NTS LogoSkeptical News for 13 December 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Soy is making kids 'gay'

http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=53327

Posted: December 12, 2006 1:00 a.m. Eastern

There's a slow poison out there that's severely damaging our children and threatening to tear apart our culture. The ironic part is, it's a "health food," one of our most popular.

Now, I'm a health-food guy, a fanatic who seldom allows anything into his kitchen unless it's organic. I state my bias here just so you'll know I'm not anti-health food.

The dangerous food I'm speaking of is soy. Soybean products are feminizing, and they're all over the place. You can hardly escape them anymore.

I have nothing against an occasional soy snack. Soy is nutritious and contains lots of good things. Unfortunately, when you eat or drink a lot of soy stuff, you're also getting substantial quantities of estrogens.

Estrogens are female hormones. If you're a woman, you're flooding your system with a substance it can't handle in surplus. If you're a man, you're suppressing your masculinity and stimulating your "female side," physically and mentally.

In fetal development, the default is being female. All humans (even in old age) tend toward femininity. The main thing that keeps men from diverging into the female pattern is testosterone, and testosterone is suppressed by an excess of estrogen.

If you're a grownup, you're already developed, and you're able to fight off some of the damaging effects of soy. Babies aren't so fortunate. Research is now showing that when you feed your baby soy formula, you're giving him or her the equivalent of five birth control pills a day. A baby's endocrine system just can't cope with that kind of massive assault, so some damage is inevitable. At the extreme, the damage can be fatal.

Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That's why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today's rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products. (Most babies are bottle-fed during some part of their infancy, and one-fourth of them are getting soy milk!) Homosexuals often argue that their homosexuality is inborn because "I can't remember a time when I wasn't homosexual." No, homosexuality is always deviant. But now many of them can truthfully say that they can't remember a time when excess estrogen wasn't influencing them.

Doctors used to hope soy would reduce hot flashes, prevent cancer and heart disease, and save millions in the Third World from starvation. That was before they knew much about long-term soy use. Now we know it's a classic example of a cure that's worse than the disease. For example, if your baby gets colic from cow's milk, do you switch him to soy milk? Don't even think about it. His phytoestrogen level will jump to 20 times normal. If he is a she, brace yourself for watching her reach menarche as young as seven, robbing her of years of childhood. If he is a boy, it's far worse: He may not reach puberty till much later than normal.

Research in 2000 showed that a soy-based diet at any age can lead to a weak thyroid, which commonly produces heart problems and excess fat. Could this explain the dramatic increase in obesity today?

Recent research on rats shows testicular atrophy, infertility and uterus hypertrophy (enlargement). This helps explain the infertility epidemic and the sudden growth in fertility clinics. But alas, by the time a soy-damaged infant has grown to adulthood and wants to marry, it's too late to get fixed by a fertility clinic.

Worse, there's now scientific evidence that estrogen ingredients in soy products may be boosting the rapidly rising incidence of leukemia in children. In the latest year we have numbers for, new cases in the U.S. jumped 27 percent. In one year!

There's also a serious connection between soy and cancer in adults – especially breast cancer. That's why the governments of Israel, the UK, France and New Zealand are already cracking down hard on soy.

In sad contrast, 60 percent of the refined foods in U.S. supermarkets now contain soy. Worse, soy use may double in the next few years because (last I heard) the out-of-touch medicrats in the FDA hierarchy are considering allowing manufacturers of cereal, energy bars, fake milk, fake yogurt, etc., to claim that "soy prevents cancer." It doesn't.

P.S.: Soy sauce is fine. Unlike soy milk, it's perfectly safe because it's fermented, which changes its molecular structure. Miso, natto and tempeh are also OK, but avoid tofu.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Evolutionary Revisionist Sahotra Sarkar Fine-Tunes Recent History

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/12/evolutionary_revisionist_sahot.html

Update: The link to the American Prospect article has been fixed.

Sahotra Sarkar has become a revisionist of the first order. Not even 12 months have gone by since the Dover ID trial and he's already rewriting history in this web post for the American Prospect.

Apparently, the whole argument for the fine tuning of the universe from The Privileged Planet, published in 2004, almost 2 full years before the Dover ruling, was just a reaction to Dover, and an attempt to subvert Judge Jones's (may he live forever) ruling banning ID from Dover area classrooms. Won't those stealth creationists Jay Richards and Guillermo Gonzalez be surprised. Not to mention those poor creationists Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee.

All this is very exciting, coming as it does on the heels of the discovery this week that Darwinism is not just the cornerstone of biology, but also of astronomy and cosmology ("Galaxy formation found to follow Darwin's theory of evolution").

That Darwinism sure is great. It's the foundation of everything. Simply everything. It boggles the mind to consider how anyone could ever think otherwise.

Posted by Robert Crowther on December 10, 2006 12:05 PM | Permalink

Evolution education update: December 8, 2006

Encouraging news from Ohio and from the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, Flock of Dodos is going to be shown at Darwin Day celebrations in museums around the country, and the video of Eugenie C. Scott's recent talk in Kansas is now available on-line.

OHIO BOARD OF EDUCATION APPOINTEES TO SUPPORT EVOLUTION EDUCATION

As Ohio's Governor Bob Taft (R) prepares to leave office, he is planning to appoint four new members to the state board of education. In the past few years, the state board of education was frequently embroiled in assaults on evolution education, such as unsuccessful attempts to include "intelligent design" in the state science standards in 2002, the incorporation of a "critical analysis of evolution" indicator in the standards in 2002, the adoption of a "critical analysis of evolution" model lesson plan in 2004, and unsuccessful attempts to revive "critical analysis" after the board voted in 2006 to rescind the lesson plan and indicator.

Now, however, the Columbus Dispatch (December 6, 2006) reports that Taft "will not name anyone who doesn't back the teaching of evolution." Taft told the newspaper, "I want people who are really committed to teaching good science in school, and I think that intelligent design does not play a role in the science curriculum." He also expressed regret about previous appointees who supported the teaching of "intelligent design" in Ohio's public schools. Taft's successor, Ken Strickland (D), is expected to support the integrity of science education; during his campaign, he told the Dispatch (July 23, 2006), "Science ought to be taught in our classrooms. Intelligent design should not be taught as science."

For the story in the Columbus Dispatch, visit:
http://www.columbusdispatch.com/news-story.php?story=dispatch/2006/12/06/20061206-A1-04.html

For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Ohio, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=OH

"INTELLIGENT DESIGN" UNWELCOME IN BRITISH CLASSROOMS

In the latest from the United Kingdom, the Guardian (December 7, 2006) reported that the British government is preparing to "write to schools telling them that controversial teaching materials promoting creationism should not be used in science lessons." The materials in question, which include two "intelligent design" DVDs, were sent to the science heads of every secondary school in the United Kingdom by a new creationist group styling itself Truth in Science. Although the government had already stated that the Truth in Science materials were inappropriate for science classes, there was widespread concern that its disclaimers were insufficient.

The Guardian also reported that the Nobel laureate John Sulston denounced creationism in a recent lecture at the British Museum, quoting him as saying, "[Pupils] are somehow being told these agendas are alternative ways of looking at things. They are not at all ... One is science -- a rational thought process which will carry us forward into the indefinite future. The other is a cop-out and they should not be juxtaposed in science lessons." Sulston is the latest in a string of British scientists to have condemned the incursions of "intelligent design" in public education, along with Lord Rees (the curent president of the Royal Society), Lord May (Rees's predecessor), Lewis Wolpert, and Richard Dawkins.

For the story in the Guardian, visit:
http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,1965987,00.html

For NCSE's previous coverage of events in the United Kingdom, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=UK

FLOCK OF DODOS FOR DARWIN DAY

Randy Olson's Flock of Dodos, the hilarious documentary that examines both sides of the controversy over the teaching of "intelligent design" in public schools, is scheduled to be shown at over fifteen museums across the country as part of their Darwin Day celebrations, on or around February 12, 2007. New Scientist describes Flock of Dodos as "a film that will appeal to the average person on either side ... without condescension, poking lighthearted fun at everyone." Screenings are already scheduled in Boston, Denver, Detroit, Ft. Lauderdale, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Seattle, St. Louis, and Tampa -- and more are being added.

For information about Flock of Dodos in general, visit:
http://www.flockofdodos.com

For information about its Darwin Day events, visit:
http://www.flockofdodos.com/darwinday.htm

SCOTT IN KANSAS ON-LINE

On November 16, 2006, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott spoke on "Faith, Reason, and Assumption in Understanding the Natural World" as part of the Difficult Dialogues at the Commons lecture series on Knowledge: Faith and Reason, sponsored by the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. Now her lecture is available (in RealPlayer format) on-line. Other lectures in the series include Kenneth R. Miller's "God, Darwin, and Design: Creationism's Second Coming," Judge John E. Jones III's "Judicial Independence and Kitzmiller v. Dover et al.," and Richard Dawkins's "The God Delusion"; all of these lectures are also available on-line.

For the on-line versions of these lectures, visit:
http://www.hallcenter.ku.edu/video/index.shtml

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

Sincerely,

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

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!
http://www.ncseweb.org/membership.asp

INSIDE SCIENCE: Evolution is a foundation of science

http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/12-06/12-11-06/02opinion.htm

AUTUMN SPANNE Ms. Spanne is a diversity fellow of the Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting who is working on staff at The Standard-Times. Her e-mail is aspanne@s-t.com

Eli Stahl works as an assistant professor of biology at UMass Dartmouth. His recent research includes plant genetics, and the potential for increasing disease and drought resistance in crops. He also teaches evolutionary biology. With some states and communities pushing for public school curricula to incorporate religiously-based alternatives to evolution, Professor Stahl clarifies key distinctions between the realms of science and faith, while suggesting that there is room for both.

