Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
June 5, 2006 By ALAN FEUER
CHICAGO, June 4 In the ballroom foyer of the Embassy Suites Hotel, the two-day International Education and Strategy Conference for 9/11 Truth was off to a rollicking start.
In Salon Four, there was a presentation under way on the attack in Oklahoma City, while in the room next door, the splintered factions of the movement were asked for sake of unity to seek a common goal.
In the foyer, there were stick-pins for sale ("More gin, less Rummy"), and in the lecture halls discussions of the melting point of steel. "It's all documented," people said. Or: "The mass media is mass deception." Or, as strangers from the Internet shook hands: "Great to meet you. Love the work."
Such was the coming-out for the movement known as "9/11 Truth," a society of skeptics and scientists who believe the government was complicit in the terrorist attacks. In colleges and chat rooms on the Internet, this band of disbelievers has been trying for years to prove that 9/11 was an inside job.
Whatever one thinks of the claim that the state would plan, then execute, a scheme to murder thousands of its own, there was something to the fact that more than 500 people from Italy to Northern California gathered for the weekend at a major chain hotel near the runways of O'Hare International. It was, in tone, half trade show, half political convention. There were talks on the Reichstag fire and the sinking of the Battleship Maine as precedents for 9/11. There were speeches by the lawyer for James Earl Ray, who claimed that a military conspiracy killed the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and by a former operative for the British secret service, MI5.
"We feel at this point we've done a lot of solid research, but the American public still is not informed," said Michael Berger, press director for 911Truth.org, which sponsored the event. "We had to come up with a disciplined approach to get it out."
Mr. Berger, 40, is typical of 9/11 Truthers a group that, in its rank and file, includes professors, chain-saw operators, mothers, engineers, activists, used-book sellers, pizza deliverymen, college students, a former fringe candidate for United States Senate and a long-haired fellow named hummux (pronounced who-mook) who, on and off, lived in a cave for 15 years.
The former owner of a recycling plant outside St. Louis, Mr. Berger joined the movement when he grew skeptical of why the 9/11 Commission had failed, to his sense of sufficiency, to answer how the building at 7 World Trade Center collapsed like a ton of bricks. It was his "9/11 trigger," the incident that drew him in, he said. For others, it might be the fact that the air-defense network did not prevent the attacks that day, or the appearance of thousands of "puts" or short-sell bids on the nation's airline stocks. (The 9/11 Commission found the sales innocuous.)
Such "red flags," as they are sometimes called, were the meat and potatoes of the keynote speech on Friday night by Alex Jones, who is the William Jennings Bryan of the 9/11 band. Mr. Jones, a syndicated radio host, is known for his larynx-tearing screeds against corruption fiery, almost preacherly, addresses in which he sweats, balls his fists and often swerves from quoting Roman history to using foul language in a single breath.
At the lectern Friday night, beside a digital projection reading "History of Government Sponsored Terrorism," Mr. Jones set forth the central tenets of 9/11 Truth: that the military command that monitors aircraft "stood down" on the day of the attacks; that President Bush addressed children in a Florida classroom instead of being whisked off to the White House; that the hijackers, despite what the authorities say, were trained at American military bases; and that the towers did not collapse because of burning fuel and weakened steel but because of a "controlled demolition" caused by pre-set bombs.
According to the group's Web site, the motive for faking a terrorist attack was to allow the administration "to instantly implement policies its members have long supported, but which were otherwise infeasible."
The controlled-demolition theory is the sine qua non of the 9/11 movement its basic claim and, in some sense, the one upon which all others rest. It is, of course, directly contradicted by the 10,000-page investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which held that jet-fuel fires distressed the towers' structure, which eventually collapsed.
The movement's answer to that report was written by Steven E. Jones, a professor of physics at Brigham Young University and the movement's expert in the matter of collapse. Dr. Jones, unlike Alex Jones, is a soft-spoken man who lets his writing do the talking. He composed an account of the destruction of the towers (physics.byu.edu/research
/energy/htm7.html) that holds that "pre-positioned cutter-charges" brought the buildings down.
Like a prior generation of skeptics those who doubted, say, the Warren Commission or the government's account of the Gulf of Tonkin attack the 9/11 Truthers are dogged, at home and in the office, by friends and family who suspect that they may, in fact, be completely nuts.
"Elvis and Area 51 we're sort of lumped together," said Harlan Dietrich, a recent college graduate from Austin, Tex. "It's attack the messenger, not the message every time."
To get the message out, the movement has gone beyond bumper stickers and "Kumbaya" into political action.
There is a plan, Mr. Berger said, to create a fund to support candidates on a 9/11 platform. There is a plan to create a network of college campus groups. There is a plan by the British delegation (such as it is, so far) to get members of Parliament to watch "Loose Change," the seminal movement DVD.
It would even seem the Truthers are not alone in believing the whole truth has not come out. A poll released last month by Zogby International found that 42 percent of all Americans believe the 9/11 Commission "concealed or refused to investigate critical evidence" in the attacks. This is in addition to the Zogby poll two years ago that found that 49 percent of New York City residents agreed with the idea that some leaders "knew in advance" that the attacks were planned and failed to act.
Beneath the weekend's screenings and symposiums on geopolitics and mass-hypnotic trance lies a tradition of questioning concentrated power, both in public and in private hands, said Mark Fenster, a law professor at the University of Florida and author of "Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture."
As for the 9/11 Truthers, they were confident enough that their theories made sense that on Friday, as a kickoff to the conference, they met in Daley Plaza for a rally (though some called it Dealey Plaza). They marched up Kinzle Street to the local affiliate of NBC where, at the plate glass windows, they chanted, "Talking heads tell lies," as the news was being read.
"I hope you don't end up dead somewhere," a companion said to a participant, hours earlier as he dropped him at the Loop. "Don't worry," the participant said. "There's too many of us for that."
IS THE IMPASSE IN SOUTH CAROLINA OVER?
There are signs that the impasse over South Carolina's science standards is nearing its end. As previously reported, the state board of education voted in March 2006 to reject a proposal from the state's Education Oversight Committee that would have significantly expanded the "critical analysis" language already present in the section of the new state science standards that deal with evolution. But although the EOC apparently lacks any power to revise the standards, it still retains the power to approve or reject the standards as a whole, so a deadlock was a possibility. Moreover, a member of the EOC -- state representative Bob Walker (R-District 31) -- subsequently attempted to amend a senate bill, S 114, to direct the state board of education to approve only textbooks that "emphasize critical thinking and analysis in each academic content"; that attempt was rejected by the House Committee on Education and Public Works.
On May 22, 2006, the EOC's Academic Standards and Assessments Subcommittee voted to adopt the curriculum standards originally proposed by the state board of education, and on May 31, the state board of education unanimously reaffirmed its support for those standards. The State reported (May 31, 2006) that the single instance of "critical analysis" present in the originally proposed standards was added to placate state senator (and EOC member) Mike Fair (R-District 6), whose various efforts to undermine the teaching of evolution in South Carolina's public schools over the last few years have been so far unsuccessful. He may, however, regard a provision in the 2006-2007 state budget as a token victory: it directs expenditures on and assessments of instructional material to emphasize "higher order thinking skills and critical thinking." Walker told The State that he was satisfied with the outcome. The EOC is scheduled to meet on June 12, when it is expected to vote on the standards.
For the story in The State, visit:
For NCSE's coverage of previous events in South Carolina, visit:
"RULING OUGHT TO STICK"
Writing for the editorial board of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (May 31, 2006), Mike King reacted to the recent ruling by a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals which vacated the decision in Selman v. Cobb County and remanded the case to the trial court for further evidential proceedings. Judge Cooper, he wrote, "was correct in his initial ruling last year when he decided that the stickers, which disclaimed evolution as a 'theory, not a fact,' constituted an endorsement of religious belief. Nonetheless, going back to court is the right thing to do. Teachers in America's classrooms need to have this trumped-up, pseudo-scientific 'controversy' settled once and for all, and local school boards need to be told in no uncertain terms that they can't bend the Constitution to pacify vocal religious advocates."
Although the appeals court was concerned about the evidence that the Cobb County school board adopted the stickers as a result of pressure from local parents, King observed that Marjorie Rogers, a local creationist parent, acknowledged that her petition was submitted to the board before the stickers were adopted and that her group advocated stickers warning students about evolution. He added, "the board had numerous options short of the stickers. It could have rejected the textbooks in question, or provided additional instructional material to science teachers about how to handle students who had a differing viewpoint. Instead, it chose to single out evolution with the warning sticker, thereby inviting students to question it more thoroughly than other theories discussed in the texts. That's where the school board crossed the line."
Following the initial ruling in Selman, the stickers were painstakingly removed, with the aid of putty knives and glue remover, from approximately 34,000 textbooks, during the summer of 2005. "Fortunately," King reports, "there doesn't seem to be much interest within the current board in reviving the stickers in Cobb while the case goes back before a trial court. Nor has any of the 10 or so candidates for the two school board seats up for election this year indicated that would be a good idea." (Incumbents Kathie Johnstone, who voted against appealing the initial Selman ruling, and Curt Johnston, who voted for the appeal, are running for re-election.) "But unless the courts provide a definitive ruling," King concludes his editorial, "a future board may not feel so constrained."
For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's story, visit:
For NCSE's coverage of previous events in Georgia, visit:
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Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism is now available: http://www.ncseweb.org/evc Alternative cancer treatments growing http://www.thetimesonline.com/articles/2006/06/04/news/illiana/b967c70401e6774e8625718300003742.txt
ILLINOIS Many patients use regular medicine with alternative practices to get better
BY MIKAELA BUFANO Medill News Service
This story ran on nwitimes.com on Sunday, June 4, 2006 12:07 AM CDT
Two years ago Diane Klenke went to the hospital after she and some coworkers became ill with a virus. She was shocked when doctors told her she had cancerous tumors in her pancreas and liver.
