Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
The creationist lawsuit against the University of California system is, unsurprisingly, going to proceed. Meanwhile, AAAS continues its defense of evolution education by releasing "The Evolution Dialogues"; transcripts and DVDs of "Keeping Science and Religion Separate in Schools: The Vigil after Dover" are now available; and the controversy over the funding of a proposal to investigate the effect of the "intelligent design" movement in Canada is reviewed in the pages of Humanist Perspectives.
CREATIONIST LAWSUIT AGAINST UC SYSTEM TO PROCEED
As expected, Association of Christian Schools International et al. v. Roman Stearns et al. -- the lawsuit in which the University of California system is charged with violating the constitutional rights of applicants from Christian schools whose high school coursework is deemed inadequate preparation for college -- is going to proceed. In a hearing in late July 2006, Judge S. James Otero stated that he was not inclined to rule in favor of a motion by the university system to dismiss the suit. Now, as the Los Angeles Times (August 9, 2006) describes, "In a 25-page ruling, Otero granted limited relief to the university, dismissing the lawsuit's allegations against several UC administrators in their individual capacities, among others. But he said he would allow Calvary Christian and the other plaintiffs to pursue their key claims against the public university system on the basis of constitutional protections to freedom of speech, association and religion." The case is expected to go to trial within a year.
Creationism is not the only issue involved in the case, to be sure. But creationism is involved, since the plaintiffs -- the Association of Christian Schools International, the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, California, and six students at the school, none of whom have been refused admission to the University of California -- object to the university system's policy of rejecting high school biology courses that use textbooks published by Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books as "inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community." One of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs is Wendell R. Bird, a former staff attorney for the Institute for Creation Research. As a special assistant attorney general for Louisiana, he defended the state's "equal time" law, which was ruled to be unconstitutional in Edwards v. Aguillard. He is the author of The Origin of Species Revisited, which compares evolution and a version of creationism he called "abrupt appearance."
For the story in the Los Angeles Times, visit:
For NCSE's previous coverage on events in California, visit:
AAAS RELEASES "THE EVOLUTION DIALOGUES"
In a press release issued on August 9, 2006, the American Association for the Advancement of Science announced the publication of The Evolution Dialogues, written by Catherine Baker and edited by James B. Miller. As the book's prologue notes, "there are deep misunderstandings about what biological evolution is, what science itself is, and what views people of faith, especially Christians, have applied to their interpretations of the science. With this volume, AAAS seeks to correct some of those misunderstandings."
The book was prompted by the spate of religiously motivated assaults on evolution education around the country, the press release explains. "After consultations with representatives of scientific and Christian religious communities, AAAS decided to produce a book that could be used by religious educators and others seeking a concise description of the science of evolution and a respectful discussion of the cultural and religious responses to it." Aimed specifically for use in Christian adult education programs, it will be valuable, AAAS hopes, in other educational settings, such as history of science classes, seminaries, and community libraries.
The press release adds that The Evolution Dialogues "offers a concise description of the natural world, as explained by evolution, and the Christian response, both in Charles Darwin's time and in contemporary America. It has a glossary of terms from both science and religion, with 'bacteria' and 'Biblical infallibility' defined on the same page. As an introduction to each chapter, the book features a narrative about the personal dilemma of a fictional college student, Angela Rawlett, as she struggles to reconcile her traditionalist Christian upbringing with her keen interest in biology."
The book was praised by a panel of reviewers, including theologian John F. Haught, who lauded its "understanding of the distinct modes of understanding characteristic of science and religion"; Randy Isaac, the executive director of the American Scientific Affiliation, who commented, "I think the book will contribute significantly to the ongoing discussions"; and Rodger Bybee of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, who predicted that it "will be an excellent, positive contribution to a contemporary understanding of evolution and religion."
Copies of The Evolution Dialogues may be obtained from the AAAS Distribution Center, PO Box 521, Annapolis Junction, MD 20701. Telephone orders (VISA and MasterCard only) may be made at 800-222-7809 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. EST. The price is $9.95 ($7.95 for AAAS members) plus postage and handling ($2 domestic, $4 international). For shipments to the District of Columbia, add 5.75% sales tax; for California, add applicable sales tax; for Canada, add the GST. Ten or more copies: $5.00 each. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal Science.
For AAAS's press release, visit:
"THE VIGIL AFTER DOVER"
"Keeping Science and Religion Separate in Schools: The Vigil after Dover" was a free public forum held at Florida State University on May 17, 2006, to discuss the implications for science education posed by the December 20, 2005, federal ruling in Pennsylvania on the nation's first court case involving "intelligent design" -- Kitzmiller v. Dover. Featured at the forum were NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott, Georgetown University theologian John F. Haught and Michigan State University philosopher Robert T. Pennock, both of whom testified as expert witnesses for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, and from Florida State University, philosopher Michael Ruse, biologist Joseph Travis, and law professor Steven Gey. The forum was moderated by the Pulitzer-prize-winning science writer Deborah Blum. Now a transcript of the forum is freely available on-line, and high-resolution DVDs of the forum are available for only $10, from the University Research Magazine Association, which with FSU's Office of Research sponsored the event.
For transcripts of the forum (HTML and PDF), visit:
For information about ordering DVDs of the forum, visit:
CANADIAN CONTROVERSY IN REVIEW
Brian Alters is on the cover of the Summer 2006 issue of Humanist Perspectives, which devotes a full eleven pages to discussing the controversy that arose in the wake of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada's deciding not to fund Alters's research project to study the effects of the popularization of "intelligent design" on Canadian students, teachers, parents, administrators, and policymakers. Alters's proposal was rejected, according to a letter from SSHRC, in part because it failed to provide "adequate justification for the assumption ... that the theory of evolution, and not intelligent-design theory, was correct." Philip Sadler, director of science education at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, quipped to Nature (August 4, 2006), "If he was trying to answer the question as to whether all this popularization had had an impact, he just saved the government $40,000 ... He found the evidence without doing the study."
Hundreds of scientists in Canada and abroad protested what seemed to be SSHRC's crediting "intelligent design" with scientific legitimacy on a par with evolution's. Letters of protest were sent by the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, and the American Sociological Association. Under pressure, a spokesperson for SSHRC suggested that Alters misunderstood the rejection letter and stated that the rejection of the proposal was not due to SSHRC's having "doubts about the theory of evolution"; subsequently, SSHRC issued a statement acknowledging "the theory of evolution as one of the cornerstones of modern science and of our understanding of the world." But both SSHRC spokespeople and members of the committee that reviewed Alters's proposal were quoted in the press as vaguely expressing doubts about evolution and sympathy for "intelligent design"; these statements have been neither explained nor retracted.
Contained in the issue of Humanist Perspectives are a report by the journal's editor, Gary Bauslaugh, reviewing the situation and concluding, "The fact that one of our most prestigious research-granting agencies fails to understand this suggests that the only thing wrong with Dr Alters' grant proposal is that it understates the problem"; an interview with Alters, in which he notes, "This SSHRC matter is so ridiculous on so many levels, that one cannot help but laugh. However, at the same time it's extremely worrisome because it illustrates that problems with science education have reached academic funding levels in this country"; Peter McKnight's opinion column condemning SSHRC, reprinted from the Vancouver Sun; a letter from a physicist to the president of SSHRC; and correspondence between Humanist Perspectives and public relations officers at SSHRC and members of the review committee responsible for evaluating Alters's proposal.
Alters is the Tomlinson Chair in Science Education, director of the Tomlinson University Science Education Project, and Sir William Dawson Scholar at McGill University, where he also directs the Evolution Education Research Centre. In 2003, he won both the Principal's Prize for Excellence in Teaching and the Faculty of Education Award for Distinguished Teaching. He is the author of several books, including Defending Evolution -- of which the late Ernst Mayr said, "This book should be in the hands of every educator dealing with the subject of evolution" -- and the textbook Biology: Understanding Life, both coauthored with Sandra M. Alters, and Teaching Biological Evolution in Higher Education. He testified as an expert witness on science education for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover. Alters was awarded NCSE's "Friend of Darwin" award in 2005, in which year he also became a member of NCSE's board of directors.
For the articles in Humanist Perspectives (PDF), visit:
For NCSE's previous story about the controversy, visit:
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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.
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By David Postman
Seattle Times chief political reporter
A leading group of scientists says "antievolutionism" remains active in part because academics are seen as "lost in a pampered world of irrelevancies, unwilling or unable to come out of the ivory tower."
Randy Olson has left the tower behind. A Harvard-trained evolutionary biologist, Olson left academia for Hollywood. He's made a documentary, "Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus," not to take on intelligent design — which he clearly thinks is a ridiculous theory — but to prod scientists to find a way to talk about evolution that doesn't make them sound like "arrogant jerks." His tack is to make a movie featuring cartoons of dodo birds, his lovably kooky mother, Muffy "Moose" Olson, and long scenes of scientists playing poker.
The dodos are his fellow critics of intelligent design.
"They really are just baffled by communication," Olson said this week. "Some people have said evolutionists should never get up on stage and debate a creationist because you will never convince a creationist. But it's not about creationists. It is a chance for the people in the audience in the middle to hear an argument they like."
Here's how one scientist in the film expressed the need for engaging with supporters of creationism or intelligent design: "I think people have to stand up and say, 'You know, you're an idiot.' "
Not a real conversation starter. I know a lot of academic critics of intelligent design don't want to debate because they told me so after I wrote about it earlier this year.
The scientists' group, the Society for the Study of Evolution, declares intelligent design can never be considered science, and says the public debate has created an "antagonism towards evolution." That, the group says, can hurt the development of public policy, promotes distrust of scientists, reduces funding for research and "undermines science education at all levels."
Olson's movie has been well reviewed and is being seen on the film-festival circuit. But people on both sides of the debate are unhappy.
One blogging professor said Olson wants scientists to "dumb down their message so it can compete with pre-digested ID pabulum."
On the other side, Discovery Institute president Bruce Chapman said the movie includes "innuendoes and falsehoods" about Discovery, including a wildly exaggerated budget for its intelligent-design work and "demonstrably false statements about the science issues."
"The seeming cheerfulness of the film is a façade," he added.
Olson said he thinks Discovery is winning the PR war. He recently visited friends in his home state of Kansas who said of the big intelligent-design/evolution debate, "We're for both. We think evolution is great, but we also firmly believe there is a designer and there is a hand of God up there controlling things."
