NTS LogoSkeptical News for 22 April 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The creation of a phantom enemy

http://www.spiked-online.com/articles/0000000CB025.htm 20 April 2006

It is the scientific establishment's own self-doubt that lies at the root of the furore over creationism.

by David Perks

It seems that a new spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of creationism. During the past week Britain's National Union of Teachers (NUT) put forward a motion at its national conference to end state funding of religious schools. Meanwhile, the arrival of John Mackay, an Australian creationist, on British shores prompted a full-page article in the Guardian (1).

Despite the current furore, the real problem is not the strength of creationism but the defensiveness of the science establishment. This is well illustrated by the recent Royal Society statement on the issue.

The Royal Society has condemned the rise of creationism in our schools and universities. As Professor David Read, vice president, put it: 'We felt that it would be timely to publish a clear statement on evolution, creationism and intelligent design.' (2) But why throw down the gauntlet now? The intelligent design lobby in the USA seems to have shot its bolt, and with the Christian car dealer Sir Peter Vardy funding only three schools in Britain, the statement seems a bit melodramatic. It is as if science wants to pick a fight with a supernatural spectre that isn't really there.

Creationism has appeared on the agenda in British schools only because science is concerned to show that it is prepared to listen to other points of view (3). To claim that creationism is on the rise in Britain is to miss the point. Science is on the wane.

The most recent hue and cry over creationism being taught in British schools was down to an obscure one-word inclusion as an aside in a new GCSE syllabus by the OCR examination board. The board was caught unawares by the attacks it received. It had no intention of introducing religion into school science; it was trying to follow the new agenda for science teaching by opening up a discussion about competing ideas in and around science. But this is the real source of the problem. By questioning the validity of the scientific method, the new approach to science education opens up a can of worms. Instead of teaching young people to think about the nature of scientific truth, young people are being encouraged to be sceptical about science and knowledge itself.

This is no surprise. Scientific institutions such as the Royal Society are battered from all sides as they try to defend themselves. Government has almost completely lost its bottle when it comes to arguing for science. This has left the scientific community exposed and nervous. In response, it has invested heavily in a strategy of listening to the public's concerns about science. The result is that those very concerns come to dominate debate. So the Royal Society's statement on teaching evolution in schools becomes a confusing self-examination rather than an assertion of Darwin's theory of natural selection. As the Royal Society website puts it, 'Science is about disbelief. It accepts that all knowledge is provisional and that any theory might be disproved' (4). Stressing scientific uncertainty seems to have little hope of inspiring confidence in science.

Scientific advance is now more likely to be portrayed as the road to Armageddon

By trying to sound less dogmatic than the creationists it derides, the Royal Society is just admitting that it is doubt and not science that is really at issue. Asserting any set of beliefs, whether the theory of gravity, the existence of the 'Big Bang' or the existence of God, is seen as the problem. By adopting a muted form of cultural relativism, the scientific establishment seeks to coexist with other points of view. It is apparently only when one claim on the truth is asserted over another that things get out of hand. As the Royal Society puts it, 'young people are poorly served by deliberate attempts to withhold, distort or misrepresent scientific knowledge and understanding in order to promote particular religious beliefs' (5).

But surely if any religious creed is to have validity it has to assert its authority over science? It is the audacity of the creationists who have dared to challenge scientific authority directly that has most offended the scientific establishment. But whether it is young earth creationists or the followers of the intelligent design movement, we have nothing to fear from different views on evolution, the Big Bang or any other aspect of science. There is a choice between science and religion. People have to make that choice for themselves - young people don't need over-anxious scientists to protect them from irrational views.

The scientific establishment seems far too preoccupied with fighting non-existent foes, rather than putting its case for the future potential of science. New scientific advance is now more likely to be portrayed as the road to Armageddon rather than a panacea for society. The foreboding with which genetic engineering is viewed by both left and right is a clear example of this new pessimism. Francis Fukuyama, in our Our Posthuman Future (5), likens the threat of human genetic engineering to a disaster on the scale of fascism. In Liberation Biology, Ronald Bailey notes: 'we find ourselves in the remarkable position of having many of our leading intellectuals and policymakers arguing that their fellow citizens should be denied access to technologies they know will enable them and their families to live healthier, saner and longer lives.' (6)

This is where the real battles lie. Instead of talking down to the public, scientific institutions would do much better to talk up their own beliefs and argue for a positive vision of the future. It is the scientific establishment's irrational fear of the public that most concerns me.

David Perks has taught science for 20 years and is currently head of physics in a large comprehensive school in Tooting, South London.

(1) Star of creationist circuit flies in hoping to stir the faithful in small towns of Britain , Guardian, 18 April 2006

(2) Royal Society statement on evolution, creationism and intelligent design , Royal Society, 11 April 2006

(3) Intelligent design and educational stupidity by David Perks

(4) Why Creationism is wrong and Evolution is right - Prof Steve Jones, Royal Society

(5) Royal Society statement on evolution, creationism and intelligent design , Royal Society, 11 April 2006

(6) Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution, Francis Fukuyama, 2002

(7) Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution, 2005 Patients flourish with alternative meds http://www.indusbusinessjournal.com/ME2/dirmod.asp?sid=&nm=&type=Publishing&mod=Publications%3A%3AArticle&mid=8F3A7027421841978F18BE895F87F791&tier=4&id=74A3785D11E0488F88C9889FB8BA8892

Issue Date: April 15, 2006 issue, Posted On: 4/20/2006

Doctor's study finds music, massage helps heart work

By Paul Imbesi

MINNEAPOLIS — Dr. Vibhu R. Kshettry led a recent study that integrated alternative therapies with modern medicine for heart surgery patients, and the results were music to his ears — as well as the ears of his patients.

Kshettry, a senior cardiovascular surgeon with the Minneapolis Heart Institute at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, was the head of a study that revealed heart surgery patients given alternative therapies — like light massages and listening to music — experienced less pain and tension pre- and post-surgery.

The study was published in the January 2006 edition of the "Annals of Thoracic Surgery," and it was titled "Complementary Alternative Medical Therapies for Heart Surgery Patients: Feasibility, Safety, and Impact."

The study began in 2001 and used 104 randomized patients, who volunteered to be a part of the study for free. Kshettry said the study took two years to complete, about 18 months to analyze the data — with an independent statistician to assure there were no biases — and was accepted for publication in June 2005.

Kshettry was the lead author of the study, which was funded by the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation.

"This is one of the very few randomized trials looking at alternative therapies," he said.

All of the 104 men and women involved in the study underwent standard, open-heart surgery. They were placed in two groups: those who received alternative therapy, and those who did not. Kshettry said neither group of patients knew whether they were receiving real or false treatment.

The patients who received alternative therapy were given relaxation training before surgery, which included guided imagery and 30 minutes of gentle touch or light massages. During this period, these patients also established a relationship with healing coaches, who helped them after surgery.

The first two days after heart surgery, the patients who received alternative therapy listened to music — light instrumental, classical or country were their choices — for 20 minutes a day. These patients also received more gentle touch or light massage when they were released from the intensive care unit after surgery.

The result of this study showed that patients who received alternative therapy experienced significantly lower pain and tension.

Kshettry originally began studying the use of alternative therapy with heart surgery patients in 1999, with the program known as "Healing of the Heart," which was funded by the George Family Foundation in Minneapolis for $250,000.

"The premise of [Healing of the Heart Program] was that 'can we integrate some of the mind-body healing therapies in post-operative care of patients undergoing major heart surgical procedures,'" he said.

Kshettry said the era of alternative medicine in the United States has been around for over 10 years, and consumers have been "bombarded" with information, but there has been little information, in terms of scientific facts, to back up alternative therapy.

"Many of these [alternative medicines] are really not tested, they are just kind of presumed to work just because something has worked in ancient times. The implication is that it should work in the modern times. Now I, being a scientist and a modern-trained physician, my so-called inquiring mind says, 'Well it's true that many of these therapies have been used and utilized for a number of years, but there is very little scientific evidence and basis to really justify them,'" he said.

The difference between Kshettry's study and what has been done in the past is how he is using alternative therapy. Alternative therapies are not a substitution to care — but an addition.

"So the premises was that we will offer these therapies not as an alternative to modern treatment but they will be integrated with modern treatment," he said. "That's the difference."

This difference was also noticed by Dr. Gerald Fletcher, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., and a spokesman for the American Heart Association.

"I do think there is something to what he's doing," Fletcher said.

Fletcher added that this is an important area to look at, and the future of this kind of treatment is not only open, but "reasonably optimistic." He said the National Institutes of Health is beginning to fund alternative therapy.

However, Fletcher said there were also difficulties in alternative therapy, like measuring pain, which varies from person to person.

Kshettry said he knows medication is going to help all of these patients, but he also does not underestimate the use of alternative therapy to help someone during heart surgery, which he said is a life-changing event. "It's a very stressful time for the patients, it's a very stressful time for the families," he said.

"There is something to be said about re-discovering yourself and re-connecting with your own inner self, which would be mean meaningful in calming you and facing life-changing events than drugs and all," he said.

Kshettry is originally from New Delhi, India, but he has been living outside of India for the last 32 years in the United Kingdom and the United States. Kshettry received his medical degree from Punjab University in India.

He has traveled back to Bangalore, India, over the last five years to support cardiac surgery programs, and he is the founder of the International Cardiovascular Outreach Research and Education program, which is a teaching program for developing nations.

Kshettry believes that physicians should be connected to patients, and that these people should always come first in their job.

"I think the art of medicine is getting lost to a certain extent because medicine began as an art, it did not begin as a science. Of course over the centuries it became more scientific, it became improved and those are all positives. But we as physicians should not lose the sight that we are healers first, technicians later," he said.

Discovery of Ancient Methane Puts Theory of Evolution 'On the Rocks'


First direct evidence for methane-producing microbes on early Earth supports creation model

To: National Desk

Contact: Kathleen Campbell, Campbell Public Relations, LLC, 719-540-6022, kcampbell@thecompletesolution.com

NEWS ADVISORY, April 20 /Christian Newswire Service / -- Japanese scientists discovered 3.46-billion-year-old methane bubbles in rocks from the Dresser Formation located in Western Australia. The chemical fingerprint associated with the methane provides the scientific community with the first direct evidence for methane-producing bacteria on early Earth.

