NTS LogoSkeptical News for 7 August 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Monday, August 07, 2006

Generation X-Files


Stephen Armstrong Monday 7th August 2006

The psychic schools have never been so busy, and it's not the Doris Stokes brigade who want to learn, but the young, the prosperous and the educated. Stephen Armstrong uncovers a paranormal boom.

It's a hot evening and the west London traffic is moving at a slow, sweaty pace. Above it, in a scruffy attic room near the Natural History Museum, a small group of young women gathers to talk about life and death. One has funky dreadlocks piled high on her head, another is an earnest social worker from New Zealand who leans forward urgently when she talks, and a third - a marketing consultant - has the crisp enunciation of the very well educated. All in their twenties, they might be studying in adult education. And in a sense, they are.

The course they're on is called "Starting Your Spiritual Journey". One of these women wants to open her eyes to the spiritual world; one hopes to become a healer; and one - the social worker - wants to develop her psychic potential and use it at work to help the children she sees.

We are in the College of Psychic Studies, founded in 1884 by the spiritualist movement with support from Arthur Conan Doyle, and in all its 122 years the place has never been busier. Ten years ago, according to the "Spiritual Journey" tutor Kay Stirling, it was offering around 12 courses to a slow trickle of students. In the past few years, the trickle has swelled to a river.

The college now offers more than 50 courses - all of them packed - called such things as "Psychic Beginnings", "Opening Psychic Sensitivity", "Heart Centred Soul Healing", "Intuitive Living for Success and Fulfilment", "Sensing Energy" and "First Steps as a Psychic and Medium". And it's not alone. In Essex, the Intuition Psychic Centre teaches tarot reading, psychic development and medium ship, while in Swansea the Academy of Psychic and Spiritual Studies offers lessons in mediumship training, spirit guides and angels. There are similar colleges in Winchester, Darlington, Leeds and Glasgow. All are booming - with a new kind of student.

"Until about five years ago, most of the people interested in psychic phenomena were basically of a certain type," says Craig Hamilton-Parker, who runs the online Elysium Academy Psychic School, based in Stansted, and also practises as a medium. "You could call them the Doris Stokes brigade. They were usually over 50, might well have had a loved one who had died and were very keen to know what was on the other side. Over the past few years, however, we've had so much interest from people in their twenties or thirties who want to use skills such as aura reading, psychic abilities, mediumship and clairvoyance in their personal lives to help with relationships and careers and are unlikely to be wanting to contact and speak to the dead."

These students are part of a new, prosperous, younger generation whose desire for the psychic skills of mediumship and tarot reading sits comfortably alongside a range of other lifestyle choices, such as reading self-help books, going to the gym and dressing for success. Generation X-Files, if you will. In April, Selfridges made a play for their custom by introducing the first psychic concession in a leading British department store, the Psychic Sisters.

Gucci or Prada?

The booth, on the lower ground floor of the Oxford Street store, is framed by a wall of crystals and serviced by the same till as the Penhaligon's perfume concession. Inside, there's a screened-off area staffed by five psychics offering "an extensive range of supernatural services, including tarot, clairvoyance, crystal and psychometry readings, to customers looking for some broad-ranging lifestyle help and advice", according to a Selfridges spokesperson. "It's to help with those perennial questions - who am I? Where am I going? What should I do next? Should it be Gucci or Prada?"

With Robbie Williams declaring himself "a little bit psychic" this year, it might be appropriate to say that psychics are the new rock'n'roll.

This surge of interest has been encouraged by the gradual rise of psychic television. E4's big summer drama series - bought to play alongside Big Brother - has been Ghost Whisperer, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt as a pale and beautiful maverick who can see dead people. It joins ITV's Supernatural, a kind of Ghostbusters-meets-Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, in which two brothers search for their dead father and deal with spooky small-town mysteries along the way. Most of all, though, the paranormal boom is probably down to Living TV, a satellite station aimed mainly at women, which is cited by many students at the College of Psychic Studies as their inspiration.

Living TV's enthusiasm for the subject dates back to 2001, when its programme director, Richard Woolfe (now head of Sky 1), noticed that most of the viewers calling in to the station were talking about a US show called Crossing Over, in which a psychic called John Edwards strides around the studio waiting for contact from the other side. He starts throwing out information - "I'm getting the colour blue . . . and a cat . . ." - until someone from the audience claims the spirit as a friend or relative. Edwards then passes on messages, the audience member beams, and he starts all over again.

Woolfe quickly found himself three British equivalents - Colin Fry, Tony Stockwell and Derek Acorah - who were youthful and looked good on television; and in 2002 he effectively relaunched Living TV as Spook TV. It mixed new home-grown Crossing Over-style shows, featuring his three mediums, with "reality" offerings, such as Haunted Houses and Unsolved Mysteries and spin-offs such as Street Psychic, in which a paranormal version of David Blaine takes psychic showmanship out on the road.

It caught on, to a degree that other broadcasters could not ignore. "It's just very fashionable to have a psychic show right now," says Scott Solder of the talk-radio station LBC, which has just gone national. "As soon as I took over about a year and a half ago, I started to look for one. We hit on Becky Walsh earlier this year and her show's been on air for about three months, going out on Friday nights at 10pm. You get all sorts of people calling in for readings over the phone, but we also send her out to talk to groups attached to the movement - psychic groups, mediums, spiritualists." And the audience is not the Doris Stokes brigade, says Solder. "Our target demographic is 35- to 54-year-old ABC1s - professional, intelligent and involved - and this show hits them right on the button."

Ofcom regulations limit psychic shows to one of two sorts - balanced investigations or entertainment. Living and LBC's shows are pitched as investigations, which means that, just like The X-Files stars Mulder and Scully, med iums must always have sceptical co-presenters to challenge their views. However, Walsh's co- presenter, Chris Hawk ins, seems more open-mouthed than doubting, stunned by her explanations of the spirit world.

Perhaps a more appropriate sceptic would be Professor Chris French, head of the Anomalist Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths College, University of London. "I've been a believer in psychic phenomena for over half my life," he says. "But the more I learn about psychology, the less I believe. Broadly speaking, you can divide most psychic work into two main areas - the Barnum effect and cold reading.

"Both involve making apparently insightful statements that have a broad application to many people in the population, and then adding other statements and questions - like 'there was an accident during teenage years'. They usually qualify this by saying they are just getting general feelings so can't be too specific - maybe the accident wasn't you, maybe it was a friend, maybe it wasn't actually serious but you thought it was at the time, and so on. I'm not saying these people are all frauds. Most of them genuinely believe it, and are very surprised when you test them under laboratory conditions and they can't reproduce the results."

In a sense, of course, it doesn't matter whether there actually is contact with the other side. This is the apotheosis of the self-help generation. If we feel ill we turn to herbalists or homoeopaths. If we feel depressed, there's St John's wort or internet sites that will sell us happy pills without a prescription. If we're overweight, there's the Atkins diet. If we're tired, there are energy drinks. This is just another area of control.

The crumbling of politics and religion has helped spur the growth. Kay Stirling, the "Spiritual Journey" tutor, came to spiritualism via anti-Vietnam protests in Australia and radical feminism in the 1970s. "As the movement splintered, I became more interested in finding solutions in personal responsibility," she explains. "I think that drew me towards channelling my energy, and on into spiritualism. You'll find lots of people my age came through that route, but these younger kids are turning towards it because there's no sense of God in a world where people kill each other over religion the whole time."

Living TV's paranormal ratings back her up. On its main show, Most Haunted - now in its eighth series - mediums investigate hauntings in famous buildings. Almost half of the Most Haunted audience is aged 16-34, while only 7 per cent of those who watch BBC1's Songs of Praise are in that age group. Even in terms of numbers, the spooky minority channel is gaining ground - the total Songs of Praise audience has halved since 2001, averaging under two million, while Most Haunted has more than half a million, despite being limited to multi-channel homes.

Of course, this may just be another fad. Perhaps in five years' time, Scientology will take over as the groovy route to the godhead. It's hard to predict. The only people who should know are the psychics themselves. After all, isn't that their job?

Apocalypse soon


As Israel batters Lebanon, some prophetic souls hear the trumpets sounding -- but why? Is it the end of the world as we know it? And do evangelicals feel fine?

By Jason Boyett

Aug. 07, 2006 | Ask any student of biblical prophecy to name the most important date on any end-of-the-world timeline, and you'll be referred to an event nearly six decades ago: The reestablishment of the state of Israel in 1948, after centuries of Jewish dispersion. Evangelicals who read biblical prophecy from a premillennialist perspective -- which we'll get to later -- see the creation of Israel as the direct fulfillment of Old Testament passages in Ezekiel 36 and 37, in which God promises to restore his Hebrew people to their homeland right before a period of intense judgment and warfare.

To these believers, that means any Israeli-focused conflict in the Middle East has the potential to become the war to end all wars.

That's why Israel's current conflict with Lebanon has set apocalyptic alarms buzzing across the United States. Newsweek, in its Aug. 7 "Beliefwatch" column, asks whether this could be "the end." Chuck Raasch, writing in USA Today, worries about "glimpses of the apocalypse" in the headlines. On July 27, "Good Morning, America" even brought in "Left Behind" coauthors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins to comment on the prophetic nature of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict.

Meanwhile, Internet chatter has had many citing recent events as evidence that the long-awaited Second Coming of Christ is near. The Rapture Index, a meticulously categorized barometer of end-times activity posted at the popular Web site Rapture Ready, hovers around the mid-150s. (Compare that to its apex of 182, reached in September 2001.) Postings on its message board vary from giddy expectancy -- "Can you hear the soft tread of the Messiah's footstep? Can you feel the soft beating of your heart in anticipation of His soon return?" (Cricket55) -- to more nuanced geopolitical analysis, sans freaky Jesus romanticism.

While the mainstream media continues to give air time to Christian eschatology -- loosely defined as the branch of theology that deals with the end of the world -- the left-leaning side of the Web is growing increasingly uneasy. Last week, media watchdog Media Matters called out CNN for using apocalyptic religious language in discussing the war and for turning to religious novelists like Jenkins for insight. Posters at Daily Kos agree, wondering where the experts are who could, for instance, identify such religious ravings as "a bunch of crap." And William Rivers Pitt, worrying about the Bush administration's die-hard support of Israel under the influence of its Revelation-reading supporters, scolds "right-wing Christian[s] who cannot wait for the Apocalypse."

Which brings us to several questions: Why are so many evangelicals so passionate about Israel? What is it about the current conflict that so intrigues the Bible prophecy squad? And finally, are any of them really "cheerleading the Apocalypse," as Pitt describes? Does your average evangelical Christian actually get excited about the potential of World War III?

The answer to the first question is deceptively simple: Evangelical Christians love Israel because they believe God loves Israel. "And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed," God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, is the driving force behind that belief, according to David Brog, author of "Standing with Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State." "The real motive behind Christianity's support for Israel is the promises of Genesis, not the prophecies of Revelation," says Brog, a practicing Jew who once served as chief of staff to Republican senator Arlen Specter. To Christians, those promises indicate that Israel's continued existence as a nation is God's will.

That's a primary reason many believers supported the establishment of Israel. It's also why substantial numbers of the American faithful stood by Israel during the Six Days' War in 1967, after which Israel captured Jerusalem, occupying the Gaza strip, the Sinai Peninsula and beyond. After all, this was the territory the Bible says God promised Israel after delivering the Hebrews from Egypt. The Bible maintains that God was, and is, on the side of Israel. That's as good a reason as any to throw political support Israel's way. "If America wants God's blessing," Brog says, "you bless the state of Israel."

A desire for God's favor may explain the philo-Semitism of many evangelical Christians. But there's another element of theology that has fueled the passionate attention given Israel, especially within the past few weeks. A significant amount of end-times prophecy concerns the future of Israel. A literal reading of these biblical passages -- and there are many, from Ezekiel and Daniel in the Old Testament to Revelation in the New Testament -- has convinced adherents of an interpretive system called "dispensational premillennialism" (the theological framework behind "Left Behind") that the restored nation of Israel is one of God's primary signs of the last days. To them, turmoil in and around a re-gathered Israel can mean only one thing: Human history is headed for its final chapter. "Israel is the most important signal on God's prophetic timeline," says Terry James, general editor of Rapture Ready and the author of "The Rapture Dialogues," an end-times novel. "It will be the center of controversy at the end of time."

The history of dispensational premillennialism is nearly as complex as the book of Revelation itself, and that's saying something. A second and third century form of Christian eschatology designated "historical premillennialism" read Revelation as a message that Jesus would soon return to earth to save the early church from its Roman persecutors. It fell out of favor, though, when the persecution stopped in the fourth century, when Constantine established Christianity as the official religion of Rome. Premillennialism made a comeback in the 19th century, thanks to an Irish Anglican named John Nelson Darby. It was Darby, a tireless traveling preacher, who popularized a theory known as "dispensationalism." He believed God's historical dealings with humankind fell into different epochs, or "dispensations," within which God offered a different avenue to salvation. (God dealt differently with Adam and Eve than he did with humankind after the flood, and God's relationship with the church today is different from his Old Testament relationship with Israel.) Darby concluded that humankind will enter a new dispensation at the end of time, and that in those final days, Israel -- which fell out of God's favor upon rejecting Jesus as the messiah -- will regain its position as God's elect.

