NTS LogoSkeptical News for 16 July 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Discovery Institute and the Theory of Intelligent Deception

http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=11531

Wayne Adkins

July 15, 2006

Each time an article appears somewhere that carries the words "intelligent design" and "creationism" in the same sentence the Discovery Institute feels compelled to respond. They desperately want to distance themselves from biblical creationists because they know it will hurt their chances of slipping intelligent design into classrooms in our public schools. The latest attempt by Bruce Gordon to disassociate intelligent design with creationism is over the top. He actually claims that "most current ID theorists of consequence not only are not creationists, some of them aren't even theists". Most are not creationists?

Well let's take a look at what the definition for a creationist is. Merriam-Webster's says a creationist is a proponent of "a doctrine or theory holding that matter, the various forms of life, and the world were created by God out of nothing and usually in the way described in Genesis". So a creationist is someone who believes everything was created by God, usually, but not always as described in Genesis. Do most current ID theorists of consequence fit that bill? You bet they do. Let's look at what the Discovery Institute, the organization that bills itself as the "nation's leading think researching intelligent design" has said about it.

In the now infamous "Wedge Document" authored by the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, now called the Center for Science and Culture, goals of the organization were defined. One of their two "governing goals" was "to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God". (http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?id=349) That certainly fits the definition for creationism. But that's not all they reveal about their intentions.

Under the "spiritual and cultural" heading their goals include "major Christian denomination(s) defend(s) traditional doctrine of creation and repudiate(s) Darwinism".

Notice here that they don't cite any theory they want to advance, but the "doctrine of creation" is what they want to defend. And what do we call people whose stated goal is to defend the traditional doctrine of creation? We call them creationists and rightfully so. Included under the same heading is the goal of "positive uptake in public opinion polls on issues such as sexuality, abortion and belief in God".

How can this be reconciled with what Bruce Gordon is claiming? He says "Young earth creationists are biblical literalists who circumscribe their approach to science by deduction from Holy Writ. Intelligent design theorists are scientists or philosophers of science who derive their conclusions inductively from the empirical study of nature, following the evidence where it leads without regard to antecedent constraints artificially imposed by theodical desiderata or philosophical naturalism." First off, ID proponents like to use the qualifiers "young earth creationists" and "biblical literalists" when trying to distance themselves from creationism as Dr. Gordon does here. But one can be a creationist without being a young earth advocate or a biblical literalist. Creationism, as stated earlier, is just a belief that everything was created by God. As Dr. Gordon put it in his article, "being cheddar is a sufficient but not a necessary condition for being cheese."

Second, Dr. Gordon says that ID theorists follow the evidence where it leads "without regard to antecedent constraints artificially imposed by theodical desiderata" (theologically desired things). So how can one follow the evidence regardless of ones theological desires and still pursue the stated goal of replacing "materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God"? Those two goals are mutually exclusive.

In the Discovery Institute's "So What" response to the Wedge Document (http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?id=349), they say "Even so, our critics insist that the "Wedge Document" shows that the case for intelligent design is unscientific because it is based on religious belief. But here again they fail to grasp an obvious distinction- the distinction between the implications of a theory and the basis of a theory". It is the Discovery Institute that repeatedly fails to make that distinction. An implication is "a logical relationship between two propositions in which if the first is true the second is true" (Merriam-Webster's). ID proponents have assumed the second proposition (creation by God) is true and their stated goal for advancing the first proposition (intelligent design) is to support the second proposition. That makes creationism the basis for their "theory", not an implication of it.

The reason the Discovery Institute has to constantly battle the idea that intelligent design and creationism are inexorably linked is that creationism is the basis for, not an implication of, intelligent design. Those with any inclination towards honesty will continue to make that connection. But undoubtedly the Discovery Institute will not. Honesty is not one of their stated goals. Defending the traditional doctrine of creation is.

The Discovery Institute claims to be the nation's leading think tank researching intelligent design. One would have to assume that to make that claim they feel that their fellows are among the "current ID theorists of consequence". So who among them are not creationists? Bruce Gordon says "most current ID theorists of consequence … are not creationists". I doubt that is true. He would certainly struggle to name a few who are not creationists and could not back up his assertion that most are not creationists without limiting his definition of creationism to young earth, biblical literalists creationism. Why would someone who is not a creationist conduct research for an organization whose stated goal is to defend the doctrine of creation in the first place? It would certainly not be for career enhancement.

The better question is-why would someone like Bruce Gordon make the claim that most ID theorists of consequence are not creationists? The answer is because the courts have ruled that teaching creationism in public schools is unconstitutional and the only way creationists can see around that is to dress creationism up as a scientific theory. But they know that the flaw in their disguise is that virtually all of the people promoting this "scientific theory" are creationists. So they replace creation with design and God with intelligent designer and label themselves scientists or theorists instead of creationists. Well you can be a scientist and a creationist. You can be a theorist and a creationist. But apparently you can't be honest and be a creationist. If you contradict yourself and say on the one hand that your goal is to defend the doctrine of creation and promote belief in God and say on the other hand that you are not a creationist and you have no regard to antecedent constraints artificially imposed by theodical desiderata or philosophical naturalism, then you are dishonest, both with yourself and others.


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Experts debunk evolution

http://www.djournal.com/pages/story.asp?ID=224002&pub=1&div=Lifestyles

7/14/2006 5:28:17 PM Daily Journal

BY CHARITY GORDON

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE - "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," and 6,000 years later, according to a society at Mississippi State University, scientists will gather to prove it.

The Society for the Advancement of Creation Science, whose purpose is "to strengthen people's faith in the Creator and his Word," will hold its first lecture series July 17-20 at Dorman Hall Auditorium on MSU's campus. Worship starts at 6:30 each evening, and the lectures will begin at 7:30 p.m. The event is open to the public.

Dr. John Sanford, who will present the July 17 lecture, is the primary inventor of the gene gun process. His research has been used to engineer most of the world's transgenic crops.

"My talk will be for non-specialists," Sanford said. "I will show that evolutionary theory - mutation plus natural selection equals evolution - can be conclusively shown to be false."

In his lecture, Sanford will show that if the evolutionary theory were true, then humans would be degenerating, not evolving, as a species.

"Mutations cause genetic degeneration, and selection can slow, but cannot stop, this degenerative process," he said.

Sanford says as a Christian and a scientist he had dodged the question of evolution for a long time.

"I just avoided the issue in my head and imagined God created through evolution," he said.

Sanford says as he later considered the non-evolutionary perspective, examining the scientific evidence for creationism, he was impressed.

"Since then, I have seen rapidly growing evidence supporting the biblical view," he said. "Unfortunately, this evidence is largely suppressed through the media and schools so only the determined seekers find it."

Dr. Mark Horstemeyer, who holds a chair position in mechanical engineering at MSU, hopes the lecture series will help raise the next generation of Christian faculty members.

Upcoming scientists "can do research with a biblical frame of reference," Horstemeyer said, "in the same spirit as the great scientists Pascal, Kelvin, Faraday and Newton. A rational God created a rational universe. We've gotten away from that over the last 100 years or so."

The other lectures include "Thousands, Not Billions - Radioisotope Evidence for a Young World" July 18 by Dr. Russell Humphreys, a retired nuclear physicist; "Tectonic Catastrophe and the Geologic Record" July 19 by Dr. John Baumgardner, a retired Los Alamos geophysicist; and "Evidences for Recent Geological Catastrophe" July 20 by Dr. Steve Austin, a professor of geology at the Institute for Creation Research in Santee, Calif.

Appeared originally in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 7/15/2006 8:00:00 AM, section C , page 1

Evangelist arrested on federal charges

http://pensacolanewsjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060714/NEWS01/607140333/1006

Published - July, 14, 2006

Michael Stewart @PensacolaNewsJournal.com

A Pensacola evangelist who owns the defunct Dinosaur Adventure Land in Pensacola was arrested Thursday on 58 federal charges, including failing to pay $473,818 in employee-related taxes and making threats against investigators.

Of the 58 charges, 44 were filed against Kent Hovind and his wife, Jo, for evading bank reporting requirements as they withdrew $430,500 from AmSouth Bank between July 20, 2001, and Aug. 9, 2002.

At the couple's first court appearance Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Miles Davis, Kent Hovind professed not to understand why he is being prosecuted. Some 20 supporters were in the courtroom.

"I still don't understand what I'm being charged for and who is charging me," he said.

Kent Hovind, who often calls himself "Dr. Dino," has been sparring with the IRS for at least 17 years on his claims that he is employed by God, receives no income, has no expenses and owns no property.

"The debtor apparently maintains that as a minister of God, everything he owns belongs to God and he is not subject to paying taxes to the United States on money he receives for doing God's work," U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Lewis Killian Jr. wrote when he dismissed a claim from Hovind in 1996.

Hovind, an avowed creationist, has widely publicized his "standing offer" to pay $250,000 to anyone who can provide scientific evidence of evolution.

"No one has ever observed a dog produce a non-dog," Hovind once wrote in reply to a New York Times article.

In the indictment unsealed Thursday, a grand jury alleges that Kent Hovind failed to pay $473,818 in federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes on employees at his Creation Science Evangelism/Ministry between March 31, 2001, and Jan. 31, 2004.

As part of the ministry, Hovind operated the Dinosaur Adventure Land at 5800 N. Palafox St., which included rides, a museum and a science center. He also sold literature, videos, CDs and other materials and provided lecture services and live debates for a fee.

The indictment alleges Kent Hovind paid his employees in cash and labeled them "missionaries" to avoid payroll tax and FICA requirements.

On Thursday, a message on the Dinosaur Adventure Land telephone welcomed visitors to the place "where dinosaurs and the Bible meet" and stated that the museum and science center were closed temporarily.

The indictment also says the Hovinds' made cash withdrawals from AmSouth Bank in a manner that evaded federal requirements for reporting cash transactions.

The withdrawals were for $9,500 or $9,600, just below the $10,000 starting point for reporting cash transactions.

Most of the withdrawals were days apart. For example, the indictment shows three withdrawals of $9,500 each on July 20, July 23 and July 26 in 2001.

The indictment also charges Kent Hovind with impeding an IRS investigation.

Among the ways he is accused of doing:

Judge Davis released the Hovinds from custody pending their trial, which will be scheduled during their arraignment at 2 p.m. Monday.

Over Kent Hovind's protests, the judge took away his passport and guns Hovind claimed belonged to his church.

Hovind argued that he needs his passport to continue his evangelism work. He said "thousands and thousands" are waiting to hear him preach in South Africa next month.

But Davis agreed with Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer, who argued that "like-minded people" might secret Hovind away if he left the country.

As for the guns, Davis said "ownership was not the issue."

Kent Hovind also has had run-ins with state authorities.

In April, Circuit Judge Michael Allen ordered the buildings at Dinosaur Adventure Land closed because Hovind failed to obtain a building permit during the 2002 construction. The outdoor theme park was allowed to stay open.

