NTS LogoSkeptical News for 22 June 2006

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Defending science education against intelligent design: a call to action

http://www.jci.org/cgi/content/full/116/5/1134

J. Clin. Invest. 116:1134-1138 (2006). doi:10.1172/JCI28449.
Copyright ©2006 by the American Society for Clinical Investigation

Science and Society

Alan D. Attie1, Elliot Sober2 , Ronald L. Numbers3 , Richard M. Amasino1, Beth Cox4 , Terese Berceau5 , Thomas Powell6 and Michael M. Cox1

1 Department of Biochemistry,
2 Department of Philosophy, and
3 Department of Medical History and Bioethics, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
4 Cox Law Office, Oregon, Wisconsin, USA.
5 Wisconsin State Legislature, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
6 Office of T. Berceau, Wisconsin State Legislature, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.

Address correspondence to: Alan Attie, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Department of Biochemistry, 433 Babcock Drive, Madison, Wisconsin 53706-1544, USA. Phone: (608) 262-1372; Fax: (608) 263-9609; E-mail: attie@biochem.wisc.edu.

Abstract

We review here the current political landscape and our own efforts to address the attempts to undermine science education in Wisconsin. To mount an effective response, expertise in evolutionary biology and in the history of the public controversy is useful but not essential. However, entering the fray requires a minimal tool kit of information. Here, we summarize some of the scientific and legal history of this issue and list a series of actions that scientists can take to help facilitate good science education and an improved atmosphere for the scientific enterprise nationally. Finally, we provide some model legislation that has been introduced in Wisconsin to strengthen the teaching of science.

The past decade has seen breathtaking progress in evolutionary biology, thanks largely to the fruits of genome sequencing projects. The molecular footprints linking all life on the planet are now fleshed out in rich detail, and we possess a chronometer of molecular evolution going all the way back to early bacteria. This has sparked a renaissance of interest in speciation, development, and evolutionary aspects of disease susceptibility and resistance. The importance of evolution to biology was properly summarized by White House Science Adviser John Marburger when he said, "Evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology. Period. What else can you say?" (1).

In a parallel universe, a majority of Americans, 54%, do not believe human beings evolved, according to one poll (2). Only 38% agree with the statement, "human beings evolved from an earlier species" (3). Opposition to evolutionary theory has existed since Darwin. Efforts to eradicate or dilute the teaching of evolution persist throughout the nation despite consistent rejection in the courts. Conservative think tanks, religious fundamentalists, and influential magazines such as National Review continue their attempts to introduce pseudo-science into science classrooms. This movement has gained the support of such prominent politicians as President George W. Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and Senator John McCain. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a onetime biology major, said, "our school systems teach the children they are nothing but glorified apes who have evolutionized out of some primordial soup of mud" (4). Even the definition of science itself has fallen victim to political attack; the state board of education in Kansas decided that the supernatural may now be taught as science in the classroom. Some have claimed that the challenge to evolution is symptomatic of a broader, more generic attack on science itself (5).

Scientists can no longer afford to let these challenges go unopposed. The wide gap between established facts accepted by scientists and the sentiments sampled in the polls reflects a failure of science education. For this, scientists, particularly those in academia, must take some responsibility. The remedies are educational and political and must involve scientists and non-scientists. Instituting an effective response does not require large blocks of time, nor need it involve debates with creationists: small actions can have large effects.

The history

The road to Dover. In 1968, the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that an Arkansas law banning the teaching of evolution violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. The Court ruled that the Arkansas law had a religious purpose — namely, to oppose teachings perceived to conflict with the biblical story of creation. Following this defeat, opponents of evolution adopted two strategies. First, they advocated the teaching of creationism as an alternative scientific explanation, along with evolution. Second, they began to adopt scientific jargon to give creationism a veneer of science. Two states, Arkansas and Louisiana, passed laws mandating this "balanced" treatment of evolution and creationism.

This set the stage for the Arkansas trial of 1982 (McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education), which was almost entirely focused on the question "Is creationism science?" Judge William R. Overton stated in his opinion (6) that creationism fails to be a science because it fails to satisfy the following requirements: "(a) it is guided by natural law; (b) it has to be explanatory by reference to natural law; (c) it is testable against the empirical world; (d) its conclusions are tentative, i.e. are not necessarily the final word; and (e) it is falsifiable."

The issue returned to the Supreme Court in 1986–1987. The Court ruled 7–2 in Edwards v. Aguillard that Louisiana's law calling for the balanced treatment of evolution ("evolution-science" and "creation-science") violated the First Amendment "because it lacks a clear secular purpose" and it "impermissibly endorses religion by advancing the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind" (7).

The creationists once again mutated and adapted. After the Edwards ruling, they set about removing references to God and creationism from their tracts. For example, as revealed at the Dover trial (8), the authors of the intelligent design (ID) text Of pandas and people: the central question of biological origins stripped the direct mentions of creationism present in early drafts of the text and systematically substituted the novel term "intelligent design" (9).

The evolution of creationism. ID is the contemporary version of an argument that has a long history. It was given a succinct formulation by William Paley in the early 19th century. Modern defenders of the design argument contend that living things are too complex to have evolved by the process of natural selection; rather, their "irreducible complexity" is convincing evidence of the hand of an intelligent designer. ID theory's contemporary advocates, who include Lehigh University biochemistry professor Michael Behe, cite complex systems such as the blood-clotting cascade, the flagellar motor, and the human eye to argue that because these systems would be nonfunctional if even a single component part were excised, they could not have evolved by mutation/natural selection and therefore must have been "intelligently designed." The argument can be boiled down to this: complexity is itself evidence of a designer. In its current version, ID conveniently omits mention of God.

However, ID is not a scientific theory. The premise for the arguments of Behe and other ID proponents is deeply flawed, scientifically and philosophically. Behe assumes that the component parts of irreducibly complex systems never had other functions in older organisms. This is contradicted by scientific evidence. The Dover trial transcripts are illuminating (see "The Dover trial") (8). Under oath, Behe was forced to concede that there are organisms that lack some of the mammalian clotting proteins. Proteins that are present in the flagellar motor have orthologs that are involved in unrelated functions. A recent elegant example of proteins acquiring a new function within a complex system can be seen in a structure that functioned in respiration in fish and later evolved to be part of the mammalian inner ear (10).

ID makes no testable predictions. There is nothing in this concept that allows for scientific investigation of the "designer." It is simply an argument by default; the failure to explain something is said to lend credence to a supernatural explanation. The attempt to promote this as science is deeply misguided. In spite of uncounted hundreds of thousands of scientific studies published in the last 50 years, there are still demonstrable gaps in what we know about the evolution of life on this planet. However, those studies tell us a great deal about how life came to be as it is and now form the foundation of modern biology. ID, by contrast, has produced nothing.

The Discovery Institute. The engine behind the ID movement is the Discovery Institute, founded in 1990 by Bruce K. Chapman. Today, the institute receives more than $4 million per year from numerous foundations, most with religious missions. The center's objectives are outlined in its "Wedge Strategy," which was leaked and posted on the Internet (11). The document states that the Discovery Institute "seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies" and "to replace materialistic explanations with theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God." Its goals are to see ID theory as the dominant perspective in science; to see design theory applied in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics, and cosmology in the natural sciences and ethics, politics, theology, and philosophy in the humanities; to see its influence in the fine arts; and to see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral, and political life.

The Dover decision. In Dover, Pennsylvania, 2005, 11 parents sued to reverse a school board requirement that the following statement be read to students: "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" (Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District) (12). The required statement referred only to evolution. The third paragraph in the statement read: "Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of pandas and people (9), is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves."

In his decision, Judge John E. Jones stated that ID is essentially Paley's argument for the existence of God, with God left unmentioned. In short, ID is a religious doctrine. He noted that Behe "claims that the plausibility argument for ID depends upon the extent to which one believes in the existence of God"; thus, "ID is a religious and not a scientific proposition." He characterized ID as "nothing less than the progeny of creationism." Jones stated that the Dover school statement forces a "false duality" on students by making them choose between God/ID and atheism/science and "singles out the theory of evolution for special treatment, misrepresents its status in the scientific community, causes students to doubt its validity without scientific justification, presents students with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory, directs them to consult a creationist text as though it were a science resource, and instructs students to forego scientific inquiry in the public school classroom and instead to seek out religious instruction elsewhere."

The Dover case was an important victory for science education. Judge Jones wrote a strongly worded, carefully crafted opinion that should guide future litigation (12). The transcripts of the Dover trial constitute an excellent educational resource, rich in testimony about the nature of science, the evidence for evolution, and the history of deceit in the creationism/ID movement.

Common misrepresentations by ID proponents

The "teach the controversy" hoax. The ID movement employs a tactic that appeals to the American tradition of "fairness and balance." ID advocates argue that since there is a controversy over evolution, we should "teach the controversy" in public school science classrooms.

The "controversy" is manufactured. Evolutionary biology draws strength from a supporting scientific literature extending across 150 years that includes literally hundreds of thousands of individual papers. Creationists offer no science. In some cases, they have misrepresented science in their efforts to debunk it. For example, in Of pandas and people (9), evolutionary lineages are presented as straight lines linking species, rather than as parts of a tree structure. The incorrect linear model is then used to argue that cytochrome c homology patterns do not conform to evolutionary predictions.

The "just a theory" hoax. Creationists purposefully confuse the two meanings of the word "theory." In common usage, a theory connotes a statement that is tentative or hypothetical. This is the meaning implied in the frequent claim of ID advocates that evolution is "just a theory." However, science uses the term "theory" differently. When substantiated to the degree that evolutionary theory has been, a theory is regarded as a fact. Practicing biologists operate within the rich context of evolutionary theory, and no part of modern biology, including medicine (13), is completely understandable without it. Scientific arguments are not qualified with clauses that allow for a nonevolutionary scenario.

The "fair and balanced" hoax. In the name of "fairness and balance," the media have decided to present "two sides" of this story. For example, a day after the Dover decision, National Public Radio aired a commentary by a Heritage Foundation fellow comparing ID to the Big Bang Theory, predicting that eventually it will be widely accepted by scientists (14). By giving uncritical treatment to "both sides," the media convey to the public the false impression that this is a genuine scientific controversy and that each has a substantial body of evidence and convincing argumentation. Journalists should be mindful of the fact that no science supports creationism/ID; 150 years of biological, geological, and physical science supports the modern synthesis of Darwin's theory. The individuals with scientific credentials who support ideas such as ID actually constitute a rather small group, as recently described in a New York Times article (15).

The "persecuted scientist against the establishment" hoax. Another plea often articulated by ID proponents is the idea that there is a community of ID scientists undergoing persecution by the science establishment for their revolutionary scientific ideas. A search through PubMed fails to find evidence of their scholarship within the peer-reviewed scientific literature. In the original Wedge document, a key part of the plan to displace evolutionary biology was a program of experimental science and publication of the results. That step has evidently been skipped.