Darby didn't just introduce the primacy of Israel's role in the end times. He also called attention to an event known as the Rapture. The concept of the Rapture doesn't appear at all in the Revelation timeline. It originates in 1 Thessalonians, a New Testament book in which the apostle Paul describes those believers who are still alive at the time being "caught up together in the clouds" when trumpets sound. The true church, Darby believed, would be removed from the earth prior to a period of warfare and judgment called the tribulation. The most bizarre events of Revelation -- horsemen of the apocalypse, locust assassins, rivers turning to blood, stars falling from the sky -- are said to refer to this seven-year doomsday period, also referenced in the Old Testament book of Daniel.

But premillennialists, then and now, don't always agree on when, exactly, to cue the heavenly horns. Some place the Rapture in the middle (mid-tribulationists) or end (post-tribulationists) of the seven-year tribulation. The majority of premills, however, are pre-tribulationists. (They're the ones with "In case of Rapture, this car will be unmanned" bumper stickers on their SUVs.) And as Media Matters can attest, current headlines are starting to look a lot like chapter titles in apocalyptic Christian fiction. They're not the only ones who see this. The Israel-Hezbollah conflict has convinced many premillennialists that God, working through Israel, is steering the world toward its final days. "There are no prophecies that have to be fulfilled before the Rapture," James says. "It's imminent." In fact, the Rapture has been imminent for 2,000 years. In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul warned believers that it could happen at any moment.

What makes our current moment potentially more "imminent" than in years past? James says it has everything to do with Israel. He points to the prophetic Old Testament book of Zechariah, which predicts a point in the last days when Israel will become a "burdensome stone for all people," with all the nations of the earth gathered against her. Here we have Israel going to war against a potentially wide-ranging enemy like Islamic fundamentalism, not to mention an international community angered at Israel's relentless bloodshed. "Most dispensational premillennialists believe that all of prophetic battles and wars in the Bible relating to Israel will happen after the Rapture," says Dr. Thomas Ice, executive director of the Pre-Trib Research Center, a Bible prophecy think tank founded by Tim LaHaye in 1994 and housed at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. "In today's situation, you can see where everyone is coming against Israel. What's happening there could be setting the stage for the tribulation."

Despite their die-hard support, premillennialists don't necessarily believe Israel must prevail in any specific battle. Israel's role is merely to get the ball rolling. "I don't think it's important one way or another that Israel wins the current war," Ice says, "since what we believe we are moving toward is an agreement between the Antichrist of the revived Roman Empire and Israel." He references a prophecy in Revelation 17 concerning a 10-headed beast, interpreted as the embodiment of a future world power as great as that of ancient Rome. This international authority -- lately identified as the European Union by some premillennialists -- will come to power during the last days, giving rise to none other than the Antichrist. Which means the outcome of the Israel-Lebanon conflict is of little consequence to the prophetic itinerary. What matters is that it moves Israel toward isolation, positioning it to allow the "10-headed beast" to temporarily take control. At any rate, the Bible guarantees Israel's ultimate victory. "Bible prophecy plainly teaches that Israel will be a nation forever," James says. He cites passages like Genesis 17:7-8 and Jeremiah 31:35-36, which claim Israel's everlasting possession of the Promised Land, and its permanent status as a nation before God.

Which brings us to that final question: Does violence in the Middle East -- theoretically a precursor to the Second Coming -- make premillennialist Christians happy? Yes and no. "Anyone who believes in the Rapture looks forward to going, and yes, I assume, to be rescued from a world heading for even more perilous times," says "Left Behind" series coauthor Jenkins. But he insists that the bumper sticker types gloating about it are not quite in line with the messiah they claim to follow. "Why hurry an event that will assure that untold millions will be left behind? I mean, 'good for us, too bad for you' seems an attitude wholly antithetical to the teachings of Christ."

James reacts just as strongly to being labeled as "cheerleading the apocalypse." "It's totally wrong to think we actually want war to happen to bring about the [Second Coming]," he says. "We can't affect things one way or another, anyway." That's a valid point, Brog says. Premillennialist Christians "believe that one sign of the Last Days is widespread moral decay. If they believed their actions could influence the Second Coming, then why fight that moral decay? Why not speed it along by opening brothels or casinos or dealing drugs?" Along those lines, he says, wouldn't it also make sense to invite Armageddon by weakening Israel, rather than supporting it?

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus teaches his disciples that the timing of the Second Coming is a decision made by God alone. "Of that day and hour knoweth no man," the text reads, "no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." And if Jesus himself isn't clued in to God's timetable? You get the idea. "It's folly to guess, and it's playing God to try to intervene," Jenkins says. Those who believe otherwise, he says, "are in the minority and on the fringe, and I hope they stay there. God will do what he will do, and we will have no say in it."

But denying their own intervention isn't quite so simple. Evangelical Christians donate millions of dollars to pro-Israel causes every year. The pro-Israel evangelical vote helped get George W. Bush elected in 2000 and 2004. That same constituency is behind the Bush administration's refusal to back down from support of Israel, despite escalating violence to civilians in the Israel-Lebanon war. And while few politicians would admit to using biblical prophecy as a policy guide, it's hard to ignore the 800-pound gorilla behind the U.S.-Israel alliance: that in many ways it owes a debt to our nation's religious beliefs, including the promises of Genesis, the prophetic visions of Ezekiel and Revelation, and a once obscure, now popular, branch of Christian eschatology that is watching and waiting for the end.

9/11 conspiracy theorists energized


Five years later, purveyors claim academic momentum

(AP) -- Kevin Barrett believes the U.S. government might have destroyed the World Trade Center. Steven Jones is researching what he calls evidence that the twin towers were brought down by explosives detonated inside them, not by hijacked airliners.

These men aren't uneducated junk scientists: Barrett will teach a class on Islam at the University of Wisconsin this fall, over the protests of more than 60 state legislators. Jones is a tenured physicist at Brigham Young University whose mainstream academic job has made him a hero to conspiracy theorists.

Five years after the terrorist attacks, a community that believes widely discredited ideas about what happened on September 11, 2001, persists and even thrives. Members trade their ideas on the Internet and in self-published papers and in books. About 500 of them attended a recent conference in Chicago, Illinois.

The movement claims to be drawing fresh energy and credibility from a recently formed group called Scholars for 9/11 Truth.

The organization says publicity over Barrett's case has helped boost membership to about 75 academics. They are a tiny minority of the 1 million part- and full-time faculty nationwide, and some have no university affiliation. Most aren't experts in relevant fields.

But some are well educated, with degrees from elite universities such as Princeton and Stanford and jobs at schools including Rice, Indiana and the University of Texas.

"Things are happening," said co-founder James Fetzer, a retired philosophy professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth, who maintains, among other claims, that some of the hijackers are still alive. "We're going to continue to do this. Our role is to establish what really happened on 9/11."

What really happened, the national September 11 commission concluded after 1,200 interviews, was that hijackers crashed planes into the twin towers.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, a government agency, filed 10,000 pages of reports that found fires caused by the crashing planes were more than sufficient to collapse the buildings.

The scholars' group rejects those conclusions. Their Web site contends the government has been dishonest.

It adds: the "World Trade Center was almost certainly brought down by controlled demolitions" and "the government not only permitted 9/11 to occur but may even have orchestrated these events to facilitate its political agenda."

The standards and technology institute, and many mainstream scientists, won't debate conspiracy theorists, saying they don't want to lend them unwarranted credibility. 'It's not really science'

But some worry the academic background of the group could do that anyway.

Members of the conspiracy community "practically worship the ground [Jones] walks on because he's seen as a scientist who is preaching to their side," said FR Greening, a Canadian chemist who has written several papers rebutting the science used by September 11 conspiracy theorists.

"It's science, but it's politically motivated. It's science with an ax to grind, and therefore it's not really science."

Faculty can express any opinion outside the classroom, said Roger Bowen, general secretary of the American Association of University Professors.

However, "with academic freedom comes academic responsibility. And that requires them to teach the truth of their discipline, and the truth does not include conspiracy theories, or flat Earth theories, or Holocaust denial theories."

Members of the group don't consider themselves extremists. They simply believe the government's investigation was inadequate, and maintain that questioning widely held assumptions has been part of the job of scholars for centuries.

"Tenure gives you a secure position where you can engage in controversial issues," Fetzer said. "That's what you should be doing."

But when asked what did happen in 2001, members often step outside the rigorous, data-based culture of the academy and defer to their own instincts.

Daniel Orr, a Princeton Ph.D. and widely published retired economics chair at the University of Illinois, said he knew instantly from watching the towers fall that they had been blown apart by explosives. He was reminded of watching an old housing project being destroyed in St. Louis, Missouri.

David Gabbard, an East Carolina education professor, acknowledges this isn't his field, but says "I'm smart enough to know ... that fire from airplanes can't melt steel."

When they do cite evidence, critics such as Greening contend it's junk science from fellow conspiracy theorists, dressed up in the language and format of real research to give it a sense of credibility. Ex-professor doubts government

Jones focuses on the relatively narrow question of whether molten metal present at the World Trade Center site after the attacks is evidence that a high-temperature incendiary called thermite, which can be used to weld or cut metal, was involved in the towers' destruction.

He concludes thermite was present, throwing the government's entire explanation into question and suggesting someone might have used explosives to bring down the towers.

"I have not run into many who have read my paper and said it's just all hogwash," Jones said.

Judy Wood, until recently an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Clemson University, has been cited by conspiracy theorists for her arguments the buildings could not have collapsed as quickly as they did unless explosives were used.

"If the U.S. government is lying about how the buildings came down, anything else they say cannot be believed," she said. "So why would they want to tell us an incorrect story if they weren't part of it?"

In fact, say Greening and other experts, the molten metal Jones cites was most likely aluminum from the planes, and any number of explanations are more likely than thermite.

And the National Institute of Standards and Technology's report describes how the buildings collapsed from the inside in a chain reaction once the floors began falling.

"We respect the opinions of others, but we just didn't see any evidence of what people are claiming," institute spokesman Michael Newman said.

Wisconsin officials say they do not endorse the views of Barrett, an adjunct, but after investigating concluded he would handle the material responsibly in the classroom.

That didn't mollify many state legislators.

"The general public from Maine to Oregon knows why the trade towers went down," said state Rep. Stephen Nass, a Republican. "It's not a matter of unpopular ideas; it's a matter of quality education and giving students their money's worth in the classroom."

In a July 20 letter obtained by The Associated Press in an open records request, Wisconsin Provost Patrick Farrell warned Barrett to tone down his publicity seeking, and said he would reconsider allowing Barrett to teach if he continued to identify himself with the university in his political messages.

BYU's physics department and engineering school have issued statements distancing themselves from Jones' work, but he says they have not interfered.

At Clemson, Wood did not receive tenure last year, but her former department chair, Imtiaz ul Haque, denies her accusation that it was at least partly because of her September 11 views.

"Are you blackballed for delving into this topic? Oh yes," Wood said. "And that is why there are so few who do. Most contracts have something to do with some government research lab. So what would that do to you? The consequences are too great for a career. But I made the choice that truth was more important."

"If we're in higher education to be trying to encourage critical thinking," Wood says, "why would we say 'believe this because everybody else does?'"

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Volcanic eruption 'triggered biblical parting of Red Sea'


The Sunday Times August 06, 2006

Tony Allen-Mills, New York

THE greatest story ever told has acquired a Hollywood twist. James Cameron, the director of Titanic, is the executive producer of a new documentary that claims to have uncovered fresh evidence confirming one of the most dramatic episodes in the Old Testament — the parting of the Red Sea and the Jewish exodus from Egypt.

In The Exodus Decoded, a 90-minute documentary that will be shown in America this month, Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici, the Canadian film producer, claim a volcanic eruption on the Greek archipelago of Santorini triggered a chain of natural catastrophes recorded in the Bible as the 10 plagues that God visited upon Egypt as punishment for enslaving the Jews.

Cameron believes the parting of the Red Sea may have been a tsunami that destroyed the pharaoh's army as it pursued the escaping Jews. The documentary claims the episode occurred not at the Red Sea but at the smaller Sea of Reeds, a marshy area at the northern end of the Gulf of Suez. An underwater earthquake may have released poisonous gases that turned the waters red.

Jacobovici said "the common wisdom is there isn't a single piece of archeological evidence backing up the biblical story of the exodus". Jewish scholars have reluctantly concurred that an episode central to their faith — commemorated each year at Passover — may never have taken place.

Yet Cameron and Jacobovici claim to have unearthed more than a dozen archeological relics that suggest the exodus took place three centuries earlier than biblical scholars estimate. By reinterpreting artwork at museums in Luxor, Cairo, Athens and elsewhere, Jacobovici dates the exodus to around 1500BC.

