NTS LogoSkeptical News for 26 September 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Review: The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=3749&program=DI%20Main%20Page%20-%20Article&callingPage=discoMainPage

By: Logan Paul Gage
American Spectator
October 1, 2006

The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief
By Francis S. Collins
Free Press, 2006, 304 pp., $26
Reviewed by Logan Paul Gage

Recently astrophysicist and stalwart Darwin-defender Dr. George Coyne lectured before the largest scientific organization in the world, the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As he railed against biological arguments for intelligent design (ID), I wondered what Coyne thought of the now-mainstream design arguments in his own field.

Luckily Dr. Francis Collins, who led the race to map the human genome, rose to the microphone and broached the subject for me. Collins probed Coyne as to why gravity is so "finely-tuned." That is, if the force of gravity was a tiny fraction smaller (one part in 10 to the 14th power) the universe would have kept expanding without forming galaxies (and thus we would not be here); yet if gravity were the same tiny fraction greater, matter in our universe would have glommed together and not expanded outward to form galaxies, stars, and planets (and thus we would not be here). And gravity is only one of many instances of fine-tuning. What Collins wanted to know was whether Coyne thought this evidence suggested luck or design.

It was a thoughtful question, but Coyne evaded it, saying it was not really a scientific issue. I left feeling unsatisfied—like Whitman after hearing the learned astronomer—and I suspected Collins did too.

My suspicion was confirmed by Collins's new book The Language of God. Although he is a medical geneticist by training, Collins gives an excellent lay treatment of the argument for design in physics and cosmology. Given the heat of the current debate over Darwin's theory in biology, it may surprise many readers to learn that mainstream physicists and cosmologists have been discussing design in their disciplines for decades—please, no one alert the ACLU!

While in the 19th century most scientists thought the universe was eternal, the rise of Big Bang cosmology in the 20th changed things. Today, cosmologists generally agree there was a beginning to the universe followed by a period of rapid expansion. Concurring with many other scientists, Collins concludes that an intelligent cause is the best explanation for the Big Bang and fine-tuning.[1]

The logic he employs is common in science. It is called Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE). Take his treatment of the fine-tuning problem. Of several competing hypotheses, Collins asks which one best explains the physical evidence: Sheer chance that our universe has the right parameters to be habitable; multiple universes with various constants exist, but we got the good one; or the game was rigged (designed)? As the odds are terribly against chance, and because these hypothetical multiple universes are completely unobservable, Collins uses Occam's Razor (ironically, a favorite tool of skeptics) to infer design. Collins adds:

One must leave open the door to the possibility that future investigation in theoretical physics will demonstrate that some of the fifteen physical constants that so far are simply determined by experimental observation may be limited in their potential numerical value by something more profound, but such a revelation is not currently on the horizon.[2]

Thus according to Collins, science is always capable of changing, so this argument for design is not a knockout. Still, design is not asserted here merely to fill a gap in our knowledge. Rather, based upon current evidence, Collins argues that intelligence is the best explanation currently available.

Now in a later chapter, Collins opposes intelligent design arguments in biology. But the interesting thing there is that while he invokes certain methodological principles to rule intelligent design out of court in biology, he has already violated those rules in his design arguments in cosmology and physics.

Collins gets hung up on a common misperception about ID in biology, namely that it is an argument from ignorance. Collins thinks ID theorists look at nature, see extraordinary complexity, and conclude God-musta-done-it. He writes:

Given the inability of science thus far to explain the profound question of life's origins, some theists have identified the appearance of RNA and DNA as a possible opportunity for divine creative action…. This could be an appealing hypothesis, given that no serious scientist would currently claim that a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life is at hand. But that is true today, and it may not be true tomorrow. A word of caution is needed when inserting specific divine action by God in this or any other area where scientific understanding is currently lacking…. Faith that places God in the gaps of current understanding about the natural world may be headed for crisis if advances in science subsequently fill those gaps.[3]

But this is hardly the ID argument. Rather, ID maintains that certain aspects of nature exhibit positive signs of intelligence. For instance, ID theorist Dr. Stephen Meyer—employing the same IBE logic as Collins—recently contended in a peer-reviewed biology journal that intelligence is the best explanation for the information embedded in the DNA molecule. DNA exhibits informational properties; and in our uniform experience, whenever we see such properties and can discover their origin, they always turn out to have been the product of intelligence. Moreover, scientists have failed to show how information in DNA can be generated by a mindless cause. Consequently, Meyer argues, we are justified in inferring an intelligent cause for genetic information.

One could try to counter this argument with evidence, but it accomplishes little to mischaracterize it as an argument from ignorance. Meyer's argument is based upon knowledge of what it takes to engineer information-rich systems, not upon a lack of knowledge. Collins allows as much for his arguments but not for others. There are "good reasons" to infer an intelligence behind nature, Collins writes, "including the existence of mathematical principles and order in creation. They are positive reasons, based on knowledge, rather than default assumptions based on (a temporary) lack of knowledge."[4]

Collins cannot consistently employ design logic in physics and cosmology and then say that such logic is invalid in the biological realm. In biology, Collins should have retained the sound logic and high standards of critical judgment he used to skewer the cosmological prophets of scientific materialism. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Mr. Gage is a Policy Analyst with Discovery Institute (www.discovery.org)

[1] P. 67
2 P. 78
3 P. 92-93. See also p. 193.
4 P. 93, italics mine.

DeVos joins debate on evolution

http://media.www.michigandaily.com/media/storage/paper851/news/2006/09/26/State/Devos.Joins.Debate.On.Evolution-2308018.shtml?sourcedomain=www.michigandaily.com&MIIHost=media.collegepublisher.com

Gubernatorial candidate backpedals on intelligent design

By Andrew Grossman Posted: 9/26/06

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos's campaign has focused on Michigan's struggling economy. But he made a rare foray into the politically dangerous debate over social issues last week when he told The Associated Press that he supports teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in public schools.

The DeVos campaign later backpedaled. It released a statement Wednesday saying the AP report was inaccurate and that DeVos only supports letting local school boards decide what to teach.

"In the end, I believe in our system of local control," he said in the statement. "Local school boards should have the opportunity to offer evolution and intelligent design in their curriculums."

The state Board of Education currently issues curriculum guidelines laying out what students should know upon graduating high school.

The guidelines say that schools should teach evolution, but make no mention of intelligent design.

Intelligent design is the idea that life on Earth is so complex that it could not have evolved through natural selection but was created and guided by a supernatural being. Proponents, often affiliated with religious groups, argue that intelligent design is a scientific theory that should be taught alongside evolution in public schools.

Like many in the scientific community, Anthropology Prof. Beverly Strassman disagreed.

"It's a pseudoscientific theory," she said. "You can't compare something based on faith against a scientific theory."

More than 80 years after a Tennessee court fined John Scopes $100 for teaching evolution in his high school classroom, the debate over teaching intelligent design in science classes has heated up again.

After the Kansas state school board adopted curriculum standards that questioned evolution, a school board primary in August ended with the election of a pro-evolution majority.

In a study of the United States and 31 European countries published this summer by Science magazine, the United States ranks second to last in the percentage of adults who believe in the theory of evolution, ahead of only Turkey.

The state Board of Education is currently writing binding graduation standards for public high school students. The board delayed approval of the standards earlier this month to allow for more comment from legislators. Some speculated that the delay resulted from debate over the standards for teaching evolution.

Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said Granholm opposes teaching evolution in science classes.

"We need to teach established theory, which is evolution, in our science classrooms," Boyd said. "But we can explore the controversy over intelligent design in a current events or comparative religion class."

Education Prof. Nancy Songer said a current events class would be the ideal place to discuss intelligent design.

"The theory of intelligent design has some interesting ideas, but there is no scientific evidence to support any of the ideas," she said. "It would be a great topic in a current events course."

She said local school boards shouldn't have the option of teaching intelligent design in science classes.

"What's problematic about letting school boards decide is that it confuses the issue about whether it's a scientific issue or not," Songer said. "If it's allowed to replace scientific theory, it just confuses students."

© Copyright 2006 Michigan Daily

Creationism distorts truth in science, says vicar

http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/news_syndication/article_060925roberts.shtml -25/09/06

By Michael Roberts

A viewpoint from an Anglican vicar who is also a geologist, and seasoned critic of creationism

Truth in Science, or rather the lack of it, has been highlighted in the last few days. On 20 September 2006, an organisation using that name was "launched… with a website www.truthinscience.org.uk and a mailing to all Secondary School and College Heads of Science in the United Kingdom."

The organisation, which aims to combat Darwinism, continues: "TiS provides resources to assist teachers in allowing students to critically examine Darwin's theory of evolution. Whilst accepting that changes in gene frequencies occur over time, and that limited evolution occurs in nature, TiS encourages a rigorous examination of whether or not this can explain the origin of life and its huge diversity."

On examination, this turns out simply to be Young Earth Creationism repackaged. The initiative has been a year or two in the planning and is well-thought out, with considerable financial backing. TiS have a board of directors, a council of reference and a scientific panel.

Prominent is Andy McIntosh, Professor of Thermodynamics and Combustion Theory at the University of Leeds and author of Genesis for Today, which is largely about the value of Genesis for ethics. It contains several appendices which I believe are full of scientific errors and misinterpretations.

Another director is Steve Layfield, head of science at Emmanuel College, Gateshead, who fervently supports teaching creationism in schools, even suggesting that the Fall of Adam resulted in lunar craters and thus should be taught as science.

Two others are John Blanchard, evangelist and author of Evolution: fact or fiction? Has Science Got Rid of God? and Does God Believe in Atheists?, which stand accused of being full of scientific distortion, and George Curry, Vicar of Elswick Parish Church, Newcastle, on the board of the Christian Institute and chair of Church Society.

All the fifteen mentioned on the website are Young Earth Creationists, and connected variously with Biblical Creation Society, Answers in Genesis and other groups. This is not apparent in the website materials, as any reference to YEC is avoided in preference to "teaching the controversy" and presenting that "Alternatives to Darwinian evolution as a theory of origins can be taught in Key Stages 3 and 4 under the topic of Ideas and evidence in science. These topics give pupils some understanding of the nature of scientific enquiry and how modern scientists work. ... Darwin's theory of evolution has been highlighted in KS4 as an example of how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence."

There is an air of superficial plausibility about this, which is apparent in four lesson plans on Irreducible Complexity (Intelligent Design's catchphrase), the Fossil Record, Homology and Natural Selection. As a geologist I will only comment on the Fossil Record Lesson Plan, where "Pupils are introduced to the three theories currently used to interpret the fossil record: Phyletic Gradualism, Punctuated Equilibrium and Phyletic Discontinuity." These three are, of course, Darwinian gradualism, PE and essentially Six Day Creation. Both scientists and theologians contend, with massive evidence that it is disingenuous to present the last as a scientific theory.

The material on the website is carefully packaged, and its YEC roots, and thus its scientific worthlessness, may not be immediately apparent to the undiscerning. Though the "Cambrian Explosion" is mentioned (the sudden explosion of life forms spread over 10 million years some 550 million years ago), any reference to the vast age of the earth is carefully avoided.

All the "committee" appear to believe the earth to be 6000 to 10,000 years old and not 4.6 billion. In fact one cannot make any intelligent comment about the Cambrian Explosion without accepting its vast antiquity.

