NTS LogoSkeptical News for 19 February 2008

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Clash over teaching evolution hits Orlando


State education officials have hearings before voting on science standards.

Leslie Postal | Sentinel Staff Writer
February 11, 2008 Evolution has been a cornerstone of biology for more than 100 years, but don't try to tell that to many of the thousands of people who posted comments on Florida's Department of Education Web site.

"The last time I went to the zoo, the monkeys weren't evolving into man," read one comment.

"Evolution is not proven and we should not brainwash our children with this concept," stated another.

The standards list evolution as one of 18 "big ideas" students must understand by the time they graduate. They call evolution the "fundamental concept underlying all of biology" and say it is "supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence."

But those academic phrases have ignited a theological controversy across the state.

Since the standards became public in October, more than 10,000 people logged on to the Florida Department of Education's Web site to denounce, and in some cases, praise the new blueprint for science education. An additional 450 sent letters. State education officials added more public hearings to their schedule, with the last taking place today in Orlando because so many people were clamoring to share their views.

Opposition in North Florida

The outrage has been the loudest in North Florida, where school boards blasted the standards, parents threatened to boycott state tests or pull their kids from public schools, and state lawmakers vowed to push for a new law requiring evolution to be taught as theory.

These opponents argue that evolution -- the idea that all living things evolved from a shared common ancestry -- is not a fact and conflicts with their religious faith.

"I have no problem with them hearing about evolution. I just don't want them to hear a one-sided fact," said LeVon Pettis, a Panhandle father who may look for private schools for his daughters if the standards are adopted as is. "If you're going to teach evolution, then also throw in creationism and intelligent design," said the pastor of Evangel Worship Center in Marianna.

The idea makes educators who helped devise the new standards cringe.

They argue that creationism, the biblical story of how God created living things, and intelligent design, an argument that an "intelligent cause" better explains living things than evolution by natural selection, are based on religion.

Those beliefs, educators say, are not scientific explanations and cannot share space in a curriculum with evolution.

Science education lagging

The educators who framed Florida's new science standards worry that the old argument over evolution is overshadowing a more important issue: the sorry state of science education in Florida's classrooms.

Updated standards, they say, would bring focus and depth to science instruction.

"I think it's a tremendous improvement over what we have now, and I hate to see it rejected on the basis of how evolution is treated," said Alice Winn, a biology professor atFlorida State University who helped write them. "That would be a complete travesty."

Many students who enroll in state universities are unprepared to tackle college science or math classes, Winn said.

Florida high-school students typically struggle on national science tests, and fewer than half are proficient on the science section of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

'Giant step'

The current teaching standards, adopted in 1996, avoided controversy by avoiding the word, though they require teaching the concepts of evolution put forth by Charles Darwin in 1859.

That timidity is part of the reason Florida earned an F in a 2005 national standards review.

"You have to really deal with it or you're not teaching it properly," said Lawrence Lerner, one of the national reviewers and a retired physics professor atCalifornia State University, Long Beach.

Lerner called the new standards a "giant step in the right direction" -- almost an A.

The Florida Department of Education calls its push for better math and science instruction "solutions for Florida's future," and the state revised its math standards without controversy last year.

But with science, the conflict is widespread and deeply felt. It can be seen on the state board, in dueling legal memos and in the public comments left on the Education Department's Web site.

State board member Donna Callaway told the Florida Baptist Witness in December that she planned to vote against the standards because evolution would be taught to the exclusion of other theories of origin of life.

Board member Roberto Martinez wrote in an e-mail to the Orlando Sentinel that he supports the new standards.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida sent the state board a memo praising the new standards and citing court cases that have made teaching "creationism and all its variants" illegal.

A Pinellas County law firm sent the board a memo warning that the new standards could become part of a "government sanctioned, anti-religious movement."

Argued since 'Monkey Trial'

Evolution has long been controversial in the classroom and in the courtroom. The 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial" inTennessee saw a biology teacher charged with a crime for teaching Darwin's theories. Eighty years later, a federal judge ruled against a Pennsylvania school board that mandated teaching intelligent design alongside evolution.

State Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, who represents nine Panhandle counties, said her part of the state is "very conservative" and that the revised standards clash with many residents' beliefs.

Coley has urged the state board to ensure evolution is taught as a theory, not a fact. She said she and other lawmakers will push to make such a requirement state law if the board approves the standards as is.

"I think it would be irresponsible to present it like that in our public schools," Coley said.

Florida Citizens for Science, which favors the changes, says 10 school boards in North Florida have passed resolutions opposing the new standards. The association keeps track on its Web site under a headline that reads, "Those not in favor of a good science education, raise your hand."

Touchy in Central Florida

In Central Florida, where many public schools have taught evolution for years, the outcry has been muted. But in a sign of how touchy the topic is, theSeminole County school district last week asked its teachers not to publicly discuss evolution -- then later said they were free to voice their personal opinions.

"I support evolution," said Diane Smith, aVolusia County School Board member. "It's what belongs in a science classroom."

Bonnie Mizell, the science coach at Howard Middle School in Orlando, agreed. She helped write the new standards and wants them approved as is. To her, the big news isn't evolution but the new focus on in-depth, hands-on lessons that will help students "really see the wonders and the possibility of science."

Susan Jacobson of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Leslie Postal can be reached at 407-420-5273 or lpostl@orlandosentinel.com.

Copyright © 2008, Orlando Sentinel

Evolution backers celebrate Darwin's birthday


Texas is preparing to review its science standards this year

By Patrick George


Monday, February 11, 2008

Although he says about 70 percent of his students are skeptical about evolution and the age of the Earth, Round Rock school district science teacher Peter Rispin says teaching evolution is essential to understanding science.

"It's not necessarily the only way to understand the biological world, but it's a fundamental explanation that's pretty central to any understanding of biology," Rispin said.

Shane McCain presented a cake decorated in honor of Darwin's voyage on the HMS Beagle that allowed him to study animals and fossils.

Rispin and several proponents of teaching evolution in public schools came together Sunday to celebrate the life and work of Charles Darwin.

As the state prepares to re-evaluate its standards for teaching science, about 60 people packed into a third-floor conference room at BookPeople on North Lamar Boulevard on Sunday for Darwin Day 2008, a birthday party for the 19th-century English naturalist responsible for publishing the ideas of evolution and natural selection. Darwin's birthday is Tuesday.

Sunday's event — complete with cake and soda, like any good birthday party — featured two University of Texas professors who spoke about evolution's role in medicine and virology and about the history of teaching the subject in U.S. schools.

Critics of Darwinism say evolution conflicts with biblical accounts of the creation story and that natural selection is too complex to occur without intelligent design — the idea that the complexity of life is the work of a higher being.

Texas is no stranger to the controversy over evolution. Don McLeroy, chairman of the State Board of Education and an outspoken creationist, has criticized Texas' science textbooks, saying they omit the weaknesses of evolution. Chris Comer, who had been head of science curriculum for the Texas Education Agency, said she was forced to resign in November after forwarding an e-mail message that her superiors felt was biased against intelligent design.

Darwin Day was organized by the Center for Inquiry Austin, an organization that promotes science and skepticism. Executive Director Jenni Acosta said her organization opposes the idea of teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in schools.

Evolution "is in the standards. It's our job to teach this to our students," said Douglas Ryan, science coordinator for the Manor school district. He said he deals with a few parents each year who are upset about evolution being taught and want creationism to be given equal time in the classroom. The Supreme Court has ruled that teachers cannot do that, Ryan said, as it violates the establishment-of-religion clause of the First Amendment.

When the state science curriculum is reviewed by the board of education, Ryan said, he fears that the board will attempt to "take as much evolution out of the curriculum as they can."

"I don't think they will succeed," Ryan said. "There is so much precedent against it. Every entity that has tried to do this before has been embarrassed."

pgeorge@statesman.com; 445-3851

Who was Charles Darwin?

An English naturalist born in 1809. At age 22, he set sail on the HMS Beagle, collecting fossils and making detailed observations of plants and animals on his journey.

His 1859 book 'On the Origin of the Species' is the pivotal work of evolutionary biology. Darwin theorized and provided scientific evidence that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors through the process of natural selection, where an organism's best traits become more common in its descendents while weaker traits are weeded out.

Finding room for evolution in the pulpit


08:10 AM CST on Sunday, February 10, 2008

As Texas debates creationism in the classroom, here's a different question: Should evolution be in the pulpit?

Absolutely, say hundreds of clergy who will observe Evolution Sunday today.

If there were more discussion of evolution in the pulpit, they believe, creationism would rightly recede from science classrooms.

"Evolution Sunday offers an opportunity to educate our congregations that science is a gift," said the Rev. Timothy McLemore, senior pastor at Kessler Park United Methodist Church in Oak Cliff.

"If we believe God is truth, we don't need to shrink from truth in whatever way it presents itself. We don't have to be threatened."

The State Board of Education is set to review and revise science curriculum standards in Texas. And Dr. McLemore said he is "deeply concerned" about attempts to inject religion-based "intelligent design" theories into science classes.

"It seems profoundly unhealthy," he said. "Do we really want the government deciding what religious beliefs and viewpoints are taught in school? It's our job to promote our understanding of faith, not the government's job."

Evolution is well settled among scientists but remains controversial in some religious circles, Dr. McLemore said, "because it strikes at the heart of how we interpret the Bible."

He said those who insist on a literal reading of the Bible's creation story are trying to make the Bible something it was never meant to be – a science text.

"I think the Bible gives us a great creation account, and I think it's profoundly true," he said. "I just don't think it was ever intended to be scientifically true or even historically true.

"The Bible is true when it teaches who God is and what God is like. The Bible is true when it describes the human condition. The Bible is true when it teaches us about human relationships."

Dr. McLemore, 52, knows well the literalistic approach to Bible study. He grew up in Beaumont in the "ultraconservative" Foursquare Church denomination. He graduated from the Foursquare Gospel Bible College, then located in Mount Vernon, Ohio.

There, he was thoroughly indoctrinated in literalism. But he said he was also taught "to seek truth and trust God in that search, even when it raised questions."

That search ultimately led him away from the intellectual contortions required by biblical literalism. He found a welcome for his searching in the Methodist Church and enrolled at SMU's Perkins School of Theology.

Because he's in the midst of a sermon series, Dr. McLemore said he will actually observe Evolution Sunday in a couple of weeks. And he said he will stress that even in his own congregation, there is a wide range of opinion.

"My purpose is not to defend evolution as much as it is to make the point that science and faith are not antithetical. People who take the Bible seriously can also take science seriously," he said.

Evolution Sunday is an outgrowth of The Clergy Letter Project. Dr. McLemore is among more than 11,000 clergy who have signed an open letter calling for evolution to be taught in schools as settled science.

The letter says in part:

"We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as 'one theory among others' is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children."

Must evolution push God from the picture? Far from it, Dr. McLemore said. For him, it only exalts God higher.

"As I understand the complexities and intricacies of what has been produced through human evolution, not only does it not make me want to run away from God, it strikes a chord of wonder and awe that I can only describe as worship," he said.

