NTS LogoSkeptical News for 17 April 2007

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

T. rex tissue beefs up dinosaur-bird connection


A 68-million-year-old collagen sample yields evidence that the reptiles' descendants are feathered.

By Thomas H. Maugh II, Times Staff Writer

April 13, 2007

Foghorn Leghorn would be proud.

The cantankerous Loony Tunes rooster and his brethren appear to be the closest living descendants of the ferocious Tyrannosaurus rex that ruled the world of dinosaurs.

That's the conclusion of a team of researchers who analyzed a remarkable 68-million-year-old sample of T. rex tissue.

It began two years ago when paleontologist Mary H. Schweitzer and colleagues at North Carolina State University announced they had found bits of soft tissue inside a fossilized T. rex bone excavated from the Hell Creek Formation of Montana.

Researchers wouldn't have known about the tissue except that they had to break the massive bone to load it into a helicopter. Inside, they found brownish oblong cells and translucent vessels so elastic they could still be stretched like rubber bands.

At the time, no detailed tests had been conducted on the material.

The new findings, reported today by Schweitzer's team in the journal Science, show that part of the tissue is collagen, the fibrous protein forming the scaffolding that supports the minerals in bone.

Spectroscopist John M. Asara of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston then used technology developed to identify minute traces of proteins in tumors. He broke the collagen down into seven short fragments and analyzed the sequence of the 15 to 20 amino acids in each fragment.

Comparing those seven sequences with established genomes of modern species, they found three that matched chickens, one that matched a frog and another that matched a newt. The protein reacted to antibodies against chicken collagen.

The finding supports the theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs — an idea that until now had been largely based on comparing bone structures.

"This allows you to get the chance to say, 'Wait, they really are related because their sequences are related,' " Asara said. "We didn't get enough sequences to definitively say that, but what sequences we got support that idea."


Acupuncture Treatment for Drug Addiction


Alien Sheng

April 17, 2007

To say that drug addiction is an issue in modern society is to make an understatement. Acupuncture treatment for drug addiction is part of the solution.

Acupuncture Treatment for Drug Addiction

The treatment for drug addiction is an ongoing concern of society. It has become clear to many that the threat of incarceration is not doing much to slow the illegal use of drugs and offers little hope for a long term cure for the resulting problems of addiction. In recent years, alternative medicine has become a logical place to look for solutions as the conventional medical establishment has made little if any progress. Acupuncture is one of these alternative choices.

The National Institute of Health has both endorsed the acupuncture treatment for drug addiction and posed concerns about it. The concerns are mostly based on the fact that there is no real clear understanding in the Western Medical and scientific community as to just exactly how it works. A secondary concern is the lack of scientific research on its effectiveness.

As is the case in many other areas of medical concern, acupuncture treatment for drug addiction simply works. Some areas of the country are beginning to recognize this fact and because they have so few choices available are setting up court supervised programs that offer acupuncture and other treatments as an alternative to jail. The acupuncture program is coupled with all of the other lifestyle type of procedures designed to help overcome withdrawal symptoms, strength morale fiber in the drug abuser, and deal with the problems that might have contributed to the addiction in the first place.

There has actually been some accepted research studies done on the effect of acupuncture on the treatment of alcoholics. These studies have shown that acupuncture helps overcome alcohol addiction and continued treatment lessens the chance of relapse. These studies are very encouraging to those who see acupuncture treatment for drug addiction as a distinct option. One of the things that is already accepted is that acupuncture does help combat the effects of drug withdrawal. The calming and anxiety reducing results from acupuncture are the most accepted and documented of all of its benefits.

Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Five Element acupuncture have no problem understanding how acupuncture works in the treatment of drug addiction or any other similar condition that so illustrates a body that is no longer in harmony in a physical or spiritual sense. As in any other such disharmony, the drug addiction is merely a symptom of something amiss within the internal flow of vital energy through the Meridians of the body.

Alien writes for depression treatment. He also writes for home remedies and natural cures.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Ignorance Is Bliss When It Comes to Many Opponents of ID


A student at Southern Methodist University (SMU) has provided more evidence for why there needs to be events like tonight's Darwin v. Design conference on college campuses. In today's campus newspaper, anthropology student Ben Wells offers a jeremiad against the purported evils of Discovery Institute and intelligent design. Unfortunately, his article is so incredibly off-base that all he ends up doing is displaying his complete ignorance of the topic. Not that he is alone. Last week, journalist Lee Cullum wrote a similarly ill-informed opinion piece for the Dallas Morning News. The problem for many critics of intelligent design is that they are so sure they are right, they don't bother to read the people they are denouncing. As a result, they end up attacking a straw man rather than refuting the actual claims made by ID proponents.

That is why we get such inane coments as:

this [Discovery] Institute, which is on our campus, this weekend does not seek to debate ideas in an academic, scientific or even rational setting... The claims they make, claims based purely on religious or supernatural grounds, can NOT be tested in the material world.

Mr. Wells alleges that Discovery Institute "does not seek to debate ideas in an academic, scientific or even rational setting." That must be why we invited the biology, geological sciences, and anthropology departments at his own university to send representatives to our event tonight to share the platform and present their objections to intelligent design. (They declined.) That also must be why ID scholars write academic books for such publishers as Michigan State University Press and Cambridge University Press and technical articles for such science journals as Protein Science and the Journal of Molecular Biology. (For a bibliography of peer-reviewed and peer-edited scholarly publications supportive of intelligent design, see here.) If Mr. Wells truly believes that academic publications--and invitations to debate other scholars on college campuses--somehow constitutes proof that we do not want to "debate ideas in an academic, scientific or even rational setting," then I wonder what type of evidence would persuade him otherwise?!

As for his assertion that the claims made by ID proponents are "based purely on religious or supernatural grounds," I guess that is why Michael Behe (a practicing biochemist) devotes most of his book Darwin's Black Box to detailing the intricate biochemical evidence of design; or why Jay Richards and Guillermo Gonzalez (the latter a practicing astronomer) go into such detail about the cosmological data supporting design in The Privileged Planet; or why philosopher of science Stephen Meyer presents in such detail the empirical evidence relating to the development of new genetic information in his peer-reviewed biology journal article on "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories." Observational evidence supplies one of the foundations of the design inference in nature. (Also contrary to Mr. Wells, intelligent design is testable in precisely the same ways as Darwinian evolution. For more information, see here and here and here).

Alas, I seriously doubt whether either Mr. Wells or Ms. Cullum has read any of the numerous academic and scientific publications written by scientists and other scholars supportive of intelligent design. I e-mailed both of them asking what they have read by ID proponents, but thus far I have received no response. Their silence is telling. For many critics of ID, it is all too clear that ignorance is bliss. Rather engage in a genuine exchange of ideas, they are content with attacking straw men and tilting at windmills.

Posted by John West on April 13, 2007 3:33 PM | Permalink

Sunday letters: SMU and evolution science


09:08 AM CDT on Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dissenting professors should debate issues

Re: "Are the Darwinists afraid to debate us? – We want a discussion of ideas, say John West and Bruce Chapman," Tuesday Viewpoints.

Religion aside, such defiance of reasoned dialogue is an attempt to impose censorship.

The issue of human and cosmic origins is of sufficient importance that all thoughtful hypotheses should be openly considered. Some SMU professors' phobic intransigence against even allowing for another proposition suggests weakness; one can only surmise that they feel threatened by a studied challenge.

Evangelicals often are caricatured as intolerant, but we have just witnessed breathtaking prejudice and intolerance on the other side. Proponents of intelligent design only ask for a free, open discourse. Since these dissenting professors purport such confidence, they should make their case in a mature exchange of opinions.

The SMU administration is to be commended for affirming ongoing learning through dialogue, debate and discovery.

David Shibley, Rockwall

These are supernatural science explanations

There is nothing to debate. The Discovery Institute is intent on pushing theisitic creationism under the guise of science into academic circles and into classrooms with a handful of shills.

SMU should rightly deny them blathering supernatural explanations of accepted science.

James Harvey, Mesquite

First, you must correctly define Darwinian

How is it that such learned men as John West and Bruce Chapman fail to understand that Darwinian theory does not address the question of the originating force behind life, only the process of change over time – evolution.

What is it they think there is to debate? A debate on God's creation of life would be with creationists, Hindus, Buddhists or Native Americans – who all have quite different views of how God created life – but not Darwinians, who have presented no theories on God's creation of life at all.

Peter Selph, Balch Springs

Book Review: Evolution For Everyone


By Natalie Angier Published: April 6, 2007

Evolution For Everyone How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives.
By David Sloan Wilson.
390 pages. $24.
Delacorte Press.

Just as in the classic clashes of nature, where every mutational upgrade in a carnivore's strength or cunning is soon countered by a speedier or more paranoid model of antelope, so the pitched struggle between evolutionary theory and its deniers has yielded a bristling diversity of ploys and counterploys. The heavyhanded biblical literalism of creationist science evolves into the feints and curlicues of intelligent design, and the casual dismissiveness with which scientists long regarded the anti-evolutionists gives way to a belated awareness that, gee, the public doesn't seem to realize how fatuous the other side is, and maybe it's time to combat the creationist phylum head on. And so, over the last few years, scientists have unleashed a blitzkrieg of books in defense of Darwinism, summarizing the Everest of supportive evidence for evolutionary theory, filleting the arguments of the naysayers or reciting, yet again, the story of Charles Darwin, depressive naturalist extraordinaire, whose increasingly pervasive avuncular profile has lofted him to logo status on par with Einstein and the Nike swoosh.

David Sloan Wilson, an evolutionary biologist at Binghamton University, takes a different and decidedly refreshing approach. Rather than catalogue its successes, denounce its detractors or in any way present evolutionary theory as the province of expert tacticians like himself, Wilson invites readers inside and shows them how Darwinism is done, and at lesson's end urges us to go ahead, feel free to try it at home. The result is a sprightly, absorbing and charmingly earnest book that manages a minor miracle, the near-complete emulsifying of science and the "real world," ingredients too often kept stubbornly, senselessly apart. Only when Wilson seeks to add religion to the mix, and to show what natural, happy symbionts evolutionary biology and religious faith can be, does he begin to sound like a corporate motivational speaker or a political candidate glad-handing the crowd.

