NTS LogoSkeptical News for 9 May 2007

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Wednesday, May 09, 2007



In May, Churches of Scientology around the world will celebrate the publication of "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health." A best-selling book by L. Ron Hubbard

Date Released: 05/08/2007

Boston - In May, Churches of Scientology around the world will celebrate the publication of "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health." A best-selling book by L. Ron Hubbard, it is now available in 53 languages with sales exceeding 21 million copies.

The Dianetics phenomena started in May 1950 when author and humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard's visionary work on the human mind, its problems and their resolution, first hit the bookstores.

The book rocketed onto the New York Times bestseller list and has appeared on dozens of bestseller lists since. Its huge popularity is due to the workable methods it provides, enabling people to come to grips with the fears, upsets and negative emotions that adversely affect their lives and relationships.

Although the year 2007 is dramatically different from 1950, the need for Dianetics technology has not changed. Instead of a "cold war", there is the peril and uncertainty of the "war on terror," and man's inhumanity to man continues unabated, manifested by racism, hatred and violence. On a personal level, there has been little improvement, with day-to-day worries and stress about jobs, economic security, and the emotional "roller-coaster" most people experience from problems with their families and interpersonal relationships gone bad.

With Dianetics, emotional pain and anguish are replaced by relief and joy, and worries and upsets become a thing of the past.

One individual who recently used Dianetics techniques told of a problem he had at the end of a relationship: "We broke up and I was trying to get her out of my heart. Dianetics helped me relieve all that tension, all that pain and all that hurt."

Another spoke of how he overcame feelings that were really holding him back in life: "I was upset, worried. Some people would call it depression. That changed. After Dianetics counseling I became a much happier person. I could really go after what I wanted in life."

Still another person explained how his whole attitude toward life improved: "I can go outside and if it's a great day I can feel it––I mean I can really feel it; the way I felt it when I was a kid. I can enjoy the sunshine the way I could thirty years ago."

Countless others have experienced similar improvements.

As Mr. Hubbard wrote in the book's introduction: "Dianetics is an adventure. It is an exploration into terra incognita, the human mind, that vast and hitherto unknown realm half an inch back of our foreheads. Some of the things you will find may astonish you."

The Church of Scientology - Boston will be having a Dianetics 57th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, May 19 2007, 5:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge. The celebration is free and open to public please call to James or Anita at 617-266-9500 to reserve a seat.

For more information call Gerard Renna 617-266-3841 or visit www.dianetics.org.

About Church of Scientology - Boston

Scientology addresses man as a spiritual being and gives people tools they can apply to their lives to improve conditions. Among these are the techniques for alleviating spiritual trauma contained in the book Dianetics, by L. Ron Hubbard.

Community Programs include: "Say No to Drugs, Say Yes to Life" Campaign Human Rights Programs including Youth for Human Rights International and our local Boston Scientology Volunteer Ministry serving the inner-city of Boston and traveling the world to assist in disaster relief efforts.

Submitted by Church of Scientology - Boston

Reed, Republicans and evolution


Wednesday, May 9, 2007, 08:16 AM

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Republican strategist Ralph Reed may not be plotting the moves of any specific GOP presidential candidate this year — at least, none that we know of — but he is back on the TV circuit, defending the party's White House 10 (or 12) as a group.

The former candidate for lieutenant governor was on Anderson Cooper's "360 Degrees" on CNN last night. Below is a bit of Reed's exchange with Democratic strategist James Carville.

The topic was evolution, and the fact that three GOP presidential candidates in the recent national debate said they didn't believe in it.

COOPER: Ralph, to conservatives, how important is this issue of evolutionism vs. creationism and/or intelligent design?

REED: If you really look at all the polling, Anderson, a majority say they believe in the theory of creationism, that God created the heavens, the Earth and mankind.

So, I don't know that it's an issue that's really determinative of voting behavior, but it certainly becomes derivative of or part of a broader tapestry of a candidate being able to convey to voters that they share their values.

And I think this has been an advantage for Republicans. I think it will continue to be an advantage in 2008.

COOPER: That's — I mean, James, he raised a good point. Democrats have long been criticized for not being able to speak to Americans about religion or moral values, perhaps since Jimmy Carter did.

Does the evolution debate present Democrats with particular problems?


Every Democratic candidate believes in evolution, as does every scientist. When people pray, they pray that the war on science is going to stop. And, if people want to teach creationism, they perfectly well can do that in Sunday school, or people want to teach the parting of the Red Sea, but you don't do that in nautical history.

The Mormons believe that the lost tribes of Israel came over here after the death of Christ. Well, if they want to teach that in a Mormon Church, that's perfectly acceptable, but they don't teach that in the Utah public schools, nor should they.

And I think that's what — what people are saying. And, obviously, every Democratic candidate believes in evolution. Every Democratic candidate thinks it's based on — it ought to be taught in schools. It's a theory like — and every Democratic candidate, by the way, believes in gravity.

McCain OKs teaching 'intelligent design' in schools Michael Roston


Published: Wednesday May 9, 2007

Senator John McCain appears to have suggested that theories other than evolution should be taught to students in biology classes, according to a blog post at the Christian Broadcasting Network's website.

"Senator McCain believes evolution is supported by science, but that we shouldn't be afraid to expose students to other theories," wrote McCain's campaign, according to a report a David Brody blog.

Brody then added, "Sounds like he's OK with Creationism being taught as well. That should make certain Evangelicals happy."

During last Thursday's Republican debate, Senator McCain was asked if he believed in evolution.

"I believe in evolution. But I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also," the Arizona Republican said.

Three of the Republican candidates said that they did not believe in evolution: Sen. Sam Brownback (KS), former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, and Rep. Tom Tancredo (CO).

Brody's full blog post can be read at this link.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Case of the disappearing bees creates a buzz


By Eric Sylvers Published: April 22, 2007

Milan: The headlines were catchy, the subject compelling and, in some cases, the newspapers well respected.

"Cellphones linked to honeybee deaths." "To bee or not to be near mobile phones." "German study links cellphones to drop in honey bee population; Radiation said to interfere with homing ability." "Are mobile phones wiping out our bees? Scientists claim radiation from handsets are to blame for mysterious 'colony collapse' of bees."

All rather dire if you try to imagine a world without honey and especially if you happen to have read a quote that has been attributed to Albert Einstein saying that if bees were to disappear, the human race would follow suit four years later because of the important role bees play in pollinating plants.

The bee story had an extra appeal for those people who use their cellphones rather tentatively because they think the privilege to speak on the move may be frying their brain cells one by one. So now, if the headlines are to be believed, we learn that our cellphone and those long calls from mom where she refuses every attempt to cut short the conversation not only are going to lead to our demise, they are killing millions of bees.

Good story for sure, except that the study in question had nothing to do with mobile phones and was actually investigating the influence of electromagnetic fields, especially those used by cordless phones that work on fixed-line networks, on the learning ability of bees. The small study, according to the researchers who carried it out too small for the results to be considered significant, found that the electromagnetic fields similar to those used by cordless phones may interrupt the innate ability of bees to find the way back to their hive.

"We cannot explain the CCD-phenomenon itself and want to keep from speculation in this case," Jochen Kuhn, a professor in the physics department at the University of Koblenz-Landau in Germany who co-authored the bee study, wrote in an e-mail message. "Our studies cannot indicate that electromagnetic radiation is a cause of CCD."

While beekeepers consider it normal to lose about 20 percent of their bees in the off-season while the bees are hibernating, it has been reported that recent U.S. losses have ranged from 30 to 60 percent on the West Coast to as much as 70 percent in parts of the East Coast and Texas. The bees simply disappear from their hives, apparently having gone one last time in search of pollen and nectar, only never to return.

"If the Americans are looking for an explanation for colony collapse disorder, perhaps they should look at herbicides, pesticides and they should especially think about genetically modified drops," said Stefan Kimmel, a graduate student who co-authored the study last year with Kuhn and other professors.

The speculation about the bees and cellphones heightened when reports that colony collapse disorder had reached Britain and several other European countries. The British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs squashed speculation regarding Britain. The mortality rate among bees has been 22 percent so far this year in Britain, compared with 15 percent last year, though the results are not yet significant because only 2,000 colonies have been inspected out of about 25,000, said Abbie Sampson, a senior press officer with the DEFRA.

"It's not my fault if people misinterpret our data," said Kimmel. "Ever since The Independent wrote their article, for which they never called or wrote to us, none of us have been able to do any of our work because all our time has been spent in phone calls and e-mails trying to set things straight. This is a horror story for every researcher to have your study reduced to this. Now we are trying to force things back to normal."

Religious right at political crossroads

[For you D. James Kennedy fans]


Coral Ridge Ministries' decision to disband its political arm has raised questions about how the conservative Christian movement will define its national agenda in the coming years.


When nearly 1,000 Christian activists gathered in Fort Lauderdale two years ago for the Center for Reclaiming America's annual political conference, the mood was triumphant. Speakers hailed President Bush's reelection and the leaders rolled out ambitious plans: launching a Capitol Hill lobbying arm, opening a dozen regional offices and recruiting activists in all 435 congressional districts.

No more. The center -- one of the country's leading Christian grass-roots political organizations -- closed its Fort Lauderdale doors last month, sparking speculation about what its sudden demise means for the future of the religious right.

''It's a big loss,'' said the Florida Prayer Network's Pam Olsen, who led a prayer rally Thursday to mark the National Day of Prayer at the state Capitol. Olsen, who served as the state chairwoman for social conservative outreach for the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign, vowed a comeback: ``You will see the Christian-values voters rise again.''

Others, however, see a crumbling conservative Christian base deflated by ethical scandals in the Republican Party, the Democratic victory in the 2006 congressional elections and -- perhaps most significantly -- a split between the old guard and new leaders over where to go from here. An increasingly vocal branch has called for expanding the platform to include global warming, HIV/AIDS and poverty.


''There's a growing constituency in the evangelical movement that says we really do need to broaden our agenda,'' said the Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in Longwood, who last year stepped down as president-elect of the Christian Coalition after the group refused to include climate change and poverty on its agenda. ``We need to be not so narrow and combative.''

The Center for Reclaiming America, founded in 1996 as the political-action arm of the Rev. D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries, once stood at the forefront of the fight to ban same-sex marriage, outlaw abortion and promote religion in schools and public life.


The center helped rally Christian activists during the Terri Schiavo controversy, gathered thousands of signatures for a statewide referendum on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and sent 196,422 signatures to the U.S. Supreme Court urging the justices to uphold the ban on what is known as partial-birth abortion, which they did last month.

Advancing a conservative Christian agenda remains central to the ministry's mission, but the organization will deliver its message through its media channels rather than lobbying, said John Aman, a spokesman for Coral Ridge Ministries, which had $38 million in revenue in 2005.

