy" are based upon 2-3 fragmented canines of "intermediate" size and shape. This has now led to grand claims in the media of finding a "missing link." Because some bone fragments from Ardipithecus ramidus and Australopithecus afarensus were also found in the area, MSNBC highlighted these finds on a front-page article calling this "the most complete chain of human evolution so far." Media coverage of this find thus follows an identical pattern to that of Tiktaalik: incredibly overblown claims of a "transitional fossil" follow stark admissions of how previously bleak the evidence was for evolution. Moreover, claims that this find enlightens "human evolution" are misleading, as these fossils come from ape-like species that long-predate the appearance of our genus Homo, and thought to be far removed from the origin of "humans."

Click the link to read the rest of this article. Ed.

Do Car Engines Run on Lugnuts? A Response to Ken Miller & Judge Jones's Straw Tests of Irreducible Complexity for the Bacterial Flagellum (Part I)


(Part I, Version 1.0)

By Casey Luskin
Copyright © 2006 Casey Luskin.

The entire article can be read here


In Kitzmiller v. Dover, Judge John E. Jones ruled harshly against the scientific validity of intelligent design. Judge Jones ruled that the irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum, as argued by intelligent design proponents during the trial, was refuted by the testimony of the plaintiffs' expert biology witness, Dr. Kenneth Miller. Dr. Miller misconstrued design theorist Michael Behe's definition of irreducible complexity by presenting and subsequently refuting only a straw-characterization of the argument. Accordingly, Miller claimed that irreducible complexity is refuted if a separate function can be found for any sub-system of an irreducibly complex system, outside of the entire irreducible complex system, suggesting the sub-system might have been co-opted into the final system through the evolutionary process of exaptation. However, Miller's characterization ignores the fact that irreducible complexity is defined by testing the ability of the final system to evolve in a step-by-step fashion in which function may not exist at each step. Only by reverse-engineering a system to test for function at each transitional stage can one determine if a system has "reducible complexity" or "irreducible complexity." The ability to find function for some sub-part, such as the injection function of the Type III Secretory System (which contains approximately ¼ of the genes of bacterial flagellum), does not negate the irreducible complexity of the final system. Moreover, Miller ignored the fact that any evolutionary explanation of a system must account for much more than simply the availability of the parts. In the final analysis, Miller's testimony did not actually refute irreducible complexity, leaving readers of the Kitzmiller ruling with the unfortunate perception that the evolutionary origin of the bacterial flagellum has been solved.

Introduction: The Definition of Irreducible Complexity

Design theorist and biologist, Michael Behe, defines "irreducible complexity" by looking at a biological system to see if it can be produced in a step-by-step evolutionary fashion. Behe defines irreducible complexity in his book Darwin's Black Box:

"In The Origin of Species Darwin stated:
'If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.'
A system which meets Darwin's criterion is one which exhibits irreducible complexity. By irreducible complexity I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning."

(Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box, pg. 39 (Free Press, 1996) (emphasis added).)

During the Kitzmiller trial, Michael Behe testified in favor of intelligent design by arguing that the bacterial flagellum represents one such biological structure which is irreducibly complex. The bacterial flagellum is a motor-driven propeller for bacterial swimming. (For a technical discussion of the various components of the bacterial flagellum, see David J. DeRosier, Spinning Tails, Current Opinion in Structural Biology, 5:187-193 (1995).) In the Kitzmiller trial, however, Judge Jones' ruling disagreed with Behe's claims and alleged that Behe ignored how evolution can effectively produce complex structures like the bacterial flagellum:

"Drs. Miller and Padian testified that Professor Behe's concept of irreducible complexity depends on ignoring ways in which evolution is known to occur. Although Professor Behe is adamant in his definition of irreducible complexity when he says a precursor "missing a part is by definition nonfunctional," what he obviously means is that it will not function in the same way the system functions when all the parts are present. For example in the case of the bacterial flagellum, removal of a part may prevent it from acting as a rotary motor. However, Professor Behe excludes, by definition, the possibility that a precursor to the bacterial flagellum functioned not as a rotary motor, but in some other way, for example as a secretory system." (Kitzmiller ruling, pg. 74. All references to Kitzmiller ruling from Judge Jones original ruling at http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf)
What follows is an assessment of the Judge's findings with respect to the irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum.

Ignoring Exaptation?

In the Kitzmiller ruling, Judge Jones uses the term "exaptation" (also called "co-option," or "preadaptation") to describe how a part may initially serve a role in the cell, only to be later employed by an irreducibly complex system to perform some different function. The widely used college text Evolutionary Biology describes exaptation as follows:

"Stephen Jay Gould and Elisabeth Vrba (1982) suggest that if an adaptation is a feature evolved by natural selection for its current function, a different term is required for features that, like the hollow bones of birds or the sutures of a young mammal's skull, did not evolve because of the use to which they are now put. They suggest that such characters that evolved for other functions, or for no function at all, but which have been co-opted for a new use be called exaptations." (Douglas J. Futuyma, Evolutionary Biology (3rd ed. 1998), pg. 355 (emphasis in original).)
Judge Jones alleges in his ruling that Michael Behe ignores exaptation as a way of accounting for the origin of biological complexity:

"By defining irreducible complexity in the way that he has, Professor Behe attempts to exclude the phenomenon of exaptation by definitional fiat, ignoring as he does so abundant evidence which refutes his argument." (Kitzmiller ruling, pg. 76.)
Judge Jones's claim that Behe ignores "exaptation" was based upon the testimony of Dr. Kenneth R. Miller, an evolutionist and the plaintiff's lead-expert biology witness during the trial. Dr. Miller testified that irreducible complexity is refuted if one can find any use for some sub-part of the total system:

"Dr. Behe's prediction is that the parts of any irreducibly complex system should have no useful function. Therefore, we ought to be able to take the bacterial flagellum, for example, break its parts down, and discover that none of the parts are good for anything except when we're all assembled in a flagellum." (Dr. Kenneth Miller Testimony, Day 1, PM Session, page 16.)
Miller's characterization of irreducible complexity is grossly inaccurate. In particular, Miller applied his argument to real biological situations when he claimed that some sub-systems of the bacterial flagellum can perform a different role in some organisms. For example, Miller observed that the Type III Secretory System (TTSS), which uses approximately 1/4 of the genes involved in the flagellum, can be used by predatory bacteria to inject toxins into Eukaryotic cells. (See Scott A. Minnich and Stephen C. Meyer, Genetic Analysis of coordinate flagellar and type III regulatory circuits in pathogenic bacteria, pg. 8, at http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?id=389.) According to Miller, the presence of the TTSS shows that the bacterial flagellum is not irreducibly complex. However, Miller's Type III Secretory System argument contains three primary problems:

(A) Experts say the evidence suggests that the TTSS evolved from the flagellum, and not the other way around.
(B) Behe and other ID-proponents have long-acknowledged "exaptation" or "co-option" as an attempt to evolve biological complexity, and have observed many problems with "co-option" explanations.

(C) Miller has inaccurately characterized how one tests for irreducible complexity, thus refuting only a straw-version of Behe's concept of irreducible complexity.

(A) Which came first: the TTSS or the Flagellum (or neither)?

Firstly, it is worth noting that a leading authority on bacterial systematics, Milton Saier, still believes that TTSS evolved FROM the flagellum, not the other way around, making Miller's claim highly dubious. While Saier acknowledges some may disagree with him, he maintains that the TTSS evolved from the flagellum:

"Regarding the bacterial flagellum and TTSSs, we must consider three (and only three) possibilities. First, the TTSS came first; second, the Fla system came first; or third, both systems evolved from a common precursor. At present, too little information is available to distinguish between these possibilities with certainty. As is often true in evaluating evolutionary arguments, the investigator must rely on logical deduction and intuition. According to my own intuition and the arguments discussed above, I prefer pathway 2. What's your opinion?" (Milton Saier, "Evolution of bacterial type III protein secretion systems," Trends in Microbiology, Vol 12 (3) pg. 113-15, March, 2004.)
(B) Behe's Clear Responses to Evolutionary Appeals to Exaptation:

Secondly, refuting both Judge Jones's claim that Behe "attempts to exclude the phenomenon of exaptation by definitional fiat" and also Miller's statement that "Behe's prediction is that the parts of any irreducibly complex system should have no useful function," consider these passages from Darwin's Black Box in which Behe presents the problems of exaptational arguments when discussing the evolution of the cilium:

"Because the cilium is irreducibly complex, no direct gradual route leads to its production. So an evolutionary story for the cilium must envision a circuitous route, perhaps adapting parts that were originally used for other purposes." (Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box, pg. 65-66.)
"For example, suppose you wanted to make a mousetrap. In your garage you might have a piece of wood from an old Popsicle stick (for the platform), a spring from an old wind-up clock, a piece of metal (for the hammer) in the form of a crowbar, a darning needle for the holding bar, and a bottle cap that you fancy to use as a catch. But these pieces couldn't form a functioning mousetrap without extensive modification, and while the modification was going on, they would be unable to work as a mousetrap. Their previous functions make them ill- suited for virtually any new role as part of a complex system. In the case of the cilium, there are analogous problems. The mutated protein that accidentally stuck to microtubules would block their function as "highways" of transport. A protein that indiscriminately bound microtubules together would disrupt the cell's shape--just as a building's shape would be disrupted by an erroneously placed cable that accidentally pulled together girders supporting the building. A linker that strengthened microtubule bundles for structural supports would tend to make them inflexible, unlike the flexible linker nexin. An unregulated motor protein, freshly binding to microtubules, would push apart micrutubules that should be close together. The incipient cilium would not be at the cell surface. If it were not at the cell surface, then internal beating could disrupt the cell; but even if it were at the cell surface, the number of motor proteins would probably not be enough to move the cilium. And even if the cilium moved, an awkward stroke would not necessarily move the cell. And if the cell did move, it would be an unregulated motion using energy and not corresponding to any need of the cell." (Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box, pg. 66-67.)

Previously Behe had also explained evolution does not always necessarily proceed in such a direct route:

"Even if a system is irreducibly complex (and thus cannot have been produced directly), however, one can not definitively rule out the possibility of an indirect, circuitous route. As the complexity of an interacting system increases, though, the likelihood of such an indirect route drops precipitously. And as the number of unexplained, irreducibly complex biological systems increases, our confidence that Darwin's criterion of failure has been met skyrockets toward the maximum that science allows." (Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box, pg. 40.) Thus contrary to both the Judge's and Miller's claims, Behe addresses the possibility that parts can be "co-opted" from other systems and does not shy away from this objection at all. (Indeed, even the basic and introductory pro-ID video entitled "Unlocking the Mystery of Life" deals with the co-option objection.) Behe explains that simply having all of the parts for a system is not enough: one must also have the proper assembly instructions for those parts. Thus, it should be clear that Miller has misrepresented Behe's argument both by ignoring Behe's refutation of the co-option theory and by falsely suggesting that Behe holds, "that the parts of any irreducibly complex system should have no useful function [outside of the total irreducibly complex system]."

...to be continued tomorrow. To read the full article, click here. Tomorrow, will be the main section of this article, explaining this issue:

(C) Miller has inaccurately characterized how one tests for irreducible complexity, thus refuting only a straw-version of Behe's concept of irreducible complexity.

Posted by Casey Luskin on April 15, 2006 06:14 AM | Permalink

Evolution education update: April 14, 2006

The Royal Society issues a statement on evolution in schools, noting that "The theory of evolution is supported by the weight of scientific evidence; the theory of intelligent design is not"; both antievolution bills in the Maryland legislature are now dead; and the Dover, Pennsylvania, teachers who refused to read the antievolution disclaimer mandated by their school board are honored by the NSTA.


