NTS LogoSkeptical News for 15 August 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

9/11 book from church publishing house causes uproar


Author claims U.S. orchestrated attacks

By Peter Smith psmith@courier-journal.com The Courier-Journal

The official publishing house of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has printed a new book about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that has outraged conservatives in the church and elsewhere.

The book, "Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11," written by David Ray Griffin, a professor emeritus at Claremont School of Theology in California, accuses the Bush administration of carrying out the attacks as a pretext for expanding America's "demonic" imperial power.

Griffin argues, among other things, that the World Trade Center towers collapsed because of secretly planted explosives -- he quotes eyewitnesses who claim that's what it looked and sounded like -- and not because airliners crashed into the buildings, causing fires.

Writers on conservative Presbyterian Web sites have been responding by saying officials of the Louisville-based denomination are out of touch with members and by calling for a boycott of Presbyterian Publishing Corp.

The corporation funds itself from book sales and has editorial independence in deciding what to publish, although its board is elected by the denomination's legislative General Assembly.

But as word of the book spreads, some Presbyterians lament that it comes as the 2.3 million-member denomination struggles with financial troubles, declining membership and a controversial General Assembly vote to open the door to ordaining gays.

"It is sad that at this time in the life of our denomination, yet another silly and inflammatory step would be taken by the church's bureaucracy," said the Rev. Michael Walker, executive director of Presbyterians for Renewal, a conservative group based in Louisville.

The Rev. Parker Williamson of the North Carolina-based Presbyterian Lay Committee asked how "these wild accusations make it through the editorial process."

Davis Perkins, president of the publishing company, said the book's stances are not those of the corporation or of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

But in recent written statements, he defended the decision to publish the book, saying it is "not an off-the-wall polemic but rather a considered work" with "49 pages of extensive scholarly notes."

Perkins said Griffin's claims "will not be universally accepted by his readers, but the arguments supporting those claims merit careful consideration by serious-minded Christians and Americans concerned with truth and the meaning of their faith."

The publisher would not say how many of the 7,500 copies of the book have been sold since its publication last month.

The book was published under the corporation's prestigious Westminster John Knox imprint, which produces works on theology and popular spirituality from a range of scholars, including liberal and evangelical Christians and also Jews. It also produces popular works such as "The Gospel According to The Simpsons."

But Perkins said such works haven't stirred controversy over whether they reflect the church's "official position."

Publishing a range of views "is what academic/trade publishers do," he said. The corporation publishes specifically Presbyterian works under a separate imprint, Geneva Press.

Griffin is part of a wider movement whose books and Web sites challenge the official version of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001. Similar claims by University of Wisconsin-Madison instructor Kevin Barrett have brought calls for him to be fired.

In his book, Griffin claims that the U.S. military could have intercepted the four hijacked jets if it had wanted to and that the hijacker accused of slamming an airliner into the Pentagon lacked the flying skills to do so.

Griffin calls on Christians to oppose the Bush administration's foreign policy, just as ancient Christians opposed the Roman Empire. He said that although he doesn't believe in literal evil spirits, such empires have "demonic" power to do great harm.

"Our first allegiance must be to God," he writes. "… If we believe that our political and military leaders are acting on the basis of policies that are diametrically opposed to divine purposes, it is incumbent upon us to say so."

Griffin is a member of another Protestant denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The Presbyterian Publishing Corp. has published several of his books on theology.

Griffin said in an interview last week that for the first year and a half after Sept. 11, he believed the attacks simply were carried out by Arab terrorists angry about American foreign policy. "I didn't think … even the Bush administration would do such a thing," he said.

But skeptics of the widely accepted accounts convinced him that the attacks were "an inside job" used to justify the administration's expansion of military powers and the adoption of the doctrine of pre-emptive war, the basis of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Griffin has written two previous books on this theme under different publishers. The third book seeks to rally church groups into challenging the official accounts.

Griffin said he's heard the recent criticisms from Presbyterians but not "from anybody who's actually read the book."

"It's remarkable how certain people can be that this idea is wrong," he said.

Reporter Peter Smith can be reached at (502) 582-4469.

How to Make Sure Children Are Scientifically Illiterate


August 15, 2006 Essay


Voters in Kansas ensured this month that noncreationist moderates will once again have a majority (6 to 4) on the state school board, keeping new standards inspired by intelligent design from taking effect.

This is a victory for public education and sends a message nationwide about the public's ability to see through efforts by groups like the Discovery Institute to misrepresent science in the schools. But for those of us who are interested in improving science education, any celebration should be muted.

This is not the first turnaround in recent Kansas history. In 2000, after a creationist board had removed evolution from the state science curriculum, a public outcry led to wholesale removal of creationist board members up for re-election and a reinstatement of evolution in the curriculum.

In a later election, creationists once again won enough seats to get a 6-to-4 majority. With their changing political tactics, creationists are an excellent example of evolution at work. Creation science evolved into intelligent design, which morphed into "teaching the controversy," and after its recent court loss in Dover, Pa., and political defeats in Ohio and Kansas, it will no doubt change again. The most recent campaign slogan I have heard is "creative evolution."

But perhaps more worrisome than a political movement against science is plain old ignorance. The people determining the curriculum of our children in many states remain scientifically illiterate. And Kansas is a good case in point.

The chairman of the school board, Dr. Steve Abrams, a veterinarian, is not merely a strict creationist. He has openly stated that he believes that God created the universe 6,500 years ago, although he was quoted in The New York Times this month as saying that his personal faith "doesn't have anything to do with science."

"I can separate them," he continued, adding, "My personal views of Scripture have no room in the science classroom."

A key concern should not be whether Dr. Abrams's religious views have a place in the classroom, but rather how someone whose religious views require a denial of essentially all modern scientific knowledge can be chairman of a state school board.

I have recently been criticized by some for strenuously objecting in print to what I believe are scientifically inappropriate attempts by some scientists to discredit the religious faith of others. However, the age of the earth, and the universe, is no more a matter of religious faith than is the question of whether or not the earth is flat.

It is a matter of overwhelming scientific evidence. To maintain a belief in a 6,000-year-old earth requires a denial of essentially all the results of modern physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology and geology. It is to imply that airplanes and automobiles work by divine magic, rather than by empirically testable laws.

Dr. Abrams has no choice but to separate his views from what is taught in science classes, because what he says he believes is inconsistent with the most fundamental facts the Kansas schools teach children.

Another member of the board, who unfortunately survived a primary challenge, is John Bacon. In spite of his name, Mr. Bacon is no friend of science. In a 1999 debate about the removal of evolution and the Big Bang from science standards, Mr. Bacon said he was baffled about the objections of scientists. "I can't understand what they're squealing about," he is quoted as saying. "I wasn't here, and neither were they."

This again represents a remarkable misunderstanding of the nature of the scientific method. Many fields — including evolutionary biology, astronomy and physics — use evidence from the past in formulating hypotheses. But they do not stop there. Science is not storytelling.

These disciplines take hypotheses and subject them to further tests and experiments. This is how we distinguish theories that work, like evolution or gravitation.

As we continue to work to improve the abysmal state of science education in our schools, we will continue to battle those who feel that knowledge is a threat to faith.

But when we win minor skirmishes, as we did in Kansas, we must remember that the issue is far deeper than this. We must hold our elected school officials to certain basic standards of knowledge about the world. The battle is not against faith, but against ignorance.

Lawrence M. Krauss is a professor of physics and astronomy at Case Western Reserve University.

Omenn, Leshner Tell Kansas Voters There's No Conflict Between Science and Religion


In a commentary in the Wichita Eagle, AAAS Chairman Gilbert S. Omenn and CEO Alan I. Leshner urged Kansas voters to reject the arguments of extremists and to vote for the future prosperity of Kansas and its children.

The op-ed was published Sunday 30 July, just two days before a crucial set of primary elections for the controversial Kansas state Board of Education—elections which have drawn extensive national attention. The current board last year pushed through science education standards that change the definition of science and open the way toward teaching religious doctrine in public school science classes, and several board members who advocated those positions are facing strong challenges from within their own parties.

The AAAS commentary said that the discussion over how to teach evolution has been dominated by extremists in both the science and religion camps. Often, the authors said, the issues "are wrongly cast as a conflict between science and religion, as if they were two rival football teams."

"If extremists dominate the discussion, misunderstanding thrives, to the detriment of everyone," they wrote.

"This issue divides us at a time when we need to come together to preserve our nation's status as the world's powerhouse of innovation…America faces unprecedented science-related challenges—to protect our national security, to find new energy sources, and to defend against diseases such as avian flu. If we undermine science education, we put the people of Kansas and the United States at risk."

Omenn is chairman of the AAAS board and a professor of medicine, genetics and public health at the University of Michigan. Leshner is chief executive of AAAS and executive publisher of the journal Science.

Click here to see a PDF of the full commentary from the Wichita Eagle.

Edward W. Lempinen

31 July 2006

How did we get here?


Evolution is on the way out - more than 30% of students in the UK say they believe in creationism and intelligent design. Harriet Swain reports on a surprising new survey

Tuesday August 15, 2006 The Guardian

Chris Parker, a final-year English student at Hertford College, Oxford, believes God made the world. Ask him why, and he talks cogently about the gaps in evolutionary theory and how explanations involving intelligent design are unsatisfactory. But, ultimately, it is because: "As a Christian, I have believed in it for a long time and I have no reason to doubt it."

Kim Nicholas, who is studying to be a primary school teacher at the University of Hertfordshire, agrees. "I have grown up in a family that goes to church and I have become a Christian," she says. "When I look at things in the world I think it is amazing that God has created it for us. If you have faith in God you can believe he has done it, whether there is evidence or not."