Call for a Science Debate between Presidential Candidates on April 18


Ronald Bailey | February 11, 2008, 11:12am

The good folks over at ScienceDebate 2008 have issued a letter of invitation to the remaining presidential candidates to participate in a science policy debate on April 18 at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, four days before the Pennsylvania primary. To wit:

Science and technology are responsible for half our nation's growth in GDP over the last half century, and have changed every aspect of our lives, our economy, our health, and our environment.

The next president of the United States will face unprecedented scientific and technological policy challenges and opportunities, three classes of which poll at the top of voter concerns: the economy and economic competitiveness; healthcare; and the environment. Candidates should have ideas about what kinds of policies will best address these issues, and should inform the voters of their views.

The debate may include such policy issues as: American economic competitiveness and support for scientific research; policy approaches to climate change; clean energy; the healthcare crisis; science education and technology in schools; scientific integrity; GM agriculture; transportation infrastructure; immigration; the genome; data privacy; intellectual property; pandemic diseases; the health of the oceans; water resources; stem cells; conservation and species loss; population; the space program, and others.

This is a policy debate. It is not intended to be a science quiz. Nor are we interested in state-level battles such as the evolution versus creationism/ID debate. Our goal is to find out how aware candidates are of America's major science and technology problems and opportunities, and how they propose to offer the kind of visionary leadership and policy solutions that will tackle those challenges and ensure America's place as the most scientifically and technologically advanced nation on earth. This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you are such a leader.

The ScienceDebate organizers say that the debate will be held even if only one candidate shows up.

This is a great idea.

Creation Museum surpassing highest expectations


February 11, 2008 By Michael Foust

The Creation Museum near Cincinnati opened its "Dinosaur Den" exhibit July 4, 2007. As the name suggests, the exhibit focuses solely on dinosaurs. Photo courtesy Answers in Genesis. BP photo

Eight months after it opened, the Creation Museum near Cincinnati still has its secular detractors, but its success in attendance is erasing any doubts it can succeed.

Officials with the museum say they surpassed the one-year attendance goal in only seven months, drawing 290,000 visitors through the end of 2007. When the museum opened on Memorial Day with protesters outside, Creation Museum officials said their 12-month goal in attendance was 250,000. They passed the 300,000 mark Jan. 9.

Located in Petersburg, Ky., the high-tech, $27 million, 60,000-square-foot museum and planetarium present a scientific view of the biblical creation account — in essence, a creationist answer to popular natural history museums. In fact, one of the goals of the museum — which is a product of the ministry Answers in Genesis — was to rival the artistic elements of natural history museums. The Creation Museum says the earth is thousands, not millions, of years old.

"It's something that has been desired for a long time," said Kurt Wise, who was a consultant for the museum and currently serves as professor of science and theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "A lot of Christians who are creationists want an alternative to the fabulous museums that we have — the Field Museum [in Chicago] and the Smithsonian and so on. They like taking their kids to those places, but they want to see the creation model presented, and that's especially true for homeschool groups. It's filled a void that probably never had been filled."

The museum has grown since it opened and continues to do so. A 4,500-square-foot, two-story "Dinosaur Den" opened in the museum last summer, several weeks after the grand opening. It features sculpted dinosaurs and dinosaur bones and shows where creationists believe dinosaurs fit in the Genesis account.

The museum's success has focused more attention on the ministry's website — AnswersInGenesis.org — which offers answers to frequently asked questions and is one of the most visited religious websites in the U.S., Looy said. The ministry recently launched an online peer-reviewed research journal (at AnswersInGenesis.org/arj).

The museum, Wise said, takes what he considers a new tactic in that it is less of an anti-evolution museum and more of a pro-creationism one.

"It changed an emphasis in creationism," he said. "Most young age creationism has been [seen as] attacking evolution and attacking the concept of millions of years, but this [museum] was explicitly a creation museum, so it's a presentation of the creation model and as much as possible a positive presentation."

The museum (online at CreationMuseum.org) does tackle some of the tougher objections to creationism, such as how the speed of light and the size of the universe fit in a young earth model. The museum — which during construction had the services of a former designer of Universal Studios theme parks rides — has roaring animatronic dinosaurs, more than 50 educational videos and a special effects theater complete with three screens, vibrating seats, simulated wind and mist. (BP)

Variety plays "catch-up" to the whole Ben Stein stink


Posted on Feb 18, 2008 8:05:42 AM

The showbiz bible got around to writing about Ben Stein's pandering to Bible-as-Science-Text screed, Expelled, which, of course, people have been venting about on this site since I saw it a few weeks back. The movie is creationism repackaged as a fight for "freedom," though freedom from what remains to be seen.

One fact that I hadn't heard came out in the Variety story. They spent $3.5 million on this movie? Perhaps they did buy the rights to Pink Floyd's "The Wall" and those movie clips, including snippets from The Wizard of Oz.

April 18, supposedly, it will reach theaters.

He's been attacked for not actually doing the interviews the film edits into "confrontations," comic or otherwise. Perhaps he'll do some press when the movie comes out and he can answer that sort of question.

And maybe, we'lget to ask what it was like, being one of a handful of Jews working for the rabid anti-Semite Tricky Dick. Or about being Jewish and cynically shilling creationism to the "There's a Sucker Born Every Minute" Chrisian conservatives. And will those same conservatives be a little more wary after their disengeuous, anti-Semitic and lucrative (for Mel) flirtation with Mel Gibson?

So many questions, so little time to evolve! Teach Evolution As Science http://www.theledger.com/article/20080218/NEWS/802180338/1036

Published: Monday, February 18, 2008

After months of controversy, at times centered in Polk County, but encompassing the whole state, the Florida Board of Education is scheduled to decide Tuesday whether the teaching of evolution will become a formal part of the Sunshine State Standards.

The solution for damping this dissonance is straightforward and would result in a compromise that allows both sides to win while forcing neither side to undercut its principles.

The Sunshine State Standards lay out what students should know and be able to do following education in the public school system.

Education officials have been traveling the state since November to hear public comment on proposed changes to the standards' science section. Indeed, they added two public hearings and delayed the Education Board's vote until Tuesday because of the uproar over one proposed science revision:

"Standard 2. Evolution and Diversity

"A. Evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence.

"B. Organisms are classified based on their evolutionary history.

"C. Natural selection is the primary mechanism leading to evolutionary change."

This three-sentence standard accurately reflects the state of science on the subject. While critics will point out certain scientists who object to the idea of evolution as science, they are a slim minority, often with religious concerns.

Evolution is so firmly embraced by the nation's scientific community that the National Academy of Sciences has produced three books in support of evolution. The most recent, "Science, Evolution and Creationism," was released Jan. 3. Aimed at nonscientists, it follows 1984 and 1999 books for scientists.

The academy was chartered by Congress in 1863 with a mandate to advise the federal government on science. It is the nation's preeminent scientific organization.

Teaching of evolution in science class takes place already. By writing the word evolution into the standard and making it more specific, the few teachers or school districts that have been sidestepping the subject will be on notice that it must be taught.

That certainty has inspired opponents to object heartily. They mostly represent Evangelical Christianity and Orthodox Judaism. They take the biblical description of Earth's creation literally.

They insist on the teaching in public school of creationism or the related idea of intelligent design.

Evolution is science. It belongs in science class.

On the question of teaching evolution in science class, the Board of Education should approve the new standard Tuesday.

However, as the National Academy of Sciences' new book says, "attempts to pit science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist.


While voting to uphold evolution as an appropriate subject for teaching in science class, the Education Board should advocate teaching about creationism and intelligent design in sociology class.

Further, when the category of standards pertaining to sociology come up for revision, the Education Board should ensure that these subjects of study are spelled out as specifically as those for evolution.

Sociology is the study of society, social institutions and social relationships - and how groups develop and interact.

The maturation process of students produces the ideal opportunity for undertaking such sociological studies. This would allow the students to learn how others have come to their conclusions and help them understand their own decisions as they form their beliefs.

Polk School Board member Kay Fields spoke in November against the evolution standard and for teaching of intelligent design. In short order, four of the seven Polk School Board members had taken a position against the evolution standard and a fifth, Lori Cunningham, was undecided. Just Frank O'Reilly and Brenda Reddout supported the evolution standard.

Creationism and intelligent design, as beliefs, are sociological. They belong in sociology class.

The world is full of competing ideas. Critical-thinking skills are developed by comparing and contrasting alternatives, and coming to an individual conclusion. If school officials apply logic, fairness and completeness to the practice of education, they - and the populace of Polk County and all of Florida - will support this two-pronged approach to the study of our world's beginnings.

Student enrichment will result.

State adds word 'evolution' to new science standards


By Akilah Johnson & Marc Freeman | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

12:06 PM EST, February 19, 2008

Digg Del.icio.us Facebook Fark Google Newsvine Reddit Yahoo Print Reprints Post comment Text size: BULLETIN: TALLAHASSEE -- Florida's State Board of Education has voted to use the term ``scientific theory of evolution'' in new science standards, the first time the word ``evolution'' has been included.

The passionate debate between advocates of science and those who believe the biblical account of creation will move to the state capital Tuesday, when education officials are to decide whether to put "evolution" in Florida's science standards or stick with "biological changes over time."

For months, parents, students and educators across Florida have argued about the standards, which the state Board of Education will adopt as written or tweak. Up to an hour of Tuesday's meeting is reserved for board members to hear from the public.

Five public hearings have been held throughout the state, including one last month at Everglades High School in Miramar, and more than 10,000 teachers and parents have critiqued the proposed changes online.

Many of the cyber-comments and much of the sentiment expressed at the hearings urged educators to teach not only Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, but also creationism or intelligent design. Creationism refers to a biblical view of the development of life; intelligent design holds that a divine creator is essentially responsible for the universe.

Laura Lopez, a mother of three from West Palm Beach who spoke at last month's hearing in Miramar, said last week that to her dismay, she expects the new standards to be adopted.

"Evolution is just another one of Satan's lies to get people to believe there is no god," the devout Christian said. Lopez is not worried about exposing her children to the theory of evolution, though, saying, "my kids know the truth; I just don't say it's not true, I show them proof."

Florida decided to revamp its science program after a national education group twice flunked the state's science standards — in part because they lack a direct reference to evolution.

Educators proposed a curriculum that wouldn't necessarily change what would be taught, but it would provide a more specific guide to what material would be taught and in what grade.

The state's science standards, used to guide teacher instruction, refer to changes in life and plant forms but avoid the word evolution. Under the draft standards, "diversity and evolution of living organisms" is the big idea all students will be taught.

It's "evolution" that has caused raucous community meetings and drawn the attention of civil liberties organizations and advocacy groups.

"Yielding to these pressures would be a real disservice to Florida because it would not only seriously impede the education of our children, but also create the image of a backward state," said a letter last week from educators who wrote the standards to the state Board of Education.

Ken Loukinen, president of Atheists of Broward County, agreed, saying he supports the proposed new standards not because he doesn't believe in God, but because they are based on science.

