NTS LogoSkeptical News for 17 July 2007

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Russian court shuts down Scientology center


13 July 2007 | 11:45 | Source: AP

MOSCOW -- A Russian court has ordered the Scientology movement center in St. Petersburg to be shut down, city prosecutors said.

The St. Petersburg City Court ordered the Scientology center closed after it agreed with prosecutors who said the center's operations were violating its charter.

"The center was engaging in 'auditing' and 'purification' activities," prosecutors said in a statement issued Thursday. "Such practices were advertised by the organization as healthcare services. However, the organization did not hold a license for this."

The center also performs tests on people who came to the center—tests that were aimed at enrolling new members, prosecutors said.

Scientology officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Los Angeles-based movement—which calls itself the Church of Scientology—was founded in 1954 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard and teaches that technology can expand the mind and help solve problems.

It, however, has struggled for acceptance in many European countries. The German government views it as a threat to democracy, and France lists Scientology among groups that should be closely monitored for cult activities.

The organization operated in Moscow legally from 1994-1997, when a change in the law required all religious groups to get reregistered. Scientology officials have said they have tried to re-register repeatedly since then but have been either ignored or refused.

In April, Europe's human rights court ruled that Moscow city authorities infringed on the group's rights of by repeatedly refusing to register it.

Is The Design of Modern Science Defective?: A review of Science's Blind Spot: The Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism


[Editor's Note: This post was written by a Discovery Institute legal intern, Guillermo Dekat. Mr. Dekat is a law student at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas. He holds a bachelor's degree in biology from the Air Force Academy.]

A review of Science's Blind Spot: The Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism
By: Cornelius G. Hunter (Brazos Press, 2007)

In law, one who sells a product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user is held strictly liable for the physical harm to the injured party. One way for the injured party to win a case is to successfully argue that there is a design defect in the product. Put another way, the plaintiff is entitled to damages because there is something wrong with the blueprints for the product. At this point, expert witnesses are found to testify to the design's integrity or its defectiveness.

Perhaps the most common blind spot that inhibits the proper functioning of a product is the quite literal blind spot we experience when driving our cars. If modern science and the pre-suppositions that support it were an automobile, then Dr. Hunter's new book would be the testimony of an expert witness who has found a significant design defect. The defect has created a blind spot that is not necessary for the proper functioning of science.

Dr. Hunter begins his book by pointing out the design defect: "The problem is that religion has joined science." (Hunter, 2007, pg. 9) He goes on to explain that, while today's science is thought to be empirical and free of theological premise, nothing could be further from the truth. Dr. Hunter examines the complex interaction between religion and science in history and arrives at what may be a surprising conclusion for many: the modern design of science is based on theological naturalism, a phrase he uses to describe the restriction of science to naturalism for religious reasons.

But Hunter goes further and refutes a common argument that naturalism is a result of atheism or empirically based findings. Instead, he lays the responsibility for naturalism at the doorstep of theists, who were largely thinkers inside the church hundreds of years ago. Hunter explains that theological naturalism is not opposed to religious ideas, because the philosophy is itself religious. It makes theological assumptions for a number of different reasons and then mandates a non-intervening "god." This mandate allows the stream of thought to necessarily flow from theological naturalism to methodological naturalism—the idea that science ought to pursue naturalistic explanations. According to Dr. Hunter, this philosophy of theological naturalism predated the theories that we argue about today.

Dr. Hunter then makes the connection between the philosophies and the blind spot that was created in science:

The problem with science is not that the naturalistic approach might occasionally be inadequate. The problem is that science would never know any better. This is science's blind spot. When problems are encountered, theological naturalism assumes that the correct naturalistic solution has not been found. Non-natural phenomena will be interpreted as natural, regardless of how implausible the story becomes…. Theological naturalism has no way to distinguish a paradigm problem from a research problem. It cannot consider the possibility that there is no naturalistic explanation for the DNA code. If a theory of natural history has problems — and many have their share — the problems are always viewed as research problems and never as paradigm problems.

(Cornelius G. Hunter, Science's Blind Spot: Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism, Brazos Press, 2007, pg. 44-45)

Dr. Hunter follows theological naturalism through many of the significant ideas of science in the modern era and analyzes how the blind spot affected the results. However, he doesn't just analyze the problem, for Hunter also suggests another design that will not produce such a blind spot. His suggestion is moderate empiricism in lieu of the heavy reliance on the assumptions of theological naturalism. Hunter explains that moderate empiricism is not a new idea; it was used by Boyle and Newton and pursues the experimental sciences largely unhindered by axioms or historical science frameworks. He sees this method being used by the intelligent design theorists and applauds them for it.

As an expert witness, Dr. Hunter excels. Not only does he examine the current design of modern science, he also offers a design that will address the defect and allow science to function properly. Perhaps it may function even better. With his testimony complete, the jury is out. Will the scientists of today and the next generation choose to drive an automobile with this defect, or will they choose a different design, one without this blaring blind spot? Regardless, they would all do well to read Cornelius G. Hunters' Science's Blind Spot: The Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism.

Posted by Guillermo Dekat on July 15, 2007 12:23 AM | Permalink

What's New Friday July 13, 2007


The leading spokesperson on matters of public health in the U.S. Government, the Surgeon General is nominated by the President, and gets to wear a really neat white uniform. It is the SG's duty to educate the public about health issues. To make sure the SG gets it right, everything the SG says or writes is vetted by a White House political appointee whose job is to ensure that the President is mentioned three times on every page, and issues the President has already decided are not mentioned at all, such as stem cells, Plan B and global warming. It all came out this week as the Senate began hearings on the nomination of James W. Holsinger to the post. Richard Carmona, who served as SG from 2002 to 2006 under Bush, testified Tuesday that if science doesn't support the White House agenda, it's suppressed. Holsinger testified yesterday that he would not give in to politics.


Hindu priest Rajan Zed, the first Hindu asked to lead a Senate prayer, was just getting started yesterday when protestors from a fundamentalist Christian anti-abortion group began shouting "this is an abomination" from the Senate visitor's gallery. Abomination? The prayer was as inconsequential as any other opening prayer. But why, in light of the First Amendment, is any prayer offered? Maybe the Senate should consider Transcendental Meditation instead.


Maharishi Central University, constructed at the geographical center of America in Kansas, promises Total Knowledge to every student for only $45,000 per year, which includes lessons in Yogic Flying. At $9 million each, MCU wants branches in all 50 states. Just inform MCU how many you want to finance. John Hagelin, described as the pinnacle of physicists in the world, has been named Founding President of Maharishi University. He finally got to be a president.


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

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

Evolution education update: July 13, 2007

Forrest and Gross take the case against "intelligent design" to the biochemists, while Daniel Phelps reviews the Answers in Genesis "museum" and NCSE seeks a new logo.


Writing in Trends in Biochemical Sciences (2007; 32 [7]: 322-331), Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross take the case against "intelligent design" to biochemists. Forrest and Gross are the authors of the definitive history of the "intelligent design" movement's so-called Wedge strategy, Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design -- now available in paperback (Oxford University Press, 2007) with a new chapter on Kitzmiller v. Dover, in which Forrest, a member of NCSE's board of directors, was a pivotal expert witness for the plaintiffs. The abstract of their article:


Creationists are attempting to use biochemistry to win acceptance for their doctrine in the public mind and especially in state-funded schools. Biochemist Michael Behe is a major figure in this effort. His contention that certain cellular structures and biochemical processes -- bacterial flagella, the blood-clotting cascade and the vertebrate immune system -- cannot be the products of evolution has generated vigorous opposition from fellow scientists, many of whom have refuted Behe's claims. Yet, despite these refutations and a decisive defeat in a US federal court case, Behe and his associates at the Discovery Institute continue to cultivate American supporters. They are also stepping up their efforts abroad and, worryingly, have achieved some success. Should biochemists (and other scientists) be concerned? We think they should be.


Although Forrest and Gross survey Behe's involvement with creationism from before his book Darwin's Black Box to the aftermath of the Kitzmiller trial, Behe's new book The Edge of Evolution -- which has already taken a pounding in review after review after review -- is not discussed in the article. But Forrest and Gross in effect already saw it on the horizon, for in their concluding paragraph, they write, "If there is a single most important lesson for scientists and concerned citizens, it is that creationists never give up. They merely change their strategy with each defeat, necessitating corresponding adjustments and constant vigilance by their opponents."

For Forrest and Gross's article (subscription required), visit:

For NCSE's previous coverage of reviews of Behe's book, visit:

For information about Creationism's Trojan Horse, visit:


Kentucky Paleontological Society President Daniel Phelps has written a detailed review of his trip to the Answers in Genesis museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. In "The Anti-Museum: An overview and review of the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum," Phelps provides a richly illustrated museum walkthrough and reflections from his opening week visit.

Notably, Phelps takes in the planetarium, about which comparitively little has been written. He concludes that it "could have passed for a good planetarium show" if not for the creationism shoehorned in. Phelps observes, "Several unusual claims were made, but not explored in much detail. It was almost as if they put together a good show and added weird stuff to please AIG's leaders."

Phelps notes that despite the museum's slick packaging, the dinosaur models are not constructed with an eye for accuracy. In the display of Adam naming the animals, for example, he observes that the "display also included a really poorly reconstructed Iguanadon eating a cycad tree model. The artist must have read that Iguanadon had pebbly skin texture and gave him giant platy pebbles unlike what skin impressions really reveal about this dinosaur. The cycad plant is so bad that it looks like a giant pineapple."