Why ID is a threat to science

The constant, unanswered assault on evolution is harmful to science and science education. ID and its progeny rely on supernatural explanations of natural phenomena. Yet all of science education and practice rests on the principle that phenomena can be explained only by natural, reproducible, testable forces. Teaching our students otherwise disables the very critical thinking they must have in order to be scientists and is a fundamental distortion of the scientific process. ID is therefore not simply an assault on evolution: it is an assault on science itself.

ID groups have threatened and isolated high school science teachers. Well-organized curricular challenges to local school boards place teachers in the difficult position of arguing against their employers. We have spoken with high school science teachers who feel censored in their efforts to teach the basic principles of science. The legal challenges to local school districts are costly and divert scarce funds away from education into court battles. Although these court battles result in the defeat of ID, they are draining and divisive to local schools.

Finally, the assault on evolution and science threatens our nation's scientific and technological leadership. Political and economic agendas are interfering with the free flow of scientific information. For example, political appointees have ordered scientists at NASA to eliminate references to the Big Bang Theory and to cease to mention the eventual death of the sun billions of years from now in their comments and publications. Other scientists have been cautioned about speaking out on global warming. These actions disrupt the long-standing tradition of public policy based on the consensus of the scientific community.

Our call to action

Political action in Wisconsin. In 2004, the school board of Grantsburg, Wisconsin, voted to have ID taught as an alternative scientific theory to evolutionary theory. At the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, Dean Michael Zimmerman and some colleagues sent a letter to Grantsburg. Letters from scientists and educators from around the state soon reinforced the effort. For example, in late summer 2005, the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison issued a letter, signed by all 35 active members of the department, urging the school board in Grantsburg to reverse their action. Clergy concerned about the presentation of religious viewpoints as science initiated a parallel effort. More than 10,000 clergy have signed the resulting letter in what is now known as the Clergy Project. The actions of the Grantsburg school board have largely been reversed.

A subsequent op-ed article in the Wisconsin State Journal (16), written by Michael M. Cox, led to contact by Wisconsin Representative Terese Berceau. This conversation led in turn to the formation of an informal advisory committee consisting of scientists, educators, a philosopher of biology, a historian of creationism, and an attorney. This group assisted Representative Berceau in crafting a simple piece of legislation that was introduced in the Wisconsin State Legislature on February 9, 2006. The bill is short and states:

The school board shall ensure that any material presented as science within the school curriculum complies with all of the following: (a) The material is testable as a scientific hypothesis and describes only natural processes. (b) The material is consistent with any description or definition of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences. (17)

The objective of the bill is simple. Anything presented as science in public schools should be science. Discussion of ID or any other ideology in any other context is not affected, even in the science classroom. The bill is short, but potentially effective. In a state where the Department of Public Instruction guidelines are advisory and have no enforcement mechanism, the bill gives parents a cause of action when inappropriate topics are introduced into a classroom as if they constitute genuine scientific alternatives. If such legislation is enacted, parents in Wisconsin will find it easier to challenge the misrepresentation of science in their schools. The bill also provides support for science teachers who are pressured by school boards or by other groups to eliminate evolution from the curriculum or to teach alternatives that do not belong in the realm of science.

What you can do

There is a wide range of actions that each scientist can take to facilitate good science education. Our experience has shown repeatedly that every action carries weight and represents a very productive use of time. Some of these require little time; some require a more substantial commitment.

Educate yourself. A few hours with publications available on the websites of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or the National Center for Science Education can help clarify the issues and provide the preparation needed for an effective scientific response to challenges (see Table 1). The decision rendered by Judge Jones in the Dover decision is a particularly excellent resource and is well worth reading in its entirety.

View this table:
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Table 1

Evolution/creationism/ID resources

Write letters. Write to legislators and newspapers. Write to school boards considering actions that might undermine science education. Write to government leaders. Respond to comments made by ID proponents wherever they might appear. The letters need not be long, and even one letter every few months will have a large effect. This is an activity that can and should fit into the schedule of every working scientist. Similarly, call in to talk shows featuring pro- or antiscience guests. Every letter written by authors of this paper has elicited a positive response. The ID program consists entirely of public relations efforts. They have had this playing field to themselves for too long.

Organize campus evolution groups. This provides an informal way to husband campus resources in evolutionary biology. Seminar series are useful. Regular meetings to plan special events such as Darwin Day celebrations can serve as outreach exercises.

Organize educational support teams. Scientists can be a compelling resource for teachers in K–12 science programs who are facing pressure from school boards or parents to alter good science curricula in ways that harm students. If a group of such scientists can be organized, individuals need not face unreasonable demands on time, and the group as a whole can provide valuable assistance to educators within the scientists' state.

Participate in outreach activities. Go to local schools and talk to classes about science in general and evolution in particular. Go to school board meetings when appropriate and talk to school board members. Talk to local business groups.

Organize educational sessions at national and international meetings. Major scientific professional societies should embark on a concerted educational effort, directed both at educating scientists about the problem and arming them for an effective response. Resources also must be made available for science teachers at the K–12 levels. Travel grants, where available, should be concentrated on K–12 teachers to make attendance possible.

Revise textbooks. Scientists engaged in textbook writing should be more cognizant of the need to educate future scientists and science teachers about evolutionary biology. Additional education is required to explain what science is, what defines a scientist, and how the various forms of the scientific method constitute a consistent whole.

Become more effective lobbyists for legislation that improves the atmosphere for science and science funding. We urge scientists in all 50 states to work with their respective legislatures to enact legislation similar to the bill just introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature. This movement should appeal to a widely shared interest to uphold the standards of science education and should transcend political ideology.

Make yourself available at least occasionally as a local resource. Creationists are not deterred by the Dover case. There are troubling situations brewing in almost every state. Scientists should use these new cases as teaching opportunities in their own classrooms and should be willing to testify and support the cause of science education in the courtroom.

Teach. For academic scientists, there is no greater responsibility than the education of our citizenry, and there is no activity that has a greater impact. For too long, educational programs in biology at the college level have neglected to provide a solid grounding in evolutionary biology, despite its central importance. This background has been left to unstandardized mentions in core courses and to upper-level specialized courses that are often not required. A nationwide overhaul of these programs is essential. New introductory courses are needed to provide a background in evolutionary biology at the very beginning of all programs leading to science or science education degrees, and the courses should be required. New lower-level courses for nonmajors, pitched at a level appropriate for students with minimal science background, are needed to expose as many citizens as possible to evolutionary theory and to introduce them to science.

Work with your legislators. Identify legislators who are friends of science and work with them, as we have in Wisconsin, to introduce legislation that supports and strengthens science education.

Work with clergy. As Judge Jones indicated, the creationists have fostered a false duality between science and religion. A majority of people do not hold a literal young-earth interpretation of the Bible. The clerical community has a shared interest in keeping science and religion apart. They do not want religion to be presented as science and, like a large block of religious scientists, do not see any conflict between religious belief and evolutionary theory.

Scientific thinking should be part of all education

Whether in crafting a tax code, making health care decisions, evaluating the economy, exploring the resolution of world conflicts, evidence-based thinking is the best intellectual tool in our possession. In science, controversies are usually temporary. When scientists have divergent hypotheses, they usually agree on the key experiments that will favor one hypothesis over others. This is because there is a consensus that framing questions in a way that is subject to the test of evidence is the most progressive way to advance knowledge and understanding. In an ideal world, such principles ought to be widely embraced. Students should learn the difference between hard evidence and speculation. They should understand the elements of logic and clear, critical thinking. They need to understand how to suspend belief while gathering and evaluating evidence.

As George Orwell observed, "a mere training in . . . sciences . . . is no guarantee of a humane or skeptical outlook." Yet Orwell advocated universal science education if such an education was structured to focus on "acquiring a method — a method that can be used on any problem that one meets — and not simply piling up a lot of facts" (18).

Within universities, the cultural gap between the sciences and the humanities needs to be bridged. A useful approach is to create courses in critical thinking that combine science and the humanities. Ideally, such courses would include an exploration of contemporary problems from the combined perspectives of the sciences and the humanities, united in the common theme of evidence-based, critical thinking. Given that our universities play a large role in the training of the next generation of government and corporate leadership, investing in a future better guided by evidence-based, critical thinking is the most important investment we can make.

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Figure 1

Footnotes

Nonstandard abbreviations used: ID, intelligent design.

Conflict of interest: The authors have declared that no conflict of interest exists.

References

  1. University of Colorado Center for Science and Technology Policy Research. 2005. Policy, politics, and science in the White House: conversations with presidential science advisors [transcript of R. Pielke interview with J. Marburger]. http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/scienceadvisors/marburger_transcript.html..
  2. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. 2005. Public divided on origins of life. http://pewforum.org/surveys/origins/..
  3. Harris Interactive Inc. 2005. Nearly Two-thirds of U.S. Adults Believe human beings were created by God. http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=581..
  4. Paul, G.S. 2005. Cross-national correlations of quantifiable societal health with popular religiosity and secularism in the prosperous democracies. Journal of Religion & Society. 7. http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.html.
  5. Mooney, C. 2005. The republican war on science. Basic Books. Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 342 pp..
  6. Overton, W.R. 1982. McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education [decision]. The Talk.Origins Archive. http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/mclean-v-arkansas.html..
  7. Edwards v. Aguillard. 1987. 482 United States Supreme Court Reports 578..
  8. Dover trial transcripts. American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. http://www.aclupa.org/legal/legaldocket/intelligentdesigncase/dovertrialtranscripts.htm..
  9. Davis, P., and Kenyon, D.H. 1989. Of pandas and people: the central question of biological origins. Haughton Publishing Co. Dallas, Texas, USA. 160 pp..
  10. Brazeau, M.D., and Ahlberg, P.E. 2006. Tetrapod-like middle ear architecture in a Devonian fish. Nature. 439:318-321.[CrossRef][Medline]
  11. Center for Science and Culture. The Wedge Strategy. http://www.antievolution.org/features/wedge.html..
  12. Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. 2005. 04-CV-2688. 2005 WL 578974 (M.D. Pa. 2005)..
  13. Nesse, R.M., Stearns, S.C., and Omenn, G.S. 2006. Medicine needs evolution. Science. 311:1071.[Abstract/Free Full Text]
  14. Loconte, J. 2005 December 21. Intelligent design has a place in the classroom. All things considered..
  15. Chang, K. 2006 February 21. Few biologists but many evangelicals sign anti-evolution petition. The New York Times. F2..
  16. Cox, M.M. 2005 August 29. Intelligent design is a threat, not a theory. Wisconsin State Journal. A6..
  17. Science Education Protection Act. LRB-2463. http://www.legis.state.wi.us/assembly/asm76/news/evolution.html..
  18. Orwell, G., Orwell, S., and Angus, I. 2000. What is science? In George Orwell: the collected essays, journalism and letters. Volume 1. An age like this: 1920–1940. Nonpareil Books. Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 600 pp..

