NTS LogoSkeptical News for 26 January 2008

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Apes and angels

http://www.wickedlocal.com/hopkinton/news/lifestyle/columnists/x1295942961

By Christine Whittaker
Thu Jan 24, 2008, 10:34 AM EST

Hopkinton - On February 10, St. Michael's Episcopal Church will join with more than 700 other Christian churches across the country participating in Evolution Weekend. Each year, on the weekend closest to Charles Darwin's birthday, Christian and other religious congregations hold forums, listen to sermons and take part in other activities that center on the relationship between science and religious faith.

This observance, which began two years ago, was the idea of The Clergy Letter Project, an effort by clergy throughout the United States to counter the perception that there is an inevitable conflict between Christian faith and modern scientific discoveries. The letter, which has now been signed by more than 11,000 clergy (including me), states: "Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts."

Sadly, the Christian Church has all too often regarded scientific inquiry as an enemy. Galileo and Bruno were only two of the many scientists whose discoveries were regarded as heretical by a church that attempted to suppress them. In the nineteenth century, Darwin's publication of The Origin of Species led to vehement attacks by religious leaders on his work. As the British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, said, most people believed that one had to choose between being on the side of the apes or the side of the angels. Aware of the political consequences of that choice, Disraeli firmly declared himself with the angels.

What I find surprising, however, is that the same controversy still rages as fiercely today in the United States. Our current president has suggested that he has doubts about evolution and it has been raised as an issue in this year's presidential campaign. A recent ABC News poll suggested that as many as 60 percent of all Americans believe that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at some time within the last 10,000 years. Others try to adapt evolution to fit their religious beliefs. Yet there is no real controversy in the scientific community about whether evolution has occurred.

The National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, whose members are the most distinguished scientists in this country, recently published a short and very readable book, Science, Evolution and Creationism. As the introduction states: "The evidence supporting descent with modification, as Charles Darwin termed it, is both overwhelming and compelling. In the century and a half since Darwin, scientists have uncovered exquisite details about many of the mechanisms that underlie biological variation, inheritance, and natural selection, and they have show how these mechanisms lead to biological change over time. Because of this immense body of evidence, scientists treat the occurrence of evolution as one of the most securely established of scientific facts."

The Episcopal Church, which in 1982 went on record as rejecting the idea of creationism, has a Catechism of Creation, published in 2005, that explicitly states: "The Bible, including Genesis, is not a divinely dictated scientific textbook. We discover scientific knowledge about God's universe in nature not Scripture." None of this is to deny that the implications of scientific discoveries may raise significant theological questions. Just as thoughtful Christians must consider the implications for their faith of the discovery of the immensity of the universe, so they must wrestle with questions of how God is involved in a process of creation that seems to depend in significant part on random mutation. But surely God does not intend us to approach these challenges by denying what we learn through our God-given faculty of reason.

Christine Whittaker is the priest at St. Michael's Episcopal Church, Holliston.

Experts Urge Florida Education Board To Adopt Creationism-Free Science Standards

http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7009823461

January 24, 2008 7:55 p.m. EST

Windsor Genova - AHN News Writer

Oakland, CA (AHN) - The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and a science education expert have urged the Florida Board of Education to approve and adopt the final draft of state science standards that exclude teaching of the intelligent design concept in public schools.

In an interview on Wednesday, Dr. Lawrence S. Lerner, a professor emeritus at the California State University in Long Beach, said, "I think that boards of education are, of course, not experts in the subject matter, so they should take the advice of their experts and go on from there."

NCSE spokesman John Rosenau said the current science standards in Florida don't even use the word "evolution" making some biology classes lacking the fundamental organizing principle of modern biology.

"That should be worrying for people who are planning to be doctors, or who want to have doctors who are in school now, and who may want to go to medical school and be doctors down the line," Rosenau said.

The NCSE, which advocates the teaching of Darwin's Theory of Evolution in public schools, rejected calls to include creationism in the science standards saying, "In science class we teach science. Intelligent design is not science, and on that standard, it doesn't belong in a science class."

The final draft of the Florida science standards is currently being edited by the Department of Education. The Board of Education will consider the new standards at their meeting on Feb. 19.

Origins Symposium Sunday At Green Acres

http://www.tylerpaper.com/article/20080126/RELIGION/801250344

Religion
Posted on Saturday, January 26, 2008

Green Acres Baptist Church, 1607 Troup Highway, will hold an Origins Symposium at its 8:15, 9:45 or 11:15 a.m. services in the main sanctuary on Sunday and continuing 5 to 7 p.m. in the chapel.

Biological origins experts Dr. Ray Bohlin of Probe Ministries and Dr. Jay West of the Discovery Institute will present the latest findings from the world of science that rejects a Darwinian account of the creation of life, said information from Green Acres.

"The great amount of new information coming from the scientific field supporting a biblical world view of creation is very encouraging to Christians who've felt the influence of Darwinism," said Tim Roberts, symposium coordinator. "There are more and more scientists out there, even secularists, endorsing the idea of an intelligent designer."

Call (903) 525-1100 for information.

NCCAM Materials Can Help You Discuss CAM With Patients

http://www.aafp.org/online/en/home/publications/news/news-now/health-of-the-public/20080125timetotalk.html

'Shangai' Products Are Case in Point
By News Staff
1/25/2008

A recent FDA advisory about dietary supplements from China that are considered illegal illustrates why it's important for physicians and patients to discuss complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM. To encourage such discussions, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, or NCCAM, is offering free materials for doctors and consumers through its "Time to Talk" campaign.

The Dec. 28 FDA advisory warns patients to avoid certain products from China that are labeled as dietary supplements but that contain sildenafil, the active ingredient in prescription drugs for erectile dysfunction, known as ED, or a specific sildenafil analog. Neither ingredient is listed on the product labels.

The products listed in the FDA advisory are Super Shangai; Strong Testis; Shangai Ultra; Shangai Ultra X; Lady Shangai; and Shangai Regular, also marketed as Shangai Chaojimengnan. They have been marketed for the treatment of ED and for sexual enhancement.

According to the advisory, the products are illegal drugs because they lack FDA approval.

Advisory Warns of Drug Interactions

The advisory specifically targets patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease, who often take nitrate-containing prescription medications such as nitroglycerin to control their symptoms. According to the advisory, ED is common among men with these conditions, yet sildenafil and its analogs can interact with nitrates, resulting in dangerously low blood pressure levels.

Because men who use nitrates for these health conditions may have been advised to not take ED drugs, "they may seek out products like these because they are marketed as 'all natural' or as not containing the active ingredients in approved, prescribed ED drugs," says the advisory.

Kits Can Help Trigger CAM Discussion

Physicians who discuss CAM with their patients are more likely to know which patients might try such supplements, but doctors need to do a better job of initiating CAM discussions, according to a recent AARP/NCCAM survey of Americans 50 and older.

Almost two-thirds of survey respondents reported they had used one or more CAM therapies, but fewer than one-third of those respondents said they had discussed their CAM use with their physicians. The top reason cited was that the doctor never asked (42 percent).

To encourage CAM discussions, NCCAM offers a free toolkit containing educational materials for physicians, their staff members and their patients. The kit includes a backgrounder; posters; tips for discussing CAM; and a patient wallet card for tracking medications, including CAM therapies. A "patient packet" is available as well. Both items may be ordered online or from the NCCAM Clearinghouse at (888) 644-6226. When ordering by phone, use reference code D392 for the health care professional toolkit; use code D393 when ordering the patient packet.

In general, NCCAM offers these CAM discussion tips for physicians:

More information about "Time to Talk" is available online.

Faith and Healing

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/books/review/Groopman-t.html?em&ex=1201410000&en=33d085432ee73718&ei=5087%0A

By JEROME GROOPMAN
Published: January 27, 2008

Recently, a woman whose breast cancer was in remission called me. Cost-cutting at work had left her tense and angry. "I'm worried that all the stress I'm under will weaken my immune system," she said, "and then my cancer may come back." My patient is a believer in "complementary" approaches to health and disease, so in addition to taking prescribed hormone blockers, she does yoga exercises, drinks green tea and visualizes her blood cells on patrol against recurrent tumor growth. When I raised the option of a support group, she told me she preferred to work solely with her psychotherapist.

In my work as a specialist in cancer, blood diseases and AIDS, hardly a week goes by when patients do not bring up the above interventions, as well as Buddhist meditation, qigong, acupuncture, megavitamins and macrobiotic diets. In "The Cure Within," her splendid history of mind-body medicine, Anne Harrington tries to explain why we draw connections between emotions and illness, and helps trace how today's myriad alternative and complementary treatments came to be. A professor and chairman of the history of science department at Harvard, Harrington has produced a book that desperately needed to be written. Some 60 million Americans use these therapies in the effort to combat serious diseases like cancer and AIDS, as well as the normal physiology of aging. In the United States, office visits to providers of complementary and alternative medicine now outnumber visits to primary care physicians. The costs of such care approach $40 billion dollars a year. Books, talk shows and Web sites present riveting testimonials of clinical benefits from Eastern breathing techniques, dietary supplements, positive thinking and prayer.

Doctors like myself are schooled in the cause and effect of changes in DNA, cells and tissues. We apply this biology to identify what is wrong with a patient, then recommend a medication, procedure or behavioral change that will ameliorate the physical problem. "Quite often, this physicalist way of thinking about illness works," Harrington writes. "Patients take the antibiotic and recover from their infection, learn to inject themselves with insulin and normalize their blood sugar levels, have surgery and learn that their cancer has gone into remission or take the antidepressant and find they can get out of bed again in the morning."

Sometimes, of course, standard treatments don't work or simply don't exist. And sometimes tests fail to uncover any physical cause for a patient's suffering at all. But such failures, Harrington argues, explain only part of the widespread dissatisfaction with mainstream medicine. Of equal or greater import, she writes, is medicine's failure to address the "existential" aspect of illness, to answer the questions "Why me? Why now? What next?" Doctors usually frame their answers to such questions in language that forgoes any meaning for the individual. Whether cancer will return is a matter of statistical likelihoods derived from the study of large groups of patients — or, in lay terms, "bad luck." There is no meaning in randomness, and for the patient no sense of control. Perhaps someday genomic research will help predict the particular behavior of each individual's cancer, but for now doctors cannot say with any precision who will relapse or why.

As patients, we may be modern in many ways, but we find such uncertainty hard to accept. Throughout history, Harrington rightly argues, people have strained to make "personal sense" of illness and suffering. Western cultures, like all cultures, have traditionally provided people "a stockpile of religious, moral and social stories to help them answer the great 'why' questions of their suffering, and to connect their experiences to some larger understanding of their identities and destinies." But today, she writes, the story offered by mainstream medicine "is as impersonal as they come."

In fluid prose and with the precision of a detective story, Harrington offers a taxonomy of the main narratives that we draw on to try to make sense of disease, whether they emphasize our ability to heal ourselves or more magical interventions. The root of most of our mind-body narratives is the Bible and other religious writings that describe the struggle against "possession" by demonic forces. While Jewish mystics offered incantations and other rituals to expel dybbuks, the Gospels associate the powers of exorcism with belief in Jesus. Harrington cites the Gospel of Mark, in which Jesus casts out a spirit that has caused convulsions, foaming at the mouth and gnashing of teeth — an accurate clinical description of epilepsy: "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes. ... Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!" Belief in demonic possession and its exorcism by priests, common to cultures the world over, remained part of Catholic theology, essentially unaltered, until 1999.

Harrington uses the term "power of suggestion" to describe the skeptical narrative that science ultimately developed to explain cases in which an authority figure, whether a priest uttering incantations or a doctor administering a placebo, cures afflictions that may have no organic cause. Much of what today strikes us as quackery in fact originated in attempts to apply scientific ideas to healing the body. For example, the 18th-century Austrian physician Franz Mesmer, inspired by Newton's ideas, moved mineral magnets around the bodies of his patients in order to manipulate supposed invisible fluids that, like the oceans, responded to planetary gravitation. The patients reported powerful sensations of energy coursing through their flesh and experienced involuntary movements to the point of violent convulsions; many were cured or much improved. Next, Mesmer found he could trigger the same effects simply waving his hands over the patient. He assumed that he himself was the source of healing force, which he called "animal magnetism."

Mesmer was succeeded by Jean-Martin Charcot in France, and later Sigmund Freud in Vienna, each of whom sought to identify the nonphysical causes of their patients' symptoms and tried to devise cures outside of chemical pills and surgical procedures. These efforts, Harrington observes, ushered in another narrative of healing, one she calls "the body that speaks." Charcot and Freud called the underlying condition "hysteria," and used hypnosis and the "talking cure" to relieve their distraught, usually female patients of those fits of blindness, coughing and paralysis that supposedly reflected buried traumatic memories or taboo childhood fantasies. Doctors treating traumatized male soldiers during World War I called it "shell shock."

