NTS LogoSkeptical News for 16 November 2007

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Friday, November 16, 2007



Posted: Tuesday, November 13, 2007 5:38 PM by Alan Boyle

Two years after a trial over the teaching of intelligent design, a public-TV documentary retells the courtroom drama in a style that the judge in the case says is "almost like a whodunit, with a science angle and a sprinkling of the law besides." But unlike "Law and Order," the story didn't end when U.S. District Judge John Jones III issued his withering 139-page ruling equating intelligent design with religion. Instead, Darwinism's detractors are back with a vengeance.

"Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial," premiering tonight, isn't your typical "Nova" science documentary: The two-hour show combines archived video, up-to-date interviews and courtroom re-enactments to flesh out the story behind Kitzmiller v. Dover. Along the way, "Judgment Day" examines the decades-old cultural roots of the conflict as well as the contemporary findings behind modern-day evolutionary theory.

The way "Nova" tells it, the tale began at Pennsylvania's Dover Area High School with the mysterious disappearance and burning of a student-painted mural tracing human origins. Soon afterward, school board members started asking questions about how evolution was being taught.

Eventually, the board required school staffers to tell their biology students about intelligent design - the claim that some characteristics of living organisms are so complex that they're best explained as the handiwork of an intelligent agent (God? aliens?). Some of the teachers bristled at this, so much so that they filed suit against the district.

"Judgment Day" traces the courtroom arguments for each side, with biologist Ken Miller as a star witness for the pro-Darwin plaintiffs and biologist Michael Behe leading the anti-Darwin witness list. (The judge and the witnesses are generally played by actors in the re-enactment.) Because scientific findings were so central to the case, we learn about some key lines of evidence such as the fusion that resulted in human chromosome 2, the transitional fossil fish known as Tiktaalik, the rise of the bacterial flagellum and other phenomena.

The show also reveals how the trial divided the Dover community outside the courtroom. For example, husband-and-wife biology teachers were labeled as "godless" even though they were leaders at their local church. Another rift, between local newspaper reporter Lauri Lebo and her fundamentalist Christian father, never had a chance to heal.

After the six-week trial ended, Judge Jones (a Bush II appointee) surprised observers by issuing a strong rebuke to intelligent design's supporters. Jones wrote that the concept was "a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory." Because the pro-ID school board members were voted out en masse in an election the previous month, there was no appeal.

"It was a case for our times," Jones told NBC's TODAY show today. But as "Judgment Day" makes clear, the case did not end the controversy. Intelligent design's backers - led by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute - are continuing the fight using fresh strategies.

One strategy is to look back in anger, branding Jones' decision as an outrageous case of distortion and "judicial activism." That's the tack taken in "Traipsing Into Evolution," a Discovery-published tract that runs to almost as many pages as the decision itself.

Another strategy is to go back to basics and focus on Darwinian theory as the root of evils such as eugenics, lobotomies, sterilizations and sexual excess. That comes through loud and clear in the advance notices for "Darwin Day in America," written by Discovery senior fellow John West. In this, West appears to hark back to the "Wedge Document," which saw attacks on scientific materialism as the first step in a cultural rollback to a more God-fearing society.

And yet another strategy is simply to keep up the pro-ID drumbeat through a proliferating succession of blogs and podcasts. As "Judgment Day" makes its premiere, intelligent design's proponents are taking aim at the show - and even at its teaching guide.

Ironically, the Discovery Institute's Robert Crowther accuses PBS of encouraging public-school teachers to violate the Constitution by telling their students that evolutionary theory isn't necessarily inconsistent with religious belief. Crowther argues that merely making such an observation would itself be a religious statement.

It all goes to show that the Jones' judgment didn't put an end to the intelligent-design debate - but of course, we all knew that two years ago.

To get the updated picture from Darwin's defenders, you can click on over to the National Center for Science Education, as well as the Pharyngula blog and Panda's Thumb. For a status report on the creationist battle for the "hearts and minds of America's teachers," check out this article from Discover magazine. Consult our Dover trial archive to take a walk down memory lane - and feel free to add your comments below.

P.S.: The best thing about "Judgment Day" is that the entire two-hour documentary will be freely available for watching online later this week.

BU had role in Dembski return


Nov. 16, 2007

By Brad Briggs and Grace Maalouf

Opinion editor and editor in chief

Baylor's history of controversy surrounding intelligent design has been well chronicled, especially when former professor Dr. William Dembski has been involved. But such was not the case in November of 2006 when Dembski arrived back on campus to work with Dr. Robert Marks, distinguished professor of computer and electrical engineering.

Baylor was involved in asking for the grant that brought Dembski back, but when his return was made known to the administration, Baylor returned the grant, effectively terminating his position.

The administration said it was initially unaware of Dembski's inclusion in the grant proposal because the proposal did not go through the proper academic channels. In documents obtained by The Baylor Lariat, Marks claimed otherwise but also called his collaboration with Dembski "stealth until others made it visible."

Marks became involved in another academic controversy this fall when his Web site containing research related to intelligent design was removed from Baylor's server.

The site chronicled his work in evolutionary informatics, a field which uses computer modeling of evolution and adds information to the understood process.

Adding information to the process is considered by some to imply that design must take place before evolution can begin.

But the issues with Marks' research began long before the Web site was removed, and documents obtained by the The Baylor Lariat show the history of this controversy.

LifeWorks Grant

The storm surrounding Marks' research dates back to a proposal that went through Baylor and provided for Dembski's return to campus.

Through the approval of a grant submitted to the LifeWorks Foundation and signed by President Lilley on April 28, 2006, Dembski was hired as a post-doctoral researcher to assist Marks.

Dembski, a proponent of intelligent design, previously directed Baylor's controversial Michael Polanyi Center, which was devoted to the study of science and religion. The center caused divisions among Baylor faculty and was disbanded in 2000.

The LifeWorks Foundation is directed by Microsoft millionaire Brendan Dixon, who said in a phone interview from Seattle with the Lariat that the foundation has been "winding down for the last year and half" and is closing down this year for reasons unrelated to Marks.

Dixon and his wife, Kim, are the sole employees of LifeWorks, which Dixon called "a small, family-run foundation."

"We provided funds to organizations that we felt were addressing inequities in life and trying to help move people forward," Dixon said.

The LifeWorks proposal approved by Lilley and accompanied by a letter he signed asked for $15,000 from the foundation for Dembski's post-doctoral position, but Baylor ended up receiving $30,000.

Dixon said he could not recall the specific numbers involved in the grant.

Dixon said the foundation received proposals all the time and has made varying grants, both large and small, throughout the years.

According to tax returns, in 2006 the foundation donated $700,000 to the Discovery Institute, a nonpartisan think tank that supports intelligent design. Dixon said he is not in any way affiliated with the institute, however, and donates to various organizations.

Dixon, a computer scientist like Marks, said he met Marks in a social setting and became aware of his research. He said Marks later sent him a write-up on the research, which he found interesting and decided to support with a grant.

But unlike other grants made from the foundation, Dixon said, this one Baylor would eventually return, something he called "bizarre beyond belief."

In a letter from Lilley to the foundation dated April 28, 2006, Baylor requested a $15,000 grant "to support a post-doctoral researcher."

Dembski was not named by Lilley in the letter, although he was named in the personnel section of the accompanying proposal.

After the grant was processed, Lilley sent a letter on June 29, 2006, to Dixon and the foundation thanking him for a "check of $30,000" and stating, "We hope this project will be the beginning of a dynamic relationship between Baylor and The LifeWorks Foundation."

Director of media relations Lori Fogleman confirmed that Lilley signed off on the grant but "later became aware" of Dembski's hiring.

Dembski was named and his curriculum vitae included in the personnel section of the proposal, which was submitted April 28, 2006. The proposal, "Added Information in Evolutionary Search for Targeted Solutions," was for the investigation of "added information required to successfully perform evolutionary computing."

Dembski Back at Baylor

When it became apparent that Dembski was returning to Baylor, his arrival was not met with immediate resistance.

Dr. Ben Kelley, dean of the school of engineering, sent Marks an e-mail on Oct. 1, 2006, in which he said he had learned Marks requested office space for a new post-doctoral researcher.

"Since I haven't seen any requests for a new position I'd also like to chat with you about this," Kelley said in the e-mail.

Marks replied the same day, explaining his procurement of the grant and who it was funding. In an October 23, 2006, e-mail, Kelley's assistant requested a picture of Dembski for the school's Web site.

Dembski said he arrived at Baylor in November 2006 and was given an office in the Rogers Engineering Building.

"The dean knew about this. It was up-front," Dembski said. "It wasn't a big deal - I had friends there (in the engineering school)."

But by December, the situation had taken a different turn. A Dec. 1 e-mail from Kelley to Marks stated: "A serious situation is arising concerning your post-doc."

On Dec. 6 Marks wrote a letter to Lilley and Provost Randall O'Brien in response to what Marks called "rumblings about (Dembski's) return to my lab."

In the letter, Marks wrote that Kelley had communicated these concerns to him.

Marks explained to the president and provost that he had procured the LifeWorks grant for Dembski's hiring, adding that "Dr. Dembski has a small office in the Rogers Building and came in two or three times a week."

Marks stated, "I know you believe it is my right as a Baylor professor to pursue research in Intelligent Design. I also hope you believe, as I do, foundational academic freedom of intellectual pursuit trumps any protests concerning the hiring of Dr. Dembski in my research group.

"Before the LifeWorks gift is expended, I plan to attract additional funds for Dr. Dembski's support. Ultimately I would like to raise sufficient soft money for a perpetually endowed position so that Dr. Dembski could, if he so chose, join my group full time. He has not agreed to do so."

Dembski's Firing

Dembski's position at Baylor did not last long.

On Dec. 8 Kelley wrote an e-mail to Dembski to notify him that his position was discontinued.

On the same day, Marks wrote an e-mail to O'Brien and others saying: "Our collaboration (Marks and Dembski's) was stealth until others made it visible."

Marks referred all questions to his attorney, John Gilmore, who did not return calls to his cell phone Wednesday and Thursday.

Dembski said he thought the comment could be "taken in various ways."

"I know for myself I wasn't predicated on a gift from the LifeWorks Foundation. Funding from this gift is no longer available."

Kelley confirmed to the Lariat that it was his decision to return the money to the foundation.

Dembski said when his position was terminated, Kelley was "the only person (he) dealt with really."

"I met with him when he indicated that there might be some problems with my position, and I met with him and Marks at 7 a.m. on a Monday morning about five or six days before I was terminated," Dembski said.

"(Kelley) indicated that he thought my mathematics was good, but he didn't really follow it all. He basically said, 'I have to do what's best for engineering. This could affect funding,' but he kind of left it hanging as if I was a liability to the engineering school."

Fogleman said the grant "was a research proposal that did not go through the proper academic channels."

"This grant was actually a gift to the university that went through university development," Fogleman said. "It did not go through the academic side of the house and follow that standard procedure of external funding evaluation - department chair, Office of Sponsored Programs, dean and provost."

According to documents obtained by the Lariat, Marks submitted the grant proposal to the Office of Sponsored Programs, which then directed it to Baylor's Development Office.

In an e-mail to the Office of Sponsored Programs, Marks wrote, "Who submits the grant, your office or development, is your call.

The development office then took over the grant submission process, according to the e-mails.

Fogleman said the university could not confirm clarify the grant's approval process as of press time.

Dembski said for Baylor to return the grant, thereby eliminating his position, was "unprecedented."