For Phelps's review, visit:

For the NCSE-sponsored statement of concern about the museum, visit:

For NCSE's previous coverage of the museum, visit:


NCSE's board of directors is considering a replacement or re-imagining of our logo. Currently, our logo is an abstract symbol (see the header on our website for an example). We are inviting our membership and other interested individuals to submit designs for a new logo for the board's consideration.

Perhaps the new logo will be a reworking of the original logo; perhaps it will be a brand-new image. It could contain NCSE's full name National Center for Science Education, our initials NCSE, our slogan Defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools, or some combination thereof. Preferably, a new logo would convey NCSE's mission to the world: supporting the teaching of evolution. On the other hand, nonrepresentational logos (such as that of the AAAS -- or Coca-Cola, for all of that) can be striking and memorable.

Be careful using motifs that are misleading, even if suggestive, about evolution and related areas of science. For example, the hackneyed image of marching hominids is scientifically misleading -- evolution is a branching process! Try to avoid images that are overused, like dinosaurs; skeletons in general evoke the image of death as much as or more than evolution, and are thus unsuitable.

If you would like to submit a logo design, e-mail your design to logo@ncseweb.org by August 10.


Don't use copyrighted or trademarked material in your logo! All material must be original. Submit the logo in true vector art (EPS or Adobe Illustrator) for scaling purposes. The logo should look good in both color and black-and-white. All submissions become the property of NCSE. Submissions may be modified and altered to fit NCSE's needs at its sole discretion. NCSE reserves the right not to accept any submission. Contest void where prohibited by law.

The lucky -- and obviously talented -- winner will get not only public recognition and our praise and gratitude, but also five gift subscriptions to Reports of the NCSE, or an extension of his or her subscription for five years. We'll even throw in a coveted NCSE "Creationism/Evolution Grand Canyon Raft Trip" t-shirt, normally available only to raft trip participants.

Let a thousand flowers bloom!

For the logo contest announcement on-line, visit:

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

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

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


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

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

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism

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

Arresting developments


Jul 12th 2007 | CAMBRIDGE
From The Economist print edition

Computer science and biological science have a lot to teach each other

Stephen Jeffrey

THERE is, at the moment, a lot of interest in the idea of artificial life. The ability to synthesise huge screeds of DNA at will means the genomes of viruses can be replicated already, and replicating those of bacteria is not far off. But that merely copies what nature already manages routinely. David Harel of the Weizmann Institute in Israel reckons he can do better. He proposes to recreate living organisms inside a computer.

As with many biologists, his creature of choice is a worm called Caenorhabditis elegans. This tiny nematode (it is just a millimetre long) was the first organism to have its developmental pathway worked out cell by cell and the first multicellular one to have its genome sequenced completely. It is probably, therefore, the best understood animal in biology.

As he told "The next 10 years", a conference organised by Microsoft Research in Cambridge, England, Dr Harel has been working on a computer model of C. elegans. He hopes this will reveal exactly how pluripotent stem cells—those capable of becoming any sort of mature cell—decide which speciality they will take on. He thinks that a true understanding of the processes involved will be demonstrated only when it is possible to build a simulation that does exactly—but artificially—what happens in nature. With colleagues at New York University and Yale University in America, he is modelling and testing the possibilities.

Indeed, he proposes to evaluate the result using an updated version of the Turing test. This was devised by Alan Turing, an early computer scientist, to identify whether a machine is capable of thought. The original test proposes that a person be presented with a suitable interface—say, a keyboard and a screen—through which to communicate. If the operator cannot tell the difference between talking to another person through this interface and talking to a computer, then the computer can be argued to be thinking. Dr Harel's version is a little more challenging. He wants to test whether scientists well versed in the ways of C. elegans could tell his computerised version from the real thing. So far, the distinction is obvious, but it may not always remain so.

Silicon biology

Stephen Emmott, who works for Microsoft Research, wonders whether to turn the whole approach on its head. Instead of looking at how computers can mimic creatures, he wants to build computers from biological components. People—and other creatures—are notoriously forgetful and not much good at number crunching compared with their silicon counterparts. But they do have compensating advantages. People excel at reasoning and make much better learning machines than do computers. Dr Emmott reckons that a biological computer might find it easier to cope with problems that have foxed the traditional, silicon variety for decades—such as how to recognise what it is that they see.

Working with Stephen Muggleton of Imperial College, London, he is developing an "artificial scientist" that would be capable of combining inductive logic with probabilistic reasoning. Such a computer would be able to design experiments, collect the results and then integrate those results with theory. Indeed, it should be possible, the pair think, for the artificial scientist to build hypotheses directly from the data, spotting relationships that the humble graduate student or even his supervisor might miss.

Indeed, Luca Cardelli, who also works for Microsoft Research, likens biological cells to computers. He points out that creatures are programmed to find food and to avoid predators. But exactly how the "wetware" of molecular biology works remains a mystery. Dr Cardelli is trying to discover whether it is more like the hardware of electronic circuits or the software of programming languages. He is using statistical techniques—in particular, a method called stochastic pi-calculus—to model how biological systems appear to change with time.

His colleagues, meanwhile, are examining how the spread of diseases such as malaria and AIDS can be thought of as information systems. They are using what used to be called artificial intelligence and is now referred to as machine learning to explore the relationships between the two. All of which raises some interesting philosophical points. If, say, a computer were used to diagnose a patient's symptoms and recommend treatment, and the result was flawed, could the computer be held responsible? Peter Lipton of the University of Cambridge, who ponders such matters, suggests that such expert systems could indeed be held morally responsible for the consequences of their actions (although the designers of such systems would not necessarily be off the hook). If so, then it is hard to see why computers should not be recognised for good work as well. If Dr Lipton is correct, the race has now begun to see whether the first artificial scientist to win a Nobel prize is based on silicon or biological material.

Debate of science vs. soul evolves as studies continue


Some theologians embrace mounting evidence that humans aren't so separate from the rest of creation

By Cordelia Dean


Saturday, July 14, 2007

In 1950, in a letter to bishops, Pope Pius XII took up the issue of evolution. The Roman Catholic Church does not necessarily object to the study of evolution as far as it relates to physical traits, he wrote in the encyclical "Humani Generis." But he added, "Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God."

Pope John Paul II made much the same point in 1996, in a message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, an advisory group to the Vatican. Although he noted that in the intervening years evolution had become "more than a hypothesis," he added that considering the mind as emerging merely from physical phenomena was "incompatible with the truth about man."

But as evolutionary biologists and cognitive neuroscientists peer ever deeper into the brain, they are discovering more and more genes, brain structures and other physical correlates to feelings such as empathy, disgust and joy. That is, they are discovering physical bases for the feelings from which moral sense emerges — not just in people but in other animals as well.

The result is perhaps the strongest challenge yet to the worldview summed up by Descartes, the 17th-century philosopher who divided the creatures of the world between humanity and everything else. As biologists turn up evidence that animals can exhibit emotions and patterns of cognition once thought of as strictly human, Descartes's dictum, "I think, therefore I am," loses its force.

For many scientists, the evidence that moral reasoning is a result of physical traits that evolve along with everything else is just more evidence against the existence of the soul, or of a God to imbue humans with souls. For many believers, particularly in the United States, the findings show the error, even wickedness, of viewing the world in strictly material terms. And they provide for theologians a growing impetus to reconcile the existence of the soul with the growing evidence that humans are not, physically or even mentally, in a class by themselves.

The idea that human minds are the product of evolution is "unassailable fact," the journal Nature said this month in an editorial on new findings on the physical basis of moral thought. A headline on the editorial drove the point home: "With all deference to the sensibilities of religious people, the idea that man was created in the image of God can surely be put aside."

Or as V.S. Ramachandran, a brain scientist at the University of California, San Diego, put it in an interview, there may be soul in the sense of "the universal spirit of the cosmos," but the soul as it is usually spoken of, "an immaterial spirit that occupies individual brains and that only evolved in humans — all that is complete nonsense." Belief in that kind of soul "is basically superstition," he said.

For people like the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, talk of the soul is of a piece with the rest of the palaver of religious faith, which he has likened to a disease. And among evolutionary psychologists, religious faith is nothing but an evolutionary artifact, a predilection that evolved because shared belief increased group solidarity and other traits that contribute to survival and reproduction.

Nevertheless, the idea of a divinely inspired soul will not be put aside. To cite just one example, when 10 Republican presidential candidates were asked at a debate last month if there was anyone among them who did not believe in evolution, three raised their hands. One of them, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, explained later in an op-ed article in The New York Times that he did not reject all evolutionary theory. But he added, "Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order."

That is the nub of the issue, according to Nancey Murphy, a philosopher at Fuller Theological Seminary who has written widely on science, religion and the soul. Challenges to the uniqueness of humanity in creation are just as alarming as the Copernican assertion that Earth is not the center of the universe, she writes in her book "Bodies and Souls or Spirited Bodies?" (Cambridge, 2006). Just as Copernicus knocked Earth off its celestial pedestal, she said, the new findings on cognition have displaced people from their "strategic location" in creation.

Another theologian who has written widely on the issue, John F. Haught of Georgetown University, said in an interview that "for many Americans the only way to preserve the discontinuity that's implied in the notion of a soul, a distinct soul, is to deny evolution," which he said was "unfortunate."

There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the diversity and complexity of life on Earth.

For Murphy and Haught, though, people make a mistake when they assume that people can be "ensouled" only if other creatures are soulless.