In Wilson's view, Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection has the beauty of being both simple and profound. Unlike quantum mechanics or the general theory of relativity, the basic concepts behind evolutionary theory are easy to grasp; and once grasped, he argues, they can be broadly applied to better understand ourselves and the world - the world both as it is and as it might be, with the right bit of well-informed coaxing. Wilson has long been interested in the evolution of co-operative and altruistic behavior, and much of the book is devoted to the premise that "goodness can evolve, at least when the appropriate conditions are met." As he sees it, all of life is characterized by a "cosmic" struggle between good and evil, the high-strung terms we apply to behaviors that are either cooperative or selfish, civic or anomic. The constant give-and-take between me versus we extends down to the tiniest and most primal elements of life. Short biochemical sequences may want to replicate themselves ad infinitum, their neighboring sequences be damned; yet genes get together under the aegis of cells and reproduce in orderly fashion as genomes, as collectives of sequences, setting aside some of their immediate selfish urges for the sake of long-term genomic survival. Cells further collude as organs, and organs pool their talents and become bodies.

The conflict between being well behaved, being good, not gulping down more than your share, and being selfish enough to get your fair share, "is eternal and encompasses virtually all species on earth," he writes, and it likely occurs on any other planet that supports life, too, "because it is predicted at such a fundamental level by evolutionary theory." How do higher patterns of cooperative behavior emerge from aggregates of small, selfish units? With carrots, sticks and ceaseless surveillance. In the human body, for example, nascent tumor cells arise on a shockingly regular basis, each determined to replicate without bound; again and again, immune cells attack the malignancies, destroying the outlaw cells and themselves in the process. The larger body survives to breed, and hence spawn a legacy far sturdier than any tumor mass could manage.

As with our bodies, so with our behaviors. Wilson explores the many fascinating ways in which humans are the consummate group-thinking, team-playing animal. The way we point things out to one another, for example, is unique among primates. "Apes raised with people learn to point for things that they want but never point to call the attention of their human caretakers to objects of mutual interest," Wilson writes, "something that human infants start doing around their first birthday." The eyes of other apes are dark across their entire span and thus are hard to follow, but the contrast between the white sclera and colored iris of the human eye makes it difficult for people to conceal the direction in which they are looking. In the interdependent, egalitarian context of the tribe, the ancestral human setting, Wilson says, "it becomes advantageous for members of the team to share information, turning the eyes into organs of communication in addition to organs of vision." Humans are equipped with all the dispositional tools needed to establish and maintain order in the commons. Studies have revealed a deep capacity for empathy, a willingness to trust others and become instant best friends; and an equally strong urge to punish cheaters, to exact revenge against those who buck group rules for private gain.

Of course, even as humans bond together in groups and behave with impressive civility toward their neighbors, they are capable of treating those outside the group with ruthless savagery. Wilson is not naïve, and he recognizes the ease with which humans fall into an us-versus-them mind-set. Yet he is a self-described optimist, and he believes that the golden circles of we-ness, the conditions that encourage entities at every stratum of life to stop competing and instead pool their labors into a communally acting mega-entity, can be expanded outward like ripples on a pond until they encompass all of us - that the entire human race can evolve the culturally primed if not genetically settled incentive to see our futures for what they are, inexorably linked on the lone blue planet we share.

Toward the end of the book he offers a series of evolutionarily informed suggestions on how we might help widen the geometry of good will, beginning with the italicized, boldface pronouncement that "we are not fated by our genes to engage in violent conflict." Our bloody past does not foretell an inevitably bloody future, and violent behaviors that make grim sense in one context can become maladaptive in another. "The Vikings of Iceland were among the fiercest people on earth, and now they are the most peaceful," he observes. "In principle, it is possible to completely eliminate violent conflict by eliminating its preferred 'habitat.'" For their universal appeal and basal power to harmonize a crowd, he recommends more music and dancing and asks, "Could we establish world peace if everyone at the United Nations showed up in leotards?" He also believes that the world's religions should be tapped for their "wisdom." This is a fine idea in the abstract, but given current events and the fissuring of the world along so many theo-sectarian lines, I wish we could forgo the sermon and just strike up the band.

SMU Faculty Dodges Intelligent Design Debate


Late yesterday we received notice that the Anthropology department at SMU will not take us up on our invitation for a public dialogue about intelligent design and Darwinian evolution.

Robert Kemper, chair of the Anthropology department writes:

Thank you for your invitation to participate in the Friday night session of your conference. We appreciate your recognition of the value of dialogue on issues that have such opposing viewpoints. Unfortunately, previously scheduled events and prior commitments prevent our department from taking advantage of this opportunity. We nevertheless remain committed to public understanding of these issues, and to providing the public with information to make intelligent choices.

We've yet to hear from the other science departments at SMU that we invited.

It's interesting that these professors are willing to air their complaints and objections in public forums where there is no way for them to be "heatedly debated and discussed."

This isn't unusual. In 2005 the Kansas state board of education invited scientists from all over the world to come and present evidence supporting Darwinian evolution as well as evidence that challenges it. You'll remember that this was highly publicized public event with lots of advance notice. Yet not one single Darwinist had the courage to come and defend the Darwinian viewpoint. Not one. Instead, they sent an attorney who questioned the scientists challenging Darwinian evolution but refused to be questioned himself.

In their opinion piece in the Dallas Morning News yesterday, some SMU science faculty tried to explain how science is done.

In science, progress depends on experimentation and observation using the scientific method. The evidence and reports are usually heatedly debated and discussed, sometimes for years and even decades. Consensus is reached in a nondemocratic way. If the hypothesis is not supported by the evidence, it is rejected.

Really? "Heatedly debated and discussed," well no, not in this instance. And, If the hypothesis is not supported by the evidence, it is rejected. Again, that's not been true of Darwinism. Many of the alleged pieces of evidence proving the "fact" of evolution repeatedly have been shown to lack any basis in reality (Haeckel's embryo drawings, peppered moths, Miller-Urey experiment, etc.), and yet Darwinian evolution is not being rejected on a wide scale. Yet.

At the Darwin vs. Design conference, scientists will be presenting empirical evidence based on observation that supports the theory of intelligent design. Dr. Stephen Meyer will explain how the digital code embedded in DNA is evidence supporting ID. Dr. Michael Behe will explain how the amazing nanotechnology—the molecular machines—are evidence supporting ID. And Dr. Jay Richards will show how the constants of the laws of physics and the incredibly precise fine-tuning of the universe is evidence supporting ID.

How is presenting this information, to an audience that wants to learn about it, in any way a danger to science? It isn't, unless you are a dogmatic Darwinist who can't abide any viewpoint but your own.

Then the profs go off on a wild tangent like some sort of conspiracy theorists.

The organization behind the event, the Discovery Institute, is clear in its agenda: It states that what the SMU science faculty believes to be so useful (science) is a danger to conservative Christianity and should be replaced by its mystical world view.

This is just simply a lie. No one affiliated with Discovery Institute has ever said any such thing. Some scientists, afraid to debate the merits of Darwinian evolution instead turn to making up inane assertions like this one.

Posted by Robert Crowther on April 6, 2007 8:38 AM | Permalink

Fears Cruise will use Nazi film as scientology propaganda


Saturday, 7 April 2007


Tom Cruise's casting in a new wartime thriller has sparked fears he may use it to promote Scientology.

The actor is to star as Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg - who attempted to assassinate Nazi leader Adolf Hitler - but Stauffenberg's grandson has voiced his family's concerns the film could be influenced by the sci-fi cult.

Count Caspar Schenk von Stauffenberg said: "I have nothing against Cruise and can even separate his work from his beliefs in Scientology.

"But I and other family members are worried that the picture will be financed by the sect and be used to get across its propaganda."

The as yet untitled war thriller tells the true story of Stauffenberg, a Bavarian aristocrat-turned-colonel, who planted a bomb in an attempt to kill Hitler in 1944. The Fuhrer survived the blast and Stauffenberg was later executed.

Issues of creationism and the creation are compatible


Richard L. Leed / Guest Column

There is a widespread belief, recently expressed in a number of letters, that the Darwinian theory of evolution and the story of Creation in the book of Genesis are incompatible. This belief is current among creationists and evolutionists alike.

The belief is based on a faulty reading of the so-called "story" of creation. It is not a story. It is not a history. It is not intended as a chronology. Unlike the creation tales of many other religions, it does not feature mythical creatures, or sexual unions of gods and goddesses, or any other such primordial big bang.

The account of creation in Genesis is rather an argument. It is a list of natural phenomena laid out in categories translated into English as "days," the purpose of which is to refute the contentions of opponents in a theological dispute.

The evidence for the "story" not being chronological is clear from the arrangement of the items listed: Vegetation comes on day three and the sun on day four. You don't have to be a cosmologist or a farmer to know that it takes sunlight to grow plants and that therefore the sun has to come first, as in fact it did in the evolutionary scheme of things.

Why has the sun been demoted to a place so low in the list of things created? According to some theologians, it is because the sun god was a prime object of worship among polytheists when Genesis was being written. The point of the creation argument is that all of the objects listed are merely artifacts created by One God, merely things to be observed by mankind, free to be used but not to be worshipped. Therefore, the sun is not on top of the list, and the pagan sun god doesn't exist.

Some Biblical scholars see a hierarchical rather than chronological organization of the creation in the first chapter of Genesis. This list of things not to be worshipped starts off with things that don't move or don't seem to move: light, sky, waters, dry land, vegetation. After these first three "days" come things that do move, in order of increasing mobility or consciousness: sun, stars, fish, birds, land animals, and, at the top of the list, man, made "in the image of God."

The point has been made that God himself might approve of the theory of evolution. Genesis does not tell you how the world was created; it simply says God made its contents as material artifacts. If you want to make a scientific study of the world, that's fine — just don't worship it, or anything in it. In other words, Genesis is an anti-animist, anti-polytheist polemic to promote monotheism, As such, it gives carte blanche to scientific efforts of all kinds, including, one supposes, Darwinism.

The creation in the Book of Genesis is very relevant in today's world because the opponents of monotheism are just as vocal and influential today as they were several thousand years ago.

Many books on scientific subjects, such as Stephen Jay Gould's works in biology, misuse their scientific authority to promote theological arguments inimical to monotheistic religion and antagonistic to the idea that man is the center of the universe (i.e. created in the image of God, whatever meaning you wish to attach to that expression).

Many practicing Christians and Jews consider this misuse an abomination, but few scientists do. It is unfortunate that so many scientists do not consider the practice of inserting theological and political commentary into their scientific works a desecration of science, a practice that can only undermine people's deep faith in the objectivity of scientists. In addition to his caustic remarks on religious doubters of Darwinism, Gould felt free to mock Ronald Reagan four times in his wonderful book on the Cambrian explosion of life on earth, justifiably certain that he would get smiles, not frowns, from his fellows.

