NTS LogoSkeptical News for 29 April 2007

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Evolution education update: April 6, 2007

There are few surprises to be found in the latest creationism/evolution poll. Part two of the BBC World Service's "In the Beginning" is now available. And NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott and Ken Miller are honored by the Exploratorium science museum.


A poll recently conducted for Newsweek by Princeton Survey Research Associates International contained two questions relevant to the creationism/evolution controversy. The results were broadly consistent with those of previous polls using similar questions. The poll was conducted March 28-29, 2007, with 1004 adults aged 18 and over participating; the margin of error was +/- 4%.

The first question used the traditional Gallup question:


Which one of the following statements come closest to your views about the origin and development of human beings? Humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process (or) Humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process (or) God created humans pretty much in the present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so?


30% of respondents chose the "God guided process" option, 13% chose the "God had no part" option, 48% chose the "created in present form" option, and 9% offered a different or no opinion. These responses are comparable with previous polls using the question, dating back to 1982.

Newsweek recorded the results for evangelical Protestants, non-evangelical Protestants, Catholics, and agnostics/atheists. Fully 73% of evangelical Protestants chose the "created in present form" option, while only 39% of non-evangelical Protestants and 41% of Catholics followed suit. Oddly, 13% of the agnostics/atheists who responded chose the "created in present form" option and 27% chose the "God guided process" option.

The second question asked, "Do you think the scientific theory of evolution is well-supported by evidence and widely accepted within the scientific community?" Forty-eight percent of respondents said that it was well-supported; 39% said that it was not well-supported; 13% didn't know. Among evangelical Protestants, 63% said that it was not well-supported, while 57% of non-evangelical Protestants, 58% of Catholics, and 73% of agnostics/atheists said that it was well-supported.

In 2004, Gallup asked a similar question: "Do you think that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is a scientific theory that has been well-supported by evidence, just one of many theories and one that has not been well-supported by evidence, or don't you know enough about it to say?" Thirty-five percent of the respondents said that evolution is well-supported by evidence, 35% said that it is not, 29% said that they didn't know enough about it to reply, and 1% expressed no opinion.

Over the years, Reports of the NCSE has carried a variety of reports and analyses of such polls, including George Bishop's "'Intelligent Design': Illusions of an Informed Public" (reprinted from Public Perspective), Otis Dudley Duncan and Claudia Geist's "The Creationists: How Many, Who, and Where?", and (forthcoming) George Bishop's "Polls Apart on Human Origins" (reprinted from the on-line publication Public Opinion Professionals).

For the Newsweek poll results, see:

For reports and discussions of such polls in Reports of the NCSE, see:

For George Bishop's "Polls Apart on Human Origins," see:


The second segment of "In the Beginning" -- the BBC World Service's two-part program on creationism featuring NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott and Henry M. Morris III of the Institute of Creation Research -- is now available on the BBC's website, where it will remain until April 7. In the second segment, Morris interviews atheist David Seaborg, evangelical pastor John MacArthur of The Master's College and Grace Community Church, atheist Richard Dawkins, and evangelical biologist Margaret Towne, author of Honest to Genesis: A Biblical and Scientific Challenge to Creationism. At the end of the segment, Morris travels to Grand Canyon National Park, where he briefly discusses the history of the canyon with a park interpreter and a Baptist pastor. Finally, Scott and Morris rendevous at the edge of the canyon to share their awe at the canyon's beauty as well as to discuss the diversity of religious reactions to evolution they encountered while conducting their interviews.

For the second segment of "In the Beginning," visit:

To buy Towne's Honest to Genesis (and benefit NCSE!), visit:


NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott and NCSE Supporter Kenneth R. Miller were presented with the Exploratorium's Outstanding Educator's Award on April 4, 2007. The accomplishments for which they were honored were described in a press release:


Brown University Biology Professor, Dr. Kenneth Miller, is an expert in cell membrane structure and function. A prolific writer, Dr. Miller is the author of more than 50 scientific papers and reviews. He also coauthored three different high school and college biology textbooks that are used by millions of students nationwide. Dr. Miller is the author of Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground between God and Evolution and served as a key witness for the plantiffs in the Dover, Pennsylvania intelligent design case. He has received numerous honors including 5 teaching awards and the President's Citation Award for Distinguished Contributions to Biology Sciences.

Dr. Eugenie C. Scott is Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, Inc., a not-for-profit membership organization of scientists, teachers, and others that works to improve the teaching of evolution, and of science as a way of knowing. One of the country's foremost experts on evolution and intelligent design, Dr. Scott has lent her expertise to numerous organizations, foundations, school boards and academies including the ACLU and the National Science Foundation. She has received numerous honors including the Bruce Alberts Award of the American Society for Cell Biology and the Isaac Asimov Science Award from the American Humanist Association. She has held elective offices in the American Anthropological Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


Founded by physicist and educator Frank Oppenheimer in 1969, the Exploratorium has achieved worldwide recognition as the prototype for hands-on science museums around the world; it serves over 500,000 annual museum visitors from around the world.

For the Exploratorium's press release, visit:

For information about the Exploratorium, visit:

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

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

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


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

Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism

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

Evolution education update: April 13, 2007

The Pope's views on evolution are again making headlines. And there's a new page on NCSE's website for multimedia resources.


Pope Benedict XVI's views on evolution are back in the news, following the publication of Schoepfung und Evolution (Sankt Ulrich Verlag, 2007), the proceedings of a seminar on creation and evolution that he conducted at Castel Gandolfo, the pope's summer residence, with his former doctoral students in September 2006. Reuters (April 11, 2007) reports that in his contribution to the book, the Pope "did not endorse creationist or 'intelligent design' views about life's origins," adding, "In the book, Benedict defended what is known as 'theistic evolution,' the view held by Roman Catholic, Orthodox and mainline Protestant churches that God created life through evolution and religion and science need not clash over this."

But Reuters also reported that the Pope regards evolution as unamenable to scientific proof; the Associated Press (April 12, 2007) quoted him as saying, "the theory of evolution is not a complete, scientifically proven theory," in part because of the length of time involved: "We cannot haul 10,000 generations into the laboratory." Asked for comment by Der Spiegel (April 12, 2007), the evolutionary biologist Josef Reichholf replied, "So there would be no history, too, since one can't completely reconstruct it either," and cited archaeology as a historical discipline in which knowledge is attainable despite gaps in the archeological record.

Speculation about a possible shift in the Catholic Church's attitude toward evolution was provoked in 2005 with the publication in The New York Times of Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn's op-ed "Finding Design in Nature." By seeming to express sympathy for "intelligent design" creationism, Schoenborn's op-ed elicited a strong reaction from a host of scientists -- including Francisco Ayala, Lawrence M. Krauss, Kenneth R. Miller, Fiorenzo Facchini, George V. Coyne (then the director of the Vatican Observatory), and Nicola Cabibbo (the head of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences) -- as well as from a number of Catholic theologians such as John F. Haught.

NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott commented, "The Pope giveth and the Pope taketh away." It was gratifying, she explained, that there were no signs of the Pope's embracing creationism in any form, and that he expressed such a high view of science. "But it is disquieting," she added, "that his reported comments manifest a misunderstanding of the scientific status of evolution. No scientific theory is 'complete' and 'scientifically proven', but scientists accept theories when the evidence is strong enough -- and the evidence for evolution is overwhelming."

Similarly, Scott said that the Pope's reported criticism of evolution as not being replicable reflected a common misunderstanding of the nature of science: "Science is not limited just to the laboratory. Biology, like astronomy and geology, is largely a historical science, but it is no less a science for that." (She added, mischievously, that microbiologists like Richard Lenski would be surprised to hear that 10,000 generations can't be hauled into the laboratory.) Scott emphasized that her reaction was based on reports from the press, and that she looked forward to reading the Pope's contribution to Schoepfung und Evolution to understand his view more completely.

For the Reuters story, visit:

For the Associated Press story (via USA Today), visit:

For the story in Der Spiegel (in German), visit:

For NCSE's coverage of Schoenborn's op-ed, visit:

And for Richard Lenski's website at Michigan State University, visit:


Always eager to share the good word, NCSE is pleased to report the opening of a page on our website to house multimedia presentations. Currently posted there are a talk on grassroots organizing that NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott delivered at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2007, a talk (with slides) on teaching evolution that Scott delivered at a regional meeting of the National Science Teachers Association, and the podcasts that Scott, NCSE's Nick Matzke, and Patricia Princehouse recorded while in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial. We plan to add further presentations in the future; if you have any suggestions or comments, please feel free to e-mail us at multimedia@ncseweb.org.

For NCSE's multimedia resources page, visit:

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

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

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


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

Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism

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

Dutchman's Noah's ark opens doors


A half-sized replica of the biblical Noah's Ark has been built by a Dutch man, complete with model animals.

Dutch creationist Johan Huibers built the ark as testament to his literal belief in the Bible.

The ark, in the town of Schagen, is 150 cubits long - half the length of Noah's - and three storeys high. A cubit was about 45cm (18in) long.

The ark opened its doors on Saturday, after almost two years' construction, most of it by Mr Huiber himself.

'Past comprehension'

"The design is by my wife, Bianca," Mr Huibers said. "She didn't really want me to do this at all, but she said if you're going to anyway, it should look like this."

Life-size models of giraffes, elephants, lions, crocodiles, zebras and bison are included in the ark's interior.

The Bible's Book of Genesis says Noah kept seven pairs of most tamed animals and one breeding pair of all other creatures in the boat, which survived a catastrophic flood sent down by God to punish man.

Mr Huibers spent nearly two years building the ark

Mr Huibers, a contractor, built the ark out of cedar and pine - because Biblical scholars are still not sure as to which type of wood was used in the ark's construction.

He began building in May 2005, after he dreamed of the Netherlands being flooded.

"In February 1992, I had a dream that Holland will become flooded. The next day, I found a book about Noah's Ark in the local bookshop, and since then, my dream has been to build the ark," he said.

Visitors were stunned. "It's past comprehension," Mary Louise Starosciak told the Associated Press.

"I knew the story of Noah, but I had no idea the boat would have been so big."

The ark includes a 50-seat theatre showing a segment of the Disney film Fantasia retelling the story of Noah's Ark.

