NTS LogoSkeptical News for 15 February 2007

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Memo: Stop teaching evolution


Georgia lawmaker's plea comes to Texas through No. 2 in House

07:53 AM CST on Wednesday, February 14, 2007

By ROBERT T. GARRETT / The Dallas Morning News


AUSTIN – The second most powerful member of the Texas House has circulated a Georgia lawmaker's call for a broad assault on teaching of evolution.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, used House operations Tuesday to deliver a memo from Georgia state Rep. Ben Bridges.

The memo assails what it calls "the evolution monopoly in the schools."

Mr. Bridges' memo claims that teaching evolution amounts to indoctrinating students in an ancient Jewish sect's beliefs.

"Indisputable evidence – long hidden but now available to everyone – demonstrates conclusively that so-called 'secular evolution science' is the Big Bang, 15-billion-year, alternate 'creation scenario' of the Pharisee Religion," writes Mr. Bridges, a Republican from Cleveland, Ga. He has argued against teaching of evolution in Georgia schools for several years.

He then refers to a Web site, www.fixedearth.com, that contains a model bill for state Legislatures to pass to attack instruction on evolution as an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

Mr. Bridges also supplies a link to a document that describes scientists Carl Sagan and Albert Einstein as "Kabbalists" and laments "Hollywood's unrelenting role in flooding the movie theaters with explicit or implicit endorsement of evolutionism."

Mr. Chisum said he knows Mr. Bridges from their joint service on a committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"That is a courtesy to a member of the Georgia legislature, is all that is," said Mr. Chisum, a social conservative who opposes abortion rights and wants the state to prefer heterosexuals over gays and lesbians in recruiting foster parents. He authored the 2005 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Mr. Chisum was asked if Mr. Bridges' memo reflects his own views.

"No, absolutely, although I'm a Christian, and I believe in creation," he said. Creation science is the idea that the Earth was created in six days some 6,000 years ago.

"You ought to teach creation as well as the fact of evolution," Mr. Chisum said, though he said "all of those kinds of sciences have holes in them. ... But I'm not about teaching religion in schools."

Seeking the truth: Creationism or evolution?



The Rev. Darla Ann Kratzer recalls learning that her 13-year-old nephew in Texas was instructed by someone at his church to make a choice - either accept the Genesis account of creation as historical fact or what was taught in science class about evolution.

The nephew was told: "If he didn't (accept Genesis as fact), then he really didn't believe in God," said Kratzer, the pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in Canton.

Dismayed, her nephew left the church he was attending, she said. At the time, Kratzer wrote a letter to her nephew - who is now in his early 20s - and informed him that not all churches would expect him to choose between science and the Bible, because "to close kids off from certain kinds of knowing just isn't right."

Kratzer gave that same message during her sermon Sunday, participating in the Clergy Letter Project, which promotes the idea that religion and science are not adversaries.

The compatibility of evolution and creation was also the theme of a sermon given Sunday by the Rev. David J. Ross of North Industry United Methodist Church in Canton.

Participating for the first time, Kratzer said Friday, "I have a background in science and that's part of the reason I was immediately interested." She took a class about religion and science at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Kratzer has a degree in chemistry and a minor in biology from Bethany College in Kansas.

Broaching the subject of evolution at church is risky, acknowledged Kratzer, who preaches to a congregation of about 85 members on an average Sunday.

"I think it does take some courage, and I am curious about how receptive my congregation will be," she said Friday. "This is something where I don't know where everybody in the congregation is on this. I haven't had many conversations with them on this, but I hope this will open up some conversations."

An ordained pastor for about eight years, Kratzer said the topic is important because some churchgoers misinterpret science as a threat to religion and some people in the scientific community misinterpret that the religious community as a whole "won't listen to science."

"Both science and religion are complementary, and both are seeking after the truth," she said. "There's different ways of knowing; there's different ways of looking for the truth.

"As we begin to see the complexity of the scientific understanding of how our world was created, it becomes even more awesome," Kratzer said. "We begin to say, 'Wow, what God has created has such complexity, and ... (the) mind of God must just be incredible to create a world that functions according to certain laws.'"


It's the second year Ross has participated in the Clergy Letter Project, which involves hundreds of congregations from across the country and a host of denominations, according to the project's Web site.

"There needs to be a deeper and wider conservation (on the topic)," said Ross, who preaches to a congregation of about 55 members on a typical Sunday.

"The scientific world view does not prevent us from giving thanks (to God)," he said.

Explaining his plans for this past Sunday's service, he said Friday, "We're going to celebrate and lift up our hearts in praise (and) worship as we think about some of these issues, and discuss the scientific world view every bit as much as ... I'd imagine creationists do those things ... using a literalist seven days of creation world view."

But in large part, Ross believes, "Churches are not so focused on this; churches are off doing good works in their communities on behalf of the poor ... and holding Sunday school to help rear young people and help families."


According to Ross, accommodating religion and science hinges on not taking every passage of the Bible literally.

"I no longer worry about the passages that say, well, 'The sun comes forth from his chamber like a bridegroom,' " said Ross, a pastor for about 25 years and 14 years at North Industry United Methodist. "I know the sun doesn't move, and it's the Earth that moves."

"We're content to be able to read those passages and celebrate the deeper spiritual message that may be part of that," he added.

"The theory of evolution ... doesn't prevent me continuing to give thanks to a creator that is the author and the source of all these good things," Ross said.

Kratzer shares similar views: "I believe Genesis One and Two are made up of reverent images, and they are images that give us a picture of what God has done, and they proclaim this great truth without being history. I don't believe they are documented history, but I believe images have always been at the heart of scripture, and through these images, the scripture proclaims the great truth that God is the one who has created this and what God has created is good.

"Both science and the scriptures are witnesses to the God who is in it all and yet beyond it all."

Reach Repository writer Ed Balint at (330) 580-8315 or e-mail: ed.balint@cantonrep.com

AAAS honors defenders of evolution with Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-02/aaft-ahd020807.php Public release date: 14-Feb-2007 [ Print Article | E-mail Article | Close Window ]

Contact: Lonnie Shekhtman lshekhtm@aaas.org 202-326-6434

American Association for the Advancement of Science

SAN FRANCISCO -- Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, and nine science teachers who have been on the front lines of the battle to prevent introduction of "intelligent design" into science classrooms as an alternative to evolution, are recipients of the 2006 AAAS Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility.

Scott has been tireless in her efforts to offer assistance and information to those trying to stop local and statewide efforts to undermine science education. She has led workshops, conferences and seminars for teachers and others to explain the well-established scientific basis for evolutionary theory and why "intelligent design" fails to meet science criteria.

The award is shared by eight Pennsylvania teachers who fought efforts by the Dover Area District School Board to require the reading of an anti-evolution statement in ninth grade biology classes. The teachers, who were science teachers at Dover High School during the controversy, are Brian Bahn, Vickie Davis, Robert Eshbach, Bertha Spahr, Robert Linker, Jennifer Miller, Leslie Prall and David Taylor.

The award also is shared by R. Wesley McCoy, head of the science department at North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Georgia. McCoy took on a public role in opposing a decision by the Cobb County School Board to require stickers on biology textbooks that read, in part: "Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things."

The AAAS selection memorandum notes that "each of these individuals has confronted efforts to undermine sound scientific thinking and has defended the integrity of science both locally and nationally."

Scott has directed the National Center for Science Education, in Oakland, Calif., since 1986. It was established to defeat the efforts of creationists and, more recently, the attempts by advocates of "intelligent design" to have religious ideas of creation inserted into science classrooms under the guise of an alternate theory of natural phenomena. Scott, an anthropologist by training, has argued forcefully that evolution is a strong and balanced explanation of how species change over time, and has no necessary conflict with religion. Proponents of "intelligent design" argue that the complexity revealed by modern biology could only have occurred through the intervention of an intelligent agent.

Scott said proponents of intelligent design promote some of the same flawed arguments as previous critics of evolution, including the notion that evolution is a "theory in crisis." In fact, researchers say, the theory is based on more than a century of solid science, and forms the bedrock of modern biology and geology. Far from being on shaky footing, biological evolution — the inference of common ancestry of living things — is no longer in dispute among scientists, though there remains debate over mechanisms of change and about the specific pattern the tree of life has taken.

The battle over evolution has been fought in school districts nationwide, notably in Dover, Pa. and Cobb County, Ga. The selection panel voted to honor science teachers who have borne the brunt of the fight.

The science teachers in Dover refused to read the school board's statement on evolution to their students. In a letter to the school superintendent, they stated that "Intelligent design is not science. Intelligent design is not biology." A federal judge eventually barred the Pennsylvania public school district from teaching "intelligent design" in biology class, saying the concept is creationism in disguise.

In Georgia, Wesley McCoy spoke out against the school board's decision to require an anti-evolution sticker on biology textbooks. He testified at public hearings, including in federal court where a legal challenge to the sticker was mounted. He wrote letters to the editors and opinion pieces for local newspapers so the public would understand the issues at stake. He supported the adoption of strong science education standards for the state of Georgia and participated in the formation of the Georgia Citizens for Integrity in Science Education, which he serves as vice-chair. McCoy also sought to forge bonds with the religious community regarding the evolution issue. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Presbyterian Association on Science, Technology and the Christian Faith and served on the editorial advisory committee for The Evolution Dialogues: Science, Christianity, and the Quest for Understanding, an adult education book published by the AAAS.

The Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award is presented annually by AAAS to honor individual scientists and engineers or organizations for exemplary actions that help foster scientific freedom and responsibility. The award recognizes outstanding efforts to protect the public's health, safety or welfare; to focus public attention on potential impacts of science and technology; to establish new precedents in carrying out social responsibilities; or to defend the professional freedom of scientists and engineers.

The award was established in 1980 and is approved by the AAAS Board of Directors. The recipients will share a $5,000 prize. The award will be presented on 17 Feb. at the 2007 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Francisco. (See http://www.aaas.org/meetings.) For more information on other AAAS awards, go to http://www.aaas.org/aboutaaas/awards.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science (www.sciencemag.org). AAAS was founded in 1848, and serves 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, reaching 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS (www.aaas.org) is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, www.eurekalert.org, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society, dedicated to "Advancing science · Serving society."

Teachers downplay State BOE's latest evolution stance


By Amy Conkling

The Hutchinson News


Area science teachers saw yet another set of science standard changes Tuesday - and they came to one conclusion.

Enough is enough.