Her doctors were not optimistic and told her there was little that could be done.
"I overheard the doctors saying I wasn't going to make it," said 48-year-old Klenke. "They told me to go home and get my affairs in order."
Despite the bleak prognosis, and though numbed by the news, Klenke said she did not panic. Klenke scoured the Internet into the early morning hours on a mission, navigating the endless pages of online resources advocating vitamins, diets, potions and prayer to treat the most dire cancer diagnoses.
Before long, a family member mentioned Dr. Keith Block and Klenke began investigating.
She discovered that the Evanston-based Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care has cancer treatment plans designed to integrate conventional medicine with complementary therapies, including nutrition, acupuncture, fitness regimens, yoga and meditation.
Klenke opted for the full program. The lifestyle changes, the supplements, the diet and the unique way of administering the very conventional chemotherapy. Called chronotherapy, the chemotherapy treatment operates on the idea that medicine can be more effective based on when it is given to a patient.
Alternative options for cancer patients range from strict macrobiotic diets to acupuncture. Few practitioners offer treatment in the exclusion of conventional therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation. Most, like Block, offer therapy to complement conventional methods.
Research by the National Institutes of Health found about 50 percent of adults have used complementary and alternative medicine, not including prayer. Fifty-five percent believed complementary and alternative medicine combined with conventional medicine would help their condition.
The National Institutes of Health have a center devoted to "exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science" and "training complementary and alternative medicine researchers."
The institute created an Office of Alternative Medicine in 1992 with an annual budget of $2 million. Renamed the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 1998, the center has an annual budget this year of $122.7 million.
June 1, 2006 BY STAN DONALDSON
Officials hope to head off scammers
A few weeks ago, the 37-year-old owner of Enchanted Souls, a psychic reading, quantum healing and hypnosis shop, moved her business from Eastpointe to a small plaza a few blocks north in Roseville. While she didn't know it at the time she moved, Eastpointe was already considering stringent regulations on fortune-tellers and psychics.
"Evidently, we got out at the right time," said MacLeod, a former Ford worker who has been a full-time psychic since 1998 and had a shop in Eastpointe for three years. "I find this all kind of ridiculous."
Eastpointe stands to join metro Detroit communities from Taylor to Milford Township to Macomb Township that either regulate or ban fortune-telling for profit. The primary goal of their ordinances is to keep out con artists who offer to solve clients' problems in exchange for cash or gifts. But so-called mainstream psychics like MacLeod, who say their visions of the future are purely for entertainment, say those laws unfairly punish them.
"If someone comes and tells you they can make a black aura or evil spirits go away if you give them money, it's time to walk away," MacLeod said. "But to pick on fortune-tellers based on stereotypes is wrong."
Eastpointe currently has no psychic establishments and has no complaints about criminal activity by psychics, but Mayor Pro-Tem Veronica Klinefelt said the possibility of someone scamming citizens -- especially seniors -- is too high to ignore.
"It is a preventative measure," Klinefelt said. "The individuals I am concerned about are people who set up shop for a short period of time and take off."
An early draft of the measure, would have required potential fortune- telling shop operators to give information on their clients to the city, but Klinefelt said it will be toned down. However, she does expect the final ordinance to call for background checks, police inspections of shops and annual registration of psychics.
MacLeod and other operators of psychic businesses in metro Detroit say the Eastpointe ordinance would simply be too broad.
"There are fraudulent people out there regardless of the profession and people come here out of free will," said MacLeod, who trained at Arthur Findlay College, a spiritual school near London. Reyna Long, a Royal Oak psychic who travels across the United States to do readings for long-time clients and people who have heard of her through word of mouth, says she wonders why Eastpointe is considering new regulations.
"Is it from a business, or a moralistic standpoint?" Long said. "I think there is a misunderstanding about what we do and educating people is important, but regulating is not," Long, 57, said. Some psychic business operators don't mind some degree of regulation.
"I am not against the background checks, but I would have a problem with providing a client list because we often don't take down the names of people who come in," said Carole Navarre, who owns the Boston Tea Room in Wyandotte but is not a psychic.
She said the 10 psychics she employs underwent a strenuous interview process before they were hired, largely because she was aware of the potential for frauds in the psychic community. "If you want to run this type of business right it is a tricky balancing act, so you have to make sure you have the right people," she said.
Eastpointe Mayor Dave Austin said the City Council and Klinefelt just want to set some parameters and added he does not have a problem with psychics.
"There have been some scams in this city involving seniors, and I guess she just wants to make sure businesses like that stay on the straight and narrow," Austin said. "I don't have a problem with it."
June 4, 2006
A visitor to the country cottage owned by the famous physicist Niels Bohr was surprised to see a horseshoe nailed over the door, and asked Bohr, "Surely you don't believe in that?"
Bohr replied, "Of course not, but I understand that it brings good luck whether you believe in it or not."
While the impish Bohr was presumably joking, Benson Bobrick takes very seriously the fundamental claim of astrology -- that celestial bodies, like Bohr's horseshoe, have a determining influence on individual human fate.
Mr. Bobrick, who has a PhD from Columbia University in English and Comparative Literature and has been described in the New York Times as "perhaps the most interesting historian writing today," provides a sweeping demonstration in The Fated Sky: Astrology in History (Simon & Schuster, $26, 356 pages), his ninth book, of the power astrology has held over the minds of men for thousands of years.
In Mr. Bobrick's words, "This is not a book for or against astrology, but a book about its impact on history and on the history of ideas." Its 300-odd pages are full of accounts of how belief in astrology affected the behavior of major historical figures, and therefore the fate of both individuals and nations, regardless of whether that belief is true or false.
Traditional astrology was used in four different ways: mundane astrology gave predictions about such general phenomena as weather, harvests and politics; natal astrology used the positions of the heavenly bodies at the time of an individual's birth to foretell his character and destiny; hortatory astrology cast a horoscope at a particular time to answer a question asked then; and finally, astrology was used for elections, determining the most propitious time to carry out a particular endeavor.
Mr. Bobrick provides a very brief account of the complicated theoretical structure upon which all of these activities were based. The structure dates back over 3,000 years -- at least as far as the ancient Chaldeans and Babylonians -- and was passed on via the Egyptians and the Greeks.
The 12 signs of the zodiac, familiar to anyone who has ever glanced at a horoscope in a newspaper, are named after different constellations, and are related to different sections of the sky. The 12 signs, in turn, are supposedly controlled by the seven planets, a term which, astrologically speaking, connotes the sun and the moon as well as what modern astronomy classifies as the five planets visible to the unaided eye (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.)
The planets beyond Saturn, discovered only after the invention of the telescope, play no part in classical astrology, although after their discovery some au courant astrologers began to take them into account in their horoscopes.
The author's account, however, even though it is supplemented by a lengthy glossary defining many of the technical terms involved in, is inadequate to explain to the uninitiated reader exactly how the system works. Mr. Bobrick does not discuss the different versions of astrology practiced in China and other parts of the orient.
Most of the book consists of a series of entertaining accounts of the lives of astrologers and their clients through the ages. We all remember Shakespeare's cautionary account of the fate of Julius Caesar when he failed to beware the ides of March, and Mr. Bobrick fills in many more details of the role astrology played in Caesar's life, as well as those of many other figures of historical note, all the way through George W. Bush.
Mr. Bobrick, who regrets the dumbed-down version of astrology that predominates today, recounts many astonishing successes of predictions made by astrologers. He tells us that seven months before the 2004 presidential election, the traditional astronomer he asked to cast horoscopes for both candidates predicted a Bush victory, whereas most modern astrologers went with Sen. Kerry.
Modern science, and in particular, astronomy, developed when investigators gave up the more ambitious aims of astrology and adopted the more modest aim of using mathematical and experimental tools to examine how the natural world actually behaved.
In Chasing Hubble's Shadows: The Search for Galaxies at the Edge of Time (Hill and Wang, $24, 185 pages), the scientific journalist Jeff Kanipe takes us to the frontiers of today's astronomy, where astronomers use an armory of sophisticated tools and techniques to peer at dimly visible galaxies astonishingly far away and far back in time.
Their ability to do so has been magnified greatly since the launch (or, rather, the repair a few years later) of the Hubble Space Telescope, an unparalleled resource appropriately named after Edwin Hubble, the man whose painstaking observations in the 1920s and 1930s of distant galaxies showed that the universe was expanding.
The modern era of research into far galaxies began in 1975, when the Hubble telescope was focused for an extended period on a tiny area of the sky that appeared to be empty and took lengthy photographic exposures covering multiple wavelengths. This previously impossible level of scrutiny revealed several thousand previously unknown galaxies, each an assemblage of millions of stars. The area chosen was so far away that it provided a snapshot of the universe early in its development, relatively soon after the primeval Big Bang.
Mr. Kanipe brings the reader up to date on what astronomers have been doing to learn about these galaxies and the early development of the universe -- a task made even more difficult because during a significant length of time the high temperature meant that no radiation could penetrate it, meaning that it is inaccessible to observation.
The two great scientific mysteries of the age are that most of the universe seems to consist of "dark matter" and "dark energy," the terms used to describe our ignorance of the nature of most of the energy that holds the universe together and the matter of which it is constructed, neither of which corresponds to the forms of energy and matter which we observe around us.
Mr. Kanipe has provided a first-rate account of these mysteries and of how dauntless scientists go about trying to solve them.
Jeffrey Marsh has written widely on scientific topics and public issues ranging from nuclear strategy to social policy.
