NTS LogoSkeptical News for 6 May 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Saturday, May 06, 2006

An Introduction to Reiki

http://nccam.nih.gov/health/reiki/

Reiki (pronounced "ray-kee") is an energy medicine practice that originated in Japan. In Reiki, the practitioner places his hands on or near the person receiving treatment, with the intent to transmit ki, believed to be a life-force energy. Practitioners also believe that they can treat themselves with Reiki and send ki across short or long distances. In the United States, Reiki is part of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). This Backgrounder provides a general overview of Reiki and suggests some resources you can use to learn more about this practice.

Key Points

Reiki as an Energy Medicine Therapy

The word Reiki is made up of two Japanese words: Rei, or universal spirit (sometimes thought of as a supreme being), and ki.

Thus, the word Reiki means "universal life energy."

In CAM, Reiki belongs to a domain (area of knowledge) called energy medicine. In this domain, therapies are based on the belief that disturbances in energy cause illness. Energy medicine practitioners seek to improve the flow and balance of energy in a beneficial way.

About Energy Medicine

Energy medicine seeks to use, for potential health purposes, forces of two types:

Researchers have been interested in detecting and describing the physical properties of biofields. Some, using certain sophisticated tools, have claimed to detect or photograph differences in study participants before and after energy treatments. However, it is not clear what is being detected or photographed. Others have claimed to detect energy interactions between healers and people they treat. However, these findings have not been validated, and the exact nature of the energies is not clear.

A Description of Reiki

Reiki is a therapy that the practitioner delivers through the hands, with intent to raise the amount of ki in and around the client, heal pathways for ki, and reduce negative energies. Reiki can be practiced in several ways: on its own, along with other CAM therapies, and along with conventional medical treatments.

When a practitioner performs Reiki, usually the client sits or lies comfortably, fully clothed. The practitioner places her hands on or slightly above the client's body, using 12 to 15 different hand positions, with the intent to transmit ki. The hands are positioned with the palms down, fingers and thumbs extended. Each hand position is held until the practitioner feels that the flow of energy has slowed or stopped, typically about 2 to 5 minutes. Some Reiki practitioners believe they are helped by "spirit guides" for proper flow of the energy.

Practitioners perform Reiki most often in offices, hospitals, clinics, and private homes. The practitioner and client determine the number of sessions together. Typically, the practitioner delivers at least four sessions of 30 to 90 minutes each.

Depending on their level of training, people can perform Reiki on themselves as well as on people who are either close by or at some distance away (even at a long distance). In the latter case, Reiki is a type of "distant healing."

For more on this topic, see NCCAM's Backgrounder "Energy Medicine: An Overview."

More About Ki

People who believe in the existence of ki hold that ki:

Use for Health Purposes

People have sought Reiki treatment for a wide variety of health-related purposes. Some examples include:

A recent national survey on Americans' use of CAM found that 1.1 percent of the 31,000 participants had used Reiki in the year before the survey.

Effects of Reiki

Clients may report a deep feeling of relaxation after a Reiki session. Relaxation in and of itself may have beneficial health-related effects, such as reducing pain, nausea, and fatigue. A client might also experience warmth, tingling, sleepiness, refreshment, and/or the easing of one or more other symptoms after treatment.

Reiki appears to be generally safe, and serious side effects have not been reported. Some practitioners advise caution about using Reiki in people with psychiatric problems.

Sometimes a Reiki client experiences what practitioners call a "cleansing crisis." The person may have symptoms such as a feeling of weakness or tiredness, a headache, or a stomach ache. Reiki practitioners believe that these are effects of the body releasing toxins. They advise the client on how to deal with such symptoms if they occur, such as by getting more rest, drinking plenty of water, or eating a lighter diet.

Some Other Points to Consider About Reiki as CAM

If you are considering or using Reiki as CAM:

History of Reiki

There are different beliefs about the origin of Reiki--one is that it is based on Tibetan sutras (texts of Buddhism) written by monks. Sources agree that in the mid-19th century, Dr. Hiachu Mikao Usui, a Japanese physician and monk, developed this healing approach and spiritual path, named it Reiki, trained others in it, and developed an organization.

One of Dr. Usui's students further developed these teachings and opened his own clinic in Tokyo, where, in 1936, an American named Hawayo Takata went for treatment. Later, she trained in Reiki, became a Master, and is credited with introducing Reiki to the West in the late 1930s.

Training, Licensing, and Certification

A person does not need a special background or credentials to receive Reiki training. Many who seek the training are health care professionals. Students must learn the practice from an experienced Reiki teacher or Master, as it is not a therapy that can be self-taught.

There are a number of different schools of Reiki. Usually there are three or four levels (or degrees) of expertise, depending upon the school or type. Each level begins with an attunement, or initiation into that level. Receiving an attunement is believed to bring the ability to access Reiki energy and to open what is conceived as a central core of energy in the body.

Training for each level typically takes 1 or 2 days. The techniques taught can vary greatly between Reiki schools and teachers. In time, some students undertake the effort to become a Reiki Master, which enables one to teach Reiki and perform attunements. This process can take years. Some members of the Reiki professional community are interested in developing additional, voluntary standards for their profession.

The laws regulating the practice of Reiki vary from state to state, and sometimes by local areas as well. For example, in Florida, a Reiki practitioner must also be a certified massage therapist. Most other states do not consider Reiki to be massage and thus do not regulate it as a form of massage therapy.

Some Points of Controversy

As in other CAM therapies, there are areas of controversy in Reiki. For example:

NCCAM-Funded Research

Some recent NCCAM-supported studies have been investigating:

References Sources are drawn primarily from recent reviews in English on Reiki in the PubMed database, selected evidence-based databases, and Federal sources.

Barnes PM, Powell-Griner E, McFann K, Nahin RL. Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults: United States, 2002. CDC Advance Report #343. 2004.

Chu DA. Tai chi, qi gong and Reiki. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America. 2004;15(4):774-781.

DiNucci EM. Energy healing: a complementary treatment for orthopaedic and other conditions. Orthopaedic Nursing. 2005;24(4):259-269.

Engebretson J, Wardell DW. Experience of a Reiki session. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 2002;8(2):48-53.

Healing touch: hands-on help for the heart? Touch therapies are reaching growing numbers of patients. Harvard Heart Letter. 2005;16(2):3.

International Association of Reiki Professionals Web site. Accessed at http://www.iarp.org on March 30, 2006.

LaTorre MA. The use of Reiki in psychotherapy. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care. 2005;41(4):184-187.

Miles P, True G. Reiki-review of a biofield therapy history, theory, practice, and research. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 2003;9(2):62-72.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Energy Medicine: An Overview.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Web site. Accessed at http://nccam.nih.gov/health/backgrounds/energymed.htm on March 30, 2006.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Expanding Horizons of Health Care: Strategic Plan 2005-2009. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health; 2005. NIH publication no. 04-5568.

Nield-Anderson L, Ameling A. Reiki: a complementary therapy for nursing practice. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services. 2001; 39(4):42-49.

Reiki. Natural Standard Database Web site. Accessed at http://www.naturalstandard.com on March 30, 2006.

For More Information

NCCAM Clearinghouse

The NCCAM Clearinghouse provides information on CAM and on NCCAM, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. Examples of publications include "Energy Medicine: An Overview." The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.

Toll-free in the U.S.: 1-888-644-6226
TTY (for deaf and hard-of-hearing callers): 1-866-464-3615
Web site: nccam.nih.gov
E-mail: info@nccam.nih.gov

PubMed®

A service of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), PubMed contains publication information and (in most cases) abstracts of articles from scientific and medical journals. CAM on PubMed, developed jointly by NCCAM and NLM, is a subset of PubMed and focuses on the topic of CAM.

Web site: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez
CAM on PubMed: www.nlm.nih.gov/nccam/camonpubmed.html

CRISP (Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects)

CRISP is a database of information on federally funded scientific and medical research projects being conducted at research institutions.

Web site: www.crisp.cit.nih.gov

ClinicalTrials.gov

ClinicalTrials.gov is a database of information on federally and privately supported clinical trials, for a wide range of diseases and conditions. It is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Web site: www.clinicaltrials.gov

Acknowledgments

NCCAM thanks the following people for their technical expertise and review of this publication: Joan Fox, Ph.D., and Didier Allexandre, Ph.D., The Cleveland Clinic; Karen Prestwood, M.D., University of Connecticut Health Center; Gala True, Ph.D., Albert Einstein Healthcare Network; and Morgan Jackson, M.D., and Shan Wong, Ph.D., NCCAM.

NCCAM has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your primary health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy in this information is not an endorsement by NCCAM.

This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.

National Institutes of Health

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

NCCAM Publication No. D315
April 2006

Mothers expect Damien on 6/6/06

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2158015,00.html

Tony Allen-Mills

FOR one group of expectant mothers, their due date holds an extra dimension of dread. The prospect of giving birth on June 6, 6/6/06, has prompted talk of spawning devil children on Armageddon day.

A British self-help group that usually exchanges routine tips on parenting has turned its attention to the dangers of a date marked by the satanic symbol.

For Hollywood and the worldwide entertainment industry it is by contrast a once-in-a- century opportunity to turn evil into gold. Leading the charge is 20th Century Fox, whose remake of The Omen, the classic 1970s horror film, will appear on June 6.

The approach of the sixth day of the sixth month of a new century's sixth year has prompted animated discussion among women participating in the website of Mother & Baby, a British parenting magazine.

One pregnant woman, Francesca Renouf, said she had been so worried that she had booked a doctor's appointment to ensure that she would avoid giving birth on the sixth.

Others appeared to take the dangers less seriously. One woman, Emma Parker, wrote that she intends to call her baby Damien, after the satanic boy in The Omen. Another, Donna Magnante, said she would name her baby after Regan in The Exorcist.

In America the marketing of the apocalypse is well under way. Slayer, one of America's most popular heavy metal rock groups, will start its Unholy Alliance tour, subtitled Preaching to the Perverted.

Crown Forum, a US publishing giant, has seized on 666 as the perfect date for the launch of Godless, a new anti-liberal political polemic by Ann Coulter, a prominent right-wing columnist.

And inevitably the internet is awash with frenzied doomsday debate and 666 speculation, all reflecting America's continuing obsession with angels, devils and the possible nature of heaven and hell.

While some Armageddon believers fear that 6/6/06 will be "a day of satanic power" that may be marked by a comet hitting the Earth, others believe that the world is coming closer to what is widely known as "the rapture" — the moment the Lord calls the Christian faithful home and millions of born-again evangelicals will suddenly disappear from the Earth, leaving non-believers behind.

