NTS LogoSkeptical News for 22 September 2007

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Prof. Ken Miller: life as science's media darling

http://media.www.browndailyherald.com/media/storage/paper472/news/2007/09/19/CampusNews/Prof-Ken.Miller.Life.As.Sciences.Media.Darling-2977311.shtml

Chaz Firestone

Issue date: 9/19/07 Section: Campus News

Ken Miller '70 P'02 is a professor of biology at Brown and a nationally-recognized expert on evolution, having testified in the controversial 2005 trial, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, involving the teaching of intelligent design in public schools in Pennsylvania.

He has written numerous scientific articles on plant cells, a best-selling high school textbook and is the author of "Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution." He is currently on sabbatical and plans to release a new book entitled "Devil in the Details: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul."

Herald: You recently spoke about science, religion and evolution at Wake Forest University's opening convocation. What did you tell the incoming freshmen?

Miller:At the present time in the United States, the teaching of biology, incredibly, has become a controversial subject. Political science, history - I understand that, but I don't think of science as being controversial. I gave the students some of the backdrop to that controversy. About two years ago, there was a federal trial on this issue in the small town of Dover, Pa. The Dover school board had instructed the teachers to prepare a curriculum on intelligent design, but the teachers - at the risk of being fired - had refused. So, the school board drafted a four-paragraph intelligent design lesson and had the superintendent go into the classroom and read this to the students while the teachers stood outside in the hallway. Eleven parents in that district filed a lawsuit, and I was the lead witness at the trial.

What I did was to basically explain to the students at Wake Forest what was involved in the trial, what the issue was. One of the things that happened was that the scientific case - if there ever was one - for this thing called "intelligent design" just collapsed, literally fell apart. It also became clear that intelligent design is just a re-labeling of what used to be called "creationism" or "creation science." That was pretty easy to show, because the textbook on intelligent design that the school board had purchased for the students had actually been produced by a publisher that took a textbook on creationism, and wherever the word "creator" or "creationism" appeared, they just pasted the word "design" or "designer" on top of it.

In your book, "Finding Darwin's God," you put forth the idea that science and religion are compatible and even complementary. How so?

Let's ask a question that people in science don't generally ask: "Why does science work? Why can we figure anything out?" Einstein once said the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. It's a typical Einsteinian statement in that it has many layers of meaning, but why should the universe be organized in a regular way that enables us to do science and allows us to make sense of it? I think one way to look at and understand that is to say that the universe behaves in what we might call a rational way because there is reason behind it. And if you're a believer, if you're a theist, the source of that reason ultimately is the creator - it's God. God is the ultimate explanation for why reality is the way it is, and what makes science possible.

The other thing is there has been a long tradition of scientific inquiry within the Abrahamic religions - Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The notion in all of these religions is that we were given free will and intelligence to do God's will, but also to use that intelligence to understand the world around us. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the greatest scientific nations in the world were the states of the Muslim Caliphate in Northern Africa. These are the guys who were inventing algebra, figuring out the biochemistry of fermentation - the word "alcohol" is an Arabic word - and drawing the best astronomical charts in the world. They saw all of this as fitting within a religious context.

How, then, have you arrived at Catholicism, with its specific traditions and beliefs?

The short answer is that I was brought up and raised a Catholic, so I understand Catholicism.

That doesn't mean I've considered myself that way for my whole life. There were a couple times in my life where I just sort of walked away from the Church. But what I find within my particular sect of Roman Catholicism is a respect for the intellectual traditions of science.

What I often have a difficult time explaining to people is why I'm a Catholic and not a Baptist or a Unitarian or a Jew. The first thing I would say is that there is absolutely nothing in science that points me to being a Catholic, or even a Christian. But what I will say is I think that all people who profess a religious faith have first of all the duty to be modest about their own understanding. Any person who is religious and has really thought seriously about the idea of God has got to be overwhelmed by its incomprehensibility. And if you're overwhelmed by the incomprehensibility of something, then I think you automatically respect the efforts of other people to grasp the same thing, even if they come down with slightly different conclusions. I practice the faith I do because it makes intellectual and emotional sense to me and because it helps me to order my life and understand the world.

How do you achieve a balance between your national work and what you do at Brown? Do you envision yourself taking a break from one to focus more on the other?

I've always been interested in research and teaching. A few years ago, when I started to write textbooks, I began to think of that as an alternate kind of teaching. What I mean by that is when I teach my cell biology class, I might reach 50 students, when I teach the intro bio class I might reach 400 students, but when I write a high school textbook I can - without exaggeration - reach millions of students. So I regard all of this as kind of the same activity.

Travelling, speaking and even doing strange things like appearing on television do take time away from other professional activities. You have to ask yourself, "Do these things do any good for the scientific enterprise as a whole?" I think the answer to that is really simple: If those of us in the scientific community decide we aren't going to venture into the public square and make ourselves available for public talks and interviews and going on TV shows, saying that all that is beneath us, that vacuum in the public square will be filled by people whom most of us regard as the enemies of science. I think everybody in the scientific community has an obligation to bring science to that public square and to make their work understandable to the general public. And I've received a tremendous amount of support from my scientific colleagues here at Brown and in the rest of the scientific community for doing exactly what I'm doing.

What projects are you working on right now?

I'm on sabbatical leave this year, so I'm not teaching. If my leave is successful, by a year from now I will have finished three books. When I come back, I'll go back into my lab and do some research on plant cell walls and plant cell membranes.

As if college students weren't enamored of you enough, you appeared on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" last year. How has the "Colbert bump" been for you?

I don't know if this is a sad commentary on the state of American higher education, but nothing I've ever done in my whole scientific career has gained me as much credibility among my students as appearing on "The Colbert Report." There's no question that one of the reasons I've literally been flooded with lecture and seminar invitations all over the country is because people have seen the segment or heard about it and thought, "Here's somebody who can go nose-to-nose with Stephen Colbert."

My phone hasn't stopped ringing.

Root and Branch

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20071008/hacking

by IAN HACKING

[from the October 8, 2007 issue]

First the bright side. The anti-Darwin movement has racked up one astounding achievement. It has made a significant proportion of American parents care about what their children are taught in school. And this is not a question of sex or salacious novels; the parents want their children to be taught the truth. None of your fancy literary high jinks here, with truth being "relative." No, this is about the real McCoy.

According to a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted this year, more than half of Americans believe God created the first human beings less than 10,000 years ago. Why should they pay for schools that teach the opposite? These people have a definite and distinct idea in mind. Most of the other half of the population would be hard-pressed to say anything clear or coherent about the idea of evolution that they support, but they do want children to learn what biologists have found out about life on earth. Both sides want children to learn the truth, as best as it is known today.

The debate about who decides what gets taught is fascinating, albeit excruciating for those who have to defend the schools against bunkum. Democracy, as Plato keenly observed, is a pain for those who know better. The public debate about evolution itself, as opposed to whether to teach it, is something else. It is boring, demeaning and insufferably dull.

The arguments that Darwin painstakingly presented in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859) were revolutionary in their day. They continue to astonish and perplex; never take them for granted. Unfortunately, anti-Darwinism keeps playing minor variations on the same negative themes and adds nothing to our understanding of life. Many scientists who are upset by the ongoing lobbying insist that it is bad science or pseudo-science. Living With Darwin, Philip Kitcher's brief and cogent manifesto, very rightly disagrees. Anti-Darwinism is, he says, dead science, recapitulating old stuff long abandoned. I prefer to call it degenerating.

I take the word from Imre Lakatos, a philosopher of science who liked to flaunt the aphorisms "Every theory is born refuted" and "Every theory wallows in a sea of anomalies." Both exaggerations have been true of evolutionary theories from the word go, but evolution has gone from strength to strength. Lakatos was a great rationalist, but following his hero Karl Popper, he did not think that theories are good when they are established as true. His unit of evaluation was the research program rather than the theory. A rational program is, he said, "progressive" in that it constantly reacts to counterexamples and difficulties by producing new theories that overcome old hurdles. When challenged it does not withdraw into some safe corner but explains new difficulties with an even riskier, richer and bolder story about nature. Degenerate programs paint themselves into smaller and smaller corners, skirting problems they'd prefer not to face. They seldom or never have a new, positive explanation of anything. In short, they teach us nothing.

There is no one philosophy of science that fully accounts for the evolving body of practices we call the sciences. I would not want to apply Lakatos's model indiscriminately. It is a colorful way to point to the difference between the history of evolutionary biology since Darwin and anti-Darwin posturing that explains nothing. Anti-Darwinism is not pseudo-science or even dead science so much as degenerate science--and that, in pretty much the explicit sense, I owe to Lakatos.

The Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank, states that "neo-Darwinism" posits "the existence of a single Tree of Life with its roots in a Last Universal Common Ancestor." That tree of life is enemy number one, for it puts human beings in the same tree of descent as every other kind of organism, "making a monkey out of man," as the rhetoric goes. Enemy number two is "the sufficiency of small-scale random variation and natural selection to explain major changes in organismal form and function." This is the doctrine that all forms of life, including ours, arise by chance. Never underestimate the extraordinary implausibility of both these theses. They are, quite literally, awesome.

The tree of life is one of our most ancient metaphors, recurring and profound. There it is in Eden, firmly planted in Genesis 2:9. It was initially free for all, unlike the infamous tree of knowledge, which grew beside it. Much earlier it was carved in stone on Assyrian monuments. The menorah is a tree with seven branches. The cross itself is a tree of life: Made from the wood of dead trees, it became the symbol of eternal life.

We have been working out uses for tree pictures forever. Family relationships were represented by trees in the sixth century. Genealogical trees had to wait another 300 years. But then the Tree of Jesse, showing the ancestry of Christ, grew into vivid displays on medieval glass and illustrated texts. In the eighteenth century Linnaeus and his fellow naturalists classified species and genera of plants in a hierarchical way that can lend itself to representation by a tree. Nineteenth-century Victorians were obsessed with family trees, perhaps because the prosperous ones were worried that their interlocking marriages made their pedigrees all too close to incestuous. One of those gentlemen, Charles Darwin, put it all together: "All true classification is genealogical; that community of descent is the hidden bond which naturalists have been unconsciously seeking."

A genealogical tree of life thereby became the symbol of the theory of evolution by natural selection. We used to rely on the shapes of organisms and their parts in order to construct an ancestral tree. We now use molecular genetics to trace relations. Four years ago Richard Dawkins, Darwin's eloquent though abrasive champion, announced that by 2050 we should have completed "the one true tree of life, the unique pattern of evolutionary branchings that actually happened." That is exactly what sticks in the craw of all those who doubt the theories that descend from Darwin.

I myself take the tree of life in Genesis as a wonderful intimation of things to come. Like all the ancient commentators, I read it as allegory. Those who read it as revealed truth should see that it laid out the road to follow, right from the start, in human speculation about the mysteries and miracles of life. Those who think that Genesis is just another old book should marvel that its authors got it right, in the very beginning, planting the tree of life in the human mind.

Not surprisingly, the central chapter of Kitcher's book is "One Tree of Life." He does an exemplary job of showing how apt the metaphor is, as a way of representing knowledge about the origin of the species. Nevertheless, it is useful to reflect on difficulties in the present, rather than successes in the past. They arise precisely because the evolutionary program is "progressive" in Lakatos's sense. Anti-Darwinists love to repeat news of difficulties. They say, "We told you so; it is just a bunch of guesswork." Hence defenders of the faith, like Kitcher, do not like to dwell on present problems, for fear of giving succor to the foe.

I wonder if they should not instead celebrate the difficulties, making plain that evolutionary theory is a living, growing, vital organism, while anti-Darwinism is lifeless, if not, in Kitcher's word, dead. In my opinion the arrogant religion-baiters--yes, Richard Dawkins comes to mind, but others are worse--do a disservice to their cause by making evolutionary theory seem so cut and dried (viz. dead), when it is a blooming, buzzing, confusing delight, finding out more about the world every day. With anti-Darwinians fabricating a "controversy," it helps to see what a real scientific controversy is like, with each competing conjecture piling on new research methods, new explanations, new questions, new failures and new successes.

It is, for example, splendidly difficult to draw a definitive tree of life. I shall mention just two open questions. First, man and monkey. Kitcher well explains that at the species level, chimpanzees are the closest, genetically, to humans. But it is not wholly clear how to put gorillas, chimpanzees and humans on a tree. On balance, at present, the most probable tree has species X splitting into gorillas on one branch and species Y on another; species Y splits into chimps and people. But some molecular evidence suggests that X splits into Y and chimps, with Y splitting into gorillas and people. Another tree suggested by other molecular evidence is X evolving into Y and humans, with Y evolving into gorillas and chimps. A paper in Nature in 2006 proposed an unusual resolution to the conundrum: Early on, there was a lot of hybridization between humans and chimpanzees!

The DNA record does not give us a tidy tree because it encodes a lot of slightly different evolutionary histories in kindred animals, covering a very short span of recent time. With gorillas, chimps and humans we are talking no more than 8 million years. We may not end up with a tree even for the part that most interests us, the one on which humans hang. A thicket or bush, yes, but a clean-limbed tree, perhaps not. Thus the old question of the missing link has been transformed into a series of new questions that have immeasurably added to our understanding and leave us asking for more. That is the mark of a progressive research program.

There is a deep reason underlying the difficulty just mentioned. The ideas of species, genera and the rest of the taxa are invaluable in practical botany, ecology, the fisheries, etc., for sorting living organisms as they are now. Classes of living things really are distinct. But historically they are on a continuum. The species, as distinct and definite entities, fade away. I am no expert on Darwin, but it seems to me that he saw this very clearly.

When, thanks to Darwin, we turned from classification at a time to classification over time in the long haul, species began to drop out except as a convenient way to distinguish bits of the fossil record and match them with present life-forms. Because of the depth of the tree idea in the human mind (yes, back to Genesis and beyond), we have been fixated on the project of arranging definite species, like fruit, on a tree of descent. To exaggerate, there are no historical species to hang with exactitude. Not even our own, which we narcissistically call Homo sapiens (Latin for "wise man"). Anyone who reads Origin will notice that Darwin displayed only one curiously abstract tree diagram in that book. Starting in 1866, Ernst Haeckel, Darwin's great advocate in Germany, began to cover pages with exuberant trees of descent, including the first drawn tree of animal evolution. It is as if we have been trying to imitate Haeckel, but Darwin was the wiser man.

The human genome does have an incredible amount of historical information that we have only just begun to decode. Genetic anthropology is the liveliest of the human sciences today. It uses molecular biology to track the movements of peoples across the globe. It is a fabulous continuation of the program begun in another of Darwin's great books, The Descent of Man (1871). At the end of May this year, an enormous Creation Museum and Family Discovery Center opened near Cincinnati; innocent children are told that "The first man walked with dinosaurs and named them all!"