That was about the time when some geologists believe the Santorini volcano, 400 miles north of Egypt, erupted in the eastern Mediterranean. Scientists and historians have long speculated that the 10 "plagues" suffered by Egypt might have been linked in a "domino theory" of natural causes.

The documentary's website argues that a series of earthquakes may have "destabilised the entire Nile Delta system and resulted in part of the delta sliding off the African continental shelf". This would have raised the level of land around the Sea of Reeds, believed to have been saltwater swamps around El Balah, the now extinct lake.

"In other words, the sea parted," the website says. "Water would have cascaded from higher ground to lower ground . . . creating dry land on which the Israelites could cross. This event would also have caused an enormous 'backsplash' of water, a veritable tsunami. If the waves went a mere seven miles inland they would have engulfed the Egyptian army."

The Exodus producers believe the waters were turned red by chemicals released by underwater tremors. Something similar happened to the lakes in Cameroon in 1986. If the waters were poisoned, amphibians would hop ashore, producing the biblical plague of frogs. When the frogs died, insects would have bred on their bodies leading to plagues of locusts, fleas and lice.

They in turn would have spread disease to humans, the plague of boils, and animals, the plague of dying livestock. They would also have threatened crops, forcing the Egyptians to store grain which might have then turned mouldy. Contaminated food might account for the plague of deaths among first-born Egyptian males. Weather conditions spawned by the eruption might also have caused the plagues of hailstorms and darkness.

"It's individual pieces that start to form a compelling pattern," said Cameron.

Ayurvedic alternative


Sunday, August 6, 2006

An ancient set of healing practices gets new life.

By LISA LIDDANE The Orange County Register

Every day, just before sunset, a familiar aroma wafts from Sharon Platt's kitchen in Irvine. It's a mιlange of coriander, cumin and fennel percolating in a small pot of water.

To her family, the smell is exotic, even strange.

To Platt, it is the scent of healing.

Each evening, she makes herself tea with these herbs, a practice that she began when she discovered ayurvedic medicine two years ago.

Ayurveda is a holistic system of medicine in India dating back about 5,000 years. In Sanskrit, "ayur" means life, and "veda" means science or knowledge.

Ayurveda seeks to balance the body, mind and spirit and involves, among other things, self-awareness, yoga, meditation, massage, specific types of food and eating patterns.

Ayurveda started seeping into the realm of American complementary medicine in the '90s, partly through the marketing efforts of mind-body medicine specialist Dr. Deepak Chopra. Now it's gaining momentum, though its safety and effectiveness haven't been established in the U.S. and there are concerns about some serious health risks.

As of 2004, about 751,000 people in the U.S. have used ayurveda, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Going mainstream

In Orange County, people are learning ayurvedic practices by taking classes or receiving informal instruction from private practitioners. The California College of Ayurveda has an outpost in Seal Beach where students can become certified ayurveda specialists. This fall, UC Irvine Extension will offer an introductory course in ayurveda that blends theory with practical applications, as it has since last year.

But the ayurvedic experience need not always be deep, heavy or mystical. Some spas offer massages and facials loosely based on ayurvedic principles. At the Laguna Canyon Spa in Laguna Beach, the treatment menu describes the use of heavy oils and rhythmic strokes for ayurvedic massage.

There are two groups interested in ayurveda: those who want to broaden their mind-body knowledge, and those who want some answers for their illnesses, said Molly Schneider, director of yoga and Buddhism studies programs at UC Irvine Extension.

"There's so much hatha yoga (the physical aspect of yoga) in the community and people are starting to get interested in deeper study, which is ayurveda," she said.

For others, such as Platt, ayurveda sometimes can provide an answer when Western medicine can't.

Discovering another path

Six years ago, Platt was desperate for a way to lower her high blood pressure. She was diagnosed with labile hypertension, a condition in which blood pressure rises repeatedly and rapidly. Doctors have yet to find the cause.

Platt started taking prescription medications. "But my blood pressures were variable," she said. "Sometimes, the medications would lower my blood pressure to below normal levels that I would pass out momentarily."

That was no way to live, she said.

When Platt's blood pressures spiked, she felt like a car with an engine constantly being revved up. "I was anxious all the time and angry," she said. "I couldn't concentrate; I couldn't think straight."

Her family bore the brunt of her mood swings, she said. "My stress was affecting them. … People tell me now that I'm so calm. What they don't know is I used to be a screaming meanie."

More than two years ago, a friend at a yoga studio recommended books on ayurveda to Platt. She started reading them. Before long, she attended a lecture on ayurveda, began looking for practitioners and eventually found Dr. Vandana Soni, an anesthesiologist and pain-management specialist who practices both Western and ayurvedic medicine in Newport Beach.

After determining which aspects of Platt's health were out of balance, Soni suggested a treatment plan that spelled a radical overhaul of Platt's life.

And it's a treatment that's still in progress. These days, Platt, 50, cooks almost all of her meals from scratch with ingredients tailored to calm and nurture her constitution. And most of all, she purposely remembers to cook with what she was told was the most important ingredient of all: feelings of love.

After cooking her family's dinner and hers separately, she retreats to the master bedroom for time to focus inside. At daybreak, she takes a walk around the neighborhood park. "I love that time of the day," Platt said. "I'm told that that's when the world is in balance."

She returns home to meditate for about 40 minutes, applies a thin layer of coconut oil to her skin and allows it to dry. "My husband jokes that some people might find that sexy, but … that actually is the weirdest part for my family," she said, laughing.

Platt said her blood pressure has dropped from highs of about 170/110 to 138/90. She has undergone two panchakarmas, detoxification rituals that involves deep tissue massages and enemas. The panchakarmas, according to ayurvedic practitioners, remove toxins from the body to help restore balance.

Concerns about safety and effectiveness For all the thousands of years behind ayurveda, Western medicine is in the early stages of trying to understand it – and figuring out whether it's safe and effective.

Government-funded studies are looking at ayurvedic medicine for treating high cholesterol and inflammatory disorders such as arthritis and Parkinson's disease.

There are some concerns about ayurveda, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

There are no national standards for certifying or training ayurvedic practitioners, so there is potential for harm in the hands of a person with inadequate knowledge and experience.

A 2004 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that out of 70 over-the-counter ayurvedic remedies manufactured in South Asia, 14 contained lead, mercury and/or arsenic at potentially harmful levels. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received 12 reports of lead poisoning linked to the use of ayurvedic medicine that year.

Some ayurvedic medications can interact adversely with conventional medications, so it's crucial that a patient's ayurvedic practitioner and Western medicine physician know all of the patient's herbal remedies and medications, said Soni, the Newport Beach physician. "Some herbs can have blood-thinning properties that can interfere with drugs such as Coumadin," she said.

And then there's the question of whether people feel better or symptoms go away because of a placebo effect. To this, Soni replied, "The placebo is what the mind does. The mind has an awareness that it can heal."

Still, there are other aspects of ayurveda that have low risks of harm and can be practiced by most people. Preparing fresh food rich in vegetables for each meal. Meditating and doing breathing exercises to relieve stress. Practicing yoga to increase flexibility and reduce risk of injuries. These are wellness practices that one might find in a Western medicine prescription for better health.

Ayurveda is not for people who are expecting quick results, Soni cautioned. It's a journey, and a lifelong one at that.

CONTACT US: lliddane@ocregister.com or 714-796-7854

Evolution debate continues


Posted August 6, 2006

By Bethany K. Warner of The Northwestern

Oshkosh could become the next battleground over how evolution is presented to students in public school science classrooms.

Sandra Gade, a retired physics professor from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, is leading a petition drive to ask the school board for an advisory referendum calling for Oshkosh public school teachers to present evidence for and against the theory of evolution in science classes.

Gade said she does not know how many signatures she has collected yet for the petition.

Once she is done petitioning in early September, she said she will present them "to somebody." School district and state education officials say there is no mechanism in Wisconsin law to allow a school district to do an advisory referendum on a curriculum issue.

Meanwhile, several science professors at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh are refuting the evidence Gade presents on her Web site, www.tellall.org. And a national watchdog group, the National Center for Science Education is labeling Gade's attacks as "straw-man" arguments using techniques of creationists and proponents of Intelligent Design.

Gade claims in her Web site that students' religious rights are being violated because the way evolution is being taught makes "God redundant," and does not present contrary evidence or an alternate theory.

"They are basically telling the students that science can prove that all of life came about from a natural process," Gade said. "The problem is that they are teaching students that it's a fact."

Gade said she's not advocating for religion to be taught in science classes, but for students to be presented "all the evidence."

But Lisa Dorn, an assistant professor of biology at UWO said there is no alternative to evolution.

"There is no alternate theory," Dorn said. "The alternate theory is God. And the Supreme Court already ruled you can't teach that in schools."

There is a distinction, the UWO professors say that needs to be drawn between the theory of evolution and the origin of life. The study of how life began, Dorn said, is cosmology, not evolution.

The theory of evolution is how species have changed over time and how they changed from something similar at one time. Intelligent Design holds that the universe is best explained by an intelligent cause, not simply an undirected and random process of natural selection.

Gade claims that science has failed to show in experiments how proteins or DNA evolved before life existed.

"It's jut not believable that random purposeless processes made these complex systems that have these complex processes. How could a process like that come about randomly that started with no purpose? I can't believe that," Gade said.

Andrew Petto, an editor with the National Center for Science Education, said evolution, says is "indifferent" to how the first proteins arose.

"They say evolution is wrong because you can't explain the origin of life," said Jim Paulson, a chemistry professor at UWO. "The fact that we don't know how it happened doesn't deny that it happened."

Gade also lays out several points on her site that scientists said do not hold up.

One of her main claims against evolution is that transitional fossils – life forms that prove a link, for example, between reptiles and fish – have not been found.

Paulson said some transitional fossils have been found and moreover, just because not every one has been found doesn't mean evolution didn't occur.

"Not every organism that ever lived got turned into a fossil," Paulson said.

Bethany K. Warner: (920) 426-6668 or bwarner@thenorthwestern.com.

Creationist disneyland closes the history books


August 06, 2006 Edition 1

Dylan Lovan

Like most natural history museums, this one has exhibits showing dinosaurs roaming the Earth. Except here, the giant reptiles share the forest with Adam and Eve.

That, of course, is contradicted by science, but that is the point of the $25 million (R175 million), Creation Museum rising fast in rural Kentucky in the United States.

Its inspiration is the Bible - the literal interpretation that contends God created the heavens and the Earth and everything in them just a few thousand years ago.

"If the Bible is the word of God, and its history really is true, that's our presupposition or axiom, and we are starting there," Ken Ham, the museum founder, said during recent tour of the sleek and modern facility, which is due to open next year.

Ham, an Australian native who started the Christian publishing company Answers in Genesis in the late 1970s, said the goal of his privately funded museum was to change minds and rebut the scientific point of view.

"We're going to show you that we can make sense of the different people groups, we can make sense of fossils, we can make sense of what you see in the world," he said.

Visitors to the museum, a few kilometres from Cincinnati, will be able to watch the story of creation unfold in a 180-seat special-effects theatre, see a 12m recreation of a section of Noah's Ark and stare into the jaws of robotic dinosaurs.

"It's education, but it's also doing it in an entertaining way," Ham said.

Scientists say fossils and sophisticated nuclear dating technology show that the Earth is more than 4 billion years old; the first dinosaurs appeared about 200 million years ago, and they died out well before the first human ancestors arose a few million years ago.

"Genesis is not science," said Mary Dawson, the curator emeritus of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. "Genesis is a tale that was handed down for generations by people who really knew nothing about science, who knew nothing about natural history, and certainly knew nothing about what fossils were."

Ham said he believed most fossils were the result of the Great Flood described in Genesis.

Mark Looy, a vice-president at Answers in Genesis, said the museum, which should be opened in May, had received at least $21 million in private donations.

John Morris, the president of the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego, an organisation that promotes creationism, said the museum would affirm the doubts many people had about science, namely the notion that man evolved from lower forms of life.

"Americans just aren't gullible enough to believe that they came from a fish," he said. - Sapa-AP

Creation Museum puts biblical spin on Earth's history


Article published Sunday, August 6, 2006


PETERSBURG, Ky. - Steve McConaughy gets goose bumps when he tells people about the Creation Museum.

The $26.4-million facility will not open until spring, but the air-traffic controller from Toledo already has made nine pilgrimages to the suburban Cincinnati site.

"The first time was in the fall of 2001, when it was just a muddy field with a bulldozer sitting on it," he said with a proud smile.

Mr. McConaughy made his ninth visit just nine days ago for a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility with exhibits - including animatronic dinosaurs and a high-tech Special SFX theater - that are only 10 percent finished.

The preview was open to Creation Museum charter members and invited guests, so Mr. McConaughy took the opportunity to bring 34 people from the Toledo area who share his belief that the universe was created exactly, literally, word-for-word as the Bible describes it in the Book of Genesis.