On one popular evangelical website last week, a "rapture index" that calculates the likelihood of the Lord's arrival stood at 156 — which the website declared was time to "fasten your seatbelts". By contrast, another website claimed that the Antichrist had already arrived — he is supposedly George (six letters) Walker (six letters) Bush Jr (six letters), the president whose name adds up to 666. "The violence and destruction that began when Bush first entered office is now certain to culminate in the apocalypse, as predicted in the Bible over 2,000 years ago," warned Stephen Hanchett at isbushantichrist.blogspot.com.

The 666 phenomenon is based on a disputed passage from the Book of Revelation, which in several popular versions declares the "number of the beast" to be 666 — although some biblical scholars claim there was a mistranslation and the number should really be 616.

Either way, John Moore, the Irish director of The Omen remake — entitled Omen 666 — realised that June 6 was too good a date to miss for a film about a sinister child named Damien who turns out to be the Antichrist. "It's a fantastic marketing gimmick," Moore said. "We figured if we could hit this date it would make it all the more interesting."

The only devils in Coulter's book are abortion-loving Democrats, but that hasn't stopped her publisher making the most of 666. Coulter, a tall blonde with a mean anti-liberal streak, is the bestselling author of How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must).

Her new book, subtitled The Church of Liberalism, is reportedly even more bilious, with chapters such as "On the seventh day God rested and Liberals schemed", and "The holiest sacrament: abortion".

Joining Slayer on the musical front is the cult death metal group Deicide, which calls itself "Satan's favourite band". Its latest album, The Stench of Redemption, is scheduled for release on what it calls "the most unholy of days, 6/6/06".

The majority of Americans may well conclude that if the last 6/6/06 (in 1906) failed to end in apocalypse, they might survive this one, too. But the current vogue for horror films suggests that the omens for Fox's Omen 666 may be bright whatever the release date.

Unless of course anyone notices the numerological significance of "Fox". As one contributor to Arianna Huffington's blog pointed out last week, F is the sixth letter of the alphabet, O is the 15th letter (1+5=6) and X is the 24th letter (2+4=6). Could Fox be the studio of the Beast?

Rethinking evolution theory has merit

http://kennebecjournal.mainetoday.com/view/letters/2668080.shtml

Friday, May 5, 2006

Copyright © 2006 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

I am writing in response to Charles Acker's April 23 letter defending the theory of evolution.

Every year murder convictions are overturned on the basis of statistical DNA evidence. An expert testifies in court that the odds are, say, 4 billion to one against the convicted man's DNA being the same as that found at the crime scene. The judge orders the prisoner released. Family members rejoice.

No doubt Acker rejoices as well, with me, that justice has been served.

Now DNA experts also testify that the odds of evolution being the cause of life on earth are ridiculously worse than 4 billion to one. In fact, the odds are so much worse as to be laughable, a mathematical impossibility if ever there was one.

But Acker asserts that no "reasonable doubt" at all has been raised about his pet theory of evolution, that his theory is just plain true and nobody had better examine any of the evidence to the contrary.

He should rethink his position, and at minimum support the admission of opposing evidence, in and out of the classroom, that academic freedom and intellectual justice may be served.

Christopher B. Sample

Gardiner

Evolution education update: May 5, 2006

In Michigan, antievolution language was removed from a bill before it was passed in late April, while the judge who presided over the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial is featured in the latest issue of Time.

ANTIEVOLUTION LANGUAGE REMOVED FROM MICHIGAN BILL

Antievolution language was removed from a Michigan education bill before it was passed. As introduced, House Bill 5606 would have amended the state's school code to establish requirements for high school graduation, including by requiring the Michigan Department of Education to adopt course content expectations for science that "include using the scientific method to critically evaluate scientific theories and using relevant scientific data to assess the validity of those theories and formulate arguments for and against those theories." Although evolution was not mentioned specifically, the quoted language was taken verbatim from HB 5251, which specifically targeted "the theories of global warming and evolution" for attention.

The sponsor of HB 5606, Brian Palmer (R-District 36), disclaimed any intention to promote "intelligent design" with the bill. But Palmer was a cosponsor of HB 5251, as well as of 2003's HB 4946, which would have amended the state science standards to refer to "the theory that life is the result of the purposeful, intelligent design of a Creator." Moreover, the primary sponsor of HB 5251, John Moolenaar (R-District 98), was reported by the Detroit Free Press (January 28, 2006) as saying that HB 5606 would allow, though not require, the teaching of "intelligent design" and suggesting that it would require the teaching of "possible weaknesses" of evolution. The Free Press (February 8, 2006) editorially commented, "The bill's broader goal of raising academic standards must not be jeopardized by sloppy writing at best, sneaky politics at worst."

HB 5606 was introduced on January 24, 2006, and referred to the House Committee on Education, which accepted a slightly amended version of it. The House of Representatives then passed the bill by a vote of 70-31 on March 2, 2006. Still containing the language from HB 5251 (although the words "at least" were inserted between "include" and "using"), HB 5606 proceeded to the Senate. But the Senate had ideas of its own about requirements for high school graduation, and substituted its own version of the bill, lacking the language from HB 5251, for HB 5606. The Senate passed its version of HB 5606 by a vote of 36-1 on March 23, but then on the same day the House voted against accepting it by a vote of 93-13.

It was thus necessary for a conference committee to reconcile the two versions of HB 5606, as well as Senate Bill 1124, which also sought to establish requirements for high school graduation. The conference committee's version of the bill, lacking the language from HB 5251, was passed by the House by a vote of 97-9 on March 29 and by the Senate by a vote of 37-0 on March 30, and then signed into law by Governor Jennifer Granholm on April 20. Meanwhile, HB 5251 -- the original source of the antievolution language that was stripped from HB 5606 -- still lingers in the House Education Committee; the Michigan legislative website reports no action on it since it was referred there on September 29, 2005.

For the Detroit Free Press's editorial, visit:
http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060208/OPINION01/602080319/1068

For the text of HB 5606 as enacted, visit:
http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2005-2006/publicact/htm/2006-PA-0123.htm

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

KITZMILLER JUDGE AMONG TIME'S 100

Judge John E. Jones III, who presided over the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial in which teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools was ruled to be unconstitutional, was named one of Time magazine's "Time 100: The People Who Shape Our World." In the May 8, 2006, issue of the magazine, the science journalist Matt Ridley contributes a brief essay describing the significance of Jones's decision: "In a rebuke to the proponents of intelligent design, Jones called the phrase 'a mere relabeling of creationism,' intended to get around the 1987 judicial ban on teaching creationism as science in public schools, and a 'breathtaking inanity' that fails the test as science. He castigated its proponents and said Dover's students, parents and teachers 'deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom.'" Ridley adds, "Perhaps now, after Jones, people will accept that if they want to teach children about God, they should do so in church, not in science classes." Judge Jones told the Harrisburg Patriot-News (May 2, 2006) that although he was gratified by the honor, "This will pass, and I will be back to the more mundane things." What pleases him most, the Patriot-News reported, was the influence that the Kitzmiller decision is having in other school districts.

For Ridley's essay in Time, visit:
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1187265,00.html

For the story in the Patriot-News, visit:
http://www.pennlive.com/news/patriotnews/index.ssf?/base/news/1146573638304280.xml&coll=1

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

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

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

Sincerely,

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

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

WHAT'S NEW

Robert L. Park Friday, 5 May 06 Washington, DC

THE DARWIN CODE: WILL THE "INTELLIGENT DESIGNER" BE REVEALED?
Our story opens with the grisly defeat of the eight members of the Dover Area School Board who were up for reelection. Behind their demise, we now learn, is a shadowy organization called the Discovery Institute, which is sworn to suppress the secret identity of the "Intelligent Designer." Just "teach the controversy," warns the founder of the Discovery Institute, Bruce Chapman. Otherwise people might think the argument has something to do with religion instead of pure science. He blames the Dover School Board. To convince others not to reveal the identity of the designer, the Discovery Institute has rushed into print with a new book "Traipsing Into Evolution," in which their legal experts analyze the impact of Kitzmiller v. Dover.

THE POLYGRAPH: THE ANIMAL THAT TALKS FREQUENTLY TELLS LIES.
Unfortunately, so does the polygraph. It's been 18 years since WN wrote that the polygraph "cannot tell a lie from the sex act" http://bobpark.org/WN88/wn030488.html , and Congress barred polygraph use by private employers. Twelve years later the National Academy of Sciences concurred in "The Polygraph and Lie Detection," (NAS Press, 2003). Nevertheless, the Washington Post reported Monday that the CIA, the FBI and other federal agencies are using the polygraph more than ever. It is "a pivotal tool in the CIA's effort to identify leakers after embarrassing disclosures about government anti-terrorism tactics."

CLIMATE CHANGE: FEDERAL STUDY RESOLVES DISPUTE OVER WARMING.
For more than a decade, scientists reported an apparent discrepancy between rates of warming at the surface and in the troposphere. Warming deniers argued that it cast doubt on the whole climate change picture. Now the federal Climate Change Science Program, convened by the Bush administration, concludes that there is no conflict. Moreover, there is clear evidence of human influence on the climate system. In the meantime, viral diseases, including the West Nile virus, are moving north, and malaria is climbing the mountains in Africa and South America.

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

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

What's New is moving to a different listserver and our subscription process has changed. To change your subscription status please visit this link: http://listserv.umd.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=bobparks-whatsnew&A=1

Lessons from the MMR debacle

http://www.irishhealth.com/?level=4&id=9434

By Dr Michael Fitzpatrick*

'Dr McCarthy [Cork Medical Officer of Health] had from the start of the epidemic been issuing statements which he presumably thought would reassure the population. It is easy to see why, like so many official statements at the time, they had the opposite effect.

'This constant drumbeat of bogus reassurance has exactly the opposite impact of the one intended, giving an impression not of confidence but of half-suppressed panic.'

Patrick Cockburn's recently published memoir of the Cork polio epidemic of 1956 - which left him with substantial disabilities - is a forceful reminder of the devastating impact of infectious disease within living memory. There were around 500 confirmed cases of polio in Ireland in 1956, leaving 20 dead and many more with life-long paralysis. Today the terror that was once inspired by polio has receded and parents are now more concerned about the risks arising from vaccines than the dangers of the diseases they protect against.

Cockburn's account is also a timely reminder that official reassurances offered by health authorities and politicians to a sceptical public may prove counterproductive. This is one of the lessons of the MMR/autism controversy which has spread from its origins in Britain in the mid-1990s around the English-speaking world. As Cockburn observes, 'belief that the authorities are lying their heads off about the number of dead and injured in any crisis is, in any case, not a uniquely Irish characteristic.'

