NTS LogoSkeptical News for 4 July 2007

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Japan may have oldest whale fossil


By KOZO MIZOGUCHI, Associated Press Writer

TOKYO - Researchers say a museum in central Japan has right whale fossils that are at least 5 million years old, making them the oldest fossilized remains of the animal in the world, officials said Wednesday.

Researchers working in Nagano prefecture (state) estimate the fossilized skull bones and jaw of a right whale on display at the Shinshushinmachi Fossil Museum to be 5 million to 6 million years old, said museum curator Ken Narita.

The oldest right whale fossil previously found was a skeleton that was uncovered in Italy that dates back about 4 million years, Narita said.

"This was an amazing find, and to have found the oldest one of this type makes it truly remarkable," he said.

The skeleton was first discovered in 1938, when residents found the whale's spine and rib bones exposed on the ground. However, the skeleton was left undisturbed because the country was then at war, according to the museum's Web site.

Researchers finally returned to the site in 1967, but the exposed parts of the skeleton had been scattered or lost. Only the skull and upper jaw parts were left to be excavated, but it was not until recently that the museum could afford to get the bones dated, Narita said.

While of the right whale genus, the animal's species is believed to have been different from those of other right whale fossils found so far, he added.

Right whale skeletons have often been found in Europe, but the Nagano fossils and their dating "raises the possibility that right whales might have originated in the North Pacific," said Toshiyuki Kimura, curator of the Gunma Museum of Natural History. Kimura also took part in the fossil research.

Right whales are now designated an endangered species and banned for hunting by the International Whaling Commission. The entire North Atlantic right whale population is estimated at just 350, according to a U.S. federal researcher.

Nagano is 180 kilometers (110 miles) northwest of Tokyo.

On the Web:

Museum Web site: http://www.ne.jp/asahi/shinmachi/museum/fossil_museum/fossils/natural_treasure.html

Some therapies may hurt pregnancy chance By MARIA CHENG, AP Medical Writer


LYON, France - Alternative therapies such as reflexology and herbal supplements may reduce a woman's chance of getting pregnant, experts said Wednesday.

Research presented Wednesday at a Lyon meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology examined the impact of alternative therapies on women receiving in-vitro fertilization over a year.

Of 800 Danish women followed for the study, 261 tried treatments including reflexology, herbal supplements, homeopathy, kinesiology and acupuncture.

The women using such treatments overall were 20 percent less likely to get pregnant than those who did not, according to researchers Dr. Jacky Boivin, of Cardiff University, and Dr. Lone Schmidt, from the University of Copenhagen.

"Doctors tend to think that these kinds of therapies are benign," said Boivin, who was surprised by the results. "But maybe they're not as benign as we think they are."

While the study does not provide any definitive answers about the value of alternative therapies, experts say it raises an important issue.

"We cannot start with the assumption that these therapies do no harm," said Dr. Andrea Braverman, director of psychological and complementary care at Reproductive Medicine Associates in New Jersey. Braverman was not connected to Boivin's study and is currently running a study to see if acupuncture helps or hinders pregnancy.

To date, no large-scale, randomized studies have been done looking at the value of alternative remedies.

In the Danish study, the women most likely to try complementary therapies also tended to have a worse prognosis. But even after adjusting for this difference, Boivin said, a discrepancy in the pregnancy rates remained. All of the women in the study were from a similar socio-economic background.

"There still seems to be an association between the use of complementary therapies and the reduced chances for pregnancy," Boivin said.

Because Boivin and Schmidt were unable to disentangle the various alternative therapies tried — they measured all therapies tried, not individually — they could not explain why such treatments might decrease the pregnancy rate. "We have no idea why pressing on your feet could be bad for getting pregnant," Boivin said.

Some experts worried the study might be skewed. "The important question is whether the chicken or the egg came first," said Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, who was not connected to Boivin's work.

"Those women who are more prone to stress and have more health problems are more likely to try complementary medicine," he said. "So complementary medicine could only be a marker, and not the cause, of stress or lower success rates." Ernst said similar results had been found in looking at the use of alternative therapies in cancer patients.

Experts agreed the lack of data remained a problem. "Anything could have a positive or negative effect," Braverman said. "But without the evidence, we have to be cautious."

Can water fuel world?


Man looking for cancer cure hopes to solve energy crisis

Posted: May 30, 2007 5:00 p.m. Eastern

By Joe Kovacs © 2007 WorldNetDaily.com

Is the solution to America's energy needs as simple as a trip to the beach?

The idea is a fascinating one as a Florida man searching for a cancer cure may have stumbled onto a virtually limitless source of energy: salt water.

John Kanzius of Sanibel Island, Fla., demonstrates how salt water burns after bombarded with radio waves from a machine he invented. (courtesy WPBF-TV)

John Kanzius, 63, is a broadcast engineer who formerly owned several TV and radio stations, before retiring in Sanibel Island, Fla.

Five years ago, he was diagnosed with a severe form of leukemia, and began a quest to find a kinder, gentler way to treat the disease compared to harsh chemotherapy.

In October 2003, he had an epiphany: kill cancer with radio waves. He then devised a machine that emits radio waves in an attempt to slay cancerous cells, while leaving healthy cells unharmed.

His experiments in fighting cancer have become so successful, one physician was quoted as saying, "We could be getting close to grabbing the Holy Grail."

But in the midst of his experiments as he was trying to take salt out of water, Kanzius discovered his machine could do what some may have thought was impossible: turning water into fuel.

"On our way to try to do desalinization, we came up with something that burns, and it looks in this case that salt water perhaps could be used as a fuel to replace the carbon footsteps that we've been using all these years, i.e., fossil fuels," Kanzius said.

If it's for real, the possible ramifications of the discovery are almost mind-boggling, as cars could be fueled by salt water instead of gasoline, hydroelectric plants could be built along the shore, and homes could be heated without worrying about supplies of oil.

"It doesn't have to be ocean salt water," Kanzius said. "It burns just as well when we add salt to tap water."

Kanzius has partnered with Charles Rutkowski, general manager of Industrial Sales and Manufacturing, a Millcreek, Pa., company that builds the radio-wave generators.

"I've done this [burning experiment] countless times and it still amazes me," Rutkowski told the Erie Times-News. "Here we are paying $3 a gallon for gas, and this is a device that seems to turn salt water into an alternative fuel."

Kanzius has been told it's actually hydrogen that's burning, as his machine generates enough heat to break down the chemical bond between hydrogen and oxygen that makes up water.

"I have never heard of such a thing," Alice Deckert, Ph.D., chairwoman of Allegheny College's chemistry department, told the Times-News. "There doesn't seem to be enough energy in radio waves to break the chemical bonds and cause that kind of reaction."

Thus far, Kanzius' work has not received extensive national publicity, but has been featured on several local television news programs, including WPBF-TV in West Palm Beach, Fla., WSEE-TV in Erie, Pa., and WKYC-TV in Cleveland.

"We discovered that if you use a piece of paper towel as a wick, it lights every single time and you can start it and stop it at will by turning the radio waves on and off," Kanzius told the Times-News as he watched a test tube of salt water burn.

"And look, the paper itself doesn't burn," he added. "Well, it burns but the paper is not consumed."

Kanzius said he hasn't decided whether to share his fuel discovery with government or private business, though he'd prefer a federal grant to develop it.

"I'm afraid that if I join up with some big energy company, they will say it doesn't work and shelve it, even if it does work," Kanzius told the paper.

Online skeptics are throwing cold water on the idea, saying the laws of science pose some problems:

  • "It takes more electricity to split the water into hydrogen and oxygen than you get back in energy by burning the hydrogen and oxygen to recreate water and get the heat. So there is no new 'source' of power, since you are just converting electricity into a lesser amount of energy. You could get more heat energy out of electricity by running it through a blow dryer and THAT is not considered a 'new' energy source."

  • "Basic chemistry: the amount of energy required to free the hydrogen from the oxygen in H2O is more than the energy released when the hydrogen and oxygen recombine and burn. The flame is clearly the color of ionized sodium from the salt. Whatever the actual specific explanation, which they don't bother to approach in the video, water and salt don't burn without puting more energy into the reaction than you get out. Turning a lot of radio energy into a little heat and light is no breakthrough."

  • "Using RF energy, or any other energy to first break down the hydrogen and oxygen water molecule into its constituent H2 and O2 molecules, and then burning the products is old technology. ... However, if the RF H2O cracking method can be developed such that it is a superior way over current methods used to produce H2, which can subsequently be used in H2 fuel-cell automobiles for example, then THAT might be of value as well."

    Tuesday, July 03, 2007

    'Ayurveda is a time-tested system of medicine'


    2 Jul 2007, 0000 hrs IST,Nihar Gokhale,TIMES NEWS NETWORK

    Renowned Ayurvedic physician Dr Saji D'Souza , speaks about Ayurveda and its significance today.

    When Dr Saji D'Souza opened a clinic and a hospital in Hyderabad ten years ago, little did he know that this was going to be his launch-pad. Today, he is known for conceptualising ayurvedic cures to diseases like lumbar spondilitis and sciatica, which never had a solution other than surgery. Hyderabad Times spoke to him.

    What is ayurveda? How would you rate it among other medical systems?

    Ayurveda means 'knowledge of life' . It took birth in 3000 BC and is a time-tested system of medicine. Unlike other systems, Ayurveda cures not just the symptoms , but the cause of the disease as well. There are no side effects too. It is better than other systems of medicine.

    You're among the well-known ayurvedic doctors in the city. Can you tell something about yourself?

    I was the first doctor to prove that cervical and lumber spondilitis can be completely cured with ayurvedic therapies, without inviting the risk of surgery. Xrays and MRI scans have proved this. After doing BAMS and PG (Alternative Medicine) from Kerala, and a fellowship in Rural Health Sciences, I started practice 10 years ago. Now I have a clinic in Punjagutta and a hospital in Shamshabad.

    I treat patients suffering from cervical and lumbar spondilitis, paralysis, sinusitis, sciatica, disc prolapse , rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, digestive disorders etc. I have been conferred the Best Ayurvedic Doctor of AP Award, Indira Gandhi Arc of Excellence (Medicare) Award and Indira Gandhi Excellence International Award.

    Some people opine that Ayurvedic medicines have toxins, like metals, which damage internal organs like kidney and liver.

    Kerala ayurvedic preparations are 85% herbal, so there's no question of them having toxins. Other methods of preparation use a lot of bhasma and kshara, which have metals, but these too follow Drug Controller of India guidelines . Regularisation and standardisation too is done issuing GMP (good manufacturing practices) license.

    Ayurveda is rumoured to cater to only old people. How do you think it will suit the present generation ?

    What with today's lifestyle of junk foods, bad roads, computers and odd work shifts, the young generation is getting a lot of diseases which usually come in the old age.

    Often Ayurveda is thought of as just something meant for relaxation.

    Ayurveda has five concepts of treatment : relaxation, therapy, rejuvenation, beauty and fitness.

    What's you success mantra?

    I believe that a good doctor should be a good human being first. Success shall follow.

    Majority of Canadians see God in creation process, evolution not so much


    July 3, 2007 - 0:15 pm


    OTTAWA (CP) - Canadians may not be as religious as Americans, but a new poll suggests they are not prepared to rule out God's essential role in creation.