The clergy tried to recapture lost ground in the healing realm, whether in the form of Christian Science or the "power of positive thinking" promoted by the decidedly mainstream pastor Norman Vincent Peale of the Marble Collegiate Church in New York City. Scientists, of course, were not so quick to yield, probing ever deeper into the question of the mind's effect on the body. For example, the Harvard physiologist Walter B. Cannon discovered that emotions could ramify through the body in unexpected ways beyond "hysteria." In studies of digestion done in the 1930s, he discovered that animals experiencing distress or rage showed inhibited peristalsis, the ordered muscular contractions that move food through the gut. Tests showed elevated levels of adrenaline in the animals' blood, which Cannon determined was involved with biochemical self-regulatory processes connected to the "fight or flight" reaction crucial to survival in the wild.

But Cannon also saw implications for human beings. "In the modern era," Harrington writes of his research, "life had become so fast paced, so uncertain and consequently so anxiety-provoking that many people went through their days as if they were cats faced with dogs perpetually barking at them."

Hans Selye, a Czech physician and biochemist at the University of Montreal, took these ideas further, introducing the term "stress" (borrowed from metallurgy) to describe the way trauma caused overactivity of the adrenal gland, and with it a disruption of bodily equilibrium. In the most extreme case, Selye argued, stress could wear down the body's adaptation mechanisms, resulting in death. His narrative fit well into the cultural discourse of the cold-war era, where, Harrington writes, many saw themselves as "broken by modern life." Selye's ideas, in her view, were "especially appealing to people who knew they felt worried or unwell, but were perhaps no longer quite persuaded by the doctrine of bad nerves that had helped their parents and grandparents make sense of their experiences of malaise."

Selye's work prompted further research on the impact of family dynamics, interpersonal relationships and community ties on health. Most of this work initially focused on the heart and hypertension, prominent in the public mind following President Eisenhower's cardiac crisis. Later, scrutiny was extended to the emotional dimensions of the other great specter of the time, cancer. If stress lay at the root of so many modern maladies, Harrington writes, then "healing ties" might be the prophylactic, if not the cure, for cancer as well.

In 1989, David Spiegel, a psychiatrist at Stanford, published a widely reported study of 86 women with advanced breast cancer, all receiving conventional medical therapies. Some were randomly assigned to weekly support groups, where they spoke openly about their fears and hopes and were taught self-hypnosis to manage pain and stress, while others were simply given routine care. Spiegel reported that the women in group therapy lived twice as long, 36.6 months, as those in the control group, who lived 18.9 months. (As point of comparison, Herceptin — the most promising new drug for women with advanced breast cancer — extends patients' lives by a median of five months compared with those who receive chemotherapy without it.) Spiegel's research seemed to support the assertions of Bernie Siegel, a surgeon at Yale, who in his best-selling "Love, Medicine, and Miracles" (1986) claimed that emotional turmoil was a cause of breast cancer and that dramatic remissions could occur if patients simply gave up their emotional repression, without chemotherapy or radiation.

In one of the most poignant moments in her book, Harrington visits a group of women in a follow-up study designed to replicate Spiegel's stunning data. Spiegel has not released the results of this subsequent research, although the study was due to end more than seven years ago. Some have speculated that the initial results were a fluke. "Spiegel remains unwilling to say that support therapy does not extend the life of women with cancer," Harrington writes. "He and his team believe there is still some kind of biological story to be told about the power of healing ties in the case of cancer, even if it might not be quite the story with which they started." (Clinical trials of Siegel's approach to breast cancer, she notes, failed to show greater survival rates.)

During her visit, Harrington asks the women whether they thought Spiegel's group therapy was helping them live longer. "A silent snort went around the table," she writes. "No, they said, they did not believe the premise of the study — not really. Why not? I asked. Their answer was clear: the evidence was not there for them; they had seen too many people in their group die." But then one woman surprises Harrington, and the reader, by saying she doesn't care about Spiegel's hypothesis. "I don't think it matters to me at all," she says. "That's not why I joined the group." Why, then, did she stick with it? To learn "how to live better with cancer and how to die better from cancer, something that they could learn nowhere else in their culture."

In her final chapter, Harrington offers close observations of the interactions between the Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson (and later the neuroscientist Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin) and the Dalai Lama and his Tibetan monks. She admits longing for scientific support for what is, in essence, an "Orientalist" conception, that the "Other" holds wisdom and therapeutic treasures beyond those imaginable to us in the West. Some of Harrington's wish is fulfilled in the biology of the placebo response. Recent studies show that belief, even in inert treatments, can have profound benefits in relieving pain, likely via release of endorphins and other mediators in the brain. But despite several decades of concerted research in the field of psychoneuroimmunology, to my scrutiny no robust effects of meditation or other relaxation techniques that could combat illnesses like cancer or AIDS have been identified.

Harrington concludes with the questions that her students at Harvard regularly ask: Which mind-body narratives are "true"? Are all the stories we tell ourselves about illness equally valuable? Harrington has already answered these queries in part in the voice of the woman with breast cancer in the Stanford study. Yet, she has still been "haunted" over the years by unusual events, like the case of a man whose tumors seemed to melt "like snowballs on a hot stove" in response to a "worthlesss" cancer treatment that he nonetheless believed in. The physicist Freeman Dyson once noted that, to a scientist, an event like the spontaneous remission of a tumor is viewed as occurring at the asymptote of probability, one in several million, but through the eyes of a believer it becomes not mathematics but a miracle. Harrington shows us that, whatever science reveals about the cause and course of disease, we will continue to tell ourselves stories, and try to use our own metaphors to find meaning in randomness.

Jerome Groopman is a physician and a staff writer for The New Yorker. His most recent book is "How Doctors Think."

Fisher reveals bias, ignorance, or both

http://www.timberjay.com/current.php?article=4052

Saturday, January 26, 2001908 Volume 19, Issue 4

Once again, John Fisher's wholesale misreading of the progress of science and Charles Darwin's work on evolution (Letters, January 12, 2008) shows a stubborn misunderstanding and distortion of the history of biology over the past 150 years. Mr. Fisher's attempt to politicize science in suggesting that some presidential candidates do not believe in evolutionary biology reveals only the bias or ignorance of those who fail to recognize the startling achievements of the world's best scientific researchers over the past century and a half.

Many of those achievements are discussed and documented in the third revised report of the National Academy of Sciences which was released for publication in January of 2008. The Academy includes the most distinguished scientists and scientific researchers on the planet. Their report, available for downloading on the internet at no charge, is entitled Science, Evolution, and Creationism. It may be accessed at www.nap.edu/catalog/11876.

All of the concerns that Mr. Fisher raises, about evolution's weak fossil record, the slow incremental changes in biological systems, and the difficulty of achieving a robust diversity in nature, are addressed and summarily dismissed as bogus issues.

Regarding the fossil record, Mr. Fisher might download the NAS report and read (on pg. 1) of the incredible discovery a team of researchers made on a remote island in northern Canada in 2004. The scientists " . . . found a four-foot-long fossil with features intermediate between those of a fish and a four-legged animal." The scientists named the fossil Tiktaalik, an Inuit word meaning "big freshwater fish." The creature had gills, scales, and fins—but it also had lungs, a flexible neck, and a sturdy fin skeleton which supported its body in the water or on land. So much for Mr. Fisher's feeble criticism of the fossil record and Darwin's "antiquated" 19th century idea. The research record continues to strengthen evolution at every level of inquiry.

Darwin's idea has not only flourished during the last century and a half, it has become the bedrock and foundation of everything occurring in the sciences today. As the NAS report suggests (in its conclusion on p. 47), "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"—in the life and physical sciences as well as the social and behavioral sciences (NAS report, p. 47).

Fisher mentions the "true scientific method." What could that possibly be? A side step into creationism and intelligent design? Advocates of creationism/intelligent design (Cr/ID) have already been thrown out of the classroom, the laboratory, and the courts. Their views are not science, do not represent science, and will never be science. The tenets of Cr/ID represent nothing more than the theological agenda of ultra-right-wing, arch-conservative neocons. Their ultimate goal is to destroy American democracy and replace it with a full-fledged theocracy (see Kevin Phillips's American Theocracy, 2006. Mr. Phillips is a former Republican strategist).

The struggle to acquire valid and reliable scientific knowledge and to maintain a viable democracy are never-ending, and they are all the more difficult to achieve when they're constantly confronted by the oppressive and reactionary forces of superstition and indoctrination.

Ed Borowiec

Angora, Minn.

Idiots are people, too

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2008/01/26/botho126.xml

Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 26/01/2008

Michael Bywater reviews Counterknowledge, by Damian Thompson

We live in credulous times. Whether they are any more or less credulous than times past is arguable, but only barely.

Arguably, we're doing pretty well; extremism and fundamentalism may persist, but they strike most of us, whatever our class or education, as damned peculiar. More insidious, though, is what Damian Thompson precisely identifies as "counterknowledge": ways of thinking sold to us as true which are not true.

Counterknowledge, Thompson proposes, includes phenomena like creationism, Scientology, "alternative" medicine (an alternative to getting better, I suppose), genies, end-time Pentecostalism, false history, the "ancient mother-cultures" of the lamentable Graham Hancock, and crazed exegetes "discovering" quantum mechanics, relativity and the Big Bang theory in the Koran.

Unlike so much recent polemical anti-irrationalism, Thompson remains calm, courteous and, at least on the surface, rational. But polemic it remains, and remorseless polemic at that.

And here lies the first problem. Successful polemic, as Counterknowledge surely is, can rebound on the author. I began the book gleefully on Thompson's side, anxious to see the credulous and their exploiters get another skewering; but by the end of his measured condemnation of ignorance, stupidity, greed and bone-headed delusionality, I found myself, if not precisely on the side of the exploiters, certainly more sympathetic to their victims: the berks, the dweebs, the gullible and the bemused.

Yes, they are wrong, often laughably so. But, I found myself wondering, what harm is there in in their wonky, ghost-haunted, conspiracy-muttering, knuckle-headed refusal to play the post-Enlightenment rational game?

After all, evolution has favoured our inherent credulousness. It's not hard to see why. Believe in a great Watcher in the Sky and life may seem hopeful enough to bear or beget another child. Believe Nngh when he says there's a woolly mammoth on the other side of the ravine and you might join in the hunt. Credulity can jolly us along when rational nihilism says there's no point in getting out of bed.

Thompson doesn't really consider what the adherents of counterknowledge get out of the deal; instead, he silently sympathises with them while denouncing their false prophets. Perhaps the answer is so obvious that he didn't think it worth going into: they get the idea that they are special, by possessing a secret. They get the idea that there's hope; the idea that things make sense.

The problem arises when they band together to withhold the facts from others (creationism being taught in schools), use their irrationality to harm others (declaring war because God told them to) or divert resources from more reputable uses (homoeopathy available on the NHS).

But on a personal level, to argue that they are simply wrong is not quite enough. Being right - or at least being rational - is a pleasure limited to a small number of people. It doesn't affect the workings of the universe that you are right and I am wrong.

If I set myself up as a historian, a pharmacologist or an aircraft designer, my belief that we are being carried through space in the jaws of The Giant Snake-Monkey Bl'ttharg won't affect anything, because these things are subjected to external tests. My aeroplanes will fly or not fly; my drugs will work or not work; and, as far as history goes, what happened, happened.

All that my touching faith in Bl'ttharg offers is just what enlightened rationalism offers its adherents: the reward of believing that we've got one over on the other guy. And the other guy's pleasure in believing that he's got one over on me does not affect my own. Hoping to persuade Everyman that rationalism is its own reward is flogging the self-same dead horse that Everyman is happily (and profitably) riding.

The other problematic argument is Thompson's appeal to authority. He is very keen on distinguishing real from false authority, and seems to yearn a little for a lost world in which publishers and academia acted as the gatekeepers of "truth" or at least rationalism.

He is clearly annoyed by modernity, with its cowardly relativism and its emphasis on "Project Me", but, beneath it all, what he really hates is postmodernism, and particularly its assertion that all utterances are in the end discourses about power.

But to assume that we just need to identify, and follow, an enlightened Authority is to fall into the same trap as the gullible. My Platonic, imaginary Authority is, like Thompson's, the one which justifies itself according to the rules I have already decided must apply.

In other words, it begs the question; just as Thompson does whenever he asks us to believe him. When he says that Peter Marshall "is, in short, a cult archaeologist" we have to believe he is telling the truth; to persuade us otherwise, we would have to become legitimate archaeologists ourselves.

This is not Thompson's fault. It's inescapable. We can't know everything and I imagine about 95 per cent of what I, and you, "know", we take on faith. The problem is: who - or what - do we have trust in?

Thompson attempts to deal with it by a version of the "dual episteme" trick, which declares that tests based on the scientific method simply do not apply to questions of religion. The trouble is that all any system need do to exclude itself from scientific testing is to declare itself immune, just as the justification for any sacred text is to be found in its own declaration that it is sacred. Again, the questions are begged.