There is also a theological strain in much environmentalist talk, especially the denigration of humankind in slogans like species-ism and in the elevation of the goddess Gaia.

The modern anti-monotheistic movement that worships objects in the cosmos and seeks intelligence out there to demonstrate the non-existence of God is a religion that might be called Saganism, in honor of Ithaca's most famous theologian, but whatever you call it, it is militantly opposed to the message of Genesis, the Ten Commandments, and other Biblical exhortations: There is only One God.

Richard L. Leed lives in Ulysses.

Holistic healers


Story by Rachel Robertson

Seth Cowan was getting a little tired of ending up in the emergency room. His primary care provider treated his acute flare-ups of back pain with muscle relaxants, which helped for a while, but he would find himself back in the ER just a few months later. "It just seemed like there had to be something else," Cowan says.

At the time he was an undergraduate student at the University of Washington with an interest in health care. He had heard of Bastyr University, a natural health science center just north of Seattle, and decided to see if someone at the student teaching clinic could help. "They addressed my back pain: no more muscle relaxants, no more ER visits," he says.

It was that experience that led him to become a naturopathic doctor, earning his degree at Bastyr, and eventually opening Skagit Natural Family Medicine in Mount Vernon with his wife Michelle Antonich, also a naturopathic doctor and licensed midwife trained at Bastyr.

Getting relief through acupuncture after a car accident, Ellen Geary decided to put her aspirations to be a medical doctor on hold while she studied acupuncture. "I wanted that skill. I wanted that ability," she says. At the time she considered it a place to start in her training as a healer and still intended to resume her medical studies, but 10 years later, Geary (also a graduate of Bastyr University) is content practicing acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine at her office in Anacortes, Still Point Acupuncture Clinic. "There is a really strong practical application to this medicine," she says.

Personal experience with chronic headaches caused by a car wreck brought the power of massage home to Ingrid Thornton. "I was really blown away by what it can do for you," she says, explaining that just three sessions cured her of the debilitating pain.

Years later, after becoming a massage therapist and opening her own business, Bella Soul in Mount Vernon, Thornton got another lesson in healing when she suffered two ruptured discs that required her to be on medication. "Those were the worst two years of my life," she recalls. However, she now sees the positive aspects of that experience. "I think that happened to me for a reason and it has really aided in my being able to facilitate healing with people," she says of her greater ability to relate to her clients that suffer similar injuries. What is alternative medicine and how can it help?

Naturopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, massage—we often use the word "alternative" to describe these therapies.

But alternative is perhaps not the right word. As Geary points out, the word implies there is a choice—a rejection of conventional medicine. "They don't have to choose one or the other, they can have both," she says.

When the National Institute of Health established a center for alterative medicine in 1998, they called it The National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), and defined complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as being outside the typical realm of conventional medicine.

The many and diverse therapies that are encompassed by that definition NCCAM divides into five categories, although they recognize some practices overlap the categories: biologically based practices (use of herbs, special diets, and vitamins), energy medicine (use of energy fields as in Reiki, Qigong, or healing touch), manipulative and body-based (such as Bowen technique, chiropractic, craniosacral, and massage), mind-body medicine (for example, hypnosis, meditation, and yoga), and whole medical systems (complete medical systems, such as traditional Chinese medicine or naturopathy, that have evolved separate from or parallel with conventional medicine).

A growing number of Americans are turning to CAM therapies: According to a report from the Center for Disease Control from a survey done in 2002, 36 percent of adults used some type of CAM therapy over a 12-month period. If prayer was included as a therapy that number jumped to 62 percent. Natural products, deep breathing, meditation, chiropractic care, yoga, massage, and diet were the other most often used therapies. Pain of all kinds (back, neck, joint), colds, anxiety, and depression are some of the more common reasons that people sought out CAM therapies.

Although 28 percent of the people in the study who used CAM therapy felt that conventional medicine could not help them, 54.9 percent believed that a combination of conventional and CAM therapy would help.


Holistic and natural characterize the approach that many practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine take. Whereas conventional medicine often focuses on the treatment of symptoms with medicine or surgery, a holistic approach attempts to find and treat the source of a symptom with natural methods, and has a strong belief in the body's ability to heal itself given the right conditions.

John Barone, chiropractor and owner of Barone Chiropractic Clinic in Mount Vernon, sees the implementation of chiropractic care coming full circle. "Chiropractic fell into a condition related therapy: back pain, neck pain, headaches; but chiropractic was never designed that way. It was really designed to improve the overall structure of the spine so it didn't interfere with the nerves and so the body could function more normally," he says explaining that the founder of chiropractic medicine, D.D. Palmer, also focused on diet, exercise, and "autosuggestion" or using your thoughts to promote positive change. "So, that's really where chiropractic originated. I think as a profession we are coming back there."

The 2,000-to-4,000-year-old tradition of Chinese medicine including acupuncture and Chinese herbs focuses on the whole person during diagnosis, which includes a full medical history as well as examination of health indictors such as pulse, skin tone, and the appearance of the tongue. The purpose of the needles is to restore the natural flow of energy along meridians (specific pathways in the body).

"The beautiful thing about acupuncture and Chinese medicine is that there is nothing in the needles—this is the body healing itself," says Geary. "The needle is a prompt that sends a message to the brain." Treatment is not just about the needles, however, it is also about inclusion of the patient in the process of healing. "[Treatment involves] helping a person participate and take responsibility at the deepest level that they are capable of—and we all need help to do that," Geary says.

Many bodywork professionals note that the source of pain is not always the area that hurts. Thornton says, "A muscle that is tight, flexed—doesn't hurt; but a muscle that is being torn, over-stretched—hurts." Low-back pain, she explains as an example, might be caused by tightness in the gluteus muscles.

Nancy Clark also finds herself educating clients about source: "Yes, it could make logical sense that [the pain] is coming from that place of injury, but remember everything is holistic, the body is all connected." As a practitioner of Bowenwork, Clark uses a technique developed by Tom Bowen of Australia in the 1950s that involves gentle pressure using fingers and thumbs on specific points—such a key muscle or tendon—to activate the nervous system and promote healing. "With Bowenwork you know when you are [at the source] because everything just starts shifting: symptoms go away, problems aren't there." Problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome, TMJ, and frozen shoulder (which Clark suffered from before receiving Bowenwork herself) are some examples of ailments she treats.

Clark also works with clients to develop more awareness of their body and their habits. "With chronic pain we are overriding those messages all the time because we want to be able to function each day. So, you just ignore the signals your body is giving you," she explains.

Craniosacral therapy, developed by osteopath Dr. William Sutherland in the early 1900s, identifies sources of ailment within the craniosacral system—the fluid and membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Treatment involves adjusting the cranial bones.

"It's really, really subtle, it's the most subtle form of bodywork there is. But with a high level of presence and intention you can feel what is happening and how the bones are in relationship to each other. And so you work with listening to where they are, and if they need fixing then there are techniques that help them come back into alignment," says Miyabi Gladstein, practitioner of craniosacral therapy and massage, which she practices at her office, Good Earth Massage Therapy and Bodywork in Mount Vernon.

Head injuries, TMJ, low back pain, and headaches are some of the problems that Gladstein finds the therapy helps. "It's also really excellent for calming the central nervous system, like if you have a lot of anxiety or serious stress, it's extremely relaxing and soothing," she says.

Heart disease, headaches, impaired immune response, depression—all have been linked to stress. Although not all the links are understood, pretty much any health professional will agree that reduction of stress is a good thing for one's health.

"Just to set some time aside to give to self, to be still, to be attuned to what is going on, and just to be present is, in itself, very healing," says Liz Bart, wellness facilitator, yoga instructor, and (most passionately) practitioner of warm water aquatic bodywork including Watsu, a technique derived from Shiatsu.

At Bart's Samish Island pool, Soothing Waters, clients float in body-temperature water while she holds, stretches, bends, and rotates their body to release muscle tension. She finds the treatments particularly helpful for people with mobility impairments, fibromyalgia, arthritis, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson's disease. "There is a whole freedom in water that is just not possible on land. I think that is one of the really unique characteristics of Watsu," Bart says.

Bart believes that freedom helps to bring about profound changes in people. "It's not uncommon for someone to cry, or to sing, because it is such an emotional release," she says.

integration with conventional medicine

Are conventional medical doctors becoming more accepting of alternative and complementary medicine? The answer seems to be yes: 26 percent of the people who chose to use CAM therapy in the 2002 CDC survey did so because a medical professional suggested it to them.

A family physician, Dr. Mark Backman of Fidalgo Medical Associates in Anacortes has recommended such services as acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic care for his patients. "It's pretty simple in my mind, if something works—especially if somebody can offer something that a patient is more enthusiastic about or that gets better results than anything I might be able to offer—why wouldn't any medical doctor be open to that? And I think more and more physicians look at things that way, as they should."

Integration has even reached the Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, where Dr. Anjana Kundu, a pain specialist trained in anesthesiology and acupuncture, leads the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program. The program helps parents include complementary medicine in their child's care.

Backman feels that the move to integration has largely been driven by patients who have an interest in trying a different approach. "The nice thing is that I think both patients and medical physicians are more comfortable talking about it. Probably what happened 20 years ago is patients would seek out other care and be hesitant to talk to us about it," he says.

In Washington, naturopathic doctors are granted limited prescribing authority, and Cowan and Antonich take advantage of that ability which allows them to have an integrated approach to medicine within their own practice. "Our treatment options are focused on diet, lifestyle, vitamins, and herbs, first, and then antibiotics and other prescriptions when needed," says Antonich.

Having recently outgrown their original space and moved to larger quarters, Antonich and Cowan feel that Mount Vernon has been a particularly good place to practice holistic and integrated medicine. "We've been here almost six years and our practice has been very well received from not only by the community, but the standard medical practice. And they've welcomed it, for the most part, with open arms and appreciate the service that we can provide for their patients," says Cowan.

Both believe that the Washington law (passed in 1996) which requires health plans to cover every category of licensed provider, has also helped their business. Antonich estimates that roughly 70-80 percent of their patients are covered by insurance. "The big insurance carriers actually cover us quite well," she says. Regence BlueShield, in fact, lists them as primary care physicians. "So they don't really see us any different than a medical doctor or nurse practitioner," Cowan says.

