NTS LogoSkeptical News for 24 May 2007

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Thursday, May 24, 2007

BBC, Scientology clash over documentary


Hamilton Nolan PR Week USA May 21 2007 12:26

LONDON: A fierce publicity campaign by the Church of Scientology this month to paint a BBC documentary as unfair highlights the new paradigm media outlets face as subjects turn the tables on the formerly faceless interviewers.

Mike Rinder, a Scientology spokesman, said that the church originally received an e-mail from BBC journalist John Sweeney saying he was interested in pursuing a story on Scientology, but that the crew showed up without coordinating interviews. The church then started filming the activities of the BBC crew.

"It seem[ed] like he's not really interested in doing the story about 'What is the Church of Scientology,' but that he's got some preconceived story in mind," Rinder said. "So that was when we started filming."

One bit of the footage, a clip of Sweeney ranting loudly, leaked to YouTube and spread quickly across the Internet. Sweeney later apologized for losing his temper, but he and his editor both defended the editorial integrity of the piece overall.

Meanwhile, the church itself created a Web site, bbcpanorama-exposed.org, detailing its objections to the BBC story. The group also produced a DVD, distributed free through the Web site, which tells its side of the story.

"If this happened to us, it's probably happened to a lot of other people," Rinder said. "We have probably started a trend of documenting what happens with the media...things that usually the public would not see."

Naomi Luland, the BBC show's internal publicist, said via e-mail, "The BBC is committed to impartial, fair and accurate journalism and despite the hinderances and difficulties we were presented with in trying to make this documentary we believe that it fulfills that remit."

She added that while the BBC believed that Sweeney's outburst was "clearly inappropriate," the network felt that "overall the filming was carried out properly and fairly."

The BBC's piece aired on May 14 and is still available on their Web site.

About the Letters


January 2007

Darwin exchanged letters with nearly 2000 people during his lifetime. These range from well known naturalists, thinkers, and public figures, to men and women who would be unknown today were it not for the letters they exchanged with Darwin.

Darwin's correspondence provides us with an invaluable source of information, not only about his own intellectual development and social network, but about Victorian science and society in general. They provide a remarkably complete picture of the development of his thinking, throwing light on his early formative years and the years of the voyage of the Beagle, on the period which led up to the publication of The Origin of Species and the subsequent heated debates.

Darwin corresponded with notable scientific figures such as the geologist Charles Lyell , the botanists Asa Gray and Joseph Dalton Hooker , the zoologist Thomas Henry Huxley and the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace. The letters contribute to our understanding of their own work and opinions and also provide equally valuable insights into the lives and work of many men and women who would otherwise be unknown.

A new wrinkle in evolution -- man-made proteins


Public release date: 22-May-2007

Contact: Joe Caspermeyer
Arizona State University

Nature, through the trial and error of evolution, has discovered a vast diversity of life from what can only presumed to have been a primordial pool of building blocks. Inspired by this success, a new Biodesign Institute research team, led by John Chaput, is now trying to mimic the process of Darwinian evolution in the laboratory by evolving new proteins from scratch. Using new tricks of molecular biology, Chaput and co-workers have evolved several new proteins in a fraction of the 3 billion years it took nature.

Their most recent results, published in the May 23rd edition of the journal PLoS ONE, have led to some surprisingly new lessons on how to optimize proteins which have never existed in nature before, in a process they call 'synthetic evolution.'

"The goal of our research is to understand certain fundamental questions regarding the origin and evolution of proteins," said Chaput, a researcher in the institute's Center for BioOptical Nanotechnology and assistant professor in Arizona State University's department of chemistry and biochemistry. "Would proteins that we evolve in the lab look like proteins we see today in nature or do they look totally different from the set of proteins nature ultimately chose" By gaining a better understanding of these questions, we hope to one day create new tailor-made catalysts that can be used as therapeutics in molecular medicine or biocatalysts in biotechnology."

The building blocks of proteins are 20 different amino acids that are strung together and folded to make the unique globular shape, stability and function of every protein. The mixing and matching of the amino acid chain like numbers in the lottery are what favor the odds in nature of finding just the right combinations to help generate biological diversity. Yet no one can predict how the string of amino acids sequence folds to make the 3-D functional structure of a protein.

To select the raw ingredients to create the proteins, Chaput's group (which includes Harvard collaborator Jack Szostak, and ASU colleagues Jim Allen, Meitian Wang, Matthew Rosenow and Matthew Smith) began their quest by further evolving a protein that had been previously selected from a pool of random sequences.

Jack Szostak and Anthony Keefe first made the parental protein in 2001. To achieve their feat, they stacked the odds of finding just one or two new proteins and generated a library of random amino acid sequences so vast — 400 trillion — that it dwarfs the number of items in the entire Library of Congress (134 million).

They started with a small protein stretch 80 amino acids long. This basic protein segment acts as a protein scaffold that can be selected for the ability to strongly clutch its target molecule, ATP.

There was only one problem, the parental protein could bind ATP, but it wasn't very stable without it.

"It turns out that protein stability is a major problem in biology," said Chaput. "As many as half of the 30,000 genes discovered from the human genome project contain proteins that we really don't know what their structure is or whether or not they would be stable. So for our goal, we wanted to learn more about the evolution of protein folding and stability."

Chaput's group decided to speed up protein evolution once again by randomly mutating the parental sequence with a selection specically designed to improve protein stability. The team upped the ante and added increasing amounts of a salt, guanidine hydrochloride, making it harder for the protein fragment to bind its target (only the top 10 percent of strongest ATP binders remained). After subjecting the protein fragments to several rounds of this selective environmental pressure, only the 'survival of the fittest' ATP binding protein fragments remained.

The remaining fragments were identified and amino acid sequences compared with one another. Surprisingly, Chaput had bested nature's designs, as the test tube derived protein was not only stable, but could bind ATP twice as tight as anything nature had come up with before.

To understand how this information is encoded in a protein sequence, Chaput and colleagues solved the 3-D crystal structures for their evolutionary optimized protein, termed DX, and the parent sequence.

In a surprising result, just two amino acids changes in the protein sequence were found to enhance the binding, solubility and heat stability. "We were shocked, because when we compared the crystal structures of the parent sequence to the DX sequence, we didn't see any significant changes," said Chaput. "Yet no one could have predicted that these two amino acids changes would improve the function of the DX protein compared to the parent.

The results have helped provide a new understanding of how subtle amino acid changes contribute to the protein folding and stability. Chaput's team has developed the technology potential to take any of nature's proteins and further improve its stability and function. "We have the distinct advantage over nature of being able to freeze the evolution of our lab-evolved proteins at different time points to begin to tease apart this random process and relate it to the final protein function," said Chaput.

Next, Chaput plans on further expanding his efforts to evolve proteins with new therapeutic features or catalytic functions.


The Biodesign Institute integrates leading-edge research in biology, engineering and computer science to address challenging problems posed by disease, depletion of natural resources and threats to our national security. Understanding and emulating nature is essential to solving these problems, and is the unifying thread in the highly-diverse research of the Institute. The collaborative structure of the Institute is designed to accelerate discoveries and translate them into real-world applications in healthcare, engineering and environmental sustainability. For information, visit www.biodesign.asu.edu or call (480) 727-8322.

Media Source:
John Chaput

Testing Adam Dreamhealer's claims


By ANDREW MacLEOD May 23 2007

Does his presence boost, or discredit, a UVic alternative health conference?

Simon Fraser University psychology professor Barry Beyerstein once organized a test for Adam McLeod, who until recently used only a first name for his public appearances and who now goes by Adam Dreamhealer.

It was about six years ago, when Dreamhealer was still in high school and building a reputation as a healer who connects to people's "holographic energy fields" to help them heal themselves. Now 20, Dreamhealer is a popular alternative therapist and the author of three books. His six-hour workshop this weekend at the Body Heals conference at the University of Victoria sold out weeks ago at $110 a ticket, an admission separate from the rest of the conference.

Dreamhealer has many fans who attest that he is doing something special. Others, including Beyerstein, call him a likely fraud. His presence is a knock against the credibility of the conference on integrated health care, the university and the other presenters, they say.

"At first I wasn't interested," says Beyerstein, recalling the invitation to test Dreamhealer's abilities. Dreamhealer's father kept trying to arrange a meeting between the professor and Dreamhealer, however, and eventually Beyerstein agreed to talk with the boy.

Having been told Dreamhealer could tell people what illnesses they have even over great distances, Beyerstein asked Dreamhealer to diagnose him over the phone. "He tried to diagnose me and it bombed horribly," he says. "He told me stuff that was not true and missed stuff that was true."

Still, Beyerstein agreed to organize a more thorough test. He would gather a room full of people, each with some kind of illness. Dreamhealer would have gone around the room and said what he believed each person had. The professor would keep track of how many Dreamhealer got right and wrong, and would have been able to say whether Dreamhealer could really do what he claimed.

The next step would have been to have Dreamhealer attempt to heal each of the people, then to later measure whether their health had improved at all. The researcher wouldn't have been able to say how Dreamhealer's magic worked, but he would have been able to say if it worked.

"It was a fair test," says Beyerstein. "We would have told the world if he passed."

But with the test all ready to go, Dreamhealer's parents pulled him out of it. Beyerstein says, "It was such a simple test I can only assume the reason they backed out was he couldn't pass it."

Asked why he decided not to put his powers to Beyerstein's test, Dreamhealer says he was 14 at the time and trying to understand what it was he could do. "I can't remember exactly what happened," he says, but in the end he and his family decided Beyerstein was too closed minded to evaluate Dreamhealer's gift.

"I'm a very scientifically minded person," Dreamhealer says. He's in his third year of a molecular biology degree at a Lower Mainland university he asks not to have named in the article. "I'm participating in many different scientific studies now. I just don't do it with skeptics who aren't going to change their mind."

Beyerstein says his mind is open, but he's also committed to what's known as evidence-based medicine, supporting treatments that can be shown to work. "We're not hostile to any of these things. If they worked it would be medical malpractice not to provide them."

Warren Bell is a Salmon Arm family doctor and the president of the Association of Complementary and Integrative Physicians of B.C., the organization behind the second Body Heals conference at UVic. Dreamhealer is a "lightning rod" who draws criticism, Bell says. "It's funny. It muddies the water. [Critics] are not totally wrong. There is flim-flam involved in some of the models that are used." He adds, "They forget what we are trying to do, all of us, is just help our patients."

Others think Dreamhealer's "the best manifestation of what healing's about," Bell says, and it makes sense to include him in a conference aimed at encouraging people to integrate different therapies in a holistic approach to their own health.

"There's something inherently logical in using all therapeutic options that you feel comfortable with," says Bell. "That doesn't mean one abandons reason," he adds. When his patients come to him wanting to try some untested therapy, he asks if there's any evidence that it's harmful and whether or not the treatment is exorbitantly overpriced. If it passes on both counts, he says, "The only thing you can do, because nobody's going to spend much money on research on this . . . I say try it, see if it makes a difference."