"This is science at its very best with important implications for the origins of life," says acclaimed biochemist Fazale Rana, Ph.D., a well-known origin of life researcher from the science/faith think-tank Reasons To Believe, www.reasons.org.

"Even though these methane producers were single-celled microbes they were amazingly complex from a biochemical standpoint."

In the book Origins of Life, published in 2004, Rana and his co-author astronomer Dr. Hugh Ross predicted that complex microbes, like methane producers, existed early in Earth's history. This groundbreaking book presents the first scientifically testable theory of creation for the origin of life.

"It's satisfying to see how well our creation model predicts scientific advance," says Rana. "The presence of complex microbes this early in Earth's history raises significant questions about the theory of evolution."

Dr. Rana, a recognized expert in origin of life research, maintains that life appeared on Earth too quickly and is initially much too complex to make sense from an evolutionary standpoint.

"The traditional naturalistic model has life emerging gradually from a 'primordial soup' over a vast period of time—hundreds of millions of years—to yield relatively simple life forms," Rana continues.

"Yet the data from the fossil record fails to match these critical criteria. The recent results obtained by the Japanese scientists only further compound the problems for the theory of evolution."

Fazale 'Fuz' Rana, Ph.D.—Fazale 'Fuz' Rana did his undergraduate work in chemistry at West Virginia State College. He then completed his post-graduate studies at Ohio University and earned a Ph.D. in chemistry with an emphasis in biochemistry. After completing postdoctoral fellowships at the universities of Virginia and Georgia, he worked for seven years in product development research for Procter & Gamble.

Prior to joining the scholar team at Reasons To Believe in 1999, he published more than 15 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals and made more than 20 presentations at international scientific meetings. Dr. Rana also coauthored a chapter on antimicrobial peptides for Biological and Synthetic Membranes and he holds one patent.

Since joining Reasons To Believe he has chaired three conferences and has written two books published by NavPress, Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off and Who Was Adam: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man. He has published numerous articles on the apologetic significance of recent discoveries in the life sciences. He appears each week on the live Web broadcast, Creation Update, and is a highly popular and frequent guest on a wide variety of nationally/internationally syndicated talk radio and television programs.

Reasons To Believe (www.reasons.org ) is currently celebrating its 20th Anniversary. Founded in 1986 by renowned astrophysicist Hugh Ross, Ph.D. Reasons To Believe is unique in its position of demonstrating that science and the Bible complement one another. The mission of Reasons To Believe is to remove the doubts of skeptics, strengthen the faith of believers, and offer solid answers to questions about God and science.

Reasons To Believe provides resources that will keep you informed about up-to-the minute discoveries in the sciences and how they harmonize with God's revelation in the words of the Bible. It is our conviction that since the same God who 'authored' the universe also inspired the writings of Scripture, a consistent message will come from both revelations. In other words, the facts of nature will agree with, not contradict, the Bible. Recent scientific discoveries support this now more than at any other time in history.

Hugh Ross, Ph.D.—After studying physics at the University of British Columbia and astronomy at the University of Toronto, Hugh Ross continued his research on quasars and galaxies as a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology. While at Caltech he began serving as minister of evangelism for Sierra Madre Congregational Church.

Since 1986 he has led Reasons To Believe, an institute founded to research and proclaim new reasons –from the frontiers of science—for trust in God's Word and faith in Jesus Christ. Over the years Dr. Ross has given hundreds of apologetics lectures, seminars, and courses in universities, churches, business firms and other venues across the U.S. and around the world. He is a popular interview guest on a wide variety of nationally/internationally syndicated radio and television programs.

His books include The Fingerprint of God, The Creator and the Cosmos, Beyond the Cosmos, The Genesis Question, A Matter of Days, and as co-author, The Genesis Debate, Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men. He contributed a chapter on Mars in Dr. Rana's book, Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off, and also contributed details for the new scientific model for creation in Who Was Adam: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man.

Hips on fossil snake give clue to terrestrial evolution


London, (GUARDIAN NEWS SERVICE): A SUPERBLY preserved fossil snake with hips and back legs suggests that the reptiles evolved from burrowing land dwellers that lost their legs.

The 90 million to 92 million year old fossil, from Patagonia, puts to rest a long-running argument among palaeontologists over whether the group evolved on land or from primitive sea monsters.

"It is a spectacular find for its age and detail," said Harry Greene, an expert on snake evolution at Cornell University, New York. "It does bolster the case for [primitive] snakes being terrestrial or subterranean rather than marine."

The idea that snakes had an aquatic beginning was first put forward by the Victorian fossil hunter Edward Cope. He thought they were most closely related to an extinct group of marine lizards called mosasaurs - ancestors of modern-day monitor lizards.

These began as small coastal-dwelling animals in the early Cretaceous period around 144m years ago, but evolved into fearsome sea monsters, says Olivier Rieppel, an expert on snake evolution at the University of Chicago.

"As the Cretaceous went on they became creatures of the open sea," he said. "They became very large, they transformed their limbs to flippers and some of them reached 12 metres long."

In the late 1990s, three fossil finds from the Middle East suggested that the origin of snakes was tied up with these prehistoric krakens. The primitive fossil snakes found in the West Bank and Lebanon all had vestigial limbs and were found in marine sediments, suggesting they lived at sea.

The new Argentinian fossil, which was a contemporary of the dinosaurs, seems to be even more primitive though, and points to a burrowing beginning to the snake line.

Sebastian Apesteguia at the Argentinian Museum of Natural Sciences in Buenos Aires and Hussam Zaher at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil have named the 1.5-metre beast Najash rionegrina after the Hebrew word for "legged biblical snake" and the Rio Negro province of Argentina where the fossil was found. They report their find in today's issue of the journal Nature.

"If you had asked me to design the most primitive snake that is what I would have designed," said Professor Rieppel. Crucially, it has a robust vertebral column adapted for burrowing, and hips connected to vestigial back legs.

"If you have got legs and want to walk on land that is something you need," he said.

The legs were not robust enough to walk on, but the snake apparently injured one during its life, suggesting they were used.

"We think the animal used these limbs not to walk but to brace itself before attacking prey," said Dr Apesteguia.

'Silent Birth': Separating Reality From Myth, Church Of Scientology International


Article Date: 20 Apr 2006 - 0:00am (PDT)

Los Angeles - Church of Scientology International responds to inquiries concerning the application of Dianetics and Scientology principles to child birth.

What is a silent birth?

Having a silent birth is all about providing the best possible environment for the birthing mother and her new baby.

It is labor and delivery done in a calm and loving environment and with no spoken words, as much as possible, by everyone attending. Chatty doctors and nurses, shouts to "PUSH, PUSH" and loud or laughing remarks to "encourage" are the types of things that are meant to be avoided.

As L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Dianetics and Scientology, wrote, "Everyone must learn to say nothing within the expectant mother's hearing during labor and delivery." And, "A woman who wants her child to have the best possible chance will find a doctor who will agree to keep quiet especially during the delivery, and who will insist upon silence being maintained in the hospital delivery room as far as it is humanly possible."

Does this mean that a mother cannot scream or moan at all?

Of course they can make noises - the point of silent birth is NO WORDS. This is a principle of Dianetics and to fully understand why, one should read the book Dianetics the Modern Science of Mental Health, by L. Ron Hubbard. It is words that are the culprit. Outside of not speaking, the objective is generally to have as peaceful and relaxing an environment as possible for the mother and child. It is doubtful that any woman could give birth without making any noise at all.

Mothers naturally want to give their baby the best possible start in life and thus keep the birth as quiet and peaceful as possible.

Is it a Church rule that members must adhere to this practice and is there a specific routine?

A woman's choice of for her delivery is completely up to her and her doctor. There is no requirement to adhere to any specific routine. Just like care is taken in all other aspects of labor and birth, a woman and her doctor or midwife and any others present work out how to communicate without words. Different women have done different things.

Does the application of these principles preclude a mother from using medicines?

The Church has no policy against the use of medicines. This, too, is up to the mother and her doctor.

These principles do not preclude a mother from receiving any medical procedure needed to safely deliver the baby, including c-section. These are medical decisions.

Does the "no word" dictate still applies after the baby is born?

It only applies if a child is in pain or traumatized. Of course parents will keep the newborn in a safe and peaceful environment. From birth forward, a child needs all of the love and affection it can possibly get.

How are doctors reacting to the method?

Doctors respect the right of a mother to choose her own birthing experience.

Quiet birth is not a medical model but is a religious and philosophical approach based on L. Ron Hubbard's research into the mind and spirit which he published in 1950 in Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.

L. Ron Hubbard discovered the single source of stress, worry, self-doubt and psychosomatic illness, which is the reactive mind. This part of the mind records all perceptions in times of pain and unconsciousness and in particular, words spoken during these moments can have very adverse effects on people later in life.

Who else is advocating silent birth?

A decade after the publication of Dianetics, a number of popular natural childbirth methods evolved from the principles of a calm, quiet and relaxed birthing environment and little or no anesthesia.

Two of the most well-known and followed were the Bradley Method developed by Dr. Robert A. Bradley and the Leboyer Method developed by the French obstetrician Dr. Frederick Leboyer.

The Leboyer Method includes dim lights and gentle handling without sudden movement that may jar or startle the baby.

Bradley urges darkness and solitude, quiet, physical comfort and relaxation. He also teaches exercises and muscle relaxation for labor with slow, deep breathing, take-your-time approach in a quiet, unlit, pillow-laden environment. In a 1965 he made the statement that: "We warn husbands to be quiet and not disruptive, to rub the back between contractions."

Additionally, a study done in Sweden and released in 1998 found that "minimizing pain and discomfort to the infant during birth seems to be of importance in reducing the risk of committing suicide by violent means as an adult."

Does the Church have a dictate concerning the raising of children?