Perhaps we had better not speak of tree diagrams but of tree-ish diagrams or, to be Latinate, arborescent diagrams, as being the upshot of Darwin today. Even so--and here is my promised second open question--the representation of life on such diagrams may work well only for human-sized organisms: roughly speaking, from whales to mites, redwoods to lichen. Even that is misleading: Once we get down to fungi, classification is a mess. The action in evolutionary research today is, however, far below that, at the bacterial level. One fascinating idea is horizontal (or lateral) gene transfer. Bacteria, which don't have sex, probably pass genetic material from one to another, quite indifferent to who is descended from whom--from one species of bacterium to another. This idea was first circulated by C.R. Woese in 1977, and it has blossomed into a vigorous research program. By 2000 Scientific American had published a popular essay, "Uprooting the Tree of Life." It could be that the earliest life-forms had distinct origins; these then shared genetic material by passing it sideways, making life as a whole a bit more viable on a nasty planet. No unique primal ancestor after all.

Some biologists are pretty skeptical and doubt that horizontal transfer, if it exists, is a big deal. More radical souls are guessing that even mites and lichen benefit from horizontal transfer, via bacteria. (And maybe that's the problem with fungi.) You can sensibly take bets either way. I would bet that what we find out about bacteria in the next decade, including horizontal gene transfer, will wonderfully enrich our understanding of life and its origins. I might be ignorantly backing the wrong horse. Evolutionary theories are rich in open questions. That is what makes them so exciting.

Contrast that with pseudo-controversy and take, for example, Michael Behe, a professor at Lehigh University who must be the most ingenious and prolific anti-Darwinian biologist at work today. My use of "anti-Darwin" follows him. Unlike Ronald Numbers or Michael Lienesch, I do not speak of the antievolution movement or of creationism. This is because Behe says, in effect, "Sure, I believe in evolution by natural selection--it just doesn't do all it is supposed to." In his capacity as a biologist he does not officially argue for special acts of creation. So you cannot call him antievolution or creationist. But he is undeniably anti-Darwin. His first book was Darwin's Black Box (1996). His latest book is The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism. The label "anti-Darwin" seems the right umbrella term for creationism, antievolutionism--and Behe.

In his first book, Behe makes his case against evolutionary theory by taking up the eye argument. Even Aristotle was astonished by the eye, whose parts developed together so that an animal could see. After 1859 people asked how all the parts could have evolved before the survival value of seeing was in place. Behe applies the argument to a question about the complex devices that enable bacteria to get around. (Kitcher summarizes this quite well.) If you like, Behe has raised the number of open questions about evolution from a million to a million and one. We now know quite a lot about the eye, but we are only just beginning to figure out bacterial evolution. So it is a good bet that his problem will stay around for a while. But that is not scientific controversy. There is no give and take of explanation and counterexample, no new methodology, no new anything--just the same old question dressed up in slightly new clothes.

The same is true of Behe's new book, which restates the "not enough time for evolution to work" objection. That arose when we were debating the age of the earth, 140 years ago. Behe looks at examples such as the retrovirus associated with AIDS, in which new generations appear every few minutes, a chance for the evolution of the retrovirus to hurtle ahead. It does not, or so he argues (not too convincingly, to my mind, but leave that aside). Maybe he has increased the number of open questions to a million and two. Once again, we get a recycled objection in slightly new packaging, and no new ideas. It reminds us of the degeneracy of anti-Darwins. Can't they do better than that? Apparently not.

Theories of evolution have been evolving ever since Jean-Baptiste Lamarck began lecturing on the subject in 1800. "Founder of the evolutionary theory," it says on his grand statue at the entry to the botanic gardens in Paris. That is a good reminder that Darwin, marvelous thinker and naturalist that he was, is only part of an ongoing story. The pedigree of evolution passes through Darwin's natural selection, through the synthesis with Mendel's genetics, through the idea of mutation--but also through the statistician's observation that you can get a lot of speciation without mutation, by sheer combinatorial chance, called genetic drift. Perhaps horizontal gene transfer will be established in a future history of evolutionary thought. It is already a commonplace of biotechnology. We used to cross strains of cattle to produce the breeds we are familiar with. Fine animals in farm fairs have pedigrees that can be as neatly drawn as a family tree. But today entire kingdoms are crossed: Fish genes are put into tobacco plants to help them resist disease. Thus the end twigs on the tree of life are being grafted to one another with consequences that cannot be foreseen. Genetically modified organisms are here to stay. A new and very untreelike chapter in evolutionary history is unrolling before our eyes.

Kitcher's long final chapter addresses a pressing question that is seldom asked. Why, when we are bathed in the innumerable implausible and often incomprehensible results of modern science, is Darwin the bogeyman? A short version of Kitcher's answer is that we need the consolations of religion, and they are untenable in the light of Darwin. And why does anti-Darwinism thrive only in America? Because life there is so cruel and competitive, says Kitcher, that Americans need extra consolation.

I simplify, but I found his discussion too simplistic. We have to summon sociologists and historians to point the way. Why has anti-Darwinism thrived in the United States for almost a century? How has it been so successful? Until 1918 the United States was much like the rest of the industrialized world. After some initial bickering and pious rethinking after 1859, an evolutionary account of life was taken for granted. The age of the earth and natural selection were accommodated by all of the churches that took notice of such topics. That's how it is with religions: They evolve to fit their contemporary worlds. Every expert and most interested lay people knew there were endless problems in the Darwinian research program, but the overall project was accepted. Science and Christianity made their peace.

Then something happened. A series of twelve pamphlets called The Fundamentals was printed in Chicago, from 1910 to 1915. After the First World War ended, the "fundamentalists"--those touting The Fundamentals--pushed anti-Darwinism and became a major intellectual and political force in America. The movement has had its ups and downs since then, but with an astounding run of ups. Fifteen years ago Ronald Numbers published an encyclopedic history of the phenomenon. He told of the initial hostility to the theory of natural selection, followed by its almost universal acceptance by the end of the nineteenth century; and then The Fundamentals, followed by vehement public denunciation of evolution. Numbers has now updated his history, The Creationists, with two chapters about intelligent design. He has thus written a great reference work but does not fully address the how and why questions. Michael Lienesch tries to do so, using contemporary methodology for studying social movements and agenda-setting.

The general message can be summed up by twisting a line from Edison. The success of anti-Darwinism has been 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration--endless committee work, backroom organizing and networking to support the preaching. The successes are not in any way accidental or inspirational. Anti-Darwinists have been well funded. Three million copies of The Fundamentals were mailed in their first five years. The heartland in the beginning was not, as is so often imagined, a rural backwater. It was very often Chicago businessmen whom Numbers and Lienesch identify, men taking time out from building the great traditional corporations that Chicago gave to the world, or from commanding the skyscrapers that continue to astonish tourists. The Moody Bible Institute, granddaddy of them all, sits at the corner of LaSalle Drive and Chicago Avenue. When I was a child in a Canadian public school, I avidly watched its extraordinary nature movies about life and growth; they gave us a break from the teachers. Snatches of them have stayed with me the rest of my life as an atheist.

Lienesch is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the successive waves of anti-Darwinism, right up to intelligent design. Kitcher, as I said, reflects on why Americans need God. He mentions the moving story of a noted agnostic scholar who found comfort in a great New York cathedral, after she had learned that her child would soon die of a horrible disease. A cathedral? Somehow, that is a giveaway. Kitcher's background is Episcopalian (mine, too, for my sins). I think he is just not down to earth enough when he turns to the abiding strengths of religion. I'd like to say his heart is in the right place, unlike the current crop of atheist propagandists, but the trouble is that, as with many Episcopalians, it is more mind than heart. (It takes one to know one.)

As a foreign kibitzer, I would like to repeat what I said at the start about democracy. Movements need perspiration and organization, but they also need uptake by the people. I have no use for anti-Darwinian campaigners, but I do have a lot of respect for popular skepticism. The people do not trust those who present themselves as elite. If you want a sense of the monstrous self-confident complacency of days gone by, read H.L. Mencken's daily reports to the Baltimore Sun on the Scopes trial, now reissued under the title A Religious Orgy in Tennessee. Or read any of the self-indulgent, virulent atheists in circulation today--Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens being just two. Contrary to their professed intentions, such writers buttress the faithful; their loathsome arrogance shields evangelical churches from doubt. That part of the American population that believes God made man in His own image has a heartfelt contempt for know-it-alls. I am inclined to say, God bless the people, even when they get it wrong.

I have said nothing about the second sticking point for the anti-Darwin movement, that chance variation and natural selection have sufficed to produce the living world as we know it. It is an incredible doctrine. Darwin himself was pretty cautious about it. I respect anyone who says he cannot believe it. But that is where one should stay, in a state of disbelief. Once you start arguing against it, you end up being silly.

Intelligent design is silly. It is a refurbished version of the argument advanced at the end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth by those I call Royal Society divines--important Anglican clergymen, often fellows of the Royal Society of London, the leading scientific institution of the day. The argument at its most concise is known as Bishop Paley's pocket watch. If you found something like a watch in the desert, you would of course suppose it was an artifact of an intelligent watchmaker. Here we find ourselves in an intricate world that we think of as an elaborate mechanism, so there must be an intelligent worldmaker.

The argument had predecessors: that there must be a creator because there is an obvious purpose in the world. That is called the teleological argument, which goes back to antiquity and which is Thomas Aquinas's "Fifth Way" to God. Kant and Hegel thought it the sole rational consideration of merit. But only the English, obsessed by machines, tried to construct an argument based specifically on the fact that the world appears to be very well and intricately designed, a pocket watch on a universal scale. (The "argument from design" is a pretty standard part of American freshman or sophomore philosophy courses, but there is not even a name for it in France, where it seems at best, well, sophomoric.)

There is a problem with the argument, including its most up-to-date versions: It says nothing about the designer. At the end of the teleological argument, the Fifth Way, we learn about the purpose in the world, and purpose requires an agent. Having established a purposeful agent who creates, an Aquinas can exclaim, "And this Being can be only Thou, O Lord!" That does not come so easily at the end of an argument from design. So the world must have a brilliant engineer, a molecular engineer at that, a veritable nanotechnologist. Why think this being has anything to do with any god, Christian or other?

There is the trite ad hominem observation, repeated by Kitcher, that quite a few aspects of the design, even of humans, seem rather imperfect; a reasonably good engineer could have done better. The nasty cynic says, "Why not an absolutely evil genius as designer?" So we get an argument for the existence of the devil at work.

An amused cynic is more fun. Life seems the handiwork of a mad designer, who fits several DSM diagnoses from the American Psychiatric Association. He--only a male would do this--is obsessed with intricate details so long as they do not get too much in the way of other devices he concocts. For example, he designs and builds a bird such as the Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea, apt name, that), which annually migrates in a figure-eight pattern across the North and South Atlantic from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back. Brilliant, brilliant design, a navigation system with two routes from pole to pole, sturdy enough to survive earth's cruelest seas--all madly miniaturized in a brain the size of a plum. But why on earth, were it not for a lunatic fascination with design itself? A proof, thus, that the earth with its denizens is the work of a crazed design-freak.

This silly cynicism invites a more attractive thought. Leibniz proposed that the actual world is the one that combines the maximum of variety with the minimum of complexity for its fundamental laws. The "best" world, the world sought by the most intelligent designer, is one that maximizes variety in its phenomena and simplicity of basic law. Such a world has no place for a specific set of plans for the Arctic tern. The upshot is not attractive to those who favor intelligent design. It is in effect a proof that we live in a world of quantum-mechanical laws that are counterintuitive (to humans) but intrinsically simple--a world that, once these laws are in place, is then allowed to evolve out of a very few raw materials by chance and selection into unendingly complex patterns, including life on earth as we know it. It is a fact that you will get complex structures if you just let such systems run.

The wisest designer would choose the governing laws and initial conditions that best capitalized on this mathematical fact. A stupid designer would have to arrange for all the intricate details (the Arctic tern again) that anti-Darwinians eulogize, but an intelligent designer would let chance and natural selection do the work. In other words, in the light of our present knowledge, we can only suppose that the most intelligent designer (I do not say there is one) would have to be a "neo-Darwinian" who achieves the extraordinary variety of living things by chance.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Homeopathy Treats the Patient, Not Just the Disease

http://www.thestreet.com/s/homeopathy-treats-the-patient-not-just-the-disease/funds/goodlife/10379821.html?puc=googlefi

By Penelope Dane Special to TheStreet.com

9/21/2007 9:22 AM EDT

URL: http://www.thestreet.com/funds/goodlife/10379821.html

From the flu to chronic pain, homeopathy has been used to treat a wide range of illnesses in its adherents for hundreds of years.

"I don't really understand how it works, and I really don't care. I just know it does," Rebecca Burbank* of New Orleans says, who has been using homeopathic remedies to ameliorate her mood for the past 18 months. The practitioner who treats Burbank, Robin C. Myers of Baton Rouge, La., explains that a correctly chosen homeopathic remedy often provides patients with healing on more than a physical level.

Although the word is now commonplace, many are not familiar with the broad effects of the practice. As Myers explains, it "fully embraces the patient, at all levels, and allows for graceful wellness to become the norm, instead of a faint possibility."

Homeopathic medicine was created more than 200 years ago by Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician who did not agree with harsh conventional 18th century medical practices such as bloodletting.

His quest to truly understand the nature of disease and find a scientifically sound methodology of treatment resulted in the system he dubbed "homeopathy," from the Greek word homoios, meaning similar, and pathos, or suffering. It is a form of alternative medicine that is widely used today in the U.S., Europe, Japan and India. The practice, though, is not without its skeptics who question its effectiveness and say its benefits have not been verified by scientific and clinical studies.

The deep healing so many proponents speak of comes from the core philosophy of homeopathy: Hahnemann believed that the root cause of acute and chronic diseases lay in a disturbance in a person's vital life force (also known as chi or qi in traditional Chinese medicine), and that in order to cure a patient , homeopath needed to take into account all aspects of a patient -- not just their symptoms and complaints -- to find the appropriate rebalancing remedy.

The Law of Similars

Both the medical system of Hahnemann's time and our current system of Western medicine are described as allopathic: diseases and complaints are treated with substances which suppress the symptoms by creating the opposite effect. For example, allopathic medicine often treats arthritis (an inflammatory condition) with an anti-inflammatory drug.

*The name has been changed.

Homeopaths, however, achieve restoration of health by administering a highly diluted remedy, made from a substance that in its natural state would cause the inflicting symptoms in a healthy person.

Hahnemann dubbed this phenomenon "The Law of Similars" or "like cures like," and it remains the central tenet of homeopathy today.

