NTS LogoSkeptical News for 29 January 2007

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Monday, January 29, 2007

Parents seek exemption to newborn tests


Posted on Sat, Jan. 27, 2007 ANNA JO BRATTON Associated Press

WAHOO, Neb. - Ray and Louise Spiering wanted to observe a period of silence after their daughter Melynda's birth, but what they got was an uproar.

To the Spierings, Nebraska's requirement that newborn babies undergo blood screening within 48 hours of birth is an infringement on their religious beliefs and their right to decide what's best for their four children.

The couple attend a fundamental Christian church and follow some teachings of the Church of Scientology. Louise Spiering said they wanted "that balance of our beliefs included into the births of our children."

It's taken them and another set of parents to the Nebraska Supreme Court and the Legislature in a drive to make the newborn screening law more flexible.

The mandatory test, in which a few drops of blood are drawn from a baby's heel, screens for dozens of rare congenital diseases, some of which can cause severe mental retardation or death if left undetected.

Nebraska is one of four states - along with South Dakota, Michigan and Montana - that don't let parents opt out of the testing.

The Spierings wanted to avoid loud noises after Melynda's birth, and also reduce the pain she experienced in order to protect her physical and mental health. The concept comes from the Church of Scientology - minimizing talking around someone who is in pain, said the Rev. Brian Fesler of Minneapolis, a regional representative for the church.

The church teaches that words spoken during moments of pain and unconsciousness affect physical and mental health later in life, he said. The church encourages silent birth, in which those attending avoid talking.

But the church doesn't discourage parents from having their children tested, Fesler said.

The Spierings, who apply some tenets of Scientology to their faith, took the silent birth concept a step further. They believe newborns are in pain for at least 3 1/2 days, and don't want blood drawn - which they believe would cause more pain - for at least that long.

They asked for seven days to complete the testing to avoid any unforeseen problems, although they would have preferred to skip the test altogether.

The state insisted, and in September a federal judge upheld the law as constitutional. The judge, however, granted the Spierings an eight-day waiting period while the case was pending, so their daughter was not tested within 48 hours.

Along with the Spierings, Mary and Josue Anaya of Omaha are also fighting the test, in their case because they believe the Bible instructs against deliberately drawing blood. According to the book of Leviticus, "the life of the flesh is in the blood," and ignoring that directive may shorten a person's life, they said.

Children's blood is "something precious in my sight and in the sight of God and not to be tampered with lightly," said Mary Anaya, who gave birth to the youngest of her nine children in Iowa to avoid the test.

In 2003, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled against the Anayas. They turned to state Sen. John Synowiecki of Omaha to introduce a measure for a religious exemption.

Armed with a petition including about 100 signatures, Mary Anaya and Louise Spiering testified Thursday before the Legislature's Health and Human Services committee.

Health officials testified that the requirement is one of the state's most cost-effective public health programs.

"Some parents may not comprehend the risks they are taking with their children's health," said Bruce Rieker of the Nebraska Hospital Association.

Many of the diseases covered in the bill are deficiencies, and one, phenylketonuria, can result in severe mental retardation without diet restrictions starting at birth.

One in every 837 babies born last year tested positive for one of the 34 diseases the state tests for, said Julie Miller, manager of Nebraska's Newborn Screening Program. But the incidence is much lower for the eight most serious diseases, with one in 112,000 having biotinidase deficiency, which can cause developmental delays.

The Spierings say changing the law will give parents better options, whatever their opposition to the tests.

"We just want to lay the groundwork so that other parents have better choices than we did," Ray Spiering said. "We weren't so much against the test. We just wanted a short delay. In a sense, we kind of won" when the judge granted the eight-day delay.

But, Louise Spiering said: "There was a very steep cost in terms of the intrusion on our private lives."

Doctors kept out in cold by US patients


Sunday Jan 28 08:03 AEDT

Most Americans aged 50 and older use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), such as herbal products or acupuncture, often unbeknown to their doctor, according to a survey conducted by AARP and the National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

It's in patients' best interests to tell their doctor about the CAMs they're taking, experts say, because some alternative medicines may interfere with over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs, or other conventional medical approaches.

"Communication between patients and physicians about CAM and conventional therapies is vital to ensuring safe, integrated use of all health care approaches," the report states.

An open dialogue "allows patients and physicians the opportunity to identify CAM practices that might be beneficial and also minimizes risks to a patient from potential therapy interactions."

Among a total of 1,559 individuals aged 50 and older surveyed in the spring of 2006, 63 per cent reported having used one or more CAM therapies.

People between the ages of 50 and 59 are the most likely to report CAM use, according to the survey results, which can be found at www.aarp.org/research/health/prevention/camt2007.html.

Forty-five per cent of CAM enthusiasts used massage therapy, chiropractic manipulation or other bodywork; 42 per cent used herbal or dietary supplements; 15 per cent used mind/body practices, including hypnosis and meditation; 14 per cent used naturopathy, acupuncture, or homeopathy; and 10 per cent had tried energy therapies.

Sixty-six per cent of CAM users said they did so to treat a specific health problem; 65 per cent for overall wellness; 45 per cent to supplement conventional medicine; and 42 per cent to prevent illness.

Sixty-nine per cent of those who reported using CAM had not discussed it with a doctor. Why? Forty-two per cent said because their doctor never asked; 30 per cent said they did not know they should; 19 per cent felt there was not enough time during the office visit; 17 per cent didn't think the doctor would know about the topic; and 12 per cent thought the doctor would be dismissive or tell them not to use CAM.

Women were more likely than men to have discussed CAM use with their doctor (26 per cent v 16 per cent) and those younger than age 65 were more likely to discuss CAM use than were older individuals.

©AAP 2007

How Darwinist Myths Are Spread (Part I)


Access Research Network has noted a Darwinist's lecture at East Tennessee State University entitled "Intelligent Design Theory and the Poverty of Anti-Science Thought," by historian, philosopher, and cognitive scientist George Kampis. ARN aptly observes, "Dr. Kampis hit every 'talking point' of Darwinists." Dr. Kampis' lecture spread much misinformation about intelligent design. For example, a premed female student said: "he raised a good point when he said Intelligent Design wasn't science." Would her view have been the same if she had heard the facts about ID and not a false caricature? A few of Kampis' errors will be highlighted over a series of two posts:

Dr. Kampis says:

"The Intelligent Design movement holds that living organisms are too complex to have arisen through random mutation and natural selection, and therefore must have been designed by some outside entity."

Question: Where do ID-proponents define ID like that? Answer: Nowhere. ID makes positive arguments where design is inferred based upon detecting the types of complexity we know are produced only by intelligence. ID is not inferred merely based upon the falsification of evolution. In short, the theory of intelligent design holds that some aspects of nature are best explained by an intelligent cause because they hold informational properties which are known to come only from intelligence.

Kampis again wrongly characterizes ID as if it is merely a negative argument against evolution with no positive content:

"When they can't explain a phenomenon they immediately claim that it must be the work of God. This is just giving in."

This is wrong for two reasons: ID doesn't try to identify the intelligence responsible for life. Second, design isn't an argument from ignorance. Design theorists infer intelligent design because intelligence does explain the data. Consider what ID-proponents actually say:

Molecular machines display a key signature or hallmark of design, namely, irreducible complexity. In all irreducibly complex systems in which the cause of the system is known by experience or observation, intelligent design or engineering played a role the origin of the system. ... Although some may argue this is a merely an argument from ignorance, we regard it as an inference to the best explanation, given what we know about the powers of intelligent as opposed to strictly natural or material causes. We know that intelligent designers can and do produce irreducibly complex systems. We find such systems within living organisms.

(Scott Minnich and Stephen Meyer, "Genetic analysis of coordinate flagellar and type III regulatory circuits in pathogenic bacteria")

Kampis continues his misrepresentation of ID:

"Supporters of Intelligent Design don't take the normal route to creating a theory. They don't write peer reviewed papers or present research at scientific seminars."

That's easy to say, but is it true? No, it's false. ID-proponents do write peer-reviewed papers supportive of ID (see here) and ID-proponents also offer papers at conferences. For a couple of examples, see the poster here and Jonathan Wells presented a poster based upon a scientific article he published. Dr. Kampis appears to have been misinformed, and unfortunately he passed on that misinformation to his audience. This is how the spread of misinformation works among ID-critics.

It gets worse when Kampis misrepresents Phillip Johnson, which will be discussed in the next post on this topic. But this is a good example of how misinformation about intelligent design is spread to students and recycled to other anti-ID academics.

Posted by Casey Luskin on January 27, 2007 1:50 PM | Permalink

How Darwinist Myths Are Spread (Part II)


In Part I of this short response, I explained some false information about intelligent design promoted by George Kampis at East Tennessee State University. This second and final post will discuss the false information about both intelligent design arguments and Phillip Johnson that Kampis spread.

Dr. Kampis's view was summarized as:

"Dr. Phillip Johnson, ID founder and longtime critic of Charles Darwin, rejects the concept of natural selection"

There are many problems here. "Intelligent design" was founded by scientists, and the term was coined in its modern form by chemist Charles Thaxton in the mid-1980s, before Johnson got involved with the subject. Jonathan Witt's The Origin of Intelligent Design: A brief history of the scientific theory of intelligent design gives an excellent account of Thaxton's coinage and early usage of the term.

But does Phillip Johnson "reject the concept of natural selection"? In reality, Johnson observes that natural selection occurs and that it works just fine; he just questions its creative power. The problem for Darwinian evolution is giving natural selection something to select for: "Natural selection is the most famous element in Darwinism, but is not necessarily the most important element. Selection merely preserves or destroys something that already exists. Mutation has to provide the favorable innovations before natural selection can retain and encourage them." (Phillip Johnson, Darwin On Trial, pg. 31)

Johnson even recounts six established examples of natural selection, including the Galapagos finches: "There is no reason to doubt that peculiar circumstances sometimes favor drug-resistant bacteria, or large birds as opposed to small ones..." (pgs. 26-27). This is ironic because Kampis' claim that "evolutionary theory is well grounded in facts" was based upon a discussion of Darwin's observations in the Galapagos Islands. Yet Johnson is rightly unimpressed with the minor variations between finch species on the Galapagos Islands:

None of the 'proofs' provides any persuasive reason for believing that natural selection can produce new species, new organs, or other major changes, or even minor changes that are permanent. ... That larger birds have an advantage over smaller birds in high winds or droughts has no tendency to prove that similar factors caused birds to come into existence in the first place. (Darwin on Trial, pg. 27)

Has Kampis read Johnson's work? Kampis's viewpoint continues to misrepresent both Johnson and Discovery Institute:

"Johnson co-founded the Discovery Institute, a think tank that promotes the teaching of ID in the science classroom."

This statement is doubly wrong: First, Discovery Institute was founded in 1990 by Bruce Chapman and George Gilder; Phillip Johnson had nothing to do with it. In fact, Discovery Institute did not start considering the ID issue until around 1995, and Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture was not founded until 1996. This lecture sounds like Darwinist mythology. Second, Discovery does not favor mandating ID for inclusion in schools. As Discovery's Science Education Policy page has long-stated, "As a matter of public policy, Discovery Institute opposes any effort to require the teaching of intelligent design by school districts or state boards of education." Kampis then goes on to discuss the "wedge document", apparently failing to mention Discovery's response.

There is one Darwinist quoted in the article who got something right. Philosophy professor Dr. David Harker was quoted supporting suppression of the debate: "to engage in the debate seems to fuel it. When eminent scientists respond to ID supporters, it provides them with a platform and a sense of credibility."

Given how Kampis barely managed to engage ID, I assume that Harker had nothing to worry about after sponsoring this lecture.

Posted by Casey Luskin on January 28, 2007 8:57 AM | Permalink

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fossil sheds new light on evolution of flight


Jan. 23, 2007, 4:40PM

Small feathered dinosaur used its biplane wings to glide between trees

By MIKE TONER Cox News Service

ATLANTA — New fossil evidence from China suggests that the earliest flying dinosaurs employed the same strategy that the Wright brothers used 125 million years later — the biplane.

Scientists on Monday reported the discovery of a small feathered dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous period that had not two, but four wings, and apparently used them to glide from tree to tree.

Like the Wright brothers, prehistoric animals apparently had to figure out how to glide before they were capable of powered flight. Although the feathered dinosaur, Microraptor gui, was about the size of a small hawk, paleontologists say it was anatomically incapable of a wing-flapping takeoff from the ground.

Feathered flaps on the creature's hind legs and feet, which served as the lower set of "wings" in flight, would have prevented it from running across the ground, scientists say.

"A computer simulation of the flight performance suggests that these biplane wings were adapted for undulatory gliding between trees, while the feathered feet helped with maneuverability," says paleontologist Sankar Chatterjee of Texas Tech University.

He says modern raptors — like the hawks and owls — also have heavily feathered legs, which enable them to maneuver quickly in the pursuit of prey.

The findings by Chatterjee and University of Massachusetts paleontologist R. Jack Templin, published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, cast new light on the evolution of flight that scientists say began 150 million years ago.

Although the dinosaurs disappeared long ago and birds — more than 9,000 species of them worldwide — have prospered, most paleontologists contend that birds descended from a common ancestor of dinosaurs and ancient birds.

Fossil remains of the feathered Archaeoptryx, often referred to as the missing link, are 150 million years old, but scientists aren't sure whether its feathers were designed to help it fly or just keep it warm.

They also debate whether flight itself emerged from the ground up or as a "tree-down" phenomenon. Chatterjee says the Microraptor fossils and a treasure trove of other small bird-like dinosaurs unearthed in northeastern China in recent years now suggest that flight almost certainly began as a "tree down" phenomenon.

"What's really interesting is that you can see the same progression in the evolution of flight — gliding, flapping, bi-winged and mono-winged flight — that you see in human aviation," he says.

"Over the years, aircraft designers have mimicked many of nature's inventions," he says. "Now, it seems likely that Microraptor invented the biplane 125 million years before the Wright Flyer."

The brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright, it should be noted, first flew their biplane glider in 1902 at Kitty Hawk, N.C. — a full year before the first powered flight, for which they are most often remembered.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Behind the bench with the intelligent design judge, one year later



Article Last Updated: 12/20/2006 11:09:38 AM EST

He's prepared for the first line of his obituary to reference his presiding over the Dover intelligent design trial.

That doesn't bother federal Judge John E. Jones III, because he's satisfied with the job he did.

And while he would be perfectly content if he never has a high-profile case again, he's taking in stride the seemingly surreal series of events in his life that culminated a year ago today when he issued his Dover decision.

In his answer to the first legal challenge to the teaching of intelligent design, Jones decided the movement is based on religion, not science.

In 139 pages, he became a hero, a villain and a celebrity.


Last Christmas, U.S. marshals protected his home because he received threats.

Critics of his decision have labeled him an activist judge, and he is the subject of some unflattering Internet cartoons, one of which was created by a well-known supporter of intelligent design.

Conservative authors and pundits have disparaged his decision, despite his being a Republican who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush.

Last week, the Discovery Institute, an organization that supports the teaching of intelligent design, accused Jones of copying much of the text of one section of his ruling from the American Civil Liberties Union.

ACLU attorneys stepped to Jones' defense, saying it is common practice for judges to use portions of proposed findings of fact in their rulings.

While Jones hasn't issued comment on the Discovery Institute's accusations, he defended his decision a few days before it released a report comparing the two documents.

"At the end of the day, I feel very satisfied that I did what judges are supposed to do," he said. "I called the case the way I saw it based on the facts that were presented."

He said he didn't have any pre-conceived ideas about science and religion going into the case, which "established in my mind that judges can appropriately handle complex scientific issues given the testimony from appropriate experts such as we had ... in this particular case."

How history will treat his decision and the case is based on a variety of factors, none of which are under his control, he said.

"There was a lot of drama associated with the case," he said. "It was sort of small town American, sometimes literally neighbor against neighbor. Are there enduring lessons in that? I don't know, but in its time, that time being 2005, 2004, I can understand why it caught the attention of the public and the media."


The odds weren't good -- a little bit better than one in six -- that Jones would be randomly assigned to the Dover intelligent design case.

He was driving home from Harrisburg's federal courthouse on Dec. 14, 2004, when he heard a Harrisburg radio station's top news story; a group of parents had filed a federal suit -- an Establishment Clause challenge -- against their school district.

The judge still has the distinct recollection of thinking, while traveling on Interstate 81 toward his Pottsville home, that he really didn't know what intelligent design was, even though he considers himself well-read.

He also wondered idly which of the six federal judges in Harrisburg would get the case.

The next morning would answer both of his questions. He was assigned the case, and "what intelligent design was" would be up to him to decide.


With a large percentage of cases settling out of court, the odds of a trial also weren't very good.

But after his first scheduling conference with attorneys from both sides, it became clear that settlement wasn't an option.

"There was sort of a gaggle of attorneys on both sides," Jones said. "And their body language absolutely conveyed that this was very serious, and as they began to speak it was quite clear to me it would be futile to take them into chambers and discuss settlement.

"I remember that day being left with the inescapable conclusion that we were going to have a trial. And it was going to be a long trial and it was going to be sooner rather than later."

It was January 2005. The trial started before fall had gone.


Forty days and 40 nights.

That was the duration of the trial, as one attorney observed when it was over.

On the first day, Jones drove up to the courthouse to find it ringed with television trucks, satellites antennas reaching upward.

The courtroom was packed with national and local media and sketch artists.

He had to tamp down his apprehension a little that morning. But after that, it was a trial. And the same old rules of evidence still applied.

Both sides were sincere, he said.

"And there was a certain decorum that pervaded the proceedings that I appreciated," he said. "Everyone had a feeling they were involved in something pretty momentous in its time. They conducted themselves, generally, with a few exceptions, as witnesses should."

Jones said there was no defining moment or specific testimony that stood out above others.

There was no eureka, no epiphany. He reserved his judgment throughout the case.

There was impressive lawyering, some testimony Jones suspects law students will study some day.

And there were also days that Jones had just about all he could take in terms of the intricate scientific testimony, he said.

Trial-goers noticed that mornings filled with talk of bacterial flagellum and complex scientific concepts often brought afternoons with a big white cup sitting in front of Jones at the bench.

Starbucks coffee, regular, with a little bit of Sweet and Low.

"Life has its small rewards and pleasures, and that was one that I afforded myself in the afternoons, a shot of caffeine to get me through," he said.

At a sidebar one day, he joked that if he faced the Starbucks logo toward the crowd of media and spectators in the courtroom, "I could get some compensation for product placement."


Jones' detractors have been met by a like number of supporters.

His calendar is booked with speaking engagements though the middle of 2007, mainly from people asking him to speak about judicial independence.

People have been downloading copies of his decision and asking him to autograph them.

The first time it happened, at a speaking engagement in Kansas, a line of people formed, decisions in hand.

"I said, 'You really want me to do this?'" he said. He asked if they intended to sell the document "for 10 bucks on eBay."

"They didn't laugh because they were serious," he said. "They wanted that for posterity. ... I wasn't going to, but they were so sincere about it, I thought, 'Why not?'"

Jones was listed as one of Fast Company magazine's "Fast 50" list of people who are "writing the history of the next 10 years," as well as one of Wired News' "10 Sexiest Geeks" of 2005.

He was also named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people of 2005, an honor that got him invited to a soiree where he and his wife met the Queen of Jordan, Jennifer Lopez, Will Smith and Stephen Colbert.

He said he's reluctant to share stories about the party because "the Discovery Institute will say, 'Here's star-struck Judge Jones.'"

But he gives in.

"Stephen Colbert ... was moving quickly (around the room) and he sort of arrived in front of me and he said, 'Judge Jones,' and I started laughing because I think he's funny.

"And I said, 'Stephen Colbert.'

"Then, squinting his eyes, he said, 'Intelligent design: Seemed like a good idea at the time, didn't it?'

"And I said, 'I guess it did.'"

-- Reach Christina Kauffman at 505-5436 or ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.

Dover timeline

--- June 7, 2004: Members of the Dover Area school board, unhappy with the 2002 edition of the biology textbook Prentice Hall Biology, said they wanted to include creationism in biology classes.

--- Oct. 18, 2004: Dover becomes the first school district in the nation to explicitly require mentioning intelligent design as an alternative "theory" to evolution.

Board members Casey Brown and her husband, Jeff Brown, voted against the policy and announced that they would resign because they disagreed with the decision and believed the board would be sued for violating the First Amendment.

--- Dec. 14, 2004: Eleven parents joined with the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State to file a federal lawsuit against the board, claiming it had religious motives for putting the intelligent design policy in place.

--- Sept. 26, 2005: The trial started in a federal courthouse in Harrisburg. As testimony for the parents began, attorneys called biologist, Prentice Hall textbook author and Brown University professor Kenneth Miller, to testify.

--- Oct. 16, 2005: The school district and its board began presenting its case. First to testify was biochemist and Lehigh University professor Michael Behe, who said intelligent design is viable science.

--- Nov. 4, 2005: Closing arguments and end of trial.

--- Dec. 20, 2005: U.S. Middle District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is not a scientific theory and it should not be taught in public school. He also ordered the Dover Area School District and its board to repeal its policy that mandates mention of the controversial movement in science classes.

In a 139-page, strongly worded opinion, the judge said that Darwin's theory of evolution isn't perfect, but nonetheless found that intelligent design is rooted in creationism and violates the separation of church and state.

Intelligent design says living things are so complicated they had to have been created by a higher being, that life is too complex to have developed through evolution as described by 19th-century English biologist Charles Darwin.

The school district was later billed $1 million in legal fees and an additional $11 compensation to the plaintiffs, who got $1 each.

What they have to say now

"From the time the trial ended until the decision came out ... it was never out of my mind. It was life-defining. I never ever thought I'd be in a position like that or do anything like that. We go places (with the American Civil Liberties Union) and we're rock stars and heroes. It's bizarre.

"I have 10 friends in Dover that there's something there that we'll always have. I think in the end, we made Dover a better place."

Plaintiff/parent Steven Stough


"I guess I just hope with all of this that has happened that people realize the importance of sound science. If this all had to have happened for a reason, I hope it was that people walk away with a realization of what evolution means to all of the sciences.

"I hope it's a wake-up call for science teachers. Evolution is really downplayed in American schools. It's diluted for fear that it's going to offend someone. ... If this country keeps dumbing it down just to appease a small group of religious zealots, we're doing a great disservice to the students."

Plaintiff/parent Cyndi Sneath


"It obviously changed my life. It shoved me in the forefront of the media, which obviously was new. It's humbling to see how often the case has been case cited. I went to see the Darwin exhibit at the Franklin (Institute) exhibit and saw (the case) written on the timeline there.

"It was an experience I never expected to have in my life, but one that I wouldn't change."

Lead plaintiff/parent Tammy Kitzmiller


"The experience of participating in the trial was unlike anything I've ever done in my life. It was extraordinary to become a part of the team of people. (Meeting the plaintiffs) was remarkable. It gave the case a personal aspect that made it different from just defending science or arguing against intelligent design. These were real people who were affected in a real way by what was happening in Dover.

"As the case wore on, it became more and more apparent that we were becoming part of history with the Dover case. When the trial was going on, I had no idea how far-reaching the trial and the opinion would turn out to be. I now realize how many people were following this trial and how important it was for scientists and educators all across the country. ... It exposed the creationist roots of intelligent design and the complete lack of scientific support of the intelligent design movement, and in many ways exposed the duplicity of people involved in the intelligent design movement."

Biologist, textbook author and Brown University professor Kenneth Miller, who testified for the plaintiffs


"(The trial) was an unusual experience for a philosopher ... you don't expect to end up in a courtroom. I regard my involvement ... as a civic duty. As a citizen, it's probably the most gratifying thing I have ever done.

"The legacy of the case was the judge's decision. I think any future legal cases that come up ... they're gonna read that decision. If this case had come up differently it would be 'Katy bar the door' (because creationists would push for the teaching of intelligent design).

"It was very clear to everyone who followed the case that intelligent design is not science. The Discovery Institute has been trying for years to foment a court case. And they finally got one dropped in their laps and what was ironic is they didn't want it. They knew what this case would do to them."

Intelligent design historian Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University who testified for the plaintiffs about the history of the intelligent design movement


"In the long run, I don't think it (the trial) means much. The question is decided by science, not by a judge. As a legal matter, I think conflicts such as this will be around for a long time, frankly because a large portion of the population smells a rat (in relation to evolution).

"(Testifying) was daunting and at once exhilarating. I very much enjoyed the back and forth in the courtroom. ... I felt my own testimony went very much better than the opinion reflects.

"The worst part for me was reading the judge's opinion and seeing my testimony ignored and words put into my mouth essentially.

"That really ... kind of knocked me for a loop. I thought we presented a good case and he was unconvinced by it."

Behe said he continues to find evidence for intelligent design.

"The judge saying that things look rosy for Darwinism doesn't make it so," he said. "The judge can rule that the moon is made of green cheese, but that doesn't stop investigations into what it is really made of."

Biochemist and Lehigh University professor Michael Behe, who testified for the defense

Editor's Note: Alan Bonsell, Bill Buckingham and Sheila Harkins, former Dover board members who voted in favor of having intelligent design mentioned in science class, did not return phone calls for comment.

-- Staff writer Christina Kauffman

A year after Dover, the scientific debate over Darwin is as vigorous as ever


A year ago today, Judge John E. Jones issued his 139-page ruling denouncing intelligent design in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. At the time, the ruling was hailed by defenders of Darwin's theory as a knock-out blow against intelligent design and scientific skepticism of Darwin's theory.

What a difference a year makes.

A year after Dover, Darwinists seem increasingly disillusioned as well as shrill, the central part of Judge Jones' "brilliant" decision has been found to be riddled with errors and copied nearly verbatim from the ACLU, a research lab has been launched for scientists to pursue intelligent design-inspired scientific research, and states and localities are continuing to adopt public policies to encourage students to study the scientific evidence for and against Darwin's theory. At the same time, the stereotype that all critics of Darwin's theory are religiously-motivated zealots while all defenders of the theory are dispassionate scholars who are neutral toward religion has started to implode.

Here are the top developments during the past year in my view:

1. The Growing Sense of Defeat among Darwinists. Darwinists like to claim that criticizing Darwin is tantamount to insisting the earth is flat. Yet last time I checked, scientists weren't spending a lot of time in their science journals and at their professional meetings trying to refute the idea of a flat earth. But they are devoting a significant amount of time and energy trying to refute intelligent design. Why? I think the Darwinists' efforts reflect their underlying insecurity. Despite their bluster and bravado, many of them recognize at least implicitly that they are losing the intellectual debate. Last month, for example, there was a gathering of eminent pro-Darwin scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California. According to the New York Times reporter covering the event, there was "a rough consensus" at the meeting that the theory "of evolution by natural selection" is "losing out in the intellectual marketplace." Let me repeat that statement: there was "a rough consensus" among these pro-Darwin scientists that the theory "of evolution by natural selection" is "losing out in the intellectual marketplace." Darwinism is "losing out" not just in the public arena in their view, but "in the intellectual marketplace." That is a stunning admission.

2. The Growing Challenge within Science to Neo-Darwinism. A few weeks before the beginning of the Dover trial last fall, around 400 doctoral scientists had signed Discovery Institute's "Dissent from Darwin" statement expressing skepticism toward the central claim of Neo-Darwinism. A year after the Dover decision, the number of doctoral scientists affirming the statement is approaching 700. During the Dover trial, there was a constant refrain that scientists who support intelligent design don't do scientific research, but as just reported last week, a research lab has in fact been established to facilitate biological research from the perspective of intelligent design. At the same time, research findings have continued to mount exposing the weaknesses of traditional Darwinism. The very week that the Kitzmiller ruling was issued, biologists admitted in the journal Science that "[t]he phylogenetic relationships among most metazoan phyla remain uncertain" because of conflicts between types of phylogenetic trees. In early 2006, Norwegian cellular biologist, Ψyvind Albert Voie published an article in a mainstream scientific journal arguing that "chance and necessity cannot explain sign systems, meaning, purpose, and goals" in the DNA system. Voie concluded that since "mind possesses other properties that do not have these limitations," it is "therefore very natural that many scientists believe that life is rather a subsystem of some Mind greater than humans." Two highly-trumpeted "missing links" publicized by Darwinists in 2006, meanwhile, turned out to be much ado about nothing (see here and here).

3. The Implosion of the Kitzmiller Ruling by Judge Jones. A year after Dover, Judge Jones' opinion in Kitzmiller is not wearing well. The book Traipsing into Evolution documents the many errors of fact and analysis in Jones' opinion as well as its overreach in trying to decide whether intelligent design is science, and the recent study co-authored by David DeWolf and myself reveals how Jones' "brilliant" analysis of whether intelligent design is science did not represent his own work but was copied (errors and all) virtually verbatim from language submitted to him by ACLU attorneys. Practically the only defense of Judge Jones' wholesale copying offered thus far has been the false claim that"everyone is doing it," a response that has been too much even for some Darwinists to swallow. It is noteworthy that at least one staunch critic of ID in the legal community has joined ID proponents in taking Judge Jones to task for his judicial opinion's overreach. Boston University law professor Jay Wexler has argued forcefully that "[t]he part of Kitzmiller that finds ID not to be science is unnecessary, unconvincing, not particularly suited to the judicial role, and even perhaps dangerous to both science and freedom of religion." (emphasis added)

4. The Persecution of Darwin's Critics. Evidence continues to accumulate that leading Darwinists are trying to win the debate over Darwin's theory through harassment and intimidation rather than reasoned argument and open discussion. Last week's devastating report from congressional investigators documenting the persecution of evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg at the Smithsonian is only the most recent example of the effort to suppress legitimate dissent over Darwin's theory. That report also revealed the unsavory role played by the pro-Darwin National Center for Science Education (NCSE) in the campaign to smear and persecute Sternberg. In the words of congressional investigators, "[t]he extent to which NMNH officials colluded on government time and with government resources with the NCSE to publicly discredit Dr. Sternberg's scientific and professional integrity and investigate opportunities to dismiss him is alarming."(emphasis added) The more people learn about Darwinist efforts to shut down the debate over Darwinism through harassment and intimidation, the more skeptical they will likely become of the Darwinists' unrelenting dogmatism.

5. Continued Public Policy Efforts to "Teach the Controversy" and Promote Academic Freedom. It is true that in the initial months after the Dover decision, Darwinists were able to use the ruling to bully the Ohio State Board of Education into repealing its excellent science standard and model lesson plan that merely promoted the critical analysis of evolution. Yet in subsequent months, it has become apparent that the Dover ruling has had a decreasing impact on public policy debates over evolution. While some political candidates who favored teaching the controversy over Darwin lost in the recent elections, others won, most notably state board of education members in Texas, the Governor of Texas, and the Governor of Minnesota. In addition, states and localities have continued to advance science education policies that encourage schools to teach the controversy over Darwinian evolution. In March, Oklahoma's House of Representatives passed a bill to protect the academic freedom of teachers and students to study all of the scientific evidence relating to evolution by an overwhelming (and bipartisan) vote of 77-10. The bill was later denied a vote in the state Senate, but it will likely be reintroduced. Also in March, the Lancaster School District in California passed a policy protecting the right of teachers to present scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolution. In June, South Carolina adopted a science standard requiring students to learn how "scientists… investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." At the end of November, the Ouachita Parish School District in Louisiana enacted a policy that protects the academic freedom of teachers to objectively cover scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolution as well as the evidence in favor of the theory. And according to a national Zogby poll conducted earlier this year, nearly 7 out of 10 Americans (69%) continue to believe that "biology teachers should teach Darwin's theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence against it." Only 2 out of 10 (21%) believe that "biology teachers should teach only Darwin's theory of evolution and the scientific evidence that supports it." This is virtually unchanged from a national Zogby poll in 2001, and the rates of support are even higher in some state surveys.

6. The Debate over Darwin Goes Global. Darwinists often insist that the debate over Darwin's theory is limited to the United States, but recent outbreaks of the debate in Britain, Japan, and various European countries have refuted that claim, as do the growing number of international scientists who have signed the Dissent from Darwin statement.

7. The Darwinist War on Religion. For years the National Center for Science Education has tried to convince leading Darwinists to tone down their anti-religious rhetoric and cultivate the impression that Darwin's theory of unguided evolution is perfectly compatible with traditional monotheism. But this fall the public relations strategy has unraveled with books like Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion and conclaves like the gathering of scientists at the Salk Institute in November, which overflowed with expressions of hatred and contempt toward religion. According to one participant in the latter gathering quoted in the New York Times, "[w]ith a few notable exceptions, the viewpoints [at the conference] have run the gamut from A to B. Should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?" (emphasis added) It is becoming sharply evident just how much Darwinism functions like a religion for many of its leading champions, and how the blind allegiance to atheism or agnosticism of leading Darwinists skews their evaluation of the debate over evolution. Ironically, Darwinists routinely criticize defenders of intelligent design because many of them happen to be traditional theists (just like the vast majority of Americans), but these same Darwinists see nothing wrong with the fact that leading evolutionists are largely anti-religious. Indeed, according to a 1998 survey of members of the elite National Academy of Sciences (NAS), nearly 95% of the NAS biologists identify themselves as either atheists or agnostics. As I've said repeatedly before, the debate over Darwin's theory should be decided on the evidence, not on motives. But if Darwinists insist on stigmatizing the motives of anyone who criticizes Darwin's theory who happens to believe in God, then the Darwinists' own motives surely should be open to scrutiny. Either motives are irrelevant for everyone, or they are relevant for everyone. As public knowledge of the metaphysical baggage of leading Darwinists increases, the ability of Darwinists to maintain their double-standard about motives in the public debate should diminish.

In summarizing my reflections on the past year, I keep coming back to a phrase that stuck in my mind immediately after the Dover decision last December: Pyrrhic victory. Darwinists thought they had succeeded in shutting down the debate over intelligent design by court order. But they were wrong, and the longer it takes for them to grasp that fact, the more Darwinism will continue to lose out in the free marketplace of ideas.

Posted by John West on December 20, 2006 12:30 AM | Permalink

Evolution Stickers Gone for Good in Cobb County


By Phil Berardelli ScienceNOW Daily News 20 December 2006

School officials in Cobb County, Georgia, yesterday agreed to drop their 4-year attempt to tell high school biology students that evolution is only a "theory." Local school officials had fought a ruling by a federal judge to remove stickers that they had placed on textbooks, but yesterday, they threw in the towel, pledging to adhere to the state science curriculum and also to pay $167,000 in legal fees to the plaintiffs. In return, the five parents who brought the suit agreed to drop any further legal action against the school district.

"The case is done, and they have agreed never again to put stickers in the textbooks," says Debbie Seagrave, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Georgia affiliate, which represented the parents in Selman v. Cobb County. School board chair Teresa Plenge said the district decided to forgo "the distraction and expense of starting all over with more legal actions and another trial."

The legal battle began after the school board embraced the arguments of parents who felt the teaching of evolutionary theory unfairly neglected the biblical story of creation. The board voted in September 2002 to apply stickers to 35,000 textbooks warning that "evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things" and that "this material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered." In 2004, several parents sued the school board in federal court, and last year, District Judge Clarence Cooper ordered the stickers removed on the grounds that the language amounted to an unconstitutional endorsement of a religious belief (ScienceNOW, 14 January 2005). An appellate court rejected the school board's appeal, saying it lacked sufficient information to issue a ruling, and remanded the case to the district court.

An attorney for the school board, Linwood Gunn, says schools officials never intended to start a controversy with the stickers. "The sticker was really just an effort to navigate through the minefield that is this controversy," he says. Still, Gunn says, the district court's decision was "bad law," so it was worth settling the case to have the judgment set aside.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Smithsonian "discriminated" against scientist


By Ted Agres

Officials retaliated after publication of a paper supporting intelligent design, a Congressional report claims

[Published 22nd December 2006 03:14 PM GMT]

A recently released Congressional report accuses senior officials at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) of having harassed, discriminated against, and retaliated against research associate and journal editor Richard Sternberg for allowing publication of a scientific paper supporting intelligent design (ID) in 2004.

According to the report, NMNH officials sought to discredit Sternberg and force him out of his unpaid RA position after he allowed an article by Stephen C. Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, to be published in the August 2004 Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a peer-reviewed journal of which he was managing editor at the time. While legally separate from the NMNH, Proceedings is governed by a council that includes NMNH scientists and receives public funds from the museum.

Meyer's article, which used information theory to support the argument for intelligent design in biological complexity, sparked controversy. It was the first pro-ID article to be published in a refereed publication, raising concern among some scientists that it might be used to enhance the academic argument for intelligent design.

The Congressional report, prepared by the staff of Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), chairman of the Government Reform subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources and released Dec. 11, supports Sternberg's claims that NMNH supervisors investigated his political and religious beliefs, sought to discredit him, and aimed to force his removal as an RA by creating a "hostile work environment" after the article was published.

The report suggests legislation is needed to protect the free speech of scientists at the Smithsonian and other federally funded institutions.

"While the majority of scientists embrace Darwinian theory, it is important that neither Federal funds nor Federal power be used to punish or retaliate against otherwise qualified scientists merely because they dissent from the majority view," the report states.

Sternberg, who is also a staff taxonomist at NIH's National Center for Biotechnology Information, said he is "thinking hard" about whether to file a discrimination lawsuit. "I do not think any Federal government employee should be discriminated against on the basis of their outside activities or their intellectual views, concerning theories of evolution or any other subject," Sternberg told The Scientist in an email.

The report says NMNH officials and scientists discussed among themselves in emails whether Sternberg "was a Republican," "was a fundamentalist" or "was a conservative."

It also references an Aug. 26, 2004, email from Hans Sues, NMNH associate director for research and collections, to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) seeking help in trying to determine whether Sternberg had misrepresented himself as a Smithsonian employee, as opposed to an RA, because doing so would have constituted grounds for his dismissal.

NCSE spokesman Nicholas Matzke said his group was not part of an effort to dismiss Sternberg. "A lot of people at the Smithsonian were mad because their journal was dragged into a political issue. We wanted them to focus on the science and not persecute or discriminate against Sternberg on religious grounds," Matzke told The Scientist. "We advised them not to fire Sternberg," he said, "and they eventually followed our advice."

NMNH public affairs director Randall Kremer denied that Sternberg had been harassed or discriminated against. Smithsonian and NMNH officials investigated Sternberg's allegations and found "no basis for his complaints," Kremer told The Scientist. "Sternberg still has an office here, and he has full access to the research facility," Kremer said. "If he feels people are hostile to him, it's his feeling. It's all in the eye of the beholder."

Sternberg's appointment as an RA expires in January 2007. NMNH officials had previously offered to renew the position, but have since changed the post to that of research collaborator, which is a role for someone "less academically qualified," Sternberg said. "If this is a mistake on their part and they want to renew my former position as research associate, I will accept. Otherwise I will not."

Sternberg filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the federal agency that investigates and prosecutes prohibited personnel practices, in late 2004. OSC staff attorney James McVay reported in an 11-page letter having found evidence to corroborate complaints of religious and political-affiliation discrimination and retaliation. "It is also clear that a hostile work environment was created with the ultimate goal of forcing [Sternberg] out," McVay wrote.

However, because Sternberg was an unpaid RA and not a Smithsonian employee, the OSC lacked jurisdiction and did not pursue the matter. In August 2005, the subcommittee staff initiated its own investigation, resulting in the current report, which largely corroborates the OSC findings.

In an email to The Scientist, NCSE's Matzke asserted that both investigations were politically motivated, with Souder being "the leading ID supporter in Congress" and OSC chief Scott Bloch having been "widely criticized for using the OSC office for right-wing culture wars."

Intelligent Design Cabal Gets a Little Too Clever


By Frederick Clarkson 12/28/2006 02:16:13 PM EST

The proponents of the "intelligent design" theory of the universe are on the run. They are busy creating side issues and diversions from the growing public awareness of the fraudulence of their position. Ed Brayton recently reported at Talk to Action about how the Discovery Institute, (HQ of the ID movement), still smarting from the utter debunking of ID in a federal court decision a year ago, has been busy ever since trying to discredit the judge. This is a part of a longterm pattern to try to divert attention from the substance of the validity of their claim. Indeed, the entire matter is best understood not so much in terms of religion vs. science, but what Pat Buchanan infamously called the "religious war" going on in America.

A year ago, federal Judge John E. Jones III wrote a scathing opinion in deciding what would become the ultimate showdown over the validity of intelligent design as science: Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District The issue in the case was essentially whether intelligent design is science and therefore suitable for teaching in the public schools -- or a religious view disguised as science. The case proved not only that ID was religion trying to pass itself off as science, but it also showed the degree of fraud advocates of creationism were willing to commit to conceal their religious and political agenda -- and to attack the mainstream science of evolution as it is taught in the public schools.

One of the expert witnesses in the case, Dr.Barbara Forrest, recently published an insider's account of her participation in the case in The Skeptical Inquirer magazine. She outlines, among other things, the desperate efforts of the ID advocates and defense attorneys to get her barred from the case. None of it worked. But during cross examination, the defense attorney from the Thomas More Law Center, focused not on the substance of her testimony, but on diversions, asking for instance: "When did you become a card carrying member of the ACLU?"

I was called as a witness because of my co-authorship with Paul R. Gross of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (Oxford University Press, 2004) and other publications about ID. In CTH, we analyze a document entitled "The Wedge Strategy," CSC's [Center for Science and Culture (CSC), the creationist arm of the Discovery Institute] tactical plan, showing how CSC creationists are executing every phase except producing scientific data to support ID. We show that ID is creationism, thus a religious belief, using the best evidence available: the words of ID leaders such as Phillip E. Johnson, William Dembski, and their ID colleagues. We also show ID's continuity with earlier creationism. My job was to present this evidence to the judge.

Here is an excerpt, summarizing her testimony:

I had two tasks: to demonstrate to Judge Jones (1) that ID is creationism, thus a religious belief, and (2) that Of Pandas and People is a creationist textbook. As part of the evidence for my first task I included the words of two leading ID proponents, Phillip E. Johnson and William Dembski. Under direct examination by Eric Rothschild, I related Johnson's definition of ID as "theistic realism" or "mere creation," by which he means "that we affirm that God is objectively real as Creator, and that the reality of God is tangibly recorded in evidence accessible to science, particularly in biology." To that I added Dembski's definition: "Intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John's Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory." If the judge had heard nothing except these two quotes, he would have had all the evidence he needed that ID's own leaders regard it as not only creationism but also as a sectarian Christian belief. But I had much more, such as CSC fellow Mark Hartwig's 1995 Moody Magazine article in which he referred to a 1992 ID conference at Southern Methodist University as a meeting of "creationists and evolutionists," calling Dembski and Stephen Meyer "evangelical scholars." During these early years, when they needed money and supporters, ID proponents openly advertised both their religiosity and their creationism.

However, none of the evidence for ID's religious, creationist identity was more important than "The Wedge Strategy," probably written in 1996 when the CSC was established but revised in 1998. Known informally as the "Wedge Document," it was leaked from a Seattle office and posted on the Internet in early 1999. DI did not acknowledge ownership of it until 2002, after I independently authenticated it and wrote about it in 2001. The technical team hired by Pepper Hamilton to create computer "demonstratives" projected the Wedge Document onto a screen in court, and I walked Judge Jones through it, explaining the most important parts. My first slide made its significance clear: "[C]ould I have the first slide, please? This is the first page of the Wedge Strategy, and this is the opening paragraph of it. Quote, `The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which western civilization was built.' This . . . states very well the foundational belief behind the intelligent design movement and the reason that they have rejected the theory of evolution." As I continued, the judge heard the strategy's explicitly Christian goals: "Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialistic worldview and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions." ...

To counter the defense's predictable denials that ID is creationism, I also explained, using an account by ID proponent and CSC fellow Paul Nelson, how Phillip Johnson had master-minded creationism's transformation into "intelligent design" after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed creationism in public schools in its 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard ruling. According to Nelson, creationists believed that Edwards meant the death of the "two-model approach to origins," in which creationists recognize only two alternatives, either evolution or creation, hoping to win by default after undermining evolution. But Nelson explained that "a revolution from an unexpected quarter . . . was about to occur." The revolutionary was Johnson, who decided that, for creationism to survive Edwards, creationists had to redefine science: "Definitions of science, [Johnson] argued, could be contrived to exclude any conclusion we dislike or to include any we favor." Not only was Johnson's deliberate but nominal transformation of creationism into ID important for demonstrating ID's true identity, but it also provided important support for my testimony about Pandas: to survive after Edwards, Pandas would require a similar transformation. (When the book was first published in 1989, Johnson was already allied with chemist Charles Thaxton, author of the creationist book The Mystery of Life's Origin and "academic editor" of Pandas. The subpoenaed FTE documents, which contained several earlier Pandas drafts, revealed that precisely such a transformation had been effected.

A Pandas co-author, CSC fellow Dean H. Kenyon, had been a creationist witness in the Edwards case and had submitted a sworn affidavit testifying that "creation-science is as scientific as evolution." I discovered a letter Kenyon wrote to FTE president Jon Buell showing that he was working on the 1986 draft of Pandas, then called Biology and Creation, while also assisting in the Edwards case! All pre-Edwards drafts of Pandas (there were at least five) were written using creationist terminology. The earliest drafts had overtly creationist titles. In 1987 the title was changed to Of Pandas and People, and there were two 1987 drafts. One was written in creationist language. In the other, creationist terminology had been replaced by "intelligent design" and other design-related terms, suggesting that the Edwards decision prompted this change. The clincher was a new footnote in the latter draft explicitly referencing Edwards, indicating that this draft was produced after the June 19, 1987, decision in an effort to evade the ruling. I also found a letter from Buell to a prospective publisher in which Buell made profit projections for Pandas contingent upon the Court's decision: "The enclosed projection showing revenues of over 6.5 million in five years are based upon modest expectations for the market, provided the U.S. Supreme Court does not uphold the Louisiana Balanced Treatment acts. If by chance it should uphold it, then you can throw out these projections. The nationwide market would be explosive."

The legal victory in this case has made the public schools less of a battle ground for the promotion of religious views of the origins of the universe as science. But the battle continues on many other fronts. (There is even an attack on evolution in the video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces.)

Anyway, Forrest's entire article, The "Vise Strategy" Undone: Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District is worth a read. It will serve as a useful backgrounder for anyone approaching this general subject.

Ghosts in the Machine


December 30, 2006 Op-Ed Contributor By DEBORAH BLUM

Madison, Wis.

THE human brain is, in surprising part, an appliance powered by electricity. It constantly generates about 12 watts of energy, enough to keep a flashlight glowing. It works by sending out electrical impulses — bursts of power running along the cellular wires of the nervous system — to stimulate muscles into motion or thought into being. We're mostly aware of this when the machine falters, when it short-circuits into epilepsy or frays into the tremors of Parkinson's disease.

So when scientists wrote in a recent issue of the journal Nature that they could induce phantom effects — the sensation of being haunted by a shadowy figure — by stimulating the brain with electricity, it made perfect neurological sense. One could even argue that the existence of such sensations explains away the so-called supernatural. In fact, as The Times reported, the researchers promptly concluded that ghosts are mere "bodily delusions," electrical misfirings and nothing more.

The report does look like a kind of proof — albeit very small proof, as this was a study of two people — if one happens already to believe that ghosts are no more than biological quirks. But what's fascinating is that it can also look like proof that ghosts are real entities, to those inclined to believe as much. And so the findings also present a case study in two very different perspectives.

The scientific study of the supernatural began in the late 19th century, in synchrony with the age of energy. It's hardly coincidental that as traditional science began to reveal the hidden potential of nature's powers — magnetic fields, radiation, radio waves, electrical currents — paranormal researchers began to suggest that the occult operated in similar ways.

A fair number of these occult explorers were scientists who studied nature's highly charged circuits. Marie Curie, who did some of the first research into radioactive elements like uranium, attended sιances to assess the powers of mediums. So did the British physicist J. J. Thomson, who demonstrated the existence of the electron in 1897. And so did Thomson's colleague, John Strutt, Lord Rayleigh, who won the 1904 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work with atmospheric gases.

Rayleigh would later become president of the British Society for Psychical Research. And he would be joined in that organization by other physicists, including the wireless radio pioneer Sir Oliver Lodge, who proposed that both telepathy and ghostly appearances were achieved through energy transmissions connecting living minds to one another and perhaps even to the dead.

Lodge argued that the human brain could function as a kind of receiver, picking up signals at a subconscious level. These were powered by some undiscovered energy, traveling perhaps in waves, perhaps in currents. Such transmissions lay behind telepathic experiences, including shared thoughts. Along the same lines, he thought it possible that a spirit's appearance was really just its specific energy signal stimulating a response from the receiver's brain.

The theories developed by Lodge and his colleagues dovetail rather neatly with the electricity-produced hauntings that Olaf Blanke, a Swiss neuroscientist, reports in Nature. For example, he used an implanted electrode to send a current into a region of the brain called the angular gyrus. The test was focused on language processing. But as a side effect, one of the test subjects nervously reported sensing another person in bed with her, silent and shadowy. Her creepy companion came and went with the ebb and flow of current.

It would be compelling — and more convincing — if the same result could be exhibited in a few more subjects. But Dr. Blanke believes that even this one subject's experience serves as an example of how we may mistake errant signals in the brain for something more. Humans tend, he points out, to seek explanation, to impose meaning on events that may have none. The pure rationalists among us suggest that our need to add meaning to a basic, biological existence easily accounts for the way we organize religions and find evidence of otherworldly powers in the stuff of everyday life.

The nonpurists suggest a different conclusion: willful scientific blindness. And there's no reason Dr. Blanke's study can't support their theories of the paranormal. Perhaps his experimental electric current simply mimics the work of an equally powerful spirit. Much of the psychical research done today applies similar principles: brain-imaging machines highlight parts of the brain that respond to psychic phenomena, while other devices are used to search for infrared radiation or increased electrical activity in haunted houses.

The American psychologist and philosopher William James, also a leader in the Victorian paranormal research movement, remarked even then on the culture clash: "How often has 'Science' killed off all spook philosophy, and laid ghosts and raps and 'telepathy' underground as so much popular delusion?" he wrote in 1909. And how often, James wondered rhetorically, had such efforts stopped people from seeing ghosts and believing in supernatural powers? Because in the end, of course, the conclusion has nothing to do with science at all and everything to do with how one sees the world.

I suspect that we'll dwell forever in the haunted landscape of our beliefs. To many people it's a world more interesting — bigger, stranger, more mysterious — than the one offered by science. Why choose instead to be creatures of chemical impulse and electrical twitch? We would rather gamble on even a tiny, electrical spark of a chance that we are something more.

Deborah Blum, a professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992, is the author of "Ghost Hunters: William James and the Scientific Search for Life After Death."

Creationism gains foothold in schools


The Sunday Times December 31, 2006

Christopher Morgan and Abul Taher

THE government has cleared the way for a form of creationism to be taught in Britain's schools as part of the religious syllabus.

Lord Adonis, an education minister, is to issue guidelines within two months for the teaching of "intelligent design" (ID), a theory being promoted by the religious right in America.

Until now the government has not approved the teaching of the controversial theory, which contradicts Darwinian evolutionary theory, the basis of modern biology.

Adonis said in a parliamentary answer: "Intelligent design can be explored in religious education as part of developing an understanding of different beliefs."

He announced that the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) is to hold discussions with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the assessment regulator, and said local advisory councils would decide whether particular schools should teach the theory.

Creationists believe in the literal truth of the Biblical account of the creation by God in six days.

Intelligent design argues that life and the universe are guided by a "designer", rather than an undirected process as illustrated by Darwin's natural selection.

The theory has gained a foothold in the American state school system, sparking legal challenges from secular groups seeking to oust it from science teaching.

Although Adonis stopped short of permitting the teaching of intelligent design in science lessons, one of the key lobby groups behind the theory, Truth in Science, hailed his statement as a significant breakthrough.

So far no schools in Britain teach the theory as part of its religious education syllabus. But Truth in Science believes that the new government guidelines will give the green light to dozens of schools to incorporate ID in the syllabus.

Andrew McIntosh, a professor of engineering at Leeds university who heads Truth in Science, said: "We believe that evolutionary theory should be taught in a critical manner, and some space must be given to credible alternative theories, such as intelligent design."

The lobby group says its ultimate aim is to pressure schools to teach ID in science lessons as a challenge to Darwinism. It says it has the support of about 70 heads of science across Britain, who want ID to be introduced in the national curriculum as part of science.

Opponents in the Church of England dismiss it as fantasy. Colin Slee, the Dean of Southwark, said: "Everything needs to be explored, so that children can ask sensible questions. Though I see no huge difficulty with exploring intelligent design or creationism or flat Earth, they happen to be misguided, foolish and flying in the face of all evidence. I see no problem with Darwinian theory and Christian faith going hand in hand."

Canon Jeremy Davies, Precentor of Salisbury cathedral, said: "I don't see why religious education should be a dumping ground for fantasies. If it is claimed that this is a scientific theory, why isn't it explored in science classes? Its validity or otherwise should be tested against the usual criteria."

Others regard it as religious dogma masquerading as science. Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, said ID was not a science and "should not be taught".

Dawkins, who holds the chair in the public understanding of science at Oxford, added: "It is creationism by another name. It's a rebranding exercise to get into schools. I personally think it should not be taught."

In America ID has come under legal attack. There have been more than six recent cases in which local education bodies were sued by groups such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State for teaching intelligent design as science.

Robert Boston, a spokesman for the group, warned against the teaching of ID in Britain.

He said it "could possibly leave an entire generation of people not capable of meeting the scientific challenges of this century".

Boston also said ID was being pushed by certain religious groups, "to undermine the separation of church and state in schools. It's an effort by them to subvert Darwin's theory. And unfortunately, trends in America seem to go to Britain".

It has emerged that 12 prominent academics wrote to Tony Blair and Alan Johnson, the education secretary, last month arguing that ID should be taught as part of science on the national curriculum.

They included Antony Flew, formerly professor of philosophy at Reading University; Terry Hamblin, professor of immunohaemotology at Southampton University; and John Walton, professor of chemistry at St Andrews University. In October Truth in Science was criticised for sending education packs to hundreds of schools across Britain explaining ID.

The packs — which included books and DVDs — were used by some unwary science teachers as teaching aids.

But Truth in Science in turn accuses Dawkins of pressuring ministers into promoting atheism through schools.

McIntosh said: "People like Dawkins are pushing atheism through schools, which is a religious view, and not a scientific one. Atheism is not the natural state of a scientist, since there have been scientists who have been theists both before and after Darwin."

Lord Pearson, a Tory peer and supporter of ID, who asked the question that prompted Adonis's statement, said: "Advances in DNA science show that the DNA molecule is so complicated that it could not have happened by accident. It shows there is a design behind it."

Intelligent Design Research Lab Highlighted in New Scientist


An article in the latest issue of New Scientist highlights the exciting work of scientists at the Biologic Institute, a new research lab conducting biological research and experiments from an intelligent design perspective. While writer Celeste Biever can't suppress her visceral pro-Darwin bias from the story (which carries the dismissive title "Intelligent design: The God Lab"), Biever's article is going to make it very difficult for Darwinists to continue to assert that scientists who support intelligent design aren't conducting scientific research.

As Biever's article grudgingly makes clear, "researchers [at the Biologic Institute lab] work at benches lined with fume hoods, incubators and microscopes--a typical scene in this up-and-coming biotech hub." The article also reports on some of the research projects underway, and even describes Darwinian biologist Ken Miller as conceding that the topics being explored "are of interest to science":

According to [Biologic Institute senior researcher Dr. Douglas] Axe, the projects currently under way at Biologic include "examining the origin of metabolic pathways in bacteria, the evolution of gene order in bacteria, and the evolution of protein folds."

Certainly the topics Axe mentions are of interest to science, says Kenneth Miller, a cell biologist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, who testified as an expert witness for the pro-evolution side at the Dover trial. Miller adds that they might be of particular interest to people intent on undermining evolution if, like Axe's earlier work on protein folding, they can be used to highlight structures and functions whose origins and evolution are not well understood.

In addition to protein and cell biology, Biologic is pursuing a programme in computational biology which draws on the expertise of another of its researchers, Brendan Dixon, a former software developer at Microsoft. According to Axe, "On the computational side, we are nearing completion of a system for exploring the evolution of artificial genes that are considerably more life-like than has been the case previously."

Biever's breathless, conspiratorial prose can't hide the fact that researchers at the new Institute are serious scientists with impressive research records. For example, the article notes that the Institute's senior scientist, protein researcher Douglas Axe, has published peer-reviewed research articles in the Journal of Molecular Biology and previously worked "as a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Protein Engineering, a research centre in Cambridge, UK, funded by the Medical Research Council, under the supervision of protein specialist Alan Fersht of the University of Cambridge." In addition, Dr. Axe has worked "as a visiting scientist at the structural biology unit of the Babraham Institute, also in Cambridge."

Biologic Institute biologist Ann Gauger has a similarly sterling track record. Dr. Gauger has published peer-reviewed research "on cell adhesion in fruit flies" in Nature, one of the world's premiere science journals, as well as publishing "papers as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University."

It is worth noting that Biever acknowledges that Discovery Institute has been providing funding for scientific research, including start-up support for the Biologic Institute. While Biever tries to insinuate that this commitment to funding scientific research is somehow a "new" development tied to recent policy debates, the facts cited in her article undermine that claim. Indeed, Biever herself notes that Discovery Institute was providing research funding for Dr. Axe by the late 1990s, which ultimately resulted in the publication of his peer-reviewed research articles in the Journal of Molecular Biology. Yes, that's right--Discovery Institute has been supporting scientific research and writing all along, just like it has said. But don't hold your breath for corrections or apologies from the Darwin spinmeisters who have insisted otherwise for the past decade.

Posted by John West on December 19, 2006 4:10 PM | Permalink

Solar Energy Limited and D2Fusion Announce Major Strides on the Path to Fusion Energy


SAN FRANCISCO -- At a Time of Deepening Concern over Fuel Costs, Energy Security and CO2-Driven Global Warming, Solar Energy Limited (SLRE.ob) and D2Fusion, Inc. Announce Major Advances in the Development of Clean Solid-State Fusion Heat Sources

Last week D2Fusion's 2006 year-end scientific and engineering progress review brought together its Silicon Valley and Los Alamos nuclear physics teams to report on recent breakthroughs in the quantification of their solid state fusion effects, synchronize experiment replication schedules, and coordinate engineering plans for 2007. D2Fusion is a subsidiary of the publicly traded company Solar Energy Limited (OTCBB:SLRE).

During the last year, the company developed and installed in both its headquarters' and Los Alamos facilities, innovative and highly sensitive mass spectrometer apparatuses, which are now in daily use allowing the observation and quantification of helium isotope production in near real time. These detection systems readily discriminate and quantify helium (4He) ranging from a few parts per billion to hundreds of parts per million accumulating in methodology trials lasting from weeks to months.

According to D2Fusion CEO Russ George, "Helium is the definitive 'nuclear ash' proving the occurrence of deuterium nuclei fusion in highly energetic reactions. While these are essentially the same nuclear reactions that power the sun and stars, our solid state form of fusion occurs at ordinary temperatures (0°-600° C) and, most importantly, without the emission of dangerous radiation. The fuel is 'heavy hydrogen' or deuterium, and our recent work indicates obtainable energy densities ranging from a few tenths of a watt to a few tens of watts per cubic centimeter."

Former EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) nuclear power project manager and D2Fusion Chief Scientist, Dr. Tom Passell describes the firm's R&D approach, "We believe in the virtues of intramural competition and cooperation at every level of this work. We even pit different fusion methodologies against each other in our labs and use the clues derived to accelerate each other's progress. In the end, this is a totally synergistic enterprise and no matter which technique proves market-ready first next year, it will be greeted as a historic victory for all."

Both facilities are now completing integration of their reaction, measurement, and calibration systems to allow reciprocally coordinated replication runs, and plan to install a third interoperable sister system in a leading European science institute in the next several months. In 2007 all three labs will focus upon scaling up the reaction to commercially significant output levels and developing heating module prototypes for domestic and industrial use.

A number of statements in this press release may be considered to be forward-looking statements made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements involve a number of risks and uncertainties, including timely development, and market acceptance of products and technologies, competitive market conditions, and the ability to secure additional sources of financing. The actual results Solar Energy Limited may achieve could differ materially from any forward-looking statements due to such risks and uncertainties.

Posted on: Thursday, December 21, 2006 02:12 AM

Fighting a Distortion of Research


When academics feel that their work has been distorted in the press, they frequently have to settle for griping to colleagues or writing a letter to the editor. But for Carol Gilligan, a prominent psychologist and author of In a Different Voice, a mere letter did not suffice. When she was alerted that James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, referenced her work in a Time magazine column, she denounced his interpretation of her research — posting her views Monday in a video on YouTube.

In his magazine piece, Dobson criticized Mary Cheney's decision to become pregnant. "[T]he majority of more than 30 years of social-science indicates that children do best on every measure of well-being when raised by their married mother and father," he wrote last week. Dobson backed up his claims by citing Gilligan's work. Gilligan is a renowned expert on gender and human development and is a professor of education and law at New York University.

"I was stunned to hear that James Dobson quoted me in Time magazine," Gilligan says in the video. "I had no idea. I was mortified." She says that there is nothing in her research that would lead anyone to agree with Dobson's claim that same-gender families are unhealthy for children.

In a statement released by Focus on the Family, the organization said, "[I]n his Time essay, Dr. Dobson does not represent Professor Gilligan as supporting or opposing same-sex parenting, but only that her work shows that men and women stress different elements in moral teaching."

The video was commissioned last Friday and quickly edited over the weekend by Wayne Besen, the executive director of Truth Wins Out, an advocacy group for gay rights. Besen said that he has grown weary of Dobson mangling science to advance a political agenda against gay families. Last summer, he started contacting researchers to alert them whenever Dobson cited them in his writing.

"None of them know this is going on," Besen said of the academics. "That's how [Dobson] gets away with it." This certainly holds true for Gilligan. In the video, she states that she learned of Dobson's article after Besen notified her. While Gilligan does not appear to dispute any specifics in Dobson's article, she says that Dobson distorts the meaning of her work which does not support his conclusions.

Another professor highlighted in the video and in Dobson's article is Kyle Pruett, a professor of child psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine and author of Fatherneed: Why Father Care Is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child. Citing Pruett, Dobson wrote, "The fact remains that gender matters — perhaps nowhere more than in regard to child rearing."

After he was contacted last week by Besen, Pruett sent a letter to Dobson asking him to stop citing his research. The letter is posted on Besen's Web site.

"I pointed out that gay or lesbian relationships do not at all compromise childhood," Pruett said in an interview. He added that Dobson's analysis of his research on fathers was "destructive and highly prejudicial," and cherry-picked information. When people start spinning science, Pruett said, you have to respond.

"Journalism used to handle this, but not anymore," he said. "So it's bounced back to become the responsibility of the people doing the research."

In response, Focus on the Family stated, "While Pruett has tried to distance himself politically from the use of his scientific conclusions, those conclusions still remain."

Besen said that he has contacted other professors who Dobson has cited, and he plans to release more videos with academics countering Dobson's claims. "They're getting defined by Dobson who has the President on speed dial," he said. "They're reluctant to get involved. But in the name of academic credibility, they step forward."

Besen said that he thought of using YouTube after watching former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) getting ridiculed for the video featuring his famous "macaca" quip. "It's the medium to reach the masses when you don't have a large media budget," he said.

The recent incident with Dobson is not the first time that academics have grumbled that Focus on the Family perverts science. Last summer, Elizabeth Saewyc, an associate professor with the school of nursing at the University of British Columbia, accused the group of "hijacking" her study on suicide rates among bisexual youth.

She said that she would not have learned that Focus on the Family was distorting her research unless Besen had contacted her. Her study found a link between homosexuality and risk for suicide, but she said that Focus on the Family blamed the high suicide rate on pro-gay activists. Saewyc said in an email interview that her study found only a correlation and was not designed to find causation.

"What was more surprising were the conclusions they drew from the information," she said of Focus on the Family.

— Paul D. Thacker

Is evidence-based medicine sufficient for complementary and alternative medicine research?


Public release date: 8-Jan-2007

Contact: Valerie Johns
SAGE Publications

A special issue of Integrative Cancer Therapies Explores this question

Evidence-based medicine (EBM), is widely accepted among researchers as the "gold-standard" for scientific approaches. Over the years, EBM has both supported and denied the value of allopathic medicine practices, while having less association with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices. Since most CAM practices are complex and focus on healing rather than cure the question arises as to whether EBM principles are sufficient for making clinical decisions about CAM. That is the focus of this special issue of Integrative Cancer Therapies by SAGE Publications.

"While evidence-based medicine's emphasis on randomized controlled trials has many benefits, researchers and clinicians have found that this focus may be too limited for complex systems such as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and other approaches to healing," said Wayne B. Jonas, MD, president and chief executive officer of the Samueli Institute and this special issue's guest editor.

The December special issue of Integrative Cancer Therapies presents articles that explore EBM and alternative strategies to EBM for evaluating CAM and in particular, options for conducting CAM research on cancer. This issue discusses whether clinical research on CAM using randomized placebo-controlled trial designs is the best strategy for making evidence-based decisions in clinical practice, and describes strategies that use "whole systems" and "integrated evaluation models" as potential new standards for research on CAM for cancer.

The second half of this special issue then explores whether basic science adds value to a debate recently resurrected in "The Lancet" on the value of research on homeopathy. Integrative Cancer Therapies now reports a series of landmark studies on the effects of homeopathy on prostate cancer. These are the first rigorous studies on homeopathy simultaneously using genetic, cellular and whole animal models of cancer. These studies show that rigorous basic science research can be conducted on this controversial CAM practice and that current evidence warrants continued research on this approach for cancer.

The editorial "Top of the Hierarchy" Evidence for Integrative Medicine: What Are the Best Strategies?" (http://ict.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/5/4/277) and the article "Evidence Summaries and Synthesis: Necessary but Insufficient Approach for Determining Clinical Practice of Integrated Medicine?"(http://ict.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/5/4/282) can be accessed at no-charge for a limited time on the SAGE Publications' Integrative Cancer Therapies web site.

About Integrative Cancer Therapies

Written for everyone involved in comprehensive cancer treatment and care--from physicians and other health care professionals to complementary and alternative practitioners to informed patients-- Integrative Cancer Therapies focuses on evidence based and scientifically sound understanding of the mechanisms of cancer therapies and the physiology of disease conditions, as well as the psychosocial and spiritual needs of the patient. The journal is edited by Dr. Keith Block, Medical and Scientific Director of the Institute for Integrative Cancer Care. http://ict.sagepub.com

About SAGE

SAGE Publications is a leading international publisher of journals, books, and electronic media for academic, educational, and professional markets. Since 1965, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students spanning a wide range of subject areas including business, humanities, social sciences, and science, technology and medicine. A privately owned corporation, SAGE has principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, and Singapore. www.sagepublications.com

About the Samueli Institute

The Samueli Institute is a non-profit, medical research organization supporting the scientific investigation of healing processes and their application in health and disease. The Institute's mission is to explore the scientific foundations of healing and to apply that understanding in medicine and health care. The Institute is one of an elite group of organizations in the nation with a track record in both complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), healing relationships and military research. Contact: Kendra Calhoun 703-299-4801 or kcalhoun@siib.org www.SamueliInstitute.org

Utah House Shoots Down Anti-Evolution Bill


Tuesday, February 28, 2006

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah public schools won't have to change the way they teach evolution, after the state House on Monday gutted, and then killed, a bill that would have required science courses to mention alternative theories.