"Science basically asks the questions and seeks the answer, where intelligent design or religion has the answer and doesn't seek to question," Loukinen said. "It's completely the opposite of science."

Akilah Johnson can be reached at akjohnson@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4527.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Florida science lessons evolve


Vote this week may clear way for Darwinism in classroom news-press.com

By Dave Breitenstein
Originally posted on February 17, 2008

Charles Darwin wrote the "The Origin of Species" in 1859.

His theory of evolution was controversial then, and is controversial now.

Scientists say fossils and genetics prove species change over time. Religious leaders counter God created all life forms in their present state.

Their arguments have been heard time and again as the Florida Board of Education prepares to vote Tuesday on new science standards that, for the first time, will include evolution as a key subject public school children must know.

Evolution wasn't there already?

"They refer to biological change over time and some of the terms like natural selection and mutation, but the standards don't actually mention the word evolution," said Rick Tully, coordinator for science and environmental education in the Lee County School District. "Our responsibility is to teach the best science we know, and that includes the teaching of evolution."

Tully served on a state committee that developed the new science component of the Sunshine State Standards, which are a list of topics and skills every child should know and demonstrate at each grade level.

In 2005, the Fordham Institute gave Florida an F grade for its science standards, but raising the bar on paper is expected to lift Florida's position nationally

while better preparing graduates for college or the workforce.

Florida developed its academic standards in 1996, but teams have been revising each subject during the past year. In science, sections on physics, chemistry, earth science, biology and other areas are being updated.

The addition of evolution, and not creationism, has spawned a sizable chunk of the 20,993 comments state officials received about the proposed science standards. Several conservative northern Florida school boards have even voted not to support the revised standards because of that exclusion.

Science: Evolution

Evolution is a biological theory that living organizations slowly change and adapt over time to better fit their environment. Scientists point to fossils and genetic studies as evidence evolution exists.

Elizabeth Kominar, a biology teacher at Cape Coral High, has referred to evolution as "change over time" in her lessons because that's what the Sunshine State Standards scripted. Like many instructors, she is well-versed on creationism, but keeps that debate from the science classroom.

"I am a science teacher and I'm a Catholic, but you're going to have to get the other side from somewhere else," Kominar said.

Kristen Morris, 18, a senior at Cypress Lake High in Fort Myers, agrees creationism has no place in a science class. Morris, who is agnostic, said a preponderance of evidence proves evolution occurred.

"I haven't seen anything to doubt evolution," Morris said. "Nothing else seems viable."

Rena White, a sixth-grade teacher at Challenger Middle in Cape Coral, also served on the state committee that formulated the new science standards. Many religions prescribe God created the universe 6,000-6,500 years ago, but if students give that answer on White's test, they will be wrong.

"When it comes down to how old the earth is, the answer is 4.65 billion years," White said. "What are you going to teach? Will you teach every religion?

"We are teaching scientific evidence."

Religion: Creationism

Creationism is a biblical belief God created the universe and all forms of life during a six-day period. Most major religions support creationism, acknowledging evolution as just another unproven idea.

"It's a theory, not a fact," said Pastor Richard Powell of McGregor Baptist Church in Fort Myers. "Evolution is just a scientific theory."

Still, Powell doesn't object to schools teaching evolution, so long as teachers give equal time to creationism.

"I just wish we had a level playing field," Powell said. "Let's teach evolution as a theory. Let's teach creationism as a theory."

Kenny Caldwell, a 17-year-old senior at Bishop Verot High in Fort Myers, said although he's in a Catholic school, teachers don't neglect scientific theories on the grounds evolution was not mentioned in the Bible. He doesn't believe public schools should neglect creationism, either.

"They should be able to present both sides of two different theories," Caldwell said. "They cannot guarantee that either are fact."

Still, Caldwell said every person is entitled to his or her beliefs. Personally, he subscribes to a mixture of theories.

"You can't believe creationism as a 100 percent literal interpretation," he said. "You cannot deny that evolution has occurred over millions of years, but it had to start somewhere."

Only evolution

By placing evolution into the new standards, and leaving out religious theories, public school teachers still are not permitted to present creationism. That omission was by design.

"Discussion of religion ought to be kept in the privacy of a student's home or within their religious affiliation, and not in their public schooling," Tully said. "If questions arise, and they inevitably will, teachers will respond to the best of their knowledge scientifically."

The evolution vs. creationism debate is as much about proof of the origin of species as the proper forum to discuss each theory. Evolution, not creationism, is included because the state standards are designed for science, not religion.

"To present something that isn't science in a science class is dishonest, unfair to students," said Josh Rosenau, public information project director for the National Center for Science Evolution in Oakland, Calif. "Creationism is not science."

Tully hopes creationism backers acknowledge scientific evidence has the ability to prove or disprove theories, much like an ancient belief now virtually wiped off the map.

"They let loose of the concept that Earth was the center of the universe," Tully said. "We're at that stage now with evolution."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Great Seal Secrets Revealed!


By MATTHEW LEE – 7 hours ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — Conspiracy theorists take note: The myths surrounding one of America's oldest and most enduring national symbols are about to be debunked ... if you believe the government, that is.

The keepers of the Great Seal of the United States, the familiar emblem on the back of the $1 bill, want you to know what it is not. It is not a sign that Freemasons run the country, it has nothing to do with the occult, and it does not contain clues to a fabulous hidden treasure.

It is rather the nation's stamp of authority, sovereignty and power, gracing our cash and embossing the most important of documents from its home at the State Department, which has held it since the days of Thomas Jefferson, the first secretary of state.

Not that the Seal's symbols — the all-seeing eye, the unfinished pyramid, the Latin phrases, the bald eagle clutching an olive branch and arrows and the number 13 — aren't powerful.

They are, historians say. Yet their meanings have been misidentified, misunderstood and misrepresented almost since the Continental Congress first commissioned the Seal in 1776.

It would be another six years before the original design was approved and another 128 before it evolved into its current form. Along the way, a movement to decipher the Seal's meaning with ancient Egyptian, mystical and otherwise otherworldly explanations has gained currency.

The Internet age has seen an explosion in such conspiracy theories, many which have now been ingrained in public consciousness through the popular "National Treasure" movie franchise that serves up a combination of Masonic lore and historical myths in blockbuster Hollywood fashion.

Among them:

_That the Seal proves the domination of the United States by a powerful, quasi-religious cult. The Ancient Scottish Rite of Freemasonry is a perennial favorite of conspiracy theorists as some Founding Fathers were Masons and the Seal uses several Masonic symbols.

_That the Seal draws on Satanism or polytheistic ritual to promote a universal new world order under which Earth would be ruled by a single omnipotent government.

_That repeated references to 13 — the number of steps in the unfinished pyramid, stars in the constellation over the eagle's head, arrows in the eagle's claw, stripes on the eagle's shield, letters in the phrase "Annuit Coeptis" — demonstrate the power of 13 American families.

_That there are two seals: one in which the eagle's head faces the arrows for times of war and another in which the eagle's head faces the olive branch for times of peace.

All rubbish, according to historians, who say the Seal's symbolism is far less ominous or revelatory than many believe.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Seal's 66th and current custodian, on Tuesday inaugurated a new exhibition to commemorate its 225th birthday and trace the history and evolution of the symbolism.

"This exhibit honoring the Great Seal affirms our continued belief in the values of our founding," she said. "The Great Seal symbolizes the unity, strength and independence of a new nation, the United States of America."

The Seal will remain at the State Department but the interactive exhibit is designed to travel and curators hope it will dispel the rumors and educate Americans about the real meaning of the symbols.

Among the highlights:

_That known Masons like the first U.S. president, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin had no role in designing the final seal, which uses elements of traditional heraldry, such as the unfinished pyramid to symbolize a work in progress, arrows for war and an olive branch for peace. Masons share some of those symbols, but they have never been exclusively the domain of the order.

_That the phrase "Novus Ordo Seculorum" below the Roman numerals for 1776 at the base of the pyramid translates as "A New Order of the Ages" that began with independence and does not imply the United States will be the lynchpin of a sinister "New World Order."

_That the words "Annuit Coeptis" ("Providence favors") and the eye of providence that hovers over the pyramid refer to unexpected interventions of fate that assisted the colonists in creating a new country.

_That the references to 13 refer to the number of colonies that formed the original United States.

"People are just not aware of the complexity and intent of the symbolism and what our Founding Fathers were trying to do with it," said Priscilla Linn, senior curator at the U.S. Diplomacy Center. "The hidden treasure in the Seal is the courage and presence of mind of the people who created it and created these values for the whole country."

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Neurosurgeon targets mind-body connection



FORT WAYNE, Ind. - Neurosurgeon Dr. Rudy Kachmann understands how the brain works, how billions of nerve cells send signals to the body, coordinating movement, sensation and speech. He has removed tumors from the brain, probed deeply into structures where electrical misfiring occurs and uncovered hidden anomalies that can burst and cause sudden death.

But Kachmann, 71, of Fort Wayne, Ind., says the longer he engages in the art and science of medicine the more he recognizes the connection between emotions and disease.

''Being a surgeon for 40 years has taught me that 70 to 75 percent of what people see a physician for is stress-related,'' he said.

Helping people understand the connection between mind and body has become his passion, and he recently opened the Kachmann Mind Body Institute at Lutheran Hospital. It is the first facility devoted to complementary medicine housed within a hospital in Fort Wayne; Lutheran Hospital does not operate the institute but rents the space to Kachmann, who is its medical director.

''I teach mind-body medicine. I tell patients I'm their coach,'' Kachmann said.

Spending time with patients and getting to know them as people and what's going on in their lives opens the door to conversation on the mind-body connection.

The institute offers a variety of yoga programs, including yoga for breast-cancer patients; art therapy; meditation; healing-touch therapies; reflexology; and fitness and movement programs. A holistic pain medicine clinic is also in the works and will include acupuncture, biofeedback and hypnotherapy.

''(Dr. Kachmann) does a wonderful job in explaining how we can make ourselves sick and how we can make ourselves better,'' said Patti Hays, associate administrator at Lutheran, whose employees can take classes at a steep discount. For the general public, Kachmann said some insurance companies might cover certain therapies, but most would have to be doctor-prescribed.

He knows many doctors do not buy into complementary medicine, and emphasizes he does not forgo conventional treatment. Complementary medicine, as defined by the National Institutes of Health, even precludes it.

''It's about integrating the two,'' Kachmann explained, sharing a couple of examples. A patient with ovarian cancer that had spread to her brain was in need of pain relief. Kachmann showed her how to do acupressure. He spoke soothingly and quietly, listening to her anxieties.

''Within five minutes, she could tell a difference,'' Kachmann said. Another patient had a large brain tumor. ''I sat on the edge of the bed, talked to him, asked him to visualize the pain.'' Kachmann had the man picture in his mind the chemotherapy dripping into his veins as a Pacman figure eating the cancer. Other imagery helped the man visualize radiation at work.

''The mind affects cancer,'' said Kachmann, who believes about 20 percent of cases can be attributed to stress.

