NTS LogoSkeptical News for 13 January 2008

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Nature Fulfilling Its Charter to Defend Evolution at all Costs


In his acclaimed book Evolution: The History of an Idea, the respected historian of evolution Peter J. Bowler explains that the journal Nature was originally founded in the late nineteenth century by T. H. Huxley and others for the express purpose of promoting a "campaign" to support Darwinism:

By exploiting their position in this network, Huxley and his friends ensured that Darwinism had come to stay. (Ruse, 1979a). They controlled the scientific journals—the journal Nature was founded in part to promote the campaign—and manipulated academic appointments. Hull (1978) has stressed how important these rhetorical and political skills were in creating a scientific revolution. The Darwinists adopted a flexible approach which deflected opposition, minimized infighting among themselves, and made it easy for others to join their campaign. Many, like Huxley himself, were not rigidly committed to the theory of natural selection; they were simply anxious to promote the case for evolution.

(Peter J. Bowler, Evolution: The History of an Idea, pg. 185 (University of California Press, 3rd ed., 2003).)

Nature has remained adept at using "rhetorical and political" tactics as part of a "campaign" to support Darwinism, and thus it comes as no surprise that the latest issue of Nature contains an editorial praising the National Academy of Science's new version of Science, Evolution, and Creationism because it "summarize[s] the reasons why evolution is in effect as much a scientific fact as the existence of atoms or the orbiting of Earth round the Sun." Such statements are saddening because they elevate evolution to the status of an unquestionable dogma and thus threaten the prestige of science as an objective voice in society.

More importantly, what are scientists who do question Neo-Darwinism supposed to do when the top scientific organization in the U.S. proclaims that evolution is as unquestionable as the existence of atoms or the heliocentric model of the solar system? Clearly such statements threaten the academic freedom of scientists to dissent from Neo-Darwinian evolution. As CSC senior fellow John West recently explained, there is significant scientific dissent from neo-Darwinism that deserves to be heard, but the NAS is using grand sweeping edicts to remove the academic freedom of scientists to challenge evolution.

The title of Nature's editorial is "Spread the word: Evolution is a scientific fact, and every organization whose research depends on it should explain why." Again, we see politics at work: they think scientists should defend evolution because their "research depends on it." It seems that what Bowler called Nature's "rhetorical and political" defense of evolution has only increased—to the point of religion-like dogmatism—over the past century.

Posted by Casey Luskin on January 11, 2008 7:18 AM | Permalink

Alternative Medicine not Always the Best Choice


(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The alternative medicine trend is becoming increasingly popular, but can it really be as effective as traditional treatments? A new study found sometimes the standard method to remedy ailments may actually be best.

A renewed interest in honey as a potential healing agent inspired researches to examine whether bandages dressed with the sweet nectar would heal venous ulcers on the legs faster than those without it. The only thing the honey bandages were found to offer was more complications.

"Our trial suggests that treatment with honey dressings is unlikely to improve on standard treatment. It is also likely to cost health services more and cause ulcer pain in about 1 in 4 patients," Andrew Jull, R.N., M.A., study author and Senior Research Fellow at the Clinical Trials Research Unit at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, was quoted as saying. "In our trial, the honey dressing did not significantly improve healing, time to healing, change in ulcer area, incidence of infection or quality of life."

Jull recommends sticking with the compression method originally developed in the 17th century: sans honey.

"The current focus of venous ulcer management should remain on compression and other treatments that have demonstrated that they improve compression's ability to work or prevent ulcer recurrence," Jull was quoted as saying.

This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, which offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, click on: http://www.ivanhoe.com/newsalert/.

SOURCE: British Journal of Surgery, published online, Jan. 9, 2008

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 12 January 2008 )

Former creationist preaches gospel of evolution


Preacher travels country urging all to embrace science

By Eileen E. Flynn

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Rev. Michael Dowd gave up a permanent home to travel the country spreading his gospel in the hope of reconciling disparate beliefs. But the former pastor's gospel may shock many Christians.

Dowd preaches "evolution theology," a view that promotes evolutionary science and God as the ultimate reality.

In Dowd's mind, you can have Darwin and the divine.

Dowd is so committed to spreading his message that he offers his book — "Thank God for Evolution! How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World" — as a free download on his Web site.

The presentations that he and his wife give at churches and other venues are also free. But DVD and book sales help finance their ministry.

For more than five years, Dowd, 49, and his wife, Connie Barlow, a science writer, have traveled the country in a high-top van that they named Angel and asked audiences from many backgroundsto consider evolution theology.

Their work has drawn praise from Nobel Prize-winning scientists.

The couple will speak at 9:45 a.m., 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday at First Unitarian Universalist Church, 4700 Grover Ave.

"We don't try to show evangelicals or young earth creationists or intelligent design people that we're right and they're wrong," Dowd said. "Evolution gives me a bigger God, an undeniably real God."

Dowd believes that God's revelations didn't stop in biblical times but continued in the form of scientific discovery, a worldview that he thinks is important as public schools grapple with how to teach evolution, Americans choose a new president, and the world faces environmental threats.

"If somebody believes that Jesus, the cosmic janitor, is going to return on a cloud and clean up the mess we made, they're more likely to have a less responsible way of thinking about the future and handing on a healthy, sustainable world," Dowd said.

Dowd said that booking his talks at Unitarian churches is easier because of the denomination's liberal theology but that he wants to spend more time this year talking to evangelical Christians who either grudgingly accept evolution or aggressively try to dismiss it as incompatible with Scripture.

Dowd said he understands the fear of allowing science to trump faith because he was once a biblical literalist who believed that the Earth was 6,000 years old

Over the years, though, he said, a Passionist priest led him to find a more powerful narrative of God and discover a "God-glorifying, Christ-edifying view of evolution."

For more information on Dowd's work, go to www.thankgodforevolution.com.

eflynn@statesman.com; 445-3812

Evolution and monkey business


published: Saturday | January 12, 2008

The Editor, Sir:

The debate on the story of Evolution took a sordid turn recently when racist sentiments associated with this allegedly scientific and accurate theory were set out in a newspaper article. I have set out some ideas which I trust will stimulate thought and discussion on what is an interesting emotive subject.

While it is true that Darwinian evolutionary theory does not explicitly state that any racial subset of the universal set of humanity originated with monkeys, it does state that ALL life on planet Earth started with the same primary organism. Taken to its logical conclusion this means that you and I are no better than a crab, a common crustacean.

The question has been asked: if you can convince a man that he is no better than a monkey, should you not expect him to behave like one? I venture to ask thus: If you can convince him he is no better than a jackass, what then? must agree with other laws

Few scientists seem to possess the intestinal fortitude to question the accuracy of this theory which purports to outlines the grand march from primary organism to Homo sapiens or Homo stultus relative to perspective. Briefly, if the theory is accurate then it must agree with other scientific theories and laws. The theory states that a time span of four to five billion years is required for the process to go from primary organism to man. Since solar radiation is essential for the process to begin and continue, the sun must have existed before it started.

Here is the problem. Astro physics states that any star such as the sun is only good for four billion years, plus or minus, and then it must go into supernova and cease to exist. The sun is still there and you and I are here so the evolutionary process has gone from stage one to stage two. The time scales just do not agree. Further, there is no air on the moon so no wind exists there. What this means is that dust which falls on the surface of the moon stays just where it fell. Over five billion years a deep layer of dust would be there. When the moon landing occurred only a thin layer of dust was there. This suggests that the moon is young and the earth also.

I have merely touched the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

I am, etc.,

J.E. Warioba

Old England P.O.


People need to put more faith in God, forget about evolution


Global warming and evolution are science fiction, and if you want to believe them, you can. If you care to find out about what many true scientists feel about this, read the creation magazine.

I read in the Bible, "God's Word," that the God who created all things controls the weather. Just check the times that he judged different countries by earthquakes, famine, flood and pestilence.

If you want to believe in evolution and global warming and Mother Nature, you are going to find out a lot about warming for eternity. Psalms 9:17 says "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." If you put your faith in God, the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, you don't have to worry about these things. You can spend eternity with Him in heaven.

Read John 3:16, John 10:28 and Acts 16:31.

North Street, Jan. 9

Growing Scientific Evidence Supporting Evolution


Main Category: Biology / Biochemistry
Article Date: 12 Jan 2008 - 5:00 PST

Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and Institute of Medicine (IOM) have released SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM, a book designed to give the public a comprehensive and up-to-date picture of the current scientific understanding of evolution and its importance in the science classroom. Recent advances in science and medicine, along with an abundance of observations and experiments over the past 150 years, have reinforced evolution's role as the central organizing principle of modern biology, said the committee that wrote the book.

"SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM provides the public with coherent explanations and concrete examples of the science of evolution," said NAS President Ralph Cicerone. "The study of evolution remains one of the most active, robust, and useful fields in science."

"Understanding evolution is essential to identifying and treating disease," said Harvey Fineberg, president of IOM. "For example, the SARS virus evolved from an ancestor virus that was discovered by DNA sequencing. Learning about SARS' genetic similarities and mutations has helped scientists understand how the virus evolved. This kind of knowledge can help us anticipate and contain infections that emerge in the future."

DNA sequencing and molecular biology have provided a wealth of information about evolutionary relationships among species. As existing infectious agents evolve into new and more dangerous forms, scientists track the changes so they can detect, treat, and vaccinate to prevent the spread of disease.

Biological evolution refers to changes in the traits of populations of organisms, usually over multiple generations. One recent example highlighted in the book is the 2004 fossil discovery in Canada of fish with "intermediate" features -- four finlike legs -- that allowed the creature to pull itself through shallow water onto land. Scientists around the world cite this evidence as an important discovery in identifying the transition from ocean-dwelling creatures to land animals. By understanding and employing the principles of evolution, the discoverers of this fossil focused their search on layers of the Earth that are approximately 375 million years old and in a region that would have been much warmer during that period. Evolution not only best explains the biodiversity on Earth, it also helps scientists predict what they are likely to discover in the future.

Over very long periods of time, the same processes that enable evolution to occur within species also can result in the appearance of new species. The formation of a new species generally takes place when one subgroup within a species mates for an extended period largely within that subgroup, often following geographical separation from other members of the species. If such reproductive isolation continues, members of the subgroup may no longer respond to courtship from members of the original population. Eventually, genetic changes become so substantial that members of different subgroups can no longer produce viable offspring. In this way, new species can continually "bud off" of existing species.

Despite the overwhelming evidence supporting evolution, opponents have repeatedly tried to introduce nonscientific views into public school science classes through the teaching of various forms of creationism or intelligent design. In 2005, a federal judge in Dover, Pennsylvania, concluded that the teaching of intelligent design is unconstitutional because it is based on religious conviction, not science (Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District). NAS and IOM strongly maintain that only scientifically based explanations and evidence for the diversity of life should be included in public school science courses. "Teaching creationist ideas in science class confuses students about what constitutes science and what does not," the committee stated.