William Hughes is a Baltimore author, attorney, educator and professional actor. He has been writing political commentaries for over 40 years. His latest book, "Saying 'No' to the War Party," is a collection of his essays and photographs that targeted the "Special Interests," like the Neocons, Big Oil and the Military-Industrial Complex, that dragged the U.S. into the Iraqi war. The book was the author's way of challenging the outrageous conduct of the Bush-Cheney Gang, while making current history come alive for the people. Hughes' hope is that the Anti-War Movement will serve as a catalyst to restore the Republic before it is too late.
June 1, 2006
"Every religion is true...when understood metaphorically." - Joseph Campbell
According to the novel, "The Da Vinci Code," Mary Magdalene wasn't just a devout follower of Jesus. She was also his wife! They even had a child together and their bloodline extends down to present day France. The Vatican, through Opus Dei, portrayed as a pseudo-fascist organization, is killing people off left and right. They are doing this to suppress that story line, which is seen as a threat to the Church's hegemony. The book, authored by Dan Brown has, in turn, become a very popular movie. The screenplay was done by Akiva Goldsman. The flick was directed by Ron Howard, who cut his teeth on Tinsel Town's silly sitcom, "Happy Days." The All-American icon himself, Tom Hanks, plays the lead in this film which many practicing Christians consider a sacrilege and a gross insult to their faith. The "Da Vinci Code" is mostly fiction, but with kernels of truth found here and there, especially regarding the male-dominated Roman Catholic Church's irrational hatred of women and sex.
The success of "The Da Vinci Code, is history repeating itself. In 1957, Cecil B. DeMille, directed a movie with a biblical theme, called the "Ten Commandments." It, too, was a box office hit. It showed the enslaved Jews being led out of captivity in Egypt by Moses, a sort of Theodor Herzl of his time. Playing the Jewish saint was the Tom Hanks of his era - Charleston Heston. In the film, Moses/Heston opened up the turbulent Red Sea by waving his staff at it, which then permitted his desperate refugee people to cross over and return to Palestine. When the pursuing Egyptian Army tried to follow, the sea closed up on them and many of them drowned. The only thing missing from this high drama was having Barbara Walters narrate it. There is, however, one big, serious problem with the "Exodus" story, which is sourced by the Old Testament. There isn't any historical evidence to support it at all. None! According to the book, "The Laughing Jesus," it's a Jewish fable - a fantasy. Period! The Jewish scribes made it all up! (1)
The Ancient Egyptians were fantastic record keepers. "Texts, sculpture and artifacts testify to a sophisticated culture that really did endure for millennia," say the British authors, Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy. They go on to write: "There is no evidence for the existence of Moses. Although he is portrayed as an influential member of the Egyptian royal household, he is not mentioned in any Egyptian record. Nor is there any evidence to support the idea that the Jews were ever held captive in Egypt or that they made any exodus from the country under Moses' command. The Egyptians chronicled their history in great detail but make no mention of any captive Jews. Amongst the hundreds of thousands of Egyptian monumental inscriptions, tomb inscriptions and papyri, there is complete silence about the '600,000 men on foot, besides women and children,' who 'The Book of Exodus' tells us escaped from Pharaohs' armies. The story of Moses, with its many miracles, has all the hallmarks of a myth." (1)
With respect to the Bible as genuine history, Israel Finklestein, director of archaeology at Tel Aviv U., and his co-writer, Neil Silberman, describe it as "no more historical [than] the Homeric saga of Odysseus or Aeneas's founding of Rome. The birth of biblical narrative is too thoroughly filled with inconsistencies and anachronisms...that it must be considered more of an historical novel than an accurate historical chronicle." (2)
Another noted scholar, Thomas Thompson, Professor of the Old Testament at the U. of Copenhagen, goes even further. He challenged the supposed history of the ancient Israelites. He stated: "There is no evidence of a 'United Monarchy,' no evidence of a capital in Jerusalem or of any coherent, unified political force that dominated western Palestine, let alone an empire of the size the legends describe. We do not have evidence for the existence of kings named Saul, David or Solomon; nor do we have evidence for any temple at Jerusalem in this early period." (3) Piling on, Freke and Gandy underscored how, "In truth, the Ark of the Covenant... was never lost, just deleted from the record by an editorial hand when it became a liability." (1)
Authors Freke and Gandy also said, "The account of Moses' birth is a retelling of the myth of the birth of Sargon the Great, the king of Akkad, which is known in a number of variations from the early sixth century BCE. Like Moses, the child Sargon is 'set in a basket of rushes' and 'cast into the river,' from which he is later rescued by an influential woman. Similar Greek stories tell of the child Dionysus confined in a chest and thrown into the river Nile. These probably all go back to Egyptian stories which tell of Osiris confined in a chest and thrown into the Nile." (1) Somehow Freke and Gandy's book slipped by the Zionist censors. The ADL's Abe Foxman must have been sleeping at the switch on this one.
It actually gets worse! A fearless military type, named Joshua, supposedly led the Jews escaping the Egyptians into the so-called "Promised Land." Freke and Gandy said that kind of feat was "an historical impossibility." They wrote: "From the fourteenth to the twelfth centuries BCE, when the exodus is supposed to have occurred, Canaan was a province of Egypt, so the Jews would not have escaped from Egyptian rule at all, but merely passed from one Egyptian territory to another. The 'Book of Joshua,' which relates the Jews supposed invasion of the Promised Land, makes no mention of Egyptians in Canaan, when the area should have been crawling with them." (1)
The authors Freke and Gandy emphasized: "The Tanakh (or the Old Testament) is a collection of myths and legends. And to be fair to the Tanakh, it actually never claims to be history. In fact, you won't find the word 'history' anywhere in its pages, because the word did not even exist in Hebrew." The Brit duo believe the message of the original Christians of "awakening" to oneness and to love was transformed over the centuries by a literalist loving, power hungry elite into the authoritarian Roman Catholic Church. Many of these early Christians, the authors insist, saw Jesus as a "mythical hero of a symbolic teaching story," which represented a "spiritual journey," that eventually led the individual to the "experience of awakening, they called gnosis or knowing... They imagined a new world that would no longer be divided..."
Hold on! There is more. Professor Ze'ev Herzog of the U. of Tel Aviv's Institute of Archaeology, published, in 1999, an article in the Israeli newspaper, "Ha'aretz. In his controversial commentary, entitled, "Deconstructing the Walls of Jericho," he declared the "exodus from Egypt, the invasion by Joshua and the famous walls of Jericho are all without historical foundation." (1) Herzog lamented: "These facts have been known for years, but Israel is a stubborn people and nobody wants to hear about it." (4)
Finally, Freke and Gandy, said, "Although [Herzog's] views are widely shared in the academic community, [his] article caused a furor, with secular Israelis responding the most violently. The reason is simple. They immediately recognized that the modern state of Israel would be seriously compromised if its claim to the land turned out to be based on a myth." Considering all of the above, do you think Ron Howard will ever direct a movie, with a screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, with the theme, "Debunking the Exodus Myth?" If you do, I know a guy, who has a ton of stocks in Ken Lay's Enron that he's looking to unload!
1. "The Laughing Jesus: Religious Lies and Gnostic Wisdom."
2. "The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts."
3. "The Bible in History: How Writers Create a Past."
4. "It Ain't Necessarily So: Investigating the Truth of the Biblical Past," by M. Sturgis.
© William Hughes 2006.
William Hughes is the author of "Saying ''No' to the War Party" (IUniverse, Inc.). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Five Holistic Approaches Offer Alternatives to High-Tech Treatments
BOULDER, Colo., May 31 /PRNewswire/ -- Alternative Medicine magazine, a leading newsstand publication on natural living and healthcare, announced today that its June 2006 issue includes a special section focusing on infertility. The section, titled "Opening the Door to Fertility," covers five all-natural ways to enhance fertility: Maya abdominal massage, Traditional Chinese Medicine, nutrition and supplements, retreats, and yoga.
Approximately 6.1 million women and their partners struggle with fertility in America, and many people find themselves navigating conventional fertility treatments including invasive tests, harsh drugs with countless side effects, and in vitro procedures. "Opening the Door to Fertility" offers readers alternative therapies to infertility that are often safer, less stressful, and cheaper.
"Alternative Medicine magazine is committed to helping readers find safe and effective ways to obtain optimal health," says the magazine's editor-in-chief, Linda Sparrowe. "We want couples to explore all their options and find their own path to parenthood. That's why we felt it was so important to find out what's out there in terms of natural fertility treatments and present the most promising, healthy options for mind, body, and spirit."
For more than 14 years, Alternative Medicine magazine has been the trusted voice of the complementary and alternative medicine field. Alternative Medicine guides and inspires its readers to make informed decisions about their health and well-being in every facet of their lives.
For information about Alternative Medicine magazine, contact Joe Spanarella at 303-565-2030 or email@example.com;
About Alternative Medicine
Alternative Medicine magazine, part of InnoVision Communications (formerly InnerDoorway), is published 10 times per year. Each issue offers the latest news on health conditions, herbs and supplements, natural beauty products, food as medicine, and conscious living. The editorial content, backed by the strength and credibility of the research in InnoVision's peer-reviewed practitioner journals, emphasizes practical solutions and gives its readers the information they need to better care for themselves. Alternative Medicine magazine headquarters are at 2995 Wilderness Place, Suite 205, Boulder CO, 80301; http://www.alternativemedicine.com; 303-440-7402, fax: 303-440-7446
SOURCE Alternative Medicine magazine
By Jebediah Reed Popular Science
Friday, June 2, 2006; Posted: 12:36 p.m. EDT (16:36 GMT)
Scientists have yet to identify these unusual red particles. In April, Louis, a solid-state physicist at Mahatma Gandhi University, published a paper in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Astrophysics and Space Science in which he hypothesizes that the samples -- water taken from the mysterious blood-colored showers that fell sporadically across Louis's home state of Kerala in the summer of 2001 -- contain microbes from outer space.