Intelligent Judging — Evolution in the Classroom and the Courtroom

http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/354/21/2277?query=TOC

Volume 354:2277-2281 May 25, 2006 Number 21

George J. Annas, J.D., M.P.H.

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PDA Full Text

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.

Source Information

From the Department of Health Law, Bioethics, and Human Rights, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston.

References

  1. Culotta E, Pennisi E. Breakthrough of the year: evolution in action. Science 2005;310:1878-1879. [Abstract/Full Text ]
  2. Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 400 F. Supp. 2d 707 (M.D. Pa. 2005).
  3. Scopes v. State, 154 Tenn. 105, 289 S.W. 363 (1927).
  4. Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97 (1968).
  5. Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971).
  6. Annas GJ. Monkey laws in the courts. Hastings Cent Rep 1982;12:22-23. [Medline ]
  7. McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, 529 F. Supp. 1255 (D. Ark. 1982).
  8. Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987).
  9. Bumiller E. Bush remarks roil debate over teaching of evolution. New York Times. August 3, 2005:A14.
  10. Steering Committee on Science and Creationism. Science and creationism: a view from the National Academy of Sciences. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1999.
  11. County of Allegheny v. ACLU, 492 U.S. 573 (1989).
  12. Rudoren J. Ohio expected to rein in class linked to intelligent design. New York Times. February 14, 2006:A12.
  13. Idem. Ohio board undoes stand on evolution: intelligent design sustains 2nd loss. New York Times. February 15, 2006:A14.
  14. Fisher I, Dean C. In `design' vs. Darwinism, Darwin wins point in Rome. New York Times. January 19, 2006:A12.
  15. Lewontin R. The wars over evolution. The New York Review of Books. October 20, 2005:51-4.
  16. Holden C. Darwin's place on campus is secure -- but not supreme. Science 2006;311:769-771. [Abstract/Full Text ]
  17. Reading the polls on evolution and creationism. Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Center, September 28, 2005.
  18. Monastersky R. On the front lines in the war over evolution. Chronicle of Higher Education. March 10, 2006:A14-A17.
  19. Eccles JC. Evolution of the brain: creation of the self. London: Routledge, 1989.
  20. Hawking SW. A brief history of time: from the big bang to black holes. New York: Bantam Books, 1988.
  21. Drinan RF. Can God & Caesar coexist? Balancing religious freedom and international law. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2004.
  22. Gould SJ. Rock of ages: science and religion in the fullness of life. New York: Ballantine Books, 1999.
  23. Smith GP. Law, medicine, and religion: towards a dialogue and a partnership in biomedical technology and decision making. J Contemp Health Law Policy 2005;21:169-205. [Medline ]

Earth Hottest It's Been in 2, 000 Years

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Global-Warming.html

June 22, 2006 By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 6:37 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Earth is running a slight fever from greenhouse gases, after enjoying relatively stable temperatures for 2,000 years. The National Academy of Sciences, after reconstructing global average surface temperatures for the past two millennia, said Thursday the data are ''additional supporting evidence ... that human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming.''

Other new research showed that global warming produced about half of the extra hurricane-fueled warmth in the North Atlantic in 2005, and natural cycles were a minor factor, according to Kevin Trenberth and Dennis Shea of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a research lab sponsored by the National Science Foundation and universities.

The academy had been asked to report to Congress on how researchers drew conclusions about the Earth's climate going back thousands of years, before data was available from modern scientific instruments. The academy convened a panel of 12 climate experts, chaired by Gerald North, a geosciences professor at Texas A&M University, to look at the ''proxy'' evidence before then, such as tree rings, corals, marine and lake sediments, ice cores, boreholes and glaciers.

Combining that information gave the panel ''a high level of confidence that the last few decades of the 20th century were warmer than any comparable period in the last 400 years,'' the panel wrote. It said the ''recent warmth is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia,'' though it was relatively warm around the year 1000 followed by a ''Little Ice Age'' from about 1500 to 1850.

Their conclusions were meant to address, and they lent credibility to, a well-known graphic among climate researchers -- a ''hockey-stick'' chart that climate scientists Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes created in the late 1990s to show the Northern Hemisphere was the warmest it has been in 2,000 years.

It had compared the sharp curve of the hockey blade to the recent uptick in temperatures -- a 1 degree rise in global average surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere during the 20th century -- and the stick's long shaft to centuries of previous climate stability.

That research is ''likely'' true and is supported by more recent data, said John ''Mike'' Wallace, an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Washington and a panel member.

Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Science Committee, had asked the academy for the report last year after the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, launched an investigation of the three climate scientists.

The Bush administration has maintained that the threat from global warming is not severe enough to warrant new pollution controls that the White House says would have cost 5 million Americans their jobs.

''This report shows the value of Congress handling scientific disputes by asking scientists to give us guidance,'' Boehlert said Thursday. ''There is nothing in this report that should raise any doubts about the broad scientific consensus on global climate change.''

The academy panel said it had less confidence in the evidence of temperatures before 1600.

But it considered the evidence reliable enough to conclude there were sharp spikes in carbon dioxide and methane, the two major ''greenhouse'' gases blamed for trapping heat in the atmosphere, beginning in the 20th century, after remaining fairly level for 12,000 years.

Between 1 A.D. and 1850, volcanic eruptions and solar fluctuations had the biggest effects on climate. But those temperature changes ''were much less pronounced than the warming due to greenhouse gas'' levels by pollution since the mid-19th century, the panel said.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization chartered by Congress to advise the government of scientific matters.

On the Net:

National Academy of Sciences: http://nationalacademies.org


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Dissent From Darwinism 'Goes Global' as Over 600 Scientists Around the World Express Their Doubts About Darwin's Theory

http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/060621/sfw119.html?.v=24

Press Release Source: Discovery Institute

Wednesday June 21, 5:12 pm ET

SEATTLE, June 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Over 600 doctoral scientists from all around the world have now signed a statement publicly expressing their skepticism about the contemporary theory of Darwinian evolution. The statement, located online at www.dissentfromdarwin.org, reads: "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."

"I signed the Scientific Dissent From Darwinism statement because I am absolutely convinced of the lack of true scientific evidence in favor of Darwinian dogma," said Raul Leguizamon, M. D., Pathologist, and a professor of medicine at the Autonomous University of Guadalajara, Mexico.

"Nobody in the biological sciences, medicine included, needs Darwinism at all," added Leguizamon. "Darwinism is certainly needed, however, in order to pose as a philosopher, since it is primarily a worldview. And an awful one, as Bernard Shaw used to say."

The list of 610 signatories includes scientists from National Academies of Science in Russia, Czech Republic, Hungary, India (Hindustan), Nigeria, Poland, Russia and the United States. Many of the signers are professors or researchers at major universities and international research institutions such as Cambridge University, British Museum of Natural History, Moscow State University, Masaryk University in Czech Republic, Hong Kong University, University of Turku in Finland, Autonomous University of Guadalajara in Mexico, University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, Institut de Paleontologie Humaine in France, Chitose Institute of Science & Technology in Japan, Ben-Gurion University in Israel, MIT, The Smithsonian and Princeton.

"Dissent from Darwinism has gone global," said Discovery Institute President Bruce Chapman, former US Ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna. "Darwinists used to claim that virtually every scientist in the world held that Darwinian evolution was true, but we quickly started finding US scientists that disproved that statement. Now we're finding that there are hundreds, and probably thousands, of scientists all over the world that don't subscribe to Darwin's theory."

Discovery Institute first published its Scientific Dissent From Darwinism list in 2001 to challenge false statements about Darwinian evolution made in promoting PBS's "Evolution" series. At the time it was claimed that, "virtually every scientist in the world believes the theory to be true."

Source: Discovery Institute

Evolution, The Age Of The Universe, And Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

http://www.jewishpress.com/page.do/18622/Evolution,_The_Age_Of_The_Universe,_And_Rabbi_Aryeh_Kaplan.html

By: Rabbi Harry Maryles

There has been a lot of recent discussion in The Jewish Press about whether evolution and Torah are compatible. In my view they are not only compatible, they are intertwined. I believe in the evolutionary process. I also believe that God created the world just as it says in Parshas Bereishis. How is that possible? First, a little bit of my own personal history on the subject.

Back in the sixties, long before anyone thought about synthesis between Torah, evolution, and concepts like "Intelligent Design," I was taught the theory of evolution by a completely Orthodox Jewish college professor at Roosevelt University in Chicago. He was quite an interesting fellow and had actually done work on discovering DNA. He told us that he firmly believed in the theory of evolution, including the randomness factor. Yet he was a shomer Torah u'mitzvos and definitely not a kofer (heretic). He was a respected member of academia and the Torah world.

Many of the frum students in our class were shocked that a frum Jew could believe in something like this, as we all had been indoctrinated into thinking that evolution was a completely false theory invented by atheists. But as the course progressed, this frum professor convinced us that Torah and evolutionary science are indeed compatible. This changed my entire perspective on science and Torah, which I realized are not only compatible but inseparable. The Torah was written for the real world – the world that science studies, the world that exists in metzius (reality). That, after all, is what science is: the study of metzius and nothing else.

The wonderful thing about science is that it has at its core no underlying belief system. Nothing is sacrosanct in science. A fact that seems to be proven today can be discarded tomorrow with the discovery of new facts. So, for a time in my life, I was a believer in the theory of evolution in all its radiant glory including the randomness factor, which I thought did not deny anything in the Torah. And the closer I looked at the Torah narrative the more I saw harmony between the sequence of the evolutionary process and the order of creation, thus indicating compatibility.

At about the time that I had developed my own synthesis of the Torah narrative of creation and evolution, I came across a book by Rabbi Avigdor Miller, Rejoice, O Youth, in which he attempted to refute the theory of evolution. I was very upset at what I felt were the poor arguments he made and feared his rejectionist attitude would turn off serious students of science who were also yereim u'shleimim – frum Jews who wanted nothing more than to serve God and His Torah but who also could not deny what science had taught them.

Although evolutionary theory is not proven in the absolute, the evidence for evolution is overwhelming and independently derived by many different disciplines, all of which seem to converge in the same way, reaching the same conclusions: That evolution indeed took place.

But does that mean it just "happened" – that it was random, with no guidance from Hashem?

After many years of searching for Emes, I have come to my own conclusion that while evolution may indeed be the process by which God created the species, the chances of random sudden mutation is a highly unlikely proposition. Not that it is impossible, just unlikely in the extreme.

What I believe in firmly now is the concept of Intelligent Design – that God for His own reasons created a universe that followed a natural evolutionary path, but one that was purposefully guided by Him. In this way one can deal with both scientific evidence and the rational deduction that something does not come from nothing, and that there must therefore be a Creator.

But evolution is not the only issue between science and Torah. What about other apparent contradictions? What about the age of the universe? Is the world 5,766 years old – or billions of years old? This particular issue is one that is currently being hotly contested in Klal Yisrael and is the source of much grief in the Torah world.