    The Canadian Press-Decima Research survey suggests that 60 per cent of Canadians believe God had either a direct or indirect role in creating mankind, shattering the myth that Canadians had long ago put their faith strictly behind the scientific explanation for creation.

    The poll suggests Canadians divide in essentially three groups on the issue of creation: 34 per cent of those polled said humans developed over millions of years under a process guided by God; 26 per cent said God created humans alone within the last 10,000 years or so; and 29 per cent said they believe evolution occurred with no help from God.

    "These results reflect an essential Canadian tendency," said pollster Bruce Anderson. "We are pretty secular, but pretty hesitant to embrace atheism."

    The belief that God had a direct or indirect role in creation was widespread among the 1,000 respondents questioned between June 21 and 24. A majority of those polled held this view in every region of the country, in rural and urban areas, and regardless of education.

    And there were a few surprises: Conservatives were more likely than Liberals to say that God had no part in the process, and Alberta, regarded as the birthplace of social conservatism, had one of the lowest levels of beliefs for strict creationism at 22 per cent.

    But in this controversial area, the devil is in the breakdown of the numbers.

    For instance, while Liberal party voters were more likely than Conservatives to credit God with some contribution to creation, Conservative voters were less likely to write God out altogether. Only 22 per cent of Tory respondents said God had no role, as opposed to 31 per cent of Liberals.

    Liberal respondents were far more likely to be what could be termed "soft evolutionists" or "soft creationists," with 41 per cent saying God guided the process of human development, as opposed to 34 per cent of Conservatives seeing creation in those terms.

    Regionally, Quebec respondents were by far the most likely to say God's role in creation was a delusion, with 40 per cent saying the evolutionary process had no interference from an intelligent designer.

    British Columbia respondents were the next sub-group who could be termed strict evolutionists, with 31 per cent saying God was not involved. Least likely to hold this view were respondents in the Prairie provinces - 21 per cent.

    The findings suggest the least educated were most likely to be creationists, as were respondents living in rural Canada.

    Among respondents without a high-school diploma, 37 per cent said they believed God alone created humans less than 10,000 years ago, whereas only 15 per cent of university-educated respondents were strict creationists.

    Rural respondents also had a plurality who believed in strict creationism at 34 per cent, whereas only 22 per cent of urban dwellers said they believed God alone created humans.

    Anderson said the findings suggest Canadians lack consensus on creation, but also don't view the issue as polarizing.

    "It's more as though for many, these feelings are unresolved," he said. "We believe in a higher being, we know what we don't know, are comfortable not knowing, and choose not to press our views upon one another."

    That is not the case in the United States, where similar polls have suggested Americans are more polarized on the subject. In a recent U.S. poll, 45 per cent said God created humans, and 40 per cent said evolution was God guided. Only 15 per cent said God played no part in creation.

    The Canadian Press-Decima Research survey is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times in 20.

    Christians Ignorant about Evolution According to ChristiaNet Poll


    Contact: ChristiaNet, Inc., 281-465-9533

    HOUSTON, Texas, July 03 /Christian Newswire/ -- ChristiaNet.com, the world's largest Christian portal with twelve million monthly page loads, conducted a new poll by asking the question, "Which belief represents your view?" The participants were given three choices; "I believe in creationism", "I believe God created the world and evolution was His plan" and "I believe in evolution." Bill Cooper, President of ChristiaNet says, "While 99.5% of all respondents agree that God created everything, an interesting pattern developed with those who believe that evolution was part of God's plan."

    Out of 1044 participants, 61% percent responded "I believe in creationism" to the poll question. Obviously, all Believers in this group profess God created everything yet a majority of them are dogmatic in their reason why, "Because the Bible says so!" While others took a more logical approach to the question and determined that creationism makes more sense than evolution. As one reader states, "It takes more faith to believe in evolution by random chance than a creator God."

    Thirty-eight percent answered "I believe God created the world and evolution was His plan." The consensus with this group is that even though God created everything He uses evolution so His creation can adapt to changes in its environment. One concerned reader said, "I believe evolution was in God's plan, but I don't believe we evolved from monkeys." Cooper states, "From the hundreds of comments received from participants, it is clear that many within the Christian community are ignorant about the true meaning of the Theory of Evolution."

    Less than one percent of the Christians polled selected that they believed only in evolution. However, it seems that in each group many Christians are truly ignorant about why they believe what they profess. This creates a significant opportunity for churches to proactively educate their congregations.

    To help educate Christians on the true meaning of Evolution, ChristiaNet has just released a series of Free Evolution Tracts. Using the latest interactive ecard technology, ChristiaNet has made it simple to share these funny yet informative ecards with friends and family.

    Monday, July 02, 2007

    FDA Finalizes Rules For Dietary Supplements


    Agency will require testing of ingredients and accurate labeling

    Bette Hileman

    Domestic and foreign manufacturers of vitamins, herbs, and other dietary supplements must follow new standards to show that their products are labeled properly and are not contaminated. On June 22, FDA officials announced new standards for testing the purity, strength, and composition of all supplements.

    "This rule helps to ensure the quality of dietary supplements so that consumers can be confident that the new products they purchase contain what is on the label," says FDA Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach. Supplements have always been regulated as a category of food, not as drugs.

    The standards lay out good practices to ensure quality during manufacturing, labeling, and storage of dietary supplements. They list requirements for quality-control procedures, the design of manufacturing plants, and testing of ingredients and final products. They take effect for large plants in June 2008 and for small companies in June 2010. Furthermore, because of recent amendments to the federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, manufacturers in this $21 billion dietary supplement industry will be required to report adverse events caused by their products.

    The power to establish the new manufacturing standards was granted in a 1994 federal law, but some critics say the new rules do not do enough to ensure safety. "Today's final rule on Good Manufacturing Practices is an example of better late than never. But the requirements do not appear to go as far as they could have," notes Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.).

    Under the rules, FDA will be able to inspect manufacturing plants for compliance. Companies must keep records showing that supplement ingredients have been tested, but they do not have to submit these records to FDA. Supplement makers are responsible for devising scientifically defensible tests for the purity of ingredients, the agency says.

    FDA plans to inspect some of the plants, but it does not have additional money for enforcement. Resources will be shifted according to the risk posed by the manufacturers, says Robert E. Brackett, head of the agency's Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition. If a company violates the rules, FDA could fine the firm or ask it to voluntarily withdraw a product.

    "Even with these new manufacturing practices, there will be no assurance that dietary supplements work or are safe," says Sidney Wolfe, director of the Health Research Group at Public Citizen, a nonprofit public interest organization. He urges Congress to address "this enormous deficiency in the law."

    Chemical & Engineering News
    ISSN 0009-2347
    Copyright © 2007 American Chemical Society

    Seven of 10 Republicans skeptical on evolution


    July 10, 2007

    Republicans are far more likely to doubt the theory of evolution than Democrats, according to a new Gallup Poll.

    Sixty-eight percent of Republicans say they doubt that humans evolved from lower life forms over millions of years, while only 40 percent of Democrats hold that view. The poll was conducted by telephone June 1-3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

    Evolution proved to be a hot-button issue among GOP presidential candidates during a May debate. Three of the 10 candidates in the debate—Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado and Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas—raised their hands to indicate they don't believe in evolution.

    Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.), an Episcopalian, said he believes in evolution but qualified his statement, saying, "I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also."

    McCain's belief reflects the view of a large number of Americans. In a separate Gallup Poll this May, respondents were asked to choose between three hypotheses about human origins and development. Just 14 percent believed that God had no part in the process, while 43 percent said that God created human beings in their present form. A full 38 percent took a centrist view, affirming that humans evolved but God guided the process. –Religion News Service

    Sean Carroll Fails to Scale The Edge of Evolution (Part IV): Mistaking Protein Sequence Similarity for Natural Selection


    In Part I of this series, I discussed Sean Carroll's misrepresentations of Michael Behe's arguments in The Edge of Evolution. Part II exposed a citation referenced by Carroll which, rather than refuting Behe, actually confirms him. Part III explained the fact that many of Carroll's citations discuss meager examples of evolution that Behe finds fall well within the humble creative capabilities of Darwinian evolution. Carroll has thus far failed to engage Behe's actual arguments. Carroll does make an attempt to tackle the origin of a couple complex biological features. Yet these attempts fail because they confuse the evidence for common descent from sequence similarity with evidence for natural selection. Again, Behe anticipates this mistake and provides ample rebuttals to Carroll's citations. As discussed below, Carroll badly miscites one paper as showing that "new protein interactions ... can evolve fairly rapidly."

    Carroll Spins the Flagellum

    When discussing the flagellum, Carroll cites Pallen and Matzke's review paper on the evolution of the flagellum. Yet this paper itself admits that "the flagellar research community has scarcely begun to consider how these systems have evolved." Those that read the Pallen/Matzke paper will find vague generalities and nothing remotely approaching a specific step-by-step model for the evolution of the flagellum. In fact, readers will find attempts to give evidence of protein homology, evidence which Behe readily anticipates by citing to Pallen's work and noting that "modern Darwinists point to evidence of common descent and erroneously assume it to be evidence of the power of random mutation." (Behe, Edge of Evolution, pg. 95) None of the work cited by Carroll remotely attempts to explain the evolution of the complexity of flagellar assembly discussed in Appendix 3 of The Edge of Evolution.

    Carroll's Questionable Citation

    Behe's recognition that evidence for common descent is not evidence for natural selection also provides a poignant rebuttal to one of Carroll's prized citations. Carroll relies on his claim that "new protein interactions ... can evolve fairly rapidly." Carroll's cites Budovskaya et al., "An evolutionary proteomics approach identifies substrates of the cAMP-dependent protein kinase," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 102:13933–13938 (Sept. 27, 2005). But this paper epitomizes Behe's recognition that "modern Darwinists point to evidence of common descent and erroneously assume it to be evidence of the power of random mutation." (Behe, Edge of Evolution, pg. 95)

    The study's methods were essentially as follows: (1) take a protein that is acted upon by a particular enzyme (called a cAMP-dependent kinase), (2) search protein databases to find proteins with similar sequences, and then (3) study those proteins with similar sequences to determine if they are acted upon by the same enzyme, the cAMP-dependent kinase. In fact, the paper didn't even look for a function as such of these proteins; it merely demonstrated that the proteins identified by sequence analysis are likely targets of the same kinase. Budovskaya et al. (2005) even admits that it merely "uses sequence information to identify the biologically relevant occurrences of a protein motif of interest." In other words, the raw data is mere comparison of proteins through sequence similarity, and there's no direct testing of random mutation and natural selection here.

    Indeed, the paper recognizes that its results support a strong correlation of "structure-function," due to the fact that one can completely remove common descent and Darwinian evolution from this picture and get the same results: All the study truly found was the mundane result that proteins with similar sequences tend to be acted upon by similar enzymes. Big deal. The paper then adds a lot of evolutionary gloss, but that's all it is: inference based upon assumptions, not hard evidence. It in no way demonstrates the power of random mutation and natural selection, and at best provides an example of how "Darwinists point to evidence of common descent and erroneously assume it to be evidence of the power of random mutation" (Behe, Edge of Evolution, pg. 95) (and even then, this assumes that sequence similarity is necessarily evidence for common ancestry).