"For Baylor to stop me in this way was hindering Bob's research," Dembski said. "I was skeptical at first about returning to Baylor, but I mean, this was coming under a grant that Bob had, and I was basically employed by him."

Dembski said he at least had a safety net of another full-time job. Dembski is a research professor of philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

A Different 'Vetting'

Despite comments made by Marks that his collaboration with Dembski was "stealth," Dembski said his association at Baylor wasn't hidden.

"I have ... a file of a letter that Lilley signed off on basically thanking the foundation and all of the paperwork that went through," Dembski said, adding, "If he didn't look it over it closely enough, well, OK, whose fault is that?"

Fogleman said the president receives large amounts of paperwork to sign, and "once anything reaches the president's desk, he is trusting that the processes in place have been properly vetted at that point."

But the LifeWorks grant, which she said "circumvented the standard funding evaluation programs," could have "been vetted completely differently if it had gone through the academic side."

Dr. Donald Schmeltekopf, former provost and current director of the Center for Ministry Effectiveness and Educational Leadership, said, "It's not unusual to not read (grants) all the way through."

"There's a system in place," he said. "You rely on others like deans and chairs to check these things. I rarely read through every page of a proposal I was sent (when I was provost), and I signed off on a lot of grants ... If you get a proposal on a particularly busy day, you could sign off on something you weren't aware of."

Schmeltekopf said considering the history Baylor has with Dembski, if he had written proposal with Dembski in it, he "would've made sure that the administration knew that he was involved."

"Seems to be that folks didn't know what they signed," Schmeltekopf said. "You just don't do that to your school, your administration."

STARS Proposal

After the return of the LifeWorks money, Marks continued to submit proposals for his research.

In May of 2007, Marks submitted a research proposal to STARS, a grant-awarding program funded by the John Templeton Foundation.

The John Templeton Foundation is a philanthropic foundation that issues grants in the fields of science and philosophy and funds what its mission statement calls "discovery in areas engaging life's biggest questions."

Kelley set up a meeting with department chairs and deans to discuss the proposal's funding source and scientific merit.

"Some could conclude that this project has ID implications, and certainly the outcomes could potentially be used in that that (sic) emotion-packed debate," Kelley wrote in a May 8 e-mail.

The next day Marks wrote to Kelley and O'Brien, "Let me remove any doubt ... this proposal DEFINITELY has ID implications."

Marks declined to attend the meeting but had lunch with Kelley on May 11. In an e-mail that day to Kelley, he wrote, "The bottom line, as I understand it, is that the decision to pull the STARS proposal was President Lilley's decision communicated to you by (physics professor and vice provost for research) Truell Hyde. The reason stated for pulling was not the content of the proposal, but was the technicality that the proposal was not properly submitted."

Fogleman said, "When the STARS proposal was first submitted to the Office of Sponsored Programs, it was already up against the deadline, yet the proposal had never been through the standard academic approval process - dean, vice provost for research, provost - which is required of all faculty research proposals.

"Because the process was not followed from the beginning, OSP had to start from scratch," Fogleman said. "The proposal did proceed through the standard procedure and was eventually approved."

Representing Pat Neff

Despite the proposals Marks submitted, the controversy surrounding his research continued to be a subject of debate within Baylor.

On June 11, Marks sent Lilley and O'Brien a copy of Darwin's Black Box, a book by biochemist Michael Behe presenting a case for intelligent design and a scientific argument for the existence of God.

He sent with the book a letter explaining that he and "some others at Baylor are doing work in how God is revealed in science, mathematics and engineering [Romans 1:20]. One oft misunderstood (sic) component of this area is sometimes called Intelligent Design. The phrase is now used largely in an inappropriate pejorative (sic) sense because of its depiction as mindless uninformed creationism. Proper study of the interface of God and Science is anything but."

He added that he would "welcome the opportunity to talk" about his field and answer any questions Lilley or others might have.

Fogleman said "the president and provost receive a steady flow of books on a daily basis from people inside and outside the university, faculty-recommended books, faculty-written books and such. The president's office did receive a copy of the book."

Kelly and Marks met July 9, and in an e-mail exchange that followed the meeting, Kelley wrote to Marks that his impression was "that the books you sent weren't well received, perhaps particularly by President Lilley. However, I do not wish to put words in their mouths."

All questions for President Lilley were directed to Lori Fogleman, director of media communications.

In comments about the intelligent design debate, Kelley stated, "It is not your or my perusal to dictate whether or how Baylor collectively decides to/if open/reopen a dialog (sic).

"Many have concluded that there is no debate to be had, and others conclude the debate has already occurred. Most main-stream scientists and engineers, including a good share at Baylor, have dismissed ID.

"There are elements of or individuals at Baylor who stand to loose (sic) or be hurt by the perception the university is pursuing or advocating 'bogus' science. That is a huge factor, and much larger than your or my opinions."

Kelley suggested that Marks focus the "mainstream and vast majority" of his research toward "traditional ECE (Electrical and Computer Engineering) research."

Kelley also mentioned in the e-mail that Marks had expressed a preference to focus on "science and God at Baylor" research.

"That is not why you were attractive to us before you were hired (as we have discussed), and not what I expect from you as a Distinguished Professor (as we have discussed)," Kelley wrote.

Kelley relayed to Marks that some people may view him "as out to promote Bob Marks' agenda first or at the expense of the ECS (school of Engineering and Computer Science) agenda." He encouraged him to pursue research that could "promote and benefit Baylor ECE."

To communicate his support of Kelley, O'Brien sent a follow-up e-mail to Marks on July 11 thanking him for the book. He assured Marks that Kelly was "representing institutional concerns and policy, which must be supported by Pat Neff Hall."

He wrote to Marks later that day reiterating, "The concerns (Kelly) is visiting with you about are strong ones in high quarters."

Web site disconnected

The conflict took a different turn when Marks did a July 20 podcast interview with Casey Luskin, program officer in public policy and legal affairs for the Discovery Institute.

The interview was posted on the institute's Web site and discussed the nature of Marks' research on his Web site, www.evolutionaryinformatics.org, which is now hosted on a third-party server.

Later on July 27 Kelly sent Marks another e-mail saying, "I have received several concerned messages this week about an interview and web site dealing with evolutionary computing associated ID (sic). Please disconnect this web site immediately..."

The Web site was shut down in August and Marks and his attorney, John Gilmore, met with Kelley, Baylor General Counsel Charles Beckenhauer and Provost Randall O'Brien. The Web site contained some of Marks' work as well as material by Dembski.

Despite Baylor's approval of the LifeWorks, STARS and National Science Foundation proposals for Marks' research, Fogleman said the Web site is a separate issue.

Baylor officials maintain that the Web site was removed on a procedural technicality and that the university did not approve the research.

"Our professors are expected to research and teach in areas that they are hired to produce," Fogleman said.

"We're talking about any kind of outside research -- outside of their particular field of expertise in which they are hired to produce at the university. If they fulfill all of their contractual obligations to the university regarding time and productivity, then that professor is perfectly free to research in an outside area," Fogleman said.

"Right now, this continues to be an ongoing legal discussion that we hope will be resolved satisfactorily."

City editor Claire St. Amant contributed to this story.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Intelligent Design Group Accuses PBS of Promoting Unconstitutional Teaching


By Katherine T. Phan Christian Post Reporter

Mon, Nov. 12 2007 11:20 AM ET

A leading intelligent design think tank says a teacher's guide issued by the Public Broadcasting System in conjunction with a program on the 2005 Dover intelligent design trial is "likely unconstitutional."

PBS had issued the "Briefing Packet for Educators" for the two-hour NOVA program, called "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial," scheduled to premiere Tuesday at 8 p.m.

Experts at the Discovery Institute say the guide promotes teaching practices that unconstitutionally injects religion into the classroom.

"They are encouraging teachers to do things like have discussion questions such as – 'Can you accept evolution and still believe in religion? Answer: Yes. The common view that evolution is inherently anti-religious is simply false,'" spokesman Rob Crowther said, according to OneNewsNow.

Critics of intelligent design have often criticized the teaching as a ploy to introduce religion into schools. They charge intelligent design with touting the same beliefs Creationism – the biblically-based belief that God created the universe.

However, proponents of intelligent design contend that while evidence from nature and the natural world suggests an "intelligent designer" is behind the creation in the universe, there is not enough scientific evidence to identify the designer as God.

"Far be it from us to accuse PBS of kind of being agenda-driven, or having an anti-intelligent design bend, but it is interesting that this is the tact they've taken and now there they are injecting religion right into the classroom," Crowther added.

Furthermore, the guide does not provide an accurate portrayal of intelligent design, according to Dr. John West, vice president for public policy and legal affairs with Discovery Institute.

"The teaching guide is riddled with factual errors that misrepresent both the standard definition of intelligent design and the beliefs of those scientists and scholars who support the theory," said West in a report by the Republican Valley.

The Discovery Institute has sent copies of the teacher's guide to 15 attorneys and legal scholars, who specialize in constitutional law, for review, said Crowther.

Crowther wrote on his blog Friday that the group will also be watching the program and posting corrections to any pieces of information that they find misleading.

Tuesday's program will follow the federal case of Kitzmiller v. Dover School District and feature trial reenactments based on court transcripts and interviews with key participants, according to PBS.

3 Myths About the Dover Intelligent Design Trial


In 2005 Judge John E. Jones, presiding over the Dover intelligent design trial, ruled that intelligent design is religion, not science, because he felt he was in the best position to "traipse into such a controversial area" and settle the debate over intelligent design once and for all.

Tomorrow, PBS will air NOVA's propaganda piece reenacting some parts of the Dover trial, "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial." PBS claims the program will tell the true story behind the Dover trial. But will it?

The program features the usual cast of characters: anti-ID activist Eugenie Scott, Darwinist Ken Miller, and apparently Judge Jones himself (currently on his second annual self-congratulatory globe-trotting tour -- be sure to catch him on your local NPR station and Air America). The program will attempt to show that intelligent design is creationism and therefore more religion than science. Like the misleading "Evolution" miniseries PBS produced in 2001, this is an attempt to stifle scientific inquiry and censor science by making talking and researching about intelligent design out of bounds.

Here are a few truths about intelligent design you won't get from PBS/NOVA's "Judgment Day" program.

Myth #1: There are no peer-reviewed scientific papers supporting intelligent design. Judge Jones said that ID "...has not generated peer-reviewed publications."

FACT: Judge Jones is simply wrong. Discovery Institute submitted an amicus brief to Judge Jones that documented various peer-reviewed publications, which he accepted into evidence. This is a fact-based question which is hard to get wrong. The fact is that there are peer-reviewed papers supporting intelligent design.

Myth #2: Intelligent design is not scientific because it isn't testable. Judge Jones said, "...nor has ID been the subject of testing and research."

FACT: For two days during the trial biologist and flagellum expert Dr. Scott Minnich presented slides from his own mutagenesis experiments performed in his lab at the University of Idaho. In his experiments, he knocked out every flagellar gene, one by one, and found that the flagellum is irreducibly complex. These tests were given to Judge Jones, but apparently he ignored them.

Myth #3: Intelligent design is the same as creationism. Judge Jones said that ID is "a mere re-labeling of creationism."

FACT: Creationism typically starts with a religious text and tries to see how the findings of science can be reconciled to it. ID starts with the empirical evidence of nature and seeks to ascertain what inferences can be drawn from that evidence. Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design does not claim that modern biology can identify whether the intelligent cause detected through science is supernatural.