A statement opposing the misrepresentation of evolution in schools to promote particular religious beliefs was published on April 11, 2006, by the Royal Society of London, the United Kingdom's national academy of science. Describing evolution as "the best explanation for the development of life on Earth from its beginnings and for the diversity of species" and as "rightly taught as an essential part of biology and science courses in schools, colleges and universities across the world," the statement also emphasizes the importance of evolution in understanding and solving problems of practical importance in medicine and agriculture.

Acknowledging that "[m]any people both believe in a creator and accept the scientific evidence for how the universe, and life on Earth, developed," the statement remarks that "some versions of creationism are incompatible with the scientific evidence, citing young-earth creationism. As for "intelligent design": "Its supporters make only selective reference to the overwhelming scientific evidence that supports evolution, and treat gaps in current knowledge which, as in all areas of science, certainly exist -- as if they were evidence for a 'designer'. ... The theory of evolution is supported by the weight of scientific evidence; the theory of intelligent design is not."

The statement mentions possible roles for teaching about creationism as part of religious education and in order to illuminate the nature of science. It also suggests that students "have a right to learn how science advances, and that there are, of course, many things that science cannot yet explain, adding, "Some may wish to explore the compatibility, or otherwise, of science with various religious beliefs, and they should be encouraged to do so." "However," the statement concludes, "young people are poorly served by deliberate attempts to withhold, distort or misrepresent scientific knowledge and understanding in order to promote particular religious beliefs."

In a press release, David Read, Vice-President of the Royal Society, said, "We felt that it would be timely to publish a clear statement on evolution, creationism and intelligent design as there continues to be controversy about them in the UK and other countries." The Royal Society's statement follows less than a month after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, told a newspaper that he opposed the teaching of creationism in science classrooms, and about six months after the president of the Royal Society, Lord May, criticized "intelligent design" -- which he described as a "disguised variant" of creationism -- in the course of his fifth and final anniversary address to the Society.

For the Royal Society's statement and press release, visit:

For NCSE's coverage of previous events in the United Kingdom, visit:


The Maryland General Assembly adjourned on April 10, 2006, meaning that both antievolution bills introduced during the legislative session are dead.

House Bill 1531 would, if enacted, have provided that teachers in Maryland's public schools and faculty members in Maryland's public institutions of higher education "shall have the affirmative right and freedom to present scientific information to [sic] the full range of scientific views in any curricula or course of learning"; the phrase "the full range of scientific views" was evidently taken from the so-called Santorum language, which was in fact stripped from the federal No Child Left Behind act. A subsequent provision repeated the phrase "the full range of scientific views," while adding, "including intelligent design." After its first reading, HB 1531 was referred to the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee and then re-referred to the Ways and Means Committee, where it received a hearing on March 23, 2006, and then an unfavorable report on March 27.

House Bill 1228 would, if enacted, have required the state board of education to "prohibit the teaching or the discussion of the theory of intelligent design" in science classes and prohibit it from "requiring the teaching or discussion of the theory of intelligent design in any class." But it also would have required the board to "permit the teaching or discussion of the theory of intelligent design in humanities or philosophy classes" and moreover to develop and disseminate instructional materials for that purpose. The lead sponsor of HB 1228 was Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. (D-District 10), who was subsequently the sole sponsor of HB 1531. After its first reading, HB 1228 was referred to the Ways and Means Committee, where it received a hearing on March 7, 2006, and then an unfavorable report on April 10.

Coverage of these bills in the Maryland media was scant, with the exception of Ben McIlwain's op-ed for the University of Maryland's The Diamondback (March 28, 2006).

For McIlwain's op-ed, visit:

For NCSE's coverage of previous events in Maryland, visit:


The Dover, Pennsylvania, teachers who, in January 2005, refused to read the antievolution disclaimer mandated by the Dover Area School Board were honored by the National Science Teachers Association with its very first Presidential Citation, which recognizes "individuals or organizations who have significantly promoted the profession of science education." The award was accepted by two of the Dover teachers -- Bertha E. Spahr, science department chair and chemistry teacher, and Robert W. Eshbach, biology, environmental science, and ecology teacher -- during a panel discussion of the Kitzmiller v. Dover case on April 6, 2006, held as part of the NSTA's National Conference on Science Education in Anaheim, California.

Presenting the award to Spahr and Esbach, NSTA president Michael Padilla commented, "NSTA and science teachers across the country were inspired by [their] collective stance not to read the statement," and also quipped that the plaque was "a beautiful award that will stand in place with the basketball trophies in the hall" at Dover High School. According to an NSTA press release dated April 7, 2006, "Spahr emphasized that unlike in other parts of the country, the Dover teachers 'stood together in unity' to support the integrity of science education, and they took a great risk, especially since two of the teachers lacked tenure at the time. She noted that the teachers devoted many hours to prepare to testify in the trial and said their role was so crucial because 'students look to us for credibility.'"

Participating in the panel discussion of the case were Bryan Rehm, a Pennsylvania science teacher who formerly taught in the Dover Area School District, one of the eleven plaintiffs in the case, and now a member himself of the Dover Area School Board; Witold J. Walczak of the ACLU of Pennsylvania; and expert witnesses Kevin Padian of the University of California, Berkeley, Barbara Forrest of Southeastern Louisiana University, and Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University. NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott moderated. According to NSTA's press release, Scott described the outcome of Kitzmiller v. Dover as a "huge setback" for teaching "intelligent design" in science classes, but warned of the likelihood of renewed and more subtle attacks on evolution education.

For NSTA's press release, visit:

For NCSE's coverage of the teachers' refusal, visit:

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.


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

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

Friday, April 14, 2006

Creature's picture irks Board of Ed member



State Board of Education member Connie Morris took exception Wednesday to a picture of a made-up creature that satirizes the state's new science standards hanging on a Stucky Middle School teacher's door.

Fellow board member Sue Gamble told The Eagle that Morris asked for the picture to be removed.

The creature, called the Flying Spaghetti Monster, is the creation of Bobby Henderson of Corvallis, Ore. It looks like a clump of spaghetti with two eyes sticking out of the top and two meatballs flanking the eyes.

Henderson created the entity and an accompanying mythology on the origin of mankind to make fun of Kansas' recent debate over the teaching of criticisms of evolution, including intelligent design.

In November, the board voted 6-4 to allow criticisms of evolution to be taught in Kansas schools.

Morris, who voted for the new science standards, saw the picture during the tour. She did not return phone calls for this report.

Gamble, who voted against the new standards and was also on the tour, said that Morris asked principal Kenneth Jantz to have the picture taken down.

Board members toured Stucky before finishing two days of meetings in Wichita on Wednesday.

Gamble said that when she saw the picture during the tour, she knew that some board members wouldn't approve of it.

"When we went into that classroom, students were looking at rock formations," Gamble said. "Connie stopped to talk to a teacher and I moved on. That was when I was aware of the flyer. I thought 'she's probably going to say something to the teacher.' "

Gamble said that when Morris saw the picture, she asked the principal, who was on the tour, to take it down. Jantz did not comment for this report.

Gamble said she didn't see Morris talk to Randy Mousley, the teacher, or to the principal, but that she later went up to Mousley and asked if Morris said anything to him about the picture.

That's when Gamble learned that Morris had asked the principal to take it down.

The monster's picture has hung on the door since September or October and was put up there as a joke, Mousley said.

"It's a parody," he said. "It's just making fun of anti-evolution."

Mousley said he doesn't teach students about the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Also on the door is a Doonesbury comic strip about science, said board member Carol Rupe, who represents Wichita. She also voted against the new standards.

"It was two little pieces of paper on the door," she said. "It was poking good fun."

Gamble said she told the principal that it was his decision whether the monster could stick around.

"I advised the principal that Morris has no authority," she said. "I told him to deal with his staff as he saw fit, not by what a state board member says."

Board chairman Steve Abrams, who voted for the new standards, didn't see the picture but said he thinks that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is silly.

"Personally, I think it's juvenile," he said.

The picture was still on the door at the end of the school day Wednesday.

Reach Icess Fernandez at (316) 268-6544 or ifernandez@wichitaeagle.com.

9/11: Debunking The Myths

PM examines the evidence and consults the experts to refute the most persistent conspiracy theories of September 11.

Published in the March, 2005 issue.

For background on this investigative feature, please click here .

FROM THE MOMENT the first airplane crashed into the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001, the world has asked one simple and compelling question: How could it happen?

Three and a half years later, not everyone is convinced we know the truth. Go to Google.com, type in the search phrase "World Trade Center conspiracy" and you'll get links to an estimated 628,000 Web sites. More than 3000 books on 9/11 have been published; many of them reject the official consensus that hijackers associated with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda flew passenger planes into U.S. landmarks.

Healthy skepticism, it seems, has curdled into paranoia. Wild conspiracy tales are peddled daily on the Internet, talk radio and in other media. Blurry photos, quotes taken out of context and sketchy eyewitness accounts have inspired a slew of elaborate theories: The Pentagon was struck by a missile; the World Trade Center was razed by demolition-style bombs; Flight 93 was shot down by a mysterious white jet. As outlandish as these claims may sound, they are increasingly accepted abroad and among extremists here in the United States.

To investigate 16 of the most prevalent claims made by conspiracy theorists, POPULAR MECHANICS assembled a team of nine researchers and reporters who, together with PM editors, consulted more than 70 professionals in fields that form the core content of this magazine, including aviation, engineering and the military.

In the end, we were able to debunk each of these assertions with hard evidence and a healthy dose of common sense. We learned that a few theories are based on something as innocent as a reporting error on that chaotic day. Others are the byproducts of cynical imaginations that aim to inject suspicion and animosity into public debate. Only by confronting such poisonous claims with irrefutable facts can we understand what really happened on a day that is forever seared into world history.--THE EDITORS


The widely accepted account that hijackers commandeered and crashed the four 9/11 planes is supported by reams of evidence, from cockpit recordings to forensics to the fact that crews and passengers never returned home. Nonetheless, conspiracy theorists seize on a handful of "facts" to argue a very different scenario: The jets that struck New York and Washington, D.C., weren't commercial planes, they say, but something else, perhaps refueling tankers or guided missiles. And the lack of military intervention? Theorists claim it proves the U.S. government instigated the assault or allowed it to occur in order to advance oil interests or a war agenda.

Where's The Pod?

CLAIM: Photographs and video footage shot just before United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC) show an object underneath the fuselage at the base of the right wing. The film "911 In Plane Site" and the Web site LetsRoll911.org claim that no such object is found on a stock Boeing 767. They speculate that this "military pod" is a missile, a bomb or a piece of equipment on an air-refueling tanker. LetsRoll911.org points to this as evidence that the attacks were an "inside job" sanctioned by "President George Bush, who planned and engineered 9/11."

FACT: One of the clearest, most widely seen pictures of the doomed jet's undercarriage was taken by photographer Rob Howard and published in New York magazine and elsewhere (opening page). PM sent a digital scan of the original photo to Ronald Greeley, director of the Space Photography Laboratory at Arizona State University. Greeley is an expert at analyzing images to determine the shape and features of geological formations based on shadow and light effects. After studying the high-resolution image and comparing it to photos of a Boeing 767-200ER's undercarriage, Greeley dismissed the notion that the Howard photo reveals a "pod." In fact, the photo reveals only the Boeing's right fairing, a pronounced bulge that contains the landing gear. He concludes that sunlight glinting off the fairing gave it an exaggerated look. "Such a glint causes a blossoming (enlargement) on film," he writes in an e-mail to PM, "which tends to be amplified in digital versions of images--the pixels are saturated and tend to 'spill over' to adjacent pixels." When asked about pods attached to civilian aircraft, Fred E. Culick, professor of aeronautics at the California Institute of Technology, gave a blunter response: "That's bull. They're really stretching."