Annie Nawaz, a second-year law student at Hertfordshire, distinguishes between scientific and "natural" evidence written in stone in the holy books. "As a practising Muslim, the holy Qur'an - that's our proper evidence," she says. It does bother her when this conflicts with other kinds of evidence, but "it just comes down to the way you have been brought up and your beliefs and values and how strong they are".

Such views are less unusual among UK students than you might think. In a survey last month, more than 12% questioned preferred creationism - the idea God created us within the past 10,000 years - to any other explanation of how we got here. Another 19% favoured the theory of intelligent design - that some features of living things are due to a supernatural being such as God. This means more than 30% believe our origins have more to do with God than with Darwin - evolution theory rang true for only 56%.

Opinionpanel Research's survey of more than 1,000 students found a third of those who said they were Muslims and more than a quarter of those who said they were Christians supported creationism. Nearly a third of Christians and 10% of those with no particular religion favoured intelligent design. Women were more likely to choose spiritual explanations: less than half chose evolution, with 14% preferring creationism and 22% intelligent design.

While three years of learning how to weigh evidence appears to make students slightly more inclined towards evolution, with 57% of third-years choosing it compared with 54% of first-years, it does not appear to put them off belief in God. As many third-years as first-years believed in creationism, although slightly fewer supported intelligent design.

The findings come as little surprise to Roger Downie, professor of zoological education at Glasgow University. Two years ago he surveyed the views on evolution of biology and medical students there. "What was extremely worrying for students embarking on evidence- and science-based disciplines was that they were perfectly prepared to say they had rejected it not on the basis of evidence but on the basis of their religious beliefs," he says.

He says schools and universities need to be clearer about how science differs from other evidence, such as that provided by religion. "The impression people get is that science is about accumulating a lot of facts in your head rather than testing of evidence and fine-tuning what you find."

Scientists have recently expressed growing concern about creationism being taught alongside evolution in schools, particularly at the new academies run by the Christian Vardy Foundation. In April, a Royal Society statement opposed the misrepresentation of evolution in schools to promote particular religious beliefs.

Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London, who gave a public lecture on "Why evolution is right and creationism is wrong" at the time, has been talking about evolutionary biology in schools for 20 years. For the first 10 of those he was lucky to find one student in 1,000 expressing creationist beliefs. "Now in any school I go to I meet a student who says they are a creationist or delude themselves that they are."

He blames the influence of Christian fundamentalists in America and political correctness among teachers here who, he says, feel they have to give a reasonable hearing to beliefs held by people from other cultures, particularly Muslims.

In the Opinionpanel survey, nearly 20% said they had been taught creationism as fact by their main school. Most thought it would be best to teach a range of theories, but nearly 30% of those who supported creationism felt that pupils should learn about creationism alone.

According to Linda Woodhead, professor in the sociology of religion at Lancaster University, religious studies is now the biggest growth subject in schools. She suggests that this reflects pupils' interest in philosophical and moral questions - questions that are likely to persist into their undergraduate years. "I don't think there is anywhere in the curriculum where most university students get these sorts of questions addressed," she says.

Some universities are beginning to recognise this. Jeremy Rayner, professor of zoology at Leeds University, which is to incorporate lectures on creationism and intelligent design into its second-year course for zoology and genetics next year, says the idea is to teach students about the creationism hypothesis "so they are in a position to make their own rational judgment and counter it".

While he has seen no evidence that students are more inclined to believe in creationism, he perceives a growing willingness within the creation movement to be prepared to cause disruption by promoting its views. "The best thing we can do," he says, "is what universities should be doing anyway - producing bright, intelligent young minds with the confidence to be advocates for science."

Criticism of Evolution Can't Be Silenced


by Phyllis Schlafly Posted Aug 14, 2006

The liberal press is reporting that the seesaw battle for control of the Kansas Board of Education just teetered back to pro-evolutionists for the second time in five years. But to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of the movement to allow criticism of evolution are grossly exaggerated.

In its zeal to portray evolution critics in Kansas as dumb, rural fundamentalists, a New York Times Page 1 story misquoted Steve Abrams (the school board president who had steered Kansas toward allowing criticism of evolution) on a basic principle of science. The newspaper had to correct its error.

The issue in the Kansas controversy was not intelligent design and certainly not creationism. The current Kansas standards state: "To promote good science, good pedagogy and a curriculum that is secular, neutral and non-ideological, school districts are urged to follow the advice provided by the House and Senate Conferees in enacting the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001."

This "advice," which the Kansas standards quote, is: "The Conferees recognize that quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society."

The newly elected school board members immediately pledged to work swiftly to restore a science curriculum that does not subject evolution to criticism. They don't want students to learn "the full range of scientific views" or that there is a "controversy" about evolution.

Liberals see the political value to teaching evolution in school, as it makes teachers and children think they are no more special than animals. Childhood joy and ambition can turn into depression as children learn to reject that they were created in the image of God.

The press is claiming that the pro-evolution victory in Kansas - where, incidentally, voter turnout was only 18 percent - was the third strike for evolution critics. In December a federal judge in Dover, Pa., prohibited the school from even mentioning intelligent design, and in February, the Ohio board of education nixed a plan to allow a modicum of critical analysis of evolution.

But one strikeout does not a ballgame win. Gallup Polls have repeatedly shown that only about 10 percent of Americans believe the version of evolution commonly taught in public schools and, despite massive public school indoctrination in Darwinism, that number has not changed much in decades.

Intelligent judges are beginning to reject the intolerant demands of evolutionists. In May, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision by a Clinton-appointed trial judge to prohibit the Cobb County, Ga., school board from placing this sticker on textbooks: "Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."

Fortunately, judges and politicians cannot control public debate about evolution. Ann Coulter's new book, "Godless: The Church of Liberalism" (Crown Forum, $28), has enjoyed weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.

Despite bitter denunciations by liberals, funny thing, there has been a thundering silence about the one-third of her book in which she deconstructs Darwinism. She calls it the cosmology of the Church of Liberalism.

Coulter's book charges that evolution is a cult religion, and described how its priests and practitioners regularly treat critics as religious heretics. The Darwinists' answer to every challenge is to accuse their opponents of, horrors, a fundamentalist belief in God.

Although liberals spent a lot of money to defeat members of the Kansas school board members on Aug. 1, they are finding it more and more difficult to prop up Darwinism by the censorship of criticism. The polite words for the failure of Darwinism to prove its case are gaps in the theory, but Coulter's book shows that dishonesty and hypocrisy are more accurate descriptions.

Evolutionists are too emotionally committed to face the failure of evidence to support their faith, but they are smart enough to know that they lose whenever debate is allowed, which is why they refused the invitation to present their case at a public hearing in Kansas. But this is America, and 90 percent of the public will not remain silenced.

Mrs. Schlafly is the author of the new book The Supremacists: The Tyranny of Judges and How to Stop It (Spence Publishing Co).

Kansas' evolution standards have hurt its reputation


By Erin Castaneda Monday, August 14, 2006

The Kansas State Board of Education's return to moderate hands could reshape current science standards, but the state's reputation might not be fixed as quickly.

The results of the state primary elections held on Aug. 1 will give the board a 6-4 moderate majority in January. The board is predicted to reverse current science standards removing anti-evolution teachings from science classrooms.

When Janet Waugh, democratic victor in District 1, which includes eastern Lawrence, said that when she resumed her position on the board state science standards would be one of the first issues addressed.

Waugh said she supported both evolution and creationism being taught in the appropriate settings. Waugh said that the current conservative board's decision to include criticism of the theory of evolution in its science curriculum had made the state a laughing stock.

"I think it's unfair and tragic because the reality is we rank in the top 10 of the nation in every category educationally, but if we continue the path we were on with radicals and conservatives, I think the ranking would be lower," Waugh said.

Rob Weaver, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, whose discipline is molecular biology, also said the reputation of Kansas had been tarnished.

Weaver said that tarnished image had affected the University in two ways.

First, he said that professor recruitment suffered. He said the University needed the best possible professors, but if the best were reluctant to apply because of the social controversy, then students would suffer.

"If I was in my 30s and looking for a job, I wouldn't apply," he said. "But KU is a hotbed for evolution study."

Secondly, he said incoming college students were missing a piece of their science education if they weren't taught that evolution was a valid theory.

Liza Holeski, Rio Grande, Ohio, ecology and evolutionary biology graduate student, teaches entry-level biology classes at the University. She has found that many of her undergraduate students never discussed evolution in high school.

"You can just tell that they probably have never had evolution in science class," she said. "The word itself has a stigma because of the debate that's been going on for so long."

Steve Case, ecology and evolutionary biology professor, said that no scientific debate existed and that it was a controversy manufactured by society.

Case said that although many scientific theories were disproved given time, the theories of evolution had not been met with any sound competing evidence. He said God had suddenly become a testable object, which he said was a problem with Intelligent Design. Instead of limiting science to natural phenomena, he said current standards opened up science testing to everything, including prayer.

"We don't have the tools to research God," Case, a former religion teacher, said.

Case is also the chairman of the science committee that writes curriculum standards for grades K-12. Case said the standards defined the word science so teachers could easily explain it to their students.

"Students aren't stupid," he said. "If you lie to them they will know and it will destroy your credibility."

Steve Abrams, conservative republican and chairman of the board, said he would like to see the current standards continue.

"I think any time you put forth science standards formed in a dogmatic fashion it is a step backwards," he said. "I'm not in favor of scripture being taught in classes. I support only good peer-reviewed, empirical science standards and those things don't support evolution."

Kansan staff writer Erin Castaneda can be contacted at ecastaneda@kansan.com.