There is a lot written in Scientology about children. Scientology helps people understand their basic nature and this alone helps parents tremendously.

Scientologists consider children to be spiritual beings, like all people are, but they need to be taken care of as children. They need respect, love, help, and education. They want to help others from a very early age and it is important that adults allow them to do so, within the realms of safety. A child has to know they have a place in life, that they are important and that their contributions are meaningful in a real way.

Education is an important part of this, as a child needs understanding of the workings of his family and society to be able to contribute to them in meaningful ways and in this he can be greatly assisted by his parents and other family members.

Some of the basic principles Scientologists apply to parenting are summed up in the following quotes from L. Ron Hubbard:

"Today's children will become tomorrow's civilization. Try to be the child's friend. It is certainly true that a child needs friends. Try to find out what a child's problem really is and without crushing their own solutions, try to help solve them. A child factually does not do well without love. Most children have an abundance of it to return."

"The spoiled child is the child whose decisions have been interrupted continuously and who is robbed of his independence."

"Affection could no more spoil a child than the sun could be put out by a bucket of gasoline."

"A good, stable adult with love and tolerance in his heart is about the best therapy a child can have."


© 1996-2006 Church of Scientology International

Rural poor rely on alternative cures for survival


Saturday, April 22, 2006

GROUND LEVEL By Godofredo M. Roperos

OUT here in the southern countryside, where formal medical care has become too costly, the rural sick are driven to seek cures from cheap alternative sources. The reason is really quite obvious enough: inability to meet the price of pharmacological medicines. While district hospitals have been put up in many towns of the country, still it seems many of the country's sick continue to prefer the available less costly herbal cures.

A recent report says that one of two Filipinos who get sick with a life-threatening disease dies without any chance of access to the services of a medical professional. In a way, this is a gravely disturbing finding, but it is hardly controvertible since it remains a grim reality in the Philippine countryside, to say the least. The reason cited is the poverty of our people, but it could also be the steady migration of our medical workers abroad, leaving hospitals understaffed.

Indeed, almost every day right now, hundreds of nurses, medical technicians and caregivers leave the country for various destinations in the globe. The drain has become so critical that right now, according to the World Health Organization, only half of the 84 million Filipinos have actual access to public-health services. This despite the government exerts efforts to provide health services to everyone.

"I just brought my two sons to the Puericulture Center," remarked a single parent to me the other day. The kids had simultaneously contracted fever without the usually attendant colds, and she was worried. "I was hoping I could also get free medicines for them, but the center has run out of either the tablets or the syrup, and I do not have the money to buy them." Disturbingly, lack of funds for medicines has always been the usual refrain.

There was the story many weeks ago of a distant kin who lived in a mountain barangay of my hometown who barely reached the district hospital. He contracted diarrhea probably from contaminated water from a spring that has been drying up with the start of summer. Efforts to contain the ailment with the traditional herbal cures did not suffice, and when he was brought to the district hospital, he was already in an advanced state of dehydration.

But his case could be an exception rather than a typical one in the countryside today where resort to the traditional alternative cures has been given impetus with the passage many years back of Republic Act 8423, the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act (TAMA), which formalized the development and marketing of alternative health medicines and other items, such as health food and drinks.

Ironically, as things turned out, the alternative health cures that are now being marketed have become even more expensive than the regular prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines being sold in drugstores today. One can seldom buy these herbal items, so their prices are rather prohibitive beyond the reach of the poor for whom the TAMA was passed to alleviate their plight.

Consequently, the countryside's sick have continued to rely on the traditional cures their ancestors have used in their time, instead of enjoying cheaply-processed herbal cures that the alternative medicine law has legally "liberated" for the mass market. The findings that one out of every two sick Filipinos dies without the benefit of assistance from medical professionals is not actually something new, and a social phenomenon.

There could have been a time in the past when the statistics were worse, considering that then, particularly before the war, a medical practitioner was hardly available in most towns of the country. Before the war, I recall, a government doctor visited his assigned municipality only twice a week, and yet the doctor was daily on the road to accommodate patients in the town although they were few.

Truth is, the Filipino attitude toward formal medicine has greatly changed compared to, say, the days before the war. In those days, countryside folk shied away from doctors and hospitals for fear that medical practitioners would not hesitate to apply euthanasia when they saw the patient's illness was far too advanced. This is not so today.

What stops them from going for professional medical assistance is either the cost of their services, or the absence of practitioners to make the services immediately available.

Evolutionist denied federal funding


Today's Family News April 21, 2006

One of Canada's foremost evolutionary scientists is accusing the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of not being resolute enough in its rejection of intelligent design as a counter-argument for the origins of life on Earth.

Director of McGill University's Evolution Education Research Centre Brian Alters clashed with the SSHRC when it denied his request for a $40,000 grant to study how the growing popularity of intelligent design (ID) in the United States is hurting Canadians' acceptance of evolution, according to the Ottawa Citizen.

ID advocates propose that the observable complexity of the natural world is all the work of an intelligent designer, and that science cannot determine who or what this designer is.

The SSHRC said that Alters' application had been turned down because he had not supplied "adequate justification for the assumption in the proposal that the theory of evolution, and not intelligent design theory, was correct." Alters and the university both consider that statement a "factual error" and want the council to reconsider.

Alters told the Citizen that the decision offers "ironic" proof of the inroads that he believes the "pseudo-science" of intelligent design appears to be making in Canada.

Yet within days of releasing its decision, the SSHRC issued a statement insisting that in its view, "the theory of evolution is not in doubt" and is in fact "one of the cornerstones of modern science and of our understanding of the world." But it also defended denying Alters' request on grounds that "the committee was not convinced that it met the necessary threshold conditions of quality of approach and methodology."

The controversy comes amid growing concern among some members of the pro-macroevolution scientific community that the acceptance of evolution is eroding in the public consciousness.

"The occurrence of evolution is no longer debated in the scientific literature," Alters said during a public lecture, according to the Globe and Mail. "But about one of every two people in North America thinks the textbooks and scientists are wrong."

Jason Wiles, one of the managers of the Evolution and Education Research Centre, told the Globe and Mail that every province in Canada has an "anti-evolution group" with "multiples in each of the larger provinces.

"Teachers who have no intentions to teach [ID] whatsoever [tell us they] find their students saying, 'Oh, I want to talk about intelligent design, or creationism,'" he continued.

In February, several Canadian doctoral scientists were among 514 academics across the United States and around the world to sign a statement by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute that sought to challenge the bias assuming that the scientific community supports Darwinsim.

"We are skeptical," they said, "of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."

Yet they did not endorse any other theory, including intelligent design.

"Darwinist efforts . . . to suppress dissent and stifle discussion are in fact fueling even more dissent and inspiring more scientists to ask to be added to the list," said Dr. John G. West, associate director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture.

Baylor not immune to scholarly feud over origin of life


April 19, 2006

by VAN DARDEN and JOSH HORTON, staff writer and contributor

With a federal judge's December decision against teaching theologically-based theories of evolution in Pennsylvania schools still reverberating among centers of education, the denial of tenure to Dr. Francis Beckwith has brought Baylor's previous commitment to studying intelligent design back to the tip of public dialogue.

Beckwith, associate professor of church-state studies, was denied tenure in March, an act some say is due to Beckwith's association with the Discovery Institute.

The Seattle-based institute, a secular, nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy center dealing with national and international affairs, states on its Web site that the theory of intelligent design holds that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." Beckwith is a fellow of the institute.

In the Apr. 14 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, Provost Randall O'Brien said Beckwith's "writings on intelligent design has absolutely nothing to do with the decision (to deny Beckwith tenure)."

Much of the controversy surrounding Baylor's involvement with teaching intelligent design has ebbed since the Michael Polanyi Center fell from the spotlight.

Former Baylor president Dr. Robert B. Sloan Jr. established the center, which was dedicated to intelligent design research, in October 1999 with many faculty members protesting its existence, saying the study of intelligent design had "creationist" undertones.

The administration formed a committee of faculty members to evaluate the center. They proposed it be renamed the Baylor Center for Science, Philosophy and Religion and moved into the Institute for Faith and Learning, a program established to study the role of religion in American higher education.

Dr. Bruce Gordon, the assistant director of the Polanyi Center, was named director of the remaining program after the previous director, Dr. William Dembski, was released from his Baylor contract.

Dr. Douglas Henry, director of the Institute for Faith and Learning, said that a "vestigial program in science, philosophy and religion continued for a year or two afterwards and that its reporting lines ran through the Institute for Faith and Learning."

Henry said the center was dissolved in 2003.

"When Baylor enrolled a smaller-than-expected entering class a few years ago and encountered concomitant financial pressures, the remaining 'program' was simply phased out," he said.

Dembski left Baylor for a position as professor of science and theology at Southern Seminary in Louisville in June 2005, having never taught a course at Baylor.

Dembski said he thought part of the controversy surrounding the Polanyi Center had to do with university politics, as the center "became the poster child of what Robert Sloan was doing with the university."

Many members of the faculty expressed concern at the time that Sloan was pushing an aggressive conservative agenda for the university.

"I think with the conservative-moderate split, there's just a lot of bad feeling and I think it's unfortunate that intelligent design got rolled into what's perceived as conservative fundamentalism and put that side of the aisle," Dembski said. "(The center) was stereotyped and demonized."

He said that, as a Christian school, Baylor should be a place where Christian ideas are debated.

"A flagship evangelical institution - at least that's what the 2012 vision says - is a place where these ideas can be freely discussed. I think it's shameful what's happened in the last five years," Dembski said.

Since the center was dissolved, many science professors have included intelligent design in their class discussions.

However, several professors who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they don't consider intelligent design to be a part of valued scientific theory.

O'Brien said there's no official policy as to what can or can't be taught regarding intelligent design.

"To my knowledge, we don't have any policy that says that a professor must or may teach any particular approach to this subject," O'Brien said. "I think, obviously, as a scholar in the field, Baylor would expect professors to be on the cutting edge of the discourse in the field of study. And that, of course, is going to include the teaching of evolution as a science."