Members of Creation Science Evangelism said at the time that building permits violated their "deeply held" religious beliefs.

While the building permit case was tied up in a four-year court battle, ownership of the theme park was turned over to Glen Stoll, who works with Hovind on legal issues and is based in Washington.

Last year, the U.S. attorney in Seattle filed a lawsuit against Stoll, charging him with encouraging people to avoid tax payments by claiming to be religious entities, according to news reports.

Evolution education update: July 14, 2006

Evolution education remains a burning issue in Kansas as the primary election approaches, while in Ohio there are worries about a resurgence of antievolution activity from the state board of education, and in Florida, a popular creationist speaker is in trouble with the law again.

EVOLUTION AND THE KANSAS PRIMARIES

As the August 1, 2006, Kansas primary election approaches, evolution is a burning issue. The state board of education is at the center of the furor, of course; in November 2005, the board voted 6-4 to adopt a set of state science standards that were rewritten, under the tutelage of local "intelligent design" activists, to impugn the scientific status of evolution. The standards were denounced by a host of critics, including a group of 38 Nobel laureates, the National Science Teachers Association, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the committee that wrote the original standards, the authors of the Fordham Foundation's report on state science standards, and the Kansas Association of Teachers of Science. In addition, the standards have been rejected by at least one local school district. Because the terms of five of the seats on the board expire in 2006, the primary election (as well as the general election in November) afford a chance for supporters of evolution education to change the balance of power on the board, just as they did in 2000.

In District 1, incumbent Janet Waugh, a supporter of evolution education, is facing a primary challenge from Jesse Hall, who, the Lawrence Journal World (July 6, 2006) reports, is backed by supporters of the antievolution majority on the board. In District 3, incumbent John Bacon, a member of the antievolution majority, is facing a primary challenge from Harry McDonald and David Oliphant; the winner will face Don Weiss in the general election. In District 5, incumbent Connie Morris, a member of the antievolution majority, is facing a primary challenge from Sally Cauble; the winner will face Tim Cruz. In District 7, incumbent Ken Willard, a member of the antievolution majority, is facing a primary challenge from Donna Viola and M. T. Liggett; the winner will face Jack Wempe. In District 9, Iris Van Meter, a member of the antievolution majority, is not running for re-election, but her son-in-law Brad Patzer hopes to replace her. He will face Jana Shaver in the primary, and the winner will face Kent Runyan in the general election. In their responses to a questionnaire from the Kansas Alliance for Education, all of the challengers expressed opposition to the state science standards as adopted.

In their recent editorials, the state's major newspapers cited the positions of the candidates on the state science standards as a major consideration. For example, the Wichita Eagle (July 9, 2006) commented, "It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry about the doings of the Kansas State Board of Education. A faction of far-right conservatives has turned the state board into its own ideological hobbyhorse, drawing widespread condemnation from the academic community, not to mention international ridicule. ... The board's ideological and ill-informed approach to evolution and science standards has been nothing short of a fiasco." Across the Mississippi, the Kansas City Star (July 9, 2006) commented, "Kansans deserve a better state Board of Education. The Aug. 1 primary election gives voters an opportunity to make much-needed changes in a board that has become seriously sidetracked by religious issues. The board attracted national and even international ridicule by including criticism of Darwin's theory of evolution in the science standards that direct school districts in their curriculum choices."

Promoters of "intelligent design" both inside and outside the state are mounting campaigns to defend the flawed standards. The Lawrence Journal-World (July 8, 2006) reported that the Discovery Institute was launching such a campaign; Steve Case, the cochair of the committee that wrote the original standards, responded, "Everybody sees through the intent of the Discovery Institute," adding, "Kansans are not appreciative of folks coming in from the outside, trying to explain it to us." A representative of the Discovery Institute told Channel 49 News (July 7, 2006) that the timing of the campaign was unrelated to the primary elections, prompting Jack Krebs, the president of Kansas Citizens for Science to comment, "I can't even believe they said that ... it's the next two or three weeks that you really catch the public's attention about these issues." The Discovery Institute refused to divulge the cost of its campaign, which reportedly is to include a web-based information campaign, a petition drive, and a series of radio advertisements. Meanwhile, the Intelligent Design Network, based in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, is conducting its own series of presentations throughout Kansas in late July. Kansas Citizens for Science and other groups supporting science education are working to counteract these campaigns.

As for the gubernatorial election, the Johnson County Sun (July 13, 2006) asked all seven of the Republican hopefuls to answer a questionnaire including the question, "Should public schools be allowed to teach intelligent design in science classes?" Jim Barnett answered yes, adding, "I believe all views should be taught, but these decisions should be made by local school boards without state mandates or restrictions"; Robin Jennison answered yes; Timothy Pickell answered no, adding, "While I have a strong personal opinion concerning God's brilliant work, we should teach science in science classes and religion in a religion class"; and Rex Crowell answered yes, adding, "Science classes should be permitted to acknowledge that some believe in an intelligent design theory. Personally, my God is great enough to intelligently design evolution." Ken Canfield declined to answer the question, and Dennis Hawver and Richard Rodewald failed to answer the questionnaire at all. The winner of the primary will face incumbent governor Kathleen Sebelius (D) in the November election; Sebelius issued a statement deploring the adoption of the antievolution standards in November 2005.

For the Kansas Alliance for Education questionnaire and results, visit:
http://www.ksalliance.org/questionnaire.htm
http://www.ksalliance.org/filed.htm

For the editorials mentioned, visit:
http://www.kansas.com/mld/kansas/news/editorial/14996488.htm http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/opinion/14996596.htm

For the reports on the campaigns to defend the flawed standards, visit:
http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2006/jul/08/group_promotes_science_standards/
http://www.49abcnews.com/news/2006/jul/07/discovery_institute_starts_ad_campaign_weeks_elect/

For the story in the Johnson County Sun, visit:
http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=16914106&BRD=1459&PAG=461&dept_id=155725&rfi=6

For Kansas Citizens for Science, visit:
http://www.kcfs.org

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

RENEWED ANTIEVOLUTIONISM IN OHIO?

A member of the Ohio state board of education proposed a change to the state science standards, prompting concern that the attack on evolution education in the Buckeye State -- which began in 2002, when the standards were in development -- is not yet over. According to the current science standards for the tenth grade, students are expected to be able to "[d]escribe that scientists may disagree about explanations of phenomena, about interpretation of data or about the value of rival theories, but they do agree that questioning response to criticism and open communications are integral to the process of science." At a meeting of the board's Achievement Committee on July 10, 2006, Colleen Grady proposed the addition of, "Discuss and be able to apply this in the following areas: global warning; evolutionary theory; emerging technologies and how they may impact society, e.g. cloning or stem-cell research."

The fact that evolution and global warming were the only areas of science cited as examples where scientists disagree was of immediate concern. Before the meeting, Steve Rissing, a biology professor at Ohio State University, told the Columbus Dispatch (July 9, 2006), "This is so transparent ... These are not controversial areas of science." In February 2006, the board voted to retract a controversial model lesson plan and to remove the indicator on which it was based from the standards; the indicator, which called for students to be able to "describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory," was widely criticized as providing a pretext for instilling scientifically unwarranted doubts about evolution. Patricia Princehouse of Ohio Citizens for Science told the Dayton Daily News (July 11, 2006), "We knew they wouldn't just give up and go home. We didn't think they'd come back so soon."

The Dispatch reports (July 11, 2006), "Education Department staff will put Grady's proposal into draft form for consideration at the board's September meeting. It is not clear whether there is enough support among committee members to recommend any proposal to the full board." Meanwhile, the Dispatch took a strong stand against the proposal on its editorial page, declaring, "This fight should have been dead and buried in February ... But a few dogged members still insist on 'teaching the controversy' about evolution, even though the controversy has been manufactured by disingenuous people who wish to introduce the supernatural into science classrooms. ... These few wily board members are the best possible evidence that evolution exists; their tactics mutate every time the public catches on to what's happening." A report in the Canton Repository (July 13, 2006) suggests that there is growing interest in finding candidates to run against the antievolution members of the board.

For the Dispatch's editorial, visit:
http://www.dispatch.com/editorials-story.php?story=dispatch/2006/07/13/20060713-A8-00.html

For the news stories about the proposal, visit:
http://www.dispatch.com/news-story.php?story=dispatch/2006/07/09/20060709-C1-00.html
http://www.daytondailynews.com/localnews/content/localnews/daily/071106education.html
http://www.dispatch.com/news-story.php?story=dispatch/2006/07/11/20060711-B5-00.html
http://www.cantonrep.com/index.php?ID=296506&r=0&Category=9

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

KENT HOVIND ARRESTED ON FEDERAL CHARGES

Kent Hovind, the evangelist who styles himself "Dr. Dino" and runs the Creation Science Evangelism ministry as well as Dinosaur Adventure Land, a small creationist theme park in Pensacola, Florida, was arrested on July 13, 2006, on fifty-eight federal charges. The Pensacola News-Journal (July 14, 2006) reports that in court Hovind professed not to understand the basis for the indictment: "I still don't understand what I'm being charged for and who is charging me," he said. The News-Journal adds that Hovind "has been sparring with the IRS for at least 17 years on his claims that he is employed by God, receives no income, has no expenses and owns no property."

Twelve of the charges in the indictment relate to Hovind's alleged failure to "deduct, collect, truthfully account for and pay over to the IRS federal income tax and FICA tax from the total taxable wages of CSE employees which were due and owing to the United States of America." Between March 31, 2001, and January 31, 2004, almost half a million dollars was unpaid. The indictment also alleged that Hovind, as well as his wife Jo Hovind, sought to evade federal requirements for reporting cash transactions. On forty-five separate occasions between July 2001 and August 2002, they withdrew cash sums of $9500 or $9600 -- just below the reporting threshold of $10,000 -- from their bank.

The final charge of the indictment alleges that Hovind "corruptly endeavor[ed] to obstruct and impede the due administration of the internal revenue laws" in a number of ways, including by paying his employees in cash and calling them "missionaries" rather than employees in order to evade payroll and FICA tax requirements, filing a petition of bankruptcy falsely listing the IRS as his only creditor, filing a false and frivolous lawsuit against the IRS, filing a number of false complaints against investigating IRS agents, destroying records, and threatening harm to investigators and to those assisting them in their investigations.

The News-Journal reports that Kent and Jo Hovind were released from custody pending their trial, which will be scheduled during the arraignment on July 24. A previous story (July 13, 2006) in the newspaper reported that the judge forbade them from traveling outside the court's jurisdiction, the Northern District of Florida; the later story reports, "Over Kent Hovind's protests, the judge took away his passport and guns Hovind claimed belonged to his church." Citing a report of weapons in the Hovind compound, the indictment was originally sealed for fear that "the arrest of the defendants in this case could pose some danger to agents."