— Edited by Erin Wiley

Monday, August 14, 2006

Baylor denies tenure to highly regarded Beckwith


Mar 31, 2006 By Erin Roach Baptist Press

WACO, Texas (BP)--Controversy continues at Baylor University as the Baptist-affiliated school has denied tenure to a faculty member who is president-elect of the 4,000-member Evangelical Theological Society.

Francis Beckwith, associate director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies and associate professor of church-state studies, was notified March 24 he would not be granted tenure.

The move prompted an extensive article by the editor of First Things, a noted journal published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life led by Catholic theologian Richard John Neuhaus.

Whereas Baylor had been "serious about trying to become the premier Christian research university in America," First Things editor Joseph Bottum wrote March 27, "Today, the plan is in tatters, and Baylor has apparently decided to sink back into its diminished role as a not terribly distinguished regional school.

"President [Robert] Sloan is gone, the new high-profile faculty are demoralized and sniffing around for positions at better-known schools, energetic programs like the Intelligent Design institute have been chased away, and the bright young professors are having their academic careers ruined by a school that lured them to campus with the promises of the 2012 plan and now is simply embarrassed by them," Bottum wrote.

In a statement issued to Baptist Press April 1, Beckwith stated:

"My case is currently in appeal, and I am cautiously optimistic about my prospects. Thus, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the tenure process at this time.

"My hope, of course, is that the appeal will be successful and that I will remain at Baylor, an institution at which my wife and I have forged life-long friendships with colleagues, students and their families," Beckwith continued.

"I have such a wonderful life, with a terrific family, a beautiful and loving wife, wonderful friends, and a support group of brothers and sisters both inside and outside the church that would be the envy of anyone," Beckwith said. "I have been remarkably blessed. So, last week's [tenure] news pales in comparison to the grace and gifts that have animated my life and will continue to do so long after the memory of this time has faded."

Beckwith holds Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in philosophy from Fordham University and a master of Juridical Studies degree from the Washington University School of Law.

The author of numerous published articles and books, his "Law, Darwinism, and Public Education" presents a case as to why it is not unconstitutional to teach Intelligent Design in public schools, though his personal belief is that as a matter of policy it should not be taught in public schools. Beckwith's latest book has been accepted for publication by Cambridge University Press.

Beckwith was a featured speaker at a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary forum in February, where he addressed the issue of Intelligent Design in public schools and said the striking down of a policy based solely on the religious motives of its adherents is "logically fallacious and constitutionally suspect."

"Religious belief is one of the few rights absolutely protected under the Constitution," Beckwith stated. "The government may penalize actions, not beliefs. Beliefs that propel a citizen to embrace particular policies may not be used by the government to limit a citizen's legitimate liberties or powers."

A Baylor student came to Beckwith's defense in a letter to the editor of the school's newspaper, The Lariat, saying the professor should not be denied tenure.

"This is an outrageous decision on the part of [newly elected] President [John Mark] Lilley. The opposition which Beckwith has encountered is certainly not due to any shortcomings in scholarship; the reasons for his denial of tenure are far more political," Brian Fuller, a philosophy and religion major, wrote in the March 31 issue.

"As an outspoken proponent of pro-life, conservatism and [the Sloan initiative] Baylor 2012, Dr. Beckwith's ideology has somehow offended a few of Baylor's more influential alumni," Fuller added. "It is outrageous that financial gain should ever overshadow intellectual openness and Christian conviction. If the love of money is the root of all evil, censorship is the trunk of the tree. Beckwith, a man of genius and integrity, is an asset that Baylor cannot afford to lose."

Lilley, a Baylor alum and Presbyterian church member, was named Baylor's president last November, 10 months after Sloan resigned after a 10-year tenure regarded as visionary to conservative academicians across the country and controversial among Baylor traditionalists.

Lori Fogleman, director of media relations at the Waco, Texas, campus, told Baptist Press tenure decisions are confidential personnel matters and it is the university's policy not to discuss them publicly. She also responded to Bottum's assessment of Baylor as an academic institution on a downward spiral.

"As far as the First Things article goes, we're aware of it but obviously we don't agree with the writer's conclusion," Fogleman said. "Baylor 2012 is still very much on track, and while the writer has a right obviously to express his own opinion, we don't agree with his conclusions."

John West, a senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, said he regards Beckwith as "a gentleman in the classic sense of the term, someone who is liked and respected even by his fair-minded opponents." But the professor's views "are out of sync with the left-wing ideologues who control much of American academia."

"That a scholar of Beckwith's stature should be denied tenure at Baylor raises serious questions about the university's commitment to fairness and academic freedom," West wrote March 28 at discovery.org. "This is especially the case since it has been reported that Beckwith's annual evaluations leading up to the tenure denial were glowing. He is said to have received the rating 'exceeds expectations' each year. Apparently he exceeded expectations too much for some members of Baylor's faculty.

"Given Beckwith's exemplary record as a scholar, it seems entirely likely that he was rejected by Baylor because of his viewpoint," West added. "If so, it wouldn't be the first time thought-police on Baylor's faculty tried to suppress a scholar for harboring views they despised."

A couple of years ago, Baylor let go of mathematician William Dembski, who since 1999 had served as associate research professor at Baylor's Institute for Faith and Learning. Dembski, a leading proponent of Intelligent Design, has worked on mathematical algorithms that examine the difference between objects that were designed and those that occurred naturally.

An anonymous Baylor graduate student wrote an opinion piece for The American Spectator regarding Baylor's denial of tenure to Beckwith, saying everyone he spoke with on campus the day the news broke was shocked.

The student said those at Baylor who cared most about seeing Sloan's vision fulfilled expected to see a crucial indicator of its future when Beckwith's tenure came up for review.

"Out of the class of faculty members under consideration, he was the best-known and the most public symbol of Sloan's vision," the student wrote March 27. "Either the university would allow those who pushed Robert Sloan out to take further revenge on one of his prize academic recruits or it would ensure that the decision was made objectively and fairly based on job performance. Regrettably, we now know which path Baylor chose."


Seed Magazine Writes About the 'Clergy Letter Project'


By Rev. Mark H. Creech March 31, 2006

(AgapePress) - Seed Magazine is a part of Seed Media Group, which describes itself as "an emerging science media and entertainment company" that creates and distributes "content that communicates science's fast changing place in our culture to an international audience."

In a recent article titled "Strange Bedfellows," Seed reported on the Clergy Letter Project, which garnered the signatures of over 10,000 clergy who claim the "theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth" that is compatible with Christianity. Because I had written a column entitled "Rebuking the Clergy Letter Project," Seed requested an interview with me for the story.

The article, I thought, was certainly skewed toward evolution, accepting rather blindly New York Times science writer Ken Chang's assessment that the Discovery Institute's "Dissent from Darwin" statement (a statement by over 500 doctoral scientists expressing doubts concerning the claims of evolution) was without credibility because most of its signers were evangelical non-biologists. According to John West of the Discovery Institute, most of the scientists Chang interviewed didn't base their doubts of Darwinism on their religion, but their scientific views. And it shouldn't present a problem some of the scientists were non-biologists when so many of Darwinism's most avid defenders are non-biologists. Moreover, West argues the single largest group of the signers was biologists (154 of the 514). He adds: "Of course the list also includes many scientists specializing in chemistry, physics, engineering, mathematics/statistics, and related disciplines. But since Darwinists continually assert that their theory has implications for many scientific fields, why shouldn't scientists from these other fields have the right to speak out?"

One aspect I did, however, appreciate about the article was its objectivity regarding the Clergy Letter Project. It simply states: "While most of the signing clergy interviewed espoused the common theme that their religion is pro-science, many others were mistaken about the science they apparently supported." Indeed, many on that list are obviously in error -- failing to recognize that evolution by definition repudiates the Scripture's teaching of a Sovereign God and the full scope of His work in Christ to the consummation. As I noted in the Seed article: "Clergy, like those that have signed the Clergy Letter Project -- those that have given away a portion of the truth in order to defend the rest of it -- are no real friends of true religion or the Bible." They have, without question, embraced something that is neither good science nor religion.

When Maggie Witlin, the author of the piece in Seed Magazine contacted me about an interview, she sent me a series of very probing and insightful questions via e-mail that I sought to answer thoroughly. However, only a smidgen of what I gave Witlin was used in her article. I thought many would be interested in knowing what her questions were and how they were answered. I've included them below with a prayerful spirit that God might use what was said as a means of defending and furthering the truth.

1. What was your first reaction to the Clergy Letter Project? What do you find most troubling about it?

I must confess my first reaction to The Clergy Letter Project was one of grief, but not one of surprise. We are, unfortunately, living in a day when clergy by the masses are exchanging the inerrant and eternal truth of Holy Scripture for the newest morality, theology, or latest intellectual sophistry. Ministers are charged with a high and holy calling. Deposited to their care are the oracles of God found in the Bible. They are required to preserve and teach them faithfully.

Jesus used bitter and castigating words to denounce the religious leaders of his day that failed in this task. They added and subtracted from the Scriptures and substituted them with the empty philosophies, speculations, and traditions of men. These religious leaders required the oracles of God to adapt to their presuppositions rather than necessitating their presuppositions conform to the Word of God. Thus, Jesus said that they had become "blind guides" and had "shut up the kingdom of heaven." The Clergy Letter Project is a perfect modern day example of this situation.

What is most troubling about this type of approach to the Scriptures -- the kind that says the creation account is not trustworthy -- that it is mythological and shouldn't be taken literally -- that it should be read as metaphorical or as an allegorical story is that it creates a wake of jumbled moral confusions and provides no certain light -- no sure word regarding God, life, and eternity.

2. Very briefly (because I can gather this from your AgapePress editorial), what are your scientific concerns with evolution and members of the clergy favoring its teaching?

Evolution is not supported by the majority of scientific laws, such as the laws of first cause, the First and Second Law of Thermodynamics. In short, how can evolution be science if it is not supported by science?