State Board of Education members adopted new guidelines that reflect mainstream evolution views and defeat ideas critical of the theory passed in November 2005.

Charles Pierce, science department head at Hutchinson High School, said the changes don't change the school's curriculum.

"I think people are tired of talking about it," Pierce said. "I think at the most someone teaches this is for a week in Kansas. It's not the most important thing. It's all about the controversy."

The state has had five sets of standards in eight years, with anti- and pro-evolution versions, each doomed by the seesawing fortunes of socially conservative Republicans and a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans. The moderate bloc had a 6-4 majority after elections last year; conservatives prevailed when the board adopted anti-evolution guidelines in November 2005.

Students will take their next state science assessments during the 2007-08 school year. Past assessments have included two or three evolution questions, Pierce said.

He said in his 25 years of teaching, students - and parents - generally don't raise concern on the evolution topic.

"We generally don't get into the human evolution part for very long," Pierce said. "I probably talk about evolution once a day right now in the life science class. We're talking about different animals, but we don't have anything specifically in our curriculum section for human evolution."

Changing standards every two years brings more confusion than anything.

Larry Ballard, a science teacher at Hutchinson High, said he's all for the changes made on Tuesday, but not the attention that comes with it.

"It's one of those things, you just shake your head," Ballard said. "You wonder if it's every two years we're going to be doing this between now and forever. That's the thing, there doesn't seem to be an end to it - even a kind of long-term resolution to it."

Nickerson High School science teacher Patrick Crowdis said he doesn't think the recent decision will change what the science teacher will teach, either.

Science teachers at Nickerson touch on evolution during the year.

"It's part of the state science standards that is tested, and so we'll talk about it," Crowdis said. "We'll talk about some of the different areas of evolution. I know for myself and most of the other biology people I talk with, we do want to make sure we tell students that there are parts of evolution that are very sound in science, and there are parts of evolution that are not exactly as sound in the overall scheme."

Crowdis said his biggest concern about the board's recent decision involves the future of state assessments - namely if they would include specific questions on evolution.

If that's the case, some schools may have to adjust their curriculum so students become familiar with test material.

Pierce said amidst the changes, he continues to focus on a piece of advice a nun gave him in his early years of teaching science at Bishop Miege High School.

"She told me the one thing that has stuck with me over the time of this debate: They teach religion on the first floor, we teach science on the second floor. The kids and their parents will figure out what's best for them between those two floors," Pierce said.

The AP contributed to this story.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Kansas science guides revised


Posted on Tue, Feb. 13, 2007 By David Klepper

McClatchy Newspapers

TOPEKA, Kan. - Capping two years of bitter controversy and occasional ridicule, the Kansas Board of Education on Tuesday rescinded science curriculum standards that cast doubt on evolution.

In their place are new guidelines reflecting the scientific consensus that evolution is a foundation of modern biology and a critical component to a science education. It's the fourth time the board has changed the standards in eight years.

For the board, it's the culmination of a contentious debate that prompted jokes on late night television, sold thousands of adhesive car fish and put Kansas center stage in the culture wars. But the vote isn't likely to end the enduring fight over what to teach public school students about the origins of life.

"This issue is never going to go away," said John Calvert, director of the Intelligent Design Network and a Lake Quivira resident. "You can't keep science in a box."

Calvert, who helped craft the old standards, says they weren't an endorsement of religion or intelligent design. He maintains that evolution is unproven and that the way it is taught doesn't allow for critical analysis.

The 6-4 vote to approve the new standards fell along the board's moderate-conservative fault lines. The new standards leave out language critical of evolution, as well as a definition of science that allowed non-natural explanations. Board members who opposed the old standards said the standards were motivated by creationism and lacked scientific credibility.

The standards are the basis for state assessment tests. Local districts are not required to teach the standards but often use them as templates for course curriculum.

In the end, the controversial guidelines died with a whimper. There was only brief discussion by board members. The French and Japanese journalists who covered the board's 2005 evolution hearings stayed home. So did the standing-room-only crowds that used to reliably show up anytime the board mentioned Charles Darwin's name.

Only a velvety red rope, strung to separate board members from overzealous members of the media or the public, recalled the heated, Scopes-Monkey-Trial atmosphere of two years ago.

The vote comes as a relief to Eric Kessler, a Blue Valley North High School biology teacher. Kessler said he hoped the state could "get this episode behind it and move on to the business of making sure our students are being educated to the highest of standards."

Still, Kessler said the evolution debate had a silver lining: Students came to class eager to ask questions about evolution.

"It was a teachable moment, this controversy," he said.

The repeal of the standards hands another defeat to proponents of creationism and intelligent design, the belief that nature shows scientific evidence of a creator. Two years ago, a U.S. District judge ruled that intelligent design cannot be taught in public schools. In Georgia, another judge ruled that a local school district couldn't put stickers critical of evolution on biology books.

Nevertheless, intelligent design advocates like Calvert said they would continue efforts to convince the public that schools are indoctrinating students with a flawed, anti-religious theory.

And their opponents say they'll be ready when the next round starts.

"It's a good day for Kansas, but the bad news is we've wasted a great deal of time and done great damage to the state's reputation," said Jack Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens for Science.

Krebs, a teacher and member of the panel that wrote the new standards, said that "nobody thinks this is going away."

Tuesday's vote was a foregone conclusion after moderates regained control of the board in last year's elections.

Conservative board members said the new standards wouldn't help students make up their own minds about evolution.

"Anything that might question the veracity of biological evolution is deleted," said board member Steve Abrams of Arkansas City.

Moderates said they were pleased to put the evolution debate behind them, for now. The board is to receive new guidelines Wednesday for sex education that would replace standards passed last year that require a parental permission slip. Like the science standards, they were approved by the former conservative majority.

© 2007, The Kansas City Star.

Visit The Star Web edition on the World Wide Web at http://www.kansascity.com.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Faces, Faces Everywhere


February 13, 2007


More than a decade ago, Diana Duyser of Hollywood, Fla., received a religious message through an unlikely medium: a grilled cheese sandwich she had made herself. As she gazed at the brown skillet marks on the surface of the bread, a familiar visage snapped into focus.

"I saw a face looking up at me; it was the Virgin Mary staring back," she told reporters in 2004. "I was in total shock."

After holding onto the stale relic for 10 years, Ms. Duyser put it up for sale on eBay. The auction generated so much excitement that the sandwich eventually sold for $28,000, proving that she was not alone in seeing a face where none should reasonably exist. (Efforts to locate her to comment for this article were unsuccessful.)

Such faces made headlines again near the end of 2006, when Mars Express, an orbiter from the European Space Agency, captured the highest-quality three-dimensional images to date of what looks like a face in the Cydonia region of Mars. The photos reignited conspiracy theories that governments on Earth are trying to hide the existence of intelligent life on Mars.

Why do we see faces everywhere we look: in the Moon, in Rorschach inkblots, in the interference patterns on the surface of oil spills? Why are some Lay's chips the spitting image of Fidel Castro, and why was a cinnamon bun with a striking likeness to Mother Teresa kept for years under glass in a coffee shop in Nashville, where it was nicknamed the Nun Bun?

Compelling answers are beginning to emerge from biologists and computer scientists who are gaining new insights into how the brain recognizes and processes facial data.

Long before she had heard of Diana Duyser's grilled-cheese sandwich, Doris Tsao, a neuroscientist at the University of Bremen in Germany, had an inkling that people might process faces differently from other objects. Her suspicion was that a particular area of the brain gives faces priority, like an airline offering first-class passengers expedited boarding.

"Some patients have strokes and are then able to recognize everything perfectly well except for faces," Dr. Tsao said. "So we started questioning whether there really might be an area in the brain that is dedicated to face recognition."

Dr. Tsao used functional magnetic resonance imaging to record which areas of the brain were activated when macaque monkeys were presented with stimuli including fruits, gadgets, scrambled patterns — and faces. She discovered almost immediately that groups of cells in three regions of the brain's temporal lobe seemed to be strongly attuned to faces.

"The first day we put the electrode in, it was shocking," Dr. Tsao said. "Cell after cell responded to faces but not at all to other objects." Her results were published in October in the journal Science.

Dr. Tsao's investigation yielded a surprising related finding: areas of the brain she had identified as face-specific occasionally lighted up in response to objects that bore only a passing resemblance to faces.

"Nonface objects may have certain features that are weakly triggering these face cells," she said. "If you go above a certain threshold, the monkeys might think that they're seeing a face." In the same way, she said, objects like cinnamon buns, rocky outcroppings and cloud formations may set off face radar if they bear enough resemblance to actual faces.

Pawan Sinha, a cognitive scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has devoted years of research to figuring out just what attributes touch off these face-specific pings. Security software that is being developed for identifying potential terrorists or detecting intruders must be able to reliably recognize faces. In teaching the software to do this, Dr. Sinha and his colleagues have arrived at unexpected insights into the question of why we sometimes see a cinnamon bun as a cinnamon bun, and other times as the earthly incarnation of a sainted nun.

To develop detector software optimized to pick out any human face, even in less-than-ideal surroundings, Dr. Sinha began by putting into his computer hundreds of faces as varied as those in a Benetton advertisement famous for its diversity.

As the computer amassed the information, it was able to discover relationships that were of great significance to almost all faces, but very few nonfaces. "These turn out to be very simple relationships, things like the eyes are always darker than the forehead, and the mouth is darker than the cheeks," Dr. Sinha said. "If you put together about 12 of these relationships, you get a template that you can use to locate a face."

Most people think of the cartoon smiley face, with its discrete eyes, nose and mouth, as the quintessential face template, but Dr. Sinha's computer can identify faces even when the pictures are of low resolution.

When he presented human subjects with blurry face images, containing only 12 by 14 pixels' worth of visual information, they performed similarly well, recognizing 75 percent of the face images accurately. This suggests that like the computer, the human brain processes faces holistically, like coherent landscapes, rather than one feature at a time.

These images are just " dark blobs on a big blob," Dr. Sinha said. "So clearly there's not enough diagnostic information in the individual features. Yet something about the overall organization of the image, the gestalt, is still allowing us to recognize the face."

Once in a while, the computer emits a false alarm. "This is a good analogy for what the human brain might be doing," Dr. Sinha said. "Like the computer, it's trying to determine what the regularities are in all of these faces to create a prototype.

"But this prototype is not perfect," he said. "Sometimes genuine faces do not match these regularities, and sometimes nonfaces satisfy them."