What other lessons can we learn from the MMR controversy, which continues to cast a shadow over the world of autism as well as deterring some parents from seeking immunisation for their children?

In the sphere of politics we can readily identify the greatest failure and the greatest success of the MMR crisis. The failure came in December 2001 when Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, equivocated over whether his own son, Leo, then eligible for MMR, had received the jab. Given Cherie Blair's well-known proclivity for alternative medicine and her family links with autism, it was widely believed that she had opted against the triple jab.

The consequences for the public reputation of MMR were little short of disastrous: if the Prime Minister doubted the safety of the vaccine for his own family, why should the public trust it? Pleas to respect the privacy of the Prime Minister's family seemed disingenuous: is not immunisation a matter of public health? It was striking that the fall in uptake of MMR was greater in the early 2000s after this blow to popular confidence, than it had been in the late 1990s, after the original allegations against MMR.

The success came in early 2002: in the form of the refusal of the Department of Health to concede to mounting pressure, in parliament and the media and, reputedly, from within the Government itself, to introduce separate vaccines as an alternative to MMR.

It was widely reported that Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, threatened to resign if the Government acquiesced to the demand for separate vaccines. This stand was solidly based on the scientific foundations of the childhood immunisation programme. There was good evidence for the efficacy and safety of MMR and none whatever for the proposed alternative. It was also sound politics. Any concession to the demand for separate vaccines could only have undermined confidence in the triple jab, resulting in a further, and perhaps even wider, loss of confidence in the child immunisation programme. At this critical moment the intransigence of the immunisation authorities helped to bolster the confidence of health professionals, which had been battered by the persistent adverse publicity for MMR and its impact on parents.

At the level of government policy, the lesson of MMR is clear: whereas indecisive leadership increases public anxiety and confusion, a robust, scientifically-founded, stand in support for immunisation is likely to allay fears and sustain public confidence. The impact of the authorities' conciliatory response to allegations of a link between mercury-containing vaccines (a more potent scare in the USA than in Britain) provides a revealing counter-example. Though, as with MMR, exhaustive investigation failed to substantiate this link, vaccine authorities agreed to remove mercury from childhood vaccines on a precautionary basis. But this concession failed to reassure anti-mercury campaigners. Indeed it only served to confirm their conviction that these vaccines had caused autism and a range of other developmental disorders and the campaign has continued. The moral of this story is that any concession to irrationality tends to reinforce rather than discourage it.

In an editorial in the British Medical Journal in March 2005, sociologist Paul Bellaby identified 'a failure of leadership by health professionals' as a key reason why the government appeared to have 'lost the battle over MMR'. What went wrong?

In an interview with the Sunday Times in November 2004, following the exposure of Dr Wakefield, (who had published research linking the MMR with autism) in the Dispatches documentary on Channel 4, Tom MacDonald, professor of immunology at St Bartholomew's Hospital, described Dr Wakefield's patented treatment - revealed on the programme - for the condition of 'autistic enterocolitis (which he claimed might be linked to MMR), as 'total bollocks'.

Though this mode of expression was novel, in substance Professor MacDonald's dismissal of Dr Wakefield's work was not new. Nearly a decade earlier, in a letter to the Lancet in May 1995, in response to Dr Wakefield's paper suggesting a link between measles vaccination and inflammatory bowel disease, Professor MacDonald had ruthlessly exposed the methodological and scientific flaws in this and earlier research by the Royal Free Hospital group, and categorically rejected Dr Wakefield's claims. Five other letters in the same issue, including some from prominent authorities in the field, were similarly dismissive.

One of the most important factors in the evolution of the MMR controversy was the fact that it took nearly ten years for these negative judgements on Dr Wakefield's work, judgements shared virtually unanimously by his peers, to receive a forceful expression in the public realm. The result was the persistence of parallel, but largely non-communicating, universes.

In the private world of medical science, authorities in the spheres of infectious disease and microbiology, paediatric gastroenterology and autism, were virtually unanimous in regarding the link between MMR and autism as a hypothesis that was both wildly implausible and entirely lacking in support from scientific evidence. Meanwhile, in the world of public opinion, there appeared to be a substantial scientific case in favour of the MMR/autism theory, one that derived legitimacy from the facts that it had been advanced by a team of researchers at a major London teaching hospital and published in a journal of international repute.

Whilst the scientists and doctors who dismissed the MMR/autism theory either remained silent or confined their discussions within medical circles, the campaign against MMR promoted its claims in the public realm with great panache.

Dr Wakefield skilfully briefed journalists and politicians, and his campaign derived substantial support from solicitors pursuing legal aided litigation, parent groups and proprietors of separate vaccine clinics. The result was an extraordinary divergence between the expert medical consensus that the MMR/autism theory was a non-starter and the perception among significant sections of the public that there were serious doubts about the safety of the triple vaccine.

The lesson that emerges from the failures of leadership by health professionals over MMR is that it is not enough to challenge junk science in exclusive medical conferences and in specialist journals. When the child immunisation programme is threatened by a researcher who promotes his theories in the public realm before they have been substantiated to the satisfaction of the world of medical science, it is vital that these theories are challenged in public as well as in private.

One of the great misfortunes of the MMR controversy is the convergence it has fostered between the outlook of some parents of autistic children and that of anti-vaccination campaigns, which previously enjoyed only marginal influence.

The wider culture of consumerism and anti-paternalism in the sphere of health has contributed to the impact of the campaign against MMR; both among parents concerned about immunising their children and among parents of autistic children. The Government in Britain was thrown on the defensive by demands for a choice of separate vaccines as an alternative to MMR.

The divorce between authority and expertise at the heart of the MMR controversy is damaging both for the immunisation programme and for parents. While vaccine uptake has fallen, parents, even those who have chosen MMR, have been thrown into anxiety and confusion. Extreme scepticism towards the medical establishment coexists with extraordinary credulity towards woefully misinformed anti-vaccination websites. The greatest burden falls on parents of children with autism, some of whom have been dragged into the ill-fated litigation, and many more who have begun to feel guilty that by giving their children MMR they contributed to their condition.

The lesson of the MMR debacle is that we need a new division of labour between parents and health professionals. We need to establish the foundations of an informal contract that respects both our different spheres of expertise and - most importantly - the distinctions between them. Whether we are parents concerned about immunisation or parents of autistic children, doing the best for our children means concentrating on being parents and leaving science to the scientists, medicine to the doctors, education to the teachers.

*Dr Michael Fitzpatrick is a UK GP, author, and father of a child with autism.

This article is based on an address he gave to the Third National Immunisation Conference, organised by the HSE in Cork on May 3 2006.

See irishhealth.com's Child Vaccination Tracker at:

https://www.irishhealth.com/cvt/main.html

A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism

http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org/

During recent decades, new scientific evidence from many scientific disciplines such as cosmology, physics, biology, "artificial intelligence" research, and others have caused scientists to begin questioning Darwinism's central tenet of natural selection and studying the evidence supporting it in greater detail.

Yet public TV programs, educational policy statements, and science textbooks have asserted that Darwin's theory of evolution fully explains the complexity of living things. The public has been assured that all known evidence supports Darwinism and that virtually every scientist in the world believes the theory to be true.

The scientists on this list dispute the first claim and stand as living testimony in contradiction to the second. Since Discovery Institute launched this list in 2001 over 500 scientists have courageously stepped forward to sign their names. The list is growing and includes scientists from the US National Academy of Sciences, Russian, Polish and Czech National Academies, as well as from universities such as Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and others.

A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism

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

There is scientific dissent to Darwinism. It deserves to be heard.

Click here to read a press release about the Dissent list.

Click here to download a PDF copy of the Scientific Dissent From Darwinism list

The arguments that ultimately unravel the Darwinian synthesis aren't terribly difficult to grasp. Anyone who remembers the rudiments of logic they learned in freshman composition can follow the essentials of the argument. Below are three articles to get started:

Fact Sheet: Microevolution vs. Macroevolution
Fact Sheet: The Cambrian Explosion
The Survival of the Fakest

Finally, if you have a Ph.D. in engineering, mathematics, computer science, biology, chemistry, or one of the other natural sciences, and you agree with the following statement, "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged," then please contact us at cscinfo@discovery.org.


Friday, May 05, 2006

Alarm over drug treatment group

http://news.scotsman.com/health.cfm?id=676102006

ANDREW PICKEN

COUNSELLING experts have issued a warning about a drug and alcohol treatment group operating in the Capital, linked to the controversial Church of Scientology.

The group, called Narconon Scotland, is targeting the city's drug and alcohol addicts to join its rehabilitation programme.

Leaflets have been put through doors in Leith and Muirhouse urging addicts or their families to get in touch. The leaflets contain no references to the quasi-religious group despite using the principles of Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard to treat addicts.

The group was banned from Edinburgh University's student union in 2004 after concerns were raised that posters it had put up about counselling services might be used to recruit new members for Scientology.

Support groups today raised fears about Narconon Scotland's credentials and methods for treating people with drug and alcohol problems, which have been described as "unconventional".

Tom Wood, chairman of the Edinburgh Drug and Alcohol Action Team, said: "We know of this group but we would only ever encourage people to attend credible counselling groups. I would advise people to be careful about engaging with any group that does not make its qualifications clear."

Narconon, which claims to have helped 250,000 people overcome drug and alcohol addictions, was formed in 1966 by William Benitez, a former heroin addict, with the help of Hubbard - a science fiction writer.

Peter Anderson, rough sleepers manager with Edinburgh homeless charity Streetwork, said he was concerned about people being going to Narconon.

He said: "They don't make clear exactly what they do, what it will cost and what is involved, so it does make you cautious.

"What we need is the addicts in this city working with professional and approved agencies not a group that comes along and offers unproven methods that might confuse the treatment picture."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Drug Forum said: "Perhaps this case underlines the urgent need for more properly validated methods for drug treatment than are currently available."

Narconon did not respond when contacted for comment.

THE FACTS

Scientology is a system of beliefs, and practices created by American science-fiction author L Ron Hubbard in 1952.

Promoted as a religion, scientologists are dedicated to self improvement through counselling and rehabilitation.

But critics claim it is a fake religion based on making money from and exploiting its followers.