Although many contend evolution is a proven scientific fact, this is simply a false teaching. There are thousands of scientists today who reject evolution. Just recently, WorldNetDaily reported "[m]ore than 500 scientists with doctoral degrees have signed a statement expressing skepticism about Darwin's theory of evolution." The statement includes the signatures of some incredibly prestigious persons in the scientific community from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, The Smithsonian, The National Institute of Health's National Center for Biotechnology Information, Rivista di Biologia/Biology Forum, Giuseppe Sermonti and Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, MIT, Cambridge University, UCLA, University of California at Berkeley, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, Ohio State University, University of Georgia and University of Washington. If evolution were a scientifically proven fact, so many reputable scientists wouldn't be expressing such skepticism.

Neither evolution nor creation is, in fact, a valid scientific theory or hypothesis because neither can really be tested. When this is the case, that is that neither can be confirmed experimentally, then the usual practice is that the system or model that correlates the greatest number of data, with the smallest number of unresolved contradictory data, is favored as the model most plausible to be correct. So both evolution and creation are essentially faith systems with claims of evidence to be considered. However, I am unswervingly convinced the system that has the strongest evidence for the truth is creation science and not evolution. Once all the data is carefully considered, I believe it takes much more faith to accept the claims of evolution than the claims of the Bible's creation account.

When clergy embrace the teachings of evolution as truth and abandon the authority of Scripture, they are not using their brains as The Clergy Letter Project claims; instead they are demonstrating they have been brainwashed.

3. Do you believe that science is a way to truth? How much truth can it provide, and what kinds of truth can it provide?

I genuinely believe that all truth is from God, whether truth in science or in the Bible. The Ten Commandments and Jesus' Sermon on the Mount are surely from God. But so is the musical scale, the multiplication table, the chemical composition of water, the photosynthesis of a plant, and the laws of gravity -- all these factual principles are from God. God is the source of truth.

God is also the one who established all scientific laws, and good science will point to Him. That's why we needn't fear that there will ever be a discovery of some scientific fact that contradicts the Bible properly interpreted.

For instance, some Christians (I don't know of any today, but this was the case at one time) have erroneously taught that the earth is flat and that it has four corners, because the Bible says God "shall assemble the outcasts of the earth and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" (Isaiah 11:12). John Jasper, a famous minister of yesteryear from Richmond, Virginia, used to preach a sermon titled, The Sun Do Move. Jasper's premise was that the Bible teaches that the world is flat and stationary and the sun moves around the earth. But good Bible scholars know this is a poor interpretation and a violation of the most fundamental principles of hermeneutics -- the science and art of interpretation.

Let's not forget that the Bible also speaks of the earth as a sphere or a globe in Isaiah 40:22. Jesus implied that the earth revolves around its axis when he spoke of his Second Coming in Luke 17:34-36. In other words, when Christ comes again -- in that one brief moment -- in some part of the earth it will be night and people will be sleeping and in another part it will be day and they will be working.

Obviously, the "four corners of the earth" is just colorful language used to describe four directions, namely, north, east, south and west. Christ spoke of gathering Israel "from the four winds" (Matthew 24:31). Such language to describe the natural world is simply that of observation and never meant to be interpreted as doctrine for a flat earth.

No, there is no contradiction in the Bible to any fact of science, when the Scriptures are properly interpreted.

However, science doesn't always get it right either. The evolutionist's interpretation of the geological formations, for example, has caused many to think in terms of slowly accumulated strata. The evolutionist describes the earth as millions of years old -- such is the heart of evolutionary theory. (The data accumulated by scientists and their interpretation in favor of an earth developed over millions of years has caused many theologians to abandon their belief in a six day creation and advance such theories as "The Gap Theory," "The Day-Age Theory," "Progressive Creation," "Theistic Evolution," etc.) But all of what the scientist sees is not what it seems. A scientific examination of geological processes reveals that something cataclysmic occurred that transformed the world into the way it appears today. What we currently see in geological features is primarily the result of the Noahic flood as described in the book of Genesis and not evolutionary processes. The earth is still relatively young as the Bible reveals and not millions of years old as evolutions contend. Thus, I suggest it is the scientists' interpretation of the data that often misleads.

I would agree the Bible is not a textbook on science. But that doesn't mean that it is either untrue or unscientific when it mentions matters of science incidentally or plainly. In order to find the truth either in science or the Bible, the proper interpretation is the key. This is not simply a subjective matter, however. Theologians must use proper hermeneutics. And scientists who properly interpret their data won't be lead away from God and the teachings of the Bible.

Moreover, clergy, like those that have signed The Clergy Letter Project, those that have given away a portion of the truth in order to defend the rest of it, are no real friends of true religion or the Bible. If the Bible has errors with respect to science, but not theology, what is to prove the theology is correct if the science isn't? In other words, if the Bible isn't correct when it speaks of creation, how can it be trusted when it speaks of salvation? If the Scriptures are not right when it speaks of the earth, how can it be trusted when it speaks of heaven?

4. What is your precise denomination (I'm not familiar with subdivisions of Baptism)? Do you believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible? Do you believe different Christian denominations and sects are all good Christians? (If the phrasing of these questions feel off to you, please feel free to answer slightly different versions of the questions)

I am a Southern Baptist. However, as Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, I represent conservative evangelicals from fifteen different denominations in the Tar Heel State.

Your questions, "Do you believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible?" and "How literally should a Christian take the Bible?" are, I believe, somewhat misleading. Again, I need to reiterate. The scientific method used for properly interpreting Scripture is hermeneutics. Those that use these principles for interpretation discover the Bible is a divinely inspired book, but clearly meant to be understood on a human level. Every sentence must be understood within its proper context: its author's intentions, its intended audience, when it was written, whether it's poetry, allegory, or a historical narrative. The Genesis narrative, however, is plainly a historical narrative, and, therefore, must be read and interpreted as literal history.

No matter what denomination one may come from, there is essentially only one qualification to rightly assume the identification of "Christian." One must receive the Lord Jesus Christ and enter into a personal relationship with Him as Lord and Savior (John 1:16). One must acknowledge their sinfulness and turn to Him in faith for forgiveness, believing that Christ's finished work on the Cross and bodily resurrection from the dead is sufficient for their redemption from sin and receiving the gift of eternal life, not their good works (I Corinthians 15:1-4; I John: 5:13; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9). Good works are the natural outworking of a genuine conversion experience and not what secures one's place in the kingdom of God. According to the Bible, all saints are but saved sinners.

This is why millions of what we might call "good Christians" believe God used the means of Darwinian evolution (not realizing that the purpose of evolution is to completely discount God -- to entirely remove Him from the picture) to create the earth. But in taking that approach they unwittingly compromise the integrity of the very faith they say they hold so dear. It's a failure on their part.

In the end, only God can judge to what extent the degree of their guilt -- whether they were really "good Christians" or not -- whether their allegiance to evolution was out of spiritual ignorance or whether it was a willful departure from God's revealed truth.

5. If evolution were shown to be true, as many scientists say it is under the standard scientific burden of proof, how should a good Christian deal with it? (i.e, You discuss how evolution is bad science, but if it were good science, would that matter? Or do you not believe good science can possibly ever contradict Christian thought?)

It is impossible and will remain impossible to scientifically prove the theory of evolution, no matter how many scientists say otherwise. Scientists who insist that evolution has been scientifically proven are simply disseminating a false teaching. As I mentioned in my editorial: "Evolution operates too slowly to be measured. To actually observe the transmutation of one organism to a higher form would presumably take millions of years. No team of scientists could ever make measurements on such an experiment, and, therefore, the matter is beyond the realm of empirical science. Although there is some evidence of small variations in organisms today, there is no way to conclusively prove the changes within the present kinds can eventually metamorphose or actually change into different and higher kinds."

What is more, the Second Law of Thermodynamics constitutes an incredible difficulty for evolutionists. Creationists are often baffled at the way evolutionists seem to dismiss it. This law states that there exists a fundamental and universal change in nature that is downhill and not uphill, as evolution claims. In order for an organism to advance or evolve, energy must in some way be introduced, gained or increased. The Second Law, however, says this will not happen in any natural process unless external factors enter in to produce it. This, in effect, acknowledges the validity of the creationist approach and not that of evolution. Various inadequate explanations for reconciling the Second Law with evolution have been offered, but creation doesn't have to explain it. Instead, the creation model -- the creation account in Genesis -- fits it perfectly.

Evolution poses an insurmountable difficulty for any Christian serious about their faith. It is neither scientific by definition and it certainly isn't good theology. The biblical God is not a God of chance and confusion, random combinations, natural selection and "survival of the fittest." He is a sovereign God -- sovereign in all matters of life. Evolution by definition denies this and repudiates the full scope of the work of God in Jesus Christ from the creation to the consummation. Clergy who fail to realize this end up proffering a "gospel" (which is no gospel at all) of randomness and uncertainty forever. They turn men from a God of creative purpose to a god of chance.

6. How do your colleagues seem to feel regarding evolution and its teaching? Are you in contact with any people who are pro-teaching evolution?

I believe most of my colleagues reject evolution by its definition and seek to counter it by their preaching and teaching. Nevertheless, some have adopted various theories such as the "Gap Theory," "Day Age Theory," "Theistic Evolution," etc. in order to try and reconcile the many claims of evolution against the Bible. Though their intentions may be good -- an effort to protect the integrity of the Bible -- I believe this a mistake, largely an act of panic, and completely unnecessary.

I am at times with people who espouse evolution. Whenever I have challenged their claims, however, I am often met with ridicule, sometimes with curiosity, and other times with a genuine desire to pursue the matter more. Sadly, most Christians that I discuss the matter with seem to know very little about what evolution or the Bible actually says.