"Evolutionary biology shows the transition from animal to human to be too gradual to make sense of the idea that we humans have souls while animals do not," wrote Murphy, an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. "All the human capacities once attributed to the mind or soul are now being fruitfully studied as brain processes — or, more accurately, I should say, processes involving the brain, the rest of the nervous system and other bodily systems, all interacting with the socio-cultural world."

Therefore, she writes, it is "faulty" reasoning to want to distinguish people from the rest of creation. She and Haught cite the ideas of Thomas Aquinas, the 13th-century philosopher and theologian who, Haught said, "spoke of a vegetative and animal soul along with the human soul."

Haught, who testified for the American Civil Liberties Union when it successfully challenged the teaching of intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism, in the science classrooms of Dover, Pa., said, "The way I look at it, instead of eliminating the notion of a human soul in order to make us humans fit seamlessly into the rest of nature, it's wiser to recognize that there is something analogous to soul in all living beings."

Does this mean, say, that Australopithecus afarensis, the proto-human famously exemplified by the fossil skeleton known as Lucy, had a soul? He paused and then said: "I think so, yes. I think all of our hominid ancestors were ensouled in some way, but that does not rule out the possibility that as evolution continues, the shape of the soul can vary just as it does from individual to individual."

Will this idea catch on? "It's not something you hear in the suburban pulpit," said Haught, a Roman Catholic whose book "God After Darwin" (Westview Press, 2000) is being reissued this year. "This is out of vogue in the modern world because the philosopher Descartes made such a distinction between mind and matter. He placed the whole animal world on the side of matter, which is essentially mindless."

Haught said it could be difficult to discuss the soul and evolution because it was one of many issues in which philosophical thinking was not keeping up with fast-moving science. "The theology itself is still in process," he said.

For scientists who are people of faith, like Kenneth R. Miller, a biologist at Brown University, asking about the science of the soul is pointless, in a way, because it is not a subject science can address. "It is not physical and investigateable in the world of science," he said.

"Everything we know about the biological sciences says that life is a phenomenon of physics and chemistry, and therefore the notion of some sort of spirit to animate it and give the flesh a life really doesn't fit with modern science," said Miller, a Roman Catholic whose book, "Finding Darwin's God" (Harper, 1999), explains his reconciliation of the theory of evolution with religious faith. "However, if you regard the soul as something else, as you might, say, the spiritual reflection of your individuality as a human being, then the theology of the soul it seems to me is on firm ground."

Miller, who also testified in the Dover case, said he spoke often at college campuses and elsewhere and was regularly asked, "What do you say as a scientist about the soul?" His answer, he said, is always the same: "As a scientist, I have nothing to say about the soul. It's not a scientific idea."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Turkish scientists confront creationists' theory


By Nicholas Birch in Istanbul
Published: 14 July 2007

Tensions are rising in Turkey's schools and universities as academics and scientists confront the growing influence of Islamic creationists.

"Without science, modern civilisation is impossible," says Haluk Ertan, a geneticist at Istanbul University, "and yet Turkey has become the headquarters of creationism in the Middle East." Tarkan Yavas, the public face of the Science Research Foundation (BAV), a shadowy group that has led the charge against evolutionary theory in Turkey for 15 years, boasts: "Not just the Middle East, the world."

Headed by Adnan Oktar, a university dropout turned charismatic preacher, BAV made international headlines in February when it mass-mailed its lavishly illustrated, 6kgAtlas of Creation to scientists and schools throughout western Europe. Hundreds of pages juxtapose photographs of fossils and living species, arguing the similarities disprove claims that species adapt with time. Elsewhere, belief in evolution is blamed for communism, Nazism and - under a large photograph of the World Trade Centre in flames - the 9/11 attacks.

"Hitler and Mao were Darwinists," Mr Oktar told journalists last month on a luxury boat trip arranged to answer questions about the atlas. "Darwinism is the only philosophy which values conflict."

A survey last year showed that only 25 per cent of Turks accepted evolution. In a similar survey in 2005, almost 50 per cent of science teachers said they questioned or rejected the theory. "Darwinism is dying in Turkey, thanks to us," says Mr Yavas.

That may be premature. BAV, secretive about the sources of its considerable wealth and widely accused of brainwashing its initiates, has been taken to court repeatedly in the past decade. In May, Turkey's Supreme Court opened the way for a new trial when it argued that criminal charges levelled against the group in 2005 should not have been dropped because of time constraints.

The silent war on creationism began last spring, when 700 academics took the Ministry of Education to court, calling for references to creationism in school science syllabuses since 1985 to be removed. "There are compulsory religious classes in Turkish schools as it is," says Ozgur Genc, a biologist who began organising the legal case after five schoolteachers in southern Turkey were transferred to another school for teaching evolution. The court has yet to make a decision.

Like BAV, which has organised hundreds of conferences on creationism over the past 10 years as well as a recent flurry of American-style "creation museums", opponents of creationism are taking their arguments to the Turkish people.

There have been scientific conferences in towns along the Anatolian peninsula in the past few months. One popular science magazine has devoted its last two issues to answering what it calls BAV's "charlatanry".

Nazli Somel, a former teacher writing a doctorate on Turkish creationism, says: "When the creationist movement surfaced in the early 1990s, many scientists just laughed at it. It's good to see they're taking it seriously now."

Yet, while most public figures avoid associating themselves too closely with Mr Oktar's group, more up-market versions of creationism have powerful supporters in Turkey.

The notion of intelligent design (ID), which suggests some cellular structures are too complex to have evolved naturally, is a case in point. In the United States in December 2005, a judge echoed most experts in calling it "a religious view, not a scientific theory" and blocked attempts to add it to a Pennsylvania school's syllabus.

Huseyin Celik, Turkey's Education minister, publicly supports it. "Evolutionary theory overlaps with atheism, intelligent design with belief," the former university lecturer said on Turkish television last November.

With polls showing that only 1 per cent of Turks are atheists, he added, not allowing ID into science textbooks would be tantamount to censorship.

New program pairs Bastyr naturopaths with doctors, nurses


By Sonia Krishnan

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

Group Health Cooperative and Bastyr University have begun a new partnership to bridge the divide between conventional and alternative medicine, officials announced this week.

Starting this summer, students in their final year at Bastyr University's naturopathic medicine program will have the chance to shadow Group Health doctors and nurses during patient visits.

Students will observe patients, learn how various health conditions are treated with conventional medicine, and answer questions about naturopathic alternatives, said Dr. Bill Huff, a family physician and medical director of Group Health's alternative-services division. The students will not diagnose or treat patients.

"The whole point was to develop an avenue for the two medical fields to interact," Huff said.

Students will observe practitioners for half a day for over 10 weeks, said Martha Diehl, Bastyr's naturopathic program coordinator. "The emphasis is on getting more clinical experience," she said.

Between 15 and 20 Group Health practitioners inquired about the program, and nearly a dozen have signed up so far, Huff said.

"The fact is, our patients go see naturopaths. But they don't always tell their allopathic doctor," Huff said. "This is an attempt to foster that communication. ... It's not an 'us' vs. 'them.' "

A decade ago, most conventional doctors would have balked at the idea, he said.

But that's changing. Alternative medicine has gone mainstream, due, in part, to a 1996 state law mandating health-insurance companies cover acupuncture, chiropractic visits and other therapies. (The law was challenged all the way to the state Supreme Court, which unanimously upheld the mandate in 2000.)

A 2002 study of 31,000 adults by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 55 percent used alternative therapies to complement conventional treatments.

In Western Washington, more than 70 percent of cancer patients used everything from herbal supplements and massage therapy to naturopathic doctors to enhance their health, according to a study published in 2002 by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The Group Health partnership is the latest push from Bastyr to break down barriers between the medical spheres. Treuman Katz, former CEO of Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center and now on the Bastyr board of trustees, organized a small group of Children's physicians to visit the university.

Bastyr University is one of the few accredited schools in the country offering naturopathic medical degrees. Founded in 1978, it also offers bachelor of science degrees in exercise science and wellness, health psychology, herbal sciences and nutrition.

Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or skrishnan@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

Super-fast Evolution Saves Samoa Butterfly from Extinction


Jonathan Wells: Phone home.

Evolve or die. That was the choice faced by the Hypolimnas bolina butterflies on the Samoan islands of Savaii and Upolu. Just six years ago, male butterflies of the species were almost completely gone -- wiped out by a parasite passed on by the females of the species (which themselves were not affected). With male butterflies down to just 1% of the total population, scientists thought the species was a goner. But lo and behold, something happened to change its fate. The butterflies evolved.

Within a few short generations, a genetic mutation that suppresses the killer bacteria has helped the Hypolimnas bolina butterflies bounce back to a point where male and female populations are almost equal. Now, it's unclear if the mutation occurred on its own or if it was introduced by migratory butterflies, but either way, the result is the same. The species has been saved.

Score one for natural selection.

Hominid find may fill evolutionary gap


July 11 2007 at 02:55PM

Addis Ababa - Ethiopian scientists have discovered hominid fossils dating from 3,9 million years ago in what could fill a gap in the story of evolution, they said late on Tuesday.

Yohannes Haile Selassie said the find - several complete jaws and other bones - could link two hominid species, including world famous Lucy, and shed light on a poorly known period of evolution between their existences.

"What we have sort of plugs into that gap. It gives us a better understanding of early human evolutionary history," Haile Selassie said.

"It addresses specifically a hypothesis that has been proposed which is a relationship between two early human ancestors."

Ethiopia's famous hominid skeleton Lucy, discovered in 1974 and believed to be between 3,3 and 3,6 million years old, is one of the thousands of paleontological finds in northern Ethiopia along the Great Rift Valley.