No Stand-Down Order

CLAIM: No fighter jets were scrambled from any of the 28 Air Force bases within close range of the four hijacked flights. "On 11 September Andrews had two squadrons of fighter jets with the job of protecting the skies over Washington D.C.," says the Web site emperors-clothes.com. "They failed to do their job." "There is only one explanation for this," writes Mark R. Elsis of StandDown.net. "Our Air Force was ordered to Stand Down on 9/11."

FACT: On 9/11 there were only 14 fighter jets on alert in the contiguous 48 states. No computer network or alarm automatically alerted the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) of missing planes. "They [civilian Air Traffic Control, or ATC] had to pick up the phone and literally dial us," says Maj. Douglas Martin, public affairs officer for NORAD. Boston Center, one of 22 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regional ATC facilities, called NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) three times: at 8:37 am EST to inform NEADS that Flight 11 was hijacked; at 9:21 am to inform the agency, mistakenly, that Flight 11 was headed for Washington (the plane had hit the North Tower 35 minutes earlier); and at 9:41 am to (erroneously) identify Delta Air Lines Flight 1989 from Boston as a possible hijacking. The New York ATC called NEADS at 9:03 am to report that United Flight 175 had been hijacked--the same time the plane slammed into the South Tower. Within minutes of that first call from Boston Center, NEADS scrambled two F-15s from Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Mass., and three F-16s from Langley Air National Guard Base in Hampton, Va. None of the fighters got anywhere near the pirated planes.

Why couldn't ATC find the hijacked flights? When the hijackers turned off the planes' transponders, which broadcast identifying signals, ATC had to search 4500 identical radar blips crisscrossing some of the country's busiest air corridors. And NORAD's sophisticated radar? It ringed the continent, looking outward for threats, not inward. "It was like a doughnut," Martin says. "There was no coverage in the middle." Pre-9/11, flights originating in the States were not seen as threats and NORAD wasn't prepared to track them.

Flight 175's Windows

CLAIM: On Sept. 11, FOX News broadcast a live phone interview with FOX employee Marc Birnbach. 911inplanesite.com states that "Bernback" saw the plane "crash into the South Tower." "It definitely did not look like a commercial plane," Birnbach said on air. "I didn't see any windows on the sides."

Coupled with photographs and videos of Flight 175 that lack the resolution to show windows, Birnbach's statement has fueled one of the most widely referenced 9/11 conspiracy theories--specifically, that the South Tower was struck by a military cargo plane or a fuel tanker.

FACT: Birnbach, who was a freelance videographer with FOX News at the time, tells PM that he was more than 2 miles southeast of the WTC, in Brooklyn, when he briefly saw a plane fly over. He says that, in fact, he did not see the plane strike the South Tower; he says he only heard the explosion.

While heading a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) probe into the collapse of the towers, W. Gene Corley studied the airplane wreckage. A licensed structural engineer with Construction Technology Laboratories, a consulting firm based in Skokie, Ill., Corley and his team photographed aircraft debris on the roof of WTC 5, including a chunk of fuselage that clearly had passenger windows. "It's ... from the United Airlines plane that hit Tower 2," Corley states flatly. In reviewing crash footage taken by an ABC news crew, Corley was able to track the trajectory of the fragments he studied--including a section of the landing gear and part of an engine--as they tore through the South Tower, exited from the building's north side and fell from the sky.

Intercepts Not Routine

CLAIM: "It has been standard operating procedures for decades to immediately intercept off-course planes that do not respond to communications from air traffic controllers," says the Web site oilempire.us. "When the Air Force 'scrambles' a fighter plane to intercept, they usually reach the plane in question in minutes."

FACT: In the decade before 9/11, NORAD intercepted only one civilian plane over North America: golfer Payne Stewart's Learjet, in October 1999. With passengers and crew unconscious from cabin decompression, the plane lost radio contact but remained in transponder contact until it crashed. Even so, it took an F-16 1 hour and 22 minutes to reach the stricken jet. Rules in effect back then, and on 9/11, prohibited supersonic flight on intercepts. Prior to 9/11, all other NORAD interceptions were limited to offshore Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZ). "Until 9/11 there was no domestic ADIZ," FAA spokesman Bill Schumann tells PM. After 9/11, NORAD and the FAA increased cooperation, setting up hotlines between ATCs and NORAD command centers, according to officials from both agencies. NORAD has also increased its fighter coverage and has installed radar to monitor airspace over the continent.


The collapse of both World Trade Center towers--and the smaller WTC 7 a few hours later--initially surprised even some experts. But subsequent studies have shown that the WTC's structural integrity was destroyed by intense fire as well as the severe damage inflicted by the planes. That explanation hasn't swayed conspiracy theorists, who contend that all three buildings were wired with explosives in advance and razed in a series of controlled demolitions.

Widespread Damage

CLAIM: The first hijacked plane crashed through the 94th to the 98th floors of the World Trade Center's 110-story North Tower; the second jet slammed into the 78th to the 84th floors of the 110-story South Tower. The impact and ensuing fires disrupted elevator service in both buildings. Plus, the lobbies of both buildings were visibly damaged before the towers collapsed. "There is NO WAY the impact of the jet caused such widespread damage 80 stories below," claims a posting on the San Diego Independent Media Center Web site (sandiego.indymedia.org). "It is OBVIOUS and irrefutable that OTHER EXPLOSIVES (... such as concussion bombs) HAD ALREADY BEEN DETONATED in the lower levels of tower one at the same time as the plane crash."

FACT: Following up on a May 2002 preliminary report by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a major study will be released in spring 2005 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce. NIST shared its initial findings with PM and made its lead researcher available to our team of reporters.

The NIST investigation revealed that plane debris sliced through the utility shafts at the North Tower's core, creating a conduit for burning jet fuel--and fiery destruction throughout the building. "It's very hard to document where the fuel went," says Forman Williams, a NIST adviser and a combustion expert, "but if it's atomized and combustible and gets to an ignition source, it'll go off."

Burning fuel traveling down the elevator shafts would have disrupted the elevator systems and caused extensive damage to the lobbies. NIST heard first-person testimony that "some elevators slammed right down" to the ground floor. "The doors cracked open on the lobby floor and flames came out and people died," says James Quintiere, an engineering professor at the University of Maryland and a NIST adviser. A similar observation was made in the French documentary "9/11," by Jules and Gedeon Naudet. As Jules Naudet entered the North Tower lobby, minutes after the first aircraft struck, he saw victims on fire, a scene he found too horrific to film.

"Melted" Steel

CLAIM: "We have been lied to," announces the Web site AttackOnAmerica.net. "The first lie was that the load of fuel from the aircraft was the cause of structural failure. No kerosene fire can burn hot enough to melt steel." The posting is entitled "Proof Of Controlled Demolition At The WTC."

FACT: Jet fuel burns at 800° to 1500°F, not hot enough to melt steel (2750°F). However, experts agree that for the towers to collapse, their steel frames didn't need to melt, they just had to lose some of their structural strength--and that required exposure to much less heat. "I have never seen melted steel in a building fire," says retired New York deputy fire chief Vincent Dunn, author of The Collapse Of Burning Buildings: A Guide To Fireground Safety. "But I've seen a lot of twisted, warped, bent and sagging steel. What happens is that the steel tries to expand at both ends, but when it can no longer expand, it sags and the surrounding concrete cracks."

"Steel loses about 50 percent of its strength at 1100°F," notes senior engineer Farid Alfawak-hiri of the American Institute of Steel Construction. "And at 1800° it is probably at less than 10 percent." NIST also believes that a great deal of the spray-on fireproofing insulation was likely knocked off the steel beams that were in the path of the crashing jets, leaving the metal more vulnerable to the heat.

But jet fuel wasn't the only thing burning, notes Forman Williams, a professor of engineering at the University of California, San Diego, and one of seven structural engineers and fire experts that PM consulted. He says that while the jet fuel was the catalyst for the WTC fires, the resulting inferno was intensified by the combustible material inside the buildings, including rugs, curtains, furniture and paper. NIST reports that pockets of fire hit 1832°F.

"The jet fuel was the ignition source," Williams tells PM. "It burned for maybe 10 minutes, and [the towers] were still standing in 10 minutes. It was the rest of the stuff burning afterward that was responsible for the heat transfer that eventually brought them down."

Puffs Of Dust

CLAIM: As each tower collapsed, clearly visible puffs of dust and debris were ejected from the sides of the buildings. An advertisement in The New York Times for the book Painful Questions: An Analysis Of The September 11th Attack made this claim: "The concrete clouds shooting out of the buildings are not possible from a mere collapse. They do occur from explosions." Numerous conspiracy theorists cite Van Romero, an explosives expert and vice president of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, who was quoted on 9/11 by the Albuquerque Journal as saying "there were some explosive devices inside the buildings that caused the towers to collapse." The article continues, "Romero said the collapse of the structures resembled those of controlled implosions used to demolish old structures."

FACT: Once each tower began to collapse, the weight of all the floors above the collapsed zone bore down with pulverizing force on the highest intact floor. Unable to absorb the massive energy, that floor would fail, transmitting the forces to the floor below, allowing the collapse to progress downward through the building in a chain reaction. Engineers call the process "pancaking," and it does not require an explosion to begin, according to David Biggs, a structural engineer at Ryan-Biggs Associates and a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) team that worked on the FEMA report.

Like all office buildings, the WTC towers contained a huge volume of air. As they pancaked, all that air--along with the concrete and other debris pulverized by the force of the collapse--was ejected with enormous energy. "When you have a significant portion of a floor collapsing, it's going to shoot air and concrete dust out the window," NIST lead investigator Shyam Sunder tells PM. Those clouds of dust may create the impression of a controlled demolition, Sunder adds, "but it is the floor pancaking that leads to that perception."

Demolition expert Romero regrets that his comments to the Albuquerque Journal became fodder for conspiracy theorists. "I was misquoted in saying that I thought it was explosives that brought down the building," he tells PM. "I only said that that's what it looked like."

Romero, who agrees with the scientific conclusion that fire triggered the collapses, demanded a retraction from the Journal. It was printed Sept. 22, 2001. "I felt like my scientific reputation was on the line." But emperors-clothes.com saw something else: "The paymaster of Romero's research institute is the Pentagon. Directly or indirectly, pressure was brought to bear, forcing Romero to retract his original statement." Romero responds: "Conspiracy theorists came out saying that the government got to me. That is the farthest thing from the truth. This has been an albatross around my neck for three years."

Seismic Spikes

CLAIM: Seismographs at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., 21 miles north of the WTC, recorded the events of 9/11. "The strongest jolts were all registered at the beginning of the collapses, well before falling debris struck the earth," reports the Web site WhatReallyHappened.com.

A columnist on Prisonplanet.com, a Web site run by radio talk show host Alex Jones, claims the seismic spikes (boxed area on Graph 1) are "indisputable proof that massive explosions brought down" the towers. The Web site says its findings are supported by two seismologists at the observatory, Won-Young Kim and Arthur Lerner-Lam. Each "sharp spike of short duration," says Prisonplanet.com, was consistent with a "demolition-style implosion."

FACT: "There is no scientific basis for the conclusion that explosions brought down the towers," Lerner-Lam tells PM. "That representation of our work is categorically incorrect and not in context."

The report issued by Lamont-Doherty includes various graphs showing the seismic readings produced by the planes crashing into the two towers as well as the later collapse of both buildings. WhatReallyHappened.com chooses to display only one graph (Graph 1), which shows the readings over a 30-minute time span.

On that graph, the 8- and 10-second collapses appear--misleadingly--as a pair of sudden spikes. Lamont-Doherty's 40-second plot of the same data (Graph 2) gives a much more detailed picture: The seismic waves--blue for the South Tower, red for the North Tower--start small and then escalate as the buildings rumble to the ground. Translation: no bombs.