Although most of Thornton's Bella Soul employees are now listed with American WholeHealth, she says the initial process of signing up with an insurance provider was difficult because many of them had full networks. Still, it was a process she wanted to undertake. "It sets us in a more professional standing with a lot of doctors and chiropractors," she says. It is also standard procedure at Bella Soul to do a progress report for referring doctors or chiropractors that lists the client's initial intake data, symptoms, findings, progress, and goals for the future.

Nancy Clark wants more integration with medical professionals. "It's challenging to find the open doors," she says, acknowledging that Bowenwork is still relatively unknown and it will take time for her work to become more integrated. So, for now she is focusing on education, such as hosting workshops at Skagit Valley Food Co-op and developing a network of Bowenwork practitioners by initiating a local chapter of American Association of Bowenwork—the first in the United States.

Through the Washington State Chiropractic Association, Barone is assisting with the development of presentations for medical doctors about the science of chiropractic care. "The last five years my goal has really been to get out and talk to more medical doctors and give them the information. The profession as a whole has been doing that and I'm jumping on board," he says.

Human fossil an evolution puzzle


From Times Staff and Wire Reports April 7, 2007

Human fossil remains from northern China, among the oldest found in Asia, show characteristics that throw into question the theory that modern people evolved directly from African ancestors, according to a study in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The 40,000-year-old Tianyuan Cave skeleton combines physical characteristics of modern humans and the earlier Neanderthal people, researchers said. The findings suggest that today's humans evolved from early modern people that migrated from Africa and blended with archaic groups.

Darwin vs. Design: An Engaging Debate Topic


From the very beginning, the Darwin vs Design conferences organized by Discovery's Center for Science & Culture were always envisioned as educational endeavors. Many people don't understand what intellligent design is, and they don't understand what it is that scientists and scholars at the Discovery Institute are arguing for in the ongoing debate over Darwinian evolution and ID. These conferences are a chance for us to present some of the work and research we've done on these subjects.

When some of the science faculty at SMU demanded that the conference planned for their campus be cancelled we decided to issue an invitation to them to come and air their objections to intelligent design in public, and to ask their most challenging questions of the conference speakers. We made the necessary plans to drastically rearrange the first evening of our conference in order to accomodate this. That turns out to have been unnecessary as the faculty don't want to engage in public debate on the issue. Fine, we'll proceed as originally planned. Likewise at future conferences we will plan them as educational events primarily, but will remain open to considering options to include public debates.

These conferences were never planned to be debates. We do a LOT of debating with Darwinists. Just this week we were notified that PBS's Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg has posted a two-part series that features Dr. Stephen Meyer debating Dr. Michael Ruse.

Think Tank Part 1: http://thinktanktv.com/media/index.php?m=243

Think Tank Part 2: http://thinktanktv.com/media/index.php?m=242

CSC Fellow Dr. Paul Nelson recently was part of a panel discussion on The Agenda on Canadian TV. Dr. John West appeared in late March on panel with Dr. Ken Miller at a conference in New Hampshire. Dr. Jonathan Wells appeared on Uncommon Knowledge alongside Dr. Massimo Pigliucci to debate intelligent design. Dr. Stephen Meyer debated Dr. Peter Ward at a major debate event in Seattle last year. Last year Biola University hosted the "ID Under Fire" event where five ID scientists were challenged with questions from a panel of Darwinists including biologists from Cal State Fullerton and Cal Poly Pomona. And our Fellows and staff often appear on TV and radio programs alongside Darwinists to discuss intelligent design.

Posted by Robert Crowther on April 8, 2007 12:53 AM | Permalink

Creationist museum challenges evolution


By Martin Redfern BBC News, Kentucky, USA

For some a battle between science and religion is being fought for the soul of America. The Creationists argue God created the world in six days and want their beliefs given equal status to evolutionary science.

Petersburg, Kentucky, is in the middle of North America. It is supposedly within a day's drive of two-thirds of the US population.

For the rest, it is just 10 minutes from Cincinnati International Airport. That is why it was picked as the site for a new museum, due to open in a couple of months.

We enter the landscaped grounds through gates flanked by wrought iron stegosaurs.

The lobby is modelled on a cliff in the Grand Canyon. But this is no ordinary museum of science and geology.

It is the dream of Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, a Christian ministry that promotes the idea that the Biblical book of Genesis should be taken literally in describing the creation of the world, life and humans as carried out by God over a six-day period a few thousand years ago.

We get as far as the museum bookshop - already well-stocked with creationist titles - but no further.

Officials tell us that state regulations forbid it. It is still under construction and closed to visitors.

Is this, I wonder, because I am accompanied by Eugenie Scott, director of the National Centre for Science Education and a polite but determined campaigner against attempts to teach creationism alongside evolution in American school science classes.

Sharp teeth

So, it is round the back to the offices, to receive Ken Ham's crushingly sincere handshake.

He came to the US from Australia 20 years ago, founded Answers in Genesis and never left.

He lectures or broadcasts almost daily and clearly has the charisma to raise $27m (£14m) for this ambitious museum.

He is also not afraid to show us what is inside, and turns on the animatronic dinosaurs.

On a rocky ledge, there is a pair of small theropods - young T. rex individuals, we're told. And near to them ("hold onto your hat", says Ken, anticipating our disbelief) there are two human children playing by a stream.

Most geologists would say humans and dinosaurs were separated by more than 60 million years. And those dinosaurs have very sharp teeth!

"So do bears", says Ken, "but they eat nuts and berries! Remember, before the sin of Adam, the world was perfect. All creatures were vegetarian." One of the dinosaurs lets out a rather contradictory roar.

Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, but what annoys Eugenie Scott is the way in which the received wisdom of Genesis is given equal or higher status to scientific evidence; and the way in which the latter is used selectively.

"In the card game of creationism, the Bible trumps science every time," she says.

But in her game, science is dealt a hand that is purely materialistic. Ideas of a supernatural being belong in a different game, be it philosophy or theology.

As we prepare to leave, Eugenie Scott quietly slips a panda glove puppet from her handbag and photographs it among the dinosaurs.

It is introduced to me as Professor Steve Steve. Creationists are fond of lists of "scientists who doubt Darwin".

Many thousands more support evolution, but rather than play the same game, Eugenie has parodied the lists by concentrating on scientists named Steve (Stephanies are also eligible).

So far, more than 700 have signed up. Their mascot is a panda because of a notorious creationist text entitled "Of Pandas and People".

Steve was picked in honour of the late evolutionary biologist Stephen J Gould. Steve Steve because - well, all pandas have double names.

Noah's Ark

Much of the Creation Museum in Kentucky is still under construction and we were not able to go on to see the section through Noah's Ark or the model of the Grand Canyon.

Instead, we visited the real thing - the Canyon, not the Ark!

For the creationists, Noah's flood IS science

Grand Canyon park guides will tell you that the canyon took more than a million years to form and cuts through rocks that span more than a billion years.

Not so, say "Young Earth" creationists. All those rocks were deposited by flood waters at the time of Noah.

Though the Bible does not mention them directly, Ken Ham thinks there is no reason to suppose that dinosaurs were not still around at the time of the flood.

Indeed, he speculates that two of each may have been taken aboard the Ark (newly hatched dinosaurs are quite small so fitting them in would not have been a problem).

And what about the animals from other continents? Did Noah sail to Australia to drop off the kangaroos?

No, the flood waters lubricated a process called runaway subduction in which the continents subsequently drifted apart at a sprint!

Challenged with this scenario, a uniformed park guide says that, while everyone is entitled to their belief, he prefers to stick to accepted science.

For the creationists, Noah's flood IS science.

For them, the Canyon is a gash in the surface of the Earth left by that flood, representing the wrath of God against the sins of mankind.

Here at least, sin and anger have turned into something surprisingly beautiful!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

With Professors Like These...


We've already pointed out how fiction passes for good science at SMU. Apparently, ridicule and disrespect pass for tolerance, as well.

The SMU physics department went to the trouble of housing this fun little site, where they've even compiled a list of news articles referring to the event and pithy responses to ID proponents (i.e., they've resorted to calling us "IDiots").

It's worth the quick glance it takes to see how reactionary these responses are, which may explain how some SMU students, like the anthropology major who wrote in the student newspaper today, have come to think that the Discovery Institute "preaches a religious message masked in a capsule of pseudoscience."

That student went on to accuse Discovery of corrupting science. Such an accusation prompts the question: what is pure science, according to what this student has learned? It seems the answer lies in what you find on this website: Pure and undefiled science according SMU is to ridicule minority viewpoints and show disrespect to your opponents.

Is it any wonder that students brashly display their ignorance of intelligent design when their professors refuse to seriously address the issue?

Posted by Anika Smith on April 13, 2007 4:30 PM | Permalink

3 books about matters of faith


The Associated Press

Article Last Updated: 04/07/2007 10:34:22 AM MDT

Ten Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can't Because He Needs the Job) The Rev. Oliver ''Buzz'' Thomas, St. Martin's Press, $19.95 This book is for ''steeple dropouts'' and skeptical churchgoing Christians. In 10 concise, easy-to-read chapters, Thomas addresses controversies such as evolution vs. creationism, women in ordained ministry, homosexuality, end-times and the salvation of Muslim and Jewish people. His strength lies in helping the reader understand what he believes and why he believes it. He writes honestly about the need to elevate some portions of Scripture over other parts. For example, in his view, the principle of love is paramount. - Jeff Zell, Dallas Morning News Jesus of Nazareth Pope Benedict XVI, Doubleday, $24.95 Benedict's new work, which he has described as a purely personal work on the life of Christ meant for general Catholic readers, is due in bookstores in May. In an excerpt published last week in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, he meditates on the parable of the Good Samaritan and the need to love one's neighbor, and says it has current applications. In his first book as pontiff, Benedict decried the spiritual and material ''plundering'' of Africa by the wealthy. The wealthy, the excerpt said, --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- have stripped the poor bare and have wounded them spiritually. ''Instead of giving them their God, the God that is close to us in Christ, and welcome from their traditions all that is dear and great . . . we brought them the cynicism of a world without God, in which only power and profit matters,'' Benedict said. -The Associated Press Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith Anne Lamott, Riverhead Books, $24.95 Lamott's quirky, intimate, outraged-liberal voice has been a breath of fresh air in the sometimes stuffy genre of modern Christian literature. And so fans of her wry, witty observations on faith and life will welcome her third faith-focused book, a collection of 23 essays. Lamott is gossipy, charmingly self-deprecating, given to eloquent if predictable rants about the Bush administration that skid into pithy, personal amens. But this collection doesn't work as well as its predecessors did. Case in point is an essay in which Lamott recollects reading in front of a group of old hippies that goes nowhere. That said, there's still some Lamott fizz here. Lamott's concept of radical grace continues to appeal to many Christians put off by rigid, unimaginative religious upbringings, and it is that group that will find this book most valuable. -Pamela Miller, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Letters: 'A problem at its genesis'


07:20 AM CDT on Monday, April 9, 2007

Apparently, some ideas aren't right for academia

Re: "A problem at its genesis – Pitting intelligent design against Darwin won't work, says Lee Cullum," Wednesday Viewpoints.