For the truth about the Dover intelligent design trial, visit www.traipsingintoevolution.com.

Posted by Robert Crowther on November 12, 2007 10:53 AM | Permalink



Sunday, November 11, 2007

Religion is based on faith; evolution is based on fact


Issue date: 10/22/07 Section: Opinion

While strong religious views certainly have their place in our society, the letter in Wednesday's Daily Lobo by Dennis Kinzler gives the impression that they need to be incorporated into every aspect of everyone's life. Science is not based on what someone said 2,000 years ago. Rather, it is based upon observation, theories, discussions, refutations and quite simply learning about the world in which we live. Yes, some of these discussions date back thousands of years, and many of them have been relabeled as facts instead of theories. In the case of evolution, we are still finding new supporting evidence. Looking back 2,000 years, who could carbon-date artifacts? Who could DNA-test animals to see how closely they are related? Or who was interested in the fossil record?

Kinzler argued that we cannot put any stock into the theory of evolution simply because it is not an old-enough theory. If that is the case, Christianity and Islam would have never become the religions they are today. Everything has a beginning, and evolution was given its stronghold by the genius of Charles Darwin. Darwin was not the first to write about evolution -he was just the most accepted. He didn't publish his theory for many years due to a fear of rejection from the religious viewpoints of the day. Darwin did not cook up a theory to distract people from their religious views. He simply observed natural selection and formed a theory from it. This theory is now generally accepted in the scientific community because of the overwhelming amounts of evidence to support it.

Throughout history, theories have been rejected due to radical thinking. Take for instance, Galileo, who was persecuted by the church for believing Earth was not the center of the universe. In the 1600s, when this view was new, it was neither legal nor accepted. Can you imagine a scientist today who would try to teach that the sun revolves around Earth? He would be laughed out of a university. So, just because Kinzler does not believe in evolution, that does not mean it should not be taught to the expanding minds of current biology students. If he does not want to learn it, perhaps he should stick to Religion 107 or one of the other religious courses offered through our diverse University. On the other hand, perhaps he should spend more time at church where the Bible can teach him all he needs to succeed in life.

Christine Cooper and
Casey Kylee Mullen

UNM students

UCSB Research Sheds Light on Evolution Evidence


By Evan Sherwood / Reporter

Published Monday, October 22, 2007

Issue 20 / Volume 88

UCSB researchers recently discovered that the aquatic Hydra was the first animal to develop light-receptive genes about 600 million years ago. Hydras, which are part of the Cnidarian class made of jellyfish and coral, used these perceptors to hunt.

The evolutionary science field recently gained some insight last week after UCSB researchers discovered evidence that the first vision-related genes appeared in an organism nearly 600 million years ago.

The researchers came to their conclusion after analyzing the genes of the modern Hydra, which is classified as a cnidarian - a class that includes jellyfish and coral. Following this study, UCSB scientists determined Hydras developed light-receptive genes during the Ediacaran Period of the Neoproterozoic Era. The findings were published in a Public Library of Science journal last week.

According to the research, the development of genes called opsins in pre-historic Cnidarians allowed for light sensitivity.

In a press release, UCSB researcher and graduate student David Plachetzki said Hydras and fellow cnidarians offer scientists a glimpse into the evolutionary process.

"Not only are we the first to analyze these vision genes [opsins] in these early animals, but because we don't find them in earlier evolving animals like sponges, we can put a date on the evolution of light sensitivity in animals," Plachetzki said.

Researchers now hypothesize that Hydras, which are predators, use the light-sensitivity to attract prey. While Hydras do not have eyes or other light-receptive organs, such opsin proteins are used all over their bodies and particularly near the mouth.

Since cnidarians were among the first creatures to develop beyond sponges, the presence of these genes in modern Hydra allow for a definitive assumption of when organisms first became light sensitive, Platchetzki said.

"Animals evolved a special way of being photosensitive, which was elaborated in vision," he said.

UCSB professor and fellow researcher Todd Oakley said the discovery provides a new, key component to the ongoing evolution debate. Since the researchers can now estimate when the specific gene developments occurred, Oakley said this knowledge challenges anti-evolutionist arguments that claim genetic mutation cannot create new traits.

"Our paper shows that such claims are simply wrong." Oakley said. "Slowly we are showing all the steps [of evolutionary development], and this is another important step."

The scientists conducted the research with the assistance of a National Science Foundation grant and will use the research as the basis for further study in evolution and genetics.

All content, photographs, graphics and design Copyright 2000-2006 Daily Nexus at the University of California, Santa Barbara

Clive Thompson on Why Science Will Triumph Only When Theory Becomes Law


By Clive Thompson 10.23.07 | 12:00 AM

Creationists and intelligent-design boosters have a guerrilla tactic to undermine textbooks that don't jibe with their beliefs. They slap a sticker on the cover that reads, EVOLUTION IS A THEORY, NOT A FACT, REGARDING THE ORIGIN OF LIVING THINGS.

This is the central argument of evolution deniers: Evolution is an unproven "theory." For science-savvy people, this is an incredibly annoying ploy. While it's true that scientists refer to evolution as a theory, in science the word theory means an explanation of how the world works that has stood up to repeated, rigorous testing. It's hardly a term of disparagement.

But for most people, theory means a haphazard guess you've pulled out of your, uh, hat. It's an insult, really, a glib way to dismiss a point of view: "Ah, well, that's just your theory." Scientists use theory in one specific way, the public another — and opponents of evolution have expertly exploited this disconnect.

Turns out, the real culture war in science isn't about science at all — it's about language. And tofight this war, we need to change the way we talk about scientific knowledge.

Scientists are already pondering this. Last summer, physicist Helen Quinn sparked a lively debate among her colleagues with an essay for Physics Today arguing that scientists are too tentative when they discuss scientific knowledge. They're an inherently cautious bunch, she points out. Even when they're 99 percent certain of a theory, they know there's always the chance that a new discovery could overturn or modify it.

So when scientists talk about well-established bodies of knowledge — particularly in areas like evolution or relativity — they hedge their bets. They say they "believe" something to be true, as in, "We believe that the Jurassic period was characterized by humid tropical weather."

This deliberately nuanced language gets horribly misunderstood and often twisted in public discourse. When the average person hears phrases like "scientists believe," they read it as, "Scientists can't really prove this stuff, but they take it on faith." ("That's just what you believe" is another nifty way to dismiss someone out of hand.)

Of course, antievolution crusaders have figured out that language is the ammunition of culture wars. That's why they use those stickers. They take the intellectual strengths of scientific language — its precision, its carefulness — and wield them as weapons against science itself.

The defense against this: a revamped scientific lexicon. If the antievolutionists insist on exploiting the public's misunderstanding of words like theory and believe, then we shouldn't fight it. "We need to be a bit less cautious in public when we're talking about scientific conclusions that are generally agreed upon," Quinn says.

What does she suggest? For truly solid-gold, well-established science, let's stop using the word theory entirely. Instead, let's revive much more venerable language and refer to such knowledge as "law." As with Newton's law of gravity, people intuitively understand that a law is a rule that holds true and must be obeyed. The word law conveys precisely the same sense of authority with the public as theory does with scientists, but without the linguistic baggage.

Evolution is supersolid. We even base the vaccine industry on it: When we troop into the doctor's office each winter to get a flu shot — an inoculation against the latest evolved strains of the disease — we're treating evolution as a law. So why not just say "the law of evolution"?

Best of all, it performs a neat bit of linguistic jujitsu. If someone says, "I don't believe in the theory of evolution," they may sound fairly reasonable. But if someone announces, "I don't believe in the law of evolution," they sound insane. It's tantamount to saying, "I don't believe in the law of gravity."

It's time to realize that we're simply never going to school enough of the public in the precise scientific meaning of particular words. We're never going to fully communicate what's beautiful and noble about scientific caution and rigor. Public discourse is inevitably political, so we need to talk about science in a way that wins the political battle — in no uncertain terms.

At least, that's my theory.

Email clive@clivethompson.net

African Cave Yields Earliest Proof of Beach Living


Mason Inman
for National Geographic News

October 17, 2007

The earliest modern humans probably arose on the savannas of East Africa, but a new study shows they soon learned that life could be good on the beach.

Excavation of a sea cave on the tip of South Africa has shown that by 165,000 years ago people were already living near the coast and relying heavily on a diet of shellfish.

The ancient cave dwellers also had sophisticated stone-bladed tools and were using a pigment called ochre, perhaps for painting their bodies, caves, or other objects.

The findings, from a site known as Pinnacle Point, suggest that even the earliest modern humans already had complex lives and sophisticated tools.

The researchers argue that eating seafood was the last major shift in the human diet before the advent of agriculture about 150,000 years later.

This shift in diet could have had a profound effect on human societies, said study leader Curtis Marean of Arizona State University in Tempe.

"When people began to exploit seafood, they started to reduce their mobility," he said. "They didn't have to move around the landscape, chasing down their food."

This probably allowed group sizes to swell, social interactions to become more complex, and for people to use symbols in more complex ways, Marean explained.

"When you start to eat shellfish, it has a ripple effect," he added.

Early Tools and Pigments

The pieces of ochre—a common iron-containing mineral—from the cave ranged from dull reddish-brown to brilliant red.

It seems that the cave dwellers favored the bright red pieces the most, because those showed more signs of scraping or rubbing.

The cave also held stone blades of various sizes, from about 1 to 2 inches (2 to 5 centimeters) long, along with larger rocks used as raw material for making the tools.

"The bladelets are so small, they're very hard to hold in your hand and use," Marean said.

This suggests they were part of more sophisticated tools, with the bladelets mounted in handles of bone or wood, he added.

Similar bladelets have been found in only one other site that might be earlier, called Twin Rivers, in Zambia.

However, the estimated dates of the Twin Rivers bladelets are uncertain, ranging from 140,000 to 400,000 years old.

Before the Pinnacle Point find, the earliest securely dated bladelets were 70,000 years old, Marean said.

The team's findings appear in tomorrow's issue of the journal Nature.

Ice Age Survival

The new finding suggests that people had learned to live on the coast soon after anatomically modern humans arose about 195,000 years ago.

Marean and colleagues argue that eating seafood also could have helped some early humans survive an ice age that lasted from about 200,000 to 130,000 years ago.

During that time, Africa was cool and dry, and the ocean could have been a more reliable source of food.

Sally McBrearty of the University of Connecticut and Chris Stringer of London's Natural History Museum wrote a commentary, also published in Nature, on the new findings.

"The Pinnacle Point evidence is significant because it suggests that early humans in Africa inhabited a cognitive world enriched by symbols before 160,000 years ago," McBrearty and Stringer wrote.

(Read related story: "'Python Cave' Reveals Oldest Human Ritual, Scientists Suggest" [December 22, 2006].)

Jon Erlandson, of the University of Oregon in Eugene, told National Geographic News that the new findings are "significant."

But he added that evidence of seafood consumption is not surprising.

"I suspect the use of shellfish goes back a lot earlier than this," he said.

Foraging in intertidal areas of coasts is "a no-brainer," Erlandson added. "Baboons do it; birds do it."

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Monkey business


Originally published November 10, 2007

'Evolution' remains a dirty word

By Mark Hohmeister

Why didn't I think of this back when I was drowning, going down for the third time, in organic chemistry?

"Mr. Hohmeister," Professor Ferguson would have asked, "why is the benzene ring stable?"