Added Olson: "I think the deck is stacked a little against the evolutionists."
David Postman is The Seattle Times' chief political reporter. His column appears Fridays.
Reach him at 360-236-8267 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company
A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature is now available at Amazon for direct shipping. Here's what scientists and scholars are saying about it:
"A Meaningful World is simply the best book I've seen on the purposeful design of nature. In sparkling prose Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt teach us how to recognize genius, first in Shakespeare's plays and then in nature. From principles of geometry to details of the periodic table, the authors portray the depth, elegance, clarity, and pure cleverness of a universe designed to nurture the intelligent life that one day would discover that design. A Meaningful World recovers lost purpose not only for science, but for all scholarly disciplines." Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box.
"I am not exaggerating much to say that A Meaningful World is in the same class as the works of human genius its authors describe. It displays rare depth and breadth. Scientists should read this book to regain their justification for doing science, and poets should read it to regain a ground for the meaning of their texts." Astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, co-author of The Privileged Planet.
"Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt have convinced me that from literature to mathematics, physics to biology, the very phenomena of the world breathes intelligence. A Meaningful World is a masterful argument, a tour de force, framed with brilliance and wit." James W. Sire, author of The Universe Next Door and Why Good Arguments Often Fail.
"A Meaningful World is a wise and witty romp through the fallacies of reductionism. It is illustrated by charming examples that show how literature and science both teach us that we live in a world full of meaning, not the spiritually dead world in which the materialists would confine us." Phillip Johnson, author of Darwin on Trial.
"In a world where materialism fails and where intelligent design is evident, how should we think about ourselves in the grand scheme of things? A Meaningful World masterfully answers this question, ramping up the cultural revolution begun by Phillip Johnson in the 1990s." William Dembski, author of Intelligent Design and The Design Revolution.
"A Meaningful World cleverly integrates the intricacy found in literary classics with the aesthetic beauty of scientific discovery and the unreasonable ability of the human mind to comprehend meaning in both. In this interesting book, we discover that meaning is inherent in nature at every level." Gerald Schroeder, author of Genesis And The Big Bang; The Science Of God; and The Hidden Face of God
Friday, August 11, 2006 By Ker Than
A comparison of peoples' views in 34 countries finds that the United States ranks near the bottom when it comes to public acceptance of evolution.
Only Turkey ranked lower.
Among the factors contributing to America's low score are poor understanding of biology, especially genetics, the politicization of science and the literal interpretation of the Bible by a small but vocal group of American Christians, the researchers say.
"American Protestantism is more fundamentalist than anybody except perhaps the Islamic fundamentalists, which is why Turkey and we are so close," said study co-author Jon Miller of Michigan State University.
The researchers combined data from public surveys on evolution collected from 32 European countries, the United States and Japan between 1985 and 2005.
Adults in each country were asked whether they thought the statement, "Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals," was true or false, or if they were unsure.
The study found that over the past 20 years:
— The percentage of U.S. adults who accept evolution declined from 45 to 40 percent.
— The percentage overtly rejecting evolution also declined, from 48 to 39 percent.
— And the percentage of adults who were unsure increased, from 7 to 21 percent.
Of the other countries surveyed, only Turkey ranked lower, with about 25 percent of the population accepting evolution and 75 percent rejecting it.
In Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and France, 80 percent or more of adults accepted evolution; in Japan, 78 percent of adults did.
The findings are detailed in the Aug. 11 issue of the journal Science.
Religious belief and evolution
The researchers also compared 10 independent variables — including religious belief, political ideology and understanding of concepts from genetics, or "genetic literacy" — among adults in America and nine European countries to determine whether these factors could predict attitudes toward evolution.
The analysis found that Americans with fundamentalist religious beliefs — defined as belief in substantial divine control of the universe and the efficacy of frequent prayer — were more likely to reject evolution than Europeans with similar beliefs.
The researchers attribute the discrepancy to differences in how American Christian fundamentalists and other forms of Christianity interpret the Bible.
While American fundamentalists tend to interpret the Bible literally and to view Genesis as a true and accurate account of creation, mainstream Protestants in both the United States and Europe instead treat Genesis as metaphorical, the researchers say.
"Whether it's the Bible or the Koran, there are some people who think it's everything you need to know," Miller said. "Other people say these are very interesting metaphorical stories in that they give us guidance, but they're not science books."
The latter view is generally shared by the Roman Catholic Church.
Politics and the flat Earth
Politics is also contributing to America's widespread confusion about evolution, the researchers say.
Major political parties in the United States are more willing to make opposition to evolution a prominent part of their campaigns to garner conservative votes — something that does not happen in Europe or Japan.
Miller says that it makes about as much sense for politicians to oppose evolution in their campaigns as it is for them to advocate that the Earth is flat and promise to pass legislation saying so if elected to office.
"You can pass any law you want, but it won't change the shape of the Earth," Miller told LiveScience.
Paul Meyers, a biologist at the University of Minnesota who was not involved in the study, says that what politicians should be doing is saying, "We ought to defer these questions to qualified authorities and we should have committees of scientists and engineers whom we will approach for the right answers."
The researchers also single out the poor grasp of biological concepts, especially genetics, by American adults as an important contributor to the country's low confidence in evolution.
"The more you understand about genetics, the more you understand about the unity of life and the relationship humans have to other forms of life," Miller said.
The current study also analyzed the results from a 10-country survey in which adults were tested with 10 true or false statements about basic concepts from genetics. Americans had a median score of 4 out 10 correct answers.
One of the statements was "All plants and animals have DNA." (The correct answer is "yes.")
Science alone is not enough
But the problem is more than one of education — it goes deeper, and is a function of our country's culture and history, said study co-author Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, Calif.
"The rejection of evolution is not something that will be solved by throwing science at it," Scott said in a telephone interview.
Myers expressed a similar sentiment.
About the recent controversy in Dover, Pa., over the teaching of "intelligent design," Myers said, "It was a great victory for our side and it's done a lot to help ensure that we keep religion out of the classroom for a while longer, but it doesn't address the root causes. The creationists are still creationists — they're not going to change because of a court decision."
Scott says one thing that will help is to have Catholics and mainstream Protestants speak up about their theologies' acceptance of evolution.
"There needs to be more addressing of creationism from these more moderate theological perspectives," Scott said. "The professional clergy and theologians whom I know tend to be very reluctant to engage in that type of 'my theology versus your theology' discussion, but it matters because it's having a negative effect on American scientific literacy."
The latest packaging of creationism is intelligent design, or "ID," a conjecture which claims that certain features of the natural world are so complex that they could only be the work of a Supreme Being.
ID proponents say they do not deny that evolution is true, only that scientists should not rule out the possibility of supernatural intervention.
But scientists do not share doubts over evolution. They argue it is one of the most well tested theories around, supported by countless tests done in many different scientific fields.
Scott says promoting uncertainty about evolution is just as bad as denying it outright and that ID and traditional creationism both spread the same message.
"Both are saying that evolution is bad science, that evolution is weak and inadequate science, and that it can't do the job, so therefore God did it," she said.
Bruce Chapman, the president of the Discovery Institute in Seattle, the primary backer of intelligent design, has a different view of the study.
"A better explanation for the high percentage of doubters of Darwinism in America may be that this country's citizens are famously independent and are not given to being rolled by an ideological elite in any field," Chapman said. "In particular, the growing doubts about Darwinism undoubtedly reflect growing doubts among scientists about Darwinian theory. Over 640 have now signed a public dissent and the number keeps growing."
Nick Matzke of the National Center for Science Education points out that most of the scientists Chapman refers to do not do research in the field of evolution.
"If you look at the list, you can't find anybody who's really a significant contributor to the field or anyone who's done recognizable work on evolution," Matzke said.
Scott says the news is not all bad.
The number of American adults unsure about the validity of evolution has increased in recent years, from 7 to 21 percent, but growth in this demographic comes at the expense of the other two groups.
The percentage of Americans accepting evolution has declined, but so has the percentage of those who overtly reject it.
"I was very surprised to see that. To me that means the glass is half full," Scott said. "That 21 percent we can educate."
Copyright © 2006 Imaginova Corp.
James Owen for National Geographic News
August 10, 2006
People in the United States are much less likely to accept Darwin's idea that humans evolved from apes than adults in other Western nations, a number of surveys show.
A new study of those surveys suggests that the main reason for this lies in a unique confluence of religion, politics, and the public understanding of biological science in the United States.
Researchers compared the results of past surveys of attitudes toward evolution taken in the U.S. since 1985 and similar surveys in Japan and 32 European countries.
In the U.S., only 14 percent of adults thought that evolution was "definitely true," while about a third firmly rejected the idea.
In European countries, including Denmark, Sweden, and France, more than 80 percent of adults surveyed said they accepted the concept of evolution.
The proportion of western European adults who believed the theory "absolutely false" ranged from 7 percent in Great Britain to 15 percent in the Netherlands.
The only country included in the study where adults were more likely than Americans to reject evolution was Turkey.
The investigation also showed that the percentage of U.S. adults who are uncertain about evolution has risen from 7 percent to 21 percent in the past 20 years.
Researchers from the U.S. and Japan analyzed additional information from these surveys in an attempt to identify factors that might help explain why Americans are more skeptical about evolution.
Led by Jon D. Miller, a political scientist at Michigan State University, the team reports its findings in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science.
American Culture and Evolution
The team ran a complex analysis of the statistics, testing for a causal link between aspects of U.S. culture and Americans' attitudes toward evolution.
The study identified three key influences on Americans.
First, the researchers found that the effect of fundamentalist religious belief on opinions of evolution was almost twice as much in the U.S. as in Europe.
Miller says the U.S. has a tradition of Protestant fundamentalism not found in Europe that takes the Bible literally and sees the Book of Genesis as an accurate account of the creation of human life.
After European Protestants broke off from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century, they retained a hierarchy that remained part of the university system, Miller says.
"In the United States, partly because of our frontier history, most of the Protestant churches are congregational—they don't belong to any hierarchy," he added.
"They're free to choose their own ministers and espouse their own beliefs."
That freedom also included the creation of their own Bible colleges for training ministers, Miller says.
"If you send them to a Bible college that teaches only the Bible, they'll come back preaching only the Bible," he added.
"There are very few European counterparts to that."
(Read a National Geographic magazine feature on the evolution of evolution theory in the United States, "Was Darwin Wrong?")