Alternatives might include nutrition, exercise, acupuncture, massage, homeopathy, vitamins and chiropractic care, says Bell. "The conference is based around one primary issue, the notion of an integrated health care system, meaning a system where all therapeutic options have a place."

Western medicine's chemical approach to health is too simplistic, he says. "It's an illusion of exactitude as opposed to the reality of complexity."

The conference will also look at the relationship between individual health and environmental health, including a keynote talk by genetecist and environmentalist David Suzuki. Says Bell, "If we don't make decisions about our ecosystems that are sensible, then we suffer the consequences."

With B.C. engaged in a government-led "Conversation on Health," he adds, it's a good time to be adding a holistic perspective to the public discussion. "I think the real underlying reason why we're doing it is there's a sense there's enough momentum both within professional and public circles that a conference like this will potentially have a catalytic effect," he says. "We're not here to be a flash in the pan. We believe these issues are serious issues."

Royal Roads University is a partner in the conference, which meets the accreditation requirements of the College of Family Physicians of Canada. Doctors who attend the conference can use it to show they are staying up to date in their field.

Daniel Loxton, a journalist who writes for Skeptic magazine, says for him Dreamhealer's presence drags down the rest of the conference, much of which is likely legitimate. "It does impair the ability of people like the panelists at a conference like this to gain acceptance of the treatments they're promoting," he says. It may even detract from keynote speaker Suzuki's message. "It does a little bit colour his ecological views to be associated with something that's almost certainly fraudulent. That's too bad, because his views are important."

As it happens, Dreamhealer has been working to bring an air of scientific legitamacy to his work. He has been doing electroencephalographic, or EEG, tests, where he's managed to change a person's brain waves. According to a passage posted on his website in January based on four EEG readings, "There were no remarkable changes when Adam was not active but there was a very specific increase in Theta brainwave amplitude in the frontal brain regions when Adam directed his energy toward the target person."

Diagnosing a disease, with all its cultural variables, is subjective, Dreamhealer says, so he sticks to mathematical things that can be measured, such as the patterns a person's brain waves make when he's working on them. "There's an enormous amount of scientific proof behind it," he says. "The only real debate is we don't understand all the mechanisms behind this."

But what about proof that he can actually do what he says he can do? There are countless testimonials, both written and on video, on his website, he says, where people say he influenced their health. "Anyone who is looking at that, very clearly people are being helped," he says. And there are more that aren't up on the website yet. "There are so many I don't have time to upload them."

Loxton says that while some people say Dreamhealer has helped them, without testing nobody can be sure why somebody's health improved. "Correlation is not causation," he says. "That's why these anecdotal cases are so limited in their value."

Promoting a treatment that's not evidence-based comes with a big dose of responsibility, says Loxton. "[Dreamhealer] does get under my skin. It's not him in particular. He's no more despicable than anyone else in this line of work . . . For anyone to have the gall to meddle with someone's life like that, its really low down."

While there are doubts about Dreamhealer's medical success, there's no doubt he's done well financially. He made heaps of money while still in his teens, and continues to get rich. He no longer gives individual help, which critics note has more opportunity for error or failure, but he says he does about one workshop a month. This weekend's workshop at UVic will gross over $30,000. Last July, a television reporter asked Dreamhealer if he's a millionaire. He said, "Yeah. You know, with three best-selling books and doing workshops across North America, yeah."

SFU's Beyerstein says there are times the lines between alternative health treatments and mainstream medicine blur. Many drugs have been developed from plants, for instance. Still people should be cautious about counting on untested treatments. "If it really worked it wouldn't be alternative anymore," he says. "Feeling better is not the same as getting better. What all alternative medicine does is it treats the feeling of illness not the symptoms of disease."

Dreamhealer cautions on his website that his services aren't a replacement for seeing a health professional, but Beyerstein worries some people will put more faith in Dreamhealer than they should. "I've seen many cases where medical quacks and faith healers have strung people on who had serious conditions that were treatable," he says, citing the example of Tyrell Dueck, a Saskatchewan boy who didn't get a mainstream treatment for his bone cancer. "He died at 14 because of the belief system of his parents," says Beyerstein. "I have a stack of stories like that."

People like Dreamhealer prey on people at a time when they are desperate. "People will suspend disbelief when they're told something they really want to believe," he says. "He's selling hope. The will to believe is very strong and he's reenforcing a whole cosmology or world view that's the antithesis to the scientific beliefs I hold." M

The Body Heals Conference runs May 25-27 at the University of Victoria, full program $535. See www.bodyheals.ca for more information.

© Copyright 2007 Monday Magazine

MARTY RUSSELL: Cleaning the T. Rex cage must have been interesting


5/23/2007 6:35:11 AM Daily Journal

I would hate to have been the guy whose job it was to round up and herd a couple of T. rexes onto the ark.

This Memorial Day weekend marks the opening of the new Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., which purports to tell the history of the world based on creationism instead of evolution.

I'm not sure which is scarier, that children will be exposed to a very unscientific view of how we came to be here or that private individuals ponied up $27 million to build this museum. It's scary to think that there are enough uneducated individuals out there with that kind of money.

In the museum's view, the Earth is just a few thousand years old. But to explain away those pesky dinosaurs that keep popping up in the fossil record, the museum admits that dinosaurs were real but that they shared the planet with us humans and were probably among the animals saved by Noah's ark.

Spare me. If humans and dinosaurs had lived side by side we wouldn't be here today. We'd all be dino snacks. But aside from the logistics of trying to eke out a living while dodging huge reptiles, science has proven that the dinosaurs lived millions of years ago and died out about 65 million years ago.

You can't argue with carbon dating because it's how we all got here since dating is essential to the survival of us carbon-based life forms.

The museum, founded by the group Answers in Genesis, claims it is not targeting public school children in an attempt to circumvent the teaching of evolution and failed attempts to include creationism in those teachings.

But as many as 3,000 educators, mostly college professors, have signed petitions protesting the twisted and highly inaccurate portrayal of the Earth's history. Their concern, and rightfully so, is that exposing young children to such teachings is tantamount to telling them that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny really are real.

Adults can believe anything they want, but children need to be told the truth. And the truth doesn't mean having to abandon your religious beliefs. Evolution, though a natural process, is still every bit as mysterious and wonderful as the idea that someone created all of this in a week and then took a day off.

I suspect that the Creation Museum will be as extinct as a dodo bird in a short time because I believe the vast majority of people in this country are smart enough to know that evolution has a lot more scientific foundation than creationism and they won't buy it or the $10 admission ticket.

And I also suspect that a large number of the people who do will do so more for a good laugh than an educational experience.

Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 227 Lester Hall, University MS 38677 or by e-mail at marusse1@olemiss.edu.

Appeared originally in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 5/23/2007 6:00:00 AM, section A , page 2



Nicholas Birch 5/24/07

Turkish secularists put an end on May 20 to the mammoth marches they have staged since late April in protest of the prospect of an Islamist president.

Yet, while the biggest demonstrations in Turkey's history undoubtedly captured the world's attention, an arguably more important part of the struggle for Turkey's soul is going on in the relative silence of Turkey's classrooms, laboratories and courts.

A geneticist at Istanbul University, Haluk Ertan, sums up the situation succinctly. "Turkey," he says, "is the headquarters of creationism in the Middle East."

"Not just the Middle East, the world", insists Tarkan Yavas, the dapper, youthful director of the Istanbul-based Foundation for Scientific Research (BAV). The 15-year-old institute had generated a prodigious amount of information, publishing hundreds of titles. The question is; can many of the works be considered scientific?

Headed by a charismatic preacher, Adnan Oktar, BAV's latest production is the 770-page "Atlas of Creation" which it sent free of charge to scientists and schools in Britain, Scandinavia, France and Turkey this February.

Page after page juxtaposes photographs of fossils and living species, claiming the similarities prove the fraudulence of claims that species adapt with time. The book goes on to blame evolutionary principles for Communism, Nazism and – under an A3 photo of the Twin Towers in flames – Islamic radicalism and the September 11 terrorist tragedy. "Darwinism is the only philosophy which values conflict", the text says.

The claims may sound outrageous, but it is part of a formidably effective propaganda machine. A survey in 2006 showed that only 25 percent of Turks fully accepted the principle of evolution. According to another poll in 2005, 50 percent of biology teachers questioned or rejected evolution.

"Darwinism is dying in Turkey, thanks to us", says BAV's Yavas, who vowed to keep pressing a creationist agenda until Turkish culture is cleansed of what he called atheist materialism. "Darwinism breeds immorality, and an immoral Turkey is of no use to the European Union at all."

Finishing the job looks likely to be difficult. A cult-like organization that jealously guards the secrets of its considerable wealth, and whose websites mix creationism with Islamic-tinged nationalism, Ottoman nostalgia and veneration of the Turkish army, BAV has been taken to court repeatedly over the last decade. On May 19, Turkey's Supreme Court opened the way for a new suit when it ruled that 2005 criminal charges brought against the group should not have been dropped because of time constraints.

Another Turkish court is pondering a case brought by 700 academics against the Ministry of Education last spring, calling for references to creationism present in school science syllabuses since 1985 to be taken out.

"There are compulsory religious classes for this sort of thing in Turkish schools already", says biologist Augur Genk, who began organizing academic protests after five schoolteachers in southern Turkey were removed from their posts in 2005 for teaching evolution.

Like BAV, which has organized hundreds of conferences on creationism over the past decade as well as a recent flurry of "creation museums," opponents of creationism are increasingly taking their arguments directly to the Turkish public.

The last few months have seen a series of scientific conferences held in central Anatolian towns. Meanwhile, a popular science magazine has devoted its last two issues to answering the claims made in BAV's "Atlas of Creation."

"When the creationist movement began to surface in the early 1990s, many scientists just laughed at it", says Nazi Somel, a former teacher who is writing a doctorate on the history of Turkish creationism. "It is good to see they are taking it seriously now."

She is confident this is a conflict that scientists, along with other supporters of evolution, will win. But while public figures tend to shy away from too close an association with Adnan Oktar's group, more reasonable-looking versions of creationism have powerful supporters in Turkey today.

Take intelligent design (ID), for instance, the notion that some cellular structures are too complex to have evolved naturally and therefore must have been created. In December 2005, a US judge echoed most experts in calling it "a religious view, not a scientific theory" and blocked attempts to add it to a Pennsylvania school's curriculum. But when American and Turkish speakers met this May 12 for Turkey's second ever ID conference, they did so with the support of the Istanbul municipality. Such tolerance is unsurprising. Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas shares the political outlook of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said in mid May that "states are secular, individuals are not."

Turkish Education Minister Huseyin Celik, meanwhile, has given public support to the teaching of ID. "Evolutionary theory overlaps with atheism, intelligent design with religious belief", he told the privately-owned TV channel CNN-Turk last November. Given that polls show that only 1 percent of Turks are atheists, he went on, removing ID from the syllabus would be tantamount to censorship.