WTC 7 Collapse

CLAIM: Seven hours after the two towers fell, the 47-story WTC 7 collapsed. According to 911review.org: "The video clearly shows that it was not a collapse subsequent to a fire, but rather a controlled demolition: amongst the Internet investigators, the jury is in on this one."

FACT: Many conspiracy theorists point to FEMA's preliminary report, which said there was relatively light damage to WTC 7 prior to its collapse. With the benefit of more time and resources, NIST researchers now support the working hypothesis that WTC 7 was far more compromised by falling debris than the FEMA report indicated. "The most important thing we found was that there was, in fact, physical damage to the south face of building 7," NIST's Sunder tells PM. "On about a third of the face to the center and to the bottom--approximately 10 stories--about 25 percent of the depth of the building was scooped out." NIST also discovered previously undocumented damage to WTC 7's upper stories and its southwest corner.

NIST investigators believe a combination of intense fire and severe structural damage contributed to the collapse, though assigning the exact proportion requires more research. But NIST's analysis suggests the fall of WTC 7 was an example of "progressive collapse," a process in which the failure of parts of a structure ultimately creates strains that cause the entire building to come down. Videos of the fall of WTC 7 show cracks, or "kinks," in the building's facade just before the two penthouses disappeared into the structure, one after the other. The entire building fell in on itself, with the slumping east side of the structure pulling down the west side in a diagonal collapse.

According to NIST, there was one primary reason for the building's failure: In an unusual design, the columns near the visible kinks were carrying exceptionally large loads, roughly 2000 sq. ft. of floor area for each floor. "What our preliminary analysis has shown is that if you take out just one column on one of the lower floors," Sunder notes, "it could cause a vertical progression of collapse so that the entire section comes down."

There are two other possible contributing factors still under investigation: First, trusses on the fifth and seventh floors were designed to transfer loads from one set of columns to another. With columns on the south face apparently damaged, high stresses would likely have been communicated to columns on the building's other faces, thereby exceeding their load-bearing capacities.

Second, a fifth-floor fire burned for up to 7 hours. "There was no firefighting in WTC 7," Sunder says. Investigators believe the fire was fed by tanks of diesel fuel that many tenants used to run emergency generators. Most tanks throughout the building were fairly small, but a generator on the fifth floor was connected to a large tank in the basement via a pressurized line. Says Sunder: "Our current working hypothesis is that this pressurized line was supplying fuel [to the fire] for a long period of time."

WTC 7 might have withstood the physical damage it received, or the fire that burned for hours, but those combined factors--along with the building's unusual construction--were enough to set off the chain-reaction collapse.

FINE LINES: Revisionists say sharp spikes (graph 1, above) mean bombs toppled the WTC. Scientists disprove the claim with the more detailed graph 2 (below).

Seismograph readings by Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University/Won-Young Kim (senior research scientist)/Arthur Lerner-Lam (associate director)/Mary Tobin (senior science writer)/www.ldeo.columbia.edu/lcsn


At 9:37 am on 9/11, 51 minutes after the first plane hit the World Trade Center, the Pentagon was similarly attacked. Though dozens of witnesses saw a Boeing 757 hit the building, conspiracy advocates insist there is evidence that a missile or a different type of plane smashed into the Pentagon.

Big Plane, Small Holes

CLAIM: Two holes were visible in the Pentagon immediately after the attack: a 75-ft.-wide entry hole in the building's exterior wall, and a 16-ft.-wide hole in Ring C, the Pentagon's middle ring. Conspiracy theorists claim both holes are far too small to have been made by a Boeing 757. "How does a plane 125 ft. wide and 155 ft. long fit into a hole which is only 16 ft. across?" asks reopen911.org, a Web site "dedicated to discovering the bottom line truth to what really occurred on September 11, 2001."

The truth is of even less importance to French author Thierry Meyssan, whose baseless assertions are fodder for even mainstream European and Middle Eastern media. In his book The Big Lie, Meyssan concludes that the Pentagon was struck by a satellite-guided missile--part of an elaborate U.S. military coup. "This attack," he writes, "could only be committed by United States military personnel against other U.S. military personnel."

FACT: When American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon's exterior wall, Ring E, it created a hole approximately 75 ft. wide, according to the ASCE Pentagon Building Performance Report. The exterior facade collapsed about 20 minutes after impact, but ASCE based its measurements of the original hole on the number of first-floor support columns that were destroyed or damaged. Computer simulations confirmed the findings.

Why wasn't the hole as wide as a 757's 124-ft.-10-in. wingspan? A crashing jet doesn't punch a cartoon-like outline of itself into a reinforced concrete building, says ASCE team member Mete Sozen, a professor of structural engineering at Purdue University. In this case, one wing hit the ground; the other was sheared off by the force of the impact with the Pentagon's load-bearing columns, explains Sozen, who specializes in the behavior of concrete buildings. What was left of the plane flowed into the structure in a state closer to a liquid than a solid mass. "If you expected the entire wing to cut into the building," Sozen tells PM, "it didn't happen."

The tidy hole in Ring C was 12 ft. wide--not 16 ft. ASCE concludes it was made by the jet's landing gear, not by the fuselage.

Intact Windows

CLAIM: Many Pentagon windows remained in one piece--even those just above the point of impact from the Boeing 757 passenger plane. Pentagonstrike.co.uk, an online animation widely circulated in the United States and Europe, claims that photographs showing "intact windows" directly above the crash site prove "a missile" or "a craft much smaller than a 757" struck the Pentagon.

FACT: Some windows near the impact area did indeed survive the crash. But that's what the windows were supposed to do--they're blast-resistant.

"A blast-resistant window must be designed to resist a force significantly higher than a hurricane that's hitting instantaneously," says Ken Hays, executive vice president of Masonry Arts, the Bessemer, Ala., company that designed, manufactured and installed the Pentagon windows. Some were knocked out of the walls by the crash and the outer ring's later collapse. "They were not designed to receive wracking seismic force," Hays notes. "They were designed to take in inward pressure from a blast event, which apparently they did: [Before the collapse] the blinds were still stacked neatly behind the window glass."

Flight 77 Debris

CLAIM: Conspiracy theorists insist there was no plane wreckage at the Pentagon. "In reality, a Boeing 757 was never found," claims pentagonstrike.co.uk, which asks the question, "What hit the Pentagon on 9/11?"

FACT: Blast expert Allyn E. Kilsheimer was the first structural engineer to arrive at the Pentagon after the crash and helped coordinate the emergency response. "It was absolutely a plane, and I'll tell you why," says Kilsheimer, CEO of KCE Structural Engineers PC, Washington, D.C. "I saw the marks of the plane wing on the face of the building. I picked up parts of the plane with the airline markings on them. I held in my hand the tail section of the plane, and I found the black box." Kilsheimer's eyewitness account is backed up by photos of plane wreckage inside and outside the building. Kilsheimer adds: "I held parts of uniforms from crew members in my hands, including body parts. Okay?"


Cockpit recordings indicate the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 teamed up to attack their hijackers, forcing down the plane near Shanksville, in southwestern Pennsylvania. But conspiracy theorists assert Flight 93 was destroyed by a heat-seeking missile from an F-16 or a mysterious white plane. Some theorists add far-fetched elaborations: No terrorists were aboard, or the passengers were drugged. The wildest is the "bumble planes" theory, which holds that passengers from Flights 11, 175 and 77 were loaded onto Flight 93 so the U.S. government could kill them.

The White Jet

CLAIM: At least six eyewitnesses say they saw a small white jet flying low over the crash area almost immediately after Flight 93 went down. BlogD.com theorizes that the aircraft was downed by "either a missile fired from an Air Force jet, or via an electronic assault made by a U.S. Customs airplane reported to have been seen near the site minutes after Flight 93 crashed." WorldNetDaily.com weighs in: "Witnesses to this low-flying jet ... told their story to journalists. Shortly thereafter, the FBI began to attack the witnesses with perhaps the most inane disinformation ever--alleging the witnesses actually observed a private jet at 34,000 ft. The FBI says the jet was asked to come down to 5000 ft. and try to find the crash site. This would require about 20 minutes to descend."

FACT: There was such a jet in the vicinity--a Dassault Falcon 20 business jet owned by the VF Corp. of Greensboro, N.C., an apparel company that markets Wrangler jeans and other brands. The VF plane was flying into Johnstown-Cambria airport, 20 miles north of Shanksville. According to David Newell, VF's director of aviation and travel, the FAA's Cleveland Center contacted copilot Yates Gladwell when the Falcon was at an altitude "in the neighborhood of 3000 to 4000 ft."--not 34,000 ft. "They were in a descent already going into Johnstown," Newell adds. "The FAA asked them to investigate and they did. They got down within 1500 ft. of the ground when they circled. They saw a hole in the ground with smoke coming out of it. They pinpointed the location and then continued on." Reached by PM, Gladwell confirmed this account but, concerned about ongoing harassment by conspiracy theorists, asked not to be quoted directly.

Roving Engine

CLAIM: One of Flight 93's engines was found "at a considerable distance from the crash site," according to Lyle Szupinka, a state police officer on the scene who was quoted in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Offering no evidence, a posting on Rense.com claimed: "The main body of the engine ... was found miles away from the main wreckage site with damage comparable to that which a heat-seeking missile would do to an airliner."

FACT: Experts on the scene tell PM that a fan from one of the engines was recovered in a catchment basin, downhill from the crash site. Jeff Reinbold, the National Park Service representative responsible for the Flight 93 National Memorial, confirms the direction and distance from the crash site to the basin: just over 300 yards south, which means the fan landed in the direction the jet was traveling. "It's not unusual for an engine to move or tumble across the ground," says Michael K. Hynes, an airline accident expert who investigated the crash of TWA Flight 800 out of New York City in 1996. "When you have very high velocities, 500 mph or more," Hynes says, "you are talking about 700 to 800 ft. per second. For something to hit the ground with that kind of energy, it would only take a few seconds to bounce up and travel 300 yards." Numerous crash analysts contacted by PM concur.

Indian Lake

CLAIM:"Residents and workers at businesses outside Shanksville, Somerset County, reported discovering clothing, books, papers and what appeared to be human remains," states a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article dated Sept. 13, 2001. "Others reported what appeared to be crash debris floating in Indian Lake, nearly 6 miles from the immediate crash scene." Commenting on reports that Indian Lake residents collected debris, Think AndAsk.com speculates: "On Sept. 10, 2001, a strong cold front pushed through the area, and behind it--winds blew northerly. Since Flight 93 crashed west-southwest of Indian Lake, it was impossible for debris to fly perpendicular to wind direction. ... The FBI lied." And the significance of widespread debris? Theorists claim the plane was breaking up before it crashed. TheForbiddenKnowledge.com states bluntly: "Without a doubt, Flight 93 was shot down."

FACT: Wallace Miller, Somerset County coroner, tells PM no body parts were found in Indian Lake. Human remains were confined to a 70-acre area directly surrounding the crash site. Paper and tiny scraps of sheetmetal, however, did land in the lake. "Very light debris will fly into the air, because of the concussion," says former National Transportation Safety Board investigator Matthew McCormick. Indian Lake is less than 1.5 miles southeast of the impact crater--not 6 miles--easily within range of debris blasted skyward by the heat of the explosion from the crash. And the wind that day was northwesterly, at 9 to 12 mph, which means it was blowing from the northwest--toward Indian Lake.

F-16 Pilot

CLAIM: In February 2004, retired Army Col. Donn de Grand-Pre said on "The Alex Jones Show," a radio talk show broadcast on 42 stations: "It [Flight 93] was taken out by the North Dakota Air Guard. I know the pilot who fired those two missiles to take down 93." LetsRoll911.org, citing de Grand-Pre, identifies the pilot: "Major Rick Gibney fired two Sidewinder missiles at the aircraft and destroyed it in midflight at precisely 0958."