''It is a shift in means but not ends,'' he said. ``It's going back to doing what we're best at, which is creating media.''


Coral Ridge officials say they hope to extend the ministry's television, radio and Internet outreach to 30 million by 2012, up from three million today.

Kennedy, 76, who suffered a heart attack last December, was recuperating in a Michigan hospital when the center shuttered its operations. Some have speculated that the closings came about as a result of Kennedy's prolonged absence, although Coral Ridge officials maintained that the two were unrelated.

Kennedy, who founded Coral Ridge in 1974, later emerged as an internationally known evangelist whose Coral Ridge Hour became synonymous with the preacher's slate gray hair, dark suits and robes and commanding voice.

John Green, a senior fellow in religion and politics at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, said the longevity of conservative Christian organizations is often tied to their leaders.


''Many of them are based around strong personalities, and many of them grew out of the individual ministries of televangelists,'' he said. ``It's quite plausible and quite likely that these closings have something to do with Rev. Kennedy's illness.''

The closings come at a challenging moment for the religious right.

The Christian Coalition -- founded in 1989 by televangelist Pat Robertson and credited with helping Republicans seize control of Congress in 1994 -- has dwindled financially and politically. It boasted a budget of $26 million in the late 1990s. By last year, the group was $2 million in debt, fighting off creditors and facing defections from some of its strongest state chapters, including those of Iowa, Ohio and Alabama.

Not all religious right groups are struggling. Focus on the Family, James Dobson's Colorado Springs, Colo.-based group, commanded a formidable budget of more than $140 million in 2005, according to GuideStar.org, which monitors nonprofits' tax returns. Tony Perkins' Family Research Council still has considerable influence in Washington. And Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries' budget was $38 million in 2005, according to GuideStar's latest records.

But groups that are flourishing may face problems as their base ages, particularly if they fail to court younger evangelicals, said Clyde Wilcox, a professor of government at Georgetown University who has studied the religious right.

Some evangelicals are tiring of electoral politics in the wake of ethical scandals involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Christian conservative poster boy Ralph Reed. 'Some of them are beginning to say, `Maybe we've been had in the electoral arena,' '' Wilcox said.

The next generation will likely be less easily swayed by the right's mobilization efforts, he added. ''Younger evangelicals are slightly less partisan, and they tend to be less scared by secularism,'' Wilcox said. ``They're engaging a broader social agenda.''


Last year, pastor Rick Warren, the author of the popular book The Purpose-Driven Life, drew the ire of some conservative Christians for inviting Democratic Sen. Barack Obama to an AIDS conference at his Saddleback Church in California.

And 86 evangelicals, including Warren and Florida's Hunter, backed an initiative on climate change, drawing criticism from James Dobson and other conservatives who oppose Christian involvement on climate issues. Last week, a coalition of evangelical leaders launched an initiative to lobby Congress for immigration reform.

Many Christian conservatives disagree with such efforts, arguing that the Bible speaks more directly on pro-life and marriage issues.

Aman of Coral Ridge said the ministry remains committed to its original moral vision. Other Florida groups -- including the Florida Prayer Network and the Florida Family Policy Council, an affiliate of Focus on the Family -- also say they will stick to their core issues: same-sex marriage and abortion.


''The social conservative movement should not change its agenda,'' said John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council. ``While the scripture speaks to all areas, it speaks with more clarity to some areas than others.''

But Northland Church's Hunter, who was among the evangelical leaders who signed the recent statement on immigration reform, said Christian activists must diversify their platform to remain relevant.

''A lot of these religious right organizations are kind of trapped within their original visions right now,'' he said.

''Most movements start off being against something. In order to mature, you have to figure out what you're for,'' Hunter said.

No big bang over teaching evolution


Students, teachers flexible over new rules to explore life-origin theories

By BILL ROBINSON - brobinson@thestate.com

SOURCE: S.C. Department of Education

Camden High biology teacher Mitzi Snipes confronted this year's controversial new rules about teaching evolution head-on.

Snipes, a fourth-year teacher, told her students "to be open to new ideas."

"I also let them know that each of them would have a personal opinion based on their own upbringing and moral and ethical values," she said.

Her students did research and built Web pages outlining "Darwin's theory as well as creationism. We talked about scientific inquiry and the necessity for science to be based on fact rather than personal values and beliefs."

Snipes found "many students concluded that both stances have merit and that the two do not have to be mutually exclusive."

Other teachers took a more measured approach when lecturing students about the origins of life this year — the first year since policymakers rewrote guidelines on how to teach evolution.

The new standards encourage teachers "to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory."

"I found myself hesitating a bit," Gilbert High's Valerie Waites said. "I try to watch what I say because I don't want to offend anybody's beliefs."

Waites, who has taught for three decades, considers herself a religious person capable of separating personal beliefs from professional obligations.

"I have no problem balancing the two," she said.

"I don't say (to students), 'What do you believe?' God created the world and is all-powerful. I just believe evolution was His plan," Waites said.


The phrase "critically analyze" sparks debate between scientists and those who believe life's complexities cannot be explained by fossils, DNA, climate and the like.

High school biology teachers were caught in a crossfire last year when state Sen. Mike Fair campaigned to give educators flexibility in discussing theories that challenge "natural selection" and "survival of the fittest" credited to Charles Darwin.

Gilbert High students generally gave Waites high marks for how she handled the topic.

"She was very flexible," sophomore Edward Bell said. "If someone had a question about something that conflicted with what she was teaching, we had a full discussion. She didn't emphasize one (theory) over another."

Cameron Burch, another Gilbert High sophomore, said, "At first, I didn't believe in evolution. But it sort of caught on with me after seeing all the evidence. It changed my mind. I was surprised."

Burch and Bell did not recall any heated discussion about alternatives to evolution during class.

Across the country, however, educators have clashed with people who embrace a theory known as "intelligent design," an alternative view that credits a larger intelligence — perhaps a divine hand — with influencing the diversity of life.

Opponents caution that could open the door to lessons with religious themes or overtones.

Fair, a Greenville Republican, lobbied for revisions to S.C.'s biology standards, backing language that challenges students to scrutinize how scientists arrive at conclusions about life's origins. Fair insisted he was not pushing intelligent design and declined to be interviewed for this article.


Nassim Lewis, a biology teacher at Blythewood High in Richland 2, said no students challenged her about Darwin's theories that are the foundation of instruction about diversity of life.

"I've never had that happen," the fourth-year teacher said. "They are smart enough, as young adults, to see the facts and understand them.

"They might not walk away from my class believing one side or the other, but they at least became educated about the scientific facts," Lewis said.

Lewis' district-level boss said he heard no criticism about the performance of Richland 2 teachers. Ed Emmer said he got no feedback from teachers relaying concerns or problems about student reaction to evolution lessons.

Matthew Pearce, a Blythewood High senior, was comfortable with how Lewis taught evolution.

"Some people do look at (evolution) differently because of their religion, but I don't have a problem with what we're learning. It's all good," Pearce said.

Kim Evans, a sophomore in the same class, found evolution lessons interesting but did not abandon what she learned about the origins of life in church and at home. "It's OK to believe both sides, I guess," she said.


Dutch Fork High sophomore Amber Hutto said, "I was very apprehensive about studying evolution. It's very controversial. I have my own religious beliefs, and they don't match (what was taught).

"I tried to keep an open mind," Hutto said, "because I know it's something we have to study."

Hilary Moore, also a sophomore at Dutch Fork High in Lexington-Richland 5, said her biology teacher told students "this is just an idea. It's not something we're trying to preach." The teacher, Moore said, "let us debate (evolution), and there were people on both sides. That's just part of the class."

"I'm very religious," Moore said. "I'm able to separate my ideas and beliefs."

Dan Publicover, another Dutch Fork High sophomore, said students in his class "didn't seem to make a big deal about (evolution). I believe God created everything. The scientific evidence is pretty strong, but my religion tells me differently. (The teacher) never forced evolution facts on us."


Edna Jones of Hanahan High in Berkeley County said, "I teach evolution the way I understand evolution.

"I don't go out of my way to make a big deal of it. It's just another unit of science," Jones said.

"A lot of students say, 'God is responsible for everything.' I don't say, 'That's not right or wrong.' I will tell them I don't feel qualified to discuss theology. I'm not trained in that field," said Jones, a teacher for 13 years.

Jones said she tells her students, "This is a science class. Everything is based on data, accumulating evidence, drawing conclusions, making predictions.

"Every now and then I get a student with very strong issues about the subject, and some have said they would leave the class. I just tell them, 'How are you going to argue (for) or against something if you don't know anything about it?'" Jones said.

Reach Robinson at (803) 771-8482.

What politicians are debating when they debate evolution


By John Timmer | Published: May 06, 2007 - 10:07PM CT

A funny thing happened at the Republican presidential debate the other night. The debate came just before the release of the latest IPCC report on climate change, and I expected that the research and policy issues related to this topic would be the primary focus of science at the debate. Instead, evolution stole the show, at least based on much of the coverage in the press afterwards. All candidates were asked if they accepted evolution, and the three who did not have since released statements clarifying their opinions. Why did evolution appear at all, and why has the focus on it come at the expense of scientific questions that are more likely to set public policy?

This is not to say that evolution was the only scientific issue covered. Climate change appeared in two easy questions that were answered without challenging the science. Stem cell policy also made an appearance and the answers (which were varied and, in some cases, founded on questionable science) took up far more of the debate, but the issue received less coverage afterwards. It's also not to say that evolution shouldn't be driving some policy issues. It's clear to me, for example, that the FDA should be getting the ability to limit the use of agricultural antibiotics due to the danger that this provides a selective pressure for general drug resistance. But those sorts of policy issues rarely win a presidential campaign.

So why is evolution even appearing at the presidential debates? A key to understanding the focus on evolution may have appeared in recent New York Times coverage that describes a completely different debate within the conservative community. The NYT article covers a formal debate about how conservatism should handle evolution, hosted by the American Enterprise Institute. The Times article is badly written in a number of ways, but it's worth reading for parts of the factual background (which I'll reinterpret). It describes a debate in which there are two sides: those who find evolution incompatible with conservative beliefs, and those who view it as justifying their conservative perspective.

Reading the article carefully and doing some reading of other material by the debaters, however, makes it clear that there were actually three sides represented. The first is simply anti-science, as represented by two members of the Discovery Institute. From their perspective, the evidential support for scientific ideas is irrelevant if those ideas wind up being distasteful. Discovery's George Gilder is quoted as saying, "Both Nazism and communism were inspired by Darwinism. Why conservatives should toady to these storm troopers is beyond me."