Second, the researchers tested whether an American's political views influenced his or her view of evolution theory.
The team found that individuals with anti-abortion, pro-life views associated with the conservative wing of the Republican Party were significantly more likely to reject evolution than people with pro-choice views.
The team adds that in Europe having pro-life or right-wing political views had little correlation with a person's attitude toward evolution.
The researchers say this reflects the politicization of the evolution issue in the U.S. "in a manner never seen in Europe or Japan."
"In the second half of the 20th century, the conservative wing of the Republican Party has adopted creationism as part of a platform designed to consolidate their support in Southern and Midwestern states," the study authors write.
Miller says that when Ronald Reagan was running for President of the U.S., for example, he gave speeches in these states where he would slip in the sentence, "I have no chimpanzees in my family," poking fun at the idea that apes could be the ancestors of humans.
When such a view comes from the U.S. President or other prominent political figures, Miller says, it "lends a degree of legitimacy to the dispute."
A Natural Selection?
Third, the study found that adults with some understanding of genetics are more likely to have a positive attitude toward evolution.
But, the authors say, studies in the U.S. suggest substantial numbers of American adults are confused about some core ideas related to 20th- and 21st-century biology.
The researchers cite a 2005 study finding that 78 percent of adults agreed that plants and animals had evolved from other organisms. In the same study, 62 percent also believed that God created humans without any evolutionary development.
Fewer than half of American adults can provide a minimal definition of DNA, the authors add.
By JONATHAN D. GLATER Published: August 10, 2006
In an effort to make Texas a magnet for scientific and medical research, the University of Texas is planning a $2.5 billion program to expand research and teaching in the sciences, including medicine and technology.
The initiative would be one of the largest investments in expansion by a public university, university officials said.
The effort would pay for dozens of projects on all but one campus in the system, with most of the money for capital projects like buildings and laboratories. The money would come from the state, income generated by the university's $15.5 billion endowment and donations.
"We're trying to create some momentum," the university chancellor, Mark G. Yudof, said.
Mr. Yudof added that to remain competitive the system needed to improve research and teaching in the sciences.
"There is a competition," he said, "just like there is a competition among states for attracting industry and for being magnets for bright people."
Other states have announced similar initiatives, though most were not as large as the Texas plan. In 2004, for example, voters in California approved providing $3 billion over 10 years to finance stem cell research.
Arizona State University has spent $150 million on a new Biodesign Institute focused on a multidisciplinary approach to study areas like diseases and injury and pain to the environment. The university anticipates spending an additional $200 million to complete the center.
"The kind of thing that you're seeing makes sense if a state wants to develop its economy and be attractive," said Bruce Alberts, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, who was president of the National Academy of Sciences for 12 years. "What they're thinking of is jobs and income tax revenue. They're really thinking about the practical spinoffs of all this."
The Texas initiative would be backed by $678 million in bonds issued by the state, $406 million in income generated by the university endowment and other investments, $659 million from bonds issued by the university, $191 million in grants and $302 million in gifts.
The initiative will not affect tuition, Mr. Yudof said.
Among the projects, some of which have been announced, is a 365,000-square-foot research center at the Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. The center would study developmental biology, neuroscience, dermatology and the molecular basis of cancer.
At the campus in El Paso, more than $120 million will be spent on improving research in engineering and physical sciences. At the main campus, in Austin, the Experimental Science Building, which houses research laboratories and classrooms, will receive a $125 million overhaul.
Graduation - Chris Cooke of Portland could be the first blind naturopath in the U.S. when she gets a diploma today
Monday, June 26, 2006 MY-THUAN TRAN The Oregonian
Chris Cooke can often figure out from a handshake how her patient feels. A sweaty grip could mean a fever; a listless shake, a sign of uneasiness.
"Other doctors look at the visual signs for how patients are doing, like how they walk," Cooke says. "If you pay attention to a handshake, it can give you similar information."
Cooke, blind since birth, relies on nonvisual cues to help determine what is upsetting her patients.
Today, the 41-year-old Portland native will be among 81 graduates of the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, celebrating its 50th anniversary. She will become a naturopathic physician -- perhaps the first one in the nation who is blind.
As the oldest accredited naturopathic college in the country, the school has redefined modern naturopathy by formalizing the curriculum and conducting research on alternative medicine, says Laura Farr, executive director of the Oregon Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Its graduates have been a force in keeping alternative medicine thriving and opening naturopathic colleges around the country.
Portland's naturopathic college sprang up in 1956 when alternative medicine was on the verge of disappearing, says the college's founder, Frank Spaulding, 84, who now lives in Alaska. At the time, many schools were closing, and naturopathy was losing its believers.
"The rise of science and medical education took over, and people started saying that naturopathic medicine was old-fashioned," says Susan Hunter, the college's director of advancement.
Spaulding borrowed a car and drove around the country, searching for naturopathy followers. He returned with $100,000 in donations. The first graduating class had 10 students.
Since then, more than 1,600 students have passed through the college's doors, learning about different herbs and teas, homeopathy, acupuncture and massage, on top of two years of basic science courses. Students earn doctorates in naturopathic medicine or master's of science degrees in Oriental medicine.
The emphasis in alternative medicine, Hunter says, is to prevent sicknesses before they happen and to allow the body to heal itself naturally.
Cooke, of the Class of 2006, became a believer in alternative medicine after she tripped and injured her head 10 years ago. Her health spiraled downward: She lost weight and developed a persistent rash on her face.
She first went to conventional doctors, she says, who gave her cream for the rash, a bottle of anti-depressants and sent her on her way. So she sought out an alternative-medicine physician, who told her the rash came from "problems of the inside coming out." After changing her diet and receiving an herbal treatment to eliminate toxins, Cooke says she regained her health.
"Naturopathic medicine is not just about putting a Band-Aid on a symptom," she says. "It is really about getting to the root cause." Music and Braille
Cooke finds she is often the only blind person in new situations.
After graduating with a piano performance degree from George Fox University in Newberg, she taught band for elementary through high school students for 12 years, becoming one of a handful of blind instructors for sighted students in the country.
"I had to know every note that was played, every fingering, and where each kid was in the classroom," says Cooke, who translated band music into Braille for herself.
That same attention to detail is what makes her a successful naturopath, she says. By asking probing questions, she puts together a detailed history of a patient's emotional state. "I am like a detective because I start piecing things together and thinking about possible diagnoses," Cooke says. "By the time we get to the physical exam, I have an idea of what I am going to find already."
She can sense light and darkness -- and the surprise of patients who realize their physician is blind.
Simon Cheesman, one of Cooke's patients, says, "At first, you may have the stigma that if a doctor cannot see, they won't be able to see what is wrong with you. But that kind of stigma does not exist with Chris. She has heightened senses."
Equipped with a talking thermometer and blood pressure monitor, Cooke starts an exam by "playing 20 questions" as another naturopathic physician -- her "visual assistant" -- helps.
"I ask all the different questions that, if a sighted person is looking in the ear, they are thinking those questions in their mind," Cooke says. "Visual is very little about what doctors actually do."
She matches the description of what she finds with what she has learned from her studies, or she looks up information on her modified pocket PC that uses Braille.
After taking her oath as a doctor of naturopathic medicine today, she will spend the summer studying for 12 board exams and hopes to join a private practice in Portland or Newberg.
Cooke says she sometimes feels she is "put under a microscope," but she never lets being blind stop her from achieving her goals.
"I love going into uncharted territory," she says. "That really drives me to do things that maybe someone else has not done before."
My-Thuan Tran: 503-294-5119; email@example.com
©2006 The Oregonian
By Judith Duffy, Health Correspondent
SIX out of 10 Scottish GP practices are prescribing homoeopathic or herbal remedies to patients, despite increasing deb ate over their use in the NHS.
New research carried out at Aberdeen University has revealed that out of more than 300 practices surveyed, 49% had prescribed homoeopathic treatments and 32% prescribed herbal treatments over the course of a year.
Among the most popular remedies prescribed were arnica, a homoeopathic treatment for bruising and injury, and cranberry, a herbal remedy for urinary tract infections.
A small number of cases, however, were identified in which oral herbal medicines had been prescribed alongside conventional medicines with which they could interact with each other and pose a health risk.
Researchers also found that the prevalence of homoeopathic prescribing to under-16s has doubled since 2000. And among all age groups, the rate of prescribing for homoeopathic and herbal remedies is highest among children under the age of 12 months.
The findings come in the wake of a row over the use of alternative medicines in the health service, with some of the UK's most eminent doctors recently calling for a halt on NHS spending on unproven complementary therapies.
The report, which has been published in the online edition of the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, revealed that 4160 patients were prescribed homoeopathic remedies during 2003-2004, of whom nearly three-quarters were female, with an average age of 47. Children under 16 accounted for 16% of the total.
Herbal remedies were prescribed to 361 patients, with an equal spread across the sexes and an average age of 61.
However, in 4% of cases patients were prescribed oral herbal remedies which could potentially have interacted with conventional medicines they were taking. Examples included two patients who were concurrently prescribed the drug warfarin and the herbal medicine cranberry, although mixing the two is thought to increase the risk of haemorrhage.
The authors of the study concluded that, "a substantial number of Scottish general practitioners prescribe homoe opathic and herbal remedies, with an approximate doubling in the number of children being prescribed homoeopathic remedies."
They added: "Clearly the apparent acceptance of homoeopathic and herbal medicine within primary care, especially in the young, needs critical review."
The growing use of such therapies in the NHS has already been criticised by some in medical and scientific circles, with much of the concern centred on the unproven nature of the remedies.
Thirteen leading scientists and doctors wrote to every hospital and primary care trust in the UK in May urging them not to suggest anything but evidence-based medicine to their patients. Their attack on alternative and complementary medicine coincided with a speech by Prince Charles to the World Health Assembly in Geneva, in which he urged every country to develop a plan for integrating conventional and alternative medicine.
A spokesman for the Royal Society said there was no plausible scientific mechanism through which homoeopathic remedies could work, as they were "literally just water".
"Our view on alternative and conventional medicines is the same," he said. "NHS provisions should be concentrated on those for which there is good, robust evidence both of their efficacy and of their safety.
"Anything which doesn't fall into that package shouldn't really be the focus of NHS provision."
Advocates of homoeopathy, however, argue that patients, not doctors, should decide whether treatments are effective for them.