FACT: Saying he was reluctant to fuel debate by responding to unsubstantiated charges, Gibney (a lieutenant colonel, not a major) declined to comment. According to Air National Guard spokesman Master Sgt. David Somdahl, Gibney flew an F-16 that morning--but nowhere near Shanksville. He took off from Fargo, N.D., and flew to Bozeman, Mont., to pick up Ed Jacoby Jr., the director of the New York State Emergency Management Office. Gibney then flew Jacoby from Montana to Albany, N.Y., so Jacoby could coordinate 17,000 rescue workers engaged in the state's response to 9/11. Jacoby confirms the day's events. "I was in Big Sky for an emergency managers meeting. Someone called to say an F-16 was landing in Bozeman. From there we flew to Albany." Jacoby is outraged by the claim that Gibney shot down Flight 93. "I summarily dismiss that because Lt. Col. Gibney was with me at that time. It disgusts me to see this because the public is being misled. More than anything else it disgusts me because it brings up fears. It brings up hopes--it brings up all sorts of feelings, not only to the victims' families but to all the individuals throughout the country, and the world for that matter. I get angry at the misinformation out there."

REPORTING: Benjamin Chertoff, Davin Coburn, Michael Connery, David Enders, Kevin Haynes, Kristin Roth, Tracy Saelinger, Erik Sofge and the editors of POPULAR MECHANICS.


SOURCES: For a list of experts consulted during the preparation of this article, click here.

PM consulted more than 300 experts and organizations in its investigation into 9/11 conspiracy theories. The following were particularly helpful.

Air Crash Analysis

Cleveland Center regional air traffic control

Bill Crowley special agent, FBI

Ron Dokell president, Demolition Consultants

Richard Gazarik staff writer, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Yates Gladwell pilot, VF Corp.

Michael K. Hynes, Ed.D., ATP, CFI, A&P/IA president, Hynes Aviation Services; expert, aviation crashes

Ed Jacoby Jr. director, New York State Emergency Management Office (Ret.); chairman, New York State Disaster Preparedness Commission (Ret.)

Johnstown-Cambria County Airport Authority

Cindi Lash staff writer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Matthew McCormick manager, survival factors division, National Transportation Safety Board (Ret.)

Wallace Miller coroner, Somerset County, PA

Robert Nagan meteorological technician, Climate Services Branch, National Climatic Data Center

Dave Newell director, aviation and travel, VF Corp.

James O'Toole politics editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pennsylvania State Police Public Information Office

Jeff Pillets senior writer, The Record, Hackensack, NJ

Jeff Rienbold director, Flight 93 National Memorial, National Park Service

Dennis Roddy staff writer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Master Sgt. David Somdahl public affairs officer, 119th Wing, North Dakota Air National Guard

Mark Stahl photographer; eyewitness, United Airlines Flight 93 crash scene

Air Defense

Lt. Col. Skip Aldous (Ret.) squadron commander, U.S. Air Force

Tech. Sgt. Laura Bosco public affairs officer, Tyndall Air Force Base

Boston Center regional air traffic control

Laura Brown spokeswoman, Federal Aviation Administration

Todd Curtis, Ph.D. founder, Airsafe.com; president, Airsafe.com Foundation

Keith Halloway public affairs officer, National Transportation Safety Board

Ted Lopatkiewicz director, public affairs, National Transportation Safety Board

Maj. Douglas Martin public affairs officer, North American Aerospace Defense Command

Lt. Herbert McConnell public affairs officer, Andrews AFB

Michael Perini public affairs officer, North American Aerospace Defense Command

John Pike director, GlobalSecurity.org

Hank Price spokesman, Federal Aviation Administration

Warren Robak RAND Corp.

Bill Shumann spokesman, Federal Aviation Administration

Louis Walsh public affairs officer, Eglin AFB

Chris Yates aviation security editor, analyst, Jane's Transport


Fred E.C. Culick, Ph.D., S.B., S.M. professor of aeronautics, California Institute of Technology

Robert Everdeen public affairs, Northrop Grumman

Clint Oster professor of public and environmental affairs, Indiana University; aviation safety expert

Capt. Bill Scott (Ret. USAF) Rocky Mountain bureau chief, Aviation Week

Bill Uher News Media Office, NASA Langley Research Center

Col. Ed Walby (Ret. USAF) director, business development, HALE Systems Enterprise, Unmanned Systems, Northrop Grumman

Image Analysis

William F. Baker member, FEMA Probe Team; partner, Skidmore, Owings, Merrill

W. Gene Corley, Ph.D., P.E., S.E. senior vice president, CTL Group; director, FEMA Probe Team

Bill Daly senior vice president, Control Risks Group

Steve Douglass image analysis consultant, Aviation Week

Thomas R. Edwards, Ph.D. founder, TREC; video forensics expert.

Ronald Greeley, Ph.D. professor of geology, Arizona State University

Rob Howard freelance photographer; WTC eyewitness

Robert L. Parker, Ph.D. professor of geophysics, University of California, San Diego

Structural Engineering / Building Collapse

Farid Alfawakhiri, Ph.D. senior engineer, American Institute of Steel Construction

David Biggs, P.E. structural engineer, Ryan-Biggs Associates; member, ASCE team for FEMA report

Robert Clarke structural engineer, Controlled Demolitions Group Ltd.

Glenn Corbett technical editor, Fire Engineering; member, NIST advisory committee

Vincent Dunn deputy fire chief (Ret.), FDNY; author, The Collapse Of Burning Buildings: A Guide To Fireground Safety

John Fisher, Ph.D. professor of civil engineering, Lehigh University; professor emeritus, Center for Advanced Technology; member, FEMA Probe Team

Ken Hays executive vice president, Masonry Arts

Christoph Hoffmann, Ph.D. professor of computer science, Purdue University; project director, September 11 Pentagon Attack Simulations Using LS-Dyna, Purdue University

Allyn E. Kilsheimer, P.E. CEO, KCE Structural Engineers PC; chief structural engineer, Phoenix project; expert in blast recovery, concrete structures, emergency response

Won-Young Kim, Ph.D. seismologist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University

William Koplitz photo desk manager, FEMA

John Labriola freelance photographer, WTC survivor

Arthur Lerner-Lam, Ph.D. seismologist; director, Earth Institute, Center for Hazards and Risk Research, Columbia University

James Quintiere, Ph.D. professor of engineering, University of Maryland member, NIST advisory committee

Steve Riskus freelance photographer; eyewitness, Pentagon crash

Van Romero, Ph.D. vice president, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

Christine Shaffer spokesperson, Viracon

Mete Sozen, Ph.D., S.E. Kettelhut Distinguished Professor of Structural Engineering, Purdue University; member, Pentagon Building Performance Report; project conception, September 11 Pentagon Attack Simulations Using LS-Dyna, Purdue University

Shyam Sunder, Sc.D. acting deputy director, lead investigator, Building and Fire Research Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Mary Tobin science writer, media relations, Earth Institute, Columbia University

Forman Williams, Ph.D. professor of engineering, physics, combustion, University of California, San Diego; member, advisory committee, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Links referenced within this article


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Tom Cruise is a giver and a helper


www.chinaview.cn 2006-04-13 15:14:38

BEIJING, April 13 -- Now Tom is claiming that he can cure heroin addiction, through the Scientology detoxification program within three days.

This is just not possible. Did this individual take heroin for the first time, and then Tom sent him to Scientology detox, or what?

Tom Cruise is attacking those who prescribe psychiatric drugs again in the May (06) issue of men's style magazine GQ. The actor, who embarked on an anti-drug tirade in TV interviews last summer (05) on behalf of his Scientology beliefs, has launched a fresh attack on psychiatry, calling for prescription pill poppers to think carefully about the harms they're doing to their bodies.

He tells the magazine, "I've always found the 'if it makes me feel better, it's OK' rationale a little suspect. "I think it's appalling that people have to live a life of drug addiction when I have personally helped people get off drugs." In the interview, the actor claims he can get someone off heroin in three days through Scientology's detox programmes

Lizard 'Third Eye' Sheds Light on Evolution of Color Vision


Fri Apr 14 09:36:00 2006 Pacific Time

BALTIMORE, April 14 (AScribe Newswire) --

Lizards have given Johns Hopkins researchers a tantalizing clue to the evolutionary origins of light-sensing cells in people and other species.

Published in the March 17 issue of Science, their lizard study describes how the "side-blotched" lizard's so-called third, or parietal, eye, distinguishes two different colors, blue and green, possibly to tell the time of day. Specialized nerve cells in that eye, which looks more like a spot on the lizard's forehead, use two types of molecular signals to sense light: those found only in simpler animals, like scallops, and those found only in more complex animals like humans.

Although the blue-green color comparison method used by the parietal eye is not one shared by humans, it does reveal one potential step in the evolution of color vision, the Hopkins researchers say.

Human light-reception cells responsible for color vision are called cone cells or photoreceptors, and they contain only one kind of pigment per cell - red, green, or blue. A color image results when light-triggered signals in the three different types of cone cells are compared by other nerve cells in the retina as well as the brain.

The lizard's parietal eye photoreceptors contain two pigments per cell, blue and green. Having two different pigments allows the cell to respond to two different colors of light and process that information within the same cell.

According to the researchers, when the lizard's third eye sees blue light, the blue pigment triggers a molecule called gustducin, which is very similar to a molecule found in human photoreceptors as well as the lateral eyes of the lizard - those on the sides of its head. But when the lizard's third eye sees green light, the green pigment triggers a different molecule called Go, known as "G-other," which also signals light responses in the light-sensing cells of the scallop and other creatures without a backbone. That Go is found in spineless creatures suggests it is the evolutionarily more ancient light-triggering signal.

Although gustducin and Go are different molecules, they are similar and considered "related" proteins. However, gustducin and Go each activate different molecular pathways that work against each other physiologically. Blue light and gustducin generate an "off" response in the nerve cell while green light and Go generate an "on" response.

"It may seem strange to have two opposing signals in the same cell," says the study's senior author, King-Wai Yau, Ph.D, a professor in the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at Hopkins, "but the unique mechanism renders these parietal photoreceptors most active at dawn and dusk."

"So incorporating two different pigments and two separate signaling molecules in one cell may have been an economical way, in a primitive eye with relatively few cell types, to tell the transitions of the day based on changes in the spectrum of sunlight," says Chih-Ying Su, Ph.D., the first author of the study and a former neuroscience graduate student at Hopkins.

"It's just like in a small company," says Yau. "You have to delegate each person to do more things."

By sharing features found in human photoreceptors as well as those found in simpler organisms like the scallop, the researchers propose that the lizard's parietal eye photoreceptor cells represent a "missing link" between the light-sensing apparatus in lower animals and ours.

It turns out that some frogs and fish also have a spot on their foreheads that might play the role of a light-sensing third eye. Yau hopes to pursue these structures to obtain more clues about how our photoreceptor cells, the rods and cones, came about. As he says, he's most curious about how the same function can be achieved in different ways in different animals.

The researchers were funded by the National Eye Institute and the Allene Reuss Memorial Trust.

Authors on the paper are Su, Dong-Gen Luo, His-Wen Liao and Yau of Hopkins, Akihisa Terakita and Yoshinori Shichida of Kyoto University, and Manija Kazmi and Thomas Sakmar of Rockefeller University.

CONTACT: Audrey Huang, Johns Hopkins Medicine Media Relations and Public Affairs, 410-614-5105, audrey@jhmi.edu

ON THE WEB: http://www.sciencemag.org/


Is Scientology preventing Travolta from son's autism treatment?


New York: They have long been staunch supporters of Scientology, but medical experts are worrying that the religion is preventing star couple John Travolta and Kelly Preston from acknowledging that their 14-year old son is suffering from autism.