Kachmann welcomes patients and their families to pray, too. ''I totally believe in prayer and healing.

''I am an unyielding believer in biomedicine's ability to overcome most of the challenges presented by a life-threatening injury or pathological process. But I also believe the abdication of treating the whole person, medicine's detachment from the mind, is a false, outdated dichotomy that scientific discoveries, contemporary needs and economic realities no longer support,'' Kachmann writes in his recently published book, ''Welcome to Your MindBody: Mind Your Body, Mend Your Health.''

Although complementary medicine has been slow to take hold in the Midwest compared to the East and West coasts, more hospital systems are looking to add it.

Dr. Bret Kueber at DeKalb Memorial Hospital in Auburn, Ind., completed a physician-based acupuncture program at the University of California-Los Angeles and is integrating it into his practice.

''Acupuncture can be beneficial in a number of scenarios,'' he said. ''For example, if a patient is seen for a sprained ankle, in addition to prescribing rest, ice and elevation, I'll also offer acupuncture to help start the healing process and ease the pain.'' Kueber has not yet been allowed by the hospital to use acupuncture with inpatients. None of the Fort Wayne hospitals is allowing it either.

''That will change,'' said Kachmann, who envisions acupuncture and other complementary medicine used in and out of the hospital. ''We will get there.''

The use of complementary medicine is growing across the United States. The federal government's National Institutes of Health now has a division called the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

According to the NIH, complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine. Alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. The most recent national data on complementary medicine dates to 2004, when 36 percent of adults reported using some form of either complementary OR alternative medicine, collectively called CAM. Including megavitamin therapy and prayer used specifically for health reasons, 62 percent said they were using CAM, most likely for back, neck, head and joint aches or other painful conditions.

A 2006 study commissioned by AARP of people 50 and older found two-thirds of respondents had used one or more CAM therapies such as massage, herbal products, acupuncture and meditation.

Professors discuss intelligent design vs. evolution


By Jessica Bruni, Times Staff

Published: Saturday, February 9, 2008 11:53 PM EST

How did we become who we are today? Was it God who sparked the beginning of mankind, or was it a slow, incremental process from one-celled amoeba to high-powered executive, or both?

On Thursday, Michael J. Behe, a proponent of intelligent design, was in Beaver County to speak at Geneva College as part of the school's Colloquia Series. Behe, who has a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania, spoke on "The Argument for Intelligent Design in Biology" and "How Deeply into Life Does Purposeful Design Extend? — A Scientific Estimate."

Times reporter Jessica Bruni took the opportunity to speak to Behe about intelligent design and also spoke with William Dress, a biology professor at Robert Morris University who has a doctorate in ecology, evolution and organismal biology from Ohio State, about evolution.

Here's what they had to say:


Michael J. Behe is a published biochemist who gave the intelligent design movement its first major mainstream proponent. The author of "Darwin's Black Box," Behe testified in 2005 in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (Pennsylvania), where parents of that district challenged the intended use of intelligent design in public school science classes.

Behe has a degree in chemistry from Drexel University in Philadelphia and a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a biochemistry professor at Lehigh University.


The Times: Define "intelligent design."

Behe: Intelligent design is just the idea that there are some things in nature that are better explained by deliberate intelligent design rather than simple laws and accidents.

A good example is Mount Rushmore. Anyone looking at it would be able to tell you intelligent design was involved in the construction of the faces of the presidents, whereas with other mountains, there is no reason to think intelligent design was used in their formation.

The Times: Define "evolution."

Behe: Evolution has several definitions. One is that the animals of today are different from the ones of the past. Also, that animals of today were descended from animals in the past. Another is the Charles Darwin theory, where he speculated how evolution could happen and decided that it was random changes and natural selection. All are different hypotheses, and all need different evidence to support them.

The Times: What similarities do you see between the two?

Behe: They are both interested in how changes could occur in animals, and they both argue that small changes in organisms can happen by accident. If they (the changes) help the organisms, they will increase in population.

The Times: Explain the existence of the universe

Behe: Most scientists, until about 90 years ago, thought the universe was eternal, and so they didn't need an explanation for its existence. Most Christian religious believers thought the universe began in time.

In the early 20th century, scientists discovered, through scientific experiments, that indeed it looks like the universe has a beginning, and many people point to the Big Bang Theory as friendly to Christian ideas of the creation of the universe.

The Times: Explain the existence of man

Behe: Of the many, many stars and galaxies that science knows of, none seems to have intelligent life except for one planet in our solar system, Earth. The beginning of life continues to be a vexatious scientific problem. The origin of humankind and culture is also a huge scientific problem. There are reasons to think that the explanation for those events lies outside, or partially outside, of science.

The Times: What scientific proof can be offered to support or refute intelligent design?

Behe: I'm a biochemist. Biochemists study the molecular basics of life. I think the strongest evidence for intelligent design lies in biochemistry.

Charles Darwin and other scientists of his day thought that the cell was a little piece of jelly; protoplasm is what they called it. But now we know, through the efforts of science, that the cell is an ultra-sophisticated nanotech-driven factory filled to the brim with complex and elegant molecular machinery. The sophistication of such foundation of life is the strongest evidence for intelligent design.

The Times: What are the most important challenges to the theory of evolution?

Behe: The most important challenge to the Darwin theory of evolution is the complexity of life. In Darwin's day, scientists thought that all foundations of life would be simple. That has turned out to be the opposite of what we see. Even in its tiniest component, life is complicated and functional, like a computer chip, and Darwin's theory does not easily explain that.

The Times: How should the teaching of intelligent design and evolution be handled in America's public schools?

Behe: I think that a lot of the acrimony that surrounds teaching evolution would be avoided if evolution was simply taught less dogmatically. If Darwin's theory was taught in both its strengths and its weakness, and if ideas put forward by other biologists were also included, then students would realize what professional biologists know — and that is that we are very far from knowing how life came about on the Earth.

The Times: At what age or grade level should students be introduced to these topics?

Behe: I think whenever they start to learn about biology topics, they can learn about how plants and animals arose. So, if it's in the sixth grade that students learn biology, they could also learn that there are different ideas on how life arose and changed on the Earth.

The Times: How would you respond to the following quote?

"The most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being." — Isaac Newton, in "Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica" (mathematical principles of natural philosophy).

Behe: Newton didn't realize that the solar system could be set up using the same math principles that he himself discovered. What he didn't know is that our solar system seems uniquely situated for the existence of intelligent life."

The Times: How would you respond to the following quote?

Intelligent design is "essentially a religious proposition. I understand it to be a reformulation of an old theological argument for the existence of God." — John F. Haught, a Georgetown University theology professor testifying in 2005 at a trial over whether the theory of intelligent design belongs in a public school science curriculum as an alternative to evolution.

Behe: All scientific theories that try to explain where the universe or life comes from will have philosophical and theological implications. The Big Bang Theory has such implications. The Darwin theory has philosophical and theological implications. There's no reason why intelligent design should not have such implications. If science can bring evidence that seems to point against there being a God, then science can bring forth evidence that there is a God."


William Dress is an assistant professor of science who teaches biology and environmental biology at Robert Morris University. He has a doctorate in ecology, evolution and organismal biology from Ohio State.


The Times: Define "intelligent design."

Dress: What I know of intelligent design is that it is a nonscientific idea regarding complex biological systems.

The Times: Define "evolution."

Dress: I would define it as a scientific theory involving the changes in species and organisms over time.

The Times: What similarities do you see between the two?

Dress: Well, not that many. They both seek to explain biological diversity, but really in evolution, it's in a scientific way, and I think that in intelligent design, it's in a non-scientific way.

The Times: Explain the existence of the universe.

Dress: In actuality, evolution doesn't really have much to do with the existence of the universe, that's more in the realm of astrophysics. Evolution really deals with changes in living systems.

What I'll say about it is that is there are physical theories like the Big Bang Theory that explain the universe and its structure and its functions.

The Times: Explain the existence of man

Dress: The evolutionary theory, the part that deals with the evolution of man, essentially involves the changing and evolving nature of humans as they have changed over time and finds the origins of the human species over the last 3 to 5 million years as it diverged from primates.

The Times: What scientific proofs can be offered to support or refute intelligent design?

Dress: In intelligent design, one of the main concepts that I'm most familiar with is there are complex biological structures that could not have been the product of evolution. But, in fact, there are lots of evolutionary pathways and ideas that can explain these complex biological structures, such as the blood-clotting mechanisms.

The Times: What are the most important challenges to the theory of evolution?

Dress: Science is always growing and building new information, and there are certainly areas in evolutionary theory and evolutionary biology where some of the specific patterns and processes of how organisms have changed in the past and how organisms continue to change now are still debated. There's a lot more detail and a lot more things we're learning about evolution in the specifics of it.

The Times: How should the teaching of intelligent design and evolution be handled in America's public schools?

Dress: I think evolution is a very important, probably the most important, theory in biology. As such, it should be included in all biology classes.

Intelligent design is not a scientific idea. It really violates what we consider science in that its conclusions are not based on independent efforts. Their ultimate conclusions can't be tested, so they are not scientific ideas.

The Times: At what age or grade level should students be introduced to these topics?

Dress: I think evolution should be introduced at all levels. Even at elementary levels, students can be introduced to the diversity of life.

I don't think intelligent design should be taught in schools. It's not a scientific concept. The problem is it really undermines how people understand what science is and how science works.

The Times: How would you respond to the following quote?

"The most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being." — Isaac Newton, in "Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica" (mathematical principles of natural philosophy).

Dress: I think that in this quote, Isaac Newton was probably talking about his beliefs. I think one of the big problems with this debate is that people see it as two sides — that you understand and accept concepts of evolution, or you believe in God and creation and the two cannot be intermingled. I see this quote as saying you can do both.

Evolution deals with science, and it has nothing to do with faith or what you believe. I think that quote from Isaac Newton, who is one of the pre-eminent scientists in all of history, illustrates that. He was a great scientist, but he clearly also has his beliefs

The Times: How would you respond to the following quote?

Intelligent design is "essentially a religious proposition. I understand it to be a reformulation of an old theological argument for the existence of God." — John F. Haught, a Georgetown University theology professor testifying in 2005 at a trial over whether the theory of intelligent design belongs in a public school science curriculum as an alternative to evolution.

Dress: I think I would agree with that statement. In the end, in intelligent design, it seems that there is a leap of faith in that you're accepting something that doesn't have any evidence or data to support it, and that's OK. But that does take it from the realm of science and into the realm of religion.

Interview with Jay Richards


by Carl Kelm and John Komkov

Executive Editor and Staff Writer

The Stanford Review recently sat down with Dr. Jay Wesley Richards, the pro-God advocate in our recent debate, "Atheism vs. Theism and the Scientific Evidence of Intelligent Design."

The Stanford Review: You're a member of both the Acton Institute and the Discovery Institute, correct?

Dr. Jay Wesley Richards: I'm a fellow. I was on staff full-time at the Discovery Institute from 1998-2005. I continue as a fellow there. My full-time employer is the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids where I am both a fellow and one of the directors.