The July 28 preview, the last one scheduled at the museum before the opening, drew more than 3,000 people from throughout the Midwest, filling the parking lot to capacity and creating long lines in its gleaming Noah's Ark Cafe.

Eight months before the official opening, the Creation Museum has signed up 7,000 charter members who donated $149 for one-year memberships, $495 for five years, or $1,000 for lifetime memberships. The majority live more than two hours from the museum, according to Mark Looy, vice president.

Ken Ham, the Australian-born science teacher and founder of the museum, said organizers are in the unusual - and enviable - position of having to expand the facility before it even opens.

The price tag was upped from $25 million to $26.4 million. Organizers plan to add more parking spaces, expand the lobby, and add a level to the cafe.

Mr. Ham said $22 million has been raised thus far and the museum is on track to be debt-free by opening day. More than $15 million has come from gifts of $100 or less, he added.

The broad support among conservative Christians is not just because of the museum's presentation of the creation story. Many supporters are rallying behind the museum's stated mission to "take back our culture."

The 'culture war'

How a person views creation and evolution sets the tone for how he or she views the world, Mr. Ham asserted.

That makes the creation debate a critical battle zone in America's "culture war."

"There is a widening chasm between those who adhere to Christian morality - i.e., absolutes that are actually founded in the Bible - and those who adhere to moral relativism - i.e., everyone has a right to determine his or her rules for life," Mr. Ham said in an interview with The Blade.

"The more that generations are trained to disbelieve the Bible's account of origins, the more they will reject the rest of the Bible," he said.

The teaching of evolution as fact, rather than as theory, has undermined the authority of the Bible and brought about the rise of secularization and moral chaos, Mr. Ham said.

He also believes the rejection of the Bible as a moral compass has given rise to an array of cultural conflicts on issues such as abortion, divorce, homosexuality, and euthanasia.

The Creation Museum is designed to inspire Americans to accept the Bible as absolute authority and to halt the spread of secular humanism and moral relativism in society.

As Mr. McConaughy sees it, the Creation Museum can change people's lives.

"The museum has all the scientific answers for creation," he said, "but they really want people to know that if you take the Bible as your starting place, you're probably going to be more successful in looking out at the world."

Faith vs. science

Among the scientific positions that the Creation Museum espouses is that the Earth is 6,000 years old, as opposed to the more than 4 billion years that most scientists ascribe to, and that dinosaurs co-existed with human beings and were among Noah's menagerie on the Ark.

One of the most popular attractions at the museum, especially for children, will be a dozen life-size animatronic dinosaurs, including a 40-foot-long Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Most of the dinosaurs were created by Buddy Davis, a country singer and songwriter who said he learned animal anatomy and expression through taxidermy.

Mr. Davis created his dinosaurs and took them around to shopping malls for display, refusing to let them sit in a natural history museum that taught evolution. When Answers in Genesis announced it was building a museum, Mr. Davis found a home for his behemoths.

Evolution experts find the Creation Museum to be amusing but scientifically in error.

"There is massive physical and chemical evidence that the Earth is in fact not 6,000 years old but a heck of a lot older and that dinosaurs and humans did not live together," said Michael Ruse, a professor of philosophy at Florida State University and an expert on Darwinism.

"I just don't think it's a scientific issue but a politico-religious issue that makes for all sorts of other arguments," Mr. Ruse said. "There's a cultural divide in America today, the red versus blue states and such, and it's not just creationism but attitudes toward abortion, stem-cell research, homosexuality - a whole cluster of issues that is very much defining the way people look at the world."

Donald J. Stierman, a professor of geology at the University of Toledo, said the record of faunal succession - the layers of fossils found in sedimentary rock - is indisputable proof that the Earth is billions of years old.

Creationists also are wrong in their assertion that radiometric dating methods are unreliable and that they give erroneous readings because they are based on false assumptions, Mr. Stierman said.

He cited a 1965 research project by Fred Vine that used radiometric measurements to accurately conclude that the ocean floor was expanding by 2 centimeters a year.

"Now we have GPS [global positioning satellites] that show he was right. How could he have gotten it right if his methods were not right?" Mr. Stierman asked.

He said Creation Museum advocates blur the line between science and faith.

"A lot of scientists are religious. They may feel something in their heart but can't prove it scientifically," Mr. Stierman said. "If we could prove it, it wouldn't be a matter of faith. We're not all atheists."

Answers in Genesis

The Creation Museum is an outgrowth of Answers in Genesis, an organization founded in Australia in 1979 and brought to the United States when Mr. Ham immigrated in 1987.

The organization, originally based in San Diego, conducts about 400 creation seminars a year around the country.

When Answers in Genesis' board of directors decided to build a museum, it chose a 50-acre plot near Cincinnati - just two miles west of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport on I-275 - because it is within 650 miles of two-thirds of the U.S. population and provides easy access to travelers heading along the I-75 corridor.

The building comprises about 100,000 square feet, with 55,000 for the museum and the rest for offices for its 190 employees.

Charter members have signed up from around the country, with the majority living more than two hours from the museum and a surprising number from Washington state and Alaska, Mr. Looy said.

Mr. Looy and Mr. Ham said that although the Creation Museum cost $26.4 million to build, its actual value is more than $80 million because labor and many of the materials were donated by people who believe in the museum's mission.

In quality of construction and design, Mr. Ham wants the museum to equal or surpass anything that secular theme parks or museums can offer.

Its spacious atrium, with a 48-foot-ceiling, has a number of dinosaurs sitting atop rocklike structures. A pterodactyl looks down from its perch above the entrance to the Dragon Hall Bookstore, which is designed to look like a medieval castle.

The SFX Theater's seats will shake its visitors and hit them with gusts of wind and mists of water linked to scenes in a 20-minute video.

In the Noah's Ark exhibit, 12 animatronic characters will be busy hammering and sawing as Noah shouts instructions.

About six years ago, the museum hired Patrick Marsh, an exhibit designer whose previous projects included the Jaws and King Kong exhibits at Universal Studios in Florida.

He had been designing theme parks in Asia when he heard about the Creation Museum and sent in his resume.

"He said, 'I'm an exhibit designer, I believe in everything Answers in Genesis teaches, and I would love to design exhibits for you.' We have an incredible amount of talent on our staff," Mr. Ham said. "People ask how we found all these people and I say it's just like God brought all the animals to the ark; he brought the people here."

In an address to charter members, Mr. Ham said he believes many visitors will experience a spiritual conversion after touring the Creation Museum.

"And if they don't get saved, then we'll make them go through it again, because they must have missed something," he joked.

Contact David Yonke at: dyonke@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

More Frequent Heat Waves Linked to Global Warming


U.S. and European Researchers Call Long Hot Spells Likely

By Juliet Eilperin Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, August 4, 2006; A03

Heat waves like those that have scorched Europe and the United States in recent weeks are becoming more frequent because of global warming, say scientists who have studied decades of weather records and computer models of past, present and future climate.

While it is impossible to attribute any one weather event to climate change, several recent studies suggest that human-generated emissions of heat-trapping gases have produced both higher overall temperatures and greater weather variability, which raise the odds of longer, more intense heat waves.

Last week, Paul Della-Marta, a researcher at Switzerland's Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, presented findings at an international conference on climate science in Gwatt, Switzerland, showing that since 1880 the duration of heat waves in Western Europe has doubled and the number of unusually hot days in the region has nearly tripled.

In a separate 2004 study, researchers at Britain's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research produced computer models showing that greenhouse gas emissions had doubled the likelihood of events like the lethal 2003 European heat wave, and that by 2040 it is likely such heat waves will take place there every other year.

And researchers at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., reported this week that nighttime summer temperatures across the country have been unusually high for the past eight years, a record streak.

"It's just incredible, when you look at this thing," said Richard Heim, a research meteorologist at the center. He added that only the Dust Bowl period of the mid-1930s rivaled recent summers for sustained heat levels.

Drew Shindell, an atmospheric physicist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies who attended Della-Marta's presentation, said the European findings are especially significant because they draw on long-term surface temperature records.

"The European records, being so long, make a convincing case that we're already seeing changes" in the climate, Shindell said. "This is not like 'Centuries from now the ice sheets will melt.' This is 'In a few decades it will be dramatically different.' To me, that's alarming."

Kevin E. Trenberth, chief of the climate-analysis branch of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, said, "There are very good reasons to believe that the current U.S. heat wave is at least partly caused by global warming."

Trenberth pointed to a study published in March by the Journal of Geophysical Research that showed that for more than 70 percent of the land researchers had surveyed worldwide, the number of warm nights each year had increased and the number of cold nights had declined, between 1951 and 2003. The researchers, led by Hadley Centre scientist L.V. Alexander, concluded, "This implies a positive shift in the distribution of daily minimum temperature throughout the globe."

Several researchers said it is hard to draw conclusions about the relationship between severe heat waves and climate change because heat waves occur less often than other weather events and arise from specific weather conditions. The current heat wave, said National Weather Service meteorologist Dennis Feltgen, stems from "a large persistent area of high pressure in the upper atmosphere" that has drifted from the West to the East Coast.

Nevertheless, most experts said it is important to pay attention to the high temperatures that have blanketed the United States and Europe over the past few years. Last month the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that the first six months of 2006 are the hottest on record in the United States, and last month ranks as England's hottest July since recordkeeping began in 1659.

"The trend lines showing so much hot weather in recent years suggests some concern, even if we can't say definitively this is a signal of climate change," said Daniel C. Esty, a professor of environmental law and policy at Yale University.

Scientists and public health officials said they are particularly worried about an increase in summer nighttime temperatures because people tend to recover from excessive heat exposure at night. Joel D. Scheraga, national program director for the U.S. Global Change Research Program of the Environmental Protection Agency, has delivered presentations indicating that with increasing temperatures and population growth, deaths from extreme heat or cold could as much as triple in major American cities from 1993 to 2050.

Scheraga said the EPA chart was not a clear prediction, because federal, state and local officials are working to better protect citizens from the dangers of extreme heat and cold. Nearly 100,000 people have downloaded the EPA's "Excessive Heat Events Guidebook" since it was posted online six weeks ago.

"These are avoidable deaths. There's an opportunity to save lives," Scheraga said. "With climate change, with warming and an intense hydrological cycle, the water cycle, we do in fact expect more extremes, more flooding and more heat waves."

Since mid-July, 179 Americans, most of them Californians, have died in the current heat wave; more than 52,000 died during the 2003 episode in Europe, where air conditioning is less common.

A group of Swiss researchers including Mark A. Liniger, a senior researcher at the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, wrote in a 2004 paper in the journal Nature that if the increased temperature variability continued, "it would represent a serious challenge to adaptive response strategies designed to cope with climate change."

Some climate experts and industry lobbyists, however, question the correlation between global warming and heat waves. Konstantin Vinnikov, a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland at College Park, said he expected climate change to have only a minor effect on future scorchers.

"These are events that have happened in the past and will happen in the future. Climate trends related to climate change cannot change it too much," Vinnikov said.

And Bracewell & Giuliani LLP lobbyist Frank V. Maisano, who represents coal-fired power plants, sent an e-mail to reporters this week noting that more than half of the days with temperatures at or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the Washington-Baltimore region occurred between 1874 and 1934.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Evolution education update: August 4, 2006

In Kansas, the balance of power on the state board of education is expected to shift in the wake of the August 1, 2006, primary election. Plus: Barbara Forrest recounts her involvement in Kitzmiller v. Dover, and a major health research advocacy organization takes a firm stand in support of evolution education.


With the results of the August 1, 2006, primary election in Kansas, the pendulum swung in favor of the integrity of evolution education. In November 2005, the state board of education 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. Now, no matter who wins in the November general election, two of the members of the board who voted for the standards will be replaced by two new members who have condemned those standards.

* In District 1, incumbent Janet Waugh, a supporter of evolution education, handily defeated her antievolution challenger Jesse L. Hall in the Democratic primary.

* In District 3, antievolution incumbent John W. Bacon prevailed over challengers Harry E. McDonald III and David A. Oliphant in the Republican primary, and will face Don Weiss, a supporter of evolution education, in November.

* In District 5, Sally Cauble, a supporter of evolution education, defeated antievolution incumbent Connie Morris in the Republican primary, and will face Tim Cruz, a supporter of evolution education, in November.

* In District 7, antievolution incumbent Ken Willard prevailed over challengers Donna Viola and M. T. Liggett in the Republican primary, and will face Jack Wempe, a supporter of evolution education, in November.

* In District 9, where antievolution incumbent Iris Van Meter was not seeking re-election, Jana Shaver, a supporter of evolution education, defeated antievolution candidate Brad Patzer, Van Meter's son-in-law, in the Republican primary, and will face Kent Runyan, a supporter of evolution education, in November.