Never mind the questionable historical analysis—the general contention is that the conclusions of science should be restricted to those that are socially acceptable. Another way to phrase this perspective is that if rational analysis leads to a conclusion we don't like, we should reject rational analysis—in this case, science.

The second side in the debate was simply this perspective flipped on its head: Larry Arnhart, a professor of political science, argued that evolutionary discoveries have shown that the conservative perspective was right all along, and so should be embraced. In his view, our shared ancestry with our fellow primates tells us something about human nature that is congruent with the conservative perspective. Although it differs from the anti-science perspective in its conclusions, the logic of this perspective is essentially indistinguishable.

But there was a third point of view, although the author of the article didn't recognize it, and relegated it to the final paragraph. It was represented by John Derbyshire who, it was suggested, "would not say whether he thought evolutionary theory was good or bad for conservatism; the only thing that mattered was whether it was true." In other words, the scientific evidence and rational analysis that lead to scientific conclusions exist independent of our interpretations of them or how we apply those to social and policy decisions.

This seems not only to be the pro-science perspective, but the pro-rational thought perspective. And that's what I think motivated the question regarding evolution in the presidential debates: it was an attempt to ascertain whether a given candidate was willing to ditch a scientific and rational thought process if it led to conclusions he was personally uncomfortable with (or, more cynically, he believed that the primary voters would be uncomfortable with).

It's not clear that using science as a proxy for rational thought will wind up having any staying power on the campaign trail. Nor is its use in this manner clearly a good thing; if candidates wind up picking and choosing which science they're comfortable with on a national stage, it may make more of the public comfortable with following their lead.

As Republican Presidential Candidates Deny Evolution, FLOCK OF DODOS: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus Begins Airing on Showtime on May 17


LOS ANGELES, May 8 /PRNewswire/ -- As if in reply to the several Republican presidential candidates last week who said they don't believe in evolution during their first televised debate, the acclaimed feature documentary, FLOCK OF DODOS: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus by filmmaker/evolutionary biologist Randy Olson, will have its television premiere on Showtime on Thursday, May 17 at 8:30pm EDT (check local listings for additional dates). View the trailer at http://www.flockofdodos.com. Since its world premiere at last year's Tribeca Film Festival, FLOCK OF DODOS has been delighting theater audiences with its humor and intelligence. It has also won praise from the media, science community and educators in articles and blog entries. It played at multiple venues throughout Kansas in 2006 and was part of the backlash that helped overturn the Kansas Board of Education's pro-intelligent design teaching standards. Earlier this year, FLOCK OF DODOS was shown in over fifty science museums, universities and theaters as part of a nationwide effort to celebrate Charles Darwin's birthday. These screenings were followed by lively discussions and debate. "The film lends a hand to the public in understanding the controversy swirling around the teaching of evolution vs. intelligent design," says writer/director Randy Olson.

The home video will be distributed by New Video and available in all major outlets (retail and online) starting August 28. Extras will include special clips and interviews from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Center for Science Education, and other bonus footage. The DVD without extras is currently available for educational use through Documentary Educational Resources at http://www.der.org.

"You'll flip for FLOCK OF DODOS." -- New York Times

"An important accomplishment." -- National Review

"Poised for instant success." -- Variety

Produced by Prairie Starfish Productions
Running Time: 85 min.
MPAA Rating: PG

SOURCE Prairie Starfish Productions

GOP's Sinking Evolution


By Tom Teepen Published on 5/8/2007

It ought to count as a national embarrassment not just that the 10 Republican presidential aspirants were asked in their first debate whether they believe in evolution but, worse, that the question was called for. And worst of all, that three testified to their disbelief.

So far the Republican Party has fallen into a sink of anti-intellectualism, indeed, into fantasy, that you might as well ask the candidates whether they believe in ghosts, fairies and calorie-free doughnuts.

One doesn't believe in or not believe in evolution, any more than one believes or not in physics. Evolution simply is. So much so it may be the definitive answer to President Clinton's sly equivocation about what the meaning of is, is.

Evolution is the floor plan of modern biology. Without it, the field would amount to little more than looking for pretty flowers, counting birdies and thinking up Latin names for stuff. There are a million quibbles about details, but evolution's basics are accepted so near to universally that the shortfall is barely measurable.

It is about equally easy to find scientists who don't believe in gravity.

Yet, there were Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee volunteering their ignorance — virtually a third, no less, of the GOP presidential field. (Although in mitigation, you could argue that their candidacies are as yet so marginal they add up to only one real one.)

Charles Darwin published his seminal "Origin of Species" in 1859. It was quickly understood by a major part of the scientific community. And, for all the religious sputtering it set off, by the end of that century numerous Christian thinkers and prelates had signed on, too, finding it no great task to reconcile evolution with a thoughtful reading of Genesis.

Biblical literalists

But here we are, 148 years later, and American politics still cringes before biblical literalists who insist upon a finger-snapping God who popped creation into being in six days about 6,000 years ago. Even candidates who know better duck as many chances as they can to say that they do.

That's the case with Democrats as well as Republicans, but Republicans, as a party, have moved a broad contempt for science toward the center of their vaunted "values." The Bush administration is Exhibit A.

The president himself spent most of his two terms denying global warming and, when he finally did come around, still doubted that human activity was enough implicated to warrant any action. His administration has repeatedly ignored or suppressed scientific data and conclusions that would complicate its reliance on the religious right or that would cost its special-interest funders, especially in energy and development, any financial bother.

The Environmental Protection Agency especially, but other agencies as well, even the Centers for Disease Control, have had to defer to conservative political correctness.

President Bush has rightly worried aloud about whether the United States is keeping up in science and math education. Our future prosperity depends upon the answer. That answer is less likely to be "yes" as long as he and his party, however much they may profess to admire science in the abstract, dismiss and even demonize science whenever it becomes politically inconvenient.

Tom Teepen is a syndicated columnist. E-mail him at teepencolumn@ earthlink.net.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Doctors fear alternative therapies waste NHS cash


KATE FOSTER (kfoster@scotlandonsunday.com)

THOUSANDS of patients are being treated with controversial alternative therapies on the NHS despite concerns that they are not proven to work.

Health boards in Scotland last year spent around £365,000 on dozens of methods, including Indian head massage, reflexology and homeopathy for patients suffering from a range of complaints from stress to cancer.

Many of the patients were sent to the NHS-funded Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital, one of only a handful of hospitals of its kind in the UK, while others received treatment from practitioners in their areas.

Most health boards have a budget for homeopathy and treatments such as reiki - a form of spiritual practice often compared to faith healing - as well as meditation, acupuncture and herbal medicines.

While some methods are used where conventional methods have failed, others such as massage and aromatherapy are used alongside conventional therapies to help patients cope with the stress of being diagnosed with serious conditions such as cancer.

Yesterday, homeopathy experts defended the use of alternative medicine, but some doctors remain unconvinced that it helps patients.

Dr David Reilly, lead consultant at the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital, said many trials showed a positive effect from alternative healing.

He said: "The big difference for patients is that this is a whole-person approach taking both the mind and body. The general medical system is struggling to help people and some patients are seeing five or six different specialists, with multiple problems and multiple prescriptions.

"One-fifth of Scottish GPs feel they can't give patients adequate care because they are only seeing them for an average of nine minutes each. There is too much prescribing and too many referrals.

"People are becoming more aware of the issue of self-care and wellness and beginning to question the use of drugs. People feel that the healthcare system dehumanises them. This has led to the rise in alternative medicine. Most of the trials on alternative medicine have been positive. It is quite clear that we are bringing some contribution to the NHS."

Homeopathy is a method of healing based on the theory of treating like with like. Practitioners use highly diluted natural substances that if given in stronger doses to a healthy person would produce the symptoms the medicine is prescribed for. When assessing patients, homeopaths take into account physical, emotional and lifestyle factors.

But critics say that scientific evidence shows that homeopathy acts only as a placebo and there is no scientific explanation of how the methods could work.

Dr Sandy Sutherland, a Midlothian GP, said he and many of his colleagues remained unconvinced that such remedies actually work and urged the NHS not to spend vast sums on them.

He said: "It is difficult for doctors to accept homeopathy because we have scientific training and this turns conventional wisdom on its head. These are unproven methods.

"I am not aware of any convincing trial evidence to show that homeopathy does work. Things like massage and reflexology are relaxing but definitely in the unproven category."

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said that it was up to NHS boards to decide whether to offer patients alternative medicines.

This article: http://news.scotsman.com/health.cfm?id=702422007

Last updated: 06-May-07 02:55 BST

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Three GOP presidential candidates don't believe in evolution


More fallout from Thursday night's Republican presidential debate, this from moderator Chris Matthews' question about evolution.

Mike Huckabee was one of three candidates who raised their hands when Matthews asked who did not believe in it. On Friday the former Arkansas governor and Southern Baptist minister explained his answer to reporters in a conference call.

According to an AP account, Huckabee said he does not object to the teaching of evolution as a theory and said he does not expect schools to teach creationism. "I'm not sure what in the world that has to do with being president of the United States," he said.

Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback and Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo were the other two candidates who raised their hands.

Arizona Sen. John McCain did not raise his hand but asked to elaborate. "I believe in evolution," McCain said. "But I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also."

Most scientists consider evolution a pillar of biology, but religious conservatives have challenged it in recent years.

An attempt by the Dover, Pa. school board to teach an alternative called intelligent design was struck down by a federal judge. Dover school board members supportive of intelligent design (which holds that life is too complex to have evolved without an unidentified intelligent "designer") were defeated.

Click here to read views challenging evolution and here for a summary of pro-evolution court rulings.

Huckabee: Creation, evolution beliefs don't matter in presidency


By Philip Elliott, Associated Press Writer | May 5, 2007

CONCORD, N.H. --Republican Mike Huckabee doesn't believe in evolution -- unless it involves his presidential campaign hopes.

Breaking News Alerts The former Arkansas governor and Baptist pastor repeated his position endorsing intelligent design on Saturday, but joked that he would allow for his own evolution if it gives him a better shot at winning his party's nomination.

"For once I believe in evolution. I think I'll get stronger and stronger and stronger and stronger, and the other guys will get weaker and weaker and weaker," Huckabee said with a laugh during an interview. "It's the process of natural selection. I'll be naturally selected to be the nominee for president."

Huckabee was one of three GOP candidates who raised their hand during Thursday's debate when asked if they don't believe in evolution -- the development of organisms and species from a primitive state. Since then, he's sought to explain his views on evolution.

"I believe that the Creation has a creator. I believe there is a God. And I believe God put this whole creative process in motion. How he did it and the time frame in which he did it, I honestly don't know. Nor do I think it's relevant to being president of the United States," Huckabee said.