TSR: What exactly are the missions of these organizations?

JWR: The Discovery Institute is basically a nonpartisan public policy think-tank that does a number of things, actually. When I was there, I was working for the Center for Science and Culture both as a fellow and one of the directors that oversaw the research on the question of intelligent design, so we funded conferences and research by philosophers and scientists who were interested in the question of intelligent design.

Acton Institute is another educational think-tank—again, a nonpartisan policy organization. The focus is on the intersection of theology and economics—so, the sort of twin strands of the Judeo-Christian moral tradition and free-market economics. It was started eighteen years ago essentially to teach current and future religious leaders how to think clearly about economics.

TSR: In 2006, you wrote The Privileged Planet with astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez. What case did that book make?

JWR: The case that the book "The Privileged Planet" made is that if you look at all the things you need to build a habitable planet—that is to say, the right kind of atmosphere, the right size planet, around the right kind of stars, all those things—it turns out that when you get a planet that's hospitable to life, you also get the best overall set of conditions for doing science. So in other words, life will find itself in the universe in those places where it can best discover the universe around it. And that pattern, that overlap of those things—life and discovery—suggests not just merely that that the universe was designed but that is was designed for the purpose of doing science, being able to read the book of nature.

TSR: How was "The Priviliged Planet" received?

JWR: We have actually been surprised by how it's been received, at least in respectable journals. Scientists from the SETI Institute reviewed it in Nature Magazine. SETI you would expect to be hostile to our position because the implication of our argument is that life is probably fairly rare in the galaxy. Nevertheless, it was a perfectly reasonable review, a respectful review. We've had reviews in several astronomy journals—some favorably, some critically—but in almost every case, respectable. I wouldn't say that, for instance, about the blogosphere, but they tended to be non-intellectual arguments. And we actually made it easy on our critics and actually said how to falsify our argument at the end of the book, we said here's how you falsify it, and I'm pleased to report that since it was published, we haven't had the argument falsified.

TSR: Was that the kind of reaction you expected?

JWR: We really didn't know because we had very positive endorsements on the back of the book: you've got Owen Gingerich from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Simon Conway Morris from Cambridge, very serious endorsements of the book on the cover. So we were really open-minded about what was going to happen. We did expect and, unfortunately received, a great deal of vitriolic attack from people who are really hostile to the idea of purpose and design. Guillermo, in particular, has suffered the consequences more than me. I'm in the think tank world, so I'm, in a sense, safe academically. Guillermo, on the other hand, despite a stellar publishing record, scientific record as a junior scientist, is in a wicked tenure battle at Iowa State University precisely because of the book published by us. I actually joked about it beforehand, I said, "Maybe we should have written this book after you got tenure," but he said, "Well, we thought of it when we thought of it. Let's see what happens."

TSR: You've written several books, correct? Four, I think?

JWR: Yeah, let's see, on different subjects—I call myself a shameless generalist. I did a book on apologetics with Bill Dembski. I did a book with George Gilder on artificial intelligence. I've done a work of philosophical theology, called "The Untamed God," which was very technical, academic philosophy. And "The Privileged Planet." And then I just finished the manuscript for a book called "The Christian Case for Capitalism." So, the pattern there is that I like to write about a lot of different things.

TSR: Of the books you have written, which one was the most rewarding?

JWR: In some ways, intellectually, "The Untamed God" I feel is my greatest intellectual achievement simply because it was the most difficult. I had to master modal logic, I had to study philosophy, some really hard stuff. And, frankly, sometimes I think I barely got out alive. "The Priviliged Planet" has sort of a luminous quality because over time, Guillermo and I figured out and developed a unique argument. It was of course a type of design argument, which is a perrenial argument in the West, but it was design with a twist: not only was the universe designed, but it was designed for discovery. So, in some ways I felt priviliged to be at the right time and place to really have been able to put together this constellation of evidence—a lot of which was just ten or fifteen years old—into a new design argument. Part of this was just being in the right time and the right place.

TSR: You were Executive Producer of the documentary, "The Call of the Entrepreneur," correct? How did you get involved with that project and, as a theologian, do you have any special insight into the nature of entrepreneurship?

JWR: Absolutely. The Call of the Entrepreneur is directly related to the mission of the Acton Institute, which is in part to explain the moral prerequisites and the inherent virtues of the free-market economic system against what I would think are mostly benighted attacks on its morality. Especially with religious folks, there's an assumption that capitalism and the free market are fundamentally based on greed. And even champions of capitalism like Ayn Rand have said this. But if you look at what entrepreneurs actually do, they pursue risks, they pursue visions. They try to meet the needs and the desires of customers better than their competition. They have to be thinking about others. They put their own wealth at risk, so they're not greedy misers. Yeah, they hope for some kind of profit in the end, but they first have to be willing to take that risk. Those are virtues. And a healthy economic system—a vibrant, capitalist economic system—is going to be one that rewards this kind of entrepreneurial activity. And so the documentary was really a theological and moral defense of entrepreneurs centered around the stories of three very different entrepreneurs. So that's how I ended up in it.

I actually got interested in documentaries when I was at the Discovery Institute through our work on "Unlocking the Mystery of Life" and then the documentary "The Privileged Planet," based on Guillermo's and my book. I was convinced that documentaries are a very important and accessibly way of reaching a large audience. I came to the Acton Institute in part to start a media division that does things like documentaries to translate academic work into the visual medium. And "The Call of the Entrepreneur" is just about to start its broadcast schedule and we just completed the second film, called "The Birth of Freedom," which is essentially a description and an explanation of where we get the idea of human equality, individual rights, limited government—all those things we prize in the West—we argue is actually an inheritance of the Judeo-Christian moral tradition and not Greece or Rome or the Enlightenment.

TSR: Given your intellectual views, do you ever feel belittled or dismissed by your colleagues?

JWR: I guess it depends on who your colleagues are. I certainly have friends. Anyone, especially in intellectual battles, is going to have to have people that think more or less like they do. But the truth of the matter is, especially on this topic, if you're talking about the existence of God on a university campus, though I think belief in god is still very much a majority belief—most people give intellectual assent to the existence of God—it's usually a controversial thing to talk about, especially on major university campuses. And then when you talk about scientific evidence that might bear on the question of the existence of God, it's sort of a perfect storm of controversy.

TSR: Did you see a difference between, for example, you'rer time at Acton versus Princeton Theological Seminary?

JWR: Well, I've certainly had to deal with a lot of the same intellectual issues. In fact, I met Bill Dembski when I was at Princeton and we started a journal called the Princeton Theological Review;, we did apologetics seminars for students. We were threatened with lawsuits twice by faculty for doing things like that. In some ways I guess I forged the willingness to have serious intellectual debate when I was at Princeton, but it's a lot of the same kind of constellation of issues. Behind all this is my conviction that the question we're talking about today is about the most important question you can discuss. And it's much better to be able to argue intellectually about these things then go to blows or simply to try to ignore it or suppress it. So I think it's healthy to be able to have debates like this.

TSR: How would you describe the state of intellectual freedom today?

JWR: I don't think it's especially good. I think we give intellectual assent to it. But I think for instance this documentary, "Expelled," coming out with Ben Stein, is going to show that there is a profound suppression of free speech and the free flow of ideas around certain kinds of questions. So you challenge almost anything. You can challenge the existence of fundamental moral truths that almost everyone knows perfectly well are true; you can challenge any particular moral convention. But if you try to defend something that seems to be a traditional belief, whether it's the idea that there's evidence of purpose in the universe or the idea that there's a God and that there's actually evidence for a God, you can get in serious trouble. It's fine if people want to have some kind of private religious opinion, but the idea that there might be public evidence for the existence of God—and it points in that direction—is something that seems to offend a lot of people, because suddenly it comes out of that privatized location that people are comfortable with and into the public realm.

TSR: In terms of the work the design community is doing, have you seen an impact yet or do you think in the coming years that design is going to be more socially accepted within the scientific world? What do you see for the near-term future?

JWR: I think questions about design continue to be very controversial in biology, especially when you're dealing with Darwin's theory. And part of that is just in the United States, we have this history, the kind of Scopes Monkey Trial stereotype. It's like a complex: we have a very difficult time keeping separate issues separate. You can almost have polite conversation if you're in cosmology or physics. Owen Gingerich, the Harvard astronomer, wrote a book recently in which he advocated design as the rational explanation of origin of the universe and the fine-tuning of the laws of physics, something I'm going to talk about this afternoon. You can almost have a polite conversation about that, but if you want to talk about design, say in biology, that seems to be a little too close to home and frankly I think it's one of the simply forbidden subjects in most academic jurisdictions at the moment.

©2008 Stanford Review

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Alternative Medicine?: A History -- New Book


Posted on 02-05-2008 09:54:00 by Leonid Gavrilov

Original post on Longevity Science

Disclaimer: Posts written for blogs other than the Methuselah Foundation Blog are written by independent authors whose opinions may not be held by the Methuselah Foundation.


Here is a new book for discussion:

Alternative Medicine?: A History
by Roberta Bivins (Hardcover - Jan 1, 2008)

Book Description provided by the Oxford University Press:

Walk into the local health food shop or pick up today's paper and the chances are that you'll see adverts for acupuncture and herbal medicine, hypnotists and homeopaths. Some doctors and scientists mourn the lost lustre of mainstream medicine and complain about a new breed of 'irrational' consumer. But what exactly is 'alternative' medicine? Is the astonishing popularity of alternative and multicultural medicine really such a recent development? And, given the success story of modern biomedical science, why are alternative and traditional treatments now so fashionable? Has the impersonal chill of high-tech medicine driven consumers into the arms of charismatic quacks? Or is it the cost of western medicine that makes its competitors look so attractive? Do patients seek hope, holism, or just the thrill of rebellion?

This book seeks answers to all these questions and more. Comparing the medical systems of China, India, and the west - both mainstream and alternative - Roberta Bivins shows how medical expertise has migrated from one culture to another. From acupuncture in Regency England to homeopathy in the 'Wild West', Bivins unearths the roots of today's distinctions between alternative, complementary, and orthodox medicine, and shows how popular interest in medical alternatives - often of exotic origin - is a phenomenon with a long and fascinating pedigree.

Texas Academy of Sciences adds its voice for evolution


In a recent statement, the Texas Academy of Sciences expressed its support for teaching evolution -- which it described as "the primary unifying cognitive framework in the biological sciences" -- and its opposition to including creationism (including "intelligent design") in the state's scientific curricula. The Academy's statement emphasized in particular the economic importance of science education, noting, "Modern industry requires a scientifically educated workforce. In order for Texas to remain economically competitive, it is essential that all Texans, but especially our youth[,] obtain a solid foundation in the sciences."