Scientists last year presented their discovery of fossils dating back to 4,1 million years ago.

The new find was dug out about 30 kilometres from where Lucy was discovered, Haile Selassie said, in Ethiopia's remote north-eastern Afar region. -


More on: Evolution, Evolutionary Biology, Biology, Charles Darwin, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology


Date: July 12, 2007

A First-principles Model Of Early Evolution

Science Daily — In a study publishing in PLoS Computational Biology, Shakhnovich et al present a new model of early biological evolution -- the first that directly relates the fitness of a population of evolving model organisms to the properties of their proteins.

Key to understanding biological evolution is an important, but elusive, connection, known as the genotype-phenotype relationship, which translates the survival of entire organisms into microscopic selection for particular advantageous genes, or protein sequences. The study of Shakhnovich et al establishes such connections by postulating that the death rate of an organism is determined by the stability of the least stable of their proteins.

The simulation of the model proceeds via random mutations, gene duplication, organism births via replication, and organism deaths.

The authors find that survival of the population is possible only after a ''Big Bang'' when a very small number of advantageous protein structures is suddenly discovered and exponential growth of the population ensues. The subsequent evolution of the Protein Universe occurs as an expansion of this small set of proteins through a duplication and divergence process that accompanies discovery of new proteins.

The model resolves one of the key mysteries of molecular evolution -- the origin of highly uneven distribution of fold family and gene family sizes in the Protein Universe. It quantitatively reproduces these distributions pointing out their origin in biased post "Big Bang'' evolutionary dynamics of discovery of new proteins. The number of genes in the evolving organisms depends on the mutation rate, demonstrating the intricate relationship between macroscopic properties of organisms -- their genome sizes -- and microscopic properties -- stabilities -- of their proteins.

The results of the study suggest a plausible comprehensive scenario of emergence and growth of the Protein Universe in early biological evolution.

Article: Zeldovich KB, Chen P, Shakhnovich BE, Shakhnovich EI (2007) A first-principles model of early evolution: Emergence of gene families, species, and preferred protein folds. PLoS Comput Biol 3(7): e139. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.0030139

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Public Library of Science.

ISU professor appeals denial of tenure



July 11, 2007

Iowa State University astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez is appealing his denial of tenure at Iowa State University to the Iowa State Board of Regents, according to information posted on The Discovery Institute Web site this morning.

Leaders at the institute have been supporters in Gonzalez's quest for tenure. The institute advocates for discussion of intelligent design in the classroom, and Gonzalez has been a proponent of intelligent design.

Gonzalez's first appeal was rejected by ISU President Gregory Geoffroy on May 31.

Gonzalez, an ISU assistant physics and astronomy professor, said he filed an appeal May 8 with Geoffroy, which asserts he fulfilled his department criteria for achieving tenure.

Supporters of Gonzalez said they think the university denied him tenure because he was promoting an unpopular idea on college campuses -- that some features of life are best explained as products of an intelligent cause, rather than natural selection or random mutation.

The chair of the physics and astronomy department has said lack of fundraising by Gonzalez was an issue in his tenure denial.

Iowa State University has sponsored $22,661 in outside grant money for Guillermo Gonzalez since July 2001, records show. In contrast, Gonzalez's peers in physics and astronomy had secured an average of $1,305,580 by the time they were granted tenure, which is essentially a life-time appointment at the university.

The origin of life in the universe


Dr.V.J.M.de Silva

DIFFERENT THEORIES: This is with reference to the article 'The Origin of Life in the Universe - A Buddhist Perspective' by Dr. Ruwan M. Jayatunge of June 29. This article is not meant to be a critique of any Buddhist doctrine, for which I have the highest regard. The writer however mentions certain facts such as the Big Bang, the 'Primordial Soup' and Evolution. It is on these that I would like to comment on.

The Big Bang - This is the currently accepted theory for the origin of the universe. As Professor Stephen Hawking has said, "Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big Bang." (Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, The Nature of Space and Time - 1996). In 1985, a conference, attended by high-ranking scientists, was held at Dallas, US, the topic of discussion being 'The Origin of the Universe'.

Speaking at that conference was Allan Rex Sandage, regarded as the greatest observational cosmologist in the world at that time. He had been a virtual atheist from his childhood. Talking of the Big Bang and its philosophical implications, he disclosed publicly that he had decided to become a Christian at the age of fifty.

Sandage told his audience that the Big Bang was a supernatural event that cannot be explained within the realms of physics as we know it. Science has taken us to the First Event, but it cannot take us further into the First Cause.

The sudden emergence of matter, space, time and energy, pointed to the need for some kind of transcendence. He said "It was my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science. It is only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence."

A hundred years ago Christians had to maintain that despite all appearances to the contrary, the universe was not eternal but created. The situation now is the exact opposite.

It is the atheists (like Bertrand Russell), who have to maintain that the universe did not have a beginning. The assumption, ever since the ancient Greeks, was that the natural world was eternal. The 20th century discovery that the universe was not an eternal unchanging entity was unanticipated.

In arguing for the existence of God, the 13th century Christian philosopher, Thomas Aquinas always pre-supposed the Aristotelian view that the universe was eternal. It was on the basis of that difficult assumption that he sought to prove that God exists.

Aquinas said that if he were to start with the premise that the universe had a beginning, his task would be too easy. If there was a beginning, something had to bring the universe into existence. The premise here is, not that everything has a cause, but that whatever begins to exist has a cause.

The origin of life

Dr. Jayatunge mentions the classic 1953 experiment of Dr. Stanley Miller and Dr. Harold Urey. They produced some amino-acids in the laboratory. It was thought that it was only a matter of time before scientists could create living organisms. But, even some fifty years later, this has not happened.

Scientists today don't believe that Miller used the correct mixture of gases, though consistent with opinion back then. (Philip H. Abelson 'Chemical Events on the Primitive Earth' - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 55 - 1966).

Science magazine said in 1995 that experts now dismiss Miller's experiment because 'the early atmosphere looked nothing like the Miller-Urey simulation' (John Cohen, 'Novel Centre Seeks to Add Spark to Origin of Life' - Science 270 - 1995).

The best hypothesis now is that the early atmosphere consisted of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water vapour. The experiment then doesn't work; but biology textbooks don't mention this. The 'life in a test-tube' experiment of Miller and Urey remains the corner-stone of the theories of the origin of life.

To form a protein, several amino-acids, perhaps one hundred, have to be joined in a particular sequence, not haphazardly, but by the correct chemical bonds. Again, creating one protein does not mean you have created life.

You have to bring together about two hundred protein molecules and assemble them, with the right functions (process energy, store information and replicate).

All this is certainly mind-boggling The idea that undirected processes could somehow be responsible for turning dead chemicals into all the complexity of living things is, as microbiologist Michael Denton, Australian molecular biologist and physician observes, "no more nor less than the great cosmogonic myth" of our time. (Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, 1986)

DNA and life

In living systems the guidance needed to assemble everything comes from DNA. Found in every living cell, whether plant or animal, it is like a microprocessor. Hand in glove with RNA it directs the correct sequencing of the amino-acids.

It does this through the biochemical instructions - that is information - encoded in the DNA. Now, where did the DNA come from? As Klaus Dose, of the Institute for Biochemistry in Mainz, Germany admitted, the difficulties of synthesizing DNA and RNA 'are at present beyond our imagination' (Klaus Dose - 'The Origin of Life: More Questions than Answers' - Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 13 - 1988).

In February 2001, world newspaper headlines announced, 'Human Genome mapped'. (Genome is the DNA sequence of an organism). The February 19, 2001 edition of The San Francisco Chronicle ran an article by Tom Abate, a science journalist.

He had met Professor Gene Myers, the computer scientist who actually put together the genome map. In the course of the interview, when asked about the possible 'origin' of the genetic code, Myers confessed, "We don't understand yet..........there's still a metaphysical, magical element..........What really astounds me is the architecture of life. The system is extremely complex. It's like it was designed."

In December 2004, at a symposium sponsored by the Institute of Metaphysical Research, Professor Anthony Flew, a prominent British philosopher, author of the book Darwinian Evolution, one of the world's best known atheists stated he has come to believe in God. The reason was the apparent impossibility of providing a naturalistic theory for the origin of the DNA of the first reproducing species.

He said, "What I think the DNA material has done is to show that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extremely diverse elements together. The enormous complexity by which these results were achieved looks like the work of intelligence."

It was once thought that life started in "warm little ponds" of the early earth. Given, as Carl Sagan says "billions and billions of years", life would emerge, as Jacques Monad says "by chance and chance alone".

At that time it was thought that the universe was infinitely old. With the Big Bang theory, it is now thought that the universe is less than 5 billion (5000 million) years old. Now, the earth spent a long time cooling down before it could support life.

How long did it take for this to happen? The cooling of the earth and the establishment of the oceans is said to have occurred 3.8 billion (3,800 million) years ago. (John Thackray - The Age of the Earth - Institute of Geological Sciences, London. 1980).

The first sign of life is represented by organisms like Archaeospheroides barbetonensis, a fossil of one of the first living organisms, dated 3.2 billion years ago. In 1980 Cyril Ponnamperuma and others, after examining the organism Isosphera, a fossil cell structure, for evidence of photosynthetic activity, announced "we have now, what we believe, strong evidence for life 3,800 million years ago."

The meaning of these discoveries is clear. If the forming of the first surface water and the first micro-organisms coming into existence occurred almost simultaneously, there was no eons of time available for the spontaneous appearance of life.