For the stories in the Pensacola News-Journal, visit:
http://www.pensacolanewsjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060713/NEWS01/60713013
http://www.pensacolanewsjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060714/NEWS01/607140333/1006

For a trio of articles about Hovind in NCSE's journal, Reports of the NCSE, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/rncse_content/vol19/8232_unmasking_the_false_prophet_of_12_30_1899.asp
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/rncse_content/vol19/3960_dr_dino_does_delphia_12_30_1899.asp
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/rncse_content/vol24/620_then_a_miracle_occurs_12_30_1899.asp

HELP WANTED

NCSE is seeking candidates for three positions: Education Project Director, Faith Project Director, and Archives Project Director. All three are full-time, permanent, salaried positions in NCSE's office in Oakland, California. Please feel free to disseminate the descriptions of these positions to any qualified candidates who might be interested. Applications will not be accepted after August 1, 2006.

For the descriptions, see:
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2006/ZZ/86_help_wanted_6_29_2006.asp

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

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

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

Sincerely,

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

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

NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!
http://www.ncseweb.org/membership.asp Corrections to two errors in today's story on evolution and the Kansas primaries.

First, the story concluded, "all of the challengers expressed opposition to the state science standards as adopted." Both Jesse Hall, challenging District 1 incumbent Janet Waugh, and Brad Patzer, who hopes to replace retiring District 9 incumbent Iris Van Meter, support the flawed standards.

Second, the story described Kansas City, Missouri, as across the Mississippi from Kansas, which it is not. NCSE is based in Oakland, California, where it is easy to forget the basic facts of geography, owing to the magnificent, but distracting, view of Mount Rainier.

These errors have been corrected on the web version of the story:
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2006/KS/313_evolution_and_the_kansas_prima_7_14_2006.asp

World Scientists Unite to Attack Creationism

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0622-03.htm

Published on Thursday, June 22, 2006 by the Independent / UK

by Sarah Cassidy

The world's scientific community united yesterday to launch one of the strongest attacks yet on creationism, warning that the origins of life were being "concealed, denied or confused".

The national science academies of 67 countries warned parents and teachers to ensure that they did not undermine the teaching of evolution or allow children to be taught that the world was created in six days.

Some schools in the US hold that evolution is merely a theory while the Bible represents the literal truth. There have also been fears that these views are creeping into British schools.

The statement, which the Royal Society signed on behalf of Britain's scientists, said: "We urge decision-makers, teachers and parents to educate all children about the methods and discoveries of science and 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.

"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 statement followed a long-running row over claims that some of Tony Blair's flagship city academies teach creationism in science lessons. Schools in the North-east backed by one academy sponsor, Sir Peter Vardy, have been accused of promoting creationism alongside evolution. The schools have denied the claims and insisted they abide by the national curriculum.

Academics in the US have voiced concern over similar theories being taught in American schools. Scientists also fear the spread of a theory known as "intelligent design". This suggests that species are too complex to have evolved through natural selection and must therefore be the product of a "designer".

Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, said: "There is controversy in some parts of the world about the teaching of evolution to pupils and students, so this is a timely statement that makes clear the views of the scientific community. I hope this statement will help those who are attempting to uphold the rights of young people to have access to accurate scientific knowledge about the origins and evolution of life on Earth."

It has been revealed that creationism is being included in the science curricula of a growing number of UK universities. Leeds University plans to incorporate one or two compulsory lectures on creationism and intelligent design into its second-year course for zoology and genetics undergraduates next Christmas, according to The Times Higher Education Supplement. At Leicester University, academics discuss creationism and intelligent design with third-year genetics undergraduates for about 20 minutes in lectures.

In both cases, lecturers argue that the controversial theories will presented as fallacies irreconcilable with scientific evidence. But the fact that these "alternatives" to evolution have been proposed for formal discussion in lectures at all has sparked concern among British scientists.

A THES investigation has also discovered there are at least 14 academics in science departments who consider themselves creationists. They believe all kinds of life were designed rather than evolved. Several others are proponents of intelligent design, which rejects evolution.

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

When Education Fails to Educate

http://www.theconservativevoice.com/article/15793.html

by Rob Hood

July 01, 2006 07:06 PM EST

Let's face it. Public education is a mess. Some may even say it is dead. Many subjects being explored and indoctrinated into our children's minds in the public education system these days doesn't even have anything to do with education at all. Just last week the National Education Association (NEA) was debating whether to embrace or endorse same-sex marriage or not. At first the NEA did decide to endorse same-sex marriage, then changed their minds about it and decided not to. Then, at the last moment, they pulled a John Kerry flip flop and changed their minds again. Now the NEA will endorse same-sex marriage. My question is what does same-sex marriage have to do with kids learning math, science, history, and other such subjects?

The NEA is just another very liberal organization that strives to indoctrinate abnormal matters into the minds of our kids at an early age in a pathetic attempt to create a world in which everyone is "tolerant" and liberal. Instead of focusing on the real problems of education, aggressive liberal groups seek to ban God from schools and replace Him with anti-God junk science and adulterous, sinful, sexual propaganda. Sex education and condom education does not belong anywhere near the schoolhouse. Churches in Sunday School already teach this to kids. it's called abstinence - AND IT WORKS!

Perhaps since the NEA is set to endorse homosexual marriage and teach it as "diversity", then the curriculum and textbooks would also be written by liberals who also embrace such activities and embrace junk science such as evolution and global warming as fact when it is clearly science fiction. Besides the ACLU, the NEA is one of the worse organizations in the United States today. It clearly should receive a big, fat "F" on its report card.

Don't misunderstand me when I talk about diversity and tolerance. Diversity and tolerance are good things so long as they are not taken advantage of like the left do all the time. Diversity means differences in cultures, which I can live with and accept with no problem. I work with people of many nationalities who are my closest friends. I respect their culture, language, and religion. One of my closest friends is from India and is Hindu. I am a very conservative Southern Baptist, yet we are close friends, so don't preach to me about tolerance and diversity.

The tolerance and diversity that left wing groups want us to have is known as sin and cannot be tolerated - ever! If you call yourself a Christian then you clearly believe in the Bible as the Divine, infallible, inspired Word of God and nothing else! You believe homosexuality is wrong and that evolution is a myth made by man. You believe abortion is murder, plain and simple.

The fact that left wing groups like the NEA endorse evolution and force it on our kids is nothing new. The left embraces evolution first because that gives them an excuse to be tolerant toward what regular people call sin. Through evolution, there is no God, therefore no one has to answer for his or her own actions. Through creation, God created a man and then created a woman for that man. So, now you see why left wingers are hanging on to evolution so hard. It gives them the excuse to deny God and all things condemned by God in His word. If creation is real, them God is real; and if God is real then the Bible must be true; and if the Bible is true then homosexuality is a sin, Jesus is real, abortion is murder, and the Ten Commandments are the very instructions of God himself. No wonder the left hangs on to false science like evolution. It puts their ideas in danger.

We all know by now that California has endorsed a whole subject devoted to homosexual history and social science. They are forcing this ridiculous idea and totally unnecessary sin on the rest of its society. It would be wise for Christian parents everywhere to pull their kids from public school and place them in school where education is top priority, not left wing propaganda designed to change the minds of society. As a matter of fact one of the 1963 communist goals was to do this very thing I speak of. Here is comunist goal number 17: "Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for socialism and current Communist propaganda. Soften the curriculum. Get control of teachers' associations. Put the party line in textbooks". You can learn more about communist goals for America at liberalsvsus.info/1963-congress.htm . There are currently 45 gaols in which most have been met except for a few. When these goals are read, it seems to me that liberalism, atheism, and communism are all in the same.

There are some major psychological implications that these subjects place on kids. These kids will grow up confused. At school they learn that homosexuality, sex before marriage, and abortion are all normal. Then on the weekends at church they learn that all of these things are sin. The kids get confused, so who do they believe? Most likely, if they are not in a strong church (not liberal church) or strong Christian family, then they will succumb to the wiles of the left since they left put enormous pressure on everyone these days to see things their way.

Let me get all of this straight, my readers. You can endorse sexual misconduct, the murder of babies through abortion, and teach false science, but can't say the word Jesus in a speech? What is wrong with these people? Just this week the ACLU has sued a school for having a hanging picture of Jesus in the hallway. That picture has been there for thirty years. Why wait until now to sue? Ever since the 1960s, liberals have grown worse in their efforts to brainwash society into thinking their way and ignore reality.

The best things that can be done at this point is for all conservative public school teachers to get up and leave the classrooms. Simply quit and walk out the door and stop supporting anti-normal liberal teachers unions and the NEA altogether. As a matter of fact those proposed school vouchers are looking pretty good about right now.

A conservative group called Mission America (www.missionamerica.com ) acts as a watchdog towards schools an school activities and reports what it sees to the general public so that parents know what is going on in the schools. Groups like the NEA does not want parents, especially conservative parents, to know what is being indoctrinated in kids' minds in the classroom. (If you want to know what is being taught and what the risk is to your child, take a look at the listed references at the bottom of this article.)

As a counter move, my personal suggestion is to talk to your kids daily about what happens at school and thoroughly look at all their homework and textbooks, and other materials. Many times, one can read between the lines as to what is being imposed in the materials at school. Other than that, be sure to take your kids to Sunday School at an early age so that they know about God, Jesus, and creation before they start to school. If you can get the roots started early, then liberalism has less of a chance of being born in their hearts later on. They will know right from wrong and be less likely to embrace something that is inherently wrong as being normal. The other things you can do is to shield them from the types of television and radio they are exposed to daily.

Believe it or not many commercials have very liberal overtones and hidden messages that one would not pick up on unless one was actually trained at doing so or used to seeing. I recently saw a commercial where two men were grilling steaks outside on a patio. This commercial seemed innocent enough, but when I saw it the second time around, I noticed the two men were closer than normal and all throughout the commercial there were kids there, but no women. Get the point? Watch the commercials because men are portrayed as stupid, clumsy, and as brutes, while women are portrayed as smarter, healthier, and wiser in money management. men are often portrayed as pretty useless these days because of liberal feminism in our culture. That strongly occurs in the education system. Many try to feminize boys because of their rowdy behavior, but boys are supposed to be rowdy. That's what makes them different. It's how they are created. Feminists hate this and therefore try to change it either through indoctrination or by pills and therapy.

Getting back to the subject of exposure to radio and TV, my personal recommendation is to find your kids good role models. Perhaps a parent would like Sean Hannity to be their child's role model? Wouldn't that be great. I have heard of several 7 to 10 year olds call in on the Hannity show and others like it as well, so we know there conservatives will exist in the future as well. Perhaps having your children watch Fox News and Hannity will ensure that conservatives and normalality will not go extinct.

As a matter of fact if you like Ann Coulter and want to make some liberals' blood pressure to rise, all you have to do is tell them nine key things that conservatives and Christians believe and they will lose their mind:

1) Evolution is a myth. Creation is real. God is real. It is still legal to say the word Jesus.

2) The Earth is only around 6000 years old. Noah built an ark and the world was flooded which created the Grand Canyon. Millions of years is absurd.