These heavily diluted remedies also form the center of much of the controversy surrounding homeopathy. Since its inception, homeopathy has been at odds with allopathic medicine; in fact, homeopaths were initially banned from the American Medical Association at its inception in the mid-19th century. Though many homeopaths are also physicians -- and the American Institute of Homeopathy is entirely comprised of physicians, nurses and dentists who are also certified homeopaths -- many Western doctors continue to doubt its efficacy.

Critics of homeopathy claim that since the remedies are so diluted, any positive effects are not quantifiable. However, numerous studies comparing homeopathy to placebos have appeared in top medical publications from the JAMA to The Lancet, many of these inconclusive, and some admitting that homeopathy shows ameliorative effects, even in the face of rigorous scientific evaluation.

Additionally, commercial homeopathic remedies continue to sell well, especially for French remedy giant Borion, which saw income growth of 35% and $428 million in sales in 2006.

There are an estimated 3,000 homeopathic remedies available to consumers today, from allium (onion extract) to calendula (marigold). All homeopathic remedies sold in the U.S. are regulated by the FDA to ensure safety and quality control. Even though some are derived from toxic materials, like arsenic, so little of the actual substance remains that they are not dangerous, nor do they have any adverse side effects.

Remedies are sold over the counter in the forms of sugar pills, tablets, creams or liquid tinctures. They're labeled with a number and letter that indicates how much of the ingredient has been diluted. Lower numbers indicate a less diluted remedy, but paradoxically, the more diluted a remedy is, the stronger its effect. Thus higher numbers, such as 200c, are much more diluted, yet more potent.

Trying Homeopathy

Those wishing to try homeopathy have two options: self-treatment with remedies sold at health food stores and pharmacies, or seeking out a certified practitioner. These domestic homeopaths have completed training programs, ranging from 700-900 hours of instruction over the course of three to four years, during which they are mentored by more experienced homeopaths.

As physician and homeopath Dr. Irene Sebastian says, "the healing from combination remedies will never be as deep as that from the homeopathically chosen remedy." Since the remedies are all benign, there is in most cases no harm in experimenting with self treatment, but Sebastian cautions to avoid potencies over 30c, and that those with chronic medical problems or drug sensitivity should not self-treat.

Ideally, Hahnemann's original method -- a detailed patient interview with a homeopath, and carefully selected single remedy -- provides the most significant benefit.

An initial consult with a homeopath runs between one and three hours and costs between $100-$250.

Designed to give the homeopath a more complete picture of their patient, the lengthy consultation is essential in selecting the best remedy. Additional visits may be required to fine-tune the remedy or the dosage. "It's a science, but it is not an exact science," Myers says. "It's a science and an art."

Penelope Dane is a writer and sociologist living in Baton Rouge, La. She is currently working on her M.F.A. in fiction and conducting research on teen poetry.

Creationists meet, settle differences

http://news.cincypost.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070921/NEWS01/709210348

By Kevin Eigelbach Post staff reporter

Two leading creationism advocates, including Boone County's Answers in Genesis, have decided to settle their differences like Christians.

Rather than fight in court, last month the board of Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International met in Hawaii and reached a tentative agreement to settle the lawsuit they're parties to.

"We feel very, very satisfied about it," CMI Managing Director Carl Wieland said. "We were pleased to end it this way, and glad to have had the chance to have face-to-face communication."

The two organizations hope to have a final, written agreement by mid-October, Wieland said.

Answers spokeswoman Melany Ethridge was not able to get a statement from the Answers in Genesis leadership about the proposed settlement in time for inclusion in this story.

The two organizations have much in common. They share a literal view of the Bible, and believe that God created the world in six days about 6,000 years ago.

For many years, they shared resources and board members. Ken Ham worked for CMI in Australia before coming to the United States and founding Answers in Genesis.

Since then, they have not had equal success, at least in terms of financial backing.

Answers in Genesis recently opened a $27 million, 70,000 square-foot creationism museum - all of it paid for - at its Petersburg headquarters in western Boone County.

Last fiscal year, CMI had about $3 million in total revenue.

CMI sued Answers May 31 in the Supreme Court of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, accusing Answers of un-Biblical conduct.

The chief complaint involved two magazines that CMI published and Answers distributed.

The lawsuit alleged that Answers misled subscribers into thinking that CMI was no longer publishing the magazines, and instead signed them up for Answers in Genesis' own, new magazine, "Answers."

CMI said that it lost 39,000 subscribers that produced annual gross revenue of $252,000.

When the suit was filed, Answers called the allegations baseless and without merit. In its defense, Answers said it had offered to settle the dispute through binding arbitration.

Before initiating legal action, CMI commissioned a former chief state magistrate in Australia, Clarrie Briese, also a nonvoting member of CMI, to investigate the dispute.

In a report he prepared for CMI, he found that the dispute started in August 2004, when CMI staffers offered some proposals to reorganize Answers.

They sought to correct what they saw as poor morale and too great a dependency on Ham.

That provoked retaliation from Ham, Briese reported.

He found that in October 2005, Ham persuaded CMI's board of directors to sign over virtual control of CMI to Answers.

Briese concluded the board members didn't understand what they were signing.

Ever since, CMI has tried to get Answers to nullify or renegotiate the documents.

The new agreement presumably settles these issues. Wieland would not comment on the details, because both parties agreed to keep them confidential.

"We have always strived to be open and up front, and tried to do what we thought was right, and we're pleased with this outcome," he said.

"We look forward to many more of our subscribers being aware that we still exist and that the magazines still exist," he said.

Publication date: 09-21-2007

Ben Stein Breaks the Silence in Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

http://www.soulshine.ca/news/newsarticle.php?nid=4747

Published: 2007-09-21

Ben Stein, best known for his monotone "Bueller...Bueller" sound bite on Ferris Bueller's Day Off, as a Presidential speech writer and more recently, as an economics columnist for Yahoo! Finance, is starring in a documentary that exposes what the film calls the "Darwin Machine" in Expelled: No Intelligance Allowed.

The documentary tracks Stein as he asks the biggest questions of our existence, such as "Were we designed or are we simply the end result of an ancient mud puddle struck by lightning?" Stein is stunned by what he finds as he uncovers from a long line of mainstream biologists, astronomers, chemists and philosophers who have their reputation destroyed and their careers ruined by elitist scientific establishments who say there is no room for thinking outside of the blind faith in Charles Darwin's theory of random mutation and natural selection to explain life.

In brief, Intelligent Design and Creationism may share that there is an Intelligent Being, however Intelligent Design has not defined who that Intelligent Being is, whereas in Creationism, the Intelligent Being is God Almighty, the Creator spoke of in the Holy Bible and revealed in Scripture as 1 God in 3 persons (the Trinity) God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Calvin Smith of Creation Ministries International in Canada(www.creationontheweb.com)has told Soul Shine, he has reached out for a meeting with Expelled producers, but no meeting has yet been scheduled. Smith does speak positively about the film calling the concept a, "very encouraging movie promo!".

"Scientists are supposed to be allowed to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, no matter what the implications are. Freedom of inquiry has been greatly compromised, and this is not only anti-American, it's anti-science. It's anti-the whole concept of learning," says Stein. Expelled uncovers that educators and scientists are being ridiculed, denied tenure and even fired in some cases for the fact that they believe there is evidence of "design" in nature, challenging the idea that life is a result of random chance. The result of Stein's inquiries is a startling revelation that freedom of thought and freedom of inquiry have been expelled from publicly-funded high schools and universities.

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is scheduled for release in February 2008. For more information and to watch the trailer please visit www.expelledthemovie.com.

Writer: Soul Shine Staff

Margaret McEwen of Farmers Branch: Religion vs. evolution

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/city/collin/opinion/stories/DN-west_mcewen_0921edi.ART.West.Edition1.432d47d.html

We don't have to choose

11:29 AM CDT on Friday, September 21, 2007

As a science teacher, I am often asked by my students whether I believe in religion or science. By science, they always mean evolution. At first, I was astounded that any student could think that I must make a choice between the two. It had never occurred to me that belief in one excluded belief in another.

Raised as Roman Catholic, I have been deeply involved in my church for many years: as a catechism teacher, Eucharistic minister and as a science teacher at the small Catholic school my daughter attended. The Episcopal tradition of worship and service was familiar to me when I came to Parish Episcopal School in Farmers Branch four years ago from a large public high school. It is welcoming to all of the different faiths represented by our students. In both faiths, it is recognized that belief in science does not preclude belief in religion.

But I came to realize that many people have the same question for scientists who hold strong religious beliefs. Many of my colleagues began to ask me the same question. I had never had to articulate my feelings on this subject, so I reached for guidance from our school chaplain. In very certain terms, he told me to tell my students that religion and science ask and answer different questions for humans.

Science explains the process of life, and religion explains the meaning of life. We do not have to prove the existence of God in the laboratory, as we do with Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion. Our faith does not have to be proved. Faith is found in our hearts, minds and souls. Faith gives us strength, courage and love. In faith, we rise above the physical world.

I also found direction in two other places. The first is a wonderful book by Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University titled Finding Darwin's God, and the second is Charles Darwin's seminal work The Origin of Species.

Dr. Miller says that evolution explains biology but does not tell us what is good, right or moral, as religion does. We do not have to deny our biological heritage, according to Dr. Miller. Our faith provides us the means to understand, to master and to do service using the grace given us by God.

Darwinism is now used by many to deny the existence of God, and some would say his ideas of natural selection have weakened and made religion meaningless. I disagree.

More than 25 years have past since I sat in an undergraduate genetics class that literally caused a light bulb to go off in my head. The process of DNA transcription and translation brought a new understanding to me of how changes in the biological world occur.

Darwin's natural selection process and Mendel's pea experiments came alive as I listened in rapture to the professor explain the evolutionary processes that shape the world we live in. This process is as magical to me as it was to Charles Darwin.

Belief in God gives humans opportunity and choices; the physical world does not pull all our strings. Humans are independent creatures; we have the opportunity to understand how the world functions, and we also have the chance to change that world through the choices we make to love, sacrifice and serve one another.

Darwin's words echo in my ears: "There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed laws of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."

Science has brought me closer to God and vice-versa. When I look at the stars at night, or watch a bird fly, I appreciate the physical process of their existence and believe that our universe and all that is in it is as grand as Charles Darwin words.

Whatever their religious practices, I hope that my students can find that there is plenty of room for both Darwin's God and science in their lives. There is in mine.

Margaret McEwen teaches science at Parish Episcopal School in Farmers Branch and is a Teacher Voices volunteer columnist. Her e-mail address is mmcewen@parishepiscopal.org.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fossils add to puzzle of human evolution

http://www.startribune.com/484/story/1433946.html

By John Noble Wilford, New York Times

Last update: September 19, 2007 – 9:18 PM

The discovery of four fossil skeletons of early human ancestors in Georgia, the former Soviet republic, has given scientists a revealing glimpse of a species in transition, primitive in its skull and upper body but with more advanced spines and lower limbs for greater mobility.

The findings, being reported today in the journal Nature, are considered a significant step toward understanding who were some of the first ancestors to migrate out of Africa some 1.8 million years ago. They may also yield insights into the nature of the first members of the human genus, Homo.

Until now, scientists had found only the skulls of small-brain individuals at the Georgian site of Dmanisi. They said the new evidence apparently showed the anatomical capability of this extinct population for long-distance migrations.

Other paleoanthropologists said the discovery could lead to breakthroughs in the critical evolutionary period in which some members of Australopithecus, the genus made famous by the Lucy skeleton, made the transition to Homo. The step may have been taken more than 2 million years ago.

"The new discoveries further highlight the transitional and variable nature of early Homo," said Daniel E. Lieberman, a paleoanthropologist at Harvard University.

The international team found several skulls and stone tools at Dmanisi in the 1990s. They were dated to 1.77 million years ago and resembled Homo erectus, the immediate predecessor of Homo sapiens. Still, the Dmanisi specimens were quite different. Their skull sizes indicated that their brains were not much larger than the brain of a chimpanzee.

In the last few years, however, the researchers collected more extensive, well-preserved skeletal remains. Some of those fossils resembled those of later erectus specimens in Africa. The lower limbs and arched feet reflected traits "for improved terrestrial locomotor performance," the team reported.

Scientific Journals Promoting Evolution alongside Materialism

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/09/scientific_journals_promoting.html

In July, I noted that Francisco Ayala wrote an article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describing evolution as "randomness and determinism interlocked in a natural process" where "is no entity or person who is selecting adaptive combinations." Clearly, some theists might find that such descriptions of evolution contravene their religious beliefs. Indeed, there are a number of recent examples of scientific papers promoting evolution alongside anti-religious sentiments:

The observations in question definitely do not suggest that living systems have been built up thanks to the insights and decisions of a master engineer. Rather, the observations testify to a vast amount of continuous tinkering by trial and error with macromolecular interactions. The results of this tinkering are often retained when they can be integrated into the organism's functional whole. But why would God tinker? Doesn't He know in advance the biological pathways that work? Isn't a tinkering God one who loudly says "I am not"? And why would He say so if He existed?

(Emile Zuckerkandl, "Intelligent design and biological complexity," Gene, Vol. 315:2-18 (2006).)

It seems that none of these scientists got Eugenie Scott's memo to not promote evolution alongside materialistic philosophy. While I may not agree with what these Darwinists assert, and personally hope that more scientists would take Eugenie Scott's advice to leave out materialistic philosophy when promoting evolution, it seems that they are nonetheless working hard to disprove Judge Jones's Kitzmiller ruling that held it is "utterly false" to believe that "evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being."

Posted by Casey Luskin on September 19, 2007 7:45 AM | Permalink


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Theory of evolution just a theory

http://www.newsdurhamregion.com/news/opinion/letters/article/85997

Fri Sep 14, 2007

To the editor:

Time to have one publicly funded education system, Mark Robinson letter, Sept. 12.

Mark Robinson states "evolution is a fact and should be taught to every student."

In fact, evolution is a theory, so full of holes it is nothing but a sieve. If it is taught at all it should be taught along with other theories. There is more scientific evidence to support the creation theory than to support evolution.

The theory of evolution requires that atoms organize themselves into increasingly more complex and beneficial arrangements. However, in the laws of science, the opposite is actually true. Complex ordered arrangements tend to become more disorderly with time. No scientific force has ever been found that causes increasing order and complexity to appear in nature.

Think about something as "simple" as fruit. What force of nature could possibly have caused it to evolve into such wide varieties as cherries, oranges, strawberries, etc. -- all so appealing to our taste buds and just happening to meet so many of the nutritional needs of our bodies. The complexity of a single organ of our body, such as the eye, is enough to make a critically thinking person realize this world did not happen on its own.