In fact Cyril Ponnamperuma and Carl Woese have suggested that life may be as old as the earth. (How Did Life Begin? - Newsweek, August 6, 1979). Life, it seems, did not wait for blind chance to roll the dice, but erupted at the first available instant, leaving Darwinists with no time at all for their probabilistic processes.

Not only is the time too short, but the mathematical odds of assembling a living organism are so astronomical that it is difficult for anyone to believe that random chance can account for the origin of life. Sir Frederick Hoyle, guru of Professor Chandra Wickremesinghe, put it nicely when he said that this scenario is like a tornado whirling through a junkyard and accidentally assembling a Boeing 747 airplane

Theory of Panspermia

This implies seeding from space. Frustrated by the seemingly insurmountable obstacles to chemical evolution on earth, some scientists have fallen back on this theory. Among these are Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickremesinghe.

Sounds bizarre, and there is no real proof for it. The biggest flaw of course in the theory is that it doesn't solve the origin-of-life problem; it just moves the problem to another location The same obstacles exist! Even if meteorites could deliver amino-acids to earth, how are they assembled to form living organisms

The report of an international conference of origin-of-life scientists reads, "Before the end of the conference's second day, researchers had to agree that extra-terrestrial delivery could not have supplied all the needed pre-biotic molecules."

Evolution and intelligent design

Evolution (neo-Darwinism) is not a theory that has been proved. It is not like physics and chemistry. However, it is presented in the news media as an accomplished fact of science and all intelligent people are supposed to accept it. It is really a highly speculative hypothesis.

In 2001, the US Public Broadcasting System ran a seven part TV series on evolution, and the spokespersons for this presentation asserted that "all known scientific evidence supports Darwinian Evolution, as does virtually every reputable scientist in the world."

In response to this, the Discovery Institute, a 'think tank' in the US, sought the opinion of reputed scientists. Over one hundred scientists from various specialities, most with doctorates from prestigious universities, responded immediately.

They said they were sceptical of what was shown on the TV series, especially its impartiality. These scientists ran a two page advertisement in The Weekly Standard of October 1, 2001.

"We are sceptical of the claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for the Darwinian Theory should be encouraged."

Since then, over 700 others have signed in, agreeing with the above.

Today, a growing number of scientists advocate the Intelligent Design theory which holds that many features of organisms are too complex to have resulted from the Darwinian mechanism of random variation and natural selection. The best rational explanation from the data is some kind of design or purpose in biology.

"The conclusion of Intelligent Design flows naturally from the data itself, not from sacred books or sectarian beliefs. The reluctance of scientists to embrace the conclusion of Intelligent Design has no justifiable foundation. Many people, including many important and well respected scientists, just do not want there to be anything beyond nature." (Michael Behe - Darwin's Black Box - 1996)

Intelligent Design allows the possibility of God, but does not specify God. Time magazine had it that Darwin murdered God. He did not. In fact Darwin himself was never a complete atheist as he himself has confessed. "I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of God." (Life and Letters - Vol.1 p.274)

The origin of life is the Achilles' heel of evolution. If the Darwinists want to keep Intelligent Design out of the picture, they should provide a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life.

Rabbi Jonathan Kendall: Are Darwin's evolution and creationism really just two sides of the same coin?


July 14, 2007

A religious body or faith community that speaks only with exclamation points but no question marks misses the complexity of creation and the beauty of evolution.

This morning I would like to tread ever so gingerly into the mine field that separates creationism and evolution. Granted, the dynamic rub between the two hardly rises to the religious hysteria that accompanies topics such as women's reproductive rights or stem cell research, but it is close enough to invite some comment.

First, I think it would be wise to identify myself as a "creationist." After all, it is my book whence the theory derives. I think it would also be fair to say that I am not a literalist — no Jews fall into that category, even at the fringes of the most messianically driven ultra-Orthodox. We may assert this is the year 5767 since the creation of humanity, but who is to say how long God's days really are or were? We are not among those who follow in lockstep toward the teachings of Bob Jones University or Liberty Baptist College and away from the great cathedrals of learning that embrace evolution as scientific fact and creationism as a matter of unempirical faith. But one might be moved to ask: are the two exact opposites, mutually exclusive, antithetical, pure enlightenment or absolute ignorance?

I believe deeply in the God who is the Creator, who moves through history, who has a covenant/partnership with humankind in the unfolding — and evolving — acts of creation. But I can't prove any of this; it is a matter of faith. And that faith is neither diminished nor clouded by science. Quite the contrary, the ability to discover, explore, postulate, experiment, learn and grow is a gift from the Holy One. Were this not so, we would still be wandering around the Garden of Eden in a stupor of obliviousness, blinded by the light of ignorance and intellectual stasis.

When we teach our children in Religious School, I am deeply committed to the notion that I don't want them to learn anything that must be re-taught at a later date. We don't want them to learn something — anything — that will be held up to ridicule as their knowledge expands and their learning opportunities become more sophisticated. This is why a soupçon of doubt lends credibility to the enterprise of religion, while incontestable assertions of correctness and theological infallibility often lead to rejection and the very loss of faith that unyielding rigidity sought to avoid.

A religious body or faith community that speaks only with only exclamation points but no question marks misses the complexity of creation and the beauty of evolution.

Would that those who can only embrace creationism might go one step further: to acknowledge that if their "take" on Genesis is correct, then we share common ancestors (which would suggest that we are all family, worthy of respect, care and consideration) and share one God (which opens the door to religious pluralism and closes it to theological arrogance).

Rabbi Kendall is the spiritual leader of Temple Beit HaYam in Stuart.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Professor: 'Religion' behind tenure dispute


Intelligent Design scientist faults university evolution ideology

Posted: July 13, 2007 1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com

A scientist who believes the theory of intelligent design helps explain life's origins is appealing to state officials to save his job at Iowa State University, where his tenure was rejected because of his "personal religious and ideological beliefs."

Guillermo Gonzalez is appealing his case to the Iowa State Board of Regents after university officials turned away his request for reconsideration.

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

Proponents of intelligent design say it draws on recent discoveries in physics, biochemistry and related disciplines that indicate some features of the natural world are best explained as the product of an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. Advocates include scientists at numerous universities and science organizations worldwide.

World magazine also reported astronomy professor Curtis Struck said he was not surprised by the denial, because Gonzales "includes some things in his astronomy resume that other people regard as taking a coincidence too far." His reference apparently was to the issue of intelligent design.

Gonzales also was targeted earlier by ISU faculty members, who in 2005 drafted a statement and petition against intelligent design in the science curriculum. It collected 120 signatures.

John West, associate director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture, where Gonzalez is a senior fellow, said the tenure denial is "clearly a result of the vicious attacks he's had to endure from Darwinists and various atheists for presenting a scientific argument for the intelligent design of the universe based on the empirical evidence from physics and astronomy."

Gonzalez, who will be out of his job at ISU after the 2007-2008 year if the decision is not changed, was rejected by officials despite his publication of 68 peer-reviewed scientific articles, nearly four times what his own department suggests as a standard for "excellence."

His articles also have the highest normalized citation count among all of the astronomers in his department, a standard used to evaluate the work of professors. And he's the author of a new college text on astronomy, "The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery."

"It should be noted Gonzalez's book does not discuss the evidence for design in biology, and thus it does not deal with Darwin's theory of evolution, but that hasn't spared Gonzalez from persecution," West said.

Gonzalez earlier issued a statement on the dispute.

"It is now clear to me that this decision, in effect, had been predetermined by August 2005, when Hector Avalos and other ISU professors began circulating a petition statement condemning Intelligent Design. At the same time, several of the same ISU faculty spread misinformation about me and the nature of my Intelligent Design research in the local press. These events poisoned the atmosphere among the faculty and administration on campus towards Intelligent Design, and, ultimately, impacted negatively on my tenure evaluation. It is unfortunate that the personal religious and ideological beliefs of some faculty have been so influential on this issue," he said.

Gonzalez' first appeal was rejected by ISU President Gregory Geoffrey, and now he is pursuing the appeal with the state board, a process which likely will take several months.

His work has been featured in the magazines Science, Nature and Scientific American, which did a cover story.

"Incredibly, ISU's President Geoffroy denied tenure to Gonzalez while approving 91 percent of those applying for tenure this year," said West. "Geoffroy even promoted to full professor one of Gonzalez's chief persecutors at ISU, atheist religion professor Hector Avaloz, who believes that the Bible is worse than Hitler's Mein Kampf."

The day after ISU's president announced his rejection of Gonzalez's first appeal, a member of ISU's department of physics and astronomy published an article in the Des Moines Register openly admitting that Gonzalez's support for intelligent design was the only reason he voted against tenure for Gonzalez.

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

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

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

Critics claim textbook adopted by board presents evolution as fact


By Darleen Principe darleenp@theacorn.com

After extensive review and consideration, the Ventura County Board of Education voted 3-1 to adopt a seventh-grade-level science textbook that critics say portrays the theory of evolution as fact and contains other questionable content.

Area 4 trustee Dean Kunicki, representing Simi Valley, Moorpark and the Santa Susana Knolls, was absent from the meeting.

Of the four trustees who were present, only Ron Matthews, who originally expressed concern about Pearson Prentice Hall's "Focus on California Life Science" during a board meeting in February, remained opposed to the textbook in the final vote.

Despite his opposition to the book, Matthews nevertheless recommended it to the board.

"Out of the other textbooks that we did review, this was the least onerous," said Matthews, who represents Oxnard and El Rio. Matthews said he'd reviewed a total of seven available state-approved texts since the board's well-publicized February meeting on the subject.