US visitor Lois Poppema told AP she thought the Netherlands was the right place for an ark to be built: "Just a few weeks ago we saw Al Gore on television .. saying that all Holland will be flooded.

"I don't think the man who made this ever expected that global warning will become [such an important] issue - and suddenly having the ark would be meaningful in the middle of Holland."

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Nation's Top Christian Geneticist Defends God and Evolution


By Michelle Vu Christian Post Reporter

Sat, Apr. 28 2007 12:47 PM ET

WASHINGTON – No microscope, Petri dish, or buffer was in sight as one of the nation's leading geneticists, Dr. Francis Collins, stepped out of the laboratory and took off his lab coat to assume the role of a Christian apologist under the vaulted ceiling and intricately carved stone wall decorations of the famed Washington National Cathedral.

Christian 'Origins' Expert Promotes Evolution at Texas Universities

"So you're a believer and you're a geneticist – doesn't your head explode at this point," joked Collins drawing laughter from the crowd after noting that he became a Christian during medical school at the age of 27.

Collins, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institute of Health, gave a lecture Friday evening on "God and the Genome," reconciling the Bible's creation story with evolution and sharing how science should actually bolster a person's faith instead of dismantling it.

"For me – as a scientist who is a believer [and] who doesn't think those things have to be compartmentalized – the exploration of nature and the discovery about good things about the human body becomes not only an exhilaration of personal resort but also becomes a glimpse of God's mind," said Collins.

"In that regard, science can be and should be a form of worship. You meet God in the laboratory and not only in a setting like this."

The geneticist criticized Young Earth creationism – or what he described as the fundamentalist interpretation of creation – which teaches that the Earth and life on Earth were created by a direct action of God relatively recently (about 6,000 years ago). It is held by those Christians who believe that the Hebrew text of Genesis can only mean a literal six (24-Hour) day account of creation.

Another variant of the creationist view, Old Earth creationism, while still generally taking the accounts of creation in Genesis more literally than theistic evolution (or evolutionary creationism), is more widely held by Christians and typically more compatible with mainstream scientific thought on the issues of geology, cosmology and the age of the Earth, in comparison to Young Earth creationism.

Collins described the fundamentalist teaching as a "terrible, terrible dilemma" to put people in – especially young scientists – where they can only choose either their faith or science.

He said he counseled many young scientists raised with the "narrow" interpretation that is in complete conflict with science, which asserts the earth as much older than 6,000 years and that there is an evolution process.

"There is simply no way to come up with an explanation of the earth being two thousand years old without basically throwing out all the basic principles of cosmology, theology, chemistry, physics and biology," commented Collins excitedly.

Collins explained that he believes evolution is part of God's creation process. He pointed out that as he looks at the Bible's creation process, it is the same as science's evolution process in terms of formation chronology.

"Is evolution really the enemy of faith?" questioned Collins. "I don't think so at all! ... Who are we to say that we wouldn't have done it in quite that way?"

The Christian geneticist argues that God gave man the ability to discover Him through science and that Christians should not feel in any way that God needs to be defended against findings of science.

"Is the God who is the author of all creation threatened by our puny minds," questioned Collins. "Is their belief in God not strong enough that He is the author of all of this? That He is hardly threatened by our discovery of this?"

Collins, who recently debated prominent atheist biologist Richard Dawkins in Time magazine, concluded that people should not confuse the different questions that faith and science answers.

"Faith helps answers different questions. 'Why am I here?' Science isn't going to help you with that one," said Collins. "'What is the meaning of life?' No help from science there, either.

"But aren't those some of the most important questions? 'Why' questions? Science is great at 'how' but science is not good at 'why.'"

Francis S. Collins is recognized for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and successfully leading the effort to complete the Human Genome Project (HGP), a complex multidisciplinary scientific enterprise directed at mapping and sequencing all of the human DNA, and determining aspects of its function. He is the author of the book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief and is invited to many settings to defend Christianity in debates about the existence of God and evolution.

Botanicas, religious and superstitious, thrive in NYC


By COLLEEN LONG Associated Press Writer

April 28, 2007, 11:38 AM EDT

NEW YORK -- It's the ultimate in one-stop shopping: a place to pick up advice, or get your aura cleansed, or find the right herbs to flush out both evil spirits and your colon.

The botanica, part shopping center and part cultural center, provides a haven for new immigrants finding their way in the nation's largest city. Long a staple in Hispanic culture, botanicas are flourishing in New York neighborhoods with large immigrant populations _ a small stretch of street in Queens is home to more than 20.

The shops are home to the sacred and the mundane: homeopathic herbs and fragrant soaps, magic potions and religious artifacts. Gloria Rivera has owned the Botanica San Lazarito in Queens for nearly 23 years, and she specializes in cleansing auras and reading tarot cards.

But she also counsels her clients, many of whom are recent Hispanic immigrants, on families, jobs and life in a new country.

Rivera, whose family has worked in and owned botanicas in the U.S. and Caribbean for seven generations, sells more than 800 different types of oils and 475 different perfumes along with books on magic and religion, natural laxatives to cleanse colons and teas to soothe sore throats.

"I offer support," she said in Spanish. "Sometimes they need a lift, because many are very limited, and feel very helpless and frustrated."

The topics may be heavy, but the mood is jovial inside her store. Customers come in to chat about problems with their children, or difficulties at work, and Rivera stands behind the counter listening, offering advice and doling out bath oils and candles to help improve the situation.

"It is just to clean the air, to get rid of bad energy and bad luck, and to get rid of bad dreams," Rivera said. "People have a lot of negativity in their dreams, (they dream of) many witches, many negative things."

If it seems like a hoax, Rivera says, it's because you don't understand _ or it's not part of your culture.

"You have to have a certain faith, you must believe in it for these things to have any effect," she said.

Rosita Romero, who runs the Dominican Women's Development Center, is a strong believer of natural medicine, and a regular at botanicas near her Washington Heights home.

"There's a psychosomatic component," she concedes. "Sometimes people are sad, they feel stressed out, and doing a cleansing or burning incense to bring good spirits to the room helps them to feel better."

She said the shops are looked at as a complement to mainstream medicine.

"People are once again looking to aromatherapy and other natural therapies to heal, but in the Latino culture, we never left it," she said.

In New York, botanicas for the most part are run by Puerto Ricans, then Dominicans, Cubans and Colombians. Each group has its own specialties, ranging from Voodoo to Santeria to Spiritualism. Their customers are Latin American and Caribbean immigrants as well as lifelong New Yorkers and, in some cases, residents of other cities who order by phone.

Anahi Viladrich, a medical anthropologist who runs the Immigration and Health Initiative at Hunter College, has studied botanicas and said there are at least 350 such shops in the five boroughs. There's likely more, but many try not to publicize for fear of backlash.

"They don't want to be labeled witchcraft," she said.

As neighborhoods gentrify, botanicas close, and as immigrant communities shift around the city, more crop up. In Jackson Heights, Queens, for example, there are more than 20 on one street alone.

For some immigrants, botanicas are the main source for medical and mental health care, because they don't speak English, lack health insurance or are wary of Western medicine and the more sterile patient-doctor relationships.

"They miss their traditional methods of curing," Viladrich said. "And at a botanica, they can buy products that are familiar to them, that come from their countries; and they can talk to people who understand what they are going through."

There have been some problems with the shops selling imported items containing dangerous ingredients, like mercury or lead, and the city keeps vigilant watch, health department officials said.

"We're a big city with lots of different ethnic populations, and we have problems we're concerned about from all over the world," said Nancy Clark, the city's assistant commissioner for environmental disease prevention.

For the most part, the shops are considered harmless. And, as Rivera is quick to note, alternative medicine is becoming more mainstream. More than a third of American adults have tried alternative medical therapies, including prayer, folk medicine and natural products, according to a 2002 survey of 31,000 people by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Alternative medicine was once dispelled by the established medical community, which cites lack of scientific proof the treatments work. The Food and Drug Administration cautions that "natural" doesn't necessarily mean safe. Natural treatments may be risky because they don't undergo the rigorous testing _ and regulatory scrutiny _ to ensure effectiveness and safety as is required for conventional medicines.

And there's no scientific or clinical studies to determine, for example, a safe dosage, side effects or whether natural remedies would interfere or be dangerous if taken with over-the-counter medications, certain foods or prescriptions.

"They are on one hand community networks, good informal counseling systems, and they satisfy the needs of many people looking for familiarity and comfort. But are they substitutions for efficient and scientifically grounded mental and physical care? The answer is no," Viladrich said.

Rivera readily admits she's no doctor, and she's doesn't attempt to diagnose disease, prescribe medicine or even suggest her products are tried-and-true cures.

"The botanicas, more than anything, are for good luck, for everything natural," she said.

The God disunion: there is a place for faith in science, insists Winston


· IVF pioneer attacks 'patronising' evolutionist
· Claim that insulting tone damages public trust

James Randerson, science correspondent
Wednesday April 25, 2007
The Guardian

Lord Winston has condemned Professor Dawkins for his attitude to religious faith. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod

His nickname is Darwin's Rottweiler and he earned it - and a reputation that spans the globe - with his pugnacious defence of the theory of evolution.

But Professor Richard Dawkins' strident views, and the way with which they are delivered, came under surprise attack yesterday from an equally eminent scientist, though one better known for his more avuncular style.

Lord Winston condemned Prof Dawkins for what he called his "patronising" and "insulting" attitude to religious faith, and argued that he and others like him were in danger of damaging the public's trust in science. He particularly objected to Prof Dawkins' latest book, The God Delusion, which is an outright attack on religion.

"I find the title of 'The God Delusion' rather insulting," said Lord Winston, "I have a huge respect for Richard Dawkins but I think it is very patronising to call a serious book about other peoples' views of the universe and everything a delusion. I don't think that is helpful and I think it portrays science in a bad light."

Lord Winston, an IVF pioneer well known as the presenter of science documentaries such as The Human Body, Superhuman and Human Instinct, will argue for a more conciliatory approach to religion in a public lecture at the University of Dundee tonight. Entitled The Science Delusion, it is part of the university's Greatest Minds lecture series.

"The reason I've called it the Science Delusion is because I think there is a body of scientific opinion from my scientific colleagues who seem to believe that science is the absolute truth and that religious and spiritual values are to be discounted," said Lord Winston. "Some people, both scientists and religious people, deal with uncertainty by being certain. That is dangerous in the fundamentalists and it is dangerous in the fundamentalist scientists."