This may stand in the way of his readers experiencing a Damascene conversion - but polemic demands not acquiescence, but argument. If Thompson feels his ears burning over the coming months it will be because thousands of readers are shouting at him from their armchairs. A polemicist can ask for nothing more.

Survival of the Dimmest

http://www.texasobserver.org/blog/index.php/2008/01/22/survival-of-the-dimmest/

January 22nd, 2008 at 3:32 pm

Polls consistently show that nearly half of Americans question the theory behind human evolution. This despite wide acceptance in the scientific community and an extensive fossil record.

Why the disconnect? It may be because of dodgy reporting like this story over the weekend in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Reporters Katherine Cromer Brock and Mark Agee wrote a pair of articles about efforts by creationists on the State of Board of Education to, um, monkey with how Texas schools teach evolution. Some board members want science teachers to discuss the so-called weaknesses of evolution. This is an old ploy.

But Brock and Agee play along, writing of a "scientific debate" where none exists. Adhering to strict "he said, she said" style, they treat creationism and evolution as scientific equals.

For instance, under the subhead "The Theories," they write, "In 1859, Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species ignited the debate about how life on Earth came to be. Here are the prevailing theories." They then provide brief descriptions of evolution, creation science, and intelligent design.

Actually, there is one "prevailing theory" in the scientific community. The theory of adaptation and natural selection is a central tenet of natural science.

Later the reporters quote education board member Gail Lowe complaining about how science textbooks treat evolution. "They present evolution in the same terms as gravity," she told the paper. "We can be honest that there are some weaknesses and that Darwinian evolution is still controversial in the science community."

Brock and Agee let that remark go uncorrected. We'll do it for them.

Darwinian evolution is by no means controversial in the science community. Nearly every serious natural scientist in the world subscribes to the theory of natural selection. A handful of rogue scholars have promoted intelligent design, but even they have conceded that natural selection took over after creation by an "intelligent designer." And there aren't weaknesses in the theory of evolution. There are things we don't know yet, gaps in the fossil record, and mysteries we haven't solved about our ancient origins. But the theory itself is accepted as fact. And yes, Ms. Lowe, it's much like the theory of gravity.

Brock and Agee's story leaves the impression that there is legitimate scientific debate about the veracity of human evolution. That simply isn't true. To imply otherwise is dishonest journalism.

by Dave Mann

Evolution education update: January 25, 2008

Antievolution resolutions are spreading through northern Florida county school boards, while scientists are speaking out against the ICR's attempt to have its graduate school certified to confer degrees in science education in Texas, and Darwin Day and Evolution Weekend are on the horizon.

ANTIEVOLUTION RESOLUTIONS SPREADING THROUGH NORTHERN FLORIDA

At least nine county school boards in northern Florida have adopted resolutions calling for the state board of education "to revise the new Sunshine State Standards for Science such that evolution is not presented as fact, but as one of several theories," according to a January 23, 2008, report from Florida Citizens for Science. These resolutions represent a backlash to a draft set of new state science standards, which are presently undergoing revision in response to comments from the public. The state board of education is expected to consider the revised draft set of standards at its meeting on February 19, 2008.

Reviewing the draft standards at the request of NCSE and Florida Citizens for Science, Lawrence S. Lerner described them as "a giant step in the right direction." He estimated that, evaluated by the same criteria used in the Fordham Foundation's report The State of State Science Standards 2005, the draft set of standards would receive a high B, adding, "With a little bit of extra effort, Florida could bring that up to an A." The previous set of standards, adopted in 1999, received a grade of F in the Fordham Foundation's report.

A conspicuous improvement in the draft set of standards is the treatment of evolution. In the previous set of standards, the e-word -- "evolution" -- was altogether absent. In the draft set, it is not only used but even featured as a "big idea" around which the standards are organized. Newspapers around the state hailed the change, with the Tallahassee Democrat, for example, writing (October 23, 2007), "For science education in our state to be competitive, it must include the teaching of evolution and the explicit acknowledgment that empirical evidence over the past century and a half strongly supports it."

But the county school boards in Baker, Clay, Hamilton, Holmes, Jackson, Madison, St. Johns, Taylor, and Washington counties -- all in northern Florida -- have adopted virtually identical resolutions opposing the improvement. Wired Science's Brandon Keim reports (January 22, 2008), "So far, not a single superintendent from those ... school boards has been available for comment. At least Willard Fair, chairman of the state Board of Education, ... was willing to get on the phone and say that he had no comment whatsoever."

Reporters in Florida were luckier in securing comment from supporters of the resolutions, however. The Jacksonville Times-Union (January 17, 2008) reported, "Some school superintendents say the resolutions reflect the religious nature of their constituents in Northeast Florida," quoting Baker County Superintendent Paula Barton as saying, "To be honest with you, we are a strong Christian community here," and reporting Nassau County Superintendent John Ruis as describing himself as a strong believer in biblical creationism.

Similarly, according to Ron Matus's story in the St. Petersburg Times (January 24, 2008), Dixie County school superintendent Dennis Bennett explained, "We just wanted to get it on the record that we're a Judeo-Christian community and we believe in academic freedom," and Ken Hall, a school board member in Madison County, commented, "We're not asking that evolution not be taught, just that it be taught as a theory, one of several. I'm a Christian. And I believe I was created by God, and that I didn't come from an amoeba or a monkey."

In his report, Matus observed that existing case law suggests that the state board of education "would face an uphill court battle if it were to include alternative theories" as the resolutions urge. He also noted, "in the scientific community there is virtually no debate on the fundamental soundness of Charles Darwin's theory. Scores of scientific societies and organizations have issued statements in support of evolution, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association."

For Florida Citizens for Science's report, visit:
http://www.flascience.org/wp/?p=407

For a press release about Lerner's evaluation of the draft standards, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2007/FL/102_florida_science_standards_shoo_12_3_2007.asp

For the Tallahassee Democrat's editorial, visit:
http://www.tallahassee.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071023/BREAKINGNEWS/710230343

For Wired Science's story, visit:
http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/01/anti-evolution.html

For the Times-Union's story, visit:
http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/011708/met_237288652.shtml

For the St. Petersburg Times's story, visit:
http://www.sptimes.com/2008/01/24/State/North_Florida_weighin.shtml

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

SCIENTISTS OPPOSE ICR CERTIFICATION IN TEXAS

Now that the Institute for Creation Research's application for Texas certification of its graduate school is on hold until April 2008, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is being inundated by e-mails from "some of the state's leading physicians and scientists" critical of the ICR's proposal to offer degrees in science education, the Austin American-Statesman (January 24, 2008) reports, "including a Nobel laureate who warned that Texas is at risk of becoming 'the laughingstock of the nation.'" Using the Texas Public Information Act, both the American-Statesman and the Dallas Morning News received almost three hundred pages of e-mails to the THECB, supporting and opposing the ICR's application. "Many of the notes are from Texas," the Morning News (January 23, 2008) observed. "But others come from all corners of the U.S. and the world -- from Florida to the Philippines, Nevada to Nigeria."

Among the critics were three Nobel laureates. Alfred G. Gilman -- a winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1994; executive vice president, provost, and dean at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School; and a Supporter of NCSE -- asked, "How can Texas simultaneously launch a war on cancer and approve educational platforms that submit that the universe is 10,000 years old?" Robert F. Curl Jr. of Rice University, who won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996, alluded to the history of antievolution efforts in Kansas, writing, "If this program wins approval ... Texas will replace Kansas as the laughingstock of the nation." And Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas at Austin, who won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979, concurred, writing, "it would be a blow to science education in Texas, and an embarrassment for Texas."

Also weighing in was Daniel W. Foster of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the president of the Academy of Medicine, Engineering, and Science of Texas, which seeks "to provide broader recognition of the state's top achievers in medicine, engineering and science, and to build a stronger identity for Texas as an important destination and center of achievement in these fields"; its members include over 200 Texas members of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Academy of Engineering. "We should only teach true science in Texas schools and universities, not pseudoscience," Foster wrote to the THECB. "It is crucially important for our students and for the state. [I]t will be a very negative thing if our state becomes labeled as anti-science."

Back in December 2007, the American Institute for Biological Sciences also took a stand. Its president, Douglas Futuyma of SUNY Stony Brook, wrote in a December 28, 2007, letter to the THECB, "ICR is committed to advancing Young Earth Creationism, a literal view of the Bible that contends the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. Young Earth Creationism has repeatedly been shown, legally and scientifically, to be a religious belief system and not a credible scientific explanation for the history of Earth or the diversity of biological systems that have evolved on Earth. ... It is unacceptable for the state to sanction the training of science educators committed to the practice of advancing their religious beliefs in a science classroom. ... The THECB will ill-serve science students if it certifies a science teacher education program based on a religious world-view rather than modern science."

The THECB is currently expected to consider the ICR's application for certification for its graduate school at its April 24, 2008, meeting. Members of the THECB are appointed by the governor; a spokesperson for Governor Rick Perry told the American-Statesman that he took no position on the ICR's application. In the meantime, as NCSE previously reported, the THECB's commissioner, Raymund A. Paredes, is seeking further information about the ICR's curriculum, both from the ICR itself and from a panel of scientists and science educators. According to the American-Statesman, "Paredes'[s] recommendation on the proposal for an online master's degree program is expected to carry considerable weight, but the final decision is up to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board."

For the story in the Austin American-Statesman, visit:
http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/01/24/0124creation.html

For the story in the Dallas Morning News, visit:
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/religion/stories/012408dnmetcreation.2bd704c.html

For the AIBS letter, visit:
http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20071228_aibs_letter_to_5.html

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

DARWIN DAY APPROACHES

Less than a month remains before Darwin Day! Colleges and universities, schools, libraries, museums, churches, civic groups, and just plain folks across the country -- and the world -- are preparing to celebrate Darwin Day, on or around February 12, in honor of the life and work of Charles Darwin. These events provide a marvelous opportunity not only to celebrate Darwin's birthday but also to engage in public outreach about science, evolution, and the importance of evolution education. NCSE encourages its members and friends to attend, participate in, and even organize Darwin Day events in their own communities. To find a local event, check the websites of local universities and museums and the registry of Darwin Day events maintained by the Darwin Day Celebration website. (If you're speaking at or organizing a Darwin Day event, please let NCSE know -- and also register it at the Darwin Day Celebration website!)

And with Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Sunday -- now expanded to Evolution Weekend! Hundreds of congregations all over the country and around the world are taking part in Evolution Weekend, February 8-10, 2008, by presenting sermons and discussion groups on the compatibility of faith and science. Michael Zimmerman, the initiator of the project, writes, "For far too long, strident voices, in the name of Christianity, have been claiming that people must choose between religion and modern science. ... Together, participating religious leaders will be making the statement that religion and science are not adversaries. And, together, they will be elevating the quality of the national debate on this topic." At last count, over 752 congregations in all fifty states (and nine foreign countries) were scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events; they are listed at the Clergy Letter Project website.

To find a Darwin Day event, visit:
http://www.darwinday.org/englishL/home/2008.php

To register a Darwin Day event, visit:
http://www.darwinday.org/englishL/regevent/index.php

For information about Evolution Weekend, visit:
http://www.evolutionweekend.org/

And for information about the Clergy Letter Project, visit:
http://www.butler.edu/clergyproject/religion_science_collaboration.htm

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news your@email.com

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

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

Sincerely,

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

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

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

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

Oden, Foster and Daniel: Intelligent design is not science

http://www.statesman.com/opinion/content/editorial/stories/01/24/0125science_edit.html

J. Tinsley Oden, Daniel W. Foster and David Daniel, THE ACADEMY OF MEDICINE, ENGINEERING AND SCIENCE OF TEXAS

Thursday, January 24, 2008

There are storm clouds gathering in the educational environment of Texas. At a time when the nation has declared that there is a crisis in education that threatens our future as a country, Texas may take a turn in the opposite direction. There are active forces that wish to move away from science to religion in our schools. The concern of leading scientists and engineers of the state has been activated by two recent events.

The first of these events is that the Texas Education Agency recently took actions that led to the resignation of a science educator, ostensibly because she did not show impartiality between the teaching of "intelligent design" and evolution. The other is the recent request by the Institute for Creation Research, a proponent of "intelligent design" to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, for certification to grant graduate degrees in science education in Texas.

"Intelligent design" is not science and should not masquerade as such. Our country is founded on the concept of separation of church and state. Education is within the province of the State, but religious matters are not and, thus, do not belong within our educational system. Science is the systematic acquisition of knowledge through hypothesis and observations that are repeatedly tested, validated, and revised as new evidence emerges. Faith is based upon what one believes and often stems from one's cultural background or upbringing. The resolution of the teachings of science with religious beliefs should remain within the realm of the individual's experience and not taught as science by any institution approved or accredited by the State.