3) Global Warming is a myth and is totally junk science that should be trashed. Volcanoes produce more harmful pollutants in one eruption that all of the cars and factories in the United States have in the last 50 years. For more on the junk science of global warming and Al Gore's post election failure elusions, take a look at Tom Bethell's bestseller, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science at www.booksamillion.com/ncom/books?id=3517879932526&isbn=089526031X or

4) Jesus was resurrected from the dead and will one day return to judge the world and create a new one while the one we live in now will be destroyed.

5) Merry Christmas! Yes, it's still legal and above else, normal to say these words at CHRISTmas.

6) Abortion is murder because God alone has the authority to create and take a life in the womb.

7) Homosexuality is sin because God CREATED (again going back to creation) a woman for Adam, not another man. God condemns homosexuality and any sexual sin including sex outside of marriage.

8) The Holy Bible is the divine, inspired, infallible Holy Word of God.

9) The Second Amendment is in the constitution and should stay just as it is. Prosecute criminals, not victims!

Again I say that the National Education Association is indoctrinating ideals of falsehood into the minds of American kids by having them learn junk science and how to become professional sinners. Condom education, homosexual marriage, evolution, and other such subjects belong in a liberal forum, not in a elementary school classroom. There were times when I was in college when I would have given anything for a seat with an eject button built in it. Perhaps we should start building those because if we continue down this failing and wide path to destruction, we will need a quick way out.

REFERENCES:

NEA To Endorse Homosexual Marriage
http://www.afa.net/neaendorses.asp

NEA Goes to a Liberal Convention
http://www.family.org/cforum/fnif/news/a0040983.cfm

Homosexual Indoctrination of Kids
http://www.family.org/cforum/extras/a0040597.cfm

Teachers should Divest From NEA's Liberal Agenda
http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/6/302006b.asp

ACLU to kick Jesus out of high school http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2006/6/29/110508.shtml?s=al

BOOKS ON JUNK SCIENCE:

Meltdown by Patrick J. Micheals
http://www.booksamillion.com/ncom/books?id=3517879932526&isbn=1930865597

The Pollitically Incorrect Guide to Science by Tom Bethell
http://www.booksamillion.com/ncom/books?id=3517879932526&isbn=089526031X

Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity by John Stossel http://www.booksamillion.com/ncom/books?id=3517879932526&isbn=1401302548

Shattering the Myths of Darwinism
http://www.booksamillion.com/ncom/books?id=3517879932526&isbn=0892818840

Marriage Under Fire by Dr. James Dobson
http://www.booksamillion.com/ncom/books?id=3517879932526&isbn=1590524314

The ACLU vs. America: Exposing the Agenda to Redefine Moral Values
http://www.booksamillion.com/ncom/books?id=3517879932526&isbn=0805440453

ABOUT ROB HOOD

Rob Hood grew up in rural Mississippi and was rooted in the doctrine of the Southern Baptist Convention and its teachings of Biblical right and wrong, accountability to a higher authority, and the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was a participant in Bible Drill for nine years, a Southern Baptist Convention program devoted to educating children and youth with scriptures from the Bible for use in everyday life situations. He graduated from Holmes Community College in Grenada, Mississippi with an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Electronics Technology and is currently employed as an Electronics Technician with HAM radio equipment manufacturer. He is also a Federal Communications Commission licensed Technician Class HAM radio operator and lives in North Mississippi.

Mr. Hood is also the author of Issues That Matter : America's Moral Battleground and a columnist for six of the news/commentary sites of the Move Off Network at www.moveoff.net ) in addition to The Kentucky Conservative and also runs his own site and his own blog. You can check out Rob Hood's blog at robhood.us ( click on blog ). Check out his regular site at www.standfortruthonline.com

Schoolbooks Are Given F's in Originality

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/13/books/13textbook.html

By DIANA JEAN SCHEMO

This is how the 2005 edition of "A History of the United States," a high school history textbook by the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Daniel J. Boorstin and Brooks Mather Kelley, relates the cataclysmic attacks of 9/11 for a new generation of young adults:

"In New York City, the impact of the fully fueled jets caused the twin towers to burst into flames. The fires led to the catastrophic collapse of both 110-story buildings as well as other buildings in the area. The numbers of people missing and presumed dead after this assault was estimated to be 2,750."

The language is virtually identical to that in the 2005 edition of another textbook, "America: Pathways to the Present," by different authors. The books use substantially identical language to cover other subjects as well, including the disputed presidential election of 2000, the Persian Gulf war, the war in Afghanistan and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

Just how similar passages showed up in two books is a tale of how the largely obscure, $4 billion a year world of elementary and high school textbook publishing often works, for these passages were not written by the named authors but by one or more uncredited writers. And while it is rare that the same language is used in different books, it is common for noted scholars to give their names to elementary and high school texts, lending prestige and marketing power, while lesser known writers have a hand in the books and their frequent revisions.

As editions pass, the names on the spine of a book may have only a distant or dated relation to the words between the covers, diluted with each successive edition, people in the industry, and even authors, say.

In the case of the two history texts, the authors appeared mortified by the similarities and said they had had nothing to do with the changes.

"They were not my words," said Allan Winkler, a historian at Miami University of Ohio, who wrote the "Pathways" book with Andrew Cayton, Elisabeth I. Perry and Linda Reed. "It's embarrassing. It's inexcusable."

Wendy Spiegel, a spokeswoman for Pearson Prentice Hall, which published both books and is one of the nation's largest textbook publishers, called the similarities "absolutely an aberration."

She said that after Sept. 11, 2001, her company, like other publishers, hastily pulled textbooks that had already been revised and were lined up for printing so that the terror attacks could be accounted for. The material on the attacks, as well as on the other subjects, was added by in-house editors or outside writers, she said.

She added that it was "unfortunate" that the books had identical passages, but said that there were only "eight or nine" in volumes that each ran about 1,000 pages.

Gilbert T. Sewall, director of the American Textbook Council, a nonprofit group that monitors history textbooks, said he was not familiar with this particular incident. But Mr. Sewall said the publishing industry had a tendency to see authors' names as marketing tools.

"The publishers have a brand name and that name sells textbooks," he said. "That's why you have well-established authorities who put their names on the spine, but really have nothing to do with the actual writing process, which is all done in-house or by hired writers."

The industry is replete with examples of the phenomenon. One of the most frequently used high school history texts is "Holt the American Nation," first published in 1950 as "Rise of the American Nation" and written by Lewis Paul Todd and Merle Curti. For each edition, the book appeared with new material, long after one author had died and the other was in a nursing home. Eventually, the text was reissued as the work of another historian, Paul S. Boyer.

Professor Boyer, emeritus professor of history at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, acknowledged that the original authors had supplied the structure of the book that carries his name. But he said that as he revises the text, he adds new scholarship, themes and interpretations. He defended the disappearance of the original authors' names from the book, saying it would be more misleading to carry their names when they had no say in current editions.

"Textbooks are hardly the same as the Iliad or Beowulf," he added.

Richard Blake, a spokesman for Harcourt Education, a division of Holt , said none of the editors involved in the extended use of the Todd and Curti names were still with the company. But he said that now "all contributors and reviewers on each edition are listed in the front of the book," and that naming new principal authors depended largely on the extent of their contributions.

The similarities in the Prentice Hall books were discovered by James W. Loewen, who is updating his 1995 best seller, "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong."

"Treatment of 9/11 and the two Iraq wars and the Florida election of 2000 are among the more important pieces of our past," Mr. Loewen said. "I think that these authors should have actually written these passages they claim to write."

But Ms. Spiegel defended the additions by other writers. "The authors who have their names on the books have written, reviewed and approved content that is submitted to them" she said. "Their level of participation is based on their particular interest or their contractual relationship with the publisher."

Professor Winkler, one of the authors of "America: Pathways to the Present," said he and his co-authors had written "every word" of the first edition, aiming to teach American history from a sociological perspective, from the grass roots up. But, he said, in updated editions, the authors reviewed passages written by freelancers or in- house writers or editors.

He said the authors collaborated on their last major revision before Sept. 11, 2001, working with editorial staff in Boston. But he said that after the attacks, he was not asked to write updates and was not shown revisions.

"There was no reason in the world to think that we would not see material that was stuck in there at some point in the future," Professor Winkler said. "Given the fact that similar material was used in another book, we are really profoundly upset and outraged."

Ms. Spiegel said that the 9/11 revisions were made quickly, and that authors were asked to update their texts after the attacks.

"In the deadline set before us, some authors elected to submit their copy for the coverage of those events; in other cases a professional wrote those passages for the authors," she said.

Mr. Boorstin, the former chief librarian at the Library of Congress and lead author of "A History of the United States," died in 2004 as he was updating the book. Ms. Spiegel said his widow, Ruth Frankel Boorstin, had worked closely with him and had finished the revisions. Ms. Boorstin did not return several telephone calls to her residence.

Mr. Boorstin's co-author, Mr. Kelley, said he was "outraged" by the identical passages, but he said he did not consider them plagiarism, because the authors never intended to lift another's work.

"Frankly, many of these textbooks, unlike ours, were not written by the authors who were once involved with them," he said.

"Years after some of the more famous textbook authors have died, they're still coming out," he added. "That is a long-term practice in publishing. I don't know what to call that, but it's certainly true."

Susan Buckley, a longtime writer and editor of elementary and high school social studies textbooks who retired after 35 years in the business, said that "whole stables" of unnamed writers sometimes wrote the more important high school textbooks, although in other instances, named authors wrote the first editions. In elementary school textbooks, Ms. Buckley added, named authors almost never write their own text.

She said that even if named authors did not write the text, they played an important role as scholars, shaping coverage and reviewing copy.

William Cronon, a historian at the University of Wisconsin who wrote the American Historical Association's statement on ethics, said textbooks were usually corporate-driven collaborative efforts, in which the publisher had extensive rights to hire additional writers, researchers and editors and to make major revisions without the authors' final approval. The books typically synthesize hundreds of works without using footnotes to credit sources.

"This is really about an awkward and embarrassing situation these authors have been put in because they've got involved in textbook publishing," Professor Cronon said.

Professor Winkler said he understood the editorial perils of textbook writing, but wanted to reach a wider audience. He said he was not motivated by money. Named authors share royalties, generally 10 to 15 percent of the net profits, on each printing of the text, whether they write it or not.

"I want the respect of my peers," Professor Winkler said. "I've written monographs, biographies," but these reach a limited audience. "I want to be able to tell that story to other people, and that's what textbooks do."

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Intergalactic Skeptic Takes Radio Gig National

http://www.fcnp.com/619/skeptic.htm

By Maggie McKenna

Falls Church's Rick Wood has tales of the most bizarre kind. He has met a man who believed he was flying in a UFO with a psychic Sasquatch, a woman who believed that she was intimate with a lizard and then time-traveled with him, and another man who sued former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore for failure to provide UFO protection. And the list goes on.