In other words, if the pattern of light and dark patches on a brindle cow happens to correspond to our conceptions of what a face should look like, we may interpret the coincidence as a visitation from Jesus Christ or Marilyn Monroe.

While the human tendency to see faces in other objects is rooted in neural architecture, the large number of actual faces we see every day may also be partly responsible for the Nun Bun phenomenon, said Takeo Watanabe, a neuroscientist at Boston University. His studies of learning processes show that after the brain is bombarded with a stimulus, it continues to perceive that stimulus even when it is not present.

To demonstrate this effect, Dr. Watanabe had subjects sit in front of a computer screen with faint dots cascading across it. At first, the participants could not figure out which direction the dots were moving. Then they went through another round of tests in which they were to identify letters superimposed on the dots as they moved across the screen.

When the subjects were then presented with a blank screen and asked to describe what they saw, a strange thing happened: not only did they insist they were seeing dots, but they tended to say the dots were moving in the direction they had been moving during the previous session.

Dr. Watanabe says the results suggest that subliminally learning something "too well" interferes with perceptions of reality. "As a result of repeated presentation, the subjects developed enhanced sensitivity to the dots," he said. "Their sensitivity got so high that they saw them even when there was nothing there."

Because faces make up such a significant part of the visual backdrop of life, he added, they may fall into the same category as the dots: people have gotten so used to seeing faces everywhere that sensitivity to them is high enough to produce constant false positives. This tendency to become hyperattuned to common stimuli may represent a survival advantage. "If you lived in primeval times, for instance," Dr. Watanabe said, "it would be good to be very sensitized to tigers."

Dr. Sinha of M.I.T. says that whether the hair-trigger response to faces is innate or learned, it represents a critical evolutionary adaptation, one that dwarfs side effects like seeing Beelzebub in a crumpled tissue.

"The information faces convey is so rich — not just regarding another person's identity, but also their mental state, health and other factors," he said. "It's extremely beneficial for the brain to become good at the task of face recognition and not to be very strict in its inclusion criteria. The cost of missing a face is higher than the cost of declaring a nonface to be a face."

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

A Princeton Lab on ESP Plans to Close Its Doors



Published: February 10, 2007

PRINCETON, N.J., Feb. 6 — Over almost three decades, a small laboratory at Princeton University managed to embarrass university administrators, outrage Nobel laureates, entice the support of philanthropists and make headlines around the world with its efforts to prove that thoughts can alter the course of events.

But at the end of the month, the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory, or PEAR, will close, not because of controversy but because, its founder says, it is time.

The laboratory has conducted studies on extrasensory perception and telekinesis from its cramped quarters in the basement of the university's engineering building since 1979. Its equipment is aging, its finances dwindling.

"For 28 years, we've done what we wanted to do, and there's no reason to stay and generate more of the same data," said the laboratory's founder, Robert G. Jahn, 76, former dean of Princeton's engineering school and an emeritus professor. "If people don't believe us after all the results we've produced, then they never will."

Princeton made no official comment.

The closing will end one of the strangest tales in modern science, or science fiction, depending on one's point of view. The laboratory has long had a strained relationship with the university. Many scientists have been openly dismissive of it.

"It's been an embarrassment to science, and I think an embarrassment for Princeton," said Robert L. Park, a University of Maryland physicist who is the author of "Voodoo Science: The Road From Foolishness to Fraud." "Science has a substantial amount of credibility, but this is the kind of thing that squanders it."

PEAR has been an anomaly from the start, a ghost in the machine room of physical science that was never acknowledged as substantial and yet never entirely banished. Its longevity illustrates the strength and limitations of scientific peer review, the process by which researchers appraise one another's work.

"We know people have ideas beyond the mainstream," said the sociologist Harriet Zuckerman, author of "Scientific Elite: Nobel Laureates in the United States" and senior vice president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, "but if they want funds for research they have to go through peer review, and the system is going to be very skeptical of ideas that are inconsistent with what is already known."

Dr. Jahn, one of the world's foremost experts on jet propulsion, defied the system. He relied not on university or government money but on private donations — more than $10 million over the years, he estimated. The first and most generous donor was his friend James S. McDonnell, a founder of the McDonnell Douglas Corporation.

Those gifts paid for a small staff and a gallery of random-motion machines, including a pendulum with a lighted crystal at the end; a giant, wall-mounted pachinko-like machine with a cascade of bouncing balls; and a variety of electronic boxes with digital number displays.

In one of PEAR's standard experiments, the study participant would sit in front of an electronic box the size of a toaster oven, which flashed a random series of numbers just above and just below 100. Staff members instructed the person to simply "think high" or "think low" and watch the display. After thousands of repetitions — the equivalent of coin flips — the researchers looked for differences between the machine's output and random chance.

Analyzing data from such trials, the PEAR team concluded that people could alter the behavior of these machines very slightly, changing about 2 or 3 flips out of 10,000. If the human mind could alter the behavior of such a machine, Dr. Jahn argued, then thought could bring about changes in many other areas of life — helping to heal disease, for instance, in oneself and others.

This kind of talk fascinated the public and attracted the curiosity of dozens of students, at Princeton and elsewhere. But it left most scientists cold. A physics Ph.D. and an electrical engineer joined Dr. Jahn's project, but none of the university's 700 or so professors did. Prominent research journals declined to accept papers from PEAR. One editor famously told Dr. Jahn that he would consider a paper "if you can telepathically communicate it to me."

Brenda Dunne, a developmental psychologist, has managed the laboratory since it opened and has been a co-author of many of its study papers. "We submitted our data for review to very good journals," Ms. Dunne said, "but no one would review it. We have been very open with our data. But how do you get peer review when you don't have peers?"

Several expert panels examined PEAR's methods over the years, looking for irregularities, but did not find sufficient reasons to interrupt the work. In the 1980s and 1990s, PEAR published more than 60 research reports, most appearing in the journal of the Society for Scientific Exploration, a group devoted to the study of topics outside the scientific mainstream. Dr. Jahn and Ms. Dunne are officers in the society.

News of the Princeton group's experiments spread quickly worldwide, among people interested in paranormal phenomena, including telekinesis and what people call extrasensory perception. Notable figures from Europe and Asia stopped by. . Keith Jarrett, the jazz pianist, paid a visit. For a time, the philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller visited regularly and donated money for research.

And many people, in and out of science, joined what Ms. Dunne called the PEAR Tree, a kind of secret society of people interested in the paranormal, she said. Many PEAR Tree members who are science faculty members will not reveal themselves publicly, Ms. Dunne said.

The culture of science, at its purest, is one of freedom in which any idea can be tested regardless of how far-fetched it might seem.

"I don't believe in anything Bob is doing, but I support his right to do it," said Will Happer, a professor of physics at Princeton.

Other top-flight scientists have taken chances. At the end of his career, Linus Pauling, the Nobel laureate, came to believe that vitamin C supplements could prevent and treat cancer, heart disease and other ailments. Dr. Pauling had some outside financing, too, and conducted research and had plenty of media coverage. But in the end he did not sway many of his colleagues, Dr. Zuckerman said.

At the PEAR offices this week, the staff worked amid boxes, piles of paper and a roll of bubble wrap as big as an oil drum. The random-event machines are headed for storage.

The study of telekinesis and related phenomena, Dr. Jahn said, will carry on.

"It's time for a new era," he said, "for someone to figure out what the implications of our results are for human culture, for future study, and — if the findings are correct — what they say about our basic scientific attitude." Kansas rewrites science standards again http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/16692012.htm

Posted on Wed, Feb. 14, 2007

JOHN HANNA Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. - Kansas has repealed public school science guidelines questioning the theory of evolution that brought the state international ridicule, but educators aren't sure how long it will be before the decision is overturned.

The State Board of Education approved new, evolution-friendly science standards with a 6-4 vote Tuesday, replacing ones that questioned the theory and had the support of "intelligent design" advocates.

The change occurred because a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans won control of the board from conservative Republicans in last year's election. While conservatives said after Tuesday's vote they weren't planning to reopen the debate even if elections go their way in 2008, state law will require another review of the standards by 2014.

Another shift in power is possible. The latest science standards are the fifth for the state in eight years.

"I think we're good for two years," said board member Janet Waugh, a Kansas City Democrat who supported the new standards. "Who knows what the election will hold in two years?"

The new standards reflect mainstream scientific views of evolution. The board deleted language suggesting that key evolutionary concepts - like a common origin for all life on Earth and change in species creating new ones - were controversial and being challenged by new research.

The board also rewrote the standards' definition of science, specifically limiting it to the search for natural explanations of what's observed in the universe.

Some scientists and science groups believed the board's latest action was significant because it turned back a subtle attack on evolution that encouraged schools to teach about an evolution "controversy," rather than mandating that creationism or intelligent design be taught. Intelligent design says an intelligent cause is the best way to explain some complex and orderly features of the universe.

The board's vote came a day after the 198th anniversary of Darwin's birth, which the University of Kansas celebrated with a costume party and a showing of a pro-evolution documentary, "Flock of Dodos."

But many Kansans still harbor religious objections and other misgivings about the British naturalist's theories. The Intelligent Design Network presented petitions with almost 4,000 signatures opposing the standards the board eventually adopted.

John Calvert, a retired attorney who helped found the group, accused the board of promoting atheism. And Greg Lassey, a retired Wichita-area biology teacher, said the new standards undermine families by "discrediting parents who reject materialism and the ethics and morals it fosters."

The state uses the standards to develop tests that measure how well students are learning science. Although decisions about what's taught in classrooms remain with 296 local school boards, both sides in the evolution dispute say the standards will influence teachers as they try to ensure that their students test well.

There were debates or legal battles in California, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Nevada and South Carolina over evolution.

But none has inspired comedians' jokes or parodies like Kansas' ongoing battle has, such as the four-part "Evolution Schmevolution" series in 2005 on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show."

Hearings in 2005 drew journalists from Canada, France, Great Britain and Japan.

Associated Press Writer John Milburn also contributed to this report.

On the Net:

Proposed science standards, including a comparison with the existing guidelines: http://www.ksde.org/Default.aspx?tabid144

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Springer enters the Creationism debate


Scientific publishing group Springer has entered into the controversial debate over the teaching of creationism versus Darwin's theory of evolution. A new scientific journal is aimed at those studying, teaching and researching science, creationism, intelligent design and the theories of biologist Charles Darwin. The new title will challenge the views of creationists.