"As SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM makes clear, the evidence for evolution can be fully compatible with religious faith. Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world. Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of each to contribute to a better future," the book says.

SCIENCE, EVOLUTION, AND CREATIONISM is the third edition of a publication first issued in 1984 and updated in 1999. The current book was published jointly by the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine, and written by a committee chaired by Francisco Ayala, Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, department of ecology and evolutionary biology, University of California, Irvine, and author of several books on science and religion. A committee roster follows.

The book was funded by the NAS, IOM, the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, the Biotechnology Institute, and the Coalition of Scientific Societies.

The National Academy of Sciences is an independent society of scientists, elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to their field, with a mandate from Congress since 1863 to advise the federal government on issues of science and technology. The Institute of Medicine was created in 1970 by the NAS to provide science-based advice on matters of biomedical science, medicine, and health.

[This news release and book are available at http://national-academies.org/]


Committee on Revising Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences
Francisco J. Ayala (chair) 1
Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of California

Bruce Alberts1
Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics
University of California
San Francisco

May R. Berenbaum1
Swanlund Professor of Entomology
Department of Entomology
University of Illinois

Betty A. Carvellas Science Instructor Essex Junction High School (retired) Essex Junction, Vt.
M.T. Clegg1
Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences
Department of Ecology and Evolution
University of California

G. Brent Dalrymple1
Professor and Dean Emeritus
Oregon State University

Robert M. Hazen
Staff Scientist
Carnegie Institution of Washington
Washington, D.C.

Toby Horn
Carnegie Academy for Science Education
Carnegie Institution of Washington
Washington, D.C.

Nancy A. Moran1
Regents' Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Arizona

Gilbert S. Omenn2
Professor of Medicine, Genetics, and Public Health
Center for Computational Medicine and Biology
University of Michigan Medical School
Ann Arbor

Robert T. Pennock
Department of Philosophy
Lyman Briggs School of Science
Michigan State University
East Lansing

Peter H. Raven1
Missouri Botanical Garden
St. Louis

Barbara A. Schaal1
Spencer T. Olin Professor of Biology
Department of Biology
Washington University
St. Louis

Neil de Grasse Tyson
Visiting Research Scientist
Princeton University Observatory
Princeton, N.J.

Holly Wichman
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Idaho


Jay B. Labov
Study Director

1 Member, National Academy of Sciences
2 Member, Institute of Medicine

Source: Maureen O'Leary
The National Academies

Degree proposal discussed


State's higher education chief meets with Dallas creationism institute

12:00 AM CST on Friday, January 11, 2008
By HOLLY K. HACKER / The Dallas Morning News

The state's higher education chief met Thursday with officials from the Dallas-based Institution for Creation Research to discuss their plans to offer a master's degree in science education, but a final decision won't be made until later this month.

Commissioner Raymund Paredes wanted to make sure the institute's plan is fairly evaluated, and he "is still weighing all options," said De Juana Lozada, a spokeswoman for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. He will make a recommendation to a board committee on Jan. 23, the day before the full board meets and votes on the institute's request.

Dr. Paredes met with institute representatives for about 90 minutes in Austin. "As far as I know, it was the commissioner wanting just out of fairness to have ICR respond to some of the questions that have been raised by different groups," Ms. Lozada said.

Institute officials say they teach evolution along with creationism. But critics believe the Bible-based group wants to undermine the teaching of science in public schools.

The Austin American-Statesman reported that Dr. Paredes had suggested the institute offer a degree in creation studies instead. Asked to confirm that, Ms. Lozada said only that "no specific recommendations" have been made, and that Dr. Paredes will not comment until he makes up his mind.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Our rights are derived from God


Published Friday, January 11, 2008

Dear Editor: The idea advocated by Joe Boyett in his Jan. 8 letter that one would have to reject creationism and support evolution to be a good president is ridiculous. First, if one rejects the truth that there is a Creator, he must reject the premise on which our national independence was founded: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights ..."

Whether or not one believes in the unproven theory of evolution has nothing to do with his commitment to scientific advancement. Scientific, technological innovations have absolutely no connection to the theories of how life originated. Creationists realize that many types of life have the capacity to adapt or change. This phenomenon is no accident, but has been placed there by the Creator.

As far as I know, all current presidential candidates claim to believe in God. I hope they believe that God - not government -is the source of our liberties and the moral code on which our laws are founded. Otherwise there is nothing to restrain them from attempting to become a tyrant.

G. Wayne Crocker


Friday, January 11, 2008

Evolution education update: January 11, 2008

A victory for the integrity of science education in South Carolina, where the state board of education rejected unfounded criticisms of a standard biology textbook. The Union of Concerned Scientists is concerned about attempts to undermine the teaching of evolution. And Chris Comer could use your help.


The South Carolina board of education voted on January 9, 2008, to add Kenneth R. Miller and Joseph Levine's popular high school textbook Biology, published by Prentice-Hall, to the official list of textbooks approved by the state. "Science teachers from across the state erupted in applause after the vote," reported the Associated Press (January 9, 2008). At its last meeting, on December 12, 2007, the board withheld its approval of the book after receiving a critique of it from a retired professor at Clemson University, even though it was approved by the state's high school biology textbook evaluating committee and even though a previous edition of the book is already used in roughly half of South Carolina's public high schools.

The critique focused almost entirely on the textbook's treatment of evolution, complaining of Darwin's lack of scientific credentials, adducing the subtitle of the Origin of Species as evidence for Darwin's racism, and alleging problems with the book's discussion of vestigial organs, developmental homologies, and the origin of life. In a written response, after responding to the critique point by point, Miller concluded, "Although the reviewer has made a few helpful criticisms which we will be glad to incorporate in our text, the concerns and objections to the treatment of evolution in our textbook expressed by this reviewer are without scientific merit."

Miller also attended the January 2008 meeting of the board to defend his textbook. The State (January 10, 2008) reported, "He said his presentation about how to teach evolution, survival of the fittest, the origin of species and fossil records can be backed up by widely recognized research over the past 150 years." Also speaking in defense of the textbook were Jerry Waldvogel of Clemson University, who presented a statement repudiating the critique signed by 130 members of the Clemson faculty; Linda Mobley, the chair of the state's high school biology textbook evaluating committee; and Robert T. Dillon Jr. of the College of Charleston, the president of South Carolinians for Science Education.

Miller and Levine's textbook was finally approved on a voice vote; it is unclear what the tally was -- The State reports it as 10-6; the Associated Press reports it as 9-7. In any case, one of the majority, Trip DuBard, told the Associated Press, "It's almost shameful to me that we're spending so much time questioning whether evolution should be taught in school in 2008." The victory for science education wasn't complete, however: a college-level textbook used in high school advanced placement biology classes -- Raven, Johnson, Losos, and Singer's Biology, published by McGraw-Hill -- was similarly attacked in December 2007 and then withdrawn by the publisher.

For the Associated Press's report (via the Charlotte Observer), visit:

For The State's report, visit:

For South Carolinians for Science Education's website, visit:

For the critique and Miller's response, visit:

For videos of the January 2008 board meeting, visit:

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


On September 4, 2007, the Union of Concerned Scientists issued "Science, Evolution, and Intelligent Design," a statement expressing concern about "current attempts to mandate the teaching of 'intelligent design' and other non-scientific accounts of the origins of species and biological diversity in our nation's science classrooms" and "the misleading interpretations of scientific principles being used to discredit and misrepresent the science of evolution," and calling for "the mobilization of scientists, teachers, policy makers, and concerned citizens to combat efforts to undermine science education and the integrity of science."

Together with the statement, the Union of Concerned Scientists provides a six-section primer "on the scientific theory, evolution, and intelligent design, along with discussions of why intelligent design is not science, why it should not be part of the science curriculum, and the broader implications anti-evolution efforts can have on society." The Union of Concerned Scientists is an independent, nonprofit alliance of more than 200,000 citizens and scientists, basing its research and outreach on rigorous scientific analysis and the maintenance of scientific integrity in decision making among the public and policy makers.

For the UCS statement on evolution, visit:

For the UCS's six-section primer, visit:


Chris Comer was forced to resign from her job at the Texas Education Agency after forwarding a brief announcement of a lecture on "intelligent design" by Barbara Forrest. As NCSE previously reported, the memorandum recommending her termination stated that "the TEA requires, as agency policy, neutrality when talking about evolution and creationism," and the TEA was widely criticized in the press and by scientific societies as a result.

Now Comer is undergoing what we hope will be a temporary cash flow problem until she can find a new job. If you feel that you can help -- even $5, $10, $20, or $50 would help -- you can make a donation directly to Comer. You would not only be helping a professional educator who stood up for the integrity of science education, you would also be showing appreciation for her many years of working at the TEA to improve science education in Texas.

If you wish to contribute, you can send a donation of whatever amount to Comer's PayPal account. Go to PayPal.com, click on the "send money" button, and put her e-mail address -- chris.comer@live.com -- in the "To" box. If you would prefer to send a check, make it payable to Chris Comer and send it to Chris Comer, c/o NCSE, 420 40th Street, Suite 2, Oakland CA 94609, and we will forward it to her.

For PayPal, visit:

For the memorandum (PDF), visit:

For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit:

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

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

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


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

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

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism

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

Knowing difference between science, religion important in schools


Published: January 11, 2008 10:51 am

Dennis Weigand
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — "When your neighbor's beard is on fire, pour water on yours"

— Old Spanish proverb

The fire referred to above is the recurring attempt, usually by religious fundamentalists, to replace the science of biological evolution with religious explanations (such as the biblical stories of creation) in public school science classes. It began in Tennessee in the 1920s, re-ignited in Arkansas in the 1980s, then again in Kansas, Pennsylvania, and now recently in Texas.

So it has flared up all around us, and there's no reason to think it couldn't happen here. If we pour water on our beard now, maybe we can delay, if not prevent, that fire.

What is going on here? Although I cannot be sure of the motivations of those involved, I prefer to think they are otherwise intelligent and honorable people, acting out their religious zeal to defeat what they see as the systematic promotion of atheism by the scientific community, rather than malevolent dimwits. They see the theory of evolution as a denial of God, because they don't understand the difference between science and religion, and/or they don't understand what the term "scientific theory" means.

Why is this important? In addition to being important to basic scientific integrity in public education, it is important because it can directly influence the selection of textbooks. States as populous as Texas have a big influence on what texts publishers make available nationwide. If the Texas Education Agency demands a textbook with corrupted biological science, we may get the same thing here.