"I'm going to leave the scientists to debate the intricacies of how it happened and when it happened because I simply don't know. But I believe that rather than all this being just some accident that happened, there was a design, and a designer in the design," he said.

Huckabee badly lags in state and national polls. His first quarter fundraising totals were lackluster and he is struggling to find name recognition. He said Thursday's debate helped him with both and predicted his fellow Republicans would stay polite to one another for several months.

"I'm running for the presidency. ... I want people to evaluate me for who I am and what I stand for, not because I can throw more fiery darts at my opponent."

Huckabee was in New Hampshire this weekend, starting with a 5K run Saturday morning and private meetings in the afternoon. He scheduled house parties on Sunday.

"It might be seemingly absurd to say it, but I think we'll win New Hampshire. I know that's a bold prediction. But I certainly think we're the capacity to win New Hampshire," he said. "And if not, I'll be close enough that people think I did. This state is geared for a candidate like me."

© Copyright 2007 Associated Press.

Mitt Romney's Campaign on Evolution


May 5, 2007

Kevin Madden, Mitt Romney's spokesman has responded to The Brody File question on whether Mitt Romney believes in Evolution. I wanted to know his thoughts about it because at the debate the other night only three candidates raised their hand expressing doubt about Evolution. Romney was not one of those candidates. Here's the Romney campaign response:

"Governor Romney believes both science and faith can help inform us about the origins of life in this world."

With all due respect, what does that mean exactly? It leaves me with more questions. I have asked for further clarification which I assume will be forthcoming here at the Brody File. I have now asked the Romney campaign specifically if he believes in Darwin's theory of Evolution or does he take the Creationist view? The answer above suggests that he may believe in both. I'm not saying he does. I'm just saying I'm a tad bit confused by the answer.

Here's the key point. The majority of Born Again Evangelicals take the Creationist viewpoint. Some Evangelicals already have concerns about Romney's Mormon faith. He needs support from Evangelicals to win. That's why this issue is an important one that needs to be cleared up. I don't think this is an issue that Romney can avoid. I believe his views need to be clear.

I understand Evolution can mean different things to different people and it can be a complicated issue. But Darwin's theory of Evolution is more clear cut. It is considered a "religion" of sorts by fundamentalist Christians. I fully realize that a Commander in Chief will not be making any "executive" decisions when it comes to Evolution. But since many Evangelicals are looking for a candidate with solid social issue conservative beliefs, Evolution enters the equation along with abortion and gay marriage. What say you? As a believer in the Creationist viewpoint, do you want to hear what Romney has to say on this or do you even care? I'll post your comments.

Evolution education update: March 30, 2007

A new anthology that's a must for your bookshelf, along with a flurry of broadcasts and podcasts for your listening enjoyment.


A spectacular new anthology edited by Andrew J. Petto and Laurie R. Godfrey, Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism (W. W. Norton, 2007), described by Publishers Weekly as "[a] serious, comprehensive collection of new and revised essays from some of the biggest names in the anti-creationism field," is now available. In a press release, the publisher writes:


Why does "creation science" keep finding an audience, over and over, since the time of Darwin? Is there anything different about the "intelligent design" movement? Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism presents a defense of evolution that is accessible but not simplistic, scientifically sound but not ignorant of sociopolitical reality, and rational without condescension. Moreover, in a time when creationist textbooks continue to appear in classrooms and the president encourages educators to "teach both sides" of the argument, the book presents a blueprint for improving science education in this country to ensure that every student understands the science that grounds our understanding of evolution.

Since science itself makes a point of including minority views, it is not surprising that anti-evolutionists try to cast their ideas as "scientific alternatives." Intelligent design is not science but it is a socially, politically, and rhetorically persistent idea. All sixteen contributors to this collection -- from fields as diverse as atmospheric science, biology, and evolutionary genetics -- have a second specialty. They have spent decades closely observing and advocating for science in society, particularly in education. Their dual perspective makes them uniquely qualified to debunk this latest guise of the anti-evolution movement.

The book's first section traces the historical development of creationism, with special attention toward recent developments in religious fundamentalism that have burst on the scene since an earlier edition of this book was published in 1983. Anthropologist John R. Cole dissects a founding manifesto of intelligent design, which has driven a wedge between scientists and non-scientists. Next, experts zero in on the "scientific" arguments put forward by the creationists, to wit: "Some creatures are so complex that they couldn't have developed from a series of simple adaptations." Biologist Robert Dorit gives us the ant colony, an efficient system of defense, reproduction, and labor -- all conducted by creatures with tiny brains. With enough simple interactions, complexity, which Darwin called "extreme perfection," arises all the time.

Finally, the editors address the public misconceptions about science itself that are brought to light by the controversy. Here, distinguished professionals deliver an impassioned primer on the scientific method. According to philosopher Helen Longino, science owes its long-term objectivity to two facts: the scientific community is a culturally and ideologically diverse group of people; and sooner or later every scientific theory will be tested against the real world. Intelligent design is neither broad-based nor answerable to the world, but Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism is both. As long as science requires public advocacy, this highly intelligent treasury of scholarship will remain an essential resource for students, teachers, and open-minded citizens.


Andrew J. Petto is a member of NCSE's board of directors, the editor of Reports of the National Center for Science Education, and lecturer in anatomy and physiology at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Laurie R. Godfrey is a Supporter of NCSE, professor of anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the editor of Scientists Confront Creationism (W. W. Norton, 1984).

The contributors include Ronald L. Numbers, NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott, John R. Cole, Victor J. Stenger, Antonio Lazcano, Kevin Padian and Kenneth D. Angielczyk, Robert Dorit, NCSE's Wesley R. Elsberry, C. Loring Brace, Robert T. Pennock, Norman A. Johnson, J. Michael Plavcan, Alice Beck Kehoe, and the editors, Andrew J. Petto and Laurie R. Godfrey; Cole and Padian, like Petto, are members of NCSE's board of directors.

Andrew J. Petto discussed Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism with Mitch Teich of WUWM radio's "Lake Effect" show; the show is available on-line. And a podcast, in which Petto reads from his and Godfrey's preface to the book ("Why We Did It Again"), is now available on his website for the book.

To buy the book (and benefit NCSE in the process), visit:

For Teich's interview with Petto, visit:

For Petto's podcast of the preface to the book, visit:


NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott was featured in two recent broadcasts/podcasts.

First, Scott was featured in a BBC World Service "Heart and Soul" program broadcast on March 25, 2007, the first of a two-segment feature on religious views regarding creationism and evolution. In her segment, Scott interviews atheist Richard Dawkins, non-theistic cosmologist Paul Davies, old-earth creationist Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe, theistic evolutionist and Lutheran theologian Ted Peters from the Pacific School of Religion, and young-earth creationist Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis. In the second segment, Henry M. Morris III of the Institute for Creation Research will interview a different group of people, and meet with Scott on the edge of the Grand Canyon to discuss their experiences. Scott's segment will be available on the BBC's website until March 31, when Morris's segment will replace it; it is as yet unclear whether the segments will be permanently archived.

Second, Scott recently spoke on "The evolution of creationism" as the Samuel Newton Taylor endowed lecture at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. In her talk, she discussed common misunderstandings of evolution, the historical development of antievolutionism, and the current state of the creationism/evolution controversy. In the light of the verdict in Kitzmiller v. Dover, she also offered her predictions for the future of the "intelligent design" movement. And now her lecture is available in MP3 format on Goucher College's website.

For Scott's "Heart and Soul" program, visit:

For Scott's lecture at Goucher College, visit:


Edward Humes, the author of Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America's Soul (Ecco, 2006), which centers on the Kitzmiller v. Dover case in which teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools was ruled to be unconstitutional, discussed his book and the trial with Steve Kraske on KUCR in Kansas City, Missouri, on March 29, 2007; the show is available on-line.

The reviewer of Monkey Girl for the Chicago Tribune (February 4, 2007), wrote, "Clearly based on exhaustive reporting that takes the reader from the hard benches of a Harrisburg, Pa., federal district courtroom to the kitchen tables of Dover families whose children were taunted as 'monkey girls,' Humes' fast-moving, richly detailed book reads like a suspense novel."

For Kraske's interview with Humes, visit:

For information about Monkey Girl, visit:

To buy the book (and benefit NCSE in the process), 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!

Intelligent Design is not science: why this matters


John Wise, Contributing Writer, jwise@smu.edu

Issue date: 5/4/07 Section: Opinion

Because science gives us methods to accurately understand and manipulate the world we live in. Few people would dispute that our present scientific understanding of the physical world has led to a tremendously long list of advances in medicine, technology, engineering, the structure of the universe and the atom, and on and on. The list is nearly endless, but it does not include everything. Science can tell us only what is governed by natural forces. Miracles are extra-ordinary events; gods are super-natural beings.

Are there reasonable philosophical arguments that can be made for the existence of God? Certainly. Are there reasonable philosophical arguments that can be made that God does not exist? Yes. Is there scientific evidence that answers either of these great questions one way or another? None that holds up to close scrutiny. Collins has no more scientific evidence that God exists than Dawkins has that God does not. Their evidence is philosophical, not scientific. Philosophy can encompass these issues, science cannot.

This actually matters and is important. If we call ID science, we will have to redefine science to include supernatural causes and effects. The usefulness of science stems from the predictable action of the laws of nature and the strict rules regarding testable hypotheses. If you modify the definition of science to include unpredictable supernatural forces, magic and miracles, the utility of science will be lost because we won't be able to form reasonable predictions from what we observe in the natural world. No reverent believer would presume to know what goes on in the mind of God, so how can the actions of God be predicted? For science to progress and maintain its usefulness, it needs to be limited to the laws of nature.

The Discovery Institute and the ID proponents that visited our campus this April are busy right now attempting to redefine science to include supernatural causes and effects.

A lawsuit (Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District) brought before a U.S. Federal District Court in Harrisburg, Penn., by parents concerned about these issues has vividly illustrated the direction and the politics behind the Discovery Institute's effort to redefine science. The parents challenged a curriculum change by the Dover Board of Education that "…promotes the religious proposition of Intelligent Design as a competing scientific theory."

In his September 2005 opinion, the judge in this case, John E. Jones III, wrote that the "ID proponents confirmed that the existence of a supernatural designer is a hallmark of ID." Judge Jones, on the three Discovery Institute experts' testimony: "Professor Behe has written that by ID he means 'not designed by the laws of nature,' and that it is 'implausible that the designer is a natural entity.'" "Professor Minnich testified that for ID to be considered science, the ground rules of science have to be broadened so that supernatural forces can be considered." "Professor … Fuller testified that it is ID's project to change the ground rules of science to include the supernatural." What the ID people propose is a monumental change to the way science is practiced and has far-reaching implications.

