NTS LogoSkeptical News for 9 November 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Evolution revolution: UW prof gets national notice for putting the 'how' in Darwin's research


By P.J. Slinger

Charles Darwin would have been impressed with Sean Carroll's findings.

Carroll, a professor of molecular biology at the University of Wisconsin, has helped push the boundaries of what is known about evolution, taking the "what" from Darwin's groundbreaking research 150 years ago and finding the "how."

It's in the genes.

Carroll, working out of his lab at the Bock Laboratories building on Linden Drive on the west side of campus, has discovered that genes have "switches" that can be either "on" or "off," and that, in turn, determines whether, say, a butterfly gets spots and where they're located on its body.

That may sound simple, but its implications are potentially huge.

Carroll says understanding the role of genes in evolution could provide the key to finding the ones that make someone predisposed to cancer or those that cause birth defects. The impact of his discoveries has landed him everywhere from Time magazine to "Nova," and it's also heavy ammunition for critics of "intelligent design."

On the leading edge: The gene switch discovery was the crux of his 2005 book, "Endless Forms Most Beautiful," which was a finalist in several science book of the year lists. Just last week Carroll received the Banta Award from the Wisconsin Library Association for "Endless Forms."

Neil Shubin, professor and chair of the Department of Organismal Biology at the University of Chicago, who collaborated with Carroll on a research paper for Nature magazine in 1997, said he is on the cutting edge of this so-called revolution in evolution.

"What Sean is doing is leading the charge in understanding how gene activity evolves and what the controls of that are," Shubin said.

So what makes Carroll's work, which has focused on butterflies and fruit flies, so pioneering?

"If you say in layman's terms why it's revolutionary, it's because from Darwin's time to 125 years later, we were just sort of spectators to the evolutionary processes," Carroll said. "We'd watch embryos develop, but didn't know what was going on inside. The revolutionary thing is that we couldn't see these things before, and now we can, in great detail. Despite how everything appears, flies, lobsters, mice, dogs, humans, they're really all built with a common set of genes."

Carroll says the makeup of genes comes with the same basic "tool kit," as he puts it. "It's like putting up a building. Whether it's 50 stories or 12 stories, it's really the same techniques and tools. Just how you go about it is different."

In Carroll's latest book, "The Making of the Fittest," which he will be signing Friday at Borders West, 3750 University Ave., he details how DNA holds the historical genetic information from our earliest ancestors.

"It's a gold mine, an amazing gold mine," Carroll said. "DNA is a document of history, and it's incredibly information-rich. It's really a ground-level view of how evolution works."

One of the surprises in the DNA record, says Carroll, is that there are such things as "fossil genes." These are genes that in the past had useful work to do, but have over time become unnecessary to the species and have become dormant. The genes still exist in the DNA, but do not have a purpose.

"They are great clues as to how our ancestors used to live and how current species are different from their ancestors," he said.

Golden age: Carroll says the explosion of the DNA record, with the full genome records of about 800 species now available, has created "a golden age for evolutionary science right now. ... The reason why my lab has gained some prominence is that we kind of led the charge in how form evolves and getting at some of the nitty gritty of exactly what happens."

That Carroll has led the charge hasn't been lost on others in the field, including Michael Culbertson, the chairman of the laboratory of genetics at UW-Madison.

"We just ask them to do great things," Culbertson said of all UW genetic scientists. "And that's literally true. We do expect professors to develop national and international reputations as leaders in their field. Sean has done this definitely, more than most."

Shubin agreed. "The minute you talk to Sean, you realize you're talking to somebody who is just completely plugged in," he said. "He thinks so critically about scientific issues, but he has such a breadth of knowledge that is rarely seen. He has an intense curiosity. You think about what science is about; ultimately it comes down to intense curiosity. Sean just loves learning about everything."

Carroll moved to Wisconsin 20 years ago for an assistant professorship at UW and has been here ever since.

Now 46, he says with a laugh that "I'm coming to grips with my middle age."

But he knew Madison was where he wanted to live and work.

"I grew up in Ohio and had a sense visiting that folks here are the kind I understood, and I think that was the correct call. People here have their priorities right."

A converted Badger and Packer fan, Carroll lives in Fitchburg with his wife, Jamie, and two sons. Jamie Carroll works in her husband's lab and says he "is always excited about something."

And he likes his music loud.

"You have to remember to turn the radio off before starting the car," Jamie Carroll said.

Future influence: Carroll's groundbreaking insights into the genetic makeup of animals could have far-reaching influences. While Carroll says his specific research won't cure cancer or prevent birth defects, he said it will lay the foundation for those who might find a cure.

"A lot of the work we've done here prepares us to understand, for example, the human genome," he said. "We want to understand the general rules of development and evolution, the operating instructions. It's all a foundation."

Culbertson said it's too early to place Carroll's work in a historical context.

"A lot of times the real impact of somebody's work might not be known for years after it's done, so it's hard to know how we'll look at this 20 years or so from now," Culbertson said. "A lot of times Nobel prizes are given for work that was done quite some time ago because it took time to see what kind of impact it would have, and I think that's the case here. "

Carroll also enjoys getting out and talking to groups about his work and the latest developments in the field of evolutionary biology. He said information is coming so rapidly, people can hardly keep up.

"There are a lot of examples that you'll read about (in 'The Making of the Fittest') that you won't find in a biology textbook yet," he said. "They're that fresh. I can get a rise out of a completely expert audience: 'Wow, I've never heard that before.'"

Andrew Knoll of Harvard University, who co-wrote a paper for Science magazine with Carroll, said it's great that Carroll has the ability both to do research and to make it palatable to the public, both in public lectures and in his books.

"Sean, if he had never made the commitment to public understanding, would still be seen as a very important presence in this whole unraveling of the molecular basis of development and how changes in that help us to understand biological diversity," Knoll said. "His work is absolutely first class, and it's kind of the cherry on top that he knows how to communicate very well and has admirably chosen to spend significant time in trying to educate the public in what's going on."

But before he can educate the public, he must learn it himself.

"You peer into the microscope and see something you've never seen before and you go, 'That's it. That's how it works,'" Carroll said. "What we are seeing is pretty fantastic. It's a tremendous perspective on who we are and how we got here. It's a marvelous thing to come to understand. None of us have lost our awe for this just because we study it."


Book signing: Sean Carroll will do a book signing for "The Making of the Fittest" at 7 p.m. Friday at Borders West, 3750 University Ave.

TV: Carroll will be featured in the "Nova" television presentation of "Family That Walks on All Fours," airing at 7 p.m. Tuesday on PBS (Wisconsin Public Television in Madison).

E-mail: pslinger@madison.com Published: November 9, 2006

Technical questions and suggestions may be directed to The Capital Times Web editor. Please state your concern in the subject line.

Please use our letter to the editor form for all editorial comments and suggestions.

Copyright 2006 The Capital Times

Scientology groups to pay back $3.5 million from Slatkin scheme


Posted on Wed, Nov. 08, 2006

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - Three groups affiliated with the Church of Scientology have agreed to return $3.5 million they received from a pyramid scheme operated by Reed Slatkin, the disgraced co-founder of EarthLink Inc.

The move is part of an effort by a federal bankruptcy court to recover funds for investors bilked by Slatkin, who used money from new investors to pay off earlier investors. The settlement with the Scientology groups was approved Tuesday by the bankruptcy judge.

The scam, which did not involve EarthLink, raised nearly $600 million, and ultimately swindled investors out of about $240 million.

Slatkin, who pleaded guilty to fraud, conspiracy and money laundering, is serving a 14-year prison sentence.

Slatkin, who was once an ordained Scientology minister, paid $1.7 million from his scheme directly to Scientology groups, while millions of dollars more were funneled through other investors to groups affiliated with the church, bankruptcy trustee R. Todd Neilson said in court filings.

Among the church groups to receive ill-gotten gains from Slatkin's scheme were Narconon International, the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre International and the Church of Scientology Western United States, the filings said.

The $3.5 million being returned by the church groups was the result of a negotiated compromise, Scientology attorney David Schindler and Alexander Pilmer, an attorney for Neilson, said.

The total amount of money that ultimately was funneled through the investors was never determined, Pilmer said.

The church has always wanted to return any ill-gotten funds and the only dispute has been over what the fair amount would be, Schindler said.

"The church and its hundreds of parishioners were as much victims of Slatkin as anyone else," Schindler said.

Pilmer estimates that by the end of this year Slatkin's victims will have been repaid a slice of $100 million, or between 41 cents and 42 cents on the dollar.

Additional funds pocketed by a dozen defendants could still be recovered by the bankruptcy trustee, he said.

Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com

Science advocate urges de-politicizing science


Elaine Bessier, Staff Writer November 09, 2006

Kansas has gone up and down and back and forth between creationism and science for a long time, but will not have to fight the battle for the next two to four years, Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education Inc., told about 70 people at Johnson County Community College on Saturday.

The August primary elections gave the State Board of Education a moderate majority starting in January. The first item on the moderate agenda will be to reverse science standards adopted by the board conservatives in November 2005.

The conservative standards downplay evolution and open the door to alternatives, including intelligent design, the idea life is too complicated to have originated naturally

"Scientists have looked carefully at this and it is found wanting," Scott said. "There isn't any research and the argument cannot be explained through science. The idea that everything was created at the same time has been refuted, so there is no reason to teach it in the public schools."

Intelligent design advocates have made their idea sound appealing to some people.

"They have done very well at marketing intelligent design, saying that evolution is a weak science and evolution and religion are incompatible. And since so many people disagree with evolution, they say let's teach both. The fairness argument is incredibly popular. Thirty states have considered equal time."

Conservatives lost, but evidence for evolution did not win, Scott said. Politicians exploit the "fairness" argument regularly.

Education has been politicized in the United States, unlike in any other nation, Scott said.

"There are a lot of advantages in elected school boards but curriculum is not one of them. Board members very rarely are experts in curriculum. There are 17,000 individual school districts in the U.S. and each school district could decide what they want to teach. But that is changing," Scott said.

There are national standards, including those in the No Child Left Behind Act, that seek to homogenize a national patchwork of curriculums. The standards movement in science began in the mid-'90s.

Evolution is taught matter-of-factly, without controversy, at the college level, Scott said.

"Nobody in science argues about whether or not evolution and change takes place over time," she said. "They argue over patterns and mechanisms."

Creationists have long predicted the demise of evolution theory, Scott said.

"In 1935 they said evolution was on the way out. In 2005, they said that evolution was creaking and tottering and will have its demise soon. Yet, evolution is rejected by only a tiny fraction of scientists and is included in science education standards in states around the country," she said.

But some schools a variety of states are listening to ideas against evolution, Scott said. One model policy suggests students should be given all theories.

"Because we can find a natural explanation does not mean there is no God," Scott said. "We cannot advocate creationism in a public schools."

