NTS LogoSkeptical News for 21 May 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Sunday, May 21, 2006

UFO Festival looks into the world of aliens

http://159.54.226.83/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060518/ENT/605180301/1101

Scientists, revelers and people who've been abducted come together in McMinnville

ANGELA YEAGER Statesman Journal

May 18, 2006

Marius Dekker doesn't want to talk about his experience being abducted by aliens -- even though he is giving a speech about the subject this weekend.

Vancouver, Wash., resident Dekker, 70, is a retired chemical engineer and scientist who will be speaking about his abduction experience at a workshop on UFOs at 10 a.m. Saturday.

"It is a very good possibility I was abducted. I can't go into it on the phone," he said, after being asked to explain his abduction experience.

"You'll just have to come see my talk. I'm not going to get into the whole story on the phone. It first happened in Holland, when I was 16. I suspect I was abducted. I am examining these things now."

Dekker's workshop is part of the McMenamins UFO Festival, which is Friday and Saturday in downtown McMinnville. There also is a preview event at 7:30 tonight at the Kennedy School in Portland, featuring a screening of the 1994 Showtime movie "Roswell."

The event is in its seventh year and brings the serious and the goofy sides of aliens and UFOs together. There are workshops and forums with speakers on UFOs and alien abduction, as well as more light-hearted events such as the UFO Costume Parade at 1 p.m. Saturday, which is followed by an Alien Pet Costume Contest at 2 p.m.

Dekker was selected to speak because of his research into abduction; he is one of the festival's many scheduled speakers.

Dekker is retired, but worked as a chemical engineer in Alberta, Canada, and as a math, physics and chemistry professor at Capilano College in Vancouver, British Columbia.

He said he started believing in aliens later in his life.

"I grew up as a scientist and a real nerd and had little use for UFO talk," he said. "Over the course of many years, I have reversed my feelings about them."

This will be Dekker's first time attending the UFO Festival in McMinnville. He refused to give any details on what he will talk about for his speech, other than to say he will chronicle the "long story" about why he believes he was abducted. He would say, however, that "missing time" is one of the main elements that abductees find they have in common.

"It's the most telling sign," he said. "People wondering, 'Where have I been in the last three hours?'"

When asked if that could just be memory loss, Dekker explained: "People might think they just had a memory lapse, but there's usually more to it."

Another high-profile speaker at this year's festival is Jesse Marcel Jr., who will give the keynote speech to promote his new book, "Roswell: It Really Happened."

According to Tim Hills, the project historian with McMenamins Pubs, Marcel is a big name in the UFO community.

Marcel Jr. will speak at 7 p.m. Friday at the Mack Theater and will follow his speech with a reception and book signing in a tent that will be set up next to the Hotel Oregon on Evans Street.

Aside from people giving serious speeches about UFOs and aliens, there are those who go to the festival as an excuse to paint their faces and put on pairs of antennas to parade through downtown McMinnville.

The UFO Costume Parade is one of the highlights of the event each year and is organized by McMenamins and the McMinnville Downtown Association. The parade will feature more than 24 entries this year, including floats and marching bands.

The Salem-area Star Trek club USS Destiny plans to participate in this year's parade. Salem resident Craig Martin, a member of USS Destiny, said members dressed in officer's uniforms as well as others from a separate Klingon club will be on the back of a flatbed truck for the event.

"I'm going to be in a 'Next Generation' commander's uniform because I'm the commanding officer of the club," Martin said.

"We try to interact with other groups doing the same kinds of things we are. And it's a good way to advertise for new members," he said.

"Last year, we just had bales of hay on the truck. This year, the Klingons thought it would be cool to have a table in the middle with peace talks going on, which sounds like a lot of fun to me."

ayeager@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6743

Scientists reconstruct Darwinian evolution to explain 'irreducible complexity'

http://www.news-medical.net/?id=17250

Medical Science News

Published: Tuesday, 11-Apr-2006

Using new techniques for resurrecting ancient genes, scientists have for the first time reconstructed the Darwinian evolution of an apparently "irreducibly complex" molecular system.

The research was led by Joe Thornton, assistant professor of biology at the University of Oregon's Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and is published in the journal Science.

How natural selection can drive the evolution of complex molecular systems - those in which the function of each part depends on its interactions with the other parts-has been an unsolved issue in evolutionary biology. Advocates of Intelligent Design argue that such systems are "irreducibly complex" and thus incompatible with gradual evolution by natural selection.

"Our work demonstrates a fundamental error in the current challenges to Darwinism," said Thornton. "New techniques allowed us to see how ancient genes and their functions evolved hundreds of millions of years ago. We found that complexity evolved piecemeal through a process of Molecular Exploitation - old genes, constrained by selection for entirely different functions, have been recruited by evolution to participate in new interactions and new functions."

The scientists used state-of-the-art statistical and molecular methods to unravel the evolution of an elegant example of molecular complexity - the specific partnership of the hormone aldosterone, which regulates behavior and kidney function, along with the receptor protein that allows the body's cells to respond to the hormone. They resurrected the ancestral receptor gene - which existed more than 450 million years ago, before the first animals with bones appeared on Earth - and characterized its molecular functions. The experiments showed that the receptor had the capacity to be activated by aldosterone long before the hormone actually evolved.

Thornton's group then showed that the ancestral receptor also responded to a far more ancient hormone with a similar structure; this made it "preadapated" to be recruited into a new functional partnership when aldosterone later evolved. By recapitulating the evolution of the receptor's DNA sequence, the scientists showed that only two mutations were required to evolve the receptor's present-day functions in humans.

"The stepwise process we were able to reconstruct is entirely consistent with Darwinian evolution," Thornton said. "So-called irreducible complexity was just a reflection of a limited ability to see how evolution works. By reaching back to the ancestral forms of genes, we were able to show just how this crucial hormone-receptor pair evolved."

http://www.uoregon.edu

Intelligent design goes Ivy League

http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=49674

Cornell offers course despite president denouncing theory

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

2006 WorldNetDaily.com

Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

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

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

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

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

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

MacNeill plans to examine historical disputes surrounding evolution.

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Quebec community cool to Darwin

http://www.canada.com/topics/news/national/story.html?id=2c1924c4-265f-48b0-a5da-6271e1193a59&k=24339&p=2

ALLISON LAMPERT, The Gazette

Published: Saturday, May 20, 2006

Science teacher Alexandre April was given a written reprimand last month by his principal at Ikusik High School for discussing evolution in class.

Parents in the village 1,860 kilometres north of Montreal complained their children had been told they came from apes.

"I am a biologist. ... This is what I'm passionate about," said April, who teaches Grades 7 and 8. "It interests the students. It gets them asking questions.

"They laugh and they call me 'ape,' but I don't mind. If I stopped, they would lose out."

April, who is leaving the town when his contract runs out at the end of the school year, said the principal first told teachers last fall not to talk about evolution.

Debate over the teaching of evolution in Salluit - a village of 1,150 located along the northern coast of Quebec, between Ungava and Hudson bays - is pitting an increasingly religious Inuit population against a Quebec education system that's becoming more and more secular.

Although April, 32, won't be punished, his reprimand has outraged Quebec's scientific community.

"What he's doing is right and it's best for the kids," said Brian Alters, director of the Evolution Education Research Centre at McGill University. "Science should not be de-emphasized for non-science."

Over the years, controversy over the teaching of evolution has erupted in Pennsylvania, along with U.S. states in the so-called Bible Belt. In November, the Kansas State Board of Education approved science standards that cast doubt on evolution.

But with heightened religious fervour among the Inuit and Cree in northern communities, some observers suggest Canada might have its own Bible North.

Molly Tayara, a member of the Salluit school's volunteer education committee, said she'd tell her four school-age children to walk out of a lesson on Darwin.

"The minister (of education) may have come from apes, but we're Inuit and we've always been human," she told The Gazette in a phone interview.

"Most of us rely on God's word. ... God made Adam and Eve and they weren't animals."

Legally, Inuit schools in Quebec's north must teach evolution, as it's part of the provincial curriculum. After April's story came out this week in the magazine Quebec Science, Education Department officials immediately called the school to ensure the curriculum was followed.

Topics like reproduction and diversity of species are part of Science and Technology, a course for Grades 7 and 8. Darwin's work, based on the premise that humans and other animals have evolved over time, is further covered in Grade 11 biology - an elective course.

"We want the curriculum to be applied. We're just saying the theory of evolution could be taught more delicately to students," said Gaston Pelletier, director of educational services for the Kativik School Board, which serves northern Quebec's 14 Inuit communities. "We have to respect their view."

The Anglican and Pentecostal churches have been present for decades in towns like Salluit. Yet formal education under Kativik has existed only since 1978.

"The missionaries have been in the north much longer than the scientists," noted Lisa Koperqualuk, a spokesperson for the Makivik Corp. - a non-profit body created in 1978 to manage Inuit compensation money from the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

"Inuit parents have not been taught the theory of evolution, so when they hear about it in fragments, it doesn't make sense."

Religious fervour has also increased among the Cree, with one town banning bingo games because games of chance conflict with their faith, said Patrick D'Astous, president of the Northern Quebec Teachers Association.

Alters argues that many biologists believe in evolution as well as God: "People who think evolution denies religion don't know much about evolution."

The Gazette (Montreal) 2006

Intelligent design a difficult foe

http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1148077814225&call_pageid=968332188774&col=968350116467

For many, evolution theory hard to grasp
May 20, 2006. 01:00 AM JAY INGRAM

Scientists are absolutely correct to argue that intelligent design the claim that a designer, not evolution, created life on Earth is not science and does not belong in science classrooms. But it might come as a surprise to many of them that simply saying so isn't enough.

First, to understand why intelligent design isn't science, you do have to know something about what science is.

Scientists constantly test their theories, trying to poke holes in them. They perform observations and/or experiments to do that. If their preconceptions are not supported by what they see, detect or calculate, they are discarded.

Darwin's theory of evolution has been subjected to more than a century's worth of testing. Not once has a fundamental prediction made by the theory been shown to be incorrect.

It's true that the story of life on Earth is still incomplete, something that ID proponents (and the creationists before them) have seized on by arguing that, for instance, there are no fossil forms that show transitions from one species to another. But such claims are not true.