The opinions expressed here represent the unanimous views of the Board of Directors of The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas, a non-profit organization formed in 2004, The membership of TAMEST consists of Texas members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The goals of TAMEST include fostering interactions among the various research institutions within the State of Texas and promoting science and science education in the State. We recently embarked on a project to determine how Texas should respond to the report of the National Academies entitled "Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Future". The report describes crises in the educational system in the United States, particularly pertaining to science, and their effect on our national competitiveness. Our project involves researching the actions through which Texas can improve K-12 education in the state, especially in science. It is our intent to establish a model for other states to follow in addressing this critical issue.

The future of the world, our nation and the State of Texas hinges on continued breakthroughs in science, engineering and medicine as we face challenges in providing adequate supplies of energy and water, a clean environment, health care, and economic competitiveness. To meet these challenges, it is necessary to continue to attract the best minds to Texas and to provide our children with rigorous and challenging scientific training. Anything that diminishes the rigor of the education of the youth of Texas or our ability to recruit the best talent creates a great risk to the State and limits our contribution to protecting the nation from the "Gathering Storm".

TAMEST is not anti-religion and many of its members are active in religious organizations, but they support the belief that religious faith is not science. "Intelligent design" is a belief and is not subject to testing or validation; thus, it has no place in our educational system. The aim of TAMEST and, we believe, all scientists, is to enhance teaching of true science and to make our public schools and universities excel in science, math and technology.

Submitted on behalf of the Board of Directors of The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas by Dr. J. Tinsley Oden, president; Dr. Daniel W. Foster, past president; and Dr. David Daniel, vice-president and president-elect. For more information about the organization, visit www.tamest.org.

Experts Urge Florida Education Board To Adopt Creationism-Free Science Standards

http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7009823461

January 24, 2008 7:55 p.m. EST

Windsor Genova - AHN News Writer

Oakland, CA (AHN) - The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and a science education expert have urged the Florida Board of Education to approve and adopt the final draft of state science standards that exclude teaching of the intelligent design concept in public schools.

In an interview on Wednesday, Dr. Lawrence S. Lerner, a professor emeritus at the California State University in Long Beach, said, "I think that boards of education are, of course, not experts in the subject matter, so they should take the advice of their experts and go on from there."

NCSE spokesman John Rosenau said the current science standards in Florida don't even use the word "evolution" making some biology classes lacking the fundamental organizing principle of modern biology.

"That should be worrying for people who are planning to be doctors, or who want to have doctors who are in school now, and who may want to go to medical school and be doctors down the line," Rosenau said.

The NCSE, which advocates the teaching of Darwin's Theory of Evolution in public schools, rejected calls to include creationism in the science standards saying, "In science class we teach science. Intelligent design is not science, and on that standard, it doesn't belong in a science class."

The final draft of the Florida science standards is currently being edited by the Department of Education. The Board of Education will consider the new standards at their meeting on Feb. 19.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why Darwinism is So Dangerous

http://www.christianpost.com/article/20080123/30947_Why_Darwinism_is_So_Dangerous.htm

Ben Stein, host of a new film on Intelligent Design vs. Darwinism, gives an answer

By Katherine T. Phan
Christian Post Reporter Wed, Jan. 23 2008 07:58 AM ET

For Ben Stein, host of an upcoming documentary on the dominance of Darwinism in academia, Darwinism is not just problematic but dangerous even.

Darwin said that there were certain species that were superior to other species and all were competing for scarce supplies of food or resources, Stein pointed out. But if there was a limited supply of basic resources, Darwinism taught that "you owe it to the superior race to kill the inferior race," he told reporters.

Darwinian evolutionary theory fueled Nazi idealism that felt gypsies, Eastern Europeans and others were competing with them for scarce basic resources, explained Stein.

"As a Jew, I am horrified that people thought Jews were so inferior they didn't deserve to live," he commented.

But the link between Darwinism and the holocaust is just one of many reasons why the former speech writer for President Nixon and President Ford decided to join Premise Media in the making of the documentary, which hits theaters April 2008.

Stein said he finds it problematic that Darwinism, which he feels leaves a lot of questions unanswered, is being touted in the academic and scientific circles as the only rational explanation on how life began.

Where did life come from? How did cells get so complex?

If the origins of life all did happen by random mutation, he questioned, where does the laws that make the universe possible to function – the law of gravity, the law of thermodaynamics, laws of motion – all come from?

"Who created these laws that keeps the planets in motion?" asked Stein. "These are fundamental questions" where Darwinism lacks explanations.

The film follows Stein as he interviews disciples of Darwinian Evolution, including The God Delusion author Richard Dawkins and proponents of Intelligent Design – the teaching that the creation of life and the universe are results of an intelligent "designer."

At first glance, the documentary may appear to attack Darwinism and champion Intelligent Design.

But the film doesn't try to validate one idea over another, explained Walt Ruloff, the film's executive producer and CEO of Premise Media.

"Science is supported by empirical work that can be verified by empirical data. We are not against that," he told reporters.

"What we are asking for is freedom of speech ... for people who do research to have freedom to ask the questions they need to ask and go where they need to go.

The current system doesn't allow open dialogue, according to the makers of "Expelled." The film highlights a number of educators and scientists who are being ridiculed, denied tenure and even fired in some cases for the fact that they believe there is evidence of "design" in nature or challenging the Darwinian orthodoxy.

Ruloff hopes that the film will prompt congressional language to protect the free speech of people who dissent from Darwinism.

Furthermore, he sees the documentary as creating a culture where things like the metaphysical can be openly discussed.

"Eighty-five percent of people believe in a form of a deity – why can't we talk about that?" asked Ruloff.

"We don't think that we have all the the answers, or anyone has all the answers," added Stein. "We just want free speech."

Apes and angels

http://www.wickedlocal.com/hopkinton/news/lifestyle/columnists/x1295942961

By Christine Whittaker
Thu Jan 24, 2008, 10:34 AM EST

Hopkinton - On February 10, St. Michael's Episcopal Church will join with more than 700 other Christian churches across the country participating in Evolution Weekend. Each year, on the weekend closest to Charles Darwin's birthday, Christian and other religious congregations hold forums, listen to sermons and take part in other activities that center on the relationship between science and religious faith.

This observance, which began two years ago, was the idea of The Clergy Letter Project, an effort by clergy throughout the United States to counter the perception that there is an inevitable conflict between Christian faith and modern scientific discoveries. The letter, which has now been signed by more than 11,000 clergy (including me), states: "Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts."

Sadly, the Christian Church has all too often regarded scientific inquiry as an enemy. Galileo and Bruno were only two of the many scientists whose discoveries were regarded as heretical by a church that attempted to suppress them. In the nineteenth century, Darwin's publication of The Origin of Species led to vehement attacks by religious leaders on his work. As the British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, said, most people believed that one had to choose between being on the side of the apes or the side of the angels. Aware of the political consequences of that choice, Disraeli firmly declared himself with the angels.

What I find surprising, however, is that the same controversy still rages as fiercely today in the United States. Our current president has suggested that he has doubts about evolution and it has been raised as an issue in this year's presidential campaign. A recent ABC News poll suggested that as many as 60 percent of all Americans believe that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at some time within the last 10,000 years. Others try to adapt evolution to fit their religious beliefs. Yet there is no real controversy in the scientific community about whether evolution has occurred.

The National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, whose members are the most distinguished scientists in this country, recently published a short and very readable book, Science, Evolution and Creationism. As the introduction states: "The evidence supporting descent with modification, as Charles Darwin termed it, is both overwhelming and compelling. In the century and a half since Darwin, scientists have uncovered exquisite details about many of the mechanisms that underlie biological variation, inheritance, and natural selection, and they have show how these mechanisms lead to biological change over time. Because of this immense body of evidence, scientists treat the occurrence of evolution as one of the most securely established of scientific facts."

The Episcopal Church, which in 1982 went on record as rejecting the idea of creationism, has a Catechism of Creation, published in 2005, that explicitly states: "The Bible, including Genesis, is not a divinely dictated scientific textbook. We discover scientific knowledge about God's universe in nature not Scripture." None of this is to deny that the implications of scientific discoveries may raise significant theological questions. Just as thoughtful Christians must consider the implications for their faith of the discovery of the immensity of the universe, so they must wrestle with questions of how God is involved in a process of creation that seems to depend in significant part on random mutation. But surely God does not intend us to approach these challenges by denying what we learn through our God-given faculty of reason.

Christine Whittaker is the priest at St. Michael's Episcopal Church, Holliston.

Leading scientists oppose creation institute's degree plan

http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/01/24/0124creation.html

Texas higher education commissioner receives dozens of e-mails from critics, proponents of master's degree proposal.

By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz

AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Bible-oriented group's proposal to offer a degree in science education has drawn opposition from some of the state's leading physicians and scientists, including a Nobel laureate who warned that Texas is at risk of becoming "the laughingstock of the nation."

Critics of the proposal by the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research have peppered the state's commissioner of higher education with e-mails in recent weeks. Dozens of the institute's supporters, including some scientists and physicians, also have e-mailed Commissioner Raymund Paredes, in some cases apparently prompted by a plea from the institute's chief executive.

E-mails from the public about the Institute for Creation Research's plans to offer graduate science degrees. Note: These emails were acquired from state officials through the Texas Public Information Act; the identities of the senders were not verified.

The American-Statesman, under the Texas Public Information Act, obtained printouts of the e-mails, which fill nearly 300 pages. Paredes' recommendation on the proposal for an online master's degree program is expected to carry considerable weight, but the final decision is up to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which oversees certain aspects of public and private postsecondary education.

In an e-mail responding to one critic of the proposal, the commissioner said he mentioned the issue to Gov. Rick Perry in mid-December and has been in regular contact with the governor's office about the matter. The governor appoints the members of the coordinating board, who, in turn, hire and fire the commissioner.

Perry has not taken a position on the proposal and is confident that the board will ensure that any program is as rigorous academically as all other master's programs in the state, said Krista Piferrer, a spokeswoman for the governor.

In his e-mail, Robert Curl, a professor emeritus at Rice University who won a Nobel Prize in chemistry, compared Texas to Kansas, a state whose science standards were regarded as the most aggressive in the nation in challenging Darwin's theory of evolution.

"If this program wins approval ... Texas will replace Kansas as the laughingstock of the nation," he wrote.

Alfred Gilman, who won a Nobel in physiology or medicine, said approval of the institute's proposal would hamper efforts to recruit top researchers to Texas and implement a $3 billion cancer research initiative approved last year.

"How can Texas simultaneously launch a war on cancer and approve educational platforms that submit that the universe is 10,000 years old?" wrote Gilman, executive vice president, provost and dean at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas.

Daniel Foster, a professor at UT Southwestern and president of the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas, wrote that "pseudoscience" has no place in Texas schools and universities. The academy's roster includes Nobel laureates and more than 200 people who have been elected to the National Academies of science, engineering and medicine.

The institute's curriculum for the proposed science degree is heavily flavored with Christian references and creationism, which ascribes the origin of matter and species to God. Institute documents on file at the coordinating board say graduates of the program would be able to "design science lesson plans from the creationist worldview" and "refute evolution."

The e-mails show that the institute's CEO, Henry Morris III, urged supporters to send "a kind note of encouragement to Dr. Paredes thanking him for his attempt to be fair in our evaluation, and also expressing your support for the Christian perspective of origins (a better word than creation)."

One correspondent who identified herself as Danna Watkins, a Texas middle school teacher, told Paredes that the "Christian view of creation" should be taught in science classes. "I strongly believe that our students have the right to consider that an option along with the evolution theory that is taught," Watkins wrote.

And R. Steven Pappas, a research biochemist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said competing views should be tolerated. "As a scientist," Pappas wrote, "I urge you to be among those who are truly open-minded and who do not fear information from research, without regard to whether the source has an atheistic perspective or a Christian perspective of origins."

Creationist institute's master's science degree proposal creates debate

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/religion/stories/012408dnmetcreation.2bd704c.html

In hundreds of e-mails, science education training blasted, backed

11:28 PM CST on Wednesday, January 23, 2008
By HOLLY K. HACKER / The Dallas Morning News
hhacker@dallasnews.com

A Dallas creationist group's proposal to train science teachers has unleashed a flurry of mixed opinions from Nobel laureates, high school teachers, ministers and scientific researchers.

Last month, a state advisory group gave the Institute for Creation Research preliminary approval to offer an online master's degree in science education. Since then, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board – which has the final say – has received more than 200 e-mails on the subject.

The coordinating board provided 286 pages of e-mails in response to an open-records request from The Dallas Morning News. Many of the notes are from Texas. But others come from all corners of the U.S. and the world – from Florida to the Philippines, Nevada to Nigeria.

The letters show how heated the debate has become, as Texas and other states try to figure out the best way to teach students science.

"The latest round of so-called creation science truly scares me and all of my colleagues here at UT Southwestern Medical Center," wrote Alfred Gilman, dean of UT Southwestern's medical school and a Nobel Prize winner in medicine. "Approval of this sort of nonsense as science in Texas will have a significant negative impact on our ability to attract the best minds to the state.

"How can Texas simultaneously launch a war on cancer and approve educational platforms that submit that the universe is 10,000 years old?"