Listen further to the transcripts of these hearings - they are astounding. Professor Behe, star witness for the ID proponents and Discovery Institute senior fellow, gave a Discovery Institute-approved definition of scientific theory in his testimony. Unfortunately for both Dr. Behe and the Discovery Institute, Eric Rothschild, the brilliant lawyer for the parents, asked Dr. Behe, "But you are clear, under your definition, the definition that sweeps in Intelligent Design, astrology is also a scientific theory, correct?" And Dr. Behe answered, "Yes, that's correct."

Is this what America wants and needs? A definition of science that is so weak and neutered that astrology qualifies?

Judge Jones, a life-long Republican conservative, who was appointed to the federal bench by George W. Bush, spells it out clearly in his opinion: ID "presents students with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory, directs them to consult a creationist text as though it were a science resource, and instructs students to forego scientific inquiry in the public school classroom and instead to seek out religious instruction elsewhere." Intelligent Design is not science, and in order to claim that it is, its proponents admit they must change the very definition of science to include supernatural explanations.

These redefinitions of science will damage the utility of the sciences, medicine and countless other technical fields. This is why it matters and why so many scientists in our country (and at SMU) are worried.

The politics of this "redefinition" movement has a long history. Twenty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court in a case referred to as Edwards v. Aguillard "struck down the teaching of creation science … because it embodies the religious belief that a supernatural creator was responsible for the creation of mankind." Many ID proponents, including The Daily Campus contributing writers Sarah Levy and Anika Smith, have asserted that "because Intelligent Design does not try to address religious questions about the identity of the designer, this test does not apply to Intelligent Design." This is a critical assertion for the ID proponents. They are saying that ID is different from creationism and therefore the Supreme Court's rulings should not apply.

Judge Jones mentions a "creationist text" in his opinion that has become very relevant to this point. The book, "Of Pandas and People," was intended to be a high-school textbook that presented the Intelligent Design doctrine as science and was proposed by the Dover Board of Education as an alternative to the Dover students' approved biology textbook. In a brilliant move made by Eric Rothschild, a subpoena for all documents and drafts related to the Intelligent Design "Pandas" work and its Creationism predecessor text, "Biology and Origins," was served on the book's Richardson publisher. After losing their bid to quash the subpoena, the publisher surrendered a number of early, unpublished versions of the books to the court. A comparison of these original drafts with the actual published versions shows that the words "creationist" or "creationism" were simply substituted with "Intelligent Designer" or "Intelligent Design" just as if a word processor search-and-replace function did the job.

The date when this "creationism" to "Intelligent Design" big switch happened is absolutely damning to Ms. Levy and Smith's assertion that Intelligent Design and Creationism are not one and the same. The "switch" occurred in 1987, just weeks after the Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard ruled that creationism was religion and not science, and could not be taught in public schools. No wonder Judge Jones wrote in his Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion that "ID is creationism re-labeled".

So yes, Edwards v. Aguillard certainly does apply. The ID proponents have literally provided all of the needed evidence themselves. (As Levy and Smith assert, it truly is a good thing when your opponents make your points for you.) Simply changing the name from "creationism" to "Intelligent Design" changes none of the logic, relevance or the impact that the Edwards v. Aguillard decision had on the creationist movement and now has on Intelligent Design. Neither one is science. Both have been determined to be religious because they both require a supernatural creator or designer.

It matters because the utility of science, medicine and technology is at risk.

The Discovery Institute was formed with the purpose of politically furthering the religious beliefs of creationism and Intelligent Design. Philipp Johnson, one of the founders of the Discovery Institute, has made this clear in his writings. The goal is to redefine science in America so that it is friendlier to the concepts of a Christian God.

Quoting Johnson's own words, "The objective is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism vs. evolution to the existence of God vs. the non-existence of God." In other words, don't allow this to be about creationism-ID versus science. Make people think this is all about a choice they have to make between God and science. This is deceptive at best.

Ms. Levy and Ms. Smith in their recent Daily Campus article certainly are up on their Philipp Johnson and Discovery Institute indoctrination tactics. Look how strongly they reacted to my statement that one need not choose between religion and science. They state, "Instead of attempting to understand the arguments …, Wise introduces a red herring, suggesting we don't have to choose between religion and science."

Well, Ms. Levy and Smith, we don't have to choose and I do understand the arguments. We can have both science and religion. Philosophical and religious beliefs do not have to conflict with science. Science simply cannot and should not enter the supernatural realm.

Read the "Language of God." Read "Finding Darwin's God." Ask the authors, Francis Collins (an evangelical Christian) and Kenneth R. Miller (a devout Catholic), if science and evolution diminish their faith. They will tell you that the natural reality is a grand and glorious reality that beautifully complements their strong and devoutly religious beliefs.

The foundations of Intelligent Design are in politics and religion, not science. The nature of what we have learned about our physical world does not have to conflict with our faith and understanding of the spiritual domain. Don't let your faith become dependent on the politics of flawed pseudoscience.

About the writer:

John Wise, Ph.D. is a biology professor at SMU. He can be reached at jwise@smu.edu.

A Split Emerges as Conservatives Discuss Darwin



Published: May 5, 2007

Evolution has long generated bitter fights between the left and the right about whether God or science better explains the origins of life. But now a dispute has cropped up within conservative circles, not over science, but over political ideology: Does Darwinian theory undermine conservative notions of religion and morality or does it actually support conservative philosophy?

On one level the debate can be seen as a polite discussion of political theory among the members of a small group of intellectuals. But the argument also exposes tensions within the Republicans' "big tent," as could be seen Thursday night when the party's 10 candidates for president were asked during their first debate whether they believed in evolution. Three — Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas; Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas; and Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado — indicated they did not.

For some conservatives, accepting Darwin undercuts religious faith and produces an amoral, materialistic worldview that easily embraces abortion, embryonic stem cell research and other practices they abhor. As an alternative to Darwin, many advocate intelligent design, which holds that life is so intricately organized that only an intelligent power could have created it.

Yet it is that very embrace of intelligent design — not to mention creationism, which takes a literal view of the Bible's Book of Genesis — that has led conservative opponents to speak out for fear their ideology will be branded as out of touch and anti-science.

Some of these thinkers have gone one step further, arguing that Darwin's scientific theories about the evolution of species can be applied to today's patterns of human behavior, and that natural selection can provide support for many bedrock conservative ideas, like traditional social roles for men and women, free-market capitalism and governmental checks and balances.

"I do indeed believe conservatives need Charles Darwin," said Larry Arnhart, a professor of political science at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, who has spearheaded the cause. "The intellectual vitality of conservatism in the 21st century will depend on the success of conservatives in appealing to advances in the biology of human nature as confirming conservative thought."

The arguments have played out in recent books, magazine articles and blogs, as well as at a conference on Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. There Mr. Arnhart was grouped with John Derbyshire, a contributing editor at National Review, against John G. West and George Gilder, who both are associated with the Discovery Institute, which advocates intelligent design.

Mr. Derbyshire, who has described himself as the "designated point man" against creationists and intelligent-design proponents at National Review, later said that many conservatives were disturbed by positions taken by the religious right.

"There are plenty of people glad to call themselves conservatives," he said, "who don't see any reason not to support stem cell research."

The reference to stem cells suggests just how wide the split is. "The current debate is not primarily about religious fundamentalism," Mr. West, the author of "Darwin's Conservatives: The Misguided Quest" (2006), said at Thursday's conference. "Nor is it simply an irrelevant rehashing of certain esoteric points of biology and philosophy. Darwinian reductionism has become culturally pervasive and inextricably intertwined with contemporary conflicts over traditional morality, personal responsibility, sex and family, and bioethics."

The technocrats, he charged, wanted to grab control from "ordinary citizens and their elected representatives" so that they alone could make decisions over "controversial issues such as sex education, partial-birth abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and global warming."

Advances in biotechnology — and pressure on elected Republicans to curb them — are partly responsible for the surge of interest in linking evolutionary and political theory, said those in the thick of the debate.

The fledgling field of evolutionary psychology also spurred some conservatives to invoke Darwinism in the 1990s. In "The Moral Sense" (1993), followed by "The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture Has Weakened Families" (2002), James Q. Wilson used evolution to explain the genesis of morality and to support traditional family and sex roles. Conservative thinkers from Francis Fukuyama to Richard Pipes have drawn on evolutionary psychology to support ideas like a natural human desire for private property and a biological basis for morality.

Debates over Darwinism became more pointed in 2005, however, as school districts considered teaching intelligent design, and President Bush stated that it should be taught along with evolution. The conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer wrote in Time magazine that to teach intelligent design "as science is to encourage the supercilious caricature of America as a nation in the thrall of a religious authority." George F. Will wrote that Kansas school board officials who favored intelligent design were "the kind of conservatives who make conservatism repulsive to temperate people."

Mr. Arnhart, in his 2005 book, "Darwinian Conservatism," tackled the issue of conservatism's compatibility with evolutionary theory head on, saying Darwinists and conservatives share a similar view of human beings: they are imperfect; they have organized in male-dominated hierarchies; they have a natural instinct for accumulation and power; and their moral thought has evolved over time.

The institutions that successfully evolved to deal with this natural order were conservative ones, founded in sentiment, tradition and judgment, like limited government and a system of balances to curb unchecked power, he explains. Unlike leftists, who assume "a utopian vision of human nature" liberated from the constraints of biology, Mr. Arnhart says, conservatives assume that evolved social traditions have more wisdom than rationally planned reforms.

While Darwinism does not resolve specific policy debates, Mr. Arnhart said in an interview on Thursday, it can provide overarching guidelines. Policies that are in tune with human nature, for example, like a male military or traditional social and sex roles, he said, are more likely to succeed. He added that "moral sympathy for the suffering of fellow human beings" allows for aid to the poor, weak and ill.

To many people, asking whether evolution is good for conservatism is like asking if gravity is good for liberalism; nature is morally neutral. Andrew Ferguson in The Weekly Standard and Carson Holloway in his 2006 book, "The Right Darwin? Evolution, Religion and the Future of Democracy," for example, have written that jumping from evolutionary science to moral conclusions and policy proposals is absurd.

Skeptics of Darwinism like William F. Buckley, Mr. West and Mr. Gilder also object. The notion that "the whole universe contains no intelligence," Mr. Gilder said at Thursday's conference, is perpetuated by "Darwinian storm troopers."

"Both Nazism and communism were inspired by Darwinism," he continued. "Why conservatives should toady to these storm troopers is beyond me."