One of the most high profile followers is Tom Cruise. His fiancee Katie Holmes recently gave birth to the couple's daughter, Suri, according to the principles of Scientology, which say a woman must give birth in silence.

apicken@edinburghnews.com

Battling the Closet Bible Bashers

http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,70807-0.html?tw=wn_culture_1

NEW YORK -- Most scientists are hesitant to debate advocates of intelligent design -- the theory that evolution itself was created by a higher being. Any engagement, scientists argue, brings more attention to what they consider to be a pseudoscience. But that strategy may be shifting.

At the Tribeca Film Festival, for example, a prominent plant evolutionist jumped into the origins-of-life fray, doing verbal battle with a leading proponent of intelligent design.

Tom Givnish, a botany professor at the University of Wisconsin, sat down with conservative author and intelligent design advocate Jack Cashill and others to discuss, sometimes heatedly, the origins of life and what seems to be a growing schism between faith and science.

The event was to promote Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus, a pro-science documentary premiering at Tribeca.

A gentler Super Size Me for the science crowd, Dodos explores how faith-based activists are carving out an increasingly prominent space in the origins-of-life arena. Polls indicate that a majority of Americans believe that humans did not descend from other animals -- and the percentage of evolution doubters is growing.

Givnish said he initially resisted joining the Dodos panel discussion. Intelligent design advocates (and President Bush) rely on slogans like "teach the controversy." By debating Cashill, Givnish worried he might reinforce the concept of intelligent design as a viable theory.

"We all view (intelligent design) as pseudoscience," Givnish said. "But many of us frankly are now very angry.... The future of science is at stake.

"It wasn't that long ago we had the Dark Ages. It wasn't that long ago we had the Inquisition. We have today in power a regime, this administration, in this country that is repressing science."

In Dodos, director Randy Olson, a Harvard-trained biologist, outlines the intelligent design argument: Organisms are too complex to have evolved solely through random mutation.

Most scientists consider intelligent design to be a thinly wrapped rehash of old-school creationism, which was nudged out of science curricula decades ago. Still, thanks to a fervent group of believers and the deployment of solid PR principles, the intelligent design crowd seems to have evolutionary biologists on the defensive.

Dodos traces the origins of the intelligent design movement to Seattle, home of the Discovery Institute. Dodos claims the secretive $5 million foundation works with the PR firm Creative Response Concepts (best known for its Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad campaign) and local religious groups to debunk evolution.

The intelligent design activists presented in Dodos employ the kind of folksy narrative style that's been a winner in the last two presidential elections.

At the panel, Cashill spoke clearly, using sound bites and a smooth rhetorical style.

His polished approach demonstrates how, despite 150 years of research and a near-universal scientific consensus behind them, evolutionists are losing the public relations battle to intelligent design advocates. Givnish acknowledges that scientists will have trouble mounting a TV-friendly charm offensive.

"(Intelligent design supporters) tell a simple story, one that a 6-year-old can understand," Givnish said. "Scientists have more complicated stories to tell. That doesn't make them wrong."

If all-out cultural conflict is intelligent design's goal, the heat and anger surrounding it is a promising sign.

Among those speaking at the Dodos panel was Jeff Brown, a member of the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board that, in a landmark, expensive and particularly vicious lawsuit, resisted the introduction of intelligent design into high school science classes.

Brown said the episode reinforced his belief that America is a tolerant country.

"We haven't had the bloody religious wars Europe has had," he said at the panel discussion.

"Give us time," Cashill replied, perhaps only partly joking.

DEEP IMPACT AT THE END OF MAY 2006 !

http://www.savelivesinmay.com/art-deep-impact-may-2006-En.htm

Part II

By Eric Julien, 21 April 2006

This article follows upon the article entitled "MAY 25, 2006 - the Day of Destiny". It brings new elements of confirmation of the imminent cometary danger which threatens humanity and describes the conditions of its advent around MAY 25, 2006.

The fear of ridicule is infinitely greater than fear of the death of others. As much, I believed that my first article was going to cause panic. It was even reproached to me. Not at all! Many are very afraid, indeed, but only to pass for insane. I thus decided to insist on points of detail to convince, to open the spirits with this great probability of collision in order to save lives while it is time!

The reception of the news was "massive" but dispersed in a broad spectrum of opinions, energy of the aggressive and irrational rejection to the most apathetic fate. But, throwing me in a great state of sadness, I sometimes noted a total disinterest for the human life, that which each one can still save by taking suitable academies measurements. Was the tsunami from December 2004 in Sumatra - hardly more than one year ago - forgotten? A small reminder in images.

Earlier Spring Starves Migratory Birds

http://www.livescience.com/environment/060503_warming_birds.html

By Sara Goudarzi LiveScience Staff Writer

posted: 03 May 2006 01:45 pm ET

Trees are blossoming, plants are flowering, and temperatures are warming up. Spring is finally is here and everyone seems happier. Well, except for the pied flycatcher, a small bird that can't schedule its breeding time to cope with the earlier spring season caused by climate change.

The pied flycatcher winters in West Africa then migrates to The Netherlands for spring breeding. Offspring feed on caterpillars.

Because spring is arriving sooner than in the past, the caterpillar population peaks earlier than the flycatcher's arrival, resulting in scarcity of food for the chicks, a new study reports.

This altered timing and resulting food shortage has led to a population decline of 90 percent over the past two decades in areas where the food peaks earlier. However, numbers dropped only about 10 percent in areas where food peaks the latest.

"The flycatchers have advanced their laying date but not the timing of their spring arrival in The Netherlands," the study authors write. "The advancement in laying date was not sufficient to track the advancement of spring."

These long-distance flyers have a fixed spring migration schedule and cannot predict at their wintering grounds when spring begins at their breeding ground some 2,796 miles (4,500 kilometers) away.

Other migratory birds could suffer similar population declines if they are unable to adapt their journey to warmer temperatures, the researchers said.

The study is detailed in the May 4 issue of the journal Nature.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Study shows anabantoid evolution

http://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/pfk/pages/item.php?news=916

Scientists have produced the first evolutionary family tree for the anabantoids based on molecular data to determine how the fishes are interrelated.

Ralf Britz of The Natural History Museum and Lukas Ruber and Rafael Zardoya of the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales in Madrid used both mitochondrial and nuclear nucleotide sequence data to produce a phylogeny to study how the anabantoids evolved and are related to each other.

The study covered all 19 anabantoid genera and spanned 57 species, ranging from more unusual species such as the Pike-head, Luciocephalus pulcher, to Betta and Trichopterus species.

The enigmatic Pike-head

The study, which has just been published in the journal Systematic Biology, provides evidence to support the theory that the odd-looking Luciocephalus is a member of the so-called "spiral egg clade".

This is a group of osphronemid fishes whose eggs all have a distinctive spiraling ridges and intermittent grooves on the egg surface leading to a structure called the micropyle, which are believed to be a sperm-guiding system to aid fertilisation.

Luciocephalus shares the spiral-egg characters with Parasphaerichthys, Ctenops and Sphaerichthys, but until now nobody has been entirely sure how it is related to other anabantoids.

Berg, Greenwood and Liem all thought that Luciocephalus wasn't closely related to anabantoids, Bleeker, Gosline, Jordan, Weber and De Beaufort believed it was a close relative of anabantoides, while Britz hit the nail on the head in his studies between 1994 and 2001 in suggesting that the fish was a sister group to the chocolate gouramies of the Sphaerichthys genus.

Britz's view is strongly supported here, and the phylogeny shows that the spiral egg clade is monophyletic with Luciocephalus a sister group to Sphaerichthys.

Osphronemids

The study also shed new light on the relationships of the four subfamiles of the Osphronemidae family - Osphroneminae, Belontiinae, Macropodusinae and Luciocephalinae.

The phylogeny suggests that Belontia is a sister group to Osphronemus, and that Colisa and Trichogaster are a sister group of the Macropodusinae.

For the in-depth details on the relationships of other anabantoids see the paper: Ruber L, Britz R and R Zardoya (2006) - Molecular phylogenetics and evolutionary diversification of labyrinth fishes (Perciformes: Anabantoidei). Systematic Biology, 55(3): 374-397, 2006.

Creationism dismissed as 'a kind of paganism' by Vatican's astronomer

http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=674042006

IAN JOHNSTON

BELIEVING that God created the universe in six days is a form of superstitious paganism, the Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno claimed yesterday.

Brother Consolmagno, who works in a Vatican observatory in Arizona and as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Italy, said a "destructive myth" had developed in modern society that religion and science were competing ideologies.

He described creationism, whose supporters want it taught in schools alongside evolution, as a "kind of paganism" because it harked back to the days of "nature gods" who were responsible for natural events.

Brother Consolmagno argued that the Christian God was a supernatural one, a belief that had led the clergy in the past to become involved in science to seek natural reasons for phenomena such as thunder and lightning, which had been previously attributed to vengeful gods. "Knowledge is dangerous, but so is ignorance. That's why science and religion need to talk to each other," he said.

"Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism - it's turning God into a nature god. And science needs religion in order to have a conscience, to know that, just because something is possible, it may not be a good thing to do."

Brother Consolmagno, who was due to give a speech at the Glasgow Science Centre last night, entitled "Why the Pope has an Astronomer", said the idea of papal infallibility had been a "PR disaster". What it actually meant was that, on matters of faith, followers should accept "somebody has got to be the boss, the final authority".

"It's not like he has a magic power, that God whispers the truth in his ear," he said.

This article: http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=674042006


Sunday, April 30, 2006

Catholicism and Evolution

http://www.islam-online.net/English/Science/2006/04/article12.shtml

David Tschanz ** Apr. 30, 2006

One of the most unfortunate results of the popularity of American author Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code is that it is not only at times wildly factually inaccurate. Its portrayal of the Roman Catholic Church as being anti-science is deplorably false. Sadly, perception is often mistaken for reality, and nowhere is that more obvious than in the current discussion on the topic of evolution.

Cosmology and Catholicism

Before looking at the position of the Catholic Church on human evolution, we should start with the related question, what does the Church believe about how and when the universe came into being?

The Church has declared, as an article of faith (meaning Catholics must accept it as a matter of dogma), that the universe was specially created out of nothing by God, that "the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, as regards their whole substance, have been produced by God from nothing" (First Vatican Council, 1870).

Beyond that declaration, the Church left to each individual Catholic the choice of how this happened. If they wish to believe that God did it all at once, or that the stars, nebulae, and planets developed over time (for example, in the aftermath of the Big Bang that modern cosmologists discuss), or some place in between, that is perfectly acceptable. In fact, as we shall see shortly, according to Catholic belief, the "how" in cosmology is an irrelevant and pointless question. What is relevant is the role of God. If a Catholic, acting in good faith and intellectual honesty, truly believed that the stars and planets did develop over time, this still ultimately must be attributed to God and his plan.

