NTS LogoSkeptical News for 25 November 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Saturday, November 25, 2006



The reader's letter was disappointing but not surprising.

Since The Star published my "mad ranting," the reader wanted to know, how long would it be before it published the writings of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, holocaust deniers and Al-Qaida operatives?

Is this the picture of tolerance? Should a person be lumped together with these groups simply because he holds a view that the reader doesn't agree with?

I wasn't advocating violence against anyone. I wasn't denying anyone the right to work and live freely in this country. I was merely voicing an opinion (although an unpopular one) that moral relativism doesn't hold water.

Many express the need for tolerance in the marketplace of ideas, and it sounds noble and virtuous at first glance. Yet it has actually served to suppress the free exchange of ideas in America today.

More and more the idea of tolerance is being used as a bludgeon to silence those who dissent from the current mainstream ideology.

It used to be that when one spoke of tolerance, it carried with it the idea that if two people held differing views, they would debate the facts supporting their respective views.

There would be honest discussion of the issues and, if an agreement could not be reached, the two parties would agree to disagree.

That is no longer the case. What is implied in the modern usage of the term "tolerance" is that individuals are not allowed to express disagreement with the particular socially accepted view of the day without incurring multiplied ad hominem attacks.

This is something that I have experienced in my time as a contributor to Midwest Voices. I know that I have addressed controversial topics over the past several months. My reason for this was to give a reasoned defense for my particular views on the topics and to, hopefully, make the readers think their positions through just as thoroughly.

A case can be made that a lack of tolerance is reflected even in how some describe the supporters of certain ideas.

Who can forget the Dover, Pa., court case deciding whether intelligent design could be taught in Pennsylvania classrooms along with evolution?

In an article by Laurie Goodstein in The New York Times the person highlighted for the pro-evolution side was shown as well-educated ("at a desk flanked by his university diplomas") while the supporters of intelligent design were chosen from the ranks of blue-collar commoners in the town (a meter-reader and a bus company office manager).

This dichotomy clearly implies that those who do not support evolution are not as well educated and are likely very superstitious when it comes to phenomena they do not fully comprehend, while those who support evolution are educated and above the "superstitious" claims of religion when it comes to scientific matters.

As can be seen through these two small examples, there is much to be desired in the area of honesty on the part of those who espouse the new tolerance in America. Tolerance is a virtue but only when the term is used in the classical sense.

We can allow others to hold to a view other than our own without vilifying them. We can tolerate one another's ideas even when we disagree. But that's obviously not what is on the agenda for the "intolerant tolerant."

They would rather force their agenda on others and keep redefining tolerance to mean, "I'll allow others to hold their own views as long as they agree with me."

Participating in the Midwest Voices panel this year has truly been a great experience for me and I hope that everyone has been able to take something away from what I've contributed (even if they disagree with me). Thanks again and have a merry Christmas, Kansas City!


Calling all columnists

To apply to become a member of the Midwest Voices writers panel for 2007 please send a 400-word sample essay, five column ideas and a brief bio including your political outlook by Monday. Send by e-mail to oped@kcstar.com and put Midwest Voices in the subject line, or mail to Midwest Voices, Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Jim Viens is the manager of a men's clothing store. He lives in Kansas City, Kan. To reach Midwest Voices columnists, write to the author c/o the Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108. Or send e-mail to oped@kcstar.com.

Busting Another Darwinist Myth: Skeptics of Evolution Do Exist Outside the United States!


A common Darwinist myth is that the only people who are skeptical of evolution are Americans. A recent article in the Virginia Informer stated, "John Swaddler, UK native and associate professor of biology at the College [of William and Mary], noted that the media phenomenon of creationism/ID vs. evolution doesn't happen in countries besides America." Saddler is promoting a common Darwinist claim which is simply untrue:

As we've noted recently, there has been a push to teach intelligent design in the United Kingdom. This summer an article in the London Guardian noted that over 30% of British students support non-evolutionary accounts of the history of life. Such skepticism extends far beyond the U.K. Nature reported that Poland is experiencing an "aggressive anti-evolution campaign." According to another Nature article, there's a legal controversy over teaching evolution in Russia as well. Finally, a very recent Nature news article entitled "Anti-evolutionists raise their profile in Europe" discusses challenges to evolution in Poland, Belgium, France, Germany, Britain, Russia, Italy, and Turkey over the past few years.

Some of these disputes resemble American disputes over evolution-education. For example, Poland's minister of science, Micha Seweryski, perfectly expressed the typical position of Darwinists: "'There is no need for a discussion,'" he told Nature. 'Scientific evidence is clear and the opinion of a minority will not change teaching in schools.'" ("Polish scientists fight creationism," Nature, Vol 443:890, Oct. 26, 2006, emphasis added) Seweryski's dogmatism speaks for itself.

Of course Darwinists try to pretend that evolution-skepticism is unique to America in order to promote what Justice Antonin Scalia called the "beloved secular legend of the [Scopes] Monkey Trial," which claims Darwin skepticism is entirely religiously based. Regardless of what Micha Seweryski says, there are scientific reasons to be skeptical of Neo-Darwinism.

In my opinion, we should drop these myths, stop excluding "minority" opinions, and start discussing the evidence!

Posted by Casey Luskin on November 24, 2006 1:07 PM | Permalink

Friday, November 24, 2006

Evolution education update: November 24, 2006

In Kansas, the state science standards are expected to be rewritten to treat evolution properly -- but not immediately. Meanwhile, Islamic creationism in Turkey is in the news, and NCSE's website is temporarily out of commission.


When Sally Cauble and Jana Shaver take their seats on the Kansas state board of education in January 2007, the balance of power on the board will shift to favor the supporters of the integrity of science education. But the return to a set of state science standards in which evolution is properly treated is not likely to be immediate. The Associated Press (November 21, 2006) reports that "board members and scientists who want to rewrite the standards also want to take at least several months to do it. They hope to reconvene a panel of educators whose evolution-friendly work fell by the wayside last year when the board's conservative majority decided to adopt language suggested by intelligent design supporters." Steve Case, co-chair of the panel, explained, "I don't want the board to do anything in haste in a reactionary sort of way. They need to do it right."

In November 2005, the board voted 6-4 to adopt a set of state science standards in which the scientific standing of evolution was systematically impugned. Those standards, however, were not immediately implemented in statewide tests or in classrooms. At least one local school district -- USD 383, serving Manhattan and Ogden -- explicitly rejected the antievolution version of the standards, and it is likely that a number of local school districts decided not to address the antievolution version of the standards until it was clear whether the antievolution faction would continue to have a majority on the state board of education. Now that the election is over, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott told the Associated Press, "The sooner the teachers in Kansas get a clear directive of what is expected of them, the better it will be for science education."

For the Associated Press's story (via the Kansas City Star), visit:


Adding to the creationism sightings around the world, Reuters (November 22, 2006) ran a story on Islamic creationism in Turkey, where "[s]cientists say pious Muslims in the government, which has its roots in political Islam, are trying to push Turkish education away from its traditionally secular approach." The main source of antievolution propaganda in Turkey is Harun Yahya -- a pseudonym probably for a pool of writers, headed by Adnan Oktar -- which, as Taner Edis told Reuters, "has managed to create a media-based and popular form of creationism." Efforts to popularize "intelligent design" in Turkey are lagging, Reuters suggests, because most Turks "see no need to avoid naming God," but Education Minister Huseyin Celik recently told CNN Turk that "intelligent design" should not be disregarded just "because it coincides with beliefs of monotheistic religions about creation."

A story in the November 23, 2006, issue of Nature on creationism in Europe devoted a few paragraphs to creationism in Turkey, which is presently seeking to join the European Union. The geneticist Steve Jones, just returned from Istanbul, told Nature, "Creationism is a major issue in Turkish politics; the debate is much more tense than in the United States," adding, "All biology textbooks now used in schools are creationist in tone." Although the story also mentioned recent creationist activity in Poland, Germany, Britain, Italy, and Russia -- evidently forgetting Serbia, where the teaching of evolution was banned and then unbanned in the course of a busy week in September 2004 -- it reported that Jones was not particularly worried about the prospect of its undermining science in such countries. But, he added, "I am not so optimistic about Turkey."

For Reuters's story (via MSNBC), visit:

For the story in Nature (subscription required), visit:


The server hosting NCSE's website was intermittently balky during the last few weeks, and finally gave up the ghost a few days before Thanksgiving. We are in the process of transferring to a new server, and we expect and hope to have NCSE's website up and running early next week. We regret any inconvenience.

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

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

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


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204

Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools http://www.ncseweb.org/nioc

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

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

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Experts call for crackdown on 'vile' alternative cancer medicine industry


London, Thursday 23.11.06

Cancer patients are victims of 'vile and cynical' exploitation by the alternative medicines industry, claims a top specialist.

Professor Jonathan Waxman, of Imperial College London, is calling for legislation against 'the snake oil salesmen that peddle cures and exploit the desperate.'

'Patients with less glamorous diseases suffer over decision to fund Herceptin'

He says patients are being encouraged to try faddy diets and herbal remedies that don't work and may weaken them, sometimes delaying the use of scientifically tested conventional therapy.

Around four out of five cancer patients take a complementary treatment or follow a special diet in a bid to beat the disease.

But almost 60 trials have failed to show any benefit from different dietary regimes, said Prof Waxman, who is professor of oncology at London's Hammersmith Hospital.

Alternative therapies taken by patients include shark cartilage, blessed thistle, slippery elm, sheep sorrel and potentially toxic doses of vitamins, he said.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, Prof Waxman said patients were being offered false hope and could end up damaged.

He said "Some of these things do dreadful harm. Patients are made thin by their cancer, and then become thinner still because they follow diets that evidence shows cannot help their recovery.

