NTS LogoSkeptical News for 11 October 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Darwinian Conservatism: An Evolutionary Dead End


October 11, 2006

By Seth Cooper

In his recent book, Carson Holloway demonstrates the inability of neo-Darwinian theory to undergird the moral framework that is essential to a liberal democracy's survival. A review of The Right Darwin: Evolution, Religion and the Future of Democracy.

The Right Darwin: Evolution, Religion and the Future of Democracy
by Carson Holloway
Spence Publishing Company (January 30, 2006)
Hdbk., 209 pgs.
ISBN: 1890626619

Darwinists often insist there are no scientific challenges to neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory; only moral or religious objections to it. Equating neo-Darwinian theory with science itself, leading public relations and policy proponents of Darwinism thereby posit that science deals with facts, whereas morality and religion are about personal feelings or the personal meaning that one gives to things. This is not an honest attempt by Darwinists to keep personal feelings from interfering with the scientific process, but is instead a criterion used to insulate neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory from any scientific criticism. This stated position is clearly contradicted by the contents of peer-reviewed and other mainstream scientific publications that challenge key aspects of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. The advance of scientific progress is impeded in any climate that eschews serious evaluation of the evidence.

The overly simple science/ethics dichotomy provided by many Darwinists is flatly contradicted by notable hyper-Darwinists who forthrightly proclaim a metaphysical message based on neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. In his book The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design, Richard Dawkins observed that Darwin "made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." Said Tufts University professor Daniel Dennett in his book, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Darwinism is to be praised as a "universal acid" that destroys "just about every traditional concept" of religion and morality.

The popular refrain that neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory is separate and irrelevant to morality or religion is further belied by a crop of prominent political scientists who have articulated an understanding of traditionalism and moral understanding based upon the theory. Noted scholars, such as Francis Fukuyama, James Q. Wilson and Larry Arnhart, have advanced a brand of "conservatism" based on neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory's insights into nature and into humanity.

It is precisely this kind of Darwinian "conservatism" that Carson Holloway tackles in The Right Darwin: Evolution, Religion and the Future of Democracy (Spence Publishing: 2006). A political scientist at the University of Nebraska (Omaha), Holloway examines and evaluates the arguments and underlying premises of Darwinian "conservatism." Through careful analysis, Holloway demonstrates that Darwinian conservatism cannot supply the moral and ethical foundation necessary for the continuing vitality of a democracy. Holloway goes on to show that Darwinian conservatism suffers from an internal incoherence that leaves it unable to provide a basis for universal human rights and unable to affirm the inherent dignity of humans in the face of biotechnological prospects to re-engineer a post-human race.

French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville and his early 19th-Century masterpiece Democracy in America provide a lens through which Holloway evaluates Darwinian conservatism. Notes Holloway, Tocqueville's praises of the new American republic were tempered by his warnings of liberal democracy's excesses. The problem for liberal democracy is not an inclination towards rampant criminality and anarchy. Instead, liberal democracy is prone to an overly individualistic, material-driven selfishness. According to Tocqueville, the antidote to this problem is to be found in the ethical restraints and moral obligations that democratic citizens draw from religion. (An additional but related solvent cited by Tocqueville is in the flourishing of free associations found in America.)

At best, argues Holloway, Darwinian conservatism can only purport to provide an account of the "decent materialism" that Tocqueville observes is typical of America's liberal democracy. This decent materialism includes human sociability and reciprocity, with an underlying respect for some kind of public order. But Tocqueville insisted that a sustained democracy needs more if it is to prevent a collapse into a selfish, radical individualism; decent materialism is not enough.

To its credit, Darwinian conservatism tries to take seriously a natural, biological basis for differences between the sexes. By attributing inclinations and attributes of humanity to its basic biology, the Darwinian conservatism would eschew the post-modern proclivity to treat sex differences as the product of mere social construction. Yet, nothing in neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory renders human sex differences inevitable or permanent. Instead, sex differences only arose because they offered survival advantage, and entirely different human sexual dynamics may provide superior survival capabilities in the future. Darwinian conservatism is thereby unable to escape the relativism that it seeks to supplant.

Observing that the Darwinian understanding of human nature holds that morality "emerged to promote success in the conflicts between groups that prevailed during the period that our nature evolved," Holloway concludes that Darwinism contravenes any universal moral standards rooted in human nature. Since the Darwinian account of humankind maintains that moral obligations arise through desires and feelings we've obtained via undirected evolution, there is no basis for preferring a mere feeling of common humanity over a desire to oppress others to achieve gain for one's self or for one's family. The lack of any clear recognition of universal moral standards renders problematic any international order respecting human rights. It also undermines the demands of justice in any large domestic order. There is always the prospect of tyranny by the majority, and a Darwinian account of morality leaves no reliable basis for the minority to assert their own rights.

Domestic order is further undermined by the fact that Darwinian conservatism's endorsement of the family falls woefully short. Tocqueville asserted that beyond our biological nature, moral obligation grounded in religion improved the prospects for fidelity and lasting family commitments. But Darwinian conservatism does not countenance any moral restraints arising from religion, but instead relies upon biological drives alone. Writes Holloway: "There is little reason to suppose that the biological good at which the conjugal union aims would require parents to remain together longer than is necessary to raise children to an age at which they no longer require intensive parental care." He goes on to assert that, "If the Darwinian account of human nature does not support the notion of permanent marital commitment, neither does it point to a very strict standard of mutual commitment while a marriage lasts."

This new Darwinian political theory is entirely lacking in the moral resources necessary for mankind to prevent its own abolition in the face of a biotechnological Brave New World. Today, advances in science and medicine present us with the possibility of re-designing the basic biology of human beings to create a post-human race. Technological advances also entail a dark downside requiring extensive use and harvesting of human life as raw materials and for experimentation. Human cloning, animal-human hybrids, fetal farming and the like are all on the table for our society to deal with. As Holloway notes, some of the leading proponents of Darwinian conservatism, such as Francis Fukuyama, write of their own deep concerns about the re-engineering of the human race and all of the attending consequences. But because of Darwinism's rejection of inherent purpose in humanness itself, we can rely upon no principled basis for defending human dignity and resisting eugenic experimentation and commoditization of human life. Holloway points to liberal democracies' strong preoccupation with the using technology to provide ease and comfort, and to minimize suffering. And so he writes that, "In the absence of some cosmic teleology that can account for the ultimate goodness of our hard condition, Darwinism can only offer prudential arguments against such modification." Given a Darwinian understanding that our species is the result of purposeless evolution, why should we recognize any limits to the aims of biotechnology? Only a strong moral account of human dignity can offer a satisfactory answer to whether we should steer advances in biotechnology in ethical directions or whether we should accept that Brave New World is simply the next stage of an undirected evolutionary process.

Holloway's analysis appears to take for granted the sufficiency of the scientific evidence for neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. No question is ever raised about whether extant empirical evidence more strongly supports neo-Darwinian theory or its emerging competitor: the theory of intelligent design. In recent years, a growing minority of scientists have proposed that the intricacy and specified complexity of molecular machines and other nanotechnology inside living cells may be better explained by an intelligent cause, rather than the undirected causes (natural selection operating on random genetic mutation) posited by neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. But ultimately, The Right Darwin is not a book about the Darwin vs. design debate. On its own terms, Holloway simply shows the inability of neo-Darwinian theory to undergird the moral framework that is essential to a liberal democracy's survival.

The Right Darwin: Evolution, Religion and the Future of Democracy is available on Amazon.com.

Another Great Intelligent Design Debate On TV


This week on Think Tank: Intelligent Design vs. Evolution, Part One

In recent decades Charles Darwin's explanation of evolution through natural selection has been challenged by an alternative theory called Intelligent Design. A growing number of science teachers and school boards are struggling with how to present students with the facts. Even acknowledging the existence of an argument has become controversial. How should students learn the history of life on this planet? Are Christianity and other major religions incompatible with Darwinian evolution? Is there any evidence to support the new theory of intelligent design? Can ID and Darwin find common ground? Host Ben Wattenberg is joined by Dr. Stephen Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture and author of "Darwinism, Design and Public Education." And Dr. Michael Ruse, Director of the Program in the Philosophy of the History of Science at Florida State University and author of numerous books including "Darwinism and Design" and "Can a Darwinian be a Christian?" (see channel schedule below)

Here are the air times in some major markets from around the country. If your location is not listed here, go here for other air times.

Washington, DC: WETA Ch. 26, Sunday, 10 AM
Washington, DC: WHUT Ch 32, Saturday, 9:30 AM
New York, NY: WNET, Ch. 13, Saturday, 9 AM
Chicago, IL: WYCC, Ch. 20, Monday, 4:30 PM
Los Angeles, CA: KCET, Ch. 28, Saturday, 12:30 PM
Sacramento, CA: KVIE2, Ch. 190, Sunday, 5 PM
San Francisco, CA: KCSM, Friday, 5 PM
Denver, CO KBDI, Ch. 12, Sunday, 10 AM
Norfolk, VA: WHRO, Ch. 15, Sunday, 1 PM
Seattle, WA: KCTS, Ch. 9, Tuesday, 5 AM
Seattle, WA: KYVE, Ch. 47, Tuesday, 5 AM
Dayton, OH: WPTD, Ch. 14, Sunday, 6 AM
Tucson, AZ: KUAT, Ch. 6, Sunday, 5 PM
Moline, IL: WQPT, Ch. 24, Thursday 10:30 PM
Kansas City, MO: KCPT, Ch. 4, Sunday, 4 PM
Wichita, KS: KPTS, Ch. 8, Sunday, 7 PM
Oklahoma City, OK: OETA, Ch. 11, Sunday, 6:30 PM
Dallas, TX: KERA, Ch. 13, Friday, 1 AM
Part 2 of this debate should be broadcast the weekend of Oct. 20-22, and part one maybe repeating in some areas as well.

Be sure to check out Ben Wattenberg's new blog at www.wattenblog.blogspot.com where you can respond and contribute to the discussions behind the show. For more information on Think Tank check out the programs website at http://www.pbs.org/thinktank. And if you'd like to order a copy of this episode email thinktank@pbs.org.

If you enjoy the Think Tank set-to, be sure to watch the recent Meyer debate with University of Washington's Peter Ward, hosted by the Seattle Times. Click here to watch, or click here to listen.

And, do send feedback to the producers. If you want to keep quality programs on the air you need to let them know you're watching, and congratulate them on tackling such an important issue. The more feedback they get, the more likley they will be repeat this topic.

Posted by Robert Crowther on October 11, 2006 12:02 PM | Permalink

Senator fights the tide, calls warming by humans a hoax


Zachary Coile, Chronicle Washington Bureau

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

(10-11) 04:00 PDT Washington -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says the debate whether humans are changing the climate is over. Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, says the science linking human activity to global warming is overwhelming.

President Bush recently called global warming "a serious problem." He said there is still uncertainty over how much of the warming is natural and how much man-made, but he added that it was time to "get beyond the debate" and deploy new technologies to curb greenhouse gases.