Ms. Cullum implies that arguments from intelligent design are intellectually suspect, and that campuses should strictly adhere to ideas that are settled history or settled science. In other words, certain ideas have no place in academia.

In reality, there should be no censorship in the world of ideas and worldviews in the campus venue.

Yet, the ideas that apparently seem too threatening to be tolerated are anything that smacks of a conservative or theistic worldview. The intellectual dishonesty is blatantly obvious to any conservative student of faith who has been held hostage by a ranting professor who uses his classroom as a bully pulpit.

This SMU alumnus applauds its open-mindedness in allowing the Discovery Institute's confab. To try to exclude intelligent design implies its opponents are fearful they might learn something they don't want to know.

Susan Scott, Dallas

Those professing tolerance are nervous ones

Calling Darwinism settled science is beyond laughable. Upon further research, you will learn that Darwinism is currently settled on the slipperiest of slopes, and that many in the scientific community rightfully question its very premise.

I hope you are able to attend the unique conference that is being bashed, as I assume one would not dismiss the latest intelligent design arguments without a full hearing. It seems the only people in Dallas nervous about this informative conference are those who so forcefully promote tolerance.

Paul Pettit, Rockwall

More professors should speak out against this

Re: "This is not science – We have a duty to speak out against intelligent design event, say these SMU professors," Thursday Viewpoints.

As an SMU graduate, I am thankful that leading professors have spoken out in this excellent essay against so-called intelligent design as legitimate scientific theory. I hope professors in SMU's liberal arts departments will add their names as signatories to the essay, since all educated persons have a huge stake in opposing deception and bogus science.

Cullen A. Rogers, Dallas

SMU Professor Declines Invitation to Intelligent Design Debate


Doug Huntington Correspondent

Monday, Apr. 9, 2007 Posted: 12:04:PM PST

The head of Southern Methodist University (SMU)'s anthropology department has declined a request to debate major intelligent design (ID) proponents at an upcoming conference to be held on campus.

SMU Anthropology Chair Robert V. Kemper turned down the invitation to join a debate over the validity of evolution vs. ID on grounds that the department had previous commitments that would keep its members from the conference.

"We appreciate your recognition of the value of dialogue on issues that have such opposing viewpoints," replied the professor to the Discover Institute, a major organization that promotes the teaching of ID. "Unfortunately, previously scheduled events and prior commitments prevent our department from taking advantage of this opportunity. We nevertheless remain committed to public understanding of these issues, and to providing the public with information to make intelligent choices."

Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute, had sent letters to the chairs of three departments at SMU in response to faculty protests to an upcoming "Darwin vs. Design" conference, which would discuss ID - a theory that argues that complex living organisms are the result of a "designer."

He felt that rather than boycotting the event, both sides should discuss evidence in favor and against ID.

The Discovery Institute is skeptical about Kemper rejecting the debate, and questioned his motives in a notice on their website.

"It's interesting that these professors are willing to air their complaints and objections in public forums where there is no way for them to be 'heatedly debated and discussed,'" explained a post from Robert Crowther, director of communications at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. "Really? 'Heatedly debated and discussed,' well no, not in this instance."

The ID institute is still awaiting responses from the other two department chairs, and is uncertain whether they will accept the invitation for dialogue.

Initially, school professors had strongly protested the "Darwin vs. Design" conference that would take place on the SMU campus because they felt that the conference speakers would give students false theory. They asserted that ID was simply religion in disguise as a science hypothesis, and that presenting the information can be harmful to thinking.

In response, Crowther asked in his post: "How is presenting this information, to an audience that wants to learn about it, in any way a danger to science?"

"It isn't," he wrote, "unless you are a dogmatic Darwinist who can't abide any viewpoint but your own."

The staff at the Discovery Institute is also bothered by the claim that ID is just another religiously-based science.

"This is just simply a lie," concluded Crowther's post. "No one affiliated with Discovery Institute has ever said any such thing. Some scientists, afraid to debate the merits of Darwinian evolution instead turn to making up inane assertions like this one."

The "Darwin vs. Design" conference will be held this weekend, Apr. 13-14, and will feature three of ID's most prominent scientists, including Dr. Michael Behe, a biochemist and leading ID authority from Lehigh University; Dr. Stephen Meyer, the director of the CSC at Discovery Institute; and Dr. Jay Richards, a CSC senior fellow and co-author of The Privileged Planet.

Long overdue update on "Southern Fried Bigfoot" documentary and launch of website(s)

To everyone who's had anything to do with the production of the documentary, "Southern Fried Bigfoot:"

First, let me apologize for taking so long to send an update. The last eighteen months of my life have been a crazy, hectic time. Working in the unpredictable and topsy-turvy world of film and television also delayed me immeasurably.

Anyway, to make a long story short, this project is finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. The official website and corresponding MySpace page have just launched and can be found at www.southernfriedbigfoot.com and www.myspace.com/southernfriedbigfoot respectively.

The blog on the MySpace page will recount some of the numerous headaches, speedbumps, life and career changes I encountered during the almost five year production process. If someone had told me at the beginning that my "little regional monster movie," would have taken so long to complete, I wouldn't have believed it.

However, it's always had an incredibly interesting story to tell and even more interesting personalities to tell it. I do want to extend my deepest thanks to everyone who contributed their time, materials, advice, etc. to it.

We're currently finishing up the editing and then seeking a distribution deal (fingers crossed). As a reminder, everyone who was involved with this project will get a DVD of the documentary once it's completed. The DVD will more than likely have anywhere from 20-45 minutes of bonus material in addition to the one hour documentary.

More info to come as it's available.

Thanks again.


Sean Whitley
"Southern Fried Bigfoot"

Science Please, Not Scientology


What is going on in this world? It's not enough that Tom Cruise has more money than most small countries, but now Maverick is using it to exploit some Scientology-based bullshit treatment for 9/11 workers.

And no one is writing a thing.

The self-proclaimed president of the L. Ron Hubbard fan club (aka Hubheads) is on a fundraising mission as co-founder of the New York Rescue Workers Detoxifixation Project. Sounds legit, huh? They are advocating an untested, unreported, pseudo-medical, regimen created the by Hubbard, himself, who is about as qualified to treat toxic exposure patients as Snoop Dogg. Tickets for the April 19th gala, which will star Cruise, run as high as $100,000 for a table for eight.

And still, no one is saying a thing!

It would be one thing if Cruise preached this crap in Los Angeles where star status sometimes takes precedence over common sense and practical thinking. But he is spewing this garbage all over what I consider to be the greatest (and toughest) city in the world - a city that suffered a great tragedy but rebounded magnificently. A city that is world-renowned for its medical prowess and internationally-touted physicians and surgeons. A city that does not hide its opinion or tolerate crap from anybody.

And despite all of that - not a peep.

This detoxification process that Cruise is hawking consists of high doses of niacin, moderate aerobic exercise, intermittent dry saunas to "force sweating", and of course, vitamin supplementation. As medically sound as it seems (can you hear the sarcasm?), the detox regimen has never, ever been reported to yield any positive health effects. It is not cited in PubMed, you will not read about it in any medical journal, and it has never been reported in a case series, let alone a randomized control trial, demonstrating any therapeutic or clinical benefit.

Yet no one has come out publicly to say that this might even be harmful to men and women who made a great sacrifice for our great city.

Well, let us be the first with a medical background to shout loudly that this is a huge load of Scientologic excrement. If Travolta and Cruise and all of the other Hubheads want to donate money to the 9/11 workers, why not consult with the mayor and ask where their dollars could be most helpful? And why hasn't Bloomberg, who usually does not hesitate to share his pragmatic opinions, weigh in on this matter?

It is completely irresponsible to offer a sham therapy in the hopes of converting some desperate folks and Cruise should be admonished for hocking his Scientologic mumbo jumbo. If he could offer even a shred of scientific evidence that this would benefit 9/11 workers we would not be so outraged but the only proof he can offer is his vacant grinning face and a wealth of Scientology preachings.

Medicine in this country has shifted over the past twenty years to lean heavily on the evidence and base treatment on what has shown clinical benefit in large, multicenter trials. As physicians we have a responsibility to have an open mind but always fall back on the evidence. I have no problem with holistic forms of therapy and even placebo has shown actual clinical benefit in many forms - but using a hypothetical detoxification program to recruit new members and make promises of wellness reeks of dishonesty and ignorance.

Ignoring the facts



Kent Horvath

Issue date: 4/10/07 Section: Opinions

I was appalled to discover that creationism is given credence in the University's general biology curriculum. Professor Christopher Brey began his first lecture on evolution by prefacing that although he is a Catholic, he believes in evolution, and that many people believe that creationism and evolution are compatible. He then went on to discuss several different types of creationism and concluded that while there is no evidence to support any version of creationism, the mere fact that so many believe it to be true prevents us from discounting it as a legitimate theory. Had this been where the religiosity ended, one might almost have forgiven its intrusion and the resulting errant conclusion. However, the coup de gr?ce to the University's reputation was then delivered, as he condoned the belief that the Earth may be only 2,000 years old, adding that he even has some friends who believe this.

What angers me most is not the impropriety of giving an account of creationism in a science course, nor is it the mistaken suggestion that a common belief, unsupported by evidence, deserves more credence than an equally unsupported, uncommon belief. What appalls me is any public university could be so derelict as to appoint a professor who cannot understand the difference between a lack of evidence in support of a belief and a deluge of evidence in direct contradiction to that belief.

What leads me - as a scientist - to believe that the earth is not merely 2,000 or even 20,000 years old? It is the same principle that leads me to believe that a football field is not merely two inches long: measurement. The age of the Earth has been scientifically determined by multiple independent methods, such as radiometric and meteorological evidence, and found to be on the order of 4.5 billion years old, with an uncertainty of about one percent. Put simply, the earth is so old that when stating its age, two million years is a rounding error.