An organizer of the May 12 conference, author Mustafa Akyol, argues that ID can act as a vehicle to harmonize various aspects of evolution with creationism. In the eyes of Turkey's secularist modernizers, he argues, "science replaced religion as the new faith. Religious-minded Turks need to be convinced that science isn't a threat."

Ertan, the Istanbul University geneticist, believes it is impossible to blend science and creationism. What creationists want is for Turks to abandon reason and totally embrace superstition, he suggests. Such a stance, Ertan adds, is anti-modern, and would severely hinder efforts to promote prosperity.

"Of course science cannot answer all questions, but that doesn't mean you should throw its basic principles away", he says. "Without science, modern civilization is impossible."

Editor's Note: Nicolas Birch specializes in Turkey, Iran and the Middle East.

Posted May 24, 2007 © Eurasianet http://www.eurasianet.org

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Interview: Creation Museum Founder on Evolution Clash


Wed, May. 23, 2007 Posted: 11:35:25 AM EST

Protests have been planned, petitions have been signed, and people have voiced their opposition to the new $27 million dollar Creation Museum that will open next week just outside Cincinnati. Ken Ham, the president and CEO of Answers in Genesis and founder of the museum, has not been dismayed, however. He has a message to tell, and he thinks it's more than worth hearing.

With less than a week away until the museum opens to the public, Ham was able to take some time away from his slew of interviews and other projects to speak with The Christian Post. During his time, Ham explained how his ministry's view of creation is more than valid when put up against other models such as evolution, and that it is biblical as well. Through the Creation Museum, he hopes to change some mindsets that people hold onto so strongly.

CP: First off, your ministry's biggest endeavor that is coming up, the Creation Museum, is about to open its doors on May 28, Memorial Day. How is the process right now? I'm assuming things are pretty hectic.

Ham: Things are very hectic. The infrastructure is done; the quality of the exhibits is finished. We actually have a number of our supporters coming in this week for sort of a sneak preview, and it's also enabling us to work out 'teething problems' and things like that. We'll go on modifying and adding some things, providing things, putting in a few new exhibits in the next few months as well. But the bottom line is that we'll be ready for opening on May 28.

CP: Relating to the Creation Museum, there has obviously been a lot of controversy of late from both non-Christians and some Christians. Many of them say that, for instance, your museum will falsely persuade people, notably children, into believing something that is completely false. How do you handle that kind of criticism?

Ham: First of all, people who are saying that haven't been to the museum yet, so how do they know what we're saying? It's just that they know we teach the Bible is true and that we read the Bible, and they say they're against the Bible and that's the bottom line.

The public schools tend to teach little kids from when they are very young about the whole universe without God and that God cannot be in science. They are indoctrinating children in an atheistic religious view of things. What we want to do is to teach children that you can believe the Bible and through scientific research, support the Bible's view of history.

Everybody teaches children, atheists among them. The Bible tells us and compliments that Timothy was taught the things of the Lord from a child. We need to take our children and teach them the things of truth from when they are a child. This museum is open to all ages: children, adults, everybody. What I've found is that when children get this information when they are young, when the evolutionists try to teach them or persuade them, they know the right questions to ask and sort out the problems with it, because they've been taught how to think.

What we do at our museum, by the way, is that we actually get both sides in one sense, because we teach what evolutionists teach. But we teach [visitors] how to correctly think about science whereas evolutionists only teach one side and teach them incorrectly about science. They are the ones leading children astray, not us.

We do what the Bible does. The Bible does not hide comparisons; it teaches both. It teaches you why; it teaches you the consequences of evil; it teaches you the consequences of all decisions. That's what we teach. We teach about evolution, but they (evolutionists) sure hide from children evidence for creationism.

CP: A big part of your ministry, Answers in Genesis, is to prove the literal Bible's view of creation as being more valid than the theory of evolution.

Ham: I would put it differently. We're not trying to and you can't ultimately prove anything relating to the past. What we're saying is, really, a lot of the universe doesn't make sense unless there's a God anyway, because where did the laws of logic come from that we all agree upon? Why do we believe in reality and laws that do not change except that there's a God that created these laws and the universe is set by them?

What we're saying is that if the Bible claims to be the revealed word of God – and it is - then the Bible's history has to be true. Actually, all of Christian doctrine and the gospel are based off the history in Genesis. Genesis 1-11, the history concerning the fall of man, concerning the entrance of sin on earth, concerning the Tower of Babel, all of this is foundational to the rest of the Bible.

The doctrine of marriage depends on Genesis being true. If there's an absolute authority and if God's the Creator, He made one man and one woman. Jesus came and said that marriage is between a man and woman. If Genesis is not true, we're just animals and marriage is just whatever you want to make it to be. If we're just animals, then what's abortion? It's just killing an animal, so what does it matter?

What we're saying to people is that the Genesis history is true; it does explain the world, and we can use scientific evidence from the present, such as genetics, geology, biology, astronomy, and so on, to confirm the Bible's historicity. You can't openly prove things in relationship to the past, but you sure can confirm it.

So if the Bible says that there is a global flood, we would look at the fossil record and say that the fossil records that reflect a catastrophe fit with the flood. The Bible says that God made kinds of animals to reproduce after their own kind, so the more you look at animals and plants and put them in groups, great variation within a kind, there is a genetic pool of information for each kind that enables great diversity within a kind. You can get many species of dogs, but they are all one gene pool; they're all one kind. So the evidence directly supports that.

There is no evidence where you see information added into the gene pool to get something that wasn't there to change one kind into another. That's what you don't see.

CP: From what you're saying, it seems that you think that evolution should not co-exist with Christian thought. So do you think that a concrete view on creation is an integral part of faith? Is there a problem, for example, if two Christians disagree on how to interpret the beginning of Genesis?

Ham: First of all, there are many Christians that believe in evolution. There are many Christians that believe in billions of years. We are not saying that if you believe in evolution that you can't be a Christian, not at all. Because the Bible says that by grace you are saved. You don't save yourself. It is by confessing the Lord Jesus and that he was rose from the dead that you are saved. [The Bible] doesn't say you have to believe in six days or in thousands of years.

However, here's what I would say. I was talking recently to an atheist, Dr. Eugenie Scott. I don't know if you know her, but she's the head of NCSE (National Center for Science Education) which is a group set up to oppose creationists. She's one of the ones involved in creating a petition against us. But she said to me that there are many people of faith that believe in evolution and have no problem with that. They can explain evolution with the Bible.

So I said, 'But tell me, can those that believe in evolution and millions of years believe in a literal Genesis?'

And she said, 'Oh no, you can't do that.' She said, 'You can't believe in "Ken Ham's" interpretation of Genesis.'

And I said, '"Ken Ham's" interpretation … let me put it another way. Ken Ham and Martin Luther and John Calvin and John Wesley and millions of Americans and many Ph.D. scientists and Peter and Paul and Jesus.'

Here's what I would say, a person who believes in millions of years of evolution as a Christian, it doesn't affect their salvation if they are truly born again. But what it does affect is this. When you read Genesis, for instance, it says that God made man from dust and woman from man. If you believe in evolution, you have to believe that dust to Adam represents ape-like creatures to people. Then to Eve, ape-like creatures to people as well.

If the woman came from an ape woman, then you've destroyed marriage, because Jesus even said we become one because we become one flesh. Where does one flesh come from? It's because woman came from man. They are one flesh.

Also, if evolution is true, if you believe in millions of years, you've got millions of years of fossils laid down before Adam's sin. The fossil record depicts animals eating each other, because you have fossils of animals' stomachs fossilized. It's very easy to see evidence of cancer and abscesses in the fossil record. Did God describe all of that as very good?

Not only that, but Genesis 1:29-30 says that the animals were all originally vegetarian and so was man. Also, the Bible says that thorn came after the curse whereas you find thorns in the fossil record that are millions of years old, so does that mean the Bible is wrong?

The argument we make is this: When you believe in millions of years of evolution and add it to the Bible, you actually have to change what the Bible clearly says. You have to reinterpret it. That unlocks the door to say that you don't take this as written. You reinterpret it from outside influences, which means that you tell the next generation that you can't take the Bible as written. So you just undermine biblical authority.

For instance, a guy like Francis Collins - who is part of the Human Genome Project and just wrote a book recently - is a theistic evolutionist. I would say that he could be a great man of God and a great scientist, but he tells people that they can believe in evolution. There is a big difference. What he can't seem to understand – and I think part of it is academic peer pressure - is that when he studied the Human Genome Project, he was looking at genes in the present comparing genes from around the world doing what I call incredible real empirical science. But when it comes to the past and talking about the histories and origins, he can't do that. He wasn't there. He can't experiment with that, so it's very different. When he says that you can take man's ideas of evolution, Darwin's ideas, and add it to the Bible, he is putting a stumbling block in front of the next generation because he is really saying that the Bible is not the absolute authority. 'God couldn't get it right. You don't have to read it as it's written.'

If you look only as Genesis as an allegory, you have a major problem, because if it's an allegory, then tell me who our ancestor was? If Abraham was real, then from Abraham if Adam isn't real, if it's just an allegory, it's just a story, then what's the real Adam who really fell in a garden and really sinned? Where did we come from? Why are we sinners? Why is Jesus called the last Adam? If the doctrine of message is built on an allegorical story, then you can reinterpret the doctrine of marriage any way you want to.

The point is that most of the New Testament writers quote from Genesis. All the New Testament doctrines have originated in Genesis 1-11, every one. Marriage - Genesis 1-11; Why is there sin? - Genesis 1-11; How did he die? - Genesis 1-11; Why is Jesus called the last Adam? - Genesis 1-11; Why do we have a seven-day week? - Genesis 1-11; Why do we wear clothes? - Genesis 1-11; Why do we need a new Heavens and a new earth? - Genesis 1-11. Genesis 1-11 is the foundation history of all doctrine of the entire Bible; so when you start to doubt that foundational history and start to rewrite it, you are undermining biblical authority.

The issue is not so much the age of the earth or evolution, the issue is reinterpreting Scripture, if you get my drift.

CP: Okay, let's go onto a lighter question.

Ham: Actually, it's interesting, right before we do that. I had a reporter who had just talked to Francis Collins. That was a few days ago. And she said that Francis Collins said we were putting a stumbling block in front of people to believing the Bible in telling them that they had to believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis. That's a very interesting comment, particularly in that the atheists are out protesting the museum, because we are telling people to believe the Bible.

That upset me, because we are telling people to believe the Bible. Maybe there's someone out there - but I haven't met anybody yet – who because we told them to believe the six literal days and believe what the Bible has written, has left Christianity. But I sure have met many, many people, even just in the conference I was at in Washington, D.C., because of what they were taught years ago about evolution, that they learned not to trust the Bible.

One person I met told me, 'I was brought up in a church that didn't believe in Genesis. Because they told me I could believe evolution, I just rejected the whole Bible. At 19, I walked away from church, and I ended up in jail. Somebody in jail was distributing your literature. I read it myself, and I committed my life toward the Lord.' I thought, 'Wow.'