But in the U.S. Senate, one prominent lawmaker isn't buying it.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., has argued repeatedly that the idea that humans are warming the climate is a hoax. In a speech on the Senate floor last month, he declared that the "greatest climate threat we face may be coming from alarmist computer models."

"We're going through a warming period. No one's denying that," Inhofe said on CNN last week. "The question is, is it due to man-made gases? And it's not."

Inhofe, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has emerged in recent years as America's most outspoken skeptic of global warming. He's not the only lawmaker to raise questions about climate change, but he's the most forceful in questioning the science and opposing legislation to limit greenhouse gases.

To his critics, Inhofe's views make him a charter member of the Flat Earth Society. They say his assertions are contradicted by ice core samples and other evidence showing a link between the increased burning of fossil fuels, growing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and rising temperatures. Some scientists share Inhofe's skepticism, but the majority of climate researchers have rejected his views.

Even some of his Republican colleagues in Congress say Inhofe's views on global warming are wrong.

"The evidence, in my view, is more compelling than ever," McCain said in an interview, professing a "respectful disagreement" with his GOP colleague on the issue.

"The scientists have become more and more definitive. ... Sooner or later we will recognize that climate change is taking place and it's serious and it's generated by human activity causing greenhouse gas emissions," McCain said.

Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md., who has joined McCain in sponsoring legislation to cap U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, said he was aghast at Inhofe's latest comments.

"How do you say, ridiculous? How do you say, failing future generations?" Gilchrest said.

"I don't mean to defame anybody, but the state of the science on global warming is top-notch, and it says we are nearing a critical tipping point in devastation, in creating a world that will be hard to live in," he said. "This is not Chicken Little, this is not 'The sky is falling.' The fundamental physics of the atmosphere as it has been degraded by human activity and the burning of fossil fuels is clear."

To his supporters, Inhofe is showing political courage by challenging scientific predictions of dire consequences from global warming and opposing calls for strict limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

"I think it's incredibly important that we have someone who is aggressively offering another point of view," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach (Orange County), a fellow skeptic who has called global warming "baloney."

"This is a man who is standing up to an avalanche of nonsense that is being fed to the American people every day, and he's standing up to a system that has rewarded scientists if they will just verify global warming."

The National Academy of Sciences, which includes many of the country's top climate scientists, has been asked repeatedly by the White House and Congress to help resolve the question of whether humans are behind the recent spike in temperatures worldwide. In March, the academy issued a summary report with this conclusion:

"In the judgment of most climate scientists, Earth's warming in recent decades has been caused primarily by human activities that have increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases have increased significantly since the Industrial Revolution, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels for energy, industrial processes, and transportation."

The report also warns of rising sea levels, severe storms and impacts on agriculture, water supplies and certain species -- although it notes that there is "legitimate debate regarding how large, how fast, and where these effects will be."

In a recent interview with The Chronicle, Inhofe rejected the academy's view that the consensus among climate scientists on human-caused global warming is hardening.

"Oh, no! Just the opposite," Inhofe said, seizing on portions of the report that highlight the uncertainties in the science of climate change.

He cited a letter 60 scientists sent recently to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper saying there is no scientific consensus on climate change and urging him to drop out of the Kyoto Protocol, which Canada signed in 1998. Critics noted that the letter was organized by Friends of Science, a group that has long opposed Kyoto and has ties to the oil and gas industry.

"You guys in the media all want to believe so badly that the science is settled, and it's just totally wrong," Inhofe added. "It's kind of humorous, and the funny part is the media is starting to panic because the public is now realizing that it's a media-hyped, liberal-type program."

The 71-year-old, third-term senator from Tulsa hasn't always been so engrossed in global warming. A former Army private who later earned his commercial pilot's license, he spent his career as a real estate developer and insurance company executive before being elected as an Oklahoma state legislator, Tulsa mayor and, in 1986, a member of the House of Representatives.

In the Senate, since 1994, he's been a staunch conservative who fought for a missile defense system, wrote a bill to make English the national language, and called the Environmental Protection Agency a "Gestapo bureaucracy." He opposes abortion and gay rights, and he gave a floor speech in June backing a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in which he showed a photo of his 20 children and grandchildren and boasted that "in the recorded history of our family, we've never had a divorce or any kind of homosexual relationship."

He opposed U.S. ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change (along with 94 other senators) and became the chief critic in Congress of climate change science in 2003 after taking over as chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee. That year he drew headlines with a speech calling global warming "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." Environmentalists blasted the comment, which later was featured in former Vice President Al Gore's documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth."

Last month, Inhofe gave two major floor speeches on climate change, his eighth and ninth on the issue since 2003. The topics of the last two were efforts by the media and Hollywood to "hype" global warming.

What critics often miss is that he is talking right past his colleagues in Congress and the mainstream media. His staffers always post transcripts of his speeches, which are quickly picked up by conservative bloggers, radio talk show hosts and others who share his skeptical views on climate change. After his recent addresses, Inhofe received more than 500 e-mails lauding his contrarian position, his spokesman said.

Still, environmentalists argue that Inhofe is slowly losing the public relations battle over climate change.

Last year the Senate passed, by 55 votes, a nonbinding "sense of the Senate" resolution stating that human activity is contributing to global warming and that Congress should rein in greenhouse gas emissions. Inhofe noted, however, that legislation to cap those emissions continues to fail in the Senate, losing last year on a 60-38 vote.

His claims of a liberal conspiracy to push global warming have been undercut as Republicans from McCain to Schwarzenegger to New York Gov. George Pataki have championed the cause.

Inhofe complained recently that McCain's presidential ambitions were behind his stand on climate change. He said Schwarzenegger was pushed to sign a recent bill to curb greenhouse gases by campaign pressures and lobbying by "Hollywood elitists."

"I love Schwarzenegger, and I wish him luck in his campaign," Inhofe said. "I'm sure the public in California think it's an issue they ought to jump on. So I think it's all political."

A day after the interview, his press aide called back to say the senator wanted to clarify his position: He believes Schwarzenegger has been too busy to "adequately review the science" on climate change.

To read Inhofe's speeches, go to: www.epw.senate.gov/speeches.cfm?party=rep.

A warming climate or a hoax?

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, has said the idea that humans are causing global warming is the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." Here are some of his key assertions:

Temperatures are rising as part of a natural warming trend.

His view: Inhofe says the world is in the midst of a natural warming period that started in 1850 as we came out of a 400-year cold spell known as the Little Ice Age. He cites studies suggesting that rising temperatures might be linked to variations in the amount of energy emitted by the sun.

Counter-argument: Most scientists say natural variability is a factor in climate change but that it can't explain the rapid warming in recent decades. The National Academy of Sciences said recently the "Earth's warming was not due to changes in the sun." The academy, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have all concluded that increased greenhouse gas concentrations resulting from human activities are the likely cause of rising temperatures. The Bush administration, in a 2002 U.S. Climate Action Report by the EPA, said global warming was "likely due mostly to human activities" but said natural variability could play "some significant part."

Temperatures actually declined between 1940 and the 1970s, even as carbon dioxide levels rose.

His view: Inhofe says this fact shows that human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels, can't be blamed for global warming. The senator notes that media stories in the mid-1970s warned of the negative effects of a global cooling trend, including crop failure.

Counter-argument: Mean temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere cooled somewhat during that period, after having risen steadily since the mid-1800s. Many climate scientists say it's more significant to look at the long-term pattern of warming across the globe. Records show that surface temperatures have risen by 1.4 degrees since the early 20th century, including a 0.9 degree increase since 1978.

Computer models that predict drastic temperature increases and sea level rises are unreliable.

His view: Inhofe, citing uncertainties in modeling, said last month: "The science is simply not there to place so much faith in scary computer model scenarios which extrapolate the current and projected buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and conclude that the planet faces certain doom."

Counter-argument: Scientists agree that computer models can't predict precisely what the effects of climate change will be, mostly because of the many variables that affect projections, such as population and economic growth, and energy usage. But the National Academy of Sciences noted that computer model predictions of temperature changes in the 20th century have closely matched observed temperature changes.


"During the past year, the American people have been served up an unprecedented parade of environmental alarmism by the media and entertainment industry, which link every possible weather event to global warming. The year 2006 saw many major organs of the media dismiss any pretense of balance and objectivity on climate change coverage."

-- Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.,chairman, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

"When it comes to global warming, for whatever reason, my friend Sen. Inhofe just seems irrational to me. ...This is one of the biggest issues we're facing, and maybe the biggest one. And to put your head in the sand about it, as I say, it's a very dangerous gamble that the scientists are wrong."

-- Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-San Francisco, top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

"Despite remaining unanswered questions, the scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify taking steps to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."

-- National Academy of Sciences, March 2006 Report on Climate Change

Sources: National Academy of Sciences; Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Chronicle staff report.

E-mail Zachary Coile at zcoile@sfchronicle.com.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Q: Is Bush Science's Nemesis? A: No


Kudos to Richard Gallagher & Alison McCook from The Scientist for being gutsy enough to do an even-handed piece on President Bush's record on science, and for asking the question in Gallagher's editorial, "Is Bush Science's Nemesis?" in more than the conventional rhetorical fashion. McCook's piece "Sizing Up Bush on Science" answers with a resounding "no," or at least no more than past presidents, including Bill Clinton.

As McCook notes:

Part of what may be fueling many scientists' distress over the Bush administrations attitude to science is that many scientist don't understand that politicians have to consider more than just science, and take advice from more than just scientists. This is how policy works, notes [Jane] Lubchenco, now at Oregon State University. "Some scientists seem to imply that 'if science says X, then the policy should follow blindly.' And I don't think that's true," she says. Scientists often act "as if the science automatically tells you what you should do, which it doesn't," and making a decision that's not responsive to scientific input doesn't necessarily mean a politician is "anti-science", notes [Dan]Sarewitz [director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University]."

Indeed, McCook illustrated a close parallel in how Bush & Clinton chose to deal with two environmental issues.

Even Bill Clinton-now admired by many scientists for overseeing the doubling of the NIH budget, among other measures-appeared to ignore science for his own political gain. In 1997, the EPA's science advisory board recommended that Congress immediately consider ways to reduce emissions of mercury because of its effect on health and the environment. The Clinton administration delayed release of a scientific report about the dangers of mercury for more than a year, and didn't issue recommendations to reduce emissions from coal-fired plants (the largest source) until three years later, the day after then-vice president Al Gore conceded the 2000 election to current president George W. Bush…Clinton also publicly denounced the creation of embryos for research.

Similarly, McCook notes that "the Bush administration acknowledges that climate change is occurring and that the change is likely the result of human activities," and has spent $29 billion on climate programs between 01' and 06', but as she also astutely observes:

The decision of how to handle climate change is about more than just science, given that politicians have to weigh many competing interests, Lubchenco adds….The delay in decision making about climate change "doesn't really have anything to do with debates over science, but had to do with conflicts over values and interests," says Sarewitz.