"There is an entire planetary mass of information that shows Western diets are associated with an increased risk of cancer and vegetarian diets and traditional Eastern diets are protective.

"However we also know that once cancer has been diagnosed no change in diet will lead to any improvement in cancer outcomes."

Prof Waxman said Prince Charles's advocacy of complementary medicine had focused attention on treatments that some patients hailed for helping their recovery - while ignoring the chemotherapy which actually cured them.

He said: "How can it be that treatments that don't work are regarded as life saving? It isn't logical."

Among famous cancer sufferers who turned to complementary therapies were TV broadcaster Caron Keating and world motorcycle champion Barry Sheene.

Gloria Hunniford, in a moving account of her daughter Caron's battle with breast cancer, told how she fell under the thrall of alternative therapists - some of whom were charlatans.

She resisted medication while "straddling two worlds - orthodox treatment and complementary" before dying two years ago at the age of 41.

Barry Sheene who rejected chemotherapy, saying he could beat the disease with a diet of vegetables and fruit juice, died at 52 from throat and stomach cancer.

Prof Waxman said patients often did not know what they were taking, as some herbal remedies have been doctored with drugs or dangerous ingredients, that have led to public health warnings.

He said: "Why not subject the alternative medicines industry to the level of scrutiny that defines pharmaceuticals?"

Currently alternative treatments are not subject to pharmaceutical testing because they are classified as food supplements.

But Prof Waxman said these products - which get hyped on Internet sites - should be reclassified as drugs because they are being marketed with claims for efficacy.

"These treatments may often delay the institution of conventional therapy" he warned, adding "the claims made by companies to support the sales of such products may be overtly and malignly incorrect."

He also attacked the way in which patients are put under pressure by the complementary therapy industry, which comes to a head when treatments don't work.

"The pressure there is on the patient who has failed to be cured by the shark cartilage - because sharks allegedly don't get cancer.

"The patients has failed, not the alternative therapy, and the patient has let down the alternative practitioner and disappointed his family who have encouraged his treatment" he added.

A recent study found patients who follow alternative therapies can spend almost 200 a month, he said.

He said the EU was paving the way to bring in legislation to better regulate the alternative medicine market, which has an estimated value of 250m a year in the UK alone.

He said: "We need to protect our patients from vile and cynical exploitation whose intellectual basis, at best, might be viewed as delusional."

Govt launches alternative medicine study


November 23, 2006 - 6:34PM

Herbal and other alternative medicines are about to be put to the test, with the federal government committing $5 million to determine whether they really work.

Australians spend about $1 billion each year on complementary medicines including vitamins, homeopathic medicines and traditional Asian and indigenous medicines.

But current regulations do not require manufacturers of many alternative medicines to prove they have any beneficial effect, only that they are safe.

Health Minister Tony Abbott said the government would provide $5 million, to be allocated through the National Health and Medical Research Council, for projects investigating the use and effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicines.

About 50 per cent of Australians use at least one non-prescribed complementary medicine.

Complementary medicines must be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Those the TGA considers high risk - based on the toxicity of ingredients, dosage, potential side-effects and whether the medicine is intended to treat a serious disease - have to prove they are effective and back up their claims with research.

Those considered low risk are tested only for their quality and safety.

The federal government last year announced a major overhaul of the regulatory regime for the complementary medicines industry to restore consumer confidence.

It was sparked by the mass recall of 1,600 complementary medicines and the eventual collapse of major supplier Pan Pharmaceuticals.

At the time, the government said it would review homeopathic and herbal medicines, raw herbs and other ingredients used in the production of medicinal compounds, and crack down on claims made about alternative medicines.

It planned to establish new guidelines to help verify claims and monitor them more stringently.

Earlier this year, an elderly Brisbane man died after swallowing 10,000 times the daily dose of an antioxidant recommended as an alternative prostate cancer treatment on the internet.

The 75-year-old man found websites discussing the benefits of selenium, an essential but highly toxic trace element found at low levels in seafood, grains and eggs and marketed as a health supplement in Australia.

But the man mistakenly purchased sodium selenite powder used primarily as a supplement for livestock, and suffered a cardiac arrest and died six hours after ingesting 10 grams.

Dr. Andrew Weil dispenses expert health advice at Distinguished Speakers event


By Stephanie Bertholdo bertholdo@theacorn.com

Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard trained physician, best selling author and world-renowned expert on healthy living, has been called an alternative medicine guru, but it's not a title he embraces.

A guru, in Weil's estimate, throws criticism out the window. Weil's pragmatic approach to medicine is critical, analytical, nuanced and, most of all, openminded.

The second guest in the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza's Distinguished Speakers lineup, Weil presented a stark evaluation of health and healthcare in America Nov. 14, but offered hope for what he believes is a healthcare system on the verge of collapse.

Weil operates the Weil Foundation in Arizona. The notforprofit foundation supports training, education and research in integrative medicine, a whole-person- mind, body, spirit-approach that combines natural, cost-effective healing techniques with traditional medicine.

The chasm between natural healing and the western medical treatment, however, is a vast philosophical divide according to Weil. Traditional Chinese medicine, Weil said, supports health, while the predominantly western approach focuses on treating disease.

"All of our efforts are on identifying agents of disease," Weil said. "We do almost nothing on the other side," he said of the lack of support for the body's natural resistance to promote healing.

Not all alternative therapies, herbal treatments and medicines are created equally. Weil said alternative medicine is a "mixed bag" and that some diagnoses, treatments and so-called cures range from being "silly" to "dangerous."

Conversely, proper alternative medicine capitalizes on the human body's natural ability to heal. "DNA knows if it's in danger," Weil said.

Antibiotics don't actually "cure" diseases, Weil said. Instead, they reduce the population of germs to allow the immune system to take over healing.

"It's not New Age woo-woo; it's biology," Weil said.

Weil wielded his harshest criticism on the American coach potato, fast food lifestyle. Poor eating habits, an addiction to highly refined, processed foods with little nutritional value, and lack of exercise has had a devastating impact on children, he said.

Childhood obesity has reached epidemic levels, Weil said, and as a result, record numbers of youngsters are now being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, the high blood sugar disorder that in previous generations appeared in adults. The prognosis is grim. A generation of children may make history as the first in America to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents, Weil said.

System disintegrating

Making matters worse is the U.S. healthcare system, which according to Weil is on the verge of collapse.

"Medicine was never meant to be practiced in a forprofit system," Weil said. Physicians, he said, need time to truly listen to patients. Weil said the physicianpatient relationship is so vital that taking enough time to hear a patient talk about all aspects of his or her life can initiate a healing response.

Managed care dictates sevenminute patient consultations-not nearly enough time for a doctor to make a proper evaluation, Weil said. Lifestyle, stress levels, relationships, exercise, eating habits and other factors must be considered before a doctor makes a diagnosis.

"Healthcare will be the No. 1 political issue," Weil said. Health insurance costs are rapidly rising, while benefits are being restricted. A large segment of the population can't even qualify for insurance, he said.

Hospitals are going bankrupt, Weil said, and diabetes clinics that offer proper, multifaceted care to patients lose money, but when a diabetic's leg is amputated, thousands of dollars in profits are made.

Integrative medicine

If and when healthcare in the United States collapses as Weil predicts, he believes integrative medicine will come to the rescue. "The system of integrative medicine is on a roll now. I'm quite confident this is the future."

Integrative healthcare will include cost effective-and sometimes free-healthcare. Weil advises using simple breathing exercises to promote stress reduction, lower blood pressure, cure digestive problems, reduce anxiety, and perhaps cure heart arrhythmias.

"If that alone was brought into mainstream medicine, we'd save money," Weil said.

Weil hopes alternative medical interventions will allow people to experience a "compression of morbidity"--long life and a quick death.

At the end of Weil's talk, people in the audience asked his opinion about vitamins, food choices, illnesses and other topics. He provided instruction on a simple breathing technique, and suggested meditation and yoga as healthy daily habits.

"Dr. Weil is just a wealth of knowledge," said Lara Barrett, an Oak Park resident. "He simplifies our hectic lifestyle and brings a healthy lifestyle down to simple terms."

Turkish book traces terror's origin to Darwin's theory



Posted online: Friday, November 24, 2006 at 0000 hrs IST

ISTANBUL, November 23

A LAVISHLY illustrated Atlas of Creation is mysteriously turning up at schools and libraries in Turkey, proclaiming that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is the real root of terrorism.

Arriving unsolicited by post, the large-format tome offers 768 glossy pages of photographs and easy-to-read text to prove that God created the world with all its species. At first sight, it looks like it could be the work of United States creationists who believe the world was created in six days as told in the Bible. But the author's name, Harun Yahya, reveals the surprise inside. This is Islamic creationism, a richly funded movement based in predominantly Muslim Turkey which has an influence US creationists could only dream of.

Aykut Kence, biology professor at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, said time for discussing evolution had been cut out of class schedules for the eighth grade this year. "The students will just learn there is a theory called evolution defended by Darwin back in the 19th century," he said.

Atlas of Creation carries a book-length essay arguing that Darwinism, by stressing the "survival of the fittest," has inspired racism, Nazism, communism and terrorism. "The root of the terrorism that plagues our planet is not any of the divine religions, but atheism, and the expression of atheism in our times (is) Darwinism and materialism," it says.

The driving force behind these books is a reclusive Islamic teacher named Adnan Oktar who over the past decade has published a flood of books under the pseudonym Harun Yahya, which is probably a pool of writers, has turned out over 200 books in Turkish and translated many of them into 51 languages. Nobody seems to know how all this is funded.