For the past five years, Wood has hosted his own radio talk show dealing with paranormal activity from a skeptic's point of view. In other words, his role is to hear accounts of the paranormal and to use reason to discredit them.

Sponsored by the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), Wood's local show, based out of Falls Church, became nationally syndicated on July 1 over Cable Radio Network.

"Paranormal behavior is kind of like professional wrestling," he says. "It's fun to watch, but if you believe it's true it can do real damage."

Growing up in Front Royal, a primarily rural area, Wood first became interested in the paranormal during his youth. "I thought I had a couple paranormal experiences," he says. "I worked for a lady with a haunted house and thought that I had experienced a couple things."

Talking to the News-Press last week, he mentioned specific times when he would be mowing her lawn and "got a feeling" that someone was looking over his shoulder. Moreover, where he grew up, "people don't look at you funny when you say you ran into a ghost," he said. "Specters and spooks seemed to be a rational approach."

Wondering if there was a better way to explain weird happenings, he became interested in finding a more humanistic or scientific way to understand odd phenomena. "Maybe there were more prosaic reasons for these things," he thought. "Was it real or just a creepy feeling?"

Wood began intensively researching paranormal activity and found that there were certain patterns that always took place when people believed that they were having a paranormal experience. "When people see ghosts," he explained, "they're waking up from sleep, going to sleep, by themselves thinking about someone, or they heard a story about a haunted place. Seldom does anyone experience the paranormal with someone else present."

When doing research, he noted that almost all of the stories he'd heard about "close encounters" had those things in common.

Wood got his start in radio thanks to local station WEBR, a Fairfax County public access radio station. The show was his first foray into broadcasting and was originally titled "My Prerogative." It dealt with paranormal activity and guests included people who believed they had been abducted by aliens, seen a ghost or experienced other paranormal activity.

"I wasn't serious about the show until someone in the U.K. heard about it on the Internet several years ago," he said. The show gained international interest after it was sponsored by NetTalk U.K. overseas and Omnisound domestically, and broadcast by Audiomartini.

The show is the most widely syndicated "skeptical radio talk show" in the world. It is unique to the radio landscape as it has the same guests as talk shows dealing with the paranormal, except Wood sets out to disprove their ideas and beliefs.

After dealing with many believers in the paranormal during his youth, he wanted to debunk paranormal myths and help his guests think more rationally. "People have hyperactive imaginations," Wood said. "If these things were real, they would show up in pictures or constantly be there. They shouldn't defy the laws of physics."

Wood also debates the validity of psychics such as renowned medium Sylvia Brown. "It's tragic when people go to a psychic and believe it," he said.

Wood does not shy away from having controversial opinions, as he also contends that God does not exist. "God is by nature supernatural," he said. "I do not believe in a supernatural entity watching over our lives. It is important to lead a moral and just life because it makes things easier for us, but when we die we will be all dressed up with nowhere to go."

He holds that Jesus did not exist as even a historical figure, but simply as a myth. He recently hosted a debate on intelligent design between Michael Shermer, executive director of the Skeptic Society, and William Dembski, senior fellow of the Discovery Institute.

Wood links religious beliefs with paranormal beliefs. "Most adults believe in a God, so it is not hard for them to believe in ghosts," he said. "There are still Creationists who believe that Europe was only created 6,000 years ago, and even biologists who believe in Creation. Religion is fine as long as it does not become a belief system."

Wood has also hosted a number of colorful guests on his show. "I've had Holocaust deniers, Frank Drake and Jill Tartar of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, and many ghost hunters," he said. Stanton Friedman, the man who recreated the supposed UFO landing at Roswell, New Mexico, was also an interesting guest. Wood expressed his fervent disbelief in the existence of extraterrestrial life.

Along with Friedman, a nuclear physicist, they recreated a timeline of the Roswell landing and debated the reliability of witnesses. Wood does not believe there was a landing, nor that the government knew about it and possesses alien technology. "If we had alien technology from Roswell, why is it the best we can do is a digital toaster?" he said with a laugh.

As of July 1, Wood's show is the most widely syndicated skeptic talk show in the world, airing on 350 stations nationwide. It is broadcast on omnisoundradio1.net and crn.net daily. "I don't pretend to have all the answers," Wood says. "I just ask people to think critically."

Mathematicians and Evolution

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/07/mathematicians_and_evolution.html

As recently highlighted here, mathematics is an academic locale where scientific skepticism of Neo-Darwinism can survive the current political climate! Discovery Institute recently received an e-mail from someone commenting on the Scientific Dissent from Darwinism List where over 600 Ph.D. scientists from various fields agree that they are "skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life." This skeptic of evolutionary-skepticism e-mailer wrote "I'm a mathematician and certainly am NOT qualified to support such a statement. Only evolutionary biologists are qualified to respond here." While the Dissent from Darwinism list does contain individuals trained in evolutionary biology, the question remains "Is the objection valid?"

The truth is that mathematics has a strong tradition of giving cogent critique of evolutionary biology. After all, Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is fundamentally based upon an algorithm which uses a mathematically describable trial and error process to attempt to produce complexity. Population genetics is rife with mathematics. In fact, one criticism of the alleged transitional fossil sequences for whales is that they represent evolutionary change on too rapid a timescale to be mathematically feasible. It seems that there is no good reason why those trained in mathematics cannot comment on the ability of the Neo-Darwinian mutation-selection process to generate the complexity of life.

One of the best known mathematical forays into evolution was the 1966 Wistar Symposium, held in Philadelphia, where mathematicians and other scientists from related fields congregated to assess whether Neo-Darwinism is mathematically feasible. The conference was chaired by Nobel Laureate Sir Peter Medawar. The general consensus of many meeting participants was that Neo-Darwinism was simply not mathematically tenable.

The proceedings of that conference, Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution (Wistar Institute Press, 1966, No. 5), reports various challenges to evolution presented by respected mathematicians and similar scholars at the conference. For example, the conference chair Sir Peter Medawar stated at the outset:

"[T]he immediate cause of this conference is a pretty widespread sense of dissatisfaction about what has come to be thought as the accepted evolutionary theory in the English-speaking world, the so-called neo-Darwinian Theory. ... There are objections made by fellow scientists who feel that, in the current theory, something is missing ... These objections to current neo-Darwinian theory are very widely held among biologists generally; and we must on no account, I think, make light of them. The very fact that we are having this conference is evidence that we are not making light of them."

(Sir Peter Medawar, "Remarks by the Chairman," in Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution (Wistar Institute Press, 1966, No. 5), pg. xi, emphasis in original)

Various scientists, including some mathematicians, proceeded to comment about problems with Neo-Darwinism:

"[A]n opposite way to look at the genotype is as a generative algorithm and not as a blue-print; a sort of carefully spelled out and foolproof recipe for producing a living organism of the right kind if the environment in which it develops is a proper one. Assuming this to be so, the algorithm must be written in some abstract language. Molecular biology may well have provided us with the alphabet of this language, but it is a long step from the alphabet to understanding a language. Nevertheless a language has to have rules, and these are the strongest constraints on the set of possible messages. No currently existing formal language can tolerate random changes in the symbol sequences which express its sentences. Meaning is almost invariably destroyed. Any changes must be syntactically lawful ones. I would conjecture that what one might call "genetic grammaticality" has a deterministic explanation and does not owe its stability to selection pressure acting on random variation."

(Murray Eden, "Inadequacies as a Scientific Theory," in Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution (Wistar Institute Press, 1966, No. 5), pg. 11)

"[I]t seems to require many thousands, perhaps millions, of successive mutations to produce even the easiest complexity we see in life now. It appears, naively at least, that no matter how large the probability of a single mutation is, should it be even as great as one-half, you would get this probability raised to a millionth power, which is so very close to zero that the chances of such a chain seem to be practically non-existent."

(Stanislaw M. Ulam, "How to Formulate Mathematically Problems of Rate of Evolution," in Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution (Wistar Institute Press, 1966, No. 5), pg. 21)

"We do not know any general principle which would explain how to match blueprints viewed as typographic objects and the things they are supposed to control. The only example we have of such a situation (apart from the evolution of life itself) is the attempt to build self-adapting programs by workers in the field of artificial intelligence. Their experience is quite conclusive to most of the observers: without some built-in matching, nothing interesting can occur. Thus, to conclude, we believe that there is a considerable gap in the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution, and we believe this gap to be of such a nature that it cannot be bridged within the current conception of biology."

(Marcel Schutzenberger, "Algorithms and Neo-Darwinian Theory," in Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution (Wistar Institute Press, 1966, No. 5), pg. 75)

These are potent arguments from academics qualified to assess the mathematical ability of a random / selective process to produce complexity. While evolutionary biologists and other types of biologists can yield many insights into evolutionary biology, scientists other than biologists, such as mathematicians, are most certainly qualified to comment on the feasibility of Neo-Darwinian evolution.

Posted by Casey Luskin on July 11, 2006 04:44 PM

Ohio School Board Members Are Considering New Assault On Teaching Of Evolution, Charges Americans United

http://www.commondreams.org/news2006/0712-15.htm

Church-State Watchdog Group Files Public Records Request Regarding Proposed Changes To State Science Standards

WASHINGTON - July 12 - Some members of the Ohio Board of Education appear to be preparing for another assault on the teaching of evolution in public schools, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Last month, board member Colleen Grady reportedly urged the Board of Education's Achievement Committee to consider giving 10th-grade science teachers guidance on teaching evolution and other "controversial" issues such as global warming, cloning and stem-cell research.

Grady apparently put forward a proposal that would change the language of Ohio's existing science standards in an effort to reflect religious criticism of evolution and other scientific principles. The proposal has not been publicly released.

On July 11, Americans United filed a request under the Ohio open records law that asks for copies of the Grady proposal as well as all documents and correspondence by the Board of Education and the Department of Education relating to proposed changes to the state's science standards.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, urged the Ohio board to reject any effort to reopen the dispute over science education.

"Public school students in Ohio deserve sound science education, not religious dogma masquerading as science," said Lynn. "It's time for Religious Right allies on the board to drop their unwise agenda and focus on policies that will benefit all of Ohio's students."

The teaching of evolution has sparked an ongoing battle in Ohio. In January, the board voted 9-8 to affirm state science standards that downplayed evolution. A month later, the board reversed itself and voted to drop language that singled out evolution for "critical analysis" and a lesson plan that promoted "intelligent design."

But Americans United says Religious Right allies on the board have apparently not given up, and have now expanded their focus to encompass other issues. AU made the public information request in an effort to learn exactly what the board is trying to do.

The AU letter requests copies of various documents, communications and other materials, including any contacts the board may have had with the Discovery Institute or other Religious Right organizations that seek to teach their religious perspectives in public school science classes.

Patrick Michelson: UW's hiring of Kevin Barrett a disservice to students, legacy

http://www.madison.com/tct/opinion/column/index.php?ntid=90943&ntpid=0

By Patrick Michelson

Many people in Madison will welcome the news that Kevin Barrett has been allowed to teach a course on Islam at the UW. Most will see it as a triumph of academic freedom.