Mark Ebner, in an article, claims that Scientology and its teachings are preventing the couple not only from publicly admitting that their son Jett is suffering from autism, but is also stopping them from providing him the adequate medical care required.

"The couple cannot even publicly admit that their son is afflicted with a neurological disorder, lest – according to the incontrovertible doctrine of Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard – he be labeled a "degraded being" that brought his affliction onto himself.... Scientology will not even recognize the disability, let alone the myriad therapies for treating it," HollywoodInterrupted.com quoted him, as stating.

The couple has always insisted that Jett is suffering from Kawasaki Syndrome-related "environmental toxins," specifically carpet cleaning chemicals.

Tom Cruise says heroin detox takes just 3 days


Suzanne Condie Lambert The Arizona Republic

Apr. 13, 2006 08:50 AM

And then, when Tom Cruise has himself towed behind a biplane clutching a hundred-foot banner proclaiming his love for and imminent shared parenthood with a glassy-eyed cast member from Laguna Beach, the movie-promotion cycle will be complete:

Cruise, as he was before the release of last year's War of the Worlds, is back on the offensive against practitioners of the psychiatric arts.

The star of the upcoming Mission: Impossible III tells GQ readers to think twice before polluting their bodies with psychotropic chemicals. Also, if you're craving crack, give him a call. advertisement

"I've always found the 'If it makes me feel better, it's OK' rationale a little suspect," he says. "I think it's appalling that people have to live a life of drug addiction when I have personally helped people get off drugs."

Cruise adds that using Scientology detox protocols, he can get someone off heroin in three days.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Irreducible complexity and evolution


April 13, 2006 Karl Lembke

An article came to my attention last week, on the evolution of a hormone and its receptor. It would appear that such a system is an excellent example of an irreducibly complex system – each is useless without the other, and anything that depends on the hormone and receptor working properly in order to function is useless unless both the hormone and the receptor are in place and working properly.

Rather than link to the article itself, I'll point to a couple of articles that deal with the findings and their implications in more depth.

The upshot is that researchers, having assumed that evolution happened, used comparisons of variant forms of a hormone receptor to work out the story of its origin and development over time. Based on the reconstructed history, a receptor that responds to cortisol was accidentally copied, and the copy subsequently changed, through mutation, into a receptor that responds to aldosterone. The amazing part of the story is that the receptor actually evolved before the chemical it responds to.

Well, it's amazing until you look deeper.

Living fish don't make aldosterone, and yet it can still attach to fish MR anyway. Obviously, the fish aren't making these receptors to snag hormones they don't make. Instead, it seems that in fish, MR are responding to DOC, which is very similar to aldosterone. In the ancestors of tetrapods, DOC evolved into aldosterone and took on its function that it has in our own bodies.

A very popular analogy for molecules and their receptors is a lock and a key. This is good for visualization, but it's misleading. Molecules bend and stretch, a feature found in only the cheapest and most ill-made locks. It's common to find that a receptor for one molecule binds quite nicely to another. Carbon monoxide is perfectly willing to bind to hemoglobin in the blood. Indeed, it's a little too willing to do so. A liver enzyme that breaks down alcohol is perfectly happy to break down ethylene glycol, a component of antifreeze. The problem here is that the liver has other enzymes that clean up the mess left by the first one, so the toxins resulting from breaking down alcohol will eventually go away. The product of breaking down antifreeze won't react with the next enzymes in the chain, so they don't get broken down. Eventually, they form crystals in the kidneys, resulting in damage and eventual kidney failure. (The treatment for antifreeze poisoning, by the way, is to keep the patient liquored up. Emergency room handbooks give the dosing schedule to keep the blood alcohol high enough to block the reaction with ethylene glycol, long enough for it to flush from the body.)

Indeed, one bit of wisdom from organic chemistry is, "if the reaction won't go, spit in it". Saliva is filled with random bits of protein, and there's a very good chance that at least a few of them will catalyze the reaction in the test tube. It looks like getting protein to bind with other molecules is easy. The hard part is fine tuning so they react with the one molecule we want affected.

This, along with the piece on blood clotting, is of considerable relevance to the design-vs-evolution debate.

Some of the comments are worth addressing:

Regardless which side of the ID issue I come down on, the autors insistence that the article shown somehow disproves ID or proves a piece of the evolutionary pie is a huge stretch.


I do not see any coherent arguemnet to show that the concept of irreduceable complexity is incorrect.

Here, we see a bit of confusion over what claims are being made, and by whom.

The point is, biologists are not trying to prove evolution. As far as they're concerned, the argument is over. You don't see papers in biology journals trying to prove evolution any more than you see papers in math journals attempting to prove algebra.

There are at least 50 major journals in the academic field of biology. All accept without question the theory of evolution as I outlined it above. They are not attempting even to prove the theory, any more than math journals attempt to prove that the sum of the internal angles of a plane triangle is 180 degrees, or engineering journals revisit the existence of gravity. But they would be nonsense without the theory of evolution, just as engineering would be nonsense without gravity. Each of those journals is published about four times a year; several of them have been in existence for over a hundred years. Each journal contains at least ten articles of about 2-20 pages, and each of those articles represents several months' or years' work by a team of trained biologists whose most compelling material and moral interest would be to disprove the work of all their predecessors and to make an immortal name by doing so. The work of the biological teams is required to be backed up by exhaustive experiment and observation, together with exact statistical analysis of the results. There is a continuous process of search through all these articles by trained reviewers looking for discrepancies among them and demanding new experimental work to resolve them. Since every one of these articles relies on the consistency and truth of the theory of evolution, every one of them adds implicitly to the veracity of the theory. By my calculation, then, opponents of evolution must find a way of matching and disproving, experiment by experiment, observation by observation, and calculation by calculation, at least two million pages of closely reasoned scientific text, representing roughly two million man-years of expert research and perhaps trillions of dollars of training, salaries, equipment, and infrastructure.


Likewise, explorations of the blood clotting cascade or the evolution of the hormone-receptor pair mentioned above don't show that irreducible complexity or intelligent design are incorrect. What they do show is that Behe's description of an unbridgeable chasm between point A (no hormone, and no receptor) and point B (fully functional hormone and fully functional receptor) is not a permanent barrier. Demonstrating the existence of at least one chain of small steps across (or around) the canyon is enough to prove that you can make the journey on foot.

Demonstrating the existence of a path around the canyon doesn't disprove the notion that angels picked a person up on one side and deposited him on the other, and demonstrating a series of small steps that lead to an irreducibly complex system in living things doesn't disprove the notion that an Intelligent Designer engineered the system. All it shows is that a designer who micromanages in this fashion is not required to explain how things came to be.

Now, if researchers haven't proven evolution, what did they do?

They took evolution as a given, and asked what traces would have been left by an evolving system. They came up with educated guesses as to what these traces would look like, and where they'd be found, and then they looked to see if these traces could be found.

Ninderthana comments:

The liklihood that the over 200 seperate reactions that are needed to make blood clotting work came together by chance is so small that it far more likely that the universe will turn into a pile of marshmellows in the next nano-second.

(Snarky response: "show your work".)

More serious response: This is a bogus argument (also known as the "tornado in the junkyard" argument.) No scientist believes the entire sequence came together as the result of 200 (or whatever the right number is) separate reactions flying together at once. Indeed, the whole point of the research was to show how complex systems developed from simpler systems, piece by piece, over generations. In each case, we see that the intermediate steps do work, at least well enough for the creatures using them at the time.

The explanation that blood chain came about because of deliberate design is much more plausible.

If this chain existed in only one form, you might be right. The problem is, it exists in many different forms. And in simpler organisms, we find chains with one or more of the links missing. An intelligent designer may be the simplest explanation if every animal with a clotting system had the exact same design, and no animal existed with even one part of this design missing, but that's not what we see. What we do see is countless animals with very workable intermediates between our clotting system and the makeshift design found in lobsters. The deliberate design explanation becomes a lot more complex when we try to explain why a designer would have created all those intermediate designs, and put them in animals exactly the way biologists would expect to find them, if humans and lobsters had a common ancestor.

In Behe's chasm analogy, it's equivalent to researchers figuring that if someone crossed from one side to the other using a particular pathway, there should be footprints. So they look along the path the person might have used, and lo and behold, here's a shoe print in a spot the wind hasn't touched yet. As you look along the pathway, maybe you find some partial footprints here and there. Then as technology improves, you find hairs and flakes of skin, and match the DNA to the person who crossed the chasm.

Still no proof that the person was not carried across by angels. After all, the angels could have created the footprint on the supposed path. But when enough evidence, consistent with the theory, is found, it's simpler to believe the person walked along the path we've found than to believe in angels busily creating all kinds of spurious evidence.

Posted in Karl Lembke at 10:59 am by Karl Lembke | Permalink |

OEB Study Sheds New Light on Evolution


Most evolutionary pathways closed off by natural selection, biologists find

Published On Thursday, April 13, 2006 2:06 AM


Contributing Writer

Working with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a new study by evolutionary biologists at Harvard suggests that a vast majority of evolutionary pathways for organisms are closed off by natural selection.

Daniel M. Weinreich, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, headed a study—published in the journal Science last week—of the development of antibiotic resistance in E. coli.

In particular, the scientists studied five point mutations that increases anti-biotic resistance in bacteria by five orders of magnitude. Since the overall mutation requires five sequential steps, there are 120 pathways from the initial, unresistant bacteria to the later drug-resistant bacteria. The study found that of 120 pathways, only ten are feasible.

Weinreich has generalized his results to argue that when bacteria independently develop resistance to the same drug, they likely follow similar, if not identical pathways.

To visualize this result, picture Harvard Yard during a rainstorm. While a student might take several paths from Thayer to Sever Hall, a majority of these would be muddier than others. Just as most people will walk on the few paved paths between buildings, organisms will only follow a limited number of paths to a particular adaptation.

Soon after their publication, Weinreich's results were picked up by intelligent design advocate William Dembski. Dembski posted a link to Weinreich's paper on his blog and asked his readers to ponder whether or not Weinreich's experiments provided a means to falsify evolution.

Weinreich said that his experiment has implicitly tested the ability of natural selection to direct evolution, but he emphasized that "We have tested the evolutionary hypothesis and have found no reason to reject it."

Weinreich said that he would like to follow up his research with a study on how the malaria parasite acquires drug resistance. Although the Science publication has no bearing on medical treatment because of the widespread resistance to its tested antibiotic, he hopes that study of the malaria parasite might provide doctors with advice on how to help prevent the possibility of the parasite evolving drug resistance.

In addition, Weinreich expressed hopes to develop newer, more effective anti-malarial drugs that disease-causing parasites will find particularly hard to defend against. He said he has applied for a grant for the project from the National Institute of Health.

Ethiopian fossils link humans to 4.4 million-year-old apelike creatures, researchers say


David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Fossil hunters scouring Ethiopia's harsh and rocky Afar desert have uncovered fresh evidence linking our human ancestors of 3.5 million years ago with more primitive apelike forebears who lived a million years earlier and had not yet emerged from woodland habitats.

The scattering of fossil teeth and bones "represent unambiguous evidence for human evolution," says Tim White, a UC Berkeley paleoanthropologist and leader of the international Middle Awash research project.

Some of the fossils were unearthed as recently as December while the scientists were exploring sedimentary rock layers around the tiny villages of Aramis and Asa Issie, near the muddy Awash River in the rift region some 140 miles northeast of Addis Ababa.

Within those rocks, the scientists report, they found fossils from three early species of mankind's ancestors that apparently succeeded each other during less than a million years of evolution.