Dr Bob Leckridge, associate specialist in homoeopathy at Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital, which is funded by the NHS, said: "People come here last, when anything else they have tried hasn't taken away their pain, hasn't helped their asthma or whatever, and they are stuck.
"When we do audits of our work here, two-thirds of people who get treatment claim they get benefit from their medicine. If two-thirds come to a service like this and actually get relief from their symptoms, why is that a bad thing?"
Dr Leckridge said that the figures in the research were "not a surprise", as around a quarter of GPs in Scotland had undertaken training courses at the hospital since 1983.
Medical herbalist Catriona Stewart, who works at Napiers Clinic, Glasgow, also argued that herbal medicine could significantly improve the quality of life for people with certain conditions.
She said: "It is very often people who have tried a lot of other things and they are getting quite desperate. Herbal medicine can be really life-changing if you are prepared to give it the time it needs to take effect."
02 July 2006
Posted on Wed, Aug. 09, 2006
LOS ANGELES - A federal judge has issued a ruling allowing a Christian school's discrimination lawsuit against the University of California to proceed to trial.
U.S. District Judge S. James Otero's decision on Tuesday followed a tentative ruling he made in June, allowing several students from Calvary Chapel Christian School to pursue their claim that the public university system discriminated against them by setting admission rules that violate their freedom of speech and religion. The school is in Murietta, about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
In a 25-page ruling, the judge rejected UC's attempt to dismiss several key claims in the suit and said the plaintiffs - which also include the school and the Association of Christian Schools International - showed enough evidence to support their allegations. Otero said the plaintiffs had shown that they had been required to choose between teaching courses that promoted their religious views and complying with UC's requirements.
"It is evident that the plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts to state a claim for violation of the freedom of speech," the judge wrote.
The lawsuit, filed last summer, was prompted by UC's refusal to certify courses that challenge evolutionary teachings and endorse conservative Christian viewpoints. It accuses the system of bias by generally approving courses taught from other religious and political perspectives.
The suit asks the judge to order UC to recognize the Christian-themed courses.
The university has denied the allegations, saying that admissions officials must be able to reject high school courses that do not meet its standards or that provide more religious than academic content.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com
August 9, 2006 Edition
BY JOHN McWHORTER
August 9, 2006
The achievement by moderate conservatives of a majority on the Kansas State School Board of Education is a strike against the forces who want to teach Kansas schoolchildren that evolution is merely a "theory."
Beyond the fundamentalist Christian realm, the common wisdom is that last week was a welcome slap in the face to those pesky creationists, who deny science by taking the Bible literally. And fie on those troglodytes in Atlanta who want to put stickers on biology textbooks warning students that evolution is "a theory and not a fact."
Deeply secular person that I am, I "get" this. However, the case against creationism is not as watertight as evolutionary biologists imply.
Make no mistake: the window for creationism gets smaller all the time. For example, Darwin taught us that the world's creatures are the product of gradual evolution from earlier ones. But creationists have pointed to places in the fossil record where instead, creatures just pop up fully formed, completely different from earlier ones.
A standard example used to be whales. In the rocks, whale fossils turned up all of a sudden, as if someone had waved a magic wand. Where were the fossils of "almost-whales"? Presumably at one point there would have been bearish, shore-dwelling freaks that spent half their lives in the water. Well, as it happens, there were: fossils of exactly this started turning up in Pakistan 20 years ago.
Science has not been much kinder to the "intelligent design" idea. That one goes that nature's creatures are too complex to have developed step by step, and that something must have brought them about in one fell swoop, like a watch. Or a Lexus.
For example, when light hits the retina in the back of our eye, it sets off a long string of chemical reactions that end by making an image in our brains. But only the whole string of reactions allows us to see. Intelligent-design fans argue that this could not have evolved step by step, because just half of the string would have served no more purpose than half a stairway.
But this doesn't work either. It turns out that the long strings of reactions are actually combinations of short "stringlets," which all once had functions of their own. Evolution combined them; God didn't have to.
The enlightened position, then, is that the creationists have been blown out of the water. Evolutionists are especially excited these days by new discoveries that supposedly put the last nail in the creationists' coffin, showing how one cell becomes a whole creature without anyone needing to wave a wand. Presumably, we now know how one cell knows to become a kidney while another one becomes a fingernail.
Biology 101 is that DNA makes proteins, but alone, this has always left the question as to why our DNA does not just churn out a hideous soup of thousands of proteins all the time. But now there's Biology 201. Each piece of DNA has an extra stretch that acts as a switch. The extra stretch can glom onto a particular chemical floating around, just like a key is fitted for a lock. The glomming either tells the DNA to produce its protein or tells it not to.
Turn some switches on and you get proteins that turn a cell into nerve tissue. Turn these three switches on and those two switches off, and you get a dimple. It's not about God, it's about flipping switches. What's the matter with Kansas anyway?
And yet, I keep waiting for these books to tell me how any of this can explain how an amoeba becomes Meryl Streep.
I imagine we're not far from being able to zap a cell with some switch-flipping concoction, leave it overnight, and come back the next morning and find a nostril. But Meryl Streep is more than her nostrils and dimples. We still don't know how those DNA switches evolved step by step. Nor do we know how they get flipped in just such a way that proteins flow in the precise order that creates Meryl Streep — or even a paramecium. Scientists do know that the switches are turned on by other switches. And that those switches are turned on by other ones.
And then, those switches…well, at this point we run up against a void, like wondering what's beyond the universe. At which point certain familiar proposals are typical. Francis Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project, is an evangelical Christian, and his new book about DNA is called "The Language of God."
Although evolutionary biologists think they have deep-sixed creationism, for me, despite my lack of interest in God, their books are the closest thing I know to church. DNA switches are neat. But they do not tell the whole story, and based on what I have learned from evolutionary biologists at this point, I know of no more tantalizing evidence for a Grand Creator than an infinitesimal blob of goo becoming a little girl.
Mr. McWhorter is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
By Don Hendershot
One of the tenets of the theory of evolution is a phenomenon known as character displacement. Character displacement states, in essence, that when two similar species inhabit the same environment and compete for the same resources, natural selection favors a divergence in characters – be it physical or behavioral.
Usually evolutionists are left searching fossil and scientific records for puzzle pieces that point to character displacement that occurred over long periods of time.
But recently, Princeton researchers Peter and Rosemary Grant reported in the journal Science that one of Darwin's Galapagos finches, Geospiza fortis, the medium ground finch, has experienced character displacement in just a couple of decades. According to the Grants' research, the large ground finch, Geospiza magnirostris arrived on the Galapagos island of Daphne Major in 1982. Before the large ground finch arrived on the island, the medium ground finch was top finch, eating seeds of all sizes. Those (G. fortis) with larger beaks fed on larger seeds while those with smaller beaks fed on smaller seeds.
Once a breeding population of G. magnirostris established itself on the island, competition for large seeds revved up. The larger newcomers with their larger beaks were more adept at feeding on big seeds and were soon out-competing the smaller medium ground finches with larger beaks. The medium finches with smallish beaks were content to feed on smaller seeds that did not interest the larger birds, and they continued to thrive.
A drought hit the islands in 2003 and 2004 greatly reducing the number of seeds available. Researchers noted that both species of finches suffered during the drought, but that segment of medium ground finches still vying for larger seeds was particularly hard hit.
Peter Grant described the scenario for the July 14 National Geographic News: "With the near removal of the supply of large seeds, the large-beaked birds [among] the medium ground finches did not have enough food to survive," Peter Grant said. "They died at a faster rate than the small-beaked members of the population."
In a single generation G. fortis, on Daphne Island, went from a population exhibiting varying bill sizes to one comprised of all smaller-beaked birds as a result of direct competition for a limited food source.
Intelligent Design proponents were quick to try and discredit the Grants, probably more because of the "Instant Evolution" title of the National Geographic piece than the research published in Science. Much of the ID argument was relegated to knee-jerk ad hominem attacks on the researchers for being evolutionists, like this one from the blog CREATIONEVOLUTIONDESIGN: "ID biologist Jonathan Wells notes that the Grants are prone to 'exaggerating the evidence' in that 'they have tried to make more of their work than the evidence warrants' and 'this exaggeration [of the truth] seems to characterize many claims for Darwin's theory.'"
I don't believe the Grants were positing that they had witnessed the origin of a species. The abstract to their Science article — "Evolution of Character Displacement in Darwin's Finches" — states, "These findings support the role of competition in models of community assembly, speciation, and adaptive radiations."
The paper was a study of the effects of direct competition and natural selection, both integral parts of the theory of evolution on character displacement.
The rapidity (one generation) of the change was of particular note to some biologists. David Pfening, biology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill noted in the National Geographic piece that the biggest surprise for him was '"the apparent speed with which the character displacement occurs—within a single year!"' Pfennig added that the study suggests that evolution due to competition between closely related species '"paradoxically may often occur so rapidly that we may actually miss the process taking place."'
Of course if some intelligent designer swept onto the island under the cover of darkness and tweaked beaks, we would miss that too.
Public release date: 9-Aug-2006
Contact: Earl Lane
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Scientists and theologians provided input
In an unusual undertaking for a science society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has produced a new book that discusses evolution and the rich diversity of Christian responses to the theory along with the quest for common ground on what has become a contentious issue in many school districts across the nation.
The book, The Evolution Dialogues, was written with the input of both scientists and theologians. Meant specifically for use in Christian adult education programs, it offers a concise description of the natural world, as explained by evolution, and the Christian response, both in Charles Darwin's time and in contemporary America. It has a glossary of terms from both science and religion, with "bacteria" and "Biblical infallibility" defined on the same page.
As an introduction to each chapter, the book features a narrative about the personal dilemma of a fictional college student, Angela Rawlett, as she struggles to reconcile her traditionalist Christian upbringing with her keen interest in biology.
Her story is rooted in reality, according to Connie Bertka, director of the AAAS's Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion program, which produced the book. Students from traditional Christian backgrounds sometimes approach biology professors with concerns that the study of evolution will conflict with their religious beliefs. "Biology 101 teachers can cite cases like this," Bertka said.
At a time when several leading scientists have written personal accounts of their own faith in both God and the scientific method, the new AAAS book offers a thoughtful look at science and Christianity. It mentions their shared values, including a commitment to truthfulness.
While concerns about evolution are not limited to Christian denominations or to the United States, the debate has been the most intense within segments of the American Christian community.