Transitions between land animals and whales, fish and four-legged terrestrials have been found. There are still gaps, but the point is that there are no new fossils that disprove Darwin.

Proponents of intelligent design, on the other hand, do no experiments. They have promised them in the past, but so far, nothing. Instead, they simply criticize evolution. So, they're talking about science but they're not doing any. Science is about doing something. ID should not be taught in science classes because it isn't science.

That all seems pretty straightforward. So why does ID have so much traction in the United States?

Two interesting takes on this have been published in the last few days. One is an article in the journal Public Library of Science Biology about the work of Jon Miller at Northwestern University medical school.

Miller has been measuring scientific literacy over the past 30 years. In the United States and Canada, that literacy is appallingly low. No more than about 15 per cent of the general public can read and understand a science article in Time magazine. To his mind, the acceptance of intelligent design is directly related to the strength of the religious right in the U.S.

How about these examples: One out of every three Americans thinks evolution is "definitely false;" only about one out of seven is convinced it's true. In a ranking of 34 countries whose adults accept evolution, the United States stands 33rd. (Turkey is 34th.) Perhaps the most extraordinary claim made by Miller is that the United States is the only country in the world where a political party wants ID taught in schools.

With that background, it should have come as no surprise to scientists that countering the appeal of intelligent design was going to be difficult. Yet, many seemed surprised when that turned out to be the case.

Scott Lilienfeld, a psychologist at Emory University in Atlanta, understands why. In an article in this month's Skeptical Inquirer, Lilienfeld argues that the problem with scientists is that they expect the general public to be sensible about the whole issue and choose evolution.

But should they be? There is, of course, the issue of religion, as I just mentioned. But what about those who are on the fence, people who might be churchgoers but are not virulently anti-evolution? Is evolution the "common sense" explanation for the glorious diversity of life? No, it is not.

Evolution is hard to grasp. It only makes sense if you're willing to give it millions of years, and if you can grasp the idea that the most infinitesimal changes in genes can, when captured by natural selection, actually create marvellous organs, like the eye, and marvellous species, from fruit flies to blue whales.

Lilienfeld argues that intuition, so helpful in much of life, is a bad guide to accuracy in this case. The Earth does look flat; it isn't. The sun appears to revolve around the Earth; it doesn't. Living things appear to have been designed by someone (or Someone); they aren't.

Lilienfeld contends that the solution is to improve the teaching of science in school, to impress upon students that intuition can be wrong, and that the scientific approach is one way of ensuring that doesn't happen.

Of course, if intelligent design is part of that science education, so much for the chances of introducing thinking.

Jay Ingram hosts Daily Planet on the Discovery Channel.

Geologist: Bosnian Hill an Ancient Pyramid

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060518/ap_on_sc/bosnia_pyramid

Wed May 17, 9:16 PM ET

VISOKO, Bosnia-Herzegovina - An Egyptian geologist who arrived to check on claims by an amateur researcher that a hill in central Bosnia is hiding an ancient pyramid said Wednesday the structure is man made and worth investigating.

"My opinion is that this is a type of pyramid, probably a primitive pyramid," said Dr. Aly Abd Alla Barakata, a geologist from the Egyptian Mineral Resource Authority.

Barakata is the first expert from Egypt to visit the Visocica hill and offer an opinion on whether huge stone slabs excavated on the site could form the sloping sides of a massive step pyramid.

Semir Osmanagic, an amateur Bosnian archaeologist who has been investigating Latin American pyramids for 15 years, claimed last year that the Visocica hill, about 20 miles northwest of Sarajevo, is a pyramid. If correct, it would be the first ancient pyramid ever found in Europe.

Osmanagic's team, made up mainly of volunteers, began excavations last month on the 2,120-foot hill. The team found that Visocica has 45-degree slopes pointing toward the cardinal points and a flat top. Under layers of dirt, workers discovered a paved entrance plateau, entrances to tunnels and large stone blocks.

Osmanagic's theory has been disputed by a number of experts who claim that at no time in Bosnia's history has there been a civilization able to build monumental structures and that the hill is simply a weird natural formation.

A petition signed by 22 Bosnian experts pointed out that Osmanagic is an amateur and claimed that the stone blocks he unearthed are part of a medieval graveyard.

Dr. Barakata, an expert in the stone blocks used to build ancient pyramids, said he believes the structure could not be natural and should be investigated further.

"We need to study it more, to find out the age, the type of material used," he said.

He said he will recommend to his government to send more experts and that an archaeologist from Egypt is scheduled to visit the site next month.

Physics News Update 777

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News

Number 777 May 18, 2006 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and Davide Castelvecchi www.aip.org/pnu EXTREME-ULTRAVIOLET MICROSCOPE PROVIDES RECORD RESOLUTION. At next week's Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics/Quantum Electronics and Laser Science Conference meeting in California, Courtney Brewer of Colorado State University (brewerca@holly.colostate.edu) and her colleagues will present a tabletop optical imaging system that can reveal details smaller than 38 nanometers (billionths of a meter) in size, a world record for a compact light-based optical microscope. The microscope can keenly inspect nanometer-scale devices designed for electronics and other applications. It will also be capable of catching subtle manufacturing defects in today's ultra-miniaturized computer circuits, where defects just 50 nm in size that were once too small to cause trouble could wreak havoc in the nanometer scales of today's computer chips. Except for some high-tech details, the microscope works very similarly to a conventional optical microscope. Light shines through the sample of interest. The transmitted light gets collected by an "objective zone plate," which forms an image on a CCD detector, the same kind of device that records images in a digital camera.

However, in the case of the sub-38-nm microscope, there are some advanced technological twists. The microscope uses a laser that produces light in the extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) spectrum, whose very small wavelength makes it possible to see a sample's tiny details. The EUV light is created by ablating (boiling away) the surface of a silver or cadmium target material so that the vaporized material forms a plasma (collection of charged particles) that radiates laser light. To focus this light, the researchers avoid standard lenses because they strongly absorb EUV radiation. Instead, the microscope uses "diffractive zone plates," structures containing nanometer-spaced concentric rings that focus the light in the desired fashion.

Other state-of-the-art optical microscopes have achieved resolutions as low as 15 nm, but they required the use of large synchrotrons. This more compact and less expensive system has the potential to become more widely available to researchers and industry. In addition, since the extreme ultraviolet laser produces light pulses with very short duration (4 picoseconds, or trillionths of a second), the researchers believe it may be possible to create picosecond-scale snapshots of important processes in other applications. (Paper CME4, www.cleoconference.org)

FRICTION AT A DISTANCE, the friction between close objects that aren't in contact, is poorly understood. Seppe Kuehn and his colleagues at Cornell have set out to change this. First, what does contact mean? Kuehn (607-254-4685, sk288@cornell.edu) suggests that when two objects are less than about 1 nanometer apart they are said to be in contact. One can think of contact friction as being a sort of micro-velcro process---atomic "hills" in one surface scrape past atomic "valleys" from the other surface. To observe non-contact friction, the friction between two surfaces separated by more than 1 nm, the Cornell researchers use a tiny single-crystal microcantilever less than a millimeter long and only a few thousands of atoms thick.

Brought vertically downwards toward a surface, and set in motion, the cantilever will slow down in proportion to the friction it feels from the surface beneath. Surprisingly, the friction force between the cantilever and sample depends on the chemistry of the sample. By studying this dependence of non-contact friction on the chemistry of the sample the Cornell scientists have made the first direct, mechanical detection of non-contact friction arising from the weak electric fields caused by motions of molecules in the samples. The samples included various polymer materials. This work is motivated by recent efforts towards single-molecule MRI which require the detection of very small forces, and have been hindered by non-contact friction. (Kuehn, Loring, Marohn, Physical Review Letters, 21 April 2006)

PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE is a digest of physics news items arising from physics meetings, physics journals, newspapers and magazines, and other news sources. It is provided free of charge as a way of broadly disseminating information about physics and physicists. For that reason, you are free to post it, if you like, where others can read it, providing only that you credit AIP. Physics News Update appears approximately once a week.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Evolution education update: May 19, 2006

A recent public forum on"Keeping science and religion separate in schools: The vigil after Dover" is now available on-line, as is the transcript of a speech by Patricia Princehouse on defending the teaching of evolution. The Wisconsin bill that would have banned the teaching of "intelligent design" is dead, but a bill in Minnesota was suddenly amended to institute such a ban there. And the latest attempt to compromise evolution education in South Carolina was thwarted.

"THE VIGIL AFTER DOVER"

A public forum -- "Keeping science and religion separate in schools: The vigil after Dover" -- held at Florida State University on May 17, 2006, is now available on-line. Participating were NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott, Georgetown University theologian John F. Haught and Michigan State University philosopher Robert T. Pennock (both of whom testified as expert witnesses for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover), and philosopher Michael Ruse, biologist Joseph Travis, and law professor Steven Gey, all from Florida State University. The Pulitzer-prize-winning science writer Deborah Blum served as the moderator.

Before the event, Pennock told the Tallahassee Democrat (May 15, 2006), "The Dover trial really was the test case for intelligent design," and Gey suggested that after Kitzmiller policymakers would be less likely to seek to introduce creationism in the classroom: "School boards will be hesitant to go down that road," especially in light of the $1 million bill incurred by the defendants. But Scott warned that even in the absence of explicit antievolution policies, "teachers are still very intimidated about teaching evolution," adding, "When parents or school boards look cross-eyed at evolution, the tendency for teachers is just to skip those chapters."

For "Keeping science and religion separate in schools: The vigil after Dover," visit:
http://www.research.fsu.edu/dover/

For the story in the Tallahassee Democrat, visit:
http://www.tallahassee.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060516/FSU01/605160327/1008/FSU

"SCIENCE AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT"

A transcript of Patricia Princehouse's speech "Science and the First Amendment" was posted on The Nation's website on May 16, 2006. She delivered the speech in New York City on May 11, 2006, as she accepted a Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award from the Playboy Foundation.