Of Mr. Arnhart, he said, "Larry has a beautiful Darwinism, a James Dobson Darwinism" — referring to the chairman of the Christian organization Focus on the Family — "a supply-side Darwinism." But in capitalism, he added, "the winners don't eat the losers." Mr. West made a similar point, saying you could find justification in Darwin for both maternal instinct and for infanticide.

It is true that political interpretations of Darwinism have turned out to be quite pliable. Victorian-era social Darwinists like Herbert Spencer adopted evolutionary theory to justify colonialism and imperialism, opposition to labor unions and the withdrawal of aid to the sick and needy. Francis Galton based his "science" of eugenics on it. Arguing that cooperation was actually what enabled the species to survive, Pyotr Kropotkin used it to justify anarchism.

Karl Marx wrote that "Darwin's book is very important and serves me as a basis in natural science for the class struggle in history." Woodrow Wilson declared, "Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice."

More recently the bioethicist and animal rights activist Peter Singer's "Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution, and Cooperation" (1999) urged people to reject the notion that there is a "fundamental difference in kind between human beings and nonhuman animals."

At the American Enterprise Institute's conference, the tension between the proponents of intelligent design and of evolution was occasionally on display. When Mr. Derbyshire described himself as a "lapsed Anglican," which he compared to "falling out of a first-floor window," Mr. Gilder piped up, "Did you fall on your head?"

What both sides do agree on is that conservatives who have shied away from these debates should speak up. Mr. Arnhart said that having been so badly burned by social Darwinism, many conservatives today did not want "to get involved in these moral and political debates, and I think that's evasive."

Yet getting involved is more important than ever, after "the disaster" of "President Bush's compassionate conservatism," he said, because the only hope for Republicans is a "fusion of libertarianism and traditionalism, and Darwinian nature supports that conservative fusion."

Mr. West agreed that "conservatives who are discomfited by the continuing debate over Darwin's theory need to understand that it is not about to go away"; that it "fundamentally challenges the traditional Western understanding of human nature and the universe."

"If conservatives want to address root causes rather than just symptoms," he said, "they need to join the debate over Darwinism, not scorn it or ignore it."

As for Mr. Derbyshire, he would not say whether he thought evolutionary theory was good or bad for conservatism; the only thing that mattered was whether it was true. And, he said, if that turns out to be "bad for conservatives, then so much the worse for conservatism."

Friday, May 04, 2007

Evolution education update: May 4, 2007

Kevin Padian's testimony in Kitzmiller v. Dover is now available on-line, complete with slides. And Flock of Dodos is coming to Showtime.


NCSE is pleased to announce that, for the first time, a transcript of Kevin Padian's expert witness testimony in the trial in Kitzmiller v. Dover (400 F.Supp.2d 707 [M.D. Pa. 2005]) is available on-line -- complete with the slides that he displayed in the courtroom. Padian testified in the case on behalf of the plaintiffs, eleven local parents who were challenging the Dover Area School Board's "intelligent design" policy; Judge John E. Jones III found in their favor, ruling that teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools is unconstitutional. Padian is Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, Curator of Paleontology at the University of California Museum of Paleontology, and president of NCSE's board of directors.

Padian's testimony was widely regarded as among the highlights of the trial. For example, the columnist Mike Argento summarized Padian's discussion of Of Pandas and People: "It's too bad that just about everything the book says is wrong. ... The book, in so many words, is misleading, incorrect, incomplete, illogical and distorts the facts, he said." (York Daily Record, October 15, 2005). And in his account of the trial, Monkey Girl (Ecco 2007), Edward Humes wrote, "Kevin Padian, Berkeley paleontologist and curator of his university's Museum of Paleontology, entertainingly brought the bone hunter's perspective to the courtroom, the sort of character on whom the fossil-hunting hero of the film Jurassic Park was based. Padian happily showed slides of his 'critters,' as he tended to call the ancient fossils and bones he used as a window on the past. ... Padian, with evident fierce joy, debunked the often repeated claim that the absence of 'transitional fossils' was a problem for evolution and an argument for creation or intelligent design."

Judge Jones, for his part, was also impressed with Padian's testimony, writing in his decision, "A series of arguments against evolutionary theory found in Pandas involve paleontology, which studies the life of the past and the fossil record. Plaintiffs' expert Professor Padian was the only testifying expert witness with any expertise in paleontology. His testimony therefore remains unrebutted. Dr. Padian's demonstrative slides, prepared on the basis of peer-reviewing scientific literature, illustrate how Pandas systematically distorts and misrepresents established, important evolutionary principles." He also noted that "Padian bluntly and effectively stated that in confusing students about science generally and evolution in particular, the disclaimer makes students 'stupid.'"

For the transcript of Padian's testimony, visit:

For NCSE's resources about Of Pandas and People, visit:

To buy Monkey Girl from Amazon.com (and benefit NCSE), visit:

And for the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover (PDF), visit:


Randy Olson's Flock of Dodos, the hilarious documentary that examines both sides of the controversy over the teaching of "intelligent design" in public schools, is scheduled to be aired on Showtime's cable channels on five dates in May. The film's website describes Flock of Dodos as:


the first feature documentary (84 mins.) to present both sides of the Intelligent Design/Evolution clash that appeared on the covers of Time and Newsweek in 2005. Filmmaker and former Evolutionary Ecologist Dr. Randy Olson tries to make sense of the issue by visiting his home state of Kansas. At first it seems the problem lies with intelligent design -- a movement labeled recently as "breathtaking inanity" by a federal judge -- but when a group of evolutionists convene for a night of poker and discussion they end up sounding themselves like ... a flock of dodos.


New Scientist praised Flock of Dodos as "a film that will appeal to the average person on either side ... without condescension, poking lighthearted fun at everyone." It airs at 8:30 p.m. on May 17 on Showtime, at 3:15 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on May 19 on Showtime Showcase; at 1:00 p.m. on May 20 on Showtime; and at 8:00 p.m. on May 21 on Showtime Too.

For Showtime's schedule, visit:

For the Flock of Dodos website, visit:


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


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
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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!

Genesis in the classroom concerns educator


Last Updated: Thursday, May 3, 2007 | 3:03 PM MT CBC News

An education professor at the University of Calgary is concerned that religion is being taught in a handful of Alberta public schools.

Cochrane's Mitford Middle School will launch a Christian program this fall. Christian beliefs, including instruction on creationism in science class, will be taught to 50 or so elementary aged students as part of a two-year pilot project.

But Darren Lund, who teaches in the university's education faculty, said religion doesn't belong in a publicly funded school system.

"I certainly think parents have the choice to opt out of an inclusive public system, but they should pay for that schooling themselves," he said.

"If they want their children to be in an exclusive, religious school, segregated by religion, then I think that's where parents have to put up the money for that."

Dividing children by religion limits the diversity and inclusion in the public school system, he added.

Creationism in science class

Many of the program's students will be children who had been home schooled.

Bill Bell, Mitford's principal, said Christian beliefs will be woven through every subject in the new Christian program. Creationism will be taught in science class, he added. "The first teaching will be from a Christian point of view and then there will be an acknowledgement that there is another theory."

Kathy Telfer, a spokeswoman with Alberta Education, said creationism can play a role in Alberta classrooms. "It can be explored and discussed, but we need to focus around our curriculum."

Mitford is in the Rocky View School Division, which already has a similar program in a school in Chestermere. The Elk Island, Pembina Hills and Red Deer Public school districts are also among those offering a Christian program.

Telfer said it's up to local school boards, not the province, to make sure schools are sticking to that curriculum.

"[Creationism] certainly could be discussed in different contexts if they were doing research papers. But when it comes down to our provincial achievement tests and diploma exams, it would be marked based on our science program."

Rocky View is next door to the Calgary Board of Education, which doesn't allow faith-based public schools.

"The majority of the people we represent were not in favour of having faith based schools," said Calgary trustee Carol Bazinet. "The main reason being they had a belief that students should be educated together."

American Medical Schools Offer Ayurveda Course


By ASHFAQUE SWAPAN Special to India-West

Ayurveda is set to make a landmark entry into mainstream U.S. medical education with medical students, residents, faculty members and practicing physicians from 12 to 14 U.S. medical schools taking a 12-hour-long course offered by a visiting Ayurveda specialist from India. The course, being offered by U.S. medical schools for the first time, will be taught under Complementary Alternative Medicine in four cities, and is being offered free of charge.

The course is the result of four years' hard work by Riverdale, Md.-based urologist Navin Shah, who took on the challenge of bringing Ayurveda to mainstream U.S. medical education after a request from erstwhile Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, he told India-West.

"Vajpayee wanted me to propagate Ayurveda," he said. "I told him the best way is to go through the medical schools, because we want to enter through the main door of the mainstream, which is (the) medical school."

Shah said he met both Vajpayee and current Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in December last year and March this year.

"I met with Manmohan Singh, and I said, 'Sir, the best thing is to send (experts), but people are not taking any action. I want you to send two professors free of charge, so that we can arrange their lectures at no cost, because we want to propagate Ayurveda.'"

Singh agreed and Shah followed up, and the Indian government has now sent two Ayurvedic experts, Dr. H. Palep and Dr. T. Nesari, on a six-week trip.

While Nesari will spend most of her time at the University of Connecticut for a longer course, Palep will be conducting most of the 12-hour courses, the first of which will be in Washington, D.C., over the weekend of May 5-6 at Howard University, where students, faculty, and residents from the four medical schools of Georgetown University, George Washington University, Uniform Services Medical College and Howard will attend, along with practicing physicians.

Shah said this is just the beginning. "This is a pilot project, but ultimate aim is to introduce Ayurveda officially in the medical school curriculum under complementary alternative medicine," he said. "Now, some schools may take 10 hours or five hours or two hours, that's up to them."

The 12-hour-long course, prepared with the assistance of two Ayurveda physicians, Shekhar Annambhotla and Aparna Bapat, is divided into six-hour-long lectures for Saturday and Sunday. In addition to covering a wide variety of topics including basic principles and concepts in Ayurveda, diet, lifestyle, herbs, detoxifying and rejuvenating therapies, yoga and meditation, it has a two-hour-long segment on integration of allopathic and Ayurvedic treatments where the lecturer will present evidence of the efficacy of Ayurveda.

This last segment is particularly important, Shah said. While the limited efficacy of Western medicine in a host of chronic ailments like diabetes, hypertension, obesity and depression have led to greater interest in alternative, traditional schools of medicine like Ayurveda, Shah said mainstream practitioners of Western medicine continue to be leery due to the lack of Western-style studies that provide evidence that alternative therapies actually work.

"I want Ayurveda to be recognized like we have acupuncture, the same way," he said.

"I have asked (the) professor to have (a) two-hour lecture which is evidence-based medicine. They will have Western-style evidence on 10 diseases in which Ayurveda in combination with (Western medicine) or in isolation has made a difference.