We hear testimonies like that sort of testimony over and over and over again. There are many of them, so it's the opposite of what Francis Collins says.

CP: We have time for one more question. Simply speaking, what would you say is your favorite part of the Creation Museum?

Ham: I have a favorite section, but I have to put it in context. Actually, can I have two or three different sections?

CP: (laughs) Of course.

Ham: If you really want my ultimate favorite section, it's the theater downstairs called the 'Three C's Theatre.' You see, we have a walkthrough biblical history called 'Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross, and Consummation,' and that is the 'Seven C's.' We're taking people through Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe and Confusion – the creation in six days, corruption with the entrance of death, catastrophe with Sodom's and Noah's days, and we're getting into fossils and so on. We're answering the questions of the world to say that this history's true. Therefore, the gospel, plus Consummation is shown.

In the 'Three C's Theatre,' we have a [big] wide screen with three projectors. We filmed it at the Holy Land Experience, we hired some actors, and we added in special effects. It's the most powerful presentation of the gospel that I've ever seen.

And the reason that is my favorite is, because ultimately, that's what we're all about. Ultimately, we're on about Christianity, we're on about the Bible being true, but we're on about the gospel. We're not just trying to convert people into creationists. We'd like to see people converted into Christians. That's the difference. So that's why that's my favorite section - because that's what we're about ultimately.

But the whole place is to give logical, clear answers to show secular people about Christian faith. Another one of my favorite exhibits, which was not even meant to be a feature, is one of the first things you see as you're entering the main hall. As you walk in, there are two animatronic baby Tyrannosaurus Rexes and two animatronic children. It's become the most photographed section of the museum in newspapers around the world.

In fact, we just got written up in multiple pages in what I think is called 'The Chronicle of Higher Education.' It's a liberal sort of publication, but of course, that photo was right there. We're written up in a major newspaper in Spain, and that photo was there. In a major newspaper in Japan, that photo was there. We've got one featured in a newspaper in Germany, and that photo was there. It's the same at the Los Angeles Times. So it goes on.

The reason is because as soon as the secular media walk in and they see dinosaurs and people together, that says something very strong to them. That says, 'We don't believe dinosaurs died out millions of years ago. We don't believe in evolution. We don't believe in millions of years.' That one little exhibit right there does it. News groups even often ask me to stand in front of that exhibit, so they can take a picture of me with that in the background.

One of the things that you hear the secular media say is, 'These creationists … are the people that believe dinosaurs lived with people,' because that's so radical to them. In fact, I was asked that question twice today by secular media. My answer to them was two-fold. One is, from a biblical perspective, God made the land animals on day six and He made Adam and Eve on day six. He made them at the same time. I said, 'Why are evolutionists so amazed that dinosaurs and people could live at the same time? Because there are lots of animals and plants that are living today, that according to evolutionists, lived with dinosaurs, and they live with us today.'

For instance, the Wollemi Pine tree was found in Australia in 1994. They thought it became extinct 130 million years, and they don't find it in the fossil record according to their evolutionary time scale. Their time scale is hundreds of millions of years ago up to the present. Here, according to them, the Wollemi Pine lived 130 million years ago. Of course, dinosaurs lived back then, according to them. So from 130 million years back then to now, it's not in the fossil record. But it's still living. It's sitting beside people. The secular scientists call it the 'dinosaur tree.' It is basically the same as finding a dinosaur, so why are they amazed to believe that dinosaurs and humans could live together?

You know how many examples there are like that? Many. Like the Coelacanth fish. They thought that it probably went extinct like 65 million years ago about the time of the last dinosaurs. From 65 million years ago to the present, it's not in the fossil record. They not only found it in Madagascar, but that Indonesians had been selling it in their fish markets for years. So it seems to be a little different way of thinking.

Jeremiah Gregier
Christian Post Correspondent

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Doctors renew drive to ban NHS homeopathy


James Randerson, science correspondent

Wednesday May 23, 2007 The Guardian

A group of senior doctors and scientists has stepped up its campaign to stop homeopathic treatment being funded on the NHS. In a letter to primary health care trusts, the seven argue that the evidence for a benefit from the complementary therapy "is equivocal at best, despite many years of research and hundreds of studies".

The letter comes exactly a year after a similar one from a larger group of scientists, including a Nobel prizewinner and six fellows of the Royal Society. Since then, several PCTs have taken their advice, prompting hospitals such as the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital - which provides a range of alternative treatments - to warn that they may be forced to close because of lack of NHS business.

In April, Peter Fisher, personal homeopath to the Queen and clinical director of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, wrote an open letter to the monarch, its patron, asking for her support to save the hospital. The Queen reportedly takes 60 vials of homeopathic remedies with her when she goes abroad in case she falls ill.

One signatory of the latest letter criticised Prince Charles' defence of alternative medicine following the first letter. "It has been wholly inappropriate because it is not his role as Prince of Wales to mingle in health politics," said Edzard Ernst, who is professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter. Another signatory, David Colquhoun, professor of pharmacology at University College London, called homeopathy "crack-pot medicine". The lead author of the letter, Gustav Born, emeritus professor of pharmacology at Kings College London said: "There are still trusts that continue to use these unproven remedies... That is why we have written again to all the PCTs urging them to follow the commissioning example set by others."

David Fish, medical director at the University of London Hospital trust, which includes the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, said there was a strong demand from patients for alternative treatments. But Hillingdon PCT, which had been spending around £60,000 annually on homeopathy, decided to stop funding the therapy around two years ago. Hammersmith and Fulham PCT and Westminster PCT, which between them spent more than £300,000 on homeopathy treatment last year, also plan to cease the treatment.

However, the scientists behind the campaign insist it is about more than money. "While it may be tempting to dismiss homeopathy expenditure as relatively small across the NHS, we must consider the cultural and social damage of maintaining as a matter of principle expenditure on practices which are unsupported by evidence," they wrote.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Woman: Blame devil for infant in microwave


POSTED: 3:44 p.m. EDT, May 20, 2007

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) -- A woman blames the devil, and not her husband, for severely burning their infant daughter in a microwave, a Texas television station reported.

Eva Marie Mauldin said Satan compelled her 19-year-old husband, Joshua Royce Mauldin, to microwave their daughter May 10 because the devil disapproved of Joshua's efforts to become a preacher.

"Satan saw my husband as a threat," Eva Mauldin told Houston television station KHOU-TV.

A grand jury indicted Joshua Mauldin last week on child injury charges after hearing evidence that he placed the two-month-old in a motel microwave for 10 to 20 seconds. (Watch cops react to burned baby )

The infant, Ana Marie, remains hospitalized. She suffered burns on the left side of her face and to her left hand, police said.

Police said Joshua Mauldin told them he put Ana Marie in the microwave because he was under stress. Eva Maudlin denied it.

"He would never do anything to hurt her. He loves her," she said.

She is hoping to be reunited with her daughter, but Child Protective Services is working to have the parental rights severed.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press

Kenya: Quacks Infiltrate Herbal Business


The East African Standard (Nairobi)

20 May 2007 Posted to the web 21 May 2007

As the demand for herbal medicine soars, the number of herbal clinics and herbalists has grown. Today, dealers are selling their herbs in buses and markets, while newspapers teem with herbal medicine advertisements. The number of herbal clinics has shot up and supermarket shelves are stocked with the medicines.

Other dealers operate along the streets as they cash in on the upsurge of diseases, thanks to dietary changes.

World Health Organisation (WHO) says conventional medicine caters for only 30 per cent of the population, leaving 70 per cent to traditional providers.

However quacks have infiltrated the field and turned it into a moneymaking business.

But this trend has not gone unnoticed. Last month, the Kenya Medical Association urged the Government to regulate traditional medicine to protect patients from exploitation.

The association's chairman, Dr Stephen Ochiel, was concerned that alternative medicine dealers continued to deceive citizens, under the pretext that their herbs could cure all diseases.

The Masaai, believed to be gifted herbalists, admit that their customer base has plummeted. They attribute the drop to so many joining the business, hence sharing the existing customers.

They believe they are the best herbalists in the country and take pride at how established local clinics come for herbs from them.

Mrs Naomi Supeiyo, an elderly herbalist in Kiserian township in the outskirts of the city, says she is not aware of bogus practitioners and believes it is only the Masaai who are talented to administer traditional medicine.

She says one does not need to go to school to be a reputable herbalist.

"I acquired my skills from my grandmother," she says.

Her grandmother would take her to the forest everyday and show her different kinds of herbs and the diseases they cure.

Taking into account that some herbs are strong, she was trained on mixing the right amounts.

Supeiyo, who cannot tell her age but appears to be in her mid-70s, says she has been in the business for the past 12 years and can tell a genuine drug from a fake one.

She has faith in traditional medicine. "I occasionally go to hospital, but I end up using the herbs when I return home," she says.

At Mrs Leah Tipapei's stall, we find clients lining for her herbs. Our interview is frequently interrupted as she attends to them.

She, too, is not aware of bogus dealers - at least in Kiserian. She even affirms and interjects in smattering Kiswahili: "Masaai hapana patia wewe dawa mbaya (a Masaai cannot give anyone bogus herbs).

She trusts herbal medicine and says she would rather die than go for conventional medicine.

Why should I go to hospital and I am a doctor myself?" she poses.

Her children do not use conventional medicine.

Tipapei knows herbs for different ailments and owes this to her husband, who introduced her to the business eight years ago.

The trust in traditional medicine is evident from the winding queue of customers. Mr John Murkuku, 30, says he has used herbs since childhood.

"Traditional medicines are more effective than conventional ones. When I get near a hospital, I vomit because of the smell of chemicals from the drugs," he says. Mr John Kamau, a frequent user of herbal medicine, says he prefers the medicine because of their effectiveness. "I have a backache. But when I will mix these herbs with soup, the effect will be instant," he says.

Last year, Dr Jennifer Orwa told a workshop that herbal medicine treats some HIV/Aids opportunistic diseases more effectively than conventional medicine.

Orwa, a principal researcher at Kenya Medical Training Institute, said studies had shown that treating patients with traditional medicine produced better results, especially in herpes simplex.

Francisco Canova, which is registered in Kenya as a herbal medicine, is said to boost immunity against HIV/Aids.

Researchers from Brazil say the drug has not shown any side effects on more than 10,000 people who used it in Brazil and Botswana. However, the rollout of free anti-retroviral drugs has seen a drop in patients seeking herbal treatment.

In August last year, one of the reputable herbal clinics, Makini, recorded a 50 per cent decline of customers.

Though the upsurge of quacks does not trouble the Masaai, Mr Daniel Olodari, a herbalist in Kiserian, rues the time the customers were many.

Olodari now gets 16 customers a week instead of the initial 22.

He is quick to point out that it has nothing to do with customers losing trust in his herbs. "I have customers from as far as Nakuru, Magadi, Kajiado and Naivasha."