As Roger Pielke, director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado, noted in McCook's article, "Politics intermixing with science 'is a phenomenon that has deeper roots than the current administration.'"

But beyond maintaining status quo with the past, McCook notes that Bush has done many good things for science. Citing an analysis from the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005 that funding for biomedical research doubled between 1994 and 2003, McCook notes that private sector R&D funding reached its highest levels of close to $40 billion in 2005, encouraged partly by the administration's "R&D tax credit that lets companies write off a portion of their R&D expenses." What's more, McCook gives the administration credit for the Critical Paths Initiative at the FDA, which aims at better predicting "which research will most likely yield drugs and devices," noting that close to half of investigated products fail in late-stage trials, taking money that could otherwise be used for research and increasing the cost of development.

Perhaps one of the best insights from McCook's article is that many in the life sciences community, not used to high levels of scrutiny during the years of massive NIH funding increases, are now chafing because they are experiencing what scientists in other fields have experienced all along. As Henry Kelly, president of the Federation of American Scientists, noted in McCook's article, "So far, most of [biologists'] experience with Congress has been showing up and asking for money and going home." Daniel Kevles, science historian at Yale University, says in McCook's article, that politicians now spend "more time debating issues related to climate science, biodiversity, reproduction, and molecular biology. So for biologists, it's natural to wholeheartedly believe that politics is interfering more in research, because it's something they largely have not encountered for years." Couple this with the NIH budget transition from flush to flat and the increase in biologists seeking positions and the perception is that they are somehow under assault and the situation seems dire, but this is merely a matter of adjustment that other fields have had to accommodate. As Kevles, put it "there's nothing written in the laws of man or nature that says funding appropriations have to go up in proportion to the demand." Kei Koizumi, director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program at the AAAS, was more blunt saying that, "[m]any other disciplines have a hard time sympathizing about [an NIH budget of $28 billion] not being enough."

Some political rancor is brought on by scientists own actions. Citing an example from the 2004 election of "Scientists and Engineers for Change" who endorsed Democratic candidate John Kerry, Pielke said, "When scientists publicly align themselves with Democrats, some Republicans may suspect scientists of having an agenda."

Observing that politicians have to balance competing interests McCook acknowledges that there is a moral dimension to many of the debates involving science. As my colleague Wesley Smith has noted with regards to embryonic stem cell research, while science can answer questions about capabilities, it cannot answer questions about the morality of an action. To do so is to commit the genetic fallacy of deriving an "ought" from an "is". McCook put it this way:

Similarly, a scientific argument about the promise of stem cell research may mean very little to someone who is morally opposed to using embryos for research, says Sarewitz. Bush isn't saying science is wrong about the promise of stem cells; in limiting federal funding for stem cell research to projects that won't destroy embryos, he's making a decision based on his own view of morality, not on the science. And, he is the first president to allocate federal funding for stem cell research.

Bush is hardly the first president to legislate based on his personal moral views. The abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement, the war on poverty and the creation of welfare all grew out of the personal moral views of presidents, legislators and citizens.

In closing, McCook gives a historical perspective, noting that in the late 19th century "some politicians (including southern Democrats) argued that funding of basic science that had no direct benefit to the nation's farmers was a misuse of federal dollars and best left in the hands of private funders." Bush has gone well beyond this minimalist approach to funding, but this highlights the erroneous assumption that all science rides on the wheels of federal funding and thereby the back of the federal taxpayers. Bush's approach to science has been to free up industry to make advances and not burden the taxpayer with the cost. Contrary to what Chris Mooney says in The Republican War on Science, Daniel Kevles, science historian at Yale University, says in McCook's article that "[a]nyone who believes that political interference with American science is worse now than ever before has 'some degree of historical ignorance.'" So I would like to take this opportunity to give Chris Mooney the Historical Ignorance of Science Award for his particularly near-sighted and selective reading of history and recommend Pamela Winnick's book A Jealous God: Science's Crusade Against Religion to see how science has been co-opted and abused by the Left as well.

Posted by Keith Pennock on October 10, 2006 1:57 PM | Permalink

Pollinators Power Flower Evolution


By Michael Balter ScienceNOW Daily News

10 October 2006

Flowers come in an astonishing variety of forms, but all can be classified into two basic shapes: those with radial symmetry, such as the lily, and those with bilateral symmetry, such as the orchid. Studies of fossil flowers and plant genetics have shown that radial symmetry is the ancestral condition, whereas bilateral symmetry has evolved many times independently in various plant families. Yet few researchers have looked into just why natural selection favors bilateral symmetry. Now scientists have caught the evolution of flower shape in action, and they conclude that bilateral symmetry is favored because pollinating insects prefer it.

The team, led by José Gómez of the University of Granada, Spain, studied 300 plants of the herb Erysimum mediohispanicum, which grows in the mountains of southeast Spain. In a very rare trait among plants, the herb produces both radially and bilaterally symmetrical flowers on the same plant. Gómez and his coworkers first identified the insects pollinating the flowers by observing them for a minute at a time, with a total of 2000 separate observations. The most frequent visitor, representing more than 80% of all flower visits, was the small beetle Meligethes maurus. The team then carefully measured the three-dimensional shape of the flowers using a technique called geometric morphometry.

They found a slam dunk for natural selection: Not only did the flowers with bilateral symmetry receive more visits from pollinating beetles than did those with radial symmetry, but the plants harboring them produced more seeds and more progeny plants over the course of the study. This means that over generations there would be more bilaterally symmetrical flowers than radial flowers. The insects also seemed to prefer certain types of bilateralism, for example when two petals were parallel to each other, the team reports in the October issue of American Naturalist. The study leaves open the question of just why the beetles favored bilateralism, although Gómez speculates that bilaterals might provide a better landing platform for the insects.

Risa Sargent, a plant evolutionary ecologist at the University of California, Berkeley, says that Gómez and colleagues "make a strong case for a link between plant fitness" and bilateral symmetry. She adds that a plant such as E. mediohispanicum that has flowers with both radial and bilateral symmetry is "an excellent and rare system to examine natural selection on flower symmetry." She's sure other researchers will also try to figure out just what drives the beetles' taste in flower shape.

Related site

More about geometric morphometry

Intelligently Designed Science Courses?


It's not the first time suggestions of Intelligent Design have floated around the Michigan Board of Education. But Tuesday, that talk ended. The board rejected the state's bid to include language in its high school science preamble that may have opened doors to teaching creationism.

"The last minute attempt by legislature to introduce language that facilitated the teaching of Intelligent Design and creationism was inappropriate scientifically and luckily the board recognized that today," said biology professor Dr. Gregory Forbes.

The board did, however, change the preamble to stress the importance of critical thinking and questioning in high school science classes. It also adopted a national standard of what needs to be taught.

"Today is a big deal, a big day," said State Superintendent Mike Flanagan. "It's about clarity on what is biology, clarity on what is physics, [and] clarity on what is chemistry."

Before this decision, there were no statewide guidelines on high school science content. Now, teachers and students will not get credit for class work unless it follows the standards set by NAEP.

"Detroit teachers will be teaching the same thing as St. Johns," Flanagan said. "Teachers are going to use this content, but they're going to be able to teach it how they think is appropriate."

At Lansing's Sexton High School, students are already geared towards a strong science curriculum. But teacher Jeffrey Farell says the new content expectations are welcome.

"I definitely think it's a good thing. We have students who move from one district to the next, and if there's some continuity there, if we're all teaching the same thing, I think it makes it easier for the students."

The changes are in part meant to catapult Michigan back into the biotech community.

Giant camel fossil found in Syria


Archaeologists have discovered the 100,000-year-old fossilised remains of a previously unknown giant camel species in Syria.

The bones of the dromedary were unearthed by a Swiss-Syrian team of researchers near the village of El Kowm in the central part of the country.

The animal is thought to have been double the size of a modern-day camel.

It may even have been killed by humans, who were living at the once water-rich site during the same period.

Jean-Marie Le Tensorer of the University of Basel commented: "It was not known that the dromedary was present in the Middle East more than 10,000 years ago.

Kingsize camels

"The camel's shoulders stood three metres high and it was around four metres tall, as big as a giraffe or an elephant. Nobody knew that such a species had existed," he said.

Professor Tensorer, who has been excavating at the desert site in Kowm since 1999, said the first large bones were found some years ago but were only confirmed as belonging to a camel after more bones from several parts of the same animal were recently discovered.

Between 2005 and 2006, more than 40 bone fragments of giant camels were found by the team.

The big species has been found as far back as 150,000 years ago. But fossils from other species of camel have been unearthed at the site dating as far back as one million years.

Human remains dating to the same period as the giant camel have also been discovered at the site. The radius (forearm) and tooth have been taken to Switzerland, where they are undergoing anthropological analysis.

"The bone is that of a Homo sapiens, or modern man, but the tooth is extremely archaic, similar to that of a Neanderthal. We don't know yet what it is exactly. Do we have a very old Homo sapiens or a Neanderthal?" said Dr Tensorer.

"We expect to find more bones that would help determine what kind of man it was."

El Kowm, the site where the remains were discovered along with flint and stone weapons, is a 20km (14 mile) wide gap between two mountain ranges with natural springs.

Effectiveness of state prison program debated


McALESTER, Okla. A study to determine if the Criminon offender rehabilitation and reform program works in the Oklahoma prison system has some prison workers up in arms.

Criminon is a nonprofit program and an outgrowth of Narconon that is, like Narconon, associated with the Church of Scientology.

A five-year study of the program at Mack Alford was presented to the Board of Corrections in September. It indicates that 66-point-42 percent of inmates who completed it weren't rearrested for any crime.

That compares to 29-point-57 percent of prisoners released during the same time who needed substance abuse treatment but did not receive it.

The program is designed to promote effective ways people can deal with problems, including alternate ways of responding to problems.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press.

Response to Barbara Forrest's Kitzmiller Account Part VIII: Important Facts Left Out About ID Research


In her Kitzmiller account, Barbara Forrest leaves out information about the scientific research supporting ID, claiming "creationists are executing every phase except producing scientific data to support ID." Ignoring her usage of the "creationist" label, Dr. Forrest's argument mimics that of Judge Jones. Both Dr. Forrest and Judge Jones ignored the testimony provided in the courtroom during the Kitzmiller trial by Scott Minnich about his own experiments which demonstrate the irreducible complexity of the flagellum. Amazingly, Judge Jones then wrote that "ID has not been the subject of testing or research" (pg. 64 of online version).

The best way to refute Judge Jones / Barbara Forrest's claim is to let the reader see the testimony of Scott Minnich. Minnich is a pro-ID microbiologist who testified as follows on the next-to-last-day of the trial about his own research and experimentation into the irreducibly complex nature of the bacterial flagellum:

Q. Do you know employ principles and concepts from intelligent design in your work?

A. I do.

Q. And I'd like for you to explain that further. I know you're prepared several slides to do that.


A. Sure. All right. I work on the bacterial flagellum, understanding the function of the bacterial flagellum for example by exposing cells to mutagenic compounds or agents, and then scoring for cells that have attenuated or lost motility. This is our phenotype. The cells can swim or they can't. We mutagenize the cells, if we hit a gene that's involved in function of the flagellum, they can't swim, which is a scorable phenotype that we use. Reverse engineering is then employed to identify all these genes. We couple this with biochemistry to essentially rebuild the structure and understand what the function of each individual part is. Summary, it is the process more akin to design that propelled biology from a mere descriptive science to an experimental science in terms of employing these techniques.