Bertka said the book grew out of discussions at AAAS starting in 2000 as the Intelligent Design movement began to make some headway. The movement, championed by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, maintains there is empirical evidence in nature for the existence of an intelligent agent beyond nature.
Scientists and some representatives of mainline religious denominations were concerned that Intelligent Design would be sold as an integration of science and religion, enticing even some members of mainstream religious communities to question evolution. Previously, school curriculum battles over evolution had been driven largely by young-Earth creationists whose literal interpretation of the Bible holds that our world is no more than 10,000 years old.
At the time, mainline denominations such as the Lutheran World Federation, the Episcopal Church USA, and the United Methodist Church had been somewhat disengaged from the earlier battles over creationism and evolution. But the debate over Intelligent Design raised the stakes, posing threats to the quality of instruction in public school science classrooms and to the constitutional division between church and state.
After consultations with representatives of scientific and Christian religious communities, AAAS decided to produce a book that could be used by religious educators and others seeking a concise description of the science of evolution and a respectful discussion of the cultural and religious responses to it.
As the book's prologue notes, "there are deep misunderstandings about what biological evolution is, what science itself is, and what views people of faith, especially Christians, have applied to their interpretations of the science. With this volume, AAAS seeks to correct some of those misunderstandings."
In addition to its potential use in religious adult education programs, the new book also should have value in other educational settings such as history of science classes, seminaries and community libraries.
The book, written by Catherine Baker and edited by James B. Miller, tells why evolution is not a hypothetical idea but rather is the essential framework for modern biology. It discusses new observations that have led to revisions in the theory since the time of Charles Darwin, including new views on why the giraffe's neck is long. But it emphasizes the underlying principles of evolution that continue to stand the test of time: all species, living and extinct, are related to each other and the forms of life that populate the Earth have changed over time and continue to change.
An array of distinguished reviewers, contacted by AAAS, found the book to be a useful, balanced treatment of the issues. Randy Isaac, a physicist and executive director of the American Scientific Affiliation, said Baker "has done an excellent job in writing at a level such that a broad audience would benefit from the book. Her research is well done and I felt she went to great lengths to be fair in every detail. I think the book will contribute significantly to the ongoing discussions." The American Scientific Affiliation describes itself is an organization of Christians in science who "share a common fidelity to the Word of God and a commitment to integrity in the practice of science."
Jack Haught, a Georgetown University theologian, said the book "will prove to be very helpful to teachers and students of biology, especially where questions might arise about the scientific status of Darwin's theory and the religious implications of evolution." Haught said the book "exhibits not only prudence and judiciousness, but also an erudite understanding of the distinct modes of understanding characteristic of science and religion. A major benefit of this project is that it demonstrates how a religious understanding of the world need not be looked upon as an alternative to evolutionary science and vice-versa."
Rodger Bybee, executive director of the nonprofit Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, said the book "will be an excellent, positive contribution to a contemporary understanding of evolution and religion."
Copies of The Evolution Dialogues may be obtained from the AAAS Distribution Center, P.O. Box 521, Annapolis Junction, MD 20701. Telephone orders (VISA and MasterCard only) may be made at 800-222-7809 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The price is $9.95 ($7.95 for AAAS members) plus postage and handling ($2 domestic, $4 international). For shipments to the District of Columbia, add 5.75 % sales tax; for California, add applicable sales tax; for Canada, add the GST. Ten or more copies: $5.00 each.
A study guide for the book is being prepared and will be available online at: http://www.aaas.org/spp/doser.
Reporters can request a copy of the book from Earl Lane, AAAS Office of Public Programs, 202-326-6431, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science (www.sciencemag.org). AAAS was founded in 1848, and has 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS (www.aaas.org) is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy; international programs; science education; and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, www.eurekalert.org, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.
Are we wired to believe that a higher power keeps an eye on us?
02:20 PM CDT on Monday, August 7, 2006
By JEFFREY WEISS / The Dallas Morning News
Almost every faith centers on a Supernatural Enforcer. An invisible power – a god, ancestral spirits or karma – rewards those who follow the rules and punishes those who don't.
Why do most religions have this in common? It's not inevitable, after all. A faith with a god who is indifferent toward people is simple to imagine. But it's much harder to find.
Believers will say their religion reflects divine will: that's the way God (or something) planned it.
Refreshments are sold on the honor system in the break room at the University of Newcastle – people who get a cup of coffee or tea are supposed to leave money. Researchers found that when they added a picture of eyes above the payment box, more than twice as much money was deposited, compared with weeks when the eyes were replaced by a picture of flowers.
People were subconsciously triggered into acting more honestly, as if they were actually being watched, even though they knew the eyeballs were mere paper and ink.
Those results, published last month in the journal Biology Letters , support a controversial theory that connects prehistoric humans to modern faiths.
The theory says that so many of today's religions feature Supernatural Enforcers because of survival of the fittest. That sort of religion was most successful at prodding people into greater cooperation and honesty, which in turn helped their culture thrive, say the theory's supporters.
If that is true, successful early religions may have developed as they did because of how prehistoric human brains had previously evolved. Our ancestors may have been hard-wired in ways that inclined them to accept the notion of a powerful God (or something) who enforces rules of right and wrong.
Whether this theory gains mainstream acceptance – and it's a long way from that – it represents an increasingly common science strategy. Evolution started as a theory about biology. It's now used in anthropology, psychology, economics and political science to explain how people behave – even how and why they pray.
For this particular theory about religion, scientists started with a hard question: Why are people as honest and cooperative as they are?
In general, people are nicer than they need to be, experiments show. That's not to say some individuals aren't liars or cheats. But many of us show a bit of Good Samaritan, even when we don't know whom we're helping and seem to gain no benefit.
But that seems to contradict evolution theory, because successful individual cheaters should gain a Darwinian advantage. A prehistoric thief who swiped the equivalent of a cup of coffee would have been better off than the honest fellow who "paid" for it. And the thief, by gaining an advantage that improved his odds of survival, would have been more likely to pass on those "selfish" genes.
Relatively successful cultures, on the other hand, seem to be made up of relatively cooperative and generous people. Charles Darwin suggested as much in 1871, in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex :
"A tribe including many members who ... were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection."
If that's so, evolution raced in opposite directions, pushing our ancestors toward both selfishness and cooperation. Cooperation may have won by a nose – but why?
A rabbi or priest might say it's because we're created in God's image. But some scientists find a more naturalistic answer in the power of religion, specifically the power of a perceived Supernatural Enforcer to nudge people toward cooperation.
That leads to more hard questions: How did the first Supernatural Enforcer religion appear? Is there something about the way people are put together that made that concept more acceptable?
Scientists agree that human brains pay special attention to faces. And all kinds of critters – from tropical fish to jungle monkeys to mall shoppers – act more honestly if they think they're being observed, said David Sloan Wilson, an evolutionary biologist at Binghamton University in New York.
Early humans who were attentive in that way were less likely to get caught and punished for doing something wrong. That made them more likely to pass their genes along, said Dr. Wilson, whose book Darwin's Cathedral uses evolution to explain religion.
Add one more piece to the puzzle: Humans seem to have evolved to jump to conclusions. We often decide we know what's happening before we have all the evidence.
In evolutionary terms, this is a good thing. A pre-human primate who waited to be absolutely sure that the big thing stirring in the bushes was a lion would have ended up as lion chow.
As Homo sapiens developed language and imagination, that gave our quick-triggered brain many more possibilities. If physical explanations weren't good enough, our ancestors' brains automatically, irresistibly came up with other alternatives: A sin explained leprosy. A virgin sacrifice kept the volcano quiet. A prayer brought the rain.
In other words, our ancestors' brains may have been biologically inclined to believe in the supernatural.
"The basic thesis that belief in supernatural beings is a side-effect of evolved agent-detector mechanisms has been widely discussed," said Dan Fessler, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of California Los Angeles. "Likewise, the notion that cultural evolution will favor beliefs in omniscient beings if such beliefs enhance group functioning is well known."
And that gets us all the way back to religion and fake eyeballs.
When Melissa Bateson and two colleagues at the University of Newcastle wanted to study honesty, she thought of the break room.
"I had been looking after the coffee and tea in our department for ages," she said.
A sign set the prices for tea, coffee and a bit of milk – 30, 50 and 10 pence.
In January, without telling anyone, Dr. Bateson and her colleagues added one feature to the payment sign: They put up a picture of eyes for five weeks, alternating with a picture of flowers for five weeks.
When the eyes were posted, payments averaged 2.76 times larger than the weeks with the flowers.
The experiment confirmed two earlier studies, including one run by Dr. Fessler and a colleague, that used eyes or faces on computer screens. In all three experiments, people faced by even a hint of a face tended to act nicer.
So, putting the links together:
Our ancestors were hard-wired to pay attention to faces and to change behaviors if they were being watched. They were also inclined to believe in supernatural beings.
And they seem to have been programmed to subconsciously respond to the concept of an immaterial supernatural observer as if it were another person – which is what the break room experiment demonstrated.
What if a particular tribe had those tendencies so strongly that it developed a religion that told its believers that a power was always watching? Would the very notion of an unseen, powerful watcher prompt more cooperative, generous behavior in people who weren't actually being watched?
Call it the Santa Claus Effect: "He knows when you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake."
"Cues for being watched by people may have 'spilled over' into cues for being watched by anything," said Dominic Johnson, a political scientist with the Princeton Society of Fellows and co-author of several scholarly papers linking evolution and religion.
Would believers in a Supernatural Enforcer have a leg up on other early humans? If so, their culture and their religion would have been more likely to survive.
"I have been arguing that many people are likely to avoid selfish behavior because of concerns for a 'supernatural observer,' " Dr. Johnson said.
"This often seems farfetched to rationalist academics, but there is good evidence that it is important for billions of people across the world."
A few last-minute caveats: Every link in this chain is controversial. Behaviorists, psychologists and biologists have alternate theories about why humans cooperate and practice religion. Even those who agree on the broad outlines disagree about important details.
And even the most fervent proponents say this all adds up to a Darwinian nudge toward niceness, not a shove.
Dr. Bateson wasn't even thinking about religion when she put those eyes up in her break room. But she's thought about it quite a bit since.
"It's interesting," she said, "how often images of people watching you and eyes appear in religious iconography."
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.