7. How many Americans does your denomination represent? How many Americans are represented by more fundamentalist branches of Christianity that would tend to oppose the teaching of evolution?

My denomination, Southern Baptist, has nearly 16 million Americans as members. They are the largest Baptist group, as well as the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. Fundamentalist Christians, who typically oppose the teaching of evolution, make up about 25% of the American population.

Although I don't know the purpose behind this question, I think it may be important to point out that truth is never determined by how many people believe it. Truth is absolute and totally independent of whether a majority or minority subscribes to it.

8. In sum: How much flexibility is there for reconciliation of faith and science, theoretically (independent of the religion) and specifically for Christianity?

I do not believe that faith and science are actually hostile to one another. I do believe, however, that evolutionary theory is opposed to both faith and science.

Dr. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in his book, What If the Bible Had Never Been Written rightly contends that science could have only developed in a Christian civilization. It couldn't have come from animists who believe that the things of nature have gods in them. Nor could it have come from Islam with its strong assertions of fatalism. It most certainly couldn't have come from Buddhists or Hindus because of their belief that the world is an illusion. Although there were incipient beginnings in Greece, modern science was actually birthed in a Christian civilization in Western Europe in the late Middle Ages. Modern science couldn't have even been born in our own time because today man essentially believes life is irrational and illogical -- and what's the premise of that way of thinking? -- Evolution! Today, man rejects the idea of absolutes, and, therefore, actually rejects the very foundation of science. How can one have a valid scientific hypothesis if there are no absolutes? If there are no absolutes, then results of experimentation are all relative. This destroys science.

The early great scientists like Kepler, Galileo, and Newton shared the view that God was a God of reason who had created a rational universe, and by reason man could find out much about the universe's design. The Bible had a tremendous influence on their lives and their science. The same could be said concerning many other scientists in more recent times. The Bible and Christianity have been a tremendous help to science. Science has done much to lift the burden of the curse on nature because of man's sin. Science and faith are not enemies of each other. Evolutionary theory, however, is the enemy of both. Evolution is the hostile agitator that seeks to drive them both apart.

Rev. Mark H. Creech (calact@aol.com) is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.
© 2006 AgapePress

Testing Darwin's Teachers


Sometimes disruptive but often sophisticated questioning of evolution by students has educators increasingly on the defensive. By Stephanie Simon Times Staff Writer

March 31, 2006

LIBERTY, Mo. — Monday morning, Room 207: First day of a unit on the origins of life. Veteran biology teacher Al Frisby switches on the overhead projector and braces himself.

As his students rummage for their notebooks, Frisby introduces his central theme: Every creature on Earth has been shaped by random mutation and natural selection — in a word, by evolution.

The challenges begin at once.

"Isn't it true that mutations only make an animal weaker?" sophomore Chris Willett demands. " 'Cause I was watching one time on CNN and they mutated monkeys to see if they could get one to become human and they couldn't."

Frisby tries to explain that evolution takes millions of years, but Willett isn't listening. "I feel a tail growing!" he calls to his friends, drawing laughter.

Unruffled, Frisby puts up a transparency tracing the evolution of the whale, from its ancient origins as a hoofed land animal through two lumbering transitional species and finally into the sea. He's about to start on the fossil evidence when sophomore Jeff Paul interrupts: "How are you 100% sure that those bones belong to those animals? It could just be some deformed raccoon."

From the back of the room, sophomore Melissa Brooks chimes in: "Those are real bones that someone actually found? You're not just making this up?"

"No, I am not just making it up," Frisby says.

At least half the students in this class of 14 don't believe him, though, and they're not about to let him off easy.

Two decades of political and legal maneuvering on evolution has spilled over into public schools, and biology teachers are struggling to respond. Loyal to the accounts they've learned in church, students are taking it upon themselves to wedge creationism into the classroom, sometimes with snide comments but also with sophisticated questions — and a fervent faith.

As sophomore Daniel Read put it: "I'm going to say as much about God as I can in school, even if the teachers can't."

Such challenges have become so disruptive that some teachers dread the annual unit on evolution — or skip it altogether.

In response, the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science is distributing a 24-page guide to teaching the scientific principles behind evolution, starting in kindergarten. The group also has issued talking points for teachers flustered by demands to present "both sides."

The annual science teachers convention next week in Anaheim will cover similar ground, with workshops such as "Teaching Evolution in a Climate of Controversy."

"We're not going to roll over and take this," said Alan I. Leshner, the executive publisher of the journal Science. "These teachers are facing phenomenal pressure. They need help."

About half of all Americans dismiss as preposterous the scientific consensus that life on Earth evolved from a common ancestor over millions of years. Some hold to a literal reading of Genesis: God created the universe about 6,000 years ago. Others accept an ancient cosmos but take the variety, complexity and beauty of Earth's creatures as proof that life was crafted by an intelligent designer.

Religious accounts of life's origins have generally been kept out of the science classroom, sometimes by court order. But polls show a majority of Americans are unhappy with the evolution-only approach.

Daniel Read, for instance, considers it his Christian duty to expose his classmates to the truths he finds in the Bible, starting with the six days of creation. It's his way, he said, of counterbalancing the textbook, which devotes three chapters to evolution but just one paragraph to creationism. A soft-spoken teen with shaggy hair and baggy pants, Daniel prepares carefully for his mission in this well-educated, affluent and conservative suburb of 28,000, just outside Kansas City, Mo. He studies DVDs distributed by Answers in Genesis, a "creation evangelism" ministry devoted to training children to question evolution.

Other students gather ammunition from sermons at church, or from the dozens of websites that criticize evolution as a God-denying sham. They interrupt lectures to expound on the inaccuracies of carbon dating; to disparage transitional fossils as frauds; to show photos of ancient footprints that they think prove humans and dinosaurs walked side by side.

Most will learn what they need to pass the test, but some make their skepticism clear by putting their heads down on their desks or even stalking out of class.

Liberty High School senior Sarah Hopkins was proud of her response when a botany teacher brought up evolution last year: "I asked, 'Have you ever read the Bible? Have you ever gone to church?' "

Such personal questions can make teachers uncomfortable, but they're fairly easy to deflect. Far tougher are the science-based queries that force teachers to defend a theory they may not ever have studied in depth.

"If a teacher is making a claim that land animals evolved into whales, students should ask: 'What precisely is involved? How does the fur turn into blubber, how do the nostrils move, how does the tiny tail turn into a great big fluke?' " said John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research near San Diego. "Evolution is so unsupportable, if you insist on more information, the teacher will quickly run out of credibility," he said.

Anxious to forestall such challenges, nearly one in five teachers makes a point of avoiding the word "evolution" in class — even when they're presenting the topic, according to a survey by the National Science Teachers Assn.

"They're saying they don't know how to respond…. They haven't done the research the kids have done on this," said Linda Froschauer, the group's president-elect.

In a classroom cluttered with paper models of DNA, newspaper clippings about global warming and oddities such as a four-eared pig in formaldehyde, Frisby parries his students' questions patiently but with a bit of disappointment.

For the first 27 years of his career, he taught life's origins without controversy. Then in 1999, the Kansas Board of Education deleted evolution from the mandatory science curriculum.

Frisby was teaching biology at the time in Shawnee Mission, Kan., and he was determined not to alter his curriculum. His students, however, seemed emboldened by the board's action.

The daughter of a local minister took to bringing in creationist research that she thought proved Charles Darwin wrong. That year, more than a third of the students wrote in their class evaluations that they did not accept their teacher's account of how life emerged.

Kansas restored evolution to the science curriculum in 2001 after conservatives lost their majority on the board. A subsequent election again shifted the balance, and last year the board issued a mandate that still stands: Students must be taught that the theory of evolution is a "historical narrative" based on circumstantial evidence. They must also learn specific criticisms of evolution.

Though he retired from his Kansas teaching job in 2002 for personal reasons, Frisby remains active in efforts there to elect a more liberal state school board. His job across the state line in Missouri is less political; Missouri does not require teachers to introduce criticisms of evolution or alternative accounts of life's origins. Nonetheless, those views come up in Room 207 every year.

Toward the end of his second class one recent morning, Frisby held up an old issue of National Geographic. The cover asked in bold type: "Was Darwin Wrong?"

"Yes!" one student called.

Another backed him up: "Yes!"

Six or eight other voices joined in. Frisby quieted them and opened to the article inside, which began with the one-word answer: "No."

"It's my job to show you the overwhelming evidence for evolution," he said.

"What about the other side?" Jeff Paul called. An approving murmur swept the room.

Frisby, 59, rarely gets angry at such interruptions; even his most skeptical students praise his willingness to listen. He has attended two creationist conferences to hear their evidence firsthand; he digs out articles that respond to their doubts; he'll even sit down with a student to talk about God — though only after class.

Growing up in nearby Independence, Mo., Frisby learned the biblical creation account from his mother, a Sunday school teacher. "I believed it without question," he said. "It was literal to me."

He doesn't remember hearing about evolution in high school, but then he didn't pay much attention to academics. It wasn't until college that he discovered a passion for biology.

One evening in 1968, Frisby was dissecting a shark's heart for a night course. As he spread the organ out in front of him, studying the looping valves and arteries, he had what he can only describe, with wonder, as a religious experience. "All those beautiful arches coming off the heart — it was just too perfect," he said. "I thought to myself, 'God could have created this animal just this way.' "

That satisfied his religious nature. But the scientist within him wouldn't let the matter rest. Dissecting more animal hearts, Frisby found the same awe-inspiring beauty. He also came to understand how an organ as complex as the heart could evolve; he could see the progression there on his lab table, from one chamber to two to four.

Frisby still believed that God created the universe, but his faith couldn't tell him what happened next; to answer that question, he concluded, he would need science.