So it was inoculated right here, and over about twelve hours it's radiated out from that point of inoculant. Here is this same derived from that same parental clone, but we have a transposon, a jumping gene inserted into a rod protein, part of the drive shaft for the flagellum. It can't swim. It's stuck, all right? This one is a mutation in the U joint. Same phenotype. So we collect cells that have been mutagenized, we stick them in soft auger, we can screen a couple of thousand very easily with a few undergraduates, you know, in a day and look for whether or not they can swim.


We have a mutation in a drive shaft protein or the U joint, and they can't swim. Now, to confirm that that's the only part that we've affected, you know, is that we can identify this mutation, clone the gene from the wild type and reintroduce it by mechanism of genetic complementation. So this is, these cells up here are derived from this mutant where we have complemented with a good copy of the gene. One mutation, one part knock out, it can't swim. Put that single gene back in we restore motility. Same thing over here. We put, knock out one part, put a good copy of the gene back in, and they can swim. By definition the system is irreducibly complex. We've done that with all 35 components of the flagellum, and we get the same effect.

(Kitzmiller Transcript of Testimony of Scott Minnich pgs. 99-108, Nov. 3, 2005, emphasis added)

During this testimony, Scott Minnich showed slides in the courtroom documenting his own research experiments, which performed knockout experiments upon the flagellum, and found that the flagellum is irreducibly complex. Minnich produced relevant experimental data which confirmed a prediction made by intelligent design, and he used this research to support intelligent design in the courtroom. Yet Dr. Forrest completely ignored this testimony, as did Judge Jones, who did not even mention it in the Kitzmiller ruling. Given the testimony of an expert witnesses's own personal experiments which was directly presented before him, it is incredible that Judge Jones could write "ID has not been the subject of testing or research."

Posted by Casey Luskin on October 8, 2006 12:04 AM | Permalink

Supports teaching of 'intelligent design'


Monday, October 09, 2006

The Chronicle recently went on record to state a case for supporting the teaching of evolution alone as the explanation for the complexity of life. This is a huge disappointment. In order for our children to be free-thinking people they need to be given all the facts. To simply teach evolution in the classroom as the only theory for the origins of life fails to deliver the complete picture to our children.

While you claim that evolution is the only scientific explanation, in reality it is simply a theory -- a weak one at that -- as there are many holes in the theory that have in fact discredited it. For example, in response to accepting the scientific claim that a Cambrian "explosion" took place about 530 million years ago, Stephen C. Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, wrote in an article accepted for publication in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington that "the remarkable jump in the specified complexity or "complex specified information" (CSI) of the biological world cannot be explained by evolutionary theory."

Dr. Meyer, who is not the only scientist with this view, goes on to point out that the mechanism of natural selection, central to evolutionary theory, cannot possibly account for the development of so many varied and complex life forms simply by mutations in DNA. Rather, some conscious design -- thus requiring a Designer -- is necessary to explain the emergence of these life forms.

Wouldn't laying out all these facts about the complexities surrounding the origin of life to our students, rather than forcing one particular theory into their minds, and then engaging them in a conversation and challenging them to draw their own conclusions actually strengthen the education of our students. Why would "Michigan have to be embarrassed about that"? Intelligent Design is a matter of education -- and faith.

Bob Karel

Grand Haven

Evolution a hard sell for many


Monday, October 09, 2006


Kaleigh Paul listened politely as professor Susan Fisher explained the broad ideas of evolution theory in Biology 101 class last month at Ohio State University.

But after the bell rang, Paul said the lectures are not going to change her mind.

"I've gone through so many biology classes (before college) and it hasn't convinced me yet," said Paul, a 19-year-old sophomore from Zanesville.

"I was raised with creationism."

National polls show students are divided on evolution. Many adhere to what a preacher or parent taught them. Others didn't learn about it in high school, or the course was so watered down that it didn't leave an impression. Still, Paul acknowledged that Fisher's evidence and arguments are logical.

These days, that is enough for Fisher.

A few years ago, the biologist volunteered to teach 101, a class of 700 students that fills the Independence Hall lecture room and is meant for nonbiology majors. Fisher estimates that half the students don't accept evolution. It used to bother her.

"I'm not hacked off anymore," she said. "I want them to at least understand what they're rejecting. If they choose to ignore it, that's their prerogative."

Fisher said she polled her students at the beginning of the quarter about their views on evolution. She will do it again in December.

Microbiologist Neil Baker, who teaches another 101 section of 700 students, said changing beliefs is a tall order in a 10-week course.

"Evolution is something we can prove with modern-day examples," he said. "What a lot of students have a problem with is evolution with humans — that humans are special in some way."

National polls indicate that about half of Americans believe God created humans in our current form.

Glenn Branch, with the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, Calif., said the numbers haven't shifted much, in part because conservative arguments tap deep religious feelings.

"People are told, if your children reject creationism, they're going to reject God and burn in hell," he said.

But Branch said he is optimistic that state science standards will push evolution education in a direction supported by science.

In Ohio, creationists have complained that state highschool curriculum models teach only evolution. Biologists say creationism and intelligent design are religious beliefs that are best taught outside the science classroom.

In the meantime, such huge classes as Fisher's don't necessarily bode well for a scientifically literate American population, Branch said.

Nearly every seat in the lecture hall is filled. Latecomers sit on stairs. "We don't have conversations with individual students," she said. Questions are for smaller weekly recitation sessions with graduate teaching assistants.

"Those who don't come from a religious background accept evolution," said Wes Frew, one of Fisher's assistants.

Frew grew up in a religious household in Carrollton, a small town in eastern Ohio. His family believes in creationism. But now he debates his sister, who believes the Earth is a few thousand years old.

While few students raise objections in the recitation groups, graduate students and professors tread lightly on the issue, he said. "Professors try not to get too controversial. They try not to offend."

Fisher said she doesn't draw any lines in the sand.

"I'm not here to challenge their belief systems. I'm here to show the difference between science and religion. We have to get them to think about it," she said.

Middle-school and highschool teachers often tread lightly, too.

Over the summer, two Denison University seniors researched how high-school science teachers approach evolution. They found that many teachers are sensitive to criticism from students, parents and boards of education and don't feel sure about how to teach the subject.

Many teachers struggle, said Elizabeth Doerschuk, a Denison senior. "They didn't feel supported."

The findings are in line with a 2005 poll by the National Science Teachers Association. Of the more than 1,000 teachers who responded, 31 percent said they felt pressure — especially from students and parents — to include creationism and its near relative, intelligent design, in class discussions of evolution.

"I didn't learn about evolution until I took an introduction-to-biology course here at Denison," Doerschuk said.

Fisher said she came to terms with her own religious and scientific beliefs years ago. She once wondered about exactly when evolution began, as it encompasses chemical, geological and biological change.

"But it really doesn't matter what was the starting point," she said. "It could have been the big bang or God establishing the final laws of physics. We'll never know.

"That's why we call it faith."


Swiss drag knuckles accepting evolution


October 9, 2006 - 8:40 AM

One in three Swiss thinks it is "definitely false" that humans developed from earlier species of animals, according to an international survey on evolution.

How seriously should we take the news that only Austria is less enlightened among "old" European countries? Is it simply a reflection of Switzerland's religious history and dislike of change – or a serious failure of the education system?

The journal Science recently published a survey by Jon Miller at Michigan State University which put the following statement to more than 34,000 people in 32 Europe countries, the United States and Japan: "Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals."

In Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, and France, 80 per cent or more of adults said this was "definitely true", as did 78 per cent of Japanese adults. Only Turkey (25 per cent) saved the United States' (40 per cent) blushes.

Sixty per cent of the 1,000 Swiss respondents agreed with the statement – putting them in 22nd position – 10 per cent were not sure and 30 per cent said it was "definitely false".

"Thirty per cent is disturbingly high," Sebastien Bonhoeffer, professor of theoretical biology at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, told swissinfo.

"It disturbs me for professional reasons, but what really disturbs me is something deeper that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with evolution. It is that people are obviously willing to believe things rather than critically assess evidence and look behind arguments – this eventually applies not only to science but also to other issues in society."

Indeed Switzerland's system of direct democracy is especially vulnerable to an inability to separate fact from fiction.

When Swiss voters approved a five-year ban on genetically modified organisms at the end of last year, Klaus Ammann from the Committee against a Gentech Moratorium and director of Bern's Botanical Gardens told swissinfo: "The pro-people had a very easy game to come with all sorts of pseudo-facts and half-truths because the population was ready to believe it."

Not good for democracy

Rolf Strasser, a Christian journalist focusing on the sociology of religion, also says many Swiss struggle with scientific evidence.

"For many of [the 30 per cent] the mainstream thinking of evolution is not convincing enough, because ideology and science are mixed too much, especially in the writings of so-called scientific journalism and school books," he told swissinfo.

"A better understanding of science is good for tolerance, but the scientific community should communicate better what is real science and what is hypothesis. Blind faith in religious or non-religious beliefs is not good for democracy."

During a national vote on embryo stem cell research a couple of years ago, Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin, who is responsible for education (and who supported the research), said: "God gave us intelligence in order to use it and to understand nature."

It's hard to measure how many of the two-thirds of voters who eventually backed the research thought likewise, but it's equally hard to imagine a French or British education minister making comments like that.

Intellectual independence

For Bonhoeffer it's not so much a question of science versus religion but rather of being able to make up one's own mind based on the evidence.

"I don't want to blame the Swiss in particular here, but I think [the survey] does reflect bad education," he said.

"There's certainly a community who cannot be convinced [of evolution], but I think there is also a large community who could be convinced if they were taught how to assess evidence.

"We should not teach people that this is how the world works, believe it! We should teach them how to deal with evidence and how to critically assess different hypotheses. If we teach them this well – and in a way that is not dogmatic – they will come to the conclusion that there is overwhelming evidence that we did indeed derive from other animals."

swissinfo, Thomas Stephens

Lawmaker Fires Back at Montana Governor


The Associated Press Monday, October 9, 2006; 7:25 PM

BOZEMAN -- A Republican state lawmaker is criticizing Gov. Brian Schweitzer for comments he made to a newspaper here about the lawmaker's belief that the planet is not millions of years old.

Rep. Roger Koopman, R-Bozeman, called Schweitzer's statement "incredibly bigoted."

Speaking to a crowd of school children, parents and teachers in Bozeman on Friday about global warming, Schweitzer asked how many in the crowd thought the Earth was hundreds of millions of years old. Most of the children in the audience raised their hands.