Specifically, Louis has isolated strange, thick-walled, red-tinted cell-like structures about 10 microns in size. Stranger still, dozens of his experiments suggest that the particles may lack DNA yet still reproduce plentifully, even in water superheated to nearly 600 degrees Fahrenheit . (The known upper limit for life in water is about 250 degrees Fahrenheit .)
So how to explain them? Louis speculates that the particles could be extraterrestrial bacteria adapted to the harsh conditions of space and that the microbes hitched a ride on a comet or meteorite that later broke apart in the upper atmosphere and mixed with rain clouds above India.
If his theory proves correct, the cells would be the first confirmed evidence of alien life and, as such, could yield tantalizing new clues to the origins of life on Earth.
Last winter, Louis sent some of his samples to astronomer Chandra Wickramasinghe and his colleagues at Cardiff University in Wales, who are now attempting to replicate his experiments; Wickramasinghe expects to publish his initial findings later this year.
Meanwhile, more down-to-earth theories abound. One Indian government investigation conducted in 2001 lays blame for what some have called the "blood rains" on algae.
Other theories have implicated fungal spores, red dust swept up from the Arabian peninsula, even a fine mist of blood cells produced by a meteor striking a high-flying flock of bats.
Louis and his colleagues dismiss all these theories, pointing to the fact that both algae and fungus possess DNA and that blood cells have thin walls and die quickly when exposed to water and air.
More important, they argue, blood cells don't replicate. "We've already got some stunning pictures -- transmission electron micrographs -- of these cells sliced in the middle," Wickramasinghe says. "We see them budding, with little daughter cells inside the big cells."
Louis's theory holds special appeal for Wickramasinghe. A quarter of a century ago, he co-authored the modern theory of panspermia, which posits that bacteria-riddled space rocks seeded life on Earth.
"If it's true that life was introduced by comets four billion years ago," the astronomer says, "one would expect that microorganisms are still injected into our environment from time to time. This could be one of those events."
The next significant step, explains University of Sheffield microbiologist Milton Wainwright, who is part of another British team now studying Louis's samples, is to confirm whether the cells truly lack DNA. So far, one preliminary DNA test has come back positive.
"Life as we know it must contain DNA, or it's not life," he says. "But even if this organism proves to be an anomaly, the absence of DNA wouldn't necessarily mean it's extraterrestrial."
Louis and Wickramasinghe are planning further experiments to test the cells for specific carbon isotopes. If the results fall outside the norms for life on Earth, it would be powerful new evidence for Louis's idea, of which even Louis himself remains skeptical.
'We are absolutely, mind-blown angry,' says psychic
Friday, June 2, 2006; Posted: 9:39 p.m. EDT (01:39 GMT)
CHICAGO, Illinois (Reuters) -- Uri Geller's dream of turning the first home Elvis Presley owned into a museum dedicated to the paranormal has been dealt a setback nearly as bizarre as the spoon-bending trick that made the Israeli-born psychic famous.
Geller, who thought he had purchased the Memphis property in an eBay auction last month for $905,100, learned Friday the sellers had turned around and sold the 3,000-square-foot house to a foundation set up by Mike Curb, the longtime music producer.
The King of rock 'n' roll lived in the house at 1034 Audubon Dr. for 13 months before moving to Graceland, the now-famous Memphis estate where he died in 1977.
It was not immediately clear what Curb, elected lieutenant governor of California in the late 1970s, paid for the four-bedroom, two-bath home Elvis bought in 1956 with royalties from "Heartbreak Hotel."
What was clear late Friday was that Geller was preparing for a protracted legal fight to get the house back. "We are absolutely, mind-blown angry," Geller told Reuters by telephone from his home in London. "Of course we're going to sue."
Geller and his two partners, New York lawyer Pete Gleason and Lisbeth Silvandersson, a Swedish-born jewelry maker who lives in England, may not be able to pursue a breach of contract claim against the sellers.
That's because eBay maintains real estate auctions on its site are marketing events, and not actual sales.
"The platform we provide in real estate really serves to generate interest," eBay spokeswoman Catherine England told Reuters. "... It isn't a legally binding contract."
And yet another odd twist may yet give Geller a chance.
The sellers, a husband and wife, recently had their debts discharged in bankruptcy court, Doug Alrutz, Geller's Memphis lawyer, told Reuters.
While the couple had included the home in their list of assets, the court did not appreciate its value. As a result, the bankruptcy trustee is now thinking about reopening the case, a move that could lead the court to reverse all the sellers' actions, Alrutz said.
Copyright 2006 Reuters.
CAVERSHAM, England, May 30 (UPI) -- A woman in England due to give birth on June 6 is fighting with her hospital to induce her sooner to avoid delivering on the demonic date of 6/6/6.
Melissa Parker, 30, said as a fan of "The Omen," a movie about a demonic child, she's genuinely concerned about the numerology involved, The Sun reported Tuesday.
"I'm terrified the birth will go wrong or the child will have evil in him or her," Parker said. "Even worse my beautiful baby could be the devil himself -- the anti-Christ."
The figure 666 is mentioned in the Bible and various cultures believe it represents the date the anti-Christ will appear on Earth, but that doesn't hold any water at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.
A hospital spokesman said Parker's request for an induction was refused because due dates are not 100 percent certain.
"There is little we can do to change them without a Caesarean or inducing the child, which we try to avoid," the spokesman said. "We must let nature take its course. The baby will be born when ready, no matter what day it is."
© Copyright 2006 United Press International, Inc.
June 2, 2006
Southerners disagree whether Darwin's theory must be taught in Nunavik's schools
The Kativik School Board, the education committee of Salluit, and even a top provincial education department official don't see eye-to-eye with Quebec's education minister over whether students should be taught about evolution.
This lack of agreement over evolution's place in the educational program is a troubling "internal problem," said the minister's spokesperson, Marie-Claude Lavigne.
Elasuk Pauyungie, a long-time member of Salluit's education committee, municipal counselor and host with Taqramiut Nipingat Inc. radio, said she would personally prefer children not be taught about evolution in school.
During an interview from Salluit, with TNI's Joanassie Koperqualuk as interpreter, Pauyungie said the school committee felt justified in its reprimand to Alexandre April for teaching evolution to his Ikusik School classes because "evolution wasn't part of the curriculum."
But Minister of Education Jean-Marc Fournier says evolution is part of the curriculum in Quebec and in Nunavik, as well.
Last week in a Quebec City scrum, Fournier told journalists "it's important for the school board and the school to deliver the services they are supposed to deliver."
"It's important to have the child knowing what is happening and different versions so they cannot have just one. That's the responsibility of our department."
However, a key education department official in Quebec City told Nunatsiaq News that evolution isn't part of the required school curriculum in Nunavik.
Jacqueline Dorman, who is responsible for northern Quebec within the education department's aboriginal section, dismissed the uproar over the teaching of evolution as "a tempest in a teapot."
Dorman said evolution is a detail in the larger curriculum and just one of many theories.
Dorman said local school boards determine the details of what is taught, while Quebec's education minister makes sure the overall curriculum is respected in all Quebec schools.
"It's up to the KSB to handle this," she said.
In a news release last week, the KSB said the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement confirms the school board's "right and the responsibility to develop programs and teaching materials in Inuktitut, English and French" as long as these meet the objectives prescribed by Quebec's education department.
The release said teaching evolution is not an objective of the regular Quebec high school science program, and evolution is only one paragraph in a Secondary 3 (Grade 9) textbook.
"That's it," noted the news release. "If a teacher adds to the program, it is not with the sanction of our pedagogical counsellors, or that of the school board."
The KSB's release said its students are free to learn more about "evolutionary theory" from school library materials and on the Internet.
Posted on Fri, Jun. 02, 2006 BY STEVE PAINTER Eagle Topeka bureau
TOPEKA - Kansas voters are sending mixed signals on two key issues that could determine the outcome of State Board of Education races this year, according to a new poll.
They also have a wide range of priorities as they decide who will be governor for the next four years and serve in the Kansas Legislature and Congress the next two years.
Survey USA conducted the poll of 501 registered voters Tuesday and Wednesday for The Wichita Eagle and KWCH 12 Eyewitness News.
Likely voters appear to agree with a majority of current state board members that the theory of evolution should hold a less prominent place in science instruction.
Seventy-two percent of those polled said they favor candidates who support teaching alternative theories to evolution. The board's move last year to encourage more criticism of evolution brought Kansas worldwide attention, much of it negative.
"It's a theory. They can't prove it. They try to make everybody look ridiculous if you don't believe it," said Laura Weideman, 75, of Winfield.
Bob Beatty, a political science professor at Washburn University, said the impact of publicity that the evolution debate generated is not clear.
"We know one effect is, it has brought about opponents," he said.
Also by a wide margin, a majority of respondents rejected a move by conservative board members -- still pending -- to adopt abstinence-only guidelines for sex education classes. Instead, by 2-to-1 ratio, respondents preferred a safe-sex curriculum that includes information on birth control.
"Definitely the kids need to know some things. I had fifth-grade kids that were already experimenting," said Nancy Varneke, 66, a retired Wichita elementary teacher.
"Naturally it should come from the parents, but that's not always going to happen," she said. "They need to know about abstinence. They certainly need to know about AIDS."
Voters ranked health care, illegal immigration and school funding as the most important issues that will determine how they vote in elections this year.
Abortion regulations also were important to a significant number of voters, while taxes, gambling and other issues were farther down the list.
On how the Legislature should deal with school funding in the future, the largest group of respondents chose "none of the above" when asked whether higher taxes, school consolidation or budget cuts elsewhere were the answer.
"The public sounds a heck of a lot like our Legislature," said Joe Aistrup, head of the political science department at Kansas State University.