References in the document to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and to personnel decisions at the Texas Education Agency suggest that the Academy was prompted to issue its statement by recent controversies involving evolution education in Texas, specifically the Institute for Creation Research's attempt to obtain certification in Texas for its graduate program in science education and the forced resignation of Chris Comer. Founded in 1892 and now boasting over 1000 members, the Texas Academy of Sciences seeks to promote scientific research among the colleges and universities of the State of Texas, to promote undergraduate research, and to enhance the professional development of its members.

February 8, 2008

Creationists resort to deception in attacking evolution


Saturday, February 09, 2001908 Volume 19, Issue 6

By Marshall Helmberger

As editor of the Timberjay's editorial pages, there are few things that have been more frustrating over the years than determining how to handle this perennial debate over evolution, prompted for the most part by a single, local proponent of creationism.

While I inherently believe in the free exchange of ideas, the purpose of the editorial pages is to discuss ideas and viewpoints that can affect the world in which we live. To a large degree, the debate over evolution doesn't meet that criteria— because what we all choose to believe on the subject has no bearing whatsoever on what is real.

It's like arguing about the color of the sky. In the end, there's nothing that can be done about it anyway.

Personally I don't care if someone wants to believe that the world is 6,000 years old and that humans walked with dinosaurs.

Where I draw the line is when such individuals try to force their unscientific and insupportable beliefs into the science curriculum of our public schools. While many of us followed the recent ruling in the Dover, Pennsylvania, case, where the school board was successfully sued for forcing science teachers to teach creationism's newest incarnation, dubbed "intelligent design," we should take little solace from the fact that sound science prevailed.

While the courts have correctly ruled that the teaching of religion as science is unconstitutional in this country, the fact is that advocates of creationism have significantly undermined the teaching of evolution in American classrooms nonetheless. Few American young people graduate from high school or university with anything more than a rudimentary understanding of the basics of evolution and the literally mountainous and ever-growing base of scientific evidence to support it.

School boards across this country, fearful of backlash from creationists, have largely kept evolution out of science courses. Evolution is the basis of modern biology, ecology, genetics, paleontology, and many other areas of study, but it is almost completely avoided in many science classrooms to this day. Even the writers of science textbooks in the U.S. frequently give it a pass, for fear their books won't be purchased by nervous school officials.

What's most sad, is that this campaign against evolution has been waged largely through deception and distortion. Indeed, the purveyors of creationism were criticized for their "disingenuous" tactics by Judge John Jones III, who ruled in the Dover, Pennsylvania, case. Jones, by the way, was a religious conservative, appointed by President Bush on the recommendation of fundamentalist former Senator Rick Santorum.

Creationist advocates clearly had a sympathetic judge in the Dover case. They had their day in court, but their arguments were so patently flawed that the judge's 139-page finding of fact was ultimately scathing. He even recommended some of the pro-creationism school board members be investigated for perjury.

I've seen plenty of this kind of truth-twisting closer to home. Just as they advocate in other parts of the country, local creationists routinely attempt to falsely equate evolution with atheism, in hopes that the devout will choose religion over science. It's a false choice, of course, since there is absolutely no contradiction between religious beliefs and an acceptance of evolution.

In addition, creationists falsely claim that Darwin's theory suggests life began on Earth on its own. Darwin, in fact, suggested that life was created in simpler form by a Creator, but that evolution has led to the remarkable diversity we see today. That's a view that's held today by many scientists, and many non-scientists, who are also individuals of faith.

I could go on and on. The list of false arguments, missed points, and outright frauds perpetrated by creationists to attack evolution is long.

And while I am usually more than happy to facilitate free debate, I'm not interested in false debate, either on these pages or online.

That doesn't mean that evolution must be avoided in the newspaper. But just because someone wants to criticize a candidate for promoting creationism, or evolution for that matter, or the adaptations of an organism are discussed in a nature column, doesn't mean that readers should be subjected to weeks of creationist sophistry plowing the same exhausted ground time and again.

They can hijack another newspaper for that.

Creationism versus evolution; Battle similar to U.S. flares up in Europe


Posted 13 hours ago

After the Sunday service in Westminster Chapel, where worshippers were exhorted to wage "the culture war" in the Second World World War spirit of Sir Winston Churchill, cabbie James McLean delivered his verdict on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

"Evolution is a lie, and it's being taught in schools as fact, and it's leading our kids in the wrong direction," said McLean, chatting outside the chapel. "But now people like Ken Ham are tearing evolution to pieces."

Ham is the founder of Answers in Genesis, a Kentucky-based organization that is part of an ambitious effort to bring creationist theory to Britain and the rest of Europe.

McLean is one of a growing number of evangelicals embracing that message - that the true history of Earth is told in the Bible, not Darwin's The Origin of Species.

Europeans have long viewed the conflict between evolutionists and creationists as primarily an American phenomenon, but it has recently jumped the Atlantic Ocean with skirmishes in Italy, Germany, Poland and, notably, Britain, where Darwin was born and where he published his 1859 classic.

Darwin's defenders are fighting back. In October, the 47-nation Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog, condemned all attempts to bring creationism into Europe's schools.

Bible-based theories and "religious dogma" threaten to undercut sound educational practices, it charged.

Schools are increasingly a focal point in this battle for hearts and minds. A British branch of Answers in Genesis, which shares a website with its American counterpart, has managed to introduce its creationist point of view into science classes at a number of state-supported schools in Britain, said Monty White, the group's chief executive.

"We do go into the schools about 10 to 20 times a year and we do get the students to question what they're being taught about evolution," said White, who founded the British branch seven years ago.

Ancient Crayfish Fossils Unravel Evolution Mystery


Scott Norris for National Geographic News

February 8, 2008

New fossils of ancient crayfish and their branching burrows provide the oldest evidence of crayfish in the Southern Hemisphere, experts say.

The discovery in Australia of a 106-million-year-old crayfish fossil—and even older "trace fossils" of the animal's streamside burrows—help fill in a puzzling gap in the history of the small crustaceans.

The finding supports a theory that the evolution of crayfish has been strongly shaped by the drift of Earth's continents, researchers say.

Crayfish are the freshwater cousins of marine lobsters. Hundreds of known species are divided into two distinct groups, one in the Northern Hemisphere and the other in the Southern Hemisphere.

"It's been a mystery how and when they split into these groups," said Anthony Martin of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, who led the fossil discovery team.

Contributing to the mystery was an absence of any very old crayfish fossils from the Southern Hemisphere.

Fossils have shown that crayfish were present in the Northern Hemisphere at least 150 million years ago. But for over a century biologists have been puzzled by the lack of any comparably old fossils from the southern continents.

"There was a 60- to 70-million-year gap in the fossil record," Martin said. "Now we're a lot closer to the origin point of the Southern Hemisphere crayfish."

The study by Martin's team is set to appear in a forthcoming edition of the journal Gondwana Research.

Evolution and Continental Drift

Scientists have long debated whether today's northern and southern crayfish all descend from a common ancestor that was already adapted to fresh water, or if the two groups evolved the freshwater adaptation independently of one another.

A shared freshwater ancestor would require that crayfish first evolved very early, when all of Earth's continents were united in a single landmass called Pangaea.

This theory has been supported by genetic studies that suggest the two crayfish groups diverged around the same time that Pangaea split into northern and southern "supercontinents" about 185 million years ago.

Ancestors of today's crayfish would then have ridden the slowly drifting landmasses north and south, eventually branching into numerous species as the continents continued to divide.

However, to show conclusively that the ancestors of northern and southern crayfish once lived on a united Pangaea, even older fossils will be needed.

Carrie Schweitzer is a geologist at Kent State University in Ohio.

She said the alternative explanation—that freshwater crayfish evolved independently in the northern and southern continents—cannot yet be discarded.

For drifting supercontinents to explain the origin of the different families, she said, "crayfish would have had to have invaded freshwater [habitats] really early and become widespread by the time Pangaea started to split. So far, we really don't have evidence of that."

Early in Australia

The new fossils also provide clues about the origin of the numerous crayfish species found in Australia today.

The fossil dates are consistent with results of recent genetic studies, which suggest that many new crayfish species began to appear in what is now Australia about 134 million years ago.

At that time the continents of Australia, South America, and Antarctica were just starting to break off from the southern supercontinent of Gondwana.

(See related photo: "'Polar Predator' Dino Tracks Found" [October 23, 2007].)

Just as the breakup of Pangaea may have forever divided the two main crayfish lineages, Martin believes, the later splitting of Gondwana may have resulted in a surge in crayfish diversity.

The early crayfish apparently thrived in a near-polar environment in southeastern Australia, and must have been adapted to cold water temperatures and freezing winters just like some modern crayfish species.

"These crayfish were burrowing much like modern ones in the same area today, showing that their behaviors haven't changed that much in more than 100 million years," Martin said.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Intelligent design costs prof his job


Regents reject tenure request without evidence, testimony

Posted: February 07, 2008 4:15 pm Eastern

© 2008 WorldNetDaily

Iowa State University regents, who earlier ruled against accepting evidence or hearing testimony from a professor in a dispute over the school's denial of his tenure, now have turned down his appeal.

The case involves Guillermo Gonzalez, an honored assistant professor of astronomy who has been actively working on theories of intelligent design, an effort that ultimately cost him his job, supporters say. Tenure is roughly the equivalent of a lifetime appointment.

The school has continued to deny the handling of Gonzalez' case was related to his support of ID, even though the Des Moines Register documented e-mails that confirmed Gonzalez' colleagues wanted him flushed out of the system for that reason.

"I think Gonzalez should know that some of the faculty in his department are not going to count his ID work as a plus for tenure," said one note, from astronomy teacher Bruce Harmon, before the department voted against tenure for Gonzalez. "Quite the opposite."

The newspaper reported what was revealed in e-mails was "contrary" to what ISU officials said when they rejected Gonzalez' request for tenure.

And Eli Rosenberg, chairman of the ISU astronomy department, also confirmed to World Magazine Gonzalez's book, "The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery," played a role in his being rejected.

Now the regents, at a meeting Thursday, voted against his appeal in the case.

"The board of regents would not allow into the record extensive e-mail documentation showing Dr. Gonzalez was denied tenure not due to his academic record, but because he supports intelligent design," said Casey Luskin, program officer in public policy and legal affairs for the Discovery Institute, where Gonzalez is a senior fellow.

"Then the board refused Dr. Gonzalez the right to be heard through oral arguments. Does it come as any surprise that now they denied his appeal?" Luskin asked.

"We are extremely disappointed that the board of regents refused to give Dr. Gonzalez a fair hearing in his appeal," said Chuck Hurley, the professor's lawyer. "They say in Iowa that academic freedom is supposed to be the 'foundation of the university.' That foundation is cracked."

"They've denied his due process rights throughout this entire appeal," said Luskin. "This kangaroo court decided its verdict long before today's deliberations even began."

Hurley said the most "disheartening" part of the appeal was that regents refused Gonzalez the opportunity present his case to the board.

"The board of regents had an opportunity to give justice to an outstanding scientist who is a leader in his field," continued Luskin. "Instead, they caved in to political pressure and threw academic freedom to the wind."

According to the Intelligent Design website, the theory confirms that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not a random, undirected force such as natural selection, which is part of the foundational faith of evolutionists.