At 22, he decided the best way to honor his faith was to hold it sacred in his heart — and to keep it out of his lab.

Casting about for ways to explain that to his students, Frisby tried a new approach this year: He strapped a leather tool belt around his waist. Life, he told the class, required a variety of tools. Sometimes they would find it helpful to use art or music to help them make sense of their world. Sometimes they would use religion.

"We're in science class now, so we're going to use our science tools," he told them. "I don't want to be in a debate about religion or literature or art. My job is to explain evolution so you can understand it. Whether you accept it or not, that's your business."

On the wall behind him, a poster read: "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."

To engage students who might be inclined to tune out, Frisby fills his lesson plans with hands-on activities.

In one, he'll unspool a long roll of adding-machine tape and have the kids make a timeline of Earth's history. They'll be able to see at a glance how long it took for a vast diversity of creatures to evolve, from the humble worm 430 million years ago to the first fish 345 million years ago and on through dinosaurs and mammals. On his timeline, early man won't appear until the very end of the paper.

Frisby hopes the exercise will make an impression on students like Chris Willett, who offered this rebuttal to evolution: "I think it's kind of strange that they can find all these dinosaur fossils from what you say is millions of years ago, but they can't find any transitional human fossils."

Frisby promised to show the class several fossils that document the halting and gradual evolution from apes to humans. Then he reminded them not to expect equal numbers of human and dinosaur remains, because hominids emerged only recently, while dinosaurs ruled the planet for nearly 200 million years.

At that, sophomore Derik Montgomery snapped to attention. "I heard that dinosaurs are only thousands of years old, like 6,000. Not millions," he said.

"That's wrong," Frisby responded briskly. "What can I tell you? You can't believe everything you read."

Sprawled out across his chair, Derik muttered: "You can't believe everything you hear in here, either."

Frisby put up his next transparency.

'Ghost Hunters': Seeking Science in Séance

Books of the Times


August 14, 2006 By PATRICIA COHEN

In the late 1880's, shortly after he helped found an organization to research the supernatural, William James confidently predicted that within 25 years science would resolve once and for all whether the dead could speak to the living.

He — and a handful of other brilliant 19th-century intellectuals — was also fairly confident that the answer would be yes.

And why not? Science had begun to pull back the veil on some of the cosmos's deepest mysteries. If there were invisible radio and electromagnetic waves, perhaps there was an undetected link between a spirit world and this one.

In "Ghost Hunters," Deborah Blum's sympathetic account, these "psychical researchers" are not simply a bunch of smart men (and a couple of women) obsessed with a dumb idea, but rather courageous freethinkers willing to endure the establishment's scorn. This quirky band, she argues, was more scientific than the scientists and more spiritual than the theologians who ridiculed them.

People like Henry Sidgwick, a classics don at Cambridge who co-founded the British Society for Psychical Research, worried about "humankind stripped of faith." As Ms. Blum writes, "He shuddered at the empty silence of what he called 'the non-moral universe.' " Didn't the church understand, Sidgwick wrote in his diary, that "if the results of our investigation are rejected, they must inevitably carry your miracles along with them"?

Nor could Sidgwick and his associates understand how scientists could reject their claims without even bothering to investigate.

Ms. Blum details the supernatural studies of James; Sidgwick and his wife, Nora; his student Fred Myers; and other British and American scholars, including the co-founder of evolutionary theory, Alfred Russel Wallace, and the Nobel-winning scientist Charles Richet. Despite their differences, what nearly all of them shared was the death of a loved one; behind their lofty scientific and moral motives was also the very human desire to reconnect with a lost love.

Ms. Blum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer, can tell a good ghost story, and there were many during this unsettled period of industrialization and urbanization when belief in the occult swept through America. All that's missing in the tales of dead apparitions, moving furniture and sudden revelations of tightly held secrets is the "Twilight Zone" theme song.

Yet after traipsing from Bombay to Boston, through hundreds of candle-lit séance rooms with their elaborate "spirit cabinets," where glowing apparitions would appear and objects fly, what the ghost hunters mostly found was fraud.

That is, until William James met Lenora Piper, a tall, respectable Beacon Hill housewife who would settle into her favorite armchair surrounded by puffed pillows and contact dead souls without charging a fee. James met her shortly after the death of his year-old son, Herman. For years Piper was the pet project of the American and British psychical research associations, which paid her a wage to make her less susceptible to fakery (though that strategy would seem to carry its own risks).

They shadowed her movements, interrogated her contacts and shipped her off to Britain, where she would be less likely to have confederates helping her. To test her trances they stuck her with pins, held ammonia under her nose, even put a match to her skin.

Hundreds of times she was wrong. But then there were those frequent occasions when she seemed endowed with otherworldly power. One London test devised by the physicist Oliver Lodge was to ask a distant uncle, Robert, to mail an object belonging to Robert's long-dead twin brother. Piper, fingering the ornate gold watch Robert sent, was able to name the brothers and told a story from their childhood about a near drowning and the killing of a cat that only the twins would have known.

About 10 years ago the popular science writer Martin Gardner wrote an essay titled "How Mrs. Piper Bamboozled William James." He discussed the way cunning mediums subtly fish for information and the network of professional spiritualists who shared information.

But "Ghost Hunters" is less interested in the sociology of bamboozlement than in giving a respectful accounting of what the participants saw and felt. This approach has benefits, but among its drawbacks are the sometimes credulous reports of telepathy, telekinesis or contacts with the dead.

That is not the book's only weakness. Shifting the spotlight among the large cast and larger number of supernatural tales often gives the book a jumpy, episodic feel. And it doesn't leave much room for wider discussion of the links between the psychological and philosophical work that James and others were engaged in, or of the often erotically charged atmosphere of séances presided over mostly by women with few career options in that high-buttoned era.

Ultimately what distinguished James and his colleagues from many of their scientific peers was their humbleness. To think one can divine everything in an infinite universe is an act of extreme hubris. As it turned out, when the 25 years that James thought would settle the issue had passed, he had to conclude that hardly any progress had been made. "I confess that at times I have been tempted to believe that the Creator has eternally intended this department of nature to remain baffling," he said.

Ms. Blum relates that she too has been humbled by her efforts. In the acknowledgments, she writes, "When I started this book, I saw myself as the perfect author to explore the supernatural, a career science writer anchored in place with the sturdy shoes of common sense." But now, after her historical research and contemporary encounters with people who had ghost stories to tell, she says, though still grounded in reality, "I'm just less smug than I was when I started, less positive of my rightness."

And a little humility, particularly in a writer, is never a bad thing.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Many Ark. candidates say intelligent design in schools is OK


Posted on Sun, Aug. 13, 2006 Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK - Many candidates for statewide office - including Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mike Beebe - say information on intelligent design should be available to students alongside curriculum on evolution theory.

"I believe in intelligent design and I don't think intelligent design and evolution are mutually exclusive," Beebe, the state's attorney general, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Intelligent design says some features of the universe are so well-ordered and complex that an intelligent cause is the best way to explain them. Most scientists view it as a new form of creationism.

A federal judge in December banned a local school board in Dover, Pa., from teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in high school biology classes because it would violate the separation of church and state. The judge called intelligent design religion masquerading as science.

Most Republican candidates in Arkansas told the newspaper that teachers shouldn't be required to teach intelligent design - but that "academic freedom" should allow instructors to address the subject in class.

"Asa sees this as an issue of academic freedom, and he believes teachers should have the option to teach another viewpoint if there is scientific support for that viewpoint," said David Kinkade, a spokesman for GOP gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson.

Beebe said information about intelligent design "should be available to Arkansas students."

"This would provide Arkansas students background they need to wrestle with these and other fundamental questions as they become adults," he said. "I believe both should be available because one is the consensus theory of the scientific community, and the other is the predominant belief of most Arkansans and Americans."

Intelligent design is not listed within the state's science curriculum - and teachers are expected to teach within that curriculum, said Julie Johnson Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Education.

Attorney general candidate Dustin McDaniel and lieutenant governor candidate Bill Halter, both Democrats, each said science should dictate what should be taught in the classroom.

"It's not the purpose of science classes to teach religion," Halter said. "It's the purpose of science classes to teach science."

Their Republican rivals, attorney general candidate Gunner DeLay and lieutenant governor nominee Jim Holt, both say teachers should have the option to address intelligent design.

Holt called evolution a "fraud theory" and said that keeping intelligent design out of the classroom is censorship.

"It is not scientific to censor other theories or hypotheses," he said.

Support for chemical evolution


Carbon-based units found in space may be linked to human life


The primordial kitchen for cooking the chemistry of life apparently included a well-stocked freezer.

For about 30 years, radio astronomers have poked around the Milky Way for the building blocks of life, usually in hot spots near stars.

The most recent search yields eight carbon-based molecules found in two cold giant clouds of gas and dust, from which stars and planets are eventually born and comets escape.

A two-year project using the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia identified the molecules by detecting the radiation they absorb and emit at specific, known frequencies as they tumble through space.

The discovery bolsters the theories that chemical evolution occurs routinely in space and that life on Earth could have been seeded by molecule-laced icy comets smashing into the planet.

An early, warm Earth bathed in a watery soup of basic sugar molecules, seasoned with the icy organic molecules, might have given rise to the more complex sugar ribose, essential for the molecules that carry life's genetic code, DNA and the chemically similar RNA.

"It's increasingly plausible that building-block molecules were seeded from comets with the material originally formed in the interstellar medium," said Green Bank's director, Phil Jewell, who participated in the research. "It's a long way going from the simplest sugar to get to ribose . . . and then to RNA, but you have to start with these elementary building blocks and then work your way up."