He said, however, that professors have the freedom to approach the subject in whatever manner they choose.

"I will say that the Provost's Office will not try to mandate what is taught in the classroom. We uphold academic freedom of the professor to conduct her or his class according to the personal approach that they'd like to take," O'Brien said. "Here at Baylor, we have the academic freedom to approach the subject as we will."

President John Lilley said there is no conflict between teaching evolution and teaching intelligent design because one is science and the other is theology.

"The Bible is not a book of science," Lilley said. "It wasn't meant to be a book of science. It's a book of faith and it is authoritative for our faith."

Lilley said science has a completely different methodology.

"What we have learned through science is something quite different (than what we learn through faith), and the church makes a huge mistake to fight with science," he said.

Charles Weaver, a professor of psychology and neuroscience who was a vocal opponent of the Polanyi Center at the height of the controversy, agrees with Lilley. He said there's nothing wrong with teaching intelligent design, but that it shouldn't be taught as a science.

"It's certainly a viable idea. It's just not one that ought to be considered science. It has no role in the science curriculum. If people want to teach it as philosophy or theology - certainly," Weaver said.

Charles Garner, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, said the core of the intelligent design debate comes down to differing worldviews.

"It ends up being more about interpretation of facts," Garner said. "Facts are not often in dispute. The interpretation of facts is what's in dispute."

Beckwith declined to comment on intelligent design, the Polanyi Center or the Baylor Center for Science, Philosophy and Religion because he said he was not at Baylor when any of the previous controversy occurred.

Lilley said the fact is that science will always win if it's pitted against narrowly-designed theology.

"If you understand theology appropriately, and understand that the Bible is our book of faith, (you understand that) it's authoritative for our faith," he said. "But don't confuse it as a book of science."

The Role of Evolution in Biomedical Research is Highly Exaggerated


Darwinists claim that their theory is the foundation of all science. Indeed, we are often told that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of it.

In a news article last November, a Stanford biologist claimed he had been guided in his research by Darwinian evolution:

"Researchers at the School of Medicine uncovered obestatin [an appetite-suppressing hormone] by using the principles of evolution to pick clues from data held in the Human Genome Project, as well as the genome sequencing projects for many other organisms, among them yeast, fruit flies and mice. 'Darwin led us to this new hormone,' said senior author Aaron Hsueh, an endocrinologist and professor of obstetrics and gynecology."
The Stanford press release continued:

"So why does Darwin's theory deserve some credit? Hsueh explained that before he and his colleagues started the project, they used the genome projects' information to create a database of GPCRs that grouped them according to their evolutionary relatedness."
The actual report in Science (310 [2005]: 996) was more subdued:
"The discovery of amidated obestatin and its cognate receptor underscores the power of comparative genomic analyses." The article's only reference to evolution was a speculation that two of the molecules studied "could have evolved from a common ancestor but diverged in their functions."
According to Dr. Jonathan Wells , a Berkeley-trained molecular biologist and CSC senior fellow , what really led the researchers to their discovery was comparative genomics, a combination of comparative biology and genetics that owes nothing to Darwinism. Evolution was brought in as an afterthought. Last year, Dr. Philip Skell, Emeritus Evan Pugh Professor at Pennsylvania State University and a member of the U. S. National Academy of Sciences, wrote in The Scientist that he

"examined the outstanding biodiscoveries of the past century: the discovery of the double helix; the characterization of the ribosome; the mapping of genomes; research on medications and drug reactions; improvements in food production and sanitation; the development of new surgeries; and others. I even queried biologists working in areas where one would expect the Darwinian paradigm to have most benefited research, such as the emergence of resistance to antibiotics and pesticides. Here, as elsewhere, I found that Darwin's theory had provided no discernible guidance, but was brought in, after the breakthroughs, as an interesting narrative gloss."
Dr. Wells agrees. In his forthcoming book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design (Regnery, 2006), he provides many examples in which Darwinists take credit for advances in biology and medicine that owe nothing to evolutionary theory.

Here are two brief excerpts from Wells's book, due out later this year:

"Bruce Alberts claims that Darwinism is 'at the core of genetics.' Yet Mendel had no need for Darwin's hypothesis. How can Darwinism, which contributed nothing to the origin of genetics and resisted it for half a century, now be at its core? It is Darwinism that needs genetics, not genetics that needs Darwinism."


"Darwinists sometimes claim that their theory helps us to understand which animals are most closely related… on the basis of their genetic and biochemical similarities. But this is just comparative biology at the level of genes and proteins. Linnaeus did comparative biology, yet he was a creationist who lived a century before Darwin; Owen and Agassiz did comparative biology, yet they rejected Darwin's theory."
So comparative genomics, like most other fields in biology, owes nothing to Darwinism. The obestatin research featured in the Stanford press release illustrates the points made by Skell and Wells.

Posted by Robert Crowther on April 21, 2006 06:31 AM | Permalink

Evolution should be taught as fact, says top scientist


Staff and agencies Friday April 21, 2006

Children should be taught from the age of 11 that Darwin's theory of evolution is a fact, an eminent scientist said today.

Richard Pike, the chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said that references to it being a "theory" should be abandoned.

His comments came the week before prominent creationist speaker John Mackay, a former science teacher from Queensland, is due to tour halls and chapels in the UK attacking Darwin's ideas, claiming that Genesis is literally true and that the Earth is a few thousands of years old, not millions.

Teachers' union conferences this Easter debated the dangers of creationism and "intelligent design" being taught in faith schools and academies.

Dr Pike said: "Above all, we should no longer talk of the theory of evolution as though it is 'just an idea'. So well-established is it, that it now warrants the designation of an immutable scientific law, and should be taught as such. It is on this basis that further dialogue should begin."

He added: "A wider understanding of the scientific basis of our existence will position all of us to address more effectively the major issues facing our planet.

"In this there is no role for 'creationism' or 'intelligent design', and religious education must recognise the allegorical nature of much of its source material."

Earlier this month leading scientists from the Royal Society warned against the teaching of Christian theories such as creationism in school biology lessons.

Study: Medical Manual's Authors Often Tied to Drugmakers


April 20, 2006

(USA TODAY) -- A majority of the medical experts who created the "bible" for diagnosing mental illness have undisclosed financial links to drugmakers, says a study out today.

And some panels overseeing disorders that require treatment with prescription drugs, such as schizophrenia and "mood disorders," were 100% filled with experts financially tied to the pharmaceutical industry, says the study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) is the American Psychiatric Association's diagnosis manual. It is also used as the basis for insurance payments for psychiatric treatments, including drugs.

"No blood tests exist for the disorders in the DSM. It relies on judgments from practitioners who rely on the manual," says lead study author Lisa Cosgrove of the University of Massachusetts Boston.

The researchers looked for research funds, consultancies, patents and other gifts or grants received by members of the 18 separate DSM preparation panels from 1989 to 2004, both before and after their terms.

They found that among the 170 medical experts who created the two most recent editions of the manual, 56% had one or more financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. In addition to the schizophrenia and mood disorder panels' links, more than 80% of panel members for "anxiety disorders," "eating disorders," "medication-induced movement disorders" and "premenstrual dysphonic disorder" had financial ties.

"Psychiatrists rely on the APA (American Psychiatric Association) to police its activities, and we take that responsibility very seriously," association psychiatrist Darrel Regier says. The next edition, scheduled for release in 2011, will disclose all industry financial ties to panel members, he says, either in the manual or on a website.

"I don't think that's good enough. People don't poke around in the latest issue looking for conflict-of-interest statements," says physician Peter Lurie of Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. Ideally, the DSM would be created by experts without any financial links to drugmakers, he says.

The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association responded, in a statement by spokesman Ken Johnson, that the health care professionals on these panels "have impeccable integrity and base their decisions on independent judgments and research."

This month, the journal PLOS Medicine accused the drug industry of "disease-mongering," inventing diseases from everyday aggravations, such "restless legs syndrome," and widening definitions to sweep up more patients.

Psychologist David Healy of the United Kingdom's Cardiff University notes that recent revisions to the DSM eliminated a subtype of schizophrenia that responded poorly to drugs. And "melancholia" was eliminated in favor of major depressive disorder, Healy says. "The upshot is that some patients are going to lose out," he says.

Regier disputes the claims.

Copyright 2006 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

Creationism gathers strength at conference


By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent (Filed: 22/04/2006)

Creationists who argue that science supports the Bible's account of the origins of the world are holding their first major conference in Britain this weekend amid an increasingly acrimonious debate over the issue.

Nearly 400 people, including a number of clerics, gathered in a Christian centre in Derbyshire yesterday to hear academics defend the view that God made the Earth in six days about 6,000 years ago.

Among the speakers are Prof Stuart Burgess, of the mechanical engineering department at Bristol University, and Dr Monty White, a former Cardiff University adminstrator who is a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

The conference has coincided with a tour of schools and universities by another leading creationist, John Mackay, an Australian geologist who claims that fossil evidence shows that Noah's flood did happen but Darwinian evolution did not.

The events will fuel concerns among critics of creationism that, nearly 200 years after the birth of Charles Darwin, the Biblical version is increasingly debated in classrooms and lecture halls.

Dr Richard Pike, the chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, demanded yesterday that children should be taught that Darwin's theory of evolution was a fact rather than a theory.

"A wider understanding of the scientific basis of our existence will position all of us to address more effectively the major issues facing our planet," he said.

"In this there is no role for 'creationism' or 'intelligent design', and religious education must recognise the allegorical nature of much of its source material."

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2006

Friday, April 21, 2006

An Interview with Dr. Eugenie Scott


By Bill Busher

Dr. Eugenie C. Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, Inc., recently spoke at OCC's Whitney Building, on Evolution vs. Creationism Intelligent Design. The lecture was presented by the Technology Alliance of Central New York (TACNY), and sponsored by a grant from National Grid. NCSE is a not for profit membership organization in Oakland, CA, of scientists, teachers, and others that works to improve the teaching of evolution, and of science as a way of knowing. It opposes the advocacy of "scientific" creationism and other religiously-based views in science classes. She has held elective offices in the American Anthropological Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Scott is the current president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

Following is an interview conducted by Bill Busher, a past President of TACNY, and current editor of their monthly publication, The Technologist.