Just as many people, if not more, wrote to defend the institute's proposal.

Kent Davey, senior research scientist at UT-Austin's Center for Electromechanics, asked that the institute be given a fair review. "I am persuaded that the creation worldview has a firm place in science," he wrote.

One college student at a Christian college in California said institute officials are "a rare and bold voice" that needs to be heard.

But Joel Goodman, a UT Southwestern cell biologist and pharmacology professor, wrote, "I hope you realize that approving such an application would make Texas the laughing stock of the rest of the scientific world. Creation science is an oxymoron."

Steven Weinberg, a physics professor at UT-Austin and a Nobel laureate in physics, agreed.

"In my opinion, it would be a blow to science education in Texas, and an embarrassment for Texas," he wrote.

A reply from the state's higher education commissioner, Raymund Paredes, shows how explosive the issue has become.

"We will not do anything either to jeopardize science education in Texas or to weaken the state's ability to attract distinguished researchers," he wrote. "As you can imagine, because of the political sensitivity of this issue, my colleagues and I must do everything possible to conduct a fair evaluation."

Dr. Paredes added that the main criterion is how the proposed program would prepare high school students for rigorous science.

Jan Wilson, an elementary science facilitator in Mesquite schools, said that while she supports the institute's right to teach creationism, it doesn't belong in a science degree.

"At a time when the scientific literacy of our nation lags behind other developed countries, we do not need to produce science educators that don't understand the basis of science," Ms. Wilson wrote.

School officials have said they plan to teach both evolution – the theory that human life evolved from other species – along with scientific creationism, which holds that science, not just religion, indicates that a divine being created Earth and all living things.

C. Craig Campbell, who teaches science at Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in Minnesota, said he earned a master's degree from the institute in 1994.

"The classes I had while there showed me a much more balanced view of science than I ever got at other schools I had attended, one of those being a large university in Ohio. I learned more about evolution at ICR than in any other institutions or courses."

Robert Bashaw, a doctor who sits on the Stephenville school board, wrote: "I think that presenting all sides to theories of origin and other matters is healthy. What better way to encourage critical thinking and evidence-based evaluation of controversial topics?"

The Institute for Creation Research moved to Dallas from California last year. Some advocacy groups have criticized the institute's proposal, calling it an effort to undermine the teaching of science in public classrooms.

A team of educators and officials from the state coordinating board visited the campus in November. The group decided that the institute offered a standard science education curriculum. In December, an advisory group – comprising officials from two public colleges and four affiliated with religious institutions – approved the plan.

The full coordinating board has the final say. It was supposed to vote today, but after all the public comments, the institute asked for and received an extension. The board is now scheduled to take up the issue in April.

De J. Lozada, a spokeswoman for the coordinating board, said the agency was impressed by the number of comments from people representing all sides of the issue. Every comment was read by someone at the agency, she said.

"The commissioner is looking at all information and weighing all aspects of the application," she said.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Evolution's status may be debated by state board

http://www.star-telegram.com/state_news/story/419982.html

Posted on Sat, Jan. 19, 2008
By KATHERINE CROMER BROCK Star-Telegram staff writer

Proponents want `intelligent design' included in curricula

The state's standards for teaching science are up for approval this year, and the recent dust-up over the teaching of evolution may be a signal of events to come.

Committees are beginning a review of the science curriculum this month, and while members of the State Board of Education say they don't want major changes, philosophical differences among them have led to concern about whether Texas will become the next flashpoint in the debate over the instruction of evolution.

The state's public school curriculum, called Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, says students must learn "the theory of biological evolution." Section 3A of the biology curriculum states that students must use critical thinking to make informed decisions, including analyzing a theory's "strengths and weaknesses."

"They do not cover the weaknesses of evolution," said Don McLeroy, chairman of the state board, of the state's science textbooks. "They present evolution as an absolute fact."

McLeroy, an outspoken creationist, said he doesn't want changes in the state's biology standards. But some say that doesn't mean that creationism or intelligent design, both held by the U.S. Supreme Court to be religious theories that are barred from the classroom, won't seep into Texas' curriculum.

"This whole state better be watching the vote on this board," member Mary Helen Berlanga said. "I'm very concerned about future votes on textbooks."

The theories

In 1859, Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species ignited the debate about how life on Earth came to be. Here are the prevailing theories:

Evolution: By the 1870s, most biologists had accepted Darwin's theories that natural selection, combined with random genetic mutations, explains how complex organisms can form and survive. All species of plants and animals developed from earlier forms. This theory has been held by the Supreme Court as the acceptable theory to teach in public schools.

Creationism: Creation science states that the literal Biblical account of creation can be verified scientifically, rejecting Darwinian evolution.

Intelligent design: The theory predates Christianity, going back to Plato and Cicero. Aristotle called the designer the "unmoved mover" -- the force that put all around us in motion. The 13th-century Italian priest Thomas Aquinas called it the "argument from design": Life and nature are so intricate that they couldn't have happened randomly. In the past few decades, proponents of intelligent design have formed into a nationwide political movement as they seek to have the theory included in public school science curricula alongside evolution.

The debate

Anti-evolution proposals have come up in more than 20 states and in the debate about the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Courts on the state and national levels have rebuffed school districts, teachers and parents who want to introduce any theories other than evolution. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, creation science and intelligent design introduce religion into the classroom, violating the Constitution.

No states mention creationism or intelligent design in their standards, said Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education. Instead of pushing the theories into the curriculum, creationists try to "instill fear, uncertainty and doubt about evolution," Branch said.

The sparks

Two recent events in Austin have rekindled the evolution debate in Texas.

Chris Comer, the Texas Education Agency's then-science curriculum director, forwarded an e-mail to co-workers about a lecture in Austin titled "Inside Creationism's Trojan Horse" by an anti-creationism professor who is also on the board of the National Center for Science Education.

Deputy Commissioner Lizzette Reynolds said the e-mail was a firing offense.

On Nov. 5, curriculum director Monica Martinez wrote to Susan Barnes, associate commissioner for standards and programs, outlining "proposed disciplinary action." Martinez recommended firing Comer.

The memo stated that forwarding the e-mail "demonstrates a serious lack of good judgment" and violates a directive that Comer not communicate "with anyone outside the agency in any way that might compromise the integrity of the TEKS development and revision process," referring to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, the state-mandated curriculum.

Comer submitted a letter of resignation Nov. 7.

Defenders of evolution say the dismissal was an attempt to quash anti-creationism sentiment within the TEA.

On Nov. 16, the state board narrowly rejected a third-grade mathematics textbook that conformed to standards.

Rules governing textbook adoption require the board to accept textbooks by putting them in two lists: those that are accepted and conform to the state's standards and those that are accepted, but do not conform. There is a third option: rejection.

The book was not rigorous enough, said McLeroy, of College Station. It relied heavily on the use of calculators, for example.

Board members in the minority fear that the vote was a trial run by the majority -- if they could reject a conforming math textbook, what might they do during a vote on biology textbooks?

The future

Work groups of teachers and other experts are beginning to analyze the science curriculum this month. The state board isn't scheduled to adopt revisions to the standards until November. Textbook adoption will follow.

Board members say they have no interest in trying to force creationism or intelligent design into the standards. Many say the standards are fine as written.

Board member Gail Lowe of Lampasas said she doesn't believe in interjecting religion into a science class. However, she agrees that there are weaknesses to evolution that should be pointed out in the textbooks.

"They present evolution in the same terms as gravity," she said. "We can be honest that there are some weaknesses and that Darwinian evolution is still controversial in the science community."

Pat Hardy, who represents the Fort Worth area on the state board, said this is a difficult issue to dissect.

"Science is things that have a hypothesis and a proof," she said. "Religion is something that comes from the heart."

Hardy described herself as a devout Christian. She said that she believes that "a religious point of view doesn't have a place in the classroom," but that the textbooks should be clearer on the weaknesses of evolution.

"We should have students thinking, not be telling them what to think," she said.

Staff writer Mark Agee contributed to this report.

Court decisions

Significant cases regarding evolution and creationism in public schools.

1. Epperson v. Arkansas, 1968

The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated an Arkansas statute that prohibited teaching evolution. The First Amendment does not allow a state to require that teaching must be tailored to the principles or the prohibitions of any particular religious sect or doctrine.

2. Segraves v. California, 1981

Sacramento Superior Court found that the California State Board of Education's science standards accommodated children's free exercise of religion by providing that class discussion of origins focus on "how" and not "ultimate cause" of origins.

3. McLean v. Arkansas, 1982

A federal court held that an Arkansas statute requiring "balanced treatment" of "creation-science" and "evolution-science" violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The court declared that "creation-science" is not an actual science, and that the theory of evolution does not presuppose either the absence or the presence of a creator.

4. Edwards v. Aguillard, 1987

The U.S. Supreme Court said Louisiana's Creationism Act was unconstitutional. According to the court, the act endorsed religion by allowing evolution instruction only when accompanied by creationism instruction.

5. Webster v. New Lenox School District, 1990

An Illinois court found that a school district could prohibit a teacher from teaching creationism.

6. Peloza v. Capistrano School District, 1994

A California court found that a teacher's First Amendment right to free exercise of religion is not violated by a school district's requirement that evolution be taught in biology class.

7. Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education, 1997

A Louisiana district court rejected a policy requiring teachers to read aloud a disclaimer promoting "critical thinking" when teaching evolution. This decision also recognized intelligent design as being the same as creationism.

8. Rodney LeVake v. Independent School District 656, 2000

The case of a high school teacher wanting to teach "evidence both for and against" evolution was rejected by a Minnesota state district court judge. The teacher's desire did not match the district's curriculum.

9. Selman et al. v. Cobb County School District et al., 2005

In Georgia, a federal judge ruled that it violated the First Amendment to put the following warning label on textbooks: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."

10. Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover, 2005

A federal judge ordered the Dover, Pa., area school board not to include in the science curriculum a statement that read, "Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin's theory and other theories of evolution, including, but not limited to, intelligent design." The judge said it violated the First Amendment.

Source: National Center for Science Education

kcromer@star-telegram.com
KATHERINE CROMER BROCK, 817-685-3813

Anti-Evolution Gains Momentum in Florida

http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/01/anti-evolution.html

By Brandon Keim January 22, 2008 | 9:58:59

The school boards of eight Florida counties have passed resolutions insisting that evolution be presented alongside alternative theories of organismal origin and development. A battle declared settled in December is not yet over.

Last month we reported that state and national critics had succeeded in discouraging opponents of evolution from fighting the state's proposed science curriculum, which calls evolution a critical fact that every student should know. Florida's current curriculum doesn't even mention Darwin's theory by name.

"Alternatives" to evolution are essentially creationist, and usually rely on intelligent design -- a belief that the life's essential complexity can only be explained as the work of another (and generally divine) intelligence. Intelligent design was legally declared a religious rather than scientific explanation during the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover lawsuit; unlike evolution, it can't be tested, and there is no evidence to support it.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, four Polk County school board members publicly rejected evolution. Local coverage of their sentiments soon turned national; they backed down. The conflict seemed settled. However, persistent digging by the Florida Citizens for Science found that eight counties -- St. Johns, Holmes, Hamilton, Baker, Jackson, Clay, Taylor and Madison -- have passed anti-evolution resolutions.

The resolutions are non-binding, but may encourage members the state Board of Education to dilute the state's proposed science standards. If Florida opts for evolution-unfriendly textbooks and is followed by neighboring Texas -- also undergoing its own curriculum revision -- then other states, looking for less-expensive texts, may buy those same books. Much of an entire generation could be raised to think of evolution as a theory with no more grounding in reality than intelligent design.

I'm working on that story today and tomorrow. So far, not a single superintendent from those eight school boards has been available for comment. At least Willard Fair, chairman of the state Board of Education, which meets in February to finalize the science standards, was willing to get on the phone and say that he had no comment whatsoever.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Book Finds Missing Link Between Evolution, Racism

http://christiannewswire.com/news/354995354.html

'Darwin's Plantation' Breaks New Ground in Study of Subject

Contact: Melany Ethridge, 972-267-1111

PETERSBURG, Kentucky, Jan. 15 /Christian Newswire/ -- Author Ken Ham and theologian Dr. A. Charles Ware take a groundbreaking look at one of the human race's greatest problems – racism – in "Darwin's Plantation: Evolution's Racist Roots." Along the way, they also tackle the questions of the origin of all the people groups, skin "color," and interracial marriage,

Ham is the president of Answers in Genesis and the new Creation Museum, ministries that uphold the authority of the Bible from the very first verse. Ware is the president of Crossroads Bible College (training Christians to reach a multiethnic urban world) and a national leader in promoting multiethnic ministry.

With Darwin's birthday coming Feb. 12, and his 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of "On the Origin of Species" little more than a year away, the time seems right for an accurate assessment of his legacy.