Education minister aims to show science and religion can coexist
By Elizabeth York Odessa American
Church and school are usually two different entities. But Benny Keck, education minister at the Sixth & Jackson Church of Christ, said he wants to show that science and religion can — and should — meld.
Keck voiced his approval in December for ECISD's decision to approve a Bible course.
He then spent a month tracking down Brad Harrub, a well-known creationist speaker and author, and invited him to Odessa for a creation seminar Aug. 11 through 13.
"Since Odessa is going to start offering Bible as an alternative course of study, I thought maybe there might be an interest in this," Keck said.
Harrub, director of Focus Press and co-editor of Think magazine, has authored articles with titles like, "Can A Christian Still Be An Evolutionist?," "So You Don't Believe In God?" and "Scientific Foreknowledge In The Bible."
Harrub said he would give evidence of God's existence, a scientific examination of the theory of evolution and commentary about the inspiration for the Bible.
He will contrast the creation account of Genesis with the theory of evolution by addressing dating methods and biblical accounts.
Keck said Christians and non-Christians alike would leave the seminar with worthwhile information and with a greater respect for the Bible.
Harrub said he is "trying to get the truth out there. I feel like a lot of times in the scientific community, we're not getting the full picture. Far too often, folks are indoctrinated that there's only one possibility — and that possibility is evolution."
Belief in the biblical six-day creation is essential to the Christian faith, Harrub said.
"If you compromise that, you might as well compromise the rest of the Bible," he said.
New Testament references refer to creation as fact, Harrub said.
"Either (God) created everything in six days like he said or he didn't," Keck said. "The thing that Dr. Harrub will bring to the lectures — if we don't believe the first 10 words of the Bible, everything else will not be as meaningful."
Copyright © 1999-2006 Odessa American
Watertown firm tests derivative
By Diedtra Henderson, Globe Staff | August 7, 2006
GAITHERSBURG, Md. -- An experimental therapy with humble beginnings as a Chinese herbal remedy is generating excitement among researchers battling HIV when doctors are concerned about the ability of the virus to thwart drugs designed to fight it.
As the International AIDS Conference convenes next week, there are more than 20 drugs available to suppress the virus and at least 82 additional HIV therapies in development. But as quickly as drug companies find ways to sabotage HIV, the virus develops a new survival strategy. Nearly 30 percent of HIV-positive Americans have viral infections that were resistant to at least one drug in the multidrug cocktails that keep them alive.
``We desperately need new compounds with novel mechanisms of action," said Eric Freed, chief of the virus-cell interaction section of the HIV Drug Resistance Program of the National Cancer Institute.
That's why some patients, doctors, and researchers are excited about an experimental drug based on an herb known by the Latin name Syzigium claviflorum that had been used in Taiwan to treat diarrhea and stop bleeding. Now its derivative is being tapped to fight HIV by a small Watertown-based biotechnology company.
If approved by the Food and Drug Administration, bevirimat, developed by Panacos Pharmaceuticals Inc., would represent the first in a new class of drugs that uses an unusual approach to block maturation of the virus that causes AIDS.
The HIV virus can't make copies of itself; instead it hijacks a human cell to borrow its replication machinery. Bevirimat interrupts the process at a key stage, resulting in harmless, immature HIV copies that the body quickly flushes. The therapy is exciting, AIDS specialists say, even though it is at least three years from market, because it could offer a completely new tool to combat a 25-year-old foe.
And, bevirimat works later in the virus life cycle than protease inhibitors, which have been the mainstay of AIDS therapy. That hints at the opportunity to use bevirimat in potent combination with existing drugs, said Dr. Daniel R. Kuritzkes, director of AIDS research at Brigham and Women's Hospital and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Bevirimat is being developed as physicians begin to use drugs from different classes in combination to fight the virus at different steps in its life cycle.
``We can, once again, get control of virus replication in patients with the most advanced disease who are resistant to other drugs and really have a major impact on the course of disease and on survival in these patients," said Kuritzkes, who is a paid consultant to Panacos.
Such new therapies could prove effective when given in combinations of specific classes.
``It's only when we started giving people three drugs from at least two different classes that we really started making an impact," said Kenneth Mayer, medical research director at Boston's Fenway Community Health and a Brown University professor of medicine.
In 2003, roughly 1.2 million Americans lived with acquired immune deficiency syndrome, and another estimated 40,000 Americans are newly infected with the human immunodeficiency virus each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But therapies have been improving steadily. By the calculations of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, people who started AIDS therapy in 2003 lived an estimated 13 years longer than people diagnosed with AIDS in 1988.
Experimental AIDS therapies in clinical trial or awaiting FDA approval hint at more life-saving benefits, like the once-a-day AIDS pill that the agency hailed last month as the ``holy grail" of drug development because it simplifies drug delivery in developing nations. The experimental therapies include drugs that bolster the body's ability to block the doorways that HIV uses to enter cells, that enhance the body's ability to neutralize the virus, and that limit the damage caused by HIV infection.
Panacos estimates its drug could garner $500,000 to $1 billion in peak annual sales from a drug candidate initially spotted by a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who was screening natural products in search of potential HIV therapies.
``There aren't many new mechanism drugs," Graham P. Allaway, Panacos president, said during an interview at the company's research-and- development facility here. ``So far, it looks potent, and it has a great safety profile."
In June, bevirimat entered a crucial, multicenter clinical trial that tests escalating doses of the drug in combination with antiretroviral therapy. If all goes well, the trial could enroll up to 144 patients.
``The proof of the pudding is always what happens when you give it to people and look at what the potency of the antiviral effect is," said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. ``Preliminary results actually indicated that there is the effect that you'd be interested in."
Diedtra Henderson can be reached at email@example.com.
© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
by Rudy Takala
On August 19th, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a prison violated an inmate's religion by not allowing him to form a prayer group. According to the court, "Atheism is [the inmate's] religion, and the group that he wanted to start was religious in nature even though it expressly rejects a belief in a supreme being."
It's not the first time a court has ruled in such a way. In 1961, the Supreme Court defined "secular humanism" as a religion in Torcaso v. Watkins. In the 1965 case United States v. Seeger, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a conscientious objector who claimed that his "skepticism or disbelief in the existence of God" did "not necessarily mean lack of faith in anything whatsoever."
Nonetheless, conservatives seem to have fallen in lockstep on the latest case. A senior trial attorney from the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy said, "Up is down, and atheism, the antithesis of religion, is religion." Shortly after, conservative pundits began to rally in decrying the Circuit's ruling.
Such commentators have unfortunately missed the point. This is not, as one article argued, an issue of whether our founders were Christian men. This is an issue of reality – of what atheism really is. It is a matter of faith. It's an unproven hypothesis that its adherents want to propagate and convince others of.
As such, they have no right to talk about it in government schools. Because the thought of teaching creationism in schools usually causes liberals to hyperventilate, the thought of teaching evolution or atheism should now have the same effect. What's the real problem that liberals have with teaching creationism in schools? Do they oppose it because it's a matter of faith, and not of science? Or do they oppose it because it isn't their faith? We should know soon, since the predominantly atheist belief in evolution has now been defined as a religious matter.
Because non-religion is now a religion, the Establishment Clause of the Constitution now requires all court houses in the United States to publicly display a copy of the Ten Commandments. When religion was defined simply as a belief in God, it was unconstitutional to display religious monuments anywhere near court houses. However, the absence of God has also become a religion. At best, the amount of space in court houses filled by religious paraphernalia will have to be equal to the amount of space without any religious things.
Best of all, public schools are now unconstitutional. Vouchers, they told us, were wrong because, even though they worked, the government wasn't allowed to pay Christians for educating anyone. The government could only support liberal atheists. But because liberal atheism is now a religious establishment, their government-enforced monopoly over the nation's children can no longer be defined as Constitutional. (That's the fifth or sixth reason public education is unconstitutional, anyway. Maybe when we get to ten, it'll be enough to do something about it.)
Instead of rejecting atheists from the club of the abused, spat upon and persecuted, we should welcome them with open arms. While this may enable them to form special cliques called "prayer groups" when they're in prison, it will prevent them from receiving special privileges from the government. They will no longer be able to oppress everyone who professes to be religious, simply on account of their faith.
If atheism is a religion, then we truly have attained religious equality in America. The only question left is when we're going to appoint a judge who will enact that equality.
Rudy Takala is sixteen and was homeschooled for nine years; he currently spends his time taking college classes and writing a book about government education.
The opinions expressed in this column represent those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, views, or philosophy of TheRealityCheck.org, Inc.
In the 1925 Scopes trial, the American Civil Liberties Union sued to allow the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution in public schools. Seventy-five years later, in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the ACLU sued to prevent the teaching of an alternative to Darwin's theory known as "Intelligent Design" -- and won. Why did the ACLU turn from defending the free-speech rights of Darwinists to silencing their opponents? In The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, Jonathan Wells, Ph.D., reveals that, for today's Darwinists, there may be no other choice: unable to fend off growing challenges from scientists, or to compete with rival theories better adapted to the latest evidence, Darwinism - like Marxism and Freudianism before it -- is simply unfit to survive.
Dr. Wells, a biologist and senior fellow at the esteemed Discovery Institute, begins by explaining the basic tenets of Darwinism, and the evidence both for and against it. He reveals, for instance, that the fossil record, which according to Darwin should be teeming with "transitional" fossils showing the development of one species to the next, so far hasn't produced a single incontestable example. On the other hand, certain well-documented aspects of the fossil record - such as the "Cambrian Explosion," in which innumerable new species suddenly appeared fully formed -- directly contradict Darwin's theory. Wells also shows how most of the other "evidence" for evolution -- including textbook "icons" such as Peppered Moths, Darwin's Finches, Haeckel's Embryos, and the Tree of Life -- has been exaggerated, distorted . . . and even faked.
Wells then turns to the theory of Intelligent Design (ID), the idea that some features of the natural world, such as the internal machinery of cells, are too "irreducibly complex" to have resulted from unguided natural processes alone. In clear-cut layman's language, he reveals the growing evidence for ID coming out of scientific specialties from microbiology to astrophysics. And he explains why, since ID is not based on the Bible or religious doctrines, and doesn't draw any conclusions about who (or what) is the cause of design in nature, it is not a form of Biblical creationism or natural theology.