Sharon Thompson

Courtice

Guest commentary: Evolution is the best theory we've got

http://www.thedailystar.com/opinion/local_story_258041503.html

Published: September 15, 2007 04:15 am

By Stanley K. Sessions

An open letter to Tom Sears:

Dear Tom,

In recent newspaper columns on evolution in The Daily Star (Aug. 7, 21, and Sept. 4), you wrote you have the "greatest respect" for scientists and science and then attack scientists as "arrogant" for not considering creationism and intelligent design (ID) valid alternative "theories" to the theory of evolution.

Then you expound on your understanding of the theory of evolution, which appears to be informed mainly by creationist dogma. I feel you have missed an opportunity to inform and enlighten, and instead are fanning the flames of discord and confusion by spreading misinformation about something you apparently know little about. This is disappointing to see in a fellow educator.

If you had asked a scientist or perused a basic science or biology textbook, you would have learned that creationism and ID have been thoroughly examined by the scientific community and are not considered to be valid alternative scientific theories to the theory of evolution.

You also would have learned why: Creationism is a religious idea based on belief in the supernatural, and so is outside the realm of science; proponents of ID seldom mention God, but the idea is based on statements about biology that are demonstrably false (e.g. "irreducible complexity"). A supernatural designer is implicit, and ID has been thoroughly discredited by the community of scientists.

I recommend Francis Collins' book "The Language of God" if you want to understand the perspective of a scientist who believes in God (Collins is a born-again Christian and head of the NIH human genome project). Collins argues that religion and science are compatible, but despite being an evangelical Christian, is very critical of ID. He warns that ID is a "sinking ship" that is more likely to damage faith because it makes a laughingstock of those who support it.

A few minutes of study would also have taught you that scientists do not consider the theory of evolution invincible. An important part of the definition of a scientific theory or hypothesis is that it is falsifiable.

If you had asked a scientist, you would also have learned that the theory of evolution, like science in general, cannot "prove" anything to be true. That is a fundamental aspect of science that so many people just do not seem to get. Science makes a case, like in a court of law, based on available evidence, "beyond reasonable doubt," and that is all.

To date, nobody has been able to come up with a valid alternative scientific (i.e. falsifiable) theory to explain the origin and diversity of life. The theory of evolution is imminently falsifiable, and God knows scientists have worked very hard over the years to find some alternative.

So far, we have failed, and so the theory of evolution is considered to be one of the strongest scientific theories we have. With the advent of molecular biology, has become the central theory of all of biology.

If you had consulted an evolutionary biologist, you would also have learned that "microevolution" (evolution within a species) and "macroevolution" (evolution above the species level) represent the two ends of a spectrum, or continuum, of evolutionary change.

This is because it is so easy to extrapolate from the genetic differences seen within a species to those seen between species, especially given millions of years and extinction of intermediate forms.

This view is supported by examples of species that are in the process of splitting, and because it is possible to create new species through hybridization (all well-known textbook examples).

It is also supported by the fossil record, often incomplete and inadequate but is, for some organisms, crammed with intermediate forms, a plethora of "missing links" that abundantly support gradual evolutionary change.

The human fossil record is an outstanding example, where there is such an abundance of "intermediate" forms that it is difficult to know which one, if any, was our direct ancestor.

Even a cursory look into a textbook on evolution (or the Internet; I recommend the Tree of Life, www.tolweb.org/tree/) would have shown the theory of evolution does not, as you put it, present life as a chain of increasing complexity, from "primordial soup" through cells and fish and eventually to man.

We have known this since Darwin wrote "The Origin of Species" more than 150 years ago! This book is another one to put on your recommended reading list.

Likewise, your statement that "Naturalism, mutation and blind chance are supposed to explain how we evolved" seems disingenuous at best.

The theory of evolution holds, in very simple terms, that the raw material for evolution is genetic variation, which is the product of random mutation. However, evolution is caused mainly by natural selection, which is not a random mechanism or blind chance.

This fundamental misunderstanding of basic evolution leads you to make other false and misleading statements, including the one about proteins (which appears to have been lifted right out of creationist dogma). No evolutionary biologist claims that a functional protein could have evolved through "simple chance," as you put it.

Natural selection is not random chance, Tom! Like a horse race where the fastest one wins, the winners in natural selection are those who produce the greatest number of viable offspring such that their genes are transmitted into future generations.

Natural selection is the only mechanism we know of that can cause adaptive evolution. Computer models have made it clear that natural selection is such a powerful evolutionary force that it can cause extremely complex structures to evolve rapidly. Compound invertebrate eyes (the most complex known), for example, had already evolved 500 million years ago.

Finally, you are incorrect to say that evolution cannot explain the origin of life. The theory of evolution does what scientific theories do: it provides explanations that best fit what we know from material evidence. We know what had to have occurred, even though we do not yet (and may never) know exactly how. But again, science does not have to prove things to be true, only make a reasonable case supported by the bulk of available evidence.

The Miller-Urey experiments that you described led, in just a few weeks, to the spontaneous formation of all of the key molecules of life, and later experiments showed that these included building blocks of RNA and DNA. Scientists have already created an artificial functioning virus.

But even if we succeed in creating an artificial living cell in the laboratory, it does not prove we know how it occurred more than 3.5 billion years ago. Once such an entity began reproducing, the rest is (evolutionary) history.

Tom, I hope you realize that I am writing this to you with the best of intentions. Your newspaper column is potentially a great opportunity to inform and educate, as well as provoke.

As a fellow academic, I know you share my concern that education is an uphill struggle and that the spread of misinformation, even if unintentional, makes our job that much harder.

Sincerely yours,

Stanley K. Sessions

Alternative Herbal Medicines - Best Way to Cure Disease

http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=37454

Mike Hussey

Online Doctor

Family Health

author's web site

view author's other articles

September 12, 2007

Alternative herbal medicine is one of the best ways to cure chronic or other disease, in many cases. The major benefit of herbal medicines is that it is 100% natural and does not have any side effects, if taken according to the advice of a competent doctor. Look for and use organic herbs when ever possible.

Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA) is the wonder medicine made from primrose, borage or currant seed oil that is extremely effective for treatment of alcohol addicts. Alcohol intake in huge amounts has the chances of slowing down your brain cells. This particular effect of alcohol can be checked by Valerian herb. Another effectual herbal medicine for people suffering from emotional or physical stress is Skullcap.

The alternative herbal remedies for stress, anxiety or depression are St. John's wort, ashwagandha, valerian and hops ginseng, and Motherwort.

If one is suffering from any degree of sleeplessness, the most helpful herbal medicines are lemon balm, linden, chamomile and ginger tea. For quick relief from common ailments like the odd headache, you can go for eucalyptus or peppermint oil and lavender while for rapid pain relief or inflammation, one can take meadowsweet or willow bark instead of chemical painkillers.

Salicylic acid, the chief component of the pain-killer aspirin, is found in its salicin form in willow bark and meadowsweet. The salicin is reacted upon in the stomach and transformed to salicylic acid, which grants you instant relief from pain. Ginger, which reduces the prostaglandin levels in the body, is another useful pain reliever.

Thanks to the hectic modern style of present day living, most of us suffer from stress in different forms. Herbal medicine is a great way to counter this. Ginseng and Siberian ginseng are two of the most potent stress relievers. Herbal medicines like gingko biloba, ginseng, Siberian ginseng and gotu kola are also successful in curing partial memory loss. Hawthorn, ginseng, motherwort, valerian and pineapple are the wonder herbs that help in curing angina or irregular heartbeat.

Most herbal medicines are prepared from the major herbal ingredient along with other contents. At present, almost 80% of all the medicines have some herbal ingredients.

Although herbal medicines have been extremely successful in treating many diseases, prescription drugs still hold the fort when it comes to treating critical diseases. Thus, one should not consider alternative herbal medicine to be a competitor of prescription drugs, but as a new and effective form of medicine that works in tandem with prescription drugs to treat certain illnesses.

Another benefit of herbal medicines is that it is accessible to most everyone. Herbal treatment is not at all expensive and the herbs can even be grown in your backyard! In fact, prescription drugs are much more expensive and associated with a greater amount of risk.

Alternative medicine is cheap, effective and most importantly, natural and free from any side effects.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Evolution education update: September 14, 2007

A California case centering on the rejection of a proposed policy for teaching "the scientific strengths and weaknesses" of evolution is decided, while NCSE is offering free back copies of its various journals to libraries -- tell your local librarian!

OVER IN ROSEVILLE

The defendants in Caldwell v. Roseville Joint Union High School District et alia won a victory in court on September 7, 2007, when Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. granted their motion for a summary judgment against the plaintiff, Larry Caldwell. In 2003 and 2004, Caldwell, a lawyer and parent in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, California, sought to persuade the RJUHSD Board of Trustees to adopt his "Quality Science Education" Policy, which would have called for teaching "the scientific strengths and weaknesses" of evolution. In 2005, after his proposals were rejected, he filed a lengthy complaint in federal court against the district, a number of its employees, and two members of the board of education, alleging that his civil rights were violated during the controversy. Caldwell told the Sacramento Bee (January 16, 2005), "You ought to be able to bring a proposal without being treated differently because they don't like what you're saying, or they don't like your religious beliefs." But school board president Jim Joiner, a named defendant in the case, told the Bee that Caldwell received plenty of attention from the board and the districts, noting that his proposal was discussed at eight separate meetings. Caldwell's suit was publicized by the Discovery Institute, which issued a press release on his behalf and subsequently added him as a guest blogger to its blog, and also by a number of media sources on the religious right.

In his decision, Judge Damrell emphasized, "this case is not about how biology, including discussions of evolutionary theory can or should be taught in public schools. ... Rather, this case is about whether Larry Caldwell was denied access to speak in various fora or participate in certain processes because of his actual or perceived religious beliefs." Although Caldwell alleged that he was denied such access, in violation of his rights to free speech, due process, and equal production and of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, Judge Damrell found otherwise: "the court has found that plaintiff has failed to proffer evidence sufficient to demonstrate a triable issue of fact as to any of his constitutional claims based upon this alleged discrimination" is a typical remark from the decision. The legal defeat in Caldwell v. Roseville Joint Union High School District is not Caldwell's first; in 2005 and 2006, he represented his wife Jeanne Caldwell in Caldwell v. Caldwell et alia, in which she alleged that the Understanding Evolution website endorsed a number of religious doctrines, thereby violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by favoring certain religious groups over others. In that case, the presiding judge ruled that the plaintiff failed to allege that she had federal taxpayer standing, failed to sufficiently allege state taxpayer standing, and failed to establish that she suffered a concrete "injury in fact," which sufficed to justify the defendants' motion for dismissal.

The Sacramento Bee (September 13, 2007) reported that Caldwell had no comment on his latest legal defeat, referring the Bee's reporter to Kevin Snider of the Pacific Justice Institute (which describes itself as "a non-profit 501(c)(3) legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom, parental rights, and other civil liberties"), who worked with Caldwell on the case. Snider was quoted as saying, "We're still studying the opinion and haven't made a decision about what we're going to do." He would not comment on whether or not they planned to appeal. For his part, James Ward, who represented the defendants, was pleased by the decision, commenting, "The facts clearly show that the school district bent over backwards and tried very hard to provide Mr. Caldwell with an opportunity to present his ... proposals in the various ways that were structured for parents to present ideas to the district." Jim Joiner said, "The board and the district gave him special treatment beyond what we would typically give anyone," adding, "I always felt confident that a court would reach that conclusion"; Jan Pinney, a board member who, like Joiner, was also a named defendant in the case, agreed, observing, "He had more time before the board than anybody has ever had in my 12 years on the board." Pinney also described the lawsuit as "sour grapes" on Caldwell's part and as a waste of time, remarking, "For two years all our energy was spent fighting this issue."

For the decision in Caldwell v. RJUHSD (PDF), visit:
http://www2.ncseweb.org/caldwell/20070907_Caldwell_v_Roseville_JUHSD_decision.pdf

For the story in the Sacramento Bee, visit:
http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/376367.html

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in California, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=CA

THE GREAT NCSE JOURNAL GIVEAWAY

NCSE is now extending a special offer to libraries. Both because we are eager for libraries to maintain holdings of our journals, and because we are eager to make space in our storage facility, we are offering free copies of any or all of the back issues of Creation/Evolution (ISSN 0738-6001, nos. 1-39, 1980-1996), NCSE Reports (ISSN 1064-2358, vol. 9 through vol. 16, 1989-1996), and Reports of the NCSE (continuing both, ISSN 1064-2358, vol. 17 ongoing, 1997-present) to libraries. Libraries can take advantage of the offer to replace missing or damaged individual copies or to extend the range of their holdings.

Probably academic libraries will be most interested -- and we urge our members and friends who work at colleges and universities to bring the offer to the attention of the periodical departments of their libraries -- but the offer is open to public and school libraries as well. Interested librarians should write to Archivist, NCSE, PO Box 9477, Berkeley CA 94709-0477, fax (on letterhead) to (510) 601-7204, or e-mail the NCSE archivist at archivist@ncseweb.org to request further information or order back issues at no cost to their libraries. The offer is good only while supplies last, and may be withdrawn at any time at NCSE's sole discretion.

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

Sincerely,

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Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools
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Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism
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School plan 'a step backward'

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=f35045a9-810e-4838-8b32-b77936def491

Funding of faith-based schools will lead to Charter argument: expert

Lee Greenberg and Kate Jaimet, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Thursday, September 13, 2007

TORONTO - A Conservative election pledge to fund faith-based schools is a legal minefield that, if implemented, could send the province back in time, a leading constitutional expert says.

Lorraine Weinrib, a law professor at the University of Toronto, is sounding the alarm on a Conservative funding promise that she believes is dangerously unformulated.

"It seems that the proposal really has not been thought out in any detail," Ms. Weinrib said in an interview.

Conservative leader John Tory has promised a commission to iron out the details of the policy. But Ms. Weinrib said voters are owed the specifics before they decide on the issue.

"I mean, you're being asked to commit to an incredibly important public policy without knowing what it is."

However, supporters of Mr. Tory's proposal say it's a matter of fairness toward other religions, in a province where Catholics already receive full education funding.

A furor that erupted two weeks ago over creationism offers the first indication of just how problematic the proposal is, Ms. Weinrib said. Mr. Tory was forced to backtrack after saying creationism could be taught at the public, faith-based schools he plans on creating. He later said the religious creation theory, a direct rejection of scientific thought, would be taught only in religion class.

Ms. Weinrib, a former deputy director of constitutional law and policy in the Ontario government, wonders how it is possible to grant schools religious freedom while at the same time controlling which beliefs are taught, and where.

"Let's say they do teach the regular curriculum in the mornings. What are they teaching in the afternoon? It might be completely inconsistent," Ms. Weinrib said.