One posek in Israel banned books by a young haredi author who contends that, based on vast amounts of physical evidence, the universe is indeed billions of years old. Some of the rabbinic leaders who signed onto the ban contend that such a view constitutes kefira, heresy. But does it?

No less a rabbinic figure than Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, zt"l, whose yiras shamayim and expertise in Torah knowledge was undisputed, and who in matters of science had few rabbinic peers, contended that the universe was indeed 15 billion years old. He understood that the scientific data could not be simply whisked away with a wave of the hand.

Rabbi Kaplan's complete emunah led him to do a search of classic sources dating back to the days of Chazal to determine if there was any precedent for believing that the universe was more than five thousand years old. He found many such sources in many different eras from as far back as 2,000 years ago and was able to calculate through them that the universe is 15 billion years old. He presented his views in a paper to the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists.

The format of this essay, coupled with my own limitations, precludes a lengthier look at all the problems inherent in attempting to reconcile science and Torah. But I'll address one more: the mabul, the cataclysmic flood described in the Bible.

Does the fact that there is absolutely no evidence of a worldwide flood in the geological record indicate that there really was no flood? Is this a contradiction between science and Torah? I don't know if it is or it isn't, but I also believe that Torah and metzius cannot contradict each other. So how is this apparent contradiction resolved?

In my view, whenever there seems to be a seemingly irreconcilable conflict between Torah and science it means one of three things:

1) We don't know all the facts about the metzius.

2) We don't understand the Torah properly.

3) Both.

As a way of illustration, I would posit that we cannot always rely on what we see as fact. Sometimes what we actually perceive with our senses is incomplete and gives us a false conclusion. There are other undetected factors that make what we see completely false.

The Flat Earth Society thinks the earth is flat. Why? Because its members go outside and look toward the horizon and see that it looks flat. But the Flat Earth Society doesn't know all the facts. Its founding fathers were missing information that we now possess. The more information we have, the closer we are to reality.

Do we have all the facts pertaining to the mabul? One might think so. We look at the lack of evidence and say we see the facts – but do we see all the facts? I don't think so. We only see what we have now. We do not see beyond the "horizon" of the facts at hand.

It is not unreasonable to suggest that the type of technology needed to measure some of the evidence of the mabul is not known – or perhaps has not yet been invented. To automatically presume that it didn't happen is to be intellectually dishonest, stubborn, and to predispose oneself to a conclusion based on possibly incomplete information.

The same logic can be employed vis-à-vis the entire Torah narrative when we seem to have a contradiction. One need not reject an incident described in the Torah just because there is no evidence of its occurrence. We can believe in the Torah narrative and still maintain our intellectual honesty as long as we realize that it is in the very nature of science to hold nothing sacrosanct. To us, of course, the only thing that is sacrosanct is the Torah.

Until very recently the above would have been widely accepted as well within the framework of a Torah hashkafa. And while it now seems to have been deemed kefira by some rabbinic figures, I believe otherwise – and I know there are many others who are yereim u'shleimim and who think along these lines, though some may feel pressured to keep their views to themselves.

I wonder how many frum Jews who were brought up to rely on gedolim to define Judaism for them have become skeptics or worse after encountering evidence of an old universe or evolution. Can one imagine a more senseless falling away of Jews from Torah Judaism? Especially because it needn't have been the case. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan did not become a heretic after encountering such things and incorporating them into a Torah worldview. It is his example we should follow.

Rabbi Harry Maryles received s'micha in 1972 from Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik at the Hebrew Theological College. He has been active in Jewish education in Chicago for more than 30 years. He maintains a blog called Emes Ve-Emunah located at haemtza.blogspot.com.

Evolution: World science academies fight back against creationists

http://www.physorg.com/news70103176.html

A declaration signed by 67 national academies of science blasted the scriptural teaching of biology as a potential distortion of young minds.

"In various parts of the world, within science courses taught in certain public systems of education, scientific evidence, data and testable theories about the origins and evolution of life on Earth are being concealed, denied or confused with theories not testable by science," the declaration said.

"We urge decision-makers, teachers and parents to educate all children about the methods and discoveries of science and to foster an understanding of the science of nature.

"Knowledge of the natural world in which they live empowers people to meet human needs and protect the planet."

Citing "evidence-based facts" derived from observation, experiment and neutral assessment, the declaration points to findings that the Universe is between 11 and 15 billion years old, and the Earth was formed about 4.5 billion years ago.

Life on Earth appeared at least 2.5 billion years ago as a result of physical and chemical processes, and evolved into the species that live today.

"Commonalities in the structure of the genetic code of all organisms living today, including humans, clearly indicate their common primordial origin," it said.

Signatories of the declaration include the US National Academy of Sciences, Britain's Royal Society, the French Academy of Sciences and their counterparts in Canada, China, Germany, Iran, Israel and Japan and elsewhere.

The statement does not name any names or religions, nor does it explain why it fears the teaching of evolution or the scientific explanation for the origins of planetary life are being sidelined.

It comes, however, in the context of mounting concern among biologists about the perceived influence of creationism in the United States.

Evangelical Christians there are campaigning hard for schools to teach creationism or downgrade evolution to the status of one of a competing group of theories about the origins of life on Earth.

According to the website Christian Post (www.christianpost.com), an opinion poll conducted in May by Gallop found that 46 percent of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years or so.

Scientists say hominids emerged around six million years ago and one of their offshoots developed into anatomically modern man, Homo sapiens, about 200,000 years ago, although the timings of both events are fiercely debated.

Nearly every religion offers an explanation as to how life began on Earth.

Fundamentalist Christians insist on a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis in the Bible, in which God made the world in seven days, culminating in the creation of the first two humans, Adam and Eve.

A variation of this is called "intelligent design" which acknowledges evolution but claims that genetic mutations are guided by God's hand rather than by Charles Darwin's process of natural selection.

US President George W. Bush said last August that he believed in this concept and that he supported its teaching in American schools.

The academies' statement says that science does not seek to offer judgements of value or morality, and acknowledges limitations in current knowledge.

"Science is open-ended and subject to correction and expansion as new theoretical and empirical understanding emerges," it adds.

© 2006 AFP


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Scientists Take on Intelligent Design

Books

BY PAUL R. GROSS June 19, 2006

URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/34637

Science journalism is a demanding profession, and the list of its great practitioners is not long. Even shorter, however, is the list of professional scientists who write engaging and accessible prose - who write, in short, excellent popular science. The literary agent for a large subset of that group is John Brockman, himself an author as well as literary entrepreneur. In "Intelligent Thought" (Vintage, 272 pages, $14), he has assembled a set of 16 essays, each responding to the current, anti-evolution Intelligent Design Movement (IDM), and the authors include some of the best-known science writers.

The war (it must be so named) between science and the fundamentalist faith-driven IDM is of a deeply troubling import for science education, and for science itself - thus inevitably for contemporary culture. How serious the implications are has only recently been recognized, probably too late for a reasonable cessation of hostilities. The wake-up call seems to have been national coverage, in all the media, of the "Dover" trial, which ended in December, 2005. In it, the plaintiffs - parents and teachers in the Dover, Penn., school district sought relief from an action of the district's Board of Education, which had in effect mandated the addition of Intelligent Design Theory (so-called) to the public school biology curriculum and classrooms. Presiding over the lengthy trial was U.S. District Judge John E. Jones, III. An extract from his painstaking and scholarly opinion is an appendix to this book. It is perhaps its most immediately valuable contribution. What are these often eloquent essays about, are they needed, and are they helpful?

The contributors represent a broad range of scientific disciplines. Richard Dawkins, for example, is a noted evolutionary biologist, as are Jerry Coyne and Neil Shubin. Leonard Susskind is a theoretical physicist; so is Lee Smolin. Greatly respected are philosopher-cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett; paleontologists Tim White and Scott Sampson; psychologists Steven Pinker, Nicholas Humphrey, and Marc Hauser; physicists Seth Lloyd and Lisa Randall; mathematical biologist Stuart Kauffman; anthropologist Scott Atran, and historian of science and behaviorist Frank Sulloway.

In the opening essay, "Intelligent Design: The Faith That Dare Not Speak Its Name," Mr. Coyne sets forth the argument that the IDM is motivated by religion and is, rather than serious scholarship, a faith-based attack on the architecture and trustworthiness of natural science. This is a strong but by now routine presentation of the case, and Mr. Coyne's expert treatments of it have appeared elsewhere, for example in the New Republic. The prolific Mr. Dennett writes on "The Hoax of Intelligent Design and How It Was Perpetrated." Hoax is a belligerent word, but the argument supporting it is solid.

Mr. Dennett's essay is not a paper-trail of the IDM: There is no such thing in this book - a significant lack. But a rich paper trail certainly exists. The IDM's history - with documentation - was presented in Harrisburg, Penn., by plaintiff's witness Barbara Forrest. It was eye-opening and central to the Dover outcome. In the trial, the IDM's attempt on the science curriculum was ruled unconstitutional. Mr. Dennett's contribution is a sharp expose of the IDM's logical and epistemological blunders.

Mr. Humphrey, examining the certainty that consciousness itself is a product of evolution, explains why it must be that, and presents a delicious paradox of consciousness research: An evolving consciousness among higher animals must have produced the insistent denial in us - conscious animals - that consciousness has evolved. Mr. White offers a short but authoritative review of hominid paleontology. We have today an embarrassment of riches in what were once called "missing links": our own, non-human ancestors, as well as those of many other contemporary vertebrates. There is no longer any question that our species had ancestors.

Mr. Dawkins dissects with eloquence the illusion of intelligent-agent design in natural objects. Mr. Sulloway's contribution is a short but incisive account of Darwin's initial failure to understand what he saw and collected in the Galapagos, and his subsequent epiphany on the meaning of those observations for "the species question," that is, for belief in the immutability of the biblical "kinds."

Steven Pinker addresses the common fear underlying most forms of resistance to evolution. It gives rise to the ancient claim that without revealed religion and its key principle - that humankind is of special concern to and under continuous observation by a powerful God - the moral order would collapse; we would succumb to a destructive anarchy. But the evidence is clear that all humans possess a moral sense independently of the details of their religion, if any, and that religion in us is a plausible, indeed an inevitable, consequence of evolutionary history.

This volume has other pleasures, including Lee Smolin on several forms of the Anthropic Principle and the relevance thereto of recent cosmology requiring a multiverse, rather than "the universe"; Stuart Kauffman, whose mathematics of self-organization is often misunderstood as a denial of Darwinism, clarifies in his essay the position in no uncertain terms; Lisa Randall offers a theoretical physicist's view of the facts of evolution and the "theory" of intelligent design, from which she derives the conclusion that

Whoever is responsible [for the history of life] is just trying out various possibilities. We don't have an intelligent designer (ID), we have a bungling consistent evolver (BCE). Or maybe an adaptive changer (AC). In fact, what we have in the most economical interpretation is, of course, evolution.