Ham and Ware show that although racism certainly did not begin with Darwin, his beliefs did more to fuel racism than the ideas of any other single individual. "Racism is a consequence of sin in a fallen world infused with evolutionary thinking," Ham writes.

The subtitle of Darwin's "Origin of Species" is "The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life." Darwin himself writes in "The Descent of Man" that he would rather be descended from a monkey than a "savage."

Even Stephen Jay Gould, the late leading evolutionist, agreed that the publication of "Origin of Species" had a negative impact on the discussion of racial issues. "Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1859, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory," he wrote.

Ham and Ware note that evolutionary theory made its way to American shores during the time of the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation (the 1860s).

"Without the legal ability to enforce slavery, many people turned to the theories of Darwin to justify racism in its many forms," the book says. "They began to use evolution as justification of their views that African-Americans were an inferior 'race' and a 'sub-species' that was not really fully human and not deserving of fair and equal treatment."

Ham, originally from Australia, studied environmental biology at the Queensland Institute of Technology. He notes that the remains of perhaps 10,000 Aborigines, some slaughtered as "specimens," were shipped to Britain to prove that they were the "missing link."

Perhaps most tragically, Hitler used evolutionary thought to justify his concept of a "master race" and the extermination of the Jews and other so-called "inferior" groups of people.

"As soon as one believes that human beings have evolved from creatures of lesser intelligence, it is an easy corollary to assume that some people groups are more evolved than others," the book says.

Ultimately, though, the book is not about assigning blame. Instead, it sets out a Biblical blueprint for harmonious race relations. In fact, with man's history of racial conflict, the authors say that "GRACE (God's Reconciliation At Christ's Expense) relations" provides a much better model than race relations. This concept mirrors the teaching found in a compelling exhibit inside the Creation Museum on the origin of the different people groups.

Ware adds: "'Darwin's Plantation' presents the scientific and Scriptural case for the origin of the so-called races and of their skin color and eye shapes, plus what the Scriptures teach about still-controversial issues like interracial marriage."

The authors paint a picture of a world where churches are multiethnic and interracial marriage is no longer a problem. How can this happen? According to this book, it can only happen when Christians accept the Bible's truth that there is only one race – the human race (Acts 17:26; Genesis 1).

Answers in Genesis is a biblical apologetics ministry which conducts more than 300 teaching meetings each year, hosts an award-winning Web site and produces the "Answers" radio program heard on more than 900 stations throughout the United States. The high-tech Creation Museum, which opened in May, has seen over 300,000 visitors in less than eight months of operation.

Crossroads Bible College is a Christian undergraduate institution in Indianapolis whose particular concern is to train men and women of many cultural and ethnic backgrounds for effective roles in Christian service.

Creationists delay bid for master's degrees

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/metro/stories/_MYSA011608.02B.creationists_.27f9da07.html

Web Posted: 01/15/2008 11:23 PM CST

Express-News

A creation science group hoping to offer master's degrees in Texas has postponed its application to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research wants state approval to grant online master's degrees in science education to prepare teachers to "understand the universe within the integrating framework of biblical creationism," according to the school's mission statement.

Last month, a panel of educators recommended its approval to the Coordinating Board, drawing fire from supporters of teaching evolution.

The full board was scheduled to vote on the application next week, but the institute asked to postpone the vote until April to "do justice to the concerns (the board) raised."


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

UFOs put Stephenville in world spotlight

http://www.star-telegram.com/metro_news/story/411767.html

Posted on Tue, Jan. 15, 2008
BY BUD KENNEDY
bud@star-telegram.com

Stephenville abuzz over reported UFO sightings

Stephenville's latest close encounter is weirder than any light in the sky.

Stephenville is under assault — not by Martians, but by people hunting them.

The phones haven't stopped ringing at Steve Allen's trucking company in nearby Glen Rose. He's the guy who was out Jan. 7 watching the sunset at a friend's house near Selden when they all saw some weird flashing lights.

Now, he can't work for all the phone calls from London and around the world.

Some of the callers are scarier than space aliens.

"I'll be OK," he joked Tuesday, "as long as I don't get abducted."

I couldn't even get a call through to county Constable Leroy Gaitan. He told reporters that he and his son, 8, saw the lights from nearby Dublin.

All I can say is, if space aliens were hovering over Texas last week, then maybe that explains the Cowboys. The Stephenville newspaper, the Empire-Tribune, actually broke the story Thursday. But as far as I can tell, absolutely nobody in Texas paid attention until after Dallas was knocked out of the football playoffs.

The news finally went national Monday.

But technically, we all got scooped.

On Dec. 11 — more than a month ago — a Scottish writer and evangelist wrote exactly what would happen.

Catherine Brown, 43 and a mother of four, wrote about a heavenly vision predicting a "stunning star" over Texas that would make "front-line news."

I'm not kidding.

She posted this last month to the Web site for Elijah List Ministries, an Oregon-based publishing house that seems like sort of a clearinghouse for end-of-the-world religious prophecy:

"I see Texas ablaze and a stunning star, like the star from the East rising over the land. I hear the Spirit of the Lord saying to: 'Watch for cosmic signs and wonders in Texas.'

"He said there will be a cosmological phenomenon that scientists cannot explain, and the media will carry as front-line news.

"People will begin to ask about 'the Light.' ... For a period of four months -- from Christmas to Easter -- there will be a window of opportunity for salvations, signs, healings and wonders in Texas."

Brown has never seen Texas in her life, she said Tuesday by phone from her office at Gatekeepers Global Ministries in Ayrshire, Scotland.

"I saw this huge light over Texas," she said "It was actually just a short vision. When I saw the news today, I thought — how interesting."

In 2003, she predicted a rare earthquake in the Netherlands.

In Glen Rose, Allen said he hopes to talk with Brown. He had been quoted by The Associated Press saying that Texans are curious about the flying lights because "this is the Bible Belt, and everyone is afraid it's the end of times."

A pilot, Allen said he is a greeter at a Baptist church near Chalk Mountain.

"I knew it wasn't like anything we've ever seen before in these parts," he said. "It definitely gave you a Biblical flashback."

Most experts are crediting a more worldly source: military training or defense aircraft testing, maybe pilots testing the giant flares that fire off in a circle of flame around aircraft to divert missiles.

This isn't the first time folks around Stephenville have seen weird things fly.

In 1897, six years before the Wright Brothers' maiden flight, farmer C.L. McIlhany of Stephenville told The Dallas Morning News that he and more than 20 other leading citizens had seen an "aerial monster" 60 feet long land in his pasture.

The aircraft had a pilot and engineer from New York, McIlhany said, who claimed they were testing it for investors and landed to make repairs.

In yet another good prediction, McIlhany is quoted as saying: "What you reckon is going to happen when dynamiters get to riding in airships and dropping bombs down on folks and cities? Is this world ready for airships?"

Apparently, they're always ready in Stephenville.

U. scientists study connections between tectonics, human development

http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_7965316

By Brian Maffly
The Salt Lake Tribune

Article Last Updated: 01/15/2008 10:01:05 AM MST

U. team zooms in on tectonics, climate that led our ancestors to explore world on 2 feet

Anthropologists agree that early humans diverged from chimpanzees on the evolutionary tree 4 million to 7 million years ago when they left lush forests to roam Africa's arid savannas.

A new geologic theory devised by two University of Utah geologists supports this consensus by linking massive uplift in east Africa with local climate changes that helped jump-start early human evolution.

"Most of the uplift occurred between 7 million and 2 million years ago, just about when humans split off from African apes, started walking on two feet and evolved bigger brains," Royhan and Nahid Gani state in an article in the current edition of Geotimes, a magazine of the American Geological Institute (AGI).

"That landscape controlled climate on a local to regional scale. That climate change spurred human ancestors to evolve from apes," said Royhan Gani, a research scientist and professor of civil and environmental engineering with the U.'s Energy and Geoscience Institute.

Most discussion on the role of climate in human evolution has focused on climate change on a global scale, possibly related to shifts in Earth's orbit. However, the Ganis, a married couple, are building a more regional case to explain early human evolution, one that targets crustal movements that transformed east Africa at the very time human ancestors left wooded areas to explore their world on two feet - that is, became human.

"This is a very active field of inquiry. The role of tectonics is absolutely critical in understanding those changes in early humans," said AGI Executive Director Patrick Leahy. "Science is unraveling these questions, starting with the work of the Leakeys" - the British family that pioneered early human archaeology in Africa - "and bringing together climate science."

The Ganis' research analyzed the uplift that created the 3,700-mile-long "Wall of Africa," a network of valleys and plateaus stretching from Ethiopia to South Africa, including 19,340-foot Mount Kilimanjaro.

It not only changed the landscape, but also altered the climate by obstructing wet storm cycles spinning off the Indian Ocean. As the landscape became drier, lush forests gave way to an arid patchwork of grasslands and woodlands.

"Our early ancestors were mostly herbivorous, tree-dwelling animals," Royhan Gani said. "If they lose the trees, they have to go farther to find food. It's more efficient to walk on two feet rather than knuckle walking."

During their Edenic life in the jungle, hominins - the scientific term for humans and their ancestors - enjoyed food hanging in branches around them. Savanna life naturally selected for bigger brains because these pre-humans had to figure out where to find nourishment and had to discriminate among types of food. Hunting and gathering in arid grasslands also placed a premium on walking because an upright posture exposes less body surface to the dehydrating effects of the savannah's hot sun, Gani said.

The earliest human appeared in the fossil record about 2.5 million years ago, while our species, Homo sapiens, appeared 200,000 years ago.

East Africa's topographical diversity is crucial to understanding the importance of landscape in human evolution, the Ganis stress. If the Wall of Africa created a vast desert, the pre-human hominins would not have evolved into walkers because there would have been no place to walk to.

"You need patches of trees and water," Royhan Gani said. "The wall is not continuous highland. It has lowlands, grasslands, freshwater lakes, featuring a variety of microclimates."

The Ganis focused their study on the Ethiopian Plateau, a 300-by-300-mile highland at the headwaters of the Blue Nile, where they analyzed how the tributary to the world's longest river carved a spectacular landscape reminiscent of Utah's Colorado Plateau. This study helped them determine rates of uplift, according to their results published in September's edition of GSA Today, the journal of the Geological Society of America.

The most rapid uplift (about 3,200 feet) began about 6 million years ago, associated with large shield volcanoes that erupted great volumes of basalt, precisely when crucial human evolution began. But more study is required to conclusively credit East African uplift with the appearance of bipedal walking and greater intelligence among human ancestors.

"But it all happened within the right time period. Now we need to nail it down," Gani said.

* BRIAN MAFFLY can be contacted at bmaffly@sltrib.com or 801-257-8605.

Molecular evolution of limb length

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-01/cshl-meo010908.php Public release date: 14-Jan-2008

Contact: Heather Cosel
coselpie@cshl.edu
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

In the January 15th issue of G&D, a research team led by Dr. Richard Behringer at MD Anderson Cancer Center reports that they have successfully switched the mouse Prx1 gene regulatory element with the Prx1 gene regulatory region from a bat – and although these two species are separated by millions of years of evolution -- the resulting transgenic mice displayed abnormally long forelimbs.

While forelimb length is just one of several key morphological changes that occurred during the evolution of the bat wing, this unprecedented finding demonstrates that evolution can be driven by changes in the patterns of gene expression, rather than solely by changes in the genes, themselves.

Prx1 is a paired-box homeodomain transcription factor, with an established role in limb bone growth. Dr. Behringer and colleagues identified a conserved Prx1 enhancer domain, which regulates expression of Prx1 in the developing forelimb.

To study the evolutionary contribution of the Prx1 enhancer to the morphological differences between the bat and mouse forelimb, Dr. Behringer and colleagues replaced the endogenous mouse Prx1 enhancer with that of the bat. The transgenic mice showed higher expression levels of Prx1 in the perichondrium, increased chondrocyte proliferation, and ultimately, longer forelimbs.

Dr. Behringer describes the significance of his finding as such: "Darwin suggested that "successive slight modifications" would ultimately result in the evolution of diverse limb morphologies, like a hand, wing, or fin. The genetic change we engineered in mice may be one of those "slight modifications" to evolve a mammalian wing."

What the Alternative Medicine Debate Is Really About

January 14, 2008 01:44 PM ET | Comarow, Avery | Permanent Link

Last week, after my story on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) went up on our website, I did a bit of keyboard out-loud thinking—can I call it blogmusing?—on the topic. The volume of comments has been unusually heavy, with the expected bright line separating those who castigate me for publishing nonsense from those receptive to CAM. It has been a useful discussion, but I'd like to clarify a couple of points.

I did not state in the story or argue in my blog post that CAM can cure—that it can address the underlying cause of an illness and treat it effectively. I did not write that the explanations put forward by CAM proponents and practitioners for the supposed mechanisms powering their techniques are logical. And I did not say that CAM studies have been well designed and executed or have produced noteworthy findings.

I did report in the story, and repeat on this blog, that CAM often makes people feel better by relieving their symptoms. I suggested that this is not necessarily a bad thing, if a therapy does not cause harm or if the risk is rare, small, and clearly stated.