Lawmakers approved a three-year school funding plan that they may not be able to afford by the third year, depending on whether the economy continues to expand and generate tax revenue.
Varneke was among those who chose "other."
"I'm definitely for gambling, for casinos, and having that go toward education," she said.
Voters said the economy would figure prominently in their decision to either retain Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for another four years or replace her with a Republican nominee yet to be determined.
Thirty-six percent said a candidate's stance on the economy was their top priority, followed closely by stance on moral issues, at 32 percent.
That 32 percent is not likely to vote for Sebelius because she has blocked efforts to further regulate abortion, Beatty said.
"If you're a conservative in Kansas, that's a good base to have," he said. "If the economy tanks, you're in great shape."
Character came in third on the priority list for choosing a governor.
Reach Steve Painter at 785-296-3006 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
GAINESVILLE, FL, United States (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they`ve determined comfortable living is not why so many different life forms seem to converge at the warmer areas of the planet.
Researchers say higher temperatures near the equator increase the metabolisms of the inhabitants, fueling genetic changes that lead to the creation of new species.
The finding -- by researchers from the University of Florida, the U.S. National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Harvard University and the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque -- helps explain why more living species seem to exist near the equator and might also have a bearing on concepts such as global warming and efforts to preserve diversity of life on Earth.
'We`ve shown that there is, indeed, a higher rate of evolutionary change in the form and structure of plankton in the tropics and that it increases exponentially because of temperature,' said James Gillooly, a University of Florida assistant professor of zoology. 'It tells us something about the fundamental mechanisms that shape biodiversity on the planet.'
The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Copyright 2006 by United Press International
James Randerson, science correspondent
Tuesday May 30, 2006
A leading British scientist said yesterday that he had given up trying to persuade creationists that Darwin's theory is correct after repeatedly being misrepresented and, he said, branded a liar.
Speaking at the Guardian Hay festival at Hay-on-Wye, the evolutionary biologist Steve Jones spoke of his frustrations when trying to debate with religious opponents.
"I don't engage with creationists directly," he said, saying that, when he had, they had frequently quoted him out of context or accused him of lying. "If somebody has decided to believe something - whatever the evidence - then there is nothing you can do about it."
The University College London professor spoke to the provocative title, Why Creationism is Wrong and Evolution is Right. He pointed out that acceptance of Darwin's theory on a global scale was a "minority belief". According to polls, 100 million Americans believe in creationism.
His talk laid out some of the evidence for evolution, such as that of changes in the HIV virus after infecting people. He also hinted at a puzzle thrown up by the human genome project. Far from the hundreds of thousands of genes many geneticists expected, there seem to be around 30,000.
Another revelation was the notion that the chimpanzee genome project has shown that women are closer to chimps then men. Prof Jones explained that is because the X chromosome has changed less than the Y chromosome since we split from a common ancestor with chimps. Women have two X chromosomes compared with XY in men.
The most important difference between evolutionists and creationists, Prof Jones concluded, is that scientists are always prepared to say, "I don't know".
"If there weren't any unknown parts of evolution, bits we don't understand, it wouldn't be a science," he said, "That's one thing that believers never say, because it's all written down in a big book."
In 1997, Prof Jones was awarded the Royal Society's Michael Faraday prize, the UK's foremost award for communicating science to the public.
Steve Jones was preaching to the converted about evolution at the Hay festival. It was just a shame America's 100m creationists could not have been there.
come this morning to a talk on what is not a terribly contentious issue," said Hay festival director Peter Florence, introducing the first big bank holiday speaker, the biologist Steve Jones. Certainly, one felt that the huge audience who had turned up to listen to a lecture entitled, with unashamed didacticism, Why creationism is wrong and evolution is right, were there to partake in the pleasure of having their views affirmed, rather than challenged.
"Apparently, 100m Americans believe in creationism," said Jones, peering bright-eyed over the top of his lecter. "As I said to my publisher I don't mind if they burn my books so long as they buy them first ... " The aim of the talk, he explained, is to establish the testability and therefore prove the truth of evolution. After gaining the audience's sympathy with a few well-aimed gags at the creationists' expense ("I'm not sure why Americans deny the truth of evolution, when the evidence [he gestures to a slide of pictures of George Bush juxtaposed with photographs of apes appears on the screen behind him] is all around them ...") he waltzed them off at top speed on a whistle-stop tour of evidence for that evolution, this fundamental theory which he described as "the grammar of biology".
Darwin's definition of evolution is 'descent with modification', or as Jones put it, "genetics plus time", a theory so elegantly simple that "it could even be physics". He illustrated the principle with examples from linguistic development and, more lengthily, from the progression of the HIV epidemic. This example proves illustrative when it comes to the other great principle of evolution, natural selection: if you contract the HIV virus, Jones explained, your chance of remaining asymptomatic depends on your possession of a protective gene. Chimpanzees, in whom the virus first appeared, tend to have the protective variant; in Africa it is becoming more common; in Europe it remains rare. However, said Jones, if he were to make on evolutionary prediction, it is that in 1000 years time, every one of us will possess the protective gene, rendering the HIV virus no more harmful than flu.
He stuck with the example of HIV in his concluding examination of the ways in which we as humans are evolving now. While we have as a species evolved very little on a genetic level for many thousands of years, Jones said, there are other ways in which we have, quite clearly, evolved dramatically. Despite our extreme physical susceptibility to HIV, for example, we do, unlike chimps, have the power to contain the epidemic, via education and the development of drugs - cultural and intellectual evolution, in other words. "There are," he concluded, "intelligent designers out there. But they work for the pharmaceutical industry."
There was nothing groundbreaking in Jones's talk; everyone there, no doubt, has heard it all before. But it certainly bears reiterating, and Jones's particular talent lies in his ability to inject colour and flavour into what can be a dry and impenetrable subject. The only problem, in the end, is that Jones was - to use an inappropriately religious metaphor - preaching to the converted this morning. One is left wishing that the 100m American creationists - or the one in three people in the UK who allegedly believe that the universe was designed - could be made to listen to him talk. Surely even they would find it difficult to resist him.
George J. Annas, J.D., M.P.H.
Religious arguments have permeated debates on the role of the law in medical practice at the beginning and the end of life. But nowhere has religion played so prominent a role as in the century-old quest to banish or marginalize the teaching of evolution in science classes. Nor has new genetics research that supports evolutionary theory at the molecular level dampened antievolution sentiment.1 Requiring public-school science teachers to teach specific religion-based alternatives to Darwin's theory of evolution is just as bad, in the words of political comedian Bill Maher, as requiring obstetricians to teach medical students the alternative theory that storks deliver babies. Nonetheless, stork lore is not religious lore, and the central constitutional objection to banning evolution from the public-school curriculum or marginalizing it is that this would violate the "establishment clause" of the First Amendment, which provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The United States has had two waves of religion-inspired antievolution activism, and a decision by U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III made just before Christmas 2005 marks the end of the third wave.2
The First Wave Outlawing Education about Evolution
In 1925, Tennessee adopted a law that made it a crime for any public-school teacher to "teach any theory that denies the story of divine creation of man as taught in the Bible and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals." In that same year, John Thomas Scopes was tried and convicted of violating this law in one of the most famous trials of the 20th century, dramatized in the play Inherit the Wind (1955) and the film based on the play (1960). Scopes was prosecuted by the eloquent three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan and defended by Clarence Darrow. The journalist H.L. Mencken described the prosecution as a religious attack on an alleged "conspiracy of scientists . . . to break down religion, propagate immorality, and reduce mankind to the level of the brute." On appeal of the conviction, the Tennessee Supreme Court concluded that the statute was constitutional, because it could find "no unanimity among the members of any religious establishment" about evolution. The court nevertheless reversed Scopes's conviction on a technicality and instructed the state attorney general not to try Scopes again, saying, "We see nothing to be gained by prolonging the life of this bizarre case."3
In 1928, Arkansas legislators passed a law they believed would better withstand a First Amendment challenge. The Arkansas law simply made it a crime "to teach the theory or doctrine that mankind ascended or descended from a lower order of animals." This "monkey law" was challenged in the mid-1960s by a young high-school biology teacher, who had obtained an injunction against its enforcement. On appeal, the Arkansas Supreme Court reversed and lifted the injunction in a two-sentence opinion, finding the law "a valid exercise of the state's power." The case then went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the Arkansas law was declared unconstitutional as a violation of the First Amendment, because it furthered no secular purpose, only a religious one:
The overriding fact is that Arkansas law selects from the body of knowledge a particular segment when it proscribes for the sole reason that it is deemed to conflict with a particular religious doctrine: that is, with a particular interpretation of the Book of Genesis by a particular religious group. . . . Government in our democracy, state and national, must be neutral in matters of religious theory, doctrine, and practice.4
The Second Wave Creationism
The First Amendment prohibits the state from establishing religion. To withstand a First Amendment challenge on this basis, the state must satisfy three tests: the law must have a secular purpose, have a primarily secular effect, and not require excessive government entanglement in religion.5 Arkansas attempted to meet these tests when it enacted a 1981 law that did not require any direct teaching of the Bible, but only that "public schools . . . give balanced treatment to creation-science and to evolution-science."6 The Arkansas statute defined creation science as the following:
the scientific evidence and related inferences that indicate: (1) sudden creation of the universe, energy, and life from nothing; (2) the insufficiency of mutation and natural selection in bringing about development of all living kinds from a single organism; (3) changes only within fixed limits of originally created kinds of plants and animals; (4) separate ancestry for man and apes; (5) explanation of the earth's geology by catastrophism, including the occurrence of a world wide flood; and (6) a relatively recent inception of the earth and living kinds.7
Federal judge William R. Overton, in a detailed opinion, concluded in 1982 that this definition was based on the Bible and that the ideas in the definition "are not similar to the literal interpretation of Genesis; they are identical and parallel to no other story of creation."7 Those challenging the law also argued that creation science was not science at all in that it lacked all the essential characteristics of science its conclusions had to be taken on faith and were not tentative, testable, or falsifiable. Overton found the law unconstitutional because its purpose was religious, not secular.7
Shortly thereafter, a similar law, the 1982 Louisiana "Creationism Act," reached the Supreme Court in the case of Edwards v. Aguillard.8 The act forbade the teaching of evolution in public schools unless accompanied by instruction in "creation science." The Court struck down the law, because it had a religious purpose: "to advance the religious viewpoint that a supernatural creator was responsible for the creation of humankind." The Court concluded:
The Louisiana Creationism Act advances a religious doctrine by requiring either the banishment of the theory of evolution from public school classrooms or the presentation of a religious viewpoint that rejects evolution in its entirety. The Act violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because it seeks to employ the symbolic and financial support of government to achieve a religious purpose.8
This decision ended the short life of teaching creationism in the public schools and ushered in the third wave of antievolution sentiment: intelligent design.