In the speech, she asked: "If we allow certain special-interest religious groups to co-opt the public school science classroom, to use it as a vehicle for converting children to religious views their parents don't hold, if we allow them to spout outright lies about the nature and content of science, what do we really have left? If you can lie about science and get away with it, you can lie about anything." And she also offered a forecast of battles to come: "I call it the 'orange is the new pink' strategy; every time the public cottons on to a catch term like 'creation science' or 'intelligent design,' they change to a more neutral-sounding term like 'critical analysis' or 'evidence against.' But defenders of American freedom are learning to stand up and say no, it really is fair to forbid teachers to lie to students, to prohibit school boards from using the power of the state to convert children to other peoples' religions."

Princehouse teaches evolutionary biology and history and philosophy of science at Case Western Reserve University. She is also the president of Ohio Citizens for Science and was awarded NCSE's Friend of Darwin award in 2003 for her efforts to defend the teaching of evolution in Ohio's public schools.

For "Science and the First Amendment," visit:
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060529/princehouse

WISCONSIN ANTICREATIONISM BILL DIES

Assembly Bill 1143 died in the Wisconsin State Assembly on May 4, 2006, the last day of the last general-business floorperiod. Announced at a press conference on March 7 and introduced and referred to the House Committee on Education on March 21, AB 1143 would have, if enacted, directed the school board to "ensure that any material presented as science within the school curriculum complies with all of the following: (1) The material is testable as a scientific hypothesis and describes only natural processes. (2) The material is consistent with any description or definition of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences."

Although neither creation science nor "intelligent design" was explicitly mentioned in the bill itself, they appeared to be its primary targets. Its main sponsor, state representative Terese Berceau (D-District 76), told the Madison Capital Times (February 7, 2006) that her bill was intended to counteract recent attempts to undermine evolution education around the country and within the state, and Michael Cox and Alan Attie, both professors of biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, reportedly applauded the prospect of preventing any incursion of the "intelligent design" movement in Wisconsin.

In a recent article in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (May 2006), a number of AB 1143's supporters, including Attie, Berceau, Cox, the philosopher of science Elliott Sober, and the historian of creationism Ronald L. Numbers, explain the origin of the bill -- ultimately prompted by a protracted controversy over evolution education in Grantsburg, Wisconsin -- and its objectives. In addition, the article reviews the history of the antievolution movement from Epperson to Kitzmiller, describes and refutes a few common misrepresentations used by the proponents of "intelligent design," and suggests a number of ways for scientists to defend the teaching of evolution.

For the text of AB 1143 (PDF), visit:

http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2005/data/AB-1143.pdf

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

For the article in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, visit:
http://www.jci.org/cgi/content/full/116/5/1134

MINNESOTA BILL WOULD BAN TEACHING "INTELLIGENT DESIGN"

Just before the omnibus education bill, Senate File 2994, was approved by the Minnesota state senate by a 39-27 vote on May 15, 2006, it was amended to provide, "Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, the Department of Education, a charter school, and a school district are prohibited from utilizing a nonscientifically based curriculum, such as intelligent design, to meet the required science academic standards under this section." The amendment was proposed by Senator Lawrence J. Pogemiller (DFL-District 59). The counterpart of SF 2994 in the House of Representatives, House File 3179, contains no such provision, so presumably the two versions of the bill will have to be reconciled by a conference committee if the House rejects the amendment. The current legislative session ends on May 22, 2006. SF 2994 is the second bill that would ban the teaching of "intelligent design" to be introduced in a state legislature during 2006; the other, Wisconsin's Assembly Bill 1143, died in committee on May 4, 2006.

For the text of SF 2994 as passed by the Minnesota Senate, visit:
http://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/bin/bldbill.php?bill=S2994.3.html&session=ls84

ANTIEVOLUTION AMENDMENT DEFEATED IN SOUTH CAROLINA

A proposal to direct the South Carolina state board of education to approve only textbooks that "emphasize critical thinking and analysis in each academic content" was rejected by the House Committee on Education and Public Works on May 16, 2006. The proposal, which was approved by a subcommittee on April 3, 2006, would have amended a textbook bill, SB 114, which previously served unsuccessfully as a vehicle for antievolutionism. After rejecting the amendment, the committee voted to adjourn debate on the motion, in effect killing it, because the legislative session ends on June 1.

Although evolution was not specifically mentioned in the proposal, its sponsor, Representative Bob Walker (R-District 38), reportedly expressed concern that "some textbooks, particularly those used in high school biology classes, included outdated information," the Associated Press reported (May 16, 2006). Representative B. R. Skelton (R-District 3) suggested, also according to the AP, that "the wording appeared to be a way around the state Board of Education's decision" -- taken on March 8, 2006 -- "not to incorporate critical analysis into several sentences of high school biology standards."

For the Associated Press story (via The State), visit:
http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/local/14594308.htm

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

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

Creation & Intelligent Design Watch

http://www.csicop.org/intelligentdesignwatch/science.html

What Is Science? By Jason Rosenhouse

Proponents of intelligent design (ID) offer a wide array of arguments in defense of their views. These arguments are, without exception, incorrect. In a better world, everyone would understand that and the issue would go away.

In this world, however, things are not so easily resolved. Much of ID’s support among the general public comes from people entirely ignorant of the basic facts and methods of science. For them, science refers not to a particular method of investigation, but rather to the totality of true statements that can be made about the world. And since they view it as self-evident that God exists, they believe that a science that makes no reference to God must be incomplete.

ID proponents find it rhetorically useful to play up this angle. They routinely tell their audiences that scientists dismiss ID not because of its lack of scientific merit, but because of arbitrary definitional conventions about what constitutes science. Sadly, they are sometimes abetted in this by naïve scientists who make, “It’s not science!” their main argument when publicly confronting ID.

Some ID supporters, however, are so enamored of their theory that they try to have it introduced into high school science curricula. When this happens it falls to the courts to decide whether such curricular changes are consistent with the constitutional prohibitions against mixing church with state. Schools, you see, are not allowed to promote sectarian religious beliefs. And one part of showing that ID is such a belief is showing that ID is definitely not science.

So the question of whether ID can reasonably be considered part of science is important over and above any consideration of the merits of its arguments. Furthermore, defeating ID requires educating the public not just in the basic findings of science, but also in its goals and methods. For these reasons it is useful to think about what science actually is.

Science is best viewed as an activity undertaken with a specific goal in mind. That goal is to understand the workings of nature. We measure our level of understanding by the extent to which we can make nature's phenomena predictable and controllable. Any investigative technique that brings us closer to this goal can reasonably be considered part of science.

All of the standard pieces of the scientific method we learned about in high school - experimentation, hypothesis testing, inductive reasoning and so forth - have their role to play in bringing us closer to our goal of predictability and control. By contrast, hypothesizing the actions of ill-defined supernatural entities such as ghosts or poltergeists does not help us move closer to our goal. Consequently, the actions of supernatural entities play no role in modern scientific discourse. It is pragmatism, not bias, that leads scientists to abjure the supernatural in their professional work.

This pragmatic rejection of supernatural hypotheses is sometimes described by saying that scientists adhere to methodological naturalism (MN); naturalism because it rejects the idea of causality coming from outside nature, methodological because it is a convention for doing science, as opposed to an assumption about how the world actually is. ID proponents seize on this, arguing that MN is nothing but an arbitrary rule used to exclude ID from its place at the table. This claim is a bit rich, since in other contexts ID folks are keen to persuade people that their view implies nothing one way or the other about the reality of the supernatural.

Jason Rosenhouse is the author of EvolutionBlog, providing commentary on developments in the endless dispute between evolution and creationism.

Salamanders' evolution traced

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/05/19/BAG0NIUC1C1.DTL

Berkeley, Chinese scientists say geologic movement is reason

David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor

Friday, May 19, 2006

A far-flung family of Asian salamanders has given biologists new insights into the role that massive upheavals on the earth's surface can play in driving the evolution of the tiny amphibians.

Scientists at UC Berkeley and in China have tracked the genetic lineage of the salamanders back to more than 110 million years and have concluded that what was once a single family in far northern China later became isolated and ultimately different species as deserts and mountain ranges were formed.

The family of salamanders was split up as the vast Indian subcontinent was thrust up against Asia, raising the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau, creating the great Gobi Desert, and triggering earthquake zones that churned up mountain ranges in the South China-Burma region. That process, geologist know, continues today, and even Mount Everest continues to grow by inches a year.

Over countless generations, the scientists say, the salamanders evolved to fit their altered landscapes, yielding the 46 distinct Asian species that are alive today -- all with four toes on each foot instead of the five that the world's other salamanders possess.

The salamander story is a vivid example of how the influence -- first proposed by Darwin nearly 150 years ago -- that isolation and altered environments can direct the process of natural selection.

The new hypothesis of the link between the evolution of salamander species and the geological forces that have shaped the Asian continent was published in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was proposed by a research team led by David Wake of UC Berkeley's department of integrative biology, a renowned specialist on the diversity of amphibians who has studied salamander species for nearly 50 years.

Wake's colleagues include Theodore Papenfuss, a research associate at the Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and Chinese geneticists Peng Zhang and Liang-Hu Qu of Zhongshan University in Guangzhou.

In their report, Wake and his colleagues described collecting varied species of the four-toed salamanders, scientifically called hynobiids (hi-no-bee-ids), from all over Asia -- from Korea and North China on one side to Iran, Afghanistan and Kazakhstan on the other.

Compiling the data on salamander species and their present-day locales, the scientists created a rough timetable for the evolution of the creatures based on fossil evidence and analysis of the mutation rates of today's salamander genes.

To show the genetic links among the living species of Asian salamanders and the times when they surmised those species developed, Wake's colleagues in China determined the sequences of mitrochondrial DNA from 15 salamander species that now live in 15 regions of Asia. Mitochondrial DNA is a type of genetic material carried only by females in any lineage, and as it changes through mutations at a more-or-less steady rate, its variations can be used as a timetable or molecular clock to indicate when different species arose.

In recent interviews and in the group's report, Wake proposed that for many millions of years, beginning roughly 110 million years ago, much of Asia was a low-lying humid region where salamanders of all kinds abounded. Later, Wake and his colleagues theorize, three major geologic events must have isolated groups of the salamanders, setting up the evolution of new species of the amphibians in each new region.