A physician I know who is prominent in the movement to improve hospital quality E-mailed me after reading my post. He's not a big fan of CAM as a cure. As he wrote: "[E]very now and then, we see somebody who barked up the alternative tree, only to let their real disease go untreated or undiagnosed until it was too late. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's very sad and very memorable."

And then he added this: "For many of the things that CAM has attacked—stress, pain syndromes, stuff like that—western medicine doesn't have much to offer, so if it works for people (whatever the reason), God bless it, and them."

New NAS Document Science and Creationism Misrepresents the Flagellum

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/01/new_nas_document_science_and_c.html

One could write many pages correcting the inaccurate information in the National Academy of Science's (NAS) new version of Science and Creationism. One of its most egregious errors is that it blatantly misrepresents the flagellum. It states, "For example, in the case of the bacterial flagellum, there is no single, uniform structure that is found in all flagellar bacteria." (pg. 40) While technically this statement may be true if one looks at the fine-grain of the amino-acid sequence of every single protein among flagellum-bearing bacteria, there most certainly are highly conserved flagellar parts. In this regard, this statement is extremely misleading and inaccurate. Consider the conclusions, directly to the contrary of the NAS, of Mark J. Pallen et al.'s 2005 article in Trends in Microbiology, "Bacterial flagellar diversity in the post-genomic era":

The E. coli/S. enterica paradigm emerges remarkably intact from our survey of flagellar diversity in the postgenomic era and appears to provide a perfect example of Darwin's epithet: 'prodigal in variation but niggard in innovation' [37]. We have been able to provide functional assignments to many conserved, but previously unrecognized, flagellar genes in diverse systems, emphasizing the continuity of flagellar structure and function. These observations will provide a firm foundation for future experimental studies, enabling conserved (and therefore presumably important) domains and residues to be identified. Surprisingly, we have determined the conservation of some regulatory components of the flagellar apparatus; for example, the FliA–FlgM system is common to flagellar systems spanning four bacterial phyla (proteobacteria, spirochaetes, firmicutes and thermotogales).
(Mark J. Pallen, Charles W. Penn, and Roy R. Chaudhuri, "Bacterial flagellar diversity in the post-genomic era," Trends in Microbiology, Volume 13, Issue 4, April 2005, Pages 143-149)

Indeed, in 2006 Pallen even wrote with Nick Matzke, "Despite this diversity, it is clear that all (bacterial) flagella share a conserved core set of proteins." Pallen and Matzke identify a core set of structural components "at the heart of the bacterial flagellum":

Three modular molecular devices are at the heart of the bacterial flagellum: the rotorstator that powers flagellar rotation, the chemotaxis apparatus that mediates changes in the direction of motion and the T3SS that mediates export of the axial components of the flagellum.

(Mark J. Pallen and Nicholas J. Matzke, "From The Origin of Species to the origin of bacterial flagella," Nature Reviews Microbiology, AOP, published online 5 September 2006.)

By claiming "there is no single, uniform structure that is found in all flagellar bacteria," it seems that the NAS is promoting misinformation about the actual flagellar structure.

Posted by Casey Luskin on January 14, 2008 3:48 PM | Permalink

TrackBack
TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.discovery.org/scripts/mt/mt-tb.cgi/3475

Lawyer says school proposal equates evolution, religion

http://www.sptimes.com/2008/01/15/State/Lawyer_says_school_pr.shtml

Florida could face a legal challenge, he says. By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer Published January 15, 2008

Can science be like a religion?

In the case of Florida's proposed new science standards, yes, says the lawyer who represented Terri Schiavo's parents and siblings.

Pinellas lawyer David C. Gibbs III wrote in a recent legal memo that by singling out Darwin's theory of evolution as the sole pillar of modern biology, the proposed standards leave no room for other philosophical perspectives and cross the line between science and faith.

Gibbs also argues the proposed standards could face a legal challenge for violating the constitutional separation of church and state.

"Making this gigantic jump moves the evolutionary hypothesis from the realm of science into a philosophical faith-based belief system," Gibbs writes in the five-page memo, which he sent to the state Board of Education last month. "It has fallen into the same trap of which science has accused religion. It posits its entire interpretive rationale on something which is unobservable and untested."

The science-as-religion claim isn't a new criticism of Darwin's theory, which the vast majority of scientists consider to be sound and backed by evidence. But could it become a new legal argument to put the issue back before the courts?

Becky Steele, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, called Gibbs' claim "cockamamy."

"He claims that teaching science, based on well-accepted theories backed by factual evidence, is somehow promoting a particular religion in public school," she said in an e-mail. "Imagine them arguing that the Establishment Clause would be violated by teaching a calculus class that only expresses the 'worldview' of mathematics without any sense of the divine."

Gibbs wrote his memo just as the debate over the proposed science standards began heating up last month. The current standards, adopted in 1996, do not mention the word "evolution," and many scientists and science teachers consider them inadequate.

The Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the proposed standards Feb. 19.

Gibbs was unavailable for comment, and his firm referred questions to another lawyer, Barbara Weller, and to a curriculum specialist, Francis C. Grubbs.

Weller works for Gibbs' law firm and the Christian Law Association of Seminole, which specializes in religious liberty issues and is run by Gibbs' father. Grubbs works as a consultant to both entities and helped Gibbs craft the recent memo.

Gibbs represented Schiavo's parents in their unsuccessful battle against a court order to remove their severely brain-damaged daughter's feeding tube. She died in a Pinellas Park hospice in 2005.

Weller and Grubbs said Friday that they're preparing a more detailed memo, which they expected to complete Monday and forward to the Board of Education. Neither returned a call Monday.

Asked if they foresaw filing a lawsuit, Weller said, "We're certainly not there yet. ... We're just pointing out there's a problem, and it could be a legal problem."

The ACLU has also raised the possibility of a lawsuit if the Board of Education adopts a science curriculum that "includes particular religious groups' beliefs about the origins of the universe."

Evolution has spawned a number of legal battles over the decades. And to date, its critics have come up short.

In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court in Edwards vs. Aguillard struck down a Louisiana law that required creationism - the belief that a god or gods created the Earth, the universe and life - be taught alongside evolution. Current Justice Antonin Scalia was one of two who dissented.

In 2005, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled in a highly publicized case, Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District, that intelligent design is a form of creationism. Proponents of intelligent design argue that some systems found in nature - such as the human eyeball - are too complex to have formed without the intervention of an unnamed designer.

Jones also ruled that the Dover, Pa., school district violated the Constitution when it required that intelligent design be taught as an alternative theory.

Many others besides Gibbs have referred to Darwin's theory as a leap of faith. Former St. Petersburg City Council member Bill Foster, for example, used the term "Religion of Darwin" in a letter he recently sent to the Pinellas County School Board, urging the board to expose students to alternative theories.

Grubbs insisted that the Gibbs memo was an attempt to free the draft standards from bias and not to put faith into the mix.

"We are not injecting creationism or intelligent design into this. That's not our objective," he said.

But he added, "Our objective, I suppose, leaves the door open for that."

Ron Matus can be reached at matus@sptimes.com or 727 893-8873.


Monday, January 14, 2008

No longer alternative, it's integrative

http://www.pjstar.com/stories/011308/TRI_BESQ7FG6.022.php

Methodist embraces bringing new medical approach to central Illinois

Sunday, January 13, 2008

By RYAN ORI OF THE JOURNAL STAR

PEORIA - Before nurse Laurie Fahrner worked for Dr. Jill Carnahan, she was a patient. Today, Fahrner can't think of a stronger advocate for Carnahan's efforts in bringing integrative medicine into the mainstream in central Illinois.

"When I went to her, I was so overwhelmed I cried," said Fahrner, who became an employee last August. "I hate to even talk about it because I get so emotional. That was a big turnaround for me."

Carnahan, who works out of Methodist Medical Group at Peartree, hopes to continue witnessing turnarounds as she introduces a new medical approach to the Peoria area.

Carnahan practices traditional family medicine out of the office in northwest Peoria. The building also houses the Integrative Medical Clinic at Pear-tree, overseen by Carnahan.

The biggest development is her plan to take that integrative practice to a stand-alone building, which Methodist confirms should happen sometime in 2008. That building will include a variety of health specialists under one roof.

In addition to her practice, Carnahan chairs the Methodist Medical Group Committee on Integrative Medicine and sets up monthly or bi-monthly integrative grand rounds.

The Methodist committee was formed as a way for the medical group to credential those offering chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, dietary advice and other treatments for which doctors give referrals.

Grand rounds offer monthly or bi-monthly lectures in which patient cases are discussed in an effort to collaborate on ways to treat specific illnesses. By invitation, those meetings involve a wide range of licensed health-care professionals.

The aim is to break down past barriers that often prevented family doctors and chiropractors, for example, from communicating.

"Years ago, they used to put chiropractors in jail," said Dr. Dan Joseph, who gets referrals from Carnahan at his practice, Joseph and Hishon Chiropractic and Acupuncture, and also has taken part in grand rounds.

"I have met a lot of different doctors and health-care providers I otherwise would not have come in contact with," Joseph said. "It seems like everybody is very excited about it. Dr. Carnahan said we're kind of behind the game as far as other cities like Chicago or St. Louis. She's trying to jump-start Peoria to catch on to what's going on throughout the country."

In some areas of the United States, integrative clinics include physicians under the same roof as chiropractors and specialists in areas such as diet, massage therapy and various types of counseling.

According to Dr. Michael Jongerius, Methodist's executive medical director, his medical group expects to open a similar facility sometime this year. Jongerius said the integrative clinic will be headed by Carnahan and will be in North Peoria, at a location he declined to specify.

"She's picking up patients who were driving to Chicago and St. Louis for these services, because they couldn't get them here," Jongerius said. "First and foremost, she's an excellent physician. That's where this starts. With that as a foundation, she's able to tap into an unmet need in the community and in the region."

The holistic approach

Carnahan and two other Methodist doctors - Tony Dawalibi and Debra Katchen - practice family medicine and are certified by the American Holistic Medical Association.

Holistic medicine seeks a balance of physical health with well-being in other areas such as spiritual and emotional. The holistic approach also stresses major lifestyle changes instead of merely treating symptoms.

The AHMA encourages collaboration between medical professionals, strong relationships between patient and doctor, and empowering patients to take charge of their health.

"It's a collaboration," Carnahan said. "What drives me is a partnership between the patient and practitioner in the healing process. That's key. The patient is involved to a high degree, because it involves starting to exercise or making major diet changes, investing time or money or energy into a new way of looking at their bodies and their health.

"It's very intensive for the patient, so they have to be at a place where they're ready to change."

Before treating a new integrative patient, Carnahan schedules an hourlong evaluation in which she discusses all aspects of that person's life. She also asks the patient to fill out an extensive questionnaire.

"That's been a big success, because I can spend a lot more time with each patient and really go from top to bottom: diet, lifestyle, nutrition, therapies, supplements, hormone imbalances," Carnahan said.

Evaluations also can include a discussion of that patient's faith, psychological state, personal relationships and causes of stress.

A 10-year vision

Carnahan first envisioned a future in integrative medicine before it even had a name.

She was attending medical school at Loyola in Chicago when it began to take hold, to the dismay of many in the medical community.

"I see this momentum tremendously building even here in Peoria," Carnahan said. "For me, this has been like a 10-year vision. I've known this is what I've wanted to do. I was at Loyola University (in medical school) when they developed their integrative medical program and system there. There was a lot of resistance, and that was in '98.

"It was kind of an underground movement. There was definitely resistance. Really, I think the resistance comes from people not understanding what it means. Alternative medicine was the old word, and I hate that word. Alternative medicine was the term before because that suggested conventional medicine is the right thing and everything else gets thrown into this basket of 'alternative.' By saying that, it was a negative descriptor."

One of the biggest battles faced in Peoria and elsewhere is eliminating suspicions with which physicians, chiropractors and others often view one another.

"Methodist has done a lot of things to reach out to chiropractors, trying to say, 'Hey, this is no longer you and us.' We're going to try to work together for the good of our patients," Carnahan said. "A lot of patients would see a chiropractor, but if they feel like their physician isn't open to that they won't mention it. Then you get bad care, because you're not in communication. The key is, for the sake of the patients, that we each have a mutual respect for what the other does."

Jongerius said plans for an integrative facility have come about in part because of the surprising rate at which the wall between traditional and non-traditional treatments seems to be falling.

"It's mainly been consumer-driven," Jongerius said. "People are voting with their feet."

Jongerius and Carnahan stress that Methodist's integrative approach is, first and foremost, grounded in "evidence-based medicine." Before incorporating any complementary treatment, such as nutritional therapy or biofeedback, the provider's medical credentials are evaluated by Methodist's committee.

Carnahan practices what she preaches.

She discovered the importance of diet, exercise and other factors when fighting a battle with breast cancer and later with Crohn's disease. Now she continues to spread the word.