Under the provincial curriculum, students study the "big bang" theory of the origin of the universe in grade nine, and the theory of evolution in grades 11 and 12. Mr. Tory has said one of three conditions for funding is that faith-based schools teach the provincial curriculum.

The Ontario Ministry of Education currently has no policy on how to deal with a school whose teachings of religious dogma directly contradict parts of the provincial curriculum, said ministry spokeswoman Patricia MacNeil.

It's not a problem in Ontario Catholic schools, which accept evolution and the "big bang," with God as the force behind these events, said Noel Martin, director of Catholic education for the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association.

Mohamed Sheikh Ahmed, principal of the Ottawa Islamic School, said he sees no problem in teaching evolution and the "big bang" as scientific theories, while also teaching creation according to Genesis as an article of religious faith

"This is a faith. This is what you believe in. Other people believe in some other things. So there is no problem, there is no confusion here, saying: this is what I believe as your teacher, and this is what the scientific findings are saying," Mr. Ahmed said. "Darwinism is only a theory. ... As a Muslim, I believe in Genesis, but I have no problem teaching evolution as a theory, which is something to discuss. And some people believe in it: scientists, evolutionists believe in it. So there is no problem teaching the curriculum as it is."

Paul Triemstra, principal of the Ottawa Christian School, said his school treats the origin of life and the universe as open questions:

"God created the world. And how he decided to do that, whether he took six, 24-hour days some eight to 10,000 years ago; or whether he did that over billions of years through all kinds of different processes that scientists have looked at and theorized about, that's a very good discussion."

The cost of funding faith-based schools is also of concern, Ms. Weinrib said. Mr. Tory's $400-million price tag assumes that 80 per cent of the roughly 53,000 students currently enrolled in private, faith-based schools will attend the new public schools. Ms. Weinrib believes that's a vast underestimation.

"There are all sorts of people in every community who simply can't afford this private religious education," she said. (Tuition at the private religious schools can run as high as $35,000). "And if it turns out that it's going to be available for free, they're going to shift. I mean that's so obvious."

That was the case in Ontario Catholic high schools, which saw their numbers triple in their first 15 years of public funding. Originally, Catholic schools were guaranteed funding for the lower grades under the 1867 BNA Act. In 1985, the funding was extended to the end of high school, and enrolment grew to 200,813 in 2000, from 66,840 in 1985, according to government data.

Mr. Triemstra said public funding for other religious schools will allow for a potential growth in students among families with lower incomes, particularly immigrant families.

The $400-million Conservative promise is also only based on operational funding (at about $9,400 per student) to pay for things such as teachers, textbooks and janitors, according to officials. Faith-based schools would not be eligible for the same capital funding that other Ontario public schools receive, Conservatives say.

But Ms. Weinrib said that once brought into the public sphere, those faith groups would have every constitutional right to demand millions for new schools, which cost between $8 million and $35 million depending on their facilities. If they don't get them, "you're going to have a Charter argument that there's discrimination on the basis of religion," she says. "They're going to want more. It's inevitable."

However, the most serious consequence of the policy is the potentially fragmenting impact it will have on Ontario society, Ms. Weinrib said. She worries it will undo years of progress Ontario has made in moving toward a more secular, inclusive society. Although Mr. Tory frames his policy as an issue of fairness, she said it is actually a powerful wedge issue designed to appeal to voters along religious lines.

"If we're going to create an education system, I think the last thing we would to do is this. It really seems like a step backward," she said.

Mr. Ahmed and Mr. Triemstra disagree.

"I don't believe a bit of that," Mr. Ahmed said. "Canada is a country of communities. Having our different communities and keeping our own different cultures never makes us any less Canadian. ... The real goal behind the whole thing is giving parents a working alternative for how they want to raise up their kids."

© The Ottawa Citizen 2007


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Judge tosses out evolution lawsuit

http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/376367.html

Ruling says man had adequate access to school officials.

By Laurel Rosenhall - Bee Staff Writer

Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, September 13, 2007

Story appeared in METRO section, Page B2

A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit against the Roseville Joint Union High School District that was filed by a Granite Bay man unhappy with how evolution was being taught in his children's school.

The father, Larry Caldwell, spent much of 2003 and 2004 trying to persuade the Roseville high school district to alter its biology curriculum to include arguments against evolution. After many meetings and discussions about his proposals, the school board rejected them.

Caldwell then sued the district, four administrators and two school board members, alleging they had violated his constitutional rights in the process of considering his proposals. School district officials denied Caldwell access to certain meetings and discriminated against him for being Christian, Caldwell claimed.

The Roseville school district was dismissed from the case in 2005, but the claims against its top administrators and school board members had been working their way through the courts since then.

That came to an end Friday, when U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. issued a 66-page ruling stating that Caldwell has no case against the administrators and school board members.

Caldwell "failed to proffer any evidence that he was treated differently than other similarly situated individuals," Damrell wrote.

The judge shot down every claim Caldwell made in the suit. He found that the school board and administrators did not discriminate against Caldwell and instead gave him extensive opportunities to present his ideas on changing the evolution curriculum.

And he made a point to clarify that the case concerned administrative processes, not the merits of the biology curriculum Caldwell had proposed.

"This case is not about how biology, including discussions of evolutionary theory, can or should be taught in public schools. More specifically, this case is not about whether a theory of intelligent design can or should be included in the science curriculum for schools in the District," Damrell wrote. "Rather, this case is about whether Larry Caldwell was denied access to speak in various (forums) or participate in certain processes because of his actual or perceived religious beliefs."

Caldwell, an attorney, said he did not want to comment on Damrell's decision. He said Kevin Snider of the Pacific Justice Institute would comment on his behalf. Snider and Caldwell worked on the case together, and wouldn't say Wednesday whether they planned to appeal.

"We're still studying the opinion and haven't made a decision about what we're going to do," Snider said.

The attorney for the Roseville school officials welcomed Damrell's ruling.

"The facts clearly show that the school district bent over backwards and tried very hard to provide Mr. Caldwell with an opportunity to present his ... proposals in the various ways that were structured for parents to present ideas to the district," James Ward said.

Jim Joiner, a former Roseville school board member, said he wasn't surprised by the decision.

"The board and the district gave him special treatment beyond what we would typically give anyone," Joiner said. "I always felt confident that a court would reach that conclusion."

School board member Jan Pinney said Caldwell's lawsuit amounted to "sour grapes."

"For two years all our energy was spent fighting this issue," Pinney said.

"He had more time before the board than anybody has ever had in my 12 years on the board."

About the writer: The Bee's Laurel Rosenhall can be reached at (916) 321-1083 or lrosenhall@sacbee.com.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Embattled founder's role open to question

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/health/20070909-9999-1n9donsbach.html

By Penni Crabtree and Anna Cearley
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITERS

September 9, 2007

An alternative health clinic that was shut down last year by Baja state health officials after it was linked to the death of Coretta Scott King has quietly reopened and may be operating illegally.

The clinic, Hospital Santa Monica in Rosarito Beach, appears to be offering the kind of unorthodox care – treating cancer with insulin or using unproven, experimental vaccines – that landed it in trouble after the 78-year-old widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. died there in January 2006.

The Mexican hospital, whose marketing is conducted by an affiliated Chula Vista firm, is in the same building where Hospital Santa Monica operated before the shutdown. Unmarked on the outside, the facility is identified as Centro de Atenciσn Integral on a Baja California health department certificate posted inside.

But according to patients there, it is being marketed on the Internet as Hospital Santa Monica and the clinic's founder, Bonita businessman Kurt Donsbach, represents himself as the director and person in charge.

Donsbach, who does not have a medical degree, is well known on both sides of the border for offering alternative treatments considered dubious by many medical experts. He has a criminal record, including a 1996 felony conviction for tax evasion and smuggling illegal medicines across the border.

A Baja state health official said Hospital Santa Monica is authorized for "general medicine and for consultations and diagnostics." Nothing outside the building indicates its ties to Bonita businessman Kurt Donsbach, known for offering alternative treatments considered dubious by many medical experts.

Carlos Negrete, an attorney who represents Donsbach, said his client is a "nutritional consultant" and does not operate the Mexican hospital or practice medicine.

The Web site for Hospital Santa Monica said last week that "all the therapies employed at Hospital Santa Monica have been selected and are coordinated by Dr. Donsbach."

Juan Carlos Mariscal, director of sanitary regulations for the Baja California state health department, said the clinic in its latest incarnation isn't authorized to practice alternative medicine.

Mariscal said Baja health authorities have closed about eight clinics in the Tijuana area, which long has been a mecca for alternative health treatments.

"It's authorized to be a hospital for general medicine and for consultations and diagnostics," Mariscal said. "That would include problems like headaches or a fever. But they can't treat a heart attack or a more serious illness."

When told that Baja health authorities said the clinic is not licensed to offer alternative health services and can offer only limited traditional health services, Negrete responded, "We do not believe this allegation to be accurate."

Serious ailments

Many of the patients at the Mexican clinic are being treated for serious ailments, including advanced cancer, according to patients and patients' family members. Coretta Scott King was seeking treatment for advanced ovarian cancer at the time of her death, although the hospital said the treatment had not begun.

The Hospital Santa Monica in Rosarito Beach is in business again in the same building where the alternative health clinic operated before it was shut down last year by Baja state health officials.

The original clinic was operating improperly when it was closed down in February 2006, health officials said. At that time, Hospital Santa Monica avoided detection by state authorities by registering under a different name and listing a person other than Donsbach as the director, health officials said.

Irregularities found at the time included: unknown substances marketed under Donsbach's name, incomplete medical records and the practice of unconventional treatments. The facility also was offering unauthorized services such as surgical procedures, health officials said.

This time around, the clinic's owner is listed as Roberto Alcantara Jurado, according to a Baja health department certificate, dated Feb. 1, 2007, posted near the clinic receptionist's office.

The receptionist said the owner could not speak with a reporter because he was busy. The receptionist would not say whether Donsbach was involved in the clinic, and she declined to say when the clinic reopened.

Several patients and patients' family members at the clinic said Donsbach represented himself as the one running the clinic and consulted with them on the treatments they were to receive.

One treatment, advertised on the clinic's Web site, involves "neuropeptide" vaccines for multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, lupus and other disorders. The 12-month vaccine course, combined with a recommended course of "bionutrients," costs up to $6,650, according to the Web site.

The Hospital Santa Monica Web site also says the vaccine is based on 20 years of research conducted by what it lists as the Oxford Immunological Research Center.

"Why suffer from chronic, degenerative Autoimmune Disease when it can be normalized, never to return!" Donsbach wrote in a brochure about the vaccine program that is posted on Hospital Santa Monica's Web site. "I stake my reputation on this protocol, having never seen anything that works anywhere near as well or as rapidly as this does."

Negrete did not respond to questions about the vaccine or a request for a contact for the Oxford Immunological Research Center.

"It is uncertain who or what you are referring to," Negrete said in an e-mailed response.

Daniel Price, a spokesman for the British Society for Immunology, called the health claims made by Hospital Santa Monica for its vaccine and bionutrients therapy "palpable nonsense ... heading over the border into La La Land."

Price said the society has not heard of an Oxford Immunological Research Center and, if it is claiming to be based in Britain, it is "not a credible institution, if it exists at all."

Price said information on the vaccine provided on the clinic's Web site "bespeaks something of the Google-generation of cutting-and-pasting of scientific or pseudo-scientific statements from different sources" to create a document that looks scientific.

Conditions questioned

Mona Hale, whose father, Doyle Cleveland, was treated at the clinic in late July and early August for advanced prostate cancer, said she was appalled by the health services provided – many patients appeared to receive the same treatments even though their diseases were different – and by sanitary conditions there.

Hale said her 77-year-old father contacted the clinic in July and had his telephone call returned by Donsbach. Donsbach told her father that he was "90 percent sure" that her father could be cured or greatly helped at the clinic. Her father was instructed to bring $23,000 in cash or a cashier's check.

Hale said she accompanied her father from Michigan to San Diego, where they were transported along with other patients across the border to the clinic.

The facility was dirty, with exposed pipes and missing ceiling tiles, said Hale, a nurse practitioner and director of geriatrics and women's health for the Van Buren/Cass County District Health Department in Michigan. At one point, a dog with bloody sores roamed into one of the treatment rooms, she said.

Hale said she met with Donsbach in his office at the clinic and expressed skepticism about conditions there and Donsbach's claims of success at curing cancer.

Donsbach's response was akin to a carnival faith healer, she said.

"He told my father, 'If your daughter doesn't believe it, it isn't going to work, and if you don't believe it, it isn't going to work. I've seen people who came here with the right intention but their faith was not strong enough and I couldn't help them,' " Hale said, recalling Donsbach's remarks. "It was all Believe-In-Donsbach. It was a real mind manipulation."

When the Hospital Santa Monica staff proposed surgery for her father to insert a catheter into the subclavian vein, in order to infuse "substances," Hale said she balked because of the unsanitary conditions at the clinic.

In response to her questions about the clinic's rate of hospital-acquired infections, she said, Donsbach assured her that the clinic had never had a case. According to U.S. statistics, such infections occur at a rate of 2 to 14 per 1,000 hospital admissions, and are believed to lead directly to 63,000 deaths per year in the United States.

"He said, 'We don't have any, we never have,' " said Hale, who met the statement with derision. "I said, 'Well, hallelujah, someone should write you up in the Journal of the American Medical Association, because I've never heard of a medical facility where there were no infections.' "

After two days, Hale said, a Hospital Santa Monica physician demanded that she leave or they would stop treating her father. Hale said she begged her father to leave but that he was desperate and only repeated that Donsbach said he could cure him.

Hale left, and her father continued his treatment at Hospital Santa Monica. Hale said her father left the clinic Aug. 4 and returned to his Michigan home with bad chest congestion and a foot infection.

He has since been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, acute renal failure and pneumonia, said Hale, who attributes her father's failing condition to his stay at the Mexican clinic.

"They are preying on the powerless," Hale said. "Why put these patients through the hell of false hope when they may well have an opportunity to be at home with loved ones or pursuing therapeutic treatment?"

The facility has faced similar criticism in the past.

In August, Donsbach and Hospital Santa Monica settled a fraud lawsuit brought by George Ott, a kidney cancer patient from Connecticut who alleged he was duped into seeking treatment at the clinic in August 2005 through false representations that Donsbach was a licensed doctor and that Ott's cancer would be cured or diminished.

Ott, who paid $12,500 with a cashier's check for what was billed as "Donsbach's 12-Day Intensive Cancer Treatment Program," acquired a near-lethal staph infection from a catheter inserted into his chest for intravenous treatments, according to the lawsuit.