The Third Wave Intelligent Design
Understanding that it was a violation of the First Amendment for the state either to ban the teaching of evolution outright (first wave) or to require the teaching of "creationism" when evolution was taught (second wave), antievolutionists adopted a new strategy to expose unresolved problems in the theory of evolution and require that other theories, including one called "intelligent design," also be taught. The Discovery Institute established its Center for Science and Culture to challenge Darwin's theory and promote the inclusion of intelligent design in school curricula nationwide. President George W. Bush entered this debate, saying in August 2005 that when he was the governor of Texas, "he felt like both sides ought to be properly taught," and that today, "if you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."9
The first legal challenge to requiring the teaching of intelligent design with evolution involved the tiny Dover Area School District, in Pennsylvania, and the case was decided in December 2005.2 It involved two primary questions. First, is intelligent design a science (or is it just creationism under another name)? And second, does requiring the teaching of intelligent design in science classes amount to a governmental endorsement of religion or serve a religious purpose?
U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III, a Republican appointed to the court by President George W. Bush, presided over a six-week trial during which he heard evidence from members of the school board, scientists, and proponents of intelligent design, among others. At issue was the constitutionality, under the establishment clause of the First Amendment, of two actions taken by the Dover Area School Board. The first was a strangely worded October 2004 resolution, passed by the school board by a vote of six to three: "Students will be made aware of gaps or problems in Darwin's theory and of other theories of evolution, including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of Life is not taught."2 The next month, the school district announced in a press release that beginning in January 2005, teachers would be required to read the following statement to students in the ninth-grade biology class at Dover High School:
The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part. Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations. Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves. With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of Origins of Life to individual students and their families. As a Standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on Standards-based assessments.2
The court heard extensive testimony about whether intelligent design qualifies as science and whether intelligent design took into consideration that there could be any other intelligent designer than God. The petitioners introduced into evidence early drafts of the book on intelligent design referred to by the Dover School Board, Of Pandas and People, some of which had been written before Edwards v. Aguillard and some of it after the opinion had been rendered. This evidence helped to persuade Judge Jones that intelligent design was just a new term for creationism:
By comparing the pre and post Edwards drafts of Pandas, three astonishing points emerge: (1) the definition for creation science in the early drafts is identical to the definition of ID [intelligent design]; (2) cognates of the word creation (creationism and creationist) which appeared approximately 150 times were deliberately and systematically replaced with the phrase ID; and (3) the changes occurred shortly after the Supreme Court held that creation science is religious and cannot be taught in public school science classes in Edwards.2
The judge concluded that "this compelling evidence strongly supports plaintiff's assertion that ID is creationism re-labeled." The judge could have stopped there but decided instead to answer the question of whether intelligent design is science, stating:
After a six week trial that spanned twenty-one days and included countless hours of detailed expert witness presentation, the court is confident that no other tribunal in the United States is in a better position than are we to traipse into this controversial area [and] . . . in the hope that it may prevent the obvious waste of judicial and other resources which would be occasioned by a subsequent trial involving the precise question which is before us.2
Judge Jones summarized the expert testimony in more than 25 pages, concluding that it demonstrated to him that intelligent design is "an interesting theological argument" but is not science for many reasons: it invokes a supernatural cause; it relies on the same flawed arguments as creationism; its attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community; it has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community; it has not generated any peer-reviewed publications; and it has not been the subject of testing or research. The judge quoted from a report on creationism by the National Academy of Sciences as an authoritative and definitive source: "Creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of sciences. These claims subordinate observed data to statements based on authority, revelation, or religious belief."10
Intelligent Design as Religion
The judge applied two related tests that the Supreme Court has set forth to determine whether an action by the government is prohibited by the establishment clause. The first test is whether the act amounts to an "endorsement of religion" by "conveying or attempting to convey a message that religion or a particular religious belief is favored or preferred."11 The second test is whether the government's purpose is to advance religion or has as its primary effect the promotion of religion.5 Regarding the endorsement test, the judge concluded that, among other things, an "objective" ninth-grade student "would view the disclaimer as a strong official endorsement of religion," as would an objective adult member of the Dover community.2 To determine the purpose of the requirement of teaching intelligent design, the judge examined the statements and actions of the members of the school board, which showed that the members who sponsored the new rule had religious motivations and worked with the Discovery Institute to promote the institute's agenda of intelligent design, including arranging for science teachers to watch a Discovery Institute film entitled Icons of Evolution.
At meetings in June 2004, members of the school board spoke "in favor of teaching creationism and disparaged the theory of evolution on religious grounds." At one meeting a member said, "It is inexcusable to have a [science] book that says man descended from apes with nothing to counterbalance it," and "this country wasn't founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution. This country was founded on Christianity and our students should be taught as such." At another meeting, the same member refused to agree to purchase a biology textbook unless the board also approved the purchase of Of Pandas and People as a companion book and ultimately won the vote. When the six-to-three vote took place at the October 2004 meeting to approve the curricular change, there was no discussion of a rationale for the change.
The board members' attempt to persuade the judge that they had acted on the basis of a secular purpose was unavailing. In the judge's words, "their asserted purposes are a sham," and he noted that the board members had relied on legal advice solely from "two organizations with demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions, the Discovery Institute" and the Thomas More Law Center. The judge's overall conclusion was unequivocal: the effect of the school board's actions "in adopting the curricular change was to impose a religious view of biological origins into the biology course, in violation of the Establishment Clause."2
A Fourth Wave?
Judge Jones's strong opinion concludes the third wave of antievolution teaching activity in the United States. Even though the opinion has no force as a binding precedent outside Pennsylvania, it is so well reasoned that it is likely to be persuasive to other judges around the country, and most state legislatures and school boards will probably be strongly influenced by it. The opinion has already caused the Ohio Board of Education, for example, to reverse its 2002 mandate that 10th-grade biology classes single out evolution for "critical analysis."12,13 The Catholic Church, through the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, has also reacted, describing the opinion as "correct" in that intelligent design should not be taught as a scientific alternative to evolution.14 Catholic doctrine does not preclude evolution.14 As Richard C. Lewontin has noted, the real objection that many Christians have is to Darwin's theory of randomness, because it means that "rational beings capable of moral choices might never have come into existence."15 Lewontin writes:
But without such beings the concept of Redemption is unintelligible. Christianity demands, at the very least, the inevitable emergence of creatures capable of sin. Without a history of human sin, there is no Christ. Everything else is up for grabs. Neither the Vatican nor much of quite conventional Protestant theology demand that one take the story of Genesis 1 literally.15
In a country in which more than 50 percent of adults consistently tell pollsters that they believe God created humans in their present form within the past 10,000 years, however, there will undoubtedly be a fourth wave that will feature yet another strategy to promote creationism by questioning evolution.16,17,18 It looks as if this next wave will jettison the creationist and intelligent-design baggage and concentrate exclusively on a "teach the controversy" strategy. That this controversy is one largely manufactured by the proponents of creationism and intelligent design may not matter, and as long as the controversy is taught in classes on current affairs, politics, or religion, and not in science classes, neither scientists nor citizens should be concerned.
Of course, the theory of evolution cannot answer all questions about how life emerged or how the human brain developed, nor is evolution even relevant to the question of where the original matter of the universe came from. There is plenty of room for diverse opinions and beliefs on these subjects. Alfred Russell Wallace, for example, who, simultaneously with Darwin, proposed the theory of natural selection as the engine of evolution, believed that the development of the human brain could be explained only by divine intervention. Nobel laureate John C. Eccles, in his treatise on the evolution of the human brain, was unable to account for the unique individual self and concluded: "I am constrained to attribute the uniqueness of the Self or Soul to a supernatural creation . . . which is implanted into the fetus at some time between conception and birth."19 And Stephen Hawking speaks for himself and probably for most physicists when he concludes that if and when scientists are able to construct a unified theory of the universe, humans will still be confronted with the nonscience questions of why we and the universe exist, and "about the nature of God."20
The quest to banish religion from politics and government is ultimately, as the Jesuit priest Robert Drinan notes, "hopelessly unrealistic, because religions are by their nature intended to create cultures, even civilizations."21 Religion and government are not inherently incompatible, and they necessarily have formal and informal relationships with each other. Nor are science and religion inherently incompatible.22,23 Nevertheless, religion is not science and should not be taught in science class. In the United States, the higher power that prevents this is the First Amendment.
From the Department of Health Law, Bioethics, and Human Rights, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston.