This collection is helpful but not because it provides the primary knowledge base for the current effort to limit the impact of the IDM - a politically potent hoax with an excellent public relations machine and adequate funding. The necessary primary sources on the IDM and on the relevant science are already available in excellent recent books and in a rising stream of papers in the relevant scientific literature and on the Internet. Nothing coming from these reliable scientific sources constitutes or implies the existence of a "conflict" of "theories."

There is no scientific conflict. ID is not a theory in the ordinary sense of science, and it is certainly not a reputable "alternate view" of the planet's life. It has no unique content other than its claim for the existence of a designer. It is not worthy of the time it would take away from real science in the schools, where the time is already far too short. It is in fact the denial of theory, supported only by unsupported claims of flaws in Darwinism. No positive scientific evidence has ever been offered for ID.

We need this book because its authors have name recognition with the general reading public, because they write well, and because the fight will not end any time soon. Humanity needs to come to grips, sooner rather than later, with its biological meanings, and with the values and anti-values of its religious belief systems. The fight is just beginning. If the real values of religion and spirituality, which include humility before the wonders of nature, are to survive our rising tastes for religious war and destruction, then more than just an elite among us must understand science - and what it yields as description of physical reality through deep time. The more often the small faction of us who read can pause to browse engaging books like "Intelligent Thought," the better is the chance that we can stop the impetus of Homo sapiens toward self-destruction.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Scientists Taking Cues From Nature

http://www.forbes.com/home/feeds/ap/2006/06/19/ap2825164.html

By GREG BLUESTEIN , 06.19.2006, 03:06 PM

It's one of the greatest challenges for robotics engineers: Building a machine that actually walks like one of us.

So far, most attempts have come off as, well, robotic.

Scientists in the field of biologically inspired design are looking at nature to help solve such stumpers. They argue that engineers can learn much from the world's most rigorous process: Evolution.

"If you think of organisms as products, all the bad ones have been recalled. Those that have survived evolved over millions of years," said Marc Weissburg, a biology professor and co-director of Georgia Tech's Center for Biologically Inspired Design.

People have always looked to nature for inspiration, capturing the sun to create fire and copying birds to achieve flight. But in the last 30 years, such observations have become the foundation of an increasingly popular scientific field.

Two research centers opened up within the last year, one at Georgia Tech in Atlanta and another at the University of California, Berkeley. And last month, dozens of researchers gathered in Atlanta to share their experiments in what observers said was a sign of the field's coming of age.

A range of projects were on display, including investigations into rat whiskers, fish jaws and worm brains.

"It really captures the imagination to show how much better organisms are at doing things," Weissburg said. "The natural world doesn't waste energy, accumulate a large amount of toxins or produce more materials than it uses."

Weissburg's pet project shines a blinding green laser into a pool of water to track how a blue crab still manages to swallow a piece of shrimp in 15 seconds even though it can't see.

Hang Lu, another professor, is looking to common worms to learn how to develop sensors that can one day distinguish smell. Eventually, she said, the technology could be used to track plumes of smoke from miles away and determine what is burning.

German scientist Rolf Muller, who teaches at China's Shandong University, says his investigation of bat ears could improve sonar technology. And Robert Full, a Berkeley researcher, is trying to learn the stability principles that keep six-legged insects, eight-legged crabs and four-legged dogs upright.

The field has enjoyed a few recent popular successes, including cleaning products and paints that capture how some plants prevent water from sticking to leafy surfaces - effectively repelling dirt and contaminants.

Skeptics say the relative dearth of discoveries and the staggering cost to develop them isn't worth the final product.

The field also is criticized by intelligent-design backers who say scientists are revering a system that's so complex that it had to be engineered by a higher power.

On his Web site, William Dembski, a leading activist for the intelligent-design movement, dismissed the Georgia Tech center.

"Here's how it works: we find some amazing system in the biological realm, determine how to reverse engineer it, and then design and build a parallel system to serve our needs," he wrote. "But of course, the original system evolved by blind trial-and-error tinkering ... To think that it was actually designed because we had to design its human counterpart is just plain stupid."

Scientists in the field say that recent advances will lead to new discoveries that will far outweigh any concerns.

"Anytime a new research field emerges, it takes a while to put the basic building blocks together. It's just a matter of time. We're getting there," said S.K. Gupta, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Maryland who teaches a bio-inspired robotics course.

"If you think about true biology, sensing and actuation are working at a really, really small scale," he said. "Thirty years ago we weren't able to construct anything at the micro scale. I think recent advances that are taking place in the area of micro-fabrication will help us tremendously."

Research could one day unlock the mysteries of the incredible tensile strength of spider silk, the way organisms propel themselves through water and air so much more efficiently than vehicles, and how the fluids secreted by marine organisms have greater bonding strength than any glue humans have produced.

Even the smallest creatures could hold a compelling secret.

"Every organism is designed to solve a problem," Weissburg said.

Not so Complementary

http://www.time.com/time/europe/magazine/article/0,13005,901060626-1205326,00.html

Mainstream medics say they're worthless, governments are confused, but demand for alternative therapies keeps growing. The anatomy of a hot-tempered debate

BY ANDREA GERLIN / LONDON

Sean Dixon lies on a treatment table at a clinic in central London as acupuncturist Bernard Nolan inserts 10 tiny needles into his feet, ankles, shins, hands and abdomen. "Can you feel that?" Nolan asks. "Yeah," his patient answers, wincing slightly. Dixon isn't entirely comfortable with needles but he's paid $120 for the weekly sessions since February, after six months of traditional physical therapy failed to cure his strained neck. Six weeks into acupuncture with Nolan, he is feeling much better. "I have no idea why it works," Dixon, 41, says, "but this problem is almost gone." Nolan attributes Dixon's symptoms to an Eastern concept known as a "cold-wind" condition and says the acupuncture treatment rebalances energies in his patient's body.

That explanation may raise haughty eyebrows in the clinics and consulting rooms of mainstream medicine, but increasing numbers of Europeans are embracing alternative treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation, homeopathy and osteopathy. Some of these — like acupuncture — were developed in

In France, they are positively le dernier cri. An estimated 75% of the French use acupuncture, homeopathy or osteopathy at some time in their lives, according to the World Health Organization (who). Germany has a long tradition of complementary therapies and has drawn folks to its thermal baths since Roman times. Today 3 in 4 Germans have tried alternative therapies, up from 52% in 1970. Britain came late to the treatment room. Only 10% of Britons surveyed in 2001 reported using one of five complementary treatments, but practitioners say demand for their services has doubled or tripled since then.

That's New Age music to the ears of proponents of alternative medicine such as Britain's Prince Charles. Last month, the Prince suggested in a speech to the who in Geneva that governments should support "integrated health care" combining conventional and alternative therapies. Not so, argued 13 doctors back in Britain in an open letter published on the day of the Prince's speech that attacked the use of National Health Service (nhs) resources on treatments they said were unproven.

An estimated 3 in 10 local health authorities in Britain offer alternative therapies to patients, and the nhs runs and funds an outpatient clinic and five hospitals that provide homeopathic treatments, including the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital. Doctors there are all trained in orthodox medicine and complementary disciplines. Dr. Saul Berkovitz, who runs the hospital's acupuncture clinic, says their $6.2 million annual allocation from state coffers is well spent. According to patient surveys, more than 60% of the 30,000 treated there each year improve. "It's an absolute fraction of the nhs budget," he says. "It's pretty low-tech and it's probably cost effective."

The hospital offers a range of options including holistic prenatal checkups and homeopathic remedies. In the group acupuncture clinic, Berkovitz uses needles hooked to a current to treat patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. Many improve with eight treatments, and one canceled a knee replacement after successful treatment. "I'm not saying everyone can throw away their crutches, but the potential for savings is there," says Berkovitz.

Some doctors, however, still worry that patients may be throwing away money on alternative treatments — whether the state's or their own. The Lancet, a leading British medical journal, last year called homeopathy "nothing but a placebo." Nicole Priollaud, a spokeswoman for the French Academy of Medicine, says: "For us, it is clear homeopathy has no therapeutic effect." But Dr. Dominique Jeulin, president of France's National Union of Homeopathic Doctors, thinks that position is based on simple prejudice. "In France, like the rest of Europe, the debate over homeopathy has always been emotional," she says.

At the moment, the skeptics are in the ascendant in France. Two years ago, the state-run health insurer, Assurance Maladie, reduced the rate at which it reimburses homeopathy from 65% to 35%. By contrast, health insurers in Germany stump up for a broad range of therapies. "Unconventional" means what it says; treatments include acupuncture and cupping, in which heated cups are placed on the skin to stimulate blood flow. One state-mandated insurer, Securvita, even won a court fight last year allowing it to cover music and painting therapy, and rhythmic massage. "We try to support the demand of our customers for tried-and-trusted complementary and alternative therapies," says Securvita founder Thomas Martens.

There's one enduring oddity to debate about alternative treatments. Some European governments have long funded one form of treatment without much hard evidence to back its efficacy. France, Germany and Italy spend hundreds of millions of euros reimbursing the cost of treatments at thermal baths where the waters, rich in minerals, are thought possibly to alleviate conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Even the French Academy of Medicine suspends its skepticism when it comes to the baths; it validates their water quality and therapeutic indications. Assurance Maladie pays out about €158 million a year for treatments at France's 120 authorized thermal-bath centers. Italy's national health system, too, pays for treatments at spas all over the country. "In Europe, thermal therapies have an ancient tradition," says Maria Carla Ottaiano of the Lazio Regional Health Council. Nevertheless, Italy's Ministry of Health proposes to verify scientifically the effectiveness of thermal treatments.

Testing like that might help ease the antagonism between conventional and alternative practitioners. Done properly, it would bestow legitimacy on effective treatments, while weeding out bogus therapies — and the quacks who promote them. A key area is in the licensing and regulation of practitioners, vital to quality control. Dr. Sara Eames, a homeopath at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, says the lack of regulation undermines confidence in the whole sector. "There could be people who go off, take a course and think they can take a few crystals and cure anybody," she says.

For its part, Britain requires osteopaths and chiropractors to register with a statutory professional body, but anyone can work as an acupuncturist or homeopath. In Germany, typically only private insurers reimburse the services of state-regulated complementary and alternative practitioners. The situation in France is chaotic. Acupuncturists must study three years at an accredited school, but their work is technically illegal if they are not also medical doctors. That means that acupuncturists like Stéphane Bourquard can only bill private insurers for their fees; they of course pay taxes to the state, but can't collect state pensions because they're considered to be illegally practicing medicine.

How can this muddle be sorted out? With lobbyists prescribing a multiplicity of approaches, European governments can be excused a little confusion. But alternative therapies are often the last resort for patients failed by conventional treatments or suffering chronic conditions. Vulnerable, sometimes in financial hardship because of their illnesses, they're looking for help, not controversy. Time, they say, for the alternative and conventional camps to stop giving each other the needle.