BB: One criticism coming from the creationist side is that evolution is "only a theory." How is a theory looked on, from a scientist's perspective?

ES: From the scientific perspective, a theory is an explanation. Theories are the goal of science. In the general public, a theory is a guess or a hunch or something that is not important, so there is a huge difference between how we use the term in science, and how we use the term in the general public. In the general public, 'fact' is very very important; in science, theories explain facts. So, theories trump facts and laws.

BB: Is there a point at which a theory becomes fact?

ES: No, theories explain facts. Facts are observations, and observations are a dime a dozen in science. We collect observations, but what is important is to use those observations to generate theories, which explain the facts and explain the other aspects of nature. Theories don't become facts, theories explain facts.

BB: Even something as simple as say, the theory of gravity, which everyone assumes is a fact?

ES: What happens is that unsupported objects fall. That is not gravity. To explain why this pen didn't fly around the room, when I stopped supporting it and why it fell, we use the theory of gravitation. The theory of gravitation is the mass of the pen and the mass of the table attract each other. That's the theory - that's an explanation. The observation, or fact, was that an unsupported object fell. So, gravitation is not a fact, gravitation is a theoretical explanation.

BB: With that definition of theory, would creationism qualify as a theory?

ES: In the simplest definition of theory, yes, because creationism is an inferential explanation for natural phenomena. The creationists would look at the diversity of living things and say "God created them as specially created kinds. " And, theories don't have to be correct. Lamarckism is an incorrect theory of heredity, but it's still a scientific theory.

BB: Do you think that there is a place for creationism intelligent design in school?

ES: Because creationism intelligent design are inherently religious ideas, they have no place in the science classroom. I'm not sure that intelligent design is especially appropriate for a comparative religion class at the K-12 level, because it's such a minimalist position. It makes so few actual claims, and they're based on probability theory, molecular biology and information theory and things that you just don't get into in the high school level. Certainly, I would say creationisms (plural) could be taught in a comparative sense, in a comparative religion class, but I'm not sure that because of the nature of intelligent design that it would ever be terribly successful in high school. But of course, the content of intelligent design is "evidence against evolution" - that's all they're really saying, and so why clutter up the student's knowledge with misinformation?

BB: Doesn't the complexity of evolution, involving biology, chemistry, earth sciences and so on, put at a distinct disadvantage proponents of evolution in debates?

ES: If I'm going to be discussing this issue publicly, generally speaking, it's going to be 'either or.' I'm either talking about science, and then so are they, in which case I can criticize either the phylogeny of creation science or I can criticize the molecular biology of intelligent design. They will talk about peppered moths as inadequate science, or whatever. Or, we'll talk about theological issues or possibly philosophy of science. In that case, we are sort of arguing on an equal playing field so to speak. In fact, what the creation science people and the ID people are extraordinarily concerned about, is that when they are in public debates that they're not talking about religion. That said, it's still the case that the audience that hears these exchanges and is evaluating the statements on both sides, probably is thinking in terms of religion, even when they are hearing the science. And so I think what you want to do is be very clear when you're discussing creation and evolution; that you separate out your opponents religious views from the scientific claims, and let the audience know that you are criticizing the scientific views of your opponent, and allowing him freedom of religion. But. bad science cannot be excused because of somebody's religious views.

BB: Have you heard any rationale from those who do participate in the structured debates, as to why they would do it?

ES: Well, there are fewer and fewer people doing this. What few people I've run into in the last three or four years who've gotten suckered into these debates did it out of ignorance. There are a couple of people around, like Michael Ruse and Ken Miller, who do take on the formal debate kind of thing from time to time, although I think even Ken has now kind of 'hung up' his debate shoes, so to speak, and he's not really interested. I don't quite understand why Mike Ruse keeps going out on the hustings. It pays well, I guess.

BB: The Kansas board of education is famous for having a zig-zag pattern when it comes to evolution and creationism, each time the makeup of the board changes. With that in mind, what do you see on the horizon for New York State?

ES: I have to plead ignorance on that; I'm not sure of the makeup of the school board.

BB: There is a bill pending that…

ES: That's in the legislature, though.

BB: What do you think is the potential impact of the recent court decision in Philadelphia?

ES: It is definitely going to throw sand in the gears of the intelligent design movement, in the sense that school districts that are contemplating teaching ID, are going to be told by their legal retainers, "don't do this, because it's going to cost you a lot of money to go to court and lose." It's not going to stop the effort completely, but what it will do, is to encourage this sort of third wave of creationism, which is the "evidence against evolution" approach. Although the judge in Kitzmiller [vs. Dover] did address the gap/problems in evolution part of the policy, which is of course, the avatar of the "evidence" against evolution school, he spent a lot more time in the decision pounding intelligent design. I think the anti-evolutionists are going to try the "evidence against evolution" approach with a different fact base than the Dover case did. Obviously, what they have to do is come up with a smarter school board, that isn't going to be making as many religious references as the Dover board did. And then, they may have a better chance of passing through the courts. The "evidence against evolution" approach has been struck down by the courts if the judge accepts the history of this issue, and shows the ultimate religious purpose for proposing these policies. But, you get a judge who doesn't like the 'purpose' argument, which is one of the arguments used to interpret the establishment clause, then it's going to be a whole more difficult to fight against the "evidence against evolution" school.

BB: We hear a lot about children in this country falling behind their counterparts in other countries. How does this controversy play into the overall educational picture?

ES: Certainly, if the United States is going to maintain its technological superiority, we have to have good science education. We don't have as good science education as we'd like; it's very patchy. Some schools do a wonderful job; others do a terrible job; many do a mediocre job. The systematic avoidance of the teaching of evolution is a real 'canary in the coal mine' for indicating the politicization of education. If we are choosing our science based on political considerations, we are under and miseducating our students. We will not maintain that international technological and scientific superiority.

BB: In a society where a large portion of the population believe in things like psychics, homeopathy, touch therapy, astrology, creationism and intelligent design, what do you see as our best hope?

ES: I'm a believer in education. I think we need to do a much better job helping science teachers understand the nature of science, understand how to think critically, and help them devise ways of passing this on to the student body more effectively than they are today (at obviously an age-appropriate level). So much of the acceptance of these paranormal and crackpot ideas really rests upon the inability to think critically about the data that are presented to support them.

Bill Busher is a past President of Technology Alliance of Central New York (TACNY), and current editor of their monthly publication, The Technologist.


Robert L. Park Friday, 21 Apr 06 Tucson, AZ


The new site http://www.HealthNewsReview.org, was created by University of Minnesota journalism professor Gary Schwitzer, who patterned it after similar efforts in Australia and Canada. A team of 20 reviewers from universities across the country will write the critiques. It is apparently limited to print news, and will not expose the outrageous commercials disguised as news that keep showing up on local television. It begins Monday. WN will check the cortisol story.


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

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

Creationist to head Baptist seminary


Tribune news services Published April 21, 2006

LOUISVILLE -- A Tennessee professor who teaches creationism has been named to lead the Center for Theology and Science at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Kurt P. Wise, currently a professor at Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., is replacing William Dembski, a leading proponent of intelligent design, who left to take a teaching job closer to his Texas home.

Wise was also director of Bryan College's Center for Origins Research, which supports the "validity of the biblical account" of creation, according to its Web site.

Wise, advocates a form of creationism that says God created the Earth relatively recently.

The intelligent design concept touted by Dembski and others says life is too complicated to have arisen by chance, though it does not explicitly identify the designer as God.

Federal courts have ruled that intelligent design is a religion masquerading as science and teaching it alongside evolution would violate the constitutional separation of church and state.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Poll: Majority of Americans don't believe in evolution


Apr 19, 2006 By Michael Foust Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Once again, a nationwide poll shows that Americans are prone not to believe in evolution -- even if many academic leaders and media members do.

The CBS News poll, conducted April 6-9, asked two subgroups of adults different questions about man's origins. Although their answers varied depending on the question, in each instance they rejected secular evolution -- that is, the belief that God was not involved at all in the process:

-- In the first subgroup, 53 percent of adults agreed that "God created human beings in their present form." Twenty-three percent believed that "human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years, but God guided the process," and 17 percent believed that human beings evolved but "God did not directly guide" it. The subgroup included 468 adults.

-- In the second subgroup, 44 percent agreed with the statement that "God created human beings in their present form within the last ten thousand years." The rest of the question was identical to the one posed to the first subgroup. In this instance, 30 percent believed that God guided evolution, and 17 percent believed in secular evolution. This subgroup included 431 adults.

The debate over evolution has divided Americans since at least the late 1800s, and that divide deepened after the famous "Scopes Monkey Trial" in Tennessee in 1925. In fact, in 1925 the Southern Baptist Convention adopted its first statement of faith (the Baptist Faith & Message) in part in reaction to the controversy over evolution.

The media largely has assisted supporting a belief in evolution. An April 12 CNN.com headline about evolution said simply, "Fossil connects human evolution dots." A New York Times headline the same day read, "New fossils add link to the chain of the evolution of humans."

But despite the media's role and an education system that backs evolution, Americans aren't buying it. The CBS News poll mirrors other recent polls:

-- A Gallup poll of 1,005 adults from September 2005 showed that 53 percent of adults believed "God created human beings in their present form exactly the way the Bible describes it." Thirty-one percent believed humans "evolved over millions of years from other forms of life and God guided" the process, and 12 percent said humans "have evolved over millions of years from other forms of life, but God has no part."

-- A Harris poll of 1,000 adults in June 2005 found that 64 percent believed "human beings were created directly by God," 22 percent said humans "evolved from earlier species" and 10 percent believed humans "are so complex that they required a powerful force or intelligent being to help create them." In a separate question, only 38 percent said humans "developed from earlier species."