Let us restate that the means are not as important as the essential truth of God creating the universe. As a result, and obscured by writers such as Brown, is the fact that many of today's leading scientists and astronomers are Catholic priests (the Vatican Observatory is a leading research facility). They are simply following the long tradition of Catholic clergy (and layman) in the sciences that included astronomer Nicholas Copernicus and geneticist Gregor Mendel, among others. The Vatican Observatory even has its own website.

Evolution and the Bible

On the subject of biological evolution, the Church does not have any official position on whether various life forms developed at once or over the course of time. However, it says that if they did develop over time or all at once, then they did so under the impetus and guidance of God, and their ultimate creation must be ascribed to Him.

When it comes to human evolution, it comes as a surprise to many Catholics, as well as non-Catholics, to learn how little the Church teaches in this area. This is because the Church has chosen to define only a few tenets as true beyond doubt, leaving a great deal of latitude to Catholics for their personal judgment. This is principally because the Church has not been concerned with evolutionary questions as such, but rather with their possible implications for Catholic belief.

The Church allows for the possibility that man's body developed from previous biological forms, under God's guidance, but it insists on the special creation of his soul. The Church insists that man is not an accident; that no matter how God went about creating Homo Sapiens, God from all eternity intended that man and all creation exist in their present form.

The historical meaning of the first three chapters of Genesis, wrote Pope Pius X in 1909, could not be doubted in regard to "the creation of all things by God at the beginning of time; the special creation of man; the formation of the first woman from the first man; the unity of the human race; the original happiness of our first parents in the state of justice, integrity, and immortality; the command given by God to man to test his obedience; the transgression of the divine command at the instigation of the devil under the form of a serpent; the degradation of our first parents from that primeval state of innocence; and the promise of a future redeemer."

Notice that the Church again says nothing definite about how, in specific detail, God created the world and its various forms of life, or how long any of this took. The only "special creation" mentioned is that of man's spiritual and immortal soul. In the Church's eyes, Genesis deals with historical fact, not scientific process — with the what of creation, not the how.

As long ago as the fifth century, Augustine of Hippo, the church's most revered ancient theologian, had cautioned Christians not to take the Genesis creation accounts too literally. So it should not be a surprise that Catholics are not obliged to reconcile scientific data with the early verses of Genesis, but can instead view it as containing truths that are expressed in an archaic, pre-scientific Hebrew idiom. They can also accept with "enjoyment and confidence" modern scientific discoveries which, more often than not, raise fundamental questions which science itself cannot answer. Every new discovery is a source of wonder and a reason for giving praise to God.

Ironically, many scientists engaged in evolutionary studies are devout Catholics. These men and women see no contradiction between what the Church teaches and what science has learned. In fact, their efforts are lauded in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (a summary of beliefs and tenets) as follows:

Methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things the of the faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.

Evolution Does Not Mean Atheism

While the Church does not oppose evolution per se, it does not allow belief in atheistic evolution, nor does it accept the broader implications of evolutionism. The Church's quarrel with many scientists who call themselves evolutionists is not about evolution itself, which may (or may not) have occurred in a non-Darwinian, teleological manner, but rather about the philosophical materialism that is at the root of so much evolutionary thinking. Evolutionists argue the word came about without divine action, as a pure accident.

To Catholics, the universe is not the result of purely random events that have no direction and operate without the hand of God. A universe without God is purely materialistic and secular, this is a position that the church rejects. It does not oppose evolution, but it opposes the argument that evolution disproves the existence of God, or makes Him irrelevant.

Catholicism and Fundamental Protestantism

The Catholic Church's position clearly contrasts with that of many fundamentalist Protestant sects. Fundamentalists have usually insisted on treating Genesis as a scientifically accurate, as well as historically true, account. Unfortunately, this stance has often appeared in the media as definitive Christian doctrine. Its details have contrasted so sharply with established scientific knowledge that "Christian belief" has been held in ridicule.

To give one example, in the 17th century, Anglican clergyman Bishop James Ussher, made a calculation based on Biblical genealogies that God created the world on an October morning in 4004 BCE. Many fundamentalists today hold this as an article of faith. For virtually all scientists, the figure is absurd. From the Catholic point of view, Bishop Ussher spoke only for himself, not for the Church; his feat was one of arithmetic, not theology.

Of course, Catholics may share many of these fundamentalist beliefs as their personal opinions. The point is they are not required to. With the exception of the few matters mentioned above, Catholics may hold whatever scientific positions seem reasonable and intellectually convincing, as long as they accept that everything comes about as the will of God.

Disclaimer: The article reflects the opinions of the author.

** David W. Tschanz, PhD, MSPH, MCSE is a demographer, historian, and computer consultant. A former Jesuit seminarian, he has made a special study of the role of the Catholic Church in relation to science, particularly cosmology, and evolution.

Evolution education update: April 28, 2006

In Mississippi, a bill with a disturbing vestige of creationist language is enacted. The significance of immunology in the Kitzmiller case is discussed in a commentary in the journal Nature Immunology. And NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott is to be honored by Mount Holyoke College.

"ORIGIN OF LIFE" BILL ENACTED IN MISSISSIPPI

Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, signed House Bill 214 into law on April 20, 2006. Although originally unrelated to evolution education, the bill was amended to include a section providing, "No local school board, school superintendent or school principal shall prohibit a public school classroom teacher from discussing and answering questions from individual students on the origin of life." Although the wording of that section is innocuous on its face, the legislative history of the bill suggests that this section of the bill is intended to allow or encourage antievolution teaching in science classes in Mississippi's public schools.

When HB 214 was first introduced, it concerned only curriculum requirements for high school students not planning to go on to college. In this form the bill was passed by the House of Representatives on January 18, 2006, and by the Senate on March 1.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 2427, which provided, "No local school board, school superintendent or school principal shall prohibit a public school classroom teacher from discussing and answering questions from individual students on the issue of flaws or problems which may exist in Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution and the existence of other theories of evolution, including, but not limited to, the Intelligent Design explanation of the origin of life," was passed on February 6 and referred to the House Education Committee, where it died on February 28, when a legislative deadline passed.

But on March 1, after HB 214 was passed in its original form by the Senate, it was "reconsidered" and amended through a standard parliamentary procedure. The amendment, proposed by Senator Charles Ross (R-District 20), the original sponsor of SB 2427, consisted of adding the text of SB 2427 to HB 214. The Senate then accepted the amended bill and sent it back to the House.

Because the House refused to accept the Senate amendment, the bill was referred to a conference committee to work out a compromise version. The committee removed the language about "flaws or problems" with evolution and the mention of "other theories of evolution, including, but not limited to, the Intelligent Design explanation." The final version of HB 214 refers only to the origin of life.

On the surface it might seem that there would be little need for this section of HB 214 in its final form. Don't teachers already have the ability to talk about and answer questions about the origin of life? Has anyone in Mississippi been prohibited from doing so? However, the language of SB 2427 clearly marks it as intended to promote or protect religiously-based opposition to evolution education, and it is SB 2427's language that appears, in muted form, in HB 214.

The implications of HB 214 have not escaped the notice of school administrators in the state. In the April 22, 2006, issue of the Commercial Dispatch (Columbus, Mississippi), Mike Halford, a school superintendent in Lowndes County, is quoted as saying, "That's probably something that's going to be contested. It is very vague." "We're starting to see lawsuits pop up from this," Halford added. "It's just a problem we don't need."

For the story in the Commercial Dispatch (registration required), visit:
http://cdispatch.com/articles/2006/04/22/news/state-local/state01.txt

For the text of HB 214, as sent to the governor, visit:
http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2006/html/HB/0200-0299/HB0214SG.htm

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

IMMUNOLOGY IN THE SPOTLIGHT

The scientific discipline of immunology played a major role in the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial in which the unconstitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools was established, as Andrea Bottaro, Matt Inlay, and NCSE's Nicholas J. Matzke explain in their commentary "Immunology in the spotlight at the Dover 'Intelligent Design' trial," published in Nature Immunology (2006; 7: 433-435), one of the most prestigious scientific journals in its field.

They write, "In his 1996 book Darwin's Black Box, a commonly cited example of ID-based 'science', Behe devotes an entire chapter to the immune system, pointing to several of its features as being particularly refractory to evolutionary explanations. ... In fact, Behe confidently declares that the complexity of the immune system 'dooms all Darwinian explanations to frustration'. About the scientific literature, Behe claims it has 'no answers' as to how the adaptive immune system may have originated."

At the trial, however, Behe was presented with "a thick file of publications on immune system evolution, dating from 1971 to 2006, plus several books and textbook chapters. Asked for his response, Behe admitted he had not read many of the publications presented (a small fraction of all the literature on evolutionary immunology of the past 35 years), but summarily rejected them as unsatisfactory and dismissed the idea of doing research on the topic as 'unfruitful.'" The significance of the exchange was not lost on Judge Jones.

Bottaro, Inlay, and Matzke conclude with the thought that, "the Dover case shows that no scientific field is too remote from the hotly debated topics of the day and that no community is too small and removed from the great urban and scientific centers to be relevant. Immunologists must engage their communities and society at large in events related to public perceptions about science. Now more than ever, the participation of scientists is essential for the crafting of rational policies on scientific research and science education."

For the full text of "Immunology in the spotlight" (HTML and PDF), visit:
http://www.nature.com/ni/journal/v7/n5/full/ni0506-433.html
http://www.nature.com/ni/journal/v7/n5/pdf/ni0506-433.pdf

For supplementary material for "Immunology in the spotlight," visit:
http://www2.ncseweb.org/kvd/exhibits/immune/index.html

For Matzke's annotated bibliography on the evolutionary origin of the vertebrate immune system, visit:
http://www2.ncseweb.org/kvd/exhibits/immune/immune_evo_annotated_bib.html

And for Matzke's longer, unannotated, bibliography, visit:
http://www2.ncseweb.org/kvd/exhibits/immune/immune_evo_bib_long.html

NCSE'S SCOTT TO BE HONORED BY MOUNT HOLYOKE

NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott is to receive an honorary degree from Mount Holyoke College on May 28, 2006. Founded in 1837, Mount Holyoke is the nation's oldest continuing institution of higher learning for women. Speaking of Scott and the other honorary degree recipients, the college's president Joanne V. Creighton said, "Each of them exemplifies Mount Holyoke's ideal of purposeful engagement in the world, whether through letters, entrepreneurship, science, education, or public advocacy. We are proud to honor them and give them the opportunity to share their inspiring stories with the graduating class of 2006." The honorary degree will be Scott's third; she received honorary Doctor of Science degrees from McGill University in 2003 and Ohio State University in 2005.