How Time magazine got it wrong by Lawrence Norton
The cover article of Time magazine dated May 15, 2006 was entitled, "New Insights Into the Hidden World of Autism." The article began with the story of a 13-year old profoundly autistic girl whose language was "limited to snatches of songs, echoed dialogue, and unintelligible utterances" and who was "most likely retarded." However, a few days before her 13th birthday, Hannah was introduced to a communication technique known as facilitated communication. This is technique whereby a "facilitator" helps stabilize an autistic person's hand and arm so that they are able to type a message on a keyboard. On that day, the girl was asked by the facilitator, "Is there anything you'd like to say, Hannah?" Hannah, with the assistance of the facilitator, then typed out, "I love Mom." A year and a half later, Hannah is working her way through high school biology, algebra, and ancient history.1
If you are skeptical of this claim, you have good reason to be. Facilitated communication is a technique originally developed in Australia to assist individuals with physical limitations such as cerebral palsy to communicate via a keyboard. The technique was introduced in the United States in 1990 by Dr. Douglas Bicklen, a professor of special education at Syracuse University. While facilitated communication was never intended for use with autistic children, Bicklen believed it had the potential to provide a means of expressive communication for uncommunicative autistic individuals. Bicklen believed that while autistic children understood language, they were unable to express their thoughts due to a type of developmental apraxia that impaired their ability to control voluntary movement. It was their inability to express themselves, according to Biklen, which often masked the autistic individuals' true cognitive and linguistic abilities.2
Like 13-year old Hannah, parents of autistic children in the early 1990s found that when assisted by a facilitator their autistic children demonstrated extraordinary abilities. Five and six year old autistic children were writing complete sentences. Others wrote poems and short stories, while autistic adolescents successfully completed high school and college courses despite never having been taught to read or write or having demonstrated such abilities.3
Public schools around the country spent millions of dollars to hire and train facilitators. Parents made plans to have their child's facilitator accompany them to college. Parents, teachers and therapists did not question the validity of the facilitated communications. They believed facilitated communication was a breakthrough technique that completely redefined autism. The messages their autistic children typed, such as Hannah's "I love mom," was all the validation many parents would ever need.
However, some began to doubt the validity of the facilitated communications and began to ask difficult questions. Why would a child be able to successfully communicate with the assistance of a facilitator at school, but not at home with his or her own parents? How could a child demonstrate extraordinary literacy, writing grammatically correct sentences, when they had never been taught to read or write? How could a child type a message on a keyboard while they were staring at the ceiling? And most importantly, were the facilitated communications real? Were the autistic children authoring these writings, or were the facilitators?
The question of whether the facilitated communications were real took on increased urgency when accusations of child sexual abuse began to surface around the country. As a result of these accusations, autistic children were removed from their homes by child welfare agencies while their parents were charged with child sexual abuse.
One of the first investigations of the efficacy of facilitated communication resulted from one of these sex abuse accusations. A profoundly autistic adolescent girl had accused her parents and grandparents of sexual abuse. The girl's facilitated communication skills were subsequently evaluated by Dr. Howard Shane, a speech pathologist and expert in augmentative communication. He first showed the adolescent girl and her facilitator a picture or object. The typed messages that followed correctly identified the picture or object both had seen. However, when the facilitator and child were shown a different picture or object, the message typed out on the keyboard was consistently what the facilitator had seen. It soon became apparent that it had not been the adolescent girl who had authored the accusations, but rather the facilitator.
Individual case studies were followed by larger controlled studies that sought to determine the validity of facilitated communication. These studies typically included autistic as well as moderately and severely mentally retarded individualsprecisely those individuals whom Bicklen and facilitated communication advocates claimed needed facilitated communication in order to express their hidden thoughts.
In a well-controlled 1996 study, for example, the efficacy of facilitated communication was assessed in 12 individuals ranging in age from 736. Six of the participants had a diagnosis of autism, while six had severe to profound cognitive impairments. All subjects had demonstrated unexpected literacy once they began using facilitated communication. The facilitators in this study were those who had demonstrated the most success with each subject. Four of the facilitators were the subject's mothers, two were special education teachers, two were resident assistants, and one a teacher's aide. The amount of time each facilitator had been facilitating with each subject ranged from six months to two years.
The subjects were assessed in a familiar environment. The subjects or their facilitator were allowed to stop at any point if they felt uncomfortable. The subjects were presented with either an auditory or visual stimulus, and were then asked to identify that same stimulus. When the facilitators were unable to see or hear what the subjects saw or heard, the autistic subjects' unexpected literacy via facilitated communication was no longer evident.4
In a 1995 study, the subjects included 18 preschool through secondary students diagnosed with autism. All were nonverbal or had extremely limited verbal-expressive abilities. The student's teachers attended a two-day training session on facilitated communication taught by Douglas Bicklen. After a 15-week period during which the teachers used facilitated communication on a daily basis with the students, the students' ability to communicate using facilitated communication was evaluated. Several students demonstrated the ability to correctly respond to requests and questions when the facilitator knew the answer. When the facilitator did not know the correct answer, however, none of the students were able to respond correctly.5
In a 1993 study with 21 elementary and secondary autistic students, the researchers found no support for facilitated communication and concluded that "no client showed unexpected literacy or communicative abilities when tested via the facilitator screening procedure, even after 20 hours of training."6
A 1994 study examined the facilitated communications of 19 developmentally disabled adults ranging in age from 2350. All the subjects in the study had been successfully using facilitated communication in their day treatment facility. The study required the individual via their facilitator to identify the color, shape, and the number of shapes they saw on a card. When the facilitator did not see the same card shown to the subject, no subject was found to perform at levels that exceeded chance.7
In a 1996 study of 14 students with autism, none of the students were able to produce functional, typed communication following 10 weeks of instruction in the use of facilitated communication.8
These studies, along with many others, failed to validate the claims of facilitated communication advocates.9 The empirical data was clear. It was not the autistic children who were authoring the typed messages, but their facilitators. The results of the scientific studies prompted the American Psychological Association in 1994 to adopt a resolution that stated, in part, that "facilitated communication is a controversial and unproved communication procedure with no scientifically demonstrated support for its efficacy."
Parents, their relatives and friends, teachers and therapists had all had wanted to believe that the facilitated communications were real. Any caring, empathetic person would want them to be real. Unfortunately, the scientific results were unequivocal.
What were the costs of uncritically accepting these facilitated messages? False accusations of sexual abuse were made, parents were investigated for child sexual abuse (some were even jailed), children were placed in long term foster care, families were torn apart, millions of public school dollars were spent to hire and train facilitators, and years of schooling were wasted as autistic children sat in advanced classes rather than learning the life skills they would need.
This recent Time magazine article will undoubtedly be eagerly devoured by the parents, relatives, friends, therapists, and teachers of autistic children. Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence accumulated over a decade ago that clearly demonstrated that facilitated communication is an illusion, a minority of parents of autistic or severely mentally impaired children have continued to believe in the technique. Whether advocates of facilitated communication will one day succeed in bringing facilitated communication back into the mainstream is unclear, although this recent article is certainly troubling. The history of facilitated communication, however, should remind us of the significant costs that are often incurred when we, as a society, uncritically accept what we want to believe to be true based on emotion, rather than accepting what is based on fact. "
References & Notes
Wallis, C. 2006. "Inside the Autistic Mind." Time, May 15, 4251.
Bicklen, D. 1990. "Communication Unbound: Autism and Praxis." Harvard Educational Review, 60, 291314; Bicklen, D., Morton, W.M., Gold, D., Berrigan, C, & Swaminathan, S. 1992. "Facilitated Communication: Implications for Individuals with Autism." Topics in Language Disorders, 12, 128.
Palfreman, J. 1993. Prisoners of Silence. Frontline, PBS.
Beck, A.R. & Pirovano, C.M. 1996. "Facilitated Communicators' Performance on a Task of Receptive Language." Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 26 (5), 497512.
Simpson, R.L., & Myles, B.S. 1995. "Effectiveness of Facilitated Communication with Children and Youth with Autism." The Journal of Special Education, 28 (4), 424439.
Eberlin, M., McConnachie, G., Ibel, S., & Volpe, L. 1993. "Facilitated Communication: A Failure to Replicate the Phenomenon." Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23 (3), 507530.
Regal, R.A., Rooney, J.R., & Wandas, T. 1994. "Facilitated Communication: An Experimental Approach." Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 24 (3), 345355.
Bomba, C., O'Donnell, L., Markowitz, C., & Holmes, D. 1996. "Evaluating the Impact of Facilitated Communicative Competence of Fourteen Students with Autism." Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 26 (1), 4357.
Green, G., & Shane, H.C. 1993. "Facilitated Communication: The Claims vs. the Evidence." Harvard Mental Health Letter, 10, 45; Montee, B.B., Miltenberger, R.G., & Wittrock, D. 1995. "An Experimental Analysis of Facilitated Communication." Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 28, 189200; Moore, S., Donovan, B., Hudson, A., Dykstra, J., & Lawrence, J. 1993. "Evaluation of Facilitated Communication: Eight Case Studies." Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23, 531539; Mostert, M.P. 1995. "Facilitated Communication Since 1995: A Review of Published Studies." Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 31 (3), 287313; Szempruch, J., & Jacobson, J.W. 1993. "Evaluating the Facilitated Communications of People with Developmental Disabilities." Research in Developmental Disabilities, 14, 253264.
The seminar shows the weakness of evolution in light of recent evidence for intelligent design in all of nature, and presents Intelligent Design Theory or Creation Science as approaches which contribute more to research and better explain our origins.
Ferndale, WA (PRWEB) May 28, 2006 -- "Creation or Evolution? Does It Matter?" will be the topic of a free seminar led by Dr. Jerry Layton and his wife Donna Layton at the First Baptist Church of Ferndale, WA, on the evening of June 3, 2006, beginning at 7:00 PM.
Since 1999, Dr. Layton and his wife have taken their 2-hour Creation Science PowerPoint Symposium into more than 200 universities and public schools in the Philippines, usually speaking to very large audiences. They have been warmly received in 2 major universities in Thailand, where Dr. Layton also appeared on National Education TV Network in an interview and presentation.