Others will rejoice because they believe what Barrett alleges: that the terrorist attack of Sept. 11 was "an inside job" and a "gargantuan, Satanic lie" concocted by the U.S. government to wage an endless war.

I, however, will not be one of those celebrating.

Barrett's accusations about Sept. 11, as most of us well know, have no grounding in reality, forensic evidence or common sense. But by granting him the privilege to teach at the UW, the university has legitimized his baseless allegations. Worse, it has done a great disservice to its students, the community at large, and the memory of those who were murdered on that horrible day.

It has been argued by some that terminating Kevin Barrett's employment at the UW would have violated the basic tenets of academic freedom. As a graduate student, I know firsthand that academic freedom is essential to the goals of higher education and, thus, should not be dismissed lightly. But neither should the UW allow an individual who seeks to sow disorder and dishonesty in the lecture hall abuse this important freedom.

For example:

Would the university grant tenure to an assistant professor of biology who, after weighing all the evidence, teaches her students that creationism is a more convincing explanation for the existence of human life than evolutionary biology? Or would it deny tenure because of incompetence?

Would the UW hire a professor of history who intended to tell his students that the attack on Pearl Harbor was planned by Franklin Roosevelt to trigger a racist war against Japan? Or would the university reject his application to safeguard its professional standards?

Academic freedom rightly protects scholars who wish to examine controversial issues and unfashionable ideas. But Barrett's conspiracy theories do not fall into those categories. His assertions are not informative, enlightening, or even provocative. At best they are delusions - at worst, lies - that he tells to promote a personal agenda. The University of Wisconsin should have treated them as such.

If Barrett is sincere about examining the events of Sept. 11, then he should assign the official 9/11 Commission Report for his course. Likewise, he should play video and audio tapes of Osama bin Laden praising the 19 hijackers and taking personal responsibility for mass murder. Barrett should also assign investigative news reports that explain how al-Qaida planned and executed the attack. But his intention is not to promote a serious discussion about the events of Sept. 11 and its relationship to Islamic radicalism.

Students will be the first to suffer from the UW's decision to let Barrett teach this course. Perhaps a handful of students will be deceived by Barrett's sophistry and, thus, become consumed by his falsehoods. Most students, however, will be disappointed that one of the few opportunities afforded to them at the UW to learn about Islam was wasted on fantasy and fabrication.

Either way, by allowing Barrett to peddle his untruths in the classroom, the university has failed its students by not providing an educational environment that encourages critical thinking.

Those who lost loved ones on Sept. 11 will also suffer from the conspiracies Barrett intends to deliver from a UW lectern. Like those who deny the Holocaust, the crimes of the Ku Klux Klan or the slaughter of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica, Barrett profanes our collective memory of the dead - all for the sake of his pathetic attempt to prove what is not true.

Ironically, those who oppose the Bush administration's foreign policy will also suffer from Barrett's ridiculous allegations. Instead of focusing their time and energy on criticizing the president's real mistakes, those who heed Barrett's siren song will find themselves flailing away at phantoms that reside only in the dark shadows of his mind. Real problems, such as the bloodshed in Iraq and the causes of international terrorism, cannot be solved by ranting and raving about what is not real. By leading his classroom into the dead end of conspiracy, Barrett is ultimately leading UW students, and anyone else who listens, further away from the truth. His disgraceful antics will only end up spreading pain, anger and confusion.

That is the sad legacy that the University of Wisconsin will leave by hiring Barrett.

Patrick Michelson is a graduate student in the department of history at UW-Madison.

Published: July 13, 2006

Copyright 2006 The Capital Times

Freelance writers retain the copyright for their work that appears on this site.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Don't rely on homeopathy to beat malaria, doctors warn

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=395568&in_page_id=1770&ct=5

by FIONA MACRAE, Daily Mail

01:01am 14th July 2006

British holidaymakers are putting their lives at risk by relying on homeopathy to protect them against malaria, doctors have warned.

The medical experts condemned the practice of prescribing pills and potions made from tree bark, swamp water and rotting plants as 'outrageous quackery' and 'dangerous nonsense'.

Their warning follows an undercover investigation which found that alternative medicine clinics readily sell travellers homeopathic protection against malaria, despite clear Government advice that there is no evidence such treatments work.

It also comes after a study published in the Lancet suggested that the benefits of homeopathy are all in the imagination, with alternative remedies performing no better than dummy pills in clinical trials.

Homeopathy, which has won the backing of Prince Charles, claims to prevent diseases such as malaria by using dilute forms of herbs and minerals that in higher concentrations could produce the symptoms of the condition.

In the investigation, scientists and researchers who pretended to be about to embark an African holiday, contacted a variety of homeopaths around the country. These include one recommended by high street pharmacist Superdrug.

Worryingly, all of the homeopaths recommended they take alternative remedies over conventional anti-malaria pills.

Among the remedies, which ranged in price from £3.75 to £75, were Malaria officinalis (CORR) tablets. Also known as Malaria nosode, they are made from African swamp water, rotting plants and mosquito eggs and larvae.

The homeopaths also recommended China officinalis or China sulph, which is made from tree bark which contains quinine, and Natrum Mur - or salt tablets.

One practitioner said the homeopathic medicines fill a 'malaria-shaped hole' in the body that would usually be targeted by mosquitos.

They also gave little or no advice on how to prevent mosquito bites and several claimed the herbal treatments had stopped other travellers from coming down with the disease which can kill within two days of the first symptoms.

Last year, 1754 Britons caught the mosquito-borne parasitic infection and 11 died.

Many of the deaths were caused by the holidaymakers either not completing the course of tablets given by their GP, or relying on other medicines, which could include homeopathic treatments.

British doctors said they are appalled by the results of the investigation, which was carried out by the BBC's Newsnight and the charity Sense About Science.

'Not a trivial problem'

Dr Ron Behrens, of London's Hospital for Tropical Diseases, has treated several travellers who caught malaria after taking homeopathic preparations, said: 'The misleading travel advice being given by homeopaths is not a trivial problem.

'That homeopaths can promote unproven alternatives to the tried and tested process undermines all efforts to educate the travelling public about malaria and its prevention.

'The messages given out by some homeopaths are inaccurate, counterproductive and put lives at risk.'

Dr Jeremy Sternberg, an Aberdeen University parasitologist, said: 'Malaria is a deadly disease. You can't take these kinds of chances.

'Homeopathy doesn't offer any protection and I'm alarmed that anyone would gamble with people's lives in this way.'

Professor Brian Greenwood, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, warned that the potions could do more harm than good.

He said: 'The use of homeopathy creates a more dangerous situation than taking no precautions if the traveller assumes he or she is protected and does not seek help quickly for any illness that might be malaria.'

Dr Evan Harris, of the all-party parliamentary malaria group, said: 'This sort of outrageous quackery is unacceptable.

'Vulnerable people are being duped into handing over cash for useless remedies and are having their health put at risk through grossly inadequate advice.

'People need to consider homeopathy in the same way as the treat faith-healing and witchcraft - that is not to risk their life or health on it.'

Doctors advise those travelling to malaria zones to consult their GP or travel clinic about the best anti-malaria tablets to take.

Travellers should also cover up bare skin and use mosquito nets and repellants.

Helios Homeopathic Pharmacy said that many travellers turn to homeopathy because they are concerned about the side-effects of traditional drugs.

The spokesman added: 'We give advice on traditional homeopathic remedies which have been used by people for many decades in their attempt to avoid conventional treatment for malaria.

'We would also advise customers to take further preventative steps such as using a reliable insect repellant and wearing suitable clothing.'

Global Warming vs Evolution: Al Gore and Charles Darwin

http://www.nationalledger.com/artman/publish/article_27267057.shtml

By Thomas E. Brewton Jul 14, 2006

Eliminating God from the universe is the very first order of business for the liberal-socialist mind. Without God, man stands alone as the creator-god of all he surveys.

This was the motivation behind Charles Darwin's theory of life-as-an-accident and the evolution of all life forms from that accident, purely by chance mutations and survival of the fittest.

But Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" predicts a Biblical-style event that contradicts one of evolution's most fundamental assumptions.

Mr. Gore predicts a global-warming catastrophe featuring massive flooding, with major portions of the earth under as much as twenty feet of water, together with increased frequency and intensity of huge storms, wildfires, and droughts. Great numbers of species, Mr. Gore tells us, will perish and the world as we have known it will cease to exist within ten years if we don't ratify the Kyoto treaty.

In short, we face a repetition of the Bible's account of the great flood which Noah survived in the ark. God saved Noah; Mr. Gore will save humanity.

That is what evolutionists and their opponents in the 19th century dismissively called catastrophism, a major event that fundamentally alters the course of life on earth.

Catastrophism is, according to the Wikipedia, "in geology, the doctrine that at intervals in the earth's history all living things have been destroyed by cataclysms (e.g., floods or earthquakes) and replaced by an entirely different population. During these cataclysms the features of the earth's surface, such as mountains and valleys, were formed."

Darwinian evolutionists dismiss catastrophism, because it conflicts at the most fundamental level with the assumptions necessary to support the speculative hypothesis of evolution.

Charles Lyell, Darwin's geology professor, advocated instead the doctrine of uniformitarianism, without which the infinitely slow process, over billions of years, of Darwinian evolution is insupportable.

The PhysicalGeometry.net website explains:

"Uniformitarianism is one of the most important unifying concepts in the geosciences. This concept developed in the late 1700s, suggests that catastrophic processes were not responsible for the landforms that existed on the Earth's surface. This idea was diametrically opposed to the ideas of that time period which were based on a biblical interpretation of the history of the Earth. Instead, the theory of uniformitarianism suggested that the landscape developed over long periods of time through a variety of slow geologic and geomorphic processes.

"..... The theory of uniformitarianism was also important in shaping the development of ideas in other disciplines. The work of Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace on the origin of the Earth's species extended the ideas of uniformitarianism into the biological sciences. The theory of evolution is based on the principle that the diversity seen in the Earth's species can be explained by the uniform modification of genetic traits over long periods of time."

Uniformitarianism is even more essential in contemporary evolutionary theories such as that of Richard Dawkins, who postulates that DNA is a digital record of all life forms that have ever existed, a giant computer file into which each new chance mutation that survives the process of natural selection is saved.

In "The Blind Watchmaker," Professor Dawkins writes: "The messages that DNA molecules contain are all but eternal when seen against the time scale of individual lifetimes. The lifetimes of DNA messages (give or take a few mutations) are measured in units ranging from millions of years, or, in other words, ranging from 10,000 individual lifetimes to a trillion individual lifetimes. Each individual organism should be seen as a temporary vehicle in which DNA messages spend a tiny fraction of their geological lifetimes."

Evolution thus could not have occurred as hypothesized had there been any major catastrophes, such as the predicted global-warming, that wiped out life forms as the carriers of the DNA digital files. If that happens, then evolution, in Professor Dawkins's version, would have to start all over from square one and create vast new chains of gradually increased digital information in the DNA molecules, added by chance mutations.