Just last month, the scientific director of the TEA was forced to resign because she forwarded an e-mail to teachers, from the National Center for Science Education, that included a speech by one of the expert witnesses at the Dover, Pa., trial where "intelligent design" was ruled out of science curricula. The courts have consistently ruled against the insinuation of supernaturally based explanations for biological diversity into public school science classes for the most fundamental of reasons: they are not science. They are religion.

But the creationists will not be deterred by reasoned argument because no belief, rational or not, is held more tenaciously than a religious belief. Creationism proponents have followed each defeat in the courts with a new strategy, each one more subtle and disingenuous than the last. In July last year, Texas governor Rick Perry, who supports teaching of intelligent design, appointed Don McLeroy as chair of the elected State Board of Education.

McLeroy is a "young earth creationist," which generally implies a literal interpretation of one of the creation stories in Genesis, along with the belief that the Earth is only a few thousand years old. It may come as a surprise, then, to learn that he and a large majority of the Board, in an interview with The Dallas Morning News, stated their opposition to putting creationism or intelligent design into science classes, because they do not have consensus in the science community.

What? Have they seen the light? Not necessarily. In the late 1980s, to appease creationists, the following paragraph was added to the science standards for Texas public schools: "The student is expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information."

In the guise of adherence to a sound scientific principle, this acknowledgment of "strengths and weaknesses" looks rather like an attempt to cast doubt on the basic validity of evolutionary theory. There is no credible argument about the basic validity of the theory. It has been amended and refined and expanded for about 250 years, and it still is the very foundation of modern biology.

It also is significant that, in a 2005 speech at his church, McLeroy referred to intelligent design as the "big tent," meaning all believers in creationism could unite under it to oppose evolution. And two years later, after being appointed chair of the Board of Education, he wants us to believe he has no interest in putting those beliefs into the science curriculum because they do not have consensus in the science community.

The issue may be fought out this year in Texas, with the anticipated review of science education standards. I would urge Edmond parents to stay tuned, to discuss the issue with their children's science teachers and to look at what is in their science textbooks. Science education is far too important to be turned into a religious/political football game.

DENNIS WEIGAND is an Edmond resident.

S.C. school board to scrutinize biology text


Posted on Wed, Jan. 09, 2008 Concerns about textbook focus on references to Darwin, evolution

By BILL ROBINSON - brobinson@thestate.com

The way South Carolina schools teach evolution gets another public airing today.

The state Board of Education tackles the topic when the 17-member panel convenes in Columbia for its regularly scheduled monthly meeting.

Expected to attend — and possibly speak — will be biologist Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University. Miller's views on teaching the origin of the species in a textbook he co-wrote have been called into question.

The state school board withheld an endorsement of Miller's book in December, when Charles W. McKinney of Clinton said he needed more time to weigh issues raised in a critique by Horace D. Skipper, a retired Clemson University botanist.

Skipper challenged two dozen passages in Miller's take on evolution, including one where Skipper wrote that "Charles Darwin shifted his thinking on origins (of species) after he became anti-God."

The mainstream scientific community has long recognized Darwin's groundbreaking, 19th-century work in establishing an explanation for the basic building blocks of life on Earth.

Miller's book came up for scrutiny during a routine textbook evaluation the state Department of Education organizes periodically to update the list of teaching materials that meet teaching standards. Several other biology textbooks passed through the latest review without question.

A previous edition of Miller's book is used in roughly half of South Carolina's public high schools, according to state Education Department records.

Two years ago, the state school board wrestled with revising language in guidelines high school biology teachers should follow when teaching evolution. State Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, successfully led a campaign to include the phrase "critically analyze" in biology standards, terminology some scientists and educators viewed as an attempt to introduce the biblically based theory of creationism into public school classrooms.

Miller is well known in circles where the creationism vs. evolution debate rages. He testified for parents in Dover, Pa., who successfully sued their local school board to block religious-themed instruction about the origins of life in high school science classes.

Miller said he would visit South Carolina to answer questions the state school board might have about the seventh edition of the book he and co-author Joseph Levine have updated. He acknowledges Skipper's review identified two errors or clarifications that will be dealt with when the new book is published for distribution.

Even if the state school board withholds its endorsement of the new Miller-Levine book from the officially approved list, a state law gives local school systems the option of using it anyway — if two districts, with a combined enrollment of 25,000 students, decide they want to use it.

Reach Robinson at (803) 771-8482.

Will hands out free 'tests'


January 11, 2008

Will Smith is reportedly recruiting members for the Church of Scientology.

The I Am Legend actor - whose wife Jada Pinkett-Smith is a follower of the bizarre sci-fi cult - has reportedly been handing out cards offering free personality tests at Scientology centres to cast and crew on his latest movie.

A source is quoted by the New York Daily News newspaper as saying: "Will has joined the ranks of Hollywood power players actively recruiting for the

Church of Scientology. Big stars traditionally distribute wrap presents to crew members after completing a film.

His recent gift after wrapping next summer's comedy Hancock was a free personality test at a local Scientology centre.

"These tests are given free by the church anyway. The quiz is designed to convert people to the religion by identifying personality flaws that Scientology can fix for you."

Last month, Will insisted he didn't believe in "organised religion".

The actor - who was introduced to Scientology by close friend Tom Cruise, who is rumoured to be the second most powerful person in the church - said: "I love my God, my higher power, but it is mine and mine alone. I'm a student of world religion. I was raised in a Baptist household, I went to a Catholic school, but the ideas of the Bible are 98 percent the same ideas of Scientology, 98 per cent the same ideas of Hinduism and Buddhism.

When I sit and I talk with Tom, he is one of the greatest spirits that I've ever met - someone who is committed to making the world better.

"How can I condemn someone for what they believe and I believe that God was born from a pregnant virgin?"

Kids paying for holy war over evolution


Posted on Thu, Jan. 10, 2008 Digg del.icio.us


The nine-hour drive was only the physical distance traveled by the two emissaries from rural Taylor County, nestled in the crook where Florida bends around the Gulf. Those 405 miles were nothing compared to the cultural gap they found in Miramar.

Oscar Howard Jr., superintendent of Taylor County's School District, and Danny Lundy, vice chairman of the School Board, spoke in accents from that other Florida. ''We're opposed to teaching evolution as a fact,'' Howard said, adding that his School Board and 11 others have passed resolutions against the imposition of evolution in the school curriculum.

Evolution, Lundy warned, would tear the Taylor public schools apart. ''The good people back home,'' he worried, would have no choice but to pull their kids out of school.


Others attending the hearing on reviving the state of education's science standards Tuesday denounced this notion of teaching evolution, some evoking an evangelical language that hardly translated on the other side of the divide. A woman talked about God and miracles and friends brought back from death and how biblical faith, not evolution, revealed the only answers to life's mysteries.

When geologist Ina B. Alterman, formerly of the National Research Council, came to the microphone to defend science, evolution and freedom from religious interference in education, it was as if she were speaking another language. She and her allies -- scientists, teachers, parents -- offered reasoned arguments for teaching evolution that would seem to overwhelm any science-based opposition. Hers was a majority position at the Miramar hearing. Oscar Howard Jr. said that up in Perry, anti-evolutionists would have made up 80 percent of the crowd.

Mindful of attitudes in that other Florida, Boca Raton physician Tom Hall warned of the legal costs incurred by a quixotic, unconstitutional attempt by the Dover, Penn., School Board to teach faith-based Intelligent Design. But a Miami paramedic warned that taking God out of the classroom has led to immorality and violence. He related the beating death last week of a toddler by a 12-year-old in Lauderhill to the teaching of evolution. An unfathomable leap in logic on one side of the divide. An understandable leap of faith on the other.


Even the word theory, this night, suffered irreconcilable definitions. Darwin's theory, up in Taylor County, population 20,000, only rates the pedestrian meaning: unproven speculation. Scientists speaking Tuesday night, one after another, reminded the audience that scientifically, the theory of evolution was no more speculative than the theory of gravity. This theory, they said, formed the basis for all biological science, girded by 156 years of research. Some who doubted Darwin suggested a populist solution. Teach all theories of creation. Let the kids decide. As if biology were as subjective as philosophy.

More arguments and counter-arguments about faith and evolution were launched into a vacuum of irreconcilable beliefs. Then, the final speaker, Lisa Dizengoff, director of science curriculum at Pembroke Pines Charter School's east campus, angrily reminded the crowd that after all the carping over evolution, no one had gotten around to addressing the state's lackadaisical, last-century approach to science education.

''All I heard was this argument about evolution,'' she said, disgusted that so many other problems had been preempted by a single controversy.

``The kids lost out again.''

SC Education Board approves textbook, despite questions


By SEANNA ADCOX Associated Press Writer

COLUMBIA, S.C. --The South Carolina Education Board approved a biology textbook Wednesday for public schools, despite questions from critics worried about how the book teaches evolution.

The board voted 9-7 to approve the textbook's latest edition, which can be used in ninth- and tenth-grade biology classrooms. Science teachers from across the state erupted in applause after the vote.

Board member Charles McKinney argued the origin of life is an incomplete mystery and thinks the book presents evolution as fact rather than theory.

He asked the board to "carefully weigh the impact that distorted science opinion presented as scientific truth in adopted text will have upon youth." He said evolution was used by Nazi Germany and other totalitarian states as an excuse to kill millions of people.

"I need to assure that neo-Darwinism is not allowed to project lies that could once again allow the emergence of social Darwinism," McKinney said.

The former teacher said teaching evolution doesn't bother him, as long as students are taught it's an incomplete science. He said he realizes creationism can't be taught, because the courts have ruled against it.

The book's co-author, Ken Miller, disputed the criticisms and said the updated book's section on evolution is unchanged from the textbook already used in South Carolina and all 49 other states.

Miller challenged the board to find a single reference to evolution as law or fact rather than theory. No one could.

Miller called it absurd and insulting to blame the theory of evolution for the deaths of hundreds of millions of people. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin were driven by racism, anti-Semitism and socialist utopianism, not scientific theory on the origin of the species, he said.

"It's almost shameful to me that we're spending so much time questioning whether evolution should be taught in school in 2008," said board member Trip DuBard of Florence. "I thought we were beyond that. If you can't support teaching science to kids, something else is going on."

Several board members called it embarrassing that so many science specialists had to come to the meeting to defend a textbook. They also argued that rejecting the book would send a message to teachers that their expertise isn't wanted. The textbook was given top ratings last year by a panel of 11 South Carolina teachers.

In South Carolina, the state pays for textbooks and the state Education Board approves which can be used in classrooms after a panel review.

McKinney said he based his objections on critiques by retired Clemson University botanist Horace Skipper and Pickens County school board member Oscar Thorsland. The board approved other biology textbooks in December, but postponed discussion on Miller's because McKinney wanted to review the complaints.