The race attracted national attention, with The New York Times observing (August 1, 2006), "God and Charles Darwin are not on the primary ballot in Kansas on Tuesday, but once again a contentious schools election has religion and science at odds in a state that has restaged a three-quarter-century battle over the teaching of evolution," and the Associated Press describing (August 1, 2006) the primary as "the latest skirmish in a seesawing battle between faith and science that has opened Kansas up to international ridicule."

The electoral defeat is clearly a further setback for the "intelligent design" movement, already reeling from the legal defeat in Kitzmiller v. Dover in December 2005 and from the Ohio board of education's decision in February 2006 to rescind a "critical analysis of evolution" model lesson plan and a corresponding indicator in the state's science standards. Both the Kansas-based Intelligent Design Network and the Discovery Institute engaged in massive publicity campaigns in Kansas prior to the election, putatively in defense of the standards themselves.

Speaking to the Kansas City Star (July 28, 2006) a few days before the election, antievolution incumbent Connie Morris -- who notoriously described evolution as "biologically, genetically, mathematically, chemically, metaphysically and etc. 'wildly' and 'utterly impossible'" (sic) in a newsletter to her constituents -- acknowledged that if the antievolution faction on the board is defeated at the polls, "the science standards will be removed within an hour" of the new board's first meeting. NCSE congratulates Kansas on the prospect of her prophecy's coming true.

For the unofficial election results, visit:

For the cited newspaper stories, visit:

For Morris's newsletter (PDF), visit:

For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Kansas, visit:


Following the August 1, 2006, primary election in Kansas, supporters of the integrity of evolution education are expected to form the majority on the state board of education, no matter who prevails in the November 2006 general election. A likely consequence is a reversal of the board's decision in November 2005 to adopt a set of state science standards that was rewritten, under the guidance of local "intelligent design" activists, to impugn the scientific status of evolution. Within the state and across the country, the election elicited comment, analysis, and congratulations.

Speaking to the Lawrence Journal-World (August 3, 2006), NCSE's Nick Matzke described the result of the primary election as the latest in a series of setbacks for the "intelligent design" movement, citing its legal defeat in Kitzmiller v. Dover and the subsequent decision of the Ohio state board of education to rescind a "critical analysis of evolution" model lesson plan and a corresponding indicator in the state's science standards. "If they are having trouble winning in Kansas, a red state, and in the Republican primary, it has to be somewhat discouraging. This was their crown jewel," he said.

Janet Waugh, a member of the board who won her party's nomination in the August primary and a supporter of evolution education, told the Journal-World that the struggle was not over. Speaking of supporters of "intelligent design," she said, "It's like they won't give up ... They just keep trying. Why won't they accept the fact that we can teach religion in school, but we can't teach it in a science class?" She added, "What I would like to see done is to revisit all 6-4 decisions," which includes not only the vote to adopt the antievolution versions of the standards but a number of other controversial decisions as well.

The New York Times (August 3, 2006) reported, "Several of the winners in the primary election, whose victories are virtually certain to shift the board to at least a 6-to-4 moderate majority in November, promised Wednesday to work swiftly to restore a science curriculum that does not subject evolution to critical attack," and quoted Jana Shaver, who won the Republican nomination for the District 9 seat on the board of education in the August primary, as saying, "We need to teach good science and bring the discussion back to educational issues, and not continue focusing on hot-button issues."

NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott told the Times, "I think more citizens are learning what intelligent design really is and realizing that they don't really want that taught in their public schools." She acknowledged, however, that the supporters of "intelligent design" are resilient. "They've had a series of setbacks," she said, "but I don't think for one moment that this means the intelligent design people will fold their tents and go away." The Times noted that "Kansas has been over this ground before," after the board similarly rewrote the standards at the behest of creationists in 1999.

In its August 3, 2006, editorial, the Times took notice of the ups and downs of evolution in the state standards, remarking, "We'd be inclined to rejoice in this evidence that Kansas may be rejoining the modern world were it not for the state's disturbing habit of backtracking from teaching evolution whenever the anti-science ideological faction gains the upper hand," and urging, "the cause of science would be well served if the pro-evolution side could gain a greater majority. Voters will have another chance in November to oust two Republican conservatives who collaborated in the board's attacks on the bedrock theory of modern biology."

Also congratulating Kansas was the American Institute of Biological Sciences, whose president Kent Holsinger said, in a press release dated August 2, 2006, "This appears to be a great outcome ... This shows that when scientists, educators, parents and the business community come together to explain the value of quality science education, everyone benefits." AIBS's Robert Gropp added, "The primary results demonstrate that people are not yet willing to accept special political interests redefining science to serve political agendas. Science is a process that we can not afford to let become a political tool."

For the story in the Lawrence Journal-World, visit:

For the story and the editorial in The New York Times, visit:

For AIBS's press release, visit:


Shortly before the primary election, two representatives of the American Association for the Advancement of Science urged the state of Kansas not to confuse students about science by encouraging religiously motivated and scientifically unwarranted criticisms of evolution to be taught in the state's public classrooms. In the July 30, 2006, issue of the Wichita Eagle, Gilbert S. Omenn and Alan I. Leshner wrote, "In the climate of turmoil that now surrounds how biology and evolution are taught in public schools, a troubling distortion has become common: The issues are wrongly cast as a conflict between science and religion, as if they were two rival football teams. With a crucial State Board of Education election just days away, and with the long-term future of Kansas children at stake, it's important to avoid such misunderstanding."

"America faces unprecedented science-related challenges -- to protect our national security, to find new energy sources, and to defend against diseases such as avian flu," Omenn and Leshner wrote. "If we undermine science education, we put the people of Kansas and the United States at risk. What's needed is a commitment to mutual respect. Religion is a personal matter, and it should be taught in the home and in churches and synagogues. But science classrooms are where we cultivate the mind-set of discovery and where we prepare the workers of tomorrow. Those classrooms must be reserved for science." Omenn is chairman of the board of the AAAS and a professor of medicine, genetics, and public health at the University of Michigan; Leshner is chief executive of the AAAS and executive publisher of its journal, Science.

For Omenn and Leshner's op-ed, visit:


Barbara Forrest, who was among the expert witnesses to testify for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, recounts her involvement in the case, in a detailed article posted at the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal's Creationism and Intelligent Design Watch website. "Not only did I show up for my deposition," Forrest writes, contrasting her appearance with the disappearance of three of the "intelligent design" proponents who were supposed to have testified for the defense, "but I also testified at the trial despite being delayed by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Moreover, I had the distinction of being the only witness whom the defense tried to exclude from the case. When they failed, the Discovery Institute tried to discredit me with ridicule."

But in the end, Forrest's thorough knowledge and articulate description of the "intelligent design" movement and its unsavory tactics convinced Judge Jones, who wrote in his ruling: "Dr. Barbara Forrest ... has thoroughly and exhaustively chronicled the history of ID in her book and other writings for her testimony in this case. Her testimony, and the exhibits ... admitted with it, provide a wealth of statements by ID leaders that reveal ID's religious, philosophical, and cultural content." In the wake of the Kitzmiller decision, Forrest notes, "ID creationists continue their efforts to discredit both Judge Jones and me. They employ their usual m.o.: lacking scientific evidence for ID, they make things up and/or slander their opposition," and cites a number of such misrepresentations.

Forrest is Professor of Philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and a member of NCSE's board of directors. With Paul R. Gross, she wrote Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (Oxford University Press, 2004), the definitive expose of the "intelligent design" movement's so-called Wedge strategy. A paperback edition, with a new foreword by the Reverend Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and a new chapter on the Kitzmiller trial, is to appear in early 2007.

For Forrest's essay, visit:

For information about Creationism's Trojan Horse, visit:


A strong position statement supporting the teaching of evolution and opposing the teaching of "intelligent design" was issued by Research!America, which describes itself as "the nation's largest not-for-profit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority." The statement reads:

Research!America supports the scientific community's unanimous position that intelligent design does not meet the criteria of a scientific concept and thus should not be presented as one in the classroom. Evolution is backed by a substantial body of scientific evidence, whereas intelligent design is a matter of belief and not subject to proof.

Opinion polls commissioned by Research!America and others show a woeful lack of appreciation among the public that biological evolution is well-supported by scientific evidence. At a time of heightened global competition in science and technology, the American public deserves, now more than ever, nothing less than the best science education in the world.

Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by more than 500 member organizations that represent the voices of more than 125 million Americans. Its public opinion polls, advocacy programs and publications reach the public and decision makers to help advance medical and health research.

For Research!America's position statement, visit:

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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.


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

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!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Day Kimball nurse finds healing in alternative medicine


By KIMBERLY DRELICH Norwich Bulletin


Beginning in 1978, Pat Teevan went through four surgeries for slipped disks in her back. On the fourth slipped disk, a nerve in her back was crushed and surgery was unsuccessful.

Teevan turned to meditating and using alternative therapies while undergoing physical therapy to help her heal. When she slipped a disk for the fifth time, in 1997, and continued to experience constant pain in her legs and difficulty bending, she decided against more surgeries. She went to a holistic physical therapist.

Through a program incorporating physical therapy, stretching and Reiki, she said she was able to heal herself and became aware of an inflexibility of her thoughts and beliefs that "carried through to the physical."

"I went from hardly being able to bend at all to being able to touch my toes with my wrists," Teevan, 61, said.

While participating in Reiki -- which Teevan describes as "an intuitive healing technique that helps move energy in the body" -- she identified areas of the body where energy was blocked, which corresponded to "blocked" emotions, she said.

By noticing and putting hands over a spot in the body where energy was blocked, "an old memory will come up" and "you will free energy to move in your body," said Teevan, explaining how she used the energy therapy to heal.

"I did this for a couple of months and, all the sudden, I could bend and move," she said.

Her experience spurred her to study "everything from physics, philosophy and religion" to understand her healing process and to develop a healing program she calls LIGHT: Love is Goodness, Health and Truth. She holds sessions for small groups or individuals to enable them to "create a dialogue" with the mind, body and spirit and become aware if there is a disconnect between any of the components.

"It's a way of forming communication and working together," said Teevan, who has created a Web site, patteevan.com, about her experience and program and is the author of the healing book "The Sparkling Rainbow."

Teevan, a registered nurse at Day Kimball Hospital in Putnam, said she also is a certified Reiki master. She said people should use her program as a complement to medicine, not in place of seeing a doctor.

"My way is a way and so is medicine," she said.

Cheryl Martel of Voluntown had surgery for a torn rotator cuff, a bone spur and arthritis on the clavical. But she wanted to try other therapies to help the healing process post-surgery.

She used "Heal Faster," a program at The William W. Backus Hospital that used guided imagery before and after the operation to visualize herself healing, and Healing Touch, a therapy she said uses touch to balance the body's energy.

Combining physical therapy and Healing Touch for 15 minutes before each session speeded her recovery by five weeks, she said.

Amy Dunion, coordinator of the Center for Healthcare Integration at Backus Hospital, explains how energy therapies work.

"If you can get your body to relax and to become balanced energetically and physically, that may promote the body's innate ability to heal," Dunion said.

She said studies show people who use energy therapies such as Reiki, therapeutic touch or healing touch, in addition to their other medical treatments, reported less pain and anxiety.

The use of complementary therapies in hospitals is "consumer-driven," Dunion said. She said 60 percent of medical and nursing schools offer holistic therapies as part of medical training.

"People want to be as participatory in healing as possible," she said.

The Backus center does not promote using these therapies as a replacement for medical treatment and requires people to be medically cleared before beginning treatment.

The key to determining whether these treatments would be helpful is a "trusting relationship with a physician," said Dunion. Jeanne Zuzel of Bodies in Balance in Norwich, who works with the "body-mind-spirit connection" and energy therapies, recently expanded her practice to include two other registered nurses. She stressed that healing touch is not to be used instead of medicine.

"I think the best care is integrative," she said.

Originally published August 3, 2006

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Kansas Elections Threaten Science Standards


August 3, 2006

by Steve Jordahl

The State Board of Education lost a conservative majority, which means standards that allow open discussion about the pros and cons of evolution will be rolled back.

The Kansas science standards were supposed to be the gold standard according to Intelligent Design proponents, written without bias and with no religious entanglements. That made it all the more frustrating when the pro-ID majority was voted out of office. Robert Crowther of Discovery Institute says they were up against a vicious smear campaign.

"Groups such as Kansas Citizens for Science were blatantly misinterpreting and misrepresenting what the science standards were."

Candidates were often referred to as "intellectually challenged" and "religiously motivated." The loss, coupled with a highly publicized defeat in Pennsylvania in 2005, has Crowther worried about a domino effect.

"And I think that we could see the ACLU and other such liberal groups threatening lawsuits in other districts where teachers may be questioning Darwinism."

But many think the Kansas model is still the way to go. Del Tackett of Focus on the Family says time is no friend of evolutionists.

"It's going to be very difficult for them to hold on to that notion in the face of evidence that continues to support the opposite perspective."

In fact State Senator Tim Huelskamp says the debate isn't even over in Kansas.

"When the next election rolls around, those folks, the two new folks who had no record whatsoever, they will have a record next time."