At Gikomba Market in Nairobi, the herbalists are aware that quacks exist. "It is upon the customer to know where to go to. Masaai herbs are genuine and everyone knows that," says a herbalist who only gave her name as Joyce.

Herbalists get their herbs from Arusha, Magadi, Narok and Namanga. Herbs for treating stomach ailments, backaches and malaria are normally on high demand. Also on high demand is porokwai (a performance enhancing drug), which was out of stock in all the stalls we visited in Kiserian.

Prices for these herbs vary depending on where they are sold. At Kiserian, for example, they range between Sh40 and Sh300 while the cheapest at Gikomba goes for Sh200.

Museum looks to refute evolution


Mira Oberman and staff reporter Mon, 21 May 2007

Dinosaurs co-exist with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and an animatronic Noah directs work on his Ark in a creationism museum set to open next week in Kentucky.

Designed by the creator of the King Kong and Jaws exhibits at the Universal Studios theme park, the stunning 5400 square-metre facility is built for a specific purpose: refuting the theory of evolution and expanding the flock of believers in a literal interpretation of the Bible.

"You'll get people into a place like this that you can't get into a church with a stick of dynamite," said founder Ken Ham from his office overlooking the museum's manicured grounds.

"Some will still sneer, some will say we'd like to hear you again and some will actually believe."

The potential audience is huge in a country divided over the origins of the universe and battling in the courts to bring creationism into classrooms.

At a recent debate among Republican presidential hopefuls, three candidates raised their hands when asked who did not believe in evolution.

Polls consistently show that nearly 50 percent of Americans believe God created humans in their present form less than 10 000 years ago. Only about 13 percent believe God played no part in the origin of human life.

Culture wars

An Australian who found "Young Earth" creationism while teaching science to school children in Brisbane, Ham (55) came to the United States in 1987 to spread the word of Biblical truth.

His evangelical ministry — Answers in Genesis — publishes dozens of books, DVDs and curriculums every year teaching Christians how to defend their faith by refuting the theory of evolution.

These publications offer scientific proof that the Earth is just 6000 years old; the Grand Canyon was formed when a natural dam burst under the weight of Noah's floodwaters 4300 years ago; and that all animals were vegetarian before the fall of Adam and Eve brought sin into the world.

Ham employs a roster of PhDs to support these scientific evidence, despite some academics calling it pseudoscience.

An animatronic display sums up their argument: two palaeontologists are examining the same dinosaur fossil. The evolutionist comes to one conclusion while the creationist comes to another.

More than 600 academics have signed a petition warning parents and teachers that students who accept the arguments the Creation Museum presents as scientifically valid are "unlikely to succeed in science courses at the college level".

"What's wrong with the AIG museum is that it's presenting religious views as if they are science when they are not," said Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Centre for Science Education, which launched the petition.

"The science in the museum is so inaccurate it's really going to further undermine the public understanding of science in the United States."

However, Ham is concerned with a much larger threat: a culture war which began with the Enlightenment's worship of human reason.

A new Reformation

He says he is at the head of a "new reformation".

"What this ministry is about is to challenge people to get back to the word of God — just like Martin Luther," Ham said. "What we're doing, symbolically, is nailing Genesis 1 to 11 on the doors of churches and colleges."

Ham does not blame evolution per se for society's ills. He believes that sin has been around since Adam and Eve took their fateful bite of apple about 5700 years before Charles Darwin published "On the Origin of Species".

But he says the theory of evolution has been used to undermine the validity of the literal truth of the Bible, heralding a dangerous age of moral relativism which can be blamed for everything from racism to the Holocaust.

"If you're going to say you can reinterpret things, then everything is subjective ... and you end up with radical scepticism," he told AFP.

"When scripture is compromised in the church, it is abandoned in the home."

High production value

While the content is being debated, there is no question as to the high production value and professionalism of the facility.

In a scene reminiscent of Jurassic Park, the "wow factor" of the main entrance hall is evident.

An animatronic girl giggles and feeds a squirrel next to a stream filled with live fish as two baby T-rexes play a few feet away.

To the left is a planetarium — whose dome will show films proving that "the heavens declare God's Glory" — and a bookstore and gift shop designed to look like a medieval castle, complete with a dragon.

To the right is a special effects theatre with shaking seats, thunder and mists of water for the flood scenes.

The "wows" continue as visitors pass through the Grand Canyon into the Garden of Eden, Noah's Ark, the Tower of Babel and scenes from the life of Christ.

Located just outside of Cincinnati near the intersection of the states of Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, nearly two thirds of the population of the United States lives within a 1050-kilometre drive of the Creation Museum.

It is expected to draw at least 250 000 people a year when it opens on 28 May.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Evolution Vs Creation


19th May 2007, 12:30 WST

A US museum where Adam and Eve share exhibit space with dinosaurs is drawing criticism from groups of science educators as it nears completion.

The $US27 million ($A33 million) Creation Museum being developed by an Australian Christian tells a Biblical version of the Earth's history, asserting that the planet is just a few thousand years old and man and the giant lizards once co-existed.

It's just the latest twist in the long-running conceptual debate between science versus faith-based versions of Earthly reality, a struggle that wends from Charles Darwin's theory of evolution to the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial of a teacher who taught evolution (he lost) to recent American school board battles over the classroom inclusion of the "intelligent design" theory, the latest incarnation of creationism.

The educators say the museum exhibits, inspired by the Old Testament, are geared toward children but lack scientific evidence.

"When they try to confuse (kids) about what is science and what isn't science, scientists have an obligation to speak out," said Lawrence Krauss, an author and physics professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

"There's no doubt these are documented lies."

Krauss has signed one of two petitions circulated by national groups this week that challenge the facility's exhibits.

The museum, built by the non-profit ministry Answers in Genesis with private donations, includes a 200-seat special-effects theatre, a 12-metre depiction of Noah's Ark and robotic, roaring dinosaurs.

The 5,574 square metre facility in rural Petersburg, Kentucky, just south of Cincinnati, will open to the public on Memorial Day.

Ken Ham, the Australian founder of Answers in Genesis, said the vast majority of natural history museums and textbooks available to students are devoted to teaching evolution.

"And they're worried about one creation museum?" he said. "I think they're really concerned that we're going to get information out that they don't want people to hear."

Ham said critics need to tour the museum before making judgments.

One of the petitions, started by the Campaign to Defend the Constitution, a Washington group that focuses on church and state issues, says the museum is part of a "campaign by the religious right to inject creationist teachings into science education".

Krauss said about 2,000 educators, mostly university-level, have signed the petition.

A second petition from the National Centre for Science Education sent to educators in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio had attracted support from nearly 600 university professors. It says there are "scientifically inaccurate" exhibits at the museum.

"The nature of the science process that's presented at the Answers in Genesis museum is very different from how science is really done by real scientists," said Eugenie Scott, executive director of the Oakland, California, group, which promotes the teaching of evolution in the classroom.

Scientists say Earth is several billion years old, and that the first dinosaurs appeared around 200 million years ago, dying out well before the first human ancestors arose a few million years ago.

Ham maintains the museum exhibits, some of which include fossils, are based on scientific findings. He said the staff is stocked with scientists trained at secular universities.

"We use the same science they do," Ham said. "What they're really saying is they disagree with our beliefs about history, about the Bible, but we use the same science and genetics they do."

Scott, Krauss and others said Ham has a right to open the museum, but they are concerned with the effect it could have on science education in public schools.

"We're not talking about free speech. We would not protest the museum," said Alan Leshner, head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which publishes the journal Science.

"However, we are concerned that we not mislead young people inadvertently or intentionally about what science is showing."

Ham said the museum will draw an estimated 250,000 visitors in its first year, and TV and newspaper advertising will begin soon in six major metro areas.


Anti-evolutionist may garner schools post


A Kansas Republican who is an open opponent to evolution theory is the sole candidate for a top National Association of State Boards of Education post.

Kansas insurance executive Kenneth R. Willard is currently running unopposed for the national association's president-elect post and his repeated opposition to the theory of evolution has many evolution advocates concerned, The New York Times said Saturday.

"We are in a nationwide struggle for the integrity of science education," said Kenneth R. Miller, a Brown University professor and evolution proponent, "and any situation that provides an opportunity for the opponents of science education to advance their agenda is a matter of concern."

Willard's only opponent in the race dropped out recently for personal reasons.

The Washington-based association represents several U.S. school boards dealing with education policies.

The newspaper said that if elected in July, Willard would begin serving in January 2009.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International

Saturday, May 19, 2007



Intelligent Design torpedoes tenure

Profs say beliefs played role in Iowa State decision

Posted: May 19, 2007 1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com

Two faculty members at Iowa State University have conceded that the beliefs of assistant professor of astronomy and physics Guillermo Gonzalez, co-author of "The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery," played a part in the school's decision to deny him tenure.

A story to be published in World Magazine quotes professor Eli Rosenberg, chairman of the physics and astronomy department at the school, insisting that intelligent design "was not an overriding factor" in the decision but that it "played into" the process.

The article also reported that astronomy professor Curtis Struck said he was unsurprised by the denial because Gonzales "includes some things in his astronomy resume that other people regard as taking a coincidence too far." His reference apparently was to the issue of intelligent design.

(Story continues below)

As WND reported earlier, a report in the Ames, Iowa, Tribune said Gonzales was one of three members of the ISU faculty denied promotion or tenure of the 66 considered during the past academic year.

"I was surprised to hear that my tenure was denied at any level, but I was disappointed that the president at the end denied me," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez' acknowledgment of intelligent design had earned him opposition within the school earlier. In 2005, three ISU faculty members drafted a statement and petition against intelligent design in the science curriculum that collected 120 signatures.

Claims for intelligent design, said the ISU faculty statement "are premised on (1) the arbitrary selection of features claimed to be engineered by a designer; (2) unverifiable conclusions about the wishes and desires of that designer; and (3) an abandonment by science of methodological naturalism.

"Whether one believes in a creator or not, views regarding a supernatural creator are, by their very nature, claims of religious faith, and so not within the scope or abilities of science. We, therefore, urge all faculty members to uphold the integrity of our university of 'science and technology,' convey to students and the general public the importance of methodological naturalism in science, and reject efforts to portray intelligent design as science."

Officials with Evolution News, which has reported extensively on the case, earlier said two of the professors linked to the statement were in the astronomy and physics department: Prof. Steven Kawaler, who has linked to the statement on his website, and Univerity Professor Lee Anne Willson, who is married to ISU math professor Stephen J. Wilson, who signed it.

Rosenberg also told World Magazine that the "reputation" of the professor among others in his field is a significant factor. "Of course, if 'reputation' is used as a code word for whether one's views are popular among fellow scientists, then this is another way anti-ID bias entered into the decision," Evolution News said.

Evolution News also debunked Rosenberg's claim that there was something deficient about Gonzalez's research record.

"You take a look at somebody's research record over the six-year probationary period and you get a sense whether this is a strong case. Clearly, this was a case that looked like it might be in trouble," he said.