White and his team, including Ethiopia-born geologist Giday WoldeGabriel of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and paleoanthropologist Berhane Asfaw, director of the Rift Valley Research Service in Addis Ababa, along with 19 other colleagues, are publishing a detailed report on their findings today in the journal Nature.

The early human ancestors whose traces the team found are known as hominids. They include the genus called Australopithecus that existed throughout eastern Africa as early as 4.2 million years ago.

Their forebears -- possibly direct ancestors of Australopithecus -- are the Ardipithecus genus, which ranged across the entire continent as early as 6 million years ago. Ardipithecus became extinct about the time that the earliest of seven known species of Australopithecus emerged, the fossil record indicates.

The Australopithecus species are now considered the ancestors of a line that ultimately evolved into Homo sapiens -- modern humans.

Most famous among the Australopithecus species is "Lucy," the 31/2-foot-tall female who lived about 3.18 million years ago and whose scientific name is Au. afarensis. Her skeleton was discovered in 1974 by Donald Johanson at a site 50 miles north of where the Berkeley team's most recent discoveries were made. (Anthropologists traditionally use initials for genus names -- Au. for Australopithecus and Ar. for Ardipithecus.)

The new-found fossils reported by the Berkeley team represent an earlier ancestral species named Au. anamensis and were much older than Lucy but still short with small brains and large heavily enameled teeth capable of chewing rough roots and tubers. They lived about 4.2 million years ago, the scientists said.

The first anamensis fossils in the Awash area were discovered in 1994, by Alemayehu Asfaw, a veteran Ethiopian fossil hunter. Before then, the species was known only from fossils in northern Kenya, about 500 miles southwest -- which indicates the extent of the creatures' habitat, White said.

Since then, the Berkeley team has found many more fossilized remains of species from both the Australopithecus and Ardipithecus lineages.

Fossils of the Ardipithecus line, named Ar. ramidus, were discovered in 1992 by White and his team in the Awash River area, and only in December, while The Chronicle was with the expedition, the fossil hunters found several ramidus teeth and a jaw fragment near the village of Asa Issie, one of many homes of the region's pastoral Afar tribe.

The Afar villages of Aramis and Asa Issie are only a few miles apart, and in sedimentary rock formations of the parched desert region the Berkeley team also found fossil teeth and bone fragments from Au. anamensis, at 4.1 million years old, lying above Ar. ramidus fossils at 4.4 million years old. And above both those fossils lay remains of the younger Lucy afarensis species at 3.4 million years old.

This was the first time all three species "have been found to be time-successive in a single place," White says. And it provides strong evidence for "the evolutionary transition from Ardipithecus to Australopithecus," he said.

To explain this kind of progression, he and his colleagues propose two hypotheses: Australopithecus may have evolved directly and rapidly from Ar. ramidus. Or the ramidus creatures may have continued living alongside their Australopithecus descendants for hundreds of thousands of years before becoming extinct.

WoldeGabriel said petrified wood and the fossil bones of monkeys, kudus and other horned mammals among the hominids all indicate that the region was heavily forested during the time that Ardipithecus and the early Australopithecus species existed. But other animals, such as the oryx, a species of small antelope, existed much later as the forest environment changed to open savannah and later Australopithecus species adapted to it, Asfaw said in an e-mail.

"A big part of the life history of the early hominids was in the forest. As we can see it now, at least 3 million years of hominid evolution was in the closed woodlands, so hominids started walking upright in the forest, not in the open."

As for the fossil hunters, scraping the sand and rocks of the Afar region requires tireless backs, sharp eyes and tough hands, and some of the most significant hominid finds by the expedition came during this winter's field season.

Among those discoveries were a canine tooth found by Ferhat Kaya from the University of Ankara in Turkey; a single molar and a tiny tooth fragment unearthed by Kampiro Kayranto, an Ethiopian veteran of five seasons with the Middle Awash team; and a molar fragment and the toothless fragment of a lower jaw spotted by Moges Mekonnen, an Ethiopian field cook assistant with the expedition who has been trained as a skilled fossil collector.

E-mail David Perlman at dperlman@sfchronicle.com.

Intelligent Design opponent blocked by federal council


By Steve Weatherbe

ONLY months after a Pennsylvania judge ruled that the Intelligent Design (ID) theory of origins was religion in disguise and banned it from the public schools, Canada's Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) has rejected an anti-ID research proposal from a leading evolution proponent on the grounds it was dogmatic and unscientific.

Dr. Brian Alters, head of the Evolution Education Research Centre at Montreal's prestigious McGill University and an expert witness for the evolutionists at the Pennsylvania trial, said he is incensed by the decision.

"Evolution is not an assumption -- it's a fact of science," he told the Canadian Press. "If someone was writing a proposal to investigate how people think about gravity, the researcher would not have to justify gravitation theory in the proposal."

McGill has already appealed. SSHRC spokesperson Eva Schascherl said the council is awaiting a formal appeal from Alters before determining if there are grounds for an appeal -- either factual or procedural errors in the decision, which was made by a peer panel of university academics.

After examining Alters' request for $40,000 to study "Detrimental effects of popularizing anti-evolution's intelligent design theory on Canadian students, teachers, parents, administrators and policy makers," the council declared they were "not convinced it met the necessary threshold conditions of quality of approach and methodology."

They faulted the proposal for assuming ID -- which cites the complexity and organization found in nature as evidence of design -- to be false. Alters' study, they said, advanced insufficient "justification for the assumption in the proposal that the theory of evolution, and not intelligent design theory, was correct."

The council partially backtracked later, publishing a statement reassuring that "the theory of evolution is not in doubt. SSHRC recognizes the theory of evolution as one of the cornerstones of modern science and our understanding of the modern world." Evolution, as advanced by 19th-century naturalist Charles Darwin, claims all life developed from a single organism through random mutations and the survival of the fittest life forms.

The council is not backing down on the decision itself. Vice-president Janet Halliwell said that some phenomena in nature "may not be easily explained by evolution," and the council would therefore support "critical inquiry" in those areas; whereas Alter's approach, she implied, seems aimed at shutting down inquiry that runs contrary to evolution.

Larry Felt of Memorial Univeristy, a member of the panel, added that ID was not religious dogma but an attempt to explain things that evolution has trouble explaining. Morever, he said "credible people" are trying to find ways in which evolution and ID "might come together. There is possibility of synthesis."

A list of more than 500 people, mostly university academics across the United States with some in Canada, was published in February by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute. Rather than endorsing ID, the group expressed "scepticism of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life."

One Canadian among the skeptics, Braxton Alfred, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of British Columbia, said he "tried systematically to indoctrinate students with evolution" for 33 years -- but "I could never quite buy it myself." He was startled by the research council's decision, since Alter's research proposal seemed to him more representative of academic thinking. "That they rejected it surprised me greatly."

Alfred said he "kept trying to make evolution make sense," but only when he became aware of the ID critique of evolution did he realize that he couldn't make sense of it because of problems with the theory -- not his own lack of comprehension.

"Evolution gets preferential treatment," he argued, claiming it is not subjected to the same kind of critical thinking as other theories. All proven examples of mutation, he said, are very small scale and not from one species to another. Further, Alfred contended, any modern examples have turned out to be fraudulent. "It's definitely not been proven." Alter's research proposal, Alfred said, "is definitely designed for suppression of any dissent."

Another signer of the Discovery Institute's manifesto was Paul Brown, a science professor at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC. The statement first appeared five years ago with 100 signatures, intended to counter the claim "that nobody questions evolution."

A pastor's son, Brown grew up expecting that when he got to science class at university he would be presented the evidence for evolution and would then "become a theistic evolutionist." But once at university, he said he considered the evidence very thin. "It was circumstantial and there were a lot of contrary reasons."

Brown said ID is a broad theory that can easily accommodate the idea of life evolving gradually from a common ancestor -- but not through random mutations plus survival of the fittest. "It would have to require agency or design."

Brown's take on the rejection of Alter's proposal was that it was too dogmatic for the council -- ironically, the very charge that evolutionists often bring against ID.

"His premise was that evolution is the only answer and Intelligent Design cannot possibly be right and that it is detrimental for it be taught." On the contrary, said Brown, "even if Intelligent Design is wrong, its presence increases critical thinking about evolution."

Casey Luskin, policy director for the Discovery Institute, the Seattle think tank which is America's main promoter of ID, says the research council "got it right. It is detrimental to lead students to believe evolution is the only possible explanation."

Pitted against the Discovery Institute are the National Centre for Science Education, an organization devoted specifically to evolution, and the American Civil Liberties Union, which successfully argued in Pennsylvania that ID is religiously-based and thus constitutionally prohibited from public schools.

Baylor U. Denies Tenure to Intelligent-Design Proponent



TENURE DENIED: Controversy is brewing at Baylor University, where Francis J. Beckwith, a prominent and widely published Christian philosopher and legal scholar, was recently denied tenure — some say for his conservative religious views.

Mr. Beckwith, 45, an associate professor and associate director of Baylor's J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies, joined the faculty of the Baptist university in 2003. Since his appointment, there have been rumblings on the campus about Mr. Beckwith's affiliation with the Discovery Institute, an intelligent-design think tank, and his writings promoting the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.

Mr. Beckwith's supporters call his tenure denial, announced last month, a "watershed" moment for Baylor and its new president, John M. Lilley.

William A. Dembski, a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Kentucky, who was director of a short-lived intelligent-design center at Baylor, sees two warring factions at work. "One side wants to see Baylor turned into a top-flight research university with an explicit Christian identity," he said. The other "wants to see Baylor continue in its old way as a recognized regional institution without the emphasis on the research and without pushing the Christian identity."

Mr. Dembski is among those who view Mr. Beckwith's tenure denial as the triumph of an "entrenched guard that wishes to see Baylor on its track toward secularization."

Baylor's provost, J. Randall O'Brien, would not comment on the particulars of the tenure review, but said Mr. Beckwith's "writings on intelligent design has absolutely nothing to do with the decision." He added that the university remained "totally committed" to its vision: "Baylor intends to enter the top tier of American universities, while affirming and deepening its distinctive Christian vision." Mr. Beckwith has appealed the tenure decision and is "cautiously optimistic," he said, about the outcome.


Section: The Faculty Volume 52, Issue 32, Page A8

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Scientists rally to support, protect evolution


Krysten Jones Opinion Editor

With the debate of evolution and creationism still at odds, scientists openly spoke out in support of evolution during a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Feb. 20.

This dialogue over the national debate and the associated religious pressure in public schools led to the formation of the Alliance for Science, an organization of scientists, scientific groups and supporters. The scientific fields are beginning to rightly fight against the assault on science from religious conservatives.

The organization will attempt to create graduate fellowships, increase funding for research, train math and science teachers and build tax incentives for research and development. A panel for the organization also outlined tactics for public school teachers and scientists to take.

Scientists are taking the appropriate steps toward protecting the years of work and research that strongly support evolution to ensure that it remains in public schools. Through these efforts, the organization is not only supporting the scientific community but is also enforcing the evidence of evolution.

In this debate, modern biology has arrived at two major principles that are thoroughly supported by evidences that are considered laws of nature.

The first concerns all biological elements and processes as being obedient to the laws of physics and chemistry. The second principle is, as natural selection states, all life has evolved by random mutation and natural selection. The evidence supporting natural selection has increased year by year and is accepted with unanimity by biologists putting it to the test.

Religious conservatives that argue in favor of biblical creationism against evolution have created an erroneous argument.

Evolution is defined as all the changes that have transformed life on Earth from its earliest beginnings to the diversity that characterizes it today. It is impossible to argue that changes in species have not occurred, especially as it is these changes that keep life intact.

What religious conservatives should truly be attacking is natural selection, as they claim that adaptations of organisms are seen to be evidence that a creator designed each and every species for a particular purpose. Yet with so much research and evidence in support of natural selection, it isn't even possible to argue against this.