    Even if this paper had demonstrated natural selection, it still would fall well below Behe's edge of evolution. By citing this paper, Carroll is referring to the interaction between enzymes that modify or cleave other proteins, and the protein binding sites recognized by those enzymes may be quite short. Carroll equivocates over the term "interaction motifs": Behe is talking about the kinds of protein interactions that build enzyme complexes or structures like the ribosome or the cilium or the replication machinery of the cell. These kinds of interactions are stabilized by many amino acids, not the short motifs studied in this paper. These kinds of short motifs may be necessary for building molecular machines, but they are far from sufficient to build molecular machines where two or more proteins must dock together and stably interact.

    Finally, even if Budovskaya et al. had demonstrated random mutation and natural selection (which it doesn't), Carroll cites this paper to claim that protein-protein interactions "can evolve fairly rapidly," yet the paper studied proteins in "a group of budding yeast species that are separated by up to 800 million years of evolutionary distance." 800 million years is not "fairly rapidly"—in fact, it represents nearly 1/4 of the entire history of life on earth. There appears to be no legitimate grounds whatsoever for Carroll citing Budovskaya et al. (2005) to claim that "new protein interactions ... can evolve fairly rapidly."

    In the end, what is starkly missing from Carroll's review is anything that actually demonstrates the evolution of something that Behe argues is beyond the edge of evolution. It seems that Carroll is afraid of heights — by citing a number of irrelevant or unsupportive papers, Carroll never comes remotely close to meeting Behe's challenge to explain the step-by-step Darwinian origin of anything beyond Behe's proposed edge of evolution.

    Posted by Casey Luskin on July 2, 2007 9:21 AM | Permalink

    Research sheds light on evolution of the brain


    [Date: 2007-07-02]

    EU-funded researchers have traced the evolution of the hypothalamus, a region of the brain, back to marine, worm-like ancestors, shedding new light on the evolution of the vertebrate brain.

    The vertebrate hypothalamus produces hormones, chemical signals which control growth, metabolism, reproduction and many other physiological processes. Insects and nematode worms also produce hormones, but these look very different to vertebrate hormones, leading scientists to suppose that these hormone-secreting brain regions had arisen after the vertebrates and invertebrates had gone their separate evolutionary ways.

    However, researchers then found vertebrate-like hormones in worms and molluscs, indicating that these structures may be older than first thought.

    Writing in the journal Cell, scientists from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and Free University of Berlin describe how they compared the hormone secreting nerve cells of the zebrafish, a vertebrate, and the annelid worm.

    They found striking similarities between the two groups; both cell types looked similar and were located in the same position in the developing brains of the two species. They also shared the same molecular make-up. The similarities cannot be explained by coincidence, indicating a common evolutionary origin of these cells.

    'It is likely that they existed already in Urbilateria, the last common ancestors of vertebrates, insects and worms,' commented Detlev Arendt of the EMBL and one of the authors of the paper.

    The cells studied are multifunctional; as well as being able to secrete hormones, they also have sensory properties, being responsive to light and certain chemicals. The researchers believe that these 'sensory-neurosecretory' cell types are among the most ancient types of nerve cell. They would have been able to respond directly to changes in the marine environment. Over time these multi-functional cells clustered together into brain centres and diversified into a range of specialised cells such as those we see in the modern vertebrate brain.

    'These findings revolutionise the way we see the brain,' commented Kristin Tessmar-Raible, the lead author of the paper. 'So far we have always understood it as a processing unit, a bit like a computer that integrates and interprets incoming sensory information. Now we know that the brain is itself a sensory organ and has been so since very ancient times.'

    EU funding for the work came from the Marine Genomics Europe Network of Excellence and the Marie Curie ZOONET training network.

    For more information, please visit:

    Sunday, July 01, 2007

    Wilson points way for religion, evolution to peacefully coexist


    By John Davis Special to THE DAILY

    Who in this country does not have an opinion on evolution? PTA committees contend over it; states legislate about it.

    There are extremes in all points of view, from the absolute creationists who believe God made the world in six calendar days, to evolutionists who insist Darwin answers everything.

    Consider then, David Sloan Wilson, a biologist who can tell a story. Wilson, who teaches biology and anthropology at Binghamton University, one of America's top 50 public universities, maintains this is a battle that need not be fought.

    Written for everyone

    Wilson is nothing if not remarkable. While he has written a book for, quite literally, everyone, his arguments would do the academic world proud.

    He clearly can see that evolution has brought about change to biological species, but then he goes a step further to maintain that we can indeed be seen as evolving in groups as well.

    Evolution, therefore, is not only where we humans came from, but why we do what we do. Why do we laugh, enjoy a sunset, make political arrangements?

    Is there nothing in this well-argued book that cannot ultimately be linked back to evolution?

    And more, evolution can tell us why the animals, insects (cannibalistic, strange and bizarre creatures that they can be), birds, and all manner of wildlife act the way they do.

    You will never think of the birds and the bees the same way again, once you've had time to reflect upon this finely crafted work.

    Crafted indeed! Wilson can keep you turning pages for the hours you will spend with him, spinning endless anecdotes about the natural world that will astonish you.

    In more ways than one, you will find yourself unable to wait to tell your acquaintances the remarkable tales you learned here.

    Oh, and did I mention? He has kind things to say about religion, and that the twain, evolution and religion, can meet. Read this book and learn how.

    Creationist advocate to visit Danville this weekend


    Register & Bee staff writer
    June 30, 2007

    DANVILLE - A noted exponent of creationism will speak this weekend at Danville Church of Christ.

    Brad Harrub will present lectures about his support of creationism today and Sunday. The sessions will be held at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day. There will be a question and answer session at each session.

    The church is located at 120 American Legion Blvd.

    Harrub is a writer and holds seminars about creationism across the country. He has a Ph.D in neurobiology and anatomy from the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee in Memphis.

    He recently took time to e-mail his answers to some questions about the literal belief of the biblical account of creationism, which states the creation of the world and all its creatures took place in six calendar days.

    QUESTION: Please define creationism in your own words?

    ANSWER: Creationism would probably be better termed the "Creation Model." According to the theory of creation, the Universe is not self-contained. Everything in the Universe, and in fact, the Universe itself, came into being through the design, purpose, and deliberate acts of a supernatural Creator who, using processes that are not continuing as natural processes at present, created the Universe, the Earth, and all life on the Earth, including all basic types of plants and animals, as well as humans.

    Q: What is your main point against evolution? Why do you believe evolution is wrong?

    A: My biggest point against evolution is that we are teaching students this theory as "fact." Consider that evolution cannot explain how life evolved from non-life. Additionally, it cannot account for where the original matter for the Universe came from. And finally, this man-made theory has no explanation for the intricate design we find in nature and the human body.

    Q: As you know science books mention fossils and reports of prehistoric creatures roaming the Earth. How does this fit in with creationism?

    A: Most textbooks are predisposed toward an evolutionary beginning for the Earth, and as such they interpret the data to fit this bias. Oftentimes evolutionists use circular reasoning when dating fossils into strata layers, but then turn around and date the strata layers according to which fossils they find in them. While many dating methods point to a relatively young Earth, evolutionists continue to rely on radio-carbon and radiometric dating methods - all of which are based on assumptions, and all of which require a "uniform" history (e.g., they cannot overcome catastrophes such as floods, volcanoes, hurricanes, etc.)

    Q: Local college professors have been invited to attend your meetings. So far, there are no takers. What do you attribute this to?

    A: To their defense, I suspect most college professors are busy. I know that I myself stay extremely busy writing, researching, and conducting seminars. I don't have time to drop everything and immediately run out and listen to every seminar that comes to town. However, I do hope some will make time to come … and if they are able, I hope they will be willing to evaluate the evidence without any prejudices or evolutionary bias.

    Saturday, June 30, 2007

    Evolution for a Few or Evolution for Everyone? A Survey of Hypotheses about the Evolutionary Origin of Religion


    Why did religion arise in the human species? Stanley Fish has a blog post at the New York Times observing that Richard Dawkins, "finds that the manufacturing and growth of religion is best described in evolutionary terms: "[R]eligions, like languages, evolve with sufficient randomness, from beginnings that are sufficiently arbitrary, to generate the bewildering – and sometimes dangerous – richness of diversity." Dawkins isn't the only scientist who takes this kind of approach. David Sloan Wilson is getting a lot of attention these days regarding his views on the evolutionary origin of religion. Wilson is much more serious in his approach than Dawkins, but Wilson has been frank regarding how many academics view religion through an evolutionary perspective. In his Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society (University of Chicago Press, 2002), he observes that "inside and outside the ivory tower, religion is often portrayed as costly for the believer, delivering at best only vague psychic benefits in return." (pg. 86) He declares his aim "to study religious groups the way I and other evolutionary biologists routinely study trees, bacteria, and the rest of life on earth." (pg. 87) Wilson also exposes the mindset among some academics that "[r]eligious folk should abandon their beliefs in the face of superior knowledge and if they don't they are being irrational." (pg. 41) While Wilson urges his readers to resist the temptation to ridicule religion as irrational, he himself nonetheless contends that "many religious beliefs are false as literal descriptions of the real world" and specifically takes aim at Christianity, writing that an atheist historian would be "factually attached to … reality" while the Gospels of the New Testament provide may good wisdom but ultimately "distort the facts of the real world." (pg. 228)

    Is "Evolution for Everyone"?

    To his credit, Wilson is very open about his own religious background: In his more recent book Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives (Delacorte Press, 2007), he acknowledges that "[m]y own background is not at all religious" and describes his father as highly "scornful of religion." (pg. 236) Wilson recounts his "father's gleeful expression" after telling a story about a preacher that boasted about the wealth in a church congregation, "as if the hypocrisy of all religion had been revealed." (pg. 236) Nonetheless, Wilson is steadfast in stating that we should not view religion as a bad thing and praises John Marks Templeton for supporting research that seeks harmony between science and religion, and for being willing to fund "a proposal on religion from an evolutionary perspective." (pg. 236)

    This is most interesting: Wilson titles his book "Evolution for Everyone," but how would "everyone" feel about the leading evolutionary hypotheses he describes that are put forward to explain an evolutionary origin of religion? According to Wilson, religious persons can select from any one of five evolutionary hypotheses to explain why their religion, and religion in general, exists:

    Religious "groups are a product of cultural group selection and are indeed like bodies and beehives." (pg. 237)

    Religion is "exposed as a scam operation, with the leaders fleecing rather than leading their flocks." (pg. 238)

    Religion is "like disease epidemics that leave everyone worse off than before, leaders and followers alike." (pg. 238)

    Religion is "like obesity, something that we do because we can't help it, even though it is no longer good for us." (pg. 238)

    Religion is "like mad monkeys and a dog's curly tail, which have no function and persist only by virtue of a connection to something else that does." (pg. 238)

    So if evolution is truly "for everyone," then religious persons can apparently choose to view their religion as one of the following: a "scam operation," a "disease epidemic," useless "obesity," a "mad monkey" with "no function," —or they can view religion like "bodies and beehives."

    Obviously the final option would likely be the least offensive to religious persons, and indeed it coheres with the description of that some religions give about themselves (for example, Christianity sometimes compares the Christian church to a body with many parts that contribute to benefit the whole). The "beehive" analogy is the explanation preferred by Wilson, although of course Wilson views "bodies and beehives" as undesigned objects that arose via unguided evolutionary processes.

    Would most religions see themselves as the result of an undesigned and unguided process, or would they see themselves as somehow directly inspired by the divine? If Wilson is right that evolution is "for everyone," then I suppose religious persons who accept Neo-Darwinism can take their pick:

    How To Explain Religion Under an Evolutionary Paradigm--Take Your Pick:

    Posted by Casey Luskin on June 30, 2007 8:55 AM | Permalink

    Review: The Edge Of Evolution


    By Richard Dawkins Published: June 29, 2007

    The Edge Of Evolution The Search for the Limits of Darwinism.
    By Michael J. Behe. 320 pages. $28. Free Press.

    I had expected to be as irritated by Michael Behe's second book as by his first. I had not expected to feel sorry for him. The first — "Darwin's Black Box" (1996), which purported to make the scientific case for "intelligent design" — was enlivened by a spark of conviction, however misguided. The second is the book of a man who has given up. Trapped along a false path of his own rather unintelligent design, Behe has left himself no escape. Poster boy of creationists everywhere, he has cut himself adrift from the world of real science. And real science, in the shape of his own department of biological sciences at Lehigh University, has publicly disowned him, via a remarkable disclaimer on its Web site: "While we respect Prof. Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally and should not be regarded as scientific." As the Chicago geneticist Jerry Coyne wrote recently, in a devastating review of Behe's work in The New Republic, it would be hard to find a precedent.]

    For a while, Behe built a nice little career on being a maverick. His colleagues might have disowned him, but they didn't receive flattering invitations to speak all over the country and to write for The New York Times. Behe's name, and not theirs, crackled triumphantly around the memosphere. But things went wrong, especially at the famous 2005 trial where Judge John E. Jones III immortally summed up as "breathtaking inanity" the effort to introduce intelligent design into the school curriculum in Dover, Pa. After his humiliation in court, Behe - the star witness for the creationist side - might have wished to re-establish his scientific credentials and start over. Unfortunately, he had dug himself in too deep. He had to soldier on. "The Edge of Evolution" is the messy result, and it doesn't make for attractive reading.

    We now hear less about "irreducible complexity," with good reason. In "Darwin's Black Box," Behe simply asserted without justification that particular biological structures (like the bacterial flagellum, the tiny propeller by which bacteria swim) needed all their parts to be in place before they would work, and therefore could not have evolved incrementally. This style of argument remains as unconvincing as when Darwin himself anticipated it. It commits the logical error of arguing by default. Two rival theories, A and B, are set up. Theory A explains loads of facts and is supported by mountains of evidence. Theory B has no supporting evidence, nor is any attempt made to find any. Now a single little fact is discovered, which A allegedly can't explain. Without even asking whether B can explain it, the default conclusion is fallaciously drawn: B must be correct. Incidentally, further research usually reveals that A can explain the phenomenon after all: thus the biologist Kenneth R. Miller (a believing Christian who testified for the other side in the Dover trial) beautifully showed how the bacterial flagellar motor could evolve via known functional intermediates.

    Behe correctly dissects the Darwinian theory into three parts: descent with modification, natural selection and mutation. Descent with modification gives him no problems, nor does natural selection. They are "trivial" and "modest" notions, respectively. Do his creationist fans know that Behe accepts as "trivial" the fact that we are African apes, cousins of monkeys, descended from fish? The crucial passage in "The Edge of Evolution" is this: "By far the most critical aspect of Darwin's multifaceted theo-ry is the role of random mutation. Almost all of what is novel and important in Darwinian thought is concentrated in this third concept." What a bizarre thing to say! Leave aside the history: unacquainted with genetics, Darwin set no store by random-ness. New variants might arise at random, or they might be acquired characteristics induced by food, for all Darwin knew. Far more important for Darwin was the nonrandom process whereby some survived but others perished. Natural selection is arguably the most momentous idea ever to occur to a human mind, because it - alone as far as we know - explains the elegant illusion of design that pervades the living kingdoms and explains, in passing, us. Whatever else it is, natural selection is not a "modest" idea, nor is descent with modification.

    But let's follow Behe down his solitary garden path and see where his over-rating of random mutation leads him. He thinks there are not enough mutations to allow the full range of evolution we observe. There is an "edge," beyond which God must step in to help. Selection of random mutation may explain the malarial parasite's resistance to chloroquine, but only because such micro-organisms have huge populations and short life cycles. A fortiori, for Behe, evolution of large, complex creatures with smaller populations and longer generations will fail, starved of mutational raw materials.

    If mutation, rather than selection, really limited evolutionary change, this should be true for artificial no less than natural selection. Domestic breeding relies upon exactly the same pool of mutational variation as natural selection. Now, if you sought an experimental test of Behe's theory, what would you do? You'd take a wild species, say a wolf that hunts caribou by long pursuit, and apply selection experimentally to see if you could breed, say, a dogged little wolf that chivies rabbits underground: let's call it a Jack Russell terrier. Or how about an adorable, fluffy pet wolf called, for the sake of argument, a Pekingese? Or a heavyset, thick-coated wolf, strong enough to carry a cask of brandy, that thrives in Alpine passes and might be named after one of them, the St. Bernard? Behe has to predict that you'd wait till hell freezes over, but the necessary mutations would not be forthcoming.

    Your wolves would stubbornly remain unchanged. Dogs are a mathematical impossibility. Don't evade the point by protesting that dog breeding is a form of intelligent design. It is (kind of), but Behe, having lost the argument over irreducible complexity, is now in his desperation making a completely different claim: that mutations are too rare to permit significant evolutionary change anyway. From Newfies to Yorkies, from Weimaraners to water spaniels, from Dalmatians to dachshunds, as I incredulously close this book I seem to hear mocking barks and deep, baying howls of derision from 500 breeds of dogs - every one descended from a timber wolf within a time frame so short as to seem, by geological standards, instantaneous.

    If correct, Behe's calculations would at a stroke confound generations of mathematical geneticists, who have repeatedly shown that evolutionary rates are not limited by mutation. Single-handedly, Behe is taking on Ronald Fisher, Sewall Wright, J.B.S. Haldane, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Richard Lewontin, John Maynard Smith and hundreds of their talented co-workers and intellectual descendants. Notwithstanding the inconvenient existence of dogs, cabbages and pouter pigeons, the entire corpus of mathematical genetics, from 1930 to today, is flat wrong. Michael Behe, the disowned biochemist of Lehigh University, is the only one who has done his sums right. You think? The best way to find out is for Behe to submit a mathematical paper to The Journal of Theoretical Biology, say, or The American Naturalist, whose editors would send it to qualified referees. They might liken Behe's error to the belief that you can't win a game of cards unless you have a perfect hand. But, not to second-guess the referees, my point is that Behe, as is normal at the grotesquely ill-named Discovery Institute (a tax-free charity, would you believe?), where he is a senior fellow, has bypassed the peer-review procedure altogether, gone over the heads of the scientists he once aspired to number among his peers, and appealed directly to a public that - as he and his publisher know - is not qualified to rumble him.

    Richard Dawkins holds the Charles Simonyi chair for the public understanding of science at Oxford. His most recent book is "The God Delusion."

    Barry L. Beyerstein (1946-2007)

    We all lost a true hero yesterday. I am stunned and saddened and I have been searching the internet for an hour this morning looking for news because I just can't believe it. Barry Beyerstein died. Barry Beyerstein. I don't have enough words to tell you what this loss will mean to the skeptical and rationalist world. Barry was a tireless defender of science. An activist who has been a staple in the media, television, newspapers, public forums for decades. I searched in the Skeptical Inquirer CD-ROM and found 311 mentions of his name. He is scheduled to teach a workshop for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry in Oregon later this summer - and represent us at a conference in Ireland in the fall. He traveled and lectured all over the world for us, Australia, Belgium, England, Germany, Italy, and he was part of our delegation to China.

    He was one of our first people on a number of topics we deal with. Graphology, Psychic Powers, Why People Believe, Near Death Experiences, Critical Thinking, Alternative Medicine, Neuropathology of Spiritual Possession, Brain States, Dowsing, The Sins of Big Pharma, and the list goes on and on. The thing is, he didn't have to do any of this. He was a volunteer, but he worked just as hard for this organization as he did for his full-time faculty job at Simon Fraser University. But he had talents, wisdom and knowledge and he saw the need and he used those talents. And we are far better for that.

    And Barry was one of the most charming, wittiest, and nicest people you could ever meet. He was kind and funny, yet strong in his convictions. My heart goes out to his family, his wife and children and brother Dale. and I can't believe that he is gone.

    You should do a google search on Barry today, just to get an idea as to the kind of person we have lost. Here is a good place to start: http://majikthise.typepad.com/majikthise_/2007/06/barry-l-beyerst.html

    Barry Karr

    Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

    Barry Beyerstein is Professor of Psychology and a member of the Brain Behaviour Laboratory at Simon Fraser University. His research has involved many areas related to his primary scholarly interests: brain mechanisms of perception and consciousness and the effects of drugs on the brain and mind. His work in these areas and his interest in the philosophy and history of science have also led him to be skeptical of many occult and New Age claims. This has prompted him to investigate the scientific status of many questionable products in the areas of medical and psychological treatment, as well as a number of dubious self-improvement techniques.

    Dr. Beyerstein serves as chair of the Society of B. C. Skeptics and he is a Fellow and a member of the Executive Council of CSICOP and serves on the editorial board of CSICOP's journal, The Skeptical Inquirer. He was also elected to the Council for Scientific Medicine, another organization headquartered at the Center for Inquiry; it provides critiques of unscientific and fraudulent health products. He is a founding member of Canadians for Rational Health policy and a Contributing Editor of the journal, The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine. He has published in these areas himself and is a frequent commentator on such topics on TV and Radio and in the print media.

    Pentecostals Buckle Up Africa's Bible Belt


    By Tim Cocks
    Tuesday, June 26, 2007; 7:31 PM

    KAMPALA (Reuters) - As the miracle-healer descended from the sky in an immaculate white helicopter, his disciples cheered with joy: "Hallelujah! Praise Jesus."

    Gospel songs thundered through the speakers as televangelist Benny Hinn landed outside Uganda's national stadium last month, before addressing 40,000 enraptured faithful.

    His white suit picked out by floodlights, the U.S.-based preacher promised a "miracle crusade" to heal the sick, make the blind see and the lame walk. "In Jesus' name, lift your hands and sing," he cried, almost drowned out by cheering.

    Pentecostal religion is mushrooming in Africa.

    Promising prosperity, miracle cures and life-changing spiritual experiences, the "born again" faiths that are the staple of America's multi-millionaire televangelists are fast taking over the world's poorest continent.

    For many, they offer hope. In Hinn's front seats, ringed with collection buckets, sat people in wheelchairs, AIDS patients, children with deformities.

    "I want the power of the Lord to descend on me and lift me out of this chair. I want to be like you," said John Wilson, a 58-year-old Ugandan who broke his spine in a car accident.

    The U.S. Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life says Pentecostalism is growing globally, with a quarter of the world's 2 billion Christians thought to be members of these faiths that emphasize speaking in tongues, divine healing, prophesy and a strongly literal interpretation of Bible stories.

    In Africa all churches are booming, but Pentecostalism is overtaking traditional Catholic and Anglican faiths brought by European colonizers over a century ago.


    Pentecostals and charismatics now account for 147 million Africans, 17 percent of the continent's people, compared with 5 percent in 1970, the World Christian Database says.

    South Africa's Apostolic Faith Mission is its biggest church. A third of urban South Africans are Pentecostals.

    Last year, one million Kenyans -- nearly one in 30 -- attended a service by American preacher T. D. Jakes in Nairobi.

    Nigeria, with 130 million people, is full of barn-like buildings with names like the "Mountain of Fire and Miracles," drawing a million or more worshippers for all-day prayer.

    A camp along Lagos-Ibadan expressway advertises "fervent prayer, 24 hours."

    Pentecostalism's success owes much to energetic missionaries, especially from the United States, who are increasingly focusing on Africa.

    Leaders of the U.S. religious right such as Sam Brownback, a Republican presidential candidate, have encouraged Africa missions, citing Biblical reasons for caring for the poor.

    Missionary activity has so worried Africa's Islamic north that Algeria passed a law in 2005 making it a criminal offence to convert Muslims to another faith.

    Last November, a Moroccan court sentenced an Egyptian-born German citizen to six months jail for converting Muslims there.

    South of the Sahara, though, the missionaries seeking to save African souls are well received.


    Christians say the ecstatic experiences offered by Pentecostals are more exciting than the subdued worship -- complete with silent congregations and soporific organ music -- that the continent's first missionaries brought here.

    "Africans want things done powerfully," said Rev. Nathan Samwini of the Christian Council of Ghana. "You meet white evangelicals from America, they behave like Africans. They are vibrant, everything is done with vigor."

    For Pentecostals, the Holy Spirit -- the third person of the Christian Trinity -- plays an active role in life, performing miracles and answering prayers. This appeals greatly to a continent beset by poverty and sickness.

    "The success of Pentecostalism is the focus on people's problems in this life," said Allan Anderson, Professor of Global Pentecostal Studies at England's Birmingham University.

    "In countries where people are living on the breadline, Pentecostalism gives hope."

    Analysts say Pentecostal churches started flourishing in the 1980s, as African nations suffered economic decline on falling world commodity prices.

    Destitute farmers poured into slums, seeking dwindling city jobs and creating an urban underclass in need of a new dream.

    "In the 1980s, our country started having serious problems," said Abbot Justin Bile, from St. Joseph's in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a nation ruined by kleptocracy and war.

    "The suffering of the population pushed them to seek material solutions. If there's a pastor promising a visa, job, or marriage, people flock to them."

    Politicians have also contributed to Pentecostalism's rise by welcoming foreign evangelists. Some, like Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, seek favour with the televangelist-backed U.S. administration, analysts say.

    Others, like Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and Ghana's former president Gerry Rawlings, faced criticism from traditional church leaders and turned to Pentecostal churches to fill a legitimacy gap.


    America's preachers have long grasped the potential material rewards of their spiritual gifts.

    Hinn has said he earns up to $1 million a year, lives in a $10 million seaside mansion and owns a private jet. Creflo Dollar, who visited Uganda this month, drives a Rolls Royce.

    Africa's preachers are learning fast.

    At Uganda's Holy Fire Ministry -- a marquee beside a dirt track near the airport -- hundreds line up for blessings from "Prophet" Pius Muwanguzi, whose purported talents include curing AIDS by touching the forehead.

    In the kneeling congregation: a polio victim, a blind man and a girl who lost her phone.

    The pastor touches an old woman, she faints. Then out come the collection envelopes. Minimum is 100,000 Uganda shillings ($62.5), although the poor can give as little as 10,000 to receive a blessing.

    Muwanguzi, whose own blessings include a smart suit and a new Toyota Land Cruiser, declined an interview. But his secretary Jackie Kamanyire said payments were voluntary.

    "If you feel like sowing a seed, you sow. It comes from your heart. The Prophet cures AIDS, cancer and sickle cell disease with his blessings."

    Cameroon's Pierre Anatole Mbezele, who stages miracles at his Yaounde church, gets showered with lavish gifts, including on two occasions a Mercedes Benz.

    Francis Adroa gave her car to a Ugandan church promising to cure her of HIV/AIDS. The miracle failed, she got sicker. And she's now a pedestrian.

    Moses Malay heads a Ugandan organization helping what he calls victims of "pulpit fraud" after quitting a church whose pastor claimed divine powers.

    "I saw people robbed and I participated. How do they do it? Simple. They instill hope, they nurture it, they reap."

    Faith healers insist there is no fraud.

    "When I touch someone, I can feel God working through me," said Pastor Luke Jaymin of Kampala's Nakawa Pentecostal Church. "I know it's true."

    (Additional reporting by Rebecca Harrison in Johannesburg, Estelle Shirbon in Lagos, Ed Stoddard in Dallas, Joe Bavier in Kinshasa, Orla Ryan in Accra, Lamine Chikhi in Algiers, Tom Pfeiffer in Rabat and Tansa Musa in Yaounde)

    © 2007 Reuters

    3 former leaders of ex-gay ministry apologize


    They cite psychological harm they caused gays as the ministry, Exodus International, meets in Irvine.

    By Rebecca Trounson, Times Staff Writer

    June 28, 2007

    Three former leaders of Exodus International, often described as the nation's largest ex-gay ministry, publicly apologized Wednesday for the harm they said their efforts had caused many gays and lesbians who believed the group's message that sexual orientation could be changed through prayer.

    Speaking at a Hollywood news conference, the former leaders of the interdenominational Christian organization said they had acted sincerely in their years of work with Exodus. But they said they had all, over time, become disillusioned with the group's ideas and concerned about what they described as the wrenching human toll of such gay conversion efforts.

    The news event, in a courtyard outside an office of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, was timed to coincide with the opening of Exodus' annual conference, which is being held this week at Concordia University in Irvine. A competing "ex-gay survivor" convention is to begin Friday at UC Irvine.

    Exodus' president, Alan Chambers, reached by phone at the meeting in Irvine, said he disagreed with its critics, adding that its methods have helped many people, including him.

    "Exodus is here for people who want an alternative to homosexuality," Chambers said. "There are thousands of people like me who have overcome this. I think there's room for more than one opinion on this subject, and giving people options isn't dangerous."

    The former leaders from Exodus cast its work in grim terms.

    "Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families," the three, including former Exodus co-founder Michael Bussee, said in a joint written statement presented at the news conference. "Although we acted in good faith, we have since witnessed the isolation, shame, fear and loss of faith that this message creates."

    Now a licensed family therapist in Riverside, Bussee left Exodus in 1979 after he fell in love with a man who was a fellow ex-gay counselor with the group. He speaks out frequently against ex-gay therapies.

    "God's love and forgiveness does indeed change people," said Bussee, who remains an evangelical Christian. "It changed me. It just didn't make me straight."

    Others speaking at Wednesday's news conference included Jeremy Marks, former president of Exodus International Europe, and Darlene Bogle, the founder and former director of Paraklete Ministries, an Exodus referral agency based in Hayward, Calif.

    All three said they had known people who had tried to change their sexual orientation with the help of the group but had failed, often becoming depressed or even suicidal as a result.

    "We are committed Christians, but we're still gay," said Marks, who heads Courage UK, a gay-affirming evangelical ministry based in England.

    Among those at the news conference was the Rev. Mel White, founder and president of a faith-based gay rights group called Soulforce. White, who was the ghostwriter for the Rev. Jerry Falwell's autobiography and later came out as gay, praised the former Exodus leaders.

    "It's a major moment, a paradigm shift," White said. "They're saying this doesn't work, and that's incredibly important."

    The Exodus meeting is expected to attract about 1,000 people, Chambers said. Chambers, who is married and has children, said he and other current Exodus officials are careful to warn those who seek help that such a path is not easy.

    Sexual orientation "isn't a light switch that you can switch on and off," he said.


    Evolution education update: June 29, 2007

    The latest "intelligent design" book takes a walloping in the pages of Nature, while The New York Times offers a suite of articles about evolution, and NCSE's executive director is honored by the Society for Developmental Biology.


    The new book from "intelligent design" proponent Michael Behe continues to receive highly critical reviews, with the latest, by Kenneth R. Miller, published in Nature (2007; 447: 1055-1056). Miller begins with the sociopolitical context, writing, "Michael Behe's new book, The Edge of Evolution, is an attempt to give the intelligent-design movement a bit of badly needed scientific support. After a spectacular setback in the 2005 Dover, Pennsylvania, intelligent-design trial ... , and the 2006 electoral losses in Ohio and Kansas, the movement could use some help -- and Behe is eager to provide it."

    But Miller quickly moves to the content of the book, focusing on a central calculation that, Behe alleges, reveals the "limits of Darwinism." On the contrary, Miller writes: "at the heart of his anti-darwinian calculus are numbers not merely incorrect, but so spectacularly wrong that this badly designed argument collapses under its own weight ... It would be difficult to imagine a more breathtaking abuse of statistical genetics. ... A mistake of this magnitude anywhere in a book on science is bad enough, but Behe has built his entire thesis on this error."

    Concluding, Miller returns to the sociopolitical context: "No doubt creationists who long for a scientific champion will overlook the parts of this deeply flawed book that might trouble them, including Behe's admission that 'common descent is true', and that our species shares a common ancestor with the chimpanzee. Instead, they will cling to Behe's mistaken calculations, and proclaim that the end of evolution is at hand. What this book actually demonstrates, however, is the intellectual desperation of the intelligent-design movement as it struggles to survive in the absence of even a shred of scientific data in its favour."

    Miller is Professor of Biology at Brown University, the coauthor (with Joseph Levine) of three widely used high school biology textbooks, and the author of Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution (Cliff Street Books, 1999), and the forthcoming Devil in the Details: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul (Viking/Penguin, 2007). He is also a Supporter of NCSE and received its Friend of Darwin award in 2003; he testified for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the case in which it was ruled that it is unconstitutional to teach "intelligent design" creationism in the public schools.

    For Miller's review in Nature (subscription required), visit:

    For NCSE's story on previous reviews, visit:


    A treat in the Science Times section of the June 26, 2007, issue of The New York Times: a suite of articles devoted to evolution. Evolutionary developmental biology is a central theme. Carol Kaesuk Yoon writes, "Just coming into its own as a science, evo-devo is the combined study of evolution and development, the process by which a nubbin of a fertilized egg transforms into a full-fledged adult. And what these scientists are finding is that development, a process that has for more than half a century been largely ignored in the study of evolution, appears to have been one of the major forces shaping the history of life on earth." Also on the evo-devo front, NCSE Supporter Sean B. Carroll discusses evo-devo in a video, and is also taking questions from the newspaper's readers, while Douglas F. Erwin ponders whether evo-devo amounts to a paradigm shift for biology.

    Carl Zimmer discusses evolutionary experimentation using microbes, such as Richard E. Lenski's pioneering work with E. coli; in the eighteen years and 40,000 generations of Lenski's work, Zimmer writes, "the bacteria have changed significantly. For one thing, they are bigger -- twice as big on average as their common ancestor. They are also far better at reproducing in these flasks, dividing 70 percent faster than their ancestor. These changes have emerged through spontaneous mutations and natural selection, and Dr. Lenski and his colleagues have been able to watch them unfold." On his blog The Loom, Zimmer notes that "these experiments are also meaningful to bio-engineers who manipulate microbes to churn out useful molecules like insulin or ethanol."