Last July the Laytons trained their first group of Filipino Creation Science Presenters who are now giving seminars all over the Philippines. The seminar shows the weakness of evolution in light of recent evidence for intelligent design in all of nature, and presents Intelligent Design Theory or Creation Science as approaches which contribute more to research and better explain our origins.
The Laytons will be expanding into other Asian countries next year, training nationals as well as other missionaries having science backgrounds. Outside the United States there is a growing awareness and concern among educators over convincing evidence refuting evolution theory, especially in countries which still allow integration of religious instruction in schools. In America, professional articles considering Intelligent Design Theory have recently started appearing in some professional journals, reflecting the concern of many state school boards wanting to present scientific alternatives to evolution-based theories.
Plan to attend this informative seminar on June 3, 2006, beginning at 7:00 PM at First Baptist Church of Ferndale, WA. The church is located at 5759 Vista Dr, Ferndale, WA, 98248. Plan to arrive a few minutes early as seating will be limited.
For more information about the Laytons and their work you can log on to Dr Jerry Layton .
By Jay Reeves The Associated Press
May 13, 2006
BIRMINGHAM -- A Democratic candidate for attorney general denies the Holocaust occurred and said Friday he will speak this weekend to a "pro-white" organization that is widely viewed as being racist.
Larry Darby concedes his views are radical, but he said they should help him win wide support among Alabama voters as he tries to "reawaken white racial awareness" with his campaign against Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson.
The state Democratic chairman, Joe Turnham, said the party became aware of some of Darby's views only days ago and was considering what to do about his candidacy.
"Any type of hatred toward groups of people, especially for political gain, is completely unacceptable in the Alabama Democratic Party," said Turnham.
Speaking in an interview with The Associated Press, Darby said he believes no more than 140,000 Jewish people died in Europe during World War II, and most of them succumbed to ty phus.
Historians say about 6 million Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis, but Darby said the figure is a false claim of the "Holocaust industry."
"I am what the propagandists call a Holocaust denier, but I do not deny mass deaths that included some Jews," Darby said. "There was no systematic extermination of Jews. There's no evidence of that at all."
Darby said he will speak today near Newark, N.J., at a meeting of National Vanguard, which bills itself as an advocate for the white race. Some of his campaign materials are posted on the group's Internet site.
"It's time to stop pushing down the white man. We've been discriminated against too long," Darby said in the interview.
A poll published last month indicated the Democratic race for attorney general was up for grabs. The survey showed 21 percent favored Tyson to 12 percent for Darby, but 68 percent of respondents were undecided.
Darby, founder of the Atheist Law Center and a longtime supporter of separation of church and state, said he has no money for campaign advertising and has made only a few campaign speeches.
Tyson said aside from his views on race and the Holocaust, Darby also has publicly advocated legalizing drugs and shooting all illegal immigrants.
"I am astonished as anyone has ever been that anyone is running for public office in Alabama on that platform," said Tyson.
Turnham said the party began an investigation last week after hearing about some of Darby's comments in a television interview. While the party supports the free-speech rights of any candidate, Turnham said some of Darby's views appear to be in "a realm of thought that is unacceptable."
"We have Holocaust survivors and families of Holocaust survivors here in Alabama, and many of them are members of the Democratic Party," said Turnham.
The winner of the Democratic primary June 6 will face either Republican Attorney General Troy King or Mark Montiel, who is opposing King in the GOP primary.
The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 778 May 26, 2006 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and Davide Castelvecchi www.aip.org/pnu THE MISSHAPEN SOLAR SYSTEM. Having traveled far beyond the planets in their 28.5-year journey, the two Voyager spacecraft are providing new information on the heliosphere, the teardrop-shaped bubble that separates the solar system from interstellar space. At this week's Joint Assembly Meeting in Baltimore of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and several other geophysics-related societies, Ed Stone of Caltech reported that the heliosphere is deformed, according to Voyager observations, with the teardrop's rounded edge bulging at the top (the northern hemisphere of the solar system) and squashed at the bottom (the southern hemisphere). (See pictures and movies at http://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/solarsystem/voyager_2006agu.html ) As Rob Decker of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory explained, the asymmetry is due to a magnetic field from interstellar space pushing on the southern hemisphere. The field is about 1/100,000 the strength of Earth's field but its effects can be felt for billions of miles, since it is acting over a large area on the very dilute gas at the solar system's edge.
The interstellar field even squashes an important spherical zone inside the heliosphere, called the termination shock. Analogous to the circle that forms when water splatters on a sink, the termination shock represents the boundary at which the rapidly traveling solar wind (the stream of charged gas from the sun) slows down abruptly and piles up. Voyager 2's measurements indicate that the southern part of the termination sphere might be a billion miles closer to the sun than the northern part. Moreover, forces from the solar wind cause the termination shock to breathe in and out roughly every dozen years. Voyager 1 has already ventured beyond the termination shock, to the heliosheath, the region where solar wind and interstellar gas mix. So in a way, the end of the solar system is not clearly defined. Stone guesses it could be another 10 years (3-4 billion miles) before the two spacecraft pass through the heliopause (the very outermost boundary of the heliosphere) and enter purely interstellar space. The spacecraft have about another 15 years of power left in them. (Session SH02 at meeting; see http://www.agu.org/meetings/ja06/?content=search)
COUNTING TERAHERTZ PHOTONS. Scientists at the University of Tokyo and the Japan Science and Technology Corporation have been able to detect single photons in the terahertz region of the electromagnetic spectrum for the first time. Previously, such photons, with energies around 4 milli-electron-volts, could not be seen singly. THz radiation, essentially in the far-infrared, is a potentially important telecommunications carrier. Not only detection but microscopy at ultra-low THz light levels can be performed. By scanning a quantum-dot probe (highly sensitive to THz light) across the face of a sample, the sample can be imaged with a spatial resolution of 50 microns (the radiation itself has a wavelength of 132 microns). This is even more remarkable when you consider that the power emitted from the surface being imaged is at the level of 10^-19 watts (0.1 attowatt). Currently photon-counting microscopy glimpses a few electrons at a time oscillating at THz frequencies in semiconductor devices at high magnetic fields. According to Kenji Ikushima (email@example.com), the extraordinarily high-sensitivity of the photon counting approach will soon facilitate the study of a molecule shaking, rattling and rolling at THz rates, photon-counting microscopy in this spectral range will facility the study of a few molecules at a time oscillating at THz frequencies in semiconductor devices at high magnetic fields. (Ikushima et al., Applied Physics Letters, 10 April 2006; www.dbs.c.u-tokyo.acjp/~komiyama )
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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By Sophia Maines
Friday, May 26, 2006
Normally, a government spokesman helps deliver news.
But David Awbrey, the mouthpiece for the Kansas State Department of Education, is making the news following his comments about science, evolution and religion at a recent public forum.
The controversy may drive him out of the job.
"I haven't been house-trained in public relations," Awbrey said Thursday, adding, "I'm going to have to spend some time during the next week or two thinking about where I'm going to go with my career."
Awbrey is a Kansas University graduate and former newspaperman who once was editorial page editor for the Wichita Eagle.
At a Kansas City Press Club forum earlier this month, Awbrey argued that evolution proponents are practicing a religion. Supporting evolution, he said, is metaphysical speculation.
"Anyone see the origin?" he said. "Anyone see the Big Bang? Anyone see the dinosaurs? These are metaphysical speculations."
Janet Waugh, also a Democrat and board member, had similar sentiments.
"When he is doing his job as public information officer, he should not have an opinion," said Waugh, who did not attend the forum. "When he is speaking for the board, he should represent the entire board. I think it was totally inappropriate."
Conservative board member Kathy Martin, who did not attend the event, said she was unfamiliar with the issue, but said if she were a spokeswoman, she would make clear when she was speaking for herself and when she was speaking for the organization she represented.
Awbrey was hired in November by new state education Commissioner Bob Corkins to take the post of director of communications.
Having left the newspaper trade, he was planning on working as a school teacher, when Corkins tapped him for the communications director post.
Awbrey said his appearance at the forum was not on work time and he did not charge the state department for his mileage. He said he believed he was there to speak as a journalist and thought some people would know him from his former life as a journalist and not a spokesman for the state department. But he also said that his boss, Bob Corkins, told him to go to the event.
"He was the one who sent me," Awbrey said. "He told me to go."
State Board Chairman Steve Abrams vouched for Awbrey.
"We were there as individuals and were speaking for ourselves," he said.
Jack Krebs, of Kansas Citizens for Science, attended the event and posted audio recordings of the proceedings on the organization's Web site, www.kcfs.org.
"They just didn't invite him because he was an interesting journalist," Krebs said. "He introduced himself as David Awbrey, director of communications."
Awbrey's statements provoked a Kansas resident to pen a letter to the editor that appeared in The Topeka Capital-Journal newspaper.
"Mr. Awbrey's starting salary at the KSDE is $76,000 per year," wrote Cheryl Shepherd-Adams, of Hays. "He knows less about science than a beginning science teacher who will have to work for about 10 years to earn just half of Mr. Awbrey's paycheck. Why is he telling that same teacher how science should be taught?"
Awbrey then wrote a reply.
"I think we should be humble and avoid claiming absolute knowledge of things that could well be beyond our intellectual or moral abilities to comprehend," Awbrey wrote, signing the letter with his communications director title.
A self-described "theistic evolutionist," Awbrey said Thursday he believes that both sides of the evolution debate are unyielding and both are engaged in metaphysical speculation.
"Both sides are practicing what I would say is a form of religion," he said. "I think we need a little humility on both sides. I think we need to recognize that human knowledge is perhaps limited."