Launched today, which would have been the English scientist's 198th birthday, Outreach and Education in Evolution mixes heavy peer-reviewed science from world leading thinkers with cartoons, competitions and useful lesson plans for educators.

"Springer stands behind evolutionary theory as a fundamental component of modern science education, especially now since the 'intelligent design' advocates have made worrying attempts to promote their views in public schools," said Amelia McNamara, Vice President, Publishing, Life Sciences and Biomedicine at Springer.

Outreach and Education in Evolution is to be edited by a team that have challenged the view that creationism should be taught instead of Darwin's scientifically accurate work on evolution. Editors in chief will be father and son team Niles and Greg Eldredge who said the new scientific title will fill the gap between scientific literature and the curriculum materials currently available.

Niles Eldridge is a paleontologist and curator at the American Museum of Natural History. He is famous for his theory of Punctuated equilibria, which he co-authored with scientist Stephen Jay Gould. Son Greg Eldredge is a teacher and author on fossils.

The two said of the fight with creationism, "Evolution remains the central unifying idea in biology and yet is still a source of contention and confusion in the classroom. In Outreach and Education in Evolution, we'll cover the gamut from molecules to ecosystems and from intelligent design to natural selection."

Outreach and Education in Evolution will be available from March.

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Posted by mchillingworth | 12 February 2007 in Science, Technical, Medical | Permalink

Believing Scripture but Playing by Science's Rules



KINGSTON, R.I. — There is nothing much unusual about the 197-page dissertation Marcus R. Ross submitted in December to complete his doctoral degree in geosciences here at the University of Rhode Island.

His subject was the abundance and spread of mosasaurs, marine reptiles that, as he wrote, vanished at the end of the Cretaceous era about 65 million years ago. The work is "impeccable," said David E. Fastovsky, a paleontologist and professor of geosciences at the university who was Dr. Ross's dissertation adviser. "He was working within a strictly scientific framework, a conventional scientific framework."

But Dr. Ross is hardly a conventional paleontologist. He is a "young earth creationist" — he believes that the Bible is a literally true account of the creation of the universe, and that the earth is at most 10,000 years old.

For him, Dr. Ross said, the methods and theories of paleontology are one "paradigm" for studying the past, and Scripture is another. In the paleontological paradigm, he said, the dates in his dissertation are entirely appropriate. The fact that as a young earth creationist he has a different view just means, he said, "that I am separating the different paradigms."

He likened his situation to that of a socialist studying economics in a department with a supply-side bent. "People hold all sorts of opinions different from the department in which they graduate," he said. "What's that to anybody else?"

But not everyone is happy with that approach. "People go somewhat bananas when they hear about this," said Jon C. Boothroyd, a professor of geosciences at Rhode Island.

In theory, scientists look to nature for answers to questions about nature, and test those answers with experiment and observation. For Biblical literalists, Scripture is the final authority. As a creationist raised in an evangelical household and a paleontologist who said he was "just captivated" as a child by dinosaurs and fossils, Dr. Ross embodies conflicts between these two approaches. The conflicts arise often these days, particularly as people debate the teaching of evolution.

And, for some, his case raises thorny philosophical and practical questions. May a secular university deny otherwise qualified students a degree because of their religion? Can a student produce intellectually honest work that contradicts deeply held beliefs? Should it be obligatory (or forbidden) for universities to consider how students will use the degrees they earn?

Those are "darned near imponderable issues," said John W. Geissman, who has considered them as a professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of New Mexico. For example, Dr. Geissman said, Los Alamos National Laboratory has a geophysicist on staff, John R. Baumgardner, who is an authority on the earth's mantle — and also a young earth creationist.

If researchers like Dr. Baumgardner do their work "without any form of interjection of personal dogma," Dr. Geissman said, "I would have to keep as objective a hat on as possible and say, 'O.K., you earned what you earned.' "

Others say the crucial issue is not whether Dr. Ross deserved his degree but how he intends to use it.

In a telephone interview, Dr. Ross said his goal in studying at secular institutions "was to acquire the training that would make me a good paleontologist, regardless of which paradigm I was using."

Today he teaches earth science at Liberty University, the conservative Christian institution founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell where, Dr. Ross said, he uses a conventional scientific text.

"We also discuss the intersection of those sorts of ideas with Christianity," he said. "I don't require my students to say or write their assent to one idea or another any more than I was required."

But he has also written and spoken on scientific subjects, and with a creationist bent. While still a graduate student, he appeared on a DVD arguing that intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism, is a better explanation than evolution for the Cambrian explosion, a rapid diversification of animal life that occurred about 500 million years ago.

Online information about the DVD identifies Dr. Ross as "pursuing a Ph.D. in geosciences" at the University of Rhode Island. It is this use of a secular credential to support creationist views that worries many scientists.

Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, a private group on the front line of the battle for the teaching of evolution, said fundamentalists who capitalized on secular credentials "to miseducate the public" were doing a disservice.

Michael L. Dini, a professor of biology education at Texas Tech University, goes even further. In 2003, he was threatened with a federal investigation when students complained that he would not write letters of recommendation for graduate study for anyone who would not offer "a scientific answer" to questions about how the human species originated.

Nothing came of it, Dr. Dini said in an interview, adding, "Scientists do not base their acceptance or rejection of theories on religion, and someone who does should not be able to become a scientist."

A somewhat more complicated issue arose last year at Ohio State University, where Bryan Leonard, a high school science teacher working toward a doctorate in education, was preparing to defend his dissertation on the pedagogical usefulness of teaching alternatives to the theory of evolution.

Earle M. Holland, a spokesman for the university, said Mr. Leonard and his adviser canceled the defense when questions arose about the composition of the faculty committee that would hear it.

Meanwhile three faculty members had written the university administration, arguing that Mr. Leonard's project violated the university's research standards in that the students involved were being subjected to something harmful (the idea that there were scientific alternatives to the theory of evolution) without receiving any benefit.

Citing privacy rules, Mr. Holland would not discuss the case in detail, beyond saying that Mr. Leonard was still enrolled in the graduate program. But Mr. Leonard has become a hero to people who believe that creationists are unfairly treated by secular institutions.

Perhaps the most famous creationist wearing the secular mantle of science is Kurt P. Wise, who earned his doctorate at Harvard in 1989 under the guidance of the paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, a leading theorist of evolution who died in 2002.

Dr. Wise, who teaches at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., wrote his dissertation on gaps in the fossil record. But rather than suggest, as many creationists do, that the gaps challenge the wisdom of Darwin's theory, Dr. Wise described a statistical approach that would allow paleontologists to infer when a given species was present on earth, millions of years ago, even if the fossil evidence was incomplete.

Dr. Wise, who declined to comment for this article, is a major figure in creationist circles today, and his Gould connection appears prominently on his book jackets and elsewhere.

"He is lionized," Dr. Scott said. "He is the young earth creationist with a degree from Harvard."

As for Dr. Ross, "he does good science, great science," said Dr. Boothroyd, who taught him in a class in glacial geology. But in talks and other appearances, Dr. Boothroyd went on, Dr. Ross is already using "the fact that he has a Ph.D. from a legitimate science department as a springboard."

Dr. Ross, 30, grew up in Rhode Island in an evangelical Christian family. He attended Pennsylvania State University and then the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, where he wrote his master's thesis on marine fossils found in the state.

His creationism aroused "some concern by faculty members there, and disagreements," he recalled, and there were those who argued that his religious beliefs should bar him from earning an advanced degree in paleontology.

"But in the end I had a decent thesis project and some people who, like the people at U.R.I., were kind to me, and I ended up going through," Dr. Ross said.

Dr. Fastovsky and other members of the Rhode Island faculty said they knew about these disagreements, but admitted him anyway. Dr. Boothroyd, who was among those who considered the application, said they judged Dr. Ross on his academic record, his test scores and his master's thesis, "and we said, 'O.K., we can do this.' "

He added, "We did not know nearly as much about creationism and young earth and intelligent design as we do now."

For his part, Dr. Ross says, "Dr. Fastovsky was liberal in the most generous and important sense of the term."

He would not say whether he shared the view of some young earth creationists that flaws in paleontological dating techniques erroneously suggest that the fossils are far older than they really are.

Asked whether it was intellectually honest to write a dissertation so at odds with his religious views, he said: "I was working within a particular paradigm of earth history. I accepted that philosophy of science for the purpose of working with the people" at Rhode Island.

And though his dissertation repeatedly described events as occurring tens of millions of years ago, Dr. Ross added, "I did not imply or deny any endorsement of the dates."

Dr. Fastovsky said he had talked to Dr. Ross "lots of times" about his religious beliefs, but that depriving him of his doctorate because of them would be nothing more than religious discrimination. "We are not here to certify his religious beliefs," he said. "All I can tell you is he came here and did science that was completely defensible."

Steven B. Case, a research professor at the Center for Research Learning at the University of Kansas, said it would be wrong to "censor someone for a belief system as long as it does not affect their work. Science is an open enterprise to anyone who practices it."

Dr. Case, who champions the teaching of evolution, heads the committee writing state science standards in Kansas, a state particularly racked by challenges to Darwin. Even so, he said it would be frightening if universities began "enforcing some sort of belief system on their graduate students."

But Dr. Scott, a former professor of physical anthropology at the University of Colorado, said in an interview that graduate admissions committees were entitled to consider the difficulties that would arise from admitting a doctoral candidate with views "so at variance with what we consider standard science." She said such students "would require so much remedial instruction it would not be worth my time."

That is not religious discrimination, she added, it is discrimination "on the basis of science."

Dr. Dini, of Texas Tech, agreed. Scientists "ought to make certain the people they are conferring advanced degrees on understand the philosophy of science and are indeed philosophers of science," he said. "That's what Ph.D. stands for."

Stunning documentary links Darwin, Hitler


Holocaust was fallout of evolution theory, says production

Posted: February 12, 2007 3:30 p.m. Eastern

© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com

Charles Darwin should share with Adolph Hitler the blame for the 11 million or more lives lost in the Holocaust, a new video documentary explains. And, the program says, the more than 45 million American lives lost to abortion also can be blamed on that famous founder of evolutionary theory.

The results of Darwin's theories?

Titled "Darwin's Deadly Legacy," the stunning documentary shows that Darwinian theory, "which is scientifically bankrupt, has probably been responsible for more bloodshed than anything else in the history of humanity," Jerry Newcomb, one of the program's two co-producers, told WorldNetDaily.

Before the advent of Darwinian beliefs, said Newcombe, the Western world's basic concept was that man was made in the image of God, and was therefore valuable. But Darwin changed all that.