The objections included that volcanic eruptions have proved geologic formations can happen in days or months, not millions of years, and dating methods are unreliable, so the textbook should not refer to something as billions of years old.

Miller said dating is reliable, and just because some geologic formations were created quickly doesn't mean everything formed that way.

"The state of South Carolina has never disappointed me this much," said sophomore David Camak, of Ware Shoals, who identified himself as a biology major and a Christian. He declined to give his college. "It seems to me that this reviewer does not want students to think at all."

Clemson professor Jerry Waldvogel said he and his colleagues were disturbed the complaints came from someone identified as a Clemson professor. He submitted a letter signed by 130 other Clemson faculty saying they don't support Skipper's objections.

New book takes aim at alternative medicine


Jan 10, 2008 1:00 AM (1 day ago) by Karl B. Hille, The Examiner

BALTIMORE (Map, News) - Most herbal supplements, acupuncture and other "alternative medicine" treatments have no scientific basis for their claims, says R. Barker Bausell, a professor and researcher at the University of Maryland School of Nursing.

Bausell takes aim at such treatments in his new book, "Snake Oil Science: The Truth about Complementary and Alternative Medicine."

What led you to write this book?

I was recruited to be research director of the NIH-funded Alternative Therapy Research Center. My job was to design and analyze NIH-funded trials of a lot of complementary and alternative medicine.

What do you mean?

In high-quality clinical trials, there's never any difference between the placebo and alternative therapies, but the scientists are allowed to sort of say whatever they want in the conclusions section. The only trial in alternative therapy that I ever considered using is a placebo-controlled trial. If there's no placebo, the results will inevitably be, "It works." If there's a placebo, the results will be, "You will improve, but so does the placebo group."

Have you looked into claims about the benefits of vitamins?

I made a decision to stay away from vitamin and mineral supplements. I basically concentrated mostly on therapies that you have to go to somebody to get. I'm not saying there's no herb out there on an herbalist's shelves that will help you, but the herbalist is not necessarily going to help.

Your book hit the shelves in November. Who is your audience?

It's targeted mainly to the general public. It's more interesting to people to say, "This will help you," than "This can't help you."


Opposition to Natural Selection Greets Darwin Centennial


Criticism from within science appears in books aimed at both public and professionals First we shape evolutionary theory, then it shapes us

Rosendale, NY (PRWEB) January 10, 2008 -- Science-inspired books both celebrating and debunking Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection herald the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth due next year.

Earlier this month, The National Academy of Sciences published ''Science, Evolution and Creationism'' praising Darwin's theory. Next month science writer Shaun Johnston will publish ''Save Our Selves from Science Gone Wrong,'' a slim manifesto attacking the "bad science" behind the theory.

"Critics of natural selection within the science community should no longer worry about their arguments helping creationism," Johnston said. "Staying loyal to an obsolete theory won't make science stronger. We should acknowledge weaknesses in Darwin's theory and come up with more plausible mechanisms. Doing so could lessen the public's resistance to the idea of evolution itself."

Johnston begins by criticising the science behind natural selection for denying the existence of the human self. He points to a dozen assumptions lying behind the theory of natural selection that disqualify it from being the mechanism of evolution. A necessary first step in arriving at a better theory, he claims, is coming up with a better set of assumptions.

Johnston believes that how one accounts for evolution matters. "First we shape evolutionary theory, then it shapes us," he says. He accuses natural selection and evolutionary psychology of threatening civilized values and encourages his readers to pressure evolutionists and educators to take all reference to mechanism out of the teaching of evolutionary theory, at least until a better theory emerges.

Criticism of natural selection addressed to professional evolutionists appears in the recently-published ''Biological Emergencies: Evolution by Natural Experiment,'' latest volume in ''The Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology.'' The author Robert G. B. Reid, is Emeritus Professor of Biology at the University of Victoria, British Columbia.

Although the two books were written independently and for different audiences they make strikingly similar arguments, pointing to a convergence in scientific opposition to modern Darwinian theory.

Pre-publication review copies of ''Save Our Selves…'' can be requested from the author. Cover art is available at the publisher's web site, www.evolvedself.com. The website also carries information about Johnston's previous books, ''Me and The Genies,'' a light romantic novel introducing the players and the ideas involved in the controversy over evolution, and ''Father, in a Far Distant Time I Find You,'' a Utopian novel exploring the impact of evolutionary theories on human nature. Johnston lives in New York's Hudson Valley.

For pre-publication review copies of ''Save Our Selves...'' contact:

Shaun Johnston
Evolved Self Publishing
723 Springtown Road, Tillson, NY 12486

Professor Reid can be reached at reidrgb@shaw.ca.

Texas official: Call it creationism degree


Published: Jan. 10, 2008 at 1:34 PM

AUSTIN, Texas, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- The Texas commissioner of higher education suggested that a creationist group call its proposed on-line science education degree a degree in creation studies.

Commissioner Raymond Paredes was to meet with the Institute for Creation Research to discuss the degree, the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman reported.

The institute, in Dallas, said that most of the students in the program would be planning to teach in Christian schools. Patricia Nason, who heads the institute's science education department, said that the planned curriculum includes evolution and those who earn the master's degree would be qualified to teach in public schools.

The program is open only to students who believe that God created the universe in six days and that those who deny Jesus Christ face eternal damnation, the newspaper said. Adultery, homosexuality and fornication are banned.

"We're going to take a look at those issues," Paredes told the Morning News. "We're inviting representatives of ICR to respond to those kinds of questions."

© 2008 United Press International

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Magnet Therapy Gets Boost from Real Study


By Christopher Wanjek, LiveScience Bad Medicine Columnist

posted: 08 January 2008 06:28 am ET

Email Magnetic therapy, long derailed as pseudoscience, has just gotten a boost from a biomedical study showing how magnets can reduce swelling.

The study will likely impress manufacturers of magnetic devices, many of whom never dreamed these things could actually work and have been selling them merely to cash in on this $5-billion-a-year industry. But skeptics will have a tough time brushing this one off.

In a tightly controlled study—a rarity in the world of alternative medicine—Thomas Skalak of the University of Virginia found that static magnets reduced swelling by up to 50 percent in the tiny hind paws of rats. Skalak published his results in the November issue of the American Journal of Physiology.

Push and pull

Therapeutic magnets have a demonstrated ability to pull wads of cash from your wallet. Some magnetic back braces sell for upwards of $100. The benefits associated with magnets range, according to proponents, from curing cancer to chasing away your mother-in-law, but mostly magnets are used to treat pain from muscle aches and arthritis.

Called static because they emit a steady force, similar to a refrigerator magnet, therapeutic magnets are very popular among athletes. Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino claims that magnets healed his fractured ankle later in his career. It's not clear, however, which losing season he was referring to.

Yet little scientific evidence exists demonstrating that static magnets heal, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), which funds studies of questionable therapies to see if there's anything behind the often outrageous claims.

First strong study

Performing high-quality magnet studies has been difficult, mainly because patients easily can test whether they are wearing a real magnet or a placebo simply by seeing if a paperclip sticks to it. Also, pain is subjective, so studies measuring pain reduction can be biased. As a result, according to NCCAM, the few magnet studies showing positive health effects have had major flaws.

Skalak, funded by NCCAM, took the novel approach of working with rats to determine changes in body function as a result of wearing static magnets or sham magnets. Smart as they might be, the rats did not seem to know the difference. He induced different kinds of swelling and noted that an external magnet with a strength of 700 gauss, 10 times stronger than a refrigerator magnet, reduced the type of swelling associated with bee stings or sprains.

The swelling reduction was strongest when the magnet was applied immediately. Skalak envisions sports trainers using magnetic wraps instead of ice packs.

How it works?

Skalak and his colleague, Cassandra Morris, also at the University of Virginia, can't explain how therapeutic magnets work. In fact, no one can.

One theory, often cited by advocates, is that magnets attract the iron in blood and increase blood flow. But blood iron is locked up in hemoglobin molecules, which are slightly repelled by magnets. Other theories are just wacky, such as the reasoning that city dwellers are magnetically deprived because pavements block the earth's natural magnetic field.

It's a good thing blood isn't affected much by magnets, because if blood were greatly affected, then when inside an MRI device, which employs alternating magnetic fields 100 times stronger than a therapeutic magnet, you would blow up.

One plausible theory, Skalak said, is that the magnetic field might alter calcium channels in muscle cells, which could cause arteries to dilate.

What it doesn't mean

Skalak stopped short of endorsing any commercial product, because what he found was based on a specific magnetic field strength for a specific swelling at a specific distance below the skin. In the commercial world, there is no established "dose" of magnetic fields.

Commercial therapeutic magnets come in a range of strengths, many no stronger than a refrigerator magnet. You can test the strength of one: Place a sock over a magnetic shoe insert and you'll see that it no longer holds a paperclip. That magnetic field has to penetrate both sock and skin to have an effect. Wrapping a refrigerator magnet in an ace bandage will get you just as far at a fraction of the price.

Magnetic field strengths drop sharply with distance, inversely proportional with the cube of the distance. So it is unclear if a magnetic pad can reach as deep as the spine.

Skalak also said that his study in no way supports copper or titanium bracelets or healing crystals. But it is only a matter of time before shysters latch on the Skalak's work as proof of the efficacy of their zany health products.

Top 10 Bad Things That Are Good For You
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Take the Body Quiz

Christopher Wanjek is the author of the books "Bad Medicine" and "Food At Work." Got a question about Bad Medicine? Email Wanjek. If it's really bad, he just might answer it in a future column. Bad Medicine appears each Tuesday on LiveScience.

Diane Rehm Fails to Ask NAS the Hard Questions


Yesterday, The Diane Rehm Show on NPR held a discussion on the new National Academy of Sciences (NAS) booklet Science, Evolution, and Creationism. To anyone with eyes to see, the booklet is a transparent attempt to label any criticism of Darwinism as "creationism."

This evolutionary-evangelistic tract is so dogmatic Catholic News World said, the NAS "has produced a new text warning against the terrible danger that someone, somewhere, might not entirely accept evolutionary theory."

And Rehm carried the Darwinian rhetorical water by lumping all doubters under the banner of "creationism" and expressing concern over the supposed menace of "creationism" in the public schools (which is not a menace anywhere, so far as I know, unless you define creationism as criticism of Darwin).

There are two points which a solid reporter would have raised:

First, isn't it a bit disingenuous for the NAS to use religious voices in the booklet to claim that religion and Darwinian evolution are compatible? After all, a 1998 survey found that nearly 95% of NAS biologists are atheists or agnostics. As this is about the inverse of the general population where ninety-some percent are theists, doesn't evolutionary biology have something to do with their beliefs? These liberal religious leaders are being used, and they need to wake up.