"Uh," I would have stammered, "because God made it that way."

Florida is revising the Sunshine State Standards, which lay out the expectations for students at all grade levels. And if some citizens and educators had their way, my reply might be an acceptable answer.

Of course, we're not talking about organic chemistry here in the capital these days. We're talking evolution.

I went to Wednesday night's first public forum on the new standards for how the public schools teach science and other subjects to hear what people had to say. The standards also address how children with cognitive disabilities would be tested. It's an ongoing effort to make Florida education "world class."

But I knew there was only one word in those standards regarding the teaching of science that really mattered. Because 82 years after the Scopes Monkey Trial, people are still trying to push God into the science classroom.

Wakulla County was well-represented, with Beth Mims, director of curriculum, and school board member Greg Thomas speaking against adding evolution, officially, to the standards.

Mims - of course, not speaking for the board - said adding specific requirements would take "flexibility" from the teachers. (Flexibility to do what, I wondered; to teach religion?) "There's no mention of controversy," she said. "(Evolution) appears to be a universally accepted fact."

Thomas warned that all of the hard work that went into the standards would be lost in the battle over evolution. "I don't know that the benefit is there," he said, making sure to add at the end that, when he learned about it, "it was Darwin's theory of evolution."

Others didn't have to be so careful to dance around the real issue.

One parent wondered why schools can't consider "an intelligent influence," branded evolution "a tool of atheists" and spoke of the "assumption of billions of years of history." Uh-oh, I thought, we've got a young-Earth creationist here who thinks the world is just 6,000 years old.

A grandmother who had five kids go through public schools said she didn't see evolution in the similarities of life forms. (Just as Picasso paintings are recognized as being from the same artist, so are worms and humans perhaps?) She hinted at "something that I call the creator" before finally surrendering and calling it "our heavenly father."

I recently finished reading Edward Humes' "Monkey Girl," the story of the "intelligent design" trial in Dover, Pa. It's stunning that this battle took place in the 21st century. Maybe it's time for a small review of the different strategies the creationists have tried.

In 1925, Tennessee passed the Butler Act, barring the teaching of "any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible." That spawned a splendid trial, a fine play and movie ("Inherit the Wind") and, eventually, a Supreme Court ruling that found such bans to be an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

The next strategy was "equal treatment" - teaching creationism and evolution together. In 1987, the Supreme Court tossed Louisiana's Balanced Treatment Act.

Next came intelligent design, in which you use your computer's find/replace function to delete "creationism" and replace it with the words "intelligent design." That was the subject of the Dover trial, which drew big guns from both sides of the debate and ended with a slam-dunk victory for evolution.

Judge John E. Jones III wrote in his ruling: "Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs' scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator."

So what's next?

I got a hint Wednesday night, when another parent warned against teaching a subject when "there is theory involved." "You have disagreement among the scientists," he said. "Where there is sufficient controversy, it ought to be left out." Teach it in college, instead, he suggested.

I don't remember doing it, but in my notes, I wrote "Wow!"

Slipping into sarcasm here (a word, incidentally, that does not appear in the Bible), I thought, hey, this might be the breakthrough we need to cut costs and streamline education in Florida.

Let's see. Physicists still have no unified theory, despite the best efforts of people from Einstein to Dirac. Let's ditch that subject.

Does the trickle-down theory work? Who knows? Toss economics.

Just the other day in the newsroom, there was disagreement over use of the subjunctive in the phrase "If there were a time for teachers . . ." So English class can go right out the window.

I remember a discussion about relativity between my brother-in-law, who was a minister, and a friend who is a nuclear chemist. My brother-in-law insisted that, somewhere, there has to be "God's time."

So, on one hand we have Einstein, on the other we have my brother-in-law. Sounds like a disagreement to me.

Class dismissed.

You can comment on the proposed standards until Dec. 14 at http://etc.usf.edu/flstandards/index.html. The standards will be submitted to the state board of education in January for adoption.

Contact Mark Hohmeister at (850) 599-2330 or mhohmeister@tallahassee.com.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Evolution education update: November 9, 2007

Judgment Day, the special documentary about Kitzmiller v. Dover to air on PBS on November 13, 2007, received a glowing review in Nature. Meanwhile, a governor who vocally supported creationism is out of office, the president of NCSE's board of directors was elected as a Fellow of the AAAS, and NCSE has a new logo at last!


Reviewing Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial -- the new documentary about Kitzmiller v. Dover -- for the November 8, 2007, issue of Nature (450: 170), Adam Rutherford was impressed, not least with the way in which the filmmakers met the challenge of retelling the story. "The makers of Judgment Day inject tension with eyewitness accounts from the people of Dover," he writes, "and home-video footage of raucous school board meetings shows how passionate and divided this small community became. It works: it is inspiring to hear parents and educators, such as Sunday school and physics teacher Bryan Rehm, recount how they refused to be steam-rollered into bringing religion into the science classroom."

"Judgment Day gracefully avoids ridiculing intelligent design for the pseudo-intellectual fundamentalist fig-leaf that it is, by simply showing how the protagonists shot themselves in the foot," Rutherford adds. Acknowledging that the "intelligent design" movement is still alive in the wake of the trial, he nevertheless concludes that "the Kitzmiller vs Dover verdict, matched this September with the outlawing of intelligent design in the UK national curriculum, marked the official neutering of this unpleasant, sneaky movement in much of the western world. Judgment Day is just the sort of thoughtful programming that celebrates how sensible people -- faithful and otherwise -- can use science and reason to combat fundamentalism."

Judgment Day airs on PBS stations nationwide at 8:00 p.m. on November 13, 2007. (Schedules for local affiliates can be checked on-line via the PBS website.) Be sure also to visit the generous website, featuring interviews with Kenneth R. Miller on evolution, Phillip Johnson on "intelligent design," and Paula Apsell on NOVA's decision to produce the documentary; audio clips of Judge John E. Jones III reading passages from his decision in the case and of various experts (including NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott) discussing the nature of science; resources about the evidence for evolution and about the background to the Kitzmiller case; material especially for teachers, including a briefing packet for educators; and even a preview of the documentary.

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

For information about Judgment Day, visit:

For the preview, visit:

For PBS schedules across the country, visit:


Kentucky's incumbent governor Ernie Fletcher (R) was soundly defeated in the November 6, 2007, election, by Steve Beshear (D), a former lieutenant governor of the state, who took 59% of the vote. A Baptist minister, Fletcher was perhaps the most outspoken supporter of creationism to serve as a governor anywhere in the country in recent years. He expressed disappointment about the verdict in Kitzmiller v. Dover, for example, saying that local school districts ought to be able to teach "intelligent design" if they wish (Cincinnati Enquirer, December 25, 2005).

Subsequently, in his State of the Commonwealth address in January 2006, Fletcher contended that under Kentucky law, teachers already have the freedom to teach "intelligent design" in the public schools. He was apparently referring to a portion (KRS 158.177) of Kentucky's Education Code authorizing teachers to teach "the theory of creation as presented in the Bible" and to "read such passages in the Bible as are deemed necessary for instruction on the theory of creation." The Louisville Courier-Journal (January 11, 2006) reported that according to a November 2005 survey of the state's 176 school districts, none were teaching or discussing "intelligent design."

Reaction to Fletcher's comments on the part of the state's newspapers was negative. For example, a Kentucky Post (January 11, 2006) editorial responded, "His plug for teaching intelligent design in public schools is manifestly unwelcome, if what he meant was that science teachers ought to incorporate it into their curriculum. If schools offer comparative religion classes as electives and teachers wish to address intelligent design in such classes, that's another matter. But this is instruction that most families can take care of just fine in their own homes or churches."

The topic of "intelligent design" arose again during a televised debate between the gubernatorial candidates at Northern Kentucky University on October 3, 2007. According to WKYT (October 3, 2007) in Lexington, Kentucky, Fletcher commented, "I think there's nothing wrong with teaching that, in fact, I think to teach that is part of our founding heritage and I think it's very important," while Beshear retorted, "I believe that science ought to be taught in schools and religion ought to be taught at home and in the churches and in the synagogues." Beshear takes office on December 11, 2007.

For section 158.177 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes (PDF), visit:

For WKYT's coverage of the debate, visit:

And for NCSE's coverage of previous events in Kentucky, visit:


Kevin Padian, the president of NCSE's board of directors, was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in October 2007 "for distinguished contributions to the study of the vertebrate evolutionary adaptations and especially for his leadership in science education," according to an October 26, 2007, press release from the University of California, Berkeley. Padian is Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and Curator at the University of California Museum of Paleontology. He testified for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case in which teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools was found to be unconstitutional, and the transcript of his testimony, together with the slides he used, is available on NCSE's website.

Members of NCSE who were also elected Fellows of the AAAS in October 2007 include Carl A. Maida of the University of California, Los Angeles; Sally McBrearty of the University of Connecticut; Lawrence M. Schell of the University at Albany, State University of New York; Sara Stinson of the City University of New York, Queens College; Linda D. Wolfe of East Carolina University; J. David Archibald of San Diego State University; Tom A. Ranker of the University of Colorado; Randy W. Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley; Andrew D. Miranker of Yale University; Naomi Oreskes of the University of California, San Diego; and Adrian L. Melott of the University of Kansas. (Let the NCSE office know if we overlooked your name on AAAS's list!)

For the press release from the University of California, Berkeley, visit:

For Padian's testimony in Kitzmiller v. Dover, including his slides, visit:

For AAAS's list of new Fellows, visit:


NCSE is pleased to announce that we've selected a winner in our logo contest.

The winning entry is by graphic artist Andrew Conti. He describes his entry as follows: "I have taken Charles Darwin's original notebook sketch of the tree of life and reworked it with rounded and more organic lines. By doing so, it is my intention to give a sense of open-minded and creative playfulness, while at the same time tying a direct link to the science and history of scientific understanding that is the focus of the NCSE."

NCSE offers our congratulations to Andrew and our deepest thanks to all our participants for their continuing support of NCSE and science education. Expect our new logo to replace the old logo over the next few months.

For the new logo, visit the version of this story on our website:

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


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

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

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism

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

New religious museum planned for CNMI


Posted at 20:21 on 08 November, 2007 UTC

It's hoped a new religious museum which is planned for the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas will boost tourist numbers there.

An international Christian ministry plans to open a museum promoting creationism on the island.

Last week, the leader of the Answers in Genesis Group, or AIG, met the CNMI Governor Benigno Fitial who is in favour of the project.

The AIG's first Creation Museum opened in the United States in May and the CNMI museum is set to follow its design with robotic dinosaurs, a planetarium and a special effects theatre.

It will also feature a camp where students can learn english as a second language.

The Managing Director of the Marianas Visiting Authority, Terry Tenorio, says five hundred thousand mainly asian visitors already come to the CNMI each year.

He says this is great news for the tourism industry there.

"We support new developments to the CNMI and educational tourism is something we're exploring now, we think it's a very important component in attracting more visitors to the island."

Terry Tenorio of the Marianas Visiting Authority.

Liver cleansing using household items


Alexia Cameron Issue date: 11/8/07

As Chuck Basford lay sprawled on his couch watching a movie 20 years ago, a sharp, searing pain surged into his stomach. It felt as though knives were being wrenched into his upper abdomen, and the excruciating pain knocked him onto the floor, he said.

Basford was experiencing a gallstone attack. In order to subside his affliction, Basford, 25 at the time, administered his own at-home liver flush by drinking a half cup of extra virgin olive oil and ingesting a tablespoon of Epsom salt dissolved in water.