Whether from an effort to foster religious tolerance, avoid religious backlash or simply endorse a particular religion, this professor and the University have phenomenally failed in their duty to provide students with an understanding of the basic principles of science, and to use those principles to think critically and with a healthy air of skepticism. Please, oh please, can't we keep creationism and this mindless controversy out of our science curriculum and send it back to the Dark Ages where it belongs?

Kent Horvath is a University College junior majoring in molecular biology.

Traditional Medicine Holds Promise


The Herald (Harare)

April 9, 2007 Posted to the web April 9, 2007

By Sifelani Tsiko Harare

THE recent visit by Chinese traditional medicine experts to Zimbabwe highlights the need to strengthen collaboration between African traditional medicine practitioners and their Asian counterparts to promote research and use of traditional medicine in addressing some of the crucial health challenges facing most developing countries today.

A delegation led by Mr Xiao Caisongo from China's Changsha Taibao Pharmaceutical Group met Health and Child Welfare Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa last week to discuss ways of strengthening collaboration in traditional medicine research.

The Chinese company is at the forefront of promoting research and use of traditional Chinese medicines in this giant Asian country that serves as an example to most African countries going that route.

"We need to strengthen our clinical research in traditional medicines. China has been doing this for a long time and we will be able to learn from them," Dr Parirenyatwa said.

"Zimbabwe is very keen to advance its traditional medicine agenda. We are very keen to partner with China in thatrespect."

The World Health Organisation says a global health crisis of new and re-emerging diseases spiralling out of control with the added burden of poverty and armed conflicts threatens to cripple entire communities and countries.

Health experts say to tackle the projected crisis, it is important that the biomedical community work to access and harness as many resources and partners as possible.

And they say traditional medicine and healers and the potential contributions they can make at many levels of health delivery still remains a critical resource in addressing some of the global health challenges facing most African countries.

It is pleasing that despite numerous problems, Zimbabwe and most African countries are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of traditional medicine -- the practice and body of medicinal knowledge that existed before the arrival of modern conventional medicine which were used to promote, maintain and restore health and well-being.

Just like people in China and most other parts of the world, Africans developed unique indigenous healing traditions adapted and defined by their culture, beliefs and environment, which satisfied the health needs of communities over centuries.

Despite the overriding influence of Western conventional medicines and approaches, African health experts say conventional biomedically-oriented practitioners deliver only 10 to 30 percent of worldwide health care.

They say in poor, rural and marginalised populations, the number of traditional practitioners often exceeds Western-trained doctors.

In Africa south of the Sahara, the ratio of traditional healers to the population is about 1:500 in contrast to the doctor-patient ratio of 1:40 000 on average.

The Traditional Health Practitioners' Association of Zambia has a membership of 40 000 made up of herbalists, spiritualists, diviners and traditional birth attendants.

The Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers' Association has a membership of about 55 000 healers who have access to more than 500 different types of medicinal plants.

In South Africa, it is estimated that there are 300 000 traditional practitioners in the sector which has an annual turnover of more than R250 million.

Traditional African medicine has more followers than Western medicine in Africa and increasingly in North America and Europe there is a booming market for indigenous African medicines with Western pharmaceutical giants tapping into the continent's vast traditional medicine body.

And with proper planning, training, research and collaboration with countries such as China, Zimbabwe's traditional medical systems can be developed to boost the economy as well as tap into the booming herbal industry worldwide.

"A significant proportion of people depend on traditional medicine," said Mr Andrew Mushita, director of Community Technology Development Trust.

"The challenge is: how do we systematically integrate traditional medicine with the formal health care system? The challenge is how to repackage this and promote it for easy accessibility by the majority of the people," said Mr Mushita, whose organisation has documented indigenous foods, medicines and knowledge systems in Zimbabwe.

In Africa, for years, herbs from trees and shrubs, roots, leaves, flowers and bark have been used to cure a range of ailments through the linkage of spirituality and other traditional African religion practices.

Researchers say at least 75 percent of all Western medicines and traditional medicines are plant based while 25 percent use synthetic materials.

Indigenous knowledge has been used extensively for medicinal plants for human and animal health care, selection and breeding of livestock to suit the local environment and the development of local seed varieties.

Africa still faces problems linked to the negative image of traditional medicine.

These perceptions are still raw and need transformation in order to bring on board the healing practices not as an appendage to Western medical systems, but as a competitive and complementary force in the continent's health delivery systems.

"The popular image of the African medicine man is that of the fabled witchdoctor with his exotic paraphernalia of feathers, cowries and animal skin, muttering meaningless incantations and dispensing worthless potions to his ignorant clients," writes Maurice Iwu in his Handbook of Traditional African Medicine.

"Even the herbs they dispense are considered harmful and when they are found to be efficacious, the detractors of traditional medicine are quick to dismiss them as chance discoveries.

"The incantations and the rhythm of the drums are said to be weird sounds and part of the mumbo-jumbo designed to hoodwink the superstitious 'savages' who are under their spell.

"The reality of African medicine is far more complex than is generally understood. Only a few appreciate the real capabilities of African medicine," Iwu argues.

In Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa, there are numerous examples of medicines that are still effective in curing diseases today.

The baobab tree has served many purposes including application of its leaves as a soothing cream and bark for treatment of malaria and other diseases in most African communities.

Hoodia, an appetite suppressant found in the entire Southern African region, was developed using the traditional knowledge of the San who used it effectively to survive the harsh conditions in the Kalahari Desert.

In Ghana, a plant known as the "climbing day flower" and the African tulip tree, used for centuries by the Asante people, has proven useful in healing wounds due to its antioxidant and anti-microbial actions, according to a recent study published in the August 2006 issue of the Phytotherapy Research journal.

Scientists concluded that the use of the plants in wound healing was proving to be effective, showing that with more investment in research in traditional medicine and indigenous knowledge systems, African countries can find some solutions to some of their pressing problems.

In Zimbabwe, the Long-pod cassia (muvheneka/umdlawizo) roots, leaves and fruits are used in the treatment of constipation, backache, diarrhoea and gonorrhoea and for birth control.

The sausage tree (mumvee/umvebe) powdered fruits are used in the treatment of ulcers and sores while the bark and root are used in the treatment of pneumonia. There are numerous other undocumented uses of plants.

There is need to establish a centre of traditional medicine research and development to enable Zimbabwe to utilise its generic resources effectively.

Zimbabwe and most other African countries can easily follow India which has more than 2 000 hospitals with more than 45 000 beds that are offering treatment using traditional medicines.

India has more than 22 000 dispensaries in traditional medicine, making the drugs more accessible to the majority of the people.

"It is pertinent to state that the African medical system does not fall into the sphere of what is known as 'alternative medicine', but it is rather a complementary but different medical system that uses medicine in a more or less conventional manner for the treatment of diseases," says Iwu.

"It employs, in a fundamental sense, the same basic methods as Western medicine with additional contributions from the spiritual dimension which gives the healing depth and meaning within the African cosmology and experience.

"It cannot be reduced to simple herbalism," he argues.

With research and collaboration and partnerships with Chinese traditional medicine experts, African traditional medicine can provide a unique opportunity in the delivery of safe, equitable and culturally appropriate health care to individuals and communities across the world.

It can also enhance the use of affordable and sustainable solutions and resources in tackling some of the health challenges facing the continent.

But the biggest challenge is the need to raise awareness and respect for African traditional medicine systems and the world views in which they are grounded.

Copyright © 2007 The Herald

Researchers find 4-million-year old whale skeleton in Italian countryside



7:58 a.m. April 3, 2007

ROME – Italian researchers have found the skeleton of a 33-foot prehistoric whale in the Tuscan countryside, a discovery that could shed light on the ancient environment of the sea, officials said.

The skeleton dates to 4 million years ago, to the Pliocene epoch, said paleontologists with the Museum of Natural History in Florence who are studying the fossil.

"The finding is spectacular," said Elisabetta Cioppi, an official in the museum's paleontology department and the coordinator of the excavations. Cioppi pointed to the fact that the skeleton is complete and a variety of organisms were found around the fossil as well.

"This will enable us to conduct an in-depth analysis on the paleo environment," she said in a statement.

The skeleton was found a few weeks ago in Orciano Pisano, in the countryside about 50 miles west of Florence and 6 miles east of the Mediterranean. It was found about 100 yards below ground in what used to be the sea occupying most of today's Tuscany, the statement said.

The fossil is expected to be taken to the Museum of Natural History in Florence and put on display once it is restored.

Darwin's Nose


The published letters of Charles Darwin reveal a man who debated about design in a manner that seems "more tolerant and humble" than one encounters in the current debate, says Anthony Barnes in a book review in The Independent (U.K.). It could also be noted that Darwin was treated better by his critics 150 years ago than his followers—the dominant neo-Darwinists—treat their critics today.

Darwin himself obviously thought a lot about religion, but, like his successors, he had what seems like a rather puerile understanding of theology and philosophy. He told the American botanist Asa Gray that Darwin's own nose, which he considered large and unattractive, was evidence against design. "Will you honestly tell me that the shape of my nose was ordained and guided by an intelligent cause?" he chided Gray.

The existence of what appears to be sub-optimal design is a sad argument that cannot be evaluated scientifically. There is nothing in the scientific question of design to suggest that the source of design had to have our particular understanding of optimal design in mind. What appears sub-optimal at one time (the appendix, for example) turns out later to have had serious functionality. Furthermore, considerations of beauty (noses, female girth, etc.) are often products of culture, not science. Flaws in nature, likewise, do not disprove design.

What a shame that Darwin's faith and his knowledge of philosophy was not up to the quality of his scientific inquiry.

(Cross-posted at Discovery Blog)

Posted by Bruce Chapman on April 9, 2007 8:59 PM | Permalink

Scientologists set for heavenly tax cut


By Rachel Pegg

Scientology could be officially recognised as a religion in the UK following a ruling in the European Court of Human Rights.

The decision, won by a law team led from East Grinstead, could mean the Charity Commission will have to recognise the controversial Church of Scientology as a bona fide religious group.

This would give it access to a series of tax breaks and potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds in taxpayers' money through Gift Aid.

The European Court ruled the Russian government should be forced to recognise the Church as a religious organisation.

But if the decision is rolled out across the EU the group, which is viewed as a business in many countries, could save millions of pounds.

The UK headquarters of the Church of Scientology is in East Grinstead and has been visited by Tom Cruise, the creed's most high-profile follower.

The organisation was turned down for charitable status in 1999 because the Charity Commission ruled scientology was not a religion in English charity law.