The action came four months after the original motion to approve the text was tabled because of a written objection made by San Fernando Valley resident Carl Olson, whose daughter is a student at Simi Valley High School. In February, Olson claimed that the book was inaccurate, causing the board to delay its decision.

"The publisher, Prentice Hall, has a reputation for mistakes," Olson said at last week's meeting. He and several other members of the community engaged in public comment before the board moved to vote.

"I've studied every scientific journal, and there's no proof of evolution anywhere," said Ed Rockland of Thousand Oaks. "In order to be scientific, it must be testable, supportable and disprovable."

While most of the public comment was geared toward challenging the alleged inadequacies of the book, John Gentry, a retired teacher from Ventura, said he had no objection to the text but wanted to see the other side in the debate over human existence included.

"Let it be there, but put in the other side too," Gentry said. "Are we trying to educate students on this subject or inculcate them?"

Gentry's comment was in keeping with a Discovery Institute video presentation that followed public comment.

The video, which described the potential problems of Darwinism and detailed fossil evidence, also addressed whether or not high school students have the ability to critically analyze controversial subjects such as evolution in the educational forum.

"It's amazing what schools keep from students," said trustee Chris Valenzano, who motioned to adopt the book under the condition that the board communicate with state officials to improve science education.

When Valenzano's first motion died for lack of a second, Marty Bates, county school board president, emphasized the board's need to make a final decision on the matter.

The trustees considered several options, including supplementing the text, offering online resources, providing further training for faculty or refusing to adopt the book altogether.

Valenzano argued it was important to adopt the book despite its take on evolution in order to remain in compliance with state law. The adoption would also prevent the board from putting students at a disadvantage by withholding information they would potentially need for standardized tests, he said.

To be compliant with state law, as directed by Williams v. State of California, the county board is responsible for adopting an updated textbook within 24 months of state approval, said Sandra Shackelford, associate superintendent of educational services.

According to Larry Dunn of the California Board of Education, "Focus on California Life Science," copyright 2008, was approved by the state in November 2006 and will remain on the state-approved curriculum at least until 2012.

Before taking a second vote, Bates appointed trustee Mary Louise Peterson to a committee that would seek assistance from both the California county boards of education and the California state board of education in expanding the science curriculum.

After assuring the public that adoption of the textbook would not deter the board from moving forward with addressing the state, Valenzano renewed his motion, which was seconded by Bates. The trustee asked that communicating with Sacramento regarding this issue be put on a future agenda item.

Behe Responds to Miller's Review of Edge of Evolution in Nature


Michael Behe's new book, The Edge of Evolution, continues to garner attention. Not surprisingly, Darwinists are not making the same mistake they made with Darwin's Black Box, only now they are working overtime to ensure EoE suffers crib death. They simply can't afford for another Behe book to get any traction. So, Behe is having to work overtime as well, responding to his critics. Today he has the first of two responses to a recent review in Nature magazine by Ken Miller. His full Amazon author's page has all of his responses thus far to Jerry Coyne, Sean Carroll, and Michael Ruse, as well as answers to some common questions about the book.

Posted by Robert Crowther on July 12, 2007 7:51 AM | Permalink

American Taliban on the warpath against evolution


In Pakistan, the bloody battle between the government and the Taliban wannabes holed up in the Lal Masjid "Red Mosque" is over, with hundreds dead, including Maulana Abdul Ghazi, one of the two brothers who mobilized radical students to push for Islamic revolution. But the aftermath is tense. Will President Musharraf's decision to crack down inflame tensions between the fundamentalists and the state, or convince the jihadis that martyrdom is overrated? The importance of the question can hardly be overstated. Pakistan has the bomb.

Meanwhile, in Boulder, Colo., a home-grown jihadi is terrorizing the University of Colorado at Boulder's ecology and evolutionary biology department. The Denver Post reported on Tuesday that "police are investigating a series of threatening messages and documents e-mailed to and slipped under the door of evolutionary biology labs on the Boulder campus." At the Panda's Thumb, a blog devoted to critiquing the "claims of anti evolutionism," excerpts of e-mails sent by the perpetrator to CU-Boulder faculty members display an unrestrained eagerness for escalating the ever popular with Christian fundamentalists creationism-evolution debate into an out-and-out holy war.

One recent e-mail, which may have attracted the attention of the police, reportedly reads as follows:

"Pastor Jerry Gibson spoke at Doug White's New Day Covenant Church in Boulder.

He said that every true Christian should be ready and willing to take up arms to kill the enemies of Christian society.

But I believe it is far more effective to take up a pen to kill the enemies of Truth.

President GW Bush II [sic] is waging a global war on terror. But it seems he has overlooked the terrorists operating in our own backyard!

He likes to say "God Bless America," and our Pledge of Allegiance says "One Nation Under God." And of course our Federal Reserve issued money says "In God We Trust."

But the EBIO [now EEB] Department at CU Boulder denies a Creator God and claims that life evolved from inanimate matter without Divine Direction, Oversight, or Providence.

Many scientists today have denounced Darwinian theories as bogus science. Yet the EBIO department upholds it as the Gospel truth and hides itself in a false cloak of intellectual arrogance. www.scienceagainstevolution.org

Academic freedom does not include the right to lie, obfuscate, and prevaricate. Yet this is exactly what these arrogant atheist professors do in the name of "higher education"!

EBIO professors are terrorists against America and against the true spirit of humanity, which consists of created beings beholden to their Creator!

EBIO Professors are also intellectual and spiritual child abusers of their young and impressionable students.

In addition, the New Testament states clearly that Adam and Eve were our original parents and that Noah's Flood was an historical reality. So the EBIO department not only blasphemes God, who is invisible, but it blasphemes His Only Begotten Son and our Messiah, Jesus Christ, which is more unforgivable given the clear manifestations of His Godliness and Holiness and the confirmation of all He claimed to be through His historic Resurrection from the dead!

For all these reason all God-fearing and Truth-loving persons must say,

"They must go!"

Back in Pakistan, the Ghazi brothers rallied the faithful against Western decadence, which may or may not include evolutionary theory, I'm not sure. From a Telegraph report in May:

"Our youths will shake their palaces with their suicide attacks," said Maulana (Father) Aziz in a sermon delivered to thousands of his followers at Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in central Islamabad.

"The government has been saying that an operation against us is the last option, I want to tell the government that suicide attacks are our last option," said Maulana Aziz.

"Yes, Yes, Allah-o-Akbar," the worshippers shouted when the cleric asked them if they were ready to sacrifice their lives....

Outside the mosque a bonfire of thousands of video and audio cassettes and CDs, which included "Home Alone 4" and "Free Willy," was set alight as onlookers chanted "our way is jihad, jihad".

"This is porno material and blue films. This is destroying our society," said Maulana Ghazi, Aziz's brother.

Take your pick: Darwinism or "Free Willy."

And sure, How the World Works will concede that the rantings of what appears to be one unbalanced crusader in Boulder, Colo., do not equate evenly with the threat to civil society and South Asian geopolitical stability represented by Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan.


-- Andrew Leonard

Permalink [14:59 EST, July 12, 2007]

Teach the controversy


July 21, 2007

Two years after Intelligent Design advocates lost a key court battle, some biology classrooms and ID supporters are finding a balanced approach to evolution that—so far—is lawsuit-proof | Mark Bergin

For 15 years Doug Cowan has taught the scientific evidence for and against Darwinism to biology students at Curtis High, a large public school several miles southwest of Tacoma, Wash. Over that time, the popular teacher and athletic coach has drawn periodic criticisms from community activists and local media. But he has faced no lawsuits and never worried over losing his job.

Students in Cowan's classes praise his balanced presentation. And parents rarely, if ever, raise objections. "I haven't heard a thing," he told WORLD. "Parents think it's really neat that I'm allowing kids to weigh the evidence from both sides and make their own informed conclusions."

Throughout the country, many other attempts to teach evolution critically have faced stiff opposition. Educators and school board members have lost legal battles and even their jobs. What makes Cowan so different?

"I don't teach alternative theories, because that's not part of the curriculum," he explained. "There aren't a whole lot of alternative theories other than design theory, but that's not in our curriculum. So unless a kid asks specifically about it, I don't deal with it."

Instead, Cowan deals more thoroughly with Darwinism than most existing biology textbooks, adding reading materials from outside the standard evolutionary syllabus: Darwin on Trial, Icons of Evolution, Darwin's Black Box, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Cowan says these extra texts engage his students, challenging their ability to analyze and discern truth from competing sides of a controversial issue.

This fall, the 34-year teaching veteran will restructure his evenhanded presentation around a new textbook from the Seattle-based Discovery Institute. Explore Evolution: The Arguments for and Against Neo-Darwinism (Hill House Publishers, 2007) does not address alternative theories of origins but succinctly lays out the scientific strengths and weaknesses of the most critical elements of Darwinism. "It's made my work a lot easier," Cowan said.

Explore Evolution encapsulates a "teach the controversy" paradigm that the Discovery Institute has advocated for the better part of the past decade. Over that time, the institute has advised school boards against the inclusion of Intelligent Design in their science standards. Some boards have heeded that counsel; others have not.

In 2005, a now famous board in Dover, Pa., attempted to mandate the inclusion of ID in ninth-grade biology classes. Backed by the ACLU, parents sued and won a landmark decision in which a federal judge ruled that ID was religion, not science. The shockwaves of that decision reverberated nationwide and have quieted other efforts to push ID into schools.

But the Dover lawsuit also highlighted the effectiveness of the Discovery Institute's approach. State school boards in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, New Mexico, and Minnesota along with local boards in Wisconsin and Louisiana have adopted science standards that encourage critical analysis of Darwinian Theory. To date, not a single lawsuit has challenged such standards.