He then asked how many believed the planet was less than a million years old. At least two people, including Koopman, who was in the crowd, raised their hands.

During an interview later with the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Schweitzer noted Koopman's response. He said some people believe the planet is only 4,000 to 6,000 years old, despite geological evidence to the contrary.

Schweitzer said he needs support from a state Legislature that will help move Montana's agenda forward, "not people who think the Earth is 4,000 years old."

Koopman called the comments insulting.

"He insulted many Christian people and other people of faith that arrived at that position other than the way I arrived at it," he said.

Schweitzer did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment Sunday or Monday.

Koopman said his belief in the Earth's age is not based on his faith, but on his scientific investigations.

Koopman had initially planned to introduce a bill during the 2005 Legislature allowing the teaching of the controversial "intelligent design" theory, and other alternatives to evolution, in public schools. He never pursued the measure and said he has no plans to introduce a similar bill in the next session if re-elected.

The theory of creationism states that life and the Earth were created by God from nothing, while intelligent design, a secular form of creationism, argues the Earth was created by a series of intelligent events, not random chance. Evolution says that species change in response to environmental and genetic factors over the course of many generations.

Critics contend intelligent design is nothing more than creationism in disguise, but proponents say the theory isn't religious because it doesn't state who or what the intelligent designer is.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that creationism is religion and cannot be taught as science in public schools.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Outer Peace

October 8, 2006




In the 1960's, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi — called the giggling guru by the press — gained a measure of celebrity for promoting his mantra- repetition technique of Transcendental Meditation around the world and for serving a brief stint as spiritual adviser to the Beatles. His message was that with the proper techniques, each individual could find peace, as one of his disciples, George Harrison, sang, "within." Today, his organization claims to hold U.S. assets of $300 million and to have taught six million adherents (training now costs $2,500) in T.M. centers around the world. It also operates a university in Fairfield, Iowa.

Maharishi, who is believed to be 89, now confines himself to two rooms in his golden-hued log house in the small Dutch village of Vlodrop. Although he has emerged only a few times in the past year — for fresh air on a chauffeured drive — he contends that his most important work lies ahead of him. His first 50 years, he says, were merely a "warm-up" for his goal of creating world peace by, among other things, rebuilding national capitals according to his harmony- producing precepts. Inner peace, it turns out, is not enough.

When I visited Vlodrop this spring, Maharishi agreed to a rare interview. I was permitted in his house but was not allowed into his upstairs quarters. His followers told me that seclusion preserves his energy and that he talks in person to only a small circle of attendants. I spoke to Maharishi by videoconference from a downstairs room where his red velvet gilded throne sat empty.

Framed in a flat-screen monitor, he appeared more than ever a mystical creature, his thin face sketched with a white beard. He was dressed in his customary white silk dhoti, a fresh necklace of yellow petals around his neck. His aim, he explained in English, is to create coherence in a world undone by our stressed brains, artificial national borders, terrorism and irrational violence. "My coherence- creating groups are going to put out all this mischief-mongership in the world," he said in a high-pitched voice, holding President Bush up as the greatest mischief-monger of all. "The world is going to come out to be a neat and clean world. All these countries will fade away."

Maharishi regards his own 65-acre enclave as the capital of a Global Country of World Peace; it even has its own currency, the raam. He lives here with 50 of his adherents — including his "minister of science and technology," John Hagelin, a Harvard-educated physicist, but sees little of the bearded Westerners who come for long meditation retreats or research projects. The compound is in a parallel universe to Vlodrop, with its 2,000 locals. One of the few who has crossed over is the town florist, who practices T.M. and each day removes all the thorns from the yogi's daily order of bushels of organic roses.

Maharishi is not content to promote peace just inside his compound. Hagelin has run for president of the United States three times, and recently, Maharishi chose 40 countries in which to support corps of "yogic fliers." The human fliers supposedly use surges of energy to physically lift themselves off the ground. Like a number of aspiring religious thinkers these days, the Maharishi and Hagelin say they believe that the physics of quantum mechanics, with its leaping particles and abundant paradoxes, can be combined with ancient traditions into a new philosophy that stresses the world-changing potential of a "transcendental consciousness." Maharishi argues, for instance, that when the square root of 1 percent of the earth's population — that is, 8,000 people — meditate all at once, the result will be the diffusion of a higher state of consciousness into the atmosphere.

Another element of his vision is to rebuild the world according to Vedic principles. He has called for the demolition of "improperly oriented" buildings, believing them to be toxic, and includes among them the United Nations and the White House. There are proposals for New York and Paris to be cleared to make way for 3,000 marble peace palaces. (His organization operates such palaces in Bethesda, Md., Lexington, Ky., Houston and Fairfield.) Maharishi is also convinced that every country's capital is wrongly located. In India and America, his organization has bought land near what it calls each country's "brahmastan" — or the geographical and energy center. The future capital of the United States would be Smith Center, Kan., population 1,931.

Despite the support of celebrities from David Lynch to Donovan, Maharishi has been disappointed in his efforts to recreate the world. Hagelin's poor showing in the 2000 presidential race did not lift his spirits. Locked in legal battles, his organization has not gained permission to raze a Franciscan monastery on its property in Vlodrop. It was also unable to establish sovereignty on 100 acres of Rota, an island in the Pacific. But even so, he has managed to transform, if not the world, then at least his gated utopia into an eerily peaceful place. At nightfall, the lawn, mowed by robots, lights up with decorative deer.

Lily Koppel is on the staff of the magazine.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Discovery In The Evolution Of The Immune System Absorbing Cells


Main Category: Immune System / Vaccines News

Article Date: 08 Oct 2006 - 1:00am (PDT)

Led by Dr J Oriol Sunyer, of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and formed by researchers from Philadelphia, St Louis and Idaho (USA) and by Dr Lluis Tort of the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, the group has been able to show that B cells in fish as well as in amphibians are capable of strong phagocytosis both in in vivo and in vitro experiments. The work has been published in Nature Immunology, the most prestigious journal worldwide in the field of immunology.

According to Dr Sunyer, "this is important so that we can understand not only how the immune systems of fish and amphibians work but also the origin and composition of the immune systems of humans and mammals". The work concludes that there is an evolutionary relationship between macrophages and cells by which both cell types derive from a common, ancestral cell with functional properties of both cells. So though the B cells of lower vertebrates (fish and amphibians) are still capable of phagocytis while they are producing antibodies, the B cells of higher vertebrates are no longer capable of phagocytis. The latter specialise almost exclusively in functions of the adaptive immune response.

It is most probable that the less-elaborated, restrictive adaptive immune response of fish and amphibians makes the preservation of phagocytosis an evolutionary advantage to B cells in their defence against pathogens. One cannot forget that fish have had a significant evolutionary success, since nearly 50% of vertebrate species belong to this group and they are constantly in contact with a vast multitude of microorganisms in the water. According to Dr Sunyer, "From a practical perspective, this discovery will be used in the near future to produce a new design of vaccines for fish in order to stimulate phagocytosis in antibodies for B cells, increasing the effectiveness of the vaccine".

The study of comparative biology remains an important source of scientific knowledge. Several years ago, the same researchers demonstrated the great versatility and power of the innate immune response of the complement system in lower vertebrates, whereas mammals have developed greater effectiveness and specialisation in the adaptive mechanism of antibodies.

Contact: Lucas Santos Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

God or evolution? Georgetown scholar makes case for both


Sunday, October 08, 2006

John Mangels Plain Dealer Science Writer

From the time nearly 150 years ago that naturalist Charles Darwin first proposed evolution as life's driving force, many Christians have struggled with its harsh implications.

If, as science has repeatedly confirmed, random genetic shifts over time determine the rise of new creatures and the wholesale demise of others, where's the role for God? How could a loving creator countenance the suffering and brutality of natural selection, with its relentless elimination of the weak? How does one reconcile the Bible's depiction of humans as God's ultimate creation with evolution's suggestion that we're the result of a cosmic coin-flip?

Evolution's most extreme opponents and proponents have often made it seem that science and religion cannot co-exist, that one has to pick sides between God and Darwin.

Georgetown University theologian John Haught suggested Saturday that there might be alternatives to that polarized view. Before a Case Western Reserve University audience of several hundred, the author and director of Georgetown's Center for the Study of Science and Religion described various philosophies that could comfortably accommodate the science of evolution within a religious framework of how life plays out.

The simplest - and to Haught, the least intellectually satisfying - is a "tepid tolerance" of evolution. That approach purports that the seeming randomness and brutality of natural selection are part of God's plan but are too complex for humans to understand. In other words, Darwin's recipe for life is correct, God is behind it, and we should not pry into the reasons.

"It keeps science in one segment of your mind and religion or faith in the other," Haught said. "That compartmentalization . . . does not, it seems to me, fit the real world, in which we're constantly bumping up against the ideas of science." It contradicts, he said, the premise that God gave humans inquiring minds so that we can try to understand him.

Another philosophical view, Haught said, is that God chose evolution as part of a "tough love" curriculum to prepare humans for salvation. In this approach, God set up what writer Guy Murchie called a "soul school" - a universe that intentionally operates on natural selection. It's dangerous and dicey rather than comfortable and safe, so that man can hone his faith.

Twentieth-century French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest, proposed that religion is a natural product of evolution.

Over its 14 billion-year history, the universe has evolved toward greater complexity and organization, from energetic particles zinging around after the Big Bang to atoms, molecules, cells, organisms and ultimately humans. The universal organizing process, de Chardin noted, tended to be around a central feature - whether a cell nucleus, a brain or, in humanity's case, around spirituality and shared values.

In that sense, de Chardin believed religion "is the way the universe is now continuing its evolution," Haught said.

As logical as that view might be, it does not explain the divine purpose of the great suffering that evolution has wrought, as living things compete to survive. "For a lot of people, that's the biggest issue about evolution," Haught said.

The best explanation de Chardin could offer, Haught said, is that suffering is a consequence of living in an unfinished, evolving universe. God would not create a cosmos that is perfect from the outset, Haught said, because it would be one "without a future . . . without freedom . . . without life."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

jmangels@plaind.com, 216-999-4842

© 2006 The Plain Dealer

Saturday, October 07, 2006



11:09 AM CDT on Saturday, October 7, 2006


This long-running site argues against creationism and other literal interpretations of Scripture. The scientific resources are exhaustive and easily searchable, and cover topics such as Earth's age, flood geology and catastrophes. The FAQs – a good starting place for new readers – provide brief answers and relevant links to complex questions. The site stresses mainstream science and doesn't post any articles supporting creationism, though there is a lengthy list of anti-evolution links. Feedback from the past decade is available, much of it questioning and challenging the site's content.

Tyra Damm

For past Web Sites of the Week, log on to DallasNews.com/extra.