Senate Bill 96 failed in the House on a 28-46 vote, after a lengthy debate that saw the bill changed twice.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, had said it was time to rein in teachers who were teaching that man had descended from apes, and rattling the faith of students. The Senate passed the measure 16-12.

House sponsor Rep. Jim Ferrin, R-Orem, started Monday's debate with a substitute bill, which removed the phrase about teaching the "origins of life."

Ferrin said the phrase should come out because current state curricula only includes teaching the origins of species, not human evolution.

Ferrin had no trouble getting support for his substitute, but House lawmakers weren't as eager to support the bill's underlying premise.

Scientists Rally in Support of Evolution Australopithecines May Have Been Knock-Kneed Ohio School Board Eliminates Disputed Evolution Language Scientists Force Evolution in the Lab Vatican Newspaper: 'Intelligent Design' Not Science Calif. School Nixes 'Intelligent Design' Class Parents Sue Calif. School Over 'Intelligent Design' Class Taught by Minister's Wife Pa. School Board Cuts 'Intelligent Design' Policy Rep. Scott Wyatt, R-Logan, said he feared passing the bill would force the state to then address hundreds of other scientific theories — "from quantum physics to Freud" — in the same manner.

"I would leave you with two questions," Wyatt said. "If we decide to weigh in on this part, are we going to begin weighing in on all the others and are we the correct body to do that?"

House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Urquhart suggested amending the bill to leave it with just one sentence that read, "The State Board of Education shall establish curriculum requirements, consistent with Subsection 1, relating to scientific instruction of students on the origins of species."

"I think it's appropriate to leave this up to the Board of Education," Urquhart said.

Ferrin argued against the amendment, saying that he wasn't trying to stop the teaching of evolution in schools, nor suggesting that religious thought should be taught.

"However, if that scientific instruction goes to the origin of species, when it postulates that humans, apes, snakes, cows, whales or whatever all evolved from a common ancestor, then I would say, if that can be empirically proven, let's teach it as such," Ferrin said. "But if it's merely an inference, then let's teach is as inference."

The amendment passed 44-31 and was followed quickly by the vote that killed the bill itself.

Buttars monitored the debate from the House floor. Afterward he said he was disappointed.

Buttars said he doesn't believe the defeat means that most House members think Darwin's theory of evolution is correct.

"Absolutely not. It means the vote was wrong in my opinion," Buttars said. "I don't believe that anybody in there really wants their kids to be taught that their great-grandfather was an ape."

Kansas Board of Education Moving Fast to Rewrite Anti-Evolution Teaching Curriculum


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

TOPEKA, Kan. — A new majority on the state school board is moving more quickly than anticipated to rewrite anti-evolution science standards adopted less than two years ago.

The board decided Tuesday to put the science standards on its agenda later in the day, a move that would allow the board to take a final vote next month.

The existing standards, which treat evolution as a flawed theory and incorporate language favored by intelligent design proponents, were adopted in 2005 when the board had a 6-4 majority of conservative Republicans.

But in last year's elections, a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans captured a majority. The new members were sworn in Monday and took control Tuesday. The new majority always was expected to bring back evolution-friendly standards, but previously they had talked about waiting at least several months.

The standards are used to develop tests that measure how well students are learning science. While they don't dictate what schools teach — those decisions are left to several hundred local school boards — scientists had worried that any tilt toward intelligent design would encourage changes in the classroom.

"I really question whether we need to look at the science standards again," said Kathy Martin, a Clay Center Republican who opposes the move to rewrite the standards.

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

Sue Gamble, a Shawnee Republican who wants to rewrite the standards, said quick action is possible because a committee of educators worked on a proposal even after the conservative-led board adopted its version.

"We can take action next month," she said. "Local districts deserve to have high-quality education standards from which to build their local curriculums."

New state board tackles evolution immediately


Wagnon, as expected, is chosen chair

By Scott Rothschild (Contact)

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Just minutes after a new moderate majority took control of the State Board of Education today, the issue of evolution came back up.

The board voted to hear about proposed science standards that support evolution later in the day with a possible decision on them next month.

The issue produced a long line of speakers both for and against evolution during a public comment period.

Doug Kaufman, a physician's assistant and pastor from Leavenworth, told the board that evolution "doesn't stand up to real science."

But supporters of evolution urged the board to change the current standards that include criticism of evolution and were put together by proponents of intelligent design.

Those standards were adopted by the 6-4 conservative majority in 2005. Now the board has a 6-4 moderate majority.

In other action, board members elected Bill Wagnon, a Democrat from Topeka, as their new chairman.

Carol Rupe, a Republican from Wichita, was voted vice chair, and Sue Gamble, a Republican from Shawnee, was elected legislative coordinator. All three are considered moderates.

After taking the chair, Wagnon urged members on the often contentious board to work together to improve the public school system.

"There are ways of promoting effective change without undermining confidence in it," Wagnon said.

Evolution debate returns in Kansas


Posted on Tue, Jan. 09, 2007

TOPEKA | The Kansas Board of Education will revisit the teaching of evolution later today, setting the stage for a vote next month to rescind the controversial state science standards.

No vote is expected today, but the board will discuss its options at 5 p.m.

The standards, which cast doubt on the theory of evolution, were voted in last year by the conservative majority which then controlled the board. But two new moderate board members were elected to the board last year, giving control of the board back to moderates.

The board, in its first meeting of the year, also voted for a new chairman. Bill Wagnon of Topeka will replace Steve Abrams of Arkansas City.

Knowing the evolution debate was set to return, people on both sides of the issue came to the board meeting to express their views. Critics of the theory of evolution came bearing hundreds of signatures on petitions demanding that the current standards remain in place.

David Klepper, dklepper@kcstar.com

Healing pet 'chi'


Alternative medicine has been used to treat animals and humans in Korea for 5,000 years. Now Minnesota pets get their turn, thanks to Dr. Keum Hwa Choi.

By Kay Miller, Star Tribune

Last update: January 09, 2007 – 3:44 PM

When Dr. Keum Hwa Choi lobbied for and helped start an Oriental medicine practice for pets at the University of Minnesota's Veterinary Medical Center five years ago, her dean gave it six months, she said.

Behind her back, other veterinarians called her "Dr. Witch" and referred only animals that they considered lost causes -- those with late-stage cancer, inoperable skeletal problems and organ failure.

Choi understood. Trained in scientific Western medicine, she once was a skeptic who opposed Oriental medicine (she prefers "Oriental" to "Asian") as "strange, not scientific, kind of shamanism."

But within months of starting the Complementary and Alternative Medicine service at the University's Small Animal Clinic in St. Paul, Choi had a full appointment book. One of her early patients, Roscoe, a 12-year-old boxer, had advanced nasal cancer and had been given six months to live. Choi tailored a series of herbal remedies for him. Four years later, Roscoe is still alive.

Today Choi, 53, and her colleagues treat 2,000 pets a year with acupuncture, diet and an apothecary of herbs with names such as Rising Courage Tea, while she supervises veterinary med students on two-week Oriental medicine rotations.

Choi is part of a growing national trend to treat animals with alternative therapies, a push that has come in the past decade from veterinary students and pet owners, many of whom have benefitted from ancient therapies that remain controversial, says Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, dean of the university's College of Veterinary Medicine.

"Some [veterinarians] think it's total hooey because there hasn't been as much science behind it. Others are great believers. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle," Klausner said. He said he believes that the university, with its emphasis on research and discussion, is the ideal place to sort out best practices.

"Her department is so busy it's taken on a life of its own," said Dr. Pierce Fleming, past president of the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association. Choi, who continues to treat the most difficult cancers and organ failure, is among this area's most gifted and respected veterinary specialists, he said.

"It's a whole different way of looking at the world," said Fleming, a certified acupuncturist and animal chiropractor who practices at Plymouth Heights Pet Hospital in New Hope. "Most problems are considered unbalanced chi, or energy in the body. Acupuncture is used to correct or balance your system. There is an energy there, however you want to define it. Is it nerves? Is it chi? Regardless, you can touch it and change it."

Besides her passion, Choi brings to her work a doctorate and a master's degree in veterinary microbiology and pathobiology, as well as extensive training in Korea, China and the United States.

"Oriental medicine is not invasive. So it's way more pleasant for animals," says Brent Gisslen of Robbinsdale, who receives treatment for himself in Choi's private human practice as well as veterinary care for his cats.

His 11-year-old cat, Monique, is so nervous at most vets' offices that Gisslen has to pry her from her carrier. "She's all legs -- like in the cartoons." But in Choi's office, she steps out of her crate, settling herself primly on the mat.

Choi has a softly penetrating gaze and a soothing demeanor that permeates her examining room. She takes small dogs and cats in her arms, feeling for the places in their bodies that are hurting. "They feel my heart. I feel their heart. Then I start to diagnose."

Becoming a believer

Choi was born into a Korean family of Western-trained doctors and veterinarians who were disdainful of ancient acupuncture and healing techniques. But still her father, who treated chickens, horses, sheep, pigs, even fish, expected her to communicate with her animal patients. Choi was puzzled and frustrated: She had been trained to rely on drugs, surgery and scientific research. She came to understand that without compassion, she could not heal.

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