"What's blown my mind is having patients coming from Springfield, Champaign, Joliet, even Iowa and Indiana," Carnahan said. "There's such a need for this, and there's really not anything like it in central Illinois.

"What excites me is seeing these people coming back in. They've lost 20 pounds and they're so happy, so happy with themselves that they feel better. That's so rewarding to see, rather than just adding a new medication to their regimen year after year after year."

Carnahan adamantly insists she isn't anti-pills or anti-surgery. But she hopes pre-emptive lifestyle changes can prevent more drastic measures in as many cases as possible.

A new life

Some patients visit Carnahan as a last resort.

Insurance policies vary widely. Hourlong consultations or visits to some specialists to whom Carnahan makes a referral are not always covered. Carnahan believes insurance companies' policies will evolve along with medicine.

"Insurance companies and the government and all the people who pay for health care are saying, 'OK, we're spending too much on health care. How can we change the system?' " Carnahan said.

"This is the perfect answer, because you take a person who in 10 years with no change would become a severe diabetic, maybe be in the hospital, expenses adding up for the patient and the insurance company - whereas, if you catch that patient 10 years before and make changes, you can reverse the course of their disease and have huge savings."

Fahrner had rarely held down a full-time job since 1973, the year she got married and also the year she was diagnosed with Crohn's.

Crohn's, an inflammatory bowel disease, caused Fahrner to take steroids for nearly three decades and also led to surgeries on her intestines. Prolonged steroid use led to bone loss. Malnourished and underweight, she was unable to exercise for many years.

"I didn't know where to turn," Fahrner said. "I really thought I was dying."

Upon visiting Carnahan in the spring of 2006, Fahrner began a diet in which many types of foods were eliminated and medical foods - specially formulated foods targeting a specific condition and prescribed by a physician - were added. With additional help, such as vitamin B-12 shots, Fahrner has the energy to work and to get regular exercise in the form of yoga, walking and swimming.

Fahrner, who had a large portion of her small intestine removed during one surgery, drew additional hope when Carnahan provided literature detailing ways other patients overcame side effects of "short gut."

"I thought, 'If there's anything I can ever do for this lady . . .' " Fahrner said. "I kept improving and then this job came open. It really was kind of a miraculous thing for me."

Ryan Ori can be reached at 686-3264 or rori@pjstar.com.

Huckabee Avoids Question on Creationism

http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2008/01/13/politics/fromtheroad/entry3706503.shtml

January 13, 2008, 6:16 PM Posted by Joy Lin| 4

GREER, S.C. – Mike Huckabee was asked today about his view on teaching creationism in schools but he dismissed the question saying, "We've answered that so many times, I don't even want to talk about it."

"Clearly a president would have leverage..." the reporter continued.

"No it wouldn't," retorted Huckabee.

"You think so?" the reporter asked.

"Let me explain how education works. You probably don't realize. Governors handle education. But governors don't even get into the curriculum of the schools. I was a governor ten and a half years. Ask the people of Arkansas how many times I wrote curriculum for the eighth grade textbooks. So why would I do it as president if I didn't do it as governor?" asked Huckabee.

Huckabee said he had been selected to be chairman of the Education Commission of States for two years and, as Chairman of National Governors, helped redesign the curriculum of high schools.

"It never came up, designing the curriculum for science text books," said Huckabee. "You guys are fascinated with that, but I have not met a single individual citizen in all of America yet in all the states I've traveled that said I'm really worried you're going to tinker with the science text books for the eighth graders."

The creationism issue has followed Huckabee since he raised his hand during a debate back in May when the candidates were asked if they don't believe in evolution.

He explained his affirmative response to MSNBC's Chris Matthews shortly afterwards saying, "If you want to believe that you and your family came from apes, I'll accept that....I believe there was a creative process."

"We shouldn't indoctrinate kids in school," he added. "I wouldn't want them teaching creationism as if it's the only thing that they should teach."

Creationism has no place in public school science classes

http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/2008/01/14/creationism-has-no-place-in-school-science-classes/

By David W. Shelton | January 14, 2008 |

A growing movement among evangelical and fundamentalist Christian groups is working to bring the teaching of Intelligent Design and Creationism into public schools. This is disturbing on so many levels.

Should matters of faith be taught in schools? Of course not. Proponents of Creationism and Intelligent Design have frequently claimed that "evolution" is little more than a belief as well. Some even assert that "evolution is a religion" because of that.

But what is evolution? Put simply, it is "change." Now, there's still plenty of discussion on how that change occurs since we learn more information every day. But the reality is that the world changes. Species change. The nature of the earth has changed.

My Christian faith has long been rooted in the grace of God and His love for all of us. However, I do not believe that there is a literal six-day creation period. While some people insist that the earth can not be more than 6,000 years old because "the Bible says so," I maintain that the Bible is not now, nor has ever been a science book.

For example, the snows of Antarctica have been piling on for countless thousands of years. Every year, the earth's CO2 emissions spike. The reason for that is that every winter in the northern hemisphere, the leaves drop, and the CO2 emissions increase. Since the vast majority of the earth's land is above the equator, it's a clear indicator of a yearly drop and spike of CO2.

So what does that have to do with anything? Simple. One of the best ways to measure long-term CO2 emissions is to drill into the ice at Antarctica. it's several miles deep. Scientists have drilled deep into the ice and pulled out several ice cores, which reveal a clear history of up to 750,000 years' worth of annual CO2 shifts. In fact, some of these cores have contributed heavily to the global warming discussion.

Creationist extremes

I'm not going to get into the whole global warming debate, but these ice cores reveal not only the quality of the earth's air, but also the fact that the earth is far older than the 6000 years that many creationists claim. One of the leading proponents of the young-earth doctrine is Ken Hamm, president and founder of Answers in Genesis. Hamm's organization not only assembles conferences across the world, but they've recently opened a new "Creation Museum" just outside Cincinnatti, just south of the Kentucky border.

Hamm and other young-earth proponents are also convinced that the entire earth was engulfed in a flood exactly as the Bible describes in the book of Genesis, hence the name of his organization. Of course, since the book of Genesis is 100% correct (as they claim), then the earth and universe was created in just six days. He writes:

I want to make it VERY clear that we don't want to be known primarily as 'young-Earth creationists.' AiG's main thrust is NOT 'young Earth' as such; our emphasis is on Biblical authority. Believing in a relatively 'young Earth' (i.e., only a few thousands of years old, which we accept) is a consequence of accepting the authority of the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient Creator.

This is the core root of the Creationist goals: To base our education system on the complete literalist interpretation of the Bible. This isn't about putting creationism into schools. The ultimate goal is to have our children be taught that the Bible is true whether we believe it or not. Hamm emphasizes the apparent need for Biblical authority:

Why would any Christian want to take man's fallible dating methods and use them to impose an idea on the infallible Word of God? Christians who accept billions of years are in essence saying that man's word is infallible, but God's Word is fallible!

Hamm also claims that for a person to be Christian, they must embrace the complete infallibility of the entire Bible, especially Genesis. Further, he and other young-earth creationists insist that the dinosaurs and humans once coexisted. Such claims are replete in the Creation Museum with several exhibits dedicated to this belief. Naturally, the museum has drawn over 200,000 people in its first six months. Apparently, bad science combined with religious hyperbole is a gold mine.

The splendor and greatness of our universe

To even accept the six-day creation requires one to stretch their imagination and to completely set aside basic laws of physics. According to Scripture, the sun was created after the earth, and the stars were created after the sun.

That's simply not possible, and what's more, it's not what we're seeing from the Hubble, Spitzer, and other space telescopes:

If the stars were created even within the six-day period, how could light (which has a constant speed) travel hundreds of thousands of light years in just a few days… or even seconds? The closest star is more than four light years away. Was the light from those stars created at the same time as the stars themselves?

Further, we're seeing evidence of brand-new solar systems which are in formation. We've seen the new stars and the dust rings that surround them. We've seen the young planets as they orbit amidst these rings. It's a glimpse into our own past and a picture of what might have been.

Thankfully, Hamm's group isn't the only organization out there in regards to Christian-centered science. Hugh Ross founded Reasons to Believe, and has written several books on the topic. Their website says:

Ross has been on the frontiers of making biblical and scientific the case against Darwinism for almost 2 decades. RTB believes that God has miraculously intervened throughout the history of the universe in various ways millions, possibly even billions, of times to create each and every new species of life on Earth.

Ross and RTB have been the brunt of heavy criticism from Hamm and other young-earth creationists, which only illustrates the sharp division among Christians just on this one topic alone. They've even posted a page to address some of these criticisms. And before someone starts talking about how "liberal" the folks at RTB might be, consider that the group is endorsed by several well-respected members of the evangelical community including Chuck Colson, Jack Hayford, and John Ankerberg. It's doubtful that any of these names would be considered "liberal" (as if that would be a bad thing).

Belief in the Bible or in the Creator of the universe?

I've often said that everyone SHOULD question their faith. Blind faith actually hinders a person's spiritual growth. Accepting something just because "the Bible says so" is as immature as it is irresponsible. Some assert that the Bible is clear in its message.

If that were really true, then there wouldn't be tens of thousands of different denominations and sects within Christianity, would there? The reality is that nearly all of those groups claim to adhere to Scripture properly, while "those other guys" don't. No, the Bible is NOT clear. It is as subjective as a person's taste for food.

This is the very reason why teaching Creationism is not appropriate within an earth science class. Perhaps it would be better placed in history or social studies. Religious beliefs are just that: beliefs.

Beliefs are a powerful thing; people are willing to die for them, and in some cases, even willing to kill for them. Beliefs drive splits, tear apart families, and fuel the fires of hate and war across the globe.

Even among those of us who are Christians, we allow each other to be divided by beliefs; when Christ has called us to be One body with Himself as the head. So long as we worship our beliefs and doctrines above the Lord Himself, then we are committing the gross sin of idolatry.

Those that insist that we believe 100% of Scripture, no matter how unlikely it might be, do so because they believe that to question even one verse is to question the entire Bible and its infallibility. After all, if the creation account isn't accurate, then how do we know its message of salvation is reliable?

This is an insult to Christians and theologians everywhere. If I require Scripture to back up my faith, then my faith is meaningless. The reality is that like most other Christians, my faith is in Christ. If that faith is challenged by a question of infalliblity, then it only shows how weak that faith really is. Christ called for us to build our faith on the Rock, who is Jesus himself. Okay, I wouldn't know that if I didn't read it in the Bible, which presents an interesting paradox. But in the end, A book does not define my faith, nor does a single verse within that book. It is defined by the Person of Jesus Christ.

The book can be burned, destroyed, or even invalidated, and my faith would remain. Even Scripture declares that in the end, only three things would remain: Faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love. Christ has called us to related to each other, to have hope in His message, and to have faith.

There are indeed many different doctrines that use the word "Creationism" or "Intelligent Design." None of them, however, are appropriate in the context of a science class.

So yes, I do believe. I believe in the majesty and splendor of our God. His stunning creation has been concealed for billions of years, and now we're just beginning to see just how magnificent it is.

What does Scripture have to say? Quite a lot, really:

Psalm 19:1: 1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Proverbs 25:2: 2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

God has concealed a great deal from us, especially in this vast universe of creation. With every step, every picture, and every journey that we take in this–the creation of our Lord—in all its splendor—we learn just how glorious He really is.

Common sense should prevail

These are matters of faith, though. It is not science. This is illustrated very well in a response from the RTB website to the 1999 Kansas Board of Education decision, which allowed creationism and evolution to be taught in schools. The response concluded with:

Christians cannot afford to allow history to repeat itself. The Fundamentalist retreat from the university and culture in the wake of the Scopes trial only resulted in Christian ideas being further marginalized. For this reason we find ourselves still embattled in the same culture war 75 years later. Moreover, we must go beyond "evolution-busting" and challenging the atheist's worldview assumptions - although these scholarly endeavors are important and must be accomplished. At the same time, we need a scientifically responsible model to stand in the old one's place. The challenge before us is to make a concerted and positive effort to put forth an origins model that can be rigorously and openly researched and tested. Only then will Christians have the opportunity to demonstrate that the God behind the Bible is also the God behind the facts of nature.

I believe Scripture not only declares the glory of God, but it also challenges us to explore the universe around us… His creation is magnificent, stunning even. Yet no matter how staggering a sight might be, we can know that the glory of the living God is far greater. We don't have to believe in a six-day creation period or even a young earth to know that God is indeed a master craftsman.

Let's just leave it out of the science classroom.

About David W. Shelton

Posts by David W. Shelton are copyright ?2006, 2007, by the author. All rights reserved. David W. Shelton is a writer, speaker and activist in Clarksville. He is currently pastor of Christian Community Church of Clarksville, and serves on the Clarksville Human Relations Commission. He is a graphic designer and owner of Onoma Graphics & Advertising.

Web Site: http://www.skippingtothepiccolo.com/

Email: dwshelton@charter.net