The newly found molecules, of six to 11 atoms each, are: acetamide, cyclopropenone, propenal, propanal, ketenimine, methyl-cyano-diacetylene, methyl-triacetylene and cyanoallene.

Since the discovery of the first interstellar molecules in the 1960s, 141 have been identified. Most of them are organic, meaning they contain carbon. Several other less-complex molecules were found previously by some of the same astronomers in the most recent discovery.

Acetamide, used as a solvent on Earth, is particularly intriguing because it contains a chemical bond that links amino acids together to form proteins, said Jan "Mike" Hollis of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, who led the international team of astronomers conducting the survey.

"Complicated molecules, especially organic molecules, are essential for life to get started, so it's very interesting to figure out what environments are conducive to producing those molecules in the first place," said University of Richmond cosmologist Ted Bunn. "This kind of information may possibly prove to be important in understanding the very early stages of life on Earth and other planets."

The eight molecular species were located in two sites in our Milky Way galaxy. One, called Sagittarius B2(N), is full of stars 26,000 light years away. The other, the exceptionally chilly and starless Taurus Molecular Cloud, sits just 450 light years distant.

"The discovery of these large organic molecules in the coldest regions of the interstellar medium has certainly changed the belief that large organic molecules would only have their origins in hot molecular cores," said team member Anthony Remijan of the Charlottesville-based National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

The findings, published in Astrophysical Journal, don't necessarily mean that life formed elsewhere in the galactic hinterlands, cautioned Virginia Tech geochemist Robert Bodnar.

"There is now little doubt that these molecules exist and are probably quite common in the galaxies." However, he added, "my sense is that the majority agree that the presence of the organic molecules does not indicate that life has, or will, evolve in these extraterrestrial environments."

Other members of the astronomical team included researchers from the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, Norway, Ukraine and France.

Contact staff writer A.J. Hostetler at ahostetler@timesdispatch.com or (804) 649-6355.

Pope to lead talks on evolution


12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, August 12, 2006

Religion News Service

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI will lead a seminar next month examining Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and its impact on Catholic teaching.

The seminar, "Creation and Evolution," is sure to renew the debate between Catholic supporters of "intelligent design" – the notion that the world is too complex to have come about through natural events alone – and scientists who don't regard intelligent design as valid science.

It will be the latest in a series of annual gatherings Benedict has held with former students since his days as a theology professor.

The meeting will take place in the first week of September at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence south of Rome.

One of the gathering's most influential members is Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, a former student and close adviser of Benedict's whose support of intelligent design has been instrumental in introducing the theory into Catholic discourse.

Last summer, in an op-ed piece for The New York Times, the cardinal dismissed as "rather vague and unimportant" remarks by Pope John Paul II in 1996 that lent support to the theory of evolution. John Paul called evolution "more than a hypothesis."

Cardinal Schonborn has since sought to restate his position, amid widespread criticisms that the Vatican was trying to roll the clock back on scientific thought. He has said that he does not disagree with Darwin's theory per se, but with its use to mount ideologically driven attacks against the existence of a creator-God.

The current pope has at times appeared to endorse intelligent design. Last November, he described the world as an "intelligent project." But in January, an editorial in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's official newspaper, questioned the validity of intelligent design and reaffirmed Catholicism's support for evolution.

The Rev. George Coyne, an astronomer who heads the Vatican Observatory, is a vocal opponent of intelligent design. He describes support for the notion as a "religious movement" rather than science.

The Rev. Stephan Horn, 71, a theologian who coordinates the annual meetings, described them as free-flowing. Benedict, he said, presides as "the mentor of a group of students" rather than as pope.

"He doesn't impose his ideas. ... He doesn't try to have the last word," Father Horn said.

Evolution backers seek to influence Ohio elections


Posted on Sat, Aug. 12, 2006 Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Supporters of teaching Darwin's theory of evolution to school children have launched a campaign aimed at unseating a state Board of Education member who has supported critical evaluation of the theory.

Help Ohio Public Education, a coalition of evolution proponents, on Friday announced an advocacy group headed up by Lawrence Krauss, director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve University.

"I think what you're seeing is grass-roots democracy at work. This is a referendum on intelligent design and creationism," said G.R. Schloemer of Cincinnati, a Republican board member who supports the evolution theory and has the group's support. "This issue has bogged down the board since I came on five years ago. We've got a very divided board. There is no trust among any of us."

Nine members on the 19-member board will see their four-year terms expire at the end of this year, with voters going to the polls in November to fill five of the vacancies and the others to be appointed by the next governor.

Help Ohio Public Education - HOPE - is targeting board member Deborah Owens Fink, a Republican who seeks re-election. The group is hoping to run former Democratic U.S. Rep. Tom Sawyer against her. Both are from the Akron area.

Sawyer said he is circulating petitions and plans to announce his intentions this week.

In February, the board voted 11-4 to delete a state standard and corresponding lesson plan that encouraged students to seek evidence for and against evolution. Critics said the lesson echoed arguments from proponents of intelligent design.

"They got what they wanted," said Owens Fink, who voted to keep the standard. "I don't understand why they are even engaged on the topic. Ohio isn't Kansas."

Earlier this month, voters in that state ousted a conservative state Board of Education majority that had pushed anti-evolution standards.

Following the Ohio vote, Owens Fink said she supported altering the state standards to require students to critically analyze more aspects of science, such as physics and chemistry, rather than singling out evolution.

The board's decision came after a federal judge in December banned a local school board in Dover, Pa., from teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in high school biology classes because it would violate the separation of church and state. The judge called intelligent design religion masquerading as science.

Intelligent design says some features of the universe are so well-ordered and complex that an intelligent cause is the best way to explain them. Most scientists view it as a new form of creationism.

"We hope to raise the profile of school board elections," Krauss said of HOPE. "We've seen in Ohio and Kansas how significant these elections can be."

Board President Sue Westendorf said Owens Fink has not put a personal agenda ahead of education.

"This is going to be an interesting election, but I hope (voters) pay attention to the larger issues," she said. "The economy and its ties to education - that's what is going to make us competitive."

Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com

Schools shun evolution


Academics decry state of teaching of Darwin's theory and call for change

Some 250 university academics have prepared a petition asking the government to improve the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution at Greek schools, which the professors say is disorganized and in some cases completely nonexistent.

Members of the group told Kathimerini yesterday they signed the petition because the theory is not taught properly in high school even though it is "the uniting framework of the science of biology" and has "priceless educational value."

The teaching of the theory of evolution has not been banned in Greece but it is not included in senior high textbooks and although it is part of the course material for junior high school students, they are not tested on it at end-of-year exams.

"Whether students learn about Darwin or not is up to the goodwill of some teachers," said the head of the Greek Union of Bioscientists, Manos Papadakis.

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, as explained in "The Theory of the Species" in 1859, introduced the notion that all life is related and has descended from a common ancestor. Darwin's general theory presumes that complex creatures evolve from more simplistic ancestors naturally over time. The theory of evolution has since become the main organizing principle of modern biology

Darwin's theory has been challenged recently in the USA by the theory of intelligent design - the concept that some aspects of life are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process like natural selection.

"We can criticize the USA for the fact that 150 years later the evolution of the species is still a divisive issue but in reality we are further behind," said Papadakis. "The meaning of evolution has diffused into all areas of life but is systematically being excluded from education."

Teen's case shines spotlight on alternative therapy


By ELIZABETH SIMPSON, The Virginian-Pilot

© August 12, 2006

A horse's diet of wild herbs in the 1840s was the unlikely beginning of an alternative cancer treatment called the Hoxsey method.

The horse's owner believed the herbs healed a tumor on its leg, and he began mixing a concoction to treat other horses. Years later, his great-grandson Harry Hoxsey would market a similar tonic as a human cancer treatment that eventually was banned in the United States.

One of Hoxsey's nurses set up a clinic using the method in Tijuana, Mexico, in the 1960s, where it has quietly operated ever since.

Many people in Hampton Roads, and in the country, for that matter, would never have heard of the method had it not been for a 16-year-old boy from Chincoteague.

Abraham Cherrix was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease last summer. When a debilitating four-month round of chemotherapy at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters failed to eradicate his disease, he went to Tijuana in March to try the Hoxsey method.

His case made headlines across the country after Social Services accused his parents, Jay and Rose Cherrix, of medical neglect. In July, a juvenile court judge ordered Abraham's parents to return him to conventional treatment.

An Accomack County Circuit Court judge will hear the Cherrixes' appeal of that decision on Wednesday.

Abraham's story shows that while alternative and conventional treatments for cancer tend to quietly co-exist, at the core they are still viewed as in conflict by much of the medical and legal establishment.

The Hoxsey method The treatment includes an organic diet and a tonic of natural herbs, such as red clover, burdock root, and licorice.

Reason to try Unproven treatment methods are common among cancer patients because conventional treatment is not always successful.

How many A 2000 study found that almost 70 percent of 453 cancer patients had used an alternative therapy as part of their treatment.

"We look at things as either/or, God or the devil, proven/unproven," said Michael Cohen, a Cambridge, Mass., lawyer who specializes in legal cases dealing with alternative medicine.

Cohen believes doctors need to be more open in discussing unconventional treatments with their patients, so cases don't end up in court.

Abraham's case might not have caused such a stir were it not for some gray areas.

While he isn't a child, he is two years from legal adulthood. If he were 18, he could freely choose.

And while the conventional treatment recommended for him has a good success rate, it's not a slam-dunk. Hodgkin's has a five-year survival rate of 85 percent, making the lymphatic disease one of the more treatable cancers. But the first round of chemo did not eradicate Abraham's cancer, suggesting a tougher case.

Those following Abraham's battle fall into several camps:

Proponents of alternative medicine believe Abraham and his family should be allowed to choose a route outside of the medical establishment. Believers in conventional medicine, meanwhile, think Abraham should return to chemotherapy and radiation treatment to save his life.

Then there are people who believe the government is acting improperly in ordering unwanted treatment.

"What I ask is, 'Would you be willing to tie this kid down for treatment?' " said Douglas Scott Diekema, a Seattle pediatrician and a member of an American Academy of Pediatrics ethics committee. "To me, that's an obvious no. That would cross the line. I would argue that it doesn't matter what the law says - it's not ethical to force treatment on someone of this age."

The case has underscored that unproven treatment methods are common among cancer patients. They are among those who most frequently seek alternatives because of the seriousness of the disease, and the fact that conventional treatment is not always successful. Usually, they turn to alternatives when conventional therapies fail, or when they have little chance of being cured.

"It's a huge part of oncology treatment," said Dr. Megan Burke, a pediatric oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

One study of complementary and alternative medicine published in 2000 found that almost 70 percent of 453 cancer patients had used at least one such therapy as part of their treatment.

That can range from something as simple as aromatherapy to quell chemo-induced nausea to the more dramatic decision by Abraham to drop conventional treatment altogether.

Abraham learned about Hoxsey after his first round of chemo at CHKD.

During that time, the cancer had stopped growing, but when February tests showed active cancer cells, an oncologist recommended a stronger round of chemotherapy and also radiation therapy.

Abraham resisted because the initial chemo had left him nauseated, feverish and weak. He said he felt a stronger round would kill him and was dismayed by the potential side effects of radiation such as other cancers later in life.

He learned about the Hoxsey method at The Association for Research and Enlightenment, founded in Virginia Beach in 1931 by psychic Edgar Cayce. The method - which includes an organic diet and a tonic of natural herbs, such as red clover, burdock root, and licorice - has been around since the 1920s. Harry Hoxsey was not medically trained but marketed the mix in clinics in 17 states.

The Food and Drug Administration forced Hoxsey to close his U.S. clinics in 1960, saying his method had no scientific backing. Three years later, one of Hoxsey's nurses set up the Biomedical Center in Tijuana, which Abraham visited in March.

A message left on Thursday for a clinic spokesman was not returned. On Friday, questions were referred to director Liz Jones, who was out of the office until next week. People who have sought treatment at the clinic - which only provides outpatient services - say the one-time treatment cost is $3,500, but patients also pay for travel and hotel costs.

According to the American Cancer Society, there have been no large, evidence-based clinical trials of the treatment. A small study published in the Journal of Naturopathic Medicine in 1994 involved 39 people who took the Hoxsey herbal treatment. Ten patients died after an average of 15 months and 23 failed to complete the study. Six patients were disease-free after two years.

A 2001 study paid for by the National Institutes of Health tried to track Hoxsey patients but found many had not had biopsies to confirm cancer, and some had received conventional treatment along with the Hoxsey method.

Burke said the lack of scientific backing of a child's alternative treatment doesn't necessarily constitute medical neglect by a parent. It depends on the patient's chance of survival using conventional methods, she said.

"The general rule of thumb is if chances are less than 50 percent, legally there is nothing we can do to force a family to comply," she said. "But if there's a 90 percent chance of survival with treatment, and the family says we are not going to seek treatment, that's a major medical issue."

In such a case, a bioethics committee at the hospital would examine the case to see whether the hospital should seek medical power of attorney, and whether the family should be reported.

Burke said she also considers how well the child and the family understand the consequences. Are they making an informed decision after thoughtful consideration? Or are they acting impulsively? How dangerous is the alternative treatment, and does the patient have time to try it?

Burke said in some cases she has agreed to monitor a child's health through an alternative treatment attempt. Some families returned children to conventional treatment; others returned for pain-easing palliative care, provided in the last stage of life, because the treatment didn't work.

Abraham's family says he's in stage two of the disease, with the worst stage being four. Social Services investigators and CHKD officials have declined to comment on Abraham's case, citing federal privacy policies.

While the American Cancer Society has pegged the rate of survival of Hodgkin's disease after five years at 85 percent, the success of a treatment depends on the stage and type of cancer.

A quick relapse after conventional treatments would suggest a harder cancer to beat.

"The doses of chemo and radiation will have to be more toxic, and he'll get sicker from that treatment," said Dr. Lawrence Rosen, a New Jersey pediatrician who helps doctors and families handle such issues as a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Complementary, Holistic and Integrative Medicine committee. "The risks are greater than in the beginning."

Burke said children who have had both chemotherapy and radiation therapy generally face about a 20 to 30 percent chance of the Hodgkin's recurring. When there is chemotherapy only, that figure is about 50 percent.

But because radiation has negative side effects, including a higher risk of other cancers later in life, doctors sometimes hold off giving it at the beginning, then add it if the disease returns to eradicate lingering, resilient cancer cells.

Younger people have higher rates of survival because their bodies can withstand the intense treatment.

Publicity of Abraham's case has brought a flood of calls, letters and e-mails to the family, some from medical professionals who are willing to help Abraham with other methods suited to his desire for a more natural, less toxic approach.

John Stepanovich, the attorney who represents Jay and Rose Cherrix, said the family is reviewing a wide range of methods.

"Up until now they've felt backed into a corner," he said. "Instead of looking around at what's available, they've had to protect their family."

For now, though, Abraham continues to use the Hoxsey method. "I always have an open mind, but I also believe you have to stick with what you believe is right," Abraham said Thursday.

Court-ordered X-rays at CHKD in June showed Abraham's tumors - one in his neck, the other next to his windpipe - had grown since February. Tests at the Biomedical Center in June also showed some growth, but Abraham said adjustments were made to his diet in June.

Some who have corresponded with Abraham after learning about his case have encouraged him to keep pursuing alternative treatment. Others have urged him to return to conventional therapies.

Michael Dunne, 42, hopes Abraham can choose what's best for him. Dunne was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease when he was 16.

Radiation treatment in 1981 eradicated the disease, and he went through two decades without a problem. In 2001, the Norfolk resident was diagnosed with sarcoma, a cancer of the connective tissue that is commonly associated with radiation. He has had both surgery and chemotherapy since then, and continues to be monitored.

He doesn't regret any of his medical decisions and believes Abraham and his family have the right to decide on treatment within the privacy of their own home.

What disturbs Dunne is the thought of the teen fighting his disease in such a public manner.

"To sit and listen to testimony about your own case, that has got to be devastating," he said. "It's traumatic enough to have cancer, but to have to go through that on top of it... that's cruelty there."

Reach Elizabeth Simpson at (757) 446-2635 or elizabeth.simpson@pilotonline.com.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Big church publisher buys 9-11 Bush plot


Presbyterian press to release book by conspiracist who blames attack on White House, not bin Laden

Posted: August 9, 2006 4:12 p.m. Eastern

Editor's note: A recent Scripps Howard survey found one in three Americans believe the federal government was complicit in the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Taking on this issue head-on, next week, WND will introduce the September issue of its acclaimed monthly Whistleblower magazine – titled "9/11: 5 YEARS LATER, A TIME FOR TRUTH." Along with commemorating the worst domestic terror attack in U.S. history, this provocative and controversial edition will delve into the growing "9/11 truth movement" which holds that the Sept. 11 attacks were an "inside job," carried out with the blessing and/or participation of the Bush administration. You can be sure you won't miss this historic, landmark exploration of 9/11 by subscribing now.

© 2006 WorldNetDaily.com

David Ray Griffin

It wasn't Osama bin Laden who orchestrated the 9-11 attacks, it was George W. Bush, according to a book to be published this month by the Presbyterian Church USA.

Called "Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11: A Call to Reflection and Action," it is the third book on the conspiracy theory authored by David Ray Griffin, a professor emeritus of theology at Claremont School of Theology.

According to Christianity Today, Griffin argues in his new book that the Bush administration planned the events of Sept. 11, 2001, so they could provide justification for going to war with Afghanistan and Iraq.

"I became more convinced that if the truth about 9-11 was going to be exposed, the churches were probably going to have to be involved," Griffin told the magazine. "If we become convinced that the so-called war on terror is simply a pretext for enlarging the American empire, we have every reason as Christians to try and expose the truth behind 9/11."

Officials at the 160-year-old Westminster John Knox, the book imprint of the official Presbyterian Church publisher, said they decided to give Griffin a contract and promote his work because of the questions he raised in his previous books, "The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11," and "The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions And Distortions."

"We have a long tradition of being a publisher of somewhat progressive stances on theological and social issues, so it is not out of character for us to do this," Jack Keller, vice president of publishing at WJK, told Christianity Today. "Whether or not people were fully persuaded by the arguments, he was certainly raising some interesting issues."

WJK has published other theology books by Griffin since the 1970s.

Griffin has another book coming out this month called "9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speaking Out." That one will be published by Olive Branch Press, the same company that published his first two books about Sept. 11.

In "Christian Faith and the Truth behind 9/11," Griffin calls the United States the world's "chief embodiment of demonic power" and says he initially scoffed at 9-11 conspiracy theories.

But after investigating he concluded that the Twin Towers were brought down by controlled demolition, military personnel were given stand-down orders not to intercept hijacked flights and the 9-11 Commission, ostensibly created to uncover the truth behind the events of 9-11, "simply ignored evidence" that the administration was involved in the attacks.

Not all Presbyterians are happy to see their church get behind the work of Griffin.

Jack Adams, editor of the conservative magazine Presbyterian Layman, says the decision by the official church publisher doesn't reflect the values of most members of the denomination.

"The majority of the members of the Presbyterian Church are members of the Republican Party," Adams told Agape Press. "Now, I'm not holding that up as a good example of what the church ought to be comprised of, but that's a fact," he says, "so I would assume that many in the Republican Party might be very supportive of the policies of George Bush."

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