Here's their timetable:

-- The first event occurred as immense pressures from India's northward thrust against the Asian continent began lifting up the great Tibetan Plateau about 50 million years ago. The plateau's rise, Wake and his colleagues proposed, must have heated the climate of Asia's interior and created the great dry regions around the Gobi Desert north of the Plateau, thus isolating the salamander species living north of the desert regions.

-- Then, about 40 million years ago, the entire Tibetan Plateau underwent major uplifting, and vast ranges rose, with peaks higher than 15,000 feet, from the Himalayas on the east to Afghanistan's Hindu Kush and Iran's Elburz mountains on the west. Isolated by the mountains, new species evolved within their new habitats.

-- Still another period of mountain-building began around 24 million years ago, when a period of violent earthquakes shook the region that is now China's Yunnan province, and created the Ailao Shan range of Southwest China where more new species evolved, Wake's team concluded.

"I think our research has produced a hypothesis that resolves one major puzzle -- how the large-scale geologic changes on the Asian continent over millions of years have led to the evolution of new salamander species," Wake said. "But there's another puzzle we haven't solved: All those salamanders have only four toes on their feet, while the salamanders of Europe and the Americas all have five. And none of us can think of any reason why four toes would make a salamander species better adapted for survival than five.

"When did the Asian salamanders lose a toe -- and why? We just don't know."

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

WHAT'S NEW

Robert L. Park Friday, 19 May 06 Washington, DC

DA VINCI CODE: CARDINALS COMPLAIN THAT THE NOVEL IS FICTION.

Aren't they always? Cardinal Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, expressed shock this week at the Da Vinci Code promotion: "It had nothing to do with the truth." Like "transubstantiation" is the truth? Another powerful Cardinal, Francis Arinze, is urging legal action. Members of Opus Dei seem particularly upset at the shot of Silas with blood running down his leg from a cilice. Opus Dei says their members do not do this. Mother Teresa maybe. Ironically, you may recall that just two months ago, Random House, publisher of the Da Vinci Code, was being sued in the UK because the underlying theme was lifted from a 1982 best-selling history book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Scientists understand how the church and the historians feel. After all, science-fiction writers have been stealing our themes for years, and portraying us as Dr. Strangeloves. And if we're the good guys, they get the physics wrong, like in Chain Reaction, where cold fusion works.

BROWN'S GAS: AN "ENERGY SOLUTION" THAT JUST WON'T GO AWAY.

Several people this week sent us video clips of a "breakthrough" in energy research. A Florida company is calling it "Aquygen," (Patent Pending). New name, but it's just "Brown's Gas" http://www.phact.org/e/bgas.htm. It's been scamming people since the '80s. Dennis Lee, the notorious free-electricity hustler, has had it as part of his sales tour for at least a decade. It's produced by the electrolysis of water. Gas is collected from both electrodes, giving you a stoichiometric mixture, 2H2+O2. If ignited, it's completely converted back to water. It still takes more energy to produce than you get back.

BREAKTHROUGH PROPULSION: MOVING THE ROCKET'S CENTER OF MASS.

It was the goal of NASA's Breakthrough Propulsion Institute, http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN97/wn081597.html. Propulsion without a propellant. BPI never quite made it. It was some problem with Newton's Laws of Motion I think -- the center of mass just wouldn't budge. Maybe they gave up too soon. A history professor at California State U., Fullerton, James Woodward, unveiled his research into "Mach-Lorentz thrusters" at the Future in Review conference in Coronado, CA on Wednesday. It's like the impulse engines in Star Trek. "They put out thrust without blowing stuff out the tailpipe," Woodward said.

PAT ROBERTSON: CHIEF WEATHER FORECASTER PREDICTS A TSUNAMI.

Well, a tornado hasn't struck Dover, PA as he hoped, but give it time http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN06/wn010606.html. After all, it took several years after he called for a hurricane to hit Florida before Rita struck. Now, however, he says he has just spoken with God: both coasts will be lashed by storms this year, and a Tsunami may hit the Pacific Northwest. God said, "may"?

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


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Dean Bertram: Cracking the conspiracy code

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19169913-7583,00.html

From Oliver Stone's JFK through The X Files to Ron Howard's The Da Vinci Code, Hollywood catapults ideas from the radical fringe into the cultural mainstream

May 18, 2006

ONCE upon a time, if someone approached you whispering about the hidden bloodline of Christ or the machinations of an ancient secret society, you could be reasonably certain that the person was a card-carrying conspiracy theorist or a fully-fledged nut (neither category being mutually exclusive).

Nowadays, those who espouse such loopy beliefs are more often than not reasonably normal folk. They have simply taken the fictional revelations of Dan Brown's best-selling The Da Vinci Code a tad too seriously. As Ron Howard's cinematic adaptation of Brown's potboiler is set for worldwide release today, prepare for the coming swell of converts to the tale's distorted version of history.

It is not the first time popular entertainment has catapulted ideas from the fringe into the cultural mainstream. During the past decade or so, Hollywood has sanitised an assortment of weird beliefs and helped create what American political scientist Michael Barkun identifies as "a culture of conspiracy".

Take Oliver Stone's JFK (1991), a film that encouraged audiences to scoff at the Warren Commission's findings (that is, that a "magic bullet" fired by a lone gunman had killed president John F. Kennedy). Stone would rather that we believe the leaders of the US military-industrial complex ordered Kennedy's assassination as part of a brilliantly orchestrated and masterfully concealed coup d'etat. The hard evidence for such a conspiracy is scant at best, but the film left numerous people convinced of the theory Stone championed.

Not long after the release of JFK, The X Files (1993-2002), along with a plethora of similar productions, introduced a whole set of obscure terms from UFO belief into common parlance. If, as these popular shows contended, the US government had long conspired to conceal the truth about flying saucers, somewhere along the way someone must have dropped the ball. By the late 1990s, everyone seemed to know about Roswell, Area 51, Men in Black and alien abductions.

Along with fictional dramas, a range of conspiracy-oriented documentaries - from Fox's ridiculous Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction? (1995) to Michael Moore's ideologically skewed Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) - have contributed to the retardation of mass political culture.

Intercutting the real with the staged and bombarding the audience with emotive footage and questionable data, these dubious productions served up an easily digestible but nonetheless half-baked reality, a type of dissent for dummies.

Even though conspiracy films usually lack substantive evidence for their extraordinary claims, this is not to say that their production values are similarly absent.

Indeed, the better the quality of the film, the better are its chances of influencing an audience.

For example, JFK, as with much of Stone's work, is a visually stunning masterpiece filled with solid performances from an incredible ensemble cast. It is not surprising that its faux revelations hoodwinked so many viewers.

Exceptional film-making rarely equates with accurate history. Cinema is an art form that encourages its practitioners to strive for brevity. A good film-maker knows when to cut to the chase and usually does so sooner than later.

Simply put, the dramatic requirements of the medium demand that complicated historical processes be condensed into fast-paced, simplistic narratives (much as they are in conspiracy theories).

Although the re-creation of relatively uncontested historical events is problematic enough, when dramatising a more contentious account the probability of a film-maker accurately portraying the past is infinitesimal.

Stone says he regularly evoked dramatic license when making JFK. Departing not just from the historical record but also from the conspiracy theories on which he based the film, Stone created fictional characters and fabricated events to further simplify its crypto-historical narrative.

Of course cinema, unlike, say, the written word, provides one with little time to consciously engage the specifics of each scene before the following scene begins. Instead, a film's mesmerising visuals, often mixed with a powerful musical score, can facilitate the transference of ideas directly into the viewer's subconscious mind.

This is the magic of cinema, the medium's ability to help the audience suspend their disbelief so they can temporarily immerse themselves in the on-screen world. Unfortunately, pundits with a political agenda, a la Moore, can engage in a type of cinematic sleight-of-hand and slip distorted facts and fallacious reasoning past the critical faculties of audience members.

Film has long been the propagandist's weapon of choice for this reason. Hitler and Stalin were both big fans of its inherent powers of persuasion. So was Lenin, who hailed cinema as "the most important of all the arts". Indeed, one cannot properly understand modern cinema without taking into account the influence of totalitarian film-makers on its development.

Figures such as the great Soviet film theorist Sergei Eisenstein and the Nazi documentarian Leni Riefenstahl developed cinematic techniques particularly suited to the transference of ideological messages. Many of these techniques remain in the armamentarium of today's film-makers.

I'm pretty sure Howard has no ideological barrow to push with his adaptation of The Da Vinci Code. But who really knows? This is probably a moot point anyway. Because whatever his beliefs are regarding the controversial book, Howard is an Academy Award-winning director who is more than capable of taking the audience on a cinematic thrill ride, jam-packed with exciting revelations (bogus as they may be).

Productions such as JFK and The X Files have demonstrated that this is often all it takes to inject fringe ideas into popular thought. Indeed, there will be plenty of cinemagoers walking out of darkened theatres during the coming weeks in an intellectual state similar to that of a child waking from a dream, unsure of where the imaginary world ends and real life begins.

What this means is that along with blathering about JFK's assassination, UFO cover-ups and 9/11 conspiracies, the ranks of the ill-informed will now take it on themselves to enlighten the rest of us on the truth about the sexual relations of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. It's enough to make you say - through gritted teeth - "Hooray for Hollywood."

Dean Bertram is an independent film-maker and writer. He recently completed his PhD thesis on UFO belief and American culture at the University of Sydney.

Robertson Says God Told Him About Storms

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/18/AR2006051800005.html

The Associated Press Thursday, May 18, 2006; 12:01 AM

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- In another in a series of notable pronouncements, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson says God told him storms and possibly a tsunami will hit America's coastline this year.

Robertson has made the predictions at least four times in the past two weeks on his news-and-talk television show "The 700 Club" on the Christian Broadcasting Network, which he founded.

Robertson said the revelations about this year's weather came to him during his annual personal prayer retreat in January.

"If I heard the Lord right about 2006, the coasts of America will be lashed by storms," Robertson said May 8. On Wednesday, he added, "There well may be something as bad as a tsunami in the Pacific Northwest."

Robertson has come under intense criticism in recent months for suggesting that American agents should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine retribution for Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip.