With reporting by JEFFREY T. IVERSON/Paris, MIMI MURPHY/Rome and URSULA SAUTTER/Bonn

©TIME. Printed on Monday, June 19, 2006

Call for Muslim Scientists Join the Scientific Dissent From Darwinism

http://www.islam-online.net/English/Science/Science/NaturalSciences/2006/06/01.shtml

By Mustafa Akyol**

"[An] 'ism' of great danger to Islam... is Darwinism," said Seyyed Hossein Nasr, one of the leading Muslim thinkers of our time, in his book Islam and the Plight of Modern Man. He is certainly right. Darwinism is indeed a dangerous idea, and the reason for that is its seemingly scientific affirmation of the naturalist philosophy — the belief that nature is all there is and that life on Earth, including humans, is the product of the blind forces of nature. If one accepts that philosophy, then one will have little reason to believe in Allah, the Lord and Creator of everything.

That's why Nasr thinks that accepting the Darwinian evolution theory would be to "surrender Islam" to modern atheism. And he warns fellow Muslims against this risk as follows:

Those who think they are rendering a service to Islam by incorporating evolutionary ideas, as currently understood, into Islamic thought are, in fact, tumbling into a most dangerous pitfall and are surrendering Islam to one of modern man's most insidious pseudo-dogmas, one created in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to enable men to forget God. (213)

Some Muslims might find Nasr's warning too farfetched because they think that Islam actually doesn't have any problems with the theory of evolution. Evolution, they would argue, might simply have been the method through which Allah manifested His creation. Besides, there are some medieval Muslim scholars who toyed with evolutionary ideas long before Darwin. So isn't evolution a problem for Christians — whose scripture is at odds with evolution in a literal reading— but not for Muslims?

Yes and no.

It is true that the Islamic doctrine of creation could allow for an evolutionary interpretation, and thus the theory of evolution, per se, is not unacceptable in Islam. But Darwinism is not evolution. It is a special theory of evolution that insists that evolutionary mechanisms are undirected and unguided. Modern Darwinian theory accepts only two creative powers — natural selection and random mutation. These blind, purposeless mechanisms are the only accepted causes for life, and any divine guidance and intervention are never, ever allowed.

An End to the Ulama and Imams?

In his famous book The Meaning of Evolution, George Gaylord Simpson, one of the arch-Darwinists of the 20th century, explained this special meaning of Darwinian evolution quite clearly. "Man," wrote Simpson, "is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind."

Another prominent Darwinist, Richard Dawkins of Oxford University, is even blunter. Dawkins is a militant atheist who defines religious faith "as one of the world's great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate." And he is Darwin's greatest fan, because, according to him, Darwin "made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist."

William B. Provine is even blunter yet when he proudly says, "Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented."

We should carefully note that this "engine" is not running only in the Western world. Its target is to undermine all theistic religions, including, of course, Islam. Just take a look at what Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, a hard-core proponent of Darwinian evolution, said in accepting an award from the Freedom from Religion Foundation:

I personally feel that the teaching of modern science is corrosive of religious belief, and I'm all for that! One of the things that in fact has driven me in my life is the feeling that this is one of the great social functions of science — to free people from superstition. ... I can hope that this long sad story will come to an end at some time in the future and that this progression of priests and ministers and rabbis and ulamas and imams and bonzes and bodhisattvas will come to an end, that we'll see no more of them.

Ulama and imams coming to an end?

Although this is wishful thinking, it is noteworthy. And it confirms that Darwinism is indeed "a great danger to Islam," as Professor Nasr rightly says.

The Sun From the West

However this "danger" is not too hard to deal with because Darwinism is in fact a pseudo-scientific theory. Observable and testable data do show that there is some change in nature and that living beings have a capacity to adapt to their environment, but there is simply no evidence for the kind of macro-evolution that Darwinists envision — a chance-driven natural process that created all life without a Creator. That's why, in the past few decades, there has been a growing body of scientific literature that challenges Darwinian evolution and argues that this theory is not the correct explanation of biological origins.

Professor Nasr talks about this scientific challenge to Darwinism in his Islam and the Plight of Modern Man and emphasizes the works of Western scientists who criticize Darwinian evolution.

However, according to Professor Nasr, there is a problem. "Unfortunately," he writes, "few contemporary Muslim thinkers have taken note of these [Western] sources and made use of their arguments to support the traditional Islamic view of man" (212).

In other words, few Muslims have taken part in the scientific challenge to Darwinism.

Perhaps this was because, until recently, the challenge was mostly associated with the US-based Christian movement called creationism. Creationism was the effort to merge science and Christian theology. Some of its arguments — such as Young Earth — did not correspond to any traditional Islamic doctrine. Therefore Muslims had a good reason for not being associated with creationism in this narrow sense.

However a revolution took place in the early 1990s with the rise of a new theory called Intelligent Design (ID). ID does not try to infuse any theology into science; it just uses scientific evidence and rational inference. It argues that Darwinism is wrong in its assumptions about randomness, and that the complexity of life on Earth — and the fine-tuning of the physical universe, for that matter — can only be explained by positing a designing intelligence. In the same way that a book points to an author, ID theory argues, the universe and life points to a Designer.

It is not hard to see that this reasoning is very compatible with the Qur'anic verses that tell us that nature is full of Allah's signs and we should examine them to see His majesty. In his article "Taskhir, Fine-tuning, Intelligent Design and the Scientific Appreciation of Nature," published in the journal Islam & Science, Dr. Adi Setia of the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization in Malaysia confirms the parallels between Qur'anic concepts and intelligent design.

In other words, although ID is a theory developed in the West, it is fully compatible with, and profoundly supportive of, the core faith of Islam. Just remember what our Prophet (peace be upon him) told us: "Knowledge and wisdom are the lost property of the believers, so if a believer finds it anywhere, he should take it." Today, ID is such knowledge and wisdom to be taken.

Sign the Dissent From Darwin Statement

I have written about Intelligent Design before on IslamOnline.net, in a piece titled "Why Muslims Should Support Intelligent Design." "Intelligent Design is very much our cause," I held, "and we should do everything we can to support it." After that piece, many Muslim sisters and brothers sent me supportive e-mails and I am so grateful for their responses.

This time I have a more solid suggestion to Muslim scientists who would like to join the global effort against Darwinism: Come sign the Dissent From Darwin Statement, which simply reads

We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged. (Learn more at the Dissent From Darwin page)

The Discovery Institute, the main organization supporting Intelligent Design and the criticism of Darwinian evolution, launched this two-sentence statement in 2001 and so far more than 500 scientists have stepped forward to sign their names. The list is growing and includes scientists from the US National Academy of Sciences; Russian, Polish, and Czech National Academies; universities such as Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and others. Muslim scholar Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal, the editor of the journal Islam & Science, is also on the list. Several others from Turkey are just to be added.

It will be invaluable if more Muslim scientists sign the statement. It will empower the scientific case against Darwinism and it will show that it is a global phenomenon, despite the claims to the contrary by the Darwinist establishment. It will also have a deeper intercivilizational message: that the world is not necessarily divided between East and West, and that people of good faith and reason in all civilizations can join in proclaiming scientific truths overshadowed by materialist prejudice.

If you agree, and if you are a scientist, would you consider adding your name to the Dissent From Darwin list?

The list comprises scientists who have doctoral degrees and doctors of medicine who are professors of medicine.

If this fits your description — or if you have suggestions about reaching Muslim scientists whose do — please contact me at akyol@mustafaakyol.org.

Disclaimer: The article reflects the opinions of the author.

Note from the editor: IslamOnline.net invites its readers to join in on the debate surrounding Darwinism and evolutionary theory. You are welcome to send your writings and opinions, regardless of which side your argument supports, to the editor at sciencetech@iolteam.com.

Sources:

Nasr, Sayyed Hossein. Louisville, KY: The Islamic Texts Society, 2003.

** Mustafa Akyol is a Muslim writer and newspaper columnist living in Istanbul, Turkey. In May 2005, he testified to the Kansas State Education Board as an expert witness about Darwinism and Intelligent Design. His web blog is located at www.thewhitepath.com. Your e-mails to him will be forwarded to him by contacting sciencetech@iolteam.com.

Acupuncture, herbs for your pet?

http://msnbc.msn.com/id/13316993/

More owners give alternative therapy a try but evidence often unclear

By Kim Campbell Thornton MSNBC

Updated: 5:52 p.m. MT June 19, 2006

When Dax, a 6-year-old Australian Shepherd was diagnosed with a form of liver disease called copper toxicosis, and given no more than a year to live, her owner refused to accept the veterinarian's verdict.

"I did a lot of reading and research and came up with three herbal remedies said to support the liver and liver function: milk thistle, licorice root and red clover," says Liz Palika, a dog trainer in Oceanside, Calif. She discussed her findings with her veterinarian. He wasn't familiar with the use of the herbs but agreed that it couldn't hurt to try them, recommending only that she keep Dax on antioxidant vitamins, which were also believed to support liver function.

"We also changed her food from a dry kibble to a dehydrated raw food," Palika says. "I did not want a raw food that had not been processed at all because I didn't want her liver to have to work any harder than it was."

Six years on, 12-year-old Dax plays with Palika's new kittens and has the appetite of a much younger dog. "She's showing her age, has a cataract forming and is stiff first thing in the morning, but her quality of life is still very good," Palika says.

Palika was in the vanguard of pet owners willing to go beyond conventional veterinary medicine to help their animals. Just 10 years ago, a survey by the American Animal Hospital Association showed that only 6 percent of pet owners had used complementary or alternative therapies — such as acupuncture, chiropractic and herbs — on their pets. By 2003, when AAHA asked the question again, the figure had risen to 21 percent. Sales of natural pet health products totaled $45 million in 2004 and are expected to grow by 149 percent to $112 million by 2009.

"Many people are concerned about the negative side effects of medication, the invasiveness and pain from surgery, and the 'missing pieces' of conventional medicine that relate to improving quality of life," says veterinarian Narda G. Robinson, an assistant professor of complementary and alternative medicine in the department of clinical sciences at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Fort Collins.

"Complementary and alternative medicine places a huge emphasis on optimizing quality of life," Robinson says. "This becomes especially important when facing chronic and potentially debilitating diseases such as severe arthritis or even cancer."

Holding out hope

And the hope that nature can provide a safer or more effective treatment than conventional medicine is a powerful one — even if there isn't much science to support use of a particular modality.

In some instances, people have seen the benefits for themselves and want their dogs or cats to try the same options. Sometimes, as in Palika's case, people turn to it because conventional medicine doesn't offer any treatments for their pets' problems.

"I get some owners, especially for immune diseases and cancer, who have been told by their specialist that there is no treatment for a particular cancer or other disease," says veterinarian Shawn Messonnier of Paws and Claws Animal Hospital in Plano, Texas, and author of "The Natural Vet's Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs."

"They don't want to accept that as an answer, so they come to me, and we try to find something that will keep their pets alive hopefully for a lot longer but at least for a little while longer and keep them comfortable as well," says Messonnier.