It is not possible to predict the outcome of this exercise. Some teachers may have already used the DVDs to scare birds from their vegetable patch. However it will give a way for the increasing number of YEC science teachers to introduce creationism into the classroom, despite the fact that it is scientific nonsense and dependent on the gross misrepresentations of standard science.

It is a concern that the authors are sure that OFSTED will not object to their ideas. The result will be to confuse students, to increase the antagonism of non-believers, and to raise opposition to faith schools of any kind.

Sadly the church, and especially the Church of England, has avoided taking a stand on these issues, possibly to avoid confrontation with more conservative members. Far too often the opponents of this pseudo-scientific nonsense are atheists, who then use this to ridicule faith. Will the church now wake up?

Michael Roberts is an Anglican priest, a geologist and author of a range of scholarly and popular articles on religion and science. He is Vicar of Winmarliegh, Glasson and Cockerham, Diocese of Blackburn, and a contributor to Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA (Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Pushing hard, by design

http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060925/OPINION02/609250323

Article published Monday, September 25, 2006

Michigan's Republican gubernatorial candidate should have set off alarms among every intelligent voter with his revealing comments about the state's science curriculum. Dick DeVos thinks it should include a discussion about intelligent design, also known as "a 21st-century version of creationism," also known as religion masquerading as science.

Michigan voters who may have only been following the governor's race peripherally until now, should closely examine this striking DeVos revelation. It says a lot about the man who wants to lead the state forward while supporting ways to set it back decades with weakened state standards for science classes.

At a time when the state board of education is close to adopting new science curriculum guidelines, Mr. DeVos has weighed in on the side of teaching "intelligent design" as part of high school biology. He believes Darwin's evolutionary theory of natural selection - upheld as an unshakable pillar of science by virtually every prominent scientific organization in the United States - is on par with the inherently religious intelligent design theory.

Be wary, Michiganders.

Proponents cleverly try to bring religion into the science classroom by suggesting students be exposed to multiple theories of creation as if Darwin's theory is merely one hunch among many. They mistake "theory" in the scientific sense to mean "conjecture." In reality, scientists regard it as "a strong, over-arching explanation that ties together many facts and enables us to make testable predictions."

Kenneth Miller, Brown University biology professor and author of a biology textbook used in nearly half the nation's schools says, "If you invoke a spiritual force in science, I can't test or replicate it."

But there may be an appropriate educational venue for discussing an ideology grounded in religion. Mr. DeVos' Democratic opponent, Gov. Jennifer Granholm, gets it. She says school districts can explore intelligent design in current events or comparative religions classes but schools need to teach the established theory of evolution in science classes.

Otherwise, as many in the education and business community attest, Michigan students and the state will suffer. A distorted, politicized science education will put them not only at an academic disadvantage with their peers but ultimately behind competitors for future economic opportunities.

In an age when education is more critical for advancement than ever, Republican Dick DeVos doesn't get it. He favors sabotaging state science education standards with "the ideas of intelligent design" that lack empirical evidence and do not belong in a science classroom.

Hopefully when Michigan's board of education finally decides what the state's public schools science curriculum should be and how it should approach the teaching of evolution, reason will prevail.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Does Harvard Really Dig Evolution?

http://www.theconservativevoice.com/article/18421.html

by Grant Swank

September 21, 2006 09:00 AM EST

Now Harvard gets into the act. Researchers at Harvard are going to tell their take on evolution.

Of course, Harvard academicians will come up with their already concluded conclusion that no divine intervention was needed. That's what David R. Liu, professor of chemistry and chemical biology, told media. Talk about a preconceived notion taking hold of the scientific method.

"'It is quite gratifying to see Harvard is going for a solution to a problem that will be remembered 100 years from now,' said Steven Benner, a University of Florida scientist who is one of the world's top chemists in origins-of-life research," according to Gregory Richter of Elites TV.

Now if that's not hubris, I don't know what is. Before Harvard even starts its project it's stated to the press that its conclusion will "'be remembered 100 years from now.'" Who says?

At least the Bible believers take no credit for their data nor rob acclaim from the Creator God who created all from nothing. Believers give all applause to Him. Not so at Harvard, of course.

Anyhow, I don't need Harvard to inform me of the evolutionary bake sale that's glued itself to the so-called academic elite since the mid-1800s. My question is this: What did thinkers believer before Saint Darwin came along?

They believed the Genesis account. That's what they believed.

I've been writing columns stating that the evolutionary theory is pure hockum. When one does that, watch for your email box to fill up with all sorts of anger.

Emailers in panic fits are now going to their therapists to get relief from my posts. It's amazing what a column or few can do to mentally unstable people.

Anyhow, as I read the tirades, I wondered what thinkers did before the mid-1800s? How did they get along without Saint Darwin? What holy script did they use to explain origins?

Of course thinkers prior to Darwin believed that God started everything. That is, He brought all into being from nothing — ex nihilo. It's what is still believed by God-holding minds.

For the centuries prior to The Origin of the Species came up with us all developing from tiny bits of swiggly whatevers, human brains worked out the biblical message as given primarily in Genesis.

It is that God brought into being all that there is. He is the Alpha and Omega — the Start and Finish. God being God can do that. He doesn't need any help from Darwin. He does not even have to have assistance from an evolutionary line up of lesser to greater.

Now there are those believers who are still mired into the evolutionary posh that they think they have to bow down to it in some fashion. Therefore, they conclude that evolution must be the method that Creator God used to bring everything from nothing. In that way, they feel comfortable living in a whacky world that holds tenaciously to a lamebrain theory full of holes.

But those truly adventurous, daring Christian biblical thinkers don't need even the crutch of evolution to explain how God did whatever He did. They just by faith conclude that God being God did what He did. He brought it off. He is the eternal One who has the everlasting powers by which to do what He sets out to do — just as Genesis relates it — and therefore God needed no help.

It is a pity that some of the younger generation have to feel that they must give some sort of academic nod to evolutionary teachers who cruise through their university classrooms with texts that preach that evolution is not really a theory. It is indeed a fact. A FACT already proven and digested and baptized as beyond any doubt.

Those of the younger generation need to understand that Genesis does not even need that kind of oblation to secular university professors, not even to professors in supposedly Christian colleges which have gone spiritually astray.

The bottom line is this: The Bible is the divine revelation. There Genesis states that Creator God did what He did. It spells it out in as much detail as any mortal needs to know in this life.

Therefore, be done with it. It was realistically tenable to generations of thinkers prior to Saint Darwin and it still works quite well for those who hold to the revelation as needing no secular assistance — none whatsoever.

Now watch my email box fill up again. That's okay. It means more money for the therapists. And I'm sure they can use the cash.

Evolution education update: September 22, 2006

NCSE is pleased to announce the publication of Not in Our Classrooms, a new book edited by Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch. In Ohio, a proposed "Framework for Teaching Controversial Issues" is apparently stalled -- for now. People for the American Way just unveiled a set of on-line resources for those concerned about the integrity of science education. And it's still not too late to sign up for NCSE's Grand Canyon trip in July 2007!

NOT IN OUR CLASSROOMS

NCSE is pleased to announce the publication of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for Our Schools (Beacon Press, 2006), edited by Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch, NCSE's executive director and deputy director, respectively, and with contributions from Scott, Branch, Nicholas J. Matzke (also of NCSE) and Paul R. Gross, Martinez Hewlett and Ted Peters, Jay D. Wexler, and Brian Alters, and a foreword by the Reverend Barry W. Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Bill Nye the Science Guy writes, "If you're concerned about scientific literacy, read this book. The authors of Not in Our Classrooms are authorities on the various battles fought over the teaching of evolution -- biology's fundamental discovery."

More than eighty years after the Scopes trial, creationism is alive and well. Through local school boards, sympathetic politicians, and well-funded organizations, a strong movement has developed to encourage the teaching of the latest incarnation of creationism -- intelligent design -- as a scientifically credible theory alongside evolution in science classes. Although intelligent design suffered a serious defeat in the recent Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, its proponents are bound to continue their assault on evolution education. Now, in Not in Our Classrooms, parents and teachers, as well as other concerned citizens, have a much-needed tool to use in the argument against teaching intelligent design as science.

Where did the concept of intelligent design originate? How does it connect with, and conflict with, various religious beliefs? Should we "teach the controversy" in our science classrooms? In clear and lively essays, a team of experts answers these questions and many more, describing the history of the intelligent design movement and the lack of scientific support for its claims. Most importantly, the contributors -- authorities on the scientific, legal, educational, and theological problems of intelligent design -- speak specifically to teachers and parents about the need to defend the integrity of science education by keeping intelligent design out of science curriculums. A concluding chapter offers concrete advice for those seeking to defend the teaching of evolution in their own communities.

Not in Our Classrooms is essential reading for anyone concerned about defending the teaching of evolution, uncompromised by religiously motivated pseudoscience, in our public schools. As Barry Lynn writes in his foreword, "No matter how credible the scientific evidence is in the rest of this book; no matter how clear the constitutional arguments are; no matter how well crafted the explanations that evolution and religious faith are not in conflict -- this is not a battle that will go away soon." Not in Our Classrooms is a valuable addition to the personal armory of anyone concerned for the future of evolution education! If you order your copy now from Beacon Press, you receive a 10% discount -- just enter NCSE in the discount code field.

For information on Not in Our Classrooms, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/nioc

To order directly from Beacon Press, visit:
http://www.beacon.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=1223

"CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES" FRAMEWORK STALLED IN OHIO

The Achievement Committee of the Ohio Board of Education declined to consider a proposed "Framework for Teaching Controversial Issues" at its September 11, 2006, meeting. James L. Craig, co-chair of the committee, said, "We've run out of time," according to a report in the Columbus Dispatch (September 12, 2006), and peremptorily adjourned the meeting. The decision not to consider the framework was surprising, since, as the Dispatch reported, the board received "national attention and thousands of e-mails" concerning it in recent weeks, owing in part to a campaign organized by the Committee to Defend the Constitution.

Evolution is not mentioned in the proposed framework, but because it was descended from a July 11, 2006, proposal by board member Colleen Grady that cited global warming and evolution as two areas of science in which scientists disagree, it was viewed with suspicion as a clear attempt to circumvent the board's February 2006 vote to retract a controversial "Critical Analysis of Evolution" model lesson plan and to remove the indicator on which it was based from the standards. Board member Martha Wise told the Akron Beacon Journal (September 7, 2006), that the framework "is a lot of gobbledygook -- it's just another wedge into the teaching of ID in science classes."

Just before the Achievement Committee's meeting, Ohio Citizens for Science issued a statement regarding the framework, describing it as "incoherent if, as its major proponent has stated, it will have teachers and students 'challenge everything.' It is impossible to challenge everything in each school class; to even attempt such a thing would result in chaos and no learning." The statement added, "Clearly the template is in fact the latest step in ongoing efforts to orchestrate a religiously motivated attack on the theory of evolution ... While science relies constantly on genuine critical analysis, it does not use denigrating debate tools based on political propaganda and ill-informed by evidence."