Luskin told WND the 7-1 vote against Gonzalez showed there only a single member of the board who was willing to buck the political pressure from the university to "rubber-stamp" the rejection of Gonzalez.

A website highlighting an academic freedom petition in support from the freedom of thought needed by faculty, teachers and students also has been created.

The Discovery Institute said it also had reviewed the e-mail record regarding Gonzalez' teaching, and found "an orchestrated campaign conducted against Dr. Gonzalez by his colleagues, with the intent to deny him tenure because of views he holds on the intelligent design of the universe."

As WND reported earlier, Gonzales was one of three members of the ISU faculty denied promotion or tenure of the 66 considered at the time.

The rejection followed earlier opposition to his work because of his acknowledgment of intelligent design. In 2005, three ISU faculty members drafted a statement and petition against intelligent design in the science curriculum that collected 120 signatures.

"We … urge all faculty members to uphold the integrity of our university of 'science and technology,' convey to students and the general public the importance of methodological naturalism in science, and reject efforts to portray intelligent design as science," the statement said.

Officials with Evolution News, which has reported extensively on the case, earlier said two of the professors linked to the statement were in the astronomy and physics department: Prof. Steven Kawaler, who has linked to the statement on his website, and University Professor Lee Anne Willson, who is married to ISU math professor Stephen J. Wilson, who signed it.

Evolution News also debunked Rosenberg's claim that there was something deficient about Gonzalez's research record.

"You take a look at somebody's research record over the six-year probationary period and you get a sense whether this is a strong case. Clearly, this was a case that looked like it might be in trouble," Rosenberg had said.

"Really?" questioned Evolution News in its commentary. "Was Gonzalez somehow derelict in publishing 350 percent more peer-reviewed publications than his own department's stated standard for research excellence? Or in co-authoring a college astronomy textbook with Cambridge University Press? Or in having his research recognized by Science, Nature, Scientific American and other top science publications?"

In 2004 Gonzalez department nominated him for an "Early Achievement in Research" honor, his supporters noted.

According to Robert J. Marks, distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering at Baylor, he checked a citation index of journal papers, and found one of Gonzalez' research papers had 153 citations listed; another had 139.

"I have sat on oodles of tenure committees at both a large private university and a state research university, chaired the university tenure committee, and have seen more tenure cases than the Pope has Cardinals," he said. "This is a LOT of citations for an assistant professor up for tenure."

Gonzalez' appeal to ISU President Greg Geoffroy also was unsuccessful.

Protect the Rights of Teachers and Students to Question Darwinism


Should scientists who believe the universe is the product of intelligent design be fired? Should science teachers who tell students about evidence that challenges Darwin's theory of evolution be reprimanded? Should students who want to explore both the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian evolution be discouraged from doing so? If you answered no to these questions, click here and sign the Academic Freedom Petition.

If you answered yes, then keep reading and hopefully you will change your mind.

Just this morning astronomer Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez had his appeal for tenure at Iowa State University denied by the university's board of regents. He was denied tenure for committing a thought crime. He thought intelligent design was something a scientist could research without fear of losing his job.

America is supposed to believe in free speech, but on the issues of evolution and intelligent design right now, there is precious little freedom of discussion. This is the key reason we started Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture more than ten years ago. And it is the central point of the new film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

And protecting academic freedom and free speech is why Discovery Institute is helping to sponsor the Academic Freedom Petition at www.academicfreedompetition.com.

Academic Freedom is under attack in America. Right now, state science standards are being twisted by Darwinian activists to dogmatically rule that only the evidence supporting Darwinism can be presented in science classes across the country, and teachers are being pressured to not teach students that there is scientific evidence that challenges Darwin's theory. Scientists in state universities are losing their jobs for dissenting from Darwinism or researching intelligent design.

A new website, AcademicFreedomPetition.com, has been launched to support the rights of teachers and students to learn all about evolution, and to protect the freedom of scientists to research alternative scientific theories such as intelligent design. Supporters of academic freedom can go to www.academicfreedompetition.com to sign the Academic Freedom Petition and stand up for science.

Read the rest here.

Posted by Robert Crowther on February 7, 2008 2:22 PM | Permalink

Regents reject ISU professor's appeal for tenure



The Iowa Board of Regents on Thursday rejected an appeal from an Iowa State University professor who said he was denied tenure over the way he thinks the origins of the universe should be taught.

Guillermo Gonzalez, an assistant professor in physics and astronomy, advocates the study of intelligent design, which theorizes that the complexity of life suggests the existence of a higher being. Many scientists and educators have attacked intelligent design as a scheme to bring religion into the classroom.

ISU faculty leaders in 2006 denied Gonzalez's bid for tenure, which essentially guarantees a lifetime job. ISU's president, Gregory Geoffroy, upheld the decision.

Gonzalez said Thursday he is unsure about his next step, which could include legal action.

"I'm going to consult with my friends and lawyers what my options are, and I'll decide with my wife what the best course of action will be," he said.

Gonzalez said he has looked for similar jobs at other schools.

The regents' vote was 7 to 1. Craig Lang of Brooklyn voted in Gonzalez's favor.

"Dr. Gonzalez is so sure that he has done the things necessary for tenure," Lang said. "Let's just reconsider."

The regents conducted a brief closed meeting before they announced their decision, which ISU spokesman John McCarroll said "indicates this was the proper process."

Gonzalez "was unsuccessful at every stage of the process," McCarroll said.

Gonzalez's attorney, Chuck Hurley, said he will support the professor if he wants to continue the fight.

"I will assist him to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary, and we have generous donors willing to do that," said Hurley, who is president of the Iowa Family Policy Center.

Gonzalez's supporters include the Discovery Institute, which supports discussion of intelligent design in the classroom.

The institute was at the center of a 2005 lawsuit in Dover, Pa., in which a judge said the intelligent design movement aims to replace traditional science in the classroom.

Hurley criticized the regents Thursday because they declined to consider e-mails from faculty members who supported Gonzalez's tenure bid. He said the e-mails show that those who participated in the tenure vote were prejudiced against Gonzalez and intelligent design.

"You can't do justice when you exclude the most important evidence," Hurley said.

Andy Baumert, the interim executive director of the regents, said the e-mails were excluded because they were not considered in Gonzalez's previous appeals.

Reporter Lisa Rossi can be reached at (515) 232-2383 or lrossi@dmreg.com

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Darwin and Hitler: a not-very-intelligent link


Originally published February 6, 2008
Michael Ruse

The state of Florida is revising its science standards for teaching in high schools, and this means that, as always in America, we are right in the middle of a battle about the teaching of evolution.

The anti-evolution evangelicals and their modern-day supporters, the so-called intelligent design theorists, have not been having a very good time recently. A couple of years ago, in the city of Dover, Pa., a George W. Bush-appointed federal judge said some very rude things about intelligent design, as he threw out its supporters' case that it is cutting-edge science rather than fundamentalist religion. But this has not stopped anyone from coming back with new arguments and objections.

The latest creationist tack is to claim that teaching evolution sets the nation's school children on the road to national socialism. Supposedly there is a virtual straight line from Charles Darwin, author of "The Origin of Species" (1859), to Adolf Hitler, author of "Mein Kampf" (1925). In the fair city of St. Petersburg, for instance, a former city councilor who is rumored to have designs on the mayoral seat is campaigning against evolution in the schools, claiming that the vile doctrine is the first step to a reincarnation of the Third Reich, and that already we see the moral rot in America. The killers at Columbine, for instance, were fanatical Darwinians.

As is often the case, there is some fire to make the smoke. Before the First World War, a sometime member of the German military high staff, General Friedrich von Bernhardi, wrote a book arguing that war was a Darwinian necessity, a real obligation facing Germany in its struggle with Britain. Hitler did write: "He who wants to live must fight, and he who does not want to fight in this world where eternal struggle is the law of life has no right to exist." A Columbine killer did leave a note about natural selection eliminating the world's weak.

But, before you draw the tight links that the creationists would have us draw, think about the following three facts:

First, the message of Jesus has been used to draw contradictory inferences — because of their faith, some Christians (starting with George Bush and Tony Blair) think the move into Iraq was morally justified, whereas others (Quakers, for a start) oppose the war bitterly because of their reading of the Christian Gospels. Likewise, Darwinism has been used to draw contradictory inferences. Bernhardi was in favor of war in Darwin's name. Herbert Spencer in the cause of evolution thought militarism was atavistic, and bad for trade. Prince Peter Kropotkin believed in a principle of mutual aid and was an anarchist. The American biologist and peace activist Vernon Kellogg hated war and thought in bad morally and bad biologically. A case could be made for saying that, by teaching Darwinism, we are teaching the virtues of free trade and small government, and encouraging our best young people to marry and have families!

Second, it is always dicey to specify exactly the influences on Hitler and to claim that this cause and no other was uniquely responsible for his vile philosophy and actions. To put it euphemistically, Hitler was not (for all he thought otherwise) a deeply educated or properly read man. He picked up bits and pieces of folk philosophy from all over — in the doss houses of Vienna before the war, in the trenches from his mates, and from pamphlets and like organs after the defeat. He did not engage in a detailed study of Darwin and his works and influences. Hitler certainly owed as much to the general anti-Semitism of the Austria in which he was raised, together with an (one is inclined to say) almost pathetic enthusiasm for the German Volkish movement and the daft but dangerous views that that embraced. It would be too crude to say that Wagner rather than Darwin was responsible for Hitler, but a stronger case could be made. Hitler certainly spent more time listening to heldentenors than to learned disquisitions on the links between embryology and paleontology — a favorite hobby horse of German evolutionists.

Third, whatever the initial approval, the Nazi ideologists quickly realized how completely antithetical the whole evolution idea was to their own ideology. Not only are we first cousins to the monkeys but, even worse, the Aryans are brothers and sisters with the Jews, the Slavs, the gypsies, and the rest of the world's riffraff and degenerates. The greatest German evolutionist of the 19th century was Ernst Haeckel — a man whose solution to the Jewish problem was to interbreed with them so they would no longer exist as a definite group. There was not much celebration of this man and his ideas in the upper levels of the Nazi hierarchy.

So, as always, be careful not to be seduced by the ideas and claims of the anti-evolutionists. They are not scientists and, to be perfectly honest, they are not very good historians either.

Michael Ruse is the Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University. Contact him at mruse@mailer.fsu.edu.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Final draft of new science standards keeps evolution theory


posted by ErikaHobbs on Feb 4, 2008 11:55:00 AM

The state Department of Education has published the final draft of the new science standards, and despite a public uproar, the theory of evolution remains part of the curriculum. You have one last chance to voice your opinion in Orlando. Florida's Board of Education is set to vote on the standards Feb. 19.

If you're not familiar with the debate, you can fill yourself in quickly with our past blogs and stories.

In a nutshell, the DOE revamped standards after a report heavily criticized them as lacking. The revamped version added evolution in the blueprint of what should be taught in schools.

Not everyone likes that -- including state Board of Education member Donna Callaway, who has indicated she will vote against the new standards.