Celeste Biever's History of Factual Errors and Bias in Stories about ID


Yesterday we reported how New Scientist writer Celeste Biever has used a fake identity to contact people for a story on intelligent design (ID). (As documented here, Biever falsely identified herself as "a student at Cornell" named "Maria" to the Cornell IDEA Club.) Apart from her latest tactics, Biever has a history of extremely inaccurate and biased reporting when it comes to the issues of evolution and intelligent design:

(1) Kansas Science Standards. In an article that reads like a Kansas Citizens for Science press release, Biever falsely claimed that the 2006 Kansas State Primary elections "ousted two radical conservative school board members" and reported that the current board "opposes the teaching of evolution." Ignoring the "radical conservative" invective, there are two glaring factual errors here. First, only one incumbent lost: Connie Morris. The other seat to which Biever refers was left open by Iris Van Meter, who chose not to run for re-election. Second, current board members do not "oppose the teaching of evolution." Kansas's science standards teach students more about evolution, not less: arguments in favor for evolution are presented, but scientific arguments against evolution are also included. Biever further claimed that the standards define science so as to "include supernatural causes" and "change the definition of evolution to imply that evolution conflicts with belief in God." These claims are flatly false, as explained here.

(2) ID and Peer-Review. Biever asserts that, "Only one paper that supports ID has ever been published in a peer-reviewed journal, but the phrases 'intelligent design' and 'irreducible complexity' had to be removed before the paper was accepted." Again, that's false. Stephen C. Meyer's 2004 peer-reviewed paper in a mainstream biology journal explicitly argues that "intelligent design … [is] the most causally adequate explanation for the origin of the complex specified information required to build the Cambrian animals." Moreover, a peer-reviewed article in Annual Review of Genetics asks, "to what extent can any of the TE-incited rearrangements contribute to the origin of novel genes and new gene reaction chains as well as the genesis of irreducibly complex structures?"

(3) Misrepresenting the Relationship between Michael Behe's Religious and Scientific Views. Biever employs the fallacious and discriminatory Creationism's Trojan Horse argument by writing "[Behe] admits, however, that he personally believes the designer is God." So what? Doesn't Behe have the right to his personal religious beliefs? The real issues are whether Behe's scientific beliefs are based on religious premises and whether he thinks one can prove the existence of God through empirical science alone. Behe is perfectly clear on both points: "I myself do believe in a benevolent God, and I recognize that philosophy and theology may be able to extend the argument. But a scientific argument for design in biology does not reach that far. Thus while I argue for design, the question of the identity of the designer is left open." (emphasis added)

(4) Misdefining ID. Biever misdefines ID as a negative argument against evolution that appeals to the supernatural. She claims ID argues that "some things in nature are simply too complex to have evolved by natural selection, and therefore must be the work of an intelligent designer" and that intelligent design is "the assertion that living things are the work of a supernatural 'designer'." Both claims are wrong, as explained here and here.

Systematic Anti-ID Bias and Prejudice from New Scientist

New Scientist as a whole has a history of bias and misrepresentation in its reporting on ID. As noted earlier on this blog, William Dembski reported how a New Scientist reporter misled Dembski to believe that the reporter wanted to "remedy" the fact that "the media coverage of intelligent design has mostly failed to present your case on scientific grounds." Yet this "news" article editorialized, supporting the claims of critics by asserting "Crucially, ID does not make testable predictions." (See "A sceptic's guide to intelligent design," New Scientist, by Bob Holmes and James Randerson, July 9, 2005.)

New Scientist's bias was also seen when it published an unrebutted editorial from anti-ID physicist Lawrence Krauss making ad hominem attacks that ID proponents lack "honesty" and "knowingly and willingly distort the truth." In order to combat ID, Krauss urges scientists to use "the weapons of sound bytes and emotional arguments" and to "deploy all the tools that are used to sell cars, [and] diet drugs...." Perhaps Celeste Biever has taken Krauss's misguided advice to heart.

Posted by Casey Luskin on October 6, 2006 8:55 AM | Permalink

Finally, scientists are fighting mad


By Jim Spencer Denver Post Staff Columnist

Article Last Updated:10/05/2006 09:28:32 PM MDT

In a state where public educators are afraid to put the word "evolution" in science aptitude tests and where the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor thinks biblical creationism counts as science, the Colorado Evolution Response Team has its work cut out.

CERT, as the new group refers to itself, seems ready for the fight.

"There is a cultural attack against science," said David Pollock, a genetic researcher at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. "The president taking intelligent-design propaganda as gospel is not good."

Neither is having a lieutenant governor who wants creationism taught in schools.

"The first thing we're concerned with is to maintain the highest science education standards," said Jeff Kieft, a CU health sciences prof and researcher specializing in RNA. "We want to respond throughout the state education system to attacks that would weaken science."

They won't have to look far. Last summer, a member of the Colorado Board of Education called evolution "one of those loaded phrases." So Colorado doesn't print the word in statewide science aptitude tests. Instead, kids see the less controversial term "adaptation."

"They're trying to avoid controversy," not teach science, said James DeGregori, a CU cancer biologist. "That's exactly what this organization (CERT) should respond to."

Scientists "profess evolution as the foundation of the biosciences," said Kieft, a Christian who squares his scholarship with his faith. "If you test students on biology, you have to deal with it."

By not doing so, added Pollock, you are "erasing a portion of human knowledge that is critical. You're crippling people."

You also force the creation of groups like CERT, which is independent of, but akin to, another new organization, Scientists and Engineers for America. SEA is a national group dealing with national issues. Pollock belongs to both. They are part of a movement by scientists to reclaim their disciplines from religion and politics. CERT was the brainchild of DeGregori, honed with Pollock and Kieft.

"I have school-aged children," DeGregori said. Scientists need to "have a response level."

"Evolution" is not a loaded phrase, DeGregori said. "Natural selection exists." Reviling the word "evolution" - or not using it - can't change that.

"They're taking religious beliefs and pretending they can make them science," School of Mines physicist Matt Young said of folks who think creationism constitutes science. "I hope that CERT will be able to support teachers and parents in situations where science is being distorted."

CERT's ranks now include dozens of scholars from the Health Sciences Center, CU-Boulder, National Jewish Hospital, Colorado State University, the University of Denver, CU-Denver and the School of Mines. With the word out, Pollock hopes dozens more will warm to the cause.

"Evolution is at the point of this," Pollock said of the culture war. "But it's a bigger wedge against science."

Think embryonic stem-cell research, emergency contraception and global warming, three subjects whose scientific bases have been undermined.

If that trend continues unchallenged, Colorado loses, Young said. The state's competitive and economic edge in science is gone.

Before coming to Colorado, Kieft worked in George W. Bush's White House Office of Science and Technology. Kieft understands how political agendas can warp science.

"One of the issues we worked on was climate change," Kieft said. Research showed that climate change was "likely, mostly due" to industrial pollution and other human activity. In congressional testimony, however, "the political people wanted to emphasize the uncertainty of the cause," said Kieft.

In this state, the Colorado Evolution Response Team wants to emphasize something, too:

From now on, anyone taking "a stance that is blatantly anti-scientific" is going to get called out.

Jim Spencer's column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 303-954-1771 or jspencer@denverpost.com.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Evolution education update: October 6, 2006

A good week for those who like to read, with a profile of NCSE's Nick Matzke in Seed, a valuable resource on evolutionary science and society from AIBS and BSCS now freely available, a thoughtful piece on efforts to combat "intelligent design" in the Whitehead Institute's journal, and a powerful op-ed on evolution education from the president of the Biotechnology Institute.


NCSE's Nick Matzke is among nine people profiled under the rubric "Revolutionary Minds" in the November 2006 issue of Seed magazine, now available at newsstands. "At a time when intelligent-design rhetoric has persuaded some public schools to include the philosophy in their science curricula," the article begins, "Nick Matzke is championing the cause of science. Even after leaving his mark on the Dover trial, he continues to defend Darwin's theory." Discussed are Matzke's role as spokesperson for NCSE, his writing on The Panda's Thumb blog ("a hobby that transformed into a secret weapon for the legal team he later advised"), and his vital research leading to the discovery of the explicitly creationist drafts of the "intelligent design" textbook Of Pandas and People. Even after the victory in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the article notes, Matzke remains active, with recent contributions to Nature Immunology, Nature Reviews Microbiology, and the new collection Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for Our Schools. He told Seed, "it is not enough to just have truth on your side ... You've got to let people know about it."

For information about Seed magazine, visit:

For Matzke's somewhat bemused reaction on The Panda's Thumb blog, visit:


Back in 2004, the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study organized a well-attended and well-received two-day symposium on evolutionary science and society at the annual meeting of the National Association of Biology Teachers. In 2005, the proceedings of the symposium were published as Evolutionary Science and Society: Educating a New Generation, edited by Joel Cracraft and Rodger W. Bybee. Now the proceedings are freely available on-line in PDF format. As Cracraft and Bybee remark in their conclusion, "While teaching evolutionary science, we should increase students' understanding of inquiry and the nature of science and present evolution with a contemporary societal perspective. This book provides science teachers with contemporary essays by leading scientists and appropriate resources by leading educators. All of this should help science teachers educate a new generation."

Topics discussed in Evolutionary Science and Society: Educating a New Generation include Introduction to Evolutionary Thinking, The Tree of Life, How Evolution Works, Evolutionary Science: Advancing Public Health, and Evolutionary Science: Advancing Societal Well-Being. Contributors include Robert T. Pennock, Kenneth R. Miller, Walter M. Fitch, Barbara Forrest, Brian Alters, W. Ford Doolittle, Joel Cracraft, William H. Kimbel, Michael J. Donoghue, Mark Terry, Lawrence C. Scharmann, Sam Donovan, Douglas J. Futuyma, Kerry L. Shaw, Tamra C. Mendelson, Gerald Borgia, Robert M. Zink, Peter M. Sheehan, John R. Jungck, Stacey Kiser, Ethel D. Stanley, David M. Hillis, Diane P. Genereux, Carl T. Bergstrom, Lynn Helena Caporale, Lori Zaikowski, Randolph M. Nesse, Betsy Ott, David P. Mindell, Paul Gepts, Norris Muth, Massimo Pigliucci, Jay B. Labov, Anatasia Thanukos, and Judy Scotchmoor.

For Evolutionary Science and Society, visit:


"A smart battle against intelligent design" appears in the fall 2006 issue of Paradigm Magazine, published by the Whitehead Institute for Biological Research, a leading biomedical research and educational organization in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Despite the victory in Kitzmiller v. Dover, Carol Cruzan Morton reports in her article, "the battle against creationism needs a steady stream of recruits," especially from scientists themselves. NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott is quoted as saying, "The buck stops with university professors," and Richard Katskee of Americans United for Separation of Church and State comments, "The voices of serious scientists speaking up will make the difference." Also quoted are John Haught and Kenneth R. Miller, both of whom testified for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller; the article concludes with Miller's advice to his scientific colleagues: "You are trying to reach out to the great middle ground of American people who, if they fail to support science, ultimately threaten the scientific enterprise. If we in the scientific community don't provide the information, the American people won't have the chance to come to the right decision, and it will be our fault." A sidebar lists a few ways for scientists to contribute to the public understanding of science suggested by NCSE's deputy director Glenn Branch. For more along the same lines, see his contribution to Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for Our Schools.