Robert Pennock Reportedly Confirms that All First-Quarter UCSD Freshmen Were Required To Attend His Lecture

Darwinist blogger Ed Brayton is reporting about a conversation with Robert Pennock, where it seems Pennock confirmed that all first quarter UCSD freshmen were required to attend his anti-ID lecture at UCSD last week. This corroborates my prior post reporting the same, based upon the fact that the home page of UCSD's main student website, Tritonlink, , "All first-quarter freshmen are required to attend the event..." Brayton wrote:

When I was in San Francisco last weekend, I was accompanied by my MCFS colleague Rob Pennock. While I flew home on Sunday, Rob was flying instead to San Diego where he was to give an address to all of the incoming freshmen at UCSD. His address was part of what the university calls their Convocation Series, where each quarter a different prominent scholar is invited to speak. The speech is free, but all incoming freshmen from that quarter are required to attend the address in order to introduce them to a variety of scholarly viewpoints.

Also, as a clarification, when I wrote that, "Since 1998, Michael Behe, Phillip Johnson, Jonathan Wells, William Dembski, and Paul Nelson have all spoken at the University of California at San Diego," it should be noted that each of those lectures were organized by student clubs on the UCSD campus, and were not organized by the UCSD administration.

Posted by Casey Luskin on November 23, 2006 1:07 AM | Permalink

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


a press release from Jon-Erik Beckjord

Press Release -- For Immediate Release

(These are absolutely not hoaxed nor faked. No Photoshop, only 35mm film.)

After quality printing and enhancement, a Bigfoot photo taken 9/27/06 on an expedition in CA can now be shown.

Bigfoot was photographed while unseen in High Sierras of CA, when members of a camping trip encountered screams by a possible Bigfoot in response to "Call blasting" of other bigfoot screams, and found several old Bigfoot tracks. However, during a walk around the other side of a pond at the El Dorado National Forest Site (between Stockton and Lake Tahoe), Jon-Erik Beckjord investigated a spot where girlfriend Chris Pitts had seen a brief flash of what seemed like Bigfoot from the previous day, and while standing there, took several photos of the campsite looking across the pond. In two photos in 35mm color, using a pocket camera, there appears to be a Bigfoot creature standing by a camp vehicle, looking back at the camera. A head, torso, and a well-muscled arm are visible.

Also, many people are able to see a male organ on the creature in the photo. (Note -- there was a tent rope to the tree, on which a pair of white shorts were drying. Also the tent rope supported a blue tarp. Let there be no absurd comments about the drying shorts, they had nothing to do with the creature but they did obscure part of the abdomen.) The head has a strong and wide nose. In one shot, Ms. Pitts is standing 30 feet away and in the other, she is not visible. The film was 200 ASA Kodak color print film. Shot 5 was normal view, and shot 6 was telephoto. Beckjord, the photographer, did not see the creature, some 200 feet away, as often happens at this site during previous expeditions. Assuming the car is 5.5 ft in height, the creature looks to be about 10 ft. For some reason, these creatures feel safer when men are out of the camp area, such as across a creek or pond, at least 200 feet away. (Perhaps they are traumatized by deer hunters with rifles, and are cautious.) In any case, they are more timid than chimps at Gombe Stream, where Dr. Jane Goodall did her research. Dr. Goodall has stated several times that she feels there is a possibility that such large primates as these may inhabit North America.

Several biologists have viewed the image, and one has been willing to make a limited statement. Dr. Thomas Tomasi of SW Missouri State Univ., says that it looks to him like "a large unidentified primate." People on the street, of all backgrounds, from doctors to clerks, say: "What's that big monkey?"

Queries can be made at 510-878-2468 with email rudyrudy3@comcast.net

Former images from other years may be seen at www.beckjord.com/bigfoottribephotos

The BIRO website is 30 years at this research. www.bigfoot.org/

Other expeditions are planned for other parts of the US, depending on how many sign up. See www.beckjord.com/bigfoot/expeditions.html

Photo is (c) 2006 Jon-Erik Beckjord but press can have one-time use at no charge.

Contact info: Jon-Erik Beckjord, (Berkeley MBA) (Eagle Scout) 510-878-2468, 510-575-5887 (cell)

VISIT Beckjord's website for more photos: www.beckjord.com/bigfoot/septexpedition.html

Harvard team finds evolution occurs in months


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Christopher Lee / Washington Post

Evolution can be seen in months rather than eons, according to a new study.

A team of evolutionary biologists, led by Jonathan Losos of Harvard University, observed significant physical changes in populations of Anolis sagrei lizards less than a year after predators were introduced to the tiny islands in the Bahamas where the lizards live.

The researchers introduced the predators, also lizards, on six small islands, while leaving six other islands free of them. Anolis sagrei lizards spend most of their time on the ground, but when a new predator arrives on the scene, they retreat to trees and shrubs. Researchers figured that, at first, longer-legged lizards were the ones most likely to make it to the trees and elude predators. But natural selection also suggested that, once the species made its home in the trees, lizards with shorter limbs would be favored, since they can more easily climb through narrow branches and twigs.

Sure enough, after six months, the Anolis sagrei lizard population on the islands with the new predators had dwindled by more than half, and those that survived tended to have longer legs than lizards on islands without predators. Six months after that, the lizards on the predator islands had shorter legs than their counterparts.

The findings, published in last week's issue of Science, illustrate that the behavioral flexibility of animals can lead to rapid shifts in evolution -- and that scientists can test and observe such shifts. They also can help scientists understand the origins of biological diversity.

Creation vs Charles Darwin takes Muslim twist in Turkey


Reuters Wednesday, November 22, 2006 21:16 IST

A lavishly illustrated 'Atlas of Creation' is mysteriously turning up at schools and libraries in Turkey, proclaiming that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is the real root of terrorism.

Arriving unsolicited by post, the large-format tome offers 768 glossy pages of photographs and easy-to-read text to prove that God created the world with all its species. At first sight, it looks like it could be the work of United States creationists, the Christian fundamentalists who believe the world was created in six days as told in the Bible.

But the author's name, Harun Yahya, reveals the surprise inside. This is Islamic creationism, a richly-funded movement based in predominantly Muslim Turkey which has an influence US creationists could only dream of. Creationism is so widely accepted here that Turkey placed last in a recent survey of public acceptance of evolution in 34 countries just behind the United States.

"Darwinism is dead," said Kerim Balci of the Fethullah Gulen network, a moderate Islamic movement with many publications and schools.

Scientists say pious Muslims in the government, which has its roots in political Islam, are trying to push Turkish education away from its traditionally secular approach. Aykut Kence, biology professor at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, said time for discussing evolution had been cut out of class schedules for the eighth grade this year.

"The students will just learn there is a theory called evolution defended by Darwin back in the 19th century," he said. "However, views of Islamic thinkers from the Middle Ages about evolution and creation have been included."

Like the Bible, the Koran says God made the world in six days and fashioned the first man, Adam, from dust. Other details vary but the idea is roughly the same. But unlike in the West, evolution theory has not undermined the traditional creation story for many Muslims.

Atlas of Creation offers over 500 pages of splendid images comparing fossils with present-day animals to argue that Allah created all life as it is and evolution never took place. Then comes a book-length essay arguing that Darwinism, by stressing the "survival of the fittest," has inspired racism, Nazism, communism and terrorism. "The root of the terrorism that plagues our planet is not any of the divine religions, but atheism, and the expression of atheism in our times (is) Darwinism and materialism," it says.

One Istanbul school unexpectedly received three copies recently. "It's very well done, with magnificent photos a very stylish tool of creationist propaganda," said the headmaster.

Welcome to New Evolution News & Views Contributor, Larry Caldwell


We would like to welcome our newest addition to the Evolution News & Views reporting team, Larry Caldwell. Mr. Caldwell is a parent and attorney in Roseville, California. He is also president of Quality Science Education for All (QSEA), a non-profit organization which has advocated for quality science education policies in the Roseville school district to guarantee that science will not be taught dogmatically and that teachers will "help students analyze the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories, including the theory of evolution." Under Larry's leadership, QSEA has been involved in a lawsuit to end Establishment Clause violations by Darwinists who are using taxpayer money to promote pro-Darwinian theology via the Understanding Evolution website. More information can be found at QSEA.org.

Larry will be occasionally reporting here to keep readers apprised of his activities and comment on issues related to the teaching of evolution. His kickoff-post recounts a biology professor who e-mailed QSEA, impersonating either a creationist or a Darwinist.

Posted by Casey Luskin on November 21, 2006 12:59 PM | Permalink

German Scientists Discover Three New Primate Species


Scientists from Germany have discovered three new species of tiny primates in inaccessible mountains of Madagascar, they said Wednesday at a Hanover veterinary college.

The mouse lemurs, as the name suggests, are related to monkeys but no larger than mice.

The research, to be described in the next issue of the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, shows that animals, which look identical to other previously known lemurs, are in fact three new species.

A team led by Gillian Olivieri spent 14 months studying wildlife in the area. At 12 to 17 centimetres, the tails of the lemurs are longer than their 10-centimetre bodies. They sleep all day in nests or hollow trunks and hunt insects and fruit at night.

Genetic jot that makes us unique

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2466842,00.html#cid=OTC-RSS&attr=World The Times November 23, 2006

Mark Henderson, Science Editor

Humans are less alike than thought

Chimps are not such close relatives

The genetic differences between individual human beings are much greater than was previously thought, according to research that offers a fresh explanation for the unique physical and psychological characteristics of every person.

A revolutionary map that compared the genomes of 270 people has shown that humans are not 99.9 per cent genetically identical as assumed, but that much more of our DNA varies between one person and the next.

Whereas previous analysis of the human genome had suggested that no more than 0.1 per cent of it underlaid all the genetic differences between individuals, the new findings indicate that at least three times more DNA actually varies.