"Karl Marx wouldn't embrace all (Darwin's) tenets, but said, 'This is a scientific theory on which we can base our theory of man,'" Newcomb told WND.

Ann Coulter, bestselling author of "Godless: The Church of Liberalism," a WorldNetDaily columnist and featured speaker at WND's upcoming NewsExpo2007 event, said Hitler was simply taking Darwinism from the theoretical to the practical.

"He thought the Aryans were the fittest and he was just hurrying natural selection along," Coulter said.

"We talk about the link between Darwin and Hitler, and in the middle ground, eugenics," said Newcomb. "Darwin led to eugenics, which led directly to Hitler."

"I was just shocked about a week ago, (when a news report) talked about a designer clinic, where you could design your own baby. They said everybody seems to want perfect Aryans. Where have we heard that?" asked Newcomb, who noted the documentary project was based on the book "Darwin's Deadly Legacy," by Richard Weikart.

"I never knew about the link between Darwin and Hitler until after reading Richard Weikart's book," said Coulter.

Coulter is among the experts who appear in the special. Others are Weikart, Lee Strobel, journalist/author of "The Case for a Creator," Jonathan Wells, author of "Icons of Evolution," and Human Genome Project Director Francis Collins.

"To put it simply – no Darwin, no Hitler," said Kennedy, who is host for the special. "Hitler tried to speed up evolution, to help it along, and millions suffered and died in unspeakable ways because of it."

The program also addresses eugenics, a term coined by Darwin's own cousin, Francis Galton, who campaigned for using human genetics as a means to breed superior beings.

In the United States, nearly three dozen states at one point mandated sterilization programs to prevent the "feebleminded" and other "defectives" from reproducing.

A direct result of that concept is today's Planned Parenthood, the production documents. Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger believed in removing what she called the "dead weight of human waste," the program says.

"Eugenics is applied Darwinism," said Coulter.

The culmination of that belief system appears to have been the Columbine massacre. There, students Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 12 other students, a teacher and themselves, after setting out on a plan to kill 500.

"Harris wrote on his website, 'YOU KNOW WHAT I LOVE??? Natural SELECTION! It's the best thing that ever happened to the Earth. Getting rid of all the stupid and weak organisms,'" the report says.

Reports show that on the day of the attack, Harris wore a T-shirt with the words, "Natural Selection."

All this happened, said Kennedy, because of a set of theories based on "a crumbling scientific foundation."

As WND reported recently, hundreds of Ph.D. scientists are now stepping forward and publicly dissenting from Darwinian theory.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Churches observe Evolution Sunday


Posted on Sun, Feb. 11, 2007


By Kim Vo Mercury News

The Rev. Jeffrey Spencer believes in God. He also believes in the Big Bang and evolution.

``In fact, I would say with evolution that it's as certain as science can ever be,'' said Spencer, a minister at Niles Congregational United Church of Christ in Fremont.

The harmonious mix of faith and science will be his sermon topic today when Niles Congregational joins more than 500 churches across the country for Evolution Sunday.

Coinciding with Charles Darwin's birthday Monday, it's part of a movement to provide a moderate voice in the divisive debate between creation and evolution that has often pitted the faithful against the scientists.

We ``believe the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably co-exist,'' states an open letter signed by 10,500 clergy members. Science answers the when and how the world came into being, but why we're here falls into religion's realm.

Such happy talk belies a heated battle that has long simmered, boiling over after school boards in Kansas and Pennsylvania set off a national debate in 2005 for promoting the teaching of ``intelligent design'' as an alternative to evolution. A federal judge ruled that Pennsylvania's move was unconstitutional because it was essentially teaching creationism.

Observers agree that the December 2005 decision was merely a battle in a much bigger -- and bitter -- cultural war between fundamentalists and secularists. Nearly half -- 48 percent -- of Americans believe life evolved over time, but of those, 18 percent think that evolution was guided by a Supreme Being, according to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The 2005 survey also found that 42 percent believe life has always existed in its present form. In other words, no evolution occurred.

Back in the courts

``It probably will be taken up in terms of school board decisions and the like, and then we'll be in the courts again,'' said Francisco Ayala, a professor of biological sciences and philosophy at the University of California-Irvine. ``The debate will continue in the public arena because very visual groups are pushing intelligent design.''

Among them is the Discovery Institute in Seattle which promotes research into intelligent design, a theory that life is so complex that it must have been planned by an intelligent force. They support educational guidelines calling for the critical teaching of evolution.

``I think the scientific data says there are many scientific challenges to neo-Darwinism and much evidence that life was designed by intelligence,'' said Casey Luskin, the group's program officer in public policy and legal affairs.

In May, the nation's first Creation Museum is set to open in Ohio. Founder Ken Ham said it was important to open the $27 million building because the natural science museums propagandize evolution. His group takes issue, for instance, with museum time lines declaring that dinosaurs roamed the earth millions of years ago. Some Christians believe the world is only about 6,000 years old. At the Creation Museum, the dinosaurs will be much younger.

Magazine launched

Last year, Ham's group also launched Answers magazine, which promotes Genesis -- the biblical version of how the Earth was created in six days. So far, he said, the magazine has 50,000 subscribers.

Ham is impatient with those who read Genesis metaphorically instead of accepting it as God's literal truth. If one questions the very first chapter of the Bible, he says, they are undermining everything that follows.

``What you believe about where you came from affects your whole worldview,'' he said.

That unquestioning attitude baffles Robert Stephens, a retired cell biologist who has been organizing Darwin Day events to celebrate the scientist, whose work is at the center of the debate. His Redwood City-based group -- along with some religious and scientific groups -- is launching a celebration for Darwin's 200th birthday in 2009.

``If creation has any place in science, they have to come up with evidence for their theories,'' Stephens said. ``Otherwise, it's mythology.''

He has no problems with personal religion, but he's frustrated by moves to have it replace scientific facts, especially in classrooms and politics.

Stephens was raised in a religious home -- and was an elder in the Presbyterian church -- but says he was ``able to grow away from it.''

Asked how he describes himself now, he replied, ``I'm a very excited scientist. It's very spiritual.''

Either-or nature

The either-or nature of the debate has made it ``very uncomfortable'' for those who believe in both God and science, said Joan Roughgarden, an evolutionary biologist at Stanford University and an Episcopalian.

``Scientists have a responsibility to give space to people of faith in their discipline,'' she said. ``They can't make people of faith retarded cretins.''

The atmosphere has turned poisonous.

Roughgarden recently debated Richard Dawkins, the famous author and atheist. The exchange got posted on YouTube, where viewers ended up mocking her clothes and her habit of saying ``um'' and ``ah'' when she pauses. ``I'm being called a bitch,'' she said.

Roughgarden, who will preach at a Sausalito church Sunday, reads the Bible with a biologist's eye. ``When Genesis talks about humans being made from mud, does that mean we are made from the mud one finds in a marsh? Or does that mean we come from a common substance?'' She added that the commonality might be our DNA.

It's important, she said, for the faithful to redirect the argument.

``If one thinks `Evolution = Satan,' as some postcards from Houston say, then the issue in my view is not to say that Satan isn't out there. But that it isn't evolution,'' she said. When people learn about evolution, she said, the tension fades.

It's not that simple. Nate Glaze knows about evolution. But the junior high pastor at Bridges Community Church in Fremont doesn't believe it.

``The Genesis account and the science account don't line up,'' he said. He knows the evidence scientists trot out -- carbon dating, the rings of a tree -- but he believes God created the world already old, with fully mature trees, and 5 million-year-old rocks.

At Willow Glen United Methodist in San Jose, children's pastor Susan Grace Smith said people need to develop their own personal understanding of God and humanity. The young children soak up Bible stories, including Genesis, with its focus on order and repetitive rhythm. By third grade, though, they begin asking questions, weighing creation against what they heard at school. She encourages them to find their own answers.

``The story might be true, it might not be true,'' Smith said. ``There's truth and truth. There's factual truth and truth we know in our heart.''

Contact Kim Vo at kvo@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5719.

There's no EKG - but there is reflexology


By Vered Lee

Roan Omar, 5, lies on a bed in a government clinic in East Barta'a in the Wadi Ara region. Her mother, Hadija, 27, sits beside her, wrapped in a black veil. Hadas Shoham, a holistic practitioner, asks the girl to close her eyes. She places her hands on the girl's body and touches her temples for extended periods. Roan has thalessemia, a genetic blood disease. She suffers from headaches and dizziness, and receives frequent blood transfusions in the Jenin Hospital. Hadija heard that alternative therapists and Israeli physicians came to the Barta'a clinic on Mondays, and therefore decided to bring her daughter.

"This is her fifth treatment. It relieves the child's suffering and reduces her headaches," she says. "Our situation is difficult. We have to go to the Jenin Hospital, every month, and we are delayed at checkpoints for hours each time."

Hadija looks at Shoham, a member of Middleway - Compassionate Engagement in Society, non-profit organization that treats her daughter. She speaks with restraint, "this treatment helps my daughter's daily functioning, but also teaches me that there are other [kinds of] Israelis. I don't hate Israelis. I hate the occupation that denies my freedom to easily travel with my daughter to receive treatment."

Middleway (Shvil Zahav in Hebrew) was founded in 2002, to promote non-violent goals, compassion and a peaceful society. About 1,000 members participate in the organization's silent peace walks in Jewish and Arab communities around the country. They engage in "circle dialogues" and workshops, in an effort to promote dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. "The organization was not conceived as a 'physicians' organization.' We didn't imagine that we would be providing medical treatment to the Palestinian population," explains member Maureen Amelia-Brody, one of the founders of the Barta'a clinic project. "About a year ago, we arrived in the village on a peace walk," Amelia-Brody explains. "We were exposed to the complex reality of life that prevents residents from receiving basic, medical services. Then the concept of establishing a medical clinic arose. We have many alternative practitioners in our ranks and we decided to use what we have at our disposal to help the local population."

Barta'a straddles both sides of the Green Line in the Wadi Ara region. In 1949, the village was divided along the wadi into two parts: Barta'a al-Gharbiyah, in the West, remained in Israeli territory, while Barta'a al-Sharkiyah, in the East, was annexed to Jordan. Because most of Barta'a's residents belong to the extended Kabha family, the bisection of the village separated relatives. In 1967, the village was "reunited." Nazem Bahous, a resident of Shfaram and member of Middleway quips, "the entire Arab world wept over the defeat to Israel. Only the residents of Barta'a were happy."