Editor's note: We do not recommend this treatment.

Recommended Liver Flush

1. For four to five days before a liver flush, eat plenty of apples, or drink apple juice. Lots of malic acid supplements can be taken in place of apples. In the last two days, drink 8 oz of apple juice every two to three hours. Doing this will help ensure the liver flush is successful.

2. On day six, eat a light breakfast with no fat. This enables the bile in the liver to accumulate, putting pressure on it. This pressure will eliminate more stones in your liver.

3. At 2 p.m., the same day, mix 4 tablespoons of Epsom salt in 3 cups of water. Do NOT drink or consume any foods after 2 p.m. This is extremely important. Put this jar in the cooler or refrigerator to make it cold.

4. At 6 p.m., drink 3/4 cup of this mixture. It will taste very bad.

5. At 8 p.m., drink another 3/4 cup of this mixture. Get errands done, and prepare for the liver flush. Don't do anything after doing a liver flush, just lay down and sleep.

6. At 9:45 p.m., pour 1/2 cup of virgin olive oil into a jar. Squeeze the entire grapefruit into the mix, removing the pulp with a fork, or chopsticks. There should be 1/2 to 3/4 cups of grapefruit juice mixed with the virgin olive oil in the jar. Close the jar, and shake it very hard until it is all liquid.

7. At 10 p.m., drink this mixture. Drink it through a large straw if it makes it easier. Try to get it all down in 5 minutes or so.

8. Lay down in bed as soon as the mixture has been consumed. This is crucial, and most people do this wrong. Lay on your right side, with your right knee up towards your chin for 20 or so minutes. Stay still, and try not to move at all. Try to sleep.

9. The next morning, when you wake up, drink a third dose of your 3/4 cup Epsom salt. You can go back to sleep afterwards.

10. Two hours later, drink the last dose of Epsom salt.

11. Only after two more hours can anything be eaten, but do not eat solid fruits just yet. Start with liquids, and move slowly to fruit.

Information taken from colonzone.org/liver-flush.php

Basford, a sports nutrition supervisor at Raisin Rack Natural Food Market in Westerville, discovered the liver flush in an alternative medicine book he had lying around the house.

Liver flushes are used in alternative medicine to treat gallstone attacks by removing fat-soluble toxins such as pesticide residues from the body. The effectiveness and safety of conducting a liver flush is debated among medical professionals and can result in serious damage when administered without consulting a doctor before beginning a regimen.

"Every person is different," said Mike Fritz, a naturopathic doctor at Alternative Health Oasis. "If done properly, liver flushes are very beneficial to the patient. When you pass the gallstones, you are passing cholesterol out of the gallstones and out of your system."

According to Fritz, olive oil stimulates the gallbladder and enables the bile duct to contract and expel its contents. While Epsom salts relax and dilate the bile duct, allowing larger particles to pass through. It is recommended that the person completing the flush drink the olive oil right before going to bed. Two days before completing a liver flush, the person should drink two glasses of organic apple juice every two hours for two days, eating only fruits (apples in particular) and vegetables. Malic acid weakens adhesion between solid globules, and apples are high in malic acid. The person should also remain sedentary after completing the flush in order to lessen the effect of nausea experienced after consuming large amounts of olive oil.

"I went right to bed and laid there until the morning. I couldn't move because I was in so much pain," Basford said. "The olive oil was disgusting, and I had to choke it down."

Gallstones are soft, gelatinous and green. Basford said he passed about 20 stones the size of grapes during his flush. The following day, his pain subsided and Basford has not experienced a gallstone attack since.

Doctors debate whether the green gelatinous balls passed during liver flushes are actually gallstones, or if they are simply complexes of mineral, olive oil and lemon juice produced within the digestive tract.

According to Fritz, there is no doubt in his mind that the green balls passed during the cleanse are gallstones.

"Laboratory tests have proven that there is cholesterol in the gallstones and that is what gallstones are," Fritz said.

Fritz said he recommends people administer one liver flush a year in order to regulate the liver and prevent gallstone attacks.

He also recommends people, especially college students, regulate their livers by completing liver cleanses. Liver cleanses differ from liver flushes. A liver cleanse is meant to clear out toxins and does not facilitate the removal of gallstones.

A liver cleanse involves eating or drinking a combination of juices, fruits and green vegetables often with selected herbs, enzymes and other components. Liver cleanse formulas vary widely by practitioner and can also be bought in kits. Cleanses can last from a week to three months.

One way to do a short 7-day liver cleanse is to eat a vegan diet, free of alcohol and caffeine. Fifty percent of the vegan diet should consist of raw food including salads, sprouts, fresh fruit and vegetables and freshly made vegetable and fruit juices. Try to choose organic produce to avoid pesticides and added toxins. During the cleanse, make sure to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.

"The liver does an estimated 541 jobs, so it is essential to maintain it," Fritz said. "After completing a cleanse you feel so much more energized, your skin and eyes have a healthier glow, and people often report they no longer have signs of depression."

In addition to completing liver cleanses, Fritz recommends people drink more water, lower their consumption of carbohydrates, sugars and fats, and eat living foods such as fruits and vegetables, not foods that come packaged in boxes and cans. He also recommends people engage in more active lifestyles by exercising five days a week for 30 minutes, in addition to practicing yoga and deep breathing.

Dr. Glen Aukerman, the medical director for Integrative Family Medicine at Ohio State, does not advocate liver flushes or cleanses.

"We get about two or three people a year hospitalized because of colon and liver cleanses, and it is usually because they are not in very good shape and they take something that actually stresses their system severely," Aukerman said.

Aukerman said patients who conduct liver cleanses after experiencing gallstone attacks negatively impact the gallstones, making their condition worse.

"The whole cleansing thing is built on the hypothesis that the body is like a test tube, but it is not that simple," Aukerman said. "If it was a test tube, you could put a little draino in there and clean it out with a brush - now its clean. But the liver is more complex than that."

Aukerman said detoxes only add further stresses to the liver. The liver is already responsible for ridding the body of toxins. By doing liver flushes, a person is only adding more toxins to the liver and thus placing more stress onto the liver.

Instead of completing liver flushes or cleanses, Aukerman agrees with Fritz's suggestions that people should eat more organic foods. Fruits and vegetables are less taxing on the liver, and the liver isn't overwhelmed by toxins if the food being consumed isn't filled with preservatives and artificial sweeteners.

"The liver has enough to do without us putting artificial sweeteners, preservatives and MSG (monosodium glutamate) into it," Aukerman said. "The liver has to detox these added toxins on top of what it is already detoxifying, so you are giving your liver a more taxing job."

Alexia Cameron can be reached at cameron.818@osu.edu.

NOVA Program on Intelligent Design Biased, Not by Chance but Because They Designed It That Way


First they dramatized the O.J. Simpson trial. Then they acted out Michael Jackson's courtroom drama. This time around we have NOVA reenacting parts of the 2005 Dover intelligent design trial presided over by Judge John E. Jones.

As NOVA's website points out, Paula Apsell, senior producer for NOVA's propaganda piece on intelligent design, Judgment Day, felt "compelled" to make the docudrama. Journalists are usually only "compelled" to report on events by their editors, or by the newsiness (timeliness, proximity, impact, conflict, etc) of a specific issue/event.

So, why were Apsell and NOVA compelled to make this program?

Apsell: If the decision had gone the other way, it could have had dire consequences for science education in this country.

Clearly, Apsell has an agenda. Judge Jones ruled that the Dover school board could not require students to hear a statement about intelligent design because intelligent design is not science. According to Apsell, had he ruled otherwise, the consequences would have been "dire."

Dire: adj. dir•er, dir•est, having dreadful or terrible consequences; calamitous.

If Apsell really thinks this, then it's no wonder she felt compelled — compelled to make a docudrama that misrepresents what the theory of intelligent design is and ultimately presents only a one-sided, biased view of intelligent design. A decidedly negative view.

Apsell claims that they wanted to include other points of view. However, their proposal to do so was aimed at slicing and dicing interviews with intelligent design scientists and scholars to show them in the poorest light possible.

Apsell claims that she "had to think long and hard before we decided to take it on." Yet it was scarcely eight weeks after the ruling, February 6th, 2006 in fact, when NOVA first approached Discovery Institute seeking our involvement in the program. Over the course of the next eight months I negotiated with NOVA and WGBH producers (though never with Apsell herself) as to whether or not Discovery Institute scientists and scholars would appear in the documentary. We were anxious to be included in the program so that we could clearly define what intelligent design theory is, what the role of the Institute was in the trial, and most importantly, what our position was leading up to the Dover school board's decision to plunge ahead with their ID policy — against our specific counsel and advice. We all thought that this program would give us a good chance to have our side of the story told. Clearly that wasn't what NOVA's producers thought — or wanted to happen.

I understood from the beginning that NOVA and PBS have a clear anti-ID position, but I hoped that we might have a chance to at least speak for ourselves.

PBS has a track record of bias against ID, dating back to their poorly-received "Evolution" miniseries in 2001. Then, as now, we negotiated but ultimately were kept from participating by PBS' unwillingness to fairly represent our scientists and views on intelligent design. Indeed, in 2001 a leaked memo surfaced — a memo that was never denied by PBS — that outlined how they were planning to "co-opt existing local dialogue about teaching evolution in schools" and target government officials, all to promote a Darwin-only science education policy that didn't just negate any discussion of intelligent design, but also strove to stifle any questioning of Darwinian evolution whatsoever. So we had no doubt as to what point of view Judgment Day would be preaching.

I've had a great deal of experience dealing with anti-ID reporters and producers. I can smell a disingenuous interview request a continent away. In 2005 I negotiated for months with ABC's Nightline and finally agreed to have them come in and conduct an interview with CSC Director Dr. Stephen Meyer. The interview was lengthy and on several occasions specifically broke the ground rules that we had agreed to with ABC. However, ABC allowed us to audiotape the interview, and allowed me to sit in the room as the interview was conducted so I could see how it transpired.

We audio taped Nightline's interview with Dr. Stephen Meyer at Discovery Institute's office, and we've prepared a verbatim transcript, available here. If you want learn what Nightline refused to show its viewers, I encourage you to read it. I think you'll find the transcript illuminating--not only because of Dr. Meyer's answers, but because of the predictable tone of some of the questions by Nightline's staff. Here's your chance to go behind-the-scenes with the gatekeepers of the national media to see how they screen out viewpoints and information that don't fit their stereotypes.

Out of two hours discussing mostly intelligent design theory, what did Nightline include in their extremely biased program? A couple of seconds and seven words of Dr. Meyer's, taken out of context and completely misrepresentative of his views. Instead of airing anything substantive from a thoughtful discussion about the identity of an intelligent designer, Nightline sliced and diced the interview to come up with a moment when Dr. Meyer said he thinks the designer is God.

Nightline: The whole theory of intelligent design begs the question of who and what is behind that design. How do you answer that question?

SM:The question of the identity of the designer is what I would call a second order philosophical question. From the evidence of the information that's embedded in DNA, from the evidence from the nanotechnology in the cell, we think you can infer that an intelligence played a role. In fact, there are sophisticated statistical methods of design detection that allow scientists to distinguish the effects of an intelligent cause from an undirected natural process. When you apply those statistical measures and criteria to the analysis of the cell, they indicate that the cell was designed by an intelligence. Now, the second question then you want to ask is, "Who was the designer?" The media commonly says, in fact recently it was said that we're so clever that we don't say the designer is God. Well, the reason we're not saying the identity of the designer is not because we're trying to be clever or get around Supreme Court rulings, or anything of the sort. We're just trying to be careful about what the scientific evidence does and does not support. It supports the conclusion that there was an intelligence; the second order question of the identity of the intelligence is something that is for philosophical deliberation.