"This is an approach that if I were a Darwinist I would be particularly frightened of," said John West, associate director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. "The policy that we've recommended turns out to be the precise common-ground approach we said it would be. It reduces the decibel level; you don't get sued; you get good education; and the Darwinists don't have a leg to stand on."

In the wake of the Dover ruling, many committed Darwinists declared victory for an uncritical approach to teaching evolution. But, in fact, the ruling has worked to galvanize a previously disjointed movement. Whereas many teachers and school boards might previously have shunned the "teach the controversy" strategy in favor of the more bold step of introducing ID, those groups and individuals are now more willing to listen.

John Calvert, managing director of IDnet, praises Explore Evolution as "enormously important." Since 2005, his organization has focused its efforts on bringing critical analysis of evolution into classrooms, not ID.

In past years, groups like IDnet might have rallied around another new textbook scheduled for publication this fall: The Design of Life, a rewrite of the ID-advancing classic Of Pandas and People. Like Explore Evolution, this 360-page text presents the scientific weaknesses of Darwinism, but it also goes further in outlining the case for ID. Authors William Dembski and Jonathan Wells lay out such noted design arguments as irreducible complexity and specified complexity.

The Design of Life publisher Jon Buell, president of the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, has no illusions of his textbook cracking public-school curriculums in the wake of the Dover ruling. "Our book, we fully expect to be taught in university courses," he said. "We will not market to public schools."

Prior to the Dover case, Of Pandas and People broke into public biology classrooms in 22 states over its two-decade run. Now, Explore Evolution offers the latest real hope for a text critical of Darwin to repeat such success. West told WORLD that one state school board has already expressed interest in using the new textbook, though discussions remain in the preliminary stages.

"We expect a lot of teachers to use it, including public-school teachers, to help them teach evolution better," he said. "In fact, we already know some of those where the school may not be purchasing 30 copies, but the teacher is using it to build their lesson plan."

Despite not mentioning ID, Explore Evolution has received sharp criticism from the Discovery Institute's usual opponents. PZ Myers, a biology professor at the University of Minnesota Morris, and author of the highly popular Darwinist blog Pharyngula, rails against the text as "a dirty, dishonest book in a slick package."

In a cursory review of the 159-page volume, Myers charges that it fails to represent the case for Darwinism accurately and presents complex subjects superficially: "The biology part is shallow, useless, and often wrong, and the critiques are basically just warmed over creationist arguments."

Similarly, writers on the influential evolution blog The Panda's Thumb have dismissed Explore Evolution as a "creationist textbook" that seeks to hide its true enterprise of "religious apologetics."

Most of the book's five authors are not unfamiliar with such charges. Stephen Meyer, Scott Minnich, and Paul Nelson are fellows of the Discovery Institute and well-known advocates for ID. Ralph Seelke, a professor of microbiology at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, is an outspoken critic of Darwinism. The fifth contributor, Jonathan Moneymaker, provided technical writing assistance.

Without a Darwinist representative, that panel has drawn predictable questions as to the textbook's objectivity. How can skeptics of Darwinism be trusted to represent faithfully the strongest evidence for a theory they oppose?

But Explore Evolution does not purport to provide comprehensive outlines of Darwinian arguments, leaving that up to most every other biology textbook on the market. The preface to this new text explains that its summary accounts of the case for Darwinism are meant to recap briefly what students have already learned elsewhere. The focus of the book is to present new information as to why the theory of evolution remains scientifically controversial.

Though supportive, IDnet director Calvert does not share the Discovery Institute's optimism that this new textbook and the approach it embodies will significantly dent the uncritical Darwinist dogma currently taught in most public schools. In February, he emerged from a long political battle in Kansas where attempts to mandate the critical analysis of evolution fell short.

Opponents of the new Kansas science standards argued that any criticism of Darwinism amounts to thinly veiled ID, which according to the Dover ruling amounts to thinly veiled religion. The state school board agreed, effectively determining that any scientific challenge to Darwinian evolution violates the Constitution's Establishment Clause.

That blow to the "teach the controversy" approach has left Calvert skeptical: "I don't think the Discovery Institute's textbook is going to have any traction until we get the Dover court decision reversed. Until we get a legal decision on our side, things will keep getting worse."

Doug Cowan disagrees: "The schools want to have critically thinking kids. And you can't be a critical thinker if you hear only one side of the story."

Copyright © 2007 WORLD Magazine
July 21, 2007, Vol. 22, No. 26

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Another Way to Defeat the ID = Creationism Meme


Darwinian logic often contends that because a given proportion of ID proponents are creationists, ID must therefore be creationism. It's a twist on the genetic fallacy, one I like to call the Darwinist "Genesis Genetic Argument." As noted, it implies that each and every argument made by a creationist must be equivalent to arguing for full-blooded creationism. This fallacious argument is easy to defeat on logical grounds by pointing out that some ID proponents are not creationists, and in fact have been persuaded to support ID in the absence of religion. Thus something other than creationism or religion must be fundamental to the set of views underlying ID (big hint: it's the scientific data indicating real design in nature)!

Michael Egnor recently observed that William Provine and Gregory Graffin have published the results a poll which provides a poignant rhetorical rebuttal to the Darwinian "Genesis Genetic Argument." Provine and Graffin (both evolutionary biologists) surveyed 149 evolutionary biologists and found that 78% were "pure naturalists," and strikingly, "[o]nly two out of 149 described themselves as full theists."

So the next time a Darwinist tries to tell you that ID is creationism because some percentage of ID proponents are creationists, you can remind them that polls indicate that the vast majority of evolutionary biologists are atheists who reject traditional theism. By the logic of the Darwinist "Genesis Genetic Argument," evolutionary biology would be equivalent to "pure naturalism." Of course, that logic is false, which is why ID is not creationism any more than evolutionary biology is atheism.

Posted by Casey Luskin on July 10, 2007 12:46 AM | Permalink

Herbs as an alternative to healing


Originally published July 10, 2007

By Jamie Bussey News-Post Staff

FREDERICK -- Allergies got you down? Fighting a re-occurring cold? Suffering from chronic back pain? Everyone has an ailment, but in the last few years people are turning to more than doctors for help -- they are turning to nature and, more specifically, to herbs.

"I definitely think the trend is moving more to the natural," said Tonya Nickerson, wellness manager for The Common Market. "People are tired of not knowing what's wrong with them and they want to understand and play a more active role in their well-being."

Debbie Rippeon is a client of New Market herbalist Liz Bartlett. Rippeon discovered medicinal herbs after many failed attempts to stop her hot flashes.

"I had tried several standard types of medications in order to battle hot flashes ... and was at the end of the rope," she said.

After Bartlett gave what Rippeon said was the most thorough medical history evaluation she has ever had done, Rippeon was told to try Estrologic, an all-natural herb supplement. After four weeks of taking it, Rippeon said she was symptom-free.

"As a society we have become too dependent on that quick fix. I am not saying there isn't a place for conventional medicine in society, but it could be a good working relationship if administered correctly," Rippeon said.

Kat Smith is a patient of Ryan Diener, the co-founder of the Health Holistic Association, and she uses Chinese herbs to help with anxiety and infertility.

Smith began seeing Diener in April 2006 after hearing about him from a friend. She began receiving acupuncture and Diener recommended some Chinese herbs for hormonal balance and anxiety.

"I have been taking them for a year and I can definitely tell a difference," she said.

Prior to taking the herbs, Smith had taken prescription drugs, including Zoloft and Paxil, but said nothing worked. Now she has no more palpitations caused by anxiety and feels calmer.

"I think people are becoming more educated and learning more and ... looking more to holistic approaches," she said.

Recent studies

Herbs have been around for 3,000 to 5,000 years, according to Diener, so why the public interest now?

Western culture is based on the mind-set of a scientific approach, Diener said. That means in order for something to have credibility, there should be research and studies available to prove it, and until recently very few studies had been done on the medicinal use of herbs, according to Deiner.

In October of 1991, U.S. Congress passed legislation that provided $2 million in funding to establish an office within the National Institutes of Health "to investigate and evaluate promising unconventional medical practices," according the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) website. Seven years later, NCCAM was established and today "is dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science."

NCCAM has conducted extensive research on the use of alternative medicine, including information on the use of specific herbs, from aloe vera to echinacea.

NCCAM is not the only research source for alternative medicine. According to Nickerson, the Herbal Gram, sponsored by the American Botanical Counsel, releases a quarterly magazine containing research on herbs. Furthermore, schools have also been set up to help others study medicinal herbs and become herbalists.

Schooling in herbs

Bartlett graduated last year from the Tai Sophia Institute for the Healing Arts, located in Laurel. The institute, founded in 1975, is a graduate program that focuses on "reuniting the science of medicine and the art of healing" by integrating Eastern tradition and Western philosophy, according to the school's website.

Bartlett now holds a master's in science herbalist from Tai Sophia and has been seeing clients for two years.

"We (herbalists) don't treat or diagnose disease. We try to support healthier living, and as a result it corrects a lot of problems," Bartlett said.

When Bartlett works with a client, she determines what herbs to give him or her on a case by case basis, based on medical history, lifestyle and genetics. Bartlett also makes sure a client takes the correct amount of herbs.

"Vitamins and herbs get a bad wrap because people are self-medicating and taking too much, which can cause high toxcity," Diener said. Therefore, it is important to not only research herbs, but also consult someone when possible, he said.

"(It's) important to know what you're talking about when you start taking these things."