Critics of evolution argue that it's just a theory that cannot be proven absolutely. How do you address that as an educator?

From a philosophy of science perspective, the reality is that there are some things out in nature that we may never know. The misconception is that a theory is something shaky and might at any time be disproven. In biology that's not true.

Evolution as a theory is not on shaky ground at all. It's very well understood from a foundational level. If you have a picture of evolutionary biology as a Parthenon with a strong foundation holding everything else up, the shingles on the roof are little areas of study by people with different viewpoints, which increases the likelihood that we'll get it right. But that's very different from a theology where you want to have a set explanation based on faith that pervades all areas of life.

Last year, a CBS News poll found that about half of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form, and most of those respondents also believed this occurred within the past 10,000 years. The poll found that another third believe God guided the process of evolution. How do you respond to students and members of the public who reject outright the theory of evolution?

Science and religion follow different rules. In science, results have to be repeatable and science has to look for explanations in the natural world. You can have the idea that you're studying the work of God all the time, but it's not part of the game, or practice, of science. It is the sort of end game for intelligent design to say that because we're not able to fully understand how a phenomenon came about, you attribute it to a designer. It's okay for scientists to have this in their mind, but you have to be able to chip away at the larger work. What you go home with, what I take to church with my kids, is separate. Strict creationism falls by the wayside almost immediately, though, because it has a list of things that should be taken as fact that there's lots of evidence against.

Many evangelical Protestant faiths have an extreme viewpoint. People view Catholicism as a conservative faith, too, but it takes into account there have to be figurative interpretations of the Bible.

How do you feel about local school districts and states enacting requirements that creationism and intelligent design be taught as alternatives to the theory of evolution?

In principle, the job of education is to expose people to a range of viewpoints to make their own choices. Regulations saying that one can't teach evolution would be more worrisome to me. The implications in terms of producing the next generation of scientists, I'm not really worried about it. I've never heard of a controversy along those lines taking place in higher education. However, when it becomes a [presidential] administration using fundamentalist religious points of faith as a reason to have a certain policy, that's scary. A government has a responsibility to make the best possible decisions based on facts. If faith is a part of that, fine, but if faith allows policy makers to ignore the facts, that's a big problem. Mistakes are made when policies are enacted without the whole assemblage of facts .

What do you want people to understand about the role of evolutionary theory in society?

Although there are specific points of conflict with stories of the Christian religion, that's not what evolutionary biology is about. There are things that go on in the natural world related to evolution that have been going on millions of years that have led to biodiversity. Today we recognize that evolutionary biology has important implications for public health: insecticide resistance, antibiotic resistance, what's going to happen to the natural environment with global warming. We have to look at evolutionary biology in terms of its direct benefits to people, not just in terms of conflicts with religion. That's the kind of project I work on in my lab.

Inside Science is a regular column designed to help the general public understand the science going on around them on SouthCoast.

Date of Publication: December 11, 2006 on Page A08


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Who was L. Ron Hubbard?

Ruth Eglash, THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 7, 2006

A Google search for Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, founder of Scientology and creator of that movement's core philosophy, Dianetics, yields no less than 2,840,000 results, all offering information - some positive, some negative.

Scientology's official Web site, scientology.org, claims Hubbard "has described his philosophy in more than 5,000 writings, including dozens of books, and in 3,000 tape-recorded lectures."

In fact, the church even founded two publishing companies - Bridge Publications in the US and New Era Publications for the rest of the world - to keep Hubbard's words about Scientology in print.

"New volumes of his transcribed lectures continue to be produced; that series alone will ultimately total a projected 110 large volumes. Hubbard also wrote a number of works of fiction between the 1930s and 1980s, which are published by the Scientology-owned Galaxy Press. All three of these publishing companies are subordinate to Author Services Inc., another Scientology corporation," states on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia.

While Hubbard's literary career is pretty easy to follow, details of his private life are far more hazy, with conflicting schools of thought.

The Church of Scientology's official doctrine says that Hubbard was born on March 13, 1911 in Tilden, Nebraska to Harry Ross Hubbard and Ledora May Hubbard. According to the information, it was Hubbard's friendship with the Blackfeet Indians while growing up in Montana, his study of Freudian theory with US Navy Cmdr. Joseph C. Thompson, his journeys to Asia and his years as a student at George Washington University that all contributed to his development of Scientology.

Until his death in 1986, the official Scientology Web site claims that Hubbard achieved great scientific and spiritual accomplishments. He is described as a "writer and professional in dozens of fields," including being a humanitarian, an adventurer/explorer, a master mariner and even a horticulturist. He is also said to have dedicated his life to helping others: "He saw that this world had to change drastically, and he created a workable technology so that needed changes could occur."

While the story seems straightforward, many of Scientology's critics offer a conflicting tale, preferring to highlight Hubbard's weaknesses as a man and focusing on his work in black magic, exaggerated science fiction tales and drug abuse.

In the introduction to his book The Barefaced Messiah, Russell Miller writes: "For more than 40 years, the Church of Scientology has vigorously promoted an image of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, as a romantic adventurer and philosopher whose early life fortuitously prepared him, in the manner of Jesus Christ, for his declared mission to save the world. The glorification of 'Ron,' superman and savior, required a cavalier disregard for facts: Thus it is that every biography of Hubbard published by the church is interwoven with lies, half-truths and ludicrous embellishments. The wondrous irony of this deception is that the true story of L. Ron Hubbard is much more bizarre, much more improbable, than any of the lies."

At the Tel Aviv Scientology Center on Rehov Soncino, Hubbard's name (pronounced with a strong Israeli accent on the "r") and face is everywhere. His books fill library shelves, posters of him hang on the walls and even a bronzed bust of the man greets everyone who arrives at the building.

"Hubbard wanted to give people the tools to improve their lives," claims Gil Klopstock, the organization's chaplain.

He maintains that the various processes developed by Hubbard have helped many people improve their lives. Auditing, he continues, helps a person examine himself and listen well to other people, a definite technique for improving one's life.

Klopstock also says that Hubbard's philosophy against drugs and psychology serves to make individuals and society as a whole much stronger.

"Look at me, I am 73 and have not touched any drugs for nearly 30 years," says Klopstock, who really does look younger than his years.

Hubbard's anti-drugs policy, however, has been called into question by critics ever since his death on January 24, 1986.

In a 1983 interview with Penthouse magazine, Hubbard's estranged son L. Ron Hubbard Jr. is quoted as saying that his father had been taking massive amounts of drugs since the age of 16. When the interviewer asked: "Did your father take a lot of drugs?" Hubbard replied: "Yes. Since he was 16. You see, drugs are very important in the application of heavy black magic. The personal use of drugs expands one's conscious ability to break open the doors to the realm of the deep."

Furthermore, many of Hubbard's critics, suggest that contrary to his wishes, an autopsy was performed on the 74-year-old's body after he died. The Web site clambake.org has published on-line what it says to be a full copy of the coroner's report (file #8936) from the San Luis Obispo Sheriff's Office, which confirms that a drug called hydroxyzine, which is disapproved of under Scientology doctrines, was found in his system. Several other Web sites (Wikipedia, sourcewatch.com) echo the same information.

Scientology followers, however, maintain that no such autopsy was carried out.

According to Miller's The Barefaced Messiah, "David Miscavige made the announcement that Ron had moved on to his next level of research, a level beyond the imagination and in a state exterior to the body: 'Thus, at 2000 hours, Friday 24 January 1986, L. Ron Hubbard discarded the body he had used in this lifetime for 74 years, 10 months and 11 days. The body he had used to facilitate his existence in this universe had ceased to be useful and in fact had become an impediment to the work he now must do outside its confines. The being we knew as L. Ron Hubbard still exists. Although you may feel grief, understand that he did not, and does not now. He has simply moved on to his next step. LRH in fact used this lifetime and body we knew to accomplish what no man has ever accomplished - he unlocked the mysteries of life and gave us the tools so we could free ourselves and our fellow men...'"

Whatever the truth behind Hubbard's life and death, it does not change the fact that thousands of people worldwide still adhere to his teachings whether they are proven science or not.

This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1164881840438&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

SENATOR INHOFE ANNOUNCES PUBLIC RELEASE OF "SKEPTIC'S GUIDE TO DEBUNKING GLOBAL WARMING"

http://epw.senate.gov/fact.cfm?party=rep&id=266711

EPW FACT OF THE DAY: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 08, 2006
Contact: Marc Morano (Marc_Morano@epw.senate.gov ), Matt Dempsey (Matthew_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov )

Washington D.C. - Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the outgoing Chairman of Environment & Public Works Committee, is pleased to announce the public release of the Senate Committee published booklet entitled "A Skeptic's Guide to Debunking Global Warming Alarmism. Hot & Cold Media Spin Cycle: A Challenge To Journalists who Cover Global Warming."

Click here to download the "Skeptic's Guide" (http://epw.senate.gov/repwhitepapers/6341044%20Hot%20&%20Cold%20Media.pdf)]

The color glossy 64 page booklet -- previously was only available in hardcopy to the media and policy makers -- includes speeches, graphs, press releases and scientific articles refuting catastrophe climate fears presented by the media, the United Nations, Hollywood and former Vice President turned-foreign-lobbyist Al Gore.