Intelligent design and evolution fear spaghetti monsters


by Maxwell Davies, of the Advance Titan Issue: Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Added: 4/18/2006 9:54:38 PM

"Welcome to the wonderful world of religion," where beer volcanoes, stripper factories, and a noodly creator wait you in heaven as told by evangelical Pastafarians in full pirate regalia.

"The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster" surveys the central tenets of the world's fastest carbohydrate religion – Pastafarianism. In this delightful volume, the reader will find definitive answers to the most pressing of human affairs: How can global warming be reduced? Why does the brain resemble a bowl of noodles? How should evolution be taught in our school systems? Respectively: More pirates; to show evidence of humankind's maker; One third intelligent design, one third Flying Spaghetti Monsterism (FSM), and one third "logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence."

FSM was brought to us by self-proclaimed prophet Bobby Henderson, a 25 year-old physics student who wrote an open letter to the Kansas City school board which declared the importance of teaching FSM as an alternative, alongside intelligent design, to evolution.

In this satirical work Henderson outlines the major arguments for FSM, the beliefs of FSM's followers and several mediums for missionary work ranging from pirate-fish stencils, pamphleteering, to casual conversion on such high holy days as Talk-like-a-pirate Day, Halloween and Fridays.

In addition to "flimsy morals" and religious principles, Henderson discusses the evolution ("only a theory") versus intelligent design (the Boolean intersection of the "supernatural" and the "retarded") debate by discussing key ideas in each and humorously demonstrating the Flying Spaghetti Monster's guiding noodle in all things – from noodle (string) theory, to the FSM's rapid changing of fossil evidence to make the earth seem older that its "actual" age of about 5000 years.

Henderson also offers several examples of unintelligent design – the duck-billed platypus, religious warfare and disco, among others, to argue against intelligent design theory. Equally satirical is his critique of peer review in the science world.

The book also has an amusing experiment which demonstrates he favors the communicants who eat spaghetti over communion wafers.

As a whole, the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is perhaps the most entertaining religious text to be published since the Principia Discordia in 1965. It is affordably priced at approximately two six-packs of beer, a box of spaghetti and a jar of sauce, and will easily make up that price in the fun of circulating it to your friends and drinking their beer while they page through it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Great Debate


Monday, April 17, 2006

How many Darwinists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Charles Darwin: None. But if it could be shown that the bulb entered the socket without a series of clockwise turns, my theory would absolutely break down.

ACLU: None! We have separation of church and state in this country.

Eugenie Scott: None. To say a Darwinist did it is not a scientific explanation.

Panda's Thumb: None. To say that light bulbs don't screw themselves in is not a testable proposition. You can't prove they don't. That would be an argument from incredulity. You are committing a 'Darwinist Of The Gaps' fallacy.

Generic 1: None. Time and chance are sufficient. Eventually it is inevitable that the bulb will be in the socket. Say, in a billion years.

Generic 2: None. The quintessentially non-random process of natural selection is sufficient. Those objects capable of giving off light when screwed into sockets will be in sockets. Those that aren't will be in the trash.

Richard Dawkins: None. A light bulb that gives off 1% light intensity is very much worth having. A bulb sitting on the shelf at the supermarket gives off a certain amount of light. One in the cupboard at home gives off more. One five feet from the socket gives off more, and one two feet away even more. One in the socket gives off the most of all. It is therefore inevitable that the bulb will reach the socket.

Stephen J. Gould: None. The bulb jumped into the socket when no one was looking. Gradually.

Kenneth Miller: None. The bulb was already serving a function: providing rigidity to its corrugated packaging on the supermarket shelf. Cooptation did the rest.

Theistic Evolutionist: All of the above explanations are substantially correct. But the more important question is the meaning of the light.

Philip Johnson: One.

Michael Behe: One.

Stephen Meyer: One.

William Dembski: One.

Guillermo Gonzalez: One. But isn't it interesting that other light bulbs allowed the Darwinist to see what he was doing as he screwed in this light bulb.

Darwin Chorus: Oh, yeah? Which Darwinist? What is his name? If you won't tell us that, you're being disingenuous, and therefore no one screwed in the light bulb!

Flying Spaghetti Monster: Two. But don't ask me how they got in there. Oh. 'Darwinists'? I thought you said 'fruit flies'.

Michael Ruse: Are you trying to create a theocracy? The light bulbs in the reeducation camps will be depressingly dim. Unless they use candles. Do Christians know how to make fire?

Internet Infidels: First answer this: How many priests did it take to burn Galileo at the stake? Huh?!?

Panda's Thumb: If a Darwinist had screwed it in, it would be an efficient fluorescent, not a wasteful incandescent. Therefore no one screwed it in.

Talk.Origins: We've observed all kinds of light bulbs in all kinds of sockets: flashlights, automobile headlights, Christmas tree lights, Las Vegas marquees. There is nothing special about this light bulb and this socket.

Richard Dawkins: None. Darwin made it possible to feel fulfilled sitting in the dark.

Update: Richard Dawkins has accused me of leaving out one of his best arguments, so I add it below:

Richard Dawkins: To say that it took a Darwinist to do the screwing in of the lightbulb is to explain precisely nothing. The obvious question becomes: Who did the screwing to create the Darwinist screwer? And who did the screwing to create that screwer? There would have to be an infinite regress of screwers. And if you invoke some invisible, mystical Unscrewed Screwer (for which we have no credible evidence) to start the whole thing off, why not just say that the lightbulb screwed itself in and be done with it?

Update: I've been linked at Uncommon Descent where I found these comments:

Eugenie Scott: No one doubts that the light bulb got screwed into the socket. The only debate is over the details.

Richard Dawkins: Evolution is the study of light bulbs that look as if they've been screwed into their sockets for a purpose.

For S.J. Gould's answer: It's called punctuated illumination. And then we have to be careful about non-overlapping illuminarium.

Daniel Dennett: Perhaps we should keep fundamentalist light bulb inserters in cultural zoos so future generations can see how "in the dark" they really are!

Comment by DonaldM — April 18, 2006 @ 6:48 pm

Pianka: If we could just produce a directed surge of destructive electricity which would burn out 90% of the worlds light bulbs thereby conserving energy in the long-run and…

…you… you errr… didn't get that on tape, did you?

Comment by Scott — April 18, 2006 @ 7:01 pm

Also, from my own comment section (Larry Fafarman):

Judge Jones: The inanity of that question is breathtaking.

Update: More from Uncommon Descent commenters:

IDist: The lightbulb emits light and was screwed in by an intelligence. The lightning bug's rear emits light and therefore it must have been screwed in by an intelligence.

Comment by Fross [apparently a good-humored Darwinist]— April 18, 2006 @ 8:14 pm

Sternberg at Smithsonian: I'm not allowed to question how the lightbulb is twisted into the socket now and they took the lightbulb, the switch, circuit and socket from my office.

Biblical account: Abraham walked with the light, Isaac inherited the light, Jacob stole it and built a ladder to place the light in Yisrael, Moses wrote a "How To" instruction manual for climbing the ladder, Joshua cleared the way for one to climb the ladder to the light, the twelve tribes argued about 613 traditional ways to walk up the ladder for the light, Christ welcomed everyone into his mansion saying there are many rooms and many lightbulbs, sending forth 12 disciples to the world with goodnews of grace that he fulfilled all the instruction manuals steps of Moses, the prophets and Psalms, and even though all others failed, he'd lift them to the light to see how one screws in the bulb if they believed on him. And he would return one day as light eternal for those who repented of not following instructions and they would never have to screw in another light bulb.

My Problem With Dogmatic Evolutionists


By: Fred Reed Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Why, oh why, are the curricula of the schools the business of the courts? If Pennsylvania wants to mention creationism, or to require three years of French for graduation, it seems to me that these things are the business of parents in Pennsylvania.

Yes, I know: In practice, both freedom of expression and local government are regarded as ideals greatly to be avoided. The desire to centralize government, impose doctrine, and punish doubt is never far below the surface, anywhere. Thus our highly controlled media, our "hate-speech" laws, our political correctness and, now, Evolutionary Prohibition.

The Catholic Church once burned heretics. The Church of Evolution savages them in obscure journals and denies them tenure and publication. As a heretic I believe that I would prefer the latter, but the intolerance is the same.

I note that Compulsory Evolutionists are fellow travelers of the regnant cultural Marxism, though I don't think they are aware of it. They display the same hermetic materialism, the same desire to suppress dissent by the application of centralized governmental power, the same weird hostility to religion. They do not say, "I think Christianity is nonsense and will therefore ignore it," but rather "These ideas shall not be permitted."

The justification often is pseudo-constitutional: "the separation of church and state." Neither the phrase nor the idea is found in the Constitution. If, for example, it is unconstitutional to have a nativity scene on a town square, why did no one – certainly including the Founding Fathers – notice this until about 1950? One might point out, fruitlessly, that Creationism, communism, Christianity, and capitalism are all major intellectual currents and therefore ought to be explained to the young. Not likely. The free market of ideas applies only to one's own ideas.

Now, what grave consequences are thought to await if children hear briefly in school an argument that they have heard a dozen times in the course of ordinary life? Will the foundations of civilization crack? Will the birds of the air plunge, appalled, to earth? Will the planets shudder in their orbits and fall inward in dismay? Surely everyone short of the anencephalic knows of Creationism.

Or is it thought that kids attracted to the sciences will abruptly change their course through life and enter the clergy? That applications to graduate school in biochemistry will cease? Children learn (or did) of the Greek gods and goddesses, and that ancient people believed the earth rode on the back of a giant turtle. I have not heard that they now sacrifice oxen to Athena.

One plausible explanation for this rigid evolutionary monotheism, though I think an incorrect one, is a fear that the children might come to believe in Creationism. Unlikely, but again, so what? A belief in Creationism does not prevent one from working in the sciences. A goodly number of scientists, including biochemists, are in fact Christian and, some of them are creationists. Others presumably are Buddhists or Hindus.

The only thing for which acceptance of creationism renders one unsuitable is … evolutionism.