Second, the NAS booklet clearly does not represent the views of all NAS members. Whereas the booklet hilariously touts Darwinian evolution's supposed contributions to medicine, NAS Member Dr. Philip Skell (Penn State) in 2005 noted that not only did his famous work on antibiotics have nothing to do with Darwinism, but 70 prominent researchers he surveyed also claimed their work would not have been done differently if Darwinism were false.

But alas, from Rehm we got the usual hype about the threat of "creationism" and the typical callers who want to talk about saddles on dino backs rather than serious scientific criticism of Darwinian evolution.

Posted by Logan Gage on January 8, 2008 7:07 AM | Permalink

Florida Judge Orders Bibles to Carry Anti-Creationism Sticker!


by Kamal El-Din

Bible stickerUnconfirmed sources report that a State of Florida Appellate Court Judge is about to hand down a ruling that will require all Bibles in the state to carry a warning sticker. The proposed sticker reads: "Warning this book promotes the dogma of creationism. Because experts disagree about the scientific basis of creationism, it and the rest of the material in this book should not be taken on faith. One should approach this material with an open mind and study it critically." The Florida religious community has greeted the news of the expected ruling with pleasure and is anxious to comply.

"This is a real victory for the faithful of America." Exclaimed Dr. James Dobson of the Christian organization Focus on the Family. "We have been witness to the steady erosion of the separation between church and state and I am glad to see that something is being done about it. I have long been a fan of textbook labeling and it only makes sense that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. I have received an advance copy of the sticker and we are printing then up for distribution across the country."

The White House refused to comment publicly on the matter as it is still before the judge, but the President is said to be pleased by the expected ruling. "The President, while himself a religious man, realizes that not everyone shares his beliefs." Explained White House spokesman Ben Lion, anonymously on deep background. "America is a secular country and we need to be careful not to try and impose our beliefs on the heathen savages that we are forced share our county with."

The final ruling is expected to come down in the next few days. Court watchers believe that the court will give Churches and Bible publishers plenty of time to comply with the new labeling requirements. There is no sign of an appeal to the Supreme Court on the matter, as both sides seem to be pleased with the expected compromise.

Spiritual tenets don't belong in state's science standards


January 09, 2008

Florida badly needs to upgrade its public school science standards: Our students, on average, perform poorly in science compared to those in other states and nations. Our science standards are not specific enough to develop uniform curricula. Our students are not being prepared for jobs in the science and high-tech industries that the state and local governments are so vigorously courting.

So, it would be a disservice to Florida schoolchildren if the State Board of Education does not adopt proposed new science standards at its Feb. 19 meeting in Tallahassee.

What might prevent that? Some groups believe that the science of evolution, which is specifically mentioned for the first time in the new standards, conflicts with religious beliefs that God created the world. If evolution is to be taught, some argue, it should be taught alongside "creationism," also known as "intelligent design."

Yet, evolution is based in science; creationism by any name in spiritual tenets. We agree that schoolchildren whose religious beliefs support creationism or intelligent design should be presented with those concepts -- but not in public schools' science classrooms.

There is clear empirical evidence to support evolution as scientific theory -- which is taught to students worldwide, including in Florida schools. Ironically, this pseudo debate is about a change in wording more than philosophy. The state would use "evolution" instead of elusive language that refers to forms of life changing over time.

There is a lot at stake in the "e" word, though. If Florida and its communities want to market themselves as capable of supporting biotechnology, medical technology or other sciences, they cannot do so with fuzzy science curricula. They have to teach to the best standards of other states and nations, which include evolution.

Moreover, belief in a God-created world and the acceptance of the science of evolution are not mutually exclusive. The theory of evolution explains change -- how species evolve over time, from generation to generation, and why some disappear. It does not explain the precise origin of life. Even Charles Darwin acknowledged that in 1859 in his "Origin of Species:" "There is grandeur in this view of life," he wrote, "with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one. . . ." Indeed, some faith-based groups view evolution as one of their Creator's tools.

This debate is not about how the world was created. It's about how species in this world change. It's time for an unequivocal evolution in Florida public school science standards.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Darwin's Failed Predictions, Slide 11: "Human evolution remains a mystery" (from JudgingPBS.com)


[Editor's Note: This is slide 11 in a series of 14 slides available at JudgingPBS.com, a new website featuring "Darwin's Failed Predictions," a response to PBS-NOVA's online materials for their "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial" documentary.]

In 1980, the famed late evolutionary paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould noted that, "[m]ost hominid fossils, even though they serve as a basis for endless speculation and elaborate storytelling, are fragments of jaws and scraps of skulls."1 PBS confidently asserts that our species, Homo sapiens, evolved from ape-like species, but the fossil record tells a different story. The fossil record contains two basic types of hominids: those that can be classified as ape-like and those that can be classified as modern human-like. But there remains a distinct break in the morphology of ape-like species and human-like species that is not bridged by our knowledge of the fossil record.

For example, PBS touts Lucy, a member of the hominid species Australopithecus afarensis, as a representative of humanity's ancestors. But many studies have found that the australopithecines were more similar to modern apes than to modern humans. For example, Lucy is commonly called a precursor to the bipedal form of human locomotion, yet one study found Lucy had handbones like a knuckle-walking ape. Another study wrote, "We, like many others, interpret the anatomical evidence to show that early H[omo] sapiens was significantly and dramatically different from earlier and penecontemporary australopithecines in virtually every element of its skeleton and every remnant of its behavior."2

These rapid, unique, and genetically significant changes were called "a genetic revolution" where "no australopithecine species is obviously transitional."2 One commentator proposed this evidence implies a "big bang theory" of human evolution.3 Similarly, two paleoanthropologists stated in Nature that the first human-like fossils appear so suddenly in the record that "it is hard at present to identify its immediate ancestry in east Africa. Not for nothing has it been described as a hominin 'without an ancestor, without a clear past.'"4

A Harvard scientist recently stated in the New York Times that newly discovered hominid fossils "show 'just how interesting and complex the human genus was and how poorly we understand the transition from being something much more apelike to something more humanlike.'"5 Such an admission was echoed soon thereafter by a different set of researchers stating that "we know nothing about how the human line actually emerged from apes."6 Perhaps PBS would do best to explain that there are many unsolved mysteries about human origins, rather than presenting the united front that humans are unequivocally descended from ape-like species.

References Cited:
1. Stephen Jay Gould, The Panda's Thumb, page 126 (W.W. Norton, 1980).
2. J. Hawks, K. Hunley, L. Sang-Hee, and M. Wolpoff, "Population Bottlenecks and Pleistocene Evolution," Journal of Molecular Biology and Evolution, Vol. 17(1): 2-22 (2000).
3. University of Michigan News and Information Services News Release, "New study suggests big bang theory of human evolution" (January 10, 2000), available at http://www.umich.edu/~newsinfo/Releases/2000/Jan00/r011000b.html.
4. Robin Dennell & Wil Roebroeks, "An Asian perspective on early human dispersal from Africa," Nature, Vol. 438:1099-1104 (Dec. 22/29, 2005).
5. Daniel Lieberman, quoted in "Fossils in Kenya Challenge Linear Evolution," by John Noble Wilford, New York Times (August 9, 2007), at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/09/science/09fossil.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&ref=world&adxnnlx=1190251306-bd0mimh3naHn6sRHLOlP/A.
6. Scientists quoted in "Fossil find pushes human-ape split back millions of years," (August 24, 20070), at http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=070824121653.65mgd37f&show_article=1.

The graphic above is hot-linked from http://www.flickr.com/photos/baggis/242708818/.

Posted by Casey Luskin on January 7, 2008 7:52 AM | Permalink

Teaching truth, allowing for belief


Published Sunday, January 6, 2008

Bravo to the National Academy of Sciences for stating what should be obvious - that evolution should be taught in public schools; that so-called "creation science" should not, because it is bogus; and that acceptance of evolution does not require abandoni

The Academy, the nation's most eminent scientific organization, on Thursday reported that evidence for evolution is overwhelming and growing. DNA research, fossil discoveries and scientific observations about emerging diseases all have substantiated evolution, it notes.

The Academy's new 70-page book, "Science, Evolution and Creationism," which is aimed specifically at the lay public, says it is wrong to teach creationism, which holds that all life came into existence at the same time, in schools because it is false science.

At the same time, it says "attempts to put science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist." It offers statements from leading clergy and scientists to support that view.

Unfortunately, "[d]espite the lack of scientific evidence for creationist positions, some advocates continue to demand that various forms of creationism be taught together with or in place of evolution in science classes," the report says.

That's true in our own state, where anti-evolutionists bullied the state school board to paste an "evolution warning label" on biology texts. Although the label has been rewritten and the warning weakened significantly, it remains in place.

The famous Scopes Trial concluded more than 80 years ago but evolution continues to be a divisive force in education and politics. Mike Huckabee, winner of the GOP caucuses in Iowa, angrily denounces it. School officials in Florida and Texas are debating whether to teach it openly.

The Academy is right. Religion has its place, as does science. But it should be obvious that science classes are not the place to teach religious beliefs.

Let's use 'evolution' and get on with it


South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board

January 8, 2008

If evolution, creationism and intelligent design are controversial and worthy of debate, that's fine. Debate 'em.

Debate them in philosophy class. Debate them in theology class. Even debate them in debate class.

But they shouldn't be debated in science class. Evolution isn't debatable in many parts of the world, and among a majority of scientists, but somehow Florida hasn't fully gotten the message.

In an attempt to reach the 21st century, revisions are being considered to the state science standards. Among the changes, the word "evolution" would finally be substituted for the more generic "biological changes over time."

And it's about time.

A public hearing will be held today at Everglades High School in Miramar on the proposed changes, which will be voted on by the State Board of Education on Feb. 19.

At a previous hearing in Jacksonville, a few people toting Bibles opposedany attempt to emphasize evolution in public schools. It may not conform to everyone's religious beliefs, but evolution, as one teacher said in Jacksonville, "is the glue that holds biology together."

It's also time to definitively call it what it is, and not use the politically correct "biological changes over time." And there shouldn't be a need to give equal time to creationism and intelligent design in science class.

Let's leave science to the scientists. Scientific evidence has long backed up evolution to explain the development of species, and it's time that message reached the state's public schools. Florida students have scored poorly on college entrance tests, and science surely hasn't been a strong point.

The suggested new state science standards were developed by a committee of scientists and educators who looked at world class standards. They obviously feel it's time Florida joins the world.

A good start is teaching evolution in science class. It's about time.

BOTTOM LINE: Be clear — teach evolution in science class.

Monday, January 07, 2008

'Thank God for Evolution!'


Author provides missing link in emotional debate over Darwin versus Intelligent Design.