A few days after the catheter was inserted, Ott developed a high fever and had difficulty breathing. On Aug. 17, 2005, Donsbach came into Ott's room and said he expected Ott to feel better in the morning, according to the lawsuit.

Three days later, Ott was rushed across the border to Scripps Memorial Hospital-Chula Vista, where he was diagnosed with a staph infection from the catheter, according to the lawsuit. Hospital Santa Monica failed to diagnose the staph infection or treat it with antibiotics, according to the lawsuit.

As a result of the infection, Ott developed pneumonia, sepsis and congestive heart failure. In January 2006, he underwent open-heart surgery to repair an aortic valve damaged by the infection, according to the lawsuit.

Ott's attorney, David Wilzig, said the case was settled to his client's satisfaction. Wilzig could not discuss the lawsuit because of a confidentiality agreement.

Negrete said the allegations in the lawsuit were "vigorously denied" by Donsbach.

"There were no factual findings on the merits and the case did not go to trial, even though I wished it had," Negrete said.

Donsbach's financial interest in the Mexican clinic and other businesses that trade on his name – including the Chula Vista-based Dr. Donsbach's Let's Talk Health line of nutritional supplements – appears complex and at times murky, according to court records and depositions from Donsbach-related lawsuits.

'Visit the sick'

In a July 2006 deposition, Donsbach said he sold the Mexico clinic in 2002 to an employee, the clinic's medical director, Dr. Humberto Seimandi, and retired. But Donsbach said he has continued in the ensuing years to go to the clinic to "visit the sick" and pray with them.

Donsbach said he is not compensated for his visits to the clinic.

However, according to a deposition in February by Christine Mansfield, Donsbach's office manager for 13 years, he receives an undisclosed percentage of the revenue generated from U.S. patients who visit the Mexico clinic. The medical fees are collected by Hospital Santa Monica Inc., the Chula Vista-based company that conducts marketing for the Mexico clinic, she said in her deposition.

Mansfield said Donsbach sold her the U.S. side of the business in October 2003 for $10. She said there is no written contract for the purchase of the business or a contract for Donsbach's business consulting services, according to the deposition.

Last year, Donsbach sold his Let's Talk Health business, which includes an Internet radio show that features Donsbach, to Jim Cartmill. Cartmill pays Donsbach an undisclosed "royalty," Donsbach said in his deposition.

Negrete did not respond to questions about Donsbach's role or financial stake in the clinic or the company that conducts its marketing.

Some patients and patients' family members being treated at Hospital Santa Monica said they assumed the clinic is in good standing with Mexican health authorities.

Hugh McGavick of Oregon said he came with his wife so she could receive treatment for a cancerous tumor in her neck area. McGavick said the three-week treatment, which cost about $20,000, involved "starving the cancer of things it feeds on like sugars, and flooding it with oxygen and heat."

If the approach doesn't work, he said, they will consider trying traditional treatments.

McGavick said he and his wife were aware the clinic had been closed down last year. But he said they figured it was operating properly "or else the Mexican government wouldn't allow it."

Mariscal, director of sanitary regulations for the Baja California state health department, said he wasn't aware of any connection between the clinic and Donsbach. He also said he hadn't received any complaints from patients at the clinic and wasn't aware of allegations that the clinic used alternative treatments.

"If they are offering alternative medicine, then we would have to review this," Mariscal said.

He said people can send complaints about clinics to: Jmariscal@baja.gob.mx

Using Evolution, Scientists Creates A Template For Many New Therapeutic Agents

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070909184003.htm

Science Daily — By guiding an enzyme down a new evolutionary pathway, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers has created a new form of an enzyme capable of producing a range of potential new therapeutic agents with anticancer and antibiotic properties.

Writing in the Sept. 9, 2007 issue of the journal Nature Chemical Biology, a team of researchers from the UW-Madison School of Pharmacy describes a novel enzyme capable of changing the chemical properties of a variety of existing drugs and small molecules to make new agents to treat cancer and fight infection.

"We're finding this enzyme glycosylates all sorts of molecules," says Jon Thorson, a UW-Madison professor of pharmaceutical sciences describing the process of adding natural sugar molecules to other chemical molecules to enhance their biological effects.

The newly evolved enzyme developed by Thorson and colleagues Gavin. J. Williams and Changsheng Zhang, according to Thorson, is akin to a "Swiss Army enzyme," a catalyst that can decorate many different chemical molecules with all sorts of sugars to alter their biological effects.

Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts across biology, from single-celled organisms to humans. They promote chemical reactions in cells and are used widely in industry for everything from making beer and cheese to producing paper and biofuel.

They are also important for making so-called natural drugs, therapeutic agents based on the blueprints of chemicals produced in nature by plants and microorganisms. Such natural sugar-bearing chemicals are the basis for some of medicine's most potent antibiotics and anticancer drugs as exemplified by the antibiotic erythromycin and the anticancer drug doxorubicin.

Important chemical features of such drugs are natural sugars, molecules that often determine a chemical compound's biological effects. Although scientists can sometimes manipulate how sugars are added or subtracted to a chemical molecule to alter its therapeutic properties, it is difficult and not always possible to routinely modify them to enhance their beneficial effects.

The new enzyme was created by generating random mutations in genes that make a naturally occurring enzyme. The altered genes were then put into a bacterium, which fabricated a series of randomly mutated new enzymes. These enzyme variants were then tested in a high throughput screen where chemical molecules engineered to fluoresce stop glowing when a sugar is successfully attached.

"We're transferring the sugar to a beacon," Thorson explains. "When you attach a sugar, you shut off the fluorescence."

The development of the screen, according to Thorson, was critical, overcoming a key limitation in the glycosyltransferase field.

"We're assaying hundreds of very interesting drug-like molecules now with newly evolved glycosyltransferases. The ability to rapidly evolve these enzymes has opened a lot of doors."

The range of potential therapeutic agents that might be generated with the new technology includes important anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer compounds, and antibiotics.

What's more, the work could lead to the creation of a "super bug," an engineered bacterium that can perform the entire process in a laboratory dish: "There's no doubt that this is going to work in vivo," says Thorson. "We can create a bug where you feed it sugars and the compounds you want to hang those sugars on" to arrive at new medicines.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Scientists a step nearer to creating artificial life

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/sep/06/2

James Randerson, science correspondent The Guardian Thursday September 6 2007

To the untrained eye, the tiny, misshapen, fatty blobs on Giovanni Murtas's microscope slide would not look very impressive. But when the Italian scientist saw their telltale green fluorescent glint he knew he had achieved something remarkable - and taken a vital step towards building a living organism from scratch.

The green glow was proof that his fragile creations were capable of making their own proteins, a crucial ability of all living things and vital for carrying out all other aspects of life.

Though only a first step, the discovery will hasten efforts by scientists to build the world's first synthetic organism. It could also prove a significant development in the multibillion-dollar battle to exploit the technology for manufacturing commercially valuable chemicals such as drugs and biofuels or cleaning up pollution.

The achievement is a major advance for the new field of "synthetic biology". Its proponents hope to construct simple bespoke organisms with carefully chosen components. But some campaigners worry about the new technology's unsettling potential and argue there should be a moratorium on the research until the ethical and technological implications have been discussed more widely.

One of the field's leading lights is the controversial scientist Craig Venter, a beach bum turned scientific entrepreneur who is better known for sequencing the human genome and scouring the oceans for unknown genes on his luxury research yacht. The research institute he founded hopes to create an artificial "minimal organism". And he believes there is big money at stake.

In an interview with Newsweek magazine earlier this year, Dr Venter claimed that a fuel-producing microbe could become the first billion- or trillion-dollar organism. The institute has already patented a set of genes for creating such a stripped-down creature.

Ultimately, synthetic biologists hope to create the most efficient form of life possible, with the fewest genes needed to allow the organism to grow, replicate and proliferate. But researchers have approached the problem from two radically different directions. Dr Venter's team is starting with one of the simplest forms of cellular life known to science - the bacterium Mycoplasma genitalium, which causes urinary tract infections. By stripping out each of its 482 genes and observing the effect on the organism they have calculated that a core of 381 are vital for life.

In contrast to this top-down approach, Dr Murtas, at the Enrico Fermi research centre at Roma Tre University in Italy, and Pier Luigi Luisi aim to build a living thing from the bottom up. "The bottom-up approach has the possibility of creating living systems from entirely non-living materials," said Tom Knight, an expert in synthetic biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"That's the real power of synthetic biology ... If you can take it apart into little bits and pieces and shuffle things around and put it back together and it still works, you can have much more confidence that you really understand what is going on."

The Italian team's advance is to make simple cells which are essentially bags made up of a fatty membrane containing just 36 enzymes and purified ribosomes - microscopic components common to all cells which translate the genetic code into protein. The primitive cells are capable of manufacturing protein from one gene.

The team chose a fluorescent green protein found in jellyfish because it was easy to see, using a microscope, when the protein is being made. "We are trying to minimise any system we put in place for the cell," said Dr Murtas. "We can prove at this point that we can have protein synthesis with a minimum set of enzymes - 36 at the moment." He hopes the project will teach him about the earliest stirrings of life in Earth's primeval slime some 3.5bn years ago.

"It's impressive work," said Prof Knight. "Protein synthesis is a wonderful place to start, partly because it is so well understood and ... you can figure out what is going wrong relatively easily. But there is a lot more involved in making cells that are alive ... I think the bottom-up people have a long way to go."

Dr Murtas acknowledges that his bags of enzymes are a long way from a fully functioning cell, but it is an important proof of principle - being able to make proteins is key for the cell to acquire new functions. Giving it the ability to grow, divide, partition components into daughter cells correctly and replicate DNA will be a major challenge, though. The team will report the work in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications.

Dr Murtas is now working on making cells which are capable of division - crucial if they are to be truly alive. As the membrane grows, the team hope it will reach a point where the cell becomes too big and so gives rise to a pair of daughter cells.

In June, Dr Venter's research team announced that they had discovered how to carry out a "genome transplant". They showed they could move the genetic recipe of one species of Mycoplasma bacterium into another closely related species.

Evolution education update: September 7, 2007

Televangelist and creationist D. James Kennedy is dead, and a Kentucky tourism agency is no longer endorsing Answers in Genesis's description of natural history museums as anti-Christian. And NCSE is now on Facebook.

D. JAMES KENNEDY DIES

D. James Kennedy, the megachurch pastor and religious broadcaster, died on September 5, 2007, at the age of 76 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, according to the Washington Post's obituary (September 5, 2007). Born in 1930 in Augusta, Georgia, and reared mainly in Chicago, he was managing a dancing school in Tampa when he experienced a religious conversion, leading him to earn a divinity degree from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. (He later also earned a master's degree in theology from the Chicago Graduate School of Theology and a Ph.D. from New York University, with a 1979 dissertation on the history of Evangelism Explosion, a program which he himself developed for training laypeople to spread the gospel.) In 1959, Kennedy returned to Florida, where he founded Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, now housed in a 2500-seat edifice in Fort Lauderdale. He expanded his efforts to the airwaves with the founding of Coral Ridge Ministries in 1974; it is presently claimed to reach three million people across the United States. He also was responsible for Knox Theological Seminary (founded in 1989), the Center for Reclaiming America for Christ (founded in 1996 and disbanded in 2007), which aimed to recruit conservative Christians for grassroots activism, and the D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship (founded in 1995), which engages in outreach to public servants in Washington DC.

A dedicated young-earth creationist, Kennedy often preached against evolution; in his Anti-Evolution: A Reader's Guide to Writings Before and After Darwin, Tom McIver describes a 1986 pamphlet based on one of his sermons as "delivered with great confidence and authority, yet ... filled with highly misleading distortions and outright falsehoods." Between 2004 and 2007, the Creation Studies Institute (founded in 1988 by Tom DeRosa) was part of Coral Ridge Ministries. Kennedy also supported the young-earth creationist movement at large, delivering the keynote address at the 1986 International Creationist Conference and serving as the honorary chairman of Answers in Genesis's Creation Museum. Yet he was open to promoting "intelligent design" creationism as well, featuring Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, and William Dembski on his radio broadcasts, and selling a variety of "intelligent design" material though Coral Ridge Ministries. Kennedy's diatribes commonly emphasized the evil supposedly due to the evolutionary sciences, culminating in the 2006 polemic "Darwin's Deadly Legacy," a broadcast featuring "14 scholars, scientists, and authors who outline the grim consequences of Darwin's theory of evolution and show how his theory fueled Hitler's ovens." The show was denounced as "outrageous and shoddy" by the Anti-Defamation League, and Francis Collins, who was unwittingly interviewed for it, described it as "utterly misguided and inflammatory."

For the obituary in the Washington Post, visit:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/05/AR2007090500789.html

For the ADL's press release on "Darwin's Deadly Legacy," visit:
http://www.adl.org/PresRele/HolNa_52/4877_52.htm

TOURISM AGENCY REVISES ITS DESCRIPTION OF THE CREATION "MUSEUM"

After receiving criticism for describing Answers in Genesis's recently opened Creation Museum in northern Kentucky as aiming to "counter evolutionary natural history museums that turn countless minds against Christ and Scripture," the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau quietly revised its website, as the Cincinnati Enquirer reported (September 1, 2007). The museum is now described as offering "[a] walk through history via the pages of the Bible -- exploring how scripture provides an eye-witness account of the beginning of all things." The head of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, Daniel Phelps, commented, "Well, at least it's not inflammatory ... I worry about separation of church and state, but at the same time, it is a local tourist attraction, so it's probably not something we should be concerned about anymore." It was Phelps whose protest of the tourism agency's previous description of the museum sparked the controversy. Neither representatives of the tourism agency nor spokespeople for Answers in Genesis were available for comment, the Enquirer reported.

For the story in the Cincinnati Enquirer, visit:
http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070901/NEWS01/709010361

And for NCSE's previous coverage of the creation museum, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=KY

NCSE ON FACEBOOK

NCSE now has a group on Facebook! By joining our group you'll be able to connect with other NCSE members and discuss the latest developments on evolution and creationism. Facebook is a social networking site that lets users post pictures, videos, and notes on their personal profiles and in groups dedicated to various topics and causes. If you aren't already a Facebook member, you'll have to join to see the group, but we hope this will provide a great place for our members to socialize and network.

For the NCSE group on Facebook (registration required), visit:
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5105447682

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

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

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

Sincerely,

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

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

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

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


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Heal Thyself

http://www.nh.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070831/NHM01/70806021/-1/NHM

By Amy Kane

The power of mind over biology is a mystery that science has just begun to understand, but healers from the the Eastern world did not wait for science to break the mind-body code. Elaborate systems of curing and preventing disease have been developed by trial and error, and applied by faith in an invisible energy called "qi."