Bartlett agreed, stating there is a fear of herbs among some people who are not sure what it is and how it will interact with other medications one might be taking.

But "herbs have a lot to offer people in terms of health," she said.

Secret Scientology letter war exposed


By Joe Hildebrand
July 12, 2007 01:00am

SCIENTOLOGISTS have been bombarding NSW MPs with letters urging them not to make psychiatric drugs more available as part of an orchestrated campaign to stamp out their use.

But not one of more than 120 letters obtained by the Daily Telegraph identifies the author as a Scientologist despite many coming from its inner-west offices.

The move has raised serious concerns about religious groups or cults lobbying governments and politicians for a change in the law without identifying their links.

The practice has particular resonance after revelations a young woman who allegedly killed her sister and father and critically wounded her mother after her parents denied her access to psychiatric medication.

Several letters, under different names, come from the same address in Five Dock, listed on several websites as the "Inner West Mission" of the Church of Scientology.

The Australian Medical Association said if the individuals were writing on behalf of a religious organisation or as a result of their religious beliefs they ought to disclose that.

Mental Health Minister Paul Lynch said Scientologist representations could not outweigh expert evidence and opinion.

Forrest and Gross on "Biochemistry by design"


Writing in Trends in Biochemical Sciences (subscription required; 2007; 32 [7]: 322-331), Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross take the case against "intelligent design" to biochemists. Forrest and Gross are the authors of the definitive exposé of the "intelligent design" movement's so-called Wedge strategy, Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design -- now available in paperback (Oxford University Press, 2007) with a new chapter on Kitzmiller v. Dover, in which Forrest, a member of NCSE's board of directors, was a pivotal expert witness for the plaintiffs. The abstract of their article:

Creationists are attempting to use biochemistry to win acceptance for their doctrine in the public mind and especially in state-funded schools. Biochemist Michael Behe is a major figure in this effort. His contention that certain cellular structures and biochemical processes -- bacterial flagella, the blood-clotting cascade and the vertebrate immune system -- cannot be the products of evolution has generated vigorous opposition from fellow scientists, many of whom have refuted Behe's claims. Yet, despite these refutations and a decisive defeat in a US federal court case, Behe and his associates at the Discovery Institute continue to cultivate American supporters. They are also stepping up their efforts abroad and, worryingly, have achieved some success. Should biochemists (and other scientists) be concerned? We think they should be.

Although Forrest and Gross survey Behe's involvement with creationism from before his book Darwin's Black Box to the aftermath of the Kitzmiller trial, Behe's new book The Edge of Evolution -- which has already taken a pounding in review after review after review -- is not discussed in the article. But Forrest and Gross in effect already saw it on the horizon, for in their concluding paragraph, they write, "If there is a single most important lesson for scientists and concerned citizens, it is that creationists never give up. They merely change their strategy with each defeat, necessitating corresponding adjustments and constant vigilance by their opponents."

July 11, 2007

Evolutionary biology labs at University of Colorado threatened


Mike LaSalle

July 11, 2007 at 9:50 am

On Friday, anonymous threats were sent to the evolutionary biology labs at the University of Colorado at Boulder by email and workers returned to their labs Monday morning to find threatening messages slipped under their doors. The threats mention a group affiliated with creationism, but police did not release the name of the group as it is still investigating if the threats were sent by them.

Currently, the University of Colorado police are not providing further details as they investigate the threats. Police have in the meantime increased patrols around the campus and threatened buildings.

Although the United States has had vigorous debate over the Creation-evolution controversy until now there have been no serious violent incidents, aside from an attack on Paul Mirecki, a professor at the University of Kansas, in 2005.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Try a little reiki


Alternative medicine for furballs with issues
By Meredith Broussard
For The Inquirer

Harlow Whitleigh spends her days gazing out the window of her Fishtown townhouse, eating bonbons and lounging with her best friend, a Yorkshire terrier named Rosco.

Harlow also barks. A small white bichon frise/poodle hybrid, she barks at cars, at the letter carrier, at birds, at customers coming to nearby Johnny Brenda's tavern, and at anyone walking by on the street.

Jeniphur Whitleigh and Michael Pasquarello, who own Harlow and the Loft District's Cafe Lift, have learned to live with Harlow's high-pitched ways. But when Kimberly Fleisher, the director of the Reiki School & Clinic on South Street, offered to try to reduce Harlow's anxiety with a session of reiki, the restaurateurs were happy to see if the Japanese healing method would calm Harlow down.

"She's always been very anxious. She's overanxious about everything," Pasquarello says, as Harlow races back and forth across the living room in a frenzy, jumping on and off the black leather couch.

In a reiki session, the practitioner lays hands on or above the patient in order to direct "ki," a life-force energy, at the area of difficulty and restore proper energy flow and balance. People use reiki as a complementary therapy to treat numerous conditions, including stress, anxiety, chronic pain, and the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

Now reiki for pets is catching on. Just as increasing numbers of pet owners have sought out conventional therapies, such as antidepressants and antianxiety drugs, to treat pet-behavior problems, many are turning to alternative medicine for their pets.

Twenty-one percent of pet owners have used some form of complementary medicine on their pets, according to the American Animal Hospital Association's 2003 National Pet Owner Survey. That's up from the 1996 survey, in which only 6 percent of pet owners said they had used alternative therapies on their pets.

Statistics on the number of pets receiving reiki are not available, though Fleisher reports that the number of requests at the Reiki School & Clinic has increased steadily in the last year. The school offers reiki sessions for $40 in the animal's home, where the pet will be most comfortable.

Harlow's reiki session starts slowly. She perches on her owner's lap, her body tensed and taut, snout thrust out in an anxious pose. Fleisher ignores Harlow at first, instead chatting with the dog's owners and petting Rosco.

It's clear why people turn to Fleisher for stress reduction: With her short dark hair and the erect carriage of the serious yoga-trained, the diminutive 31-year-old radiates a sense of calm.

"If there was one thing that you would want to happen as a result of the reiki, what would it be?" she asks.

"We don't want her to be a different dog. She's our dog, and we love her. But for her own sake, I'd like her to calm down a little bit," Pasquarello says.

Still chatting, Fleisher sits on the floor. Harlow tentatively walks over to sniff her, then dashes across the room, scoots back to hop up on the couch behind Fleisher and buzzes from end to end briefly; Rosco climbs on the couch, too, and the dogs begin to wrestle.

Fleisher often works with terminally ill pets - reiki helps the process of letting go, she says - and often comforts the pet and its owner. One of Fleisher's students, reiki master and health educator Sandi Herman, specializes in pet reiki and animal-bereavement counseling.

Herman has eight cats, all of whom love reiki. "My cats usually know it's reiki time. When I'm working on one, everybody else comes over," says Herman, a Bella Vista resident. "They yawn and get really relaxed."

Stressful events such as veterinarian visits, moving, or the introduction of a new pet to the household are often mentioned as reasons that pet owners seek out reiki to relax their pets.

"Animals are closer to nature than we are. They don't wear clothes; they wear their own fur. They're more in tune with energy and nature," says Bette Hanson, who, along with Chic Petique owner Lindsay Conderfer, organizes Philadelphia's annual Natural Pet Expo.

Hanson learned about complementary and alternative medical treatments from the Animal Healing Center in Yardley, which also offers pet reiki. Her dog, Sascha, receives a number of holistic therapies for chronic health problems; she received reiki from Fleisher recently during an informal visit.

"Sascha lay down on her side; it was very natural. She was almost asking for it to be done," Hanson says. The next day, she says, Sascha seemed relaxed - much like a person might the day after a massage.

As with many complementary and alternative medicine treatments, there is controversy over reiki's benefits. "Not every patient is going to respond to every treatment. Make sure it's the right thing for your pet," suggests Christina Fuoco, a veterinarian at Queen Village Animal Hospital. "Every pet is different, so speak to your veterinarian about pursuing complementary medicine."

Owners may want to also want to ask their vet if there are any problems that can result from using reiki to treat a pet, especially in the case of serious illness.

Anyone can perform reiki after taking a class, though there are three levels of training; the highest level, which Fleisher holds, is reiki master.

During Harlow's reiki session, Fleisher and Harlow spend some time sitting alone in the living room. Fleisher waits patiently for Harlow to calm down and sit near her. When Harlow pauses, Fleisher reaches over and starts scratching the dog above her right front leg. The dog is instantly blissful; she lifts her chin for more attention, then sits up on her hind legs, offering her belly to be scratched.

Fleisher centers herself briefly, putting her palms together and closing her eyes. To administer the reiki, Fleisher holds Harlow in her lap and cups her hand over the dog's head, passing it back and forth about two inches above Harlow's curly white mop. Fleisher centers most of her attention on Harlow's head; the dog seems to be asking for the reiki there, Fleisher says, as well as on a spot low on her spine.

When her owners return, Harlow greets them leisurely - none of the frantic barking or jumping seen earlier. The dog's face is relaxed, her tongue hanging out, her ears droopy.

"She's warm," Whitleigh comments as she scoops up the dog at the end of the session. Reiki practitioners report that their hands become extremely warm during sessions - Fleisher recalls doing reiki on a fish once, and her hands left sweaty prints on the bowl when she was done.

As Fleisher prepares to leave, Harlow is significantly calmer. She ambles off to take a nap. Is it the reiki, or has she calmed down due to familiarity with the visitor? Hard to say.

But one thing is clear: she isn't barking.

Meredith Broussard is the editor of an anthology, "The Encyclopedia of Exes." Her Web site is www.failedrelationships.com.