And later in the interview the interviewers continued to badger Dr. Meyer about this point.

C: When you say intelligent designer, if you're saying you don't mean God, then could you mean the devil, or space aliens, or some supernatural force beneath the sea?

SM: There have been some scientists who have posited other identities for the designer. Sir Fred Hoyle, one of the first advocates of the idea of intelligent design, thought that it might be an intelligence from some other planet. I don't hold to that view, but it's certainly a logical possibility, and one of the reasons that we say that the question of the identity of the designer is a second order philosophical question that invites further deliberation once you have become convinced from the scientific evidence that you are looking at evidence of intelligence in the cell and in the form of the information that you find there.

C: You call it a second order philosophical question. That kind of sloughs off the main event, doesn't it? I mean, if there is a design is not the secondary question….

SM: The two questions are separable…

C: …but who is the designer?

SM: People have different answers to the question of who the designer is. The key question for us is how you interpret the observed information that is present in the cell. And we think intelligence provides the best explanation for that. After you have inferred that, then there is a second question that needs to be deliberated upon, and that is who is the designer?

C: And you are saying the designer could be something other than God.

SM: That is a logical possibility – the designer could be something other than God. But there is also the possibility that the designer could be God.

E: You've drawn no conclusions on who you think the designer is?

SM: I think the designer is God, but, look, it's not like we are trying to make a scandal of where the evidence might lead. We think that the evidence leads first to intelligence, and then from there, there is a second question, which is the identity of the designer, and there are some people who think it's God, and there are some people, like Fred Hoyle, who think that maybe it is some sort of imminent intelligence within the universe. Francis Crick speculated that some other intelligence may have been involved. But we are insisting that from the scientific evidence, from the presence of digital code in the cell, you can tell that an intelligence played a role in the origin of life.

What was shown on Nightline? You guessed it: "I think the designer is God." But not even the full sentence, and certainly none of the context of the discussion in which Dr. Meyer made it quite clear that science cannot identify the designer, that is a philosophical question and not what the scientific theory of intelligent design is proposing.

So I was well aware of how interviews with PBS could be manipulated to say just about anything they want them to say. And because we published the Nightline incident, and the New York Times wrote a lengthy article about it, you can bet that Paula Apsell and others at PBS were well aware of the incident too.

Initially, when we agreed to sit for interviews, as long as we could monitor and record the interviews, NOVA agreed. Not surprising. We've had this policy for almost four years and in that time we've recorded interviews with Newsweek, The New York Times, ABC News, CBS News, BBC, CBC and a number of other media outlets. This is not an unusual request.

In an e-mail Apsell wrote:

If DI believes it needs to make its own recordings of the interviews being conducted, that is acceptable as well provided that these recording activities do not interfere with NOVA's technical or journalistic needs in setting up and conducting its own recordings.

Perhaps it was after this was presented to us that Apsell heard about how we had held Nightline accountable and exposed their manipulative and biased editing of Dr. Meyer's interview.

Ultimately, Apsell refused to let us record the interviews, writing to us just a few weeks later.

Upon reflection, I've decided that NOVA cannot set such a precedent, although we would be happy to provide a transcript or even a tape of our interview footage should you decide to participate.

The offer of a transcript or taped footage came with strings attached, however.

DI agrees that any use of such recordings will be limited to DI's commenting upon or reviewing the NOVA program or other related internal DI uses, and shall not be used for purposes unrelated to commenting upon the specific NOVA program, such as but not limited to, fundraising, lobbying, general advocacy, or in any publicly exhibited media.

Clearly, NOVA didn't want to be held accountable. If they weren't planning to slice and dice the interviews, then why not let us record them? If you've nothing to hide, why refuse to allow complete transcripts to be made available?

In the end NOVA wanted to sit pro-intelligent design scientists down in isolation and interrogate them about the Dover case and intelligent design. They wanted to be able to do as they please with the interviews, much like Nightline, and edit them to fit their biased, anti-ID agenda. And they weren't about to give anyone permission to expose their manipulation of the interviews, so we would be denied the ability to ever expose the complete, unedited interviews "In any publicly exhibited media."

Once you know the whole story, you have to wonder how fair NOVA's presentation of Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial is really going to be. My guess is not very.

We will be watching and we will be posting corrections to all of the mistakes and misleading pieces of information about intelligent design that PBS produces in the program, and in its plethora of propaganda materials, again aimed at censoring science education policy so as to present a one-sided Darwin-only approach to biological evolution.

Go to traipsingintoevolution.com for the truth about the Dover trial, and to get the truth about intelligent design theory that PBS is trying to stifle visit intelligentdesign.org where you will find links to a multitude of pro-intelligent design organizations.

Posted by Robert Crowther on November 9, 2007 11:29 AM | Permalink

NOVA program a crash course in evolutionary science


Kansans still convinced that public schools should teach creationism or the intelligent design theory should watch a two-hour NOVA program on KPTS, Channel 8, next Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The program is about the 2005 landmark case in which the Dover, Pa., school board was sued for ordering its science teachers to read a statement suggesting that intelligent design -- an idea that life is too complicated to have evolved naturally -- was a scientific alternative to evolution. District Judge John Jones ruled that intelligent design was a religious-based theory and couldn't be taught in the science classroom.

NOVA producer Paula S. Apsell said that the case is instructive in that it "provided a crash course in modern evolutionary science" and "explored the very nature of science — how science is defined."

Meanwhile, the Discovery Institute, which promotes intelligent design, contends that intelligent design is not religious based and that a teacher guidebook about the show distributed by NOVA violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.

Posted by Phillip Brownlee

November 09, 2007 in Science | Permalink

Creationists object to evolution exhibit


Published: Nov. 9, 2007 at 4:40 PM

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- An unprecedented exhibit of early human fossils at a Kenyan museum has pitted religious creationists against scientists.

The centerpiece of the exhibit at the Nairobi National Museum is Turkana Boy, the remains of a boy who died 1.5 million years ago in Kenya. The fossil, the most complete specimen of homo erectus found so far, has been kept in a bomb-proof vault.

Bishop Boniface Adoyo, who heads the Kenyan evangelical churches, hasn't been mollified by an invitation to tour the Human Origins exhibit before it opens to the public, The Times of London reported.

"I do not dispute that as humans we have a history but my family most certainly did not descend from the apes," he said.

Adoyo said that members of his churches will picket the museum if evolution is presented as a fact rather than a theory.

Richard Leakey, who led the expedition that discovered Turkana Boy, is more concerned that putting the fossil on public display may cause difficulties for scientists.

"Science is at the very foundation of our ability to deal with the new century, so if we bring it down to the idea that science may be un-Christian -- well, how stupid can you get?" he said of the bishop's comments.

© 2007 United Press International

Questioning creationism


By TOM MUSICK - tmusick@nwherald.com

ELGIN – Barbara Backley listened intently as a national expert on evolution and creationism spoke Monday morning at Elgin Community College.

"Part of the creationist science movement is to get their ideas into the classroom," said Backley, a biology professor at the college who was part of a group that invited Eugenie Scott to speak. "As a teacher of science, I feel she's really protecting the integrity of science in the classroom."

Scott spoke to more than 100 students, faculty members, and residents Monday as part of a speech titled "What Creationists Think About Evolution and Why It Is Wrong." Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, has written extensively about the controversy over evolution and creationism.

"Evolution is this branching and splitting of lineages through time," said Scott, who showed flow charts of humans and apes that she said descended from early apes, just as modern monkeys descended from early monkeys.

"We didn't evolve from apes," Scott said. "We have a common ancestor with apes."

Scott said creationists tended to promote organized, aggressive campaigns with a "two-model" approach that ignored all views except evolution and creationism. She said many other viewpoints existed, such as theistic evolution, which holds that God created the world but used the process of evolution.

Scott also questioned how creation scientists could argue that the Grand Canyon was created by a single flood, or how Noah's ark could have floated if it was the size of two 747 jets. The largest known wooden boats were far smaller, she said, and they were rife with flaws.

"There are lots of ways you can work miracles into the picture," Scott said. "But once you do, you have left science."

Audience members who spoke during a question-and-answer session all supported Scott's views. But Elgin resident Jeff Dietz left the auditorium shaking his head.

Dietz said he heard more attacks on creationism than he heard evidence for evolution. That seemed to weaken one of Scott's main arguments, he said, which was that creationists tend to criticize evolution rather than present their own findings.

"I heard more of her trying to disprove creationism rather than explain what evolution is," Dietz said. "That's what I was looking for, and I'm kind of disappointed that I didn't hear that."

Doctors are being urged to demand proof when claims are made about alternative medicines.


The call was made at a national conference of anaesthetists in Auckland on Friday.

Outgoing president of the Society of Anaesthetists Graham Sharpe told specialists that medicine was increasingly required to justify its position, provide evidence and admit mistakes.

He said that was entirely right, but the same standards did not apply to "quacks" and others behind alternative medicines, who got a free ride from the media, politicians and the Health Ministry.

Dr Sharpe said he objects to taxes being "wasted" on alternative medicines, and to calls for doctors to work with backers of those remedies.

He said it was time for all medical professionals to demand evidence about the benefits of alternative medicine.

Dr Sharpe said the alternative medicines industry was large and growing and sometimes attempted to use the law to silence critics.

He said alternative medicines were basically harmless - but not in all cases - and campaigns against vaccination and water fluoridation should be opposed by medical professionals.

Copyright © 2007 Radio New Zealand

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Rebuttal to Paul Gross's Review of Michael Behe's The Edge of Evolution - Error #1: A Calculation Is not "A Mere Guess"


In 2005, Michael Behe published an op-ed in the New York Times entitled "Design for Living. Paul Gross has now reviewed Michael Behe's book The Edge of Evolution in The New Criterion, using exactly the same title as Behe's 2005 New York Times op-ed, accusing Behe of making so many mistakes that "it would need a book longer than The Edge to restate the model together with its already noticed (in print and online) errors and omissions." Yet as I will recount in this four-part response, Dr. Gross's review has many mistakes, and many of his key criticisms of Behe are misplaced.

Gross's first error was claiming that Behe presumes that the mutations that allow malaria to evolve resistance to the antibiotic drug chloroquine must all occur simultaneously. Gross thus writes, "[T]he calculated probabilities, upon which the main argument of the book depends, come from a single report in the literature on the frequency of spontaneous resistance to a drug in the malaria parasite (Plasmodium). That frequency was in the first place a mere guess by its author, and it does not anyway measure the likelihood of what Behe thinks it measures. … Behe assumes simultaneous mutations at two sites in the relevant gene, but there is no such necessity and plenty of evidence that cumulativeness, rather than simultaneity, is the rule." (Emphasis added.)

Gross is repeating the same misplaced argument that both Ken Miller and Jerry Coyne made earlier. Behe has responded to this argument repeatedly on his Amazon.com blog:

The number of one in 1020 is not a probability calculation. Rather, it is statistical data. It is perhaps not too surprising that both Miller and Coyne make that mistake, because in general Darwinists are not used to constraining their speculations with quantitative data. The fundamental message of The Edge of Evolution, however, is that such data are now available. Instead of imagining what the power of random mutation and selection might do, we can look at examples of what it has done. And when we do look at the best, clearest examples, the results are, to say the least, quite modest. Time and again we see that random mutations are incoherent and much more likely to degrade a genome than to add to it — and these are the positively-selected, "beneficial" random mutations.