It was almost like magic.

When a pregnant April Henry of Newmarket learned her baby was breech at 37 weeks, she decided to try it — a small incense cone of mugwort set alight and burned hot and close to the nail of her right pinky toe.

Netta Hart, the Stratham acupuncturist administering the moxibustion — so named for the herb moxa, or mugwort — told April that the energy was blocked in her pelvis.

"She said, if we can open up that channel it will allow the baby to move," says Henry.

It sounded a little weird but as a labor and delivery nurse preparing to give birth to her second child she wanted to avoid a difficult breech delivery or C-section.

When you hear a story like this, you can usually guess the ending: It worked.

Her son was born in a normal delivery a few weeks later, healthy and no worse for the mugwort Henry says had caused him to squirm with vigor in her womb.

Breath of life

Qi (chi) is the name given to the life force or vital energy that flows through our bodies. In traditional Chinese medicine, an imbalance or disruption of it is said to lead to illness.

You can't see qi, but you can see evidence of it, says Adam Learner, an acupuncturist and Chinese herbologist at Pinewood Healing Arts in Somersworth. The classic analogy is a sailboat.

"You can't see the wind, but you see the manifestation of it. The wind catches the sail and pushes the boat," says Learner.

This vital energy is called ki in the Japanese kampo system, doshas in Ayurvedic medicine and elsewhere prana, etheric energy, orgone, magnetic or homeopathic resonance, fohat, mana, odic force and biofield. The basic idea has crossed cultures, religions and millennia of time.

This energy field has defied measurement by conventional instruments and reproducible methods. Yet practitioners of energy therapies claim they can see it, feel it, work with it and use it to heal the physical body.

Some energy therapies are going mainstream. A chemotherapy patient may be offered acupuncture as a complement to standard treatment. Therapeutic touch may help a patient relax before surgery.

Hospitals in New Hampshire are linking up with centers for integrative medicine that utilize energy therapies. If the existence of an energy field is unproven, why are these treatments being offered?

Looking for alternatives

North Hampton resident Wendy Crowley first tried acupuncture 15 years ago, desperate for relief from seasonal allergies. Allergy shots, sometimes three per month, made her tired for days afterwards and her symptoms would reappear as soon as she stopped the shots.

She sought help from Dr. Kuen-Shii Tsay, affiliated with a holistic clinic in Brookline, Mass., and a teacher at the New England School of Acupuncture.

"My friends and family thought I was crazy, but when I started getting results and feeling better people were more interested," says Crowley.

Eventually her children's busy schedules made it too difficult to squeeze in the appointments. She felt fine for six or seven years, she says, then "succumbed" to Claritin and nose spray.

Crowley is a regular patient at a chiropractic clinic in Stratham. She has tried a variety of approaches to getting and staying well.

"I'm not convinced that Western medicine with the tendency to prescribe pills to cover symptoms is the best approach," she says.

People may try alternative treatments because a friend or family member had good results. Anecdotal evidence for the efficacy of some energy therapies —acupuncture in particular — is increasingly being supported by research.

When Seacoast resident Barbara Macquarrie was scheduled for an abdominal hysterectomy, her sister Karen Maguire, an herbalist and acupuncturist, suggested acupuncture before and after surgery.

Macquarrie, an RN who has worked in cardiac, oncology, maternity and post-surgery units, says the metallic, hair-thin needles felt like "quick bug bites," followed by a sensation of heat. She was pleased with the outcome.

"I experienced less of the all-around illness that can come with surgeries since I had to take less pain medication," she says. "I think a lot of money could be saved in hospitals if post-op care included acupuncture and massage therapy. People would feel better and go home earlier."

According to the National Institutes of Health, acupuncture has been shown to be effective in relieving post-operative nausea. It provides pain relief, improves function for people with osteoarthritis of the knee and serves as an effective complement to standard care.

Even mugwort has some numbers behind it. A randomized, controlled study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed moxibustion to be effective in turning breech babies 75 percent of the time. In the control group, 48 percent of babies turned on their own.

How acupuncture works has not been fully explained within the framework of Western medicine. It may activate pain-killing endorphins and immune cells at specific points in the body. It may alter brain chemistry and affect parts of the central nervous system related to sensation, immune reactions, blood pressure, body temperature and blood flow.

Making babies

Dr. Joseph Hill, director of the Fertility Centers of New England, was educated at Harvard Medical School, a bastion of Western medicine, yet when he opened an in vitro fertilization clinic in Portsmouth, he added the services of acupuncturist Adam Learner.

Acupuncture added to IVF has been shown to increase the success rate from 26 percent to 42 percent.

"Whether you call that a positive qi or a positive flow, it's blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, and we are trying to induce ovulation and get a healthier pregnancy established," says Dr. Hill.

Infertility is intensely stressful — "a life crisis" — especially for couples that have gone through multiple miscarriages. Dr. Hill says acupuncture helps people feel more relaxed.

"That's where I think alternative medicine has a higher chance of reaching people than Western medicine. We don't necessarily have the time or infrastructure to be able to give that care for the whole body," says Dr. Hill.

"The idea is to get people emotionally and physically centered to deal with whatever comes their way," says Dr. Hill.

Dr. Hill is a speaker and expert on reproductive medicine who has been named one of "The Best Doctors in America" by three national consumer publications. He emphasizes the need to use evidence-based research in deciding what treatments to use, and to beware of charlatans, faith healers and scam artists.

"Cards, stones, magnets, crystals — it doesn't stop. It can be taken to the extreme. Health care is much too important to just rely on somebody's claims," says Dr. Hill.

He believes there may be a way to conceptualize qi from a Western standpoint. In theoretical physics, string theory — sometimes called "the theory of everything" — posits that all matter has a vibrational energy or force. The fundamental particles that make up matter are not point-like, but consist of tiny, one-dimensional loops. These strings are moving — vibrating and oscillating.

"It may be where East meets West," says Dr. Hill.

But string theory is just that, a theory. The concept of an energy field in the human body is also theoretical at this point. Medicine needs to be based on data and critical thinking rather than belief, says Dr. Hill.

The human touch

When Sherry Hoffman changed into a hospital gown, lay face down on a table with a strategically placed hole in it and was hoisted in the air for a breast biopsy at the mammography unit in Portsmouth Hospital, she felt like a car in for repairs. But the reiki master changed all that.

He placed his hands near her head and the retired teacher living in the town of Greenland felt a sensation of warmth that surprised her. He stood first at her head, then at her feet during the biopsy. She describes a sense of relaxation and comfort, and a connection with the practitioner.

"I feel like I went someplace with him, someplace soothing and calming," says Hoffman. "I used to think reiki was hocus pocus. I would ask to have it again."

The New Hampshire Board of Nursing has no stance on the existence of an energy field in the body. Executive Director Margaret Walker says the Board sometimes receives questions from nurses in the field who want to use alternative modalities in patient care, like reiki, massage, therapeutic touch, polarity and aromatherapy.

"As long as the interdisciplinary team agrees to the care plan, we feel it is appropriate for the nurse to provide it," says Walker. "If it makes people feel better then that's a good thing."

One stop shopping

The medical establishment is making a move toward integrative medicine, according to Terry Johnson, director of Equinox Health and Healing in Portsmouth.

Integrative medicine includes alternative treatments for which there is good evidence of safety, efficacy and cost effectiveness as a complement to standard treatment, rather than a replacement for it, says Johnson.

Equinox has close to 5,000 patients and a team of practitioners using acupuncture, chiropractic, conventional primary care, massage therapy and physical and occupational therapy.

In conjunction with Exeter Hospital's Center for Cancer Care, Equinox offers reiki, massage and acupuncture to patients receiving radiation and chemotherapy, based on guidelines from the Society for Integrative Oncology.

Research shows once people receive a cancer diagnosis, nationwide up to 60 percent automatically start using integrative medicine techniques anyway, says Johnson.

"We want to make sure we educate them about the treatments that would work best in their situation, using evidence based research," he says.

Insurance can be tricky in New Hampshire, says Johnson. Chiropractic is often covered, but most acupuncture is not. Equinox Medical Director Dr. Peter Degnan is a family practice board-certified physician and a medical acupuncturist, so he can use primary care billing codes to cover acupuncture.

Johnson says integrative medicine is bound by regulations and provides a level of trust for patients. There will be no promises of miracle cures.

"Our cancer patients, we will recommend they do massage therapy, but we would never tell them it's going to heal their cancer," says Johnson. "We will tell them it helps deal with nausea from the treatment, anxiety and many side effects."

Many of these energy therapies seem to work through light touch or mind-body interaction, says Johnson.

"But frankly, the medical industry needs to do more thorough research," he says.

"Early results show they work — we need to show why and how."

The chaplain will see you now

The Reverend Dr. Shoushan Salibian, director of Pastoral Care at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua, is an ordained minister with a doctorate in psychology. She is a reiki master and uses therapeutic touch, hypnotherapy, guided imagery and prayer.

"All of these are leading a person to a place of calm and peace and relaxation," says Rev. Salibian.

Her voice is soothing and has lilt of an accent. She is an Armenian born in Beirut, a place where women hold hands on city streets and men hug to say hello.

"Touch is a healing connection we have lost or are afraid of," says Rev. Salibian.

At bedside, she may ask about religious beliefs, then offer a treatment that begins with guided imagery and deep breathing. She will sometimes use a laptop labyrinh or offer a prayer shawl.

"Whatever works for the patient, that's what I want to do," she says.

Rev. Salibian works closely with the staff and is able to make entries on patients' charts. She will also give treatments to doctors or nurses feeling stressed or anxious.

When she practices reiki and therapeutic touch, Rev. Salibian says she can feel a person's energy and where it needs balancing. She offers a way to think about this mysterious, immeasurable force.

"There is a saying that you can feel a person's anger when they enter a room. We're talking about the energy field of the individual," she says.

How does she influence this energy field? It's a simple trick, almost like magic: "I try to approach each person with love and peace." NH

Caveat Emptor

That's Latin for "buyer beware," and it's a good phrase to keep in mind when you venture into the world of alternative or complementary medicine. Some tips:

Make sure you use the services of credible practitioners, such as those at hospitals or other well-regarded facilities.

Ask them if they are licensed by the state — a naturopathic doctor (N.D.), chiropractor (D.C.), acupuncturist and massage therapist are required by law to be licensed.

If you have a complaint about a practitioner, call the N.H. Dept. of Health and Human Services at (603) 271-0277.

Chiropractic: The Way of the West

The original "alternative" or complementary treatment in America is chiropractic care. This American way of healing has helped lead the way for the recent surge of Eastern modalities by challenging conventional medicine at the pocketbook level.

Simply put, enough people wanted chiropractic care to ease their pain or improve their lives that demand for the services could not be ignored by traditional health care systems.

Manchester chiropractor Dr. Ron Aragona says he witnessed the change while doing post-graduate work at Harvard School of Medicine: "In 1984 there was nothing there on nutrition, but by the '90s they offered post-graduate courses on wellness care and chiropractic," he says. "Today 90 percent of insurance policies include chiropractic in their benefits."

So how does chiropractic relate to popular new alternatives like meditation, acupuncture and reiki?

All are based on the ability of the body to heal itself, says Aragona. "If you cut yourself, the cells grow back." Where Eastern methods envision invisible lines or centers of energy, chiropractic assumes that the nervous system is the principle path of healing power. Both systems blame stress for diverting healing energy from its therapeutic course.

"How chiropractic differs from other wellness methods is that by hand adjusting, to relieve a misalignment, you relieve a quantum of stress. Meditation could not relieve that kind of physical stress," he says. "So I strive to be the best adjuster I can be."

Anti Aging Medicine

http://pr-gb.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=14018&Itemid=9

Written by EditorsChoice
Saturday, 01 September 2007

Many professionals with medical training are now involved in researching possible approaches to anti aging medicine. Through the wonders of modern innovation and medical technology, anti aging medicine may be able to increase the body's immune system and encourage cell growth and regeneration. Anti aging medicine can be found in different substances and formulas and are beneficial to a degree. It's a safe bet there will be many more to choose from in the near future, as anti aging medicine gets more and more advanced.

Anti Aging

Aging is defined as the collection of degenerative diseases that is large influenced by lifestyle. In order to give full meaning to the right to "life" we need a "war on aging". We are therefore at an unprecedented turning point in the study of aging, in which the curiosity-driven, exploratory research that has justifiably monopolized the field until now can at last be legitimately accompanied by goal-directed, biotechnological efforts, rationally designed on the basis of solid scientific knowledge. Anti-aging medicine has emerged in recent times promising increased longevity with improved quality of life. Anti-aging physicians believe that most illnesses associated with aging can be prevented, or at least slowed, through optimal cellular health.

Medicine for Anti Aging

Anti-Aging Medicine is the new medical discipline which aspires to halt the degeneration and disability normally associated with aging. That style of anti-aging medicine can, indeed, work miracles. Alternative medicine and holistic approaches have often been an incubator for approaches initially shunned by traditional medicine. Though the effort has seemed futile in the past, findings from the cutting edge of medicine indicate we can, at the dawn of the 21st century, do much to optimize how we age. You might not know that there are natural medicines that can treat your thyroid disease just as effectively as pharmaceutical drugs without the side effects.

Health and Vitality

If mankind doesn't destroy itself first, it is just a matter of time until we extend healthy human lifespan to lengths that are almost unimaginable today. Once healthy life-extension is demonstrated in mice, the attitude that "aging is inevitable" will no longer be possible and will give way to an all-out "war on aging". Living a healthy lifestyle is the best insurance you can have, not only to avoid nursing home care, but also illness and frailty, however long you live. Restoring hormones in the body to more youthful levels can elicit improved health and vitality. Learn about natural ways to stay young and healthy and combat premature aging.

We're discovering that some foods have potent healthful properties that we never imagined were there. A healthy human individual is automatically on an anti-aging program, which is why they live longer. Perhaps in another 100 years, compounds will be identified, studied and proven to be extremely helpful to human health, but in the meantime, they remain mystery compounds that are outside the understanding of modern medical researchers. The real question here concerns "health enhancement," because enhancing your health will reduce your apparent age and make you look, feel and act younger. Anti-aging medicine can do very little for someone unless the whole patient is making a shift towards a healthier, non-toxic lifestyle.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/health-articles/anti-aging-medicine-205990.html

About the Author: Dave Kettner provides anti aging medicine information striving to help those aging needs of people trying to turn back the clock.

Editorial: Science class not for 'creationism light'

http://www.wacotrib.com/opin/content/news/opinion/stories/2007/09/01/09012007waceditorial.html

Saturday, September 01, 2007

One of the hard-to-swallow slurs of modern times is the assertion that if one endorses the evolution model in describing human origins, one is rejecting God's role.