But how well do complementary and alternative approaches really work in pets? That can depend on the modality and the condition, and in many cases there just hasn't been enough research to know one way or the other.

Robinson says acupuncture, most often used for pain relief and to treat neurological problems, has the most scientific support and also appears to be the safest.

"What I especially like about acupuncture is that we're not adding any chemicals to the body, as happens when herbs or nutraceuticals are given to animals," she says.

While some nutritional supplements such as glucosamine, which is believed to relieve joint pain, and milk thistle, valuable for liver disease, have been evaluated in animals, most herbs given to pets have not been tested for safety or effectiveness, she says, and you can't assume that because something is safe for humans it's safe for animals.

Natural not always better

If you're considering trying an alternative therapy for your pet, approach it with the same investigative spirit you would any conventional drug or treatment. Just because something is natural doesn't mean it can't be harmful or that it's a cure-all.

Ask your veterinarian how alternative and conventional approaches compare as far as effectiveness for your pet's condition. If your veterinarian isn't familiar with a therapy, schedule a consultation with a holistic veterinarian (the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association has listings on its Web site) who can advise you. Many offer phone consultations if you're not in their area.

Consider the risks and potential benefits of each approach, and compare the quality of life and safety issues, Robinson says. "For example, is an herb or other alternative mixture actually going to relieve the problem and make the animal feel better? If not, wouldn't you want to effectively address the problem, even if it means using chemicals for a brief time? On the other hand, sometimes even the standard drug-based approach is only partially effective. In these cases, a non-drug option might offer comparable or superior benefits. It will vary for each condition, species and individual."

Be sure to do your research. Check credentials and facts. Palika didn't try anything that wasn't recommended by at least two well-respected sources such as veterinarians and books. Like drugs, herbs work by causing biochemical reactions.

Before trying any herbal remedies, find out if they will interact with drugs your pet is already taking. And, above all, don't shun conventional therapies just for the sake of using only "natural" products. For some things, conventional is better. When it comes to heartworm prevention, for instance, natural products just aren't effective.

When possible, choose a veterinarian who's open to integrative medicine — the use of conventional and complementary therapies.

"Although my vet does not practice alternative medicine, he is open to it and will listen when I talk to him and ask questions," Palika says. "There is no reason why we cannot combine the advantages of Western medicine with alternative therapies."

Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning author who has written many articles and more than a dozen books about dogs and cats. She belongs to the Dog Writers Association of America and is past president of the Cat Writers Association. She shares her home in California with three Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and one African ringneck parakeet.

Creature Comforts appears the third Monday of every month.

© 2006 MSNBC Interactive

URL: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/13316993/


Friday, June 16, 2006

The Debate About Origins

http://americandaily.com/article/14095

By Rob Hood (06/16/2006)

I never doubted where my origins when I was growing up. Come to think of it, I really never thought about it that much either. As I grew out of my childhood years and into my teenage years, I became aware that something other than Creation was being taught. I entered high school Biology class and did very well in the course. I never really had a problem with science and still don't. I myself am a type of scientist I guess you might call it. I studied Electronics in college and learned about the characteristics of electricity and magnetism as well as taking Physical Science in college as an elective. I did well in both and earned my Associates Degree in Electronics, so I am a bit familiar with modern science try to keep up with things of today in magazines like Popular Science and Popular Mechanics.

As I went through my year in high school Biology, I never really paid much attention to the chapter about evolution. I had glanced over it from time to time but never really read it in depth. When it came time for the class to enter this now very controversial chapter, our teacher simply stated that she was not going to teach that chapter because it raised too many questions regarding religion and often sparked trouble with parents. So, we did skip the chapter on evolution.

The debate rages today over evolution versus Intelligent Design, but I really can't see what all the fuss is about. Intelligent Design theory only gives an alternative to the unproven theory of evolution. In no way does it endorse a particular religion. In no way does it say that Jesus, or Buddha, or Muhammad created the universe. It simply recognizes that a higher authority or supreme being created the universe. It is not specific as to religion or denomination and therefore cannot be associated with mixing religion or Christianity with science.

Some of the greatest scientists in history did believe in a God that created the Universe. Sir Isaac Newton and Galileo were among those. Intelligent Design in itself is not the same as creationism as some has misunderstood. While it does recognize that a higher authority created the universe, it stops right there while Creationism endorses the account of Genesis where God, the Father of Jesus Christ, spoke the universe and all we see today into existence in a literal six day time period, so there is a difference between Creationism and Intelligent Design.

While no one really knows the actual age of the earth itself or the universe itself, scientists on both side of the political spectrum have their own views and theories. Secular scientists who dismiss the Bible as book of errors say that the earth is millions of years old. Dinosaurs existed and died out millions of years before man "appeared" on the scene. Christian scientists who do believe in creation say that the earth is between 4,000 and 6,000 years old and that mankind lived at the same time dinosaurs did and that the larger animals like dinosaurs died by drowning in the flood of Noah.

Of course you might be laughing at this idea, but if you study it carefully and start to see the progress being made in Creation research, you might change your mind. The most asked question about this theory is "If man and dinosaurs existed at the exact same time, them why are human bones and dinosaur bones not found close together"? This is a very good question, but it also has a very good answer according to a top creation researcher Bodie Hodge, a staff member, and educated speaker/researcher for Ken Ham's Answers In Genesis group. He claims that during the flood of Noah, humans would have fled to higher ground like mountains. Perhaps huge dinosaurs couldn't climb mountains? Once the flood waters came, it buried plant life and animal life on the lower elevations and fossilized them first. Human bones would be the last to be buried by the flood waters since they were at a higher elevation. If you look at fossil records, there may very well be much truth in this theory.

According to Mr. Hodge, the fossil records show that

95% of all fossils are marine organisms

95% of the remaining 5% are algae, plants, and trees

95% of the remaining 0.25% are invertebrates including insects

the remaining 0.0125% are vertebrates, mostly fish

This does tell us that humans fossils are not found that often but is a great possibility when searching in lower sediments of flood levels.

Some say that the Grand Canyon was formed at the time of Noah's great flood and there appears to be much more evidence for that now than ever before. A ministry called Canyon Ministries (www.canyonministries.com) places books in tourist centers for tourists visiting the Grand Canyon in which the book discusses evidence found that the canyon was formed from a great flood, not a river.

Whatever the case may be, it still seems to be highly controversial in the area of politics and school. Some private schools and Christian colleges do endorse Creationism and Intelligent Design Theory over evolution and the trend is getting more popular by the day. I know what I was taught as a child and it's hard for me to comprehend that the whole universe and everything in it just one day accidentally invented itself. I am one to still believe in creationism where God spoke the world into existence. I suppose everyone is entitled to his or her opinion since we live in a free country, but evolution still makes no sense if all of the evidence against it is considered. Even Darwin himself had some doubts about his own theory and yet we see some teaching it today like it is a proven infallible fact, and that makes for bad science indeed.

I saw a picture of a billboard that is growing ever more popular in key Intelligent Design battleground states that simply says "Evolution is a fairy tale for grown-ups" which somehow has some truth to it. Ken Ham of Answers In Genesis (www.answersingenesis.org), a ministry in which I financially and prayerfully support, sure thinks that the message about creation is important. As a matter of fact to show just how important it is to the ministry, they are building a Creation Museum (www.creationmuseum.org) in Kentucky that will be a 50,000 square foot facility. It will feature a 17 foot waterfall, theater that will seat 176 people, a fantastically beautiful main lobby, over 2 miles or nature trails, and some dinosaur models as well as a store and other great features. It is slated to open in the spring of 2007. I can't wait to go!

As for those of us who do believe in Biblical creation as it is recorded in genesis, we have a long hard battle ahead, but surely the God who created the universe can help us to cope with the issue indeed!

REFERENCES:

Answers Magazine, Vol. 1 No.1, July-Sept. 2006, page 52
www.answersmagazine.com

Answers in Genesis
www.answersingenesis.org

*Ed: Views are those of individual authors and not necessarily those of American Daily.

Discovery Institute Is Think Tank Increasing Fastest in News Coverage, According to FAIR Media Report

http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/06-16-2006/0004382079&EDATE=

SEATTLE, June 16 /PRNewswire/ -- According to a report issued by a liberal media resource, FAIR, the Discovery Institute has become one of the most sought after think-tanks in the country, with greater percentage growth in news notice than any other think tank. Discovery, founded in 1990, is a non-partisan public policy center specializing in issues surrounding transportation, technology, and the scientific theory of intelligent design.

The FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) study found that among the nation's top think tanks, Discovery attracted the "greatest increase in [media] exposure" in 2005, making it the 20th most cited think tank in news stories. By FAIR's count, the Institute was cited over 400 times in the national news media throughout 2005, and the Institute's scientists and scholars participated in 153 print interviews, 81 nationally syndicated radio programs, 226 market radio programs and penned 68 OP-ED articles. Overall the exposure of the top national think tanks fell by 10 percent in the news media from 2004 to 2005, yet exposure for Discovery Institute skyrocketed by nearly 300 percent over the same period.

Discovery Institute President Bruce Chapman pointed out that the liberal FAIR classified some think tanks -- including Discovery Institute -- as conservative, but did not classify any as liberal, but rather described them as either centrist, progressive or center-left.

"There's a whole group of hard left think tanks FAIR left out of its study," said Chapman. "They're called universities. This is more than a joke since conservative think tanks were started, in many cases, as a response to the increasing stranglehold of the left on our universities." Many attribute the newfound acclaim of the Discovery Institute to its Center for Science and Culture and its scientists work on the scientific theory of intelligent design. The New York Times reported in a 2005 front page story that "The Center is pushing a 'teach the controversy' approach to evolution, transforming the argument from one between religion and science to one of academic freedom and discussion."

According to Nature magazine, an international weekly journal of science, "Discovery Institute is the nation's leading intelligent design think tank" And, Newsweek magazine said, "[Discovery Institute] has almost single-handedly put intelligent design on the map."

ABC Nightline anchor, Ted Koppel, said in 2005 that Discovery "has done an absolutely brilliant job of taking a difficult position and in effect infusing the mass culture with it about as effectively as anything I've seen in recent years."

Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture has more than 40 affiliated biologists, biochemists, physicists, philosophers and historians of science, and public policy and legal experts, most of whom also have positions with colleges and universities. Over 500 scientists have signed the Institute's Scientific Dissent From Darwinism statement (http://www.dissentfromdarwin.com).

SOURCE Discovery Institute


Thursday, June 15, 2006

South Carolina Approves Guidelines Requiring Critical Analysis of Evolution

http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/6/152006b.asp

By Jim Brown June 15, 2006

(AgapePress) - A lawmaker in South Carolina is hailing the approval of new evolutionary biology standards for public high schools. The South Carolina Education Oversight Committee has approved these standards, which require students to "summarize ways that scientists use data from a variety of sources to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory."