The "Skeptic's Guide" includes a copy of Senator Inhofe's 50 minute Senate floor speech http://epw.senate.gov/speechitem.cfm?party=rep&id=263759 delivered on September 25, 2006 challenging the media to improve its reporting.

The 'Skeptic's Guide', which has received recognition by the LA Times and Congressional Quarterly, is now available free for international distribution on the Senate Environmental & Public Works Web site (http://epw.senate.gov/w_papers.cfm?party=rep)]

The book, which features web links to all supporting documentation, also serves as a handbook to identify the major players in media bias when it comes to poor climate science reporting. The guide presents a reporter's virtual who's-who's of embarrassing and one-sided media coverage, with a focus on such reporters as CBS News "60 Minutes" Scott Pelley, ABC News reporter Bill Blakemore, CNN's Miles O'Brien, and former NBC Newsman Tom Brokaw.

Senator Inhofe's "Skeptic's Guide" also includes hard hitting critiques of the New York Times, Time Magazine, Newsweek, Associated Press, Reuters, the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post.

Senator Inhofe has challenged the media in a series of speeches and hearings to stop the unfounded hype.

"The American people are fed up with the media for promoting the idea that former Vice President Al Gore represents the scientific "consensus" that SUV's and the modern American way of life have somehow created a 'climate emergency' that only United Nations bureaucrats and wealthy Hollywood liberals can solve," Senator Inhofe said in October.

Skepticism that human C02 emissions are creating a "climate catastrophe" has grown in recent times. In September, renowned French geophysicists and Socialist Party member Claude Allegre, converted from a believer in manmade catastrophic global warming to a climate skeptic. This latest defector from the global warming camp caps a year in which numerous scientific studies have bolstered the claims of climate skeptics.

Scientific studies that debunk the dire predictions of human-caused global warming have continued to accumulate and many believe the new science is shattering the media-promoted scientific "consensus" on climate alarmism. See: (http://epw.senate.gov/pressitem.cfm?party=rep&id=264777)

Related Links:

12/06/2006 - Inhofe Says Global Warming Media Hearing Exposed Alarmist Media (http://epw.senate.gov/pressitem.cfm?party=rep&id=266540)

10/17/2006 - Renowned Scientist Defects From Belief in Global Warming – Caps Year of Vindication for Skeptics (http://epw.senate.gov/pressitem.cfm?party=rep&id=264777)

10/30/2006 - "I Don't Like The Word 'Balance''- Says ABC News Global Warming Reporter (http://epw.senate.gov/fact.cfm?party=rep&id=265464)

10/24/2006 - Senator Inhofe Credited For Prompting Newsweek Admission of Error on 70's Predictions of Coming Ice Age - In Case You Missed It.... (http://epw.senate.gov/fact.cfm?party=rep&id=265087 )

09/25/2006 – Senator Inhofe Speech: "Hot & Cold Media Spin: A Challenge To Journalists Who Cover Global Warming" (http://epw.senate.gov/speechitem.cfm?party=rep&id=263759)

Evolution, 'design' are still hot topics

http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,650213429,00.html

By Jennifer Toomer-Cook

Deseret Morning News

There's no legal or scientific room for teaching Intelligent Design in public schools, National Center for Science Education executive director Eugenie Scott told a science teachers convention in Salt Lake City Thursday.

But evolution challenges are not going away, she said. Intelligent Design was debated on two Utah college campuses last week. And a Utah senator says while he won't carry another origins of life bill, something else could be in the works.

"Yes, it's coming, but it's not coming this year ... something that will address this opinion about Darwinism, that defines how life started," Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, said Thursday. He would not reveal specifics.

The National Science Teachers Association's Western Area Conference is at the Salt Palace Convention Center through Saturday. Discussions will range from how Pluto's "demotion" as a planet might affect instruction to today's panel discussion on parent and student issues with evolution.

Scott outlined court rulings leading to today's evolution debate, beginning with a court-upheld ban on evolution lessons in the 1920s-era Scopes trial. The U.S. Supreme Court in the 1960s overturned that ban as religion-based.

By 1980, 20 states required schools give evolution and creation science equal instructional time. An Arkansas judge struck that down, saying you can't start with a conclusion and refuse to change it regardless of the data gathered and call it science.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the premise in 1987, but the ruling opened the door to today's debate, Scott said. It said teachers can present alternative ideas to evolution regarding the origins of life. Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent also said people have a right to present in schools whatever scientific evidence there may be against evolution.

Scott says there isn't any. "Common ancestry is the only game in town."

But proponents of Intelligent Design, or the idea that life is too complex to be explained by evolution alone, disagree. Biological philosopher Paul Nelson of the Discovery Institute, in a Utah Valley State College panel discussion last week, said that while not yet a scientific theory, Intelligent Design may gain legitimacy in the scientific community to explain origins of Earth and its inhabitants.

Scott said the concept is the same old idea, different name, noting a Dover, Pa., judge said it couldn't be taught in public schools last year.

Intelligent Design was never part of Utah legislation. Rather, Buttars' bill directed the State Board of Education to stress Darwin's theory of evolution is not empirically proven.

"There is not consensus in the scientific community that Darwinism is how life began or how man arrived in his present form," Buttars said Thursday.

But Scott said the idea evolution should be taught as a theory and not fact is the latest creationism tactic. She expects another court challenge to the Dover case in the coming years and sees more legislative challenges to evolution — last year, bills were introduced in 13 states.

"A bigger concern is not is creationism going to be taught, but is evolution going to be dropped" by teachers sick of fighting, she said.

Nevada science teacher Karl Marsh, a Brigham Young University graduate and former Judge Memorial Catholic High School teacher, said the concern is real.

"You still have kids coming in saying I will never believe in evolution," Marsh said. "Many teachers just don't want to get into it."

E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com

Don't be Fooled by the Omega 3 Scam

http://www.patrickholford.com/content.asp?id_Content=1607

The headlines in the newspapers read 'Experts cast doubts on Omega 3' BBC.. 'The benefits of fish and linseed oils as elixir of life are another health myth' the Times… 'The Benefits of Omega 3 Seem Fishy' CBS News.

This is due to a 'systematic review' of studies on omega 3 and it's effects on cardiovascular disease, cancer and mortality, published on Friday in the British Medical Journal. This is not a new study, but a study of studies. The authors conclude that 'omega 3 fats don't have a clear effect on total mortality, combined cardiovascular events or cancer.'

It's my job to read and analyse the whole paper and it soon becomes clear there is something very fishy going on. The main analysis is on 15 'randomised controlled studies'. Of these studies nine show benefit of omega 3, five show no big difference, and one is shown as negative. So nine for omega 3, one against. The author of the 'negative' study, Dr Bemelmans from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands questions how his study could be used to turn this review paper from positive to negative. For good reason. If you read the abstract of this paper (which you'll find on-line by typing in Bemelmans + margarin) the first thing you'll find is that this isn't a study on fish or fish oils, it's a study on margarine! The authors gave their subjects a margarine containing alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – that's the omega 3 found in flax – or linoleic acid (omega 6) and found 'no significant difference existed in the 10 year estimated heart disease risk.'

The first thing you realise is this first analysis isn't about the benefits of concentrated omega fish oils, which contain EPA and DHA. The numerous studies that show benefit, not only for those who have heart disease, but also in preventing those that don't, have given substantial amounts of EPA, which seems to be the more powerful kind of omega 3 for the heart. A mere 5% of ALA is converted to EPA so there's a world of difference between taking a fish oil supplement and eating an ALA enriched margarine!

Later in the paper the authors do analyse all the studies using fish derived sources of omega 3. They include twelve studies, nine of which show a benefit, one of which shows no effect and two show a very small negative effect. However, combined, in the way that this review analyses the data, this seemingly obvious beneficial effect doesn't come up as significant.

What I find particularly deceptive I that this obvious skew is not even discussed in the research paper. It really makes me question the integrity of the authors and the journal. Let's explore that for a minute with a 'conspiracy theory' hat on. Last week pharmaceutical drug sales topped $600 billion. The number one best seller was Lipitor, a stin drug for lowering cholesterol. It brought in $12.9 billion. Next is Plavix, for thinning the blood ($5.9 million), closely followed by Zocor, the worlds's first over the counter statin ($5.3 billion). Next is Norvasc, for high blood pressure ($5 billion). So that's almost $24 billion dollars for the top four cardiovascular drugs. The natural alternatives for this pharmaceutical goldmine are omega 3s, B vitamins for lowering homocysteine, niacin specifically for lowering cholesterol, magnesium for lowering blood pressure and all the vital lifestyle changes such as exercise. If you wanted to maximise profits it would be worth investing in belittling your competitors. It's worth bearing this in mind when you read newspaper headlines. That, and the fact that good news sells.

As a scientist this review doesn't change my recommendations one iota. I'm not alone. Tom Sanders, Professor of Nutrition, King's College, London who is often quoted as being dismissive of supplementation says " It is disappointing that when the vast majority of the evidence points to the positive benefits of Omega-3 Fish Oils for heart, that one review paper can cause so much concern amongst consumers." Dr Mike Knapton, director of prevention and care at the British Heart Foundation "People should not stop consuming omega-3 fats or eating oily fish as a result of this study."

I couldn't agree more. There is nothing in this study that makes me cautious about recommending eating oily fish three times a week and/or taking an omega 3 rich fish oil supplement every day, not just for your heart, but also your brain, joints, skin and immune system.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Turkish Delight in Intelligent Design

Thanks to an informed and irenic Turkish blog that I follow (thewhitepath.com), I already knew much of material covered in a Reuters story on Turks' dislike of Darwinism. But it probably is news to many in this country, including the media. The Darwinists' propaganda trope is that six-day creationism is the same as intelligent design, or might as well be the same. Yet it is obvious that Turkey really is primarily creationist--following a literalist reading of the Quaran rather than the Bible, of course--and that the creationists in Turkey have substantial funding, while ID has virtually none

Still, like certain creationists in the United States and Britain, those in Turkey do seem to make use of some of the same scientific research employed by Darwin critics who are not creationists and they likewise also may support some tenets of intelligent design. The ID movement, as such, is more limited, but enjoys substantial influence among officialdom, media and academics. Several Turkish scientists have signed the Dissent from Darwin statement.

No one in the Middle East has covered ID with such enthusiasm as the cultured and adroit science writer, Mustafa Akyol in Istanbul. His rejoinder last year to an article by the biologist Jerry Coyne in The New Republic was delightful. Writing in National Review Online, Akyol ran a shish-kebab skewer through Coyne's professed fear that ID, supposedly the product of fundamentalist Christians, is the sort of thing that would worsen the West's relations with the Muslim world. As Akyol observed, Muslims are not bothered by scientific arguments against Darwinism and for design. On the contrary, what they object to in the West is the strident secularist promotion of Darwinism and its pernicious public policy progeny. Poor Dr. Coyne, there he sat with his own argument running down his face.

Mustafa Akyol's writing in Turkey and elsewhere covers myriad subjects in addition to ID. It can be accessed at the aforementioned blog, thewhitepath.com. (Akyol translates to The White Path in English.) It is a useful resource for anyone trying to understand the domestic Turkish politics surrounding the current visit to Istanbul by Pope Benedict XVI.

Posted by Bruce Chapman on November 29, 2006 9:08 AM | Permalink

Darwinist Groups Stumbling Over Academic Freedom in Ouachita

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/12/darwinist_groups_stumbling_ove.html

As we recently reported, the Ouachita Parish School Board in Monroe, Louisiana, has passed a policy protecting Academic Freedom to Teach Scientific Evidence Regarding Controversial Scientific Subjects. The policy observes that "some teachers may be unsure of the district's expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects" and guarantees teachers the academic freedom to teach both scientific strengths and weaknesses of controversial scientific subjects:

Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.

What could be less objectionable? Indeed, according to an article in the News Star in Monroe, Louisiana, a local attorney for the ACLU conceded that "On its face, it is not objectionable." So in order to attack the policy, he had to invent assertions that equate teaching scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolution with inserting religion into schools:

[Charles] Kincade said that the policy itself is very innocuous and vague in its language. "On its face, it is not objectionable, but in reality, it is people trying to get a foothold on religion in schools."

("School Board Commended for Science Education" by Barbara Leader (Page 1B), News Star, December 1, 2006)

Barry Lynn similarly jumped to the conclusion that the policy is really "an underhanded way to undercut the theory of evolution" and claimed, "There isn't a scientific controversy. There's a religious one."

But of course both Lynn's and Kincade's organizations (Americans United and the ACLU, respectively) have already agreed that "any genuinely scientific evidence for or against any explanation of life may be taught." (See Religion In The Public Schools: A Joint Statement Of Current Law.) Ouachita's resolution recognizes this fact, writing that "diverse organizations including Americans United for Separation of Church and State and American Civil Liberties Union have acknowledged that 'any genuinely scientific evidence for or against any explanation of life may be taught'." And Ouachita's policy sanctions nothing more and nothing less than what these Darwinists groups already supposedly supported.

There are legitimate scientific criticisms of key aspects of Neo-Darwinism, and teaching them would improve scientific instruction over controversial subjects like evolution. But apparently for critics of the policy like Barry Lynn and Charles Kincade, freedom of inquiry and academic freedom should not be given to students and teachers if it might not fully and wholly support Neo-Darwinism. Where is American United and the ACLU's support for academic freedom now?

Posted by Casey Luskin on December 4, 2006 8:45 AM | Permalink

Natural Selection for Everyone

http://www.americanscientist.org/template/BookReviewTypeDetail/assetid/54418;jsessionid=aaab0bSLW0eoVO

Douglas Erwin

The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution. Sean B. Carroll. 301 pp. W.W. Norton, 2006. $25.95.

Garry Trudeau recently composed a Doonesbury cartoon in which a doctor asks a patient with tuberculosis whether he is a creationist—saying that his answer will determine whether the treatment will be streptomycin (effective only for the TB of yesteryear) or a more modern antibiotic (one that would work on the drug-resistant strain into which the TB bacterium had lately evolved).Despite his religious convictions, the patient shows great interest in the updated drug. Sean Carroll, an evolutionary developmental biologist at the University of Wisconsin, opens his new book with a similar conundrum: Why is it that so many Americans are willing to use DNA to convict those accused of murder while simultaneously refusing to accept the validity of the overwhelming molecular evidence for evolution? Carroll has an interesting point, for many Americans harbor creationist sentiments yet seem quite happy to reap the fruits of modern research, such as nuclear power (or nuclear weapons!), the beneficial products of agricultural genetics, or forensic DNA, without acknowledging that the science underlying these advances has revealed an abundance of information (the radiometric dating of ancient rocks and the molecular fingerprints of evolution, for example) that is contrary to their fundamental beliefs.

Popular exposition about evolution has had difficulty conveying the incredible power of natural selection. The late Stephen Jay Gould perfected one approach, writing engaging essays about odd peculiarities whose only explanation can be evolution. Other approaches all too often get bogged down with such boring things as changing allele frequencies in peppered moths, and let's face it, no one, not even a population geneticist, has ever really enjoyed rehashing that argument.

As a developmental biologist, Carroll has a far more engaging set of examples to offer: the remarkable genetic and developmental evidence for the evolution of antifreeze proteins in Antarctic fish, the evolution of color vision through the duplication of opsin genes in birds and primates, and the fossil evidence preserved in our own genes for battles against malaria. In each case, he describes both the basic natural history and the genetic changes involved.

Carroll does not shy away from the mathematics of natural selection, but he presents quantitative aspects of evolutionary theory in a deceptively simple manner (and yes, peppered moths make their obligatory appearance). He also includes some math in his discussion of Alberto Palleroni's investigation of falcon predation on pigeons near Davis, California, where, it turns out, a white rump on a pigeon evidently distracts falcons. Having conveyed the mathematical essence of such examples of natural selection, he can turn back to the compelling arguments that come from the work of his own lab and from the labs of many colleagues.

Of course, one wonders whether books like this ever reach their intended audience. Most readers of popular science books (and, presumably, most readers of American Scientist) recognize that there is not a scintilla of evidence for intelligent design or its more antiquated progenitor, creationism. (Indeed, these systems of belief are not just flawed, they are theologically bankrupt as well, as many theologians have pointed out.) Carroll is not, I think, so foolish as to think that his efforts will convert members of the Discovery Institute or the Institute for Creation Research. Rather, he aims at the middle ground: those sufficiently curious about the world and how it works to want to understand, rather than to rely on blind faith. In this he is, I think, quite successful.

Carroll does not shrink from confronting head-on the intellectual poverty and often downright dishonesty of the purveyors of "creationist science." In a chapter on creationists, he begins with a review of Lysenkoism and the damage it did for several decades to genetics (and to science in general) in the Soviet Union. Chiropractors and their battles against immunization then serve as a cautionary tale, demonstrating that such anti-scientific posturing is not limited to other countries. Carroll then identifies in the behavior of creationists several of the techniques of disinformation characteristic of these two movements. It should go without saying, but sadly cannot, that Carroll's complaint is not with religion as such, but with those fundamentalists whose fear of intellectual inquiry leads them to such discreditable ends.

I do wish that Carroll had shared more of his views about the future directions of evolutionary theory, a topic he touched on near the end of his previous book, Endless Forms Most Beautiful. He is among those who feel that science is on the verge of a new synthesis in evolutionary biology (a perspective I share). Yet he missed an opportunity here to elaborate on what the future might bring and to show how scientists deal with new data that challenge received wisdom.

Carroll is a devoted father, and his children make frequent appearances during the course of family trips to satiate Dad's love of natural history. As a field geologist, I get a sense that part of Carroll wishes he had become a field biologist, tracking snakes through the underbrush. But we are all fortunate that instead he has become a vital contributor to the growth of evolutionary developmental biology and is now an engaging author of popular books on this and allied subjects. Conveying the excitement of current research while also providing a firm foundation of why we know what we know is a rare gift. In The Making of the Fittest, Carroll offers a graceful and insightful view of the explanatory power of evolution.

Reviewer Information

Douglas H. Erwin is a senior scientist and Curator of Paleobiology at the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution, and an external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1985. His research interests include evolutionary radiations, the end-Permian mass extinction and the history of Paleozoic gastropods. He is the author of Extinction: How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago (Princeton University Press, 2006) and several other books. Address: Department of Paleobiology, MRC-121, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC 20560. Internet: Erwin.Doug@nmnh.si.edu

Evidence isn't what it used to be

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/712134.cms

MUKUL SHARMA

TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ TUESDAY, DECEMBER 05, 2006 12:47:42 AM]

Lawrence M Krauss, former chairman of the physics department at Case Western Reserve University, USA, has become famous for being an absolutely uncompromising adversary of creationism.

Creationism is the belief that life, our planet or the universe as a whole was created by a supreme being or by some other means of supernatural intervention. Yet Krauss can manage to summon up the grace to maintain that science does not make it impossible to believe in God and that we should recognise that fact and live with it and stop being so pompous about it.

Compare that now with the response it generated in the rabid evolutionary atheist, Richard Dawkins, who is often called Darwin's Rottweiler. "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 systemically 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."

Never mind that the philosopher Mary Midgley has stated that to take issue with Dawkins would be as unnecessary as to "break a butterfly upon a wheel", we still need to know what or where is the "real evidence" this person speaks of. Could it be the knowledge, as Aristotle — the great patriarch of natural science — used to think, that Earth is the centre of the universe?

Or that life could arise spontaneously from decaying matter, as in maggots appearing in rotting meat? Or that most stomach ulcers are caused by stress and spicy food as was believed by the entire medical community in the world till only about 20 years ago, when actually the reason was found to be bacterial infection?

These days we're being given further "real evidence" inasmuch that the fundamental constituents of reality are strings of extremely small scale which vibrate in something like 11 spacetime dimensions to create everything in existence. If this is evidence (and which it may well prove to be), then so is any one person's belief that his or her actuality is manifest and brought into being through the intercession of a higher entity (and which may, too, well prove to be). We need to recognise that faith or science also depends on certain assumptions about the way the world is.

Intelligently designed motives

http://www.californiaaggie.com/media/storage/paper981/news/2006/12/05/Opinion/Glendon.Y.Mccreary-2522355.shtml

By: Glendon Y. McCreary

Issue date: 12/5/06 Section: Opinion

It has become evident over the past few years that a war is being waged against science. Whether the topic is evolution, global warming or sex education, powerful forces in this country have been spending tremendous amounts of time and energy trying to manipulate science to further their own political agendas.

The most glaring example of this has been the intelligent design movement. Darwinian evolution, one of the major tenets of modern biology, is taken almost for granted in scientific circles, but has been lambasted by those who claim to support the "alternative" theory of intelligent design. Its proponents, mostly members of the religious right, have been so good at convincing Americans it is a scientific issue that some schools have been forced to debate whether to teach it in science classrooms. And many politicians, including the President, have openly supported teaching intelligent design, likely to gain political support from its religious supporters.

All across this country, proponents have sought to spread their message directly to a sympathetic public, bypassing the troublesome scientific community. Just this past Friday, Phillip Johnson, a leading proponent of intelligent design and prominent member of the Discovery Institute, a pro-intelligent design organization, came to Davis to put "Darwin on Trial," as the discussion was titled, and promote the so-called theory.

But while Johnson and others have managed to promote their beliefs by framing it as a legitimate scientific controversy, the ideas brought forth by the movement have largely been dismissed by the scientific community as being pseudoscience, hence the reason for going directly to the public.

Now, if this were a benign apolitical movement, it might not have been so controversial. But despite its innocent-looking nature and their appealing slogans, like "Teach the Controversy," a closer look at the proponents of intelligent design seems to reveal explicit political and religious motivations, rather than a quest for scientific truth. Continued...

Perhaps most telling is a leaked document produced by Johnson's Discovery Institute that described its use of intelligent design in the public arena as part of a "wedge strategy" intended to, among other things, "replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God."

By taking scientific issues directly to the public and turning them into political issues, we are essentially putting science up for a vote. Most notable have been the school board votes in states like Kansas and Pennsylvania, to determine whether school curriculums should be amended to include mentions of intelligent design.

That is not to say that voting is bad. For explicitly political issues like whether to raise or lower taxes, what federal programs to fund and what kind of foreign policy we should have, having a vote is a reasonable way of determining a course of action.

However, science doesn't operate in the same way. Imagine if scientists determined the validity of the theory of gravity by taking a vote on it. Or suppose that they took a poll to decide whether Einstein's theory of relativity should be taught in classrooms. It's an absurd notion to consider, because science is based on testing hypotheses and analyzing the resulting evidence, not by taking democratic votes. To do so would inject blatant political biases into what should be purely scientific endeavors.

Science should be apolitical and be used to provide evidence for political views. However, groups like the Discovery Institute want to flip that idea around and instead alter science to support previously held political views. Should intelligent design and other politically motivated pseudoscientific movements continue to take hold in this country, it will only do further damage to both politics and science.

GLENDON Y. McCREARY is the designer of this column. Tell him whether he did it intelligently at gymccreary@ucdavis.edu.

Israeli psychic starts paranormal fad

http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/mld/myrtlebeachonline/entertainment/16169228.htm

by Matti Friedman Associated Press

JERUSALEM - When the young Uri Geller packed his spoons and self-styled supernatural powers to seek fortune abroad, no one could have predicted he would return to his native Israel in triumph 35 years later as a reality TV star - no one, presumably, except Uri Geller.

The premise of Geller's new show, "The Successor" - which has received smash ratings here and started something of a paranormal fad - is that the psychic celebrity, now approaching his 60th birthday, has come home to choose an heir.

On recent episodes of the live show, the nine contestants aspiring to succeed Geller read the minds of audience members and made them imagine different tastes in their mouths on command. One contestant stopped his heartbeat for several seconds, leading an unfortunate 10-year-old in northern Israel to try the same trick at school - and pass out briefly.

Geller, who gained fame bending spoons using what he says are psychic powers, also performs on every show. In one episode, he drew a copy of a picture that had just been drawn by a pilot flying an El Al jet 30,000 feet above the Sinai desert. (It was a fish.)

In an interview with The Associated Press, Geller attributed the show's success to Israel's Jewish mystical traditions. "People here have roots in positive mysticism carried through the centuries by the Kabbalah," he said, referring to the ancient mystical work that has won non-Jewish enthusiasts, most famously Madonna.

While the show's content - illusion, sleight of hand and the supernatural - might stretch a picky viewer's definition of a reality program, its format sticks close to the staples of the genre: judges, manufactured drama, celebrity cameos and viewer participation. Contestants show off their powers over 10 episodes, and the winner gets fame and fortune as Geller's anointed successor, along with a secret prize, though one can assume the contestants have guessed what it is.

For Geller, his new success in his homeland brings him full circle.

Before Geller became perhaps the world's best known psychic entertainer and an intimate of Salvador Dali's and Michael Jackson's, he was an unknown Israeli from Tel Aviv. His biography - in his telling, at least - reads like the plot of a spy novel.

At 10, his parents divorced and he left Tel Aviv for Cyprus, where his stepfather ran a hotel that was a front for Israel's Mossad spy agency, and he ran errands for agents.

He served in the Israeli paratroops, was wounded in 1967's Six-Day War, became a male model, began to showcase his psychic powers at parties, was accused of being a fraud, and went to the U.S. There, he was humiliated by a dubious Johnny Carson when his powers failed him, so he moved to Britain, where he spoon-bent his way to international stardom.

Geller has always been popular both among the credulous, who fill his shows and made him a multimillionaire, and the skeptical, who have made him a top target for debunking.

But none doubt his supernatural powers of self-promotion. Beginning with little but his trademark trick, Geller turned himself into a major entertainment enterprise, becoming a self-help guru, a TV personality, a sought-after motivational speaker and the author of 16 books. Today he lives in a mansion outside London.

Geller immediately shook things up when he arrived in Israel several weeks ago and pronounced himself able to wake up Ariel Sharon, the former prime minister who has been in a coma since January. He hasn't done so, he said, because Sharon's sons told him they weren't interested. When a serial rapist escaped police custody in Tel Aviv, throwing the country into a panic, Geller again appeared, offering to use his powers to get the man to turn himself in.

Geller's return has sparked something of a paranormal revival. A popular political talk show briefly abandoned the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to devote an episode to the supernatural. Another channel now has a show featuring a young entertainer who claims an abnormally developed sixth sense and who has mastered a smoldering and distinctly Gelleresque gaze.

The success of Geller's show might be due to the country's current atmosphere of disillusionment following the costly and inconclusive Lebanon war this summer, said Tom Segev, a prominent historian and journalist. "This atmosphere leads people to look for escape in things that can't be explained and to turn to people like Geller," Segev said.

Geller put it differently: "There is a tension in the psychic atmosphere here."

Yossi Elias, the show's chief editor, had a more prosaic explanation: It's entertaining.

"It's fun sometimes not to be able to explain everything," Elias said. "Uri is very charismatic, and it's fun for Israelis to get their rich and successful uncle back from abroad. The combination makes for good television."

Intelligent Design Debated In Louisiana

http://www.bayoubuzz.com/articles.aspx?aid=9037

Author: National news National news | 12/6/2006 Home : National

Also By this Reporter: Oil and Gas Royalty Bill poised To Pass for Louisiana and Gulf Coast Iraq Study Group Report: Grave and Deteriorating Intelligent Design Debated In Louisiana Robert Gates In, Annan Worse, Iraq War On Vote on Louisiana, Gulf States Royalty Stalls Robert Gates: U.S. Not Winning In Iraq

Most people would probably be baffled by the policy adopted by the Ouachita Parish School Board in north-eastern Louisiana on November 29, which states that science teachers have the "academic freedom to teach scientific evidence" (sic.) in science classes.

On close examination, the policy does not explain why science teachers need to be assured of their freedom to teach science and present scientific evidence in science class. Isn´t that what science teachers do? In fact, isn´t that the only thing they should be doing in science class? Why would any parish need this policy? The real agenda is only revealed in the policy's sub-text, which allows the religious theory of 'intelligent design' to be taught as scientific theory in science classes.

Intelligent design proposes that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." It is promoted as a scientific theory that legitimately challenges existing scientific theories on evolution and the origins of life. However, the scientific community roundly rejects intelligent design as unscientific, as pseudoscience or as junk science. The US National Academy of Sciences has stated that intelligent design is not science because it cannot be tested by experiment, does not generate any predictions, and proposes no new hypotheses of its own. Meanwhile, no scientific studies on intelligent design theory have ever been published in any peer-reviewed academic scientific journal.

The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, a leading proponent of intelligent design, praised the Ouachita Parish School Board for "adopting a policy protecting teachers who teach evolution objectively". The Institute's 'wedge strategy' includes a social, political, and academic agenda that works to "defeat the materialist world view" represented by the theory of evolution, and replace this science with "a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions" that "affirms the reality of God".

The web site of the Discovery Institute introduces the organization as a non-partisan public policy think tank that concerns itself with technology, science, culture, economics and foreign affairs. Yet it clearly has a strong affiliation with the Religious Right, constantly promoting the 'authority' of an amendment proposed by Senator Rick Santorum (R-Penn, defeated Nov 7) which was excluded from the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, but was noted as explanatory text (after much campaigning and modification) in a report of the Joint Explanatory Statement of the Committee of Conference.

Despite the amendment's lacking any weight of law, the obscure and unofficial Santorum Amendment is cited by the Discovery Institute and other proponents of intelligent design as providing federal sanction for teaching intelligent design in US public schools and portraying evolution is a "theory in crisis".

In lockstep with this strategy, the Ouachita School Board's resolution deceptively claims that the Santorum Amendment was "declared" by the US Congress in 2001. Notably, it also quotes the amendment while entirely omitting the first sentence which clearly opposes the teaching of "religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science":

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

Last year, in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, a US federal court found that a public school district requirement for science classes to teach intelligent design as an alternative to evolution was a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. US District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is not science and is essentially religious in nature.

When asked about the legality of the Ouachita School Board's new policy, Meg Casper of the Louisiana Department of Education told Monroe's News Star that "local policies do not need state approval."

It is perhaps not surprising that the proponents of intelligent design and the policies they influence are presented in ways that distance them from their Christian fundamentalist agenda. Contrary to the founding principles of US democracy, the Religious Right seems determined to erode the separation of Church and State, replace science with religion, and forge a culture in the US that accepts public policies dominated by a religious agenda.

by Elaine McKewon

References:

Ouachita School Board's "Resolution on Teacher Academic Freedom to Teach Scientific Evidence (sic.) Regarding Controversial Scientific Subjects":

http://www.thenewsstar.com/assets/pdf/DI514301129.PDF

Discovery Institute's 'wedge strategy' document:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikisource/en/7/71/Wedge_Document.pdf

Wikipedia's entry on 'intelligent design':

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_design

The Ouachita Citizen Provides Objective News in Louisiana

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/12/the_ouachita_citizen_covers_sc.html

It looks like the local media in Louisiana have the best idea of what's happening with the Ouachita Parish School Board. We've been bringing you the latest news on the Monroe, Louisiana Board's decision to protect the academic freedom of its teachers. Impressively, it was local newspaper The Ouachita Citizen which gave a thorough and objective treatment of the event itself in an article last Wednesday.

The Ouachita Parish School Board unanimously approved a resolution to allow its teachers "academic freedom" in teaching all sides of controversial issues such as Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

Following the vote Wednesday at the school board meeting, several audience members of the packed board room applauded.

The article gives a clear picture by allowing the proponents and supporters of the resolution to speak for themselves and explain their position. The Citizen quotes retired Judge Darrell White of Baton Rouge, who "commended the school board for setting a precedent he hopes other school systems will follow."

"This has been a long fight," White said, but added the fight to implement quality science education guidelines in all schools has just begun.
. . .
In 2002, White reviewed science textbooks that the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved. He said those were flawed textbooks that numerous state lawmakers, public officials, college professors and high school teachers opposed.

He said documented scientific errors, misleading statements and "glaring omissions" were noted in all of the textbooks BESE approved.

"They really give a one-sided story," White said. "They don't teach the weaknesses of Darwinism, and the weaknesses of evolution need to be taught right along with the strengths." BESE officials said those who opposed the textbooks should take their concerns to the individual school boards that use the books.

"This is just a follow up today to what started back in 2002," White said.

Assistant superintendent Dr. Frank Hoffman said the issue is not about evolution or religion, but rather giving school teachers the freedom to teach all facets of a subject.

Superintendent Dr. Bob Webber said the school system polled local teachers and 100 percent indicated they don't feel they have the freedom to teach controversial issues.

"They are just looking for our support," Webber said.

Danny Pennington, a biology teacher at West Monroe High School, addressed the school board during Tuesday's meeting.

He helped poll local teachers and agrees that most of them are scared to teach these controversial issues for fear of backlash from the public.

"Darwin has three chapters where he questions his own theory," Pennington said. "Now, if Darwin questioned it, why can't we?"

"All we want to do as teachers is be able to teach both sides and strive for a fair result," Pennington said

"Board Gives Teachers 'academic Freedom'" (Emphasis added).

Posted by Anika Smith on December 6, 2006 12:04 PM | Permalink



Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Creationism in Turkey

http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2006/XX/98_creationism_in_turkey_12_4_2006.asp

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 (subscription required) 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."

December 4, 2006

When Questions of Science Come to a Courtroom, Truth Has Many Faces

By CORNELIA DEAN

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/05/science/05law.html

Idealistic lawyers and idealistic scientists often describe themselves as engaging in a search for truth.

The scientists follow the scientific method. They state their hypotheses, describe the ways they test them, present their findings — and wait for another researcher to prove them wrong. Lawyers' practice is built on the idea that the best way to shake the truth out of a complex dispute is for advocates on each side to argue it, as vigorously as they can, in front of an impartial judge or jury.

These approaches work more or less well on their own. But when a legal issue hinges on questions of science, they can clash. And the collision can resound all the way up to the Supreme Court.

Last Wednesday, the nine justices heard arguments in the first global warming case to come before the court. Massachusetts, 11 other states and several cities and environmental groups are saying that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has ignored the requirements of the Clean Air Act and otherwise shirked its responsibilities by failing to regulate emissions of heat-trapping gases, chiefly carbon dioxide.

As the case made its way to the court, it generated interesting questions like whether states have a right to bring such a suit and whether E.P.A. action would amount to unauthorized interference in foreign policy.

But much of the argument hinged on scientific questions. Is the earth's climate changing? If so, are human activities contributing to the change?

Mainstream science has answers to these questions (yes and yes). But while it is impossible to argue that earth has not warmed up a bit in the last century, there are still some scientists with bright credentials and impressive academic affiliations who argue that people don't have much do to with it. As Justice Anthony M. Kennedy suggested on Wednesday, maybe the court will decide to decide this issue for itself.

If it does, it will also confront issues outside the realm of mainstream science.

One is the standard of proof. Typically, scientists don't accept a finding unless, statistically, the odds are less than 1 in 20 that it occurred by chance. This standard is higher than the typical standard of proof in civil trials ("preponderance of the evidence") and lower than the standard for criminal trials ("beyond a reasonable doubt").

The justices may also consider that when scientists confront a problem, they collect all the information they can about it and then draw conclusions.

Lawyers work in reverse. They know their desired outcome at the outset, so they gather arguments to support it. While it would be unethical for scientists reporting on their work to omit findings that don't fit their hypotheses, lawyers are under no compunction to introduce evidence that hurts their cases; that's the other side's job.

Perhaps the knottiest problem, though, has been deciding what scientific evidence or testimony should be considered in the first place.

For years, the standard was "general acceptance" by scientists, which a federal appeals court enunciated in 1923 in Frye v. United States, a case involving lie detectors. The court ruled that lie detector technology had yet to win wide acceptance and barred its use.

Though the court noted that it was difficult to say "just when a scientific principle or discovery crosses the line between the experimental and demonstrable stages," the Frye standard prevailed until 1975, when Congress codified federal rules of evidence.

In these rules, the test became not wide acceptance, but whether the scientific, technical or other specialized information would assist the judge or jury in reaching a decision and whether witnesses seeking to testify about it had enough knowledge or expertise to make a valuable contribution.

Critics of this standard say it flooded courtrooms with junk science, as people with good (or seemingly good) credentials but bad ideas took the stand before judges and juries unable to differentiate between credible scientific claims and those with only an aroma of scientific respectability.

Eventually, in 1993, the Supreme Court spoke on the issue, in a case involving accusations that the drug Bendectin caused birth defects. In that case, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, the court returned to the Frye "acceptance" standard but added new criteria, including whether the information had been tested or could be tested or whether other scientists had examined it in a process called peer review. (The court upheld the verdict that Bendectin was not guilty, but by then litigation had driven it from the market.)

The court elaborated on Daubert in 1998, in General Electric Company v. Joiner, ruling that judges could reject evidence if there was simply too great a gap between "the data and the opinion proffered."

But how are judges to know? Few have advanced training in science.

Some of them have been taking things into their own hands.

For example, in a large case involving silicone breast implants, the judge chose a panel of advisers to recommend experts to review scientific aspects of the accusations. Their report cleared the implants of any role in systemic disease, but only after a multibillion-dollar trust had been established to compensate the supposed victims.

Other judges, worried about their ability to hear cases hinging on complex topics, have organized their own seminars on subjects like DNA evidence. According to Sheila Jasanoff, a lawyer and professor of science and technology studies at the Kennedy School at Harvard, scholars and officials have from time to time also proposed creating a judicial or quasijudicial "science court" to resolve factual disputes. Generally, lawyers don't like these ideas, in part because they fear the influence such a supposedly objective entity might have with juries.

The idea "has largely been abandoned as unworkable," Dr. Jasanoff wrote in her book "Science at the Bar" (Harvard University Press, 1997).

But even if lawyers and judges could routinely absorb a thorough grounding in the scientific issues they confront, there would still be trouble. For one thing, the state of scientific knowledge changes rapidly. Sometimes, there are multiple scientific views of a given issue, all potentially credible. And sometimes research on an issue does not even begin until it works its way into court. To an extent, that was the case with the silicone breast implants.

But without a method of providing courts with reliable scientific information, scientific research has an uncertain role in the courts, and especially the Supreme Court, as David L. Faigman put it in "Laboratory of Justice" (Times Books, 2004). Justice Antonin Scalia made this point on Wednesday, in a way, when he was corrected on where in the atmosphere carbon dioxide ends up.

"Troposphere, whatever," Justice Scalia said. "I told you before I'm not a scientist."

Mr. Faigman, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, criticizes what he calls the court's "abdication" of any responsibility to determine scientific facts.

This practice cannot last, he wrote. "Science and technology today are so pervasive that the court cannot continue its slapdash ways," he said. "The scientific revolution is everywhere; it cannot be ignored with impunity."

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company


Monday, December 04, 2006

A Modest Proposal for a Truce on Religion

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

December 3, 2006 Op-Ed Columnist

If God is omniscient and omnipotent, you can't help wondering why she doesn't pull out a thunderbolt and strike down Richard Dawkins.

Or, at least, crash the Web site of www.whydoesgodhateamputees.com. That's a snarky site that notes that while people regularly credit God for curing cancer or other ailments, amputees never seem to enjoy divine intervention.

"If God were answering the prayers of amputees to regenerate their lost limbs, we would be seeing amputated legs growing back every day," the Web site declares, adding: "It would appear, to an unbiased observer, that God is singling out amputees and purposefully ignoring them."

That site is part of an increasingly assertive, often obnoxious atheist offensive led in part by Professor Dawkins — the Oxford scientist who is author of the new best seller "The God Delusion." It's a militant, in-your-face brand of atheism that he and others are proselytizing for.

He counsels readers to imagine a world without religion and conjures his own glimpse: "Imagine no suicide bombers, no 9/11, no 7/7, no Crusades, no witch hunts, no Gunpowder Plot, no Indian partition, no Israeli/Palestinian wars, no Serb/Croat/Muslim massacres, no persecution of Jews as 'Christ-killers,' no Northern Ireland 'troubles,' no 'honor killings,' no shiny-suited bouffant-haired televangelists fleecing gullible people of their money."

Look elsewhere on the best-seller list and you find an equally acerbic assault on faith: Sam Harris's "Letter to a Christian Nation." Mr. Harris mocks conservative Christians for opposing abortion, writing: "20 percent of all recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. There is an obvious truth here that cries out for acknowledgment: if God exists, He is the most prolific abortionist of all."

The number of avowed atheists is tiny, with only 1 to 2 percent of Americans describing themselves in polls as atheists. But about 15 percent now say that they are not affiliated with any religion, and this vague category is sometimes described as the fastest-growing "religious group" in America today (some surveys back that contention, while others don't).

Granted, many Americans may not yet be willing to come out of the closet and acknowledge their irreligious views. In polls, more than 90 percent of Americans have said that they would be willing to vote for a woman, a Jew or a black, and 79 percent would be willing to vote for a gay person. But at last count, only 37 percent would consider voting for an atheist.

Such discrimination on the basis of (non) belief is insidious and intolerant, and undermines our ability to have far-reaching discussions about faith and politics. Mr. Harris, for example, makes some legitimate policy points, such as criticism of conservative Christians who try to block research on stem cells because of their potential to become humans.

"Almost every cell in your body is a potential human being, given our recent advances in genetic engineering," notes Mr. Harris. "Every time you scratch your nose, you have committed a Holocaust of potential human beings."

Yet the tone of this Charge of the Atheist Brigade is often just as intolerant — and mean. It's contemptuous and even ... a bit fundamentalist.

"These writers share a few things with the zealous religionists they oppose, such as a high degree of dogmatism and an aggressive rhetorical style," says John Green of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. "Indeed, one could speak of a secular fundamentalism that resembles religious fundamentalism. This may be one of those cases where opposites converge."

Granted, religious figures have been involved throughout history in the worst kinds of atrocities. But as Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot show, so have atheists.

Moreover, for all the slaughters in the name of religion over the centuries, there is another side of the ledger. Every time I travel in the poorest parts of Africa, I see missionary hospitals that are the only source of assistance to desperate people. God may not help amputees sprout new limbs, but churches do galvanize their members to support soup kitchens, homeless shelters and clinics that otherwise would not exist. Religious constituencies have pushed for more action on AIDS, malaria, sex trafficking and Darfur's genocide, and believers often give large proportions of their incomes to charities that are a lifeline to the neediest.

Now that the Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars, let's hope that the Atheist Left doesn't revive them. We've suffered enough from religious intolerance that the last thing the world needs is irreligious intolerance.

http://select.nytimes.com/2006/12/03/opinion/03kristof.html

Let us test Darwin, teacher says

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6187534.stm?ls

Science teaching materials deemed "not appropriate" by the government should be allowed in class, Education Secretary Alan Johnson has been urged.

Chemistry teacher at Liverpool's Blue Coat School, Nick Cowan, says the packs promoting intelligent design are useful in debating Darwinist evolution.

Education officials insist intelligent design is not recognised as science.

It argues that evolution cannot explain everything so the Universe must have had an intelligent creator.

The packs were sent out to 5,000 secondary schools by a group of academics and clerics known as Truth in Science.

The Department for Education and Skills said they were inappropriate and not supportive of the science curriculum.

Reacting to Mr Cowan's letter, a DfES spokesman said: "Neither creationism nor intelligent design are taught as a subject in schools, and are not specified in the science curriculum.

"The National Curriculum for science clearly sets down that pupils should be taught that the fossil record is evidence for evolution, and how variation and selection may lead to evolution or extinction."

The call from Mr Cowan - former head of the school's chemistry department - comes as the Guardian reported that the Truth in Science materials were being used in 59 schools.

'Sacred cow'

Mr Cowan says they are "very scholarly" and could be extremely useful in helping children understand the importance of scientific debate

He told the BBC: "Darwin has for many people become a sacred cow.

"There's a sense that if you criticise Darwin you must be some kind of religious nut case.

"We might as well have said Einstein shouldn't have said what he did because it criticised Newton."

He argues that science only moves forward by reviewing and reworking previous theories and that these materials foster an understanding of this.

'Controversy'

He also points out that the Truth in Science materials, which he describes as outstanding, do not mention creationism or even God.

He says the GCSE syllabus requires children to appreciate how science works and understand the nature of scientific controversy.

"The government wants children to be exposed to scientific debate at the age of 14 or 15.

"All the Truth in Science stuff does is put forward stuff that says here's a controversy.

"This is exactly the kind of thing that young people should be exposed to," Mr Cowan added.

'Poorly served'

The chairman of the parliamentary science and technology committee, Phil Willis, said using the packs in science classes "elevated creationism" to the same level of debate as Darwinism and that there was no justification for that.

He added: "There's little enough time with the school curriculum to deal with real science like climate change, energy and the weather.

"This is quite frankly a distraction that science teachers can well do without."

Dr Evan Harris, honorary associate of the National Secular Society and Liberal Democrat science spokesman, said it was worrying that some schools were giving "this nonsense" any credence.

Many leading scientists argue that ideas about intelligent design should not be allowed in school because they are simply not scientific.

Back in April, the Royal Society warned against allowing creationism in school saying that pupils must understand that science backs Darwin's theory of evolution.

The society's statement said: "Young people are poorly served by deliberate attempts to withhold, distort or misrepresent scientific knowledge and understanding in order to promote particular religious beliefs."

Recently, the British Humanist Association asked Mr Johnson for greater clarity on the teaching of creationism in schools.

Older than the sun, the meteorite scientists call 'the real time machine'

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/story/0,,1961515,00.html

Ian Sample, science correspondent
Friday December 1, 2006 The Guardian

As lumps of rock go it looks much like any other, unexceptional despite the deep red of its cool, smooth surface. The pieces range in size from pea-sized lumps to larger fist-sized chunks. But today, scientists will announce this is no ordinary stone. Prised from a frozen lake in northern Canada, it has become a prime candidate for the oldest known object on Earth.

The chunk came from a meteorite that scored an arc of fire across the skies before slamming into Lake Tagish in British Columbia in 2000. It has been pored over by scientists ever since, and is today revealed to contain particles that predate the birth of our nearest star, the sun.

The Tagish Lake meteorite was already regarded as exceptional because its mineral composition linked it to the earliest days of the formation of the solar system, more than 4.5bn years ago. The fragments of meteorite that still exist are among the most pristine in the world, as they were protected from contamination when they became wedged in blocks of lake ice.

The latest research shows that peppered throughout the meteorite are grains that formed even earlier, in a frigid cloud of molecules, possibly at the edge of the swirling disc of dust that ultimately collapsed to form the sun and all the planets of the solar system.

The discovery suggests that while the first light from the sun fell on the fledgling Earth, as the dinosaurs rose and died out and humans gained dominance, the meteorite was hurtling around the heavens on a billions-of-years-long journey destined to terminate with a thud in Yukon territory.

Researchers at Nasa's Johnson Space Centre in Houston examined a two gram fragment of the meteorite and focused on tiny, hollow, carbon spheres embedded within it. Each "globule" measured just a few thousandths of a millimetre across.

Using electron microscopy and isotope tests, the scientists looked at the chemical make-up of the grains and discovered they had unusual ratios of different forms of nitrogen and hydrogen. Ratios of the isotope nitrogen-15 to nitrogen-14 were nearly twice those on Earth, while the ratio of deuterium, a heavy form of hydrogen, to normal hydrogen, was between 2.5 and nine times higher than usual.

Reporting in the journal Science today, a team lead by Keiko Nakamura-Messenger and Michael Zolensky show the levels of the isotopes in the meteorite could only arise from chemical reactions taking place in an extremely cold climate, where temperatures were as low as -260C. Those conditions would only be found in remote molecular clouds before the formation of the solar system, or at the very edge of what is known as the protosolar disc that was later to coalesce into the celestial bodies of the solar system. "These little particles within the meteorite seem to predate everything else. We don't know exactly how old they are, but they could be billions of years older than the rest of the meteorite," said Dr Zolensky.

Between 40,000 and 60,000 tonnes of meteorite matter is believed to land on Earth every year, and around 90% of this rains down steadily as fine particles that are rarely even identified.

Much of the material immediately disappears beneath the waves, and significant amounts are lost in the world's deserts and forests. Only a few tens of kilograms, in larger chunks, are usually recovered from any year's fallout.

Fragments of the Tagish Lake meteorite were recovered after locals spotted the fireball it created as it tore through the atmosphere at 20 miles per second. Large clumps of the meteorite were collected from the surface of the frozen lake, but other chunks were removed later embedded in blocks of ice, and transported to research labs. Around one tonne of fragments from the meteorite is now held in the Natural History Museum in London and at other sites in the US, Canada and Germany.

"These are the real time machines, the material that goes back to the earliest formation of the solar system," said Caroline Smith, meteorite curator at the Natural History Museum.

The meteorite is known as a carbonaceous chondrite and contains what many scientists regard as the building blocks for life: carbon, myriad clay minerals and even amino acids. Scientists say the clay layers, principally silicates, can form protective pockets around the organic chemicals and act as reaction chambers where more complex molecules can form. The possible role of these pockets in the ultimate emergence of life has lead some scientists to refer to them as "wombs".

"These things tell us what kind of chemicals are out there in interstellar space. They could have been the original seeds for life to get started," said Dr Zolensky.

Evolution education update: December 1, 2006

Creationism continues to be in the news in the United Kingdom, while congratulations are in order for two long-time NCSE members, and NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott appears on Culture Shocks radio.

CREATIONISM IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

The threat of creationism in public education continues to occupy the headlines in the United Kingdom, prompted in part by a propaganda blitz on the part of a newly formed creationist organization styling itself Truth in Science. In September 2006, Truth in Science sent packets of creationist teaching material, including two "intelligent design" DVDs, to the science heads of every secondary school (of which there are about 5700) in the United Kingdom. The Guardian (November 27, 2006) reports that Truth in Science is claiming to have received 59 positive responses. On November 1, 2006, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills replied to a member of parliament's question about the Truth in Science packets by saying, "Neither intelligent design nor creationism are recognised scientific theories and they are not included in the science curriculum," adding, "the Truth in Science information pack is therefore not an appropriate resource to support the science curriculum."

According to the Telegraph (November 28, 2006), however, there is concern that the government's disclaimers are insufficient. James Williams, head of science teacher training at Sussex University, told the newspaper that hundreds of schools may be teaching creationism in science classes: "The problem we have got is that no one has carried out any proper research to find out how widespread the teaching of creationism and aspects of creationism are in science." Williams also blamed the government for failing to resolve ambiguity in its guidelines for biology curricula, such as a syllabus that required students to be able to "explain that the fossil record has been interpreted differently over time (eg creationist interpretation)," leading to confusion that creationists are now exploiting. The Telegraph also reported that "a spokesman for the DfES [Department for Education and Skills] said that new guidance would clarify its position that creationism cannot be debated in science."

The scientific establishment in the United Kingdom is also reacting to the campaign. The developmental biologist Lewis Wolpert told the Guardian, "There is just no evidence for intelligent design, it is pure religion and has nothing to do with science. It should be banned from science classes," and Lord Rees, the Astronomer Royal and the president of the Royal Society of London, responded to a question about the teaching of creationism by answering, "As a scientist, I feel that science is part of our culture and anyone is culturally deprived who can't appreciate how our universe evolved from mysterious beginnings to the creation of atoms, stars, planets, biospheres and eventually brains that can wonder about it all and share in the wonder and mystery" (The Guardian, November 30, 2006). In a 2005 address, his predecessor, Lord May, decried the prospect of "creationism, or its disguised variant 'intelligent design', in the science classroom."

Among the groups opposing creationism in the United Kingdom are the British Humanist Association, which describes itself as "in the forefront of bringing creationism in British schools to public attention early in 2002," and Ekklesia, a Christian think tank; in September 2006, the two groups together petitioned the government to ensure that "guidelines are explicit in requiring teachers to maintain a wholly scientific perspective." In a press release, BHA and Ekklesia emphasized that they joined forces "to make it absolutely clear that the issue of the integrity of evolutionary theory as a cornerstone for teaching modern biology is not one of religious or non-religious conviction, but a matter of straightforward scientific truthfulness." Ekklesia later reported that they were assured that DfES is working "to find a suitable way of communicating to schools" that creationism is not part of the national science curriculum. Also active is the British Centre for Science Education, which is increasingly being consulted by the British media for comment.

For the story (and sidebars) in the Guardian, visit:
http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,1957858,00.html
http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,1958148,00.html
http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,1582042,00.html

For the story in the Telegraph, visit:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/11/28/ncreation28.xml

For the profile of Lord Rees in the Guardian, visit:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/story/0,,1960780,00.html

For the British Humanist Association's information on creationism in British schools, visit:
http://www.humanism.org.uk/site/cms/contentviewarticle.asp?article=1191

For a few of Ekklesia's recent press releases on creationism, visit:
http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/news_syndication/article_061120create.shtml
http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/news_syndication/article_06116create.shtml
http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/news_syndication/article_060929create.shtml

For the website of the British Center for Science Education, visit:
http://bcseweb.org.uk/

For NCSE's previous coverage of events in the United Kingdom, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=UK

AWARDS FOR MOORE AND PENNOCK

Randy Moore received the 2006 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching State Professor of the Year Award. Sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and administered by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, the awards recognize professors for their influence on teaching and their outstanding commitment to teaching undergraduate students. The program, created in 1981, is the only national initiative specifically designed to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring. A long-time member of NCSE and a recipient of NCSE's Friend of Darwin award in 2004, Moore is a professor at the University of Minnesota's College of Education and Human Development Department of Post Secondary Teaching and Learning and a former editor of The American Biology Teacher. His latest book, coauthored with Janice Moore, is Evolution 101 (Westport [CT]: Greenwood Press, 2006).

Robert T. Pennock was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. A long-time NCSE member and a recipient of NCSE's Friend of Darwin award in 2002, Pennock is the author of Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism (Cambridge [MA]: MIT, 1999) and the editor of Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics (Cambridge [MA]: MIT, 2001); he testified for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover about the nature of science. In a November 27, 2006, press release from Michigan State University, where he teaches philosophy, he was quoted as saying, "I feel very humbled to be honored for just doing what I love to do -- studying philosophically and experimentally how science and evolution work, and helping teach about that process of discovery. ... Science is such an important way of understanding ourselves and our world; it deserves to be protected from those who would try to extinguish its light."

For a press release from the University of Minnesota about Moore's award, visit:
http://www1.umn.edu/umnnews/Faculty_Staff_Comm/people.html

For a press release from Michigan State University about Pennock's election, visit:
http://www.newsroom.msu.edu/site/indexer/2919/content.htm

SCOTT ON CULTURE SHOCKS

NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott appeared on Culture Shocks, the talk radio show hosted by Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, on November 13, 2006, to discuss the antievolutionism movement, the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover, and the recent book Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for Our Schools, edited by Scott and NCSE's deputy director Glenn Branch. "'Intelligent design' really is just a subset of creation science," she commented, adding, "'intelligent design' is a lot sneakier than creation science. At least creation science tells you what they believe, and 'intelligent design' has a lot of handwaving and mostly just focuses on the alleged weaknesses of evolution."

For the Culture Shocks show (#809; MP3 format), visit:
http://www.cultureshocks.com/archives.html

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

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

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

Sincerely,

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

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!
http://www.ncseweb.org/membership.asp


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