For a press release from Mount Holyoke, visit:
http://www.mtholyoke.edu/offices/comm/news/commencement_06/speakers.shtml

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

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

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

Sincerely,

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

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


Saturday, April 29, 2006

Gas-saving gadgets a myth

http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060429/BIZ01/604290338/1076

EPA's testing finds that some tools may hurt cars

BY MARK WERT | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER

The Fountain of Youth, sought by Ponce de Leon in the Bahamas.

El Dorado, sought by Christopher Columbus as the city of gold he believed to be in the "new world."

The device that can increase your gas mileage by 300 percent, sought by endless Americans since the oil shocks of the 1970s.

Unfortunately, the quest by countless modern Americans has been as fruitless as those of the two early European explorers.

Over the last 34 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has tested more than 100 devices or additives that have purported to boost fuel economy. But the EPA warns that it has not found any product that significantly improves mileage.

"In fact, some 'gas-saving' products may damage a car's engine or cause substantial increases in exhaust emissions," the Federal Trade Commission advises on its Web site. Even worse, adding some of these devices to your vehicle can void your warranty.

"There are more effective ways to spend your money," said Laura DeMartino, the FTC's assistant director for enforcement. They include having your engine tuned up instead of buying a device that purports to improve a vehicle's fuel efficiency.

DeMartino also pointed out that drivers can take advantage of free ways to improve their mileage - by observing the speed limit, for example.

"Who knew? I certainly didn't before I took this job," she said.

Over the years, the FTC has taken legal action to stop the makers of a range of purported gas-savings products from advertising claims about the products, DeMartino said.

In some cases, the FTC learns about devices and refers them to EPA's National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The EPA is required by the Federal Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act of 1972 to evaluate gas-savings devices and publish a summary of the findings.

Because the EPA tests gas-saving devices, the ads for some of them claim the government has approved them.

But the EPA takes pains to point out that it endorses no products.

If you're dissatisfied with a gas-saving device you've purchased, contact the manufacturer and ask for a refund - even if the guarantee period has expired.

If the company's response doesn't satisfy you, contact:

The Ohio Attorney General's consumer protection division at (800) 282-0515 or online at ag.state.oh.us/citizen/consumer/complaints.asp.

The Kentucky Attorney General's consumer protection division at (888) 432-9257 or online at ag.ky.gov/consumer/complaints/forms.htm.

The Cincinnati Better Business Bureau at (513) 421-3015 or online at complaint.bbb.org.

The FTC at (877) 382-4357 or online at www.ftc.gov.

E-mail mwert@enquirer.com

Creationist on a dinkum crusade

http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/creationist-on-a-dinkum-crusade/2006/04/29/1146198391637.html?page=2

By Annabel Crabb, Birkenhead, England

April 30, 2006

An Australian geologist is inflaming the creation-versus-evolution debate in Britain. Annabel Crabb reports from Birkenhead, England.

A BEARDED, charismatic Australian has materialised at the centre of a fierce national argument in Britain about the teaching of creationism in schools.

John Mackay, 59, is a Queensland geologist who believes the Earth to be about 6000 years old. In Australia, he's not exactly a household name. But in Britain and the US, he's the Steve Irwin of the creationist movement — a fossil fan and larrikin whose way with words is proving a hit with resurgent faith communities.

Britain's schools are now the subject of a renewed debate between science and religion. Teachers have been campaigning in recent weeks for a ban on the teaching of the creation story, in response to the establishment of a new chain of faith colleges which question Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

Two weeks ago, the Royal Society — the world's most distinguished scientific club — issued a statement decrying the creationists and defending the work of Darwin, who is among its most revered former members.

"Young people are poorly served by deliberate attempts to withhold, distort or misrepresent scientific knowledge and understanding in order to promote particular religious beliefs," the statement said.

Into this storm flew John Mackay last week, for a speaking tour scheduled to last more than a month. His every step is now dogged by the British media, although he has been touring the world for almost two decades.

"A lot of the interest now has been generated by the humanist groups, who don't like me being here, and stir up stories," he said, when The Sunday Age found him on Thursday night at the barbed-wire-enclosed Kings Church in Birkenhead, Liverpool's notoriously rough neighbour.

Several hundred of the converted and the curious turned up to hear him speak, in an hour-long presentation peppered with Powerpoint fossil slides and Aussie colloquialisms, followed by tuna sandwiches.

Put simply, Mackay's belief — and it's one that is firmly entrenched in the US, where President Bush advocates its ventilation in schools — is that Darwin's evolutionary theory is nonsense, built on suppositions and not enough evidence. If so many species evolved from the shapeless creatures of the primordial slime; if people came from monkeys via frogs and fish, then why does the fossil record not contain a "fronkey"?

Mackay, who was originally educated as a geologist and devout Darwinist at the University of Queensland, experienced a conversion while working as a teacher and now tears down his former beliefs with the enthusiasm of a zealot.

"Charles Darwin actually graduated in theology, which is a little-known, well-kept secret," he tells his audience. "He knew exactly what he was trying to disprove."

Mackay's version of events is this: God created the world in the course of six days, about 6000 years ago. Dinosaurs were part of the picture as well as humans ("You know your stories about St George slaying the dragon? Well, there is a possibility that some myths are based on truths!" he tells his Birkenhead crowd), but all were caught by the Great Flood inflicted by God about 2000 years later.

Noah, Mackay says, did take dinosaurs on the Ark ("probably baby ones"), but they did not survive long afterwards or at least never recovered their giant dimensions.

"After the flood, there was a long winter," he tells his audience. "In that competition, the sad thing is that we won and they lost."

Mackay's central point is that the gaps in evolution theory are routinely treated as understandable absences, rather than as opportunities for an alternative.

While evolutionary theory is dominant in British schools now, a poll of Britons taken in January this year on behalf of the BBC yielded almost near-American levels of support for the alternative — 44 per cent of respondents felt that the biblical version of events should be a part of the school curriculum.

And Prime Minister Tony Blair's new "city academies" scheme, where private benefactors are encouraged to sponsor new private schools and in return may influence the schools' structure and curriculum, has spawned a string of new creationist colleges backed by Sir Peter Vardy, a wealthy evangelist and car salesman.

One of the most intriguing contributions to the debate was made last month by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who advised against the teaching of creationism, saying it reduced the Bible to the status of another scientific theory.

Mackay is biting in his criticism of the Archbishop: "If he subscribes to creationism I guess he has a bit of a problem with his homosexual clergy."

Mackay avoids moralising in his lectures, but saves a short burst for the end: "If God didn't create Adam and Eve, then it's OK for Adam and Bruce to live together. I've been bold enough to tell people that God did create the world, and He will judge."

Law may open Miss. classrooms to creationism

http://www.sunherald.com/mld/sunherald/news/state/14458286.htm

Posted on Sat, Apr. 29, 2006 By JOHN MOTT COFFEY FOR THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

JACKSON - School officials can't prohibit teachers and students from discussing how life began under a new state law signed by Gov. Haley Barbour.

As originally drafted, the measure was designed to foster discussions about the concept of "intelligent design" and flaws with Darwin's explanation of how humans evolved.

However, the Legislature expanded it to simply say no limits may be imposed on teachers and students in class talking about "the origin of life."

Intelligent design is presented as an alternative to natural explanations for evolution, but at least one court ruled it out of public schools because it's considered religious doctrine.

A federal judge in Pennsylvania last year said intelligent design is not science and is essentially religion, which the U.S. Supreme Court says can't be taught in public schools.

The bill, which took effect with Barbour's signature, passed the Legislature in March.

"No local school board, school superintendent or school principal shall prohibit a public school classroom teacher from discussing and answering questions from individual students on the origin of life," the bill reads.

While banning school leaders from muzzling classroom discussions on this subject, the new law isn't as detailed as the initial version.

The Senate had voted to prohibit schools from stifling classroom discussions about the "flaws or problems which may exist in Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution and the existence of other theories of evolution, including, but not limited to, the Intelligent Design explanation of the origin of life."

The House rejected that language, prompting legislative negotiators to draft the less explicit compromise that's now law.

Local school officials say they've not had a problem and worry the new law is so vague that court challenges may loom.

"That's probably something that's going to be contested. It is very vague," said Lowndes County schools Superintendent Mike Halford of the need for clarification of what can be discussed in the classroom.

"We're starting to see lawsuits pop up from this," said Halford, pointing to other states where disputes have sprung up about what students can be taught about the origin of life.

"It's just a problem we don't need," he said.

Columbus High School Principal LaNell Kellum said her school hasn't faced disputes about what evolutionary theories can be discussed in class.

"In all my years, we have not had a problem with that. That has not been an issue," Kellum said. "We've not had a problem with that in Columbus."

Noting Darwin's theory of evolution is part of the state's school curriculum, she said teachers use professional ethics and follow the state-written guidelines for teaching their subjects.

"Our teachers have been able to use their professional judgment and teach the curriculum without a problem," she said.

Evolution is the biological theory or process of how organisms change with the passage of time with descendants differing from ancestors. Darwin propounded the theory of evolution by natural selection.

Intelligent design's proponents say it is a scientific theory that stands on equal footing with, or is superior to, other suppositions about the origin of life.

However, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences has stated that intelligent design "and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life" are unscientific.

A federal judge in December ruled that a Pennsylvania public school district's requirement for teaching intelligent design violates the U.S. Constitution's clause separating church and state.

Another part of the bill would provide high school graduates who plan to enter the work force and not go to college with a special curriculum that provides a much-needed option to the college-prep courses that had been required.

"Students need a good, solid education, but not every student is going to go to college," said Kellum.

"Everybody is not college material," said Mike Halford.

The law requires the state Department of Education to design curriculum choices within the current requirements for a high school diploma for students interested in entering the work force immediately after graduation.

The department must have the program ready in 2007 for students entering the ninth grade.

Allowing students to get a "vocational diploma" has been long needed, Halford said.

"I would love to see that - to where we have training and curriculum designed for the work force," he said. "We always need electricians, bricklayers and carpenters."

Halford and Kellum said skilled high-school graduates who choose not to go to college can get lucrative jobs - many that pay more than what college graduates get.

However, in promoting the need for a university degree, the state Board of Institutions of Higher Learning cites statistics showing college graduates in Mississippi earned about $20,000 more - $42,249 versus $21,796 - in 2003 than people with only high school diplomas.

Of 100 ninth graders in Mississippi, 36 went on to college, according to a 2003 report submitted to the state College Board.