Additionally, Alan I. Leshner of the AAAS criticized the framework in his op-ed for the Akron Beacon Journal (September 11, 2006), writing, "ID advocates who in the past were concerned only with critical analysis of evolution are adding scientific concepts they oppose on religious grounds, including embryonic stem cell research, as subjects where the scientific consensus would come under attack in Ohio's classrooms. Although the advocates have crafted their arguments carefully, a critical analysis of their version of critical analysis suggests it's an old product in a new wrapper -- and that it poses clear and palpable threats to the education and future of Ohio's children."

Although the Achievement Committee decided not to consider the framework at its September meeting, the Beacon Journal (September 13, 2006) observed that "the issue could come up for a vote at next month's regularly scheduled board meeting" in October. The Dispatch reported (September 12, 2006), "Privately, several board members say they support an immediate vote so debate can end. The proposals, they say, are unnecessary and divisive and draw attention from more important topics." Meanwhile, the Beacon Journal (September 17, 2006) editorially commented, "Continuing this very political debate promises to harm the quality of education for Ohio students."

For the report in the Columbus Dispatch, visit:
http://www.dispatch.com/news-story.php?story=dispatch/2006/09/12/20060912-D6-03.html

For the proposed framework (PDF), visit:
http://www.ohioscience.org/Controversial_Issues0906.pdf

For Ohio Citizens for Science's response to the framework (PDF), visit:
http://www.ohioscience.org/Controversial_Issues_Response.pdf

For Leshner's op-ed in the Akron Beacon Journal, visit:
http://www.ohio.com/mld/ohio/news/editorial/15478599.htm

For the report and the editorial in the Akron Beacon Journal, visit:
http://www.ohio.com/mld/ohio/news/15506479.htm
http://www.ohio.com/mld/ohio/news/editorial/15534298.htm

PFAW OFFERS RESOURCES TO DEFEND SCIENCE EDUCATION

People for the American Way recently unveiled its on-line toolkit for students and parents whose public school science curriculum is under attack. PFAW writes:

***

Is there an effort in your state, locality or neighborhood school to introduce creationism or sideline evolution in the science classroom? If so, this toolkit was made for you.

Unlike private schools, public schools are intended to provide an education to every child, regardless of religion or creed. You have a right to expect that religious activists will not be able to use public school curricula to promote the beliefs of particular religious traditions in ways that are unconstitutional and that undermine scientific education.

Activists are increasingly targeting science education with attempts to ban the teaching of the theory of evolution, or undermine that curricula by advancing religion in its place -- either explicitly or cloaked in the language of science.

***

Included in the toolkit are talking points for parents and students, basic information about evolution, creationism, and science education, and a timeline of antievolution activity in the United States.

For PFAW's toolkit, visit:
http://www.pfaw.org/pfaw/general/default.aspx?oid=22398

NCSE AND THE GRAND CANYON

Explore the Grand Canyon with Scott and Gish! Seats are now available for NCSE's next excursion to the Grand Canyon -- as featured in The New York Times (October 6, 2005). From July 17 to July 24, 2007, NCSE will again explore the wonders of creation and evolution on a Grand Canyon river run conducted by NCSE's Genie Scott and Alan ("Gish") Gishlick. Because this is an NCSE trip, we offer more than just the typically grand float down the Canyon, the spectacular scenery, fascinating natural history, brilliant night skies, exciting rapids, delicious meals, and good company. It is, in fact, a unique "two-model" raft trip, on which we provide both the creationist view of Grand Canyon and the evolutionist view -- and let you make up your own mind. The cost is $2200; a deposit of $500 will hold your spot. Call or write now: seats are limited.

For further information on the Grand Canyon trip, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/GC2007

For a summary of the article in The New York Times, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2005/ZZ/3_seeing_creation_and_evolution_10_6_2005.asp

REMINDER

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

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

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

Sincerely,

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

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

NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!
http://www.ncseweb.org/membership.asp


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Healing touches

http://www.dailyinterlake.com/articles/2006/09/24/business/bus01.txt

Posted: Saturday, Sep 23, 2006 - 11:51:18 pm MDT By KRISTI ALBERTSON The Daily Inter Lake

Alternative treatments gain in popularity with veterinarians

Henry lay quietly on the mattress, listening to the women talking above him. For the last month, arthritis had crept steadily up his leg, to the point where every painful step looked more like a stumble.

"He'll run after a tennis ball, but then he'll limp back," said Dana Bailey, who had accompanied him to the clinic. When she bent to gently stroke Henry's head, he responded with a few frantic thumps of his tail.

Bailey, a Whitefish veterinarian and Henry's owner, had discovered a tumor in his right front leg a few weeks earlier. Lab tests and X-rays showed nothing, leading doctors to believe the "mostly black Lab" was suffering from nothing more serious than arthritis.

Pain relievers alone weren't helping, so Bailey brought Henry to Calm Animal Clinic in Kila to see if fellow veterinarian Barbara Calm could help him with acupuncture. Calm, who practices conventional medicine as well as offering acupuncture, chiropractic and herbal treatments, had already successfully treated Bailey's other dog more than once.

"I thought these guys would be a good experiment," Bailey said. "If it goes well, then I can recommend it to more patients. So far, I'm impressed."

Acupuncture and other alternative veterinary treatments have gained popularity in the last decade. Ten years ago, just 6 percent of pet owners had used alternative medicine to treat their animals, according to a survey by the American Animal Hospital Association. In 2003, that number had jumped to 21 percent.

When veterinarian Rick Myers graduated from Colorado State University in 1989, complementary treatment wasn't taught in school.

"You didn't even hear about it," he said.

Now, the college offers a one-credit elective devoted to non-Western treatments used in veterinary medicine. Veterinarians who've been practicing for years can receive training through other venues.

"I think it has become more popular," Myers said. "They're starting to actually offer continuing education (in complementary medicine) at veterinary conferences."

Popularity aside, some aren't convinced alternative treatments are effective. Art Otto, who has been a veterinarian for 31 years, says he believes some are more credible than others.

"I agree with chiropractic and acupuncture. I believe they work," he said. "I don't have a lot of faith in this point in homeopathy."

Homeopathy claims to treat a disease with minute doses of a substance that would, in a healthy person or animal, produce symptoms similar to the disease being treated. Because the doses are so small, Otto says the practice doesn't make sense to him — but that doesn't mean it doesn't work, he added.

"Someone could possibly school me on it and show me," he said.

Myers, too, thinks there are some limits to alternative treatments but believes they have their place. And sometimes, the animal just needs time to heal, he said.

"You've got to ask yourself, too, sometimes even with regular medicine, did they get better on their own?" he said. "Sometimes I think all we do is guide them along and let Mother Nature do the healing."

Daniel Savage, who has been a veterinarian for 18 years, agreed.

"Often rest will do as much for an animal as anything," he said. "The body is capable of healing itself. It's going to get better anyway, many times."

Still, many pet owners want to feel like they're taking a proactive approach, he said. This is where alternative treatments may come in, giving people more treatment options.

Acupuncture is one of the most popular choices. Calm says most of her patients find the procedure relaxing.

Henry certainly did. He lay still on the mattress while Calm slowly put tiny 30-gauge needles in various points in his body.

"You can tell he really doesn't mind it," she said, petting the dog, who looked like he might fall asleep. A few minutes later, with Bailey still stroking his head, he did doze off.

Dogs and cats comprise the bulk of her patients, but since her certification by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society in 1999, Calm has worked on other animals as well, including horses and a pet rat. She's even used acupuncture to clear up a chicken's chronic sinus infection — a single needle fixed the problem, she said.

But needles, spinal adjustments and herbs aren't the only alternative options available to pets. Wendy Haagerup, a veterinary technician at Calm Animal Clinic, is an equine sport therapist and graduate of the British Columbia College of Equine Therapy. Most of her work involves massage.

Massage can benefit all kinds of horses, she said, from a pleasure trail horse to a high-end eventing horse. Age makes no difference, she added. Young and old horses alike benefit from massage.

"Horses who have arthritis — pasture ornaments, as I call them — they move, but some of them aren't athletic any more," she said. "It helps them become more athletic, because they're more comfortable.

"It's also good for young horses, because they're like kids, and they're 100 mph all the time and they're constantly getting in wrecks."

While some therapists use mechanized help, Haagerup prefers working with just her hands.

"I find that I can feel things with my hands better than I can with a machine," she said. "I can be far more in tune with the horse and be more effective. My hands don't require batteries, and they never break down. My hands aren't loud or invasive, and I can work as slowly or quickly as I need to."

Sometimes, however, especially in some of the thick muscles in a horse's neck or hindquarters, machines can help relieve tension at a deeper level. Pat Young, equine physical therapist, uses a variety of processes to treat her patients, including cold-light lasers and trigger-point therapy, both of which are designed to release deep-muscle spasms.

Young has worked on horses all over the country. Most of her patients are either competitive or old, and benefit from the improved range of motion she says her therapy provides. But she has also been called to treat other equine problems.

"I believe that a lot of horses who are kind of labeled as tough to ride, or they buck or they have a poor personality, that many of these horses are in

pain, and when that pain is relieved, their personalities change," she said.

About a year ago, Young worked on a pony that had the reputation of crow-hopping and running away with its rider.

"After two treatments, they were just so amazed that this pony was just the sweetest pony in the world," she said.

No matter the patient, Young insists on working with clients who have had their horses examined by a veterinarian.

"There is so much that can be done by the veterinarian, and then I can see what I can do with physical therapy," she said. "It's just like a human physical therapist: They want the patient to have seen a doctor."

Haagerup agrees.

"I absolutely think you have to work with the vet," she said. "It's a complementary thing; it's not a replacement for veterinary care at all."

Finding ways to complement her conventional practice is why Calm began investigating alternative treatments in the first place.

"For me, I wanted to be able to offer something beyond traditional medicine to help my patients," she said. "Because we get frustrated when we use everything we can that's within our means and it's not enough, so more tools are better. And that's what acupuncture and chiropractic are — they complement conventional medicine. I don't believe they replace it."

After about 20 minutes, Henry's needles were ready to come out. Calm and Bailey helped the dog stand up. His tail wagged frantically, and though he still stepped gingerly, his limp was noticeably improved.

Sometimes treatments are immediately effective, Calm said. Other times, a patient might need to come in a few times. And sometimes, even a combination of treatments isn't enough.

"Sometimes it doesn't help," Calm said. "That's hard, but at least they know that they explored one more avenue that they hadn't before. You want to try everything when you have a pet that you care very much about."

Reporter Kristi Albertson may be reached at 758-4438 or by e-mail at kalbertson@dailyinterlake.com.

Pioneering UO geologist balanced faith, science

http://www.registerguard.com/news/2006/09/24/ed.col.cardcondon.0924.p1.php?section=opinion

GUEST VIEWPOINT By Douglas Card Published: Sunday, September 24, 2006

With all of today's conflicts between religion and science, particularly between evolution and creationism or intelligent design, it's hard to believe that in Eugene some 130 years ago a fascinating person argued for a peaceful synthesis of the two sides.

He was Thomas Condon, one of the University of Oregon's three original professors of 1876. He was also a pioneer Congregational missionary to Oregon in 1853 and Oregon's first official state geologist. After a very long and fruitful life, he was eulogized in 1907 as "a great and a good man." Perhaps his story can provide some clues as to how we can overcome some of the bitter divides of our own day.