Lord Winston, who is a practising Jew, said the tone adopted by Prof Dawkins and others was counterproductive. "Unfortunately the neo-Darwinists, and I don't just mean Dawkins, I mean [the philosopher] Daniel Dennett in particular and [neuroscientist] Steven Pinker are extremely arrogant. I think scientific arrogance really does give a great degree of distrust. I think people begin to think that scientists like to believe that they can run the universe.

He added: "I have a huge admiration for Richard Dawkins. But I'm not sure that his way of approaching his view of the universe is wise. Dawkins is not an arrogant man, but I think he does portray certainty in a way that sometimes sounds arrogant".

Prof Dawkins declined to comment on Lord Winston's criticisms until he had seen the full text of the lecture.

However, Prof Dennett at Tufts University in the US, said, the dangers of religion had been "swept under the rug" for centuries and needed to be exposed. "[I] think it is time to risk offence and not mince words. Let's find out just how good, or bad, religion actually is," he said.

The philosopher AC Grayling at Birkbeck College, London, dismissed Lord Winston's arguments as "tiresome guff". "Belief in supernatural entities in the universe ... is false, and in the light of increasing scientific knowledge about nature has definitely come to be delusional," he said.

Religious divide:

Richard Dawkins

The Oxford evolutionary biologist asserts that belief in God is irrational and profoundly harmful to society. In The God Delusion, the bestseller published last year, he concluded that religion is a useless, and sometimes dangerous, evolutionary accident. "I am hostile to fundamentalist religion because it actively debauches scientific enterprise. It teaches us not to change our minds, and not to want to know exciting things that are available to be known."

Sam Harris

Author of the anti-theistic bestsellers The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. He wrote last year: "Most scientists are keeping silent when they should be blasting the hideous fantasies of a prior age with all the facts at their disposal."

Steven Weinberg

The physicist, Nobel laureate and prominent public spokesman for science has warned that "the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief". Last year he argued: "Anything scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilisation."

Daniel Dennett

The philosopher last year published Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, which has helped to push the discussion into the public arena. Dennett believes that within 25 years religion will command little of the awe it seems to command presently but insists that he wants to engage religious readers in a rational discussion, not turn them away.

Edward O Wilson

An evolutionary biologist who last year made US headlines following the publication of his book, The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth. In it he implores America's religious right to join with science to save the planet.

Linda MacDonald

Rumors of cell phone deaths greatly exaggerated


Tales of a virus that kills with one call became the talk of Pakistan, the Tribune's Kim Barker writes

By Kim Barker
the Tribune's South Asia correspondent

Published April 26, 2007

KARACHI, Pakistan -- The rumor spread quickly, from the small town of Sialkot to the nation, from cell phone to cell phone, friend to friend. The text messages warned of a virus if people answered phone calls from certain numbers.

The virus would not hurt the phone. Instead, in a scene out of a horror movie, it would kill the recipient. Immediately.

"Plz ignore calls frm 0A9-888888 or with screen with dancing snake & changing colours its a deadly virus and in some regions of Pakistan death are being reported," began one message.

Another said: "it's a virus to kill a person. Plz it's not a joke it's damn serious virous."

In mid-April, these messages swamped Pakistani cell phone users, causing many to turn off their phones -- better safe than sorry -- and many others to grow frustrated that anyone could possibly believe the prank. Newspapers, television stations and cell phone companies were flooded with questions from worried consumers.

For Pakistanis who treat cell phones as a necessary appendage, this was serious. People talk on cell phones while watching a movie in the theater, while walking on a treadmill at the gym. Literate, illiterate, urban, rural, such distinctions did not matter. Even the skeptical seemed to know someone who knew someone who died from answering a cell phone or who had read about someone who died.

Shaukat Ali talked to a friend who saw it in the newspaper -- that a man dropped dead just after answering his mobile phone. "When he got the call, he died like he was poisoned," said Ali, 45. "There was blood and foam coming out of his mouth."

Other Pakistanis said they did not believe the rumor because it was not technically possible. And some discounted the rumor out of bravado or fatalism.

"I'm standing here where suicide bombers could hit," said Fareed ul-Haq, 22, a security guard outside the Sheraton Hotel in Karachi. "If I'm not afraid of them, why would I be scared of a cell phone message?"

But the panic forced the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to issue a denial. Phone companies sent out text messages urging people to be calm.

Still, the rumor continued to grow, evidence of the power that word of mouth has in Pakistan and all of South Asia, of the tendency of some people to suspend logic and believe in a kind of magic, in spirits and dreams and the unknowable.

This is not the first rumor to sweep the country or the region. A countrywide power outage last fall sparked widespread rumors of a coup against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. After the deadly earthquake in Pakistan in fall 2005, people were convinced that rumors predicting other earthquakes were true, no matter the logic used to try to dissuade them.

An earlier rumor insisted that 2-rupee coins featuring three clouds, worth about 3 1/2 cents, were actually made of gold. Some entrepreneurs sold these coins for up to $1.70. Another rumor said that a man was injecting a deadly virus into provocatively dressed women in malls.

Pakistan is hardly alone. Last year, the cell phone threat hit India, which earlier struggled through the hysteria of the dreaded Monkey Man, a half-human, half-monkey who terrified cities and villages, allegedly marauding and killing people wherever he went. More seriously, in all of South Asia, health workers routinely have problems persuading people to vaccinate their children against polio.

And no wonder people in Pakistan were confused about the cell phone rumor. The News, a respected newspaper here, ran a story on the front of its city section discounting the rumor. But another story in the section, written by the vague "Our Staff Reporter," said two people were seriously hurt when they answered the bad phone numbers. One fell unconscious, the other started bleeding from the ears, and doctors had no medicine to treat this kind of virus. The story then concluded: "However, we will provide medicines to these patients on [an] emergency basis, the doctors said."

Another newspaper rejected the rumor but featured the headline of "Killer Mobile Virus."

A few days later, political cartoons began mocking the phone virus. Another text message warned people not to attend work meetings because that would bring on a virus instantly causing them to work. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority bought quarter-page newspaper advertisements titled "Beware of rumors" that clarified: "There is nothing true about the rumors saying that a call from various numbers can damage the human body. There is no such virus found in mobile phones anywhere in the country."

And a new rumor gained credence -- that the death threat had been cooked up by the mobile phone companies, which wanted people to spend money by sending out text messages. A weary Mubashir Naqvi, the chief executive officer at Ufone, one of the largest cell phone companies in Pakistan, said this conspiracy was also false.

"In our part of the world, people like gossiping," Naqvi said.


Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune

Best popular science books named


Six authors have been shortlisted for the prestigious Royal Society Prize for Science Books.

The chosen six include four practising scientists and two science writers - all are newcomers to the shortlist.

Issues covered by the books include climate science, psychology, human evolution, biodiversity and medicine.

The winner will be announced on 15 May this year and awarded £10,000; the author of each shortlisted book will receive £1,000.

Professor Colin Pillinger, from the Open University in Milton Keynes, who chairs the judging panel, said: "This year's shortlist reflects the great range of styles that science books can encompass."

He added: "We believe that they are the best six science books of the last year."

General appeal

Now in its 19th year, the award was known as the Rhone-Poulenc prize from 1990 to 1999. Until this year, it went by the name of the Aventis Prize.

There are two categories: The junior prize, which is given to the best book written for under-14s, and the general prize, for the best book written for a more general readership.

The general prize is often referred to as the "Booker prize for science writing", although the science prize winner often outsells its better-known counterpart.

Aventis no longer sponsors the award; it now bears the name of the Royal Society.

Last year's winner of the general prize was Electric Universe - How Electricity Switched on the Modern World, by David Bodanis. Other past winners have included Bill Bryson, Stephen Hawking and Chris McManus.

The judges are Colin Pillinger; Trevor Baylis, inventor of the wind-up radio; Louisa Bolch, commissioning editor for science on Channel 4; Emily Holmes, Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow at the University of Oxford; and Christine McGourty, science correspondent for BBC News.

The full shortlist for the 2007 Royal Society Prize for Science Books:

Homo britannicus, by Chris Stringer (Penguin Allen Lane)

Homo britannicus tells the epic story of the human colonisation of Britain, from our very first footsteps to the present day. Drawing on all the latest evidence and techniques of investigation, Chris Stringer describes times when Britain was so tropical that humans lived alongside hippos and sabre tooth tigers; and times so cold they shared the land with reindeer and mammoth; and times colder still when humans were forced to flee altogether.

In Search of Memory, by Eric R Kandel (WW Norton & Co)

Nobel laureate Eric R Kandel charts the intellectual history of the emerging biology of the mind, and sheds light on how behavioural psychology, cognitive psychology, neuroscience and molecular biology have converged into a powerful new science. These efforts, he says, provide insights into normal mental functioning and disease, and simultaneously open pathways to more effective treatments.

Lonesome George, by Henry Nicholls (Macmillan)

Lonesome George is a 1.5m-long, 90kg tortoise aged between 60 and 200, and it is thought he is the sole survivor of his sub-species. Scientific ingenuity may conjure up a way of reproducing him, and resurrecting his species. Henry Nicholls details the efforts of conservationists to preserve the Galapagos' unique biodiversity and illustrates how their experiences and discoveries are echoed worldwide. He explores the controversies raging over which mates are most appropriate for George and the risks of releasing crossbreed offspring into the wild.

One in Three, by Adam Wishart (Profile Books)

When his father was diagnosed with cancer, Adam Wishart couldn't find any book that answered his questions: what was the disease, how did it take hold and what did it mean? What is it about cancer's biology that means it has not been eradicated? How close are we, really, to a cure? There was no such book. So he wrote it. One in Three interweaves two powerful stories: that of Adam and his father; and of the 200-year search for a cure.

Stumbling on Happiness, by Daniel Gilbert (Harper Press)

Psychologist Daniel Gilbert reveals how and why the majority of us have no idea how to make ourselves happy. The drive for happiness is one of the most instinctive and fundamental human impulses. In this revealing and witty investigation, psychologist Daniel Gilbert uses scientific research, philosophy and real-life case studies to illustrate how our basic drive to satisfy our desires can not only be misguided, but also intrinsically linked to some long-standing and contentious questions about human nature.