Crossing a transparent border

The tragic story of Barta'a may be invisible to casual visitors, but a transparent, "policy border" weaves the fabric of life in the village. While Barta'a's Israeli population (about 4,700 residents) moves freely, its Palestinian population (about 3,600 residents of whom only 30-40 percent carry Israeli identity cards) are prevented from entering Israeli territory, including the other side of their village. They face stiff fines and imprisonment if they cross into Israeli Barta'a. Moreover, the Defense Ministry is now threatening to build a fence to divide the village.

Eastern Barta'a is the largest village in the 18,000 dunam enclave that was created in the West Bank in 2003 when the separation fence was erected five kilometers away from the Green Line. The fence separated Barta'a from the Jenin district. In addition to isolating village residents with Palestinian identity cards from Israeli Barta'a, the fence limited their movement within the West Bank. Residents who seek the services of the government hospital in Jenin must produce permits at the Reihan checkpoint, which operates from 6:30 A.M. to 9 P.M.

"Palestinian Barta'a is separated from any basic medical infrastructure," says Marwan Kabha, deputy director of the Eastern Barta'a Local Council. "What is a laboring mother or a man with a heart attack supposed to do after 9 P.M.? And I am not just talking about emergencies. We lack medical specialists in many fields: Internal medicine, pediatrics. We receive Middleway's assistance with great love. They see the extent of the humanitarian crisis that we are exposed to and attempt to provide assistance on the ground."

A line of waiting patients gradually assembles at the clinic. Residents, who have grown accustomed to practitioners and physicians' Monday visits consistently arrive for their appointments. Nazem Bahous coordinates doctors' appointments. He says that Middleway members joined the clinic after Jewish terrorist Eden Natan-Zada killed four people in Shfaram, in 2005. "Middleway members came to Shfaram after the murders to conduct listening circles," he recalls. "I fell in love with the character of their operations, especially with the organization's motto: 'There is no path to peace. Peace is the path [Mahatma Gandhi].' I joined their activities with my family."

Amelia-Brody says that Barta'a residents were initially skeptical of alternative treatments. "We solved this problem by visiting the homes of residents and treating sick women. The women quickly spread the word that treatments were effective and the rest of the population began arriving. We know that alternative therapies are complementary treatment and we try to address daily problems. We added a family physician, who arrives monthly, and when confronted with complex cases, we attempt to obtain entry permits into Israel, and refer residents to physicians in hospitals in Israel. We are striving to enlist more physicians, and establish a center in which Israeli physicians will train local physicians."

Dr. Khaled Samour, an ear, nose and throat specialist from Jenin, employed by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), arrives at the clinic with a pharmacist and an ambulance driver.

Bilingual treatment

"I come here twice a week to treat the local population," he says. "It is not easy for us to enter and we are delayed for hours at the checkpoint. My medical residence is specific but I am required to treat every case I encounter because of the absence of medical staff. It is not possible to conduct routine medical testing here because there is no equipment. It is impossible to X-ray patients or conduct EKG examinations. The only physician here is an elderly gentleman with heart disease."

Conversation is interrupted by an alarmed Nablus resident who arrives in the clinic. "I am married to a Palestinian resident of Barta'a and I live here," he explains. "My wife gave birth a week ago and she's hospitalized in the government hospital in Jenin. She needs two units of Type O, Rh+ blood and there is none in the hospital. I don't have a permit to cross the checkpoint and I don't know what to do."

Dr. Khaled and his team set forth for the hospital in Jenin. "Don't worry. We'll go into the mosque in Jenin and announce that we need a blood donation," he attempts to assure the distressed husband.

Middleway activities in the village, which initially only included treatment, quickly expanded to provision of courses in alternative medicine for residents. A group which is studying reflexology assembles in one room in the clinic. "Our goal is to treat residents but also provide them with the necessary knowledge to treat themselves," says Tzila Berman, a physiotherapist and reflexologist.

At the nearby local council building, Stephen Fulder, one of the founders of Middleway, teaches a course in herbal medicine. "There are 40 people in the class," he proudly announces. "They may use this knowledge to address daily problems that bother family members and gain security and encouragement from a medical tradition that actually grew from their culture. Many peace organizations forgot that the most important thing is creating connections with people and creating trust on both sides."

Nazem's wife, Rahab Bahous, an elementary school Hebrew teacher in Shfaram, provides Hebrew lessons to the women in the village. "I initially translated the Israeli therapists' comments in Arabic. The women gradually began to ask to learn the language," she says. "They said that they wanted to learn how to speak to soldiers at checkpoints. I also have a student whose son studies in Barta'a, in an Israeli school. She didn't know how to speak Hebrew, and now that she is studying, she can help him with his homework for the first time."

Is Edward Humes, Monkey Girl Author, a Partisan? (Part II): The Evolving FAQ


In Part I, I discussed how in the spring of 2006, I was contacted by a reporter named Edwards Humes who was writing a book on the Dover trial. He claimed to be supremely neutral, fair, and non-partisan. (Humes now refuses to grant me permission to directly quote his emails where he made these claims of neutrality.) But I had reasons to be suspicious. Reporters who go out of their way to claim to be fair often turn out to be agenda-driven Darwinists in non-partisan clothing. Indeed, Humes' present FAQ on his book's website is entirely pro-evolution and anti-ID. This second installment will discuss additional inaccuracies in Humes' evolving FAQ.

Humes on ID and Creationism
Humes' present FAQ states: "Intelligent Design is a non-biblical form of creationism that avoids overtly religious references but posits an unnamed master 'designer'…" But he specifically told me in one of his original emails requesting an interview that he did not equate ID with the unqualified descriptor creationism. (As noted, Humes refuses to grant me permission to directly quote his original e-mails.) Does his FAQ now provide a neutral or non-partisan description of ID? Obviously, the claim that ID is creationism is a "form of creationism" is wrong, as was compellingly argued to Judge Jones here and here.

Humes on the "infinitely powerful designer"
Humes' present FAQ states that ID "posits a supernatural process — an intelligent designer fashioning life and the universe…" But that isn't what his FAQ always said. As of January 28, it stated that ID "posits a supernatural process — an infinitely powerful designer creating life and the universe…" (emphasis added) Why did his FAQ change? Because I challenged him. I e-mailed Humes a few weeks ago noting that the theory of intelligent design does not try to identify the designer as "infinitely powerful" or "supernatural." Humes apparently has fixed the former error, but not the latter. But that's not the interesting part of the story.

After I challenged Humes' false characterization of ID, he removed the words "infinitely powerful designer," and then sent me an email which accused me of misstating his FAQ, making no disclosure whatsoever that he had changed those words in his FAQ. That he would change his FAQ in that manner, not disclose that change, and then accuse me of misstating it only made me more suspicious of him. (Of course I saved the original version of his FAQ.)

But even Humes' improved FAQ does not accurately characterize how leading proponents of ID define their theory. For one of a great many examples, the Pandas textbook states: "Surely the intelligent design explanation has unanswered questions of its own … [I]ntelligence .. can be recognized by uniform sensory experience, and the supernatural ... cannot. ... We should recognize, however, that if we go further, and conclude that the intelligence responsible for biological origins is outside the universe (supernatural) or within it, we do so without the help of science … All it implies is that life had an intelligent source." (Of Pandas and People, pg. 126-127, 161) According these passages which Judge Jones and Humes' FAQ ignore, the theory of ID does not conclude whether the designer is supernatural or natural.

Should ID proponents be allowed to speak for themselves, or will Humes simply repeat the partisan misconstruals of Darwinists? Apparently Humes' FAQ employs the latter option.

Humes on ID and Science
When Humes emailed me in spring 2006, he implied that he accepted that ID had science, and he claimed to be non-partisan and neutral. He gave no indication that he believed ID was merely a religious idea. But when I first encountered his FAQ a few weeks ago, it stated that "evolution is a scientific idea, while Intelligent Design is a religious idea."

After reading the original wording of the FAQ, I emailed Humes and challenged his claim that "Intelligent Design is a religious idea." Where in Cambridge University Press monograph The Design Inference does William Dembski use a religious methodology to infer design? Is not the design inference based upon the scientific methodology that we observe that intelligent agents are the sole known cause of high levels of specified and complex information, and then we find high levels of specified and complex information in nature? You can disagree with the ID-inference, but you can't deny its empirical, non-religious methodology.

Humes mustered no response my challenges about ID's methodology. Instead he changed his FAQ and e-mailed me back, again, not disclosing that he changed this statement in his FAQ and again, accusing me of misrepresenting his FAQ. The new version of his FAQ has slightly softer language stating that "evolution is a scientific idea, while Intelligent Design is seen by many as a religious idea." That he would backtrack and then not disclose it in the email accusing me of misstating his FAQ has further heightened my suspicions.

Interesting Choices of Reviewers...
There are other problems with Humes' FAQ which I will leave alone for now. Darwinist defenders will claim Humes developed his highly-partisan viewpoint while researching the book. And who are Humes' defenders? His book has received glowing endorsements from hard-line Darwinists like P.Z. Myers, Michael Shermer, and even Judge John E. Jones. However Humes started out, to get an endorsement from P.Z. Myers and Michael Shermer, I expect his final take to be anything but neutral.

No one can blame me for my present suspicions. Of course Humes claims, and others will claim, that he was neutral when he started his research and developed his partisan views as time passed.

But Humes' own self-proclamations carry little weight in this analysis.

All I really have to go on are the original assertions from Humes which claimed he was non-partisan and fair while simultaneously trying to convince me to do an interview, and his present highly partisan FAQ. Given that Humes now refuses to both disclose his book proposal (which might reveal the truth) and grant me permission to quote his original emails, and that he is changing his FAQ and then privately accusing me of misstating it while not disclosing all the changes he made, I feel my suspicions are not unreasonable. If only Humes would give me a credible reason—besides his own assertions—to change my mind, perhaps I might. Perhaps Humes will even respond to this page, making baseless accusations against me for exploring my reasonable suspicions, like he did privately in his recent emails to me. Most likely he'll just rely on his Darwinist reviewers / bloggers to defend him. The nature of their responses are fully anticipated.