We can get to know Condon through the charming "Thomas Condon, Pioneer Geologist of Oregon," by his brilliant daughter Ellen McCornack, and the more recent "The Odyssey of Thomas Condon," in which an academic giant of the 20th century, former UO president Robert Clark, tells the story of the university's greatest professor of the 19th century. And there is the wonderful exhibit "Condon's Classroom" at the UO's Museum of Natural History - but hurry, the exhibit is open only through today.

Though a trained religious leader, Condon was a self-taught scientist. While working as a minister in The Dalles in the 1860s, in his spare time Condon followed his old hobby of collecting rocks and fossils, eventually leading to his famous discovery of the John Day fossil beds. Condon also had the opportunity to read current scientific books from this exciting period, when science and religion were beginning to clash over the radical new view on evolution by Charles Darwin.

From his deep and unquestioning Christian beliefs and his gradual hands-on research into geology and paleontology, Condon developed a solid viewpoint in support of theistic evolution as explained by the development theory. This was a form of intelligent design: God created evolution as a tool to develop all the species that would eventually inhabit the Earth, with natural selection and the germ of progress in each plant or animal leading to higher species - eventually resulting in God's highest creation, the spiritual human.

Condon's warmth, sincerity and integrity, combined with his great intellect and knowledge, made him a popular speaker in the early 1870s, not just around The Dalles but eventually in Portland and Eugene. Although he strongly made clear his deep belief that Christianity and science were not in conflict, his views on this subject naturally drew both praise and damnation.

Eugene was enthusiastic about Condon's lectures from the start, and he helped to stir up interest both in science and in supporting the still struggling future university.

One particular fan was young Harrison Kincaid, editor of the local Oregon State Journal, who wrote in 1875 that "Professor Condon's lecture was very productive both on geology and theology and education; he showed many with no theology that a man may be most thoroughly and earnestly Christian without being either a fool or a bigot."

To Condon, the strata in an upturned rock ledge were like the leaves in a book, able to teach us about God's work in nature. He felt that understanding evolution and geology helped him see the grandeur of God's creation, stating that "I once believed God created a small fact; I now see that he must have created a whole system of facts at once."

He ridiculed the idea that this wider view of creation "should have any less need of a plan and a designer than the more special ones of our older thought." He sometimes brought a Bible to his lectures, interpreting Genesis to show that there was no actual disagreement between it and the geologic record. Feeling that God's evolutionary work was perfect, he saw no advantage in pointing out any particular gaps in the fossil record, unlike some of today's followers of intelligent design.

Condon was distressed that many people believed that teaching evolution led to atheism. While he understood why materialists naturally claimed that evolution required no god, he argued against uneducated creationist preachers who taught the same thing to their followers. Religion and science were two separate fields. Opposing science was a struggle he was sure the church would lose.

Condon's goal as a professor was to help his students see that they did not have to drop their precious religious beliefs in order to take part in the exciting new world of science. As one student later wrote, Condon helped him find the link between revelation and evolution.

What would Condon think now, we wonder, if he were here to see that perhaps half of America's people still prefer creationism to evolution, and scientists are still trumpeting their discovery of the latest "missing link," such as the recent discovery of the fossil fish-reptile tiktallik?

Douglas Card (dcard@uoregon.edu) is a local historian and adjunct instructor in sociology at the University of Oregon.

Students should be taught alternatives to evolution

http://www.ourmidland.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=17239666&BRD=2289&PAG=461&dept_id=472539&rfi=6

John M. Pafford 09/24/2006

On Sept. 10, Norbert Bufka dealt with the controversy swirling around whether consideration of creationism and intelligent design should be permitted in public schools. Leading up to his negative conclusion on the issue, he made some misleading statements concerning the Bible. He alleged that the account of creation in the second chapter of Genesis is different from that of chapter one. I believe that a careful reading of them will clarify that chapter two is a more detailed exposition of some teachings from chapter one.

Mr. Bufka stated that "There is nothing in the Bible that even remotely suggests that God made a list of writings that belong in the Bible and said that He was the author of them." Actually, the Bible contains clear references to the fact that it came from God, such as 2 Timothy 3:16 and Hebrews 1:1. Whether or not one believes, this is a matter that each person must answer for himself or herself. The compilation of the Bible is believed by Christians to have been guided by the Holy Spirit who gave the insight to early church leaders to discern the writings which were divine revelation from those spuriously claiming to be such.

Contrary to another assertion by Mr. Bufka, I believe the first five books of the Bible to be more than myth. They are truth in and of themselves, not merely vehicles to convey a message. Mr. Bufka charged that "creationism is not science nor is intelligent design." I am not a scientist; my doctorate is in history, so detailed responses to that statement should come from others more qualified. It should be evident, though, to anyone who as given even a cursory glance at the controversy that intelligent design advocates approach the matter not from the vantage point of faith, but rather examine facts, analyze them and draw a conclusion as to the logical source of all that exists.

What aggravates opponents is that scientists supporting intelligent design rejected Darwinian evolution and determined that the evidence points to a Creator. While it is true that creationism is taught in the Bible, scientists believing in it do study scientific data and scientifically examine the phenomena of the natural world.

Mr. Bufka's advocating the removal of creationism and intelligent design from being considered in public schools leaves Darwinian evolution as the state-established belief system, a serious error and denial of academic freedom. All three of them, creationism, intelligent design -- and Darwinian evolution -- should be taught with each individual free to accept whatever he or she chooses.

John M. Pafford is a Midland resident and an adjunct professor of history at Northwood University.

©Midland Daily News 2006

New book fuses faith with science

http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/journalgazette/living/15590819.htm

Posted on Sat, Sep. 23, 2006 By Stephanie Simon Los Angeles Times

ROCKVILLE, Md. – The dying woman looked up at her physician. "What do you believe?"

The question unsettled Dr. Francis Collins. For days, he had watched the elderly woman serenely endure the pain of a failing heart, certain she was leaving this world for a better one. She talked to him often of her faith. He listened with bemusement.

He was a man of science; he had earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at Yale and was completing his medical degree with bedside training at a North Carolina hospital. When his patients talked of God, he pitied them.

Yet confronted with the woman's earnest question, Collins felt not superior, but oddly ashamed. After 30 years, he still remembers how he flushed as he stammered: "I'm not really sure."

The patient died soon after. And Collins embarked on a journey of exploration that took him to the White House to discuss his landmark map of human DNA with President Clinton – and to a lonely mountain meadow, where he dropped to his knees one bright morning and surrendered himself to Jesus Christ.

A scientist and a believer. A born-again Christian and director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, a federal project with 550 employees, a $480 million annual budget and a mandate to explore every twist of the DNA that makes us who we are. The synthesis has brought Collins much joy and intellectual satisfaction. But he's frustrated, too, that he's perceived as such an oddity.

In his new book, "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief," Collins expresses his dismay at what he calls "the chasm between science and faith."

Evolution versus intelligent design. Darwin versus God. Embryonic stem-cell research versus the sanctity of human life.

"We act as though there's a battle going on," Collins said. "An irreconcilable conflict."

He feels no such conflict. He believes in evolution and in the resurrection. He wears a silver ring with a raised cross and works at a dining-room table painted with the double-helix of DNA.

Tall and trim, with gray hair, blue eyes, a relaxed, self-effacing manner and just the barest hint of a Southern twang, Collins, 56, has set himself up as an emissary between two clashing worldviews.

He urges his fellow scientists to give up the arrogant assumption that the only questions worth asking are those science can answer. He entreats his fellow believers to recognize it's not blasphemous to learn about the world.

One day last summer, in the basement office of his suburban home here, Collins dictated this manifesto into a tape recorder: "Science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced. God is most certainly not threatened by science; He made it all possible." It became the central thesis of his book – with this addendum: "Abandon the battlements."

This plea for a truce encourages some veterans of the culture wars.

Polls routinely show that about half of all Americans believe God created man, fully formed, within the last 10,000 years, as the Bible recounts. The vast majority of scientists find that ludicrous, but their account of man evolving from primordial muck does not resonate broadly, especially with Christians who believe in a personal God, deeply concerned about each human life.

Collins, some hope, might bridge this gap by reassuring Christians that they can buy evolution without selling out their faith. Some Christians accuse Collins of denying the foundation of faith when he calls the Biblical creation account an allegory.

"Not accepting the history in Genesis undermines the entire gospel," said Ken Ham, president of a ministry called Answers in Genesis, which promotes creationism. "The Bible says from dust we come and to dust we return. We don't return to an ape-man when we die."

From the other camp, some scientists ridicule Collins' effort to find a place for God in the scientific framework.

"I could just as well say that there are 70 pink elephants revolving around the Earth," said Herbert A. Hauptman, a Nobel laureate in chemistry. Science and faith "are simply incompatible," he added. "There's no getting around it."

Collins took a roundabout route to the intersection of faith and science.

His parents both had graduate degrees from Yale, but chose to live in the mountains of Virginia on a scruffy farm with no running water. His father traveled the rural South to record and preserve old folk songs; his mother home-schooled their four sons except when a creative fever gripped her and she shut herself in her room for a week at a time, writing plays. Entering college at age 16, Collins had no fixed ideas about God. He soon came up with one: Religion was for fools.

All that began to change when the dying woman asked Collins, then 26, what he believed. For months, he had been observing his patients draw comfort from faith; the question "made me realize that I had moved away from my certainty that this was all bunk into a curiosity," he said.

Collins considers evolution irrefutable; he has no doubt that all life emerged from a common ancestor over millions of years. But he began to ask himself whether God could have set this amazing process in motion:

Maybe it all appears random from Earth – as though man's existence is due to an improbable series of lucky breaks – but from God's perspective, perhaps evolution is a logical, even elegant, way to populate the planet. Maybe God intended mutations in DNA over the millennia to lead to the emergence of homo sapiens. Once man arrived, maybe God set him apart from the other creatures by endowing him with knowledge of right and wrong, a sense of altruism and a yearning for spiritual nourishment.

Collins knew he could never prove any of these ideas, but that no longer troubled him the way it once had.

Science could reel back time 14 billion years to postulate a Big Bang that created the universe. But it could not explain what came before that singular moment – or how the energy that fueled the cosmic explosion came to be. Science clearly had limits. So it seemed unfair to Collins to reject the divine simply because God's existence could not be proved.

That argument frustrates Nobel-prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg. Yes, he said, science does have limits. But attributing the unknown to God doesn't advance human knowledge or serve a useful purpose, except to give believers a "warm, fuzzy, reassuring feeling."

And given all the violence done in the name of religion, Weinberg argues that the world is better off without it. "It's something we have to grow out of," he said. "There will always be mystery, always things we don't fully understand. We just have to resign ourselves to that."

For a long time – even after he had convinced himself that God was plausible – Collins, too, was uneasy about organized religion. But the more he studied scripture, the more he felt drawn to Christianity. Still he held back, afraid getting religion would turn him into a bore: "I'd become pious, tiresome, humorless. I'd suddenly feel I had to go to Africa and save millions."

Then one day in 1978, as he hiked past a glorious waterfall in Oregon's Cascade Mountains, Collins felt a stirring he could not resist. The next morning, he knelt in a meadow behind his motel and gave his life to Jesus. (To his relief, he found he still loved to ride motorcycles and crack jokes.)