Sunday, January 06, 2008 By TONY NAUROTH The Express-Times

The title of Michael Dowd's new book is intriguing, the kind that raises eyebrows and creates chatter in the pews before Sunday services.

The author says it's an emotional issue that tears people apart.

But "Thank God for Evolution," in its attempt to marry Darwinism and Design, seems to bring both sides together in a love feast of ideas, although Dowd admits extremists are unlikely to embrace it.

Matt Kerr, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Allentown is familiar with the conflict. He says the debate comes up frequently, especially as it relates to what's being taught in local Catholic schools.

"We teach that evolution and creationism are not in conflict, as long as God is responsible for evolution."

It sounds like a dog-chasing-its-tail argument, but that's the very idea explored in Dowd's book.

Going further, Kerr says, "If God is the trigger, then how you get to where you are now doesn't matter."

He also says Pope Benedict XVI has written opinions reflecting that position.

Technically, creationists believe in the literal meaning of the Book of Genesis, that God created the universe in six days, then rested on the seventh. Those who believe in intelligent design say only that God created the universe -- no time frame.

Dowd, who calls himself an "evolutionary evangelist," writes, "Americans everywhere are engaging in a life-changing new conversation about Creation. The marriage of science and religion builds bridges and restores hope.

"People across the religious and philosophical spectrum are waking up to the fact that cosmic, biological and human history is our shared sacred epic, our common creation story."

The 'singularity'

One local pastor hasn't read the book yet, but says he will. After all, he shares the author's name.

"I don't think I wrote a book," laughs the Rev. Michael Dowd, pastor of First United Church of Christ of Easton, when told of the author's name.

"Every minister is asked about the issue at one time or another," Pastor Dowd says. "I tell them I don't necessarily see the two sides in conflict.

"We talk rather blithely about the big bang theory," he says, "that all creation was within an infinitesimal 'singularity.' "

Dowd, who also serves as vice president of the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, uses such terms because he says he's had an interest in astronomy since he was 5 or 6 years old, when he lived in New York City and was regularly taken to the Haydn Planetarium in Central Park.

"My orientation was always in science," he says.

The idea of all creation stuffed into a single point -- the singularity -- 13.5 billion years ago boggles the mind.

"Even scientists would have to accept it as an article of faith," he says, noting "Human beings attempt to understand the un-understandable."

He adds instead that it's the Bible that helps man search for his place in the universe and his relationship to God.

"I don't think people should look at evolution as a faith crisis. I think they can be integrated," he says.

Which is exactly what Michael Dowd, the author, strives for in his book.

Angels, demons and Dowd

Another book, released as a prequel to the highly successful "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown, explores an extreme view held by a secret science-based society bent on destroying Vatican City as penance for the inroads faith had made in the world.

"Angels and Demons" is full of suspense, with the murders of four cardinals and a futuristic bomb threatening to atomize the Vatican.

The hero, a priest whose scientific study was beginning to show that religion and science could coexist, is the ultimate hero murdered before the reader even reaches the first page of Brown's book.

His is the same kind of illumination Dowd, the author, offers in "Thank God for Evolution!"

In promoting his book, Dowd says, "The war is over!"

Tony Nauroth is a features writer with The Express-Times. He can be reached at 610-258-7171 or by e-mail at tnauroth@express-times.com.

© 2008 The Express Times
© 2008 NJ.com

UW-Madison anthropologist's calculations advance the study of evolution


SUN., JAN 6, 2008 - 6:18 AM

Like Hamlet contemplating the skull of poor Yorick, John Hawks sees a lot more than most of us when he peers at a skull, something he does frequently. In fact, it 's his job.

Hawks is a UW-Madison anthropologist. Last month, he and colleagues made headlines around the world with a study that showed evolution in humans is happening at a much faster rate than had been previously believed. Hawks studied changes in the human genome and then came up with a mathematical calculation that showed the bigger a population, the faster the rate of evolutionary change.

The work received widespread praise. Clark Larsen, chairman of anthropology at Ohio State University, was not involved in the study but has done his own research on evolution among humans in the last 10,000 years. He said the work by Hawks is "very important " and shows that evolution is happening "right before our eyes. "

Hawks supplemented his mathematical calculations linking genetic mutation and population size with supporting data from fieldwork. He studied, for example, 5,000-year-old skeletons in Germany that showed an adaptation within that 5,000-years that allowed humans to overcome lactose intolerance and drink milk.

It was his contemplation of human skulls that two years ago set Hawks on the intellectual journey that led to this most recent publication. From his studies of skulls, Hawks knew that a change in human brain size has taken place.While human brain size grew slowly over a long period of time, an analysis of skulls showed the size of the brain started shrinking about 10,000 years ago. Today, the brain is about an eighth of the size it was before this change.

Contemplating this change, Hawks thought about why such a major change would take place in such a relatively short period of time. He theorized that evolution was making the brain more compact and efficient and that the rapid change was driven by the dramatic growth in human population from an estimated 5 million people in 9000 B.C. to 6.5 billion today.

The idea of evolutionary change being linked to population size is not new. In his famous writings, Charles Darwin noted that in animal breeding, herd size "is of the highest importance for success, " because the larger the population, the more genetic variation.

But Darwin did not have access to the modern-day knowledge of genes. Hawks and co-author Gregory Cochran, an anthropologist at the University of Utah, were able to tap into the massive library of genes catalogued in the human genome project and actually find those sequences that showed evidence of adaptation. Then, working frequently at home while watching his children, Hawks did the math.

"We worked out the mathematics of the connection between population and genetics, " Hawks said. "This was entirely new. "

Hawks has been gratified by the response to his work. He is unusual in the science world in that he relishes communicating what he does to the general public. He 's extensively discussed his work on a very popular blog he started a few years ago; today the blog at http://www.johnhawks.net/weblog/ has 4,000 hits a day, more traffic than the American Anthropological Association.

The interest in the work, Hawks said, comes at least partly from an interest in evolution in general. This is an exciting time in the field, when science is catching up to theory.

"I think people have trouble thinking about such time scales, " Hawks said. "But when I can dig up a 5,000-year-old skeleton in Germany and see that there are genes that people in Germany don 't have today, that 's evolution. You can 't do better than that."

"Evolution and Its Discontents: A Role for Scientists in Science Education"


The scientific community needs to increase its involvement in defending science education -- especially evolution -- according to a coalition of seventeen scientific and educational societies, including the National Academy of Sciences, the National Science Teachers Association, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, and the American Institute for Biological Sciences. The coalition's editorial -- entitled "Evolution and its Discontents: A Role for Scientists in Science Education" and appearing in the January 2008 issue of The FASEB Journal -- reports the results of a public opinion survey aiming to ascertain "attitudes toward science and scientists, views on evolutionary science in the context of education, and means through which the scientific community can effectively bolster support for teaching evolution and related subjects."

In a January 2008 press release from FASEB, the editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal, Gerald Weissmann, commented, "The bottom line is that the world is round, humans evolved from an extinct species, and Elvis is dead. This survey is a wake-up call for anyone who supports teaching information based on evidence rather than speculation or hope; people want to hear the truth, and they want to hear it from scientists." With reference to creationism -- 28% and 31% of respondents to the survey agreed with statements that "all living things" or "humans and other living things," respectively, were created in their present form -- Weissmann added, "In an age when people have benefited so greatly from science and reason, it is ironic that some still reject the tools that have afforded them the privilege to reject them."

According to the coalition's editorial, the survey shows "a clear need for scientists to become involved in promoting science education. Challenges to teaching science undermine students' understanding of the scientific method, how scientific consensus develops, and the distinction between scientific and non-scientific explanations of natural phenomena. If our nation is to continue to develop the talent necessary to advance scientific and medical research, we must ensure that high standards in science education are maintained and that efforts to introduce non-science into science classes do not succeed. Failure to reach out effectively to a public that is supportive of science and open to information from the scientific community is not just a missed opportunity, it is a disservice to the scientific enterprise."

Of the 1000 likely voters polled, half were asked about their views on the evolution of "all living things"; 61% accepted that "all living things have evolved over time," with 36% thinking that all living things "evolved due to natural processes such as natural selection" and 25% thinking that "a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating life in the form it exists today." In order to investigate whether the idea of human evolution is especially problematic, the other half of the respondents were asked about their views on the evolution of "humans and other living things"; 53% accepted evolution, with 32% thinking that humans and other living things evolved through natural processes and 21% thinking that they evolved with guidance from a supreme being. "Compared with other surveys," the editorial comments, "we found weaker overall support for creationism."

As for what is taught in the science classroom of the public schools, the editorial reports, "Although public opinion is often characterized as polarized, there is considerable uncertainty about what to teach in public school science classes, particularly with regard to including certain religious perspectives. Thirty-two percent of respondents in our study were unsure about teaching creationism, and 41% were uncertain about teaching intelligent design. By comparison, 22% expressed uncertainty about teaching evolution. Consistent with other studies, however, more respondents favored teaching evolution (53%) than creationism (36%) or intelligent design (27%) in public school science classes. These data show that a majority of people favors -- and even more may be open to -- teaching evolution in science classes."

On the basis of the survey, the coalition's editorial recommends two main avenues for strengthening public support for evolution education. First, highlighting the connection between evolutionary biology and medicine: 61% of respondents regarded the contribution that evolution makes to modern medical science as a convincing reason to teach evolution in science classes. (Not considered in the survey were "the contributions that evolutionary science makes to other fields, including agriculture, forensics, and even software engineering.") Second, emphasizing the practical applicability of the skills imparted by science education in general: "Communicating the value of learning science, including evolution, for developing analytical skills that are widely applicable beyond the classroom may strengthen public support for all types of science," the editorial commented.

The editorial concluded that scientists are in a good position to help to strengthen such support. "Among respondents presented with a list of people who might explain science to the public, 88% expressed interest in hearing from a scientist, and almost as many were interested in hearing from a science teacher (85%) or a doctor or nurse (84%). On the topics of evolution, creationism, and intelligent design, most respondents expressed interest in hearing from scientists (77%), science teachers (76%), and clergy (62%). ... These data indicate that Americans respect the expertise of science and education professionals and also look to clergy for guidance on scientific issues of potential relevance to religion. The value of encouraging each of these groups -- including scientists who hold religious beliefs -- to become involved in promoting quality science education cannot be overstated."

Versions of "Evolution and Its Discontents: A Role for Scientists in Science Education" are appearing in a variety of scientific journals, including ACA RefleXions, The Pharmacologist, Physics and Society, and Developmental Biology. Information about these, along with supporting material, a PowerPoint presentation, and a complete list of members of the coalition, is available on the FASEB website. Also hosted there is a useful set of evolution resources, including background information, tips and tools for communicating about evolution, and FASEB's own statement (PDF) on teaching evolution, which reads in part, "Evolution is among the most thoroughly tested theories in the biological sciences. ... Removing evolution from the classroom, or misrepresenting evolution as a flawed theory, deprives students of one of the most important tenets of science and the basis of our understanding of biology and medicine."