But there is more evidence to weigh at the present time. Part III will discuss Humes' glowing endorsements from leading Darwinists. Apparently Humes only felt comfortable sending the book out to Darwinists like P.Z. Myers and Michael Shermer for review…

Posted by Casey Luskin on February 11, 2007 8:39 AM | Permalink

Sunday, February 11, 2007



Connie Howard / health@vueweekly.com

The kind of meds you take really depends on where you're aiming

Popping a pill the other day—which is a rare event for my husband—he, knowing that I frown on some pills and not on others, suggested I explain (for the sake of those more inclined to follow and get the nuances of politics or sports or business than of health) the difference between pills that tend to get my blessing and those that don't. So here it is, a brief Alt Medicine 101.

Both "natural" medicine from the health food store and drugs from the pharmacy can be life-enhancing and life-saving; it really is more complicated than the former being good, the latter being bad. But there are fundamental and critical differences, and in choosing, much depends on your goals.

Medicines from health food stores tend to be nutraceuticals (a handy word-combo of "nutrition" and "pharmaceutical")—products formulated by isolating disease-prevention elements found in foods or herbs for medicinal purposes. Things like beta-carotene (found in fruits and vegetables and known to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals), lycopenes (found in tomato products and known to reduce the risk of prostate cancer), and omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon and other fish oils and known to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and improve mental function).

Pharmaceuticals are, of course, drugs: powerful chemicals designed to perform very specific actions in the body. And though they don't usually offer a cure, they do aggressively and sometimes effectively manage symptoms and disease processes.

Nutraceuticals aim to get to the root of the problem, and sometimes make outrageous claims to cure everything under the sun in an instant, which usually earns them a quick dismissal by mainstream medical practitioners.

The term nutraceutical also refers to foods whose levels of key preventative ingredients have been enhanced, foods like eggs that have been fed special fish-oil enriched feed to elevate omega-3 levels. Nutraceuticals are the tools of the trade for practitioners of orthomolecular and natural medicine.

Orthomolecular ("ortho" meaning correct) refers to the right molecule for the situation. Unlike pharmaceutical treatment, orthomolecular treatment uses only molecules normally present in the healthy body and in the same form, and is therefore less likely to cause side-effects or harm.

Orthomolecular medicine is an approach based on the premise that most disease results from chemical imbalance, and on the belief that it can be prevented, treated and often cured by achieving optimal levels of essential nutrients. Orthomolecular medicine isn't snake oil, nor is it prescribed by quacks. Like pharmaceutical medicine, it is medicine based on science, on biology and chemistry and clinical research, but it has different roots, and a different philosophy—correcting or rebalancing as opposed to symptom management.

Despite that, orthomolecular medicine remains controversial and exists largely outside of mainstream medicine, and is hungry for research funding (which, of course, has nothing to do with the influence of Big Pharma).

The concept of orthomolecular medicine is not new at all. Hippocrates—who, in 400 BC, said "Let your food be your medicine and medicine be your food"—has been given new credibility in recent years, which is a good and logical response to our growing scientific understanding of the link between our diets, environment and disease (and given the rapidly rising and unsustainable cost of our pharmaceutically based health care system).

The difference between nutraceuticals used in orthomolecular or alternative medicine and pharmaceuticals is the difference between gentle custom-tailored healing agents and sometimes-necessary powerful (and riskier) interventions. It's the difference between trying to get at the root of illness and managing symptoms. It's the difference between the best prevention (and sometimes the best cure) money can buy and a godsend when alternatives aren't an option.

As averse as I can be at times to pharmaceuticals, they can be the difference between life and death. (I'm not, contrary to what some may think, stupid, arrogant or careless.) But to think pharmaceuticals are the only "real" medicines available to us, or that medical doctors (as opposed to naturopathic ones) are the only "real" doctors available, is naďve. Naturopathic doctors receive medical training that parallels that of medical doctors but includes naturopathic disciplines. It is more, not less, comprehensive.

"You have to be so careful with alternative medicine," I used to hear all the time from my friends, before they gave up. But I say you have to be infinitely more careful taking pharmaceuticals, and you can't afford not to take advantage of alternative medicine if you want to avoid (or have already had) a brush with serious illness.

It's sad to see high cholesterol and Type II diabetes and cancer and obesity and almost everything once reserved for the old showing up in the young.

And it's pure joy to see people like my late grandfather, who survived two wars and had the strength to ride his bike every day until about a week before his death (which is how I want to go when I do) and who maintained that drugs (by which he meant prescription drugs) were dangerous.

"Stay away from them," he'd say. "They'll kill you."

Hoax of Dodos, pt. 2: Flock of Dodos Filmmaker Uses Fuzzy Math and Falsehoods to Distort the Truth about Discovery Institute


Note: This is the second of two blog posts responding to the errors and misrepresentations in the film Flock of Dodos. For more information, visit www.hoaxofdodos.com.

In Flock of Dodos, filmmaker Randy Olson tries his best to discredit Discovery Institute (DI), the leading think tank supporting scientists and scholars researching intelligent design (ID). But he only ends up discrediting himself by showing how far he is willing to stretch the truth. This article looks at some of the film's most egregious errors about DI, starting with its claims about the Institute's budget.

Inflating DI's Budget—by over 300%!

According to Flock of Dodos, Discovery Institute has a huge budget for its intelligent design program that dwarfs the resources of evolution's supporters. "The Discovery Institute is truly the big fish in this picture, with an annual budget of around 5 million dollars," Olson tells the audience. Later, a woman is shown repeating the same figure. The clear impression left with viewers is that the Institute spends $5 million a year to promote intelligent design.

Not even close.

Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture (its program on intelligent design and evolution) only spent $1.2 million in 2003, the year that Olson uses for his film. In 2004 it spent the same, and in 2005 it spent $1.6 million.

Indeed, the budget for the entire Discovery Institute, including expenditures on non-intelligent design programs on transportation, technology, and other topics, has never reached $5 million. In 2003, the Institute as a whole spent $2.5 million, or half the figure cited by Olson. In 2004, it spent $3.5 million, and in 2005 it spent $3.9 million. These facts are publicly available for anyone to check on the Institute's Form 990s posted at www.guidestar.com.

How, then, did Olson arrive at his bogus number?

Give him credit for creativity. Although viewers are clearly led to believe that Olson is talking about DI's activities relating to intelligent design, Olson lumped together the finances for all of Discovery's programs, including those that have nothing to do with ID. Since even that sleight of hand wouldn't get him to $5 million, he then arbitrarily defined Discovery's "budget" not as its expenditures for a given year, but as its total revenues—even though this figure includes multi-year grants that must be spent over more than one year. Next, he used the revenue figure from 2003, which happened to be higher than the figures from 2004 and 2005. But even that number only got him to $4.2 million, not $5 million. So what did he do? He simply added $800,000 that didn't exist to produce a figure that sounded more impressive. That's the sort of creative math that gets ordinary people in trouble with the IRS.

But Olson's mispresentations about the Institute's finances don't end there. As part of an effort to discredit the Institute's supporters, the film shows a clip of Bill Wagnon claiming that "the Discovery Institute people... are funded by folks like the Unification Church, Reverend Moon...." The audience is never informed that this smear is absolutely false—or that Olson himself admits its falsity. In an e-mail to Discovery Institute in 2006, Olson conceded: "Bill Wagnon says you are funded by the Unification Church, which I know to be untrue." (emphasis) Olson kept Wagnon's false claim in his film anyway.

Even if Olson's bogus budget claims were correct, his overall point would still be absurd. The idea that the resources of Discovery Institute dwarf those of evolutionists is preposterous. The budget of a single state university biology department is far larger than DI's entire program on intelligent design—as are the budgets of many of the groups that form the "evolution lobby" in the United States, such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which alone has a budget of more than $75 million. If intelligent design has gained a voice in the public arena, it is definitely not because it is better funded than the proponents of evolution.

Other Falsehoods and Distortions

Flock of Dodos is filled with numerous other falsehoods and distortions about Discovery Institute as well:

• The film falsely claims that DI helped initiate the controversy over intelligent design in Dover, PA. In fact, the Institute discouraged the Dover School Board from trying to mandate intelligent design, and then urged repeal of the Dover policy well before any lawsuit was filed. (For the truth, see "Setting the Record Straight about DI's Role in the Dover School District Case.")

• The film maliciously implies that DI Fellow John Angus Campbell hid his Discovery affiliation at a pro-ID conference where the filmmakers interviewed him. In fact, Campbell's connection to DI has been noted on our website for years, and it was highlighted in the publicity for the conference in question. However, since Campbell is not a paid Fellow of the Institute, and since his salaried position is at a university, it is quite natural for him to list that position as his main affiliation. The fact that Randy Olson didn't do his homework about Campbell before his interview is not Dr. Campbell's fault.

• Olson misrepresents the content of the so-called "Wedge" document. (For the truth, see "Discovery Institute's 'Wedge Document': How Darwinist Paranoia Fueled an Urban Legend.")

Olson's Double Standard

Throughout Flock of Dodos Olson displays a clear double standard. He seeks to discredit DI because he thinks it receives funding from some groups he classifies as "right wing," but he never bothers to ask about the funding sources of pro-Darwin groups such as the National Center for Science Education. (Indeed, he himself has refused to disclose the funders of his own film, so no one gets to question him about his funding.) Similarly, Olson finds it significant that Discovery Institute hired a public relations firm for less than a year, but he ignores the regular use of PR firms by pro-evolution groups. The ACLU, for example, hired a Washington, DC public relations firm to represent itself in the Dover case. And the left-wing PR firm Fenton Communications has been used to promote "Evolution Sunday" as well as to coordinate the slick "Campaign to Defend the Constitution" that works to repeal "teach the controversy" policies on Darwinian evolution. Contrary to Olson, if evolution proponents have failed to persuade the public, it is not because of a lack of funds or PR. It's because of the lack of evidence for their position.

Why Did DI Limit Its Cooperation with Olson?

Olson is upset that DI would not grant him all of the interviews he wanted with DI staff and Fellows. But the way his film plays fast and loose with the facts in order to further his agenda amply justifies DI's limited cooperation. DI staff are happy to talk with reputable journalists, whether or not they are hostile to DI's position, and they have done so with Newsweek, Time, Science, the New York Times, CNN, and many other media outlets. But there is no point in assisting a filmmaker who doesn't want to let the facts get in the way of his pre-determined agenda.

Olson must think his audience is a bunch of "dodos" if he believes no one will notice his repeated departures from the truth.

Posted by John West on February 8, 2007 12:24 AM | Permalink No written test for alternative medicine docs http://www.indiaedunews.net/Jharkhand/No_written_test_for_alternative_medicine_docs_412/

February 09, 2007

Ranchi: The Jharkhand government has decided to appoint ayurveda, homeopathy and unani doctors on the basis of an interview only, without any written examination.