Behe's point is that, rather than he being the one who presumes that malaria resistance to chloroquine requires two mutations, it is Gross who, in his standard mode of Darwinian thinking, presumes that it can be selected cumulatively. In fact, Behe's argument is much sounder than Gross's argument. Behe's point is that the degree to which the mutations confer a cumulative advantage is relatively unimportant, because, as he wrote on his Amazon blog, the 1020 statistic is an empirically derived fact that is valid regardless of the mutational pathway taken:

Miller asserts that I have ruled out cumulative selection and required Plasmodium falciparum to achieve a predetermined result. I'm flattered that he thinks I have such powers. However, the malaria parasite does not take orders from me or anyone else. I had no ability to rule out or require anything. The parasite was free in the wild to come up with any solution that might help it, by any mutational pathway that was available. I simply reported the results of what the parasite achieved. … Certainly, there may be several routes, maybe permutations of pathways, too. But whether or not there are several routes, the bottom line is that resistance arises only once for every 1020 parasites.

Similarly, Behe says in response to Jerry Coyne:

The number I cite, one parasite in every 1020 for de novo chloroquine resistance, is not a probability calculation. Rather, it is a statistic, a result, a data point. (Furthermore, it is not my number, but that of the eminent malariologist Nicholas White.) I do not assume that "adaptation cannot occur one mutation at a time"; I assume nothing at all. I am simply looking at the results. The malaria parasite was free to do whatever it could in nature; to evolve resistance, or outcompete its fellow parasites, by whatever evolutionary pathway was available in the wild. Neither I nor anyone else were manipulating the results. What we see when we look at chloroquine-resistant malaria is pristine data — it is the best that random mutation plus selection was able to accomplish in the wild in 1020 tries.

It seems indisputable that the claim of one instance of spontaneous resistance per 1020 cells was based upon statistical data, and is not dependent upon an assumption that all mutations must occur simultaneously to acquire resistance. If anything, Behe makes no assumptions, but rather the rarity of this resistance could imply that multiple mutations are required to confer such a resistance advantage.

Calculating the "Mere Guess"

Gross asserts that the statistic was, "a mere guess by its author." Is Gross correct? In fact Gross has blatantly misrepresented the methodology behind the statistic Behe cites: it is a calculation, not "a mere guess."

Behe cites his source that spontaneous resistance to chloroquine occurs in one in every 1020 malaria cells. It's from a review article published in the prestigious Journal of Clinical Investigation entitled, "Antimalarial drug resistance" (Vol. 113(8) (April 2004)). The author, Nicholas J. White, holds two doctorates and is an esteemed researcher in his field. As White's bio states:

Professor White has contributed to over 500 peer reviewed scientific publications and has written over 30 book chapters. He is a full Professor at Mahidol University and also Oxford University. He is a member of several WHO advisory panels, and is on the International Editorial Advisory boards of several international journals including The Lancet and the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

White's article states precisely what Behe claims it does: "the per-parasite probability of developing resistance de novo is on the order of 1 in 1020 parasite multiplications." Suffice to say, this kind of author wouldn't print such a statement in this type of article in this journal if it were a "mere guess." Behe roughly outlines how White performs this calculation as follows:

Nicholas White of Mahidol University in Thailand points out that if you multiply the number of parasites in a person who is very ill with malaria times the number of people who get malaria per year times the number of years since the introduction of chloroquine, then you can estimate the odds of a parasite developing resistance to chloroquine is roughly one in a hundred billion billion. In shorthand scientific notation, that's one in 1020 .

(Behe, Edge of Evolution, pg. 57.)

To re-produce the calculation:

  • Instances of chloroquine resistance in the past 50 years: Less than 10 (White, 2004). To be generous, we'll say 10 per 50 years, or 1 instance of chloroquine resistance per 5 years. /

  • Total malaria cells that exist each year: approximately 1020 cells per year. (White, 2004; White & Pongtavornpinyo, 2003). ----------------------------------------------------------------------- = 1 instance of chloroquine resistance per 5 x 1020 malaria cells, or roughly speaking, 1 instance of chloroquine resistance per 1020 malaria cells

    Even science writing that has been simplified for public consumption in The New Criterion cannot fairly characterize the 1 in 1020 statistic as "a mere guess." It's the result of real-world studies of malaria behavior in response to chloroquine and reproducible calculations, as reported in review articles by leaders in the field in one of the world's top medical journals. It was anything but "a mere guess."

    Posted by Casey Luskin on November 4, 2007 6:42 AM | Permalink

    Rebuttal to Paul Gross' Review of The Edge of Evolution - Error #2: Failing to Stay Positive


    In Paul Gross' review of The Edge of Evolution he wrongly claims Behe's argument for design is merely a negative argument against evolution. Gross asserts that Behe argues for ID by "offer[ing] some claim that Darwinism is wrong, with the (unwarranted) conclusion that life is therefore the work of an intelligent agent." (emphasis in original) This misrepresents Behe's argument. Behe does not say that because Darwinian evolution has flaws, therefore intelligent design is proven correct. As Behe writes in the afterward to the new edition of Darwin's Black Box:

    [I]rreducibly complex systems such as mousetraps and flagella serve both as negative arguments against gradualistic explanations like Darwin's and as positive arguments for design. The negative argument is that such interactive systems resist explanation by the tiny steps that a Darwinian path would be expected to take. The positive argument is that their parts appear arranged to serve a purpose, which is exactly how we detect design.

    (Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box, Afterward, pgs. 263-264 (Free Press, Reprint, 2006), emphasis added.)

    ID plainly has a positive argument, and ID therefore inferred based upon positive evidence that intelligent agents generate recognizable complex patterns that allow us to detect their prior action.

    Posted by Casey Luskin on November 6, 2007 7:45 AM | Permalink

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    Rebuttal to Paul Gross' Review of The Edge of Evolution - Error #3: Ignoring Behe's Rebuttal of Exaptation Speculation


    An urban legend has cropped up among Darwinists that Michael Behe ignores indirect routes of evolution, commonly called "exaptation," when he argues for irreducible complexity. In his review of The Edge of Evolution in The New Criterion, anti-ID biologist Paul Gross wrongly accuses that "Behe had failed to understand 'exaptation' (the use of an available part in function 'B' despite its original function 'A')." But in Darwin's Black Box, Behe clearly accounts for exaptation and explains why it does not refute irreducible complexity:

    "Even if a system is irreducibly complex (and thus cannot have been produced directly), however, one can not definitively rule out the possibility of an indirect, circuitous route. As the complexity of an interacting system increases, though, the likelihood of such an indirect route drops precipitously. And as the number of unexplained, irreducibly complex biological systems increases, our confidence that Darwin's criterion of failure has been met skyrockets toward the maximum that science allows." (Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box, pg. 40.)

    "Because the cilium is irreducibly complex, no direct gradual route leads to its production. So an evolutionary story for the cilium must envision a circuitous route, perhaps adapting parts that were originally used for other purposes. ... For example, suppose you wanted to make a mousetrap. In your garage you might have a piece of wood from an old Popsicle stick (for the platform), a spring from an old wind-up clock, a piece of metal (for the hammer) in the form of a crowbar, a darning needle for the holding bar, and a bottle cap that you fancy to use as a catch. But these pieces couldn't form a functioning mousetrap without extensive modification, and while the modification was going on, they would be unable to work as a mousetrap. Their previous functions make them ill- suited for virtually any new role as part of a complex system. In the case of the cilium, there are analogous problems." (Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box, pgs 65-67.)

    Moreover, as I explain here, the typical discussions of exaptation do not meet the required standards of proof, for this requires that showing:

    (1) The parts were available for co-option;
    (2) The availability of the parts was synchronized in both time and space;
    (3) The availability parts must be coordinated so that they assemble properly;
    (4) The parts must have interface-compatibility so they can work together.

    To my knowledge, no Darwinist has ever explained each of these for any complex biological system.

    Gross claims that Behe has "redefin[ed]" irreducible complexity "in an effort to meet the flood of negation." But what is this "flood of negation" or what is the "redefinition"? Gross doesn't tell us about either. Yet in 2001, Biochemist Franklin Harold stated that "there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations." (Franklin M. Harold, The Way of the Cell: Molecules, Organisms and the Order of Life, pg. 205 (New York, Oxford University Press 2001).)

    It seems that the reality is that Behe's original argument is still quite potent.

    Posted by Casey Luskin on November 7, 2007 7:48 AM | Permalink

    Comparative analyses of 12 fly genomes reveals new insights on genome evolution and regulation


    Public release date: 7-Nov-2007

    Contact: Robert Majovski
    Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

    Genome Research is publishing a number of papers related to comparative analyses of twelve Drosophila (fly) genomes. The twelve fly genome project is unique in that the analyses of closely related species has allowed for a more complete and correct annotation of functional genes and regulatory elements in Drosophila melanogaster, a major model organism in genetics. These papers will appear online on November 7, concurrent with the publication of two main papers on the comparative sequence analyses of twelve fly genomes in the journal Nature.

    1. The expanding universe of microRNAs

    MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short RNA molecules encoded by plant and animal genomes that have garnered significant interest for their ability to regulate gene expression. A number of miRNAs have been discovered in recent years, however it is likely that many miRNAs have gone undetected. Two papers published in Genome Research utilize the twelve fly genomes to identify novel miRNAs, further refine the set of known miRNAs, and investigate the biology and origins of miRNA genes.

    In a study led by Dr. David Bartel, a combination of computational methods and high-throughput sequencing techniques identified new miRNAs conserved across the Drosophila species. "The new fly genomes enabled us to predict new miRNAs, 20 of which we experimentally confirmed, and the genome alignments enabled us to more accurately predict the evolutionarily conserved targets of these and other miRNAs," explains Bartel.

    While computational methods are important for identifying novel miRNAs, large-scale sequencing of small RNAs indicates that many miRNAs continue to evade prediction. "Most of the 59 novel miRNAs that we found were not predicted by us or by others," describes Bartel. "This illustrates the advantages of high-throughput sequencing of small RNAs, and the limitations of comparative sequence analysis for miRNA gene identification."

    In a related paper, a study led by Dr. Manolis Kellis utilized the twelve Drosophila genomes to computationally predict and experimentally validate novel miRNAs by defining the structural and evolutionary properties of known miRNAs. Classification of newly identified miRNAs has revealed greater diversity in the regulation gene expression by miRNAs, with increased potential for combinatorial regulation, and provided new insights on miRNA biogenesis and function. "We learned that both arms of a miRNA hairpin can produce functional miRNAs, which sometimes work cooperatively to target a common pathway," explains Kellis.

    The combination of comparative and experimental analyses by both groups also provided novel evidence for emergent gene function, deriving from the portion of the miRNA hairpin previously believed to be discarded, and the strand of the DNA previously not thought to produce a miRNA.


    David Bartel, Ph.D., Whitehead Institute/MIT/HHMI, Cambridge, MA, USA dbartel@wi.mit.edu, +1-617-258-5287 or

    Eric Lai, Ph.D., Sloan-Kettering Institute, New York, NY, USA laie@mskcc.org, +1-212-639-5578 or

    J. Graham Ruby, Whitehead Institute/MIT/HHMI, Cambridge, MA, USA grahamruby@yahoo.com, +1-617-324-1651

    Reference: Ruby J.G. et al. 2007. Evolution, biogenesis, expression, and target predictions of a substantially expanded set of Drosophila microRNAs. Genome Res. doi:10.1101/gr.6597907.