    Human evolution is also covered, with John Noble Wilford explaining "The Human Family Tree Has Become a Bush With Many Branches," emphasizing the convergence of molecular and morphological approaches to paleoanthropology, and Nicholas Wade explaining "Humans Have Spread Globally, and Evolved Locally," emphasizing research on recent natural selection in humans. And under the rubric Basics, Natalie Angier writes about parasitism -- "an evolutionary force to be reckoned with, a source of nearly bottomless cunning and breathtaking bio-inventiveness" -- and Cornelia Dean examines what implications evolutionary biology and cognitive neuroscience might be thought to have for the idea of the soul, quoting theologians John F. Haught and Nancey Murphy as well as NCSE Supporter Kenneth R. Miller in the process.

    For the Science Times section of The New York Times, visit:

    For Carl Zimmer's post about his story in the Times, visit:


    NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott was awarded the Viktor Hamburger Outstanding Educator Prize for 2007 from the Society for Developmental Biology, during the First Pan American Congress in Developmental Biology, held June 16-20, 2007, in Cancun, Mexico. The prize, established in honor of Viktor Hamburger, a preeminent embryologist and developmental neuroscientist of his era, recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to developmental biology education. Previous recipients include Robert DeHaan, Bruce Alberts, Leon Browder, Lewis Wolpert, and Scott Gilbert. Founded in 1939, the Society for Developmental Biology seeks to promote the field of developmental biology and to advance our understanding of developmental biology at all levels.

    For information about the Hamburger Prize, visit:

    If you wish to subscribe, please send:

    subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

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

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


    Glenn Branch
    Deputy Director
    National Center for Science Education, Inc.
    420 40th Street, Suite 2
    Oakland, CA 94609-2509
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    Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools

    Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism

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

    'Bigfoot' expedition planned in Michigan


    POSTED: 8:42 a.m. EDT, June 27, 2007

    MANISTIQUE, Michigan (AP) -- Researchers will visit Michigan's Upper Peninsula next month to search for evidence of the legendary creature known as "Bigfoot" or "Sasquatch."

    The expedition will focus on eastern Marquette County, said Matthew Moneymaker of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization.

    "We'll be looking for evidence supporting a presence. ... We hope to meet local people who might have seen a Sasquatch or heard of someone else who had an encounter," Moneymaker told the Daily Press of Escanaba.

    The legend of Bigfoot dates back centuries. But skeptics have challenged accounts of sightings, and practical jokers have staged hoaxes that have included grainy film footage of people dressed in costumes.

    But Moneymaker said members of his organization have either glimpsed Bigfoot or gotten close enough to hear the creature in all but three of 30 expeditions in the United States and Canada.

    The late Grover Krantz, a Washington State University professor who specialized in cryptozoology, the study of creatures that have not been proven to exist, believed Bigfoot was a "gigantopithecus," a branch of primitive man believed to have existed 3 million years ago.

    Copyright 2007 The Associated Press

    Kubica sidesteps talk of papal miracle


    Thu Jun 28, 12:07 PM ET

    MAGNY-COURS, France (Reuters) - Polish Formula One driver Robert Kubica sidestepped a claim on Thursday that he owed his life to the miraculous powers of Pope John Paul II.

    The 22-year-old comes from Krakow, the late pontiff's home city, and has long raced with John Paul's name on his crash helmet.

    Poland's local PAP news agency reported that Kubica's survival after slamming into a wall during this month's Canadian Grand Prix could serve as evidence of a miracle in the Catholic Church's beatification process of John Paul.

    The report was based on a Church source.

    "I know nothing about this," Kubica told Reuters at the French Grand Prix, after being passed fit to race again on Sunday.

    "In Poland there are many things that are reported that are not true.

    "I don't know by whom I was saved, I don't know if I was saved by someone. I'm here in one piece so I think that is very positive," he added.

    The documentation needed to make the late Pope a saint is prepared by the dioceses of Krakow and Rome and reviewed by the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

    The evidence already gathered includes testimony from some 130 people as well as scrutiny of John Paul's life, spoken words and writing.

    Friday, June 29, 2007

    In the Creation Museum, Enlightenment Is the Fall


    By Brandon Keim June 29, 2007 | 12:05:29 PM

    The Creation Museum, built in Petersburg, Kentucky to celebrate young-earth creationism -- the idea that the earth is about 6,000 years old -- is expected to draw over 250,000 visitors this year.

    We mentioned the museum before, when the New York Times sent Edward Rothstein there. Rothstein treated it as a freakish but oddly interesting curiosity, "an alternate world that has its fascinations, even for a skeptic wary of the effect of so many unanswered assertions."

    The New Yorker's George Packer finds something far more sinister: a full assault on the Enlightenment, one which portrays our rise from the Dark Ages as a form of falling.

    ... as you get into the farther chambers of the museum—which, like the Holocaust Museum in Washington, forces you along a single channel, so that one overwhelming narrative is imposed on every visitor—the message is didactic and clear: Voltaire was "an infidel philosopher." The Scopes trial was the beginning of the end. "Scripture abandoned in the culture" has led to porn addiction, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, divorce, religious relativism, child neglect, and genocide. "Human reason" has replaced "God's Word," with horrific consequences. Just when the displays are depicting total despair in the modern world, you come out into the Garden of Eden and a soothing diorama of an attractive and prelapsarian Adam and Eve lounging in a waterfall pool surrounded by lilies. [...]

    Many of the quarter of a million people expected to visit the Creation Museum by the end of the year will be children. They will be indoctrinated into an ideology that systematically warps their understanding of the physical world and fills them with hostility toward the facts and concepts of modernity. As we have learned over the past few years, this doesn't mean that they'll be outcasts and failures. A great political party has largely abased itself before their world view and offered them unprecedented access to government power. The Creation Museum, a combination of a natural-history museum and a Communist Party propaganda center, will help to arm and arouse the next generation of Christianists in the ongoing war against secular and scientific America.

    It's a powerful statement, and one that needs to be made: for all that I criticize people like Richard Dawkins for being counterproductively contemptuous of religious people and painting them with an overly broad brush, Creation Museum-style moral fundamentalism needs to be confronted.

    I'm a little more ambivalent, though, about the conclusions drawn by Packer (who is, I want to note, a marvelous journalist and one of my minor heroes). He compares his experience to "being a dissident surrounded by the lies of a totalitarian state," with museum signboards reminding him of the telescreens in 1984. His fellow visitors, he says, are every bit as alien to him as

    Mennonite families in their nineteenth-century bonnets and long beards. We might speak the same contemporary American dialect, wear the same T-shirts, and eat the same fatty foods, but our basic beliefs are so incompatible that it's hard to know what political arrangement could ever satisfy us both.

    This touches on a theme that I've been mulling over for a response to the comment debates that have gone on this week around posts about evolution and its defense. Part of the reason I'm apparently less bothered than some of our commenters by the Creation Museum-style fringes of religious faith is that its adherents don't strike me as being as "alien" as Mennonites. (Mennonites, for that matter, don't strike me as particularly alien, nor do the Hasidic Jews in my own neighborhood. Insular, yes; obeisant to patriarchal customs that seem wrong to me, yes; but alien? No.)

    I've known quite a few people who believe that the world was created in one busy week a few thousand years ago. They are, by and large, decent folks, and our religious non-compatibility has never got in the way of dinner or a hockey game. (As luck would have it, I bought my new supply of contact lenses from a Hasidic optometrist, who explained to me that proof of God existed in the unique properties of crop rotations in Israel. The lenses work just fine.) If I'm to believe the statistics, I meet many such people in my day-to-day life without ever knowing it. As far as I can tell, this has never been a problem.

    Sure, I find an absolute credulity in literal readings of a few religious texts to be incomprehensible -- and if, when I someday have children, people want to teach creationism as truth in their school, I'll be the first to speak out. But until that happens -- and even, perhaps, if it happens -- why should we think of each other as aliens? Aren't we still just people, full of hope and love and frustration and our all-too-human flaws?

    Packer is right that there's an "ongoing war against secular and scientific America." But there are different ways of fighting wars, some better than others. And one of the worst is to imagine that your enemies aren't people, too.

    Dystopia in Kentucky [New Yorker]

    Sean Carroll Fails to Scale The Edge of Evolution (Part III): Is Carroll Scared of Approaching the Edge of Evolution?


    In Part I of this series, I discussed how Sean Carroll's review of Michael Behe's new book, The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, misrepresents and oversimplifies Behe's arguments. In Part II, I discussed the fact that one of Carroll's citations actually confirms Behe's argument that there is an edge to evolution, and that evolution tends to not proceed forward when additional mutations decrease functionality. In this final installment, I will discuss how many of Carroll's cited papers either report types of evolution that Behe readily concedes can occur, or mistake protein sequence similarity (often equated with "homology") for a demonstration of the step-by-step power of natural selection.

    It's Easier to Tear Down Walls than to Build Them

    To demonstrate the power of evolution, Carroll cites the evolution of toxins. But Behe provides a ready discussion regarding the evolvability of destructive proteins because they entail merely evolving the ability to break things in the cell—a relatively simple task:

    Foreign proteins injected into a cell by an invading virus or bacterium make up a different category. The foreign proteins of pathogens almost always are intended to cripple a cell in any way possible. Since there are so many ways to break a machine than to improve it, this is the kind of task at which Darwinism excels. Like throwing a wad of chewing gum into a finely tuned machine, it's relatively easy to clog a system—much easier than making the system in the first place. Destructive protein binding is much easier to achieve by chance.

    (Michael J. Behe, The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, pg. 149 (Free Press, 2007).)

    It seems like Behe has a ready rejoinder to Carroll's mention of the evolution of toxins.

    Carroll's Sickening Citations

    In another incredibly misplaced example, Carroll cites the evolution of malarial resistance to drugs as a rebuttal to Behe. Yet Behe spends multiple chapters discussing the evolution of resistance to malaria and how it generally entails unimpressive genetic changes that, in actually, demonstrate that there is a limit to evolutionary change

    Finally, as I discussed in part II, Carroll also cites antibiotic resistance by referencing a paper that agrees with Behe's finding that there is an edge to the creative power of Darwinian evolution. In fact, Behe finds that bacterial mechanisms of antibiotic resistance present a challenge to natural selection that pales in comparison to the challenge posed by true complexity of the cell:

    Where is it reasonable to draw the edge of evolution? ... One the one side ... several mutations can sequentially add to each other to improve an organism's chance of survival. An example is the breaking of the regulatory controls of fetal hemoglobin to help alleviate sickle cell disease. ... On the other side are the examples of what random mutation and natural selection clearly cannot do. ... The structural elegance of systems such as the cilium, the functional sophistication of the pathways that construct them, and then the total lack of serious Darwinian explanations all point insistently to the same conclusion: They are far past the edge of evolution. Such coherent, complex, cellular systems did not arise by random mutation and natural selection, any more than the Hoover Dam was built by the random accumulation of twigs, leaves, and mud.

    (Michael Behe, The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, pg. 111-112, (Free Press, 2007).)

    Carroll simply isn't engaging Behe's arguments. He cites papers that discuss the evolution of biological functions that Behe already acknowledges are within the "edge" of what Darwinian evolution can produce. As discussed in the next post, Carroll's only attempts to approach Behe's edge of evolution fall far short.