The collapsing case for Darwinism -- and the mounting case for Intelligent Design
How, though Darwin is often credited with citing "overwhelming evidence" for his theory of natural selection, all he actually provided was "one or two imaginary illustrations" of how it might work
Why many of Darwin's contemporaries regarded the same data he cited as evidence, not of common ancestry, but of common design
One pro-Darwin science writer who candidly admits that the chain of fossil ancestry is "a completely human invention created after the fact"
How, despite centuries of artificial breeding and decades of experiments, no one has ever observed one species turn into another ("speciation")
Why most alleged instances of "observed" speciation are actually analyses of already existing species that show how speciation might occur -- but never that it has
Darwin vs. Darwin: how he conceded that his theory was contradicted by known evidence (or lack thereof), though he hoped later findings would vindicate him -- which still hasn't occurred after 150 years
How Darwin's "strongest single class of facts" -- the early vertebrate embryos -- shows the opposite of what he thought it showed
The Cambrian Explosion -- aka biology's "Big Bang": how it contradicts Darwin's branching "Tree of Life"
How science textbooks continue to feature "evidence" for Darwinism that has long since been proven fraudulent
Why the clinical practice of medicine has no use for Darwinism, despite claims that it is impossible to practice medicine without applying its principles
Evolutionary biologist: "Perhaps it would be easier, and in the long run more productive, to abandon the attempt to force the data . . . into the mold provided by Darwin"
National Academy of Sciences member: "Darwin's theory ... serves no important role in guiding modern experimental biology. That branch of science simply makes no practical use of Darwin's theory"
By Mark Nash March/April 2002
How science cheats at proving its pet theory
The word theory, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is "a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for the known facts." To be considered a theory, something must be "confirmed" and account for the "known facts." Evolution has been neither, as shall be proven herein.
In contrast, a "hypothesis" as defined by Oxford is "a proposition or principle put forth or stated (without any reference to its correspondence with fact) merely as a basis for reasoning or argument …. [A] provisional supposition from which to draw conclusions that shall be in accordance with known facts, and which serves as a starting-point for further investigation by which it may be proved or disproved and the true theory arrived at." More simply stated, a hypothesis is an idea or a guess at something without facts to support it. If the evidence proves the hypothesis, it then becomes a theory.
The idea of evolution has never reached that step. At best, evolution is a hypothesis. Unproven and without "correspondence with fact," it stands as an idea scientists seem desperate to substantiate, though they remain unable to do so. An examination of the facts easily proves there is no theory of evolution.
What Is Evolution?
Evolution is the belief that life spontaneously erupted from non-living chemicals—all life today coming from that eruption. It includes the idea that all creatures alive today have, after many varied steps, come into existence from some previously existing creatures. For example, it is claimed that a fish in the past began changing, then, over millions of years and many intermediate steps, became a mammal of today.
Evolution supporters suggest that fish somehow became amphibians and amphibians somehow became mammals. This process is supposed to have taken many millions of years, involving millions of intermediate steps to achieve.
Do not confuse the theory of evolution with adaptation of a species or genetic variation. Adaptation simply means that something changes to fit its environment, not that it changes into some other species. Genetic variation occurs when there are limiting factors in the available gene pool. But again, it does not produce some new species—only changes within the same species.
This can be seen in the different breeds of animals such as horses. Draft horses have been bred to produce size and power; miniature horses for smallness and quarter horses for quickness. No one denies that they have common ancestors, but no one suggests they are no longer horses either. These differences do not represent evolution. Horses are still horses. The evolutionist suggests that perhaps walruses changed into horses, or the other way around.
To investigate evolution, it is necessary to observe the evidence and decide whether the conclusions of evolutionists follow logic and are in harmony with the physical evidence, or if those conclusions are established by conjecture and opinion based on preconceived beliefs.
Falsifying the Truth
Examining the evidence is not as easy as it may seem. It would be assumed that the facts could be found in science books, magazines and articles. That assumption would be wrong. Certainly some facts may be discovered in the scientific literature, but the authors of such works seem bent on promulgating false and misleading information about evolution. With much enthusiasm, proponents of evolution often steer past the facts and go directly to the myths surrounding their beloved hypothesis that guides and even directs the writing of the textbooks and articles they publish.
Using common skills of discernment, anyone can discover the falsehoods included in most pro-evolution writings. Let's expose a few of these obvious attempts to color the public's and even the scientific community's understanding of the unsupported theory of evolution.
Most biology textbooks have a section about evolution. One of the favorite "proofs" commonly included in such a chapter is the similarity of embryos from a variety of animals and man. This information may be traced back to embryologist Ernest Haeckel in the mid-1800s. Haeckel published pictures he claimed were the embryos of a fish, salamander, tortoise, chicken, hog, calf, rabbit and human being. He tried to show that the embryos look similar in the early stages of development. This was supposed to show they all had a common ancestor.
The problem is, the pictures were not accurate; in fact, they were faked. Jonathan Wells wrote in his book Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth?, "When Haeckel's embryos are viewed side by side with actual embryos, there can be no doubt that his drawings were deliberately distorted to fit his theory."
This fraud was known and published as early as 1894 by Professor Adam Sedgwick of Cambridge University, who wrote that the similarities reported by Haeckel are "not in accordance with the facts of development."
Scientists continue to find fault with the "evolutionary evidence" created by Haeckel. In 1977, "Erich Blechschmidt noted: 'The early stages of human embryonic development are distinct from the early development of other species.' And in 1987, Richard Elinson reported that frogs, chicks, and mice 'are radically different in such fundamental properties as egg size, fertilization mechanisms, cleavage patterns, and [gastrulation] movements'" (Wells, op. cit.).
The curator of the fossil collection at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, Stephen Jay Gould, wrote about the Haeckel fraud: "Haeckel had exaggerated the similarities by idealizations and omissions. He also, in some cases—in a procedure that can only be called fraudulent—simply copied the same figure over and over again" (Natural History, March 2000). Gould further commented on the deleterious effect of such "inaccuracy" when it is reproduced in a textbook and not corrected: "The smallest compromise in dumbing down by inaccuracy destroys integrity and places an author upon a slippery slope of no return."
Haeckel's fraudulent drawings are presently in at least ten major biology textbooks published from 1998 through 2000. In each case, they are used to demonstrate the supposed similarity of early embryos in different animals and man, and the authors claim this is evidence of common ancestry and Darwin's evolution hypothesis. These authors simply perpetuate Haeckel's fraud in an effort to promote what they call the "theory" of evolution.
The problem is, the authors of modern science textbooks will include the faked pictures as proof of evolution even when they know of the fraud. Students are being taught these lies as if they are facts. The students then build their own belief system on such lies, only perpetuating the lies.
Even Darwin used the Haeckel lie. In his famous book, On the Origin of Species, Darwin called the similarity of embryos as reported by Haeckel "the strongest single class of facts" for evolution. The father of the "theory" of evolution used evidence from science literature already known to be false. There had already been many articles published in the mid-to-late 1800s which disproved the drawings of Haeckel, making it inconceivable that Darwin was not aware of the fraud. Yet he included Haeckel's pictures not only as evidence for evolution, but also called them "the strongest single class of facts."
There are many other specific examples of misinformation intentionally being published in textbooks. For example, the experiment performed in the early 1950s which supposedly reproduced the atmospheric conditions of the Earth billions of years ago continues to be reported in science textbooks. It claims to show how proteins were formed. The fact is, the scientific community has demonstrated that the environment within the test tubes was unlike any on Earth. There is no evidence the atmosphere was ever made up of the concoction used in this experiment, yet it is regularly referred to as a possible starting point from which all creatures have evolved.
Another example worth mentioning is that of the peppered moths. "Most peppered moths were light-colored in the early part of the 19th century, but during the Industrial Revolution in Britain the moth populations near heavily polluted cities became predominantly 'melanic,' or dark-colored. … [E]xperiments suggested that predatory birds ate light-colored moths when they became more conspicuous on pollution-darkened tree trunks, leaving the dark-colored variety to survive and reproduce" (Wells, op. cit.).
To demonstrate the camouflage of the dark moths, many books, when explaining evolution, have pictures of peppered moths on tree trunks. The dark moths blend in and the light moths stand out clearly. This is supposed to prove the theory of "natural selection." But fraud and lies permeate this deception as well.
As ridiculous as it may seem, the pictures are themselves faked. Peppered moths do not land on tree trunks in nature; they light on the undersurface of small horizontal branches higher in the trees. One researcher (Cyril Clarke) noted that in 25 years of observation he had only seen one peppered moth on a tree trunk. So where did the pictures of peppered moths on tree trunks come from? Dead moths were glued or pinned to the tree trunks. This fact has been known since about 1980, and still the faked pictures are being published in textbooks as proof of evolution.
There are multitudes of other misleading statements, false conclusions and outright lies common to pro-evolution literature. These things continue to be included in modern science textbooks and articles. The reader must sift through the debris to find the facts.
Even with all the fraud currently found in science, there are facts that can be discerned. It takes patience and work to dig them out of the scientific literature, which is so biased in favor of evolution.
One of the easiest facts to discover about evolution is that of the missing links. The evolutionary hypothesis has changed through the years, but it always claims that the animals of today came from predecessors that were different. Birds came from reptiles, for example. Some scientists believe these changes happened slowly over tens of millions of years, while others believe they happened somewhat quickly, perhaps changing in only 5 million years or so. In either case, the changes are supposed to have happened randomly and resulted in life as we see it today.
Evolutionists suggest that many different genetic changes occurred, but only the changes that caused an advantage of some sort remained. In other words, the animals with the weakest changes died out and the stronger, more beneficially changed animals lived on and continued to change.
Here is where the links are missing. If reptiles somehow changed and became mammals, there should be fossils representing the intermediate steps. But there are none. These missing intermediate fossils are referred to as "missing links." And no matter what animal is studied, without exception, there is a gap in the records where these "missing links" exist. Through the millions of years and billions of animals it would take to evolve from one species to another, there is not a single fossil to demonstrate the link from one species to another. Yet the evolutionists base their conclusions on such connecting links as if they were commonplace in the fossil record.
Duane T. Gish, Ph.D., in his book Evolution: The Fossils Still Say NO!, states, "Even though this transition is supposed to have taken 100 million years, not a single intermediate [fossil] has ever been discovered."
According to anthropologist Tom Kemp, in his famous review, Mammal-like Reptiles and the Origin of Mammals, "In no single adequately documented case is it possible to trace a transition, species by species, from one genus to another."