2006 The Associated Press

Creationist lecturer posits Adam, Eve and dinosaurs

http://morgancountycitizen.com/gbase/Expedite/Content?oid=oid%3A4168

MAY 16, 2006

BY BROOKE HATFIELD

One of the nation's most popular and controversial proponents of creation science is coming to Morgan County.

Dr. Kent Hovind, a former high school science teacher and the founder of Creation Science Evangelism ministries, will address creationism's religious and scientific origins. Hovind's seminar is sponsored by the Morgan County Baptist Association, and Shiloh Baptist Church Youth Pastor Paul Miller said evolution's origins are based on Satan, not science.

"The very beginning of the Bible says in the beginning God created," said Paul Miller, youth pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church. "Throughout history, the devil has had a well-thought-out strategy to attack the word of God. Through what I call modern and postmodern times, the devil has orchestrated this thing such that people think we evolved."

Hovind posits that evolution has been consistently disproven by science, a claim he's willing to put money on. He has pledged $250,000 to anyone who can provide empirical evidence of evolution. Hovind said only three people have taken him up on his offer, and none walked away with the money.

Hovind's description of evolution is as follows: time, space and matter came into existence independent of God. Planets and stars formed. Early life forms reproduced, and major changes occurred between these life forms. According to Hovind, many of evolution's supporters don't understand the theory.

"They think any kind of change at all is evolution," Hovind said. "They'll point out that dogs and wolves have a common ancestor, and I would agree. That's called microevolution, and there is no argument about that. Now does that mean that dogs and bananas have a common ancestor?"

Hovind, who calls himself Dr. Dino, also believes that Earth is only 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs and humans once coexisted.

Hovind said reptiles known as dinosaurs were actually called dragons by early man, and most of these creatures were hunted and killed. Some, like the Loch Ness Monster, remain, he said.

Bringing Hovind to Morgan County was a matter of faith for Miller.

"God just laid it on my heart to expose the lies of evolution," Miller said. "We both sense apathy among God's people regarding God's word, especially creation. We need to stand on the word of God."

Although Hovind's seminar will touch on evolution's alleged scientific failings, Miller said he ultimately hoped the lectures would touch attendees' minds and hearts.

"The goal would be that through the discovery of God's creation, folks would come to know the Lord Jesus Christ," Miller said. "We don't want to hide the fact that that's our goal."

Hovind's seminars will be held Friday, May 12 and Saturday, May 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the Morgan County High School auditorium. Admission is free. He will also speak during Shiloh Baptist Church's 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. services on Sunday. He will also answer questions in the church's sanctuary at 9:45 a.m.

For more information on Hovind and Creation Science Evangelism ministries, go to www.drdino.com


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Possible 'Missing Link' In Plant Evolution Found

http://cbs4denver.com/topstories/local_story_137123100.html

May 17, 2006 9:19 pm US/Mountain

Shaun Boyd Reporting

(CBS4) BOULDER, Colo. A study at the University of Colorado at Boulder may have found the "missing link" between flowering plants and their ancestors. The research could answer a mystery in plant evolution that has confused scientists since Charles Darwin formed his theory of natural selection nearly 130 years ago.

The research at CU involved a "living fossil plant" that has survived on the planet for 130 million years. The plant's unique reproductive system is the key to its possible role as the missing link.

The Amborella plant was found in the rain forests of New Caledonia in the South Pacific.

Scientists said it may represent a critical link between diverse flowering plants, known as angiosperms, and their yet-to-be-identified extinct ancestors.

"One of the biggest challenges for evolutionary biologists is understanding how these flowering plants arose on Earth," William "Ned" Friedman, a professor in CU-Boulder's ecology and evolutionary biology department.

His study appears in the May 18 issue of Nature.

"The unique four-celled egg apparatus in Amborella could represent a critical link between angiosperms and gymnosperms," he wrote in Nature.

The surprising new finding suggests flowering plants may have arisen on Earth during a time when plant evolution was "particularly flexible," Friedman said.

"The study shows that the structure that houses the egg in Amborella is different from every other flowering plant known and may be the potential missing link between flowering plants and their progenitors," he said.

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.

MMVI CBS Television Stations, Inc.

Creationism debate moves to Britain

http://education.independent.co.uk/schools/article485814.ece

The debate over creationism in schools was an American problem. But now the controversy is taking root in Britain. Tim Walker reports

Published: 18 May 2006

For once, an evolutionary biologist and a creationist agree on something. Professor Steve Jones, the author of an updated version of Darwin's Origin of Species, and John Mackay, an Australian preacher who believes the book of Genesis constitutes literal truth, are both convinced that creationism is making a comeback in British classrooms.

"It's a real social change," says Jones, a lecturer at UCL. "For years, I've sympathised with my American colleagues, who have to cleanse creationism from their students' minds in their first few biology lectures. It's not a problem we've faced in Britain until now. I get feedback from Muslim schoolkids who say they are obliged to believe in creationism, because it's part of their Islamic identity, but the people I find more surprising are the other British kids who see creationism as a viable alternative to evolution. That's alarming. It shows how infectious the idea is."

Creationism encompasses a spectrum of beliefs, from the Bible's account of creation in six days, a matter of mere thousands of years ago, to the more equivocal "intelligent design" (ID) theory, which seeks some form of accommodation with evolution.

Its opponents see the teaching of creationism in any form as an alternative scientific theory as a way for its exponents to drive religious dogma into schools across the entire curriculum. In about 50 independent Christian schools in the UK, creationism has been a feature of biology teaching for about 30 years; the fear is that state schools will begin to follow suit.

Jones's concerns are shared by the Royal Society and other scientific organisations; by the British Humanist Association (BHA) and the Secular Society; and by teachers' unions such as the NUT, who at their recent conference called for an end to state funding for faith schools "to prevent the growing influence of religious organisations in education and the teaching of creationism or intelligent design as a valid alternative to evolution."

Even the Archbishop of Canterbury has said that creationism should not be taught in schools. Jacqui Smith, schools minister until the latest cabinet reshuffle, was forced to draft a statement to the BHA, saying that the only controversies that could be taught in science lessons are scientific ones, and that "creationism cannot be used as an example of a scientific controversy, as it has no empirical evidence to support it and no underpinning scientific principles or explanations".

Despite this, a recent Mori poll for the BBC found that only 48 per cent of the British population accept the theory of evolution; 39 per cent of people surveyed preferred to put their faith in creationism or ID. Over 40 per cent believed that the controversial theories should be taught in school science lessons.

John Mackay claims to have found archaeological evidence of both Noah's flood and the Tower of Babel. His current lecture tour of the UK was disrupted when a Lancashire school cancelled his planned visit this month after pressure from secular groups.

Mackay agrees that faith schools are one reason for a rise in the acceptance of creationism among young people in the UK. "I think that's a grassroots reaction against the humanist, agnostic agenda being imposed in the classroom," he says. "Parents know that if you try to run a school where the moral structure is based on humanist, agnostic principles, then there are no morals at that school. Faith schools are an option that they are looking at."

The experience of one science teacher at a large London sixth-form college would appear to confirm Mackay's hopes and Jones's concerns, though it is the students, not the teachers, who question Darwin. "A significant proportion of my students - both Christian and Muslim - believe in creationism," the teacher says. "My colleagues routinely have creationist literature dumped in their pigeon-holes after lessons where they teach evolution. Most of our students can, however, separate what goes on in the classroom from what goes on in a mosque or church. Our biology results are very good. These are bright students who may well go on to do medicine."

London medical schools, too, have seen a rise in the rejection of evolution by their large proportion of Islamic students. During Islamic Awareness Week in February, students at the Guy's Hospital site of King's College were presented with leaflets refuting Darwinism.

"This causes fundamental problems in understanding, for example, the way bacteria respond to antibiotics, or the development of the Aids virus, whose power is in its ability to evolve quickly," says one lecturer. "Rejecting evolution deprives a clinician of some very important insights."

Another lecturer has encountered students who refuse physical contact with women during gynaecological examination and surgery. Moral judgements based on religious belief have an undeniable effect on the doctor-patient relationship and, at the very least, complicate a doctor's treatment of Aids, venereal disease, and someone wishing to have an abortion. Like the A-level students, however, the medical students can separate their religious convictions from their study long enough to pass their medical exams.

Dr Keith Davidson is the director of education for John Loughborough, a Seventh-day Adventist faith school in Tottenham, north London. "Part of the requirement of a faith school is to transmit the ethos of our faith, so Christian beliefs are transmitted in all areas of school life," he says, "but, like any faith school, we offer the national biology curriculum to pupils."

However, Davidson argues: "Creationism should be taught as another school of thought. If evolution is acceptable as a point of view, then creationism should be too. Science works on observation; you can't observe evolution, so it is not strictly science. Evolutionists are hijacking science to make their case. The charge against faith schools of indoctrination is untrue. Having just one opinion about the origin of life is indoctrination. Christian schools present both sides of the debate."

Evolutionary biologists are unimpressed by this argument. "There is no controversy," Jones says. "Evolution is a central fact in biology. I am entirely unsympathetic to those who push creationism as an alternative scientific theory. It's astonishing that they have hijacked a place in the media."

The school that first sparked controversy over the involvement of religious groups in the state education system was Emmanuel College in Gateshead. The Emmanuel Schools Foundation is funded by Sir Peter Vardy, a Christian philanthropist, and secular groups have been up in arms about the college and its pair of sister academies' alleged teaching of creationism since 2002.

But three successive Ofsted reports have judged the college, its staff and the pupils' behaviour "outstanding", and its results speak for themselves.

Barry Sheerman, chairman of the Education Select Committee, has visited Emmanuel. He says: "They do not teach creationism in science lessons, they discuss it in RE lessons. That's perfectly acceptable on any curriculum. I get impatient with my colleagues saying that schools are being sponsored by strange evangelical sects. It's a nonsense, especially in a country that has had religious groups in charge of successful schools for hundreds of years."

No controversy followed the United Learning Trust, a subsidiary of the United Church Schools Trust, as it established academies in some of the most deprived areas of the UK, including Lambeth, south London in 2004 and Manchester's Moss Side in 2003.