"Really?" questioned Evolution News in its commentary. "Was Gonzalez somehow derelict in publishing 350 percent more peer-reviewed publications than his own department's stated standard for research excellence? Or in co-authoring a college astronomy textbook with Cambridge University Press? Or in having his research recognized by Science, Nature, Scientific American and other top science publications?"

In 2004 Gonzalez department nominated him for an "Early Achievement in Research" honor, his supporters noted.

According to Robert J. Marks, distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering at Baylor, he checked a citation index of journal papers, and found one of Gonzalez' research papers had 153 citations listed; another had 139.

"I have sat on oodles of tenure committees at both a large private university and a state research university, chaired the university tenure committee, and have seen more tenure cases than the Pope has Cardinals," he said. "This is a LOT of citations for an assistant professor up for tenure."

He noted Willson's top two papers have been cited 99 and 86 times.

The Discovery Institute, a Seattle group that supports the discussion of intelligent design evidence, has launched an action alert in support of Gonzalez.

"I think if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it likely is a duck," John West, a senior fellow at the institute, said. "There are two issues here: academic freedom and the First Amendment."

Gonzalez has reported he does not teach intelligent design at the school.

He also has declined to comment on why he believes he has now been denied tenure, but John G. West, associate director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute called it "ideological discrimination."

Gonzalez has filed an appeal with ISU President Greg Geoffroy.

In 2005, WND reported the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. reneged on an agreement to co-sponsor the premier of Privileged Planet after coming under pressure from The Washington Post and James Randi – "the Amazing Randi" – magician and long-time debunker of psychic and paranormal claims.

Evolution education update: May 18, 2007

NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott and Nicholas J. Matzke publish a paper in PNAS; the Society for College Science Teachers adds its voice for evolution; and a podcast of The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial is now available on-line. Plus a reminder that it's not too late to watch Flock of Dodos on Showtime.


NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott and Nicholas J. Matzke's article "Biological design in science classrooms" was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, one of the world's most-cited multidisciplinary scientific serials (vol. 104, suppl. 1; May 15, 2007). The abstract reads:


Although evolutionary biology is replete with explanations for complex biological structures, scientists concerned about evolution education have been forced to confront "intelligent design" (ID), which rejects a natural origin for biological complexity. The content of ID is a subset of the claims made by the older "creation science" movement. Both creationist views contend that highly complex biological adaptations and even organisms categorically cannot result from natural causes but require a supernatural creative agent. Historically, ID arose from efforts to produce a form of creationism that would be less vulnerable to legal challenges and that would not overtly rely upon biblical literalism. Scientists do not use ID to explain nature, but because it has support from outside the scientific community, ID is nonetheless contributing substantially to a long-standing assault on the integrity of science education.


The article is the result of a talk that Scott gave at the Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium of the National Academy of Sciences, "In the Light of Evolution I: Adaptation and Complex Design," held December 1-2, 2006, at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering in Irvine, California.

Figures 1 and 2 from the article, showing a comparison of phrasing in the prepublication manuscripts of the "intelligent design" textbook Of Pandas and People and the famous "cdesign proponentsists" passage (the missing link between "creation science" and "intelligent design") respectively, may be used without permission for noncommercial and educational use, pursuant to the NAS's policy on rights and permissions, provided that the original source and copyright notice are cited.

For "Biological design in science classrooms" (HTML), visit:

For "Biological design in science classrooms" (PDF), visit:


The Society for College Science Teachers announced the release of its new position statement on the teaching of evolution on April 30, 2007. According to its press release:


"We think it is important to add our voice to the list of organizations who support a robust and central role for evolution in the science curriculum", said SCST President Thomas Lord, a Biology Professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. "We do students a great disservice if we fail to teach evolution as one of the key principles in science today".

First proposed by Charles Darwin in 1859, the theory of evolution through natural selection now stands as a core idea of modern biology. Evolution states that organisms share common ancestry through a process of descent with modification that has taken place over billions of years. Despite being widely accepted by scientists, evolution remains under attack by religiously motivated legislators and special interest groups who want non-scientific interpretations of creation to be taught in public school science classrooms.

"We welcome recent court decisions that favor evolution education," commented Jerry Waldvogel, a biologist at Clemson University and co-author of the SCST statement. "But even though the legal system continues to affirm the foundational role of evolution in science and the inaccuracy of many of the criticisms leveled against it, special interest groups continue to try and confuse the general public by blurring the line between scientific and non-scientific ways of thinking. Our hope is that the SCST position statement will give teachers additional confidence to maintain a high level of educational integrity in the science classroom".


The statement itself reads:


The Society for College Science Teachers (SCST) recognizes the centrality of evolutionary theory to modern science, and encourages the teaching of evolution at an appropriate level throughout primary, secondary, and higher education science curricula. Along with many other scientific and science education societies (e.g., AAAS, NRC, NABT, and NSTA), SCST strongly endorses the position that no science curriculum, especially at the high school and college level, is complete unless it acknowledges evolutionary theory as the core scientific explanation for the diversity of life on Earth and, wherever possible, educates students about the processes and patterns of evolution. While such discussions will most often be a part of life science courses, evolution is also often an appropriate topic in disciplines such as astronomy, chemistry, geology, and physics.

In the nearly 150 years since Darwin first suggested that living things share a common ancestry, a voluminous and robust body of evidence in support of evolutionary theory has accumulated. That living things on Earth have descended with modification from a common ancestry is not a point of scientific dispute. Science teachers are therefore obligated to present the topic in an accurate and thorough fashion as part of their classes. Indeed, because of the fundamental role that evolution plays in tying together scientific disciplines, teachers do their students a great disservice by not making evolution a key component of their teaching. The obligation to include evolution in the science classroom requires that accurate and complete information be taught, and also that non-scientific "alternatives" to evolution such as creation science and intelligent design not be presented as legitimate science or a valid replacement for evolutionary theory. Suggesting to students that such non-scientific ideas qualify as legitimate alternatives to evolution undermines science, prevents students from understanding one of the most important ideas in human history, and constitutes inappropriate educational practice. If teachers encounter situations where colleagues are teaching inaccurate content about evolution or promoting nonscientific explanations in its place, or experiencing pressure to do so, SCST encourages those teachers to seek advice from local, state, and national organizations (e.g., the National Center for Science Education) about how best to address the situation and to elevate the overall quality of science education at their institution.

SCST advises science teachers at all levels, but especially those involved with developing and delivering high school and college curricula, to be well versed in evolutionary theory and to include it as a core theme within their science courses. To do otherwise is to deprive students of essential scientific knowledge that they will need to be thoughtful, productive citizens, and to successfully compete for jobs in the increasingly scientific workplace of the 21st century.


The statement also contains a brief list of resources relevant to evolution education. Founded in 1979, SCST has a national membership of nearly 1,000 college science educators.

For SCST's press release (PDF), visit:

For SCST's statement (PDF), visit:


A performance of the L.A. Theatre Works production The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial is now available on-line as a podcast. The play, written by Peter Goodchild and based on the transcripts of the Scopes trial in 1925, was originally broadcast by LATW in 1992; it was revived in 2005 to commemorate the eightieth anniversary of the trial. The present performance was recorded by WGBH at Harvard University's School of Government on April 9, 2007, and features Ed Asner as William Jennings Bryan and John de Lancie as Clarence Darrow. The complete performance time is about two hours. Reviewing the play in the Wall Street Journal (October 1, 2005), the critic Terry Teachout commented, "the trial itself is heard as it happened, and is all the more dramatic for being true. ... while I doubt it'll change many minds in Harrisburg [where the trial in Kitzmiller v. Dover was being conducted], or anywhere else, it still makes for a thought-provoking show."

For the podcast, visit:

For information about LATW, 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 already aired at 8:30 p.m. on May 17 on Showtime, but it will be aired again 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; at 8:00 p.m. on May 21 on Showtime Too; and at 12:30 p.m. on May 26 on Showtime Too.

In the meantime, one of the extra features to be included on the DVD version of Flock of Dodos -- to be released on August 28, 2007 -- is now available on-line on YouTube. Entitled "Pulled Punches," the six-and-a-half-minute clip presents and discusses a variety of scenes omitted from the final version of Flock of Dodos. A highlight, at the very end, is Michael Behe's explaining, "My kids don't go to public schools; what do I care?"

Also, Randy Olson appeared on Periodicity, the weekly podcast from the Wisconsin Society of Science teachers, on May 9, 2007. With his trademark humor and insight, Olson discussed his career change from university scientist to independent filmmaker, the development and reception of Flock of Dodos, the necessity to improve science communication across the board -- and what he plans to buy Muffy Moose for Mother's Day.

For Showtime's schedule, visit:

For the Flock of Dodos website, visit:

For "Pulled Punches" on YouTube, visit:

And to listen to Randy Olson on Periodicity, 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
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
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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!

Notes by Joe Nickell


'Psychics' Fail to Foresee Their Own Fortunes

Joe Nickell

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer of April 27, 2007 (O'Reilly and Vitez 2007), Philadelphia's fortune tellers failed to foresee the forced closure of their shops. Citing a state law that had been on the books for decades and that banned fortunetelling for profit, city inspectors began to force astrologers, psychics, and tarot-card readers to shut down. Having been alerted by police to the law, which makes fortunetelling "for gain or lucre" a misdemeanor, an official of the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections said no arrests had been made or fines issued. However, he promised that inspectors would do so "if these people try to return to work" (O'Reilly and Vitez 2007).

A week later, however, the ban was rescinded after one psychic's attorney filed a request for a preliminary injunction, claiming the anti-fortunetelling statute could only be invoked in instances of fraud. The City Solicitor's Office agreed. A deputy solicitor stated, "we felt it was hard to say what kind of evidence might be needed to prove someone was pretending to tell fortunes" (O'Reilly 2007). Once again, the alleged psychics failed to foresee the turn of events.

Their ineptitude seemed—well, predictable: In May 1995, I helped Philadelphia's WCAU-TV launch a "sting" against various "psychic" readers and advisors as well as 900-number clairvoyants. After consulting with me to devise a suitable strategy, Herb Denenberg and other members of his "Newscenter 10" unit went undercover to set up a test of the soothsayers' abilities. The sting was inspired by Jody Himebaugh whose eleven-year-old son Mark had disappeared November 25, 1991. Himebaugh said more than one hundred self-claimed psychics had since offered their visions, typically seeing a "dark car," "the number 5," or similar "clues." These were never any help, but they could later be matched to actual evidence once it became known—a clever technique called "retrofitting" (Nickell 2001).

To Read More of This Column Visit: http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/fortunes.html

About the Author
Joe Nickell, Ph.D., is author of Looking For A Miracle and dozens of other books exploring the paranormal world. His Web site is at www.joenickell.com.