This admission of missing links is nothing new, as is demonstrated by this statement from 1930 by Dr. A.H. Clark in The New Evolution: Zoogenesis: "No matter how far back we go in the fossil record of previous animal life upon Earth, we find no trace of any animal forms which are intermediate between the various major groups or phyla."
Not one "missing link" has been discovered. This represents a huge piece of the evolutionary pie that is missing, and it cannot rationally be ignored. But that is exactly what pro-evolution scientists do. They refuse to release their grip on evolution even when the evidence contradicts their claims.
Even Darwin was aware of the missing evidence for evolution. Evolutionist Sir Edmund Leach stated in Nature 293:19 (1981), "Missing links in the sequence of fossil evidence were a worry to Darwin. He felt sure they would eventually turn up, but they are still missing and seem likely to remain so."
Evolutionists claim that if one creature is physically similar to another, it is evidence of a common ancestor. An example used to demonstrate this hypothesis is found in the bones of the forelimbs of various animals and man. Pictures of the bones in whale flippers, monkey arms and human arms do appear similar.
The possibility that bones in the forelimbs are similar because they were planned and created by the same Designer seems to elude the thinking of evolution scientists. Why? If science is a search for truth, shouldn't scientists consider every option? It seems they will consider every option except that of God.
The idea that life sprang forth from some primordial ooze is at the foundation of the evolutionary concept—that is what evolutionists claim caused life on Earth to begin. However, the idea of spontaneous generation was disproved centuries ago.
Aristotle wrote, "Larvae of the bee or wasp, ticks, fireflies and many other insects develop from the morning dew, or from decaying slime and manure, or from dry wood, hair, sweat and meat" (The Origin of Life, A.I. Oparin). He claimed that worms were generated by moist soil. "Man," he speculated, "may have a similar origin." Aristotle's vain speculations were accepted as truth for many centuries.
In 1668, an Italian named Redi struck this old idea with a fatal blow. The Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course wrote: "By placing gauze over a jar of meat, he prevented flies from depositing their eggs on the meat. He thus prevented the hatching of maggots, which people had been led to assume would spring spontaneously as 'new life' from dead matter.
"After the microscope was invented in 1683, the masterly work of Tyndall and Louis Pasteur proved conclusively that the 'law of biogenesis' [that life can come only from life] held true for microscopic forms of life as well!
"Evolutionists, geneticists, biologists, scientists in any field whatsoever, have never been able to demonstrate, nor to offer the slightest evidence that the living can come into existence from the not-living!
"George Wald, professor of biology at Harvard, admits, 'One has only to contemplate the magnitude of this task to concede that the spontaneous generation of a living organism is impossible. Yet here we are as a result, I believe, of spontaneous generation' (The Physics of Life, p. 9). Notice that some scientists are so steeped in the theory of evolution, they cannot bring themselves to fully accept the absolutely irrefutable proof of scientific laboratory experiments!" (lesson 11).
Ask a paleontologist, geologist, archeologist or geneticist if he believes in spontaneous generation, and he will tell you that it was disproved several hundred years ago. Ask him how life started, and he will tell you it started from lifeless chemicals possibly heated by a spontaneous lightning strike. As Dr. Wald stated above, this is "impossible"!
There is something wrong with a thought process ending with an "impossible" conclusion. At best, it is irrational; at worst, it is intentional deception. Either way, such reasoning is commonplace in the literary support for evolution.
The Diabolical Plot
It may be a difficult task to sort out the facts from the fiction when researching the "theory" of evolution. But harder still for most people is giving up an idea even when it is proven to be wrong. Educator Herbert W. Armstrong wrote, "The most difficult thing for any human seems to be to admit being wrong—to confess error of belief and conviction—to unlearn false knowledge as well as to learn true knowledge" (Mystery of the Ages).
The "theory" of evolution has repeatedly been proven wrong, yet scientists will not admit they have been wrong. They refuse to give up false knowledge and make room for the truth. Their commitment to the false "theory" of evolution is great indeed.
There is only one scenario that fits all the evidence perfectly, and that is creation! The facts support the planned, guided and purposeful design and creation of everything in the physical universe.
The presence of only levo-amino acids in living materials is so mathematically improbable (see sidebar, above), the only way it makes sense is if it was purposely designed—and that requires a Designer and Creator. No other model works.
The anti-creation bias is so deeply rooted within the scientific community that many scientists may not even realize its presence. Their willingness to rely on and teach known lies to students in elementary, secondary, university and graduate studies proves how far they are willing to go to try to substantiate their uncorroborated "theory" of evolution.
Actually, the illogical and otherwise unexplainable vivacity with which evolution is being promoted is evidence of a Creator. There is no other reason for intelligent men and women of science to retain their beliefs in view of the facts. The only rational explanation is a spiritual adversary.
God the Creator has an enemy, Satan the devil, who opposes Him in everything. The influence of God's enemy on the thinking of scientists becomes obvious when they dismiss the truth and accept such lies.
Nearly 2,000 years ago, the following statement was written: "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind …" (Rom. 1:28). Satan has displaced God from the thinking of most humans and God has allowed a "reprobate mind" to be the result. This lack of logic is evident throughout the "theory" of evolution and in the scientists who embrace it.
A few men through the years have recognized the attempt to remove God from the picture systematically. In an article published in the Spectator in 1860, summarizing Darwin's book about evolution, Adam Sedgwick stated, "From first to last it is a dish of rank materialism cleverly cooked and served up. As a system of philosophy it is not unlike the Tower of Babel, so daring in its high aim as to seek a shelter against God's anger; but it is like a pyramid poised on its apex. It is a system embracing all living nature, vegetable and animal; yet contradicting—point blank—the vast treasure of facts that the Author of nature has, during the past two or three thousand years, revealed to our senses. And why is this done? For no other solid reason, I am sure, except to make us independent of a Creator."
Mr. Armstrong once wrote, "Evolution is Satan's most powerful modern weapon. It is Christianity's greatest enemy" ("Putting the Evolution Concept Into Your Child's Mind," 1950).
Explaining the reason for such staunch espousal of the "theory" of evolution, Mr. Armstrong wrote in The Missing Dimension In Sex, "Science as a whole, and higher education, have exercised the academic freedom to postulate a creation without a Creator." The "theory" of evolution demonstrates the depth to which men are willing to go in an attempt to explain creation and leave out God.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Prov. 1:7). Herein is the problem. Men, wanting to have no authority over them, refuse to fear God. They seek any possible explanation to remove the Creator and His rule from their lives. They are, perhaps unknowingly, allies of Satan as assailants of God.
It is possible to discern the truth with careful scrutiny and work. But first to be able to learn the full truth, it is necessary to fear God. Then the real truth about the creation and the Creator may be discovered. God wants mankind to be fully aware of His existence and His plan for the universe!
Satan's influence can be seen in every aspect of human reasoning, and that includes the hypothesis of evolution. Deception has been used in an effort to imprison mankind with ignorance, and evolution is one such attempt.
Jesus Christ made it clear that we can be set free from the lies of this world. Seek real truth is the only way to obtain freedom from ignorance. As He said in John 8:32, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
Copyright © 2006 Philadelphia Church of God
By Chuck Colson Monday, August 7, 2006
The headline was positively gleeful. On the website of the left-wing group DefCon this week, we read: "Science Wins the Day in Kansas."
In fact, just the opposite happened. Science lost in Kansas to zealots who want to keep kids in the dark about the scientific controversy over evolution.
In last week's school board primary election in Kansas, two conservatives who support teaching the evidence both for and against evolution lost to candidates who oppose such teaching. These losses mean Kansas will now have an anti-science majority: members who want to slam the door on free academic inquiry.
One can hardly blame the citizens of Kansas for not knowing what they were voting for. The press attacked as "anti-science" those who support a more comprehensive teaching of evolution. They were aided and abetted by an outfit called Kansas Citizens for Science, which told blatant lies about the current science standards. For example, it claimed the standards mandated instruction about intelligent design—even though they do not. It accused conservative school board candidates of being "intellectually challenged" and "religiously motivated." In reality, conservative board members back science standards written by people who hold doctoral degrees in the life sciences.
Unfortunately, the smear tactics worked. And the question I have is, who paid for this massive campaign? That's something we ought to find out.
But for now it's censorship. Students will not be allowed to learn, for example, about Dr. Michael Behe's theory of irreducible complexity. They will not be told that the teachings of origins is controversial because really it is not science, but about the philosophy of naturalism. There is no verifiable science about how life began—something students will not be told.
Why do strident secularists want to keep kids in the dark? It's because if there is evidence of intelligence in the universe, the secularist orthodoxy is undermined, and they cannot allow even raising those questions—hence, the dishonest claims and the inflammatory rhetoric.
Richard Dawkins, the Oxford professor, is a fierce Darwinist because, as he says, it makes it intellectually respectable to be an atheist. You see, secularists don't care what Christians believe as long as we keep those beliefs to ourselves. But the minute we take those beliefs into the public square, challenging secularist orthodoxy with provable truth claims—like evidence of intelligent design in the universe—they go ballistic.
The good news is that, despite the setback in Kansas, kids will not be in the dark for long. According to a Virginia Commonwealth University survey, 73 percent of Americans want schools to teach both sides. So, if we get the truth out, in a fair election we win.
Second, the controversy itself may even stimulate the curiosity of kids. They will want to know what "the authorities" are banning from their classrooms. If you know of such kids, direct them to the Discovery Institute website, or give them the new book by Jonathan Wells called The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Or have them come to our website, www.breakpoint.org.
The war over evolution teaching is not about pitting religion against science, as the Darwinist lobby claims; it's about opposing bad science with better science. If schools will not admit it, you can equip yourself to teach it to your kids at home.
For further reading and information:
Today's BreakPoint offer: "Teach the Controversy" and "Top Questions about Intelligent Design, Scientific Challenges to Darwinian Evolution, and Science Education Policy" from the Discovery Institute.
Jonathan Wells, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design (Regnery, 2006).
Sign the Stand Up for Science petition to promote objectivity in the public school teaching of evolution.
Monica Davey and Ralph Blumenthal, "Evolution Fight Shifts Direction in Kansas Vote," New York Times, 3 August 2006.
"Anti-Evolution Incumbent in Kansas Wins," Washington Post, 2 August 2006, A16.
"Science Wins the Day in Kansas," DefCon blog, 2 August 2006.