January 4, 2008

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Survey: 61 Percent Agree with Evolution


By LiveScience Staff

posted: 02 January 2008 11:57 am ET

Americans would rather hear about evolution from scientists than from judges or celebrities, according to a new survey that finds a majority agree that evolution is at work among living things.

A coalition of 17 organizations reacted today to the survey by calling on the scientific community to become more involved in promoting evolution and other aspects of science education.

The coalition, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Institute of Physics and the National Science Teachers Association, released this statement:

"The introduction of 'non-science,' such as creationism and intelligent design, into science education will undermine the fundamentals of science education. Some of these fundamentals include using the scientific method, understanding how to reach scientific consensus, and distinguishing between scientific and nonscientific explanations of natural phenomena."

Irony of reason

The statement was included in an article in the January 2008 issue of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology's FASEB Journal.

"In an age when people have benefited so greatly from science and reason, it is ironic that some still reject the tools that have afforded them the privilege to reject them," says Dr. Gerald Weissmann, the journal's editor-in-chief.

The article is based on a new national survey of 1,000 likely U.S. voters. Respondents favored teaching evolution over creationism or intelligent design.

Respondents also were more interested in hearing about evolution from scientists, science teachers and clergy than from Supreme Court Justices, celebrities or school board members. A key finding from the survey: There is a relationship between people's understanding of science and their support for teaching evolution.

Respondents were asked three science questions: one related to plate tectonics, one related to the proper use of antibiotics and one related to prehistory. Those who accurately answered questions on these subjects were far more likely to support the teaching of evolution in schools.

Skewed answers

The report points out that Americans' views on evolution vary depending on how questions are asked.

In a previous Gallup poll, people were asked to choose whether humans developed over millions of years, with or without guidance from God (as in one Gallup poll question). More selected evolution with guidance (38 percent) than without guidance (13 percent).

But in a previous Pew Research Center poll, respondents were first asked, without reference to a supreme being, if they thought humans evolved or were created in their present form. Those who accepted evolution were then asked if they thought it occurred through natural processes or with guidance. When asked this way, 18 percent reported that evolution occurred with guidance, and 25 percent accepted that it occurred through natural selection.

The new poll

In the new FASEB poll, researchers asked half of the respondents about their views on the evolution of "all living things" and found that 61 percent accepted that "all living things have evolved over time." Of those, 36 percent thought all living things "evolved due to natural processes such as natural selection," and 25 percent thought "a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating life in the form it exists today."

The researchers asked the remaining respondents to consider human evolution and found that 53 percent accepted that "humans and other living things" evolved. This majority included 32 percent who accepted that humans and other living things evolved through natural processes and 21 percent who thought they had evolved with guidance.

Scientists accept evolution as the best and only theory that accurately explains how humans and other species came to be so diverse. The theory is supported by many studies in many different fields of science. Intelligent design is a thinly veiled creationist argument designed to make the public doubt the theory of evolution, according to nearly all scientists and a 2005 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

"The bottom line is that the world is round, humans evolved from an extinct species and Elvis is dead," Weissmann said. "This survey is a wake-up call for anyone who supports teaching information based on evidence rather than speculation or hope; people want to hear the truth, and they want to hear it from scientists."

Teach Evolution And Intelligent Design


Published: Jan 5, 2008

To believe or not to believe. This will always be a question of faith for mankind.

The trend to teach the Theory of Evolution is wise but there should be a balance between science and what many believe as the creation of all living things. There is merit in the use of the Scientific Method that has shown how, through the ages, there are species that evolved from sea life to land creatures.

Paleontologists have shown that fossils from eons ago suggest a relationship of what was on Earth then and what inhabits our lands and seas today. In most cases, the similarities show a connection to present day living things, including bipeds. I can't say with any certainty that prehistoric apes are of our ancestry, although this is generally seen as the evolution of man.

On the other hand, there are those who believe in a Supreme Creator, known as God, The Lord, Allah, Jehovah and Yahweh, among other deities. Various interpretations of the Bible might suggest the Tower of Babel has more to do with conflicting religious beliefs than the thought that the divide of cultures was separated with multiple languages. Differing religions offer their own translation of the Bible creating divisive ideologies. Through all of time this has lead to wars, including the current extremist actions of some Islamic and Muslim followers. At times, there is little compromise.

There will always be debates on the rationale of the creation of man and civilizations on Earth. This is where educational teachings can bring together minds and thoughts toward enlightenment on our existence.

It is difficult to understand the hesitation of the scientific community to accept the idea that at some point there was the Creation of time and space (the concept of the Big Bang theory) yet that, as time has progressed, the outward expanse of the universe suggests a force brought to light galaxies, suns, planets, moons and life. There is no proof, but there is the feasibility of other forms of life in the universe, some of which surely would be prescient beings, as we are. There would be more advanced societies, others less so.

My belief stands firm with the thought that there has been the evolution of all earthly creatures from insects to viruses to animals and man. As others have suggested, I also believe that there was a time when all became into existence by what could be called a Supreme Presence. Perhaps all of creation through the universe was made by His design; it is a small-minded, arrogant idea that intelligent beings are strictly limited to this planet.

Intelligent Design fits very well, even though it sounds much too formal a term. This would be in line that man was created in His image where intelligence gives us a means to grow in spirit and knowledge even though we may never "evolve" to His level of knowing.

This thought would be in line with science and religion; there was a beginning and through the process of time and space the origins of life became a progression of growth and expansion of all things of creation. There is ample reason for each corner of belief to be in harmony with the other. Each should be taught in the classroom. Students would be given a balanced view of life where rational thought can provide dialogues of debate, thus an evolvement of the mind.

Man is not to worship false prophets nor worship images of His design.

Personally, I worship the sun for sustaining our lives. I worship all of nature that my Creator provided toward an understanding of my existence in this concept of life. My belief gives revelation to all that He created. These are my sole beliefs; it is the belief in my soul.

Ron Rae

Spring Hill

Save class for science


Updated: Jan 05, 2008 - 19:09:23 PST

Document headed by UCI evolutionary biologist states religion and science can coexist, just not in scientific discussions.

By Joseph Serna

The nation's leading science organization is taking a firm stance against creationism as a legitimate alternative to evolution, according to a report released Friday by the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine.

The report, significantly larger than its predecessors in 1999 and 1984, was headed by UCI evolutionary biologist and former Dominican priest Francisco Ayala. Former UCI Chancellor Ralph Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Despite the overwhelming evidence supporting evolution, opponents have repeatedly tried to introduce nonscientific views into public school science classes through the teaching of various forms of creationism or intelligent design," according to the report. "[The report's authors] strongly maintain that only scientifically based explanations and evidence for the diversity of life should be included in public school science courses."

Cicerone said the report's key point is that religion and science can coexist, just not in scientific discussions.

Costa Mesa Councilwoman and former Newport-Mesa school board member Wendy Leece said that discussing intelligent design as an alternative to evolution does not mix religion with science.

"Faith is already in the classroom. It's a faith in scientists. It's in the book. Evolution is a belief system," Leece said. "You have to have a leap of faith when you go to your biology class, and you read your biology book that says this is true."

Creationism and intelligent design are not the same, Leece said. Intelligent design is simply accepting that science does not have all the answers, she said.

Cicerone disagreed.

"To me, they seem like part of the same story," he said.

"There's so little time for science and math in the classroom already, to contaminate it with a religious fervor is inappropriate," said Gilbert Omenn, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan and former president of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science.

"We are totally opposed to teaching creationism in the science classroom," he added. "It's not so much to fight with other people's views as to say how important it is to understand the scientific method."

JOSEPH SERNA may be reached at (714) 966-4619 or at joseph.serna@latimes.com.

New laws to govern alternative medicine


From The Times January 5, 2008

Nigel Hawkes, Health Editor

Aromatherapy, homoeopathy and other popular complementary therapies are to be regulated for the first time under a government-backed scheme to be established this year.

The new Natural Healthcare Council – which is being backed by the Prince of Wales – will be able to strike off errant or incompetent practitioners. It will also set minimum standards for practitioners to ensure that therapists are properly qualified.

Patients will be able to complain to the council about practitioners and the new body will be modelled on the General Medical Council and other similar statutory bodies.

Millions of Britons currently spend £130 million a year on complementary treatments and it is estimated that this will reach £200 million over the next four years. Among the practices to be covered by the scheme would be aromatherapy, reflexology, massage, nutrition, shiatzu, reiki, naturopathy, yoga, homoeopathy, cranial osteopathy and the Alexander and Bowen techniques.

Research also shows that more than two thirds (68 per cent) of people in the UK believe that complementary medicine is as valid as conventional treatment.

However, there have been long-standing concerns over its regulation. At present anyone can set themselves up as an acupuncturist, homoeopath, herbalist, or other complementary therapist. However, a poll for The Times found that three quarters of people assumed that anyone practising complementary therapy is trained and registered by a professional body.

Although the scheme will initially be voluntary, it is hoped that all practitioners will be forced to join or lose business as the public will use the register as a guarantee of quality. The council will register only practitioners who are safe, have completed a recognised course, are insured and have signed up to codes of conduct.

Both alternative and complementary approaches to medicine — when a therapy is used as an alternative to conventional medicine and when it is used in conjunction with it — will be covered by the new regulator, although treatment without consideration of mainstream medicine is likely to come under greater scrutiny.

A number of high-profile cases in which therapists have assaulted clients have reached the courts in recent years. In 2000, a man claiming to be an aromatherapist was spared a jail sentence after being convicted of indecently assaulting a woman who came to him to treatment. An osteopath from Ipswich was jailed last February for seven and a half years after a series of sexual assaults.

But as the law stands, there is nothing to prevent such people setting up in practice again. By checking that they remain registered with the new council, patients will gain reassurance.

Only mainstream alternative therapies such as traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture are to be the subject of statutory regulation. Osteopathy and chiropractic are already covered by such legislation.

The council, whose formation has been driven by the Prince of Wales's Foundation for Integrated Health, will consist of lay people appointed through an independent process, with a clear division between it and the professional bodies representing the therapies that it will cover.

The work of setting up the council, which is likely to be finished by the spring, led by Dame Joan Higgins, has been funded by the Department of Health and it will follow the best-practice model set out by the department in its white paper on regulation, Trust, Assurance and Safety.

Ian Cambray-Smith, of the foundation, said: "Although it is a voluntary scheme, we believe that in dealing with misconduct by therapists it will be almost as robust as statutory regulation, and as tough as we can make it. Suspension from the register will be the ultimate sanction.