And the evolutionists could be the "intellectually challenged" candidates for a change.

The pendulum swings in Kansas


With the results of the August 1, 2006, primary election in Kansas, the pendulum swung in favor of the integrity of evolution education. In November 2005, the state board of education 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. Now, no matter who wins in the November general election, two of the members of the board who voted for the standards will be replaced by two new members who have condemned those standards.

In District 1, incumbent Janet Waugh, a supporter of evolution education, handily defeated her antievolution challenger Jesse L. Hall in the Democratic primary.

In District 3, antievolution incumbent John W. Bacon prevailed over challengers Harry E. McDonald III and David A. Oliphant in the Republican primary, and will face Don Weiss, a supporter of evolution education, in November.

In District 5, Sally Cauble, a supporter of evolution education, defeated antievolution incumbent Connie Morris in the Republican primary, and will face Tim Cruz, a supporter of evolution education, in November.

In District 7, antievolution incumbent Ken Willard prevailed over challengers Donna Viola and M. T. Liggett in the Republican primary, and will face Jack Wempe, a supporter of evolution education, in November.

In District 9, where antievolution incumbent Iris Van Meter was not seeking re-election, Jana Shaver, a supporter of evolution education, defeated antievolution candidate Brad Patzer, Van Meter's son-in-law, in the Republican primary, and will face Kent Runyan, a supporter of evolution education, in November.

The race attracted national attention, with The New York Times observing (August 1, 2006), "God and Charles Darwin are not on the primary ballot in Kansas on Tuesday, but once again a contentious schools election has religion and science at odds in a state that has restaged a three-quarter-century battle over the teaching of evolution," and the Associated Press describing (August 1, 2006) the primary as "the latest skirmish in a seesawing battle between faith and science that has opened Kansas up to international ridicule."

The electoral defeat is clearly a further setback for the "intelligent design" movement, already reeling from the legal defeat in Kitzmiller v. Dover in December 2005 and from the Ohio board of education's decision in February 2006 to rescind a "critical analysis of evolution" model lesson plan and a corresponding indicator in the state's science standards. Both the Kansas-based Intelligent Design Network and the Discovery Institute engaged in massive publicity campaigns in Kansas prior to the election, putatively in defense of the standards themselves.

Speaking to the Kansas City Star (July 28, 2006) a few days before the election, antievolution incumbent Connie Morris -- who notoriously described evolution as "biologically, genetically, mathematically, chemically, metaphysically and etc. 'wildly' and 'utterly impossible'" (sic) in a newsletter (PDF) to her constituents -- acknowledged that if the antievolution faction on the board is defeated at the polls, "the science standards will be removed within an hour" of the new board's first meeting. NCSE congratulates Kansas on the prospect of her prophecy's coming true.

August 2, 2006

Lecture series tackles dispute over evolution


Intelligent design advocate finds list of speakers one-sided

By Sophia Maines (Contact )

Tuesday, August 1, 2006


Kansas University is organizing what some say has been absent in the long, hot battle over the teaching of evolution: dialogue.

"We've had debates," said Leonard Krishtalka, director of KU's Biodiversity Institute and veteran to the evolution debate. "I don't think we've had intelligent discussion. This is an attempt to have intelligent dialogue with the larger community and Kansas on a controversial subject."

KU this fall will kick off "Knowledge: Faith & Reason," a lecture series featuring some of the key players in the evolution and intelligent design debate.

So far, the list of guests is one-sided, according to one critic, because there is only one clear intelligent design proponent.

The series will include lectures from Kenneth Miller, a Brown University biology professor who testified against intelligent design in last year's Dover, Pa., trial, and John E. Jones III, the judge in the Dover case who in his ruling issued a pointed criticism of the intelligent design movement.

The series also will feature Os Guinness, theologian; Richard Dawkins, Oxford University evolutionary biologist and author; and Eugenie Scott, head of the National Center for Science Education.

The only apparent speaker who supports intelligent design is Michael Behe, a professor and author who testified in the Dover trial.

Organizers of the series say it's a chance to look at the divisive issue from a broader perspective.

"One can imagine the subject going beyond just evolution and creation to other areas of inquiry that involve faith and reason," Krishtalka said.

Evening lectures will be followed by morning talks on the day after each lecture. The lineups for the second part of each lecture have not been set.

John Calvert, managing director of the Intelligent Design Network, doesn't expect the series to be a dialogue.

"That's propaganda," Calvert said of the planned lectures. "Would I go to listen to Kenneth Miller? No. I know what he's going to say."

Calvert prefers debates and one-on-one discussions, which he says bring focus to specific issues and enable audiences to see all sides of an issue.

Calvert pointed to the state's hearings on the science standards and the scientists who were invited but didn't show.

Calvert said pro-evolution scientists are loath to debate the issue because they say there is no controversy. And to debate is to admit there is a controversy, he said.

"The inherent problem with that position is there truly is a genuine, legitimate, major scientific controversy about evolution," he said.

Victor Bailey, director of the Hall Center for the Humanities and organizer of the series, said he thought the hearings were politically motivated and the outcome was set before they took place.

Following the hearings, the state board of education voted last year to make several changes to the state's science standards.

The forum reaches across disciplines. It is part of The Commons, a new venture for the Hall Center and the Biodiversity Institute. Though future series topics have not been set, organizers say stem cell research is one idea they've discussed.

Evolution in Kansas
6News video: Some question group's move with elections nearing
49abcnews.com video: Discovery Institute starts ad campaign weeks before elections
6News video: Film explores evolution circus (01-03-06)
6News video: Group takes shot at Mirecki through postcards (12-15-05)
6News video: Mirecki resigns from KU department post (12-07-05)

Cultures clash in Democratic primary (07-06-06)
Education department spokesman leaves job (06-15-06)
Evolution, religion comments put heat on department spokesman (05-26-06)
KU profs support evolution skepticism (02-21-06)
Science teachers pan new standards (02-14-06)
'Dodos' circling around I.D. (01-04-06)
Attorneys in I.D. case spread message (01-04-06)
Professor blasts KU, sheriff's investigation (12-10-05)
Kansas ranks last in science (12-08-05) References
Discovery Institute
Evolution timeline: Events related to the Kansas controversy
U.S. District Court Ruling in Kitzmiller et al v. Dover Area School District (PDF)
Center for Science and Culture: A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism
Parody: Intelligent Design Society of Kansas
Mirecki press release (.pdf)
More evolution coverage
RSS LJWorld.com's Evolution in Kansas coverage

Monopoly medicine squashes the alternatives


CG : Archive : August 2006

DRUG BUST by Alan Cassels

After 12 years of conducting research in and around the pharmaceutical industry, I have developed a single, compelling hypothesis. Orthodox medicine, which is supported by, partnered with and sometimes dependent upon the pharmaceutical industry, has worked to squash the competition and effectively deprive us of alternatives to prescription drugs – primarily vitamins and herbal treatments – and other potentially useful treatments.

There, I've said it. The problem is I am not sure I believe it.

I mean, can Big Pharma really wield that much power over the medical orthodoxy and push complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to the margins, where it may be ignored or otherwise not taken seriously?

If this is true, where's the evidence? Show me the smoking gun, I say.

Thus begins my journey to see if there is enough evidence to prove or disprove this theory and to determine if modern healthcare – the monolithic and largely pharma-centric enterprise that it has become – has been able to so thoroughly dominate the field of medical practice that safe and effective alternatives go unused.

Essentially, I would define "alternative" treatments as those that are not produced by corporations, which are granted monopoly licences (patents). In other words, today's medical orthodoxy largely, but not completely, involves patentable products that are controlled by federal regulation, prescribed by doctors and dispensed by pharmacists. Western industrial medicine has marginalized anything that isn't… well, industrial.

Regardless of whether a treatment is patented or not, there are commercial vendors deceptively hawking and hyping medicine of all sorts, both inside and outside the sacred paradigm of modern drugs'n'surgery medicine.

If you think that orthodox medicine has cornered the market on virtue, however, you only need remember the Vioxx debacle, a fiasco of truly gargantuan proportions, where armies of rheumatologists-for-hire, celebrity salespeople, arthritis "expert's" and Astroturf patient groups all toiled together under accepted practices of modern pharmaceutical care. Yet even with all the well-meaning physicians, in the US, Vioxx morphed into a 50,000+ body count catastrophe, eclipsing anything that any unscrupulous vitamin or herb hawker has been able to perpetrate before or since.

To help me on my quest to find the smoking gun, I consulted an expert in our own neighbourhood, Dr. Warren Bell, a family physician in Salmon Arm and the president of the Association of Complementary and Integrative Physicians of British Columbia. For more than 20 years, Dr. Bell has been involved in issues of social development, the environment and global health. He speaks thoughtfully, pausing carefully to pluck le mot juste from the air, as he outlines the main reasons that alternative medicines continue to be kept out of many patients' hands.

Bell believes that any discussion about modern healthcare, if it does not include the growth of corporations, is incomplete, and he cites the increasingly large and ominous role that corporations play in defining, shaping and profiting from treating healthcare as an industry, and patients as commodities in this industry.

He also sees that the pharmaceutical industry, which is at the centre of modern medicine, employs a number of methods to deal with the "competition," including reducing the influence of a range of effective biological remedies, or CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) that may threaten corporate profits. He breaks down the methods into three broad categories: "controlling them, buying them, or discrediting them."

In terms of control, Bell refers to the modern push to use regulations to limit access to alternative remedies, the most striking example being the UN body called Codex Alimentarius, which has "… taken on the task [egged on by industry] of regulating biological remedies." The other way to deal with the competition is to buy it.

Since as much as 60 percent of the retail market for non-patentable biological remedies is owned by the drug industry, it is merely doing what many companies do: setting itself up to more readily capitalize on the markets' shifting winds. The companies can either profit from selling the alternative products or otherwise prevent those products from competing with the industry's most profitable (patented) products.

The last method, which constitutes denying or discrediting the alternatives, is where I see my search getting warmer. One of the undeniable ways that alternatives are discredited is by defeating them with science. On the surface, most of us would agree that if the alternatives can't compete with pharmaceuticals on the basis of good science, then they don't really belong in a physician's armamentarium. As a society, we decided long ago that prescription drugs should not be marketed on the basis of untested claims. Therefore, should the alternatives not also be required to similarly prove their worth?

There are a 101 ways to answer this, but suffice to say that the bar for getting a product tested in a randomized, controlled trial is high. And it is largely within the realm of the lucrative patent drug producers to fund such studies. Since the bar is money, there is an automatic financial bias; call it the bias of tons 'o' money that, from the start, molds the shape of the evidence base, which underlies modern medical practice. Basically, if you can't patent it, why would you study it?

What this means is that perhaps much of the basic research behind the alternatives doesn't actually happen because there is no commercial incentive for that type of research. That, plus the fact that the amount of investment of public money is a pittance.

Bias also creeps in through the industry facilitating studies that make the alternatives seem useless. Those negative studies are then published, stating that vitamin E, oat bran or vitamin C do a lot less than you think they do. (Big Pharma more craftily tends to just bury its negative studies.) According to Bell, all of this helps "… facilitate the professional scepticism, which allows criticism [of the alternatives] to happen with ease."

While Andrew Saul, assistant editor of the online Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine (JOM) http://www.orthomed.org/jom/jom.html would agree with Bell, Saul would go much further. In an interview from his office in upstate New York, he tells me that "replication" studies to prove or disprove previous research are often set up to fail. Orthomolecular medicine uses high doses of vitamins to help treat and cure a variety of diseases from psychiatric illness to cancer. Despite very good evidence underlying orthomolecular medicine, there has been some activity to keep it at the margins. He tells me about a study that came out of the Mayo clinic a few years ago slamming vitamin C in cancer treatments.

It appears the Mayo clinic was trying to replicate some of the early work done by vitamin pioneer Linus Pauling, who believed that high doses of vitamin C would strengthen the immune system. Pauling tested intravenous vitamin C (about 10 grams per day) and found that it extended the lives of cancer patients. After the Mayo clinic published its replication study (showing it didn't work), Pauling critiqued that study in detail and pointed out that where his research tested mega doses of intravenous vitamin C in cancer patients, the Mayo clinic study used oral doses. Curiously, those important critiques of these alleged replication studies, which show the alternative to be not so terrific, gain wide currency and become well known in medical circles.

So who would push the uptake and widespread attention to vitamins-don't-work" studies? Is this the smoking gun?

If you followed the money, you might find a guiding hand, but not necessarily the smoking gun in the industry's efforts to discredit the alternatives. We know there are more than 100,000 drug detailers (drug salespeople) on the streets in the US and about 5,000 in Canada, who, in their daily visits to your and my doctor could very easily facilitate the delivery of the latest study showing that vitamin D didn't fare so well in osteoporosis-prevention, (delivered by a rep promoting the company's osteoporosis drug) or that vitamin E was less than stellar in treating heart disease, (dropped off by a helpful cholesterol drug saleslady).