One so devout as Pope John Paul II said that evolution does not conflict with Christianity. Unfortunately, some people set up a false conflict between science and religion. They then seek to insert religion into science class under the terms "creation science" and "intelligent design."

Recently, when questioned by the Dallas Morning News, a solid majority on the State Board of Education, including some members who call themselves creationists, said that they do not support intelligent design in science class.

That is a credit to people who see the distinction between science and religion.

Science is based on empirical research. Though theses can be challenged and debunked, it is the evidence that leads the conclusion, not assumptions of divine inspiration.

Intelligent design, aptly called "creationism light" by some scientists, employs statistical probabilities to assert that only an "intelligent designer" — God — could be behind all that we see in the earth and universe.

That's a reasoned assertion backed by very serious study and writing. But it's not science. It is theology.

People who promote "creation science" in school wish to take the round pegs of Genesis and try to hammer them into the square holes of the scientific method. (A key point: As intelligent design doesn't necessarily employ Genesis to explain creation, is it anti-Christian just as some brand evolution to be?)

It is legitimate to discuss some of the gaps in scientific knowledge about human origins. It is not legitimate scientific discourse to insert material backed only by faith as an "alternative" to what science generally accepts.

Evolution, natural selection, is a fact demonstrated in many species. How exactly it bears on the development our species still has some theory attached, but most of it is indisputable.

It is reassuring to know that for the purposes of science classes, even creationists on the state school board are firmly in the corner of science over theology.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Parks Officials Enter Debate

http://www.lex18.com/Global/story.asp?S=7018938&nav=EQlp

Sep 6, 2007 07:32 AM MDT

Frankfort, KY Carey Tichenor has decided to see in person what he's up against. Tichenor, chief naturalist in the Kentucky Department of Parks, is planning a trip to the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky.

The trip became something of a necessity after three months of people who visited the museum challenging Tichenor and other naturalists when they tried to teach visitors about the ancient natural history of Kentucky's parks, Tichenor said. "Visitors are asking, 'Well, it said this at the Creation Museum, but you all are saying something different,' " Tichenor said.

The Creation Museum, which presents the Bible's creation story as fact supported by science, was opened in late May in Petersburg by the Answers in Genesis Christian ministry. And there might be millions of years of difference between what a tourist is told one day at the museum and the next day at a state park.

Tichenor said naturalists at the park interpret the geologic history based on science and talk about history that dates back millions of years sometimes. "The theory of creationism is that the world is only 6,000 years old," Tichenor said.

Kentucky AP 9/03/2007

FDA Seeks to Regulate Complementary and Alternative Medicine; Products Such as Vegetable Juice Could Be Restricted for Medical Use

http://sev.prnewswire.com/health-care-hospitals/20070905/DC0234905092007-1.html

Changes Would Cost Medicare System Billions As Seniors Seek Conventional Treatments Instead

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is preparing new guidelines that threaten new, costly regulation of complementary and alternative medicines (CAM), used by 74.6 percent of adults at some point in their lives. The FDA guidance would define a product based on its "intended use." If vegetable juice were sold to satisfy thirst, for example, it would not be regulated, while if it were used to treat a medical condition (e.g. dehydration), it would be.

Under the guidelines, all items used for medicinal purposes -- including juices, lotions, vitamins and minerals -- could become more expensive and less available. As a result, millions of seniors may be forced to choose conventional treatments within the Medicare system instead of CAM paid for at their own expense, costing taxpayers unnecessary billions.

The FDA proposal, titled, "Draft Guidance for Industry on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Products and Their Regulation by the Food and Drug Administration," will represent the FDA's official thinking on this topic when finalized, but will not become regulatory policy. However, Congressional investigations frequently have found these types of guidance documents to be "intended to bypass the rulemaking process."

Complementary therapies might include aromatherapy to lessen a patient's discomfort during surgery; alternative therapies might include a special diet to treat cancer instead of chemotherapy. According to the National Institutes of Health, 74.6 percent of adults have used CAM at some point; a 2006 survey finds that close to two-thirds of adults over the age of 50 have used some form of CAM. The Centers for Disease Control estimated that the U.S. public spent between $36 billion and $47 billion on CAM therapies in 1997 alone.

"These changes mean that consumers will be less likely to be able to treat themselves without excessive government interference," said Shannon Benton, executive director of The Senior Citizens League. "Seniors who previously saved money by treating themselves with vitamins, lotions, or protein shakes may now need a prescription -- forcing them to bill Medicare for conventional medical treatments, costing the American taxpayer billions of dollars."

The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) filed comments with the FDA in May protesting the impending guidance. In its comments, TSCL wrote, "Currently, few CAM approaches are reimbursed by Medicare and are therefore paid out of pocket by the consumer. On the other hand, if vitamins and minerals were regulated as 'drugs,' Medicare might be required to pay for those same vitamins and minerals. Such a simple change in status for CAM theoretically could cost the Federal Government billions of dollars annually."

Medicare's trustees forecast that the Medicare trust fund will be exhausted by 2019. The FDA's new proposal risks bankrupting Medicare's trust funds even sooner.

"On behalf of its 1.2 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League is advocating for ways to ensure the long-term stability of Medicare," said Ralph McCutchen, chairman of The Senior Citizens League. "Not only does this secret plan threaten to bankrupt Medicare even sooner, but it takes choices away from seniors when they need them most."

With 1.2 million members, The Senior Citizens League is one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. The Senior Citizens League is a proud affiliate of The Retired Enlisted Association. Visit http://www.SeniorsLeague.org for more information.

Website: www.SeniorsLeague.org/

I.D. rift hits Baylor again

http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=26372

Posted on Sep 5, 2007 | by Erin Roach

WACO, Texas (BP)--Baylor University officials ordered the shutdown of a personal website of one of a handful of the school's distinguished professors because of anonymous concerns that the site, hosted on the university's server, supported Intelligent Design.

Robert Marks, distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering at Baylor, launched a website called the Evolutionary Informatics Lab in June to examine whether Darwinian processes like random mutation and natural selection can generate new information.

Marks' conclusions, as explained on the website, placed limits on the scope of Darwinism and offered scientific support for Intelligent Design.

In July, a podcast interview with Marks appeared on a website run by the pro-ID Discovery Institute, and a week later Benjamin Kelley, dean of engineering at Baylor, told Marks to remove the Evolutionary Informatics website immediately.

"This is a big story, perhaps the biggest story yet of academic suppression relating to ID," William Dembski, a research professor in philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press.

"Robert Marks is a world-class expert in the field of evolutionary computing, and yet the Baylor administration, without any consideration of the actual content of Marks' work at the Evolutionary Informatics Lab, decided to shut it down simply because there were anonymous complaints linking the lab to Intelligent Design," Dembski said.

Dembski himself was at the center of a controversy involving Baylor and Intelligent Design in 2000 when he was removed from his post as director of the school's Michael Polanyi Center for Complexity, Information, and Design after refusing to rescind a statement supporting Intelligent Design as a legitimate form of academic inquiry.

Lori Fogleman, director of media communications at Baylor, told Baptist Press Sept. 5 that the school's objection to the website involves standards by which something can or cannot attach its name to Baylor.

"This isn't about the content of the website. Really the issue is related to Baylor's policies and procedures of approving centers, institutes, products using the university's name," Fogleman said. "Baylor reserves the exclusive right to the use of its own name, and we're pretty jealous in the protection of that name. So it has nothing to do with the content but is all about how one goes about establishing a center, an institute, a product using the university's name."

In response to the dean's order to remove the Evolutionary Informatics website, Marks requested a meeting with Baylor legal counsel to resolve the matter. Six days before the scheduled Aug. 9 meeting, Kelley entered Marks' Baylor webspace and, without his consent, removed all references to the Evolutionary Informatics Lab, according to a timeline Dembski sent to BP.

The Aug. 9 meeting involved John Gilmore, an attorney who advised Dembski in 2000 and now represents Marks, Baylor Provost Randall O'Brien, Kelley and Baylor attorneys including Charles Beckenhauer, chief counsel for the school. Baylor officials asked that Marks add a disclaimer to his website and remove anything that could imply the lab is a Baylor initiative.

"Randall O'Brien signs off on the EIL site going back up and closes the meeting with prayer," Dembski's timeline states.

An Aug. 21 e-mail from Beckenhauer to Gilmore included what the Baylor chief counsel called his "proposed fixes" to the website, which by then existed only as a mirror site, not viewable by the general public. Gilmore responded by saying the matter had been settled at the Aug. 9 meeting with the provost and that Beckenhauer's recommendations were out of line.

On Aug. 30, Beckenhauer told Gilmore via e-mail that "there is now a long trail of information that inappropriately links independent research to the Baylor name," and he said the website issue centered on "misleading representations of your client and his collaborator (Dr. Dembski)."

Research papers that Dembski and Marks wrote jointly were on the website, and Dembski said his connection with the lab had been evident from the start.

Beckenhauer said the Aug. 9 meeting was not meant to be a final agreement, and he expressed concerns that Marks and Dembski had created a "trail of inaccuracies" that would lead people to believe Baylor had given direct support for what in reality was an independent project.

"All the circumstantial evidence points to John Lilley, Baylor's president, as being behind this effort to stamp out ID at Baylor," Dembski told Baptist Press. "The provost was at the crucial Aug. 9 meeting; the president wasn't. Lilley is the only one with the authority to overturn what the provost agreed to at that meeting."

Dembski, in comments to the Southern Baptist Texan newsjournal Sept. 4, underscored the hypersensitivity surrounding Intelligent Design in scholastic institutions these days.

"You have to understand, in the current academic climate, Intelligent Design is like leprosy or heresy in times past," he said. "To be tagged as an ID supporter is to become an academic pariah, and this holds even at so-called Christian institutions that place a premium on respectability at the expense of truth and the offense of the Gospel."

Dembski said he knows of several faculty members at Baylor who support Intelligent Design, but they are mostly younger faculty who don't have tenure and don't speak up on the topic. An old guard at Baylor, he said, supports secularization.

"John Lilley, in attempting to pacify that old guard, and perhaps because of a sense of foreboding about how Baylor might be perceived in the wider university culture if it were seen as supporting Intelligent Design or as even allowing it merely a presence, has therefore decided to come down hard against it," Dembski said.

Intelligent Design "in a sense became a poster child" of what immediate past president Robert Sloan tried to accomplish at Baylor, seeking to rescue the Baptist General Convention of Texas-affiliated school from its slide into secularization before he resigned under pressure in 2005, Dembski noted.

Aside from the hot-button issue of Intelligent Design, Dembski said the way the Baylor administration has dealt with Marks in this case is "inexcusable by any standard, certainly Christian but even secular."

"I've been at MIT, Princeton University, Notre Dame, Cornell, Northwestern and the University of Chicago, and at none of these schools have I ever witnessed the shameful treatment that Baylor has accorded to Robert Marks," Dembski said.

"... [Marks] was a star in his department at the University of Washington in Seattle for 26 years before Baylor recruited him, and now Baylor is subjecting him to treatment that even so 'liberal' and 'secular' a place as UW would find unconscionable," Dembski added. "Yes, there are academic freedom issues here, but at this point the issue is one of plain decency."

Robert Crowther of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture told Baptist Press the institute is watching the Marks situation from an academic freedom standpoint.

"We're deeply concerned that the administration at Baylor University has really not shown any support for academic freedom or freedom of scientific inquiry in shutting down a website and a research project of one of their distinguished faculty," Crowther said. "We find that very troubling. It does show a certain trend at Baylor."

Crowther said he believes Intelligent Design has become such a controversial issue in academia because of the scientific threat it poses. The Scopes Trial should have settled the issue, he said, but discoveries since then have altered the discussion.

"What has changed is the science. We know things now and there are new discoveries being made all the time that are leading a number of scientists to not just question Darwinian evolution but to actively pursue research into Intelligent Design," Crowther said. "The thing that is driving this really is the science. We wouldn't be having the debate if there wasn't something going on in science that was causing a lot of questions to rise from most of the scientists."

--30--

Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press. Jerry Pierce, managing editor of the Southern Baptist Texan newsjournal, contributed to this article.

Baylor University Denies Research Scientists' Academic Freedom

http://digital50.com/news/items/PR/2007/09/06/DCTH046/baylor-university-denies-research-scientists-academic-freedom.html

WACO, Texas, Sept. 6 PRNewswire-USNewswire — "Baylor University has proven yet again that academic freedom has been thrown off campus and academic persecution is now the norm," said Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin in reaction to Baylor University's deletion of a professor's research website that focused on evolutionary systems and informatics. "It is simply unconscionable that a major university would so trample a scientist's right to freedom of scientific inquiry."

Baylor University has taken offline the Evolutionary Informatics Laboratory website that had been administered by Robert Marks, Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Baylor, because the administration claimed there were anonymous complaints linking the lab to intelligent design.

The lab's scope of research is described on http://evolutionaryinformatics.org (now hosted by a third party): "The Evolutionary Informatics Laboratory explores the conceptual foundations, mathematical development, and empirical application of evolutionary informatics. The principal theme of the lab's research is teasing apart the respective roles of internally generated and externally applied information in the performance of evolutionary systems."

This is the third instance in which Baylor University has squelched free speech and punished a faculty member because of their views on intelligent design. In 2000, the University administration caved to pressure from Darwinian activists demanding they shut down the Michael Polanyi Research Center established in part to do research on intelligent design theory. In 2006, noted legal scholar Francis Beckwith was denied tenure by Baylor administrators in part because of his writings supporting the constitutionality of teaching intelligent design. After a protracted public battle the Board of Regents reversed that decision and Beckwith was granted tenure.

"There is a troubling pattern of scientists and scholars at Baylor University coming under attack for questioning evolution," said Luskin, program officer for public policy and legal affairs at the Institute's Center for Science & Culture. "The freedom of scientists, teachers, and students to question Darwin is coming under increasing attack by people that can only be called Darwinian fundamentalists."

"What has happened to Professor Marks is censorship pure and simple," added Luskin.

Discovery Institute is encouraging alumni of Baylor and Texas residents to write to the University's board of regents and demand that the university reinstate academic freedom and protect the rights of scientists and scholars to pursue their research without fear of reprisal.

SOURCE Discovery Institute

NCSE on Facebook

http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2007/ZZ/135_ncse_on_facebook_9_7_2007.asp

NCSE now has a group on Facebook! By joining our group you'll be able to connect with other NCSE members and discuss the latest developments on evolution and creationism. Facebook is a social networking site that lets users post pictures, videos, and notes on their personal profiles and in groups dedicated to various topics and causes. If you aren't already a Facebook member, you'll have to join to see the group, but we hope this will provide a great place for our members to socialize and network.

September 7, 2007