Graeme Wilson, the director and spokesman for the Church of Scientology in England and Wales, said it had not decided whether to reapply.

But he said some UK bodies had already recognised scientology as a religion, including the City of London last October when it granted the Church charitable rates relief.

He said: "Over the years there have been many official recognitions of scientology's religiosity throughout Europe, including in Britain.

"This latest decision sets a Europe-wide precedent and will help to resolve any remaining areas of discrimination against religions in Europe."

The Church, founded by American science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, claims to have 123,000 UK supporters. There are scientology churches at Saint Hill Road in East Grinstead and at North Street in Brighton.

Mr Wilson said: "The vast majority of people are recognising this is mainstream. It is in over 160 countries around the world, with 7,000 churches and different organisations."

The court application was led by East Grinstead lawyer Peter Hodkin and won under Article 11 - the freedom of assembly and association - of the European Convention on Human Rights read in the light of Article 9 - the freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The court ruled that the Church of Scientology had been "discriminated against as a religious minority" and "was restricted in exercising the full range of its religious activities".

The group was partly refused charitable status in 1999 on the grounds that it was not "established to promote the moral or spiritual welfare or the improvement of the community".

It has since established an anti-drugs campaign with schools and the police in the UK using scientologist swing band Jive Aces to front the message and a "youth for human rights" campaign.

A spokesman for the Charity Commission said it was not yet clear whether it would change its view in light of the court decision but it was open for the Church to reapply.

He said the convention had been taken into account by commissioners at the time.

A registered charity does not normally pay income or corporation tax, capital gains tax or stamp duty. It has reduced business rates and can raise money from local government more easily. Legacies are not liable to inheritance tax and where donations come from taxpayers, the charity can claim 28 per cent extra from the Inland Revenue.



04/13/07 5:25 PDT SAN FRANCISCO (BCN)

Police are searching for at least two people involved in a scam con artists are using to prey on San Francisco's Chinese community, where alternative medicine is bought and sold on a regular basis.

According to Lt. Kenwade Lee with the Police Department's fraud detail, the suspects bilked one 73-year-old woman out of $2,000 by convincing her she had cancer and they had the only cure.

On Tuesday just before 9 a.m., two suspects, a woman in her 40s and a man, approached the victim on the streets of Chinatown. They began talking in Cantonese to her about a cure for cancer and they took out a beetle and a glass of water to prove it.

According to Lee, the woman dropped the beetle into a glass of water and when the water turned black, the suspect told the victim she had cancer. The woman then stirred up the water again, causing it to turn clear, which meant the cancer could be cured.

The woman was prepared to give the suspects $100,000 for the quack cure but when they drove her to a nearby bank, she could only take out $2,000.

The suspects took the money and tried to contact the woman the next day, but instead she contacted police. Lee is warning the elderly population in the Chinese community to beware of similar scams.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Freedom of Speech vs. License


Issue date: 4/11/07 Section: Opinion

It is noted that Aeschylus, in the 5th century B.C., wrote that truth is the first victim of war. As the conflict between science and religion once again heats up, truth is again in danger of being the victim. An academic campus is logically the appropriate setting for the science-religion debate, but it ought not to become a battlefield, lest truth be sacrificed by emotion and freedom become license.

It is for this reason that academics must be very careful not to tread heavily on either freedom of speech or its unreasoned license. Just as truth itself grows and changes with experience, so the pursuit of it without open debate has always the possibility of leading to falsehood.

It is understandable, then, that many of us in the sciences were taken by surprise and reacted strongly to the announcement that Seattle's Discovery Institute had scheduled a conference on "Darwin vs. Design" this semester in McFarlin Auditorium. This is not to be a debate or balanced discussion, but rather a partisan promotion of the assertion that design in nature constitutes scientific evidence for a creator, the so-called theory of Intelligent Design (ID).

Our protest (initially, a call for disallowing the conference until its legal scheduling was confirmed) immediately drew claims that we are trying to "censor scientists and scholars advocating Intelligent Design…." The Institute further claimed that we are "trying to intimidate people who are in some way associated with researching Intelligent Design into being quiet, rather than engaging in a civil debate about the scientific merits of their arguments."

This is patently untrue, and is but one reason for our objection to the venue. The conference will promote this and other false statements designed to discredit science and scientists. In fact, some of us have actively engaged in debate with creationists and ID supporters both in our own science classrooms and at public forums on campus. In 1992, the university hosted a three-day symposium on "Darwinism: Scientific Inference or Philosophical Preference?" Five evolutionists and five anti-evolutionists gave presentations and engaged in friendly debate. No intimidation. No censorship.

We continue to encourage casting light on these issues and reducing the heat of passion. The coming ID conference is more likely to generate heat. We should not misunderstand the avowed intent of these conferences (an identical one was held this March in Knoxville). They are carefully planned to further the Institute's goal to "encourage and equip believers with new scientific evidence's [sic] that support the faith, as well as to 'popularize' our ideas in the broader culture." This evangelical motive is carefully disguised in their promotional material.

It is hardly censorship to demand both intellectual honesty and forthrightness in any public program on a university campus. The program purports, by its title, to be a scientific examination of "Darwin v. Design." Truth has already become victim, alas. The university erred in scheduling this.

About the writer:

Ronald K. Wetherington is a professor of anthropology at SMU. He can be reached at rwetheri@smu.edu.

An End to the Creation/Evolution Wars?


Hugh Ross incorporates common sense into the debate in Creation as Science.
Review by Sam O'Neal | posted 4/12/2007 09:27AM

Creation as Science: A Testable Model Approach to End the Creation/Evolution Wars
Hugh Ross
291 pages, $21.99

Few individuals are better qualified than Hugh Ross—minister with a Ph.D. in astronomy—to apply a balm of common sense to the increasingly heated debate over creation and evolution.

Related articles and links

His newest book begins with a much-needed reminder that "God has revealed himself to humanity in two books, the written record [the Bible] and the record of nature." In other words, we should never be forced to reject science in order to embrace the Bible, or vice versa.

Ross is also adept at reclaiming the theological implications of accepted scientific theories, such as the Big Bang. In addition, he chides certain Christians who engage in evolution-bashing without offering "a definitive explanation or evidential defense of their own beliefs about life's origin and history."

So does this book fulfill its promise to "end the creation/evolution wars"? Not really.

Readers on both sides of the line will argue with Ross's creation model. And those looking for specific, scientific experiments to support his theory (as I was) will be disappointed.

Still, Creation as Science opens the door for meaningful dialogue between proponents of creationism, evolution, and Intelligent Design.

And that is definitely a step in the right direction.

Intelligent Design Advocates: Are Darwinists Afraid to Debate Us?


By Doug Huntington Christian Post Reporter

Thu, Apr. 12 2007 09:48 AM ET

Two of the nation's main intelligent design (ID) advocates wrote an opinion editorial for the Tuesday edition of the Dallas Morning News questioning why pro-evolution professors at Southern Methodist University (SMU) did not accept their challenge to a debate.

Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute, and John West, associate director of the institute's Center for Science & Culture (CSC), have publicly called out to the SMU faculty, and have accused them of being hypocritical.

"Various science professors at SMU have called on their university to ban our conference, and more recently some of them have declared that they 'have a duty as practitioners of science to speak out' against intelligent design," read the article in the Dallas Morning News. "But if they truly believe that they have a duty to 'speak out,' why not speak out by engaging intelligent design scholars in a serious discussion?"

The discussion would have been a part of the upcoming "Darwin vs. Design" conference to take place this Friday and Saturday that will be held on the college's campus. The debate idea was in response to the negative reaction the conference had received from the SMU faculty.

The president of the Discovery Institute had sent letters to three department chairs at SMU asking them to have a dialogue, where both sides would provide evidence for and against ID - a theory which argues that complex living organisms are the result of a "designer."

SMU Anthropology Chair Robert V. Kemper last week declined the invitation, explaining that his department had previous engagements that it had to attend to.

Since the other two professors have still not responded, Chapman and West wrote to the local paper to express their disappointment. They feel that ID scientists are not given the same kind of respect that evolutionists are.

"Nowhere is the free exchange of ideas supposed to be more robust or uninhibited than on college campuses," noted the article titled "Bruce Chapman and John West: Are the Darwinists afraid to debate us?"

"Unfortunately, this behavior [by evolutionists] is all too common among defenders of Darwinian theory," the two added. "They publicly disparage intelligent design (often showing through their comments that they know very little about what it actually proposes), but they refuse to engage in genuine dialogue."

The article also explained that the refusal to have scientific debate and discussion is contrary to Darwin himself, who felt that "a fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question."

"What are today's Darwinists so afraid of?" concluded the editorial.

The "Darwin vs. Design" conference will feature three of ID's most outspoken scientists, including Dr. Michael Behe, biochemist from Lehigh University and CSC senior fellow; Dr. Stephen Meyer, director of the CSC; and Dr. Jay Richards, a research fellow at the Acton Institute and CSC senior fellow.

Discovery Institute, a nonpartisan public policy think tank based in Seattle, is a major promoter of ID theory.

T-rex yields evolution cluesFrom correspondents in Chicago


April 13, 2007 08:18am

US researchers have recovered microscopic traces of soft tissue from a 68 million-year-old tyrannosaurus rex fossil.

The startling discovery is yielding clues to evolutionary links between dinosaurs and birds, according to two papers released overnight.

The tiny protein fragments were extracted from the leg bone of a tyrannosaurus rex that was discovered in the western state of Montana in 2003, but it wasn't until recently that scientists were able to definitively identify them as traces of dinosaur collagen.

The studies, published in the journal Science, said the paleontologists who examined the powdered protein remnants had to call on biochemists for help analysing the molecular structure of the material.

The biochemists were eventually able to crack the protein code, allowing them to compare the material to similar proteins in several contemporary animals. The results showed a close match to chickens, and to a lesser extent frogs and newts.

That finding bolsters a recent and controversial proposal that birds and dinosaurs are evolutionarily related, and change that hypothesis to a theory, the researchers said.

"Most people believe that birds evolved from dinosaurs, but that's all based on the architecture of the bones," said John Asara, the researcher who identified the amino acid sequences in the protein fragments.

The new finding "allows you to get the chance to say 'Wait, they really are related because their sequences are related'. We didn't get enough sequences to definitively say that, but what sequences we got support that idea."

The discovery also challenges long-held assumptions about the process of fossilisation, which in turn opens new avenues of investigation in the field, the researchers said.

Until now scientists assumed that organic matter such as proteins could not survive more than a million years. This discovery shows that ancient protein can provide genetic clues to organisms that are more than a million years old, even if they are only marginally viable as in this case.

"For centuries, it was believed that the process of fossilisation destroyed any original material, consequently no one looked carefully at really old bones," said Mary Schweitzer, an assistant professor of paleontology at North Carolina State University, and one of several researchers who worked on the project.

But if molecular data from fossils can be retrieved and analysed, it may be able to verify current ideas about relationships between fossil and living organisms, and between groups of distinct organisms that have no modern descendants.

"This interplay between the fossil record and the molecular record is going to become more and more useful in understanding both ends of the evolution of life on this planet," she said.

"It's really exciting."

The findings will probably change the way paleontologists view and treat future fossils, said Lewis Cantley, professor of systems biology at Harvard School of Medicine.

"I think what this says is that when people make new discoveries now, if they want to get maximum information out, they have to immediately handle material in a way that first of all will avoid contamination and second, ensure that whatever is there gets well preserved because it can be interrogated."

Inevitably, a lot will depend on the condition of the fossil. This fossil was preserved in sandstone 18 metres below the ground and the porosity of the sandstone may have been a factor in the survival of these soft tissues, the researchers said.

Even so, it took the biochemists a year and a half to sequence the amino acids in the proteins using highly sensitive mass spectrometry techniques that first broke the proteins down into fragments of 10 to 20 amino acids and then configured them into a sequence.

The work was a collaborative effort between Prof Schweitzer, Prof Cantley and Mr Asara, who is director of mass spectrometry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical School.

Agence France-Presse

Pope stirs up evolution debate


By Malcolm Moore in Rome

Last Updated: 2:14am BST 13/04/2007

Pope Benedict XVI has made his first comments on evolution, saying God alone cannot provide an explanation for the variety of life on Earth.

"I would not depend on faith alone to explain the whole picture," the Pope said, according to a new book, Creation and Evolution, published in Germany.

The comments run counter to suggestions that the Pope had rejected John Paul II's recognition that Darwinism was "more than a hypothesis" and had backed the theory of intelligent design which insists that living organisms are so complex and varied that they must have been created by a higher "designer".

advertisementThe book contains records from theologians who met the Pope last year. He said that Darwinism had a role to play in our understanding of life, but that it did not provide a full answer.

"The theory of evolution is not completely provable because mutations over hundreds of thousands of years cannot be reproduced in a laboratory," he said.

The Pope said it was pointless to side either with "creationism that fundamentally excludes science" or with a theory of evolution that rules out all questions "that reach beyond the possibilities of science".

He defended creationism and said evolution was part of that process.

"I find it important to stress that the theory of evolution implies questions that must be assigned to philosophy," he said.

"Popular and scientific texts often say that 'nature' or 'evolution' has done this or that. But who is this 'nature' or 'evolution' as an active subject? It doesn't exist at all," he said.

Polemics and Professors


By The Christian Post

Fri, Apr. 13 2007 04:14 AM ET

The head of Southern Methodist University's anthropology department has turned down an invitation to debate major intelligent design proponents at an upcoming conference on the college campus.

While members of the anthropology department "appreciate [Discovery Institute's] recognition of the value of dialogue on issues that have such opposing views," SMU Anthropology Chair Robert V. Kemper said the department had "previously scheduled events and prior commitments" that prevent it from accepting Discovery Institute's invitation.

The heads of the other two departments which Discovery Institute president Bruce Chapman had sent letters to, meanwhile, have yet to respond.

Only weeks before, science professors at Southern Methodist University were much more vocal, writing letters of protest to school officials to complain about the upcoming "Darwin vs. Design" conference.

"These are conferences of and for believers and their sympathetic recruits," stated a letter from the anthropology department, according to The Associated Press. "They have no place on an academic campus with their polemics hidden behind a deceptive mask."

The biology and geology departments sent similar letters.

But now, with one invitation rejected and two still without response, it seems the proposed showdown between intelligent design supporters and opponents won't take place after all.

It's a shame too.

While the "theory" of intelligent design may lack the technical components which would define it as such, the concept is definitely worth considering and worth discussing – not just protesting against. And there are certainly a number of individuals who support the idea so strongly that they feel confident enough to challenge some of the nation's top thinkers to debate over it in a public forum.

Now, those who are so strongly against the concept of "design" and express such a strong opposition to it – shouldn't they be just as willing as proponents to argue for (or against) what they believe or know to be true (or not true)?

Academic institutions are designed – no pun intended – as platforms to discuss not only what is held to be true, but also to discuss ideas, innovations, philosophies.

Censoring ideas – even those which may be contrary to accepted truths – is not something universities should allow (with exceptions, of course).

So rather than trying to silence those who think differently from them or making judgments before hearing the case, SMU professors should listen well and speak like true scholars.

Step up to the challenge.

Polemics are not what's bad for college campuses. It's silent teachers.

The Discovery Institute: harming us with pseudoscience


Issue date: 4/13/07 Section: Opinion

This weekend Dedman Law School's Christian Legal Society will be hosting a controversial and well-known institute that preaches a religious message masked in a capsule of pseudoscience.

The Discovery Institute is one of the nations leading political action groups. It fights to create a theistic world view that corrupts science to fit the doctrines of evangelical and literal Christians who are unable to reconcile their religious beliefs with the material world.

A controversial document (reported as the Wedge Document, a 1998 internal memo) stated the Institute's goal was to "drive a wedge" into "scientific materialism" in order to divorce it from its purely observational and naturalistic methodology and stop the deleterious effects of evolution on Western culture.

As you can see, this Institute, which is on our campus, this weekend does not seek to debate ideas in an academic, scientific or even rational setting. Perhaps more egregious is the fact that the Discovery Institute does not practice science, namely the scientific method. Science is driven by constant self-critique, analysis and experimentation. The scientific method is the cornerstone to this practice and is a tool that has not only progressed humanity into an age of technological, medical and societal marvel, but has helped to correct the flaws and pitfalls within science as well. The thing about the scientific method is that it relies on observable and recordable phenomena in the material world. Keep in mind the phrase "material world." This is key.

If that observable data does not match up with the hypothesis of the scientist then the hypothesis must be changed. This is an error correcting mechanism by the mere fact that if new data or new discoveries are made they can be tested against an accepted hypothesis. If the hypothesis does not stand it is made defunct and the scientific method starts over again to find a new hypothesis or explanation.

This is where the Discovery Institute fails. The claims they make, claims based purely on religious or supernatural grounds, can NOT be tested in the material world. I can neither prove nor disprove the existence of a god or gods via observable phenomena in the material world - and neither can the Discovery Institute no matter what they may tell you. If they do tell you this it is because they are saying it based on a spiritual and supernatural belief masked in scientific language - not in scientific language itself. Continued...

There is nothing wrong with holding religious beliefs and believing in science - I know many Christians that do so and have stronger faith for it. You can not bring your religious beliefs into science, however, because as soon as you do you have corrupted the scientific method and are no longer talking about rationality and logic - you are talking about faith and emotion.

Carl Sagan once said that science is like a candle in the dark. It helps us to illuminate our world with the advances and progress it brings. He also warned that science could be used for ill when it is in the wrong hands - mainly by people who hold narrow-minded and pseudoscientific world views. With the amount of turmoil in our world today, it shocks me that people could still be fighting an institution (science) that has progressed humanity further than any economic, political or religious system ever has.

Unlike any other force in our world, science has the power to save or destroy humanity. The Discovery Institute is an institution that fights and corrupts this power by confusing the scientific process and preaches pseudoscience to a generally unaware audience.

For those that fear science and see it as a negative influence in society (i.e. the Discovery Institute) I have just one more comment to make. Carl Sagan once marveled at the furthest photo of Earth ever taken by Voyager I on Feb. 14, 1990 making a very poignant philosophical statement.

"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us.

It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known." This is what science if used properly can bring, hope to humanity.

The Discovery Institute can believe in a deity - it is their right. The Discovery Institute can not pass off that belief as science. When they try to they only show their own inability to come to terms with our existence on this little pale blue dot. Believe in God, believe in humanity, believe what you will, but please realize that well practiced science is the best thing we as a species have to fight tyranny, environmental degradation, illness and suffering.

Monkey DNA Map Could Reveal Truth To Evolution


Boston (eCanadaNow) - Scientists have finished mapping out the genetic makeup of the rhesus macaque monkey which can lead to new research to try and develop human treatments of diseases as well as to understand evolution further as this completes the set needed.

Over the last 25 years humans have revolved a great deal with mysteries surrounding the evolution more present than ever. The monkey DNA sequence done here finished the set of genes already in place to try and fully understand this.

The findings were published in the journal Science and will help try to find treatment methods for human infectious diseases to create vaccine. The rhesus macaque monkey is the best animal in the world to try and find the truth about AIDS and a possible cure for HIV.

About Creation, Pope Melds Faith With Science



Published: April 12, 2007

ROME, April 11 — Science cannot fully explain the mystery of creation, Pope Benedict XVI said in comments about evolution that were published in a book on Wednesday. At the same time, he did not reject evolutionary theory or endorse any alternative for the origins of life.

"I would not depend on faith alone to explain the whole picture," Benedict, a former theology professor, told his former students in September at a private seminar outside Rome on evolution, according to an account of the book from Reuters.

As pope, Benedict has not publicly defined his position, amid angry debates in the United States over "intelligent design" and questions raised two years ago by a leading cardinal on whether evolution was compatible with Catholicism.

But his comments at the seminar, published in German by students who were present, seemed largely to avoid any such debate: Rather, they seemed consistent with his often-stated views on other subjects — that science and reason, however valuable, should not rule out God.

The debate over evolution, he said, concerned "the great fundamental questions of philosophy: where man and the world came from and where they are going."

The book, called "Creation and Evolution," was not publicly available on Wednesday, and Reuters did not say how it had obtained a copy.

Apart from the pope's comments, the book includes essays from Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, a former student of the pope who set off much debate in 2005 after seeming to raise doubts about evolution.

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before he became pope two years ago, Benedict had expressed concern that on several fronts, including evolution, science was overstepping its competence, denying the existence of God and becoming its own system of belief. Though he did not reject evolution, he noted in the remarks quoted from the book that science could not completely prove evolution because it could not be duplicated in the laboratory.

But, Reuters reported, he also defended what is known as theistic evolution, the idea that God could use evolutionary processes to create life, if not through the direct engineering suggested by "intelligent design," which posits that life is so complex that it requires an active creator.

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