Robert L. Park Friday, 18 May 07 Washington, DC


A 30 Apr 07 memo notified Los Alamos employees that random polygraph tests of 8,000 personnel in high-risk categories will be conducted by the DOE as part of a new counter-intelligence program. Three years ago, a National Academy of Sciences study done at the request of the DOE, The Polygraph and Lie Detection, http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN03/wn041803.html concluded that the high incidence of false positives made the polygraph worse than useless. Nothing indicates it will work any better for randomly chosen personnel. The polygraph, in fact, has ruined careers, but never uncovered a single spy. If you have an orgasm while being tested and lie about it, the operator can probably tell. For anything else, it's a coin toss.


Our last episode in the continuing Rusi Taleyarkhan sonofusion mystery ended as Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC), chair of the Science Investigations Subcommittee, asked for the report http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN07/wn032307.html. Last week, the subcommittee concluded that, although Purdue had bungled the investigation, the still-secret internal report reveals serious deviations from accepted scientific practices. In today's installment, according to Science, there are new allegations, as a result of which the University is undertaking a broader study, expected to take another 3 months. It's already been a year.


Guillermo Gonzalez was denied tenure at Iowa State University. The Discovery Institute was shocked at this blatant disregard of the cherished principle of "viewpoint diversity." With Jay Richards, a theologian, Gonzalez wrote The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery. It's a daffy twist on the anthropic principle, which was already daffy enough. The simple fact is that his colleagues voted him off the island. It's not like he was tenured and then fired.


Something happens to scientists who think too much about the anthropic principle. Frank Tipler and John Barrow wrote The Anthropic Cosmological Principle in 1986. Last year it won Barrow the $1.4M Templeton Prize. Tipler probably thinks he should have gotten it in 1994 for The Physics of Immortality, but he's not giving up. In his new book, The Physics of Christianity, out this month, Tipler equates the Holy Trinity with the cosmological singularity.


Opinions are the author's and not necessarily shared by the University of Maryland, but they should be.

Archives of What's New can be found at http://www.bobpark.org

Tenure denied due to work on intelligent design


Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy is described by as having admitted that scientist's book played into the decision-making process

Two Iowa State University (ISU) faculty members of the department that rejected astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez's tenure application have admitted that his work on intelligent design played a role in the department's denial of tenure.

"What possible academic reason was there to deny tenure to a candidate who met or exceeded every requirement?" asked Dr. John West, associate director of Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture, the nation's leading think-tank supporting research into the scientific theory of intelligent design. "This is clearly a case of viewpoint discrimination and an attack on Dr. Gonzalez's academic freedom and free speech rights."

In a World magazine article released today, physicist Eli Rosenberg, Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, is described by the magazine as having admitted that Gonzalez's pro-ID book The Privileged Planet "played into the decision-making process." Rosenberg went on to explain that the reputation of a professor in his field is a significant factor.

"Normally a scientist's reputation is based on publishing scientific articles, which Gonzalez excelled at," said West. "Of course, if instead 'reputation' is used as a code word for whether one's views are popular among fellow scientists, then this is another way anti-ID bias entered into the decision."

ISU Astronomy Professor Curtis Struck, meanwhile, told World that he was not surprised at the tenure denial given Gonzalez's intelligent design research that "people regard as taking a coincidence too far."

The comments from Struck mean that at least three of the five tenured astronomers in Gonzalez's department have now been tied to anti-ID bias. As discovered earlier this week, another tenured astronomer in the department signed a statement circulated by the Darwinist lobby organization National Center for Science Education denouncing intelligent design as "creationist pseudoscience," while the husband of a third astronomy professor at ISU signed the same statement.

Dr. Rosenberg tried to do damage control by claiming that there was something deficient about Dr. Gonzalez's sterling research record: "You take a look at somebody's research record over the six-year probationary period and you get a sense whether this is a strong case. Clearly, this was a case that looked like it might be in trouble."

"Really? Was Gonzalez somehow remiss in publishing 350% more peer-reviewed publications than his own department's stated standard for research excellence?" asked West. "Or in co-authoring a college astronomy textbook with Cambridge University Press? Or in having his research recognized in Science, Nature, Scientific American, and other top science publications?"


A complete biography of Dr. Gonzalez and list of his scientific publications is available on Discovery Institute's website at http://www.discovery.org

Letters | Taking Exception


The Darwinian straitjacket Your May 12 editorial "Evolution: Playing politics with fact" contains many of the usual myths.

Most opposition to evolution theory comes from organizations with highly credentialed scientists, including the Creation Research Society, Institute for Creation Research, Answers in Genesis, Bible-Science Association, Discovery Institute, and others. Not all of these are specifically Christian.

Here are a few of our hang-ups regarding evolutionism: (1) The origin of life being completely impossible from a naturalistic viewpoin. (2) There is no evolutionary tree of life; too many conflicting fossils for this. (3) Why are there at least two major theories of how evolution happened (neo-Darwinism and punctuated equilibrium), if it is all so clear and unassailable? (4) Evolution's essential mechanism - gene mutation acted upon by natural selection - is its weakest dogma. Mutations that produce a new bio-molecule or new function are MIA (missing in action). (5) The theory of evolution has not led to a single scientific discovery, principle, or mathematical law regarding natural processes. Adaptations and the development of antibiotic resistance is not evolution.

Darwin doubters now realize they are opposed by close-minded zealots who do everything to prevent open discussion and exposure of students to even marginal criticism of a theory that has become an ideology. One need not commit intellectual suicide to believe molecules-to-man evolution did not happen.

Theodore J. Siek


Study Of Protein Folds Offers Insight Into Metabolic Evolution


Date: May 18, 2007

Science Daily — Researchers at the University of Illinois have constructed the first global family tree of metabolic protein architecture. Their approach offers a new window on the evolutionary history of metabolism.

Their work relies on established techniques of phylogenetic analysis developed in the past decade to plot the evolution of genes and organisms but which have never before been used to work out the evolutionary history of protein architecture across biological networks.

"We are interested in how structure evolves, not how organisms evolve," said professor of crop sciences Gustavo Caetano-Anollés, principal researcher on the study, which was co-written by graduate student Hee Shin Kim and emeritus professor of cell and developmental biology Jay E. Mittenthal. "We are using the techniques of phylogenetic analysis that systematicists used to build the tree of life, and we are applying it to a biochemical problem, a systems biology problem."

To get at the roots of protein evolution, the researchers examined metabolic proteins at the level of their component structures: easily recognizable folds in the proteins that have known enzymatic activities. These protein domains catalyze a range of functions, breaking down or combining metabolites, small molecules that include the building blocks of all life.

Their findings relied on a fundamental assumption: that the most widely utilized protein folds (they looked at proteins in more than 200 species) were also the most ancient. "Protein architecture has preserved ancient structural designs as fossils of ancient biochemistries," the authors wrote.

The team used data from two international compilations of genetic and proteomic information: the metabolic pathways database of the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes, and the Structural Classification of Proteins database. They combined these two data sets with phylogenetic reconstructions, or family trees, of protein fold architectures in metabolism. They created a new database, called the Molecular Ancestry Network (MANET) which links these data sources into a new global network diagram of metabolic pathways.

The researchers added color, representing evolutionary age, to their diagrams of metabolic networks (for an example, see the purine metabolism network in MANET). The result is a multicolored mosaic of protein fold evolution. The mosaic shows that modern metabolic networks – and even individual enzymes – are composed of both very ancient and much more recent protein architectures.

"This mosaic is telling you that the new enzymes and old enzymes are together performing side by side," Caetano-Anollés said. "In some cases in the same protein you have old domains and new domains working together."

This finding supports the hypothesis that protein architectures that perform one function are often recruited to perform new tasks.

The new, global family tree of protein architecture also revealed that many metabolic protein folds are quite ancient: These architectures were found to be quite common in all the species of bacteria, animals, plants, fungi, protists and archaea the researchers analyzed.

Of 776 metabolic protein folds surveyed, 16 were found to be omnipresent, and nine of those occurred in the earliest branches of the newly constructed tree.

"These nine ancient folds represent architectures of fundamental importance undisputedly encoded in a genetic core that can be traced back to the universal ancestor of the three superkingdoms of life," the authors wrote.

The analysis also found that the most ancient metabolic protein folds are important to RNA metabolism, specifically the interconversion of the purine and pyrimidine nucleotides that compose the core of the RNA molecule.

This discovery supports the hypothesis of an RNA world in which RNA molecules were among the earliest catalysts of life. This idea is based in part on the observation that RNA still retains many of its catalytic capabilities, including the ability to make proteins. Gradually, according to this theory, proteins began taking over some of the original functions of RNA.

"The most ancient (protein) molecules were involved in the interconversion of nucleotides. But they were not synthesizing them," Caetano-Anollés said. "We see that all the enzymes that were involved in purine synthesis, for example, were very recent. Since these first proteins benefited the formation of building blocks for the primitive RNA world, it makes a lot of sense that we've found this origin encased in nucleotide metabolism."

Caetano-Anollés and Mittenthal are also affiliated with the Institute for Genomic Biology.

The study appears in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This research was supported in part with funds from the U. of I. at Urbana-Champaign, the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Evolution Opponent Is in Line for Schools Post


By CORNELIA DEAN Published: May 19, 2007

The National Association of State Boards of Education will elect officers in July, and for one office, president-elect, there is only one candidate: a member of the Kansas school board who supported its efforts against the teaching of evolution.

Scientists who have been active in the nation's evolution debate say they want to thwart his candidacy, but it is not clear that they can.

The candidate is Kenneth R. Willard, a Kansas Republican who voted with the conservative majority in 2005 when the school board changed the state's science standards to allow inclusion of intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism. Voters later replaced that majority, but Mr. Willard, an insurance executive from Hutchinson, retained his seat. If he becomes president-elect of the national group, he will take office in January 2009.

The group, based in Washington, is a nonprofit organization of state school boards whose Web site (www.nasbe.org) says it "works to strengthen state leadership in educational policymaking."

Brenda L. Welburn, its executive director, said Mr. Willard's only opponent in the race withdrew for personal reasons after the period for nominations had closed. Each state has one vote in the election.

Some scientists hope that when states submit their votes, they will write in someone else. One possible candidate is Sam Schloemer, a retired businessman from Cincinnati who won a seat on the Ohio board last November with the help of scientists who organized to defeat creationist candidates.

Mr. Schloemer, a Republican, said in a telephone interview that he had learned of Mr. Willard's unopposed candidacy a few days before. He said he had no particular desire for the office, but added, "I would rather serve than see someone of his persuasion represent school boards across the country." Mr. Willard, who is in his fourth year on the 16-member national board, said in a telephone interview yesterday that issues like the teaching of evolution were best left to the states.

"We don't set curriculum standards or anything like that," Mr. Willard said of the national organization, adding that it handled issues like advising state boards on how to deal with governance concerns or influxes of immigrant students or ways to raise academic achievement among members of disadvantaged groups.

He said, though, that he personally thought students should be taught about challenges to the theory of evolution, like intelligent design. And while he said he had not heard of a possible challenge to his candidacy, Mr. Willard added that he was not surprised by it.