Beginning his research career at the University of Michigan – where he discovered the genetic flaw that causes cystic fibrosis – Collins didn't hide his faith, but neither did he broadcast it. Polls have found that 40 percent of scientists believe, as Collins does, in a God who actively communicates with man. Among elite biologists, however, the figure is much lower, about 5 percent, and Collins has often felt at risk of ridicule among his peers.

Collins is still not sure how to answer the question his dying patient posed three decades ago: What do you believe?

Death is not the end, he's certain of that now, but he cannot conceive what might come after. He doesn't trouble himself about the details. There are too many other mysteries with answers more readily within his grasp. Collins oversees a national effort to identify the genetic roots of cancer.

In his own lab, he's close to finding the mutations that may lead to diabetes.

Outsiders sometimes ask, with alarm, whether this knowledge will allow scientists to "play God" – to manipulate and enhance man's genetic code in ways nature never intended. Collins urges public debate to set boundaries, or as he puts it: "How far down the line do we go (before) we start to affect what it means to be human?"

Personally, though, he never feels as though he's on the verge of usurping God with his discoveries in the lab. The more he learns, the more he's humbled.

As he explores each intricate rung of DNA, Collins said, "it's like I'm glimpsing a little of God's mind."

Debate over man's origin grows

http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,650192897,00.html

By Carrie A. Moore Deseret Morning News

OGDEN — The announcement last spring of the discovery of a 3.3 million-year-old child skeleton in Africa underscores the debate that played out earlier this week at Weber State University between two evolutionists and a creationist.

The scientific journal "Nature" expanded this week on the discovery of partial remains of a 3-year-old female in Dikika, Ethiopia, calling the find "a veritable mine of information about a crucial stage in human evolutionary history."

Adding to the "fossil record" that scientists use as a building block in their argument for evolution, the find was characterized as "an outstanding resource to understand the development of a human ancestor that seems to have both walked upright and climbed through trees," by the publication.

Though Wednesday's debate at Weber State didn't include specific discussion of the new find, it did revolve around the issue of whether science has actually proven that one species can evolve from another — particularly from a "lower" life form to a higher one.

Robert Fudge of the WSU philosophy department said creationists "can't explain an ordered fossil record," instead arguing that the great flood recorded in the Bible gave fossils the appearance of being ancient in origin. He said the sheer number and various kinds of life forms that exist also argue against creationism, as does any lack of understanding about the "nature of the divine mind" if a creator or "designer" exists.

"It comes down to design or order. How do you measure design? You can measure order. To say that it is 'designed' requires a whole different layer of argument. This is one of the big problems with intelligent design (theory)," which postulates that life on Earth evolved the under the direction of an organizing force.

Dr. Randy Guliuzza, a physician and engineer with a master's degree in public health from Harvard, argued that design is not only present in the universe, but that it can be proven through mathematics and probability theory, rather than simply an appeal to religious belief. Biological systems, including human beings, are comprised of "precise timing and arrangement and alignment" of their critical systems in order to survive, he said, adding "all of those patterns can be observed and measured.

"You can rule out random chance altogether. You can see whether there are choices that were made through independent measures. I'm not just saying that evolution fails because we don't have an explanation for it now, but because the science that we have for it doesn't prove that it works."

Nicole Berthelemy-Okazaki, a microbiologist at WSU and a Christian who believes in evolution, said that "creation stories are, for me, accounts of humankind on Earth." While most mainstream Christian faiths accept the theory of evolution, she said, a few "fundamentalist Christians reject evolution and insist on imposing their theories on others. There is no scientific evidence for creation as told in the Bible," she said.

Evolution presents an ordered scientific theory for how human beings came to be, while those who hold to the biblical account "have never given any explanation of how the Creation came about. It just happened," she said.

Guliuzza said evolutionary predictions "fail to conform to the reality of the fossil record," noting scientists can't explain the "abrupt appearance of distinct types of vertebrates. You can't even look in the fossil record and see any kind of transformational types," where one life form evolved from another, he said.

At Weber State as part of a speaking engagement at First Baptist Church in Ogden, Guliuzza is an adjunct speaker and debater with the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego, which promotes scientific creationism, biblical creationism and related theories.

E-mail: carrie@desnews.com

Adding a dose of the spiritual to medicine

http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060923/NEWS10/609230353

Article published Saturday, September 23, 2006

By DAVID YONKE BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

CLAY CENTER - East meets West at the Healing Oasis.

Dr. Ken Mapes, an emergency room doctor at Medical University of Ohio, and Kathy Mapes, a registered nurse, converted their home into a treatment center offering both conventional medical procedures and alternative therapies such as healing touch, yoga, reflexology, Reiki, hypnotherapy, and massage.

Prayer and meditation are a big part of the concept, Mrs. Mapes said.

The back of the house will have a Japanese garden and patients will have a place to go to pray, meditate, have a cup of tea, listen to self-help tapes, read books, watch videos, or simply "get quiet," she said.

"My husband and I are really trying to integrate Eastern medicine with Western medicine. We're trying to combine a bit of everything," said Mrs. Mapes.

She said she learned a lot about the power of prayer while working as a parish nurse at St. John's United Church of Christ in Genoa for four years.

"I would visit the elderly, make sure they have their medicine and assistance. I could sit and hold their hand and pray with them - whatever they needed," she said.

When funding for the parish nurse program ended, she and her husband decided to open the Healing Oasis.

The couple, who have two children, ages 7 and 11 months, transformed their Main Street house into the new treatment center and are building a home down the block.

The facility opened early this summer for limited sessions and will celebrate a grand opening on Oct. 1.

"I did color therapy," Mrs. Mapes said, "so all the colors in the room are based on what we're doing there. It's homey. It doesn't feel like you're in a clinical setting."

Mrs. Mapes, 39, and Dr. Mapes, 41, have always been open-minded about medical treatment and alternative therapies and believe the current health care system in the United States needs major changes, she said.

When Dr. Mapes was going through medical school at the University of Cincinnati, for example, the process was so demanding that it hindered his ability to help patients, according to Mrs. Mapes.

"As a medical student, intern, and resident doctor, the system is so abusive, so how can you be healing other people?" she said. "There just has to be other ways to be able to heal, to kind of blend [mainstream] medicine with alternative medicine."

Too many times, patients rely entirely on prescription medicine or an operation to take care of their illnesses, Mrs. Mapes said. The Mapeses are not dismissing traditional medical help, but feel that there are other ways to promote healing.

"Getting a pill for something is not always the answer, and that's what we're trying to promote. That's what we both love," she said.

The root cause of illnesses sometimes can be traced to other problems in a patient's life, like stress or diet, she said, and the Mapeses have seen people healed of serious illnesses through alternative or holistic therapy. The Healing Oasis does not promote any particular religion or denomination, she added, and is open to all.

"We certainly can't take credit for anybody's healing," she said, adding that "it's all up to God. But we can guide people into other alternative therapies. There have been many studies done on the power of prayer. And surgery patients that have been prayed for have healed remarkably faster. It's all positive, all good energy. That's our focus. We're just trying to find what works for them."

The Healing Oasis, 510 Main St., Clay Center, will hold a grand opening from 1 to 6 p.m. Oct. 1. Dr. William Hablitzel will be there to sign his book, "Dying Was the Best Thing that Ever Happened To Me." After the grand opening, treatments will be available by appointment: 419-855-0456.

Human Evolution: An exclusive interview with the man who discovered the oldest child in the world

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/science_technology/article1726096.ece

Dr Zeresenay named her Selam and calls her his daughter. But she was born 3.3 million years ago

Published: 24 September 2006

She was three years old when she died. Flood waters tore through the forest, separating mother from child. Guttural cries of alarm echoed in the lush canopy. Possibly. There was nobody there to record her death. The body sank to the bottom of the water, out of sight of predators, and was covered over by stones and sand. The riverbed turned to rock eventually, and so did her bones.

The child lay buried for a very long time. More than three million years, until a Sunday afternoon in December six years ago when strangers came looking for bodies. By then the forest had long disappeared. The hillside was a dry, rocky, hostile place. The heat was ferocious. A boot stirred the dust. Its owner looked down and saw a portion of bone, half-buried.

"A cheekbone was sticking out of the sand," says the young Ethiopian who found her, Dr Zeresenay Alemseged (Zeray, as his friends call him). He was looking because that has been his life's work, driven by an obsession with finding the remains of all our ancient ancestors in the country of his birth. On that day, after several years of trying, he did it. The find was stunning. Details of it, emerging only now, challenge long-held beliefs about the way human beings evolved.

For the first time, the scientist holding up an extraordinary find from Africa is an African. But whatever the impact he has made across the world, for the 37-year-old this is still deeply personal. "I have a son who is nine months old," he told me, speaking in Addis Ababa. "I also have a daughter who is 3.3 million years old. I am living in both epochs."

Except she is not his daughter, and could never have been. That is the point. This child is a hominin, an ape closely related to humans. Hers is the oldest and most complete infant skeleton ever found, a refugee from the time when our ancestors had just begun to stand on their two hind limbs.

Zeray has spent more than five years separating her bones from the cement-like sandstone "grain by grain". He named her Selam, which means "peace" in several Ethiopian languages. She is in pieces now, in a laboratory at the National Museum in Addis, close to the bungalow in which his real family lives.

Selam is also on the cover of National Geographic magazine, as a computer reconstruction that gives her a friendly expression and a relatively hairless face. It is guesswork, but the image is one reason why this tiny ape-child from prehistory has struck a chord in cynical modern human hearts. The other is the unearthing of her hyoid, the delicate bone that holds open the throat and which suggests the noises that Selam made as she was held in her mother's arms (or was parted from them by surging waters) were more human than ape.

"This has been my life," said Dr Zeresenay, who trained in Paris but returned to search the Afar badlands as soon as he could. "All my efforts, energies and time have been devoted towards finding, analysing and describing this specimen and what it represents." So what does Selam represent? "She has many significances. The completeness of this find means it contains many new and previously unknown elements, and they raise many questions."

For scientists like Bernard Wood, a paleoanthropologist at George Washington University in the US, Selam is "a veritable mine of information about a crucial stage in human evolutionary history". The chief surprise is that her shoulder blades and arms still look like those of a gorilla. There is now hot debate over whether they are just useless evolutionary baggage or a sign that 3.3 million years ago Selam and her family were still swinging.

If they were, then the most popular theory of why humans stood up is challenged, says Desmond Morris, the zoologist who studies human behaviour. This theory says they did it because they had learned to use their hands for making tools and weapons but still needed to get around. "If Selam is significant and not an oddity, that means bipedalism came first. So there must have been a different reason for it."

But he warns against drawing too many conclusions. "People end up basing their idea of an entire species on a little girl's skeleton. There's a man in the Guinness World Records who is eight feet tall. If you found him, and only him, in three million years' time what would you think we had been?"

The question of who we once were has led many people to Axum, the town where Zeray was born in 1969. It was once the seat of the Axumite Kingdom, a power listed by one contemporary as ranking alongside those of Rome, Persia and China. So the young boy grew up watching Western archaeologists, fortune hunters and tourists rifling through his town. "The Axumite ruins were just like a kitchen in disorder on an ordinary day," he once said. History and the present lay side by side in the dust.