For "A smart battle against intelligent design," visit:

For information about Not in Our Classrooms, visit:


In his October 1, 2006, column in the Washington Post, Paul A. Hanle argued, "By teaching intelligent design or other variants of creationism in science classes at public schools -- or by undercutting the credibility of evolution -- we are greatly diminishing our chances for future scientific breakthroughs and technological innovations, and are endangering our health, safety and economic well-being as individuals and as a nation." The president of the Biotechnology Institute, which seeks "to engage, excite, and educate the public, particularly young people, about the promise and challenges of biotechnology," Hanle emphasizes in his column that "to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, bio-warfare and pandemic diseases, to discover lifesaving cures and life-improving breakthroughs, tomorrow's biologists must be equipped with scientifically based knowledge today, adding, "Nations that value open inquiry and use scientific criteria in education, research and industry will outperform those that do not. If we are to continue to be leaders in the global economy, we must teach science, not religion, in the science classroom."

For Hanle's column, visit:

For information about the Biotechnology Institute, visit:

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.


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

Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism

NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!

Abducted by aliens? Seek compo


This story is from our news.com.au network Source: Reuters

From correspondents in Berlin October 06, 2006

A GERMAN lawyer says he hopes to drum up more business by pursuing state compensation claims for people who believe they were abducted by aliens.

"There's quite obviously demand for legal advice here", Jens Lorek said.

"The trouble is, people are afraid of making fools of themselves in court."

Mr Lorek, a lawyer based in the eastern city of Dresden who specialises in social and labour law, said he hoped to expand his client base by taking on the unusual work.

He has yet to win any abduction claims, but says there are plenty of potential clients, noting that extra-terrestrial watchdogs report scores of alien assaults every year.

"These people could appeal for therapies or cures," he said.

Mr Lorek, 41, is pinning his hopes for success on a German law which grants kidnap victims the right to state compensation.

Asked if he was worried he might look ridiculous by seeking justice for clients haunted by aliens, Mr Lorek was untroubled.

"Nobody has laughed about it up until now," he said.

© The Australian

Derbyshire Provides a Turkey of an Argument Against Intelligent Design


John Derbyshire continues to insult social conservatives (and skeptics of Darwinism both liberal and conservative) at NRO's The Corner. He uses the high rate of skepticism toward Darwinism in Turkey to demonstrate that intelligent design represents a dangerous attack on modern biology. Since it's a fallacious guilt by association argument, and one that flies in the face of clear evidence to the contrary, he leaves out key parts of his argument. Let's coax a few of his connecting links into the clear light of day.

Premise: People from Turkey aren't hip like people from England and Europe.
Premise: The Turkish people don't like Darwinism
Conclusion: Unhip people dislike Darwinism

Premise: Unhip people don't like Darwinism
Premise: Most Americans don't like Darwinism
Conclusion: Americans are in danger of being unhip.

Premise: Turkey doesn't like Darwinism
Premise: Turkey isn't very advanced technologically
Conclusion: Disliking Darwinism could plunge America into the Dark Ages.

Derbyshire has become an embarrassment to NRO because his arguments against intelligent design never grow, they never take into account the counterarguments of the design theorists, and they repeatedly employ precisely the sort of clubby, sneering, fallacious reasoning found in his newest piece on the subject.

Here are some facts worth grappling with if he intends to see his arguments mature.

1. The United States is the world's leader in science. United States citizens are also much more likely to doubt Darwin and have for decades. Is there a connection? Perhaps and perhaps not, but any Darwinist breezily suggesting a causal link between Darwin skepticism and scientific mediocrity needs to take these twin facts into account.

2. The five science Nobel Laureates this year were all Americans. They may all be card carrying neo-Darwinists who see no evidence for intelligent design anywhere in the biological realm. Nevertheless, apparently none of their research programs made any use of Darwinism. It's not surprising that the two physicists' research program didn't, but the other two prizes went to biochemistry researchers. If nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of Darwinism (as Darwinists are fond of telling us), why did these outstanding examples of experimental biology do so well without Darwinism?

As National Academy of Sciences member Philip Skell has pointed out in the pages of The Scientist, the research program for every Nobel Prize winner in medicine since its inception made no use of Darwinian evolution. Darwinism provides an after-the-fact narrative gloss, but not a foundation for modern experimental biology. Skell's essay is here, and his response to the letters to the editor is here.

Berkeley trained biologist Jonathan Wells also considers Darwinism's relationship to modern experimental biology. In chapter seven of his excellent new book, he shows that when Darwinists claim responsibility for a breakthrough in experimental biology, they are claiming credit for someone else's work, and in many cases the discoverer even rejected Darwinism (e.g., Gregor Mendel, who pioneered modern genetics).

Posted by Jonathan Witt on October 5, 2006 6:43 AM | Permalink

Discovery Institute Honors Decade of Science with Anniversary Dinner Featuring Dr. Michael Behe

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=3755&program=DI Main Page - News&callingPage=discoMainPage

By: Staff
Discovery Institute
October 4, 2006

Seattle – Discovery Institute proudly announces the tenth anniversary of its Center for Science and Culture with a special dinner honoring the success of the Center and its more than 40 scientists and scholars.

On October 21st, the Institute will host a ten year anniversary dinner to honor the achievements of the Center for Science & Culture. After ten years of supporting scientific research in the exciting area of intelligent design, the Center for Science and Culture has much to celebrate.

This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the seminal book, Darwin's Black Box, which helped to launch modern intelligent design theory. Fittingly, author and CSC Senior Fellow Michael Behe will speak at the dinner, sharing his perspective on the future of intelligent design research. Michael Behe is a biologist who has taught at the university level for 23 years and was the lead defense witness in the Dover School District intelligent design trial in 2005.

Intelligent design proponent and national radio host Michael Medved will also speak at the event which will be held in the Washington Athletic Club's Crystal Ballroom in downtown Seattle.

The dinner is open to the public, and the cost to attend is $100 per person. Anyone interested in attending can register online at the Discovery Institute website at www.discovery.org. For more information, contact event coordinator Annelise Davis at (206) 292-0401 x153.

Creationism Also Tells Tall Tales!!


by Herman Cummings October 05, 2006 10:00 AM EST

In the past, this author has gone on record for exposing the false suppositions of secular science, namely the "Big Bang", the Nebular Hypothesis, the "Primordial Soup", and of course, the theory of evolution. But in order to be impartial, the other side of "origins" should also be exposed. How can an untruth, ever expose another lie, to be in error? Both creationism and secular science are incorrect.

Let's start with the most loquacious, Creation Science, also known as flood geologists. It is their belief that the Earth and the universe are less than 10,000 years old. They also believe that the flood of Noah was world-wide, and is responsible for the nature of the geologic strata (catastrophism), and the fossils they contain. They also support the "inerrancy" of the Bible with "literal interpretation" of Genesis (when it is convenient). As a rule, they must first have a degree (masters or doctorate) in a field of science (such as geology). They have been the most active in the "disagreement" against evolution, but on such a broad scale that to them it includes the "evolution of the universe".

If you talk to them long enough, you will find that they will renege on what they teach. Ask them these three questions:

1) Where did the water come from on "the First Day"?

2) Why is it that the animals were made first in Genesis chapter one, and made after Adam in chapter two?

3) Why is it that the birds were made on the "Fifth Day"in chapter one, and made on the sixth day in chapter two?

Their responses will most likely be that God created the water before the First Day, and that the second chapter puts the sixth day "in more focus".

In the case of the birds, they will sometimes say that the word "formed" is equivalent to the English past participle "had formed"(earlier). They're trying to say that God brought the animals to Adam which He formed on the sixth day, and the birds which He "had earlier formed" on the fifth day. Whatever happened to "literal interpretation"? Is it abandoned when they have to make up a weak excuse to explain God's Word? They do not understand Genesis. Noah's flood was in 2611 BC, and the 600+ million year fossil record was already in place before Adam & Eve where put in the Garden of Eden.

Next, let us expose the false doctrines of the theistic evolutionists. I describe this group as being "timid creationists". They at least acknowledge the fossil record, but in order to maintain their belief in Genesis (which they don't understand), and to not deny the apparent evidence of evolution, they believe that God first created, and then "controlled" the growth of species. They also believe that the seven days in Genesis are long periods of time, and not 24 hours each. They apparently believe in a "limited" Divine Being.

First, in Genesis 1:24, it says that God commanded that the earth (dry ground) bring forth animals to roam on the Earth. This was in prehistoric times. In Genesis 2:19, it says that God formed the animals out of the ground after Adam was made. This was in more recent times, about 7100 BC. God made these life forms as fully formed adults. Why do the theistic evolutionists go against scripture, and teach otherwise? Also, Exodus 20:11 says that God made all the Earth and universe in six days. Those six days had the same length of time that Israel marched around the walls of Jericho, which was commanded by God. Therefore, the beliefs of theistic evolution are both false, and unbiblical.

In like manner, the day-age creationists are in error. These are believers in what is called a "geological age system", or the "day-age theory". They teach that the geological ages (such as the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, etc.) are what is being represented by what they call the "Seven Days of Creation", rather than seven 24-hr days. Consequently they also, like both the progressive creationists and theistic evolutionists, call God a liar.

The ruin and restorationists believe that God first created a perfect former world (original Earth), but it has since suffered from several extinctions (cataclysms) and restorations, which they believe best explains the actual fossil record. They adhere to Ussher's chronology, having the fall of Adam at 4004 BC, and the flood of Noah (1656 years later) in 2348 BC. The correct dates for the expulsion from Eden is 4267 BC, and the abandonment of the Babel Tower was in 2509 BC, which was 191 years before Abraham was born, in 2318 BC. There is no "gap" (as they define it) between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, therefore the "gap theorists" are also in error. Ask them to also explain the Fourth Day.

Looking at the "seven days of Moses" (they're not days of "creation"), it's obvious that there are at least two difficulties with it. Namely, 1) knowing where the water came from on the first day, and, 2) the creation of the other celestial bodies of the universe on the Fourth Day. Day-age and restoration believers cannot explain both. They use the weak excuse that the Fourth Day was just the "removal of clouds". Yet that would confirm that the period of time was just 24 hours. Moses did not sit on Mt. Sinai for 1,000 years or more, watching a vision of the clouds drifting away.

Intelligent Design is an inept attempt to prove that there is a Divine Creator. How long does it take to convey that life is so complex, that it had to be designed? Five minutes? Ten minutes? There is nothing else of value that "ID" teaches students. What about the 30-inch dragonflies, six inch cockroaches, and the dimetrodons of the Permian period? When were they created? When and why did they die? None of the aforementioned factions understand the Genesis text, nor what God was showing Moses. If you are wondering if anyone does understand Genesis, it would be those that teach the concept of "Biblical Reality". It starts off by declaring that "Moses Didn't Write About Creation!", and that the book of Genesis reveals (to the world of secular science) Divine knowledge of past geologic and prehistoric events. They also reveal why the "evening" comes before "morning".