Scott said a lot of conservatives are withdrawing from society, sending children to secular schools and splitting societies: secular and non-secular.

She said the reaction among other countries is: "We are astonished over the fact that you are still arguing about evolution."

©The Johnson County Sun 2006

Creationism and Evolution Taught in the Same Classroom


News Released: November 09, 2006

(PRLEAP.COM) ChristiaNet.com (http://www.christianet.com), the world's largest Christian portal with twelve million monthly pages loads recently conducted a poll asking participants to decide whether Creationism or Evolution should be taught to children in the classroom. Participants could also cast a vote in favor of both being taught or for neither choice. Voters were given the opportunity to comment about their selection. Because ChristiaNet's Internet community consists largely of people who claim to follow the Christian faith, the results of the poll were surprising.

Out of 527 participants, 269 believed that Creationism should be taught in the classroom. This figure represents just more than half of those taking the poll. Only 14 voted for an Evolution-only approach to teaching children about the beginnings and development of mankind. Thirty-four said the topic should not be discussed in school and avoided all together. The most surprising number, however, was the 210 participants who believed children should learn both theories. This number may represent an indecisiveness about Creationism among those who claim to be Christians.

One voter supporting the "both" category stated, "Creationism should be taught to believers and Evolution to non-believers because of diverse religious backgrounds." Another commented, "So children can learn both and decide for themselves which one is correct." A supporter of the "neither category" asked, "If highly educated people can't decide - why confuse children?"

Those who were firm on their stance, choosing either the teachings of Creationism or Evolution also had comments. A Pro-Creationism participated stated, "Evolution has been disproved many times." Another said, "Evolution does not make sense, if we evolved from apes, why do they still exist today?" And, an Evolution teachings supporter commented, "Evolution is documented and has provable/testable evidence."

"We find it interesting that just under half of those polled find some credibility in the theories of Evolution," stated ChristiaNet's president, Bill Cooper. "Much of the information on evolution in the textbooks has been proven wrong or cannot be proven at all." ChristiaNet's research found that most states do not have laws prohibiting Creationism from being taught in schools, requiring that only factual information be presented. Creationism is the teaching that all life was and is created by God. Evolution teaches that life originated from the big bang. For more information, visit: http://www.christianet.com/bible/

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PR Leap is a service of Condesa, Inc. © 2006

Homeopathy: Out of the Shadows and into the Mainstream



"Homeopathy starts peeling off layers until you get to the core of the problem," says W. Todd Pierson, N.D., a naturopathic doctor who practices locally in Herrin and Murphysboro. "Instead of just treating symptoms, homeopathy goes much deeper into the human organism. With homeopathy, we are treating the whole person, the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of the person."

Today this natural treatment option is taking its place in the offices of healthcare providers, on the shelves of major retailers, in the homes of those who are seeking healthier lives and even in hospitals. In fact, in the federal government's 2004 National Health Information Survey, 3.6 percent of Americans reported using some form of homeopathic medicine; and more than 76 percent reported using complementary and alternative medicine.

The Definition of Homeopathy

Homeopathy - from the Greek words homoios (like) and pathos (suffering) - is a medical approach to treatment that respects the wisdom of the body. Allopathic (conventional) medicine is a method of treating disease with remedies that produce effects that are different from those produced by the disease itself. Homeopathic medicine uses remedies that have been proven to produce effects similar to those produced by the disease itself.

According to "A Modern Understanding of Homeopathic Medicine" by Dana Ullman, MPH (1991, www.homepathic.com), the goal of homeopathy is to stimulate the body's own immune and defense system for healing. A person's symptoms are often assumed to be the problem, and many medical treatments focus on treating the symptoms. With homeopathy, symptoms are considered to be signs of deeper problems and signs of the body's efforts to deal with stress or infection.

With medicines made from plants, minerals and even animals, homeopathy individualizes small doses of medicines for each patient. The body's vital force then responds to the vital force in the medicines and the body's healing power is stimulated to recover from disease and fight illness in the future. The goal is thus complete restoration of the person's overall health.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Each person is considered an individual in homeopathy. Even when individuals are dealing with the same illness, they may have different symptom patterns. Ideally, healthcare providers who use homeopathy, spend an hour or more with each patient on the first visit to gather enough information to get a total picture of the person. The patient must be honest in his or her responses in order to ensure accuracy.

Used in the treatment of acute diseases and illnesses, such as chicken pox, measles, earaches, colds, coughs, headaches, sore throats and flu; Homeopathic medicines may also be used to treat chronic diseases, such as osteoporosis and sinusitis. Depression, insomnia, menopausal difficulties and indigestion are also known to respond well to homeopathic treatment. There are even homeopathic remedies to treat bites, leg cramps, and bruising and swelling from injuries.

"I use homeopathic medicines mostly for toxicity issues," says Virginia Steiner, DC, Alternative Health Care and Injury Center, in Marion. "Homeopathic medicines stimulate the body to take care of itself and the problems it is experiencing. They help the body use its own defenses to heal itself."

Steiner says that homeopathy can also be a good alternative method to handle emotional and mental stress. "I don't cookbook any of my patients," says Steiner. "I don't say, 'You have this condition, so I'm giving you this to treat it.' I examine the patient, listen, look at all other medications and supplements the person is taking and consider the person's lifestyle. Everything is individualized."

"Homeopathy needs proper diagnosis and needs to be individualized to the whole person," says Steiner. "I am involved in healthcare, not sick care. The body needs to be in thriving mode to heal and repair. When we treat what isn't working well, we give the body energy to repair itself."

Prescribing Practitioner vs. Self-Prescribing

According to the National Center for Homeopathy (www.homeopathic.org), no diploma or certificate from any school or program is a license to practice homeopathy in the United States. A healthcare provider who uses homeopathy must have some type of medical certification.

In Illinois, active members of the Illinois Homeopathic Medical Association are licensed medical doctors (MD), osteopathic doctors (DO), chiropractic doctors (DC), and dentists (DDS). These are licensed healthcare providers who use homeopathically prepared medicines to treat their patients.

"When you're looking for a homeopathic practitioner, make sure you find someone who is thoroughly trained," advises Linda Hostalek, DO, Holistic Healing Arts LLC, in Pomona and Herrin. "For treating a condition, don't just go to the health food store. See someone who is trained in homeopathy."

Following the guidelines of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may be a good approach. For acute illnesses, an over-the-counter homeopathic remedy may work well. Some acute illnesses and chronic illnesses that require medical supervision need homeopathic remedies that are prescribed by a licensed healthcare provider.

"I tell my patients that I can't take them off the medications they are already taking," says Carol Perkins, ND, a naturopath who practices in Lexington, Kentucky, and Carmi, Illinois. "With homeopathy, I work to get them to a state of health so they will no longer need those medications. Homeopathy helps to get their organs working and turn their life force around so that the body can heal itself."

According to Hostalek, homeopathy works very well with true osteopathy. "Osteopathy works on straightening out the vibrational structure of the body," says Hostalek. "Homeopathy works on the same level. They are perfect partners."

"Open communication with any primary care physician is important," says Pierson. "I always tell my patients to keep all providers informed about what they are taking and doing."

Remedies and Combinations

Homeopathic remedies are legally considered as drugs. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (www.fda.gov), homeopathic remedies are regulated under the provisions of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act if they are sold for self-limiting conditions, such as colds, headaches and minor health problems.

If they claim to treat serious diseases, such as cancer, they can be sold by prescription only. A licensed healthcare provider must do the prescribing.

Extremely safe because they are given in small doses, homeopathic medicines have minimal side effects, and few complaints have ever been reported to the FDA.

"With homeopathy, you just can't make mistakes," says Hostalek. "The carrier substance is an inert substance. The vibration is responsible for healing in homeopathy. The less of the substance there is, the higher the vibration. This is counterintuitive for most people."

Combination remedies or complexes involve placing together in a single medicine three to eight substances which are commonly given for a certain type of condition. The goal is to help a broad number of patients who are suffering from a specific complaint.

Taking homeopathic medicines can be different from taking conventional medicines. Medicines come in three forms: tablets, dilutions and topicals. For adults and children, a tablet is placed under the tongue to dissolve. For infants, the tablet can be placed in the cheek. Liquid dilutions are dropped directly onto the tongue with an eyedropper. Topicals are applied directly to the skin. It is important that no food or liquid be ingested for fifteen minutes before or after taking the medicine.

"Homeopathic medicines are safe for children, pregnant women and older adults," says Perkins. "They don't do harm. They will either help or do nothing. I have seen excellent results of homeopathic treatment in patients with seasonal allergies, menopausal issues, men's issues, bedwetting, colds and flu."

"It's best to use one substance at a time and without anything else, if possible, to see how it works," says Pierson. "I tell my patients to discontinue any supplements they are taking so we can see how well the homeopathic medicine is working. They can resume the supplements once we see the effects. I've never seen or heard of any interaction between homeopathic medicines and prescription medicines."

Limitations of Homeopathy

Just as with any type of healthcare treatment, homeopathy does have some limitations. One of the most common is alternative medicine practitioners who make exaggerated claims about homeopathic remedies' ability to cure diseases. This may lead to another drawback: patients who refuse conventional medical care when it is indicated.

"When indicated, I refer my patients to MDs who are open to naturopathy," says Perkins.

Homeopathy also requires a practitioner who is experienced and willing to devote time to finding the right remedy for the patient. The patient needs to be disciplined and diligent as well. "Conventional medicine is fast, and it's easy to take a pill," says Pierson. "A person has to have a lot more discipline when using homeopathy. In addition to homeopathic medicines, the person needs a healthy diet and exercise. This means addressing the whole person instead of just taking a pill."

Homeopathic medicines are safe but, just like any other medicine, can be misused. It is best to use them under the care of licensed healthcare providers who have training and experience in homeopathy.

Homeopathy Today

According to a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, a trial was undertaken in the setting of an emergency department regarding the "wait-and-see" prescription (WASP) for acute otitis media (ear infection).

WASP involves waiting for 48 hours before administering antibiotics to treat the infection. Results of this study showed that WASP reduced the use of antibiotics by 56 percent in children between six months and 12 years of age.

Experts say that 48-hour time period is an ideal situation for considering homeopathy. During that time, children may experience much discomfort, fever, pain, irritability and sleeplessness. Brands like Hyland's homeopathic Earache Tablets and Earache Drops, available at many pharmacies and retail stores, are already filling this therapeutic gap, before antibiotics are given for the infection. Locally, Neighborhood Co-op Grocery in Carbondale, Wal-Mart, Walgreen's and area pharmacies may carry these and other homeopathic remedies.

"An integrated model for healthcare is emerging," says John P. (Jay) Borneman, chairman and CEO of Hyland's; director of The National Center for Homeopathy; editor and chairman of the Council on Pharmacy for the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States. "With all treatment modalities, we can all be healthier."

Info Box

* National Center for Homeopathy 703-548-7790 www.homeopathic.org

* American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists www.homeopathicpharmacy.org

* Boiron 800-264-7661 www.boironusa.com

* Hyland's 800-624-9659 www.hylands.com

* Dr. Virginia Steiner, Chiropractor and Alternative Therapist

Alternative Health Care and Injury Center, Marion

618-993-9910 www.AlternativeHealthCareMarion.com

* Dr. Linda Hostalek, Doctor of Osteopathy,

Holistic Healing Arts, Pomona and Herrin

618-893-1950 (Pomona) / 618-942-8506 (Herrin) http://www.hostalek.com

* Dr. Carol Perkins, Naturopathic Physician

Natural Choices, Lexington, KY and Carmi, IL.

859-277-5255 (Lexington) / 618-382-3968 (Carmi) http://www.natural-choices.com

* W. Todd Pierson, Naturopathic Physician, Herrin and Murphysboro 618-565-1668

Intelligent Design Suffers Further Setback in Midterms


By Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

ScienceNOW Daily News 8 November 2006

Intelligent design (ID) received a drubbing yesterday, with pro-evolution candidates taking control of the Kansas State Board of Education and strengthening their representation on the Ohio State Board of Education. Many scientists also cheered the defeat of Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), one of the most politically influential supporters of the ID movement.

In Ohio, incumbent board member Deborah Owens Fink lost decisively to Tom Sawyer, a former teacher and U.S. representative. Owens Fink had repeatedly attempted to dilute evolution in Ohio's science standards. Sawyer, who contested the seat at the urging of Ohio scientists, will help swell the ranks of moderates on the 19-member board. The scientists' group, Help Ohio Public Education, is also celebrating the victory of three other "pro-science" candidates including incumbent G. R. "Sam" Schloemer, who had described his candidacy as a referendum on ID. Schloemer won by a 2-to-1 margin over John Hritz, an ID supporter. The only pro-ID candidate elected Tuesday was Susan Haverkos.

In Kansas, supporters of evolution were already assured a majority on the 10-member state board after a primary election earlier this year. But that 6-4 edge was all they could manage yesterday, as two conservative incumbents retained their seats. "That shows the state is still very split on intelligent design. We have to continue educating the public about the issue," says Sally Cauble, a moderate Republican from southwest Kansas who will make her debut on the board next month.

Although the ID debate was not an issue in most congressional races, voters may have punished Santorum because the once-vocal ID supporter tried to distance himself from the movement after a federal judge struck down an attempt last year by the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board to insert ID into the curriculum. That "flip-flop" probably cost him both moderate as well as conservative votes, says Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller. Santorum's defeat will further reduce the influence of ID proponents on the national level, predicts Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Needed: A shift in ayurveda, says expert


Editor-in-chief of scientific journal emphasises research shift to evidence-based randomised clinical trials

Express News Service

Pune, November 8: "Ayurveda needs to move away from the traditional philosophical approach, to become more evidence-based," said Edwin Cooper, editor-in-chief of the Evidence-Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (e-CAM), an international scientific journal published by the Oxford University Press. Cooper is in Pune to attend the World Ayurveda Congress at the Pune University.

Speaking about the poor representation of ayurveda in the United States as compared to Chinese and other alternative forms of medicine, Cooper emphasised a need for a paradigm shift in ayurveda. "Research in ayurveda needs to move away from anecdotal evidence-based on individual cases, to evidence-based on randomised clinical trials. Moreover, this research should be subject to peer-review and supported by significant statistical data,'' he said.

Cooper will conduct a session today on 'Scientific Publications: Methods and Skills', where he will speak to researchers on how to write research papers as per the stringent standards necessary for publication in international journals. The session will be co-conducted by e-CAM editorial board member Alex Hankey and will be conducted at the C-DAC premises on prior registration.

The scientific and plenary sessions of the World Ayurveda Congress will be conducted from November 10 to 12. The sessions will be inaugurated by scientist Raghunath Mashelkar and State Higher and Technical Education Minister Dilip Walse-Patil.

Over three days, the varsity will see a variety of scientific lectures, discussions, workshops and student-expert interactions. Plenary sessions and symposia will be conducted on topics like Ayurveda in the Future, Educational Policies for the Future, Traditional Medicine and Intellectual Property Rights and Ayurveda in the 11th Five Year Plan.

Parallel sessions will also be held on issues like women and child health, ayurveda's theoretical foundation and research and safety of ayurvedic procedures. Several experts from various fields including health, science and technology will be present for the sessions including Vijay Bhatkar, Mrudula Phadke, Bhushan Patwardhan and Suhas Parchure.

Cornell Professor: Intelligent Design Bashing Okay in Class, Support of ID Not Okay in Class


Cornell Professor Emeritus Richard A. Baer has an opinion piece in the Cornell Daily Sun that is right on target in several areas but completely lost when it comes to freedom of scientific inquiry and intelligent design. Baer rightly points out instances where staunch Darwinists such as Carl Sagan or Richard Dawkins have clearly crossed out of the realm of science and into philosophy by making dogmatically materialistic statements such as Sagan's famous line that "The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be." Baer explains that in his experience:

A far more serious problem at Cornell and at most universities is the many illegal border crossings that go on in the opposite direction: claims made by scientists, speaking as scientists, that are really theological, philosophical or ethical claims, rather than scientific ones.

And Baer also correctly identifies the tendency, so prevalent in academia, to try and highjack science to support moral and political views:

During my 30-plus years at Cornell, I've frequently witnessed social scientists using the design and content of courses and public lectures to press on students and colleagues various doctrines that could not be justified by their social science as such but rested on normative religious and philosophical judgments. Examples are multiculturalism; moral relativism; non-traditional views of marriage, divorce, family, male/female roles, sexual morality, homosexuality; etc. These are big-time illegal border crossings, but sadly, Cornell's academic culture shows little interest in curbing them. Instead, faculty self-righteously condemn high school science teachers and state boards of education for the slightest tendency to traffic in the opposite direction.

Strangely, Baer doesn't seem to understand that his own bias against intelligent design is just as dogmatic and just as wrong. While he condemns scientists and socials scientists for their close-mindedness, he too has the same problem.

Although it certainly is appropriate for the Arts College faculty to discuss why including ID in high school science courses is improper, this concern is highly selective and perhaps a bit hypocritical.

He even recognizes that this is hypocritical, but yet at the same time endorses this position because as he points out several times "I do not think intelligent design ("ID") qualifies as legitimate science."

So, what does Baer consider legitimate science?

Modern science is "naturalistic": it deliberately ignores moral, religious and aesthetic aspects of reality and studies the world as if nothing exists but physical phenomena. However, this is a methodological, not a metaphysical naturalism; it is adopted for the limited objectives of science, not as a total world view.

That statement applies equally to intelligent design and scientists whose research deals with what they view as evidence for intelligent design -- the immense amounts of complex code in DNA, the numerous molecular machines in cells, the amazing fine tuning of the laws of physics. All of these are things that can be researched and studied as physical phenomena. Intelligent design theory ignores "religious and aesthetic aspects of reality and studies the world as if nothing exists but physical phenomena." Intelligent design is also adopted by its proponents "for the limited objectives of science, not as a total world view." Baer should keep that in mind when he next advocates the inclusion in Cornell's curriculum of a class that denigrates ID while opposing any class that considers it openly and objectively and allows for supportive views of the theory to be put forth.

Posted by Robert Crowther on November 8, 2006 10:39 AM | Permalink

Evolution in Kansas board of education races


Two antievolution incumbents retained their seats on the Kansas state board of education, meaning that supporters of the integrity of science education will have only a 6-4 majority on the new board. In the primary election, Sally Cauble, a supporter of evolution education, defeated antievolution incumbent Connie Morris for the Republican nomination in District 5, and Jana Shaver, a supporter of evolution education, defeated antievolution candidate Brad Patzer, son-in-law of antievolution incumbent Iris Van Meter, for the Republican nomination in District 9. Since Cauble and Shaver's Democratic opponents, Tim Cruz and Kent Runyan, also support evolution education, supporters of evolution education were expected to have at least a 6-4 majority on the board, no matter who prevails in the November election, and to press for a reversal of the antievolution version of the state science standards, rewritten under the guidance of local "intelligent design" activists and adopted by the board in November 2005. As it happens, Cauble defeated Cruz by 65% to 35%, and Shaver defeated Runyan by 55% to 45%.

But in District 3, John Bacon, a Republican, prevailed over his Democratic challenger, Don Weiss, by 55% to 45%, and in District 7, Ken Willard, a Republican, prevailed over his Democratic challenger, Jack Wempe, by 51% to 49%. Both Willard and Bacon were avid supporters of the antievolution version of the state science standards adopted in November 2005, and their views on evolution education were deemed relevant during the race, with the Kansas City Star (October 28, 2006) describing Willard and Bacon as having excited "national ridicule for voting to criticize the theory of evolution in state science standards," and the Johnson County Sun (October 12, 2006) castigating Bacon and his allies for their "antics on evolution instruction," which were "an embarrassment for Kansas around the world." Despite their re-election, the Associated Press (November 8, 2006) observed, "Come January, moderates will be calling the shots and one of the first things they're expected to do is rework the science testing standards for students to once again make them more pro-evolution oriented."

Also in Kansas, incumbent governor Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, defeated her Republican opponent Jim Barnett by 58% to 41%. Sebelius issued a statement deploring the adoption of the antievolution standards in November 2005, and subsequently told the Topeka Capital-Journal (October 11, 2006) that she intended to work toward a constitutional amendment to change the state board of education to a purely advisory body, in large part because of the controversy over the place of evolution in the state science standards. Barnett told Johnson County Sun (July 13, 2006) that public schools should be allowed to teach "intelligent design" in science classes, adding, "I believe all views should be taught, but these decisions should be made by local school boards without state mandates or restrictions." And incumbent attorney general Phill Kline, a Republican, was defeated by his Democratic opponent Paul Morrison by 58% to 42%; in February 2005, Kline offered to defend the state board of education if it were to decide to require warning labels about evolution to be placed in biology textbooks.

November 8, 2006

Evolution in Ohio board of education races


In a closely watched race, Tom Sawyer handily defeated incumbent Deborah Owens-Fink for the District 7 seat on the Ohio state board of education. Evolution education was a key issue in the race; on the board, Owens-Fink consistently supported antievolution measures, including the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" model lesson plan, which was rescinded by the board in February 2006, and dismissed the National Academy of Sciences as "a group of so-called scientists." Defending her stance to The New York Times (October 26, 2006), she described the idea that there is a scientific consensus on evolution as "laughable."

Sawyer, in contrast, told the Akron Beacon-Journal (October 23, 2006) that evolution is "grounded in numerous basic sciences and is itself a foundational life science. By contrast, creationism in its many forms is not science but theology." But the campaign was not solely about evolution, he subsequently explained to the Beacon-Journal (November 8, 2006): the evolution debate "was a metaphor for the failure of some members of the state board of education to understand the larger issues facing education in Ohio. I mean funding, quality and governance."

Owens-Fink and Sawyer aired their views during a radio discussion entitled "Evolution's Effect on Voters," broadcast on October 26, 2006, by WCPN, and available on-line in MP3 format; also on the show were "intelligent design" sympathizer Chris Williams and Brown University cell biologist Kenneth Miller, then stumping for Sawyer and other pro-evolution-education state board of education candidates in Ohio. (A high point occurred when Williams claimed that evolution delayed the discovery of small interfering RNA, and Miller replied by remarking that Craig Mello, who won a Nobel Prize in 2006 for his work on RNA interference, was a student in the first biology class he taught.)

In the four-way race, Sawyer received 54% of the vote to Owens-Fink's 29%, David Kovacs's 12%, and John Jones's 9%, according to the Associated Press. The Beacon-Journal reports that Owens-Fink's campaign spent over $100,000, while Sawyer's spent about $50,000 -- both "unusually large sums for a state school board race." Sawyer also enjoyed the support of the pro-science-education coalition Help Ohio Public Education, organized by Lawrence M. Krauss and Patricia Princehouse at Case Western Reserve University and Steve Rissing at the Ohio State University.

Pro-science candidates prevailed elsewhere in Ohio. In District 4, incumbent G. R. "Sam" Schloemer handily defeated challenger John Hritz, described by the Cleveland Plain Dealer (October 22, 2006) as "a conservative millionaire who wants to include alternatives to Darwinism in science class." In District 2, John Bender narrowly triumphed in a four-way race with 37% of the vote; his closest rival, Kathleen McGarvey, who won 35% of the vote, was described by the Plain Dealer as "sympathetic to teaching alternatives to evolution." And in District 8, Deborah L. Cain defeated incumbent Jim Craig, who was criticized for ambivalence about the "critical analysis" effort.

The result of Ohio's gubernatorial election is also relevant, since eight seats on the state board of education are filled by gubernatorial appointment. Responding to a question from the Columbus Dispatch (July 23, 2006), Democrat Ted Strickland said, "Science ought to be taught in our classrooms. Intelligent design should not be taught as science," while Republican Ken Blackwell said, "I believe in intelligent design, and I believe that it should be taught in schools as an elective," adding, "And I don't see it as having met the generally accepted criteria as a science." Strickland won in the November 7, 2006, election, with 60% of the vote.

November 8, 2006

Evolution backers in 2 states win seats on education boards


By The Associated Press 11.08.06

An Ohio board of education member who vocally supported teaching evidence against evolution alongside evidence supporting the theory has lost her bid for re-election.

Meanwhile in Kansas, moderates, who plan to get rid of anti-evolution standards forced onto Kansas schools, had to settle for a 6-4 majority after failing to unseat two incumbent conservatives in yesterday's elections.

In Ohio, Deborah Owens Fink, a Richfield Republican and board member since 1999, lost the election yesterday to former U.S. Rep. Tom Sawyer, a pro-evolution Democrat from Akron recruited to run by a group of scientists. With 100% of precincts reporting, unofficial results showed Sawyer earning 54%, or 157,798 of the votes, compared with Owens Fink's 29%, or 83,641 votes.

Another pro-evolution candidate, Republican incumbent G.R. "Sam" Schloemer of Cincinnati, was also elected to the board, taking 67% of the vote. And Republican Susan Haverkos of West Chester, who supports challenging evolution, was elected to the board with 38% of the vote.

Voters in five school board districts voted for board members during yesterday's election. Races in two districts had not been decided by early today.

The current board stripped wording that would have added the analysis of evolution to its science curriculums after last year's case in Dover, Pa., where a federal judge banned the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution. Last month the school board voted to end its debate over teaching evolution.

Meanwhile, in the 7th District in Kansas, Republican incumbent Ken Willard of Hutchinson eked out a narrow 51% victory over Democrat Jack Wempe of Lyons, a former state Board of Regents member.

The other conservative incumbent, Republican John Bacon, won re-election in the 3rd District with 56% of the vote over Democrat Don Weiss. Both men are from Olathe.

In the 9th District, moderate Republican Jan Shaver of Independence defeated Democrat Charles Kent Runyan of Pittsburg with 55% of the vote, while moderate Republican Sally Cauble of Liberal defeated Tim Cruz, a former Garden City mayor, with 64% of the vote in the 5th District.

Democratic board member Janet Waugh of Kansas City was unopposed.

The winners join five members not on the ballot this year: moderate Republicans Sue Gamble, of Shawnee, and Carol Rupe, of Wichita; Democrat Bill Wagnon, of Topeka; and conservative Republicans Steve Abrams, of Arkansas City, and Kathy Martin, of Clay Center.

Come January, moderates will be calling the shots and one of the first things they're expected to do is rework the science testing standards for students to once again make them more pro-evolution oriented.

Last year, when conservatives held a 6-4 edge, they endorsed standards that critics say promote intelligent design, viewed by some as warmed-over creationism. Proponents say the standards encourage an open discussion of evolution and its flaws.

The anti-evolution standards made Kansas the punch line for countless jokes, portraying the state as ignorant and backward.

Control of the board has changed between the two factions since 1998, resulting in anti-evolution standards for student testing in 1999, evolution-friendly ones in 2001 and anti-evolution ones in 2005.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius wants to strip the board of most of its duties, reducing it to an advisory panel with most of the power vested in an appointed secretary of education. The state had an elected superintendent of public instruction until 1969.

Evolution won't be the only issue on the moderate majority's agenda.

The board likely will dump Education Commissioner Bob Corkins, who was hired by conservatives last year. He lacked any experience as a school administrator, supports charter schools and vouchers and opposed increased school funding when he operated a conservative think tank.

Another issue is sex education. In March, the board required local districts to get permission from parents before teaching children sex education. Most districts had assumed a child would participate unless a parent objected.

Deepak Chopra talks to Chico about the 'field of possibility'



Article Launched:11/07/2006 12:00:00 AM PST

Deepak Chopra, touring in support of his latest work, "Life After Death — The Burden of...«1»This article will appear in Thursday's Buzz.

Chico State University Public Events, in cooperation with Partners in Wellness, presented "An Evening with Deepak Chopra" at Laxson Auditorium Saturday night.

Chopra filled the auditorium with enthusiastic patrons, some who had heard him speak before and some first-timers (like me), but many were toting his various books with the hopes of having them signed after the lecture.

Chopra, 60, a man born in New Delhi who first came to the United States in 1970, has been called a leader in alternative medicine, an expert in spirituality and mind-body healing and a self-help guru. He is all of the above, as well as an educator, author and family man. His father was a cardiologist and humanitarian; his brother is the dean of Harvard Medical School.

"It was a wonderful family that I grew up in," he said Saturday.

He is, in my mind, a progressive in the field of mind and body medicine and science-based spirituality. He integrates the natural healing traditions of his East Indian roots, while grounding his practices in modern Western medicine. In 1995 he established the Chopra Center for Well Being, and has more recently become involved in the Alliance for a New Humanity, an international nonprofit organization that hopes a collective, global integration of the mind and spirit will help to spread peace to the societies of the world.

Chopra has authored more than 40 titles, and compiled some 100 video and audio works as well. His visit to Chico was the last stop on a nationwide book tour in support of his latest work, "Life After Death — The Burden of Proof."

Most of his titles can be found under the "self-help" or "alternative medicine" markers at local book stores, but he has also used the basic principles of his teachings in works of fiction. His books include "The Return of Merlin," "The Book of Secrets," "Unconditional Life," "How to Know God" and "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success."

Chopra draws many of his literary and lecture topics from both Eastern and Western philosophies, mixing chapters and quotations from the Old and New Testaments with the works and words of Einstein, Schrodinger and Hawking, as well as the meditative poetry of Rumi.

One of my favorite Rumi poems says, "Out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrongdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there."

Chopra referenced many times to what he called the "field of possibility," what he believes each individual person, each soul, has within them.

I will admit, even though I have purchased a couple of his books, I was somewhat nervous that his lecture would be a little too much new-age mumbo-jumbo for my taste. I was, however, pleasantly surprised to find myself absolutely engrossed in his words, involuntarily nodding my head in agreement, my eyes widening with awe as this person in front of me laid out my own personal thoughts, hopes and desires in the most complex and yet totally understandable way. I couldn't write my notes down quickly enough. I was shocked, yet smiling, because it felt like he had put words and ideas to something that I had known, felt or wanted to believe all along.

And while much of his lecture was based on the spiritual, sometimes even the religious, part of what made him such a compelling and easy to understand speaker (his relaxed and humorous demeanor, and bright red sneakers aside) was his practice of integrating scientific research into each topic.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

New York Times Reporter Did Put Her Own Words in Ohio Board Member's Mouth


Earlier today, Rob Crowther speculated that wording attributed by New York Times reporter Cornelia Dean to Ohio State Board of Education member Dr. Deborah Owens Fink was in fact wording that came from Ms. Dean, not from Dr. Owens Fink. We have just received confirmation of that fact from Dr. Owens Fink herself.

According to Dean's article, "Dr. Owens Fink...said the [Ohio] curriculum standards she supported did not advocate teaching intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism." But Dr. Owens Fink did not call intelligent design "an ideological cousin of creationism," even though Dean's misleading wording makes this appear to be the case. Those words represent Dean's own biased editorializing (in what was supposed to be a news article, not an editorial). According to Dr. Owens Fink, "the reporter... put words in the article that may represent her view but not mine."

This is not the first time a Times' reporter has invented a comment by someone critical of Darwinism. For an amusing example from last year involving Dr. Stephen Meyer, read here and here.

Posted by John West on October 27, 2006 11:38 AM | Permalink

From the Archives: How the New York Times Lets A Reporter Blur the Distinction between Editorials and News

Yesterday I blogged about my correspondence with New York Times reporter Cornelia Dean, who covers the evolution debate for the Times. Today I thought I would remind readers that this is not the first time we've reported about editorializing by Ms. Dean on the evolution issue. Last year, Dean wrote an op-ed advising evolutionists on what they should do to win the public debate over evolution. But the Times still assigns Ms. Dean to cover the evolution debate. Question: Would the Times assign a reporter to cover the abortion debate who had written an op-ed advising the pro-life movement on what it needed to do to in order to prevail? Conflicts of interest apparently don't matter when the issue is evolution.

Posted by John West on November 6, 2006 8:20 AM | Permalink

Vatican academy to ponder evolution; pope addresses limits of science


Updated 11/6/2006 11:59 AM ET

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Scientists advising Pope Benedict XVI told the pontiff on Monday that they will study scientific insights into evolution, reflecting his special interest in the subject.

Nicola Cabibbo, a physics professor at Rome's La Sapienza University and president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, said in a speech to the pope that academy members shared the pontiff's view that "faith and reason need to come together in a new way."

No date has been set for the meeting exploring "scientific insights into the evolution of the universe and of life," which Cabibbo noted was of "special interest" to the pope. Generally, the plenary session of the academy meets every two years.

Benedict's predecessor, John Paul, told the academy in 1996 that Charles Darwin's theories on evolution were sound as long as they took into account that creation was the work of God and that Darwin's theory of evolution was "more than a hypothesis."

Evolution has come under fire in recent years by proponents of "intelligent design" who believe that living organisms are so complex they must have been created by a higher force rather than evolving from more primitive forms.

In the United States, supporters of both camps have often clashed over what students should be taught in public schools.

The academy is currently grappling with predictability in science. It is an advisory body of scientists, researchers and scholars who help shape papal pronouncements.

Benedict praised science for contributing to the protection of the environment, the progress of developing nations, the fight against epidemics and an increase in life expectancy.

"It become clear that there is no conflict between God's providence and human enterprise," Benedict said.

Still, "man cannot place in science and technology so radical and unconditional a trust as to believe that scientific and technological progress can explain everything and completely fulfill all his existential and spiritual needs," Benedict told academy members.

"Science cannot replace philosophy and revelation by giving an exhaustive answer to man's most radical questions."

Exploring the relationship between faith and reason has been a theme for Benedict, a former theology professor, since he became pope last year.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press

Monday, November 06, 2006

Inside the Mind of the New York Times: My Exchange with Cornelia Dean, Evolution Partisan


A few days ago, I took New York Times reporter Cornelia Dean to task for putting words in the mouth of Ohio Board of Education member Deborah Owens Fink. According to an article by Dean, "Dr. Owens Fink...said the [Ohio] curriculum standards she supported did not advocate teaching intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism." But as I pointed out, Dr. Owens Fink did not call intelligent design "an ideological cousin of creationism," even though Dean's wording makes this appear to be the case. Those words represent Dean's own editorial evaluation (in what was supposed to be a news article, not an editorial). According to Dr. Owens Fink, "the reporter... put words in the article that may represent her view but not mine."

I contacted Ms. Dean to give her a chance to respond to my criticisms, and she graciously replied. What ensued was an exchange of views that helps illuminate the mindset of many reporters who cover the evolution issue. Here is Dean's first response:

1. As the article said, the standards Dr. Owens Fink supports "did not advocate teaching intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism. Rather, she said, they urge students to subject evolution to critical analysis, something she said scientists should endorse." I did not intend to say, and I do not believe a reasonable reader would conclude, that Dr. Owens Fink asserted in those sentences that creationism is an ideological cousin of creationism. However, as a precaution and in the interests of fairness, I consulted colleagues here who are more knowledgeable about grammar than I am. They agree.

2. Intelligent design IS an ideological cousin of creationism. To say otherwise would be to mislead our readers. [emphasis added]

3. As far as I know, the article you cite accurately represented what Dr. Owens Fink said in our telephone conversations.

I then e-mailed Ms. Dean as follows:

Thanks for the answers. The comment in question was part of a dependent clause in a sentence attributed to Dr. Owens Fink, so it was not independent of the earlier part of the sentence. The only way it can be justified is if the dependent clause was simply neutral explanatory information to help the reader understand the comments of Dr. Owens Fink. But the phrase was not neutral explanatory information; it was editorializing. Terms like "ideological" and "creationism" are highly pejorative. The fact that you apparently think this is merely an objective description shows just how biased you are. You apparently were so afraid of letting Dr. Owens Fink speak for herself that you had to append your own comments at the end of the sentence to make sure that readers would know the "right" way to view her comments.

If you really think this was simply objective description, I look forward to seeing your next article about evolution where you insert parenthetical comments like "evolution, an ideological cousin to materialism," or "evolution, an ideological cousin to atheism" after the comments from defenders of evolution!

Ms. Dean responded as follows:

I have no desire to get into an argument with you, but I cannot resist responding to two assertions in this note.

I don't know exactly what you mean by "materialism" but certainly science looks in the natural world for answers to questions about the natural world. That is what differentiates science from religion.

I would never write that evolution is an ideological cousin to atheism. There are far too many accomplished evolutionary biologists who are people of strong religious faith for that to be the case. I have written about some of them.

Let me know if you would like to know who they are and I will send you information about them. Perhaps you might like to add information about them to your blog.

I then replied:

You have made my point for me. Of course, there are theists who believe in evolution (although not many at the very top of the profession, if surveys of biologists who are members of the National Academy of Sciences, etc. are to be believed). So it would certainly be unfair for a reporter to describe evolution as "an ideological cousin to atheism." But I would argue, similarly, that it is just as biased to refer to intelligent design as an "ideological cousin to creationism." Creationism is generally understood (among the public, as well as among most reporters I've talked with) as an effort to try to defend the Biblical account of creation. Creationism starts with the Bible and then looks to the natural world for evidence to verify its account. Intelligent design starts with the facts of the natural world and asks what can be reasonably inferred from this evidence. The argument for design in the natural world predates the Bible and can found in Plato, so you would have been more accurate to call intelligent design "an ideological cousin to Plato." It was also embraced by Alfred Wallace, the co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection; this was one of the issues on which Darwin and Wallace differed. As one of the many ID proponents who does not think Genesis is some kind of science textbook (and who also accepts the old age of the universe; and who also has no religious objections to common ancestry), I resent efforts by reporters to try to fit intelligent design into their preconceived stereotypes. When I was in journalism school as an undergraduate, stereotyping--especially of minority viewpoints--was something we were repeatedly warned against.

As for how I define materialism--I mean the claim that everything in the universe can ultimately be explained as the product of unintelligent matter and energy. Part of the debate here is the "nature of nature." Do natural causes only include unintelligent causes, or do they also include intelligent causes? I happen to believe that intelligence is a part of nature. We see the effects of it throughout the natural world, and not just in human beings. When a beaver builds a dam or a bird builds a nest, or a monkey uses a stick as a crude tool, we see the reality of intelligence in nature. In each of these cases, we can infer intelligence based on its empirical effects. Positing intelligent causes in nature is not appealing to religion.

Ms. Dean did not reply to this. Of course, I understand that she has many other things to do than respond to be, and I appreciate that she responded at all, just as I appreciate her candid defense of evolution and attack on intelligent design. While I think that the exchange speaks for itself, I would like to point out the obvious: Ms. Dean sees her job as not only reporting on the debate about evolution, but advancing one particular side of that debate. She views intelligent design as warmed-over creationism, and she sincerely believes it is her duty to convince readers to share this view--using the news section of the New York Times. Note to journalists working for the old-line newsmedia: Do you really have no clue as to why so many people are losing their trust in you?

Posted by John West on November 5, 2006 12:05 AM | Permalink

God vs. science: Can religion stand up to the test?


POSTED: 10:01 a.m. EST, November 5, 2006

Editor's note: The following is a summary of this week's Time magazine cover story.

(Time.com) -- It's a debate that long predates Darwin, but the anti-religion position is being promoted with increasing insistence by scientists angered by intelligent design and excited, perhaps intoxicated, by their disciplines' increasing ability to map, quantify and change the nature of human experience.

Brain imaging illustrates -- in color -- the physical seat of the will and the passions, challenging the religious concept of a soul independent of glands and gristle. Brain chemists track imbalances that could account for the ecstatic states of visionary saints or, some suggest, of Jesus.

Catholicism's Christoph Cardinal Schönborn has dubbed the most fervent of faith-challenging scientists followers of "scientism" or "evolutionism," since they hope science, beyond being a measure, can replace religion as a worldview and a touchstone.

It is not an epithet that fits everyone wielding a test tube. But a growing proportion of the profession is experiencing what one major researcher calls "unprecedented outrage" at perceived insults to research and rationality, ranging from the alleged influence of the Christian right on Bush administration science policy, to the fanatic faith of the 9/11 terrorists, to intelligent design's ongoing claims. Some are radicalized enough to publicly pick an ancient scab -- the idea that science and religion, far from being complementary responses to the unknown, are at utter odds.

Finding a spokesman for this side of the question was not hard, since Richard Dawkins, perhaps its foremost polemicist, has just come out with "The God Delusion" (Houghton Mifflin), the rare volume whose position is so clear it forgoes a subtitle.

The five-week New York Times best seller (now at No. 8) attacks faith philosophically and historically as well as scientifically, but leans heavily on Darwinian theory, which was Dawkins' expertise as a young scientist and more recently as an explicator of evolutionary psychology.

Dawkins and his peers have a swarm of articulate theological opponents, of course. But the most ardent of these don't really care very much about science, and an argument in which one party stands immovable on Scripture and the other immobile on the periodic table doesn't get anyone very far.

Most Americans occupy the middle ground: We want it all. We want to cheer on science's strides and still humble ourselves on the Sabbath. We want access to both MRIs and miracles. We want debates about issues like stem cells without conceding that the positions are so intrinsically inimical as to make discussion fruitless.

Informed conciliators have recently become more vocal, and foremost among them is Francis Collins. Collins' devotion to genetics is, if possible, greater than Dawkins'.

Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute since 1993, he headed a multinational 2,400-scientist team that co-mapped the 3 billion biochemical letters of our genetic blueprint, a milestone that then-President Bill Clinton honored in a 2000 White House ceremony, comparing the genome chart to Meriwether Lewis' map of his fateful continental exploration. Collins continues to lead his institute in studying the genome and mining it for medical breakthroughs.

He is also a forthright Christian who converted from atheism at age 27 and now finds time to advise young evangelical scientists on how to declare their faith in science's largely agnostic upper reaches.

His summer best seller, "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief" (Free Press), laid out some of the arguments he brought to bear in the 90-minute debate Time arranged between Dawkins and Collins in our offices at the Time & Life Building on September 30. Some excerpts from their spirited exchange are featured in this week's Time cover story.

Clairvoyant 'led Americans to Saddam'From correspondents in Herzliya, Irsael


November 06, 2006 10:32pm

DID a clairvoyant help US commandos ferret Saddam Hussein out of his hiding place in Iraq three years ago?

Israeli-born celebrity psychic Uri Geller, best known for his spoon-bending antics, says the power of the paranormal led US troops to the fugitive Iraqi ex-dictator.

"You remember when they found Saddam Hussein in Iraq? A soldier walked over to a rock, lifted it and then found a trap-door and found him in there," Geller said.

"Well, I know that that soldier walked over to that rock because he got information from a 'remote viewer' from the United States."

Geller, who says he worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the Cold War, said his information came from a high-level source involved in US paranormal programs.

A US military spokesman in Iraq had no immediate comment.

At the time of his capture, US commanders said a source close to the fugitive had given him up under interrogation.

A Brazilian psychic tried last year to claim a $US25 million ($A32.53 million) bounty offered for Saddam's capture, saying he had described the hiding place in letters to the US Government.

Dolphin may have 'remains' of legs


By Hiroko Tabuchi, Associated Press Writer | November 5, 2006

TOKYO --Japanese researchers said Sunday that a bottlenose dolphin captured last month has an extra set of fins that could be the remains of hind legs, a discovery that may provide further evidence that ocean-dwelling mammals once lived on land.

Fishermen captured the four-finned dolphin alive off the coast of Wakayama prefecture (state) in western Japan on Oct. 28, and alerted the nearby Taiji Whaling Museum, according to museum director Katsuki Hayashi.

Fossil remains show dolphins and whales were four-footed land animals about 50 million years ago and share the same common ancestor as hippos and deer. Scientists believe they later transitioned to an aquatic lifestyle and their hind limbs disappeared.

Whale and dolphin fetuses also show signs of hind protrusions but these generally disappear before birth.

Though odd-shaped protrusions have been found near the tails of dolphins and whales captured in the past, researchers say this was the first time one had been found with well-developed, symmetrical fins, Hayashi said.

"I believe the fins may be remains from the time when dolphins' ancient ancestors lived on land ... this is an unprecedented discovery," Seiji Osumi, an adviser at Tokyo's Institute of Cetacean Research, said at a news conference televised Sunday.

The second set of fins -- much smaller than the dolphin's front fins -- are about the size of human hands and protrude from near the tail on the dolphin's underside. The dolphin measures 8.92 feet and is about five years old, according to the museum.

Hayashi said he could not tell from watching the dolphin swim in a musuem tank whether it used its back fins to maneuver.

A freak mutation may have caused the ancient trait to reassert itself, Osumi said. The dolphin will be kept at the Taiji museum to undergo X-ray and DNA tests, according to Hayashi.

© Copyright 2006 Associated Press.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Who is writing anti-ID articles in the UK?


As we recently discussed here, there was a factually challenged article against intelligent design in a UK newspaper, The Independent. Given the anti-ID motive-mongering in the article, it is not surprising to find that the British Center for Science Education (BCSE) helped put the article together. The BCSE's Roger Stanyard admits that "[s]ome of you are aware that I helped in putting it together" and gives the URL, saying the article is "based n [sic] material and advice supplied by BCSE." (see here)

So how closely is this "British Center for Science Education" tied to the "National Center for Science Education" (NCSE) based in the United States? It's not entirely clear, but recently the NCSE's Nick Matzke explained that "Roger Stanyard suggested that I join the forums so that I could contribute whatever small bits of wisdom I might have." BCSE's website hopes you will believe that the BCSE "has a close working relationship with the National Center for Science Education in the USA."

More importantly, the BCSE is using one of the NCSE's common strategies: attack the academic freedom of proponents of intelligent design. In an article titled "Think Twice Before Studying at Leeds University," the BCSE tries to discourage people from studying at Leeds because one of the professors there, Andy McIntosh, is pro-ID. The article compares McIntosh to those who are "crackpot[s]," members of "Druid organisations," and those who want "a Taliban-style … government." So the BCSE wants people to avoid a respectable university because of these false ad hominem attacks they are leveling at one of its professors. This is a harsh attack upon the academic freedom of Dr. McIntosh to hold his pro-ID views within the academy.

This strategy of personal attacks and attacks upon academic freedom is all too familiar to those who follow the behavior of leading American Darwinists. According to an investigator with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the NCSE was heavily involved in similar attacks upon Dr. Richard Sternberg at the Smithsonian Institution (SI) and National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) after Sternberg oversaw the publication of a peer-reviewed pro-ID science article in a biology journal:

Of great import is the fact that these same SI and NMNH employees immediately aligned themselves with the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). Our investigation shows that NCSE is a political advocacy organization dedicated to defeating any introduction of ID, creationism or religion into the American education system. In fact, members of NCSE worked closely with SI and NMNH members in outlining a strategy to have you investigated and discredited within the SI. Members of NCSE, furthermore, e-mailed detailed statements of repudiation of the Meyer article to high level NMNH officials. In turn they sent them to the Society. There are e-mails that are several pages in length that map out their strategy. NCSE recommendations were circulated within the SI and eventually became part of the official public response of the SI to the Meyer article. OSC is not making a statement on whether the SI or NMNH was wrong or right in aligning with the NCSE, although OSC questions the use of appropriated funds to work with an outside advocacy group for this purpose. This is only discussed to show that the actions taken on the part of SI employees clearly had a political and religious component. Therefore, it may lend credence to your allegations that your religious and political affiliations were investigated and made a part of the actions taken against you.

(U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL letter to Dr. Richard Sternberg)

Will the BCSE seek to use such tactics against Leeds University professor Andy McIntosh?

Posted by Casey Luskin on November 4, 2006 2:09 AM | Permalink

Prehistoric marine worm may shed light on human evolution: Study


Washington, Nov 04: A team of neuroscientists and zoologists of the University of Florida has concluded through genetic analysis that a prehistoric marine worm may be the ancestor of humans.

The half-inch-long creature known by its scientific name of Xenoturbella and first retrieved from the Baltic Sea more than 50 years ago has long puzzled scientists.

Now, Leonid Moroz, a professor of neuroscience and zoology at the University of Florida's Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience, and 13 other scientists have reportedly discovered an organism that could establish a link between modern-day humans and the ancient chordates, the backboned animals that included humans.

Initially, these scientists say they discovered a mollusk-like DNA that resulted not from the creature itself, but from its close association to clams and their likely habit of eating mollusk eggs. They said the Xenoturbella did not seem to have a brain, a gut or gonads, making it unique among living animals.

According to their study, which appears in the journal- Nature -- more precise genomic sequencing resulted in the identification of about 1,300 genes, including mitochondrial genes. It was then found that the Xenoturbella belongs to its own phylum, a broad class of organisms lying just below kingdom in taxonomic classification. The scientists claim that it is one of only about 32 such phyla in the animal kingdom.

More significant was the confirmation that that human beings and other chordates share a common ancestor, a first in science.

"It is a basal organism, which by chance preserved the basal characteristics present in our common ancestor. This shows that our common ancestor doesn't have a brain but rather a diffuse neural system in the animal's surface," Moroz said.

A reconstructed genetic record implies that the brain might have been independently evolved more than twice in different animal lineages.

Bureau Report

Looking for Smarts Between the Genes


By Michael Balter ScienceNOW Daily News

3 November 2006

When it comes to separating humans from other animals, researchers agree that it's what's between the ears that counts most. Indeed, changes in brain-related genes appear to explain the often vast differences between human and chimp cognition. Now scientists have discovered that the spaces between these genes can be just as important.

Once thought of as junk, noncoding sequences of DNA fill in the gaps between genes and make up more than 90 percent of our genome. Recently, scientists have discovered that these stretches of DNA contain regulatory elements that control how and when nearby genes are turned on and off (ScienceNOW, 16 August). An international team led by genome researcher Edward Rubin of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California wondered how many of these noncoding regions might play a role in human evolution.

The team looked at 110,549 human noncoding DNA sequences that seem to have been conserved during mammalian evolution. Using statistical tests, Rubin and his colleagues found 992 sequences that appeared to have undergone changes during human evolution that were not due to simple chance, suggesting that the genetic alterations were due to natural selection. The team then used two existing gene databases, called Gene Ontology and Entrez Gene, to match the noncoding sequences with the functions of the coding genes closest to them.

The strongest evidence for accelerated evolution on the human line was found in noncoding sequences next to genes involved in helping neurons adhere to each other. The team found 69 such sequences, suggesting that changes in these regulatory elements may have contributed to the evolution of uniquely human cognitive talents.

Neuronal adhesion molecules play a major role in wiring the brain, Rubin says, such as the formation of connective synapses between nerve cells. These processes, he adds, are important in early brain development and also crucial for learning, memory, and cognition in adults. For example, Rubin says, one of the noncoding sequences is next to a gene called CNTN4, which appears to be involved in the development of both verbal and nonverbal communication abilities in humans, while another is adjacent to CHL1, which is linked to cognition in both humans and mice. The team reports its results today in Science.

The team's conclusions "sound interesting and plausible," says Ajit Varki, a molecular biologist at the University of California at San Diego. But Varki cautions that the findings should be considered tentative because the Gene Ontology and Entrez Gene databases only give broad generalizations about a gene's function and cannot pinpoint exactly what it does.

More thoughts on evolution


By By Andrea Tressler Saturday, November 4, 2006

Dr. Douglas T. Hawes, of PIano, Texas, stated in an Oct. 7 letter to the editor that "(e)volution is definite and it continues to occur as we speak."

In making his editorial statement, Dr. Hawes has engaged in a debate tactic known as "elephant-hurling" -- that is, throwing into the debate a summary argument with no specifics to give the appearance of having weighty evidence, none of which he offers.

I don't know what he believes to be proof of occurring evolution, but I will discuss one of the "evidences" often given in recent times by those who state that evolution is an indisputable truth seen by scientists to be happening "as we speak."

Many claim that finding "supergerms," which are resistant to drugs, is evidence of evolution. But it must be kept in mind that molecules-to-man evolution requires a mechanism for creating new and useful genetic information.

This is not what is seen to be happening when it has been discovered that some germs resist some antibiotics.

Either the drug-resistant germs already were in place before the antibiotic was used, or the DNA information was already there in another bacterium and transferred (in the form of a plasmid via a tiny tube) or the resistance has arisen from a genetic copying mistake (mutation) and therefore genetic information decreases.

These so-called "supergerms" have often been found as a result of a scenario such as the following:

A patient is given penicillin, and all but a small number of the germs with which he was infected are killed. These, of course, are the ones that already had a resistance to penicillin.

If the patient's body can kill these remaining germs, the infection ends. If not, these germs reproduce at the high rate that germs without competition do.

A different antibiotic is given since the infection persists. All but a small number of these germs are killed by that antibiotic, and such an infection cycle may continue.

But remember, these so-called "supergerms" were only able to survive so well in the body when the competing germs were removed, as in hospital environments, and the body was already in a weakened condition.

In any case, these germs continue to be germs -- not a new kind of life.

In summary, apply antibiotics to a population of bacteria, and those lacking resistance are killed; the genetic information they carry is eliminated. For example, the surviving gene pool carries less information, the opposite of what molecules-to-man evolution requires.

Such natural "selection" (first described by creationist Edward Blyth, incidentally) is a fact of life, but cannot be a means of evolution.

Read the Book of Genesis in the Bible for the explanation of the origin of living things.

Scientist argues why "creationism is wrong and evolution is right" at public lecture


One of the UK's best-known scientists will describe why he believes that creationism is wrong and evolution is right at free public lecture taking place next week (5.15-6.15pm, Monday 6 November 2006).

(Media-Newswire.com) - Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London, has been a prominent opponent of those who claim that creationism - the idea that the universe was created by a supreme being - provides a valid alternative to evolution.

His comments have come as a handful of scientists and Christian groups try to get the creationist theory of 'intelligent design' taught as an alternative to evolution in schools.

The overwhelming majority of scientists throughout the world passionately disagree with these groups, and point to the vast amount of scientifically-collected evidence which supports evolution – and the lack of a testable hypothesis in intelligent design.

For these reasons many scientists have refused to engage with the creationist lobby because they believe it might give the impression that there was any debate amongst the scientific community over the validity of evolution – which is widely accepted as true.

"We are delighted to have one of the UK's leading scientists kicking-off our new season of Millennium Lectures, and look forward to hearing Professor Jones' argument," said Stuart Macdonald, a postgraduate student and part of the committee that organised the talk as part of the annual Millennium Lectures series in the Department of Chemistry.

"The issue of creationism, and in particular its teaching in schools, has caused much concern amongst scientists around the world, so it will be particularly interesting to hear from one of the most prominent speakers on evolution to hear what he has to say on the issue."

Professor Jones is one of the best known contemporary popular writers on the subject of evolution. In 1996 his writing won him the Royal Society Michael Faraday prize for his contributions to the public understanding of science.

He is also a television presenter and presented In the Blood, a six-part TV series on human genetics first broadcast in 1996.

The lecture will take place at 5.15 - 6.15pm on Monday 6 November 2006 in lecture theatre 8W 1.1. No tickets are required, just turn up on the evening.

The University of Bath is one of the UK's leading universities, with an international reputation for quality research and teaching. In 16 subject areas the University of Bath is rated in the top ten in the country. View a full list of the University's press releases: http://www.bath.ac.uk/news/releases

Civility rules during evolution debate between two speakers


By Brad Zinn/staff bzinn@newsleader.com

STAUNTON — Can more than a hundred evolutionists and creationists gather together under one roof and remain civil as they argue both sides?

Based on Friday night's debate at John Lewis Auditorium inside Robert E. Lee High School, the answer is a resounding "yes."

Harold Munson, a Churchville resident and engineer by trade, took up the mantle for creationists. On the other side, James Madison University professor and Stuarts Draft resident Gregg Henriques spoke in favor of evolution.

The differences are many: Creationists believe in a young earth and that God created man in his present form within the Past 10,000 years; evolutionists believe earth is 4.5 billion years old. Creationists believe there are flaws in the fossil record; evolutionists use the fossil record to support their stance that humans evolved through time. Creationists argue that the science of evolutionists is flawed, evolutionists argue that creationists ignore scientific evidence.

It's a polarizing issue to be sure, but Friday night's debate wasn't necessarily a platform for either side to try and convert the other, rather it was used to show that people can agree to disagree. That's not to say that both men didn't try to get their point across.

"I believe that there is a creator," said Munson, who claimed evolution is a fairy tale. "It is a religion for the atheists."

A former believer in evolution himself, Munson said, "What does anyone possibly know what happened 4.5 billion years ago?" Common sense, he said, is what guides creationists in knowing God is the Creator. "Common design from a common designer," he said.

Henriques said a preponderance of scientific evidence — the Big Bang Theory, radiation tests in the solar system, plate tectonics — show that evolution is a reality.

"The earth looked very different millions and hundreds of millions of years ago," he said.

Henriques said the old earth view is considered a "threat to the entire Christian justification system."

Munson and Henriques began speaking — and debating — after Henriques listened to Munson speak at a local church. The two decided that a public, albeit friendly debate, was needed.

"I do believe that science and religion can peacefully co-exist," Henriques said.

John Dewell, an audience member from New Orleans, agreed. "Ignoring the other person and insisting they're wrong doesn't help anything," he said.

Added Martha Williams of Churchville, "It was interesting, I enjoyed it. There was a good feeling, a good atmosphere."

Widespread creationism teaching would worry Blair



LONDON - British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in an interview published on Wednesday he would be worried if creationism entered mainstream teaching in British schools.

Creationism -- the view that God created the world in six days as described in the Bible -- has long been at the center of controversy in the United States, where conservative Christians reject Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

A row broke out in Britain earlier this year after a private foundation that funds several schools in northern England was accused of teaching creationism in science classes.

The foundation said it taught evolution but said creation beliefs could be mentioned in some scientific discussions.

In an interview with New Scientist magazine, Blair said talk of some British schools teaching creationism was sometimes hugely exaggerated.

"I've visited one of the schools in question and as far as I'm aware they are teaching the curriculum in a normal way," he said.

"If I notice creationism becoming the mainstream of the education system in this country then that's the time to start worrying," he said.

Blair, who is due to give a lecture on the future of British science on Friday, said science was almost as important as economic stability to the future of the British economy.

"If we do not take the opportunities that are there for us in science then we are not going to have a successful modern economy," he said. "We will be out-competed on labor costs."

"We've got to give the country a great deal more confidence about science and its place in the future," he said.

Blair, who confessed he was very poor at science at school, advised scientists to "fight the battles you need to fight."

He said he wouldn't bother fighting a great battle over homeopathy, for example, but said the scientific community had to engage in a "very strong and deep" dialogue with wider society over the possibilities of genetics.

Blair attacked the media over its reporting of a controversy over giving a triple measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to children.

The debate originated with a medical study, now widely rejected, linking the MMR vaccination to autism.

The scare led to a drop in the number of parents wanting their children vaccinated, leading doctors to fear some children could catch a potentially fatal disease.

"The reporting of MMR was disgraceful. There was no real scientific basis for the allegations that were made and it's caused a great deal of difficulty," Blair said.

Copyright 2006 Reuters News Service

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Cancer patients desperate for options


Posted on Fri, Nov. 03, 2006

By Dahleen Glanton

Chicago Tribune

GREENWOOD, Miss. - Abraham Cherrix never set out to be an advocate for alternative medicine. He is just a 16-year-old with cancer who refused to undergo a second round of chemotherapy and went to court to fight for his right not to have it.

In a court-ordered compromise, the Virginia teenager landed at the North Central Mississippi Regional Cancer Center, one of a new breed of cancer facilities in the United States that integrate conventional medicine and alternative therapies.

Cherrix's struggle to use herbs and diet supplements to fight Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system - rather than have a series of debilitating rounds of chemotherapy - has brought attention to a growing movement in the U.S. to bring alternative medicine into the mainstream.

Although Americans have been crossing the border into Mexico for more than 40 years in search of cancer treatments illegal in the United States, interest in alternative and complementary healing methods in this country is rising. The move is being fueled by the Internet's ability to provide easy access to information and by personal testimonials of patients.

Advertisements for alternative therapies are everywhere, from highway billboards to health magazines. Clinics specializing in acupuncture, dietary supplements and herbal medicines - considered unconventional a decade ago - can be found in almost every U.S. city. To remain competitive, a fifth of U.S. hospitals now offer some type of alternative or complementary therapy such as massage, yoga, homeopathy or mind-body therapy.

"This is a patient-driven effort to access things that are approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) or are outside its jurisdiction," said Dr. Arnold Smith, medical director at the Mississippi cancer center. "The desktop computer has become a window to the world of education regarding diseases and treatment."

Americans spend an estimated $36 billion to $47 billion a year on alternative and complementary treatments, either as a substitute for conventional medicine or in conjunction with it, according to national surveys.

A 2002 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that 36 percent of Americans use some form of alternative healing. When prayer was included as a means of healing, the figure jumped to 62 percent. The use of herbs, which do not require FDA approval, doubled from 1997 to 2002, researchers said, adding that Americans spend $5 billion alone on herbal products.

"The old mind-set is if you are not doing the conventional method, you are not doing anything," said Barbara Sikes, a 62-year-old chiropractor from Virginia Beach, Va., who is undergoing alternative treatments in Mexico for breast cancer. "But for me, it is much scarier to get cut on or to go through chemotherapy than to just eat healthy and take vitamins."

The FDA categorizes most herbal remedies as dietary supplements, which, like vitamins and minerals, fall somewhere between food and drugs. While it is illegal to label supplements as a cure for any disease or illness, manufacturers are not required to prove they are safe or effective.

With traditional health-care costs rising to $1.9 trillion and 46.6 million people without health insurance, natural remedies have become more attractive to Americans - especially cancer patients, for example, who sometimes pay up to $50,000 a year for a single medication.

A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2001 found that nearly 7 in 10 cancer patients in the U.S. use alternative medicine, though most often in combination with conventional therapies.

"Part of the reason it is growing is because people see there is some progress in conventional cancer treatment, but certainly the answers to most cancer questions have not been found," said Dr. Jeffrey White, director of the National Institutes of Health's Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine. "People want to take responsibility for their health and supplement it with what is available."

Another reason is the concern about side effects of prescription drugs, said Malcolm Johnson, clinical director at Godobe Health Service, an Atlanta clinic that specializes in Chinese remedies.

"Whenever you see a drug commercial on TV, it talks about the positive benefits and at the end, there is a long list of side effects," Johnson said.

After five weeks of treatment, Cherrix returned home to Chincoteague, Va., in early October having undergone immunotheraphy, which strengthens the immune system with supplements and diet and low-dose radiation to shrink the tumor in his neck.

"I'm feeling wonderful," he told The Associated Press after leaving the cancer center.

The first thing most people notice about Cherrix is that he seems to be wise beyond his teenage years.

His doctors notified state authorities after Cherrix refused a second round of chemotherapy, which he said made him deathly ill, and the state took his parents to court alleging medical neglect.

Cherrix, who also has traveled to Mexico for the controversial Hoxsey treatment, a concoction of herbs, vitamins and tree bark, said he believes his case has helped others who seek alternative care, particularly children whose parents could end up in court.

"I had a vision that told me I was to be a teacher," Cherrix said, adding he plans to finish high school and go on to college.

He is optimistic about his recovery, yet he understands the risks.

"I don't claim to work miracles, and I am not claiming to cure him," said the cancer center's Smith, a certified oncologist. "I am claiming he may be curable."

Cherrix said he likely will return to Mexico for additional treatments.

Despite warnings by U.S. health officials that the unproven therapies and unsanitary conditions at some foreign facilities can be dangerous or even fatal, about 10,000 Americans a year flock to the two dozen clinics in the Tijuana area that operate with little or no government oversight.

Travel to foreign countries has waned since the 1970s, however, as Americans are looking for nontraditional remedies closer to home. Still, hundreds of Web sites provide information on treatment centers in countries such as Mexico, Thailand and Germany.

The Mexican clinics bill themselves as facilities run by Americans for Americans, but in most cases the founders are not medical doctors, and some fled the United States after facing criminal charges for operating without a medical license or dispensing medications that were not approved by the FDA. At most facilities, the attending physicians are Mexican.

Some clinics specifically market to religious groups that advocate natural healing such as Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses and the Amish. But a vast number of their clients are the most desperate patients, whose U.S. doctors have given up on them.

"No one wants to hear a doctor say, `I'm sorry, there isn't much else we can do except for this pretty darn toxic treatment, and we are not sure how effective it will be,'" said Dr. Maurie Markham, vice president for clinical research at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

"So if someone else comes along and says, `We have a cure and all you have to do is come to Mexico and get this liquid, and the medical community is trying to suppress all this because of money,' you might be susceptible," he said. "These people are not nuts, they are confused and want to believe there is a cure."

The danger, U.S. health officials said, is that most of the therapies marketed as a cure, including Hoxsey, have never undergone the strict trials needed for FDA approval. Others, such as laetrile - a chemical found in apricot pits, apple seeds and bitter almonds - have undergone trials and were found ineffective, they said.

"In some cases, we are not saying all of the treatments don't work, we are saying we don't know because too little research has been done," said the NIH's White. "The problem is that some cancers, such as breast cancer, respond well to conventional care when treated early. If you wait or try something else, it may move to a condition that is no longer curable."

Supporters of alternative treatments claim that the medical industry in the U.S. refuses to consider nontraditional therapies because doing so would mean financial losses for pharmaceutical companies, a powerful lobby they feel is protected by the government.

A study by the American Cancer Society published in August found that 27 percent of Americans believe the medical industry is withholding a cure for cancer to increase its profits.

"This tells me that there is, at least among some Americans, a substantial lack of trust, not necessarily with their personal doctor but more toward the pharmaceutical companies," said Dr. Ted Gansler, director of medical content for the cancer society.

Ralph Moss, president of Cancer Communications Inc., a research publication, said some U.S. drug laws do need rethinking in order to remove huge financial requirements that give large drug companies a monopoly on testing.

"The whole system by which we test drugs and reward innovation is deeply flawed. The fact that it takes hundreds of millions of dollars to test drugs means that the only ones tested are those that will make hundreds of millions when they are approved," said Moss, who has spent more than a decade documenting the work at alternative cancer clinics. "We are in a cycle where you have to be enormously wealthy to even think of playing in that poker game."

Clinical researchers, however, insist that they continuously seek natural remedies to study and point to an effective breast cancer drug, Taxol, which is derived from tree bark. Many of the clinics in Mexico, they said, don't have or refuse to provide initial studies, such as five-year follow-ups, needed before clinical trials can be conducted.

"This is propaganda for folks to say we won't test anything natural. It's simply bogus and false," said Markham, who runs clinical trials for the NIH. "Our top priority is to come up with better treatments, but we have an obligation to not just market a drug. We have the obligation of proving the benefits and making sure they are safe and effective."

The Hoxsey tonic, a guarded recipe of herbs, dates to 1840 when an Illinois veterinarian claimed his prized stallion was cured of cancer after grazing on the plants.

The farmer passed the formula down to his grandson, Harry Hoxsey, an Illinois coal miner, who opened his first clinic in Taylorville, Ill., in the 1920s.

Hoxsey eventually ran 14 clinics in 17 states, but pressure by the American Medical Association and the Food and Drug Administration forced him to shut down operations in the U.S.

He moved his operation to Mexico, where a former nurse, Mildred Nelson, an American, ran it for decades. Hoxsey died in 1973 and Nelson's sister now runs the facility.

Creationism news from around the world


Although the United States remains the bastion of creationism, the rest of the world is not invulnerable. Creationism is a worldwide phenomenon, in which antievolutionary materials produced by the centers of creationism in the United States are exported overseas, either wholesale or with modifications to suit the local milieu; often there is reimportation, as creationists overseas become major players in their own right and are then welcomed by the legions of creationists in the United States. ...

Education Ministry with a Bent towards Creationism



November 3, 2006

Poland's deputy education minister has called for Polish schools to ditch Darwinism in favor of creationism. His party is also well known for gay bashing and for wanting to introduce the death penalty.

Was Darwin guilty of telling "sad lies?" Here, a display at the new Darwin exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Where do we come from? It's a question that has been dogging mankind since ... well, since when? Since man was created? Or since man climbed down from the trees? Poland's deputy education minister Miroslaw Orzechowski thinks he knows, and he wants Polish schoolchildren to know too.

Orzechowski is intent on keeping Darwinism from falling into the wrong heads. In a recent interview, he commented that it was "sad" that the "lie" of the evolution theories of Charles Darwin were being taught in Polish schools, and called for a debate on whether Darwin's theories should be purged from the school curriculum.

Orzechowski's position is not totally surprising. The minister belongs to the ultra-Catholic rightwing party the League of Polish Families (LPR), a junior partner in Poland's conservative government. Other European governments have been alarmed by the LPR's campaigns against gay rights, their purported anti-Semitism, their support for an abortion ban, and their calls for a re-introduction of the death penalty (something which would be illegal under European Union law).

Orzechowski believes that creationism, which he described as a "truth of civilization" that has been "confirmed by thousands of generations", should be taught instead of Darwinian theories. The Darwinist idea that apes and people were related was "pseudo-science" for "non-believers," he said.

The LPR politician appears to have a penchant himself for speculating on the factors determining human behavior. He personally seems to favor nurture over nature as an explanatory principle, at least when it comes to Darwin himself: he postulated that the Victorian scientist was perhaps lacking "inner fire" due to his vegetarian diet.

Orzechowski is not the first in the LPR to come out in favor of creationism. LPR Member of the European Parliament Maciej Giertych organized a creationism conference at the European Parliament in October, where he said Darwinism should not be taught in schools. Giertych, who is a biology professor by trade, claimed that humans had had contact with dinosaurs and that Neanderthals continue to live among us. The MEP had also calculated the weight of Noah's Ark, arriving at a figure (including animals) of 14,000 metric tons (15,400 US tons). Other parliamentarians are reported to have reacted with predictable amusement to his claims.

Maciej Giertych also happens to be the father of the LPR's leader, Roman Giertych, who is Poland's education minister as well as deputy prime minister. Giertych junior has, however, distanced himself from Orzechowski's remarks, saying that the theory of evolution would continue to be taught in Polish schools -- "as long as most scientists in our country say that (it) is the right theory."

Orzechowski's comments have been greeted with angry protests in Poland. The country's scientific community has condemned Orzechowski and affirmed their support for teaching Darwinian theories of evolution. Prominent molecular biologist Maciej Zylicz told the magazine Nature that "the point that really requires further discussion is not evolution, but how a minister can say such stupid things."

Other dissenting voices indulged in some evolutionary speculation of their own. Young Polish demonstrators chanted that "Giertych in particular is descended from apes," according to the German daily Tagesspiegel. The Polish newspaper Nie had another theory of certain politicians' genetic background: it commented caustically that some people clearly had "donkeys rather than apes as their ancestors."

Should Conservatives Champion Darwin?


Later this month Discovery Institute Press will publish a new book examining the misguided attempts of some conservatives to embrace Darwinism and champion it as compatible with conservative views. Most conservatives are presumed to be critical of Darwin's theory, yet a number of thinkers on the right, such as George Will, James Q. Wilson, and Larry Arnhart, have mounted a vigorous defense of Darwinism. Discovery Institute Senior Fellow John West will explain in Darwin's Conservatives: The Misguided Quest that the attempts to reconcile conservatism and Darwinian biology ultimately misunderstand both.

In Darwin's Conservatives West addresses how Darwin's theory, contrary to its conservative champions, manifestly does not reinforce the teachings of conservatism.

According to noted conservative thinker and writer George Gilder:

John West rolls through the arguments for a pro-Darwin conservatism like an Abrams tank leveling a street barricade: methodically and irresistibly. If there are any conservative Darwinists left after this rout, it's only because they won't stand and fight.

West disagrees with those who try to make Darwin's theory compatable with traditional conservative values in a number of key areas. According to West:

Darwinism promotes moral relativism rather than traditional morality. It fosters utopianism rather than limited government. It is corrosive, rather than supportive, of both free will and religious belief. Finally, and most importantly, Darwinian evolution is in tension with the scientific evidence, and conservatism cannot hope to strengthen itself by relying on Darwinism's increasingly shaky empirical foundations.

Darwin's Conservatives is a direct challenge to conservatives they cannot afford to ignore.

According to William Dembski, author of The Design Revolution,

Conservative pundits all too often have a blind spot for that outdated Victorian creation myth known as Darwinism… finally, here is a book that holds their feet to the fire and sets the record straight.

According to Steven Hayward, author of The Age of Reagan,

"No one can consider themselves fully acquainted with the issue of intelligent design without confronting the serious critique in this book.

And Prof. J. Budziszewski of the University of Texas, Austin, hails the book for "showing clearly that Darwinism is not a source of conservative insight into human nature, but only a source of confusion."

Posted by Robert Crowther on November 3, 2006 6:12 AM | Permalink

New Review of Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design


The Denver Post published a very good review of two important new books about the debate over Darwinism and intelligent design, earlier this week. Doug Groothuis reviews both CSC Senior Fellow Jonathan Wells's new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, and the new book by professional skeptic Michael Shermer, Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design.

Wells criticizes Darwinism - a view that says every aspect of the natural world is explained by unguided natural processes - because of its lack of evidence. This stance requires that Wells shoulder the burden of proof, since Darwinists control the scientific establishment.

But Wells takes up the challenge by sticking closely to the scientific and philosophical issues at the heart of the debate. He not only critiques the weaknesses in Darwinism, but presents intelligent design as a constructive alternative. While titled a "politically incorrect guide," the book is never glib, although it is not lacking in wit or confidence.

On the other hand, editor and author Michael Shermer, formerly a professor of psychology, is generally condescending toward intelligent design. He even writes that his friends Stephen J. Gould and Richard Dawkins, leading evolutionists, advised him to not stoop so low as to write a book against the theory.

Groothuis sums up his review by making the case for giving people the information and letting them make up their own minds.

For Shermer, Darwin matters because he has been vindicated by science, and science gives us the best account of reality possible. For Wells, Darwin built a house of cards that is supported more by ideology and materialist philosophy than science itself. Thinking people should be apprised of both sides and judge accordingly, because two very different and exceedingly important visions of reality are at stake.

Posted by Robert Crowther on November 3, 2006 2:12 PM | Permalink

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