"Some people are mindless about their attacks on anyone questioning anything Darwin might have said," Mr. Willard said.

There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. Courts have repeatedly ruled that creationism and intelligent design are religious doctrines, not scientific theories.

People like Steve Rissing, a professor of biology at Ohio State University who was involved in the state election effort last fall, say they fear that if Mr. Willard is elected, challenges to the teaching of evolution would move to the national board. "Those of us in the trenches say, 'Oh no, not again,' " Professor Rissing said.

Patricia Princehouse, a professor of evolutionary biology at Case Western Reserve University and a leader of the scientists' efforts, said she hoped there would be many write-in votes. "Whether they decide it counts or not is up to Nasbe," Professor Princehouse said, using the acronym for the national association. "But people do not have to endorse Willard's candidacy."

The association's bylaws make no provision for write-ins, said Ms. Welburn, the executive director.

John G. West, associate director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, a group based in Seattle that espouses intelligent design, praised Mr. Willard's views on evolution and denounced criticism of his candidacy as "the kind of thought-policing we are getting used to."

But Kenneth R. Miller, a biology professor at Brown University who testified last year in a lawsuit over an effort to challenge the teaching of evolution in Dover, Pa., said he was "concerned" when he learned a supporter of intelligent design was slated to head the national school board group.

"We are in a nationwide struggle for the integrity of science education," Professor Miller said, "and any situation that provides an opportunity for the opponents of science education to advance their agenda is a matter of concern."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Anti-Evolution Billboards 'Evolve' Man into Monkey


By Doug Huntington Christian Post Reporter

"Are they making a monkey out of you?"

The non-profit group, Who Is Your Creator, is running advertisements that show four panels depicting a man "evolving" into a "monkey" (actually an ape). The organization hopes the billboards will draw in visitors to their website to learn more information about the issue.

"It's kind of funny because the theory of evolution is based on chance mutations and natural selection," explained Julie Haberle, founder of the Who Is Your Creator, in Cybercast News Service. "[Thus] the process can go either way."

Alongside the billboards, the group also launched a "Let's See How Evolution Works" game in its forums on Monday. The game explores and critiques the hypothetical stages of specific evolutionary transitions, which is commonly used as proof for evolution.

"If evolution is true, it still must be occurring around us as random mutations would continue to occur," quoted the first posting in the forum. "So, aside from simple speciation, where are all the living transitional forms that are evolving into other forms?"

As a major point to the campaign, the organizers hope to start discussion about evolutionary theory, and how it is not completely justifiable. The founders are worried that children who learn about evolution in school are only taught that it is undeniable fact. But Who Is Your Creator employees disagree.

As a main goal, they would like to see other subjects, such as creation, taught alongside evolution and for students to see more than one side of the argument. Organizers have also realized teaching creation is largely improbable at the time, however, but would at least like schools to teach about the flaws inside evolution.

"Evolution needs to be assessed by empirical scientific standards," said Haberle in a statement, "not by the current philosophical standards based on 'naturalism.'"

Currently, the billboards are being displayed in six locations in Oregon and Georgia through space donated by Revelation Outdoor Management. More billboards are expected to move into "controversial legislative states" such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri after fundraising.

A retired attorney has also donated a $5,000 prize for a contest that Who Is Your Creator is running. Applicants will submit a four-part legal opinion that will present the scientific and legal repercussions of teaching evolution and creation within the public school system.

Evolution scientists, however, have commented that the scientific community has more than enough supported the position of evolution. They note that the campaign is negatively disturbing a theory that has helped mankind and have labeled the Who Is Your Creator organization as a threat. The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) has even put the group on their list of "Threats to Evolution Education" in Minnesota.

"Indeed, scientists, students, educators and policymakers recently gathered in Washington, D.C., to hear leading doctors and researchers explain how their studies of evolution have led to critical advancements in medicine and the development of treatments for diseases like cancer," said Dr. Holly Menninger of the AIBS Public Policy Office to Cybercast News Service.

According to an August 2005 Pew Research Center survey, Americans believe in creation over evolution by a 60 percent to 26 percent margin and "nearly two-thirds of Americans say that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools."

"How silly that they would think we are a threat unless they don't what the public to know the truth," concluded Haberle in his statement.

On the web: Who Is Your Creator website.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Darwin's letters archived on web


By Jonathan Fildes Science and technology reporter, BBC News

Darwin Online

Evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin thought the voyage of the Beagle was a "magnificent scheme" allowing him to spend time "larking round the world".

His delight at the five-year cruise is chronicled in a letter, available online for the first time.

The note is one of nearly 5,000 from and to the scientist held in a database at the University of Cambridge.

The Darwin Correspondence project includes summaries of a further 9,000 letters, written from the age of 12.

In some of his earliest letters, he recounts talking to his sister Caroline, who had asked him about his personal hygiene.

"I only wash my fe[e]t once a month at school, which I confess is nasty, but I cannot help it, for we have nothing to do it with," he wrote.

Dr Alison Pearn, co-director of the Darwin Correspondence project, says it is insight like this that makes the letters so special.

"I think the human side is what is arresting about the letters," she said. "There is such an interesting and exciting mixture of very cutting-edge science and very personal revelations about his life and family."

Different paths

Darwin was a prolific letter writer, exchanging correspondence with nearly 2,000 people during his lifetime (1809-1882). Nearly 14,500 of his letters are known to exist, with the biggest collection residing in Cambridge.

His theory on evolution has influenced many science disciplines

"Letters were absolutely essential to what Darwin was doing," said Dr Pearn. "This is how he gathered data, how he gathered ideas, how he discussed ideas."

As well as other scientists, Darwin courted diplomats, clergymen, gardeners and pigeon fanciers.

"Pigeons are one of the organisms that Darwin investigated in great detail, in particular to study variation under domestication," said Dr Pearn.

"Breeding was so wide spread at the time that it was easy for him to tap into a network of people."

The letters also detail his dealings with other intellectual heavyweights of the time.

These included well known naturalists such as Alfred Russel Wallace, who collected specimens in the Amazon and Malay Archipelago and independently formulated a theory of evolution by natural selection.

In a letter from May 1857, contained in the new archive, Darwin replied to Wallace who had reported some of his own conclusions in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History and in a letter sent to Darwin on 10 October 1856.

"I can plainly see that we have thought much alike and to a certain extent have come to similar conclusions," wrote Darwin.

Darwin was one of the most important figures in the history of science. He changed forever our understanding of life on Earth.

"I agree to the truth of almost every word of your paper; and I daresay that you will agree with me that it is very rare to find oneself agreeing pretty closely with any theoretical paper; for it is lamentable how each man draws his own different conclusions from the very same fact."

Darwin and Wallace eventually published their theories in a joint paper in 1858, a year before Darwin published On the Origin of Species.

Letters from throughout this period map out the evolution of his ideas and publications.

Complete collection

The Darwin Correspondence project has existed offline since 1974. It has so far published 15 volumes of the scientist's letters as books.

An agreement with the publisher of the books means the new website will offer digitised versions of the texts freely available to anyone four years behind the hard copies.

Nearly 5,000 pieces of correspondence will be fully searchable when the site launches on Thursday 17 May.

"This is good news for everyone," said Dr John van Wyhe, project director of Darwin Online, a separate project also based at the University of Cambridge.

Set up in 2002, Darwin Online is putting Darwin's publications and non-correspondence manuscripts on the web. It also has downloadable audio files and images.

The most recent addition, the diaries of Darwin's wife, Emma Darwin, cover six decades of the couple's life together.

"My aim was to have a website that has everything else," said Dr van Whye. "We complement each other." Group Starts Petition Against Creation Museum http://www.wcpo.com/news/local/story.aspx?content_id=b4f457a4-1ff3-4bae-b0c9-ec5ad1fb3f60

May 16, 2007 1:35 PM

Posted By: Kevin Delaney

A group has started a petition against the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum that will open in Petersburg later this month.

The Campaign to Defend the Constitution is a grassroots movement against the influence of the religious right.

The group says the museum, which promotes a literal interpretation of the Bible, is trying to inject creationist teachings into science education.

The grand opening of the museum is May 28.

Showtime Falls for Filmmaker's Hoax, says the Discovery Institute


2007-05-14 15:17:36 -

SEATTLE, May 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Showtime Networks will air filmmaker Randy Olson's fanciful evolution film Flock of Dodos this week, apparently not realizing that key parts of the film are so wildly inaccurate that they amount to a hoax. In response, Discovery Institute President Bruce Chapman has sent a letter requesting air time to respond to the film's various false claims.

Flock of Dodos makes a number of false assertions about scientists and institutions researching the theory of intelligent design, and has drawn fire from scientists and scholars for its misrepresentations and outright inventions. Discovery's Center for Science & Culture (CSC) has launched a webpage, http://www.hoaxofdodos.com/, detailing the false facts in the film.

Discovery Institute sent a letter last week to Showtime Networks Chairman and CEO Matthew C. Blank outlining just a few of the film's numerous errors. Perhaps the most outlandish error is the claim that modern biology textbooks have not used illustrations derived from Ernst Haeckel's fraudulent 19th century embryo drawings as evidence for evolution. Contrary to Olson's film, these bogus drawings that misstate the evidence for evolution have been endlessly recycled in modern textbooks, a fact that even a noted evolutionist like the late Stephen Jay Gould admitted. Yet Olson tries to convince viewers that critics of Darwin's theory have been lying when they claim these drawings are in textbooks. But it turns out that he's the one telling fibs.

"Olson apparently didn't look at many textbooks for himself, because these diagrams unquestionably have been used in modern textbooks, as we have documented extensively in textbook reports and online," said attorney Casey Luskin, CSC's program officer for public and legal affairs. "In fact, we even showed the textbooks to Olson, but he refused to correct his film, preferring to keep hoaxing his audiences. Now he's trying to hoax Showtime's viewers as well."

For more information about the errors in Flock of Dodos, or to interview Dr. West, contact Anika Smith at (206) 292-0401 x155, or asmith@discovery.org.

For more information visit http://www.hoaxofdodos.com/.

Source: Discovery Institute

Book has scientific take on alternatives


May 15, 2007

"Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine" (Time Inc. Home Entertainment, $24.95)

Alternative medicine is the practice of mind-body medicine that believes that with the proper nutrition, conduct and state of mind, the body can heal itself.

People often use alternative practices to avoid so-called unnatural chemical remedies to prevent illness, to avoid surgery or to save money because they can't afford conventional health care.

The most recent numbers show that more than 60% of Americans use some sort of unconventional medical care -- from chicken soup to vitamin supplements to acupuncture -- spending about $47 billion a year.

The Mayo Clinic's book was written on the principle of evidence-based information on alternative medicine.

A team, most of whom are physicians, wrote the articles with the most up-to-date scientific information. As short as the book is, it covers many subjects, including the scientific take on meditation and prayer.

The book is probably best for folks new to understanding alternative medicine and for people who want short and credible information.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch