NTS LogoSkeptical News for 24 May 2007

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Little grant money a factor in tenure denial

http://desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070601/NEWS02/706010392/1001/BUSINESS04

An Iowa State professor pulled in far less than his colleagues.

By LISA ROSSI REGISTER AMES BUREAU

June 1, 2007 11 Comments

Ames, Ia. - An Iowa State University professor who advocates say was denied academic tenure because he pushed the theory of intelligent design raised significantly less research grant money than his peers who achieved tenure.

Iowa State University has sponsored $22,661 in outside grant money for Guillermo Gonzalez since July 2001, records show. In that same time period, Gonzalez's peers in physics and astronomy secured an average of $1.3 million by the time they were granted tenure, which is basically a lifetime appointment at the university.

"Essentially, he had no research funding," said Eli Rosenberg, chairman of the physics and astronomy department where Gonzalez is employed. "That's one of the issues."

Outside grant money pays for research, which includes everything from supporting graduate students to lab equipment to travel.

It's becoming more of a factor in tenure decisions across the university, Rosenberg said.

"At all levels of the university it has gotten more intense to look at that," he said. "In order to survive doing research, (you) have to support graduate students and travel. You have to generate that money yourself."

It is not uncommon for universities to use outside grant money as a criterion in tenure decisions, particularly in the sciences, said Jonathan Knight, who directs the program in academic freedom and tenure at the American Association of University Professors.

"The competition has become stiffer and fewer projects are being funded, and so the individuals are now being turned down to tenure because they are not able to get the funding," he said.

Advocates for Gonzalez have noted he authored more peer-reviewed papers than what his department had said was needed for someone of his rank to achieve tenure.

"The overarching and the most important thing is really my publication record," said Gonzalez, who said he's published 68 peer-reviewed papers during his career.

He pointed to ISU's physics and astronomy tenure policy, which said promotion to an associate professor requires potential to achieve a national or international reputation, a standard demonstrated by the publication of 15 papers in peer-reviewed journals.

Gonzalez has appealed the tenure decision. ISU President Gregory Geoffroy has until June 6 to respond.

Tenure decisions in the physics and astronomy department are based on a variety of factors beyond grant money. Those include a record in research, teaching and service, according to the department's tenure policy.

Gonzalez said neither teaching nor service were factors in his tenure denial.

"So what I can confirm is tenure denial has something to do with the research aspect," he said.

The intelligent design theory supports the notion that an "intelligent designer" was involved in the evolution of life. Critics say the theory is a repackaged version of creationism.

John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based organization that supports discussing intelligent design in science classes, said Gonzalez received a grant, before his tenure was denied, from Discovery for $50,000 for five years to study observational astronomy.

Gonzalez said of using research money in tenure decisions, "I'm sure it was a concern among department members, but it's not actually a requirement in any of the documents of the department or the university that I have to bring in outside funding."

Rosenberg pointed to the university promotion and tenure policy, which said a document called a position responsibility statement is a key element in the tenure review process.

That statement in the physics and astronomy department, which Rosenberg declined to share, is signed by each faculty member and addresses the importance of seeking or obtaining money to support research, he said.

Reporter Lisa Rossi can be reached at (515) 232-2383 or lrossi@dmreg.com

Gonzalez,Textbooks, and Research

http://scienceblogs.com/authority/2007/06/gonzaleztextbooks_and_research.php

Category: Intelligent Design • Science and The Public • religion and science

Posted on: June 1, 2007 2:27 AM, by Mike Dunford

Yesterday, Casey Luskin posted yet another article outlining still more of the Discovery Institute's complaints about the Iowa State decision to deny tenure to DI Fellow and ID proponent Guillermo Gonzalez. This one complains about the characterization of Gonzalez as "having slowed down considerably" and "not started new things." (That characterization appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education last week.)

I have no intention of getting into a debate over the precise merits of Dr. Gonzalez's case, for a number of reasons. First of all, I'm one of those who believes that the effort that Gonzalez has put into undermining quality science education in the primary and secondary public schools is something that should be considered when looking into tenure decisions. Second, I am not an astronomer and am not qualified to judge the quality of his scientific work either before or after he joined the Iowa State faculty. Finally, I am not a member of his department, and I do not know what was involved in the tenure decision in this case.

I am, however, someone who has enough reading comprehension skill to recognize when someone is playing word games, and enough of a sense of integrity to be offended when it happens. In the case of this latest Gonzalez article, that's exactly what Casey has done. Three times.

The first bit of clever wordplay comes from Casey's characterization of the person he's quoting in the following passage:

They managed to find one astronomer (who admitted he "has not studied Mr. Gonzalez's work in detail and is not an expert on [Gonzalez's] tenure case") who was willing to make the argument that Dr. Gonzalez's production has "slowed down considerably" at Iowa State University (ISU), alleging that "[i]t's not clear that he started new things" since joining ISU. What an incredibly false pair of accusations against Dr. Gonzalez.

If you look at the Chronicle article, you will find that the "one astronomer" is actually a not an astronomer at all. He's a physicist named Jorge Hirsch, who was interviewed because he devised something known as the h-index, which is a tool for evaluating a researcher's academic output. He was interviewed to get his comments about Gonzalez's h-index, which was loudly trumpeted on the Discovery Institute's website as the highest of the astronomers in his department. I just love how Dr. Hirsch can be referred to as the developer of the tool when they are bragging about how well Gonzalez measures up, but becomes "one astronomer" that "they managed to find" when he's explaining why his tool might not be the most appropriate measurement device in this case.

Strike one, Casey.

The second bit of clever wordplay comes when Casey decides to latch on to the word, "things" in the phrase, "it's not clear that he started new things." In context, it's clear that Hirsch is referring to Gonzalez's research output, as measured with Hirsch's h-index. Casey blithely ignores this, and proceeds to chastise "the astronomer they managed to find" (now rebranded as a "critic" of Gonzalez) for not taking notice of the introductory Astronomy textbook that Gonzalez co-wrote during his time at Iowa:

One of Dr. Gonzalez's recent accomplishments at ISU that has received less attention is his co-authorship of a prestigiously published astronomy textbook, Observational Astronomy. Published by Cambridge University Press and also peer-reviewed, the textbook is used in Dr. Gonzalez's own department to teach astronomy. Aside from his own department, universities internationally use Observational Astronomy, including University of Toronto, New Jersey's Science & Technology University, University of Manitoba, Valparaiso University, and Franklin and Marshall College. Prestigious textbook authorship is a new avenue of scholarship for Dr. Gonzalez since he joined ISU. How can his critics sustain the claim that he has not "started new things" at ISU?

That's pretty cute wordplay. Hirsch was clearly talking about research, but Casey decides to ignore context and use the word "things" in an absolutely literal sense. That gave him the opening to talk about Gonzalez's "peer-reviewed" textbook. Unfortunately, textbooks (whether "peer-reviewed" or not, and "peer-reviewed" isn't a phrase that is normally used to describe textbooks) aren't really relevant when looking at how good a scientist is as a researcher.

The following is a very simple concept, but it is one that the Discovery Institute seems to have a great deal of trouble understanding. For their benefit, I'm going to try to explain it in the simplest possible terms:

A textbook is not original scientific research.

It's a simple concept, but an important one. At research universities, hiring and tenure decisions are focused on a scientist's potential as a researcher. The scientist's potential as a teacher frequently - almost always - is secondary to their research skills. I don't think that's necessarily a good thing, and it's one of the reasons that I no longer intend to make a career as a research scientist, but it is the way things really are at this point in time.

Frankly, I hope that the textbook was considered to be a point in Gonzalez's favor when his tenure application was reviewed. At least some instructors feel that the book is good enough to use, and it does take considerable time and effort to write a textbook. Unfortunately for Gonzalez, however, none of that changes the fact that tenure decisions in research departments are usually based on research output, and an introductory textbook isn't a venue for presenting original research.

Strike two, Casey.

Finally, we've got Casey's analysis of Gonzalez's scientific output. Casey, both in this article and in a previous one, refers to Gonzalez's scientific output since 2001, "the year he joined ISU." The reason that Casey refers to the "year he joined ISU" instead of the simpler, "since joining ISU" is because Gonzalez's research really does seem to show a bit of a drop since he joined the ISU faculty. If you exclude the 2001 papers where Gonzalez was still affiliated with Washington, his normalized citation index drops by nearly half - from 144 to 81.

Now, 81 is a perfectly respectable total for something like that, and I wouldn't presume to criticize the work itself - as I said before, I'm not qualified. It does seem to me, though, that 81 is not the same thing as 144. For starters, it's not as impressive looking a number - it's only made up of two digits, and 144 is made up of three. Really, the only thing that 81 has going for it is that it's a more accurate view of the work that was done at Iowa State, as opposed to work that had been done earlier, but got published sometime during the year that Gonzalez started working there. (Wouldn't it be nice if other jobs worked like that? I'd love to get credit at my new job for the hours I worked at the last one.)

I'm guessing that Casey probably figured out the whole timeline thing before he wrote those posts, and picked his language in that nice lawyerly way to make sure that he couldn't be accused of saying things that weren't true. That doesn't strike me as being particularly honest, though. Oh, and speaking of strikes, no joy in Mudville, Casey.

Iowa State University Thwarts Open Records Law in Gonzalez Case: What Does It Have to Hide? (Updated)

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/06/iowa_state_thwarting_open_reco.html

UPDATE (12:45 pm): Within the hour of our posting of this story, we received a communication from ISU's university counsel that states: "We believe we can start sending some material to you early next week, but since we don't have most of the submissions from the departments yet, I don't know how long it will take to complete the process." Well, better late than never. The power of the blogosphere is demonstrated once again! We will be interested to see how many documents we actually do receive next week.

For the past two weeks, Discovery Institute has attempted to obtain data from Iowa State University (ISU) about the record of publications and grants of those considered for tenure by the university over the past several years. Unfortunately, ISU has thus far stonewalled these requests for information, even when submitted pursuant to Iowa's open records act.

Why?

On May 16, Discovery Institute filed a public document request under Iowa's open records act in order to obtain the grant and publication data of faculty considered for tenure in ISU's Department of Physics and Astronomy since 1997 and for faculty in other departments considered for tenure since 2002. Thus far the university has provided no data in response to these requests, nor as of today has it responded to repeated requests about when the requested information will be provided.

We also have requested statistics on the race and gender of those denied tenure at ISU. After ISU's John McCarroll refused to answer that question, we submitted it under the open records act as well--but, again, ISU has stonewalled rather than provide the data.

ISU apparently doesn't want the public to have access to this information. What does it have to hide?

Posted by John West on June 1, 2007 11:27 AM | Permalink

Science based on the search for proof

http://www.hamiltonspectator.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=hamilton/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1180672069357&call_pageid=1020420665036&col=1112876262536

By Robert Rakoczy, Hamilton
The Hamilton Spectator
(Jun 1, 2007)

Re: 'Creationists make their stand' (Discover, May 26)

A letter writer says the article on the "museum" in Kentucky was biased and should have had references from science educators and scientists in support of creationism.

Why is that? I will argue that support for creationism does not exist in scientific circles, and in fact, the teaching of creationism goes against science altogether.

Studies have shown the vast majority of scientists reject creationism, and, in many cases, God altogether.

A Newsweek poll in 1987 showed that of 480,000 American scientists working in earth sciences/biology, only 700 supported creationism. A more recent study of the members of the National Academy of Sciences showed that only 7 per cent of members believe in God. We can surmise that not all of that 7 per cent would believe in the kind of creationism that has God creating the Earth in seven days.

There is also an award, the Templeton Prize, that gives large cash sums to people who "expand human perceptions of divinity." Of the dozen or so scientists that have won the award since 1972, not one has been a creationist.

Now I am not trying to disprove the existence of God by way of polls. However, I am trying to show that creationism has no business being taught with legitimate science. Science, regardless of whether there is a God or not, relies on verifiable proof that can be tested and re-tested and show a consistent result.

The search for "proof" and "evidence" is the greatest lesson that science teaches, and to tell children that Noah's Ark had dinosaurs, or that the Earth is 10,000 years old, goes against any evidence that science has amassed in the last 400 years.

Not all creationists are created equal, of course. Some will argue that God explains the gaps in our knowledge, such as how the Big Bang happened.

However, just because there are gaps in our knowledge of science and the universe doesn't mean we should fill it with something that is also unverifiable. That's not to say that God didn't create the Big Bang, it just cannot be proven, right now, in the realm of science.

While I cannot speak for the majority of scientists -- and there are certainly many science teachers who believe in creationism -- the vast majority of those in sciences see the museum in Kentucky for what it is: A confusing re-telling of science that, at best, confuses science, and at worst, confuses faith and reality.

WE BLOG EXCERPTS: CREATION MUSEUM CREATING DEBATE

http://www.kansas.com/205/story/84521.html

The following are some of the more than 300 reader comments about the new Creation Museum in Kentucky from our online WE Blog, http://blogs.kansas.com:

Somebody spent $27 million for a re-creation of a "Flintstones" cartoon? You'd think with that money, they could do some scientific research to actually support their position.

It never ceases to amaze me that those who don't want intelligent design or creationism taught in the school also want to run down a museum that has articles they don't agree with.

What would happen if those people actually took over our government, like they want to do?

I wonder of the "museum" has a section called "The Earth Really Is Flat."

Why not? You fell for the "evolution theory" that was backed by stupidity.

If you think evolution is illogical, that's fine. But creationism is even less logical (which is OK, because it's not supposed to be about logic -- it's about faith despite inconsistent facts).

Evolution is more a religion than theory, in my opinion.

We have heard over here in the United Kingdom that 50 percent of Americans believe in creationism, so this sort of museum would attract plenty of customers for sure. What is wrong with the U.S. education system? When will common sense prevail?

"Common sense" has prevailed here in the states. Real science is taught in our public schools, and faith-based creationism is not.

Evolutionary theory doesn't hold the rights to the term "science." Creationists can use it, too.

I wonder if our own Sen. Sam will sign the guest book.

The theory of evolution is full of many black sheep that its loyal believers pretend don't exist.

If creationists want to have their "theory" considered a real science, they need to produce the evidence, not just criticism of evolution or Darwin.

I have to wonder if Jesus would have spent $27 million for some Creation Museum, or if he would have used the money to ease the suffering of the people he was trying to minister to.

I wouldn't go to the Creation Museum for science. I'd go there for Truth.

I think there may be a faction trying to open the Flying Spaghetti Monster Museum here in Wichita if the space occupied by the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame becomes available.

Intelligent design has place in science lessons, says CofE

http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,2093476,00.html

Donald MacLeod and agencies
Friday June 1, 2007
EducationGuardian.co.uk

The row over teaching the theory of intelligent design in science lessons was reignited today by the Church of England's new head of education.

The Rev Jan Ainsworth, who is responsible for more than 4,600 CofE schools, said intelligent design could form part of discussions in science lessons under the heading of history of science.

Intelligent design - the argument that living species are too complex to have evolved through Darwinian natural selection and must have a "designer" - is dismissed by the vast majority of scientists.

Ms Ainsworth told the Times Educational Supplement: "While it is not something I would subscribe to, it is a recognition that there are different ways of looking at the evidence.

"You would get howls of protest from the scientific community, which would say there is absolutely no place for it in the curriculum. But you could do it in history of science," she added, pointing out that religious education lessons in CofE schools include discussions of different beliefs.

The church today hastened to play down the significance of her comments.

The long-running battle between creationists and Darwinists over teaching evolution in schools in the US - dating to the 1925 "Monkey Trial" in Tennessee - has spilled over into the UK in recent years.

Earlier this year the government instructed schools in England not to use teaching materials promoting creationism and intelligent design circulated by the privately-funded group Truth in Science.

Ms Ainsworth's comments follow a long-running row over claims that some of Tony Blair's flagship city academies teach creationism in science lessons. The prime minister has dismissed concerns over the issue.

A spokesman for the Church of England said Ms Ainsworth was "simply representing the fact that some schools currently discuss intelligent design within the context of lessons exploring how our understanding of science has developed historically".

He continued: "Ms Ainsworth was not suggesting that intelligent design should be taught as a scientifically-based theory, but merely stating that some schools do include the topic on their history of science curriculum, and that she does not propose to prevent them from doing so.

"She believes that schools should take a lead from the national curriculum, and use discretion in enhancing this with discussions about the theory of intelligent design where appropriate," he added.

The Christian thinktank Ekklesia criticised Ms Ainsworth for flirting with intelligent design which was "creationism masquerading as science" and "appallingly bad theology".

Creationism includes a belief that all forms of life have always existed in their present form, and that the world was formed in 4004 BC, rather than 4,600 million years ago as scientists believe. Intelligent design is less explicit about God creating life and does accept the greater age of the Earth.

In the US there have been robust battles over the teaching of evolution and creationism in schools. This year the Kansas school board banned creationist teaching in science lessons.

In 2005 intelligent design was roundly condemned in a court judgment as a purely religious theory, which should not be taught in American schools under the constitutional separation of church and state. The case was brought over the teaching of intelligent design in schools in Dover, Pennsylvania.

Last year, the world's leading scientific institutions issued a joint statement calling on schools to stop denying the facts of evolution. The national science academies of 67 countries warned that scientific evidence about the origins of life was being "concealed, denied, or confused".

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Yabba-dabba science

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-ed-round24may24,0,7881591.story?coll=la-opinion-leftrail

Note to would-be Creation Museum visitors: the Earth is round.

May 24, 2007

THE CREATION MUSEUM, a $27-million tourist attraction promoting earth science theories that were popular when Columbus set sail, opens near Cincinnati on Memorial Day. So before the first visitor risks succumbing to the museum's animatronic balderdash — dinosaurs and humans actually coexisted! the Grand Canyon was carved by the great flood described in Genesis! — we'd like to clear up a few things: "The Flintstones" is a cartoon, not a documentary. Fred and Wilma? Those woolly mammoth vacuum cleaners? All make-believe.

Science is under assault, and that calls for bold truths. Here's another: The Earth is round.

The museum, a 60,000-square-foot menace to 21st century scientific advancement, is the handiwork of Answers in Genesis, a leader in the "young Earth" movement. Young Earthers believe the world is about 6,000 years old, as opposed to the 4.5 billion years estimated by the world's credible scientific community. This would be risible if anti-evolution forces were confined to a lunatic fringe, but they are not. Witness the recent revelation that three of the Republican candidates for president do not believe in evolution. Three men seeking to lead the last superpower on Earth reject the scientific consensus on cosmology, thermonuclear dynamics, geology and biology, believing instead that Bamm-Bamm and Dino played together.

Religion and science can coexist. That the Earth is billions of years old is a fact. How the universe came into being and whether it operates by design are matters of faith. The problem is that people who deny science in one realm are unlikely to embrace it in another. Those who cannot accept that climate change may have caused the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago probably don't put much stock in the fact that today it poses grave peril to the Earth as we know it.

Last year, the White House attempted to muzzle NASA's top climatologist after he called for urgent action on global warming, and a presidential appointee in the agency's press office chastised a contractor for mentioning the Big Bang without including the word "theory." The press liaison reportedly wrote in an e-mail: "This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA."

With the opening of the Creation Museum, young people will be getting another side of the story. Too bad it starts with "Yabba-dabba-doo!"

How warfarin interacts with common herbs and supplements

http://altmedicine.about.com/library/bl092400warfarin.htm

Adverse reactions after mixing pharmaceutical drugs and herbs or supplements are becoming increasingly common. Warfarin (trade name: Coumadin), one of the most frequently prescribed drugs in the United States used to thin the blood and prevent it from clotting, is one such drug that has many herbal, supplement, and food contraindications. The importance of consulting an appropriately trained health care provider before taking herbal medicine and supplements can not be overemphasized. Some of the items on this list are not absolute contraindications and can be safely taken with warfarin under professional supervision.

Herbs and supplements that can potentially reduce the effect of warfarin

Vitamin C
Ginseng
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
St. John's wort
Papaya
Herbs and supplements that can potentially magnify the effect of warfarin

Dan shen
Devil's claw
Garlic
Gingko biloba
Dong quai
Fenugreek
Vitamin E
White willow
Feverfew
Chuan xiong (Ligustici chuanxion)
Tao ren (Persicae)
Hong hua (Carthamus tinctorii)
Shui zhi (Hirudo seu whitmania)

The above is a partial list and should not replace medical consultation, as herbs and supplements are continually added to the list when new interactions are discovered.

If you are taking warfarin, call you physician immediately if you experience:

discomfort, pain, and swelling
increased bleeding from cuts or nosebleeds
unusual bleeding from gums when brushing teeth
increased menstrual flow or vaginal bleeding
red or dark brown urine
red or black stools
unexplained bruising
any other unusual symptoms
More on drug interactions from your Alternative Medicine Guide at About.

References:

Fugh-Berman, A. Herb-Drug Interactions. Lancet 2000; 355.

Lee Page II, Lawrence, J.D. Potentiation of Warfarin by Dong Quai. Pharmacotherapy 1999; 19 (7).

Tam L.S., Chan T.Y.K., Leung, W.K., Critchley, J.A.J.H. Warfarin Interactions with Chinese traditional medicines; danshen and methyl salicylate medicated oil. Aust NZ Journal of Medicine 1995; 25.

Ayurveda being taught in US medical schools

http://indiapost.com/article/healthscience/435/

Sunday, 05.27.2007, 11:58pm (GMT-7)

CHICAGO: For the last several years, Dr Navin Shah, co-founder and past president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) has been advocating the teaching of Ayurveda as part of medical syllabus in US universities.

His mission and commitment to the cause led him to New Delhi on many occasions with a request to the Health Ministry to depute two Ayurveda professors to teach a short course in Ayurveda to medical students. The attempts proved successful and the Ministry decided to depute two professors to the US.

Dr H Palep and Dr T Nesari have been selected to visit the US for a period of six weeks. The invitees for the course are medical students, faculty members and practicing physicians. The 12-hour course will be taught under the Complimentary Alternative Medicine (CAM) in various cities and provided without any fees.

The courses began early May and the classes were held in Washington DC on May 5 and 6, in Baltimore on May 12 and 13, in Philadelphia (during the Silver Jubilee of the AAPI) on May 19 and 20. Four more classes will be held on May 25 and 26 and June 2 and 3.

The professors are visiting medical schools to interact with faculty members for both Ayurveda education and research. Dr Navin Shah, who spearheaded the efforts to introduce Ayurveda in US universities, said that India was not able to promote their alternative medicinal system as the Koreans and the Chinese, who have made significant inroads into the US.

"There is keen interest in Ayurveda, just as Yoga, meditation, Panchakarma (process of detoxification) and vegetarianism in the US medical community. This 5000-year old proven medical tradition has already begun making impact benefiting millions. I am confident that our efforts will help include Ayurveda teaching in the US Medical School Curriculum under CAM," Shah said. Shah added, "The only condition we have stipulated is that these experts should be able to scientifically validate that they have been able to cure diseases.

The concept of healing the mind, body and soul is fast gaining popularity and Ayurveda can make a niche for itself in the alternative medicine sector. Alternative medicine has $40-billion market in the US and traditional Chinese and Korean systems have cornered a lion's share."

Ayurveda has been able to capture just $200 million business, which is miniscule compared to its actual potential, he said. The above classes might encourage many American graduates to go to India and learn the craft and thus heralding a great potential clientele for India, he said.

He added that National Health Institute has shown keen interest for a joint Indo-US research on Ayurveda. "They are ready to fund the research," he said with enthusiasm. Ayurveda, the science of longevity, is one of the earliest systems of diagnosing and treating human physical ailments, developed in India for over two millennia. It is based on authoritative treatises written by the sages of great wisdom including Charaka, Susruta, Vagbhata, Nagarjuna and many more.

It also traces its roots to Vedic Samhitas, especially to Atharva Veda one of four Vedas, the sacred scriptures of the Hindus. According to Ayurveda, most physical ailments are the result of imbalances in the three basic elements integral to the human body namely, Vata (air), Pitha (bile) and Kapha (phlegm). Although these three doshas (imbalances) are emphasized, a number of independent external causes are also recognized, including supernatural and psychological traits.

Surendra Ullal

Museum on creationism set to open

http://www.fftimes.com/index.php/3/2007-05-29/30988

May 29, 2007

(CP)

Creationism and evolution will square off again when Canada's first permanent creation museum opens its doors in June.

The Big Valley Creation Science Museum is filled with displays of fossils and model DNA strands supporting a literal interpretation of the Bible—and opposing evolution.

"When you look at it, you can see which faith fits the facts because both sides are faiths," said Harry Nibourg, the owner of the museum.

Nibourg said he became interested in creationism after watching videos and reading books on the subject.

"I looked deeper, read the books, and evolution didn't make sense to me, it didn't answer the questions I was asking," he said. "It didn't satisfy my curiosity for knowledge."

Four years ago, he had the idea to open a museum after watching Vance Nelson, the head of Creation Truth Ministries in nearby Red Deer, give a speech.

It took a while and cost about $300,000 to build, but Nibourg finally will get to reveal his own creation this summer.

The museum is filled with displays of fossils, models, and busts of dinosaurs with titles like Evidence From Plants, Terrible Lizards, and Fossils and the Flood.

Also featured are interactive bacterial flagellum and DNA displays.

Cutting Edge Conference Reaches Out to Physicians

http://www.emediawire.com/releases/2007/5/emw528663.htm

Download this press release as an Adobe PDF document.

There is never a crowd at the cutting edge. But the "Body Heals" conference hosted by the ACIPBC (Association of Complementary and Integrative Physicians of BC), which was held May 25-27, 2007 at the University of Victoria, was a great start.

Vancouver, B.C. (PRWEB) May 29, 2007 -- There is never a crowd at the cutting edge. But the "Body Heals" conference hosted by the ACIPBC (Association of Complementary and Integrative Physicians of BC), which was held May 25-27, 2007 at the University of Victoria, was a great start, said conference presenter Adam DreamHealer.

"The physicians who attended were brave enough to step out of the mold of conventional allopathic medicine in order to investigate the integration of complementary and allopathic medicine," DreamHealer said. "This is the result of the public demanding and deserving a more integrative approach to their health care, especially when dealing with a personal health crisis. How complementary medicine can further advance our health care delivery for the well-being of everyone is critical."

According to DreamHealer, it has been widely noted in our society that complementary and alternative solutions are increasing in popularity with regard to our health care issues. Opposition towards integrative health care is also increasing. As with any new perspective which differs from the mainstream of thought, there are three distinct phases of its acceptance.

"Firstly when a new viewpoint is expressed it is met with total dismissal and little opposition or fanfare," he said. "Secondly, if momentum grows in support of any view which may be seen as threatening to the status quo, opposition increases.

Finally the new view becomes the norm and a new level of awareness is accepted. We should all be thankful that we have progressed to the second step, as is evidenced by some biased skeptic reporters posing as legitimate journalists. It is so obvious with their ungrounded and unreferenced opposition that they are fearful of change. They view integrative medicine as a major threat to their belief system, and they are adamant that their views will not be changed by the facts. Integrative medicine is growing by leaps and bounds and is increasingly becoming a target of criticism as we are on their radar screens."

According to DreamHealer, the skeptics are taking note of its increasing interest as a consumer-driven public demand issue. Skeptics are unwittingly helping to spread the word about integrative health being a growing concern by printing their obviously biased information. People are more well-read and have faster access to information than ever before in human history. The public can easily see through their thinly veiled fanatical negativity and are informed enough to make their own intelligent decisions. What skeptics are opposing is the known facts that people can and do influence their own health and the integration of these concepts into a practice can only benefit the patient.

The purpose of the conference is straight-forward and can be summarized by the following statement, DreamHealer said.

"The integration of all types of medicine will help us better understand how our body really works."

The "Body Heals" conference included presentations by world-renown speakers Drs. David Suzuki, Candice Pert, Norm Shealy, Steven Aung and the only non-doctor, Adam.

About Adam DreamHealer

Adam DreamHealer, a 20-year-old author, presenter and healer with three international best-selling books to his credit presented to a sold-out audience. He was the only speaker who also presented at the AIPBC's first conference held two years ago at the University of Victoria., notably to a sold-out audience then as well. Adam sees medical doctors as being in a key position to help their patients focus on their own ability to assist in their own healing. Says Adam "I want to provide people with tools to positively impact their own health. Primary care physicians are in a perfect situation to guide patients in exploring their own self- responsibility and healing."

But are these alternative health techniques worthy of further exploration? Do they have scientific evidence behind them?

Dr. Warren Bell, Medical Doctor and Chairman of the ACIPBC states, "Those who say that alternative medicine isn't based on good evidence have resolutely refused to look at the evidence."

Adam continues his University studies in Molecular Biology in order to have a better understanding of the science behind his healing abilities. He also feels that it is very important for physicians and other health care practitioners to become more aware of the importance of integrating self-empowering intentions into their practice. The ACIPBC should be commended for their progressive and forward vision for the future of health care, as they are certainly on the cutting edge.

###

Trackback URL: http://www.prweb.com/pingpr.php/TWFnbi1TaW5nLVNpbmctU2luZy1UaGlyLVplcm8=


Monday, May 28, 2007

Monkey Trial: Evolution, Creationism and Free Speech in Court

http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/1236

Written, produced and directed by Christine Lesiak, Co-produced and co-directed by Annie Mumgaard Lightscape Distribution
2002
A$24.95
80 minutes

The Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee in 1925 is the most famous showdown so far between evolution and creationism. Rather than going into the rights and wrongs of the scientific issues, this documentary looks at the personalities and movements behind the event, using contemporary newsreel footage, photographs and newspapers, as well as the usual interviews with historians and biographers, plus relatively subtle reenactments, to help the viewer understand what it was like to be there.

The trial was actually set up by a group of 'civic boosters', trying to put their little town on the map, as the coal and iron mines were closing down. John Scopes, a football coach who also taught general science, agreed to their plan. He was duly arrested, but took little part in the ensuing media circus. An amazing photo shows the civic leaders and Scopes smiling together in Robinson's Drug Store.

The battle was fought between three-time Democrat presidential nominee and devout Christian, William Jennings Bryan, and America's most famous defence attorney, atheist Clarence Darrow. The town was besieged by more than a hundred journalists, including the famous satirist HL Mencken, and the trial was broadcast live on radio. The circus atmosphere was increased by the huge numbers of visitors to Dayton, supporters of one side or the other, and by the heat. Souvenir sellers, a trained chimpanzee named Joe Mendi and a gorilla in a cage enlivened the proceedings.

Review of The Privileged Planet

http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/784_review_of_emthe_privileged_p_6_7_2005.asp

The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery
by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay W. Richards
Washington DC: Regnery Publishing, 2004. 444 pages

reviewed by William H. Jefferys, The University of Texas at Austin

The Privileged Planet is based upon the odd notion that the more unsuitable our universe is for producing intelligent life, the more likely it is that our universe was "designed" to produce intelligent life by a "designer" of indeterminate nature; put another way, supposedly the less likely it is that there could be a planet in our universe that supports intelligent life, then the more likely it is that the universe was "designed" to produce a particular intelligent life form -- us -- that can and will investigate the nature of the universe.

We know from experience that this is not how human beings, the only intelligent designers of which we have any experience, work. We know that a human designer of a factory does not design a factory so that it will only occasionally, if ever, produce a car, or a computer, or whatever the target object is; rather the factory is designed to produce the largest possible amount of product consistent with the constraints: cost, physical reality, whatever.

The fundamental error made by Gonzalez and Richards, as with most creationists (including "intelligent design" [ID] creationists), is that they imagine that they can prove the existence of their "intelligent designer" by merely alleging evidence against a particular strawman naturalistic scenario, and, without clearly specifying an alternative model, simply assert that the only other explanation possible is that everything was created by a "designer". Under this strategy, no details are specified about what we would expect to see if the "designer" existed, or why we would expect to see that and not something else. It is, as we shall see, not a scientific theory. It is instead nothing but the usual fallacious Argument from False Dichotomy.

Of course, we know why ID creationists don't want to talk about the nature of the "designer". If they were to do so, they would undermine their claim that ID creationism has nothing to do with religion. They do admit the nature of their designer in private, among friends, but not before school boards or state boards of education. Since the real point of ID is to slip religion surreptitiously into the public school classroom, they can't reveal the true nature of their "designer" in any arguments intended for public consumption (as this book is). In line with this political strategy, the authors of this book are similarly cagey about the nature of the designer (p 330).

But they are between a rock and a hard place. Gonzalez and Richards don't realize that unless they can show that what we actually see is more probable, given that an "intelligent designer did it," they have no case. This is because a basic rule of inference is that one has to compare the likelihood of observing evidence E under all relevant hypotheses H1, H2, ..., Hn. Then the hypothesis that has the greatest likelihood is the one best supported by the evidence. Obviously, if you don't say what your hypothesis is -- in this case by specifically describing the nature of the "intelligent designer" and the consequences for the real world if that entity exists, so that actual calculations can be made -- then it is impossible to compute the likelihood of observing E under your hypothesis, and your hypothesis never even gets to the starting gate.

One wonders what Gonzalez and Richards would say if the evidence were otherwise. They talk about the fantastically small probability that our universe would give rise to intelligent, inquisitive life, but what if it were the opposite? What if we had observed that the universe was actually quite conducive to the existence of intelligent, inquisitive life? Would Gonzalez and Richards then conclude that the probability of observing such a universe, given that it was designed by an "intelligent designer", was small? I hardly think so. In such a case they would surely be pointing to the fecundity of the universe as evidence for the existence of their "intelligent designer". In other words, the assertion of a "designer" is a no-lose position. Whatever evidence one observed would by this fallacious reasoning support their "designer."

But there's the rub. They can't have it both ways. An elementary rule of inference is that if evidence E supports hypothesis H, then observing that E is false would undermine H. In other words, if observing that the universe is fecund were to support the hypothesis that the universe is "designed", then observing that it is not fecund would necessarily support the hypothesis that it was not "designed" and would undermine the design argument.

Unfortunately, it means that the ancient argument from design (of which this book is just a modern example) is scientifically useless. There is no conceivable evidence that could, even in principle, refute the notion that everything happens as a result of an unconstrained, very powerful "designer". This is because such an entity can be invoked to explain any evidence whatsoever. Real scientific hypotheses have to be vulnerable to evidence. It must be possible to imagine evidence that would undermine them (see Pennock 1999, ch 6, for an extensive discussion). This is not the case for a mysterious "intelligent designer" of nature so unspecified that one cannot even make predictions about what one would expect to observe if it existed.

Consider, for example, the fine-tuning argument: The fact that "the constants are right" for our own existence is supposed to support the existence of an intelligent designer. Philosopher of science Elliott Sober (2003) has refuted this argument and, independently, Michael Ikeda and I have made similar points with some variations (Ikeda and Jefferys 1997). Sober points out that the usual design argument is that the probability that the "constants are right," given that design is true, is greater than the probability that "the constants are right," given a naturalistic universe. Notwithstanding the fact that we don't know whether this inequality is true or not in the ID creationist view -- because the ID community stubbornly refuses to specify the nature of the "designer" so that we can actually do the required calculations -- there is a deeper problem.

Sober and Ikeda and I pointed out that the relationship fails to take into account our own existence. In other words, we are here (we know this, and could not be making any arguments if it were not so), so any discussion must take this fact into account. Thus, the correct comparison is between (A) the probability that "the constants are right" given design and our own existence, versus (B) the probability that "the constants are right" given a naturalistic universe and our own existence. Since in a naturalistic universe our own existence implies that the constants must be right, this means that (B) is equal to 1. What about (A)? Clearly, since probabilities are always less than or equal to 1, (A) cannot be larger than 1, so the ratio of (B) to (A) must be at least 1. This means that observing that "the constants are right" cannot undermine the naturalistic hypothesis.

Sober says that (A) is also 1, but here he missed an important point. Since the nature of the designer is unspecified, and might be an omnipotent deity, for example, it would be possible for the designer to produce universes where the constants are not right, but in which we could still exist.

An example would be a universe where the constants are not right for producing carbon in stellar interiors. In their book, Gonzalez and Richards mention Fred Hoyle's remarkable 1954 prediction of special resonances in carbon and oxygen nuclei (p 198 and following). These resonances were predicted because without them, carbon and oxygen could not be synthesized in stars, and since they also cannot be synthesized by the Big Bang, our own existence implies that the resonances must exist, at least if the universe is naturalistic. This in turn leads to rather narrow predicted ranges for certain physical constants ("the constants are right"). Indeed, the resonances were found to exist, one of the earliest and possibly best examples of a prediction of a physical fact from the so-called weak anthropic principle, that sentient beings ought to observe that the universe they inhabit is consistent with their own existence.

But, if the universe had been designed by a sufficiently powerful designer, the constants would not have to be right in order for us to exist. For example, the designer could create a universe where the constants are not right for the production of carbon and oxygen in the interiors of stars, preferring instead (for whatever reason: whim, or the desire to accomplish other goals such as letting us know that he exists by means of a subtle scientific clue) just to manufacture the required carbon atoms and sprinkle them where needed throughout the universe. If we consider the possible existence of such a designer -- and remember, the ID creationists' intentional refusal to specify the nature of their designer leaves this possibility open -- then it is no longer the case (as Sober asserts) that (A) is equal to 1. Indeed, it is less than 1 and could be quite small, which means that our observing that "the constants are right" actually provides powerful evidence in favor of the naturalistic hypothesis. It would actually be our observing that "the constants are wrong" that would undermine, and in fact refute the naturalistic hypothesis. The ID creationists have the inequality backwards.

In another section, Gonzalez and Richards also attempt to refute the so-called "Many Worlds Hypothesis" (MWH), which postulates the existence of a very large or even actually infinite collection of universes called the multiverse (p 268 and following). I should first point out that they are simply wrong to think that the motivation for the MWH is to get around the fine-tuning problem. In fact, it is a consequence of the leading theory of cosmology -- the theory of chaotic inflation -- which is the theory best supported by the evidence (including that from the recent Wilson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, or WMAP). Chaotic inflation was invented to explain certain observed facts about our universe, for example its flatness and homogeneity. One consequence of inflation is that the universe is actually infinite in extent both in space and time, containing infinitely many regions that have each inflated into expanding universes much like ours, but perhaps with physical constants different from ours. Indeed, this multiverse is so vast that it would contain infinitely many universes exactly like ours, as well as infinitely many others that differ from ours in only subtle ways, for example ones in which I am an ID creationist and the authors are attempting to refute my pro-ID arguments, or ones where I have a long green tail, or ones in which a particular gene in my genotype has a C substituted for an A (see Seife 2004 for more on this).

Gonzalez and Richards's "refutation" of the MWH is unconvincing. It consists of a bland dismissal that an actual infinite set can exist (p 268 -- where did they learn their mathematics?) together with a claim that "we have no evidence to think that other universes exist," a claim that happens to be false, for several reasons. One reason is that it is a prediction of the best-supported theory in cosmology, one that is strongly supported by evidence. And the second is that under that model, our own existence evidentially supports the MWH (since under that hypothesis a selection effect is involved: we can only exist in one of the very small proportion of worlds in which "the constants are right," so our own existence implies the existence of these other worlds).

As Mark Perakh (2004) has pointed out in another context, there is nothing particularly unparsimonious about the multiverse hypothesis. For one thing, it is based on the observational fact that our own universe definitely exists, and since it does exist, it is reasonable to presume that naturalistic processes would produce other universes, just as different versions of our own. If physics can produce one universe, there is nothing in principle to prevent it from producing infinitely many. Indeed, it would be expected. By contrast, the hypothesis of an intelligent designer of universes is completely speculative; there is, as Perakh points out, not a single observational fact that points to the existence of such an entity other than ancient, conflicting legends.

In their discussion of the MWH, Gonzalez and Richards also repeat a fallacious argument (p 270) that has been made by John Leslie, concerning a hypothetical officer who survives a Nazi firing squad and concludes that this must be due to design (the firing squad intended to miss) rather than chance (the firing squad members all missed by accident). We are supposed to reason by analogy that since the officer concludes that design rather than chance was the reason for this particular low-probability event, we should infer the same as regards the universe. Notwithstanding the obvious differences between naturalistic universes that have no known intentions, alleged "designers" whose intentions cannot be clearly specified without undermining the political aspirations of ID creationists, and firing squads that have well-understood intentions, this argument is plain silly, and has been decisively refuted in Sober's paper (2003). Analogies are treacherous things.

Finally, I turn to Gonzalez and Richards's notion that our earth is uniquely designed for its inhabitants to do scientific exploration, and that the universe is similarly designed for us to do that scientific exploration. They point to a number of phenomena that have aided our scientific enterprise, such as the transparency of the earth's atmosphere, the fact that we have a moon that is just far enough from the earth to produce spectacular solar eclipses, and so on. Of all the arguments in the book, I find this the weakest. It puts the cart before the horse. For suppose it were not so; if we existed on another world very different from the earth, then we would surely be doing something. We would be doing whatever was possible for us to do under the circumstances in which we found ourselves. If we accepted the Whiggish reasoning of the authors, we would be just as justified in concluding that our planet -- and our universe, if we could see it in this alternative reality -- was designed so that we would do whatever we happened to be doing at the time or find interesting at the time (as diverse human cultures have always done). The authors could learn much by studying a little anthropology and a little history.

To summarize, the little that is new in this book isn't interesting, and what is old is just old-hat creationism in a new, modern-looking astronomical costume. It is the same old shell game. It's too bad that Guillermo Gonzalez (whom I know from his tenure as a postdoctoral fellow in the University of Texas's Astronomy Department) has allowed himself to be sucked in as an advocate for this ancient argument. The Argument from Design is 200 years old, if not older, and it has not improved with age. It hasn't resulted in any new knowledge in all of those years. Modern astronomy is constantly producing new knowledge and understanding of the universe. Guillermo is a promising young astrophysicist, and I hope that he doesn't throw away his career on such nonsense.

References

Ikeda M, Jefferys WH. 1997. The anthropic principle does not support supernaturalism. Available on-line at http://www.talkreason.org/articles/super.cfm; last accessed June 9, 2005.

Pennock RT. 1999. Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism. Cambridge (MA): MIT Press.

Perakh M. 2004. Paul Davies: Emergentist vs. reductionist. Available on-line at http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Davies1.cfm; last accessed June 9, 2005.

Seife C. 2004 Jul 23. Physics enters the twilight zone. Science 305 (5683): 464-6.

Sober E. 2003. The design argument. In: Manson NA, editor. God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science. New York: Routledge. p 27-54. Also available on-line at http://philosophy.wisc.edu/sober/design%20argument%2011%202004.pdf; last accessed January 4, 2005.

About the author

William H. Jefferys is the Harlan J. Smith Centennial Professor of Astronomy, Emeritus, at the University of Texas at Austin.

Author's address
William H. Jefferys
Department of Astronomy
The University of Texas at Austin
Austin TX 78712-1020

The National Center for Science Education relies on you for its support. Log on and join the NCSE.

Pretentious Planet

http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/pretentious_planet/

Pharyngula has moved to http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/

PZ Myers

I finally sat down and watched The Privileged Planet (RealAudio) this evening. What a waste of an hour.

I'd already read the book, which is pretty feeble to begin with, but take a book with no data in it, dilute it and diffuse it into the low signal format of a television program which consists mainly of slow pans and zooms around computer-generated graphics of astronomical phenomena, and you've got a thin broth indeed. The extremely low information density in the program has me even more dismayed that anyone at the Smithsonian saw fit to approve this fluff in the first place—all I can imagine is that the reviewer must have passed out in the first five minutes from boredom, woke up during the closing credits, and gave it a pass rather than admit to having slept through it all.

For example, it dedicates an unconscionable amount of time to the miracle of galactic habitable zones: in the center of the galaxy, it's too dangerous, and at the edges, heavier elements are too thinly distributed, so we can only exist in narrow zones within the galaxy…and voilà! That's where we are! This is the level of sophistication of this program; I guess they assumed the fruity voice of narrator John Rhys-Davies and glitzy CGI would add a level of portentousness to the affair that would convince a few people that it is important.

They also add another Amazing Coincidence, that these conditions suitable for our kind of life are also ideal for astronomical observations. I would also like to point out that in a similar way, I'm in an ideal place. If I'd been born 100 miles below the surface of the earth, I'd be cooked and dead, and even if I were able to survive in such an environment, I'd have no hope of seeing the stars. If I'd been born 100 miles above the surface, I'd have quickly gasped and died of oxygen deprivation…and if I miraculously survived there, I would still lack the raw materials to make telescopes. My existence on this narrow band of the surface is also wonderfully fine-tuned. Why, if my mother had given birth to me just 10 feet above the ground, I would have popped out to have immediately fallen on my soft little head, splat. It is also hard to do astronomy with acute post-natal brain damage.

Imagine a whole hour of earnest creationist hand-waving of this nature, culminating in a complaint that all the good ol' scientists like Copernicus had theological motivations. Why, if only we brought god back into our science, maybe we could make some progress.

If you really want, you can follow that link up above and watch it yourself. I can't recommend it—even you are sympathetic to ID, on purely aesthetic grounds, it's boring—but I will recommend that you read this review of the book by William H. Jefferys, of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin. As you might expect, it is not a kind review.

Finally, I turn to Gonzalez and Richards's notion that our earth is uniquely designed for its inhabitants to do scientific exploration, and that the universe is similarly designed for us to do that scientific exploration. They point to a number of phenomena that have aided our scientific enterprise, such as the transparency of the earth's atmosphere, the fact that we have a moon that is just far enough from the earth to produce spectacular solar eclipses, and so on. Of all the arguments in the book, I find this the weakest. It puts the cart before the horse. For suppose it were not so; if we existed on another world very different from the earth, then we would surely be doing something. We would be doing whatever was possible for us to do under the circumstances in which we found ourselves. If we accepted the Whiggish reasoning of the authors, we would be just as justified in concluding that our planet -- and our universe, if we could see it in this alternative reality -- was designed so that we would do whatever we happened to be doing at the time or find interesting at the time (as diverse human cultures have always done). The authors could learn much by studying a little anthropology and a little history.

To summarize, the little that is new in this book isn't interesting, and what is old is just old-hat creationism in a new, modern-looking astronomical costume. It is the same old shell game. It's too bad that Guillermo Gonzalez (whom I know from his tenure as a postdoctoral fellow in the University of Texas's Astronomy Department) has allowed himself to be sucked in as an advocate for this ancient argument. The Argument from Design is 200 years old, if not older, and it has not improved with age. It hasn't resulted in any new knowledge in all of those years. Modern astronomy is constantly producing new knowledge and understanding of the universe. Guillermo is a promising young astrophysicist, and I hope that he doesn't throw away his career on such nonsense.

Too late! I'm putting his drivel on his Permanent Record.

The low point in the movie for me was when Rhys-Davies solemnly declared that Gonzalez and Richards "meticulously tested their ideas against the best scientific evidence", and then they cut to a talking head babbling about habitable zones. There was no evidence, no tests meticulous or otherwise, and even the ideas were moldy and stale. And this is the best the Discovery Institute can do? Geez. Can we keep ID out of the school on grounds of banality?

Trackback url: http://pharyngula.org/index/trackback/2391/9qaCWwAc/

Skeptics: You can order your own copy of The Privileged Planet from Amazon. Just click on the link.

Pro-Intelligent Design Astronomer Denied Tenure Ranks Top in His Department According to Smithsonian/NASA Database

Action Item: Help Guillermo Gonzalez in his fight for academic freedom. Contact ISU President Gregory L. Geoffroy at (515) 294-2042 or email him at president@iastate.edu and let him know that you support academic freedom for Dr. Gonzalez to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Guillermo Gonzalez, the pro-intelligent design astronomer recently denied tenure by Iowa State University (ISU), ranks the highest in his department according to a key measure of the scientific impact of his work calculated using the Smithsonian/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS), a widely used database tracking published scientific research in astronomy.

How frequently a scientist's work is cited by other scientists is an important indicator of the impact the scientist is having on the scientific community. The Smithsonian/NASA data system allows one to compute a "normalized" citation count that corrects for inflated citation rates caused by articles with multiple authors. In the normalized citation count, an article published by a scientist with many co-authors is weighted less than an article authored by the scientist alone.

Gonzalez joined ISU in 2001. His normalized citation count for articles published during 2001-2007 is 143, the best of any other astronomer in his department during this period. The next best citation count among all of his astronomer colleagues is 103; and the best citation count for a tenured astronomer in his department is only 68, or less than half of Gonzalez's count.

"In other words, Iowa State denied tenure to a scientist whose impact on his field during the past six years outstripped all of the university's existing tenured astronomers according to a prestigious Smithsonian/NASA database," said Dr. John West, Associate Director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute.

"It's important to stress that the normalized citation counts for 2001-2007 only include citations to articles published during the most recent 6 years, yet Gonzalez is still the top ranked in his department," added Discovery Institute analyst Casey Luskin, M.S., J.D., who computed the citation counts using the Smithsonian/NASA data system. "These statistics refute any claim that Gonzalez's scholarly productivity and impact 'trailed off' since coming to Iowa State."

In fact, if one looks at normalized citation counts for articles published during individual years, Gonzalez topped his astronomy colleagues in 2001, 2003, and again in 2006 (the most recent full year for which statistics are available). In addition, he came in second in his department in 2002. The years in which Gonzalez was not first in his department in normalized citations likely reflect his work on two major book projects—The Privileged Planet, written under a competitive research grant from the Templeton Foundation that was awarded after a peer-review process by several leading astronomers; and Observational Astronomy, a peer-reviewed college-level astronomy textbook published by Cambridge University Press in 2006.

According to Luskin, "This new data adds to the mounting evidence that Gonzalez may have been denied tenure at ISU not because of his record as a scientist, but because of discrimination against his views in support of intelligent design."

The normalized citation count is not the only measure of impact on the scientific community by which Gonzalez is ranked top among the astronomers in his department. As reported last week in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Gonzalez also ranks first among his astronomer colleagues according to the "h-index" statistic, which similarly seeks to measure how widely a scientist's articles are cited by other scientists. According to the Chronicle, "Mr. Gonzalez has a normalized h-index of 13, the highest of the 10 astronomers in his department. The next closest was Lee Anne Willson, a university professor who had a normalized h-index of 9."

Amazingly, even if one compares the lifetime normalized citation counts for all of the astronomers at ISU, Gonzalez comes out in second place. The only colleague who has a higher lifetime normalized count than Gonzalez is a senior tenured astronomer who already is a full professor.

"For an untenured assistant professor to best nearly everyone in his department in lifetime normalized citations is most impressive, and it makes even more indefensible the university's decision to deny him tenure," comments Luskin.

A full discussion of these findings, along with the data supporting them, is provided in an article by Luskin posted here.

Posted by Robert Crowther on May 28, 2007 12:10 AM | Permalink


Sunday, May 27, 2007

SHOULD THE NHS PAY FOR HOMEOPATHY?

http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/8094/Should+the+NHS+pay+for+homeopathy

Prince Charles is a fan

Sunday May 27,2007
By Lucy Johnston
HOMEOPATHY has now become celebrity medicine.

Prince Charles is a fan. Sir Paul McCart­ney, David Beck­ham, Twiggy and even the Queen have used it.

Yet despite countless positive anecdotes from patients, the scientific evidence to show it works is, frankly, pitiful.

Last week proponents were outraged at the revelation that many hospitals are now turning their backs on this unproven alternative medicine.

More than half the Primary Care Trusts in England are refusing to pay for alternative treatments or restricting access in the face of a financial crisis and pressure from senior doctors.

Peter Fisher, director of the Royal London Homoeopathic Hos­pital, was outraged by the news.

"Homoeopathy is remarkably popular, widespread and persistent despite the scepticism of retired professors," he said.

Citing a medical review showing its benefits, he argued that NHS patients should at least be given the option.

However, the evidence to show that such drugs work is un­con­vincing and hardly compares with the robust scrutiny that conventional drugs have to undergo before being offered on the NHS.

Homoeopathy is based on three principles – treat the symptoms of a disease rather than the disease itself; cure like with like and the greater the dilution of the "medicine", the more potent the potion.

Advocates claim that, unlike conventional drugs, homoeopathy doesn't have harsh side-effects. It sounds wonderful but it's ­scien­tific­ally implausible that a solution has power even though it is so dilute it doesn't contain a mole­cule of the active ingredient.

Of course, the fact it is implausible does not necessarily mean it doesn't work – there are very few certainties in science. But there is virtually no strong data to prove otherwise despite the fact it has been used for 200 years.

Advocates point out that over those past two centuries many patients have found it worked when all else failed. But the same could be said for voodoo, rhino horn, bears' bile and bats' urine – and we aren't offered those on the NHS. Yet despite the lack of evidence, these remedies are becom­ing increasingly popular. In 2004 public expenditure on over-the-counter alternative rem­edies was about £25.5million with some 470,000 Britons buying them, 25 per cent more than in 1996. Experts say the market will grow by 15-20 per cent a year.

Yes, people should be allowed to choose to take what medicine they like – as long as it doesn't harm them.

But that doesn't mean the taxpayer has to fork out, particularly as there are effective, lifesaving drugs that the NHS cannot afford to offer.

Supporters of alternative cures are also quick to point out that the NHS has spent relatively little money on these treatments. But this isn't the point. The NHS purports to be based on sound scientific evidence. Either it adheres to those principles or it doesn't.

Perhaps more worryingly there are fears that people could be risking their lives by not using tried and tested drugs to overcome life-threatening conditions. Last year this paper revealed concerns that Prince Charles's backing for treating asthma patients with homoeopathy in­stead of conventional medicine could lead to deaths. Even experts in homoeopathy urged him to "leave science to the scientists".

The reason why trusts are turning their backs on alternative remedies is because they have looked at the evidence and feel they can no longer justify it.

This was prompted a year ago by 13 senior doctors. Frustrated by the lack of funding for conventional treatments, the specialists wrote to all trusts saying that "unproven or disproved treatments such as homoeopathy and reflexology ought not to be available free to patients".

It also said the NHS should not be funding such therapies while it had to refuse or ration access to effective cancer drugs.

Since then more than 20 trusts have taken action to reduce or cut access to homoeopathy.

Les Rose, a consultant biologist and one of the signatories of the letter to trusts, told the Sunday Express: "Trusts aren't stupid. We asked them to look at this issue and they have.

"On the basis of what they found many are now restricting access to homoeopathy. If we'd asked them not to use antibiotics we wouldn't have got anywhere."

Like religion, evolution is a faith-based system

http://www.cmonitor.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070527/REPOSITORY/705270381/1029/OPINION03

Jeff Owen, Loudon

May 27. 2007 10:00AM

In response to Dallas Langevin's letter concerning the Bible vs. evolution (Monitor, May 9):

I am the pastor of Faith Community Bible Church. I do agree that evolutionists don't have priests or churches. However, when it is all boiled down, both are faith-based systems of thought. Either something came from nothing or something always was. Both evolution and creationism have to accept one or the other by faith. This is why some Christians call evolution a religion.

What is the difference between education and indoctrination? True education seeks the truth. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and say don't confuse me with the facts; my mind is already made up. From Langevin's letter, this is what he believes Christians do.

He says he can trace the evolution of species. The fossil record does not support this. The scripture states that God created each creature after its own kind. The fossil record upholds individual species.

Adam and Eve were not created as babies but as full-grown adults. If Adam's teeth were carbon-dated the day he was created, how old would he be?

Could God create a universe with the appearance of age? Yes. I find it easier to believe in a creator than to believe that through a process of adaptation and mutation all the individual species now exist. It takes more faith to be an evolutionist. I used to be one.

I believe toleration and peace and freedom of speech are ideals that apply to all. I thank God I live in a country that still allows freedom of religion.

JEFF OWEN

Loudon


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Creation leader thanks critics

http://news.nky.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/AB/20070526/NEWS01/305260017/1056/BIZ01

BY MIKE RUTLEDGE | MRUTLEDGE@ENQUIRER.COM

PETERSBURG, Ky. – Blessed were the protestors, for without them, the Creation Museum would not have been so big, Answers in Genesis leader Ken Ham said before the controversial building's ribbon cutting today.

The $27 million museum, which officially opens Monday, would have been far smaller and would have had less impact, without its opponents, Ham said.

Circling overhead, an airplane working for protestors pulled a banner with the message: "Thou Shalt Not Lie."

"This is partly their legacy, too" Ham told hundreds of supporters. "When we first started to research property in 1996, they caused all sorts of problems, and they stirred up trouble, and there were all sorts of things that went on.

"Anyway, as a result of all that, we lost that piece of property – it was 20 minutes off the freeway, and we were going to build a 30,000-square-foot building," Ham said.

Instead, "The Lord directed us to this piece of property, right on a major freeway at a major interchange. And we decided to build a far bigger building (nearly 60,000 square feet), and a far bigger vision and a far bigger impact around the world – and I just want to thank, sincerely, the local secular humanist group."

Outside the high-security event, parked in tall grasses beyond the museum's mechanized gates, Union resident Edwin Kagin of Rally for Reason scoffed: "Bronze Age ideas inside Iron Age gates," he said.

His wife, Helen Kagin, said she doesn't oppose the right to build the privately funded museum.

"We're not interfering with their First Amendment rights," she said. "They raised enough money to build it – all private donations – so they have every right to do that.

"The problem is, these are not just people who are content to live in their own La La Land and be content with that," she said. "They want to get 'creation science,' which really isn't science, taught in the classroom – the younger age, the better, to try and present that view, instead of evolution."

Ham wants the museum to help people read the Bible literally.

"A facility like this, right now, with cutting-edge technology, to take on a particular paradigm that's permeating the world, and to deal with that at a foundational level, and to do it in a gracious way, but to do it in a way to challenge people concerning the truth of God's word in the Gospel," Ham said. "That's what the museum's all about."

Inside, the museum contends that man lived at the same time as dinosaurs – a contention most experts believe is wrong by millions of years. A scale model of Noah's Ark, for example, shows two stegosauruses and a triceratops inside.

"When I travel around, and you see a facility like this, a lot of artwork went into this," Kentucky Commerce Secretary George Ward said before the ribbon-cutting. "Obviously, the history's there. On the tourism side, it's going to be a great complement to what we have at Big Bone Lick State Park.

"I envisioned when I was here (a year ago) that every Christian school – probably in the country – is going to have a field trip to the Creation Museum." Ward said, "And we're really happy to have those visitors."

Psychic Redirects Search For Missing Women

http://www.wlwt.com/news/13393233/detail.html

POSTED: 6:03 pm EDT May 25, 2007
UPDATED: 6:43 pm EDT May 25, 2007

WARSAW, Ky. -- A new search begins this weekend for Ada Wasson and Mary Ellen Walters, two Warren County women who have been missing for more than a month. They left the Otterbein retirement community on April 19 to go shopping and have not been seen since.

Family members and volunteers will spend the weekend in Gallatin County, searching the waters of the Ohio River, after a psychic directed them to return to Kentucky.

"It's really secluded, and if they stopped to take a little break there or made a wrong turn thinking they were turning onto 127, they could've turned onto that ramp and gone into the water," said Brad Nixon, Walters' son-in-law.

Nixon said he has had a strange sense about a boat ramp along the Ohio, east of Warsaw, even before family members got two numbers to consider: 42 and 27.

"We had looked at that area and sat at that boat ramp with some thoughts about it for some time before the psychic could come up with the numbers that give us that feeling again," said Nixon.

Nixon has walked the area right where Routes 42 and 127 intersect. There are no tire marks, no ruts, and no obvious indication of a car going off the road and into the water, but Nixon said he had considered that the two missing women might have confused the ramp for road and driven into the water.

Volunteers will search the area beginning on Saturday and will also go out on nine Warren and Clinton County lakes.

Copyright 2007 by WLWT.com


Friday, May 25, 2007

Researcher: Stegosaur babies made tracks

http://www.boston.com/news/science/articles/2007/05/24/researcher_stegosaur_babies_made_tracks/

By Eric W. Bolin, Associated Press Writer | May 24, 2007

MORRISON, Colo. --Researcher Matt Mossbrucker believes four small dinosaur tracks found within sight of the skyscrapers of downtown Denver were made by two stegosaur babies, a find he says would be "incredibly rare."

Some other researchers agree the tracks were left by stegosaur toddlers, but still others have their doubts.

Mossbrucker, director of the Morrison Natural History Museum, said the half-dollar-size tracks were discovered in the foothills just west of Denver last year, but it took time and digging for him to conclude they were made by stegosaur babies.

The tracks, reported this week by The Denver Post, were found not far from the site where the first known stegosaur bones were unearthed 130 years ago.

Little is known about stegosaurs except that they were plant-eaters and grew to weigh about six tons. Because their feet were relatively small, their tracks are hard to find, and as a result little is known about how quickly they grew, how long they lived and how they survived as well as they did in a time and place where plants were scarce.

Baby footprints, combined with the bones and another adult imprint already at the Morrison museum, could help answer some of those questions.

Paleontologist Robert Bakker, a curator at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and volunteer curator in Morrison, agrees with Mossbrucker that the newly analyzed prints are those of stegosaurus babies.

Finding such imprints in the vicinity of the earlier discovered bones is something that, "as a rule, never happens," he said.

"It's incredibly rare," Mossbrucker said. "I don't even want to think about the possible monetary value."

Ken Carpenter, a curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, had not seen the tracks in person but said he was wasn't convinced they were from stegosaurus babies.

"There were a lot of other dinosaurs running around at that time, certainly with these with these three toes and small, wide feet. It could be one of those other types. Let's just say the verdict is still out," he said.

Kirk Johnson, vice president of research at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, said he doesn't question the legitimacy of the find as much as the significance.

"At the end of the day, I wouldn't call it a huge scientific discovery because we know to expect tracks," he said. "It's not adding a huge amount of information."

Mossbrucker said most discoveries of dinosaur fossils and tracks are in rural or remote areas, Mossbrucker said. Paleontologists often ignore sites like Morrison, a little more than 10 miles from Denver, he said.

"I think because these sites are so close to the Denver metro area, they often get overlooked for more appealing, exotic sites," he said. "But why would I want to go to China or Patagonia when I have this type of geology right here?"

"For anyone who is interested in paleo-ecology, this is going to be an interesting site."

On the Net:

Morrison Natural History Museum: http://www.mnhm.org

© Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Evolution education update: May 25, 2007

Answers in Genesis's creation "museum" is eliciting concern from the scientific and educational communities as it prepares to open. Stanley Miller, a pioneer in scientific research on the origin of life, is dead. And Alliance for Science announces the results of its essay contest.

REACTIONS TO CREATIONIST "MUSEUM"

With the young-earth creation ministry Answers in Genesis scheduled to open its lavish creation museum in northern Kentucky over the Memorial Day weekend, there is a great deal of concern among the scientific and educational communities in the adjacent states about its impact on the public understanding of evolution. NCSE executive director Eugenie C. Scott told ABC's Good Morning America (May 25, 2007) that her fear is that students will "show up in classrooms and say, 'Gee, Mrs. Brown, I went to this spiffy museum last summer and they say that everything you're teaching me is a lie.'"

Early reports from the museum suggest that its exhibits are just as scientifically misleading as expected. Edward Rothstein of The New York Times (May 24, 2007) offered a bemused review of the museum, which impressed him with its "sheer weirdness and daring." In a report in the eSkeptic newsletter (May 23, 2007), Stephen T. Asma, the author of a book on the history of natural history museums, said that skeptics will find the museum quirky and amusing, but added, "When I think, however, of the young children who are unprepared to critically assess the museum, my sense of humor fades."

Over 800 scientists in the three states surrounding the museum -- Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio -- have signed a statement sponsored by NCSE reading, "We, the undersigned scientists at universities and colleges in Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana, are concerned about scientifically inaccurate materials at the Answers in Genesis museum. Students who accept this material as scientifically valid are unlikely to succeed in science courses at the college level. These students will need remedial instruction in the nature of science, as well as in the specific areas of science misrepresented by Answers in Genesis."

Additionally, the Campaign to Defend the Constitution (or Defcon) is sponsoring two petitions denouncing the creationist pseudoscience on display at the museum: one for educators, signed by over 3500 teachers, and one for the general public, signed by over 15,000 signatories. "The main problem," Lawrence Krauss, a professor of physics and astronomy at Case Western Reserve University and a member of DefCon's advisory board, told the Lexington Herald-Leader (May 25, 2007), "is that this is a museum of misinformation." In his opinion column in the Louisville Courier-Journal (May 22, 2007), Krauss was similarly outspoken, describing the museum as "an educational travesty."

And a protest called Rally for Reason is scheduled to take place outside the museum on Memorial Day, with a press event to be held on the preceding Sunday. Rally for Reason's organizer Edwin Kagin told the Cincinnati Enquirer (May 25, 2007), "We want to let the world know that most rational people do not share the primitive world view of creationists that the Earth is only a few thousand years old, and that humans and dinosaurs existed at the same time." "Various groups, representing both religious and secular orientations, will join together to protest this destructive world view" at the rally, he added.

The editorialist for the Los Angeles Times (May 24, 2007) cut to the heart of the matter, lamenting, "Young Earthers believe the world is about 6,000 years old, as opposed to the 4.5 billion years estimated by the world's credible scientific community. This would be risible if anti-evolution forces were confined to a lunatic fringe, but they are not," citing the political influence of creationism. The editorial concluded, "With the opening of the Creation Museum, young people will be getting another side of the story. Too bad it starts with 'Yabba-dabba-doo!'"

For the Good Morning America story, visit:
http://www.abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=3211737

For the reviews of the museum, visit:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/24/arts/24crea.html
http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-05-23.html#feature

For the NCSE-sponsored statement of concern, visit:
http://www.sciohost.org/states/

For the DefCon petitions, visit:
http://www.defconamerica.org/

For the story in the Lexington Herald-Leader, visit:
http://www.kentucky.com/news/state/story/79412.html

For Lawrence Krauss's op-ed in the Louisville Courier-Journal, visit:
http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070522/OPINION04/705220309

For Rally for Reason, visit:
http://www.rallyforreason.com/

For the article in the Cincinnati Enquirer, visit:
http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070525/NEWS0103/705250385/1077/COL02

And for the editorial in the Los Angeles Times, visit:
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-round24may24,1,7795619.story

STANLEY MILLER DIES

Stanley Miller, a pioneer in scientific research on the origin of life, died on May 20, 2007, at the age of 77, in National City, California. Born in Oakland, California, in 1930, Miller received his bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1951, and his doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1954. As a graduate student at Chicago under the supervision of Harold C. Urey, he conducted his famous experiment demonstrating the abiotic synthesis of organic compounds under conditions resembling those of the early earth; he published a report in the journal Science in 1953. After a postdoctoral year at Caltech and five years at Columbia, he joined the faculty at the University of California, San Diego, where he spent the rest of his productive scientific career. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and was awarded the Oparin Medal from the International Society of the Study of the Origin of Life in 1983.

Miller's experiment ushered in a new era of experimental studies of prebiological chemistry. Moreover, according to Jeffrey D. Bada, one of Miller's graduate students who is now himself a leading expert on the origin of life, "The public's imagination was captivated by the outcome of the experiment ... By the time the results were corroborated by an independent group three years later, the metaphor of the 'prebiotic soup' had found its way into comic strips, cartoons, movies and novels" (as quoted in UCSD's obituary for Miller). Biology textbooks came to feature a diagram of Miller's apparatus and a brief explanation of its significance. Unsurprisingly, creationists have repeatedly attacked both the textbook presentation and the scientific research itself; see chapter 1 of Alan Gishlick's Icons of Evolution? for a detailed rebuttal of one such attack. Meanwhile, scientific research on the origin of life continues to advance, thanks in large part to the pioneering work of Stanley Miller.

For Miller's 1953 paper in Science (PDF), visit:
http://www.issol.org/miller/miller1953.pdf

For obituaries of Miller, beginning with UCSD's, visit:
http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/newsrel/science/05-07OriginofLifeKM-.asp
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/23/us/23miller.html
http://www.the-scientist.com/news/home/53251/
http://uk.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUKN2323973520070523
http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-me-miller24may24,1,7251859.story

For chapter 1 of Alan Gishlick's Icons of Evolution? visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/icons/icon1millerurey.html

ALLIANCE FOR SCIENCE ESSAY CONTEST WINNERS

NCSE congratulates the winners of Alliance for Science's essay contest, announced on May 14, 2007. Alliance for Science -- a non-profit organization which seeks "to heighten public understanding and support for science and to preserve the distinctions between science and religion in the public sphere" -- invited high school students to answer the question, "Why would I want my doctor to have studied evolution?" "The essay contest is part of our effort to bring together scientists, teachers and supporters of science education with the many religious bodies that have found no conflict between religion and science," explained Irving W. Wainer, the chair of Alliance for Science . "Our goal is to reawaken America's love of science."

Alliance for Science received entries from students around the country. The winning entry was submitted by Gregory Simonian, a high school sophomore in Los Angeles; he received a year's subscription to Seed magazine as well as $300 as a prize, while his teacher Gloriana Chung received a variety of science education materials as well as $250 toward classroom supplies. Simonian's prize essay, as well as three other prize-winning essays from the contest, are now posted in PDF form at Alliance for Science's website. "I hope this contest has helped students see that evolutionary science is not a matter of personal philosophy or worldview," said Dick Lessard, the director of Alliance for Science's essay contest. "It's hard, evidence-based science that directly affects our lives individually, as well as having major implications for public policy."

For the prize essays, visit:
http://www.allianceforscience.org/essay_winners.html

And for Alliance for Science's website, visit:
http://www.allianceforscience.org/

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

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

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

Sincerely,

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204
800-290-6006
branch@ncseweb.org
http://www.ncseweb.org

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

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism
http://www.ncseweb.org/evc

NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!
http://www.ncseweb.org/membership.asp

WHAT'S NEW Robert L. Park Friday, 25 May 07 Washington, DC

CREATION: VEGETARIAN DINOSAURS LINE UP TO BOARD NOAH'S ARK.

Jurassic Park it's not. The $27M Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY opens Monday. Petersburg is across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, but it's about 150 years behind. I was in Cincinnati for a meeting a number of years ago. It was a bright spring day, and I took the lunch period to walk in a pleasant park that ran a mile or so along the bank above the river. There were bronze plaques set in the walkway depicting long- extinct life forms characteristic of each geologic period. As they walked further and further back in time, children would stop to read each one. Across the river, the Creation Museum shows the world after "the fall" and expulsion from Eden. Frozen in time, dinosaurs and people were created on the sixth day, and never ate each other. The museum is a monument to the failure of education. Meanwhile, the National Association of State Boards of Education will elect officers in July. There is only one candidate for President-elect: Kenneth Wilson, a Kansas Republican who voted to change the state's science standards to include intelligent design.

THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND.
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

Brain Spat

http://www.dallasobserver.com/2007-04-05/news/brain-spat

By Mark Stuertz Published: April 5, 2007

Stephen Meyer remembers the parade of prominent provocative thinkers who traipsed through McFarlin Auditorium in the mid-1980s when he was studying graduate-level mathematics at Southern Methodist University. So he's bemused by the stance of the university's science professors, who recently tried to shut down a conference he organized for April 13-14 at McFarlin with co-sponsorship by the SMU law school's Christian Legal Society. Dubbed "Darwin Versus Design," the confab will focus on intelligent design, or the theory that life has its genesis in intelligence rather than Darwinian randomness and natural selection.

Subject(s): SMU, Darwinism, intelligent design, Larry Ruben, Stephen Meyer, Discovery Institute "The largest objection began with the title itself," says Larry Ruben, chair of SMU's biology department. "This was going to be some kind of a scientific debate, Darwin versus intelligent design."

Ruben protests the conference is misleading and dishonest—not really a debate about competing origin-of-life theories at all, since there are no Darwinists on the conference panel. It is simply an intelligent design binge. "What really irked the most was it appeared to be a program on science on something that scientists don't accept as being science."

Michael Keas, professor of the history and philosophy of science at Biola University in Southern California and a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, an I.D.-promoting group that is organizing the conference, makes no apologies for the exclusion of Darwinists. "The other side has traditionally had a monopoly in higher education," he says. "So this is a good opportunity for design theorists to make their case."

But Meyer, who as director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture is a featured speaker at the conference, says objections such as Ruben's stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of intelligent design theory emanating from distorted media portrayals and U.S. District Judge John E. Jones' December 2005 ruling in a Dover, Pennsylvania, lawsuit challenging a school board's requirement that biology teachers mention I.D. Jones ruled intelligent design is not science because it doesn't put forward any testable hypotheses.

"The main misimpression that's been given of intelligent design is that it is a religious or faith-based theory," Meyer says. "In fact the theory is based on scientific evidence."

What evidence? Item one, Meyer says, is the presence of the vast amounts of sophisticated information encoded in DNA molecules. "[T]here is only one cause that is sufficient to produce information, and that cause is intelligence," he says.

Meyer insists I.D. theory is not opposed to the idea that life evolved over billions of years. It is opposed to the idea that life arose purely through undirected material processes. "The God part is not part of the theory," he says.

But it seems conference organizers have taken Ruben's criticisms to heart. Late last week the Discovery Institute issued a letter to the chairs of the SMU science departments who sought to shut down the conference and invited them to join the public discussion.

Meyer has doubts they'll join in. Academics fear such participation dignifies the I.D. discussion with legitimacy, he says. "This is an exciting discussion," Meyer says. "People actually find that we don't drool and drag our knuckles."

Scientists reject Panorama's claims on Wi-Fi radiation risks

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/story/0,,2084217,00.html

· Laptop and phone mast comparison is criticised
· Programme spokesman defends methodology

James Randerson, science correspondent
Monday May 21, 2007 The Guardian

An investigation into the possible dangers of Wi-Fi technology - wireless computer networks - by the BBC documentary programme Panorama has been rejected as "grossly unscientific" and a "scare story" by leading scientists. The programme will claim that the radiation given off by a Wi-Fi laptop is "three times higher than the ... signal strength of a typical phone mast". But the experiment carried out by the programme did not take into account a "basic" scientific concept and presented a bogus comparison, critics say.

Nearly half of UK primary schools and more than 70% of secondary schools are fitted with Wi-Fi networks. Campaign groups and some scientists are concerned that the expansion of the technology has happened without adequate research into the effects of Wi-Fi radiation. But most scientists argue that there are no grounds for thinking that Wi-Fi radiation at the power generated by a wireless router or a laptop would have harmful effects. The World Health Organisation says there are "no adverse health effects from low-level, long-term exposure".

Paddy Regan, a physicist at the University of Surrey, criticised the experiment at the heart of Panorama's claims because the measurements of signal power had not been made at equal distances from the mobile phone mast and the Wi-Fi laptop. A spokesman for the programme told the Guardian that the "three times higher" comparison was based on measurements taken one metre away from the laptop and 100 metres away from the phone mast, although material sent to journalists promoting the programme did not make this clear. Dr Regan said: "It's a basic fundamental of science measurement, that if you are trying to compare things you have to take into account the so-called inverse square law." To make a fair comparison between two radiation sources the measurements should be taken at the same distance away. The levels measured by the Panorama investigation were 600 times lower than levels considered dangerous by the government. "It does sound like a scare story to me," said Dr Regan.

The programme's evidence was criticised as "grossly unscientific" by Malcolm Sperrin, director of medical physics and clinical engineering at Royal Berkshire hospital. "It's impossible to draw any sort of conclusion from the data as presented there."

Panorama's spokesman defended the methodology by saying the phone mast measurement was "at the point at which the beam was at greatest intensity where it hit the ground".

Scientists generally believe that Wi-Fi ought to be safer than mobile phone radiation because Wi-Fi devices transmit over shorter distances and so can operate at lower power. The Health Protection Agency says a person sitting within a Wi-Fi hotspot for a year receives the same dose of radio waves as a person using a mobile phone for 20 minutes.

Smithsonian Accused of Altering Exhibit

http://www.ajc.com/news/content/shared-gen/ap/Science/Smithsonian_Climate_Change.html

By BRETT ZONGKER

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian Institution toned down an exhibit on climate change in the Arctic for fear of angering Congress and the Bush administration, says a former administrator at the museum.

Among other things, the script, or official text, of last year's exhibit was rewritten to minimize and inject more uncertainty into the relationship between global warming and humans, said Robert Sullivan, who was associate director in charge of exhibitions at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

Also, officials omitted scientists' interpretation of some research and let visitors draw their own conclusions from the data, he said. In addition, graphs were altered "to show that global warming could go either way," Sullivan said.

"It just became tooth-pulling to get solid science out without toning it down," said Sullivan, who resigned last fall after 16 years at the museum. He said he left after higher-ups tried to reassign him.

Smithsonian officials denied that political concerns influenced the exhibit, saying the changes were made for reasons of objectivity. And some scientists who consulted on the project said nothing major was omitted.

Sullivan said that to his knowledge, no one in the Bush administration pressured the Smithsonian, whose $1.1 billion budget is mostly taxpayer-funded.

Rather, he said, Smithsonian leaders acted on their own. "The obsession with getting the next allocation and appropriation was so intense that anything that might upset the Congress or the White House was being looked at very carefully," he said.

White House spokeswoman Kristen Hellmer said Monday: "The White House had no role in this exhibit."

In recent months, the White House has been accused of trying to muzzle scientists researching global warming at NASA and other agencies.

The exhibit, "Arctic: A Friend Acting Strangely," based partly on a report by federal scientists, opened in April 2006 — six months late, because of the Smithsonian's review — and closed in November, but its content remains available online. Among other things, it highlighted the Arctic's shrinking ice and snow and concerns about the effect on people and wildlife.

This is not the first time the Smithsonian has been accused of taking politics into consideration.

The congressionally chartered institution scaled down a 1995 exhibit of the restored Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, after veterans complained it focused too much on the damage and deaths. Amid the oil-drilling debate in 2003, a photo exhibit of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was moved to a less prominent space.

Sullivan said the changes in the climate-change exhibit were requested by executives who included then-museum Director Cristian Samper and his boss, former Undersecretary for Science David Evans. He said several scientists whose work was used in the exhibit objected to the changes.

Samper, now acting Smithsonian secretary, said he was not aware of scientists' objections, and he emphasized there was no political pressure to change the script. "Our role as a museum is to present the facts but not advocate a particular point of view," Samper said in an e-mail.

Evans refused to comment.

Randall Kremer, a spokesman for the natural history museum, said atmospheric science was outside the Smithsonian's expertise, so the museum avoided the issue of what is causing the Arctic changes.

Many leading scientists have come to believe that human activity is contributing to warming of the planet.

"I see it in some ways as similar to the sort-of debate that has taken place with regard to the science of evolution," said Professor Michael Mann, director of Pennsylvania State University's Earth System Science Center. "Just as I would hope that the Smithsonian would stand firmly behind the science of evolution, it would also be my hope that they would stand firmly behind the science that supports influence on climate. Politically, they may be controversial, but scientifically they are not."

Some curators and scientists involved in the project said they believed nothing important was omitted. But they also said it was apparent that science was not the only concern.

"I remember them telling me there was an attempt to make sure there was nothing in there that would be upsetting to any politicians," said John Calder, a lead climate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who consulted on the project. "They're not stupid. They don't want to upset the people who pay them."

One consultant, University of Maryland scientist Louis Codispoti, said he would have been less cautious. "I've been going to the Arctic since 1963, and I find some of the changes alarming," he said.

On the Net:

Smithsonian Forces of Change Arctic Exhibit: http://forces.si.edu

May 21, 2007 - 6:33 p.m. MDT

Copyright 2007, The Associated Press.

God said 'Let there be controversy,' and there was

http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070522/LIFE/705220307/1005/LIFE/

By RYAN CLARK, The Cincinnati Enquirer

PETERSBURG, Ky. -- Just a week from opening, a museum on 42 rural acres in northern Kentucky has drawn the interest of residents, tourism officials and the international media.

Already, NBC's Brian Williams, CNN's Anderson Cooper, PBS's Jim Lehrer and journalists from the BBC, Newsweek, The New York Times and The Washington Post have made trips here to Petersburg, Ky.

They want to know why this place is so controversial. They want to document something being advertised as the first of its kind.

And they want to know why people are saying dinosaurs were on Noah's Ark.

Welcome to the Creation Museum, operated by the Answers in Genesis ministry.

The goal? The group's slogan says it best: "Prepare to believe."

Creationists believe the Bible is the literal account of history. They believe Noah gathered two of every living creature -- which, due to evidence of their existence, must have included dinosaurs -- onto his ark and escaped the biblical Great Flood, which formed the Grand Canyon.

The ministry has become a lightning rod for criticism from atheists, scientists and even some Christians who believe the Bible is man's account of God's work and not necessarily literal.

The museum presents natural history from a biblical perspective.

"We invite those who don't agree with us to come to the museum and see what we are saying," says Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis and the museum. "We welcome everyone here."

Built at a cost of $27 million, the Answers in Genesis' 60,000-square-foot museum also will serve as a headquarters for the ministry.

Most donations to build the museum, which will open debt-free, were small -- less than $100 -- according to the ministry.

They came from people like Joseph Ulicki, a 55-year-old retired railway worker from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Ulicki trolls the AiG Web site, ordering books on creationism and watching Ham's videos, which are sold through the ministry.

"I think a show of support, by way of a donation, was the right thing to do," Ulicki says.

Some residents view the museum, with its use of electronically animated dinosaurs, as a theme park disguised as a ministry.

"Fact is, that for a long time, this museum will be a severe detriment (to) our region's reputation. It will be mentioned in the same breath with the Cincinnati race riots of 2001," says Hubert Kirchgaessner, of Hebron, Ky. "If anything, this museum is a monument to human gullibility. As a Christian, I take offense at people who are belittling the role of God in the creation of the universe by rejecting reality and compartmentalizing the miracle of evolution into a few Disneyesque episodes that they claim to derive out of the Bible."

Still, for people like Melvin Phenix of Pasadena, Texas, it's all about believing.

"I am a Christian and believe the Bible is reliable," he says. "I look forward to visiting the museum. I am 79 and have been a believer since 1951."

Scholars say there are references in the Bible to taking biblical stories as allegory, and not literal truth. John Brolley, director of undergraduate studies at the Department of Judaic Studies at the University of Cincinnati, says that even some early Jewish and Christian leaders told followers not to take the Bible literally.

"Even some of the most important stories of the Bible may not be intended to be read literally," Brolley says. "I'm not going to say anyone is right or wrong, but taking everything the Bible says literally is not the traditional way of handling the Bible."

But for thousands, the museum will serve as a haven for their beliefs. Ham says Answers in Genesis already has 8,500 charter members, in addition to "tens of thousands of donors" who provided gifts.

Museum officials say they expect about 250,000 visitors annually.

"God has blessed us here," Ham says. "God has sent us the workers and the volunteers. We want to do his work in the best way we can."

Scientology is not a church or charity. It is, in fact, a cult

http://www.theargus.co.uk/display.var.1422841.0.0.php

BBC reporter John Sweeney was last week seen losing his temper at the end of a sixmonth investigation into scientology. In 1994, The Argus published a damning exposé of the East Grinsteadbased "religion".

Former chief reporter Paul Bracchi, who secretly infiltrated the cult, remembers how its followers relentlessly threatened and pursued him in revenge for criticising their deceptive and manipulative methods. Here Mr Bracchi, who now lives in London, tells the chilling story of how he was stalked and intimidated for months afterwards, even receiving a bullet in the post at The Argus headquarters in Hollingbury.

The voice at the end of the line was trembling. "Is that Mr Bracchi?"

advertisement"Yes, it is," I replied. The caller could not have been more relieved. I was supposed to be dead. Someone had started a rumour that I had been killed in a fire.

The same people who had tried to obtain my ex-directory phone number, handed out pamphlets attacking me and dispatched an American private detective - an ex-Los Angeles police officer - to Britain to frighten and smear the source who had helped me expose their activities.

Almost daily threatening letters arrived by fax and post at The Argus where I used to work.

Messages were left on the answer machine at the home of the managing director. Strangers turned up in his village asking questions about him.

And the culprits behind this campaign of intimidation? Step forward the church of scientology.

The Guardian and The Mail have exposed disturbing apparent links between the "church" and the City of London Police.

Last week in a Panorama programme, reporter John Sweeney was seen losing his temper with a scientologist, claiming afterwards that he had been driven over the edge by a concerted campaign of harassment by the group.

I, more than anyone, could understand why.

Sweeney spent six months investigating this so-called religion. I had spent more than a year doing so when stories of my "unfortunate demise" began circulating. By the time you read this article, the church of scientology will no doubt be unleashing its attack dogs - sorry, officials from the Office of Special Affairs - on me again.

The founder of the "religion" - science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard - himself issued directives on how "to handle the Press", including tips on how to get a reporter "fired and discredited". Well, they have tried and failed with me once already.

My first report - The Secrets Of Saint Hill - was published more than ten years ago. Saint Hill is the castle in East Grinstead where the UK headquarters of scientology is based.

The backlash was swift. The first principle of scientology, you see, is "shoot the messenger".

Critics who had contributed to the articles were also targeted. Some of them found Eugene Ingram - who had been branded an "insidious individual" in a court case in the US - on their doorstep.

He "visited" the 77-year-old mother of one of my sources as well as his parents' former home in Staffordshire and his wife's family.

Ingram knew that the man's relatives would not "dish the dirt" on my source. That was not the point.

He just wanted to let me - and everyone else who had helped me - know he was in town. In the parlance of scientology, this is called a "noisy investigation". It has only one purpose - to intimidate.

The real victims of scientology, of course, are not journalists but the parents who have lost sons or daughters to these deluded fanatics.

Their harrowing stories - of which more below - help explain why, in Britain, scientology is recognised neither as a church nor a charity.

It is, in fact, a cult. Scientologists do not like that word so let me repeat it - CULT.

Hubbard, the man who created scientology in 1952, has an unusual CV for a religious and spiritual leader. As well as being a writer, he was a congenital liar. Quite simply a charlatan. That was the view of a High Court judge in 1984, who said Hubbard's theories were "corrupt, sinister and dangerous".

If nothing else, the movement's survival is proof that with money - scientology is worth billions worldwide - you can make some people, even intelligent people, believe almost anything.

Stars such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta have given scientology a profile and showbusiness gloss it simply does not deserve.

Indeed, those who are not familiar with its tactics and history regard scientologists - who are convinced we are all descended from a race of aliens called thetans - as weird, not wicked.

This ignorance has been ruthlessly exploited in Britain. In October, a £24 million scientology centre opened in the heart of London's Square Mile and is now one of 30 "missions" in the country.

Narconon, a scientology group which claims it can get people off drugs, has been invited into schools and colleges. How many teachers and parents know of Narconon's links to the cult?

"Community volunteers" from Saint Hill - could there be a more ironic name for the HQ of a cult? - have been enthusiastically lobbying politicians, police officers and businesses in the City.

The recruitment drive was part of Hubbard's "master plan".

It is spelled out in scientology documents - namely to infiltrate and convert key institutions in society.

The process, so the thinking goes, will eventually lead to a scientology government.

And the "church" has succeeded in cultivating contacts. Up to 20 officers in the City of London Police - from constables to superintendents - have accepted hospitality worth thousands from scientologists.

This included free invitations to a £500-a-head charity dinner where the guest of honour was Tom Cruise.

He is now reported to have bought a home near Saint Hill.

One senior police officer appeared in a church of scientology video and another, Chief Superintendent Kevin Hurley, spoke at the opening of the new "mission" near St Paul's Cathedral, saying the cult was "raising the spiritual wealth of society".

Here's a question for Chief Superintendent Hurley. What kind of church, back in the Seventies, implemented a series of covert operations in America which culminated in the bugging of the US Justice Department?

His ringing endorsement was a triumph for the spin doctors of Saint Hill.

The "church's" cramped, old London base in Tottenham Court Road could not be more different from its magnificent new home in EC4. Could there be a better place to woo influential new friends?

Among them is Sebastien Sainsbury, one of the heirs to the Sainsbury dynasty and European executive director at Lakeshore Capital, which has almost one billion dollars under management.

Scientologists with brochures and leaflets have also descended on investment bank Bridgewell Group, law firms Eversheds, Dechert LLP, Shadbolt and Co and PR consultants Merlin.

The organisation is believed to have a huge expense account to wine and dine contacts but then it can afford to be generous.

Scientology is worth millions in Britain alone and much of its wealth is derived from members paying for courses.

The scientologists, it now emerges, secured relief of £281,344 on the full rates of £351,680 on their London base - a discount of 80 per cent.

The City of London Corporation said the group had been entitled to the huge reduction because it carried out "charitable works". A member of the corporation, Alderman Ian Luder, a partner with leading City accounting and consultancy firm Grant Thornton, spoke at the building's grand opening of the "effective"

help scientology provided for drug users.

In 2003 the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint by the Church of England over unsubstantiated claims that the scientologists' Narconon programme, a combination of vigorous exercise, vitamin therapy, counselling, and sauna sessions to sweat out toxins, had saved "250,000 people from drug abuse".

Scientology's promotional drive is said to be spearheaded by the group's Office of Special Affairs.

Officially, this department is responsible for public relations and legal matters. But OSA operatives are also, it is claimed, scientology's secret service.

Those who undermine the mores and beliefs of scientology - including journalists - must be ruthlessly dealt with.

Hubbard said they were "fair game" and could be "tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed".

That policy, the cult claims, no longer exists. The following account reveals a different story.

A woman, who we shall call Sarah, claims she and her husband, who briefly joined the "church" a few years ago, received death threats after he was wrongly suspected of stealing scientology documents from Saint Hill.

She said: "One day two well-built men in dark suits from Saint Hill arrived at my door. I told them my husband wasn't in but they forced their way in and started rifling through the bookshelves. When my husband returned they bundled him into the car.

"Finally he came back shaking from head to toe. He told me they'd threatened to kill him if he didn't tell him the whereabouts of some stolen documents."

Later, a typed note arrived in the post branding him a "suppressive person" (an enemy of scientology) and informing him he was now fair game. Other notes followed.

Sarah said: "For months after, we had anonymous notes delivered in the post almost daily. They said, You bastard,' You're dead,' Nothing will save you.' It was terribly frightening.

After three months we moved and didn't tell anyone where we were going."

Where does the organisation get the money to hire these goons?

Well, organised religions can be very lucrative - as L Ron Hubbard himself recognised.

Giant photographs of Hubbard adorn the new London headquarters, and his many pronouncements - such as "Man is basically good and it is this basic goodness we want to set free" - are stencilled on walls.

A comment you won't find displayed, though, is the one Hubbard made to an authors' convention before he invented scientology.

"Writing for a penny a word," he said, "is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars he should start his own religion."

Basic introductory sessions for scientology cost up to £80. Then there is another course which costs £300, then another.

Indeed, passing all the stages to scientology "enlightenment" - the so-called Bridge To Total Freedom - can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds and has left some people with inheritances frittered away, remortgaged homes and debt.

One elderly couple "lost" their daughter Emily when she married a scientologist in 2002.

Her father said: "My wife noticed it straight away but I tried to dismiss it.

But it became obvious she wasn't the loving, caring daughter we had nurtured.

"We sat her down and tried to discuss my findings and what I saw shocked me to the core. After a few minutes of talking rationally and reasonably to her, Emily erupted, How dare you question my religion?

What you have read is all lies. If you raise this issue one more time I will never contact you.' I think to say she had been brainwashed would be too simplistic.

"This was mind manipulation at the highest level. If she chooses to come back to us we would welcome her with open arms but I can't just live with it. I can't bear the thought of that happening to my beautiful daughter."

What was the phrase Chief Superintendent Hurley used to describe his new neighbours in the City? Ah yes, they were "raising the spiritual wealth of society".

For those, like me, who have faced the wrath of this cult, they are words which ring as hollow as the baloney on which the church of scientology itself is founded.

ENERGY CLEANSING by Sunny Burns

http://www.ssonet.com.au/display.asp?ArticleID=6565

Our basic understanding of how medicine works usually includes: going to the local GP once a year, taking a Panadol when sick, getting a cast for a broken arm and joining Weight Watchers.

Throughout the long history of man, many different forms of medicine have evolved. Some of these make up the basis of our so-called traditional Western medicine whilst others form part of alternative medicine. In today's modern society there is an increasing movement towards a combination of what used to be thought as two opposite arms in the treatment of disease and the relief of symptoms. An example of this is crystal light bed therapy.

Crystal light bed therapy is originally from Brazil. It is described as a deep healing technique involving the application of light beamed through seven crystals onto the seven energy centres of the body. It is aimed at physical and mental wellbeing.

Healer Frank Boffa from the Arcana Healing Centre says that the therapy clears, balances and energises the chakras or centres of spiritual power in the body, and promotes healing and wellbeing.

"I've had a woman who was suffering from Graves disease and she was told that she had to be on medication for the rest of her life. After two sessions on the light bed she was completely cured," Boffa told Sydney Star Observer.

"Once a person came in with irritable bowel syndrome and after one session the symptoms of the condition were gone."

However, such outstanding results are not always the case. Some people require multiple treatments.

"In many cases people require lots of time and treatments, and this is usually due to the individual's inability to let go of themselves emotionally and spiritually. Once they have done this, the physical healing follows."

Each session lasts for about 45 minutes and costs around $70, depending on the clinic.

Other therapies that are becoming popular include spiritual spas and intuitive massages. These forms of healing use natural products including aromatherapy oils, herbs and gemstones combined with a full body massage. These techniques seem to have the ability to assist in the individual's release of stress and emotional tension.

"Spiritual spas combine essential skin care with positive energies to provide a more complete healing and relaxation process. Massages are extremely important in assisting the body to release stored tension, cellular memory and energy blockages."

Traditional herbal supplements, which for some cultures have been the mainstay of medical treatment, are now also finding their way into modern Western medicine. Many medical herbalists focus on restoring vital energy and taking a holistic approach to healing by giving equal attention to the body, mind and spirit.

However, many people in today's society still remain sceptical of these traditional approaches to medicine and the holistic approach to healing.

Boffa says, "I'm not saying to disregard modern medicine. It's about looking at the whole person beyond just the physical illness or disease. A lot of gay people are using this alternative medicine to help with the psychological pressures of coming out and more generally to help face the unique emotional and spiritual challenges that gay life can bring."

The Arcana Healing Centre's website is at www.naturaltherapypages.com.au/therapist/6343