    Manolis Kellis, Ph.D., MIT/Broad Institute, Cambridge, MA, USA manoli@mit.edu, +1-617-253-2419 or

    Alexander Stark, Ph.D., MIT/Broad Institute, Cambridge, MA, USA alex.stark@mit.edu, +1-617-253-6079


    Stark A. et al. 2007. Systematic discovery and characterization of fly microRNAs using 12 Drosophila genomes. Genome Res. doi:10.1101/gr.6593807.

    2. Revisiting D. melanogaster

    Drosophila melanogaster is one of the most intensely studied model organisms in biology. Numerous studies over the years have defined nearly 14,000 protein-coding genes by experimental and computational methods, however these methods are likely to have produced erroneous annotations or may be missing other annotations. In order to assess the D. melanogaster protein-coding gene catalog, a group of researchers led by Dr. Manolis Kellis identified evolutionarily signatures of protein-coding genes by comparative analysis of the twelve fly genomes. This strategy was then applied to evaluation of the current catalog and identification of genes that have escaped annotation.

    The study led to the discovery of hundreds of new genes, refined existing genes, and concluded that greater than 10% of the protein-coding gene annotations requires refinement.

    Additionally, the work revealed abundant unusual gene structures. "We have learned that many brain-expressed proteins may be undergoing post-transcriptional changes by stop-codon read-through," explains Kellis. "We found 149 genes for which a conserved stop codon is followed by strong evidence of protein-coding selection for up to hundreds of amino acids, suggesting a new mechanism for post-transcriptional regulation in animal genomes." The researchers also report additional widespread evidence suggesting several diverse mechanisms of post-transcriptional regulation for protein-coding genes.


    Manolis Kellis, Ph.D., MIT/Broad Institute, Cambridge, MA, USA manoli@mit.edu, +1-617-262-6121


    Lin M.F. et al. 2007. Revisiting the protein-coding gene catalog of Drosophila melanogaster using twelve fly genomes. Genome Res. doi:10.1101/gr6679507

    3. Keeping genes in order

    In humans and other vertebrate genomes, long-range regulatory DNA sequences known as highly conserved noncoding elements (HCNEs) have been found to cluster around genes involved in developmental processes, forming genomic regulatory blocks (GRBs). The GRBs are conserved in vertebrates, maintaining the order, or microsynteny, of associated genes on the chromosome. In this study, researchers utilize mosquito genome sequences and sequences available from the twelve fly genome project to investigate the microsynteny underlying GRBs across a wider range of evolution than previously possible.

    "By using insect (Drosophila and mosquito) genome comparisons, we show that long-range regulation of developmental genes by arrays of highly conserved regulatory elements is an ancient feature that has shaped the evolution of metazoan genomes," says Dr. Boris Lenhard, senior investigator of the study.

    "Additionally, we present genome-wide evidence that the responsiveness of genes to long-range regulation is partially determined by the type of their core promoter," explains Lenhard, addressing the issue of how some genes that are conserved in GRBs are not regulated by HCNEs.


    Boris Lenhard, Ph.D., University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway boris.lenhard@bccs.uib.no, +47-555-84362


    Engström P.G. et al. 2007. Genomic regulatory blocks underlie extensive microsynteny conservation in insects. Genome Res. doi:10.1101/gr.6669607.

    4. Tracing the origins of relocated genes

    Investigations into the evolution of genomes have revealed significant upheaval in genome organization: insertions, deletions, rearrangement or duplication of large regions, and even duplication of entire genomes. In addition, individual genes have undergone genomic relocation. Sequencing of the twelve Drosophila genomes now allows deeper investigations into single gene relocation and its origins.

    "The availability of twelve fly genomes provides a unique opportunity to investigate fine-scale events, such as relocation of individual genes, using whole genome comparative analysis across various levels of evolutionary divergence," explains primary author Arjun Bhutkar. Bhutkar and colleagues identify and characterize positionally relocated genes (PRGs) in the Drosophila genus, and provide evidence for two distinct origins of PRGs: transposition of genes at the level of DNA, and retrotransposition of RNAs into the genome.

    The researchers extended their study to comparisons of Drosophila and other insect genomes. "Such analyses demonstrate the role of PRGs in evolutionary chromosomal organization," says Bhutkar, as this study highlights the role of PRGs in creation of genomic diversity.


    Arjun Bhutkar, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA/Boston University, Boston, MA, USA arjunb@bu.edu, +1-617- 495-2906 or

    William M. Gelbart, Ph.D., Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA gelbart@morgan.harvard.edu, +1-617-495-2906


    Bhutkar A. et al. 2007 Genome-scale analysis of positionally relocated genes. Genome Res. doi:10.1101/gr.7062307

    Please direct requests for pre-print copies of the manuscripts to Peggy Calicchia, the Editorial Secretary for Genome Research (calicchi@cshl.org; +1-516-422-4012). In addition to the five articles highlighted above, the following will also appear in the issue:

    5. Heger, A. and Ponting, C. 2007. Evolutionary rate analyses of orthologues and paralogues from twelve Drosophila Genomes. Genome Res. doi:10.1101/gr.6249707

    6. Villasante, A. et al. 2007. Drosophila telomeric retrotransposons derived from an ancestral element that was recruited to replace telomerase. Genome Res. doi:10.1101/gr.6365107

    7. Stage, D.E. and Eickbush, T.H. 2007. Sequence variation within the rRNA gene loci of twelve Drosophila species. Genome Res. doi:10.1101/gr.6376807

    8. Stark, A. et al. 2007. Reliable prediction of regulator targets using 12 Drosophila genomes. Genome Res. doi:10.1101/gr.7090407

    9. Rasmussen, M.D. and Kellis, M. 2007. Accurate gene-tree reconstruction by learning gene- and species-specific substitution rates across multiple complete genomes. Genome Res. doi:10.1101/gr.7105007

    ABOUT GENOME RESEARCH: Genome Research (www.genome.org) is an international, monthly, peer-reviewed journal published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. Launched in 1995, it is one of the five most highly cited primary research journals in genetics and genomics.

    ABOUT COLD SPRING HARBOR LABORATORY PRESS: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press is an internationally renowned publisher of books, journals, and electronic media located on Long Island, New York. It is a division of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, an innovator in life science research and the education of scientists, students, and the public. For more information, visit www.cshlpress.com.

    Genome Research issues press releases to highlight significant research studies that are published in the journal.

    Proponents of creationism don't have a hidden agenda


    Issue date: 11/5/07 Section: Opinion

    Regarding the debate about intelligent design, and specifically Mark Erasmus' letter printed in the Daily Lobo on Friday, the question is not whether intelligent design is real science. The question is what do we do with the intelligent design we observe in nature?

    Michael Behe and William Dembski are not necessarily interjecting religion into the debate, but they are addressing the elephant that is sitting in the middle of the room. Erasmus did not deny the existence of design in nature, because intellectually, he cannot. It is there. And for evolutionists, it is a problem.

    How can something that is so intricate and complex in its natural state - the human genome, for example - have come about by random processes? There have been proposed solutions such as punctuated equilibrium posited by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould. One other possible solution is intelligent design as posited by Behe, Dembski and others. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but to dismiss these latter gentlemen as people with a hidden agenda is rather foolish, as most of them are scientists and researchers highly respected in their fields.

    It would be just as foolish to dismiss Gould because he is an atheist. As to Erasmus' argument that intelligent design is by nature seeking the supernatural, I would argue that evolutionists are continually avoiding it and perhaps wishing the argument would go away. Many evolutionists, such as Gould, are atheists, and they approach and apply their theories from this bias. But if to acknowledge the existence of God is to enter the realm of religion, then to deny the existence of God is doing the same. If science is truly objective, then it should look at all the facts coldly and consider all possible solutions. It is my argument that there is evidence of a creator all around us. And I have it on good authority that he isn't going anywhere.

    Shay Talley

    Daily Lobo reader

    Science teaching getting a face-lift


    Originally published November 7, 2007 By TaMaryn Waters

    For the first time in more than 10 years, Florida is revamping the way science is taught in schools — and the public can have a say about how it's done. Another first is the possibility of evolution and creationism being an official part of those science standards.

    A public forum is set for tonight. The proposed science standards are also listed on the Florida Department of Education's Web site, along with an online forum.

    The state Board of Education will finalize the standards early next year. Dec. 14 is the last day the public can comment.

    The current standards do not include evolution or creationism, said Debra Thomas, science-development coordinator for the Leon County school district.

    Thomas said science standards will be geared toward each grade.

    Shannon Lynch, assistant superintendent of curriculum instruction, said the standards will give teachers a chance teach science more in-depth instead of rushing through a check-off list of things that need to be taught by the end of the school year.

    She said the district is not tiptoeing in the potential debate that could trigger strong feelings on science verses religion.

    "I think teachers are very, very careful to respect students' belief," Lynch said. "Things are handled on an indivudal basis."

    Contact Reporter TaMaryn Waters at (850) 599-2162 or tlwaters@tallahassee.com.

    Discovery sheds light on the evolution of early mammals


    Wednesday, November 07, 2007
    By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    A tiny Jurassic period mammal, whose specialized cutting and grinding teeth shed light on the evolution of the earliest mammals, has been discovered by a team of Chinese and American paleontologists that includes the acting co-director of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

    The new mammal, Pseudotribos, just 5 inches long and weighing an estimated 20 to 30 grams, looks like a mole with prominent teeth. It was found in the 165 million-year-old lake beds of northern China in 2004 but was reported for the first time in the Nov. 1 issue of the international scientific journal Nature.

    Dr. Zhe-Xi Luo, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie and co-director of the Museum of Natural History, said the significance of the discovery lies in the mouth of the mammal.

    "The story of the earliest mammals is a story of their teeth," Dr. Luo said. "By tracing their evolution in the rich fossil records of the Mesozoic, we get to understand how these cutting and grinding teeth evolved over and over again."

    Many mammals have very specialized feeding adaptations because of their different teeth. Zebras eat plants, for example, and cats eat meat.

    However, all are descendants of some ancient mammal that lived with the dinosaurs in the Mesozoic era, from 251 million to 66 million years ago, and have tribosphenic teeth -- capable of both cutting and grinding -- with the cutters or shearers in front of the grinders. That configuration allowed them to be more versatile in their feeding and is important for early mammal diversification.

    The new Pseudotribos, an insectivore that also fed on worms, is a pseudo-tribosphenic mammal, meaning its teeth are reversed, with the grinder teeth in front of the cutter teeth, Dr. Luo said. Those teeth show that similar cutting and grinding teeth structures evolved several times in the Mesozoic era, and are considered by many paleontologists to be more advanced than the primitive mammal teeth that were limited to cutting.

    "The pseudo-tribosphenic teeth and the true tribosphenic teeth are great examples of convergent evolution," Dr. Luo said, "and a great manifestation of how dental and feeding adaptation can be achieved by different lineages of mammals."

    Pseudotribos lived on the ground and had strong limbs capable of powerful digging. It co-existed with freshwater arthropods, salamanders and other mammals, and several dinosaurs. The fossil is in the Institute of Geology, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in Beijing.

    First published on November 7, 2007 at 12:00 am T