Zeray was five years old when the ageing Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed by Marxist members of the military in 1974. That was also the year a paleoanthropologist called Donald Johanson saw a bony elbow sticking out of the gravel in the Afar region. He had found the partial skeleton of an adult female from 3.2m years earlier. Nicknamed Lucy after a Beatles song, she was the oldest hominin ever found at the time. Lucy was the first to be identified as Australopithecus afarensis, a missing link between apes and humans.

Zeray was 15 and at high school in Addis when Western eyes turned to Ethiopia again in 1984, during the famine. He graduated in geology there and was sent to France on a scholarship. But he came back at the age of 30, badgering the ministry for a permit to start searching his own parcel of land. The chosen spot was the inhospitable Dikika, two hours' drive from the nearest village. The name means nipple in the local language, and comes from the hill being shaped like a breast.

The landscape has a wild beauty, but it can be deadly. The heat can kill, but there are also lions and snakes, and mosquitoes that carry malaria. Flash floods still sweep people away. The bandits have a reputation for scuttling out of the heat haze like scorpions.

For a long time the team found nothing of great significance. They were close to giving up on the afternoon of 10 December 2000 but kept going, moving slowly, their heads bowed to scan the sand and rocks. A shout was stifled by the dead air. Someone had seen a flash of bone. Zeray got down on his knees and breathlessly but carefully removed all he could of the debris and dry grass. The cheek was attached to a skull. He recognised the smooth brow as that of a hominin, but had to do many more tests before he could be sure it was A. afarensis, the same species as Lucy: his dream find.

There were many other bones too, invisible in a hard ball of sandstone. "We brought the initial block here to the museum because there is no laboratory on the hillside," said Zeray with huge understatement. "It is a place with many challenges."

The bones were extricated using dental drills that direct precise blasts of compressed air into the rock. "This causes vibrations in the sand and cleans it from the fossil without you having to touch the bone at all," he said. Cleaning the tiny ribs and vertebrae with meticulous care took thousands of hours. The true scale of the find was not revealed until a paper was published in the journal Nature last Thursday.

"This is a stunning discovery," said Martin Meredith, author of The State of Africa, "but it does not change the picture of human evolution. What we're doing now is filling in the pieces." For him and many other observers, one of the most significant things about Selam is the identity of the man who discovered her. Desmond Morris agrees. "It is wonderful news," he said. "There is still a colonial and imperial flavour to anthropology - virtually all the discoveries are made by Europeans and Americans who go out to these remote places with the help of the locals, who also do the digging. So the fact that Selam was discovered by an African leading a team in his own backyard is brilliant."

Dr Zeresenay is now attached to the Max Planck Institute of Leipzig in Germany. He will have to get used to acclaim. But it will not keep him from his "daughter", who is still partly encased in sand in the laboratory in Addis. And soon he will be out in the crippling heat again, on the hillside. The bones of her long-lost relatives are calling.

She was three years old when she died. Flood waters tore through the forest, separating mother from child. Guttural cries of alarm echoed in the lush canopy. Possibly. There was nobody there to record her death. The body sank to the bottom of the water, out of sight of predators, and was covered over by stones and sand. The riverbed turned to rock eventually, and so did her bones.

The child lay buried for a very long time. More than three million years, until a Sunday afternoon in December six years ago when strangers came looking for bodies. By then the forest had long disappeared. The hillside was a dry, rocky, hostile place. The heat was ferocious. A boot stirred the dust. Its owner looked down and saw a portion of bone, half-buried.

"A cheekbone was sticking out of the sand," says the young Ethiopian who found her, Dr Zeresenay Alemseged (Zeray, as his friends call him). He was looking because that has been his life's work, driven by an obsession with finding the remains of all our ancient ancestors in the country of his birth. On that day, after several years of trying, he did it. The find was stunning. Details of it, emerging only now, challenge long-held beliefs about the way human beings evolved.

For the first time, the scientist holding up an extraordinary find from Africa is an African. But whatever the impact he has made across the world, for the 37-year-old this is still deeply personal. "I have a son who is nine months old," he told me, speaking in Addis Ababa. "I also have a daughter who is 3.3 million years old. I am living in both epochs."

Except she is not his daughter, and could never have been. That is the point. This child is a hominin, an ape closely related to humans. Hers is the oldest and most complete infant skeleton ever found, a refugee from the time when our ancestors had just begun to stand on their two hind limbs.

Zeray has spent more than five years separating her bones from the cement-like sandstone "grain by grain". He named her Selam, which means "peace" in several Ethiopian languages. She is in pieces now, in a laboratory at the National Museum in Addis, close to the bungalow in which his real family lives.

Selam is also on the cover of National Geographic magazine, as a computer reconstruction that gives her a friendly expression and a relatively hairless face. It is guesswork, but the image is one reason why this tiny ape-child from prehistory has struck a chord in cynical modern human hearts. The other is the unearthing of her hyoid, the delicate bone that holds open the throat and which suggests the noises that Selam made as she was held in her mother's arms (or was parted from them by surging waters) were more human than ape.

"This has been my life," said Dr Zeresenay, who trained in Paris but returned to search the Afar badlands as soon as he could. "All my efforts, energies and time have been devoted towards finding, analysing and describing this specimen and what it represents." So what does Selam represent? "She has many significances. The completeness of this find means it contains many new and previously unknown elements, and they raise many questions."

For scientists like Bernard Wood, a paleoanthropologist at George Washington University in the US, Selam is "a veritable mine of information about a crucial stage in human evolutionary history". The chief surprise is that her shoulder blades and arms still look like those of a gorilla. There is now hot debate over whether they are just useless evolutionary baggage or a sign that 3.3 million years ago Selam and her family were still swinging.

If they were, then the most popular theory of why humans stood up is challenged, says Desmond Morris, the zoologist who studies human behaviour. This theory says they did it because they had learned to use their hands for making tools and weapons but still needed to get around. "If Selam is significant and not an oddity, that means bipedalism came first. So there must have been a different reason for it."

But he warns against drawing too many conclusions. "People end up basing their idea of an entire species on a little girl's skeleton. There's a man in the Guinness World Records who is eight feet tall. If you found him, and only him, in three million years' time what would you think we had been?" The question of who we once were has led many people to Axum, the town where Zeray was born in 1969. It was once the seat of the Axumite Kingdom, a power listed by one contemporary as ranking alongside those of Rome, Persia and China. So the young boy grew up watching Western archaeologists, fortune hunters and tourists rifling through his town. "The Axumite ruins were just like a kitchen in disorder on an ordinary day," he once said. History and the present lay side by side in the dust.

Zeray was five years old when the ageing Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed by Marxist members of the military in 1974. That was also the year a paleoanthropologist called Donald Johanson saw a bony elbow sticking out of the gravel in the Afar region. He had found the partial skeleton of an adult female from 3.2m years earlier. Nicknamed Lucy after a Beatles song, she was the oldest hominin ever found at the time. Lucy was the first to be identified as Australopithecus afarensis, a missing link between apes and humans.

Zeray was 15 and at high school in Addis when Western eyes turned to Ethiopia again in 1984, during the famine. He graduated in geology there and was sent to France on a scholarship. But he came back at the age of 30, badgering the ministry for a permit to start searching his own parcel of land. The chosen spot was the inhospitable Dikika, two hours' drive from the nearest village. The name means nipple in the local language, and comes from the hill being shaped like a breast.

The landscape has a wild beauty, but it can be deadly. The heat can kill, but there are also lions and snakes, and mosquitoes that carry malaria. Flash floods still sweep people away. The bandits have a reputation for scuttling out of the heat haze like scorpions.

For a long time the team found nothing of great significance. They were close to giving up on the afternoon of 10 December 2000 but kept going, moving slowly, their heads bowed to scan the sand and rocks. A shout was stifled by the dead air. Someone had seen a flash of bone. Zeray got down on his knees and breathlessly but carefully removed all he could of the debris and dry grass. The cheek was attached to a skull. He recognised the smooth brow as that of a hominin, but had to do many more tests before he could be sure it was A. afarensis, the same species as Lucy: his dream find.

There were many other bones too, invisible in a hard ball of sandstone. "We brought the initial block here to the museum because there is no laboratory on the hillside," said Zeray with huge understatement. "It is a place with many challenges."

The bones were extricated using dental drills that direct precise blasts of compressed air into the rock. "This causes vibrations in the sand and cleans it from the fossil without you having to touch the bone at all," he said. Cleaning the tiny ribs and vertebrae with meticulous care took thousands of hours. The true scale of the find was not revealed until a paper was published in the journal Nature last Thursday.

"This is a stunning discovery," said Martin Meredith, author of The State of Africa, "but it does not change the picture of human evolution. What we're doing now is filling in the pieces." For him and many other observers, one of the most significant things about Selam is the identity of the man who discovered her. Desmond Morris agrees. "It is wonderful news," he said. "There is still a colonial and imperial flavour to anthropology - virtually all the discoveries are made by Europeans and Americans who go out to these remote places with the help of the locals, who also do the digging. So the fact that Selam was discovered by an African leading a team in his own backyard is brilliant."

Dr Zeresenay is now attached to the Max Planck Institute of Leipzig in Germany. He will have to get used to acclaim. But it will not keep him from his "daughter", who is still partly encased in sand in the laboratory in Addis. And soon he will be out in the crippling heat again, on the hillside. The bones of her long-lost relatives are calling.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Censorship Rears Its Ugly Head in Michigan as Debate over Evolution Heats Up

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/09/censorship_rears_its_ugly_head.html

It used to be that when politicians spoke up against censorship and in support of academic freedom they were applauded. Not anymore, at least in Michigan. Now if you express support for academic freedom and speak out against censorship and dogmatism, you get attacked by rabid Darwinists and their knee-jerk supporters in the mainstream media.

Michigan finds itself the latest ground zero for the debate over evolution and intelligent design thanks in part to a comment from gubernatorial candidate Dick Devos and the state school board's adoption of new science standards.

First, when legislators modestly proposed that high school biology students should be told that Darwinism may or may not be supported by the evidence, Darwinian activists threw a fit because this didn't fit their dogmatic "Darwinism only and no questions" approach to science education.

The State Board of Education is about to adopt new science standards. Three state legislators asked the Board to hold off until their next meeting. The three were in a meeting of the House Education Committee and they put a question to the Board as to why some guidelines in state standards which require critical analysis are not applied to evolution. They said the Board was proposing to study evolution dogmatically.

The legislators have merely suggested that the guidelines include language which says the evidence "may or may not" support evolution. Immediately the ACLU and the media jumped all over the legislators with the absurd allegation that they were trying to inject religion into the classroom.

There is nothing religious about acknowledging the scientific debate over Darwinian evolution. The scientific literature is rife with challenges to Darwin's theory that are based on science, not Sunday school.

The second thing that happened was that Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos made the following comment to an AP reporter in an interview earlier this week:

"I would like to see the ideas of intelligent design—that many scientists are now suggesting is a very viable alternative theory—that that theory and others that would be considered credible would expose our students to more ideas, not less."

Later he clarified:

"Lots of intelligent people can disagree about the origins of life. In the end, I believe in our system of local control," he said in a news release Wednesday afternoon. "Local school boards should have the opportunity to offer evolution and intelligent design in their curriculums."

Although Discovery Institute does not advocate requiring the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, it does believe there is nothing unconstitutional about voluntarily discussing the scientific theory of design in the classroom. As a matter of public policy, Discovery Institute opposes any effort require the teaching of intelligent design by school districts or state boards of education. Attempts to mandate teaching about intelligent design only politicize the theory and will hinder fair and open discussion of the merits of the theory among scholars and within the scientific community. And that's now exactly what is happening here. The candidate's remarks are being twisted into a political weapon used to attack him by people who are likely supporters of his opponent.

Just as it was with the proposal by the legislators, the media tried to turn this into a discussion of religion. The Lansing Journal pontificated that intelligent design is not science but instead "is an attempt to forge the trappings of scientific inquiry around a fundamental structure of beliefs." This simply isn't true (see here for just one response to charges like this).

CSC Senior Fellow Stephen Meyer wrote in the Daily Telegraph (UK) earlier this year:

Contrary to media reports, ID is not a religious-based idea, but an evidence-based scientific theory about life's origins. … ID holds that there are tell-tale features of living systems and the universe that are best explained by a designing intelligence. The theory does not challenge the idea of evolution defined as change over time, or even common ancestry, but it disputes Darwin's idea that the cause of biological change is wholly blind and undirected.

Michigan's media has gone hogwild in piling on anyone who dares to question the dogmatic teaching of Darwinian evolution. There's little doubt that they are spurred on by the politically correct censors and stiflers of science.

Posted by Robert Crowther on September 22, 2006 2:54 PM | Permalink

British Organization Seeks to Incorporate Teaching Scientific Criticisms of Evolution in UK

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/09/british_organization_seeks_to.html

There's a new player in the United Kingdom in the debate over how best to teach evolution. A new website launched this week, "Truth in Science," seeks to "promote good science education in the UK." Because of the different education and policy environment in the UK, versus that of the United States, TiS endorses teaching both the criticisms of evolution and the scientific theory of intelligent design.

We consider that it is time for students to be permitted to adopt a critical approach to Darwinism in science lessons. They should be given fair and accurate presentations of alternative views. … Truth in Science promotes the critical examination of Darwinism in schools, as an important component of science education.

In addition to their educational goals, which are clearly outlined on the website and put into context with the educational policies and guidelines of the UK, the site includes examples of lesson plans, as well as insightful examinations of some alleged proofs of evolution – key Icons of evolution, such as the development of biological resistance, the Peppered Moth, horse evolution, Darwin's finches, the Miller-Urey experiment, and homology in vertebrate limbs.

The directors and advisors to TiS include a number of educators and scientists with credentials from places such as Oxford University, University of Leeds, Bristol University and Cambridge University.

Posted by Robert Crowther on September 21, 2006 1:38 PM | Permalink

The evolution of Inherit the Wind

http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/24833/;jsessionid=8ABA9CA840C7E83A4CA692D0D5D79551

By Rosie Forrest

The classic play has something to teach us about the intersection between science and religion at three crucial points in American history

[Published 22nd September 2006 02:30 PM GMT]

Inherit the Wind is a play that belongs to three decades. Its story was inspired by the Scopes "Monkey" Trial of 1920s, it was a hit on Broadway in 1950s, and it remains pertinent to the battle between evolution and intelligent design that found its way to a Pennsylvania courthouse only last year.

In 1925, the notion of urban centers was still new, and such cities became hubs of industrial and scientific progress. The Twenties "roared" with engines and energy: television was invented, insulin was discovered, and penicillin would soon revolutionize the treatment of infections. But for people who lived in small towns, big cities represented big egos and big problems. Illegal drinking and loose morals were seen as two potential pitfalls of urban living, and served as fodder for religious movements.

The Scopes Trial took place right in the crux of this divide: it pitted the lawyer, orator, and statesman William Jennings Bryan against Clarence Darrow, a formidable attorney from Chicago with a reputation for exonerating the most suspicious defendants.

Throughout the 19th century, nearly every school in the U.S. embraced the teaching of creationism. As the theory of evolution entered the mainstream, legislation spearheaded by Bryan moved forward in 15 states to prevent it being taught in the public school system. The Scopes Trial was largely a set-up instigated by the ACLU (a fact omitted in the play) to serve as a test case of the constitutionality of such laws. Bryan and Darrow lent an aura of celebrity to the Dayton, Tennessee, trial, and the media circus that followed sensationalized the event to such a degree that many people today do not realize that Scopes actually lost.

"Inherit the Wind does not pretend to be journalism. It is theatre. It is not 1925," the play's preface states. When the play was first published and produced, the year was in fact 1955, the midpoint of a decade in which America saw a tremendous economic boom, likened only to the golden years of the 1920s. But beneath the Tupperware parties and pastel colors, fear lurked in every corner: fear of Communism, fear of rock and roll, and fear of anything that defied convention. Playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee used the outline of the Scopes Trial to comment metaphorically on their own era: the ease with which a group of people can collectively hunt down an individual, the importance of the unequivocal right to think freely, and the danger of curtailing intellectual progress in the name of religious and societal mores.

And here we are today -- more than 50 years beyond the first production and more than 75 years beyond the trial -- still fiercely divided as a nation about many of the issues at the center of Inherit the Wind. In a closely watched trial in 2005 in Dover, Pennsylvania, advocates for intelligent design argued that living things, from individual cells to human beings, are too complex to have occurred randomly or even organically. Proponents of intelligent design assert that public schools should offer a range of theories to their students, raising questions in the classroom without providing just one answer. This places evolutionists in a corner, as it reflects their own original argument. But one difference -- one colossal difference -- tips the scale: Intelligent Design is not science, and Judge John E. Jones' ruling on the case of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District stated that quite emphatically:

To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

This most recent case and the public debate that it engendered have raised numerous questions regarding the relationship between science and religion: Is there such a thing as scientific certainty? Does science have moral content? Can it be morally corrupting?

"Science is a magnificent force, but it is not a teacher of morals," Bryan wrote. "It can perfect machinery, but it adds no moral restraints to protect society from the misuse of the machine. It can also build gigantic intellectual ships, but it constructs no moral rudders for the control of the storm-tossed human vessel. It not only fails to supply the spiritual element needed but some of its unproven hypotheses rob the ship of its compass and thus endanger its cargo."

On the other hand, as Henry Drummond, Lawrence and Lee's stand-in for Darrow, declares in the play: "In a child's power to master the multiplication table there is more sanctity than in all your shouted 'Amens!,' 'Holy, Holies!' and 'Hosannahs!' An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral. And the advance of man's knowledge is more of a miracle than any sticks turned to snakes, or the parting of waters!"

It is this clash of ideals to which Lawrence and Lee refer in the final sentence of their preface: "It might have been yesterday. It could be tomorrow."

Rosie Forrest is the artistic associate of Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Illinois, and is currently serving as the dramaturg for the theatre's revival of Inherit the Wind.


Friday, September 22, 2006

DeVos: Teach intelligent design — Howell school board member likes move; others not so sure

http://www.dailypressandargus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060921/NEWS01/609210311/1002

By Christopher Nagy DAILY PRESS & ARGUS

It's not about shelving evolution, according to Wendy Day.

It's about balancing out the science curriculum with alternative theories, she said.

Day, a member of the Howell Public Schools Board of Education, said she supports and agrees with Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos' statements that school districts should have the opportunity to teach intelligent design as part of the science curriculum.

"I think that's great," Day said. "Evolution is a theory, but when you only teach one theory, it becomes the only thing that's offered. I think it's high time we offered an alternative theory."

The issue of teaching intelligent design — or ID — in a public school was a hotly debated issue last year after a school district in Dover, Pa., was sued for teaching ID. In December, a federal judge barred the district from teaching ID alongside evolution in high school biology classes. The judge concluded ID is not science, but religion, so teaching it in a public school science classroom would violate separation of church and state.

However, the debate over ID may be rekindled with DeVos' remarks.

"I've always believed that our children should be provided with more knowledge, not less," DeVos said in a statement. "Lots of intelligent people can disagree about the origins of life. In the end, I believe in the system of local control. Local school boards should have the opportunity to offer evolution and intelligent design in their curriculums."

His opponent in November, Gov. Jennifer Granholm, has said that Michigan schools need to teach the established theory of evolution in science classes and not include intelligent design, but can explore intelligent design in a current events or a comparative religions class.

DeVos' remarks could spark ID as a campaign issue as well as a community issue, Day said.

"I know that it is a very hot-button issue for folks," she said. "I don't think we should remove evolution from the classroom, but we can provide more balance in what is taught. I think that's probably what Dick DeVos is thinking, too."

Although Day believes that the holes in evolution prompt the need for the teaching of ID as a science theory, other community members don't believe it belongs in the classroom.

Lawrence Pumford, a Sunday school teacher at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Howell as well as the head of the science department at Hartland High School, said ID needs to be checked at the classroom door.

"Creationism just doesn't belong there," he told the Daily Press & Argus in October 2005. "It's not something we can deal with in a scientific fashion. Religion deals with faith, and faith deals with things that are unseen. In science we deal with things that are tangible, things that you can quantify and test."

Robert T. Pennock, president of Michigan Citizens for Science, agreed.

"How could Michigan students compete in the life sciences, so important to our economy, if DeVos has them learn pseudoscience?" he asked. "A federal judge appointed by President Bush ruled just last year that intelligent design creationism is 'sectarian religion masquerading as science,' so including it in the public schools is unconstitutional. DeVos is not only recommending that Michigan schools abandon real science, but that they break the law as well."

In his ruling in December on the Dover case, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III wrote that the trial demonstrated that evolution is "overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community," and does not conflict or deny the existence of a divine creator.

"In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science," Jones wrote. "We have concluded it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."

That, Jones continued, is "the real purpose behind the ID policy," and he added that the school district's decision to implement ID into the science curriculum in Dover showed "breathtaking inanity."

"To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect," Jones wrote. "However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used a s a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions."

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Not in Our Classrooms

http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2006/ZZ/926_emnot_in_our_classroomsem_9_21_2006.asp

NCSE is pleased to announce the publication of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for Our Schools (Beacon Press, 2006), edited by Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch, NCSE's executive director and deputy director, respectively, and with contributions from Scott, Branch, Nicholas J. Matzke (also of NCSE) and Paul R. Gross, Martinez Hewlett and Ted Peters, Jay D. Wexler, and Brian Alters, and a foreword by the Reverend Barry W. Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Bill Nye the Science Guy writes, "If you're concerned about scientific literacy, read this book. The authors of Not in Our Classrooms are authorities on the various battles fought over the teaching of evolution -- biology's fundamental discovery."

More than eighty years after the Scopes trial, creationism is alive and well. Through local school boards, sympathetic politicians, and well-funded organizations, a strong movement has developed to encourage the teaching of the latest incarnation of creationism -- intelligent design -- as a scientifically credible theory alongside evolution in science classes. Although intelligent design suffered a serious defeat in the recent Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, its proponents are bound to continue their assault on evolution education. Now, in Not in Our Classrooms, parents and teachers, as well as other concerned citizens, have a much-needed tool to use in the argument against teaching intelligent design as science.