The Rough Guide to Climate Change, by Robert Henson (Rough Guides)

Robert Henson has written this guide to a pressing issue facing the world. The guide looks at visible symptoms of change on a warming planet, how climate change works, the evolution of our atmosphere over the last 4.5 billion years and what computer simulations of climate reveal about our past, present, and future. It looks at the sceptics' grounds for disagreement, global warming in the media and what governments and scientists are doing to try to solve the problem.

Volcanoes blamed for prehistoric global warming


Scientists say eruptions set off a chain reaction, causing a massive release of carbon that super-heated Earth.

By Alan Zarembo, Times Staff Writer

April 27, 2007

Scientists believe they have solved the mystery of what caused the most rapid global warming in known geologic history, a cataclysmic temperature spike 55 million years ago driven by concentrations of greenhouse gases hundreds of times greater than today.

The culprit, the researchers reported Thursday in the journal Science, was a series of volcanic eruptions that set off a chain reaction releasing massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

The eruptions occurred on the rift between two continental plates as Greenland and Europe separated.

In 10,000 years — a blip in Earth's history — the polar seas turned into tropical baths, deep-sea microorganisms went extinct, and mammals migrated poleward as their habitats warmed.

It took about 200,000 years for the atmospheric carbon to transfer to the deep ocean, allowing the planet to cool.

The event, known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, was discovered in the early 1990s. Since then, scientists have studied it to better predict how Earth will respond to the current buildup of greenhouse gases.

The ancient warming was sparked by the release of 1,500 to 4,000 gigatons of carbon over several thousand years, scientists estimate. By comparison, emissions from human activities are about 7 gigatons a year — a much faster rate.

During the thermal maximum, "carbon was released over thousands of years," said James Zachos, an earth sciences professor at UC Santa Cruz, who was not involved in the study. "We're going to do it in a few centuries."

Topic of dispute

The cause of the ancient warming has been a source of scientific debate.

In the latest study, researchers from the United States and Denmark analyzed volcanic ash found on basalt cliffs in Greenland and buried under the floor of the North Atlantic Ocean. The samples showed that the timing of the eruptions corresponded to the ancient warming.

Scientists knew that volcanic eruptions alone would not provide enough greenhouse gases to account for the warming — a jump of more than 9 degrees Fahrenheit.

Previous research has suggested two possible sources of carbon: ocean floor sediments containing chemicals known as methyl hydrates, and land sediments rich in organic material.

The new study suggests that the eruptions triggered a chain reaction involving the land sediments.

Hot lava flows "cooked" organic material as the continents divided, releasing greenhouse gases, said coauthor Robert Duncan, a professor at Oregon State University's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.

He described the organic material as the "turbocharger" that accelerated the warming.

Unsolved mystery?

Some scientists say the mystery is not quite solved.

James Kennett, an oceanographer at UC Santa Barbara who helped discover the thermal maximum, said he was not convinced that the localized volcanic eruptions were enough to set off a global warming.

Jerry Dickens, an oceanographer at Rice University in Houston, said there wasn't enough evidence showing that a volcano-prompted chain reaction would provide enough carbon emissions to account for such a sharp warming. He favors explanations that involve sediments on the ocean floor.

But other researchers say that the timing of the eruptions is difficult to dismiss as coincidence.

"This looks like the perfect fit," Zachos said.


Evolution education update: April 27, 2007

Project Steve breaks the 800 barrier. Plus: a belated addendum to last week's discussion of the global expansion of creationism, and a problem with a few copies of the latest issue of Reports of the NCSE.


With the addition of Steve Russell on April 24, 2007, NCSE's Project Steve attained its 800th signatory. A tongue-in-cheek parody of a long-standing creationist tradition of amassing lists of "scientists who doubt evolution" or "scientists who dissent from Darwinism," Project Steve mocks such lists by restricting its signatories to scientists whose first name is Steve (or a cognate, such as Stephanie, Esteban, Istvan, Stefano, or even Tapani -- the Finnish equivalent). About 1% of the United States population possesses such a first name, so each signatory represents about 100 potential signatories. ("Steve" was selected in honor of the late Stephen Jay Gould, a Supporter of NCSE and a dauntless defender of evolution education.)

Although the idea of Project Steve is frivolous, the statement is serious. It reads, "Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to 'intelligent design,' to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools."

Highlights from the history of Project Steve include the original press release, Glenn Branch and Skip Evans's description of the project for Geotimes, the announcement that Steven W. Hawking was Steve #300, the announcement (on St. Stephen's Day!) of Steve #400, the publication of a front-page story on Project Steve in a leading Canadian newspaper, the announcement of Steve #600, and the announcement of Steve #700. And, of course, Project Steve proved to be scientifically fruitful in its own right. "The Morphology of Steve," by Eugenie C. Scott, Glenn Branch, Nick Matzke, and several hundred Steves, appeared in the prestigious Annals of Improbable Research; the paper provided "the first scientific analysis of the sex, geographic location, and body size of scientists named Steve."

For information about Project Steve, visit:

For the various highlights, visit:

And for "The Morphology of Steve" (PDF), visit:


In the April 20, 2007, update's description of The Economist's article on creationism's global expansion, a somewhat misleading passage from the article was quoted. The Economist referred to attempts of "school boards in other parts of America to mandate curbs on the teaching of evolution." Such attempts are rare, although informal pressures to curtail the teaching of evolution are unfortunately common, as the National Science Teachers Association noted in 2005. In the recent past, most formal antievolution policies, proposed or implemented, have instead either required or allowed a form of creationism to be taught alongside evolution or attempted to instill scientifically unwarranted doubts about evolution by, for example, describing it as "just a theory." In the Kitzmiller disclaimer, both strategies were visible.

For the story in The Economist, visit:

For the NSTA's press release about its survey, visit:

For NCSE's previous story, supplemented with the foregoing addendum, visit:


A few copies of Reports of the NCSE, volume 26, number 4 -- with the mudskipper on the cover -- were miscollated by the printer. Please check your copy to make sure that all 48 pages appear in order and with no repetitions. If you have a faulty copy, please let NCSE know, ideally by e-mailing oops@ncseweb.org with your name and address, and we will send you a replacement copy staightaway. And if you don't subscribe to Reports -- what are you waiting for?

For subscriptions to Reports of the NCSE, visit:

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

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

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


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

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

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism

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


Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

Hear Dr. Don R. Patton Present Revisiting The Dead Sea Scrolls

Dr. Patton is the staff Geologist for the Qumran Plateau excavation in Israel, the site that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls some 2,000 years ago. These scrolls, perhaps the most significant archeological discovery of all time, have changed the way we view the Bible.

Many have been led to believe that the original text of the Bible has deteriorated over years of copying and recopying. The Dead Sea Scrolls provide a test of that hypothesis, allowing us to compare modern versions with recently discovered manuscripts written over 2,000 years ago.

Dr. Patton will take you to the scene of the original caves where the scrolls were discovered with one of the Bedouins who made the discovery. This is a fascinating story with eternal implications.

New Location

Dr. Pepper Starcenter
12700 N. Stemmons Fwy
Farmers Branch, TX

Tuesday, May 1st, 7:30 PM

Friday, April 27, 2007

Who knew? An old law shuts psychics


Alerted to a forgotten state ban, Phila. authorities have closed at least 16 storefront fortune-tellers. One alleged discrimination.

By David O'Reilly and Michael Vitez Inquirer Staff Writers

Philadelphia's fortune-tellers didn't see it coming. Suddenly they're facing a very unhappy future. Alerted to an obscure state law banning fortune-telling "for gain or lucre," the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections is closing storefront psychics, astrologers, phrenologists and tarot-card readers who charge money for their services.

Inspectors had closed 16 shops since Tuesday, Deputy L&I Commissioner Dominic E. Verdi said yesterday. "We were not aware it was a crime," he said, "but the Police Department came to us a few days ago and showed us where the crime code prohibits psychic readings. "We looked into it, and it's clearly illegal. I was surprised."

Fortune-telling for profit is a third-degree misdemeanor. The law has been on the books for more than 30 years.

Verdi said that he did not know how many shops operated in the city, but that he expected inspectors to close more in the days ahead. Inspectors are not imposing fines, and police are not making arrests, Verdi said, "but they will if these people try to return to work."

Most so-called psychics, he said, "are not little old ladies with kerchiefs on their heads" but clever con artists capable of stealing large sums - even life savings - from grieving or otherwise vulnerable people.

The owner of Psychic, a fortune-telling shop at 2041 Walnut St., sat on his steps yesterday and complained bitterly about the police action. He would not give his name or his lawyer's name. "First of all," he said, "they've got to stop the 129 murders in this city. What we do is entertainment." He also said the police Major Crimes Unit had shut him down even though he had bought a business license from the city and paid taxes.

"Shouldn't they be cracking down on rapes and murders, not palm readers?" he asked.

He also demanded to know whether tea-leaf readers in Chinatown were also being shut down. He doubted it. "They're discriminating against Gypsies," he said, although he said he was born and raised in Philadelphia.

Finally, he noted that critics "considered that Jesus was a psychic, a fortune-teller, and they crucified him."

He saw a certain parallel.

"Look what they want to do with the fortune-tellers," the man said. "We might be coming to the end of the world."

In the city, perhaps, but apparently not in the suburbs, where fortune-telling seemed to continue unaffected this week.

A man who answered the phone at 6 p.m. at Psychic Readings by Lori, in Narberth, was happy to schedule an appointment but wouldn't grant an interview.

He said he hadn't been affected by any crackdown, and had no opinion on what was happening in the city. He had to go. He was busy!

Contact staff writer Michael Vitez at 215-854-5639 or mvitez@phillynews.com.

Midnight in the Garden of Eden: Two Birds with One Stone


Author answers 'biggie' questions of life and religion.

Longwood, FL (PRWEB) April 26, 2007 -- For the first time ever, science has the answer to the age-old dispute between creationism and evolution. Denis Towers, author of Two Birds ... One Stone!! 1. Biblical Adam and Eve: Proven True; 2. Organic Evolution of the Species: Proven False; A Scientific Study ... Scientific Proof (paperback, 978-1-60034-899-0), answers the big questions of life that have eluded men and women for centuries, relying heavily on both Scripture and science to reconcile the two to one another.

Originally conceived nine years ago to answer the growing call for help from spiritually struggling youth and adults, the work quickly developed into something much more encompassing -- one capable of answering all the truly big questions of life. Education today denies what the bulk of Americans and other Westerners want, says Towers. The percentage of the public who hope to have religion taught in their schools is around 90 percent in English-speaking countries. Towers is moving for a push in this direction with Two Birds ... One Stone!!

"The book is designed especially for Christian parents and students to be able to disprove for themselves the so-called 'evidences for evolution' that are pitched at them in order to shake their faith," says Towers. "This work hits evolution broadside."

Married with seven children, author Denis Towers served two church missions and has served in different church positions since the age of 17. He is the inventor of a new concept in flight, foil art, three new sports, three board games, a composer of sacred and secular music and has retired unbeaten in two chosen sports fields. In 2004, he ran for federal parliament.

Xulon Press is the world's largest Christian publisher, with more than 2,700 titles published to date. Retailers may order Two Birds…One Stone!! through Ingram Book Company and/or Spring Arbor Book Distributors.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE -- Finding magnets attractive


By DERRIK J. LANG - The Associated Press

You may have seen these alternative pain-relieving products online, or heard your grandmother raving about such remedies. But do they work?

QUESTION: Can magnets cure ailments?


ANSWER: Research findings so far do not firmly support claims that magnets are effective for killing pain, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

However, that doesn't mean they're totally without use in medicine.

Magnets have been used in surgery to remotely direct instruments. And Robert Campbell, a pharmaceutical sciences professor at Northeastern University's Bouve College of Health Sciences in Boston, recently developed a way to deliver drugs to better attack malignant tumors using external magnets.

In the laboratory, Campbell found that using an external magnet helps chemotherapeutic drugs get to the tumor and stay there longer.

"The magnets that we're using are small, not bigger than a dime," he says.

Really? So does this mean you can grab one off your fridge and use it when you've got a boo boo?

Nope. The magnets Campbell has been using in his cancer research are about 100 times stronger than the household variety - or those found in magnetic kneepads, insoles, hairbrushes and bed sheets.


Derrik J. Lang is an asap reporter in New York and blogger for The Slug (http://asapblogs.typepad.com/theslug/).

Reiki's Healing Touch


By Danielle Sonnenberg

TheStreet.com Staff Reporter

4/26/2007 8:54 AM EDT

URL: http://www.thestreet.com/funds/goodlife/10352467.html

Who says that hands alone can't heal?

Undergo reiki, and you may see the possibilities of touch, from offering deep relaxation to restoring your energy.

Reiki originated in Japan, but there is not one definitive story of how this alternative medicine was developed.

Most believe Mikao Usui, a Japanese physician and monk, started the practice in the mid-19th century after a period of isolated meditation.

The word reiki derives from rei, meaning universal life or spirit, and ki, or energy. Also known as qi or chi, this energy is believed to exist in all living beings, and has been addressed for centuries through traditional Chinese medicine and practices like acupuncture. Allegedly, qi's flow can be interrupted by negative thoughts and feelings; the blockage can then manifest itself in physical health problems.

But by placing their hands on or near a patient's body, reiki practitioners can manipulate this energy. Many positive effects -- including reducing stress and chronic pain, improving mental clarity and lowering one's heart rate -- are often reported.

Reiki can be practiced anywhere -- hospitals, alternative medicine clinics, spas or private homes. The sessions usually range from about 30 to 90 minutes. While the process itself is spiritual, it is important to remember that reiki is not a religious practice. It is also noninvasive, and very safe.

Usually the patient is fully clothed, and can either lie down or sit in a chair, whichever is most comfortable.

The hands are the sole instruments of this medicine, and they can be used on many parts of the body including the head, chest, abdomen or back for a few minutes at a time. If a patient is suffering from headaches or a cold, for instance, the practitioner may place his or her hands near the back of the head.

Most reiki does not involve actual touching, though. The hands are held at a distance, usually a few inches or more, from which the practitioner proceeds to manipulate the patient's energy. One of the most important aspects of the practice is the intent and a mindset of both people.

After the session, most patients feel very refreshed and some experience a warmth or tingling sensation.

Traditional symbols (Sanskrit-derived Japanese characters) can also be used during reiki sessions to increase the flow of qi and bring the patient to a higher level of awareness. Advanced practitioners can also meditate on them, through drawing, visualizing or saying them out loud.

Choku rei, for instance, is the power symbol, which is used to increase energy significantly. Sei he ki can be used for emotional and mental healing. With this symbol, practitioners can help alleviate depression and anxiety, as it may enable patients to connect with their subconscious mind and heal from past trauma.

Evaluating the Practice

Reiki is also referred to as a complementary and alternative medicine. Few of its results have been scientifically proven, so it should be used together with, rather than in place of, conventional medicine.

There has been some evidence, however, noting its benefits. According to a study by the Cross Cancer Institute, 20 cancer patients who experienced reiki had a significant reduction in pain.

A separate study published in the Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine Journal tested reiki on 120 chronically ill patients suffering from pain, depression and anxiety; their physical ailments included headaches, arthritis, ulcers, asthma and hypertension. The patients experienced 10 30-minute treatments, two times a week, over a period five weeks. The trial concluded that reiki did have some lasting beneficial effects on pain and mental state.

The Next Level

If you want to learn the practice yourself, there are several training sessions, such as those from Reiki New York. For $165, students learn about reiki's history and proper hand positioning, and receive a certification to become a reiki practitioner.

Although the practitioner's relationship with clients is essential in reiki, it's also important to stay connected with the experts. By joining the Reiki Council, it's possible to find a reiki community where you can speak to and learn from other practitioners.

The International Center for Reiki Training, a nonprofit organization, is another rich source for all types of reiki practice.

The next time you're feeling under the weather, consider reiki. You might be surprised at the benefits of this gentle technique.

Here Come the Vitamin Police Again


The FDA Wants to Regulate Nutrition like Drugs

By Ranger

Published April 26, 2007

The FDA is once again trying to destroy the 1994 DSHEA law that has made supplements "legal". This all comes to a head in five days - April 30th, 2007. The lawmakers have been very clever slipping this under the cracks. Only "doctors" would be able to "prescribe" most supplements deeded C.A.M. (Complimentary and Alternative Medicine). We're talking multivitamins, herbal supplements, homeopathic modalities...even massage oils. No joke.

Don't Believe Me? Take A Look... This was lifted right from the FDA's published PDF document on Docket No. 2006D-0480. You can read the entire PDF for yourself at http://www.fda.gov/OHRMS/DOCKETS/98fr/06d-0480-gld0001.pdf.

Here are some highlights (and translations) of the FDA's proposed legislation. This includes the substances that will be legislated by the FDA under the proposed guidelines.

"...a product used in a CAM therapy or practice may be subject to regulation as a biological product, cosmetic, drug, device, or food (including food additives and dietary supplements) under the act or the PHS Act. Second, neither the act nor the PHS Act exempts CAM products from regulation."

Translation: Anything used in any system of medicine may now be regulated as a drug or medical device by the FDA. This includes a biofeedback machine, acupuncture needles, a cup of herbal tea, massage oil, a glass of vegetable juice or even a bottle of water.

"...if a person decides to produce and sell raw vegetable juice for use in juice therapy to promote optimal health...

Translation: Raw vegetable juice will be regulated as a drug and must be FDA approved as a drug if it has any health effect whatsoever. Handing a cup of raw vegetable juice to someone and telling them it's good for the detoxification of their liver will get you arrested for practicing medicine without a license and promoting an "unapproved drug."

..."biologically based practices" includes, but is not limited to, botanicals, animal-derived extracts, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids, proteins, prebiotics and probiotics: whole diets, and "functional foods". ...a botanical product intended for use in treating a disease would generally be regulated as a drug." ..."functional foods" may be subject to FDA regulation as foods, dietary supplements, or drugs under the Act.

Translation: All foods, supplements, superfoods and functional foods may be reclassified as drugs by the FDA, then regulated off the market.

"If... the manipulative and body-based practices involve the use of equipment (such as massage devices) or the application of a product (such as a lotion, cream, or oil) to the skin or other parts of the body, those products may be subject to regulation under the Act."

Translation: Massage oils and creams will be regulated as "drugs" and acupuncture needles as "medical devices." Taking this absurdity one step further, massage therapists who use their fingers to touch patients may have their fingers regulated as "medical devices" and be accused of practicing medicine for merely touching patients.

In a similar manner, The United Nations Codex Alimentarius Commission, is trying to remove the regulation of such herbs and vitamins from United States sovereignty, and give such authority to a World Court.

In the beginning


Apr 19th 2007

From The Economist print edition

The debate over creation and evolution, once most conspicuous in America, is fast going global

THE "Atlas of Creation" runs to 770 pages and is lavishly illustrated with photographs of fossils and living animals, interlaced with quotations from the Koran. Its author claims to prove not only the falsehood of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, but the links between "Darwinism" and such diverse evils as communism, fascism and terrorism. In recent weeks the "Atlas de la Création" has been arriving unsolicited and free of charge at schools and universities across French-speaking Europe. It is the latest sign of a revolt against the theories of Darwin, on which virtually the whole of modern biology is based, that is gathering momentum in many parts of the world.

The mass distribution of a French version of the "Atlas" (already published in English and Turkish) typifies the style of an Istanbul publishing house whose sole business is the dissemination, in many languages, of scores of works by a single author, a charismatic but controversial Turkish preacher who writes as Harun Yahya but is really called Adnan Oktar. According to a Turkish scientist who now lives in America, the movement founded by Mr Oktar is "powerful, global and very well financed". Translations of Mr Oktar's work into tongues like Arabic, Urdu and Bahasa Indonesia have ensured a large following in Muslim countries.

In his native Turkey there are many people, including devout Muslims, who feel uncomfortable about the 51-year-old Mr Oktar's strong appeal to young women and his political sympathies for the nationalist right. But across the Muslim world he seems to be riding high. Many of the most popular Islamic websites refer readers to his vast canon.

In the more prosperous parts of the historically Christian world, Mr Oktar's flamboyant style would be unappealing, even to religious believers. Among mainstream Catholics and liberal Protestants, clerical pronouncements on creation and evolution are often couched in careful—and for many people, almost impenetrable—theological language. For example, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the world's 80m Anglicans, has dismissed literal readings of the Creation story in Genesis as a "category mistake". But no such highbrow reticence holds back the more zealous Christian movements in the developing world, where the strongest religious medicine seems to go down best.

In Kenya, for example, there is a bitter controversy over plans to put on display the most complete skeleton of a prehistoric human being ever found, a figure known as Turkana Boy—along with a collection of fossils, some of which may be as much as 200m years old. Bishop Boniface Adoyo, an evangelical leader who claims to speak for 35 denominations and 10m believers, has denounced the proposed exhibit, asserting that: "I did not evolve from Turkana Boy or anything like it."

Richard Leakey, the palaeontologist who unearthed both the skeleton and the fossils in northern Kenya, is adamant that the show must go on. "Whether the bishop likes it or not, Turkana Boy is a distant relation of his," Mr Leakey has insisted. Local Catholics have backed him.

Rows over religion and reason are also raging in Russia. In recent weeks the Russian Orthodox Church has backed a family in St Petersburg who (unsuccessfully) sued the education authorities for teaching only about evolution to explain the origins of life. Plunging into deep scientific waters, a spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, Father Vsevolod Chaplin, said Darwin's theory of evolution was "based on pretty strained argumentation"—and that physical evidence cited in its support "can never prove that one biological species can evolve into another."

A much more nuanced critique, not of Darwin himself but of secular world-views based on Darwin's ideas, has been advanced by Pope Benedict XVI, the conservative Bavarian who assumed the most powerful office in the Christian world two years ago. The pope marked his 80th birthday this week by publishing a book on Jesus Christ. But for Vatican-watchers, an equally important event was the issue in German, a few days earlier, of a book in which the pontiff and several key advisers expound their views on the emergence of the universe and life. While avoiding the cruder arguments that have been used to challenge Darwin's theories, the pope asserts that evolution cannot be conclusively proved; and that the manner in which life developed was indicative of a "divine reason" which could not be discerned by scientific methods alone.

Both in his previous role as the chief enforcer of Catholic doctrine and since his enthronement, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has made clear his profound belief that man has a unique, God-given role in the animal kingdom; and that a divine creator has an ongoing role in sustaining the universe, something far more than just "lighting the blue touch paper" for the Big Bang, the event that scientists think set the universe in motion.

Yesterday America, today the world

As these examples from around the world show, the debate over creation, evolution and religion is rapidly going global. Until recently, all the hottest public arguments had taken place in the United States, where school boards in many districts and states tried to restrict the teaching of Darwin's idea that life in its myriad forms evolved through a natural process of adaptation to changing conditions.

Darwin-bashers in America suffered a body-blow in December 2005, when a judge—striking down the policies of a district school board in Pennsylvania—delivered a 139-page verdict that delved deeply into questions about the origin of life and tore apart the case made by the "intelligent design" camp: the idea that some features of the natural world can be explained only by the direct intervention of a ingenious creator.

Intelligent design, the judge found, was a religious theory, not a scientific one—and its teaching in schools violated the constitution, which bars the establishment of any religion. One point advanced in favour of intelligent design—the "irreducible complexity" of some living things—was purportedly scientific, but it was not well-founded, the judge ruled. Proponents of intelligent design were also dishonest in saying that where there were gaps in evolutionary theory, their own view was the only alternative, according to the judge.

The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which has spearheaded the American campaign to counter-balance the teaching of evolution, artfully distanced itself from the Pennsylvania case, saying the local school board had gone too far in mixing intelligent design with a more overtly religious doctrine of "creationism". But the verdict made it much harder for school boards in other parts of America to mandate curbs on the teaching of evolution, as many have tried to do—to the horror of most professional scientists.

Whatever the defeats they have suffered on home ground, American foes of Darwin seem to be gaining influence elsewhere. In February several luminaries of the anti-evolution movement in the United States went to Istanbul for a grand conference where Darwin's ideas were roundly denounced. The organiser of the gathering was a Turkish Muslim author and columnist, Mustafa Akyol, who forged strong American connections during a fellowship at the Discovery Institute.

To the dismay of some Americans and the delight of others, Mr Akyol was invited to give evidence (against Darwin's ideas) at hearings held by the Kansas school board in 2005 on how science should be taught. Mr Akyol, an advocate of reconciliation between Muslims and the West who is much in demand at conferences on the future of Islam, is careful to distinguish his position from that of the extravagant publishing venture in his home city. "They make some valid criticisms of Darwinism, but I disagree with most of their other views," insists the young author, whose other favourite cause is the compatibility between Islam and Western liberal ideals, including human rights and capitalism. But a multi-layered anti-Darwin movement has certainly brought about a climate in Turkey and other Muslim countries that makes sure challenges to evolution theory, be they sophisticated or crude, are often well received.

America's arguments over evolution are also being followed closely in Brazil, where—as the pope will find when he visits the country next month—various forms of evangelicalism and Pentecostalism are advancing rapidly at the expense of the majority Catholic faith. Samuel Rodovalho, an activist in Brazil's Pentecostal church, puts it simply: "We are convinced that the story of Genesis is right, and we take heart from the fact that in North America the teaching of evolution in schools has been challenged."

Even in the United States, defenders of evolution teaching do not see their battle as won. There was widespread dismay in their ranks in February when John McCain, a Republican presidential candidate, accepted an invitation (albeit to talk about geopolitics, not science) from the Discovery Institute. And some opponents of intelligent design are still recovering from their shock at reading in the New York Times a commentary written, partly at the prompting of the Discovery Institute, by the pope's close friend, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna.

In his July 2005 article the cardinal seemed to challenge what most scientists would see as axiomatic—the idea that natural selection is an adequate explanation for the diversity and complexity of life in all its forms. Within days, the pope and his advisers found they had new interlocutors. Lawrence Krauss, an American physicist in the front-line of courtroom battles over education, fired off a letter to the Vatican urging a clarification. An agnostic Jew who insists that evolution neither disproves nor affirms any particular faith, Mr Krauss recruited as co-signatories two American biologists who were also devout Catholics. Around the same time, another Catholic voice was raised in support of evolution, that of Father George Coyne, a Jesuit astronomer who until last year was head of the Vatican observatory in Rome. Mr Krauss reckons his missive helped to nudge the Catholic authorities into clarifying their view and insisting that they did still accept natural selection as a scientific theory.

But that was not the end of the story. Catholic physicists, biologists and astronomers (like Father Coyne) insisted that there was no reason to revise their view that intelligent design is bad science. And they expressed concern (as the Christian philosopher Augustine did in the 4th century) that if the Christian church teaches things about the physical world which are manifestly false, then everything else the church teaches might be discredited too. But there is also a feeling among Pope Benedict's senior advisers that in rejecting intelligent design as it is understood in America they must not go too far in endorsing the idea that Darwinian evolution says all that needs to be, or can be, said about how the world came to be.

The net result has been the emergence of two distinct camps among the Catholic pundits who aspire to influence the pope. In one there are people such as Father Coyne, who believe (like the agnostic Mr Krauss) that physics and metaphysics can and should be separated. From his new base at a parish in North Carolina, Father Coyne insists strongly on the integrity of science—"natural phenomena have natural causes"—and he is as firm as any secular biologist in asserting that every year the theory of evolution is consolidated with fresh evidence.

In the second camp are those, including some high up in the Vatican bureaucracy, who feel that Catholic scientists like Father Coyne have gone too far in accepting the world-view of their secular colleagues. This camp stresses that Darwinian science should not seduce people into believing that man evolved purely as the result of a process of random selection. While rejecting American-style intelligent design, some authoritative Catholic thinkers claim to see God's hand in "convergence": the apparent fact that, as they put it, similar processes and structures are present in organisms that have evolved separately.

As an example of Catholic thinking that is relatively critical of science-based views of the world, take Father Joseph Fessio, the provost of Ave Maria University in Florida and a participant in a seminar on creation and evolution which led to the new book with papal input. As Father Fessio observes, Catholics accept three different ways of learning about reality: empirical observation, direct revelations from God and, between those two categories, "natural philosophy"—the ability of human reason to discern divine reason in the created universe. That is not quite intelligent design, but it does sound similar. The mainly Protestant heritage of the United States may be one reason why the idea of "natural philosophy" is poorly understood by American thinkers, Father Fessio playfully suggests. (Another problem the Vatican may face is that Orthodox Christian theologians, as well as Catholic mystics, are wary of "natural philosophy": they insist that mystical communion with God is radically different from observation or speculation by the human brain.)

The evolution of the anti-evolutionists

Whatever they think about science, there is one crucial problem that all Christian thinkers about creation must wrestle with: the status of the human being in relation to other creatures, and the whole universe. There is no reading of Christianity which does not assert the belief that mankind, while part of the animal kingdom, has a unique vocation and potential to enhance the rest of creation, or else to destroy it. This point has been especially emphasised by Pope Benedict's interlocutors in the Orthodox church, such as its senior prelate Patriarch Bartholomew I, who has been nudging the Vatican to take a stronger line on man's effect on the environment and climate change.

For Father Coyne, belief in man's unique status is entirely consistent with an evolutionary view of life. "The fact we are at the end of this marvellous process is something that glorifies us," he says.

But Benedict XVI apparently wants to lay down an even stronger line on the status of man as a species produced by divine ordinance, not just random selection. "Man is the only creature on earth that God willed for his own sake," says a document issued under Pope John Paul II and approved by the then Cardinal Ratzinger.

What is not quite clear is whether the current pope accepts the "Chinese wall" that his old scientific adviser, Father Coyne, has struggled to preserve between physics and metaphysics. It is in the name of this Chinese wall that Father Coyne and other Catholic scientists have been able to make common cause with agnostics, like Mr Krauss, in defence of the scientific method. What the Jesuit astronomer and his secular friends all share is the belief that people who agree about physics can differ about metaphysics or religion.

Critics like Father Fessio would retort that their problem was not with the Chinese wall—but with an attempt to tear it down by scientists whose position is both Darwinist and anti-religious: in other words, with those who believe that scientific observation of the universe leaves no room at all for religious belief. (Some scientists and philosophers go further, dismissing religion itself as a phenomenon brought about by man's evolutionary needs.)