The organization has also made it clear that they are not opposed to the search for intelligent design, the belief that scientific evidence cannot account for the complexity of the universe and that it must be the result of some higher power.

As should be, most scientists believe that intelligent design is supported by scientific evidence of the presence of a divine being. This scientific evidence is a key element of the culture of science; discoveries are the backbone of science.

If positive and repeatable evidence could be found for an intelligent force that guided natural selection and evolution, it would be one of the greatest scientific advancements and any researcher would want to be involved in such a gigantic breakthrough.

With the continued attacks against evolution and debates spanning across the country, scientists have been left with no choice but to protect the evidence and works of the scientific community.

Anthropologists Discover A 'Missing Link' in Human Evolution


By Jessica Berman

Washington 12 April 2006

An international team of anthropologists has discovered fossils in eastern Ethiopia that they say may be a missing link between our earliest and more modern ape-man ancestors. Scientists say the discovery fills a major gap in human evolution.

Fossils discovered in Ethiopia which scientists say may be 'missing link' in evolution

The new fossils were discovered by an international team of anthropologists in an archaeological depression in the Afar desert of eastern Ethiopia.

The latest discovery made between the year of 2000 and 2005 bridges two periods in human evolution: that of our oldest prehistoric ancestor, the 4 to 7 million-year-old Ardipithecus, and the more modern, 3.5 million-year-old Australopithecus.

"Lucy," the one-meter-tall adult female skeleton discovered in the Afar depression in 1974, was the most famous of the Australopithecine fossils.

The new fossils include a thigh bone, finger and hand bones, numerous teeth, a jaw bone and part of a skull, according to Tim White, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California at Berkeley who was was one of the team's leaders.

He says news of the discovery, published in the journal Nature along with co-authors in Ethiopia, Japan, France and the United States, helps scientists understand how humans evolved.

"Every time you find one fossil, it fills a gap, but it creates two smaller gaps. And if we get those gaps mostly filled, then we can have a good idea of where we came from and how we evolved, the sort of where and when and how and why questions," he said.

Along with the hominid remains, White says archaeologists have unearthed skeletons of monkeys, antelopes, pigs and birds, suggesting that Afar was lush and heavily forested in prehistoric times, instead of the barren desert that it is today.

White says his team of 60 scientists from 17 countries will continue to explore their study area for even greater finds tracing back human origins.

"One of the biggest challenges is tying the fossils that we've found and are announcing now at 4.1 million [years] back into earlier fossils and perhaps, if we are very fortunate, finding in rocks more than six million years old the last common ancestor that we shared with living chimpanzees," he said.

Science and Religion


By Jonathan Bartlett, Tulsa Today

Friday, 07 April 2006

The nature of science requires open, honest inquiry. As such, it is disconcerting that the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Alan Leshner, argues against proposed Oklahoma legislation through an onslaught of misrepresentations, half-truths, and faulty logic in a March 19 editorial in The Oklahoman. Using such tactics to suppress opposing viewpoints seems to be in direct opposition to the scientific enterprise.

First, let's look at the bill which Leshner's editorial comes out against: House Bill 2107, also called the Academic Freedom Act. The act is true to its name. It has two basic goals:

* Allow teachers to teach and present scientific information about the full range of scientific views in all curriculums.

* Protect a student's right to not be penalized or graded for their personal position on a scientific view (though they still have to demonstrate understanding of the view presented in the curriculum).

The rub comes from the fact that the bill explicitly mentions origins of life as a subject on which teachers may present scientific information concerning the full range of scientific views, but does not require or encourage any specific view to be taught other than those already in the educational curriculum. It seems that Leshner does not want the public to know about the full range of scientific views on the origin of life -- the reasons for this can only be speculated.

Not only is the CEO of the AAAS coming out against science teachers presenting science, he also uses numerous misrepresentations of fact to support his position.

Leshner says, "The sponsor of the measure says it would encourage critical thinking by exposing students to all sides of the scientific debate about evolution. That sounds reasonable, at first. But this is the sort of code language that supporters of intelligent design doctrine have tried to inject into science education standards in other communities and states nationwide -- not to promote science, but to promote a narrow religious agenda."

This quote misrepresents both the bill and Intelligent Design.

First, the bill only covers scientific views and scientific information. Therefore, Intelligent Design can only be included if it is scientific. If Intelligent Design isn't scientific, Leshner has nothing to worry about. If Intelligent Design is scientific, then Leshner is playing politics with science by trying to limit scientific views by law. Second, Intelligent Design is neither narrow nor religious. How can someone paint an idea which has adherents who are Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Agnostic as promoting a "narrow religious agenda"?

Leshner tries to indicate that Intelligent Design is not scientific. In fact, the central tenet of Intelligent Design is that chance and necessity are insufficient causes for the origin of symbolic information processing and communication systems such as those in cells. This is an established position in the secular, peer-reviewed scientific literature.

Also, contrary to what Leshner implies, Intelligent Design is not distinct from evolution. There is nothing about Intelligent Design itself which disagrees with the fossil record, the lengths of time, or even the common ancestry of all life. Though there are people within Intelligent Design who disagree with these aspects, these questions are not necessarily part of Intelligent Design. Leshner wants to polarize the issue when many of the top Intelligent Design advocates, such as Michael Behe, do not dispute these issues, nor do they see Intelligent Design as being in conflict with them in any way.

Leshner also says "there is no scientific debate about evolution". I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he only meant that the part of evolution which is taught in schools is not debated. But even this is contradicted by the journal that Leshner is the publisher of. Everything from whether or not the origin of life is scientifically analyzable, whether the "tree of life" had one or many roots, whether the processes of change that occur today are the same ones that generated the primary diversity in the past, and even what those processes of change entail are all subjects about which there is considerable debate in the scientific community.

Finally, Leshner has peppered his editorial with illogical conclusions and innuendos about what the effect of this bill's passage might be. Apparently, Leshner thinks that introducing students to open, active areas of scientific discussion will cause the failure of national security and the economy, energy shortages, outbreaks of Avian flu, and lead to a takeover of science classrooms by theologians.

One has to wonder if it is appropriate for Leshner to use his position in the AAAS for the political purpose of censoring views contrary to his own, and to use misrepresentations and ludicrous leaps in logic for support? Do these misrepresentations further the AAAS's own stated goals of increasing the public understanding of science? What legitimate field of inquiry censors honest questions and open debates?

Science, as a free and open avenue for inquiry, cannot thrive under such political strong-arming tactics.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 09 April 2006 )

Tuesday, April 11, 2006



Intelligent design goes Ivy League

Cornell offers course despite president denouncing theory

Posted: April 11, 2006 1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2006 WorldNetDaily.com

Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

Cornell University plans to offer a course this summer on intelligent design, using textbooks by leading proponents of the controversial theory of origins.

The Ivy League school's course – "Evolution and Design: Is There Purpose in Nature?" – aims to "sort out the various issues at play, and to come to clarity on how those issues can be integrated into the perspective of the natural sciences as a whole."

The announcement comes just half a year after Cornell President Hunter Rawlings III denounced intelligent design as a "religious belief masquerading as a secular idea." Cornell President Hunter Rawlings

Proponents of intelligent design say it draws on recent discoveries in physics, biochemistry and related disciplines that indicate some features of the natural world are best explained as the product of an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. Supporters include scientists at numerous universities and science organizations worldwide.

Taught by senior lecturer Allen MacNeill of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department, Cornell's four-credit seminar course will use books such as "Debating Design," by William Dembski and Michael Ruse; and "Darwin's Black Box," by Michael Behe.

MacNeill plans to examine historical disputes surrounding evolution.

The university's Intelligent Design Evolution Awareness club said that while it's been on the opposite side of MacNeill in many debates, it has appreciated his "commitment to the ideal of the university as a free market-place of ideas."

"We have found him always ready to go out of his way to encourage diversity of thought, and his former students speak highly of his fairness," the group said. "We look forward to a course where careful examination of the issues and critical thinking is encouraged."

Intelligent design has been virtually shut out of public high schools across the nation. In December, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones' gave a stinging rebuke to a Dover, Pa., school board policy that required students of a ninth-grade biology class to hear a one-minute statement that says evolution is a theory, and intelligent design "is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view."

Jones determined Dover board members violated the U.S. Constitution's ban on congressional establishment of religion and charged that several members lied to cover their motives even while professing religious beliefs.

"The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy," Jones wrote. "It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."

Improving Health and through Kinesiology and Alternative Medicine


April 11, 2006

by Michelle Soo

People sometimes say to me: "Kinesiology? That's muscle testing isn't it?"

I often laugh and say "It is, and it isn't. It's that, and so much more."

A natural therapy that originated in the 1960s, Kinesiology has brought life changing benefits to those experiencing depression, stress, anxiety, nervous tension, excessive worry, learning difficulties - and on a more physical level: pain, migraines, muscular disorders, nervous system disorders, immune system deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders (like Irritable Bowel Syndrome), allergies, women's health, and candida infections.

Kinesiology uses gentle muscle testing to gather information about your state of wellbeing, and about the stress and dis-ease in your system. To do so, it relies on the bio-feedback mechanisms between your muscles and your central nervous system. This is only one of many qualities that makes it a unique alternative health therapy.

Kinesioloogy is unique also because it creates, and honours, the space for your own body & spirit to direct the course of treatment. Using muscle testing, your practitioner "communicates" with your bio-systems; exploring the underlying cause of your health issue. In this way, your practitioner can create a health solution for you that is uniquely your own.

The change you are looking for might be a physical one, or an emotional one. In either case, Kinesiology is particularly effective for those wishing to change a certain area of their life.

For example, one of my clients wanted to increase her confidence in social situations. After just one session, she found herself immediately experiencing a greater sense of ease, comfort and confidence in talking with others. In subsequent sessions, she found herself experiencing a greater sense of ease in just being herself. She also experienced the feeling of wholeness, of being connected with her heart and her soul. She felt that her life had been enriched on a deeper level, that she was happy and well.

Kinesiology is effective because it gives you an understanding of how your behaviour, attitudes and world views are based on core beliefs and deep patterns - which you may not question or even know you have. With the client I've just mentioned, her core issues were about connecting and listening to her heart, so that she could engage with others ways that were more meaningful and fulfilling for her.

Kinesiology enables you to see these core beliefs and deep patterns, and challenge them so that you can change your life significantly and positively - in the way that you want.

A good kinesiologist will also create a space for you to recognise how you can be empowered, how you can actually make the changes that you want. This is a lot easier than if you were just struggling with it yourself.

If you have a physical health issue, Kinesiology gives you an understanding of the emotional, nutritional and energetic factors that underly the physical factors of your dis-ease (whether it is your immune system or your nervous system). This enables you to move faster towards a healing.

How can your kinesiologist do all this? How can Kinesiology have such broad ranging success?

First of all, Kinesiology does not heal you. Your Kinesiologist simply facilitates a journey for you, in which you heal yourself. Your Kinesiologist restores and re-connects you with your body and mind's innate ability to find balance, homeostasis. The idea of your self-healing potential can be found in ancient Western & Eastern medical traditions - ranging from Hippocrates to the Nei Jing.

Secondly, Kinesiologists are trained in a wide range of modalities including:

- anatomy, physiology, biochemistry - counselling & psychology - chinese medicine psycho-spirituality - flower essences - esoteric sciences (chakra system, bio-field or auric systems).

This training equips them with many strategies for dealing with your health and wellbeing issue.

Michelle Soo is a holistic Kinesiologist based in Melbourne, Australia, helping clients to overcome stress, fear, depression and learning difficulties. Michelle is qualified in health science, nutrition, counselling, chinese medicine, reiki, flower essence therapy. She has over 5 years counselling experience.

This article represents the views and opinions of the author and not of www.dailyindia.com.

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