Clearing the way for the appointment of nearly 300 doctors, the cabinet Wednesday evening decided that the government would advertise for the posts and directly call the applicants for interviews.

The interviews would be held at the division level. The exemption from written examinations would be applicable only for doctors appointed on contract.

The government had earlier appointed nearly 2,000 allopathic doctors on a similar arrangement. (IANS)

Film's Warning to Scientists: Heed the Dodos


BY Andrea Lu Daily Cal Staff Writer

Friday, February 9, 2007

If there's a lesson to be learned from the dodos, it's to adapt—or die.

That's the message that filmmaker Randy Olson sends to the pro-evolution community in his documentary, "The Flock of Dodos."

The film will be screened at the Lawrence Hall of Science this Saturday as part of Darwin Day, a celebration of the theory of evolution in honor of Charles Darwin's birthday on Feb. 12.

"The Flock of Dodos" looks at the intelligent design versus evolution debate, focusing on key people and issues surrounding the 2005 Kansas Board of Education's decision to allow the teaching of intelligent design in classrooms.

Olson said he created the film because he wanted to show that intelligent design is not science, but instead a movement based on effective public relations strategies.

"Intelligent design is intuition," Olson said. "A lot of good science begins with intuition. What science involves is taking intuition and subjecting it to experiments and testable hypotheses."

Olson's anti-intelligent-design stance has drawn criticism from the anti-evolution community. The Discovery Institute, a think tank that promotes intelligent design, has launched a campaign called Hoax of Dodos to counter Olson's film.

"We feel (Olson's) film should be called 'The Hoax of Dodos' because it has so many fanciful claims that the filmmaker is essentially hoaxing his audience," said John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.

Although Olson, a Harvard-trained biologist, argues against intelligent design, he also gives a stern warning to the pro-evolution community about its failure to interact with the public.

The film's title refers to the dodo bird, a species that became extinct when it could not adapt to human activity or other animals that were brought into its habitat.

In this case, the "dodos" aren't just the intelligent design proponents whose ideas Olson believes have no scientific foundation—it's the evolutionary scientists too.

"Scientists are truly poor communicators when it comes to the broad, general audience," Olson said. "Their standards for communication are so low … but in today's rapidly changing media world, communicating is becoming increasingly important for science."

Olson points to the different attitudes of the opposing sides of the debate. In the film, intelligent design proponents are depicted as friendly and down-to-earth while the evolutionary scientists are haughty and verbose.

It all comes down, surmises Olson, to who you'd rather have a beer with.

"In the past 10 years, new institutions have popped up knowing that they can undermine science by communicating effectively," Olson said. "The scientists can't figure out how to combat that."

Scientific discourse is a subject close to Olson's heart. Although he studied marine biology, Olson became increasingly interested in making short films, including one titled "Barnacles Tell No Lies." He eventually left a tenured position at the University of New Hampshire to enroll in the University of Southern California's film school.

Olson says that filmmaking and science are very similar. Both require data from the real world, and through the editing room or the lab, an individual can create a story to present to the public. The key lies in integrating human elements to tell the tale, an idea Olson believes must be implemented in scientific discourse.

"You see some attractive person in horrible clothes and a total mess, and you think 'God, with a little help, that person can be so much more presentable and have a better time in the world,'" Olson said. "That's how I look at scientific communication. With a higher priority in communication, science can be so much more effective and get people interested."

Andrea Lu covers research and ideas. Contact her at alu@dailycal.org.

(c) 2005 the Daily Californian

Anti-evolution standards set to fall day after Darwin birthday


Posted on Fri, Feb. 09, 2007

JOHN HANNA Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. - A day after Charles Darwin's birthday, scientists, educators and other Kansans expect to mark the occasion again by watching the state school board dump science standards questioning his theory of evolution.

The State Board of Education plans to vote Tuesday on its fifth set of standards in eight years, with critics of evolution and supporters of mainstream science having traded power twice. Democrats and moderate Republicans have a 6-4 majority, dooming guidelines that brought Kansas ridicule when they were adopted 14 months ago.

The board's vote next week also appears likely to bring Kansas another round of international attention. Opposing groups like the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in Washington, and the Discovery Institute, which promotes intelligent design research from Seattle, are watching.

Events leading up to the 2005 standards spawned rival documentaries, both of which were to be shown publicly Monday, the 198th anniversary of Darwin's birth. The pro-evolution camp planned an entire week of events, including a Darwin costume contest to complement their "Flock of Dodos" viewing on the University of Kansas campus.

"I love it. What can I say?" AAAS chief executive officer Alan Leshner said of the vote's timing. "I think it's great."

There's little doubt how a vote will come out, given how elections overturned a conservative Republican majority. Language echoing intelligent design advocates' criticisms of evolution - questioning whether all life had a common origin or whether changes over time in one species can create a new one - should disappear.

Board Chairman Bill Wagnon, a Topeka Democrat who wants to rewrite the standards, expects a short discussion because, "Everybody knows where they stand."

Even two centuries after Darwin's birth on Feb. 12, 1809 - the same day as Abraham Lincoln's - the British naturalist's work fuels social and political disputes.

In December, a Louisiana school board adopted a policy permitting teachers to discuss the weaknesses of scientific theories, which critics saw as a subtle but clear attack on evolution. There were also political, legislative and school board debates in California, Kentucky, Nevada and South Carolina over how evolution should be taught.

But Kansas has earned is own niche in the national debate. In revising science standards in 1999, a conservative-controlled board struck most references to evolution. Two years later, a new board returned to evolution-friendly standards. Elections in 2002 and 2004 altered the board's composition again.

The Kansas board's approval of the standards in 2005 came the same day voters in Dover, Pa., ousted school board members who'd imposed a requirement that biology students hear a statement about intelligent design - a policy later struck down by a federal judge as promoting a particular religious view.

Next week's vote in Kansas could be a precedent for officials in other states, said Michael Shermer, founder of the international Skeptics Society and author of the 2006 book, "Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design."

"Kansas flip-flopping back and forth, that will send a signal," he said. "There are plenty of other states that have various disputes and debates ongoing at any one time."

The existing Kansas standards include a disclaimer saying they don't include intelligent design, which says an intelligent cause is the best way to explain some complex and well-ordered features of the universe. But much of the language to which many scientists object came from intelligent design supporters.

The existing standards define science so that it isn't specifically limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena. That would change under the standards the board is expected to adopt, which were drafted by a committee of scientists and educators.

The current standards say evolutionary theory that all life had a common origin has been challenged by fossils and molecular biology. And, they say, there's controversy over whether changes over time in one species can lead to a new species. Those provisions, contradicting mainstream science, would be dropped.

Wagnon said the 2005 standards "failed public education." Leshner said new standards will help give students an understanding of science that they'll need in a world growing more dependent on technology.

"The purpose of science is to tell us about the nature of the world, whether we like the answer or not," Leshner said. "Evolution is a fundamental concept."

But John West, a Discovery Institute senior fellow, said the proposed changes are in line with the views of "Darwin fundamentalists" who want to quash dissent and elevate evolution to a dogma that can't be challenged.

"It's really a dumbed-down version and really a Darwin-cheerleading version of the standards," West said.

Kansas uses its standards to develop tests that measure how well students are learning science. Decisions about exactly what's taught about evolution in classrooms are left to 296 local school boards.

But educators believe the state standards influence decisions because teachers and administrators want their students to do well on the tests. Adopting standards reflecting mainstream science encourages schools to resist political pressure against evolution, said Leonard Krishtalka, director of the Museum of Natural History at the University of Kansas.

"The teachers can look to these standards and say we have a mandate to teach the best science our educational system can provide," he said.

But intelligent design advocates worry the changes will encourage schools to stifle debate and rein in teachers.

"You'll continue to have fear in the classroom," said John Calvert, a retired Lake Quivira attorney who helped found the Intelligent Design Network. "You will continue to have kids brainwashed and feeling uncomfortable."

On the Net:

Proposed science standards, including a comparison with the existing guidelines: http://www.ksde.org/Default.aspx?tabid144

Catholic Cardinal Says Scientists, Public Schools Stifling Evolution Debate


By The Associated Press Sat, Feb. 10 2007 03:30 PM ET

NEW YORK (AP) - An influential Roman Catholic cardinal whose comments on evolution are closely followed condemned a court decision Wednesday that barred a Pennsylvania school district from teaching "intelligent design" in biology class.

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna said in a lecture that restricting debate about Darwin's theory of evolution amounts to censorship in schools and in the broader public.

"Commonly in the scientific community every inquiry into the scientific weaknesses of the theory is blocked off at the very outset," Schoenborn said of Darwinism. "To some extent there prevails a type of censoring here of the sort for which one eagerly reproached the church in former times."

The Austrian cardinal said he found it "amazing" that a U.S. federal court ruled in 2005 that the Dover, Pennsylvania, public school district could not teach the concept of "intelligent design" as part of its science class. The judge had said that the theory, which says an intelligent supernatural force explains the emergence of complex life forms, was creationism in disguise.

The cardinal said the Dover ruling meant that schoolchildren would only be taught a materialistic, atheistic view of the origin of universe, without considering the idea that God played a role.

"A truly liberal society would at least allow students to hear of the debate," he said.

Schoenborn's comments came in a speech Wednesday night sponsored by the Homeland Foundation, a philanthropy that funds cultural and religious programs, many involving the Catholic Church.

It is the latest in a series of remarks he has made on the topic. The cardinal, who is close to Pope Benedict XVI, has said he wants to correct what he calls a widespread misconception that the Catholic Church has given a blanket endorsement to Darwin's theories.

The "intelligent design" concept has been promoted most prominently by the Discovery Institute, a think tank in Seattle. Asked after the speech if he was endorsing the institute's beliefs, Schoenborn would say only "listen to my arguments," cautioning that his views should not be put "in a box."

"I don't belong to any kind of boxes," he said.

The lecture was based on a talk Schoenborn gave in a private meeting in Italy last year with Benedict, a former professor, and several of his old students, where they discussed evolution.

Schoenborn affirmed that the Catholic Church rejects creationism, saying "the first page of the Bible is not a cosmological treatise about the coming to be of the world in six days." He also said that "the Catholic faith can accept" the possibility that God uses evolution as a tool. But he said science alone cannot explain the origins of the universe.

copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

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