The new book quoting Pope Benedict's contributions to last year's seminar shows him doing his best to pick his way through these arguments: accepting that scientific descriptions of the universe are valid as far as they go, while insisting that they are ultimately incomplete as a way of explaining how things came to be. On those points, he seems to share the "anti-Darwinist" position of Father Fessio; but he also agrees with Father Coyne that a "God of the gaps" theory—which uses a deity to fill in the real or imagined holes in evolutionary science—is too small-minded. Only a handful of the world's 2 billion Christians will be able to make sense of his intricate intellectual arguments, and there is a risk that simplistic reporting and faulty interpretation of his ideas could create the impression that the pope has deserted to the ranks of the outright anti-evolutionists; he has done no such thing, his advisers insist.

Not that the advocates of intelligent design or outright creationists are in need of anyone's endorsement. Their ideas are flourishing and their numbers growing. As Mr Krauss has caustically argued, the anti-evolution movement is itself a prime example of evolution and adaptability—defeated in one arena, it will resurface elsewhere. His ally Father Coyne, the devoted star-gazer, is one of the relatively few boffins who have managed to expound with equal passion both their scientific views and their religious beliefs. He writes with breathless excitement about "the dance of the fertile universe, a ballet with three ballerinas: chance, necessity and fertility." Whether they are atheists or theists, other supporters of Darwin's ideas on natural selection will have to inspire as well as inform if they are to compete with their growing army of foes.

ID claims don't hold up


By: Dr. John Wise and Dr. Pia Vogel, Contributing Writers

Posted: 4/26/07

ID is the idea that the origin of living things requires the intervention of an outside intelligence.

Jonathon Wells, a Discovery Institute fellow, Philipp Johnson and other ID and creationism proponents have asserted that there is no evidence of transitional intermediates between species in the fossil record and have inferred from this that a creator must have intervened. Their assertion is blatantly and unequivocally false. It's rock for goodness' sake. It's hard to ignore tons of rock with whale-like tetrapods, tetrapod-like whales, reptile-like birds, bird-like reptiles, fish with arm bones, and the many other transitional forms found in them over and over again without losing credibility.

Let's name just a few. The terrestrial tetrapod to modern whale transitional series includes Synonyx, Pakecetus, Ambulocetus, Remingtonocetus, Rhodocetus, Basilosaurus, Durodon and Mysticetus before arriving at the modern toothed whales, Odontoceti. The dinosaur-to-bird series includes Troodontidae, Archeopteryx, Confusiusornis, Enantiornithes, Ichthyornis, and Hesperornis before arriving at Aves, the modern birds. There are many more examples of transitional intermediates.

Our favorites are the fish-to-amphibian-tetrapod transitions. These were particularly embarrassing for Philipp Johnson, who used the absence of the then-not-yet-discovered intermediates between fish and amphibians as evidence that no such intermediates ever existed. This led him to write that a creator was responsible. Unfortunately for Philipp Johnson, several such intermediates have since been found. The absence of evidence, it should be pointed out, is never evidence for anything. Dinosaurs with feathers. Birds with teeth. Fish with fingers. This real scientific evidence is tangible. It is as hard as stone. One cannot credibly deny its existence. ID fails on this claim.

What about Michael Behe's "irreducible complexity"? This is the cornerstone, the poster-child of ID. The repeated failures of the claimed "irreducible complexity of biochemical systems" have been published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature again and again, but we'd be happy to reiterate.

First, what is "irreducible complexity"? Dr. Behe says in Darwin's black box that the biochemical machines of life are so complex that removal of one part results in a functionless pile of parts. He goes on to say that Darwin's mechanism of natural selection can only work on biochemical machines that have functions. We happen to agree with this last sentence, but only this last part. No function, no natural selection. Let's look at the examples Dr. Behe chose to illustrate his claim of irreducible complexity.

Scientists have shown that the bacterial flagellum is composed of 50 parts, is extremely complex, and functions as an acid powered, rotary motor that is used by bacteria for swimming. Dr. Behe has written that the bacterial flagellum is a great example of irreducible complexity. Any biologist will stipulate that the bacterial flagellum is a wonderfully complex machine, but let's look and see if removal of a part eliminates all function. It turns out, as Prof. Kenneth R. Miller so skillfully pointed out in the Kitzmiller hearings, that we don't have to do the test of irreducible complexity on the flagellum ourselves. Nature has already done the "remove some parts" experiment for us.

Nature has in fact taken away 40 out of the 50 total parts, and guess what? There is still biological function present. The remaining 10 parts of the bacterial flagellum make up the "Type III secretory system," a molecular syringe used by many bacteria to inject toxins into the cells of their victims. Is it still a flagellum? No. Does it still have function? Yes. If it has any function, it is subject to natural selection. Irreducible complexity fails on this claim.

How about Dr. Behe's prediction that blood clotting systems are so complex that they, too, are irreducibly complex? Nature has done this experiment as well. Take away Factor XII and the blood shouldn't clot, correct? Guess what? Whales and dolphins don't have Factor XII and their blood clots just fine. Irreducible complexity fails again. Not good enough? How about we take away the "intrinsic pathway" part of the system? Nature has done this one for us too. The puffer fish lacks this whole part of the system and its blood still clots. If it functions, natural selection can work on it. Irreducible complexity fails again.

Listen to what Dr. Behe wrote in 1996 about the complexity of the mammalian immune system: "As scientists, we yearn to understand how this magnificent mechanism came to be, but the complexity of the system dooms all Darwinian explanations to frustration. Sisyphus himself would pity us." So what did ID's premiere scientist recommend? He suggested that this subject is beyond human comprehension; we should not even bother to try to understand it. Real scientists didn't give up on this important science. Between 1996 and 2005, each element of the "transposon hypothesis" of immune system evolution was scientifically confirmed.

The Kitzmiller v. Dover transcript provides all of exact citations of the peer-reviewed science journal articles and book chapters that make this last point. We are quite certain that Dr. Behe saw quite enough of them during the hearings. Eric Rothschild presented Dr. Behe with a mountain of these science papers, one after the other. After each presentation, he asked Dr. Behe if he had read the article and, if yes, asked if he accepted the conclusions written within. Those times that Dr. Behe was familiar with the work, he indicated that the evidence was not sufficient to convince him. When unfamiliar work was explained to him, he indicated that it was not sufficient evidence to convince him.

Judge Jones summed it up in his opinion when he said, Dr. Behe "… was presented with fifty eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not "good enough."

It's just like the fossils in the rocks. It is very difficult to deny the existence of mountains of evidence without losing your credibility. When a scientist loses his credibility, he will be ignored. If one does not reject hypotheses that have been shown to be false or revise hypotheses so they can accommodate the scientific evidence available in the real world, no serious scientists will show up for your conference.

The ID claims of irreducible and incomprehensible complexity fail time and again. There is much more in the scientific literature, but we risk trying the readers' patience if we lengthen this report.

Discovery Institute Fellow and primary philosopher and mathematician for the ID movement, William Dembski, wrote "If it could be shown that biologically complex systems - such as the bacterial flagellum - could have been formed by a gradual Darwinian process (and thus that their specified complexity is an illusion) then ID would be refuted on the grounds that one does not invoke intelligent causes when undirected natural causes will do. In that case, Occam's razor would finish off ID quite nicely."

The gradual Darwinian process is natural selection. Irreducible complexity fails time and again. The time to reject ID has already arrived. Does anyone need to borrow a razor?

John Wise, Ph.D. and Dr. Pia Vogel are professors in biological sciences at SMU. They can be reached at jwise@smu.edu and pvogel@smu.edu.

© Copyright 2007 Daily Campus

Argumentum Ad Baseless Demonization: Assessing Dr. John Wise's Response to Anika Smith and Sarah Levy


It's disheartening (and revealing) when people have to demonize their opponents in order to argue against them. Unfortunately, SMU biology professor John Wise has chosen this approach, opening his rebuttal to Anika Smith and Sarah Levy by stating, "Deceptive tactics seem to be a recurring theme at the Discovery Institute," and continuing for the entirety of his response to supply nothing more than a string of misdirected or misinformed ad hominem attacks.

Baseless ad hominem attack 1—Of Pandas and People: Wise attacks the Of Pandas and People textbook as if it is dishonest, and as if that affects the Discovery Institute. But Wise fails to mention that the textbook was first published a year before Discovery Institute was even founded, and many years before Discovery got involved with intelligent design. In fact, the Pandas textbook pre-dates the vast bulk of the scholarship coming from the ID movement. So it's not clear why the status of the textbook is relevant to judging Discovery Institute in particular or even intelligent design in general. Nonetheless, Wise's attacks on the textbook itself are misinformed.

Dr. Wise apparently read the Dover opinion and accepts it uncritically, taking the "Judge Jones Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It" approach to intelligent design and the Dover case. He claims that the Pandas textbook deceptively aimed to create a "new alias" for creationism when it started using term intelligent design. Yet when certain pre-publication drafts of Pandas used terms such as "creation" and "creationist," they used them in a way that rejected "creationism" as defined by the courts and popular culture:

In Edwards v. Aguillard, the U.S. Supreme Court declared creationism to be a religious viewpoint because it required a "supernatural creator." Yet many pre-publication drafts of Pandas juxtaposed "creation" and its cognates with statements to the exact opposite effect, noting that science cannot scientifically detect a supernatural creator. (For example, one pre-publication draft stated: "Some master intellect is the creator of life. But such observable instances of information cannot tell us if the intellect behind them is natural or supernatural. This is not a question science can answer.") As Ms. Smith and Ms. Levy write, "Because intelligent design does not try to address religious questions about the identity of the designer, this test does not apply to ID."

To summarize, the Pandas authors have made it clear that they adopted intelligent design terminology because their project was fundamentally distinct from common notions of creationism, and they wanted to make it clear they had a different project in mind. As one of Pandas' authors explained his reasons for adopting intelligent design terminology: "I wasn't comfortable with the typical vocabulary that for the most part creationists were using because it didn't express what I was trying to do. They were wanting to bring God into the discussion, and I was wanting to stay within the empirical domain and do what you can do legitimately there." There is no deception or wrongdoing here, and Dr. Wise's attacks against Discovery Institute here are misdirected and baseless.

Baseless ad hominem attack 2—The Dover School Board members: Wise also complains about the "deliberate deception" of some Dover School Board members during the Dover trial, as if that somehow indicts us at Discovery. But the Dover Board chose to ignore our policy advice that they should not mandate ID, and we have criticized them extensively for their mishandling of the Dover policy and case, both before and after the trial (for some examples, see here, here, and here). When Dr. Wise attacks the Dover School Board members, he is actually joining with us. This ad hominem attack is entirely misdirected.