The Rev Steve Chalke is the chairman of Oasis Community Learning, a Christian charity that plans to open its first academy in Enfield next year. "I have no evidence to suggest that any school in the state sector is teaching creationism," he says. "We will teach our view in RE lessons; that there is a God, that life has meaning. But teaching six-day creationism in biology is mad. Genesis is a theological text, and anyone who puts creationism into biology lessons is mixing apples and pears."

Creationism has been taught in the classrooms of the Christian Schools Trust for about 30 years. The trust supports a loose network of more than 50 independent Christian schools across the country, catering to more than 3,000 students. Sylvia Baker is the founder and ex-head of Trinity Christian School in Stalybridge, Cheshire, established in 1978. She has taught evolution and creationism alongside one another for 25 years, and now advises other Christian schools on the teaching of creationism.

"I tell children that I believe in a six-day creation, a matter of thousands, not millions of years ago," she explains. "But that is an individual belief, and there is no policy on it running through the new Christian schools. If you don't mention evolution to the children at a young age, they are naturally creationist. It fits how they see the world. There's no doubt that God is the creator and the Bible is reliable. We introduce evolution to them as part of the debate at secondary age."

Baker holds two biology degrees and obtained her BSc from Sussex University, where she was taught by the eminent evolutionist John Maynard Smith. "While I was there, I stopped being an evolutionist," she says. "You always hear there is overwhelming evidence for evolution, but no one could tell me what it was. There was a refusal to debate it when I tried to. If you couldn't find the evidence in Maynard Smith's department, where could you find it?"

Trinity's science GCSE results are well above average, Baker says. "Our pupils have gone on to A-level science and taken biology and other science degrees very successfully. Those who go on to do science degrees have been appalled by the ignorance of the mainstream school students as to the [evolution/ creationism] debate. Scientists have embargoed that debate in secular schools. But in Christian schools the debate is taught. I hope that will spread. It's galling to be thought of as flat-earthers, when creationists have put far more thought into the philosophical debate than evolutionists have."

Steve Jones has met teachers keen on creationism during his lectures to schools, which have confrontational titles such as "Why intelligent design is stupid". He is "disappointed that teachers would do this. It's very hard for anyone with two neurons bolted together to believe that the earth was created 6,000 years ago. Deliberate irrationalism is dangerous, but it's most dangerous to the people that believe it.

"Think of an intelligent 11-year-old who's told by a teacher that humans and dinosaurs lived together on the earth 6,000 years ago. Then think of the same kid doing A-level biology at 16, when it becomes clear that that's complete nonsense. Why, then, should they believe anything else that their religion tells them?"

Creationist ideas are becoming increasingly popular For once, an evolutionary biologist and a creationist agree on something. Professor Steve Jones, the author of an updated version of Darwin's Origin of Species, and John Mackay, an Australian preacher who believes the book of Genesis constitutes literal truth, are both convinced that creationism is making a comeback in British classrooms.

"It's a real social change," says Jones, a lecturer at UCL. "For years, I've sympathised with my American colleagues, who have to cleanse creationism from their students' minds in their first few biology lectures. It's not a problem we've faced in Britain until now. I get feedback from Muslim schoolkids who say they are obliged to believe in creationism, because it's part of their Islamic identity, but the people I find more surprising are the other British kids who see creationism as a viable alternative to evolution. That's alarming. It shows how infectious the idea is."

Creationism encompasses a spectrum of beliefs, from the Bible's account of creation in six days, a matter of mere thousands of years ago, to the more equivocal "intelligent design" (ID) theory, which seeks some form of accommodation with evolution.

Its opponents see the teaching of creationism in any form as an alternative scientific theory as a way for its exponents to drive religious dogma into schools across the entire curriculum. In about 50 independent Christian schools in the UK, creationism has been a feature of biology teaching for about 30 years; the fear is that state schools will begin to follow suit.

Jones's concerns are shared by the Royal Society and other scientific organisations; by the British Humanist Association (BHA) and the Secular Society; and by teachers' unions such as the NUT, who at their recent conference called for an end to state funding for faith schools "to prevent the growing influence of religious organisations in education and the teaching of creationism or intelligent design as a valid alternative to evolution."

Even the Archbishop of Canterbury has said that creationism should not be taught in schools. Jacqui Smith, schools minister until the latest cabinet reshuffle, was forced to draft a statement to the BHA, saying that the only controversies that could be taught in science lessons are scientific ones, and that "creationism cannot be used as an example of a scientific controversy, as it has no empirical evidence to support it and no underpinning scientific principles or explanations".

Despite this, a recent Mori poll for the BBC found that only 48 per cent of the British population accept the theory of evolution; 39 per cent of people surveyed preferred to put their faith in creationism or ID. Over 40 per cent believed that the controversial theories should be taught in school science lessons.

John Mackay claims to have found archaeological evidence of both Noah's flood and the Tower of Babel. His current lecture tour of the UK was disrupted when a Lancashire school cancelled his planned visit this month after pressure from secular groups.

Mackay agrees that faith schools are one reason for a rise in the acceptance of creationism among young people in the UK. "I think that's a grassroots reaction against the humanist, agnostic agenda being imposed in the classroom," he says. "Parents know that if you try to run a school where the moral structure is based on humanist, agnostic principles, then there are no morals at that school. Faith schools are an option that they are looking at."

The experience of one science teacher at a large London sixth-form college would appear to confirm Mackay's hopes and Jones's concerns, though it is the students, not the teachers, who question Darwin. "A significant proportion of my students - both Christian and Muslim - believe in creationism," the teacher says. "My colleagues routinely have creationist literature dumped in their pigeon-holes after lessons where they teach evolution. Most of our students can, however, separate what goes on in the classroom from what goes on in a mosque or church. Our biology results are very good. These are bright students who may well go on to do medicine."

London medical schools, too, have seen a rise in the rejection of evolution by their large proportion of Islamic students. During Islamic Awareness Week in February, students at the Guy's Hospital site of King's College were presented with leaflets refuting Darwinism.

"This causes fundamental problems in understanding, for example, the way bacteria respond to antibiotics, or the development of the Aids virus, whose power is in its ability to evolve quickly," says one lecturer. "Rejecting evolution deprives a clinician of some very important insights."

Another lecturer has encountered students who refuse physical contact with women during gynaecological examination and surgery. Moral judgements based on religious belief have an undeniable effect on the doctor-patient relationship and, at the very least, complicate a doctor's treatment of Aids, venereal disease, and someone wishing to have an abortion. Like the A-level students, however, the medical students can separate their religious convictions from their study long enough to pass their medical exams.

Dr Keith Davidson is the director of education for John Loughborough, a Seventh-day Adventist faith school in Tottenham, north London. "Part of the requirement of a faith school is to transmit the ethos of our faith, so Christian beliefs are transmitted in all areas of school life," he says, "but, like any faith school, we offer the national biology curriculum to pupils."

However, Davidson argues: "Creationism should be taught as another school of thought. If evolution is acceptable as a point of view, then creationism should be too. Science works on observation; you can't observe evolution, so it is not strictly science. Evolutionists are hijacking science to make their case. The charge against faith schools of indoctrination is untrue. Having just one opinion about the origin of life is indoctrination. Christian schools present both sides of the debate."

Evolutionary biologists are unimpressed by this argument. "There is no controversy," Jones says. "Evolution is a central fact in biology. I am entirely unsympathetic to those who push creationism as an alternative scientific theory. It's astonishing that they have hijacked a place in the media."

The school that first sparked controversy over the involvement of religious groups in the state education system was Emmanuel College in Gateshead. The Emmanuel Schools Foundation is funded by Sir Peter Vardy, a Christian philanthropist, and secular groups have been up in arms about the college and its pair of sister academies' alleged teaching of creationism since 2002.

But three successive Ofsted reports have judged the college, its staff and the pupils' behaviour "outstanding", and its results speak for themselves.

Barry Sheerman, chairman of the Education Select Committee, has visited Emmanuel. He says: "They do not teach creationism in science lessons, they discuss it in RE lessons. That's perfectly acceptable on any curriculum. I get impatient with my colleagues saying that schools are being sponsored by strange evangelical sects. It's a nonsense, especially in a country that has had religious groups in charge of successful schools for hundreds of years."

No controversy followed the United Learning Trust, a subsidiary of the United Church Schools Trust, as it established academies in some of the most deprived areas of the UK, including Lambeth, south London in 2004 and Manchester's Moss Side in 2003.

The Rev Steve Chalke is the chairman of Oasis Community Learning, a Christian charity that plans to open its first academy in Enfield next year. "I have no evidence to suggest that any school in the state sector is teaching creationism," he says. "We will teach our view in RE lessons; that there is a God, that life has meaning. But teaching six-day creationism in biology is mad. Genesis is a theological text, and anyone who puts creationism into biology lessons is mixing apples and pears."

Creationism has been taught in the classrooms of the Christian Schools Trust for about 30 years. The trust supports a loose network of more than 50 independent Christian schools across the country, catering to more than 3,000 students. Sylvia Baker is the founder and ex-head of Trinity Christian School in Stalybridge, Cheshire, established in 1978. She has taught evolution and creationism alongside one another for 25 years, and now advises other Christian schools on the teaching of creationism.

"I tell children that I believe in a six-day creation, a matter of thousands, not millions of years ago," she explains. "But that is an individual belief, and there is no policy on it running through the new Christian schools. If you don't mention evolution to the children at a young age, they are naturally creationist. It fits how they see the world. There's no doubt that God is the creator and the Bible is reliable. We introduce evolution to them as part of the debate at secondary age."

Baker holds two biology degrees and obtained her BSc from Sussex University, where she was taught by the eminent evolutionist John Maynard Smith. "While I was there, I stopped being an evolutionist," she says. "You always hear there is overwhelming evidence for evolution, but no one could tell me what it was. There was a refusal to debate it when I tried to. If you couldn't find the evidence in Maynard Smith's department, where could you find it?"

Trinity's science GCSE results are well above average, Baker says. "Our pupils have gone on to A-level science and taken biology and other science degrees very successfully. Those who go on to do science degrees have been appalled by the ignorance of the mainstream school students as to the [evolution/ creationism] debate. Scientists have embargoed that debate in secular schools. But in Christian schools the debate is taught. I hope that will spread. It's galling to be thought of as flat-earthers, when creationists have put far more thought into the philosophical debate than evolutionists have."