"Now, there are three ways you can make a difference. One is you cure the disease. Second thing is improve on the symptoms and help the markers. Third thing is in cancer you stagnate the disease progress.

"They have evidence in diabetes, obesity, hypertension, menopause, depression, arthritis, colitis, psoriasis.

"There are hundreds of studies done in last 10 years. They will quote the studies. This is the crown jewel of the whole lecture."

Shah said he will take the Ayurveda experts to meet the chief of the National Institutes of Health to explore future joint Indo-U.S. studies.

"That means whatever Indians can claim should be replicated here," he told India-West. "And that is where we are working on now."

Shah said Ayurveda has a lot of promise in the U.S. "The beauty of Ayurveda is two-fold. One is that it's an individualized type of medicine. Number two, it has a mind-body-and-soul concept, like you have meditation, you got yoga, in which it is also giving mental peace as well as physical fitness, there is the value of spirit also," he said.

"The most important difference (is that) they have a system of detoxification called 'panchakarma' that means every year you rejuvenate your organs by the process so that you don't get old, or getting older slowly."

In many cases, he said, Ayurveda was "cheaper, better and healthier."

"My hope is that with this kind of pilot project there will be enough interest to get Ayurveda experts from India," he said. "I don't want anybody to read an Ayurveda book and study. I want a professor practicing and fully trained. That's why I waited for four years. I want these kinds of professors to come here and teach."

Shah said there are about 50 postgraduate universities in Ayurveda in India which offer two-year courses.

In the near future, Shah hopes to see Ayurveda to be not only accepted, but also a specialty.

"I expect that Ayurveda will be part like acupuncture is, number one," he said. "Number two, people will incorporate Ayurveda as a specialty. So there will be people who will be Ayurveda specialists among internal medicine."

:by indiawest

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Who's causing "division" in public schools? Assessing Kevin Trowel's arguments against intelligent design


Darwinists sometimes make a highly suspect argument along the lines of, "don't change evolution education because you'll divide the community." Most school districts presently teach only the scientific evidence which supports Darwinian evolution and nothing more on this topic. Does that satisfy the public or divide them? In fact, polls consistently show that Americans want more than just the pro-evolution side of the story taught in schools. A 2005 Harris poll found that 82% of Americans want alternatives to evolution taught. A 2006 Zogby poll corroborated that statistic, finding that a supermajority of Ohio adults want both scientific evidence for and against evolution taught, and 75% of Americans want intelligent design taught alongside evolution. In both polls, under 20% wanted only the evidence for evolution taught. It appears that the status quo goes against what the vast majority of Americans want. This seems like a likely candidate for what is causing community division. Ironically, a recent law review student note in Georgetown Law Journal suggests that the intelligent design be outlawed because it is "deeply divisive":

"This Note has attempted to analyze recent intelligent design controversies in their broader social context. In so doing, this Note has shown the deeply divisive nature of intelligent design proposals. The divisiveness of intelligent design policies points to a dangerous trend in which certain communities may be actively turning away from the wider culture, exacerbating existing divisions, and creating new ones."

(Kevin Trowel, "Divided by Design: Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, Intelligent Design, and Civic Education," 95 Georgetown Law Journal 855, 894 (March, 2007).)

Discovery Institute does not advocate mandating intelligent design in schools. But in fact, Discovery Institute's preferred policy for education is founded upon finding "a common ground approach that all reasonable citizens can agree on":

As a matter of public policy, Discovery Institute opposes any effort to mandate or require the teaching the theory of intelligent design by school districts or state boards of education. Recognizing the potential for sharp conflict in this area, Discovery Institute believes that a curriculum that aims to provide students with an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of neo-Darwinian and chemical evolutionary theories (rather than teaching an alternative theory, such as intelligent design) represents a common ground approach that all reasonable citizens can agree on.

(David K. DeWolf and Seth L. Cooper, "Teaching About Evolution in the Public Schools: A Short Summary of the Law")

Other Problems:

Mr. Trowel claims, "Intelligent design theory, however, rejects the idea that science and religion can coexist." This turns the reality on its head. Sure, many Darwinists do contend that evolution and religion are compatible. But many don't, and they oppose religion in a divisive way (ever heard of leading, highly influential Darwinists like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett?).

Moreover, many ID-proponents most certainly find evolution and religion compatible. For example, pro-ID Dover-expert witness Michael Behe was a completely satisfied Roman Catholic and a Darwinist before the data persuaded him that intelligent design was the better answer. For Behe, this has nothing to do with rejecting a scientific viewpoint to salvage a religious viewpoint. Contra Trowel, I have never heard of a single ID-proponent who claims to "rejec[t] the idea that science and religion can coexist." (For another error, Mr. Trowel relies on Ken Miller and Judge Jones to assert, "Instead, intelligent design offers only a 'negative argument against evolution'," which is another false claim. I always thought good scholarship described a viewpoint by quoting its proponents, but I guess it's easier to quote the misrepresentations of critics.)

Poor Mr. Trowel. As a law student, he probably read the Dover ruling and thought that it was accurate and has no idea how badly he's been mislead about ID. (I should note that law schools always teach students to critically analyze judicial rulings, so his reliance upon Kitzmiller isn't completely acceptable.)


The facts show that Americans don't want only the pro-evolution scientific evidence taught. They want the scientific evidence both for and against evolution presented in schools. It seems more likely that pro-evolution-only policies are a greater cause of community strife because they go against what Americans so clearly desire. So who's the one advocating "divisive" policies here?

Posted by Casey Luskin on May 3, 2007 12:01 AM | Permalink

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Creationism Adapts to New Surroundings


Despite pocket outbursts of irrationality, the theory of evolution has been generally accepted in the United States -- in the public sphere, certainly, and also by people who find no conflict between their own religious convictions and the demonstrable facts of adaptation and natural selection.

In certain other parts of the world, however, evolution is under blunt assault:

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."

Distressingly, such eligious fundamentalism is paralleled by the narrow-mindedness of people for whom Darwin's observations are invoked to exclude all religious perspective. Extinguished by this bipolar debate are thinkers who don't believe their truths to be the only truths.

For an alternative-future explication of why such tendencies are dangerous, we can turn, as always, to South Park.

In The Beginning [The Economist]

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Why Creationism Fails at the Polls


By Callimachus

Having watched the creationism insurgency flare up in half a dozen different school boards since the mid-1980s, I've noticed a pattern. It helps me reconcile some aspects of this issue that don't seem to fit. Most Americans, according to polls, lean toward religious explanations of the origin of life, and most favor some discussion of that in science classes (a false, but understandable, position for a people committed to fairness and "equal time" who don't appreciate that in the scientific method, facts and consistency rule with ruthlessly authority and democracy has no place).

Yet school boards that push creationism (or "intelligent design," to call the emperor's new clothes by their new name) routinely get voted out, as they were last night in Dover, just across the river from here.

In the '80s, the Christian Coalition was pushing such candidates onto school boards. Here in Pennsylvania, and perhaps elsewhere, they were advised to run "stealth" campaigns, not talking about their religious attitudes and intentions. The goal was to open a new front in the culture wars by using the power of the school board to undercut secular humanism and pop psychology in public schools. Yet often the candidates ran on a broad platform that emphasized reining in the upward spiral of school construction costs and teacher salaries — always a popular topic.

Frankly they couldn't run openly as zealots. Most people, at least around here, want schools that do reasonably well in SATs and football, and taxes that don't drive them out of their homes. That's about it.

Once enough such candidates take seats on the board, however, (often through appointments as well as elections) they began pushing a social conservative agenda. Creationism in the classroom is part of it.

What turned the voters against them was not so much the agenda, but the way it was pursued. Stealth leaves a bad taste in people's mouths. Especially when, as was revealed in the Dover trial, the scope of it was much bigger than anyone knew, and the deception crossed into outright perjury.

And then the people start to see their school district name become a standing joke on late-night talk shows. Suddenly, instead of football or academics, they're famous for being yokels.

At the same time, the pro-creationism board members reveal that they're willing to push their crusade through expensive court battles, down to the last taxpayer dollar. That seriously undercuts their original base.

As long as the same pattern prevails, creationism school boards will rise and fall in a regular cycle. No matter if you call it creationism or intelligent design or "Free Beer."

Ancient medical practices integrate with U.S. medicine


Priscilla D. Tasker
Issue date: 5/1/07 Section: Features

Originally published: 4/30/07 at 10:46 PM EST Last update: 4/30/07 at 10:45 PM EST

Pin pricks and the human body.

The combination of words could invoke numerous images: Voodoo dolls, Sleeping Beauty, struggles in seventh grade home economics.

But for Kathy Ligon, a fourth year medical student at NEOUCOM, the use of needles as a healing practice — acupuncture — is a means of integration of Eastern and Western medical practice.

"What's so incredible is that for thousands of years, two separate medicines were being developed simultaneously in isolation from each other, and the way they were organized was totally different," Ligon said.

Ligon, a seasoned practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, plans to integrate Eastern and Western medicinal theories in her practice of healing when she graduates from NEOUCOM this May. She will employ her skills of both medicines through a residency at Akron City Hospital. Patients may benefit from combined treatment, she said.

Ligon and her husband, Bob, each earned a Master of Traditional Oriental Medicine from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and have practiced acupuncture for nearly 15 years. Both have worked in hospitals and have treated patients who had no other option but to try an alternative treatment to their condition, Kathy said.

One such alternative, acupuncture, is a procedure by which hair-thin needles are inserted into the skin at specific points on the body to promote the flow of vital energy, referred to as Qi, Kathy said.

In traditional Chinese medicine, Qi (pronounced "chee") is a life force that is present in all things. It is the source of health and vitality in humans, and a disruption in Qi results in illnesses, Kathy said.

There are more than 2,000 acupuncture points on the body. Through continuous treatment, the activation of these points can provide relief from a variety of ailments. The acupoints lie along channels, called meridians, through which Qi moves, Kathy said. Some of the acupoints may be associated with "pressure points" such as the area of skin and muscle between the forefinger and thumb. Activation of this point is often associated with headache relief, Bob said.

Growing popularity

Medical experts do not fully understand the healing abilities of acupuncture and why it works because conditions in TCM do not directly correlate with those in Western medicine, Kathy said.

"If we let things go by the wayside just because we didn't understand it, we would be very limited in our medical treatment," Kathy said. "Sometimes my own medicine amazes me — it's one of the great mysteries of life."

The practice was not widely recognized in the United States until the early 1970s, according to A New Day Healing Arts health office's Web site (www.anewdayhealingarts.com). Prior to 1996, acupuncture needles had not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use by licensed practitioners. However, there was a significant rise in the number of patients who were being treated with acupuncture in the 1990s, and the number is still growing, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. An estimated 8.2 million U.S. adults had been treated with acupuncture by 2002, according to a survey conducted by NCCAM.