Baseless ad hominem attack 3: Anika Smith's article in the SMU Daily: Wise suggests that Discovery's Anika Smith was deceptive because she co-authored an article in the SMU Daily which identified her as a "recent graduate of Seattle Pacific University." He suggests that perhaps she "purposefully meant to hide" and intentionally "omi[t]" her "relevant affiliation" with DI. This ad hominem charge, again, is baseless.

In fact, the SMU Daily Campus was very specific in its request for author information. According to what Ms. Smith wrote me, "They asked for my name, head shot, email address, and university affiliation. That's what I sent them. If they had asked for my employer, political affiliation, ethnicity, or income level, I'd have given them that, as well, but they didn't. They wanted my university affiliation, and because I have no reason to hide the fact that I graduated from Seattle Pacific University (go Falcons!), I gave it."

For someone who claims that he "personally do[es]n't care how [Anika] refers to herself," Wise certainly devotes an awful lot of time and energy to impugning her integrity on how she refers to herself (5 of his 6 paragraphs, to be exact, deal with this issue). But it's not like Ms. Smith tries to hide her affiliations: she writes regularly for Evolution News & Views and is listed on our staff page. It obviously wasn't hard too for Dr. Wise to discover and verify her affiliations. Again, Dr. Wise has reached out to defend his viewpoint by attacking others (but conspicuously

not rebutting their viewpoint

), and he failed.

Baseless ad hominem attack 4: Sarah Levy: Not content to simply make baseless character attacks against Anika Smith and the Discovery Institute, Dr. Wise turns to a student at his own school, Sarah Levy, wondering "if there are any important ethical questions to be asked of … a third year law student here at SMU?" It is most disturbing that a professor would publicly question the integrity of one of his university's own students simply because she co-authored an article supporting intelligent design. Who is supporting academic freedom here?

In conclusion, Ms. Smith and Ms. Levy wrote a direct rebuttal to the scientific and philosophical objections that Dr. Wise posed against intelligent design. Dr. Wise responded by attacking their character but addressing none of their arguments. It's a song we've all heard many times before, but the question remains: Does Dr. Wise have anything to say that is both accurate and rises above personal attacks? From reading his article, it doesn't appear so. And that reveals more about the state of this debate than anything else written in this exchange.

Posted by Casey Luskin on April 26, 2007 1:08 AM | Permalink

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Selective Quoting of Statistics: More Dishonest Quote Mining from DI


Posted on: April 24, 2007 8:05 AM, by Mark C. Chu-Carroll

When I'm bored, I'll periodically take a look at the blogs published by the bozos at the Discovery Institute. I can generally find something good for a laugh. So I was doing that tonight, and came across yet another example of how they try to distort reality and use slimily dishonest math to try to criticize the evidence for evolution. This time, it's an article by "Logan Gage" called What exactly does genetic similarity demonstrate?.

Francix X. Clines, an excellent writer for The City Life and Editorial Observer sections of The New York Times, today (April 23, 2007) repeats what may be the most common mistake in trying to sell Darwinism to the public. In "Evolution, on Broadway and Off," Clines writes of the American Museum of Natural History's exhibition on evolution:

The DNA exhibit shows how the chimpanzee's DNA has been conclusively shown to be 98.8 percent the same as the visitor's DNA. Hey, that's no show stopper for the monkey-song chorus -- it still allows a one in 100 chance they're right.

In other words, you are silly for not believing in Darwinism because you have very similar genes which make the proteins in your body as the chimps do to make their proteins. Game over, right? Not so fast.

You can see right there, from just the first paragraph of Gage's writing what kind of scam he going to try to pull. What's the evidence for common descent? Is it just that one figure - the 98.8% similarity between chimpanzee and human genes?

Of course not. He's trying to take the number out of context, because out of context, it's a whole lot easier to come up with arguments against it. In context, it's one data point among many: as we sequence the genes of different creatures, we find that the similarity relations between different species for a tree, where the more similar two species' genes are, the closer they are to one another in the tree. And that tree is an almost perfect match for the tree that was developed without genetic comparisons based on other kinds of evidence.

So - a perfectly nested tree of genetic relationships, which matches predictions made before anyone had any idea of how to sequence the genome of a species. And what's Gage's response to that?

Second, the 98.8% DNA sequence similarity between chimps and humans that Clines references does not even establish claim one (common ancestry). And "you don't have to take my word for it," as LeVar Burton always used to say on Reading Rainbow.

As Francis Collins, head of the project which mapped the human genome, has written of DNA sequence similarities, "This evidence alone does not, of course, prove a common ancestor" because an intelligent cause can reuse successful design principles. We know this because we are intelligent agents ourselves, and we do this all the time. We take instructions we have written for one thing and use them for another. The similarity is not the result of a blind mechanism but rather the result of our intelligent activity.

Some design proponents think the evidence for common ancestry is good (e.g., Michael Behe), while others--citing the fossil record, especially The Cambrian Explosion--do not. But neither group thinks that sequence similarity alone proves either common ancestry or the Darwinian mechanism, as so many science writers of our day seem eager to assume.

See? The out-of-context number is used as if it's the only evidence that exists. How do you think that Collin's quote really ends? No surprise: with a lead-in to how much other evidence there is in addition to that one single number.

So it's just more dishonest quote mining from the DI. Big surprise, eh?

Kirk Answers Brooks on the Status of Darwinism in Western Culture


Has Darwin successfully replaced Marx and Freud, and, of course, the Bible, as a narrative for Western civilization? David Brooks, House Conservative at the New York Times and often a writer of real insight, apparently thinks so. (He is another example of conservatives, like George Will and Charles Krauthammer, who do not want to be bothered to actually read the works of serious Darwin critics, let alone talk with them.) Richard Kirk replies effectively to Brooks in the new American Spectator.

This reminds me to remind readers of the debate at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, May 3 on "Darwin and Conservatism: Friends of Foes?" Panelists include John West and George Gilder of Discovery Institute, versus author Larry Arnhart and National Review science reporter/columnist John Derbyshire. ( (John West's forthcoming book on Darwin's public policy, Darwin Day in America, has been accepted for publication later this year by ISI Press.)

My own view, realized about eight years ago, is that Darwin is the last remaining leg of the dangerous three-legged ideology that the 19th century bequeathed the 20th century. Marx is now mostly discredited (except, one must always note, at a number of universities and the official pronouncements of the Communist parties of Cuba and North Korea) and Freud is in equally bad shape (there are still some Freudians around and many ideas of Freud that are retained in our culture). Darwinism, happily, is crumbling, too, though David Brooks—who should take some time to study the matter—has yet to spot this particular trend.

Posted by Bruce Chapman on April 24, 2007 12:29 PM | Permalink

Medical professor questions evolution


John Marshall's lecture tonight will question fossil records and the origin of the first cell.


For most of his life, and as a physician and man of science, John Marshall believed in Darwinian evolution, which maintains that all life forms share a common biological origin.

But Marshall began to look into what he said were holes in the theory. And after becoming a Christian, Marshall found it hard to reconcile evolutionary theory with Genesis, the biblical account of how God created the earth and everything on it in six days. Marshall has since become a proponent of the view that there are some natural systems that cannot be adequately explained by natural forces, and therefore must be the result of intelligent design, or ID.

In a lecture tonight at 7 at the MU School of Medicine, Marshall will talk about what he calls the holes in Darwinism and how many researchers are too closed-minded to evaluate — let alone accept — the scientific evidence for ID.

"A scientist should be open to new evidence and to new ideas, even when they arise outside the box of naturalism," said Marshall, an MU professor of medicine who is board certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology and also the associate director of education at the School of Medicine. "There's no reason we can't at least look for evidence. But one of the tactics of people who control mainstream science is, you don't publish intelligent design material."

Marshall said his lecture, "Intelligent Design: Is it Religion or Science?," will question the origin of the first living cell and raise what he called problems with the fossil record, which scientists have used to understand how species evolved.

Sponsored by the Christian Medical and Dental Students Association, Marshall's lecture comes just a few months after the Kansas Board of Education repealed teaching guidelines that included language suggesting many evolutionary concepts have never been proven and were, in fact, being challenged by new research. The credibility of ID was also dealt a blow in December 2005 in a case involving the Dover, Pa., school district. John E. Jones III, U.S. District Court judge, ruled that teaching intelligent design in public schools violates the First Amendment because it promotes religious belief in creationism.

Jones wrote that ID "is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community."

Marshall said teachers should have the right to discuss both Darwinian evolution and intelligent design in the classroom. However, he said, teaching ID should not be required until it becomes better established in the scientific community.

But for Kenny Duzan, the president of Show-Me Science Alliance, which promotes the teaching of science, ID has no place in the public school curriculum.

"It's a shame that I and others have to waste time trying to prevent them from putting this in the schools," Duzan said. "Where do we draw the line? Are we gonna teach about fairies and aliens and alien abductions?"

Will Morris, president of the local chapter of Brights, an international naturalist movement whose members reject belief in the supernatural, said no one has ever made the scientific case for ID.

"If it is really a scientific theory, they should be able to get articles peer-reviewed and published," he said. "They don't do that. Rather, they go through political systems."

Marshall said it is difficult to publish articles on intelligent design because mainstream science's opposition to the theory is so strong. Indeed, the National Center for Science Education, The National Academy of Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science are just a few of the organizations that reject ID.

Richard Schwartz, associate editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, wrote in 2005 that intelligent design is "a medieval theological position that is based on faith, not logic, and certainly not science."

While his conversion to Christianity explains his skepticism of evolution, Marshall said that belief in intelligent design does not necessarily require adherence to a religious doctrine.

And, despite the setbacks in court and the skepticism of an overwhelming majority of scientists, the intelligent design debate isn't going away anytime soon, Marshall said. Many states are considering legislation that would require schools to teach that Darwinian evolution is just one of the theories on the origins of the earth, he said.

"In the end, we have to ask: Has Judge Jones really given us the final answer on whether ID is science?" Marshall said. "I think it is safe to say that his ruling won't be the last word on the ID."

Current News  News Back Issues

What's New | Search | Newsletter | Fact Sheets
NTS Home Page
Copyright (C) 1987 - 2008 by the North Texas Skeptics.