Steve Jones has met teachers keen on creationism during his lectures to schools, which have confrontational titles such as "Why intelligent design is stupid". He is "disappointed that teachers would do this. It's very hard for anyone with two neurons bolted together to believe that the earth was created 6,000 years ago. Deliberate irrationalism is dangerous, but it's most dangerous to the people that believe it.

"Think of an intelligent 11-year-old who's told by a teacher that humans and dinosaurs lived together on the earth 6,000 years ago. Then think of the same kid doing A-level biology at 16, when it becomes clear that that's complete nonsense. Why, then, should they believe anything else that their religion tells them?"

Genetic study reveals surprises in human evolution

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/17/AR2006051701483.html

Reuters Wednesday, May 17, 2006; 4:11 PM

LONDON (Reuters) - Humans' evolutionary split from their closest relatives, chimpanzees, may have been more complicated, taken longer and probably occurred more recently than previously thought, scientists said on Wednesday.

After comparing the genomes, or genetic codes, of the two species they suggest the initial split took place no more than 6.3 million years ago and probably less than 5.4 million years ago.

The process of separation may have taken about 4 million years and there could have been some inter-breeding before the final break.

"The study gave unexpected results about how we separated from our closest relatives, the chimpanzees," said David Reich of the Broad Institute and Harvard Medical School's Department of Genetics in Massachusetts.

Instead of analyzing genetic differences between humans and chimpanzees, Reich and researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT looked at variations in the degree of divergence between the two in different regions of the genomes.

The analysis, published in the journal Nature, shows some regions in the human genome are older than others which means they trace back to different times in the common ancestral population of the two species.

The youngest regions are unexpectedly recent, according to the researchers, which means the separation between the two species was more recent than previously thought.

"A hybridization event between human and chimpanzee ancestors could help explain both the wide range of divergence times seen across our genomes, as well as the relatively similar X chromosomes," Reich explained.

Hybridization refers to the initial separation of two species followed by interbreeding and then the final split.

The findings also raise questions about the 7 million year old fossil of a skull called "Toumai" which was thought to be the earliest member of the human family.

The skull, which has a mixture of primitive and human-like features and dates, was hailed as probably the most important fossil discovery in living memory because it was thought to belong to an ancient ancestor of modern humans.

Some scientists had argued it was a fossil of a female ape.

"It is possible that the Toumai fossil is more recent than previously thought," said Nick Patterson, of the Broad Institute and a co-author of the study.

"But if the dating is correct, the Toumai fossil would precede the human-chimp split. The fact that it has human-like features suggest that human-chimp speciation (separation) may have occurred over a long period with episodes of hybridization between the emerging species," he added.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Meltdown fear as Arctic ice cover falls to record winter low

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/story/0,,1774815,00.html

David Adam, environment correspondent
Monday May 15, 2006
The Guardian

Record amounts of the Arctic ocean failed to freeze during the recent winter, new figures show, spelling disaster for wildlife and strengthening concerns that the region is locked into a destructive cycle of irreversible climate change.

Satellite measurements show the area covered by Arctic winter sea ice reached an all-time low in March, down some 300,000 square kilometres on last year -an area bigger than the UK.

Scientists say the decline highlights an alarming new trend, with recovery of the ice in winter no longer sufficient to compensate for increased melting in the summer. If the cycle continues, the Arctic ocean could lose all of its ice much earlier than expected, possibly by 2030.

Walt Meier, a researcher at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado, which collected the figures, said: "It's a pretty stark drop. In the winter the ice tends to be pretty stable, so the last three years, with this steady decline, really stick out."

Experts are worried because a long-term slow decline of ice around the north pole seems to have sharply accelerated since 2003, raising fears that the region may have passed one of the "tipping points" in global warming. In this scenario, warmer weather melts ice and drives temperatures higher because the dark water beneath absorbs more of the sun's radiation. This could make global warming quickly run out of control.

Dr Meier said there was "a good chance" the Arctic tipping point has been reached. "People have tried to think of ways we could get back to where we were. We keep going further and further into the hole, and it's getting harder and harder to get out of it."

The Arctic is rapidly becoming the clearest demonstration of the effects of mankind's impact on the global climate. The temperature is rising twice as fast as the rest of the planet and the region is expected to warm by a further 4C-7C by 2100. The summer and winter ice levels are the lowest since satellite monitoring began in 1979, and almost certainly the lowest since local people began keeping records around 1900. The pace of decline since 2003, if continued, would see the Arctic totally ice-free in summer within 30 years - though few scientists would stake their reputations on a long-term trend drawn from only three years.

Experts at the US Naval Postgraduate School in California think the situation could be even worse. They are about to publish the results of computer simulations that show the current rate of melting, combined with increased access for warmer Pacific water, could make the summertime Arctic ice-free within a decade. Dr Meier said: "For 800,000 to a million years, at least some of the Arctic has been covered by ice throughout the year. That's an indication that, if we are heading for an ice-free Arctic, it's a really dramatic change and something that is unprecedented almost within the entire record of human species."

The winter ice has declined all around the region - bad news for polar bears, which spend summer on land before returning to the ice in spring to catch food.

Cactus evolution

http://www.scenta.co.uk/scenta/news.cfm?cit_id=790678&FAArea1=widgets.content_view_1

Source: scenta

A new study on the evolution of plants has successfully tracked the development of the cactus.

The Yale University study discovered that some green, leafy plants do evolve into the leafless cactus.

The authors reported in the June issue of American Naturalist: ?The cactus form is often heralded as a striking example of the tight relationship between form and function in plants."

"A succulent, long-lived photosynthetic system allows cacti to survive periods of extreme drought while maintaining well-hydrated tissues."

By way of the team?s molecular phylogenetic work, they confirmed that a genus that is made up of 17 species of leafy shrubs and trees is where the earliest found lineage of the cactus began.

Team leaders Erika Edwards and Michael Donoghue then conducted further field studies and environmental modelling.

They concluded that the Perskia species already showed water use patterns that are similar to the leafless, stem-succulent cacti.

"[Our] analyses suggest that several key elements of cactus ecological function were established prior to the evolution of the cactus life form," explained the authors.

"Such a sequence may be common in evolution, but it has rarely been documented as few studies have incorporated physiological, ecological, anatomical, and phylogenetic data."

Spoon bender scoops up Elvis' home

http://www.cnn.com/2006/SHOWBIZ/Music/05/16/elvis.geller.reut/index.html?section=cnn_showbiz

Tuesday, May 16, 2006; Posted: 11:43 a.m. EDT (15:43 GMT)

CHICAGO, Illinois (Reuters) -- Psychic Uri Geller and two partners have bought the Tennessee house Elvis Presley lived in before moving to Graceland, with a winning bid of $905,100 on eBay, he has said.

"We are unbelievably pleased. This is a piece of history," Geller said by phone from England on Monday.

"We intend to restore it to its old glory. We would like to bring sick children there (for tours), Palestinian children, Israeli children, American children," the Israeli-born Geller said. "Hopefully one day we might get approval to turn it into a museum."

Presley bought the four-bedroom, two-bath house at 1034 Audubon Drive in Memphis in 1956 with a down payment of $500. He lived there for 13 months before moving to Graceland, the now-famous Memphis estate where he died in 1977.

During his time in the white, ranch-style house with an outdoor swimming pool, Presley's career took off with hits such as "All Shook Up" and "Don't be cruel."

Geller identified the sellers as Mike and Cindy Hazen, who bought the house some years ago, though not from Presley, for about $180,000.

Geller had original bid $300,000 last month but a bidding war ensued and the price ballooned, he said. During the process he was approached by dozens of people wanting to go in with him, he said. He chose two, New York lawyer Pete Gleason and Lisbeth Silvandersson, a Swedish-born jewelry maker who lives in England, as equal partners.

He had set a ceiling price of $1.11 million, said Geller, who acknowledges a paranormal fascination with the number 11.

"As the clock closed on the bidding Sunday," Geller said, "I felt intuitively I got the price. I was text messaging Gleason and it was exactly 11 on my mobile phone and suddenly the radio started playing an Elvis song. That was Elvis telling me we got the house!"

Geller met Presley in Las Vegas in the 1970s after the "King of Rock and Roll" asked him to perform his "spoon bending" trick for him, he said. Since then he has amassed a large collection of Presley memorabilia, he said.

Copyright 2006 Reuters.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Periscope : AIDS is a biological weapon being injected in the African airspace Prince Ayeni

http://www.vanguardngr.com/articles/2002/viewpoints/vp314052006.html

JOHN NWOKOCHA, Assistant Editor
Posted to the Web: Sunday, May 14, 2006

He is the "Iroko" of the herbal medicine practice in Nigeria. In point of fact, his pedigree in this business transcends the shores of African continent. To a large extent Dr Prince Ayeni is a household name through the practice of his herbal medicine. And the colossus who bestrides this unenviable terrain, will confess that he does the art which he learnt at a tender age from his late father, Pa Dada Orimekunluyi, with more than a passing passion. Today, Ayeni has brought innovation to herbal medicine practice, in the same vein changed the general perception about traditional medicine practitioners as being fetish and uncivilised. Having erased the wrong impression as it were, the traditional medicine practice has continued to witness stiff competition among practitioners, and Ayeni has continued to set position pace. He spoke on issues raised while fielding questions in an interview with Sunday Vanguard. Excerpts:

MISCONCEPTIONS about alternative medicine WELL thank you very much, alternative medicine is the broad name given to practice of herbal medicine, like in America and Britain we refer to herbalists as alternative medicine practitioners. So, herbalism is part of alternative medicine. Under alternative medicine we have a lot of therapy. Like herbal therapy, aroma therapy, yoga therapy, allopathic therapy, Alexandra therapy, maxmetic therapy, etc. So herbal medicine is very complex in terms of what it involves - plants leaves, herbals and shrubs etc. But generally acceptability of herbal medicine all over the world is significant to the fact that people can see the efficacy when they use herbal medicine.