Unlike the "myths" of man made religions, the truth of Genesis exposes the false suppositions of science, in the arena of origins, whether it be in the classroom, a court of law, or in any public forum. The Word of God stands true, when correct literal interpretation is used.

Herman Cummings
PO Box 1745
Fortson GA, 31808-1745
(706) 662-2893

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Is evolution a bust?


Published: October 04, 2006 03:19 pm


Have your children asked you the big question about how life and the world got here?

No matter your beliefs, it's still a mystery isn't it? And I've found that if we look to science for answers, the mystery becomes even bigger.

Don't get me wrong, I want my children to study science. I want them to be open-minded in their search for truth. I want scientists to keep looking, studying and digging up fossils. I want health and medicine to move forward.

But I think science has failed in revealing the origin of the heavens, the earth and the creatures living here. So far, science's best answer is evolution, but the fossil record is simply not cooperating. If we evolved from single-cell organisms as many scientists assert, there should be a steady line of fossil evidence showing our ancestors all the way back to the first life, but that line does not exist. Scientists say this is because of "punctuated equilibrium", which means creatures didn't stay transitional very long. They also say evolution happened in a "branched tree" not a straight line.

Huh? Does evolution hold that all species gradually changed from lower forms to what we see today or not? No matter how it happened, there would still have to be thousands or even millions of transitional creatures between a rat and a lawyer, right? But there simply is no evidence for this. In fact, the rat is still alive and well. Go back as far as the fossil record takes us and you find animals that are still living today, complete with organs, eyes and body systems, fully functional and intact.

What about the Eohippus? Yes, there are fossils of an animal the size of a dog that resembled a modern horse. And right along side it in the fossil record are full-sized horses. Oops. What about the Archaeoraptor – the flying dinosaur with feathers? It was a wonderful example of a transitional fossil – until it was revealed that it was fake.

I found a web site that lists many supposed transitional fossils, but it has no pictures. If you click on a name it says things like, "Paramys -- Generalized early rodents; a mostly squirrel-like skeleton but without the arboreal adaptations. Had a primitive jaw musculature (which modern squirrels still retain)." OK, so it was an old squirrel. It may even demonstrate micro-evolution (within a species), but Darwin's evolution needs macro-evolution (from one form to another) to be true. He said so himself, and there is not one undisputed, transitional fossil to back up his theory. Not one and there should be thousands - 147 years of science have failed him in this regard.

I understand why scientists don't want to simply say that God did it, and I'm not sure I want them to give up that easily – I want them to dig and look and research. But they are going to have to find a new theory, because Darwinian Evolution is a bust.

We can each believe what we wish and all of us have philosophical leanings that influence us, but as for me, I believe God created everything – although I don't know how or how long it took. Can I prove this empirically? No, it takes faith. But so does evolution. Look at a beautiful painting and tell me what takes more faith, to believe it was created by an intelligent artist, or that the image formed accidentally over eons of time. Like it or not, the evidence is on my side.

Yes, I want my children to love science, but I also want them to seek truth. I believe a genuine, reasonable faith will point toward that truth.


Research reveals biological evolution


ANN ARBOR, Mich., Oct. 5 (UPI) -- A U.S.-led research team says it has determined how Earth's plants made the transition from water to land and then into an array of vegetation.

The international research team led by University of Michigan evolutionary biologist Yin-Long Qiu says its findings help resolve long-debated questions about the origin and evolution of land plants.

The scientists say two major steps started the chain of events that helped land plants prosper, forming the basis for modern land-based ecosystems and altering the course of evolution of life on Earth.

The first step, said Qiu, was the colonization of land by descendents of aquatic plants known as charophyte algae. The second event was a key change in plant life cycles.

"Understanding evolutionary history really is the foundation of biology and, with today's emphasis on biofuels and medically important plants, it should be clear how important it is to learn the evolutionary history of all the organisms on our planet," said Qiu.

Qiu collaborated with 20 researchers from various institutes in the United States, Germany and China.

The study appears online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

© Copyright 2006 United Press International, Inc.

Narconon Project Hearing Delayed Until January


By Reina V. Slutske Signal Staff Writer

Thursday October 5, 2006

The county's Regional Planning Commission on Wednesday delayed a hearing on plans for building a controversial drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility off of Bouquet Canyon Road until January - a year after it was first proposed.

The commission previously approved the plan in March, but it was sent back to the Department of Regional Planners after being reviewed by the Board of Supervisors in July.

Pat Modugno, chair of the commission, said that the applicant, Narconon of Southern California, needs time to reconsider the conditions mandated by the Leona Valley Town Council, including an 8-foot security fence and independently contracted security guards.

The commission received from the town council a 68-page evaluation with conditions that address emergency response, the decrease in value of property and traffic along Bouquet Canyon Road.

Tim Riley, representative for Narconon, said additional security, including the fence, was not necessary. He added it would "criminalize the population."

Clark Carr, president of Narconon International, said the organization operates facilities in rural communities across the world, and felt that professional staff would be enough.

William Elliott, treasurer of the Leona Valley Town Council, said that previously, when the building was a juvenile detention facility, there was a murder, along with reports of assaults when boarders used nearby trails to leave the facility and get to residents' houses.

Neighbors have expressed concern that the same thing would happen again with the Narconon facility if it was approved.

Bouquet Canyon resident Ron Howell said: "We're looking at adults with problems more severe than children. Drug withdrawal can cause violence."

Andrea Whitmer, a peace officer who lives in Bouquet Canyon, said that the penal code prevents law enforcement from picking up people who might leave the drug treatment facility.

Juanita Kirkpatrick, a resident who expressed concerns regarding safety on the local trails, said she was not against Narconon itself, but feels the area is not an appropriate setting for the facility, adding that the area is not zoned for that usage. The zoning on the area is for resort and recreation.

Cathrine Savage, acting director of the Narconon facility, said she understands there would always be opposition, and she knows it was impossible to make everyone agree. However, she said she remains optimistic.

"Our business is saving lives," she said.

Previously, the church of Scientology owned the facility, using it as a boarding school for children.

Narconon has been accused in the past of controversial tactics, including its detoxification methods and its links to Scientology, an organization founded by L. Ron Hubbard.

Copyright:The Signal

Scientists issue global warming report


By Linda A. Johnson, Associated Press Writer | October 4, 2006

TRENTON, N.J. --Global warming could strain the Northeast's power grid, farms, forests and marine fisheries by the next century unless carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by 3 percent each year, according to a report released Wednesday.

The climate in the nine states -- from New Jersey and Pennsylvania up to Maine -- could become like that of the South with longer, much hotter summers and warmer winters with less snow, the report by the Union of Concerned Scientists said.

"This has enormous implications for human health. It puts a lot of stress on the energy system. It could lead to blackouts," said Katherine Hayhoe, an associate professor of geosciences at Texas Tech University and a lead author of the two-year study.

If power plant and auto emissions of carbon dioxide -- considered the main culprit in global warming -- continue unabated, average temperatures in the Northeast could rise between 6.5 degrees and 12.5 degrees by the end of the century, she said. A shift to cleaner, renewable energy sources would cut that increase in half, she said.

The study said Boston could see its number of 90-degree-plus summer days jump from one to 40 if no changes are made. New York City could have 70.

Doug Inkley, senior science adviser at the National Wildlife Federation, said the report was done by top-tier scientists and backs up his group's research showing a warmer climate in the Northeast will push out temperature-sensitive species from sugar maple and northern pine trees to songbirds and trout.

"This report is yet another wake-up call we cannot ignore," Inkley said.

The report targeted the Northeast because it is the world's seventh-largest source of emissions, behind the U.S. as a whole and five other nations, and because the region's leaders have taken steps to reduce emissions and could spur efforts elsewhere.

Mike MacCracken of The Climate Institute, a former head of the interagency group that did climate assessments under a Clinton-era research program, called the report "a high-quality job" that gives "pretty reliable indications of the amount of change."

John R. Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at University of Alabama-Huntsville, said regional analyses he's done indicate the latest climate models can't predict well for a region, especially for rain and snow.

He said the report's recommendations -- mostly centered on replacing or upgrading buildings, cars and appliances with more energy-efficient ones -- won't have much effect on the total amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere, partly because energy demand will keep growing.

On the Net:

Union of Concerned Scientists report: http://www.ucsusa.org

© Copyright 2006 Associated Press

Loyola University New Orleans Presents Programs on Intelligent Design


October 4, 2006

Loyola University New Orleans will present two events on campus, November 6 and 7, focusing on intelligent design. Both programs, part of the university's President's Forum on Current Issues and Controversies, are free and open to the public.

On Monday, November 6, the public lecture, "Science, Religion, and the Question of Cosmic Purpose," will be presented by John F. Haught, Ph.D., the Landegger Distinguished Professor of Theology at Georgetown University. Haught's area of expertise is systematic theology, with a special interest in issues of science, cosmology, ecology, and reconciling evolution and religion. He is the author of several important books on the creation-evolution controversy, including Deeper Than Darwin: The Prospect for Religion in the Age of Evolution, God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution, and Responses to 101 Questions on God and Evolution. He also established the Georgetown Center for the Study of Science and Religion. The lecture, scheduled for 7 p.m. in Nunemaker Auditorium of Monroe Hall, will also feature responses from Barbara Forrest, Ph.D., professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, and Paul A. Nelson, Ph.D., Discovery Institute Fellow and adjunct professor in the Department of Science and Religion at Biola University.

Forrest, an outspoken critic of intelligent design, is co-author of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, which examines the goals and strategies of the intelligent design movement and its attempts to undermine the teaching of evolutionary biology. She serves on the board of directors of the National Center for Science Education, the National Advisory Council of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association.

Intelligent design advocate Nelson is a fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture and of the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design. He has published articles in Biology & Philosophy, Zygon, Rhetoric and Public Affairs, and Touchstone, as well as chapters in the anthologies Mere Creation, Signs of Intelligence, and Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics.

On Tuesday, November 7, the all-day program, "What's At Stake? Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Faith," will feature lectures on the issue of intelligent design. Panelists include John F. Haught, Ph.D., presenting a theologian's perspective; Loyola University New Orleans Evolutionary Biologist Craig Hood, presenting a biologist's perspective; Paul A. Nelson, Ph.D., presenting the case for intelligent design; and, Barbara Forrest, Ph.D., presenting the case against intelligent design. The program, scheduled from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., in Nunemaker Auditorium of Monroe Hall, will also include a question-and-answer period between panelists and members of the audience.

Loyola's President's Forum seeks to explore and discuss some of the most compelling contemporary issues facing us today. Featuring internationally recognized scholars, the forum's goal is to develop a dialogue with the larger community that helps to deepen our understanding and challenge us to move toward a more just and enlightened society.

Loyola University New Orleans is a Jesuit-Catholic institution with a total student enrollment of 4,724 including 800 law students.

For more information on the President's Forum, contact Loyola's Office of Public Affairs at (504) 861-5888 or publaff@loyno.edu.

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