"It will be good for practitioners, good for patients, and even good for the NHS. If there is a complaint, the council will convene a board of lay people, plus two practitioners, to review the case. If it is proven, a second board will determine what disciplinary procedures to take."

The NHS spends £50 million a year on complementary therapies that will be covered by the new council.

The council - eight people plus a chairman — will be financed by registration fees from practitioners and will have a permanent staff, who are in the process of being recruited.

Most scientists believe the Earth is round


January 5, 2008 Posted January 5th, 2008 at 9:00 am

Guest Post by Morbo

The United States entered World War II after Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. Victory in Europe Day was celebrated in May of 1945, and Victory in Japan Day occurred the following August.

We can safely say that World War II, at least as far as the United States' military involvement is concerned, took place from 1941-45. If I began arguing that World War II actually occurred in the 1920s, you'd say I was crazy.

No journalist in his right mind would write something like, "Most historians believe World War II occurred between 1941-45." Yet how many times have you seen a story about the supposed conflict between evolution and creationism that portrays the two as rough equivalents when in fact the former is well established scientific fact and latter is a ton of horse manure?

This drives me crazy. Why does it keep happening? In part because journalists are trained to give both sides of an issue. If Mr. Jones is accused of robbing a bank, a reporter might write, "Police say Jones robbed the bank on Thursday, but Jones insists he was at home during the robbery." A court will sort out which side is correct eventually, but for the time being the story must be written this way because not all of the facts are known.

Journalists don't need to write like this when the facts are known. Recently, Leonard Steinhorn and Charles Steinhorn wrote a great column on the History News Network, a site run by George Mason University, pointing this out.

Leonard Steinhorn is a professor of communication at American University and Charles Steinhorn is a professor of mathematics at Vassar College. The two are brothers. In their column, they smack down the idea that journalistic balance requires evolution and creationism to be treated equally.

The two write:

Recently we conducted a newspaper database search of the phrase 'believe in evolution' and found nearly a thousand citations from the last five years. Typical is a New York Times article that describes a married couple as "Christians who believe in evolution," which suggests that scientific evidence and facts, like religion, can be true or false based on whether we believe in them or not. […]

Compounding the problem is the he-said, she-said style of journalism so prevalent today, which leaves media vulnerable to a trap set by proponents of the latest attack on evolution, "intelligent design," which is little more than an artifice devised to inject religion into the biology classroom.

Bingo. You see, I can really, seriously, strongly and sincerely believe that World War II occurred in the 1920s. No matter. It still occurred in the '40s. My belief that it occurred in the 1920s need not be respected by the media or portrayed as plausible, as it is simply wrong.

This has implications for political reporting as well. When Candidate A accuses Candidate B of having raised taxes 12 times as governor, when in fact Candidate B raised them only 10 times, that is a distortion, the kind of thing that happens during campaigns. The record can be easily corrected. When Candidate A accuses Candidate B of being a Muslim when Candidate B has never in his life been a Muslim that is a made-up-out-of-whole-cloth, huge, honking, outright lie and should be labeled as such.

Being "fair and balanced" is important for news organizations, but some things are just facts and some beliefs, even those sincerely held, are just wrong. There is no need to balance truth with falsehood.

Americans Warned Not to Vote a Leader Who Doubts Evolution


By Max Brenn 18:22, January 5th 2008

Just a day after ordained Baptist minister Mike Huckabee won in Iowa in the first stage of choosing a Republican candidate for president, scientists warned Americans in a report against electing a leader who doubt evolution.

Former Arkansas governor Huckabee affirmed last year in May that he did not believe in evolution and thinks creationism should be taught in the schools.

"Our public schools should present both evolution and creationism," Huckabee told the Christian Broadcasting Network. "I would not support public schools teaching only creationism. Evolution is a theory based on a lot of science, so it must be part of the curriculum."

"The logic that convinces us that evolution is a fact is the same logic we use to say smoking is hazardous to your health or we have serious energy policy issues because of global warming. I would worry that a president who didn't believe in the evolution arguments wouldn't believe in those other arguments either. This is a way of leading our country to ruin," said Francisco Ayala, professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at University of California, Irvine, who chaired the panel that wrote the book.

As a response to these accusations, Huckabee toned down his anti-evolution stance, saying in a phone interview that the question of whether to teach creationism in schools was "not an issue for our president."

The National Academy of Sciences, the nation's most eminent scientific organization produced books which support the theory of evolution and argue against the introduction of creationism or other religious alternatives in public school science classes.

The academy and the Institute of Medicine issued the report at a time when the theory of evolution, first offered in the 19th century, faces renewed attack by some religious conservatives.

"Biological evolution is one of the most important ideas of modern science. Evolution is supported by abundant evidence from many different fields of scientific investigation. It underlies the modern biological sciences, including the biomedical sciences, and has applications in many other scientific and engineering disciplines," the report stated.

According to this report, creationism and the related idea of "intelligent design" are not science. Therefore, they should not be taught in public school science classrooms.

US President George W. Bush is one of the sustainer of teaching "intelligent design" creationism to American students. "Intelligent design" is a theory advocated by conservative Christian groups and some scientists in the U.S., which says that complex biological organisms cannot be explained by evolutionary chance alone and must be the work of an intelligent designer – namely God.

© 2007 - 2008 - eFluxMedia

Scientists say evolution fits


Classroom off-limits to other teachings, group's book asserts

By Frank D. Roylance and Michael Hill | sun reporters
January 5, 2008 Facing continued challenges to evolutionary science from religious conservatives who insist that public schools teach alternative explanations, the National Academy of Sciences has issued a new book that outlines the scientific evidence for evolution.

"Evolution is one of the bedrock theories in all of modern science, and we are coming to understand better and better as to why that is," said NAS President Ralph Cicerone at a panel discussion of the 86-page booklet, called Science, Evolution and Creationism.

"We are trying to give the public a coherent explanation of that and concrete examples of the impact of evolution," Cicerone said of the booklet, which insists that theories such as creationism and "intelligent design" have no place in science classrooms.

Two years in the writing, the NAS book is aimed at school board members, science teachers, policy makers and legal scholars on the front lines of the debate.

Only hours before, the political power of religious conservatives was made clear when former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee decisively won the Iowa Republican caucuses. A Southern Baptist minister, Huckabee has declared that he doesn't believe in evolution and thinks creationism should be taught in the schools.

"Our public schools should present both evolution and creationism," Huckabee told the Christian Broadcasting Network. "I would not support public schools teaching only creationism. Evolution is a theory based on a lot of science, so it must be part of the curriculum."

Members of the NAS panel also made their point: Although faith and acceptance of evolution need not be incompatible, creationism does not belong in a science classroom.

"I would worry that a president who does not believe in evolution would not believe in other [scientific] arguments as well," said Francisco Ayala, professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at University of California, Irvine, who chaired the panel that wrote the book. "That is a way to lead the country to ruin. If all the other countries that are chasing us are behaving rationally, we are doomed."

Barbara Schaal, a biologist at Washington University in St. Louis, agreed. "A lot of what we do in the United States is based on science and technology, and anything that weakens science and technology for students would necessarily be harmful," she said.

Vice president of the National Academy, Schaal was on the panel that wrote the evolution booklet, an update of editions published by the NAS in 1984 and 1999. The academy is a private, independent society of scientists chartered by Congress to advise the federal government on scientific and technological issues.

The science of evolution is founded on the observation that during reproduction, errors in the duplication of DNA - an organism's genetic blueprint - create individuals with different traits. Those traits that enhance survival are preferentially passed on to subsequent generations. That "natural selection" leads to differing populations and, with enough time, new species.

Earlier editions of the NAS booklet focused on the scientific evidence for evolution and the legal arguments for excluding faith-based theories from science classes.

This one also argues that acceptance of evolutionary science and religious faith are not mutually exclusive - that many evolutionary scientists are deeply religious, and many faiths and theologians accept evolutionary biology.

The Rev. Joseph Pagano, rector of Emmanual Episcopal church in Mount Vernon, said he read the booklet and found it compelling.

"It comes down to how certain people understand the nature and authority of the Scriptures," he said. "If one reads them in an extremely literalistic fashion, then one is going to have a problem with evolution. But of course that is not the only way to read them."

Pagano compared such a literal reading to someone who reads a sports headline that says, "Vikings Destroy Bears" and concludes "that a Nordic race has killed off a North American mammal."

The Rev. Jason Poling of the evangelical New Hope Community Church in Pikesville said he also has a non-literal reading of Genesis as a theological statement, a declaration that God created the parts of nature that others were worshiping - the sun and moon and stars.

"There are and always have been those who read the first chapter of Genesis and see it as a literal blueprint and those who see it as figurative," he said. "I really want to affirm that it is possible to be faithful and intelligent and take either of those views."

The NAS booklet suggests there is no real conflict. "The evidence for evolution can be fully compatible with religious faith," the booklet states. "Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world. Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of each to contribute to a better future."

Despite what the NAS says is incontrovertible scientific evidence, nearly 150 years after Charles Darwin first proposed his ideas in his paper, On the Origin of Species, a controversy still swirls.

In Texas, the current science curriculum requires the teaching of evolution. But that's up for review and a vote by the state school board. Conservatives hope to introduce changes that will discuss "weaknesses" in evolutionary science.

In Florida, proposed revisions to the science curriculum are up for public comment on the Internet. The revisions include, for the first time, references to evolution as a "big idea," critical to students' understanding of natural science.

Creationists there are making themselves heard, challenging evolutionary science and urging inclusion of alternative theories.

In Dover, Pa., a school board ended up in federal court - and voted out of office - after requiring in 2004 that science teachers tell students about intelligent design. The court ruled that intelligent design is "grounded in theology, not science" and should not be taught in science classes.

The NAS booklet argues that evolutionary biology "has been and continues to be a cornerstone of modern science." It has made "major contributions" to public health and medicine, agriculture, and industrial development.

"However, polls show that many people continue to have questions," the booklet says. Many believe the science is incomplete or in doubt, or can't explain the complexity and diversity of life.

"There is no controversy in the scientific community over whether evolution has occurred," the booklet states. Although there is continuing scientific debate about the details and mechanisms of evolution, there is now an "immense body of evidence" to support it, making it "one of the most securely established of scientific facts."

At the panel discussion, Ayala defended keeping creationism out of the classroom, saying, "We do not teach astrology as an alternative to astronomy; we do not teach witchcraft as an alternative to medicine. It is not a question of dogma, it is a question of what is science and what is not."

frank.roylance@baltsun.com michael.hill@baltsun.com

To view an electronic copy of the NAS booklet, visit www.baltimoresun.com/evolution

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