State Senator Mike Fair, a member of the Education Oversight Committee, believes the update of the public schools' biology curriculum guidelines is a step in the right direction. "That, we think, is going to give a new freedom to teachers and a new freedom to the students in the science classrooms around South Carolina," he says.

With these standards in place, students will be less afraid to ask questions, Fair asserts. And likewise, these educational objectives will give teachers the freedom "to answer questions and to do what we think good science is all about, and that is to always be asking questions," he says.

Opponents of the new standards want to protect "philosophical materialism," the South Carolina senator contends. He describes this mindset as a "religion" that runs rampant on college campuses.

"Biology departments in the universities around our state are absolutely controlled by people who are afraid, for some reason or another, to look into and encourage students to look at all aspects of the question of evolution," Fair says. He believes the newly established biology standards will help change this situation.

According to the Seattle, Washington-based Discovery Institute, South Carolina is the fifth U.S. state to require students to learn about scientific criticisms of evolution. The state's new guidelines do not, however, require the teaching of alternative theories to Darwinian evolution.

Senator Fair believes the new biology standards for South Carolina high schools will help create an atmosphere where science education can flourish without materialist ideology. Also, he says it is his hope that these guidelines will be a precursor to allowing alternatives to the theory of evolution, such as intelligent design, to be taught in the state's schools.

Jim Brown, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is a reporter for American Family Radio News, which can be heard online.

Stephen Hawking says pope told him not to study beginning of universe

http://mdn.mainichi-msn.co.jp/international/news/20060615p2g00m0in039000c.html

HONG KONG -- Famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said Thursday that the late Pope John Paul II once told scientists they should not study the beginning of the universe because it was the work of God.

The British author -- who wrote the best-seller "A Brief History of Time" -- said that the pope made the comments at a cosmology conference at the Vatican.

Hawking, who didn't say when the meeting was held, quoted the pope as saying, "It's OK to study the universe and where it began. But we should not enquire into the beginning itelf because that was the moment of creation and the work of God."

The scientist then joked during a lecture in Hong Kong, "I was glad he didn't realize I had presented a paper at the conference suggesting how the universe began. I didn't fancy the thought of being handed over to the Inquisition like Galileo."

The church condemned Galileo in the 17th century for supporting Nicholas Copernicus' discovery that Earth revolved around the sun. Church teaching at the time placed Earth at the center of the universe.

But in 1992, Pope John Paul II issued a declaration saying that the church's denunciation of Galileo was an error resulting from "tragic mutual incomprehension."

Hawking is one of the best-known theoretical physicists of his generation. He has done groundbreaking research on black holes and the origins of the universe. He proposes that space and time have no beginning and no end.

His hourlong lecture to a sold-out audience at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology was highly theoretical and technical. During the question-and-answer session, Hawking was asked where constants like gravity come from and whether gravity can distort light.

But there were several light, humorous moments.

Hawking -- who must communicate with an electronic speech synthesizer -- said he once considered using a machine that gave him a French accent but he couldn't use it because his wife would divorce him.

The astrophysicist is wheelchair-bound and uses an electronic voice because he has the neurological disorder called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

Hawking was asked why his computerized voice has an American accent.

"The voice I use is a very old hardware speech synthesizer made in 1986," he said. "I keep it because I have not heard a voice I like better and because I have identified with it."

But Hawking said he's shopping for a new system because the hardware he uses is large and fragile. He also said it uses components that are no longer made.

"I have been trying to get a software version, but it seems very difficult," he said.

He urged people with physical disabilities not to give up on their ambitions.

"You can't afford to be disabled in spirit as well as physically," he said. "People won't have time for you."

The moderator at the lecture told the audience that at a recent dinner, she asked Hawking what his ambitions were. He said he wanted to know how the universe began, what happens inside black holes and how can humans survive the next 100 years, she said.

But she added he had one more great ambition: "I would also like to understand women."

Hawking ended his lecture saying, "We are getting closer to answering the age-old questions: Why are we here? Where did we come from?" (AP)

June 15, 2006

Duck Look-Alike Reveals Birds' Evolution

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/16/science/16fossil.html?hp&ex=1150430400&en=235bacaf379d26bf&ei=5094&partner=homepage

By KENNETH CHANG Published: June 16, 2006

It looked like a duck. It swam like a duck. It is not known if it quacked like a duck.

Filling a gap in the evolution of birds, scientists have dug up fossils of a bird that lived 110 million years ago and looked remarkably like a small modern-day waterfowl.

One of the new fossils, from northwest China, even preserves the webbing between the toes. The finding, reported today in the journal Science, supports the notion that all living birds, from ostriches to ducks to hummingbirds, descended from an ancestor that lived by the shore.

The first fossil of the bird, Gansus yumenensis, was discovered 25 years ago, and it was named after where it was found, near the city of Yumen in the Chinese province of Gansu. But that fossil was just the left foot and part of the ankle, enough to show that the Gansus was small — about the size of a robin — but leaving much unknown.

In 2004, researchers led by Hai-lu You of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences returned to the region and found about 40 more fossils of Gansus in an area that was once a lake. The best preserved fossils are nearly complete and even show parts of the feathers, although none include the bird's skull.

The bones of the upper body suggest that Gansus was able to take off from the water, much like today's ducks. Webbed feet and bony knees, which probably anchored strong muscles, show that Gansus could swim.

"We have thought of it as more like a diving duck or a loon," said Matthew C. Lamanna, an author of the Science paper who is assistant curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. "We see it as a swimmer or a diver."

Birds first evolved about 40 million years before Gansus lived, but early birds like Archaeopteryx looked more like the dinosaurs that most paleontologists believe birds descended from. Gansus instead possessed skeletal features — for example, the bones in the ankle and upper foot were fused together — that are seen in modern birds.

"All other birds from the early Cretaceous period are not as closely related to modern birds as this one is," Dr. Lamanna said.

At the time Gansus lived, the prevalent birds in most parts of the sky were of a type known as "opposite birds" because some bones in their shoulders and feet were reversed compared with present-day birds. But at the Chinese lake, Gansus appears to have been the most common bird. About 80 percent of the bird fossils found so far have been of Gansus. That might eventually offer some clues of how modern birds later rose to dominance while the opposite birds became extinct along with the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

In building the family tree of birds, the scientists also noticed that most of the close relatives of modern birds lived in or around water.

"We noticed that a sequence of aquatic birds led up to the modern birds," Dr. Lamanna said.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Reporter goes undercover to give insight into Scientology

http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/news/2006/06june/060614scien.shtml

Regional press news - this story published 14.6.2006

By holdthefrontpage staff

The Evening Chronicle in Newcastle has given readers an insight into Scientology, after sending an undercover reporter into the North East's only branch of the religion.

Journalist Adam Jupp, (26), spent two days learning about the religion and studying one of its courses after the paper learnt of plans to open a new church in Newcastle's city centre.

He arranged to visit a church in Sunderland, and was introduced to the religion with a 45-minute DVD which told how Scientology can cure drug addiction and improve literacy rates.

He was then asked to complete a 200-question personality test before beginning a course on 'Overcoming Ups and Downs', and kept a diary of his experiences which was published in the Chronicle.

In the diary he described how he was made to study in silence with no unscheduled breaks and was encouraged to buy books and pay for courses to improve his personality, climbing the 'Bridge to Total Freedom' along the way.

Adam told readers: "While I'm waiting for my test results, I'm handed a series of books and leaflets I can buy if I want to learn about Scientology and how it can improve my life.

"My graph shows I have the lowest possible score for depression. It also tells me I am anxious, nervous, irresponsible and critical, as well as having a lack of accord. The only area I score well on is being active.

"But the good news is Scientology can work to improve my score on all these points if I sign up to courses on marriage, how to pay bills, do better at work or a complete detox."

Adam told HoldtheFrontPage he was sceptical about some of what he had heard, and had not returned to the church since.

He said: "The personality test seemed random to me but I guess in their eyes it produces legimate results.

"There were some interesting phrases such as 'do you sometimes feel like you have got too much on your plate?' which most people would probably say yes to, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are depressed."

Following his investigation, a Scientology spokesman told Adam: "The Church can train people on workable solutions for anything from how to repair a broken relationship, how to communicate with others, how to build happy relationships, how to improve confidence or how to organise and be more efficient at work."

Last month Adam won the Kate Adie Award for Initiative in Journalism and the Investigative Journalism Prize at the Tom Cordner North East Press Awards. His previous work has included investigations into cocaine use, passive smoking, underage drinking and hygiene standards in Newcastle's restaurants, and he went undercover to work for the Royal Mail.

Two species become one in the lab

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/5080298.stm

Two butterfly species have been bred in the lab to make a third distinct species, the journal Nature reports.

In a species, individuals need to be capable of interbreeding to produce fertile offspring.

The study demonstrates that two animal species can evolve to form one, instead of the more common scenario where one species diverges to form two.

The process has been likened to building a new bike from a pair of second-hand ones.

The Heliconius heurippa butterfly appears to be the product of a process called hybrid speciation.

Most species are thought to form when groups of organisms gradually diverge from one another over successive generations.

But these distinctive red and yellow butterflies seem to be the product of two existing varieties.

Genetic mismatch

Hybrid speciation is thought to be rare or absent in animals where, it has been argued, hybrid offspring would be less likely to survive and breed than the parent species.

This is because genes from different species are sometimes "incompatible".

A well known example is the mule - a sterile hybrid between the donkey and the horse. It is useful for carrying heavy loads but is a reproductive dead-end.

A team of researchers from Panama, Colombia and the UK managed to recreate Heliconius heurippa in the laboratory by crossing two other species of butterfly; Heliconius cydno and Heliconius melpomene .

"The fact we've recreated this species in the lab provides a pretty convincing route by which the natural species came about," co-author Chris Jiggins, of the University of Edinburgh, told BBC News.

Jesus Mavarez, another author from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, explained: "We found that a wing pattern almost identical to that of the hybrid can be obtained in months - just three generations of lab crosses between H. cydno and H. melpomene .

Wing patterns

"Moreover, natural hybrids from San Cristobal, Venezuela, show wing patterns very similar to H. heurippa , further supporting the idea of a hybrid origin for this species."

In addition, there is growing circumstantial evidence for hybrid speciation in Ragoletis fruit flies, swordtail fish and African cichlid fish.

Some also suspect the American red fox could be the product of hybridisation between coyotes and wolves.

Colour patterns on the wings of the butterflies may be crucial in forming new species, because they serve as mating cues. These butterflies are extremely choosey about finding mates with their own, species-specific wing pattern.

The wing patterns of H. heurippa individuals make them undesirable as mates for members of their parent species, but attractive to each other - reinforcing patterns of mating that lead to a new species.

These species-specific patterns are also crucial in deterring predators. The butterflies produce toxins when eaten and predators learn to recognise and avoid a specific wing pattern.

This is so finely tuned that butterflies with even slight deviations in colour pattern suffer from higher predation.

Published: 2006/06/14 19:10:36 GMT

© BBC MMVI


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