In 2000, 17.8 percent of the population ages 25-44 had college degrees.

The large number of students who don't go to college can benefit from the vocational-track curriculum being developed, said Kellum, who was head of the Columbus School District's McKellar Technology Center before becoming CHS principal.

"Kids need an option to complete a vocational route," she said.

The previous state policy called for all high school students beginning in 2008 to follow the existing college-preparatory route. Secondary schools also have had a community-college track that's being phased out.

The Legislature responded to concerns that the college-prep curriculum isn't suited for all students.

"I think the reality is setting in. Every student is not going to be successful (with the college-prep track), and there are other needs," Kellum said. "We need to ground them in academics that have meaning in life. They need that, but they may not need some (college-prep) courses they will be required to take, like upper-level math."

With about 40 percent of Mississippi students dropping out, the new curriculum would encourage many to stay in school, she said.

"I do feel like we have a core group of students dropping out right now because they have lost hope. We need an option for them other than getting a GED.

"If they don't want to go to college and want to work after high school, we need this option," Kellum said.

Students who choose the curriculum under the new program will receive a standard diploma.

"We're not talking about basket-weaving here," said House Education Chairman Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, the House's leading advocate of designing the new curriculum choices.

As the state develops the new curriculum, it must require stronger vocational programs and more money to implement this new diploma track rather than impose more financial obligations on local school districts, Halford said.


Friday, April 28, 2006

Court ruling on intelligent design not all bad for Discovery Institute

http://www.centredaily.com/mld/centredaily/news/politics/14436304.htm

Posted on Wed, Apr. 26, 2006 Associated Press

SEATTLE - The Discovery Institute is finding some good in the December ruling by a federal judge that intelligent design could not be taught in a Pennsylvania school district.

"The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) sued to keep a few students in Pennsylvania from hearing about intelligent design, and as a result, they made sure everyone in the world heard about it," said Stephen Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, which produces studies and reports about intelligent design.

Publicity wasn't the only benefit of U.S. District Judge John Jones' ruling. The decision five months ago is helping this Seattle think tank refine the way it promotes intelligent design as a challenge to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

Bruce Chapman, founder of the institute which is the country's primary supporter of intelligent design, said Jones' ruling, which equated intelligent design with biblically based creationism, has been misread.

"We have problems on both sides," he said. "There is no doubt that many conservative and liberals alike - if they have not studied the matter - mix up the science issue with religion."

He said an effort in Ohio to include intelligent design in school curricula failed when some state school-board members said Jones' decision in the Dover, Pa., case settled the issue.

Chapman and Meyer said the lesson in Dover is that the school board hijacked intelligent-design terminology for its attempt to bring religion into school.

Chapman said the Discovery Institute advocates that schools only "teach the controversy" surrounding evolution.

"We're mostly trying to stop people from doing dumb things," Meyer said.

The institute has already published a book critiquing Jones' decision in the Dover Area School District case.

"Our role was widely misconstrued by both sides - and the media," said Chapman. "So we want to set the record straight."

Intelligent design argues that evolution leaves major gaps in understanding the origins of life, gaps that can only be explained by the presence of a supernatural designer.

Discovery Institute scientists say, for example, that the genetic code embedded in DNA is so complicated it couldn't possibly be the result of natural selection.

Creationists believe God made the universe and all life within it. The Discovery Institute says intelligent design uses science to argue that an unidentified designer must have been at work.

The ACLU worked with Dover residents to sue the school board for teaching intelligent design, which they said violated the separation of church and state. The judge concluded intelligent design "is a religious view, a mere relabeling of creationism."

Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com

The Bosnia-Atlantis Connection

http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/osmanagic/

April 27, 2006 by Mark Rose

Frenzied reporting of supposed pyramids in the Balkans ignores the truth and embraces the fantastic.

The world's oldest and largest pyramid found in Bosnia? It sounds incredible. The story has swept the media, from the Associated Press and the BBC, from papers and websites in the U.S. to those in India and Australia. Too bad that it is not a credible story at all. In fact, it is impossible. Who is the "archaeologist" who has taken the media for a ride? Why did the media not check the story more carefully? ARCHAEOLOGY will address these questions in depth in our next issue, July/August, but for now let's at least put the lie to the claims emanating from Visoko, the town 20 miles northwest of Sarajevo where the "Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun" is located.

Semir (Sam) Osmanagic, a Houston-based Bosnian-American contractor first saw the hills he believes to be pyramids last spring. He is now digging the largest of them and plans to continue the work through November, promoting it as the largest archaeological project underway in Europe. (His call for volunteers even slipped into the Archaeological Institute of America's online listing of excavation opportunities briefly before being yanked.) He claims it is one of five pyramids in the area (along with what he calls the pyramids of the Moon, Earth, and Dragon, plus another that hasn't been named in any account I've seen). These, he says, resemble the 1,800-year-old pyramids at Teotihuacan, just north of Mexico City. Osmanagic maintains that the largest is bigger than the pyramid of Khufu at Giza, and that the Bosnian pyramids date to 12,000 B.C.

Construction of massive pyramids in Bosnia at that period is not believable. Curtis Runnels, a specialist in the prehistory of Greece and the Balkans at Boston University, notes that "Between 27,000 and 12,000 years ago, the Balkans were locked in the last Glacial maximum, a period of very cold and dry climate with glaciers in some of the mountain ranges. The only occupants were Upper Paleolithic hunters and gatherers who left behind open-air camp sites and traces of occupation in caves. These remains consist of simple stone tools, hearths, and remains of animals and plants that were consumed for food. These people did not have the tools or skills to engage in the construction of monumental architecture."

But time and again the media reports say that Osmanagic has spent 15 years studying the pyramids of Latin America. What is not included in the reports is how Osmanagic interprets those structures and the cultures that built them. Had anyone bothered to investigate, they would have found rather bizarre notions in Osmanagic's book The World of the Maya (Gorgias Press, Euphrates imprint, 2005; $29.95). I had a look at the online edition of it (accessible on Osmanagic's "Alternative History" website at www.alternativnahistorija.com).

A couple of brief passages will convey the gist of Osmanagic's beliefs:

Ordinary watchmakers repair our watches and put them into accordance with Earthly time. It is my theory that the Maya should be considered watchmakers of the cosmos whose mission it is to adjust the Earthly frequency and bring it into accordance with the vibrations of our Sun. Once the Earth begins to vibrate in harmony with the Sun, information will be able to travel in both directions without limitation. And then we will be able to understand why all ancient peoples worshipped the Sun and dedicated their rituals to this. The Sun is the source of all life on this planet and the source of all information and knowledge. ...And with a frequency in harmony, the Earth will, via the Sun, be connected with the center of our Galaxy. These facts become exceptionally important when we realize that we are rapidly approaching December 2012, a date which the Maya have marked as the time of arrival of the Galactic Energy Cluster which will enlighten us.

The descendants of the Maya, the Lacandon Indians in Chiapas were discovered in the mid-twentieth century. This isolated community showed a surprising similarity to the Basque and Berber peoples (most probable descendants of the natives of Atlantis).... In the sacred Mayan book, the Popul Vuh, there are descriptions of cosmic travelers, the use of the compass, the fact that the Earth is round, and knowledge of the secrets of the universe.... The Mayan hieroglyphics tell us that their ancestors came from the Pleiades... first arriving at Atlantis where they created an advanced civilization.

Many cultures around the world, from India, Sumeria, Egypt, Peru, the Indians of North and Central America, the Inca and the Maya, call themselves the "Children of the Sun" or the "children of light." Their ancestors, the civilizations of Atlantis and Lemuria, erected the first temples on energy potent point of the Planet. Their most important function was to serve as a gateway to other worlds and dimensions.

And there it is. A self-described archaeologist, who believes the Maya and others are descended from Atlanteans who came from the Pleiades, has been accepted as a legitimate researcher by many news outlets. His ideas of early pyramids in Bosnia, which is simply not possible, has been accepted as a major discovery. How could this happen?

If you want to categorize this farce, it seems a standard-issue "amateur/maverick confounds establishment with great discovery" story, which no doubt makes it appealing to uncritical reporters looking for a big story. This kind of tale is a staple of the pseudoarchaeology or fantastic archaeology genre. And the term "pyramidiot" has been applied to those obsessed with pyramids and who offer strange interpretations of them on websites and in books and televsion programs. (See "Seductions of Pseudoarchaeology: Far Out Television").

Such stories infuriate serious scholars like Runnels. "These reports are irresponsible on the part of journalists," he says. "These claims are completely unsupported with any kind of factual evidence, such as artifacts or photographs of the alleged architectures. They have not been confirmed by archaeologists who have the training and competence to evaluate them. The person making the claims appears to have no training in archaeology and has not presented his finds in a way that would allow them to be scrutinized by trained experts. This is simply sensationalism and grandstanding and the journalists who have reported on these claims, without first fact-checking the stories with professional archaeologists, should be ashamed of themselves. People who believe these stories, especially when they are presented without evidence, are fools."

Some in the academic establishment have spoken out. They maintain that the kind of project Osmanagic is running is far worse than just misleading the gullible public. Following a report about Osmanagic in the London Times, Anthony Hardy, president European Association of Archaeologists, wrote the editors, "The situation of professional heritage management in Bosnia-Herzegovina is, since the Bosnian war, in a poor state, with a tiny number of people trying to do what they can to protect their rich heritage from looting and unmonitored or unauthorised development. It adds insult to injury when rich outsiders can come in and spend large sums pursuing their absurd theories (the construction of a colossal pyramid so large that it dwarfs even those of Egypt or Mesoamerica? 12,000 years ago?), in ways that most other countries would never countenance, instead of devoting their cash to the preservation of the endangered genuine sites and monuments in which Bosnia-Herzegovina abounds."

Others fear that Osmanagic's excavations will damage real sites (the hill he calls the "Pyramid of the Sun" is said to have medieval, Roman, and Illyrian remains on it). In one of the few critical accounts of the Bosnian pyramid story, which appeared in the Art Newspaper, the University of Sarejevo's Enver Imamovic, a former director of the National Museum in Sarjevo, is quoted as saying, "This is the equivalent of letting me, an archaeologist, perform surgery in hospitals."

There is public outcry within Bosnia, and an online petition that seeks to shut down Osmanagic's project. But he apparently has backers within the federal government and the Sarejevo city government. Whether he is allowed to continue or not is unresolved for now, and his website makes no mention of any controversy. And even when the mainstream media catch up and realize that the "Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun" is no such thing, it will have entered the annals of fantastic archaeology and will have a multitude of believers and defenders.

Mark Rose is executive and online editor of ARCHAEOLOGY.