Are there any examples where the drug industry has actually funded a study to show that the alternative competition (herbal treatments or vitamin therapy) has been proven in a clinical trial to be just plain lousy? Typically, the drug manufacturers wouldn't want their fingerprints on such studies, but one recent example that comes to mind, and there are many more, involves a study of St. John's Wort (a flowering herb) for treating mild to moderate depression.

Other cultures have embraced herbal treatments more fully than we have in Canada and I bet Canadian doctors would be surprised if they knew that St. John's Wort is the number one selling antidepressant therapy in Germany. There are more than two dozen published studies that show St. John's Wort improves depression in patients, compared to placebo. Yet some say the studies are not without their weaknesses, citing short trials and small samples of patients, a criticism you could level equally at most tests of patented antidepressant therapies in use today.

In April 2001, drug giant Pfizer, which sells sertraline (Zoloft), funded a study that compared its drug to St John's Wort extract and placebo in 200 patients over eight weeks. It found, surprise, surprise, that St John's Wort "failed to produce significant differences vs. placebo." Time to jettison St. John's Wort? Not yet.

A year later, a study which tested remission for severe depression found the placebo beat both St John's Wort and Zoloft, and another study with 375 patients showed that St John's Wort "produced significantly greater reduction" in depression scores over the comparators. You can imagine which study would more likely be presented to our doctors during after dinner talks or dropped off at physicians' offices by those thousands of drug reps. The message is out and driven home by repetition: St. John's Wort bad; Zoloft good.

Another way to make the alternatives look bad is through skewing the research of those alternatives. In the words of Dr. Bell, who sums up the state of research in vitamin therapies, "If you want to show something doesn't work, then use too small a dose, for too short a period, on a condition where any effect would be modest at best, slow to be achieved, and require largish amounts of the substance in question. The results, often, are a foregone conclusion."

Recently, there has been a spate of meta-analysis studies (studies that look at an overview of a body of studies), which has shown vitamin therapies to be losers. One recent meta-analysis of vitamin E included nearly 20 studies, all of which were positive for the vitamin's benefits for cardiovascular disease. However, two of the studies included were negative, and in the magic of statistical re-analysis, the weight of those two negative studies tipped the balance in favour of an overall negative result. Message to doctors? Forget vitamin therapies.

I felt I was getting warmer and wanted to see what has been done in terms of basic research on alternative therapies. I only had to travel a few kilometres to visit Dr. Abram Hoffer, who runs the Orthomolecular Vitamin Information Centre down on Quadra Street in Victoria. (www.orthomolecularvitamincentre.com/)

Now in his late eighties, Hoffer is one of the true granddaddies of orthomolecular medicine. One of his key contributions to medical knowledge is his research in using large doses of vitamins to treat people with mental illness. He tells me he's successfully treated thousands of schizophrenic patients, of whom 85 percent are "normal" after two years of treatment. By "normal" he means that his patients are returning to productive lives within society, able to do productive work, have relationships and so on.

As well as vitamin therapies (as opposed to toxic drugs), Hoffer saw better housing and decent nutrition as important in treating schizophrenia. How Dr. Hoffer's treatments would fare against what is now standard schizophrenia therapy – widely-prescribed, very powerful and somewhat toxic anti-psychotic drugs, which patients sometimes stay on for life – is hard to say given that those comparative studies have not been done.

As someone who has worked from the margins of medicine for nearly five decades, Hoffer stands as an important researcher in a field that has essentially been sidelined and marginalized by orthodox medicine. Even with Pauling's high profile (he is the winner of two Nobel Prizes) as a drawing card, orthomolecular medicine has never seen the light of day in orthodox circles. Just ask anyone who treats cancer patients or schizophrenics whether they would consider using high-dose vitamin therapy and they will likely look at you as if you're some kind of quack. And they will then say that there's no evidence for those therapies. End of story.

Hoffer admits that most physicians believe nutrition plays a large part in the healing arts, but he knows that the average medical school curriculum is almost entirely deficient in any education on nutrition, other than perhaps a few hours over four years of medical training. By contrast, he notes that naturopathic doctors spend about 30 percent of their education studying nutrition. Dr. Bell also echoes the deficiencies in current medical training, noting that other potentially important aspects of health, such as exercise and environmental influences, are simply not taught at all.

While most physicians might dismiss alternative medicine as something that lacks a solid base of research, there is, in fact, decades of research out there, much of which doesn't see the light of day in today's medical schools. Hoffer, for example, started doing the first double-blind placebo studies using vitamin B, also known as niacin (three grams per day), to treat schizophrenia in 1952. Unfortunately, he began this research at a time when the new forms of powerful psychiatric drugs were just being developed by pharmaceutical firms and enthusiastically embraced by psychiatrists as the "modern" way to treat severe mental disturbances.

But surely alternative medicine gets published and exposed to the anvil of peer review, or criticism from peers, to separate the base metals from scientific gold. For some commentary on the published science around orthomolecular medicine, I go back to Andrew Saul.

Saul confirms that Hoffer was considered an early threat by the pharmaceutical establishment and that as he started to publish his research, the psychiatric profession basically closed ranks behind him.

"They wanted to make sure that this upstart wouldn't produce any conflicting treatments," Saul tells me, adding that although Hoffer's early research was published, "he was warned from psychiatry that he would never publish again." Hoffer then started his own journal.

Similarly, there may be other methods that continue to sideline alternatives, such as orthomolecular practitioners. Hoffer's Journal has been published for 39 years, but it has never been indexed on Medline, the world's premier medical journal index.

If one wants their research exposed to the big leagues, getting their journal indexed on Medline is vitally important, as that's where all the serious medical literature is indexed and stored. Medline is considered the world's medical "Library of Record," where medical researchers can conduct quick and precise searches through an exhaustive repository of millions of journal articles.

Yet it appears that after five attempts, the National Library of Medicine in the US, the body that runs Medline, continues to refuse to index Hoffer's Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine. Why?

Andrew Saul would say this is the smoking gun I am looking for: clear evidence of an organized effort on behalf of the drug industry to dismiss and disallow alternative medicine by not allowing the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine (JOM), which contains nearly four decades of peer-reviewed science, into its club.

Saul says point-blank that the "National Institutes of Health are in bed with Big Pharma" and that "there is so much health research money from Pharma, that they pretty well have a lock-step on what is considered good research and what is considered bad. He maintains that institutionalized medicine is actively biased against vitamins and points to JOM being continually rebuffed by Medline as clear evidence of bias.

Another researcher, Dr. Steven Hickey from Manchester in the UK, has dug into the Medline conundrum, trying to verify Saul's claims.

Hickey tried to submit an application to index JOM, stating that his application was "aimed at testing your [Medline's] responses and, in that, Medline has failed rather miserably. Medline is filtering out important information concerning people's health on the basis of prejudice and profit for the pharmaceutical companies. The result is that people will be unnecessarily sick and will die."

In the course of his application, Hickey wrote to Sheldon Kotzin, the administrator who oversees the committee that indexes journals for Medline, complaining that the committee is biased by its very nature. He noted: "The appropriate metaphor is this: if the prosecutor chooses the jury, the result can be a foregone conclusion." Despite being given ample opportunity, Kotzin didn't reply to these accusations.

Some might say that the tug-of-war is between a journal that believes it deserves recognition from the medical community and the gatekeepers of that community, who decide that membership is a private matter. Is this the smoking gun that delivers the clearest evidence yet of systematic bias?

There is no doubt that bias is at work everywhere, especially from within the conventional medical community, which sees itself as waging perpetual war against quackery. But what is maintaining that status quo? Bell maintains that there is an inherent bias in conventional medicine against "unproven" complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) approaches. He points to a most interesting study in Germany that may provide some of the strongest evidence of bias yet.

A randomized, controlled study of reviewer bias against an unconventional therapy carried out in Bad Elster, Germany, was designed to test the hypothesis that experts, who review papers for publication, are prejudiced against an unconventional form of therapy.

The investigators produced version A and B of a short report relating to treatments of obesity, which were identical except for the nature of the intervention. Version A related to an orthodox treatment, version B to an unconventional treatment.

The investigators found that the reviewers, unaware that they were taking part in a study, were three times more likely to favour the orthodox version of the paper and rate it as acceptable. The researchers conclude: "Authors of technically good unconventional papers may therefore be at a disadvantage in the peer review process." The researchers maintained that this obvious bias in the minds of reviewers shouldn't preclude publication of their work in peer-reviewed orthodox journals, a somewhat laughable assertion given the nature of the evidence they just discovered.

A final point needs to be made about how the promoters of alternative medicine tend to get lambasted by the medical orthodoxy. Just last May at a meeting of the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Prince Charles gave a speech promoting complementary medicine, saying that Britain's National Health Service needs to pay for some proven alternative treatments.

This prompted a stinging rebuke from the dyed-in-the-wool medical orthodoxy. A group of 13 scientists, which included some of the most eminent names in British medicine, stated in a letter that they objected to the National Health Service paying for these CAM remedies.

The scientists wrote: "Public funding of unproven or disproved treatments, such as homoeopathy and reflexology, which are promoted by the Prince, are unacceptable while huge NHS deficits are forcing trusts to sack nurses and limit access to life-saving drugs."

It's pretty clear that this is not about what works, but rather what will be paid for. In order for orthodox medicine to survive, it must essentially ensure the competition doesn't receive funding. And at least in BC, which in recent years has been reining in the funding for alternatives, this is essentially what is happening.

Back to my original hypothesis: orthodox medicine is shunting aside alternative medicine. But where's the smoking gun?

I don't think there is one. This is a situation where "death through a thousand cuts" means that alternative medicine will continue to be marginalized. There is much prejudice, bias and outright ignorance on behalf of the medical community against those treatments that don't fit the pharma-patent mold. And it is increasingly clear that overlooked medicines are largely being kept out of our reach.

Alan Cassels is co-author of Selling Sickness: How the World's Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All Into Patients, and a drug policy researcher at the University of Victoria. He is also the founder of Media Doctor Canada (www.mediadoctor.ca), which evaluates reporting of medical treatments in Canada's media.

CommonGround.ca © Copyright 1982-2006 Common Ground Publishing Corp.

Discovery Institute Statement on the Kansas Science Standards Situation


"The 'Stand up for Science, Stand Up For Kansas ' educational campaign is intended to defend newly implemented science standards in Kansas from misleading and blatantly false campaigns of misinformation," said Robert Crowther, director of communications for the Center for Science & Culture in response to criticism of Discovery Institute's public education campaign.

"As we've reiterated previously, Discovery Institute does not get involved in electoral campaigns, and we do not endorse candidates," added Crowther.

"Groups such as Kansas Citizens for Science are waging a campaign of misinformation, blatantly misinterpreting the new standards in three major ways," said John G. West, associate director of the Center for Science and Culture. "For instance, they continue to advance the false idea that the teaching of intelligent design is an integral part of the new standards. It is not." (see here )

"The real debate is about academic freedom – the freedom of teachers to teach more about evolution, and the freedom of students to learn more about evolution," said Crowther. "Will students have the academic freedom to learn about the Cambrian explosion 530 million years ago and the challenges it poses to Darwin's theory?"

"Critics of the standards are trying to censor science, they're trying to stifle science, they're afraid to let students learn about some of the problems with evolutionary theory," added Crowther.

For more information visit www.standupforscience.com , and www.discovery.org/csc/ .

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Evolution Opponents Lose in Kan. Primary


By JOHN HANNA The Associated Press Wednesday, August 2, 2006; 11:48 AM

TOPEKA, Kan. -- Conservative Republicans who pushed anti-evolution standards back into Kansas schools last year have lost control of the state Board of Education once again.

The most closely watched race was in western Kansas, where incumbent conservative Connie Morris lost her GOP primary Tuesday. The former teacher had described evolution as "an age-old fairy tale" and "a nice bedtime story" unsupported by science.

As a result of Tuesday's vote, board members and candidates who believe evolution is well-supported by evidence will have a 6-4 majority. Evolution skeptics had entered the election with a 6-4 majority.

Critics of Kansas' science standards worried that if conservatives retained the board's majority, it would lead to attempts in other states to copy the Kansas standards.

"There are people around the country who would like to see the Kansas standards in their own states," said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, Calif., which supports the teaching of evolution.

Also Tuesday, Kansas Republicans chose a nominee to challenge Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in November. With all precincts reporting early Wednesday, state Sen. Jim Barnett captured his party's nomination with 36 percent of the vote, besting six other candidates.

Control of the school board has slipped into, out of and back into conservative Republicans' hands since 1998, resulting in anti-evolution standards in 1999, evolution-friendly ones in 2001 and anti-evolution ones again last year.

Late-night comedians have been making cracks about Kansas, portraying it as backward and ignorant. Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" broadcast a four-part series titled, "Evolution Schmevolution."

The school board contest was part of a larger effort by the intelligent design movement to introduce its ideas in public schools.

A suburban Atlanta school district is locked in a legal dispute over its putting stickers in 35,000 biology textbooks declaring evolution "a theory, not a fact."

Last year, in Dover, Pa., voters ousted school board members who had required the biology curriculum to include mention of intelligent design. A federal judge struck down the policy, declaring intelligent design is religion in disguise.

A poll by six news organizations last year suggested about half of Kansans thought evolution should be taught alongside intelligent design.

Proponents of Kansas' latest standards contend they encourage open discussion.

"Students need to have an accurate assessment of the state of the facts in regard to Darwin's theory," said John West, a vice president for the Center for Science and Culture at the Seattle-based, anti-evolution Discovery Institute.

The standards say that the evolutionary theory that all life had a common origin has been challenged by fossils and molecular biology. And they say there is controversy over whether changes over time in one species can lead to a new species.

Three incumbent conservatives faced primary foes Tuesday, and there was a contested GOP race for the seat held by a retiring conservative. A pro-evolution Democratic incumbent also had a challenger.

With almost all the votes counted early Wednesday, pro-evolution Republican Jana Shaver picked off a conservative incumbent and won the primary for the open seat.

Conservative Republican John Bacon kept his seat by besting two pro-evolution challengers, as did another conservative incumbent, Ken Willard. Janet Waugh, a Kansas City Democrat who opposed the new standards, easily defeated a more conservative Democrat who favored the anti-evolution language.

On the Net:

Kansas science standards: http://www.ksde.org/outcomes/sciencestd.pdf

© 2006 The Associated Press

Evolution Opponents Lose in Kan. Primary


By JOHN HANNA The Associated Press Wednesday, August 2, 2006; 2:01 AM

TOPEKA, Kan. -- Conservative Republicans who approved new classroom standards that call evolution into question lost control of the State Board of Education in Tuesday's primary election.

A victory by pro-evolution Republican candidate Jana Shaver over conservative Republican Brad Patzer, who supported the standards treating evolution as a flawed theory, meant conservatives would at best have five of 10 seats on the board.

Five seats were up for election in the primary, the latest skirmish in a seesawing battle between faith and science that has opened Kansas up to international ridicule.

Conservative Republican John Bacon kept his seat by besting two pro-evolution challengers. But Shaver's win split the makeup of the board between evolution supporters and opponents. She won a seat that was vacant because a conservative Republican evolution opponent was retiring.

Besides Bacon and Shaver's races, the seats of two conservative Republicans who oppose evolution were up for grabs, along with that of a Democrat who favors evolution.

Janet Waugh, a Kansas City Democrat who opposed the new standards, defeated a more conservative Democrat who favored the anti-evolution language with 65 percent of the vote.

One conservative incumbent, Ken Willard, held on to his seat, but another, Connie Morris, was losing to a pro-evolution candidate.

Morris' race in western Kansas was the most closely watched. The former teacher has described evolution as "an age-old fairy tale" and "a nice bedtime story" unsupported by science.

Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, Calif., which supports the teaching of evolution, said conservative victories would generate attempts to adopt Kansas' standards elsewhere.

"There are people around the country who would like to see the Kansas standards in their own states," she said.

Also Tuesday, Kansas Republicans chose a nominee to challenge Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in November. With 96 percent of the state's precincts reporting, state Sen. Jim Barnett captured his party's nomination with 36 percent of the vote, besting six other candidates.

The school board contest was part of a larger effort by the intelligent design movement to introduce its ideas in public schools.

A suburban Atlanta school district is locked in a legal dispute over its putting stickers in 35,000 biology textbooks declaring evolution "a theory, not a fact."

Last year, in Dover, Pa., voters ousted school board members who had required the biology curriculum to include mention of intelligent design. A federal judge struck down the policy, declaring intelligent design is religion in disguise.

A poll by six news organizations last year suggested about half of Kansans thought evolution should be taught alongside intelligent design.

"I feel like if you give two sides of something, most people are intelligent enough to make up their own minds," said Ryan Cole, a 26-year-old farmer and horse trainer from Smith County, along the Nebraska line.

Control of the school board has slipped into, out of and back into conservative Republicans' hands since 1998, resulting in anti-evolution standards in 1999, evolution-friendly ones in 2001 and anti-evolution ones again last year.

Late-night comedians have been making cracks about Kansas, portraying it as backward and ignorant. Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" broadcast a four-part series titled, "Evolution Schmevolution."

Proponents of Kansas' latest standards contend they encourage open discussion.

"Students need to have an accurate assessment of the state of the facts in regard to Darwin's theory," said John West, a vice president for the Center for Science and Culture at the Seattle-based, anti-evolution Discovery Institute.

The standards say that the evolutionary theory that all life had a common origin has been challenged by fossils and molecular biology. And they say there is controversy over whether changes over time in one species can lead to a new species.

Evolution Scores in Kansas Primary


By Yudhijit Bhattacharjee ScienceNOW Daily News 2 August 2006

Two years after being checkmated by proponents of intelligent design (ID), supporters of evolution are set to win back control of the Kansas state board of education. Their victory paves the way for the revoking of the state's science standards, which are widely seen as being favorable to the teaching of ID.

In Republican and Democratic primaries conducted on Tuesday, pro-evolution candidates won party nominations for three of the five board seats that are up for re-election in November. Three of the board's other five seats are held by moderates. The results of the primary races mean that regardless of the individual winners in the November election, the board's composition will flip from its existing 6-4 conservative tilt to at least a 6-4 majority controlled by moderates.

"This is a great day for Kansas," Sally Cauble, a moderate who won the Republican primary in western Kansas, told Science. The former elementary school teacher from Liberal, Kansas, had a tough race against incumbent Connie Morris, who has repeatedly mocked evolution as "a nice bedtime story." Cauble, who ended up winning by a margin of 54% to 46%, says she wants to vote out the pro-ID standards that were adopted last year in favor of standards issued earlier by a panel of scientists and teachers appointed by the board (ScienceNOW, 9 November 2005). Those standards, rejected by the current board, emphasize the teaching of evolution.

Jack Krebs of Kansas Citizens for Science says the victory is a significant milestone in efforts by scientists and educators nationwide to keep intelligent design out of the science classroom. "The ID movement has put a lot of effort and money into trying to convince the public that the Kansas science standards are OK," he says. "It's good to see that the voters of Kansas aren't going to buy that."

But nobody believes that the controversy will die when the new board takes over. Kansas has seen a see-saw battle over evolution since 1999, when conservatives introduced creationism into the standards. Those standards were thrown out when moderates took control of the board in 2002. Two years later, the conservatives struck back and immediately resumed their efforts to revise the standards.

"It's unfortunate that we'll now be forced to again teach evolution as the only possible explanation for the origin of life, even though it's a lame explanation with very little scientific support," says certified public accountant John Bacon, one of the two pro-ID candidates who won the primaries on Tuesday. But he promises that the issue won't be going away.

Related site

Kansas State Department of Education

Creationism Museum Set To Open Next Year


POSTED: 7:36 pm EDT July 31, 2006 UPDATED: 7:51 pm EDT July 31, 2006

PETERSBURG, Ky. -- A $25 million museum focused on the theory of creationism is scheduled to open next year in rural Northern Kentucky, about 20 miles southwest of Cincinnati.

Museum founder Ken Ham said the Bible inspired the museum, which pitches a literal interpretation that contends God created the heavens and the Earth just a few thousand years ago.

He said the goal of his privately funded museum is to change minds and rebut the scientific point of view.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

Are These the End Times?


NEWSWEEK By Brian Braiker

Updated: 10:37 p.m. ET July 28, 2006

July 28, 2006 - When Tim LaHaye talks, the faithful listen-by the millions. The conservative Protestant minister is the coauthor of the wildly popular apocalyptic "Left Behind" novels. The controversial books, which have sold more than 60 million copies, depict the biblical end of the world: the Christian eschatology of the upheaval that precedes the second coming of Jesus Christ, known also as "end times." LaHaye recently spoke with NEWSWEEK's Brian Braiker about why he believes the events currently unfolding in the Middle East reflect biblical prophesy. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: How do you interpret what's happening in the Middle East? Are you seeing signs that these are the end of days?

Tim LaHaye: Biblically speaking, the very nations that are mentioned in prophecy-and have been mentioned for 2,500 years as occupying the focus of the tension of the last days-are the very nations that are involved in the conflict right now. That may be one of the reasons there's a sudden interest in bible prophecy because all of a sudden they realize end-time events could possibly take place and break forth right now.

N: But first-century Christians believed that the end of the world could come

TLH: We call it the belief in the imminent return of Christ. It's a motivational factor to serve the Lord and not let the world be so much with us that we don't serve the Lord in the spiritual environment.

N: Couldn't almost anything then be taken as a clue that any point in history might be the end times?

TLH: Down through the years that's true. But never the accumulation of events as we have today. I have often said that no one knows the day nor the hour that Christ will come, but no generation has had so many signs of the times as our generation. We have more reason to believe that Christ could come in our lifetime than any generation before us.

N: You mentioned biblical prophecy. I'm not the student nor the scholar that you are-

TLH: Well, I'm not the journalist that you are.

N: [Laughs.] But my understanding is that current biblical scholarship reads some of the apocalyptic scenes in the Bible as metaphorically addressing events that were taking place as the Bible was being written.

TLH: These are usually liberal theologians that don't believe the Bible literally.

N: So the Revelation should not be interpreted, for example, as a polemic against Rome?

TLH: That's what they say. We believe that the Bible should be understood literally whenever possible. The next big event is the second coming of Christ. That's preceded by a number of signs. And some of those signs could be could be stage-setting right now. They're not going to come out of nowhere. For example, the Bible predicts when the antichrist comes and sits at his kingdom after the Rapture, he's going to have one world economy and one world government and one world religion. We're already moving rapidly in the direction of those very things.

N: Really? It seems we're a ways off from one world religion.

TLH: That's the least developed, but there are many particularly liberal theologians that just think that "Oh, if we could just get everybody together of all beliefs ..." If you don't have a strong belief system, you're willing to compromise your beliefs with other religions.

N: You've written about the threat of secular humanism.

TLH: Part of the opposition to our position is from the secular humanists, but part of it is from the liberal people of theology that reject the Bible. I don't see a great deal of difference between them. Their basic conclusions are often the same.

N: You've also written that "millions of unbelievers will be saved during the terrible time of the 'Tribulation'." What do you mean by that?

TLH: I take that from Revelation, chapter 7. One of the things that's going to happen after the Tribulation, after the church is gone, there'll be no one here to witness the faith in Christ. So the Lord raises up 144,000 Jewish witnesses and he names the tribes that they come from. The result of those witnesses is they reach a multitude of souls that receive Christ.

N: Does this explain how living right with God, in a Christian sense, would entail supporting the Israeli state right now?

TLH: I think those two things are related. Christians who take the Bible literally are generally supportive of Israel because God promises to bless those nations that are a blessing to Israel and curse those nations that are not. And the history of America bears that out.

N: But is it accurate to equate the state of Israel, which is a geopolitical entity, with all Jewish people around the world, who far outnumber the people actually in Israel?

TLH: No, that's just a third of the number of Jews in the world.

N: So believers in the Rapture don't necessarily foresee a damnation of the Jews then?

TLH: No, we don't believe in the damnation of people in ethnic groups. We believe that's an individual decision. Now, it often follows in people groups. Take the Muslims that we've been talking about. Everybody knows that they do not accept Jesus Christ as a means of salvation from sin. That's the only way you can be saved, is to call on the name of the Lord. They're not about to do that.

N: Neither are Jews.

TLH: Correct. But during the Tribulation period, there'll be a sea change, and many Jews will accept Christ. Not all. Again, it's an individual decision.

N: You recently donated a whole lot of money for a hockey rink at Liberty University. If these are the end times, why make an investment like that?

TLH: [Laughs.] My strategy is that Canada and Northern America produces the bulk of hockey players. We use the ice rink to get the hockey players to come to Liberty University where many of them are exposed to accept Christ. Many of them come because they are Christians. They are challenged to go into the ministry, and we've already had some of the guys in the earlier classes that graduated, and they're going home to Canada to start churches.

N: Proselytism with a hockey puck?

TLH: "Evangelism with a hockey puck" would be better.

N: But if the end times are indeed near, why would there be any point in working toward fostering peace?

TLH: Right now the Church of Jesus Christ is busy in the spiritual vein of trying to win people to Christ. We're concerned about the salvation of individual souls. This whole thing has heightened the spirit of evangelism. Wars have always done that. But never have we had a war that is so specifically following the pattern of the scripture.

N: Michael Standaert is a critic of yours who has written recently in a blog http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-standaert/the-dinosaurs-roam-the-ea_b_25703.html that this belief in the end of the world in a big explosion of violence, reflects a "spiritual malaise" a "hopelessness in humanity" and that you're "making money off of fear and hopelessness" in your "Left Behind" series. How do you respond to that?

TLH: I would say that he's just betraying his poverty of faith. If he had faith in the Bible, faith in the future and Jesus Christ, he'd recognize that our passion is just like the theme song in our books: we don't want anybody to be left behind.

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