A more likely explanation is a fear that children might realize that a great deal of evolution, not having been established, must be accepted on faith, and that a fair amount of it doesn't make a lot of sense. While creationism is unlikely to convert children into snake-handlers, it does suggest that Orthodox Evolution can be examined critically. Bad juju, that.

Now, an entertaining way to study the politics of this is to ask the evolutionists questions that a scientist would answer (since scientists are not ashamed not to know things), but that an ideologue can't afford to. They are simple:

Has the chance occurrence of life been demonstrated in the laboratory? Yes or no.

Do we really know – as distinct from guess, hope, or imagine – of what the primeval seas consisted? Yes or no.

Do we know – as distinct from guess, pray, wave our arms, and hold our breath until we turn blue – what seas would be needed for the chance formation of life? Yes or no.

Can we show mathematically, without crafted and unsupportable assumptions, that the formation of life would be probable in any soup whatever? Yes or no.

I once posed these questions in a column and, in another place, to a group of committed proponents of evolution. A tremendous influx of e-mail resulted. Much of it was predictable. Many Christians congratulated me on having disproved evolution, which I had not done. The intelligent and independent-minded wrote thoughtfully. Of the Knights Templar of Evolution, none – not one – answered the above yes-or-no questions. They ducked. They dodged. They waxed wroth. They called names.

This is the behavior not of scientists but of true believers. I have spent countless hours as a reporter talking to scientists, as distinct from zealots with a scientific background. Without exception that I can remember, they were rational, honest, and forthcoming. Yes, they were often trying to establish a pet theory. But they said, "I think this is so, and here's the evidence, and I think it's pretty solid, but I still need to show this or that, and no, we haven't, but I hope we will." If I expressed doubts, they either showed my clearly and civilly why I was wrong, or said, "Good point. Here's what we think."

Parenthetically, my impression, based on a small sample, is that the more incensed of the evolutionists tend to be either of the hard Right or the hard Left: those who need to believe one thing categorically seem to need to believe other things categorically. Which means that if they are wrong, they are unlikely to notice it.

And this is what disturbs me about them. I do not object to the content of evolutionism. Some, all, or part of it may be correct. I would like to know. A more fascinating question does not readily come to mind. But dispassionate discussion with dogmatic evolutionists is not possible. How sad.

Fred Reed, a keyboard mercenary with a disorganized past, has worked on staff for Army Times, The Washingtonian, Soldier of Fortune, Federal Computer Week and The Washington Times.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Francisco Ayala on the perfect compatibility of God and Evolution


by: Genevieve Ernst Staff Writer

Creationism does not exist for Francisco Ayala—he calls it "anti-evolutionism." As an evolutionary biologist and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the most prestigious science association in the United States, Ayala often functions as the authority on evolution.

Ayala served as an expert witness in the 1981 Supreme Court trial of McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, which addressed the teaching of evolution in public schools. Currently he also appears in a video segment on the alleged debate between religion and evolution as part of the American Museum of Natural History's "Darwin," the most comprehensive exhibit ever created on the man who developed the theory of evolution, and was supposed to become a clergyman. And when Ayala faces anti-evolutionists, he explains with a sly smile, he often surprises them when he knows theology and the Bible better than they do.

The Spaniard's Catholic upbringing may seem an unlikely match to evolutionary genetics, but his religious beliefs have never come into conflict with the theory of evolution. A 12-year-old Ayala was taught the theory in his first science class by a priest, and he calls faith and science "perfectly compatible."

Ayala left Spain because, under the dictator Francisco Franco, science was underdeveloped with most of the distinguished scientists having left in 1939.

In 1961, he began studying for his Ph.D. at Columbia University under one of the 20th century's great geneticists, Theodosius Dobzhansky, whose name Ayala "spells" by selecting one of his books from his bookshelf, which is decorated with fossils and taxidermized birds, and opening it on his desk.

In the past week, the soft-spoken, Spanish-accented scientist has signed two book contracts and he's negotiating a third. His office walls are lined with photographs of him with presidents and the department he has helped develop since he came to UC Irvine in 1987 is one of the most distinguished in the world, with more members of the National Academy of Sciences in the field of evolutionary biology than any other institution.

Ayala – who came to UCI for the beaches, the Orange County Performing Arts Center, which was just opening, and the opportunity to expand the university – is a Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and a Professor of Philosophy of Logic and the Philosophy of Science, all while conducting groundbreaking research.

As Ayala's interest in evolution grew in the 1950s, it became clear that the best way to investigate it was through genetics, which enables any two organisms, no matter how different, to be compared. To compare trees and people outside of the context of genetics, for example, would make evolution sound completely preposterous, while it is perfectly reasonable to examine on a genomic level.

In his own research, Ayala has looked to proteins and DNA for clues on the molecular clock.

Part of Ayala's philosophy is to look at evolution as a radioactive clock. While natural selection clearly contributes to evolution, there is an element of randomness, as well. In biological evolution, it is the probability of change – not the change itself – that is constant. This view of evolution working by a stochastic clock, not a real timepiece, accounts for more randomness as the molecular clock has quite a bit of variation.

Ayala began a new branch of research on Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria when, years ago, he read a National Institutes of Health-funded paper on the evolution of malaria. While backed by good science and valid experimentation, Ayala saw that the "interpretation had to be completely wrong." Ayala wrote to the scientist who led the research explaining what he could do to correct it. The scientist, 20 years his junior, perceived the advice of the already world-renowned Ayala as patronizing and after further contact without any success, Ayala took it upon himself to do the studies.

In conducting the studies he had suggested, Ayala also made the unexpected discovery that the parasite P. falciparum can reproduce not just sexually, but clonally as well: it can fuse male and female gametes – sexual reproduction – or transmit all of its genes as a single unit, the cloning that was an unexpected phenomenon.

Ayala's discovery has helped reveal that malaria, which now kills up to 2.7 million people per year – mostly African children – became common only within the last 5,000 years; while it once existed only in a small region of Africa, the adoption of slash-and-burn agricultural practices enabled the disease, which is transmitted by a certain type of mosquitoes, to flourish.

As a result of Ayala's success in research, he has had the opportunity to speak all over the world, served on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology for Bill Clinton and, because of his religious beliefs, become a frequent speaker on the subject of evolution in the context of religion, something he will not call an "intellectual debate." Instead, he agrees with Judge John E. Jones who recently ruled against the teaching of intelligent design as science, calling creationism an "utterly forced premise."

Ayala does not preach, though; he is merely confident in his beliefs, which place "God as author of the world" and "evolution as a scientific process." After all, he says, no one questions individual creation. First there is the evolution of the fetus, "and then a little Francisco comes out."

©2004 New University Newspaper

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Church of Scientology Forces Tribute Site Down


Download this press release as an Adobe PDF document.

The Church of Scientology™ gave an ISP 2 hours to remove the site offering a tribute to Mary Sue Hubbard, deceased wife of the former Founder of Scientology.

(PRWEB) April 16, 2006 -- In a churlish move the Religious Technology Centre, that arm of the private company that owns all the trademarks of scientology, has decided that there will be no more tributes to the honored wife of L. Ron Hubbard.

Mary Sue Hubbard played a major part in L. Ron Hubbard's life, assisting him in building the church, even down to choosing the name for the church. Working with him in the research that resulted in the philosophy of scientology. After he died Mary Sue was forced to leave and, in an Orwellian swoop, all mention of her and her contributions were erased from the written records of the church. Even her lifetime membership in the International Association of Scientologists was removed.

The International Freezone Association of scientologists (IFA) felt that a tribute should be posted up about Mary Sue and this tribute at marysuehubbard.com was visited by thousands of people who wished to silently remember a great woman who gave of herself to support her husbands cause.

"We will certainly not forget Mary Sue and her contribution to scientology even if the church want to", said Michael, President of the IFA, "I think it is in very poor taste to demand the removal of a tribute to someone who died not so long ago and I doubt if L Ron Hubbard would approve." He went on, " Seems to me the church is not a religion for spiritual development anymore. Looks more to me like a money making machine now."

The IFA president stated they will be looking at ways to reinstate the tribute to Mary Sue so expect it to be up again sometime soon.

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More Pets Get Acupuncture for Ailments


By BENJAMIN MALAKOFF , 04.16.2006, 01:38 PM

Milo Hirt was a little uneasy last week. Recovering from knee surgery, he was about to be poked with 10 needles to help his recovery.

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years on people, so this isn't a new practice. But Milo is a mastiff-boxer crossbreed, and the table was in Granite City Pet Hospital & Surgery Center.

He is one of a growing number of pets - household and other - who receive acupuncture to treat ailments.

During that 20-minute session, Milo had 10 needles inserted into various places on his body. He was receiving after-surgery treatment for a ruptured ligament in his knee.

The needles, inserted into his right hind leg - the one that had surgery - right foreleg, his head and back will speed the recovery. Four needles were connected to a machine that provides an electric charge to stimulate them.

"As people begin to look for alternative therapies for themselves, they search for them for their pet, too," said Alyssa Erlandson, a veterinarian at Granite City.

Erlandson is one of a handful of vets in the area who practice alternative healing methods for pets.

In the year Erlandson has been practicing acupuncture, she has treated arthritis pain, post-surgical conditions, seizures, inflammatory bowel disease, behavioral problems, urinary tract incontinence and other chronic conditions.

Erlandson usually recommends procedures and normal medications before suggesting acupuncture.

The needles stimulate nerves and release natural pain relievers. It won't cure things such as arthritis, but it will alleviate some discomfort. It can usually relieve urinary incontinence completely with several treatments.

Sergeant, a papillon from Foley, started acupuncture treatment three months ago. He now has it every other week to treat seizures.

"He has definitely cut down in the frequency and the strength of the seizures (after acupuncture)," said Sharon Rausch, Sergeant's owner. "They're much, much more mild than they used to be."

Seizures have plagued Sergeant for a while. He was taking steroids to help alleviate them, but the medication caused him to balloon to 19 pounds. A papillon is supposed to weigh 7 to 9 pounds.

Once, the seizures became so bad Sergeant was given Valium.