This leaves Al Gore's theory of global-warming catastrophe in an uncomfortable position. If his predicted worldwide cataclysm can occur, why only this one time in the presumably trillions of years of geological and biological uniformitarian gradualism postulated by the hypothesis of evolution? Have the evolutionists been wrong all along?

On the web: http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/10c.html

Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. Evangelist arrested on tax evasion http://www.pensacolanewsjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060713/NEWS01/60713013

Published - July, 13, 2006

Michael Stewart

A Pensacola evangelist was arrested Thursday and indicted in federal court on 58 charges that include income tax evasion, making threats against investigators and filing false complaints against Internal Revenue Service agents.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Miles Davis handed down the indictment against Kent Hovind, who operated a creationist theme park Dinosaur Adventure Land, off Old Palafox Road.

Hovind's wife, Jo Hovind, was also indicted on 44 of the counts and appeared in court alongside her husband.

Arraignment for the Hovinds is scheduled for2 p.m. Monday. The couple was released pending their trial but are not allowed to travel outside the Northern District of Florida.

Park could face extinction

http://www.pensacolanewsjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060407/NEWS01/604070340/1006

Lack of building permits closes dinosaur museum

William Rabb

It may have been built with heavenly intentions, but a judge has ruled that the creationism theme park known as Dinosaur Adventure Land still must obey earthly laws.

Escambia County authorities this week locked up a museum building at the theme park on North Palafox Street in Pensacola after Circuit Judge Michael Allen ruled the owners were in contempt of court.

Owners of the park, which shows how dinosaurs may have roamed the Earth just a few thousand years ago, did not obtain a building permit before constructing the building in 2002. They have argued in and out of court that it violates their "deeply held" religious beliefs, and that the church-run facility does not have to obtain permits.

After almost four years of litigation, the judge disagreed and said the county has the authority to close the building until the owners comply with regulations.

The judge also fined two church leaders $500 each per day for every day the building is used or occupied. If church officials continue to refuse to comply with local ordinances, the judge may decide that the building can be razed, Allen's ruling said.

County commissioners showed no sympathy to members of the Creation Science Evangelism ministry who spoke out Thursday night at a commission meeting about the county's actions.

"Scripture also says 'Render unto Caesar what Caesar demands.' And right now, Caesar demands a building permit," County Commission Chairman Mike Whitehead said.

A building permit and inspection by county authorities is vital to ensuring the theme park is safe for the thousands of people who reportedly visit the park and museum every year, Whitehead said.

Church leader Kent Hovind vowed to appeal the case.

"We will continue our legal fight," Hovind said Thursday.

"This is pure religious persecution," said Glen Stoll, who works closely with Hovind on legal issues.

Legal questions are nothing new for Dinosaur Adventure Land and the leaders of the church group that operates it:

Last year, the U.S. attorney in Seattle filed a lawsuit against Stoll, charging him with promoting a scheme encouraging people to avoid paying taxes by claiming to be religious entities, according to news reports.

A federal judge ruled against Stoll, ordering him to stop the practices. Stoll said Thursday that he doesn't recognize the ruling because he was never properly served with court papers.

What's New Friday July 14, 2006

Robert L. Park Friday, 14 Jul 06 Washington, DC

ABC PRIMETIME: WAKE UP ABC, IT'S THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY!

Here's the scene: Adam Dreamhealer is a normal 19 year-old, who wears an earring, has a tattoo, pumps iron, and all that stuff. A regular guy, except he has this gift. It came from a 4-foot tall blackbird he encountered on a strange island. The bird downloaded all the world's knowledge into Adam's head. Now Adam goes into trances in dark rooms to manipulate quantum holograms with his hands. (Tom Cruise in Minority Report?) It enables Adam to cure cancers that haven't been verified by biopsy. How does it work? "Quantum mechanics." An over-the-hill physicist said scientists "groan" at that explanation. He said more but it was cut. Dr. Edgar Mitchell of Apollo 14 fame came on and agreed with Adam that it must be quantum mechanics. It was Mitchell who carried out ESP experiments from space, and now worries about all of these UFO visits. He is the author of Quantum Holography: A Basis for the Interface Between Mind and Matter. Why am I telling you this? Because I was the "over-the-hill physicist" who allowed himself to be used. I will perform any penance WN readers feel is appropriate. I really should have known better: http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN05/wn021105.html.

DOUBLE BLIND: WHAT THE MEDIA JUST CAN'T SEEM TO UNDERSTAND.

Feynman once described science as "what we have learned about how not to fool ourselves." The most important discovery in medicine is the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled test, by means of which we learn what works and what doesn't. When I was first contacted by ABC about Adam Dreamhealer, a producer asked how I would respond to Adam's claims? "I would ask for the test results," I replied. But of course, there are no test results. That's the point. And it's the only point ABC needed to make.

THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND.

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

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

Hunt for Gambia's mythical dragon

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/5180404.stm

A team of UK dragon-hunters is on an expedition in The Gambia to track down a mysterious creature known locally as the "Ninki-nanka".

Believed to live in swamps, the ninki-nanka appears in the folklore of many parts of West Africa.

It is described as having a horse-like face, a long body with mirror-like scales and a crest of skin on its head.

Team leader Richard Freeman told the BBC, evidence so far was sketchy as most people died soon after seeing it.

Mr Freeman, a cryptozoologist from the UK-based Centre for Fortean Zoology, admitted that the ninki-nanka's existence was "very far-fetched indeed".

Second-hand accounts varied wildly from it looking like a crocodile or a snake to having wings and spitting fire, he said.

But he disputed a suggestion that the hunt was a waste of time and money.

"We didn't know any of this before we came. We have to look into everything to see if there is a possibility that there's a real creature there," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

Cryptozoology is the search for animals whose existence is disputed or unsubstantiated, such as the Loch Ness monster.

Herbal potion

The team have interviewed one eyewitness so far - a park ranger from the Kiang West National Park who lived to tell the tale of his encounter three years ago.

He described an immense animal 50 metres long by one metre wide that he watched for more than an hour before being taken ill.

He put down his survival down to a herbal potion given to him by an Islamic holy man, Mr Freeman said.

Later, according to the expedition's blog, after being shown pictures of various reptiles and mythical animals, the ranger said the creature's face most resembled that of a Chinese dragon.

"We've heard very similar stories all over The Gambia but mostly not first hand eyewitnesses... there seems to be this thing when you see the ninki-nanka you will die usually within a few weeks," Mr Freeman said.

The team are taking back a sample of what is claimed to be a ninki-nanka's scale to be tested in the UK.

But initially investigations suggestion this is a red herring, perhaps a bit of rotten celluloid film and "not biological".

"We haven't discounted the possibility that there is a flesh and blood ninki-nanka in the swamps of West Africa, it's just at the moment the evidence is pointing to something more folkloric," he said.

The Onion on Gravity

Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory

August 17, 2005 | Issue 41•33

KANSAS CITY, KS—As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.

Burdett added: "Gravity—which is taught to our children as a law—is founded on great gaps in understanding. The laws predict the mutual force between all bodies of mass, but they cannot explain that force. Isaac Newton himself said, 'I suspect that my theories may all depend upon a force for which philosophers have searched all of nature in vain.' Of course, he is alluding to a higher power."

Founded in 1987, the ECFR is the world's leading institution of evangelical physics, a branch of physics based on literal interpretation of the Bible.

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/39512/print/


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Is Defeating Aging Only a Dream?

http://www.technologyreview.com/sens/index.aspx

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

No one has won our $20,000 Challenge to disprove Aubrey de Grey's anti-aging proposals.

By Jason Pontin

Last year, Technology Review announced a $20,000 prize for any molecular biologist who could demonstrate that biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey's "Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence" (SENS) -- a much publicized prescription for defeating aging -- was "so wrong that it was unworthy of learned debate." The purpose of the challenge was to determine whether de Grey's proposals were science or fantasy.

The judges of the "SENS Challenge" were Rodney Brooks, the director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the chief technology officer of iRobot; Anita Goel, the founder and chief executive of Nanobiosym; Vikram Kumar, the cofounder and chief executive of Dimagi and a pathologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston; Nathan Myhrvold, the cofounder and chief executive of Intellectual Ventures and the former chief technology officer of Microsoft; and J. Craig Venter, the founder and president of the Venter Institute, whose computational methods hastened the completion of the Human Genome Project.

We received five submissions, of which only three met the terms of the challenge. De Grey wrote a rebuttal to each qualifying submission, and the challengers wrote responses to those rebuttals. The judges considered all these documents.

In the end, the judges felt that no submission met the criterion of the challenge and disproved SENS, although they unanimously agreed that one submission, by Preston W. Estep and his colleagues, was the most eloquent. The judges also noted, however, that de Grey had not convincingly defended SENS and that many of his ideas seemed somewhat fanciful.

Nathan Myhrvold, writing for all the judges, offered this summary of their deliberations:

"At issue is the conflict between the scientific process and the ambiguous status of ideas that have not yet been subjected to that process.

"The scientific process requires evidence through independent experimentation or observation in order to accord credibility to a hypothesis. SENS is a collection of hypotheses that have mostly not been subjected to that process and thus cannot rise to the level of being scientifically verified. However, by the same token, the ideas of SENS have not been conclusively disproved. SENS exists in a middle ground of yet-to-be-tested ideas that some people may find intriguing but which others are free to doubt.

"Some scientists react very negatively toward those who seek to claim the mantle of scientific authority for ideas that have not yet been proved. Estep et al. seem to have this philosophy. They raise many reasons to doubt SENS. Their submission does the best job in that regard. But at the same time, they are too quick to engage in name-calling, labeling ideas as 'pseudo-scientific' or 'unscientific' that they cannot really demonstrate are so.

"We need to remember that all hypotheses go through a stage where one or a small number of investigators believe something and others raise doubts. The conventional wisdom is usually correct. But while most radical ideas are in fact wrong, it is a hallmark of the scientific process that it is fair about considering new propositions; every now and then, radical ideas turn out to be true. Indeed, these exceptions are often the most momentous discoveries in science.

"SENS has many unsupported claims and is certainly not scientifically proven. I personally would be surprised if de Grey is correct in the majority of his claims. However, I don't think Estep et al. have proved that SENS is false; that would require more research. In some cases, SENS makes claims that run parallel to existing research (while being more sensational). Future investigation into those areas will almost certainly illuminate the controversy. Until that time, people like Estep et al. are free to doubt SENS. I share many of those doubts, but it would be overstating the case to assert that Estep et al. have proved their point."

A majority of the judges also argued that if SENS was not exactly science, de Grey (a computer scientist by training) had described his proposals as a kind of engineering project -- and they upbraided Estep et al. for not considering them on those terms. Rodney Brooks wrote, "I have no confidence that they understand engineering, and some of their criticisms are poor criticisms of a legitimate engineering process."

Craig Venter most succinctly expressed the prevailing opinion. He wrote, "Estep et al. in my view have not demonstrated that SENS is unworthy of discussion, but the proponents of SENS have not made a compelling case for it."

In short, SENS is highly speculative. Many of its proposals have not been reproduced, nor could they be reproduced with today's scientific knowledge and technology. Echoing Myhrvold, we might charitably say that de Grey's proposals exist in a kind of antechamber of science, where they wait (possibly in vain) for independent verification. SENS does not compel the assent of many knowledgeable scientists; but neither is it demonstrably wrong.

Therefore, the challenge remains open. In recognition of their careful scholarship, however, Estep et al. will be paid half the value of the prize. (This represents the $10,000 that Technology Review pledged; the Methuselah Foundation, an organization founded by de Grey to promote anti-aging science, pledged the other half.)

The full versions of all three submissions to the SENS Challenge, with full citations and footnotes, can be found below.

Estep et al. strongly disagreed with the judges's opinion. Read their dissent here.

The winners are donating the entire $10,000 prize to the American Federation for Aging Research.

Finches on Galapagos Islands evolving

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060713/ap_on_sc/darwin_evolution_4

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer

Thu Jul 13, 4:30 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Finches on the Galapagos Islands that inspired Charles Darwin to develop the concept of evolution are now helping confirm it — by evolving.

A medium sized species of Darwin's finch has evolved a smaller beak to take advantage of different seeds just two decades after the arrival of a larger rival for its original food source.

The altered beak size shows that species competing for food can undergo evolutionary change, said Peter Grant of Princeton University, lead author of the report appearing in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

Grant has been studying Darwin's finches for decades and previously recorded changes responding to a drought that altered what foods were available.

It's rare for scientists to be able to document changes in the appearance of an animal in response to competition. More often it is seen when something moves into a new habitat or the climate changes and it has to find new food or resources, explained Robert C. Fleischer, a geneticist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and National Zoo.

This was certainly a documented case of microevolution, added Fleischer, who was not part of Grant's research.

Grant studied the finches on the Galapagos island Daphne, where the medium ground finch, Geospiza fortis, faced no competition for food, eating both small and large seeds.

In 1982 a breeding population of large ground finches, Geospiza magnirostris, arrived on the island and began competing for the large seeds of the Tribulus plants. G. magnirostris was able to break open and eat these seeds three times faster than G. fortis, depleting the supply of these seeds.

In 2003 and 2004 little rain fell, further reducing the food supply. The result was high mortality among G. fortis with larger beaks, leaving a breeding population of small-beaked G. fortis that could eat the seeds from smaller plants and didn't have to compete with the larger G. magnirostris for large seeds.

That's a form of evolution known as character displacement, where natural selection produces an evolutionary change in the next generation, Grant explained in a recorded statement made available by Science.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation .

Mollusc fossils push back evolution, ROM scientists say

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20060713.wxmollusk13/BNStory/Science/home

Life 560 million years ago more advanced than previously believed, article says

UNNATI GANDHI

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

Two Canadian paleontologists have discovered dozens of fossils of a soft-bodied, deep-sea dweller that lived more than half a billion years ago, adding one more piece to the enigmatic puzzle that is the history of life on Earth.

The 189 well-preserved fossil specimens of Odontogriphus omalus have been interpreted as the world's oldest known soft-bodied mollusc, and were found in British Columbia's mountains in the Burgess Shale, one of the most important fossil sites in the world.

The newly discovered fossils are remarkable, one of the researchers notes, because there are perfect impressions of all of the animal's soft tissues.

The fossils show the early mollusc had an oval body ranging in size from a few millimetres to 20 centimetres with simple gill-like structures surrounding a muscular sole or "foot" on the underside.

The stomach, intestines, outer membrane and mouth are all visible.

This discovery pushes back the history of animal evolution tens of millions of years to 560 million years ago in Precambrian time (543 million years ago and earlier), according to the Royal Ontario Museum's David Rudkin, co-author of the article published in today's issue of the journal Nature.

Very few fossil specimens have been found from that time period. The Cambrian Period (543 million to 490 million years ago) marked the sudden appearance of complex multicellular macroscopic organisms.

In the Precambrian era, before the so-called explosion, organisms were thought to be much simpler, but this study shows that was not the case.

"This is a crucial interval in evolutionary history because it seems to represent a time in which a great deal happened," he said.

"Odontogriphus seems to be a late holdover that somehow got preserved in with the creatures from the Cambrian . . . opening up new windows on evolution for us," Mr. Rudkin said.

The specimens were collected over 15 years in the late 1980s and 1990s by the ROM and, upon closer examination, were found to have distinguishing "molluscan" features including a specialized feeding structure called a radula, made up of short rows of small, tooth-like elements that would wave and sweep food into the mouth.

The shell-less molluscs grazed on seafloor bacterial growths.

Odontogriphus, which translates to "toothed riddle" was originally discovered in 1976 from a single, poorly preserved specimen. Until now, it has been described as an "enigmatic organism," according to the study's lead author, Jean-Bernard Caron, also of the ROM.

"Our study redescribes and reinterprets previously unrecognized features that link Odontogriphus to the molluscs, one of the most diverse and important groups of animals living today," Dr. Caron said.

Odontogriphus predates modern-day molluscs -- with 200,000 living species today including snails, clams, squids and octopuses -- which began to develop hard shells during the Cambrian Period to survive.

"They were the last of their kind and they were dying out because the sea floor was changing and all these other animals started developing hard parts and new strategies for dealing with predators," Mr. Rudkin said. "The successful molluscs are those that branched off and developed shells."

Mr. Rudkin said the fact that many molluscs have survived such a catastrophic extinction could shed light on the evolutionary path many animals may take.

"Those lessons we learn from the past -- about where groups of organisms originated, when they become extinct, how they became extinct, or if they didn't become extinct entirely, how they recovered from extinction -- we use that kind of historical background to help us predict what might happen in modern extinction circumstances. Maybe there's a lesson in there for us."

Documentary pokes fun at both sides of evolution vs. intelligent design

http://www.mywesttexas.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=16916302&BRD=2288&PAG=461&dept_id=475613&rfi=6

Elise Rambaud Assistant Lifestyle Editor

Midland Reporter-Telegram

07/13/2006 Few would think to call a group of scientists with PhDs in evolution a "flock of dodos," but documentary filmmaker and Harvard-trained evolutionary ecologist Randy Olson has learned to poke fun of his own.

In the debate between evolution and opposing theory intelligent design, Olson says intelligent design proponents present themselves as cool, calm, collected, approachable nice-guys, whereas his fellow scientists could stand a public relations overhaul. Their overly cerebral explanations and bullheaded, self-righteous superiority of scientific fact comes off as arrogant and condescending.

As intelligent design groups vie for public favor, or at least the chance to "teach the controversy," in schools, evolutionists dismiss intelligent design as "mendacity" that has no place in a science class. Olson even included the definition of mendacity for non-PhDs in his aptly titled documentary, "Flock of Dodos: The Intelligent Design-Evolution Circus." The film playfully pays homage to the one of evolution's most noted victims -- the dodo bird.

So, given the option between the personable intelligent design believer and the long-winded technical scientist, Olson jokingly begs the question, "Who would you rather have a beer with?"

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Midland hosted a screening of the documentary last Sunday. Olson was present to show the film and to get reaction from what he hoped would be a different perspective than previous audiences at liberal university settings and film festivals.

Midlander Harry Nutter said the Unitarian Church is hosting a summer-long "arts and film festival," in lieu of regular services while their pastor is on sabbatical. Nutter saw "Flock of Dodos," mentioned on the Internet earlier this year, and sought to rent or buy a copy of the film for the congregation to watch this summer. Olson contacted Nutter and said he would show the film in person.

"(The film) was described as poking fun at both sides of the issue and I thought that would be a different wrinkle on a documentary, and something our congregation would enjoy discussing," Nutter said.

"Flock of Dodos" is yet to be released to the public, but was an official selection at New York's Tribeca Film Festival and the Maui Film Festival earlier this year. The documentary has received media attention from The New York Times, The National Review, Science and Theology, ABC News and National Public Radio.

Though Olson left the scientific academic world 12 years ago to attend film school at the University of Southern California, his previous professional background in evolution could misleadingly presuppose his motives for making the film. But he doesn't attack intelligent design; rather he lets the interviews "res ipsa loquitur," or speak for themselves. Ever an evolutionist, Olson concludes while intelligent design appeals to the intuition and common sense of the broader population, evolution does not need to make an emotional argument because it is based in scientific fact.

"I was interested in the communications side of the issue, not so much who's right or who's wrong," Olson told the Midland audience. "I tried not to make it a 'gotcha,' film."

Midlander Niki Widmayer said she loved the documentary.

"I thought he did a really good even-handed job at presenting the issue without completely bashing the other side. What we are all about here (at the Unitarian Universalist Church) is understanding all sorts of points of view," Widmeyer said. "I think he was right to let the camera roll and let them speak for themselves. If they shot themselves in the foot, so be it. There was lots of that on both sides."

Denise Johnson said she believes in evolution, but she came away with a greater appreciation for people who believe in intelligent design.

"Those people who feel intelligent design is the answer have a point of view that comes from their faith and from their heart," Johnson said. "I think the presentation was not one that concludes with agree to disagree, but should at least foster discussion between the two sides."

"Flock of Dodos," comes on the heels of recent box office success in the documentary genre with films like Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 911," "Bowling for Columbine," and Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me." Olson said the timing of this film is coincidental, and began after his mother, Muffy Olson, sent him a series of newspaper clippings about the intelligent design-evolution debate from his hometown of Lake Quivera, Kan. To his surprise, one of the nation's most prominent intelligence design proponents happened to be his mother's neighbor.

Just as Michael Moore often focuses on his hometown of Flint, Mich., Olson explores how the issue has made headlines in Kansas. The Kansas State Board of Education has been the center of attention as the inclusivity of science education standards have come under fire. To teach or not to teach? First it was creationism vs. evolution, and now it's intelligent design's demand to "teach the controversy."

"I've had friends who saw the film and said it was kind of like Michael Moore, but it's not mean-spirited, aggressive or manipulative," Olson said. "I think it falls somewhere between the more mature depth of the issue like 'Fahrenheit 911,' and the playful nature of 'Supersize Me.'"

Shelley Wright said the film had a sense of humor to it while discussing a very divisive issue. She doesn't have a firm opinion on whether intelligent design should be taught in schools, but she said, "People need to be life-long learners. They need to be able to sort through information and be able to make a decision. We need an educated public that can hear both sides of the issue and sort out the truth."

Nutter said the film explains intelligent design "is at best philosophy."

"To package it as science and teach it in science classrooms is inappropriate. We need to teach science in the science class. If we want to teach religion or philosophy we need to do it in a religion or philosophy class," Nutter said.

For more information about "Flock of Dodos," visit www.flockofdodos.com


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