    Posted by Casey Luskin on June 29, 2007 3:44 PM | Permalink

    Politics, not science, holds up evolution


    The goal of the evolutionists is to establish man's arrival independent of God's intervention. Therefore, the evolutionist needs to be able to show that life crawled forth from chemicals without the Creator. Otherwise, God could have inserted himself elsewhere in the evolutionary process and the entire argument for evolution is lost. The problem for the evolutionist is that science keeps advancing and discovering more about the complexity of life. Scientists such as Charles Thaxton have explained the utter impossibility of life springing spontaneously from chemicals. Progressive science has shown evolution to be just the latest fairy tale.

    Science is not the foundation holding up evolution; politics is. Iowa State University just denied tenure to Guillermo Gonzalez in spite of 68 publications. The problem is, he co-authored a book on intelligent design. It appears our universities are no longer places for the open exchange of ideas.

    Col. Don E. Prichard, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)

    Behe Talks Back: Taking on Critics of The Edge of Evolution


    The first major reviews of Michael Behe's The Edge of Evolution are now up in magazines like Science, The New Republic, and The Globe and Mail. As Bruce Chapman noted here, certain Darwinists appear to be mounting a campaign to try to discredit Behe's argument — without, of course, ever directly addressing it.

    While the Darwinists unfairly malign Edge, Dr. Behe has now responded to their criticisms over at his Amazon blog, a dynamic new forum where authors are able to reach their readers directly. Want to know what Behe has to say about Jerry Coyne, Michael Ruse, and Sean Carroll? Sure you do. Go check it out. You'll get a healthy dose of clear thinking and good humor from the venerable doctor himself.

    Posted by Anika Smith on June 27, 2007 12:02 PM | Permalink

    Book Makes Case For Using Evolution In Everyday Life


    Updated: 6/27/2007 2:06:48 PM

    Science Daily — Evolution is not just about human origins, dinosaurs and fossils, says Binghamton University evolutionist David Sloan Wilson. It can also be applied to almost every aspect of human life, as he demonstrates in his first book for a general audience, Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives (Bantam Press 2007).

    Using witty, straightforward language and compelling anecdotes, Wilson outlines the basic principles of evolution in a way that can be easily understood by non-experts. He then uses the principles to explain phenomena as diverse as why beetles commit infanticide, why dogs have curly tails, and why people laugh and make art.

    Wilson, a distinguished professor of biological sciences with a joint appointment in anthropology at Binghamton University, is convinced that evolution can become more widely accepted once its consequences for human welfare are appropriately understood.

    "When evolution is presented as unthreatening, explanatory, and useful, it can be easily grasped and appreciated by most people, regardless of their religious or political beliefs and without previous training," says Wilson.

    Wilson directs a campus-wide evolutionary studies program called EvoS that is being adopted by other universities. His book is a distillation of his popular course of the same name. Wilson's research exemplifies the explanatory scope of evolutionary theory. Originally trained as aquatic ecologist, he now publishes in anthropology, psychology, economics, and philosophy journals in addition to his biological research. His book Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society (University of Chicago Press, 2002) attempts to bridge the ultimate gap between evolutionary theory and religion.

    "Unlike the futile controversy over creationism and intelligent design, my dialogue with religious scholars and believers is cordial and productive," Wilson reports.

    Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Binghamton University, SUNY, Division of Research.

    Read Original Article

    © 2007 Science Daily

    Creationism makes a comeback in US


    By Washington correspondent Mark Simkin

    Posted Mon Jun 25, 2007 11:24am AEST
    Updated Mon Jun 25, 2007 11:25am AEST

    The gulf between creationists and mainstream scientists is as wide as the canyon itself. (File photo) (AAP: AAP)

    In the United States the old but bitter debate between evolution and creationism is heating up again.

    Three of the Republican presidential candidates do not believe in evolution and a high-tech creation museum recently opened in Kentucky.

    Much of the debate has been fuelled by a book claiming the Grand Canyon, one of America's most well-known landmarks, was carved by Noah's flood rather than erosion.

    Every national park has at least one gift shop - usually more - selling t-shirts, snow domes, mugs, postcards and books.

    At the Grand Canyon you will find books on the canyon's history, the canyon's animals and even the canyon's deaths.

    One book, Grand Canyon: A Different View, contains the following excerpt:

    "Grand Canyon is not just an icon of beauty. It is a solemn witness to the mighty power of God who is not only the omnipotent creator of all things but also the avenging defender of his own holiness."

    It is amazing to think a humble river was able to carve such a mighty canyon. Of course, a geologist will tell you that reflects the power of time rather than the power of the river - the canyon is millions of years old.

    But Grand Canyon: A Different View presents a different perspective.

    The book is compiled by Tom Vail, who has been guiding rafting trips down the Colorado River for 25 years.

    He says for the first 15 years he was an evolutionist.

    "In 1994 I became a Christian and started looking at the canyon as my book says, from a different view, and I started exploring the creationist model of the formation of the canyon," he said.

    "What I found was all those little questions I had as an evolutionist had answers, and pretty logical answers as I looked at it."

    Mr Vail's book is not some cheap pamphlet. It is a full colour coffee-table book, featuring expensive paper, sophisticated layout, spectacular photos, scientific language and lots of quotes from the Old Testament.

    Not surprisingly, it is generating debate.

    The gulf between creationists and mainstream scientists is as wide as the canyon itself.

    The American Geological Institute and other groups demanded the book be removed from the national park.

    The debate only fuelled sales of the book and Tom Vail says there is plenty of evidence inside the canyon to back his belief.

    "We see some very large folding in the canyon where sedimentary layers, which are laid down horizontally, have been curved or carved in big bends, some of them 300 feet tall, and this is done without cracking the rock. How do you do that with hard rock?" he said.

    "I'm definitely going against the tide here, but when you look at the evidence, there are major flaws in the dating methods, for example.

    Much to the horror of mainstream scientists, creationism seems to be making a comeback in the United States.

    A multi-million dollar creation museum recently opened, at least three of the Republicans running for President do not believe in evolution and Tom Vail's rafting trips are welcoming customers from as far away as Australia.

    Opinion polls suggest 43 per cent of Americans believe God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years. Only 14 per cent believe humans evolved without divine involvement.

    Proposed Council of Europe Report Calls Creationism "Dangerous," "Threat to Human Rights"


    By Hilary White

    BRUSSELS, June 27, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The French socialist politician and mathematics professor, Guy Lengagne, has written in a report for the Council of Europe's Committee on Culture, Science and Education, that says that "creationism" and its biblically rooted Christian worldview represent a threat to human freedom and must be suppressed.

    But members of the European Council's Committee on Culture, Science and Education have temporarily rejected the current draft of the report and declared freedom of thought and discussion a "fundamental value."

    Titled, "The Dangers of Creationism in Education," the report said, "If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights."

    The report also states, "From a scientific view point there is absolutely no doubt that evolution is a central theory for our understanding of the Universe and of life on Earth." Lengagne, a lecturer in mathematics at the University of Amiens, warned that should creationism be allowed to be taught in schools, the result could be the replacing of democracy by theocracy, the obstruction of a cure for AIDS, and a rise in fundamentalist extremism.

    The report which had been prepared for a debate this week, was rejected by 63 of the 119 members of the Council of Europe, who criticized it for its "lack of reflection." The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) announced it would be dropping the report's issue from the roster of this week's debate on inter-cultural and interreligious dialogue.

    The committee said it "expresses its support for the Rapporteur M. Lengagne," and is determined to bring the issue forward for the agenda for the next plenary session in October. Lengagne, however, is leaving the PACE and will not be involved in future drafts of the report.

    Lengagne responded to the decision to postpone, saying he was "flabbergasted", "appalled" and "shocked" that the PACE had referred his report back to the committee for revision.

    "We are witnessing a change of direction for a return to the Middle Ages, and too many members of this Assembly can't see it," he said.

    The Committee on Culture, Science and Education said in a statement that while the issue of creationism is a "politically topical question" that it is determined to discuss in the future, "freedom of thought and discussion is a fundamental value of the Council of Europe."

    "The Committee on Culture, Science and Education believes that it is the duty of the Assembly to show itself exemplary in this requirement."

    (c) Copyright: LifeSiteNews.com. Permission to republish is granted (with limitation*) but acknowledgement of source is *REQUIRED* (use LifeSiteNews.com).

    Scientific facts undermine 'righteous opinion' on Bone Cave


    To the Editor:

    I admire Mr. Garrett Humbertson's passion in his article which appeared in the Writers Block feature, "Creationism best explains Bone Cave," which appeared in the paper's June 17 issue.

    However, the article was poorly reasoned and full of factual errors and unsupported opinions. He aspires to someday be a journalist or politician and I'm sure that he will do well, neither occupation is noted for the correct use of facts or deductive reasoning, as they both get in the way of righteous opinion.

    While I can overlook some of this because of his age, more importantly, it reflects very poorly on the Calvary Christian Academy's (CCA) quality of education and certainly would raise the question of whether they are in the education or indoctrination business.

    Maybe the CCA has more in common with some of the fundamental Islamic religious schools than we realize. It is the fundamental religious schools, be they Christian or Muslim, that are responsible for much of the trouble in the world.

    I noted that the CCA's Web page does not list the classes offered but none of the facility were listed as science teachers. Therefore, it can be assumed that Mr. Humbertson has not had a basic high school level science class such as biology, chemistry, physics, or earth sciences.

    Therefore, he has not been exposed to the scientific method, has not learned how to develop or test a hypothesis, has not analyzed data or drawn conclusions, or been exposed to any of the great scientific thinkers that have made this modern world possible. This would explain, but not excuse, the many science and logic errors in his article. I thought that at least some level of science is required to receive a public high school diploma in Maryland. Then again, maybe religious schools are exempt.

    Mr. Humbertson, there is no evidence for the Noachian Flood anywhere in the geologic record (read any college level geologic text book). Radiometric dating, as one of many lines of evidence, shows the earth is more than 6,600 years old (actually it is at least 4.5 billion years old - read any college level geology, physics or chemistry text book).

    Modern maps as well as views of the earth from space clearly show that the earth is not flat with four corners but is in fact a sphere,

    The Apollo landings on the moon showed no evidence for a firmament holding the water above our head and accounting for the color of the sky (read any college level astronomy or meteorology text book).

    The Bible is not a book of science. The fields of biology, geology, paleontology, physics, chemistry and genetics have generated huge amounts of data that show that evolution is a fact that best explains the insurmountable evidence of the complexity of life and how humans arrived on the earth. Yes, one of your closer relatives is a slime mold.

    Mr. Humbertson, I don't know if it's too late to free your mind or not. However, you are young and there is hope. Leave home, go to a nice non-church affiliated college, explore the world, read some different (better) books, join the military, live in another culture, think for yourself, write about what you know, learn what you don't know, be wary of absolutes, and try to avoid drinking the special Kool-Aid.

    G.M. Schindel
    Morgan County, W.Va.

    A Monk's Growing Concern for African Medicine


    Daily Champion (Lagos)

    27 June 2007 Posted to the web 28 June 2007 Lagos

    Principles of Herbal medicine was the focus of an event recently held in Lagos. CHUKWUDI OBI who was there reports that the forum organized by Rev. Father Anselm Adodo's Pax Herbal clinic and laboratories St. Benedict's Monastery, Ewu-Ishan, Edo State, brought stakeholders together to chart a new course for herbal medicine practitioners.