Since having acupuncture, the seizures are much more brief and less severe. They last five to 10 seconds. Before acupuncture, they would last up to a minute, with Sergeant lying on the floor, foaming at the mouth.

"He just sits there (during acupuncture)," Rausch said. "It doesn't bother him a bit. He has no aftereffects from it. Nothing. We're not going to definitely stop because there's been changes."

Janell Osborn, a vet at St. Cloud Animal Hospital, said she has seen acupuncture help animals heal.

She practices photonic acupuncture - a derivation of traditional acupuncture that uses light but doesn't go as deep or as long.

"As long as the animal's got the spirit, we can help," Osborn said.

She uses acupuncture for musculo-skeletal problems, vomiting without reason, afterbirth issues in horses, lung conditions and heart conditions.

She has practiced on a constipated lizard, a bird, cats, a horse, a rat and, soon, a llama.

"We're using more and more of it," Osborn said.

She said Eastern medicine looks at conditions differently than Western medicine. Vets can make pets better without having to know exactly what's wrong, Osborn said.

Acupuncture is just part of a well-rounded regimen of Eastern medicine the Chinese have used for years. The practice includes herbs and dietary therapy, Erlandson said.

"The difference between Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine is we tend to treat the condition," Erlandson said. "Chinese (medicine) treats the whole animal."

Dietary therapy maintains the theory that foods can change the balance of animals.

The herbs, which come in pill form, can treat conditions. Quan Wan for urinary incontinence. Tan Tang for seizures.

With dietary therapy, foods are classified as red for hot, blue for cold and brown for neutral. A dog with seizures might be too hot or be eating too many red foods. Erlandson would recommend blue foods to cool, such as sardines and cheese.

"If we were traditional Chinese people, we'd be doing this," Erlandson said.

Glenn Neilsen, a veterinarian at Waite Park Veterinary Hospital, started performing alternative medicine in 1987. He brought in a chiropractor to perform acupuncture and chiropractic care, and Neilsen later learned a similar chiropractic technique called veterinary orthopedic manipulation. Neilsen also has used alternative cancer therapies to treat dogs and cats. The therapy involves nutrition and supplements to help balance the energy in pets, Neilsen said.

A pet's electrical balance can be in flux, causing illness. Neilsen prescribes nutritional changes to correct the imbalances and, in turn, the illnesses, he said.

"The foundation of all I do is I always talk nutrition," Neilsen said.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press.

Evolution education update: March 31, 2006

A statement on teaching evolution from the National Council of Churches, the latest from Oklahoma, and a statement on "intelligent design" from the Louisiana Academy of Sciences.


The National Council of Churches Committee on Public Education and Literacy recently issued a statement on "Science, Religion, and the Teaching of Evolution in Public School Classes," intended "to assist people of faith who experience no conflict between science and religion and who embrace science as one way of appreciating the beauty and complexity of God's creation" as they consider the issues surrounding the teaching of evolution. The statement addresses four questions: "What is science? What is religion? Is it possible to think that both religion and science are important? How is religious liberty, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, relevant to a discussion about the teaching of evolution in public school science classes?"

Along with brief answers to those questions, the statement also includes relevant quotations from the book of Hebrews, from the Episcopal Church's Catechism of Creation, and from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, and theologians John Haught and Marcus Borg. It closes with a quotation from Judge Jones's decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover rebutting the idea that "evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general." In a press release dated March 27, 2006, the committee which wrote the statement said, "While many excellent resources about the teaching of evolution in public school science classes have been made available for public school teachers and the general public from the point of view of science, there has been a shortage of ready resources written from the point of view of religion."

Founded in 1950, the NCC describes itself as the leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The NCC's member faith groups -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American, and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation. Members of the NCC's Committee on Public Education and Literacy represent: the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ; the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church; the Episcopal Church; the Presbyterian Church (USA); the Progressive National Baptist Convention; the United Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministries; the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society; and the United Methodist Women.

For the statement (PDF), visit:

For the press release, visit:


Oklahoma's House Bill 2107 was passed by the House by a vote of 77-10 on March 2, 2006. On March 15, it was referred to the Senate Committee on Appropriations, and then on March 21 to the Appropriations subcommittee on education, where it remains. The bill finds that "existing law does not expressly protect the right of teachers identified by the United States Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard to present scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories" and encourages the presentation of "the full range of scientific views" with regard to "biological or chemical origins of life."

When the House passed the bill, the Associated Press (March 2, 2006) quoted its lead sponsor, Representative Sally Kern (R-District 55), as saying, "This bill is not about a belief in God. It is not about religion. It is about science. ... I'm not asking for Sunday school to be in a science class." Her colleague Tad Jones (R-District 9), however, expressed his support for the bill by saying, "Do you think you come from a monkeyman? ... Did we come from slimy algae 4.5 billion years ago or are we a unique creation of God? I think it's going to be exciting for students to discuss these issues."

A subsequent editorial in The Oklahoman (March 7, 2006) argued, "This proposed law is unnecessary. Teachers are free to have discussions with their students, to help them think critically about important issues." Adopting a more caustic tone, the Tahlequah Daily Press (March 22, 2006) referred to the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover, warning, "Mrs. Kern may not want to educate herself on the intricacies of evolutionary theory, but she ought to at least bone up on the First Amendment. Especially the part about Congress making no law respecting an establishment of religion."

Community opposition to HB 2107 was expressed at a press conference sponsored by the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance on March 22, the Tulsa World (March 23, 2006) reports. Professors from the University of Tulsa argued that the bill would adversely affect science education; the president of the Tulsa school board explained that the bill was unnecessary; a partner in a local oil company noted that businesses are concerned about the quality of science education; and a professor of law at the University of Tulsa commented that the state might incur legal fees exceeding $1 million, as in Kitzmiller, should the bill be passed and successfully challenged.

HB 2107 is one of four antievolution bills to be introduced in the Oklahoma legislature in 2006. The other three are HCR 1043 (encouraging the state board of education and local school boards to ensure that students are able to "critically evaluate scientific theories including, but not limited to, the theory of evolution" with regard to "biological or chemical origins of life"), HB 2526 (authorizing school districts to teach "intelligent design"), and SB 1959 (encouraging the presentation of "the full range of scientific views"). Although these bills are still alive, according to Oklahoma's legislative website, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education regards them as effectively dead.

For the AP story (via the Kansas City Star), visit:

For the Tahlequah Daily Press's editorial, visit:

For the website of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, visit:

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


The Louisiana Academy of Sciences adopted a resolution on "intelligent design" at its March 10, 2006, annual business meeting. The resolution reads:

Whereas the stated goal of the Louisiana Academy of Sciences is to encourage research in the sciences and disseminate scientific knowledge, and Whereas such pursuits are based on the scientific method requiring the testing of hypotheses before their inclusion in the body of scientific knowledge, and Whereas organic evolution is amenable to repeated observation and testing, and Whereas the ideas of Intelligent Design are not amenable to verification by observation and experimentation, and Whereas the Academy respects and supports the right of people to possess beliefs in Intelligent Design and other matters that are not encompassed by the subject matter of science, Therefore be it resolved that the term "Intelligent Design" does not denote a hypothesis, theory, or method of inquiry that falls within the realm of science, and Be it further resolved that the members of the Louisiana Academy of Sciences urge fellow Louisianans, political leaders, and educators to oppose the inclusion in state science programs of Intelligent Design or other similar ideas which cannot be tested, accepted, or rejected by the scientific method.

Founded in 1927, the Louisiana Academy of Sciences issued a similar statement about creation science in early 1982, a few months after Louisiana's "Creationism Act" was passed in 1981.

For the Academy's statement (PDF), visit:

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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

Max Headroom creator made Roswell alien


Marc Horne

THE creator of Max Headroom, a 1980s television cyber-presenter, has claimed he was one of the hoaxers behind the Roswell film, the grainy black and white footage supposedly showing a dead alien being dissected by American government scientists after a UFO crash.

Alien Autopsy, a movie about the footage, is currently on release across Britain. It stars real-life television presenters Ant and Dec.

John Humphreys, a sculptor and consultant on Alien Autopsy who has also worked on special effects for Doctor Who, said it was he who made the models for the alien dissected in the original fake footage.

His confession, 11 years after the Roswell footage was first shown, will raise questions about the role of Channel 4, which unleashed Max Headroom on the world in the 1980s and bought the UK rights to screen the Roswell footage in Britain.

The footage was first exposed as a fake by The Sunday Times, but an estimated billion people still watched it around the world.

Rather than being shot in 1947 near Roswell in the New Mexico desert as previously claimed, the film was actually made at a flat in Camden, north London, in 1995.

Philip Mantle, a UFO researcher and author who has been investigating the Roswell hoax for 10 years, said Humphreys had been a prime suspect but had never before admitted involvement.

Mantle, who next month will deliver a lecture at Glasgow University on the Roswell story, said: "I didn't think it would take so long, but I am delighted this hoax has finally been exposed and the mystery has been solved."

Humphreys, who is based in Manchester, says he also appeared in the Roswell film as the chief surgeon. The bug-eyed alien models were filled with sheep brains, chicken entrails and knuckle joints bought from Smithfield meat market. After filming, the dummies were cut up and dumped in bins across London.

For a few short weeks the world held its breath after the 91-minute silent film was unveiled by Ray Santilli, a London-based video distributor. He claimed to have bought the footage, shot on 14 reels, from a retired American military cameramen.

Humphreys said the Roswell film was shot by himself, Santilli and three others. He said he spent four weeks fashioning the models from latex using clay sculptures.

Humphreys, a graduate of the Royal Academy who has also created special effects for the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Johnny Depp, says he only told his wife about the hoax when he was hired to work on Alien Autopsy.

"It was a very, very strange feeling to know that I had played a key part in it," he said.

Santilli, who is played by Declan Donnelly in Alien Autopsy, insists he was trying to "re-create" a real Roswell incident. He claims he bought genuine footage that was badly damaged when it was exposed to the air after 48 years in a can. "John was given very precise images to work with and what he did was sheer genius," he said.

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