The healing of herbal medicine is not usually fast, it's a very gradual healing process. But when it heals, it's permanent. Secondly, we know of a lot of diseases and sickness that defy orthodox medicine, which the alternative medicine has handled very well with a good result. Thirdly, people are tired of using chemicalised drugs, synthetic drugs because of their adverse side effects resulting from consumption of allopathic medicine. But with the alternative medicine, the side effect is less. And there's a belief that heavy consumption of allopathic drugs, destroys the vital organs in the body - kidney, blood bone, liver etc - because of the chemical ingredients in orthodox medicine. But the alternative medicine is natural, it's purely herbal and even the intake of herbal medicine helps to build the immune system, because the body itself is made in the natural form, therefore, the state of equilibrium is there. The intake of herbal medicine is like taking food. It's food supplement. It helps the immune system to fight against diseases.

False claims

In any profession there's bound to have quacks - these are practitioners that are not competent and intelligent. Generally, in the herbal practice, I believe that quackery has been reduced to a minimal level. The government has been able to streamline the practice of herbal medicine, because some people are trying to basterdaise the practice through media (radio and TV) programmes, they talk jargons because they've money to pay air-time. Government is controlling the practice of herbal medicine by making NAFDAC to regulate a lot of the herbal products so people don't just go on air and talk jargons. The NAFDAC had given signals to radio and TV stations that presents any herbal product not certified by NAFDAC should not be advertised. I believe the government can do more. Contribution to economy...

I will not talk about the economy because the federal government has not encouraged the growth of herbal medicine. In terms of support, the government has not helped herbal medicine practice. Unlike China, the Chinese government is raking in over $300 billion per year from herbal medicine, and we believe that the Nigerian government can make as much. Because there is no where in the world you will find the Chinese herbal products. As a Chinese traditional medicine practitioner, you're moving to London to practice, the Chinese government will help you by presenting your products to the British government for advertisement. The government spends a lot of money to promote traditional medicine in China. In Nigeria, we don't have a botanical garden either at state or federal level.

Government intervention

The federal government should've a botanical garden where herbal doctors can get materials to work. Government should build a traditional hospital of standard. Government should build college of traditional medicine to train people, I believe the government can make over $200 billion yearly income from herbal medicine if it will be well packaged and promoted.

Tropical diseases - malaria, blood pressure etc...

Thank you very much for this question. The problem we've in this country is we don't value things that we've. Malaria is not a problematic disease for herbal medicine cure. it is not a challenge to traditional medicine at all. Western medicine is the problem. In Africa we've the plant, shrubs, leaves that could be packaged together for effective cure of malaria and typhoid. An African disease need an African medicine. In America and Britain if you're diagnosed of malaria they'll put you where they're treating AIDS patients.

AIDS and traditional medicine potency

The issue of AIDS has been politicised. The west does not want Africans to claim there's a cure for AIDS because of their interest. Because the African population is a threat to the rest of the world they are doing everything possible to reduce it. AIDS is a biological weapon. We've seen a lot of viral cases in this country, like measles, cholera, chicken pox, our fore-fathers were able to research in herbal medicine that cured all these diseases. If a child has measles now and they take him to the hospital, they'll administer injection which is dangerous. Because it could cause blindness, deafness, numbness.

As of today the West cannot pin-point the virus that causes HIV/AIDS. If you have syphilis you know that you've a virus that caused it, cyphonelouspanadium, so also there's a virus that causes gonorrhea. AIDS is a biological weapon being injected into the African air-space once you inhale it you catch the disease and the bacteria destroys your immune system. I'm saying categorically that we've cured a lot of AIDS patients with our herbal medicine. We are not publicising it because the West does not support curative remedy for AIDS. We the Africans should stand up and fight the western propaganda. Because they see Africans as the problem of the world and attribute anything that's bad to Africa. If they've their way they'll wipe out Africa from the world. We've treated a lot of cases that were condemned to death by the western medicine.

On claims that formula M2000 could cause cancer

My reaction to that is that it's part of the Western war being waged against Africa. They don't want African products to triumph. In the first place how can a Canadian government which does not know about the Nigerian herbal medicine, condemn Nigerian herbs. Number two, we don't have an office there. The Canadian government is not saying that our drug is toxic. What they are saying is that one of the ingredients is toxic in their country. They have forgotten that in the herbal kingdom both organic and inorganic plants. Most of the plants in the Western world are in organic. Our plant shrub base in Nigeria are organic. In the Western world they apply chemicals for the growth of their plants, so 80 per cent of their medicinal plants are inorganic.

Ancient fossils fill gap in early human evolution

http://www.zeenews.com/znnew/articles.asp?aid=295073&sid=FTP

London, May 14: An international team of scientists have discovered 4.1 million year old fossils in eastern Ethiopia that fill a missing gap in human evolution.

The teeth and bones belong to a primitive species of Australopithecus known as Au. anamensis, an ape-man creature that walked on two legs.

The Australopithecus genus is thought to be an ancestor of modern humans. Seven separate species have been named. Au. anamensis is the most primitive.

"This new discovery closes the gap between the fully blown Australopithecines and earlier forms we call Ardipithecus," said Tim White, a leader of the team from the University of California, Berkeley.

"We now know where Australopithecus came from before 4 million years ago." Found and analyzed by scientists from the United States, Ethiopia, Japan and France, the fossils were unearthed in the Middle Awash area in the Afar desert of eastern Ethiopia.

The area, about 140 miles northeast of Addis Ababa, has the most continuous record of human evolution, according to the researchers.

The remains of the hominid that had a small brain, big teeth and walked on two legs, fits into the one million-year gap between the earlier Ardipithecus and Australopithecus afarensis which includes the famous fossil skeleton known as Lucy, which lived between 3.6 and 3.3 million years ago and was found in 1974.

Bureau Report

'Where we stand'

http://www.normantranscript.com/localnews/local_story_134004211

Published: May 14, 2006 12:00 am

The Norman Transcript

By Althea Peterson

Transcript Staff Writer

Discussions are evolving on evolution in Oklahoma.

The University of Oklahoma Department of Zoology recently released a statement on evolution, which received unanimous support among its faculty. The statement begins "Evolution is a fact. Evolutionary theory is a cornerstone of biology." Bill Matthews, director of the department, said the department included all faculty on the discussion before releasing the statement April 19.

"The faculty felt it was important that it showed where we stand on the issue," Matthews said.

Ola Fincke, zoology professor who drew up the original draft of the statement, said calling evolution a "fact" probably surprises many in the public. However, she said it is the sole explanation for organism creation that can be tested, but has not been proven wrong.

"There is no valid alternative to evolution," Fincke said.

This statement only comes one month after Oklahoma State University's department of zoology released a similar statement on zoology, which received support from OSU's faculty council. Stan Fox, regents professor of zoology at OSU, said their faculty also composed the statement as a group.

"It was in response to the pressure to put intelligent design in the curriculum," Fox said. "We of course agree with OU that evolution is a cornerstone of biology."

The difference between the two is a matter of science versus supernatural, said Gary Shutt, OSU assistant professor of zoology.

"Among scientists, there is no controversy to evolution," Shutt said. "We believe it is an important part of education. I'm really excited to see that OU finally released a statement. The fact that two major universities agree on this is great."

However, some do not feel that this news is "great." Representative Thad Balkman, R-Norman, said the statement seems to exclude any other explanations to organism creation.

"I think it's disappointing that these people are not open to debating these issues," Balkman said. "I believe in intelligent design. There are many scientists and physicists who believe in intelligent design. This is orthodoxy."

When the Oklahoma House considered the "Academic Freedom Act," Balkman said some incorrectly thought this was an endorsement of teaching ID. He said he is for teaching both evolution and ID.

"I support the teaching of evolution in schools," Balkman said. "I'm not anti-evolution."

This is not just a state issue. President George W. Bush spoke on evolution and intelligent design Aug. 1, 2005. He spoke in favor of teaching both equally in science courses.

"Both sides ought to be properly taught so people can understand what the debate is about," he said, according to an official transcript of the session. "Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."

Fincke said intelligent design has no place in a science classroom, because it is not science.

"It's philosophy at best," Fincke said. "You can believe that, but I believe that God did it via evolution. Teach intelligent design in a philosophy class, or in Sunday school. Intelligent Design has created no new scientific knowledge."

Vic Hutchison, OU emeritus zoology professor, called OU's statement "The best I have ever seen on evolution," but fears that if ID is also taught it will take necessary time away from teaching evolution.

"Science does not, cannot and will not address the matters that are supernatural," Hutchison said. "Why teach something in science that isn't science?"

While neither OSU or OU have publicly endorsed the statements from their zoology departments, the OU Faculty Senate has the statement on its agenda for their next meeting. Fox said he hopes state higher education will take a position on the issue as the departments already have.

Alternative medicine provider gets 13 years in Colorado teen's death

http://bodyandhealth.canada.com/channel_health_news_details.asp?news_id=9584&news_channel_id=12&channel_id=12&rot=11

Provided by: Canadian Press Mar. 27, 2006

GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) - An alternative medicine practitioner was sentenced Monday to 13 years in prison in the death of a 19-year-old cancer victim who had a procedure in which his blood was exposed to ultraviolet light.

Brian O'Connell pleaded guilty last month to criminally negligent homicide in the death of Sean Flanagan. He also pleaded guilty to illegally practising medicine and other charges.

O'Connell practised naturopathy, which relies on natural remedies. He treated Flanagan and others by removing blood, exposing it to light and returning it to the body with hydrogen peroxide.

Prosecutors said he lied about his education and credentials.

He had asked for leniency, saying he didn't know it was illegal to call himself a doctor or to use some the invasive treatments he performed.

"I never did any of this out of malice," he said. "I did not intend to steal money, hope, time or anything from any of the people I worked with."

Judge Margie Enquist was unsympathetic. "People came to you in the most desperate of situations and you took advantage of them," she said.

Flanagan's father told the judge there was never any doubt his son would die of Ewing's sarcoma, a bone cancer. But he said the family thought alternative treatment could prolong his life.

David Flanagan and his wife said after the hearing that they believed the sentence was fair.

O'Connell was also sentenced to a concurrent three-year jail term on two misdemeanour charges.


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