Although its use is becoming more accepted in the U.S., there are many misconceptions about the procedure and its origins — many believe the procedure is only used for pain management, Kathy said.

It is actually one of the most commonly used medical procedures in the world, according to the NCCAM Web site.

The procedure can be used to treat both physical and psychological ailments, including pain, irregular menses, depression and drug addiction, among others, Bob said.

Furthermore, acupuncture in the United States is often used as a last resort for ailments that respond to no Western treatment, Bob said. However, Traditional Chinese Medicine was designed to allow Qi to flow through the body freely and promote good health.

"One of the hallmarks of Oriental medicine is prevention, whereas Western medicine is reactive," Bob said.

The idea of Oriental medicine is to treat the whole person, not only through the procedure, but also through diet and lifestyle counseling, Bob said.

During a treatment session, Bob takes the patient's history, which may take more than one hour. He uses the information provided about the patient's physical complaints and lifestyle to determine the patient's condition. He provides the patient with a general meal plan and lifestyle suggestions, depending on the person's condition.

"The ideal goal is to make you independent of us," Kathy said, adding that diet and lifestyle are essential to effective treatment and to one's health.

"Patients who are compliant with diet and lifestyle become about 100 percent better," Bob said.

Contact health trends reporter Priscilla Tasker at ptasker@kent.edu.

Alternative medicine U.S. route is quicker, but pricey


By Joanna Frketich The Hamilton Spectator

(May 1, 2007)

Donna Robins welcomes Florida's Laser Spine Institute to Hamilton with open arms.

She's lived every day in pain since falling down her stairs eight months ago, severely injuring her neck and back.

"The pain is like someone hammering you full-fledge in the back of the neck over and over," says the homemaker. "I live pill to pill."

The pills are the only relief she's been offered by Hamilton doctors. She's been told she's not eligible for surgery here.

A desperate Internet search led her to the Tampa institute specializing in laser surgery for the back and neck. Robins has herniated and bulging discs that can apparently be treated with less invasive laser techniques.

Over the phone, she was told they'd do the surgery for $60,000 American.

"We don't have that kind of money," she says breaking down in tears.

"It seems so basic and simple, why don't we have this here? What's wrong with our country? Why are we suffering?"

Robins plans to go to one of the free information sessions the institute is holding on Hamilton Mountain Friday and Saturday of this week.

It's being brought here by Windsor-based company EcuMedical that helps American clinics attract patients facing long waits in Canada.

In the last year, it has held six similar seminars in Toronto and Windsor. It claims that has resulted in 110 Canadians going stateside for back surgery, as well as hip and knee operations.

It's the first time it has brought a private clinic to Hamilton.

"It's very much needed," said EcuMedical CEO Tracy Bevington. "People are paying for it to get out of pain. It's a wonderful option."

Hamilton Health Sciences, which does the bulk of back surgeries in this area, doesn't agree.

"Do we think it's a good idea to do that? No," said Dr. Mike Marcaccio, chief of surgery.

"I think comprehensive care is better."

Hamilton does comparable surgeries to the ones being flogged by the Florida institute.

Marcaccio says the institute's advertising saying minimally invasive back surgery is rarely done here is wrong.

But, he fully acknowledges, getting comparable surgeries in Hamilton can take years.

There's about a one-year wait just to see the surgeon and then another one-year wait to get the operation.

As a result, more American clinics have been looking to recruit patients here.

"There's no shortage of that kind of advertising," Marcaccio added.

The waits are expected to improve now that the province has made back surgery a priority.

But that's a slow process that won't be fixed before the Florida institute arrives Friday.



Homeopathy is worse than witchcraft - and the NHS must stop paying for it



Last updated at 09:57am on 1st May 2007

Many people swear by homeopathy. It is a popular dinner party topic of the Hampstead set, of which I am a member. My friends - otherwise educated, cultured people - say it can help them recover from a cold in just seven days. Yes, I reply, and left alone it would take a whole week.

The problem is that few people know what homeopathy really is. I'll tell you: it is a 200-year-old practice that hasn't changed since its inception.

Homeopathy is based on three principles: treat the symptoms of a disease rather than the disease itself; cure like with like (an onion makes your eyes stream and so does a cold, so treat a cold with an onion); and the greater the dilution of the 'medicine', the more potent the potion.

Some homeopathic tinctures contain so little of the magic ingredient there could just as easily be a molecule of my urine in them.

Homeopathic companies are making a fortune marketing placebos. Yet, despite this, last September, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority approved the marketing of homeopathic remedies for 'self-limiting conditions' (these are conditions which should improve by themselves) - even if there is no evidence of their efficacy.

This scares me. Homeopathy is to medicine what astrology is to astronomy: it's witchcraft - totally barmy, totally refuted, and yet it's available on the NHS. For while homeopathic medicine is not toxic, its use as an alternative to conventional medicine can, in fact, cause serious harm.

Take insomnia, a so-called selflimiting condition - this makes it apparently 'suitable' for homeopathy. But insomnia can often be a symptom of depression, and if inadequately treated, depression can lead to suicide.

The risks of patients relying solely on homeopathy are obvious. Chronic constipation is another example. This can be evidence of bowel cancer and yet people can blithely go on treating it with homeopathy without realising the risks of not seeking medical attention.

And there are plenty of people who rely on homeopathy for conditions that are not described as self-limiting. Last year, a Newsnight programme revealed that young, eco-friendly backpackers are taking homeopathic prophylactics for malaria.

As a result, there is now an epidemic of malaria in people returning from the tropics.

Even more distressing is the story of one of my patients - a very personable young woman with breast cancer who keeps coming back to see me even though she doesn't accept any of my advice.

She could easily have been cured, but has refused surgery and conventional drugs in favour of hocus-pocus homeopathic remedies.

Her tumour is getting bigger and bigger and has pushed through her skin - there is now an ulcer where once there was a small lump. She dresses it with honey and God knows what else and she thinks it is getting better.

Yet there is a complete lack of clinical evidence to support alternative remedies. Medicine is based on evidence. If a drug or surgical treatment does not pass stringent clinical trials, it is abandoned.

The results of clinical trials are published whether they are favourable or not. Yet, when it comes to homeopathy, the standards of evidence are highly questionable.

Twenty years ago, I was invited to advise the Blackie Foundation Trust, a charitable foundation for the advancement of homeopathy, on clinical trials. I helped them carry out a trial on the effect of arnica on bruising caused by a traumatic childbirth, versus a placebo.

At the end of the trial, the placebo came out better than the arnica. Strangely, the results were never published.

This is not a lone case - there have been countless trials of homeopathic remedies in which they are compared to a placebo, but if only one positive result in 100 emerges, that is the one cited. This is, in my opinion, intellectual bankruptcy.

What fired my interest in this subject was an address the Prince of Wales gave the British Medical Association, of which he was president, in 1982. In it, he demanded that a dialogue be established between alternative medicine and scientific medicine, and the Royal Society of Medicine duly set up a series of workshops.

I was asked to sit in and could not believe that in our rational age people were holding such bizzare beliefs that effectively negate 200 years of medical science. There was so much rubbish being spouted it was comparable to believing the world was flat. Someone claimed he could diagnose all illness by looking at the tongue.

I have enormous affection for the Royal Family, but I think it is totally inappropriate for the Prince to promote and endorse alternative remedies.

So how do I feel about the news that the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, of which Prince Charles is a patron, may close? Well, two or three years ago we had two new drugs for breast cancer: Herceptin and aromatase inhibitors. They passed all the clinical trials but we had to wait until the NHS drugs watchdog, NICE, evaluated them for cost effectiveness.

For two years we knew they could save lives but we weren't able to prescribe them. During that time, women died who didn't need to.

During that time, the NHS Trust which runs University College Hospital, where I work, spent £20million - several times what we needed for the new drugs - on refurbishing the Royal London Homepathic Hospital. I felt bitter.

The majority of homeopathic physicians are nice, kind people and they're not stupid.

They will claim homeopathy is a complementary therapy, not an alternative to medicine. But how does homeopathy complement other medicine? Bogus potions aren't complementary, they are a deception and provide false hope.

What we don't have in the NHS is adequate palliative and supportive care that really does complement what people like me do. So I have a solution for the ailing Homeopathic Hospital and the £5million a year it receives from our NHS trust.

Stop peddling placebos and turn the hospital into a centre for evidence-based, supportive care for people with life-threatening or terminal illnesses. A centre with psychologists, masseurs, counsellors, art and music therapists.

Unlike homeopathy, these therapies have been critically evaluated: they are proven to enhance well-being. And add a research centre so we can further this area of healthcare.

This will make a real difference to people's quality of life, because this is real complementary medicine.

John West and the Darwin-Eugenics Link


In speeches in Washington and Philadelphia this week, Discovery Institute senior fellow and former political science professor John West has begun his program to describe the way Darwinism gave birth to the eugenics movement, and he is getting some attention. Protests are expected, but it won't do any good for Darwinists to huff and puff about West's linkage of Darwinism and the eugenics movement that sterilized scores of thousands of Americans deemed unfit in the early decades of the last century, the concurrent rise of the abortion movement and the extermination of hundreds of thousands of supposed social undesirables by the Nazis in Germany. Indeed, the replies given by the Darwinists in the Crosswalk article were anticipated—and rebutted—by West in his speech.

The Darwinists hate the claim of linkage to eugenics, but they cannot refute it. It is in the historical record. Eugenics was the "consensus science" of the time (attention, Chris Mooney). John West's research is thorough and impeccable. His lectures are laying out the facts—the official publicity documents, letters, speech quotations, state and federal legislative testimony and court rulings showing that eugenics was not just connected to Darwinism, but derived from Darwin's own work (in The Descent of Man), his cousin's coining of the term eugenics and the work of several generations of Darwin's followers. It was reflected in the Hunter's high school biology text—the one in the Scopes Trial which afterwards enjoyed continued wide use in America, though you never hear that part of the Scopes story.

Instead of pretending to wax indignant at the association of Darwinism and eugenics and launching the standard personal attacks, Darwinists should offer someone to debate West about this topic. Let's get it on national television in a fair and polite confrontation. As a pure academic exercise, as I say, the record is very clear.

OR Darwinists could simply acknowledge that eugenics is an unfortunate chapter in the history of their cause.

However, if they do that, the question will arise, what about the re-emergence of modern eugenics in the bioethics issues of today? You see, this historical topic is absolutely relevant.

Posted by Bruce Chapman on May 1, 2007 3:11 PM | Permalink

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