    Before the clock ticked 9.am, the venue had already been filled to its capacity with some participants still loitering outside exchanging banters.

    The look on their faces betrayed their emotions. The excitement could only be better experienced than imagined.

    So, when a couple of minutes later the parley kicked off, everybody was prepared to participate actively.

    The reason, being that the issue of the day was crucial to all in attendance.

    The forum was the inauguration of Herbal Medicine Reporters' Association of Nigeria (HERMAN).

    The event doubled as a workshop where eminent scholars spoke on the "Principles of African Medicine."

    The workshop which was put together by Pax Herbal Clinic & Research Laboratories Ltd, St Benedictine Monastery, Ewu, Edo State, had in attendance, herbal practitioners, Pax herbal distributors and journalists.

    Everybody who mattered when it comes to herbal and traditional medicine practice was at the venue, the Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency, NNMDA, Victoria Island Lagos, which also provided a platform for some of these practitioners to showcase their products.

    In his welcome address, Co-ordinator, Pax Herbal clinic and laboratories Ltd. Fr Anselm Adodo noted that the aim of the workshop is to ensure that journalists from both the print and electronic media are well informed about current happenings in the Nigerian Herbal Medicine Sector.

    "Our aim is to keep them abreast of development in the herbal industry, show them the huge potentials of African Medicine in transforming Africa economically, socially, politically and medically and encourage constructive dialogue towards the development of African Medicine," he said.

    Adodo further called on journalists to always be vanguards of truth.

    According to him, "As journalists, you are first and foremost reporters. Your primary duty is to seek the truth and present it as it is. A good journalist searches for the truth, and expresses it in clear, unambiguous terms. To do this, means that you take risks, for the truth is bitter. It is a fact that many people do not want to hear the truth and do not want others to see and know the truth. As journalists, you have a mandate to search for the truth and say the truth, for the good of humanity, of our society and our future."

    "Your profession is one of the most powerful in the world. It is often thought that military might is the most powerful on this planet. But what is military might but ability to destroy the body? Real power lies in the ability to shape opinions, to influence people's minds and to shape the conscience of the nation."

    Adodo confirmed that practices like ancestoral worship, voodooism and socery are signs of knowledge twisted towards the past instead of the future.

    Fr. Adodo who is also the Editor-in-chief, The Herbal Doctor, a journal of African medicine observed that such practices are not efficient for innovation and, socio economic transformation adding that it is detrimental to the transformation of African medicine into a globally accepted venture.

    "It is knowledge that is keeping a quarter of Africa constantly looking backward. No wonder many African communities who are relying on this ancestral knowledge barely move forward or beyond their immediate environments," he said.

    The Editor-in-Chief, The Herbal Doctor however stressed the need for protection of the knowledge of old people who he said are repositories of knowledge.

    "In many indigenous societies, when a knowledge bearer dies, his knowledge dies with him. Indeed, a lot of knowledge is being lost, knowledge that appears to be worthless mainly because it is not properly valued. There is a need to protect endangered knowledge as a world heritage.

    Today, we speak of protecting our environment from abuse, and also about protection for rare species of plants and animals.

    But equally important is the need to set up international efforts to protect and preserve indigenous knowledge. With every old person that dies in our villages, a whole library of books is lost. We must therefore protect our indigenous knowledge by re-understanding, re-interpreting, re-examining and re-expressing it in the light of modern scientific knowledge," he said.

    In his lecture titled, Herbal medicine: How do they work? Professor of Pharmacognosy and lecturer faculty of pharmacy, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Prof Tony Elujoba stated that traditional medicine is a medicine based on tradition and culture adding that it is the medicine of our fore-fathers.

    "Traditional medicine is affordable, accessible, cultural, psycho-social and natural medicine.

    It is native medicine, black medicine", he said Elujoba who is also a traditional medicine practitioner noted that traditional medicine encompasses traditional psychiatry, traditional paediatrics cultism, sorcery and Traditional midwifery.

    He added that "traditional medicine is not alternative medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy, acupuncture, massaging, hypnotism, Yoga, dream therapy and telepathy."

    According to him, World Health Organisation defines traditional medicine as: "The sum total of all knowledge and practices whether explicable and inexplicable, used in diagnosing, preventing or eliminating a physical, mental or social disease which may rely exclusively on past experiences and observations handed down from generation to generation, verbally or in writing simply: Remedies and practices used by our ancestors for hundreds of years and are still being used today."

    Explaining the definition, the university don opined that the explicable forms of traditional medicine include use of plants, animals and minerals even as he said that physical administration of drugs can be scientifically tested and most widely accepted.

    "Spiritual, religions or occultic forms super natural, against physical norms that cannot be experimental, mostly sacred, feared and unacceptable more often involving harm and devil are part of the inexplicable forms of traditional medicine", he said.

    The professor who noted that incantations, rituals, telepathy and astral projections are some of the inexplicable forms of traditional medicine added that most times it is beyond today's scientific comprehension.

    On principles of traditional medicine theory, Prof. Elujoba highlighted that there is the agonist/antagonist theory, active ingredient theory and direct killing theory.

    "We also have the spiritual messenger theory where spirits are used as errand beings. This theory is beyond human comprehension. There is also the theory of signatures where it is believed that the plant shape works for a particular organ that it resembles.

    But colours and body fluids; plant colour and toxicity, plant juice and body fluids also share the same concept.

    Traditional medicine is better in chronic ailments, poor in acute diseases, poor and slow for emergencies, excellent for immune-boosting or preventing and organ cleansing," he said.

    Continuing, the professor of Pharmacognosy posited that other theories of traditional medicine include the physical presence which he said means that the physical presence of the plant is all that matters.

    He added that Qualitative composition theory takes into cognizance the correct number and quality of the plants and that the amount of each plant is often immaterial.

    Said he: "The material spirit theory believes that every plant has its peculiar spirit. Plant spirits produce specific medicinal actions. The incantation invocation theory believes that powerful words invoke unseen spirits and invoked spirits are medicinal messenger"s.

    The spirit-assisted therapy theory he said accepts that traditional medical practitioners are witch doctors who could cure unknown ailments that require spiritual intervention. Oracular healing theorists maintain that different ailments can be forecast and their cures can also be predicted.

    "Do it as you are taught. Do it the usual way. Medicinal failure of a remedy is due to absence of one of the plants or incomplete herbal composition," he counseled.

    In such a setting only herbal fluids like Zobo, herbal tea and the nourishing malt are served as refreshment. Alcohol is not only a stranger to this setting but also literally banned.

    The short break opened the doors for another brainstorming session.

    In a lecture titled Traditional African Biology, Dr. Emmanso Umobong tried to compare the differences between traditional biology and modern biology.

    He further classified traditional biology as that which recognizes the existence of a spiritual environment thronged with spiritual non-corporeal being that are influenced and in turn influence man.

    Umobong added that modern biology does not recognize the spiritual environment since it believes that it is unscientific and beyond the tools of its research.

    The lecture was intermittently interrupted by claps from colleagues and participants when he addressed questions of some female folk bordering on delayed labour.

    Earlier in her own speech, Hajiya Zainab Sherif, board member National Institute for pharmaceutical Research and Development, urged the journalists to be good ambassadors and counseled traditional medicine practitioners to always seek opinion of experts.

    Hajiya, who disclosed that over 80 per cent of the Nigerian population depends on African Medicine stated that the first herbal remedy is prayer.

    At the end of the lectures, the participants left the hall, better people.

    The smiles on their faces resurfaced as they took photographs and chatted away.

    Copyright © 2007 Daily Champion.

    User admits 'death' editing on Wikipedia 14 hours before bodies found

    [Contender for the NTS Paranormal Challenge]


    Calls mention of Benoit's wife's death a 'terrible coincidence'

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    Published on: 06/28/07

    A user of the Web site Wikipedia has confessed to making edits to pro wrestler Chris Benoit's profile mentioning the death of Benoit's wife before authorities had found her body.

    The anonymous user acknowledged in a lengthy post added to the Web site early Friday being "deeply sorry" and called the situation a "terrible coincidence."

    The edits were originally reported by Wikinews, an online news source connected to Wikipedia. Friday's post was added to a discussion page for the Wikinews story. Wikinews said the IP address of the individual is identical to that of the user who edited Benoit's profile early Monday to include that Benoit's wife was dead.

    The poster did not identify himself or herself.

    The individual acknowledged being from Stamford, Conn. -- the home of World Wrestling Entertainment. In the message, the individual claimed no connection to WWE.

    A spokeswoman for Wikimedia Foundation, Sandra Ordonez, said the IP address connected to the individual has a history of editing wrestling-related articles on Wikipedia.

    The editing that mentioned the death of Chris Benoit's wife was posted more than 14 hours before police discovered her body, along with her son's and husband's, at the pro wrestler's Fayette County home.

    An anonymous user edited the biography of the wrestler on Monday at 12:01 a.m., said Ordonez.

    Authorities discovered the bodies at the Benoit's Green Meadow Lane home that afternoon, at 2:30 p.m.

    The Monday morning posting said: "Chris Benoit was replaced by Johnny Nitro for the [ECW] Extreme Championship Wrestling Championship match at Vengeance, as Benoit was not there due to personal issues, stemming from the death of his wife Nancy."

    Investigators think Benoit, 40, killed his wife Friday and his 7-year-old son Daniel Saturday. He placed Bibles next to their bodies, authorities say. Sometime Sunday he hanged himself using a weight-machine pulley.

    The posting raised questions of who, if anyone, knew about the deaths and if so, when.

    "We are looking at that, trying to track down the IP address," said Fayette Sheriff's Lt. Tommy Pope in a statement to WAGA-TV. "It's either true or it's a hoax."

    Anyone can post and edit content on the Web encyclopedia. Further more, an IP address, which is a unique set of numbers that every machine connected to the Internet carries, does not necessarily have to be broadcast from where it is registered.

    The IP address from which the 12:01 a.m. addition was made had been flagged for "vandalizing" other Wikipedia entries in the past, ABC News reported.

    Earlier this month, the same IP user also edited a post about WWE wrestler Chavo Guerrero Jr., a close friend of Benoit's who reportedly was the recipient of at least one of the text messages Benoit sent over the weekend before the discovery of the bodies.

    In that edit, the IP user took out a damaging description of Guerrero from the post, ABC News said.

    Wikipedia does recruit volunteer editors who troll the entries to ensure that facts within posts are properly attributed.

    According to a timeline posted on Wikinews, which is the news source of the nonprofit foundation, within an hour of the 12:01 post, the edit had been changed with the comment: "Need a reliable source. Saying that his wife died is a pretty big statement, you need to back it up with something."

    Another hour went by. Then a second anonymous edit, using what appears to be an Australian Internet service provider, added the attribution: "according to several pro wrestling websites."

    Again, the edit was changed after 20 minutes with the comment: "Saying 'several pro wrestling websites' is still not reliable information."

    The posting was brought to the attention of the foundation, based in St. Petersburg, Fla., and an employee left a message with Fayetteville authorities about 11 a.m. Tuesday.

    "We provided the IP address, and I guess they were investigating," Ordonez said.

    The Chris Benoit entry, updated hundreds of times this week, has now been "locked" to prevent further edits by posters.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.