The results reveal a new category of genetic diversity that promises to explain certain inherited disorders, and why some people are more susceptible to diseases or respond badly to particular drugs.

The work could be especially significant for HIV/Aids, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and developmental disorders similar to Down's syndrome, which can all be affected by the newly identified disparities. The extra variation also expands the ways in which a person's DNA profile can affect temperament and behaviour, and points to previously unknown genetic differences between Homo sapiens and our closest animal relative, the chimpanzee.

Just as humans seem to be 0.3 per cent genetically different from one another, and not 0.1 per cent, so we may be 3 per cent and not 1 per cent different from chimps, scientists behind the study say.

Charles Lee, of Harvard Medical School, a leader of the research, said: "The evidence shows that we are more genetically unique, compared to one another. That is gratifying in a way. We are all physically different, and we all react differently to environmental stimuli and to drugs.

"We are also finding evidence that could help to explain why humans are not chimps. We can safely say that there's a lot more genetic variation between the human genome and the chimp genome than was appreciated."

The first studies of the human genome, which was mapped five years ago, reached the figure of 0.1 per cent variation between individuals by looking at changes in single DNA "letters" known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs. Similar studies put the genetic difference between humans and chimps at about 1 per cent of DNA.

This surprisingly low genetic variation led many scientists to wonder how so little DNA could be responsible for such significant differences as those between individual humans, and between humans and other animals.

The new research offers an answer: the old estimates were incomplete. It has expanded the range of variation by looking also at much larger segments of genetic code, which can be repeated many times or deleted entirely from the genome.

While most people have two copies of each gene, one inherited from each parent, some genes or fragments of genes can be absent altogether, or repeated five or ten times over in certain individuals. These changes, known as copy number variation (CNV), sometimes have no obvious effects, but they can influence disease or other aspects of human development.

An international research team has now mapped the genome for CNV, encompassing genetic changes of 500 or more DNA letters.

Their results, published today in the journal Nature, show that 12 per cent of the human genome is susceptible to such variation. Not all these possible changes will separate any two individuals, but scientists think that their genomes will usually vary by about 0.3 per cent.

Matthew Hurles, of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, in Hinxton, Cambridgeshire, a leader of the research, said: "The variation that researchers had seen before was simply the tip of the iceberg, while the bulk lay submerged, undetected."

Copyright 2006 Times Newspapers Ltd.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Best Science Show on Television?


November 21, 2006 By JOHN SCHWARTZ

ALAMEDA, Calif. "This is where we blow stuff up."

Jamie Hyneman who, to be honest, did not actually use the word "stuff" stood in front of a two-story, blast-resistant ruin of a building at the back of the former Alameda Point Naval Air Station.

Mr. Hyneman and his colleague, Adam Savage, are the hosts of "Mythbusters" on the Discovery Channel. It may be the best science program on television, in no small part because it does not purport to be a science program at all. What "Mythbusters" is best known for, to paraphrase Mr. Hyneman, is blowing stuff up. And banging stuff together. And setting stuff on fire. The two men do it for fun and ratings, of course. But in a subtle and goofily educational way, they commit mayhem for science's sake.

As the name implies, the program tests what the creators call myths, hypotheses taken from folklore, history, movies, the Internet and urban legends. Can a skunk's smell can be neutralized with tomato juice? Did the Confederacy come up with a two-stage rocket that could strike Washington from Richmond, Va.? Can a sunken ship be raised with Ping-Pong balls? Could a car stereo be so loud that it would blow out the windows?

Mr. Hyneman and Mr. Savage, who produce Hollywood special effects and gadgets for a living, come up with ways to challenge each thesis and build experiments with a small crew. If fire and explosions or, say, rotting pig carcasses happen to be involved, well, that's entertainment.

What they came here to do on a clear and crisp October morning, with San Francisco posing magnificently across the bay, was set the Hindenburg on fire. Three Hindenburgs, actually, to address a debate over what actually doomed the hydrogen-filled zeppelin on May 6, 1937, in Lakehurst, N.J. Hydrogen, of course, is highly flammable and was the obvious culprit in the disaster.

But a counterargument had arisen that the doping paint used to toughen the craft's skin of fabric contained aluminum powder and other materials that combined to resemble an explosive called thermite. That, the theory goes, made the fabric as combustible as rocket fuel.

To test the theory, the "Mythbusters" crew built three 1/50-scale models over three days. Two had re-creations of the skin on the original craft, and a third well, we'll get to that one.

The three members of the "build team," Tory Belleci, Kari Byron and Grant Imahara, were not on the set the day of the shoot, but a small video team was. Cameras captured the action from several angles. Mr. Savage had also placed one camera on the ground, facing up toward the mini-blimp, with tiny models of people placed nearby to mimic the newsreel scenes.

It was time to make a disaster happen. Mr. Hyneman stood by an open door of the building to manipulate a long pole with a gas torch that he used to ignite the mini-zeppelin, which was more than 10 feet long, hanging inside. Mr. Savage pinballed between peeking through the door and sitting under a canopy outside watching video monitors.

The first blimp, not filled with hydrogen, burned slowly at its tail end for a minute and a half and then foomph! Fire raced along its length in just a few seconds. Mr. Savage shouted, "Oh, my God, look how fast it's going!"

"Say it again," the sound man said, moving in closer.

"Oh, my God, look how fast it's going through the top!" Mr. Savage exclaimed again. And then, as if forgetting that the camera was still rolling, added softly, "It's so beautiful."

After just two minutes, the spidery frame had been denuded, and acrid smoke poured from the open doors of the building. On the monitors, the replay eerily recalled the old newsreel footage.

It might not have turned out that way, of course. Part of what makes the show compelling for so many viewers is its unpredictability. "Once you get it going, whatever it does is what it does," Mr. Hyneman said.

But, he said, "Whether we get what we expected or not, any result is a good result even if it's that we're idiots."

"Failure," Mr. Savage said, "is always an option."

Their delight in discovery for its own sake is familiar to most scientists, who welcome any result because it either confirms or debunks a hypothesis. That sense of things can be corrupted when grants or licensing deals are on the line. But the Mythbusters get paid whether their experiments succeed or fail.

The show, which has been on the air since October 2003, may be wacky, but Mr. Hyneman and Mr. Savage employ thinking and processes that are grounded in scientific method. They come up with a hypothesis and test it methodically. After research and experimentation, they might determine that they have "busted" a myth or confirmed it, or they might simply deem it "plausible" but not proved.

It is the kind of logical system of evidence-based conclusions that scientists understand but that others can sometimes find difficult to grasp. And so "Mythbusters" fans say the show has hit on a great way of teaching the process of scientific discovery.

David Wallace, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at M.I.T., praises the program for "getting people interested in engineering, technology and how things work."

Dr. Wallace has sparred in a friendly way with Mr. Hyneman and Mr. Savage over Archimedes' "death ray," sunlight reportedly focused with mirrors by the ancient Greeks and used to burn ships in a harbor. The Mythbusters declared the death ray "busted" in 2004 after they were unable to start a fire with their version; Dr. Wallace and his class said they proved it plausible by burning a mock-up ship in 2005.

The "Mythbusters" group invited Dr. Wallace and his students to California to revisit the question under more rigorous conditions for an episode that ran earlier this year. Dr. Wallace's group failed to ignite a real boat in the water at a distance of 150 feet, but did get it to ignite at 75 feet.

"I don't think the ruling on a given myth is all that important," Dr. Wallace said. "It is more about being curious and trying to figure things out."

Another fan, Eric Sherman, a salesman in Chino Hills, Calif., said he used the show to help his children, ages 5 to 9, "value the scientific method and value thinking skills."

Recently, when the children came home troubled because a playmate had told them she had a ghost in her room, Mr. Sherman turned the conversation into a lesson. "What would the Mythbusters do?" he asked.

Mr. Hyneman, however, insists that he and the "Mythbusters" team "don't have any pretense of teaching science." His wife, he noted, is a science teacher, and he knows how difficult that profession is. "If we tried to teach science," he said, "the shows probably wouldn't be successful."

"If people take away science from it," Mr. Hyneman said, "it's not our fault." But if the antics inspire people to dig deeper into learning, he said, "that's great."

Science teachers know a good thing when they see one, however: Mr. Hyneman and Mr. Savage were invited to speak at the annual convention of the National Science Teachers Association in March, and the California Science Teachers Association named Mr. Savage and Mr. Hyneman honorary lifetime members in October.

Back at the former air station, hydrogen was flowing through the second mini-zeppelin, and what happened left little doubt about the original disaster. The flaming gas blew the top out of the zeppelin and flowed upward in a sight even more chillingly reminiscent of the Lakehurst newsreels. The burn took half as long as the first. The hydrogen also appeared to have raised the temperature of the fire, causing more thermite reactions seen as brilliant white sparks than in the first test.

"The hydrogen's helping," Mr. Savage said. "To say that the hydrogen played no significant role is idiotic."

He and Mr. Hyneman, standing next to a charred frame, quickly improvised dialogue for the cameras over a half-dozen takes. As far as they were concerned, the myth that the paint alone caused the tragedy was disproved, not just because of the appearance of the blaze but also because of its timing.

"It's busted," Mr. Savage said of the myth. Mr. Hyneman added, however, that "the cloth did have something to do with it."

Mr. Hyneman would be instantly recognizable to anyone who watches the show. He is a study in manly fussiness, with the brushy mustache and the beret, the stylish eyeglasses and the immaculate white shirt over a black long-sleeve T-shirt, and the heavy work boots. His puckish colleague wore a leather jacket over a black T-shirt that read "Am I missing an eyebrow?" a comment he made in an early episode after wayward pyrotechnics singed him.

They are buddy-movie mismatched, the straight man and the goofy guy, Superego and Id, Martin and Lewis. On the wall at Mr. Hyneman's company, M5 Industries, a sign expresses his own forcefully precise and orderly nature: "Clean up or die."

"When we work together, he's generally leaving a wake of destruction in his path," Mr. Hyneman grumbled. "Considering it's my shop and my equipment, it's irritating."

They are, in fact, so different that Mr. Hyneman said, "We don't even like each other." Although they have worked together for 13 years, they don't socialize: "We don't hang out with each other any more than we have to."

At the same time, he said, their differences allow them to approach each problem from a different perspective. "I find myself feeling out of balance or awkward without him there to bounce things off of," he said.

The third Hindenburg experiment would theoretically test the notion that the original craft's fabric had been treated with a thermite-like substance. The crew had mixed about 15 pounds of actual thermite, which is highly explosive, into the fabric.

For this test, no one was allowed near the building. Yellowish brown smoke billowed out and tore at throats and burned eyes. On the monitors, the flames were blindingly bright. White sparks were thrown far and wide. It was all over in moments.

The purpose of the third burn aside from an excuse to have a truly awesome conflagration was to suggest what the Hindenburg might have looked like if the chemicals used to coat its skin had actually been thermite instead of a chemical cousin. "The skin of the Hindenburg was not coated in 100 pounds of thermite," Mr. Hyneman said. Mr. Savage watched the replay again. "Dude, there's no doubt that does not look like the Hindenburg."

The sun was setting as they finished the day's shoot. Mr. Savage's face was smudged, and both men seemed exhausted. Mr. Hyneman and Mr. Savage set fire to the remaining tub of thermite paint for the cameras, and then the crew packed up.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Hyneman said that he sometimes worried about "glorifying explosions," which could send the wrong message to young and impressionable viewers. "If I had my druthers, we wouldn't be blowing stuff up," he said.

Mr. Savage appeared behind him. "But then we wouldn't have a show," he said with a cackle, and darted away.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

More from behind the scenes of the Australian/U.S. creationism schism at Answers in Genesis


Monday, November 20, 2006

More information has just come out about the split between the Kentucky-based Answers in Genesis and the Australia-based Creation Ministries International. (UPDATED for clarification: CMI is composed of organizations from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada which were all formerly united with the Kentucky group under the Answers in Genesis name. The Australian group was the Creation Science Foundation prior to the association of the groups under the Answers in Genesis name.) CMI has published a number of documents on its web site about the split. These documents, which I'll describe below, make the case that the U.S. group has acted in bad faith to appropriate for itself many of the resources of the Australian group, as well as to put it into an untenable position of being potentially liable for certain actions of the U.S. group without getting any financial benefits. These documents, on a website headed with tomorrow's date (today in Australia, where it's currently afternoon), were pointed out in comments on my blog post by "JaneD" (presumably the D is for "Doe"), who appears to have set up a new blogger account to bring the information to public attention.

This split, which I pointed out on my blog back in March 2006, along with some financial data about the U.S. group and some speculation about the causes, occurred in late 2005. In that post, I noted that certain information critical of other creationists (and convicted tax evader Kent Hovind in particular) had been removed from the U.S. group's site. A brochure from the CMI suggested that a difference of approach, including ethical considerations, was the primary reason for the split:

The AiG website was developed in the US and hosted there. It was largely dependent for its intellectual content on the scientists and thinkers in the parent corporation, in particular such as Dr Don Batten, Dr Jonathan Sarfati, and Dr Carl Wieland. These and other writers were heavily contributing to the site until late 2005/early 2006, when the US ministry withdrew themselves from the international ministry group (with the exception of the UK) with an expressed desire to operate autonomously, without e.g. website content being subject to an international representative system of checks/balances/peer review involving all the other offices bearing the same 'brand name'.

At that time, in the midst of discussions about this and other differences in operating philosophy (not involving the statement of faith or similar), the Australian office was formally invited to form its own website. This required a new name to avoid confusion.

The four national ministries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa) which were committed to continuing their focus and operational ^Qteam^R philosophy, and to continuing to forge and strengthen a representative international ministry alliance structure (based on Proverbs 11:14), then rebranded as Creation Ministries International (CMI).

The Australian group has long had a policy of publishing material critical of bad creationist work, and its journals have occasionally published some excellent debunkings of standard creationist arguments, such as the shrinking sun and moon dust arguments for a young earth. This apparently was considered by the U.S. group to be bad for business. (UPDATE: This was indeed a major issue in the dispute which led to the split. The Australian organization wanted more international control over the content of material to be distributed internationally, in the form of an international committee with votes weighted based on the size and seniority of the organization. The U.S. organization rejected this proposal, reserving most of the power to itself.)

Roger Stanyard has proposed that the Australian methodology was not actually peer review, but a form of shakedown against creationist authors who didn't toe the group's party line. He attributes the breakdown to the handling of Dennis Petersen's book, Unlocking the Mysteries, which was making money for Answers in Genesis but was criticized by the Australians. While I agree that the Australians' peer review was less-than-stellar (in what it let pass through uncritically), my interactions with the leadership of that group lead me to believe that they are honest and ethical in their behavior (though wrong in their beliefs). (UPDATE: The removal of material criticizing the Petersen book from the Answers in Genesis website occurred after the split. Stanyard appears to base his account on John Mackay, a source of highly dubious quality.)

The new information on CMI's website consists of the following:

1. A letter dated November 15, 2006 (PDF), from CMI to Answers in Genesis setting forth their complaint about a November 1, 2006 letter from Answers in Genesis to the general public, which CMI considers defamatory.

2. An email of November 21, 2006, alerting a number of people to the previous item, which had so far been ignored.

3. A summary of an October 2005 memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Australian and U.S. groups setting forth the conditions of their separation, explaining how it disadvantages the Australian group and why the Australian group's management attempted to reject and renegotiate it.

4. A section of the "Deed of Copyright License" (PDF) signed by the directors of both groups, with comments pointing out its unreasonable terms.

5. A promise of a future PDF document setting forth a chronology of the relevant events.

As near as I can tell, the documents on the website suggest that the directors of the Australian group were induced to fly to the United States and sign the memorandum of agreement setting forth the terms of the separation of the groups without the knowledge of the management of the Australian group (e.g., Carl Wieland and the Australian staff). The MOA, drafted by the U.S. group's attorneys, set terms for the separation that were entirely favorable to the U.S. group. The Australian group's directors who signed the document then resigned en masse, under the condition that they be given indemnity for their actions--the letter suggests that they were in breach of their fiduciary duties to the Australian group for signing the agreements. (UPDATE: These Australian directors--John Thallon, Greg Peacock, Jim Kitson, and David Denner--asked for indemnity for their actions in return for their resignations after consulting with an attorney. Thallon then moved to Kentucky and is on the board of the U.S. group.)

The description of the MOA states that it gives perpetual license for all articles published by the Australian group's magazine and journal to the U.S. group, including the right to modify the articles and change the names of the authors, including a false statement that the authors had given permission for this. If anyone sues the U.S. group for copyright infringement, the Australian group agrees to pay all costs. All fees and costs for items are set unilaterally by the U.S. group, which the U.S. group has used to increase fees charged to the Australian group for materials (such as DVDs) by up to three times. The domain name answersingenesis.com, an asset of the Australian group, was transferred to the U.S. group, apparently without compensation.

Upon learning of these onerous terms, the Australian management attempted to reject the MOA and requested renegotiation of terms, to no avail; the U.S. group has refused to allow the participation of Carl Wieland in any negotiation.

In short, it looks like this was a struggle over money and control, with the Australian group out-maneuvered by the U.S. group. If the information in these documents is accurate--and I am inclined to believe that it is--it shows that Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis is as sleazy in its business dealings as it is in its misrepresentations of science.

I'll be digging further into this story... watch this blog for updates.

UPDATE (November 21, 2006): I've been informed by Carl Wieland that the page of documents on the website was not supposed to have been made available through the website, but only as individual items for recipients of the email referenced above as item 2 (and given below). The main page and several of the other items are no longer at the locations I had linked to, but I've updated the links based on the below email. Wieland has declined to comment on the actions or motivation of AiG, and expressed a desire to avoid anything that would be used "to smear all creation ministry in general."

The following is the text of that email:

Clarification re innuendo about CMI in email/letter from AiG-USA.

Sent 21 November 2006

From: the Board of Creation Ministries International (CMI)-publishers of Creation magazine (still available in the USA) and the Journal of Creation (formerly TJ) in Brisbane, Australia.

Dear colleague in creation outreach

We write this with considerable sadness. You are likely aware that there are some tensions between the ministries of CMI and AiG that go back some two years or so. We had hoped to be able to settle these peacefully, despite our ministry having suffered significant tangible losses at AiG's hands. We have repeatedly but unsuccessfully tried to get AiG to meet openly with all of us, or failing that, to have both our ministries submit to binding Christian arbitration to see things done justly.

We believe we have acted with considerable restraint in our public comments thus far, despite seriously provocative actions. These include substantial commercial ruthlessness against our ministry as part of what increasingly has the hallmarks of some sort of vendetta. Nevertheless, we have kept the details very quiet for a very long time, not wishing to cause harm or escalation, and hoping for 'peace with honour'.

A most unfortunate and unfair email

Unfortunately, a number of people have contacted us just now, saying they have received a brief email from AiG-USA's chairman (which we have seen) that casts serious slurs against our ministry. In effect, it engages in widespread public slander.

The email alleges that we have engaged in 'unbiblical' and 'factious' behaviour (a word applied in the NT to those who introduce doctrines contrary to the Gospel, and translated as 'heretic' in the KJV). This is an immensely serious and damaging allegation against an evangelical ministry and one that has not been substantiated, and is totally without foundation; our ministry's doctrine has not changed one iota, either in word or in practice.

The email also hints darkly at a 'spiritual problem' as a justification for their breaking off discussions with us. It also refers to a letter the AiG-Board sent us on November 1 to that effect, saying that that letter is available to enquirers upon request. That letter was essentially an expansion of their shorter email; it repeatedly affirmed their own righteousness, and that they were breaking off negotiations until we resolved our 'spiritual problems'. These 'problems' are not specified, which darkens the innuendo ('What? Who?').

Dismayed by this turn of events, we prepared a detailed response that was emailed to each of the Directors on AiG-USA's Board, on 15 November 2006. It outlined and clarified the issues in detail. In it we also pleaded for AiG to urgently withdraw from this action, giving them three days to respond-i.e. to contact us, to make some move to draw back from this abyss, to avoid us making our response public. We have received no response or acknowledgement from AiG, even to this date, some six days later.

Worldwide libel distribution

The same AiG email defaming our ministry has also been sent out by an Australian creationist running his own ministry, who had split with Ken Ham in 1986 (this man had been excommunicated by an Australian church, a still unresolved issue-see www.CreationOnTheWeb.com/mackay for Ken Ham's own words about the seriousness of these actions against our ministry and an individual at that time). So this defamation has been sent to a substantial worldwide email mailing list, which would include overlap with many of our own supporters. This AiG email was clearly sent to that 'distribution source' by AiG; the covering comments state that 'Ken Ham advises', and refer to AiG's permission for the recipient to spread it still further.

(The aim appears to be to encourage as many people as possible to lose confidence in our ministry, and of course AiG will have a commercial 'bonus' in that the more that are encouraged to 'enquire', the more email addresses they will have, making it easier to further undermine CMI ministry in this country.)

We deeply regret that AiG/Ken Ham have seen fit to engage in this most serious escalation. Even in the face of this defamation, our overwhelming preference would have been to have had AiG respond to our urgent letter, to continue talks in openness and light as the Scriptures enjoin us to do rather than for us to have to publically stand against the libel.

In the absence of any evidence of remorse or willingness to undo this most recent and grave public attempt to damage us, we solemnly, before the Lord, believe we now have no choice but to protect the public reputation of the ministry organisation that has been entrusted to us, in as dignified and God-honoring a way as we can.

So we have chosen in the first instance to provide, within this email, a website link (below) to the full text of our formal 15 November response to AiG, which should substantially clarify CMI's position.

Of course, we do not know who all the many folk to whom AiG's defamatory comments have been emailed are, or how many times it has multiplied on the internet. So we are sending this email you are reading to the following:

1) To any who actually enquire of us.

2) To our corporation's members (an outer layer of protection which holds the directors accountable), our staff and our volunteer workers/speakers, local reps, etc.

3) To the management of our four national affiliates (CMI offices in Canada, NZ, US and South Africa, as well as affiliates in the UK) for providing to their staff, so that they will be able to answer these allegations as they inevitably spread. Sadly, some mud always sticks, especially when it comes from a 'big name'.

4) To those we know of who are involved in creation outreach of any sort, since we are aware that at least some of these have been targeted with this AiG email and previous ones.

5) To any (including those within AiG itself) that we have reason to believe have been contacted by AiG with similar intent and have likely received similarly misleading statements and views.

The link

Our letter of response to AiG is reproduced at this link on our site, www.CreationOnTheWeb.com/dispute

If you did not receive the AiG email, we ask for your compassionate understanding of the dilemma we were facing; we know from those who have already contacted us that it went out widely to creationists, but do not know exactly who did and didn't receive it.

This sorry development will bring shame on the Name of our Lord and Saviour, and give cause for the enemies of God to gloat. Would you please consider committing these matters, which also have the potential do damage to creation ministry in general (even more than has already occurred), to prayer.

Yours very sincerely in Christ,

The Board of Creation Ministries International Ltd. (Australia)

Mr. Kerry Boettcher (Chairman)
Mrs. Carolyn McPherson (Vice-Chairman)
Dr. Carl Wieland, M.B., B.S. (Managing Director)
Dr. Dave Christie, B.Com, M.Admin, Ph.D., FAICD, FIMC (Director)
Mr. Fang, Chang Sha B.Sc (hons), M.Sc. (Director)
Rev. Dr. Don Hardgrave, B.D, M.A., D.B.S., Dip. Theol, Dip. R.E. (Director)

UPDATE (November 21, 2006): I have inserted a number of minor clarifications and updates throughout the above text.

Creation Ministries International has a USA branch now, in Atlanta, Georgia, to ensure distribution of its materials in the United States. This means that they will be competing for dollars with Answers in Genesis of Kentucky.

UPDATE: The link above regarding defamatory material from John Mackay and background information about Mackay was a broken link that has now been corrected, and I've devoted a separate post to this issue. The information there shows why Mackay left the Creation Science Foundation in 1987, and raises concern about Mackay's image being rehabilitated without having retracted the charges that he brought in the past. Mackay has now been attacking Creation Ministries International and siding with Ham and Answers in Genesis in the dispute--Answers in Genesis must be questioning whether having Mackay as a friend is a benefit. posted by Jim Lippard at 8:31 PM

Used wisely, therapies can offer hope



Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2006

As a group, people with cancer have expressed more interest in, and use of, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) than perhaps any other class of patient. As it relates to cancer treatment, CAM encompasses a wide variety of therapies that traditionally have been considered outside mainstream oncology care -- everything from acupuncture and herbal supplements to meditation and macrobiotic diets, among other things.

CAM's popularity among cancer patients is understandable. A cancer diagnosis is a life-changing -- and frequently a life-threatening -- event. Often, it involves a loss of control over many aspects of life. The decision to use certain CAM modalities, such as meditation or choice of a diet, may allow a patient to regain some of the control turned over to doctors during treatment.

Cancer treatment also can have profound effects on quality of life. Patients may experience hair loss, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, severe pain and other side effects. Certain CAM modalities -- such as acupuncture for chemotherapy-induced nausea -- may effectively address quality of life issues without relying further on medications.

Finally, there's the issue of hope, which can be an important ingredient in a person's struggle against cancer. By utilizing CAM, a cancer patient may be holding out hope that a particular herb, vitamin or supplement may be the missing piece of the puzzle in the search for a cure.

There are many sound reasons why a cancer patient would seek out complementary and alternative therapies in a struggle with cancer. However, the use of CAM in cancer can be very complicated, and should be approached with caution. The science supporting many CAM therapies is either in its infancy or doesn't yet exist. Further, many seemingly innocuous treatments may have significant effects (sometimes negative) on a patient's conventional treatment regimen. The herb St. John's Wort, for example, may blunt the potency of certain kinds of chemotherapy. High doses of antioxidants -- for example, vitamin C or co-enzyme Q10 -- may decrease the effectiveness of radiation therapy.

Here are some general guidelines for patients interested in CAM therapies and cancer treatment:

First, be an educated consumer. The media often hype new studies about this or that diet or supplement and its effect on cancer. It's rare that a single study is sufficient evidence to recommend a change in practice. Look to reputable sources, such as the National Cancer Institute's Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (www.cancer.gov/cam), for what the scientific evidence says about various CAM modalities.

Second, talk openly with your physicians. Many experienced physicians trained at a time when CAM either did not exist or was considered nonsense. Despite this, many are becoming more open to CAM because their patients are demanding it and because the science behind it is improving. It is important, for the reasons mentioned above, that your physician know whether you are using CAM.

Third, seek out experts. If you're interested in exploring the use of herbs or other modalities as an adjunct to your treatment, ask around and find the experts in your area. A naturopathic doctor, for example, is a specialist in the use of nutrition and diet in the treatment of medical disease. Others may be nonphysicians, but many are tremendous resources for information about complementary treatment of cancer.

Fourth, be extremely cautious with herbs and other supplements. While some may indeed boost immune function or help control the side effects of treatment, others can render chemotherapy or radiation treatments less effective. Do not use these without expert guidance.

Fifth, pursue good nutrition, not a fad diet. Adequate calories and protein are two of the most important dietary needs for cancer patients. And although a recent study demonstrated that a low-fat diet may help prevent recurrence of breast cancer in women who have had the disease, there's no overwhelming evidence that any particular kind of diet changes the course of cancer. Your best bet is a nutritious, well-rounded diet with a variety of foods. If you're concerned about toxins in your food, you may want to consider buying organic produce and meats, although prices are usually higher.

Finally, cultivate balance between your mind and body. Utilizing mind-body therapies, such as meditation, tai chi, yoga and other techniques, can reduce anxiety, improve mood and even decrease pain. These therapies are generally safe, can be practiced at any time and can significantly improve quality of life.

Dr. Seth Torregiani practices holistic medicine, osteopathic manipulative medicine and acupuncture in Newark.

A Free-for-All on Science and Religion



Maybe the pivotal moment came when Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, warned that "the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief," or when a Nobelist in chemistry, Sir Harold Kroto, called for the John Templeton Foundation to give its next $1.5 million prize for "progress in spiritual discoveries" to an atheist Richard Dawkins, the Oxford evolutionary biologist whose book "The God Delusion" is a national best-seller.

Or perhaps the turning point occurred at a more solemn moment, when Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and an adviser to the Bush administration on space exploration, hushed the audience with heartbreaking photographs of newborns misshapen by birth defects testimony, he suggested, that blind nature, not an intelligent overseer, is in control.

Somewhere along the way, a forum this month at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., which might have been one more polite dialogue between science and religion, began to resemble the founding convention for a political party built on a single plank: in a world dangerously charged with ideology, science needs to take on an evangelical role, vying with religion as teller of the greatest story ever told.

Carolyn Porco, a senior research scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., called, half in jest, for the establishment of an alternative church, with Dr. Tyson, whose powerful celebration of scientific discovery had the force and cadence of a good sermon, as its first minister.

She was not entirely kidding. "We should let the success of the religious formula guide us," Dr. Porco said. "Let's teach our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty. It is already so much more glorious and awesome and even comforting than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know."

She displayed a picture taken by the Cassini spacecraft of Saturn and its glowing rings eclipsing the Sun, revealing in the shadow a barely noticeable speck called Earth.

There has been no shortage of conferences in recent years, commonly organized by the Templeton Foundation, seeking to smooth over the differences between science and religion and ending in a metaphysical draw. Sponsored instead by the Science Network, an educational organization based in California, and underwritten by a San Diego investor, Robert Zeps (who acknowledged his role as a kind of "anti- Templeton"), the La Jolla meeting, "Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival," rapidly escalated into an invigorating intellectual free-for-all. (Unedited video of the proceedings will be posted on the Web at tsntv.org.)

A presentation by Joan Roughgarden, a Stanford University biologist, on using biblical metaphor to ease her fellow Christians into accepting evolution (a mutation is "a mustard seed of DNA") was dismissed by Dr. Dawkins as "bad poetry," while his own take-no- prisoners approach (religious education is "brainwashing" and "child abuse") was condemned by the anthropologist Melvin J. Konner, who said he had "not a flicker" of religious faith, as simplistic and uninformed.

After enduring two days of talks in which the Templeton Foundation came under the gun as smudging the line between science and faith, Charles L. Harper Jr., its senior vice president, lashed back, denouncing what he called "pop conflict books" like Dr. Dawkins's "God Delusion," as "commercialized ideological scientism" promoting for profit the philosophy that science has a monopoly on truth.

That brought an angry rejoinder from Richard P. Sloan, a professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, who said his own book, "Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine," was written to counter "garbage research" financed by Templeton on, for example, the healing effects of prayer.

With atheists and agnostics outnumbering the faithful (a few believing scientists, like Francis S. Collins, author of "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief," were invited but could not attend), one speaker after another called on their colleagues to be less timid in challenging teachings about nature based only on scripture and belief. "The core of science is not a mathematical model; it is intellectual honesty," said Sam Harris, a doctoral student in neuroscience and the author of "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation."

"Every religion is making claims about the way the world is," he said. "These are claims about the divine origin of certain books, about the virgin birth of certain people, about the survival of the human personality after death. These claims purport to be about reality."

By shying away from questioning people's deeply felt beliefs, even the skeptics, Mr. Harris said, are providing safe harbor for ideas that are at best mistaken and at worst dangerous. "I don't know how many more engineers and architects need to fly planes into our buildings before we realize that this is not merely a matter of lack of education or economic despair," he said.

Dr. Weinberg, who famously wrote toward the end of his 1977 book on cosmology, "The First Three Minutes," that "the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless," went a step further: "Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization."

With a rough consensus that the grand stories of evolution by natural selection and the blossoming of the universe from the Big Bang are losing out in the intellectual marketplace, most of the discussion came down to strategy. How can science fight back without appearing to be just one more ideology?

"There are six billion people in the world," said Francisco J. Ayala, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Irvine, and a former Roman Catholic priest. "If we think that we are going to persuade them to live a rational life based on scientific knowledge, we are not only dreaming it is like believing in the fairy godmother."

"People need to find meaning and purpose in life," he said. "I don't think we want to take that away from them."

Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University known for his staunch opposition to teaching creationism, found himself in the unfamiliar role of playing the moderate. "I think we need to respect people's philosophical notions unless those notions are wrong," he said.

"The Earth isn't 6,000 years old," he said. "The Kennewick man was not a Umatilla Indian." But whether there really is some kind of supernatural being Dr. Krauss said he was a nonbeliever is a question unanswerable by theology, philosophy or even science. "Science does not make it impossible to believe in God," Dr. Krauss insisted. "We should recognize that fact and live with it and stop being so pompous about it."

That was just the kind of accommodating attitude that drove Dr. Dawkins up the wall. "I am utterly fed up with the respect that we all of us, including the secular among us are brainwashed into bestowing on religion," he said. "Children are systematically taught that there is a higher kind of knowledge which comes from faith, which comes from revelation, which comes from scripture, which comes from tradition, and that it is the equal if not the superior of knowledge that comes from real evidence."

By the third day, the arguments had become so heated that Dr. Konner was reminded of "a den of vipers."

"With a few notable exceptions," he said, "the viewpoints have run the gamut from A to B. Should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?"

His response to Mr. Harris and Dr. Dawkins was scathing. "I think that you and Richard are remarkably apt mirror images of the extremists on the other side," he said, "and that you generate more fear and hatred of science."

Dr. Tyson put it more gently. "Persuasion isn't always 'Here are the facts you're an idiot or you are not,' " he said. "I worry that your methods" he turned toward Dr. Dawkins "how articulately barbed you can be, end up simply being ineffective, when you have much more power of influence."

Chastened for a millisecond, Dr. Dawkins replied, "I gratefully accept the rebuke."

In the end it was Dr. Tyson's celebration of discovery that stole the show. Scientists may scoff at people who fall back on explanations involving an intelligent designer, he said, but history shows that "the most brilliant people who ever walked this earth were doing the same thing." When Isaac Newton's "Principia Mathematica" failed to account for the stability of the solar system why the planets tugging at one another's orbits have not collapsed into the Sun Newton proposed that propping up the mathematical mobile was "an intelligent and powerful being."

It was left to Pierre Simon Laplace, a century later, to take the next step. Hautily telling Napoleon that he had no need for the God hypothesis, Laplace extended Newton's mathematics and opened the way to a purely physical theory.

"What concerns me now is that even if you're as brilliant as Newton, you reach a point where you start basking in the majesty of God and then your discovery stops it just stops," Dr. Tyson said. "You're no good anymore for advancing that frontier, waiting for somebody else to come behind you who doesn't have God on the brain and who says: 'That's a really cool problem. I want to solve it.' "

"Science is a philosophy of discovery; intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance," he said. "Something fundamental is going on in people's minds when they confront things they don't understand."

He told of a time, more than a millennium ago, when Baghdad reigned as the intellectual center of the world, a history fossilized in the night sky. The names of the constellations are Greek and Roman, Dr. Tyson said, but two-thirds of the stars have Arabic names. The words "algebra" and "algorithm" are Arabic.

But sometime around 1100, a dark age descended. Mathematics became seen as the work of the devil, as Dr. Tyson put it. "Revelation replaced investigation," he said, and the intellectual foundation collapsed.

He did not have to say so, but the implication was that maybe a century, maybe a millennium from now, the names of new planets, stars and galaxies might be Chinese. Or there may be no one to name them at all.

Before he left to fly back home to Austin, Dr. Weinberg seemed to soften for a moment, describing religion a bit fondly as a crazy old aunt.

"She tells lies, and she stirs up all sorts of mischief and she's getting on, and she may not have that much life left in her, but she was beautiful once," he lamented. "When she's gone, we may miss her."

Dr. Dawkins wasn't buying it. "I won't miss her at all," he said. "Not a scrap. Not a smidgen."

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Evolution DOES Increase Genetic Information


In my discussions with people of various viewpoints about evolution, one of the most common claims is that evolution does not "increase" genetic information. The claim that evolution is causing us to "devolve" from some Platonic idea prior to the Noachian Flood is discussed in my other post "Is evolution genetically impossible?" and although this claim is related (if you can have new genetic information, you can correct for deterioration caused by mutations) it has different implications. In a way, it mirrors the creationist claim that the 2nd law of thermodynamics refutes evolution, which is not at all true. The thing that creationists often forget is that the 2nd law is not applicable to open systems (essentially where there is new input of energy into the system), and the earth most certainly is an open system. They seem to hold a similar idea about mutations and genetic information, in that the original created "kinds" in the Bible had the all the genetic information that would every be needed to cause all the variations that we see today. It is known that a creature doesn't need brand new information to be different (often mutations cause changes of what already exists) but creationists have offered up no explanation as to how an animal could have all the information needed for all the future generations of that "kind" and not be some unlikely monster exhibiting all kinds of odd traits in its phenotype (physical appearance). Even beyond this, the creationist claim is vauge and easily shifted around to mean just about anything, but perhaps that's why it's so succesful with some people.

Thanks to films like Jurassic Park many people they have a good understanding of genetics, which is DNA=blueprints=information. This may be true in a very superficial sense, but rarely do I come across someone who is able to explain loci, alleles, chromasomes, telemeres, etc. It is also why Sarfati's claims are so easy to swallow, because to someone not familiar with the topics (who only knows that DNA is information) it's easy to make that mean almost anything. Genetics is such a complicated science that it is out of reach for people who have not familiarized themselves with it, and I myself am among them. My primary areas of interest are in more "traditional" areas like paleontology, compartive anatomy, behavioral biology, and the like, but that does not excuse me from overlooking the mechanisms by which evolution works at a genetic and molecular level. Thus, after some searching, I came to find that genetic information can indeed be added, mutations being able to do and undo various things in the genome of an organism. A very helpful talkorigins.org page on this specific topic (with paper references) explained that scientists have witnessed an increase in genetic variety in a population, increases in genetic material, new (or novel) genetic material created, and new abilities regulated by genetics. Furthermore, gene duplication seems to be able to increase genetic information via mutations and about 3,000 papers on the subject are listed on PubMed (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez). The mechanism for increased information in gene duplication occurs when DNA copies a segment with point mutations occuring that change one or both of the copies. Dealing with this topic, there is an interesting paper on PubMed by Ohta from 1987 (a decade before Refuting Evolution was published, giving Sarfati no excuse not to know about it) called "A model of evolution for accumulating genetic information." In the paper, genetic information is defined as "the sum of distinct functions that the gene family can perform," and what the researchers found was (assuming a few gene copies and unequal crossing-over) that natural selection would automatically favor more variability brought about by increases in genetic information. The more diverse a population is, the more likely they are to survive, adapt, find new niches, etc. so not only does mutation cause an increase in genetic information but such increases are favored by natural selection over organisms that do not have as much variability. As stated earlier, the creationist view is that the perfect organisms in the Garden of Eden had all the information needed for all the variations within "kinds" we see today, but it has never been said how this information is organized (coding DNA? junk DNA? something else?) nor how these genes are selected or passed on or why some and not others.

Essentially, the idea that evolution does not produce novel genetic infomation has been shown to be false, and even if we do not as yet know all the details, creationists have offered up no counter-hypothesis, no mechanism for their "created kinds," no pattern of gene dispersal or anything of the kind. The idea persists because it seems logical to those unfamiliar with evolution or genetics and because scientists have not done a good job explaining these studies to the public. If you're interested in the field and can "speak the language," then many of the refutations to creationists are easily at hand, but scientists have not translated their findings and shared them with the public. Many are either not interested in the debate, do not have the time, or feel their obligation is to put out papers to further the establishment but not share with the layman. That's why creationism and ID are so hard to beat, because both those groups have good public relations and put a lot of effort in getting their ideas across to the public. Even among the scientists who do speak out against creationism, you can only make some ideas so simple, and some ideas and theories do require people to be familiar with science. Creationism and ID on the other hand try to use logic and misleading statements that are readily understood, essentially showing that you can make a really stupid statement in 10 seconds but it may take an hour to explain how that assertion is incorrect. In any event, I hope this essay has helped those of you who are unfamiliar with some of the genetic concepts behind evolution, and I would encourage you to visit PubMed and do some searching. You may be quite surprised at what you find.

Returning to pro-evolution standards could take months


JOHN HANNA Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. - While Kansas public schools are likely to get their fifth set of science standards in eight years, the officials who want to ditch the anti-evolution ones now in place aren't planning to act immediately.

Two new State Board of Education members take office Jan. 8, ending a conservative GOP majority and giving control to a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans. That makes a return to standards treating evolution as well-grounded science - not a flawed theory - seem inevitable.

But board members and scientists who want to rewrite the standards also want to take at least several months to do it. They hope to reconvene a panel of educators whose evolution-friendly work fell by the wayside last year when the board's conservative majority decided to adopt language suggested by intelligent design supporters.

Those wanting to rewrite the standards argue that schools either resisted the anti-evolution ones or decided to hold off on any course changes until after this year's elections, given the chance that they would change the board's membership.

"There's no real, compelling reason that they have to be adopted in January," said Steve Case, associate director of the University of Kansas' Center for Science Education. "I don't want the board to do anything in haste in a reactionary sort of way. They need to do it right."

Intelligent design supporters don't believe the board can do a good job of rewriting the standards. They contend the existing ones don't promote their ideas but encourage an open classroom discussion of evolution and its flaws.

"We're fighting entrenched authority, not only within the science institutions, but within the academic institutions," said John Calvert, a retired Lake Quivira attorney who helped found the Intelligent Design Network.

Joining the board in January are moderate Republicans Sally Cauble, of Liberal, and Jana Shaver of Independence. While campaigning, Cauble said evolution had been well-tested. Shaver said last week that the board should rely on scientists and educators to write the standards - an approach likely to lead to evolution-friendly standards.

Such standards are used to develop tests for students, to measure how well schools are teaching science. While they don't dictate what schools teach - those decisions are left to 296 local school boards - scientists worry that any tilt toward intelligent design would encourage changes in the classroom.

Intelligent design says an intelligent cause is the best way to explain some features of the universe that are complex and well-ordered. Many scientists view it as creationism, repackaged to get around a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prohibited its teaching as a government endorsement of specific religious doctrines.

Kansas had evolution-friendly standards in 1999, when a conservative state board majority rewrote them to delete most references to the theory. That inspired international ridicule - and a voter backlash. The board returned to evolution-friendly standards in February 2001, just a month after a moderate majority took over.

State law requires periodic reviews of academic standards, leading the board to consider changes last year, with a conservative majority back in charge.

Those changes included a definition of science that doesn't specifically limit science to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.

Also, the new standards said evolutionary theory that all life had a common origin has been challenged by fossils and molecular biology. And, they said, there's controversy over whether changes over time in one species can lead to a new species. Both statements echo intelligent design arguments, defying mainstream science.

"The sooner the teachers in Kansas get a clear directive of what is expected of them, the better it will be for science education," said Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, Calif., which fights efforts to undermine the teaching of evolution. "Hopefully, this will not be a really drawn-out process and it won't get derailed."

But John West, a senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which supports intelligent design research, contends that if the new board is serious about writing good standards, it will have hearings and ensure that people with diverse views, including evolution critics, have a role.

If the board simply wants to "rubber stamp" the scientific establishment's views, he said, "I don't know why they're going to even go through motions. They might as well just approve it."

On the Net:

Existing science standards: http://www.ksde.org/Default.aspx?tabid144

Alternative standards: http://www.kuscied.org/k12/standards/

National Center for Science Education: http://www.natcenscied.org/

Discovery Institute: http://www.discovery.org/

The Strange Case of Dr. Darwinist and Mr. Creationist--or Inspector Clouseau in a Lab Coat?


Meet Mark A. Farmer, Ph.D., of Winterville, Georgia.

Dr. Farmer is a Professor and Head of the Department of Cellular Biology at the University of Georgia. His research is on the "origin and evolution of eukaryotic cells." Until recently, Dr. Farmer also held the position of Directorate for Biological Sciences, Division of Biological Infrastructure, with the National Science Foundation, with responsibility for soliciting grants for the NSF's "Assembling the Tree of Life" project.

Publicly, Mark A. Farmer says he is passionate about keeping religious alternatives to evolution out of biology

Farmer signed a petition addressed to the Cobb County Board of Education objecting to "the proposal to allow 'alternative theories' of the origin and development of life on earth to be presented alongside evolutionary theory in Cobb County science classrooms" because it would "significantly degrade the quality of science education in Cobb County schools." Internet Infidels the on-line host of Farmer's petition, is "a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to defending and promoting a naturalistic worldview on the Internet." As Internet Infidels explains on its website, "[N]aturalism entails the nonexistence of all supernatural beings, including the theistic God."

In May of 2005, Farmer told University Affairs that he teaches students in his "Origins of Life" course "why scientists feel Darwinian theory offers the best explanation for biological diversity."

In a November 2005 letter to the Athens Banner-Herald, Farmer wrote that "the voters of Dover, Pa. were right to reject those school board members who would interject belief in the supernatural into America's science classrooms."

Privately, Mark A. Farmer says he is passionate about putting religious alternatives to evolution into biology:

As president of Quality Science Education for All (QSEA), an organization dedicated to improving science education by including the scientific weaknesses of evolution along with its strengths in biology, I get e-mails.

In November 2005, I received an e-mail from Mark A. Farmer in which he wrote:

I was considering making a donation to Quality Science Education for All but in reading about your recent activities I am still a bit confused as to what the mission of QSEA actually is. Specifically I would like to know whether or not you support the word of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ being taught in our public schools. This is an issue I feel very strongly about and would need to know your position before making a decision to financially support QSEA. (Emphasis added.)

Thank you very much,

Mark Farmer
Winterville, Georgia

In December 2005, Mark A. Farmer wrote the following in an e-mail to my wife, Jeannie Caldwell:

[Y]our recent lawsuit against the website at Berkeley seems based on drawing a very hard line between Church [and] state. . . . Should your lawsuit prevail I feel that the concepts of ALL religions, and thus alternatives to evolution, will be forever be banned from schools. (Emphasis added.)

Notably, in his correspondence with QSEA, Mark A. Farmer did not disclose his roles as biology professor and fervent Darwinist. We only discovered those dimensions of Mark A. Farmer through detective work on the internet by my wife, Jeannie.

So how did Jeannie determine with certainty that the "public" Mark A. Farmer who has made Darwinist statements and the "private" Mark A. Farmer who has made creationist statements are one in the same? Three simple lines of evidence establish the connection:

(1) The e-mail address from which "Mark Farmer of Winterville, GA" wrote to QSEA matches the e-mail address listed for Mark A. Farmer on the Winterville City Council official website, and when my wife wrote to Mark A. Farmer at that e-mail address, Mark Farmer responded to us from that e-mail address with his December 2005 e-mail message above;

(2) The Mark A. Farmer on the Winterville, GA City Council is the same Mark A. Farmer who is professor of biology at UGA: the picture of Mark A. Farmer on the Winterville City Council official website shows the same person as the picture of Mark A. Farmer on the University of Georgia website for Professor Mark A. Farmer;

(3) Winterville, GA, where Mark A. Farmer is on the city council, is less than 8 miles from the University of Georgia, in Athens, GA, where Mark A. Farmer is on the faculty, and where Mark A. Farmer wrote his letter to the editor of the Athens Banner.

So what are we to make of Mark A. Farmer, of Winterville, Georgia?

Have we uncovered the Strange Case of Dr. Darwinist and Mr. Creationist a public Darwinist, but a closet creationist?

Or have we uncovered Inspector Clouseau in a labcoat a bumbling Darwinist attempting a clumsy imitation of a Christian fundamentalist?

Only Mark A. Farmer knows for sure.

Posted by Larry Caldwell on November 21, 2006 1:18 PM | Permalink

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