Where did the concept of intelligent design originate? How does it connect with, and conflict with, various religious beliefs? Should we "teach the controversy" in our science classrooms? In clear and lively essays, a team of experts answers these questions and many more, describing the history of the intelligent design movement and the lack of scientific support for its claims. Most importantly, the contributors -- authorities on the scientific, legal, educational, and theological problems of intelligent design -- speak specifically to teachers and parents about the need to defend the integrity of science education by keeping intelligent design out of science curriculums. A concluding chapter offers concrete advice for those seeking to defend the teaching of evolution in their own communities.

Not in Our Classrooms is essential reading for anyone concerned about defending the teaching of evolution, uncompromised by religiously motivated pseudoscience, in our public schools. As Barry Lynn writes in his foreword, "No matter how credible the scientific evidence is in the rest of this book; no matter how clear the constitutional arguments are; no matter how well crafted the explanations that evolution and religious faith are not in conflict -- this is not a battle that will go away soon." Not in Our Classrooms is a valuable addition to the personal armory of anyone concerned for the future of evolution education! If you order your copy now from Beacon Press, you receive a 10% discount -- just enter NCSE in the discount code field.

September 21, 2006

AAAS Promoting Sunday School Material

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/09/aaas_promoting_sunday_school_m.html

The Darwinists continue to promote theology (as long as it is pro-Darwin-only):

The book, "The Evolution Dialogues," was written with the input of both scientists and theologians. Meant specifically for use in Christian adult education programs, it offers a concise description of the natural world, as explained by evolution, and the Christian response, both in Charles Darwin's time and in contemporary America. It has a glossary of terms from both science and religion, with "bacteria" and "Biblical infallibility" defined on the same page.

(Press release on The Evolution Dialogues, emphasis added)

The AAAS's attempt to tell religious people how to view evolution reminds me of quotes from famous Darwinists about "true religion:"

Of course there are some beliefs still current, labelled as religious and involved in religious emotions, that are flatly incompatible with evolution and are therefore intellectually untenable in spite of their emotional appeal. Nevertheless, I take it now as self-evident, requiring no further special discussion, that evolution and true religion are compatible.

(George Gaylord Simpson, The Meaning of Evolution, pg. 5, 1949, 1950 Reprint, Yale University Press, emphasis in original)

And another one by Judge Jones:

The Founders believed that true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry. At bottom then, this core set of beliefs led the Founders, who constantly engaged and questioned things, to secure their idea of religious freedom by barring any alliance between church and state. As I hope that you can see, these precepts and beliefs, grounded in my liberal arts education, guide me each day as a federal trial judge.

(Judge John E. Jones III, Dickinson College Commencement Address, May 19-21, 2006) (emphasis added))

Posted by Casey Luskin on September 20, 2006 1:04 PM | Permalink

Report of Ken Miller's Talk against Intelligent Design at the University of Kansas

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/09/report_on_ken_millers_talk_aga.html

Ken Miller recently presented at the University of Kansas against intelligent design, discussing Kansas evolution education and promoting theology as he promoted his theistic evolutionist viewpoint. Indeed, P.Z. Myers has been attacking Ken Miller for promoting his theistic evolutionist views during the talk. For another critical view of Miller's talk, I'd like to share an e-mail recently sent to me by an ID-friendly attendee who saw Miller's lecture:

E-mail report sent to me by a friendly attendee of Miller's talk:

The thing that bothered me the most about Miller's presentation was that he repeatedly stated that "In '99, the Kansas Board of Education took evolution out of the standards". He even said at one point that they were planning to "take evolution out of the curriculum". That is blatantly untrue.

I am very familiar with how the '99 fiasco went down. I've read portions of the '99 standards, the standards prior to '99, and the new standards. Before '99, evolution was only mentioned in approximately two lines of the standards. No one "took evolution out of the standards" in '99 because prior to '99 it had never been included. That certainly didn't mean that evolution was not taught in Kansas!!

Both the board and the standards committee recommended a set of standards. The standards committee added all kinds of macroevolutionary statements to the set of standards they recommended, but the board preferred to let the districts handle how those issues would be addressed so they did not include as much evolutionary content in the set of standards that they recommended. But, certainly, no one proposed to "take evolution out of the curriculum". That is a blatantly false accusation. Obviously, that would be a big deal to Miller if it actually occurred because he is the guy writing the textbooks!

Miller made it sound as though ID is a done deal now that Judge Jones has declared ID creationism. He was very clever in how he presented his case to the college crowd. He worked them just right, with lots of humor and derogatory comments about DI fellows. He poked fun of Johnson, Dembski, Behe, and others ~at length~. This seemed like bragging and gloating, and was most uncollegelial.

He also said that the bacterial flagellum has been determined to have arisen through evolutionary processes. He proclaimed that Behe's book is outdated because of this fact. This is sheer nonsense, as I've read the responses from the DI regarding this bogus claim.

In the last 20 minutes, Miller finally confronted the difficult question. How does one accept Darwinism and hold to a particular religious faith? He gave Dawkins rave reviews and declared his science to be impeccable and his books outstanding.

But.... Miller tells us.... the difference between he and Dawkins is that Dawkins believes the universe is a singularly random and meaningless place which arose without the aid of a designer, and Miller holds the opposing view. That was pretty much it. No explanation whatsoever as to why he believes a designer exists, especially in light of the fact that he does not acknowledge that we can observe design in nature.

So essentially, both Dawkins and Miller see no evidence of design, and their philosophy as to how evolution works is the same, yet Dawkins follows that evidence and declares the world is without a designer and Miller claims to believe there is a designer. Bizarre. So Miller apparently, like most TE's, holds to his religious beliefs on faith ~alone~. That's the problems with TE's - they can give you no reason whatsoever as to why they believe what they do in regard to their religious beliefs other than they take it all on faith.

Keep up the good work...

Posted by Casey Luskin on September 20, 2006 7:00 PM | Permalink

3.3 Million Years Later, Skeleton of Girl Found

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/20/AR2006092001097.html

By Rob Stein Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, September 21, 2006; Page A01

Fossil hunters have unearthed the skeleton of a young girl who died 3.3 million years ago, marking the first time scientists have discovered the nearly complete remains of a child of an ancient human ancestor.

The girl, who was about 3 years old when she perished in what may have been a flash flood, provides an unprecedented window into human evolution, in part because she belongs to the same species as "Lucy," one of the most famous hominid specimens in paleontology, experts said.

Researchers have found the nearly complete remains of "Selam," a little girl who died 3.3 million years ago, who was of the same species as the famous "Lucy" fossil.

That prompted some scientists to refer to the new skeleton as "Lucy's baby," even though they estimate that the child lived about 150,000 years earlier. The researchers who discovered her in an Ethiopian desert named her Selam, which means "peace" in several Ethiopian languages.

Although scientists have found bones and bone fragments of children from this and other species of human predecessors, and a few skeletons, the discovery represents one of the most complete individuals ever recovered and by far the oldest. Bones of young children are so small and soft that few survive.

"I'm very excited," said Zeresenay Alemseged of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, who led the international team reporting the find in today's issue of the journal Nature. "This is a unique discovery in the history of paleoanthropology."

Independent experts agreed, saying the discovery probably would lead to important insights into humans' evolutionary history.

"It's just an amazingly complete specimen," said Bernard Wood of George Washington University, who wrote an article accompanying the paper. "I have to keep picking up the photograph of it to make sure I didn't dream it."

Scientists are still painstakingly extracting the fossilized bones from the surrounding stone, but they have already made striking discoveries, dramatically reinforcing the idea that the creatures were a transitional stage between apes and humans. Although they had legs like humans that enabled them to walk upright on two feet, they also had shoulders like gorillas that may have enabled them to climb trees; although their teeth seem to have grown quickly, like chimps' teeth, their brains may have matured more slowly, like those of humans.

"This confirms the idea that human evolution was not some straight line going from ape to human," said Rick Potts of the Smithsonian Institution. "The more we discover, the more we realize that different parts evolve at different times, and some of these experiments of early evolution had a combination of humanlike and apelike features."

The child's species, Australopithecus afarensis , lived between about 3.8 million and 3 million years ago and is among the earliest known forerunners of modern humans. It has long played an important role for scientists studying evolution, in part because of the well-preserved remains of Lucy, an adult discovered nearby in 1974.

The youngster's fossilized remains, the first to fully exhibit the mixed ape-human characteristics in a child, were found in the remote, harsh Dikika area of northeastern Ethiopia in 2000 when an expedition member spotted the face of the skull poking out from a steep dusty hillside. The surroundings indicate that the child might have drowned in a flash flood, which immediately buried the intact remains in sand that hardened to encase the bones, the researchers said.

Over the next four years, researchers slowly recovered much of the rest of the child's skeleton, including the entire skull, with a sandstone impression of the brain, jaws with teeth, parts of the shoulder blades and collarbone, ribs, the spinal column, the right arm, fingers, legs and almost a complete left foot.

National Geographic magazine provided some of the funding for the project.

Until now, the only fairly complete skeletons of young children in the human evolutionary tree found by scientists were those of modern humans and Neanderthals, which date back only about 60,000 years.

"We've never had anything so complete before," said Donald C. Johanson of Arizona State University, who discovered Lucy. "This is going to allow us to have extraordinary insight into the growth and development of this species."

Zeresenay has been painstakingly etching away the sandstone, almost grain by grain, with a dentist's drill to protect the tiny vertebrae, ribs and other bones. One finger is still curled in a tiny grasp. High-tech scans of the teeth enabled researchers to identify the child's sex and approximate age.

Where the child's throat once was, Zeresenay found a hyoid bone, which is located in the voice box and supports muscles of the tongue and throat. It is the first time that bone has been discovered in such an old fossil of a human predecessor. It appears more primitive than a human hyoid and more like those in apes, suggesting that the 1 1/2 -foot toddler sounded more like a chimp than a human.

"If you imagine how this child would have sounded if it was crying out for its mother, its cry would appeal more to chimp ears than to human ears," said Fred Spoor of University College London, who is helping to study the remains. "Even though it's a very early human ancestor, she would sound more apelike than humanlike."

The child's lower limbs confirm earlier findings that the species walked upright like humans. But the shoulder blades resemble a young gorilla's. Along with the long arms, curved fingers and inner-ear cavity, the bones provide new evidence supporting those who believe the creatures may have still climbed trees as well.

"I see this species as foraging bipeds -- walking on two feet but climbing trees when necessary, such as to forage for food," Zeresenay said, adding that more research will be needed to be certain of that controversial conclusion.

The skeleton offers scientists the first opportunity to examine various parts of the body in a single specimen rather than looking at individual bones from different representatives.

"Before this, you didn't know if it was like you might have the arm of a Danny DeVito and the leg of a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar," Potts said.

The discovery of a child also allows scientists to begin to study how the species developed. The child's brain size suggests that the species' brain matured relatively slowly.

"If the brain was developing slower, as in humans or similar to what you see in humans, here might have also been the beginnings of behavioral shifts towards being more human," Zeresenay said.


Current News  News Back Issues


What's New | Search | Newsletter | Fact Sheets
NTS Home Page
Copyright (C) 1987 - 2008 by the North Texas Skeptics.