© 2006 by the Archaeological Institute of America
www.archaeology.org/online/features/osmanagic/

It's tough to see merit of 'bubble wrap' remedy

http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/arts/story.html?id=72c56290-ccd2-40c4-bb6b-be8c6d419c8a&p=2

Adrian Chamberlain Times Colonist

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Nineteen-year-old Adam, a self-described healer, is a mysterious fellow. He answers to one name alone; he doesn't allow his photo to be published -- at least in unaltered form.

Penguin Canada, a reputable publisher, has just released Adam's new book: The Path of the Dreamhealer. But just what kind of path he may be leading people down -- including sick folk who are vulnerable and even desperate -- is a trail that deserves closer scrutiny.

The teen dreamhealer, residing outside Vancouver in some secret location, is best known as the guy who supposedly cured Canadian rock icon Ronnie Hawkins of pancreatic cancer. (His surgeon, Dr. Bryce Taylor, has said it was either a small cancer or chronic pancreatitis. Biopsies found no cancer cells. However, this does not necessarily rule out cancer.)

What is known for sure is that Hawkins was found to have a hardened and growing lump on his pancreas in 2002. It couldn't be removed because the growth had intertwined with delicate veins and arteries.

Cancerous or not, it appeared the old rocker's days were numbered. He wasn't expected to make it past Christmas of 2002. Farewell parties were duly organized, including one attended by David Foster.

Adam read about Hawkins's illness in the newspaper. The dreamhealer, chatting with me recently by phone, said he was especially interested in trying to heal Ronnie because the supposed cancer was confined to one specific spot, as opposed to having spread through his body. He contacted Hawkins, willing by that time to try anything. And who can blame him?

At an agreed-upon time, Adam -- who was at home -- concentrated on a colour photo of Hawkins, who was thousands of kilometres away in Peterborough, Ont.

"Exactly at that time, the muscles in his stomach area started twitching. He said it felt like an alien was coming out of his stomach," said Adam. He did 60 treatments over six months. Long story short, the Hawk's growth disappeared.

I was keen to quiz Hawkins. However, his daughter-in-law Mary told me he's fed up with talking about Adam the dreamhealer. She did send me this e-mail written by him: "Please just let everyone know that my health is so good I need them to hire me and my band for some big-time gigs so we can start saving up a retirement nest-egg."

I'm glad Ronnie Hawkins is still with us. However, after reading Adam's new book, I've come to the conclusion the whole thing is a load of bunk. Don't waste your money, folks. People don't get healed because someone stares at their photo and thinks happy thoughts. This may seem painfully obvious. Nonetheless, Adam is getting plenty of support -- monetary and otherwise -- for being a "distant-energy healer."

He told me how his healing works. "I go into this trance, and I see these images in front of me, of the person. I'm just changing these images in front of me, and it influences the person's health."

Part of Adam's routine is something called "bubble-wrap visualization." There's a colour illustration of this in his book -- it looks like an assortment of dried-up grapes. With bubble-wrap visualization, every cell within a person's afflicted area is envisioned, and then healing light energy is somehow introduced. The bubbles burst, thus "popping away your problem."

I suspect for most people, the only thing that will be popped away is the $30 for The Path of the Dreamhealer.

The book's illustrations include a Photoshopped image of a gigantic black bird in the forest. This goofy-looking thing is supposed to represent a four-foot-high bird Adam once saw on Vancouver Island. The jumbo creature "telepathically delivered complex scientific information to me" once he locked eyes with it.

I'm sure there are plenty of healing methods of which conventional medicine is unaware. And I believe -- like many others -- that positive thinking has beneficial effects on ailments.

But come on, folks. What riles me is that many journalists have reported on Adam in an unquestioning way, which tends to confer credibility. Meanwhile, Adam continues to reap the rewards of not only book sales but fees from those attending his workshops. He has upcoming sold-out events in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. There was one at the University of Victoria's David Lam Auditorium last May. Admission was $99. The sponsoring body, the Association of Complementary and Integrative Physicians of B.C., said the 323-seat auditorium was sold out -- that's $32,000. Why on earth UVic would allow such a questionable event to take place on its premises is beyond me. After all, the fact a reputable university hosts such an event gives it credence in the eyes of many.

The Path of the Dreamhealer is replete with pseudo-scientific hocus pocus. There are references to the space-time continuum and DNA and neural pathways. Most of us (including me) know little about this stuff. But seeing such jargon somehow assures us Adam's routine is based on "science." Which it most certainly is not. Science is based on empiricism, that is, the principle of testing theories to see if they are true. Adam's feats of healing are based on anecdotal evidence and performed by a man who insists on anonymity.

Nonetheless, we want to believe. The world, always a complicated place, keeps getting more complex. We are in the middle of an unprecedented technological revolution. Inventions are introduced that boggle the mind: Cellphones containing cameras, music-playback devices the size of gum packets, computers that house the world's accumulated knowledge and a Pandora's box of the bizarre. Wouldn't it be great if the cure for Uncle Frank's herniated disc lay with a teenager who merely has to stare at his photo? So simple, so easy.

And so sad for the sick who, having exhausted the conventional medicine route, shell out cash to this guy.

Still have faith in Adam? OK. Here's the quickest cure. Turn to page 174 of The Path of the Dreamhealer. Adam writes that his cat will likely be reincarnated as a human being, because it hung out with people all its life. That, as Johnny Carson used to say, is truly "weird, wacky stuff."

achamberlain@tc.canwest.com © Times Colonist (Victoria) 2006

MIOS MEETING

Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

Hear
Henry Morris III
Present:

Worldviews And The Genesis Mandate

Henry M. Morris III is Executive Vice President of the Institute for Creation Research. He holds an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University and a D.Min. from Luther Rice Seminary. He is highly effective speaker at ICR seminars, and is actively involved in other ICR ministry activities.

Evangelical Christians are debating Worldview issues more intensely than at anytime in the recent past. At the center of the debate is the controversy over the Genesis record of the Creation, the Fall, the Flood and the initial Genesis Mandate. What can we know about these foundational issues? What difference does it make?

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

Tuesday, May 2nd, 7:30 PM

How Does My DNA Work? Evolution Vs. Intelligent Design - Creationism

http://www.bestsyndication.com/Articles/2006/r/ranganathan_babu/042606_religious_science.htm

April 26th 2006

The subject of DNA is very much in the headlines and news but very few have bothered to learn or understand just how this amazing molecule works and how it makes us what we are from head to toe.

Haven't you ever asked yourself how you got your nose, eyes, ears, fingers, toes, and everything else? How did your DNA bring all this about? Before we answer that question we need to know just a few simple things about DNA.

DNA is the abbreviated name for the genetic code and it is exactly that - a code. It is a molecular string of chemical information.

DNA is located in the nucleus of our cells and is made up of smaller molecules called nucleic acids. These smaller molecules in DNA are arranged in a sequence, just like the letters in a sentence. The sequence of these nucleic acids tell the cells in our body how to build our nose, eyes, hands, feet, and everything else.

The material our body uses to build new cells comes from the food we eat. Food is not just for energy. Food is also the "lumber" and "bricks" the body uses to build new cells. When a cell multiplies it makes more cells of the same size. The only way to do this is by getting new material and that new material comes from food.

Think about it! When we were in our mother's womb we started off as a single cell not even weighing an ounce at conception. Eventually we developed arms, hands, legs, feet and organs such as brain, heart, lungs, liver, stomach, until we had a complete body. It's true that the single cell we once were multiplied into many more cells, but where did the material come from for that one cell to multiply into billions of more cells of equal size and eventually making a body weighing several pounds from something that didn't even weigh an ounce in the beginning. The material came from our mother's food.

When food is digested and broken down to its basic amino acids the various amino acids are then rearranged in a certain sequence to form cells that make up the various tissues and organs. What sequence these amino acids come together in is determined by the sequence of the molecules in DNA.

Remember, even after all our organs are formed the cells that make up our organs are continually dying and need to be replaced. Again, the material to make more cells to replace the ones that are dying comes from food.

Thus, when you feed your dog a T-Bone steak your dog's DNA will make sure that steak is digested and rearranged to form the various parts of your dog, but when you eat the same steak your DNA will make sure that the steak is digested and rearranged to form human parts.

The sequence in DNA differs from individual to individual and from species to species. For an analogy think of a library where all the books are in one language. In the library there are different books on different topics and subjects. All the books share the letters from the same alphabet, but the sequence in which these letters are arranged are different from book to book. The sequence of the letters makes the difference between a book on chemistry and a romance novel!

When scientists study genes they are studying segments of the DNA molecule. The goal of the human genome project was to locate where the various genes are on the DNA. Only in this way can we begin to understand how to use genetic engineering to correct various genetically caused disorders and maladies. Faulty genes arise from mutations. Mutations are accidental changes in the sequence of the genetic code caused by radiation and other environmental forces. Most biological variations, however, are not from mutations but from new combinations of already existing genes. Comment on this Article at our Forum

Because they are accidents in the genetic code, almost all mutations are harmful. Even if a good mutation does occur for every good one there would be hundreds of harmful ones with the net effect over time being harmful, if not lethal, to the species as a whole.

Evolutionists hope that with enough time and with enough mutations new genes for entirely new traits will be produced leading to the evolution of new biological kinds. There is no evidence that this can happen from accidental changes in the sequence of the genetic code, anymore than it's possible to change a romance novel into a book on chemistry by accidental changes in the sequence of the letters.

At the very best mutations can only produce new varieties of already existing genes or traits, but not new genes or new traits. For example, mutations in the gene for human hair may change that gene so that another type of human hair develops but the mutations won't change the gene so that feathers or wings develop!

No one has shown that DNA can come into existence by chance! It takes DNA to get DNA! In other words, there must already exist DNA to direct the formation of more DNA. Yes, it is true that the individual molecules which make up DNA have been shown to be able to come into existence by chance. But, it has never been shown that those individual molecules can come together into a sequence by chance to form the genetic code.

The mathematical odds of even the simplest DNA molecule coming into existence by chance is comparable to a monkey typing the sequence of all the letters and words in an entire encyclopedia by randomly hitting the keys on a computer keyboard or typewriter.

Science cannot prove the existence of God but science cannot prove that we are here by chance either. However, the scientific evidence does show that it is not rational or logical to believe that DNA, life, and the universe came about by chance. Belief in chance or evolution is blind faith. On the other hand, belief in God or a Creator behind life and the universe is not blind faith. For more information on this please read my other articles and, especially, my essay "The Natural Limits of Evolution" at my website www.religionscience.com.


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