A last public hearing will be held at 10 a.m., Feb. 11, at the Orlando Hyatt at the Orlando International Airport.

If you want to brush up on both sides of the debate, check out the National Center for Science Education, which praised the new standards. For a primer on intelligent design, try Seattle's Discovery Institute.

EDITORIAL: Sub-standard science standards, still


Executive Editor
Published February 4, 2008

In spite of growing concern and opposition, Florida education leaders are on the brink of requiring an evolution-as-dogma approach to teaching origins in public schools in the Sunshine State. Fortunately, there's still time to change the outcome on this critical matter.

In October, a 45-member committee appointed by the Florida Department of Education released proposed new standards for teaching science, requiring evolution and diversity knowledge as one of the "big ideas" for elementary students and "bodies of knowledge" for high school students. The standards require doctrinaire acceptance of Darwin's theory, without any acknowledgment of evidence to the contrary. A "refreshed" version of the standards released Feb. 1 – supposedly taking into account thousands of persons who offered critiques of the language – includes no consequential changes relating to how evolution will be taught if these proposed standards become reality.

For example, standards for grades 9-12 continue to require students learn: "Evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence. Organisms are classified based on their evolutionary history. Natural selection is the primary mechanism leading to evolutionary change."

One "benchmark" continues to stipulate students: "Explain how evolution is supported [rather than "demonstrated"] by the fossil record, comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, biogeography, molecular biology, and observed evolutionary change."

The word "extinction" was removed from this benchmark, while other benchmarks include minor word changes and reordering of the benchmarks.

Like the first draft, what is missing from the revised standards is any recognition that there is controversy about Darwinian evolution and that students should learn about that controversy. Whatever happened to academic freedom and exposing students to all sides of a debate? For the evolution-as-dogma crowd, there is only one side when it comes to Darwin.

This arrogant approach, however, has prompted a growing backlash from parents, teachers, interested citizens and at least a dozen school districts in Florida that have passed resolutions urging the State Board of Education to not impose the evolution-as-dogma model on their school districts.

Contrary to claims of Darwin's defenders in the education and science establishments, few opponents of the proposed science standards are requesting the addition of creationism or Intelligent Design in the standards. Exposing students to serious, scholarly critiques of Darwinian evolution is all that is asked for from most critics of the standards. Such an approach to teaching evolution is hardly unique or unprecedented.

The Discovery Institute – admittedly, a pro-Intelligent Design group – has helpfully summarized science standards from other states and local school districts which in fact do require the inclusion of scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolution.

To cite three examples, Minnesota students must "be able to explain how scientific and technological innovations as well as new evidence can challenge portions of or entire accepted theories and models including … [the] theory of evolution." In New Mexico, students will "critically analyze the data and observations supporting the conclusion that the species living on Earth today are related by descent from the ancestral one-celled organisms." In South Carolina, students must "summarize ways that scientists use data from a variety of sources to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory."

What is so radical about these approaches to teaching evolution in Minnesota, New Mexico and South Carolina that something similar could not be included in Florida's proposed science standards?

No doubt, a large majority of scientists continue to tenaciously hold to Darwinian evolution, at times, with religious faith-like fervor. But more than 700 highly credentialed scientists agree with the approach taken by these states affirming the statement, "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged" (Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture Web site, "Dissent from Darwin" (www.dissentfromdarwin.org). The Institute notes, "The list is growing and includes scientists from the US National Academy of Sciences, Russian, Hungarian and Czech National Academies, as well as from universities such as Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and others."

The seven-member Florida Board of Education will have the deciding vote on the new standards at a Feb. 19 meeting in Tallahassee. Citizens interested in expressing their views to the Board will find a listing of the members, along with contact information at the Florida Department of Education Web site: www.fldoe.org/board.

Concerned citizens may also express their views at a final public hearing to be chaired by Education Commissioner Eric Smith scheduled for Feb. 11, 10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., at the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport.

"A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question." This is the view of one leading scientist open to free inquiry on the matter of evolution. His name is Charles Darwin. Yes, that Darwin, in his groundbreaking book, The Origin of Species, that got this debate started nearly 150 years ago.

It's ironic indeed that Darwin's own approach is rejected by the evolution-as-dogma advocates who have given us Florida's proposed science standards.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Doubts About Darwin Stem from Science Not Religion


Every so often the Darwinists get all riled up about the Scientific Dissent From Darwin list, which lists over 700 PhD scientists who publicly affirm: "We are skeptical of the claims for the ability of random mutations and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian Theory should be encouraged." As statements go, it's simple and straightforward. And that perhaps is what concerns Darwinists. People instantly understand what it is saying, what the scientists are courageously endorsing, and why it matters.

In 2006, New York Times science writer Ken Chang wrote an article claiming "Few Biologists but Many Evangelicals Sign Anti-Evolution Petition," which turned out to be not true on both counts. This perfectly fits with the agenda of Darwinists seeking to show that all skepticism of Darwinian evolution is religiously based, but that simply isn't the case.

Signers of the Dissent List have signed the list because it is their professional opinion that the evidence is lacking for the claims for the ability of random mutations and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Period. Nothing more, and nothing less.

It is not a political statement. It is not an educational policy statement. Signing doesn't make one a proponent of intelligent design.

Over at Post-Darwinist Denyse O'Leary writes about another question she's received recently about how many Discovery Institute Fellows are evangelical Christians. (As if she would know, or as if it even mattered. No one asks how many staffers at the NCSE are atheists, so why should anyone care about Discovery Fellows?) We get questions like thisperiodically. And the answer is, we don't keep count. Like the Dissent list, Discovery doesn't have a religious litmus test for Fellows. Nor any other litmus test.

Posted by Robert Crowther on January 23, 2008 7:57 AM | Permalink

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Highlights From the New Peer-Reviewed Creation Science Journal


By Brandon Keim January 31, 2008

Are you searching for cutting-edge scientific justification for a Biblical account of Earth's origins?

Then search no longer: the first issue of the Answers Research Journal, the "professional, peer-reviewed technical journal for the publication of interdisciplinary scientific and other relevant research from the perspective of the recent Creation and the global Flood within a biblical framework," is now online!

Edited by Australian geologist Andrew Snelling and published by the founder of the Creation Museum, Answers is free, fully downloadable and reviewed by a "large network of well-qualified creationist researchers, scientists, and theologians who are the best thinkers in their fields of creationist research," assuring that it meets "the highest scientific and theological standard."

Indeed, for anyone looking to demonstrate "the validity of the young-earth model, the global Flood, the non-evolutionary origin of 'created kinds,' and other evidences that are consistent with the biblical account of origins," Answers will be veritable manna.

Among its debut highlights:

Proceedings of the Microbe Forum, June 2007

The task of understanding and observing the microbial world is daunting when we consider that we have only documented around 5,000 bacterial species. In addition there is much yet to be learned about algae, fungi, macro-parasites, and the enigmatic "chimeric" lichens. Could there be other creatures composed entirely of microbes of which we are unaware? In addition, how do we classify microbes taxonomically from a creation perspective? Do they fit into conventional or baraminic taxonomical convention? How do we view them biblically? What day were they created?

Microbes and the Days of Creation

Some have postulated that microbes were created on a single day of Creation, such as Day Three—when the plants were made. This is partially due to the "seed-like" characteristics that bacteria and fungi have—therefore classifying microbes as plants. In addition, we observe microbes (such as Escherichia coli) isolated in the lab and we tend to think of microbes as individual entities much like birds or fish or animals and, therefore, created on a single day. However, in nature, the vast majority of microbes live in biological partnerships, not in total isolation. The natural symbiosis of microbes with other creatures is the norm. Therefore, we postulate that microbes were created as "biological systems" with plants, animals, and humans on multiple days, as supporting systems in mature plants, animals, and humans.

Catastrophic Granite Formation [pdf]

The timescale for the generation of granitic magmas and their subsequent intrusion, crystallization, and cooling as plutons is no longer incompatible with the biblical time frames of the global, year-long Flood cataclysm and of 6,000–7,000 years for earth history.

One can only hope that future studies will address the logistical difficulties encountered in constructing and maintaining Noah's Ark.

Hitchens knocks intelligent design


Atheist debates creation advocate Jay Richards in Dinkelspiel Auditorium

January 28, 2008 By Shelby Martin

***Correction: In this article, The Daily inaccurately reported that Jay Richards is a program director for the intelligent design think tank Discovery Institute. In fact, Richards has not worked at the Discovery Institute for more than a year; he is currently the media director of the Acton Institute.***

During an animated debate yesterday in a packed Dinkelspiel Auditorium, atheist Christopher Hitchens and intelligent design advocate Jay Richards clashed over the evidence for God's existence.

"There are no atheists in foxholes, but there are plenty in universities," said host Ben Stein, famous for his role as the dull economics teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, during "Atheism vs. Theism and the Scientific Evidence of Intelligent Design."

"We are lucky — blessed, I would say — to have two extremely smart people here today," Stein said, giving both participants 14 minutes for their opening remarks.

"I can't imagine it'll take me 14 minutes to demolish intelligent design, as I refuse to call it," began Hitchens, the author of the 2007 bestseller "God is Not Great."

He cited the existence of evil as evidence against a benevolent designer.

"If everything was designed," Hitchens asked, "what are we to make of the designer who has subjected so many generations to barbarism, misery, ignorance, slavery and early death?"

He added that any person who looked to nature as evidence for design must contend with the fact that 98 percent of all species that have ever existed are extinct.

"Whose design?" asked Hitchens, to applause from many audience members, including a dozen wearing "Atheists of Silicon Valley" T-shirts. "What kind of design? What kind of caprice, what kind of incompetence, what kind of cruelty?'

Richards congratulated Hitchens on his rhetoric, but dismissed the atheist's perspective.

"A sneer is not an argument," said Richards, a program director for the intelligent design think tank Discovery Institute.

Richards encouraged the audience to see atheism and theism as two competing hypotheses, saying he would lay out "a laundry list of facts," and ask whether they fit better in an atheistic or theistic worldview.

For theists, "there is a personal being, a transcendent, eternal, personal being," Richards said. "This being is by definition goodness and love."

As his first evidence for theism, Richards argued that all people feel "simple moral truths."

"We all know that it's wrong to torture little children just for the fun of it," he said.

The fact that nature seems to be organized rationally and mathematically suggests evidence for theism, Richards said, as does the "fine-tuning principle" — the idea that the laws of the universe are set up just right to allow for life. He added that the universe's inception at the Big Bang is also evidence for a creator.

"Anything that begins to exist must have a cause for its beginning," Richards said.

The intelligent design advocate next appealed to "irreducible complexity," one of intelligent design's central tenets. He cited the bacterial flagellum and the cascade of blood-clotting factors, saying that they must be designed because they need all of their parts at once to work and could not evolve little-by-little.

"Processes that require foresight are inaccessible to natural selection," Richards said.

Hitchens then requested the chance to ask Richards a question.

"Do you believe Jesus Christ was born of a virgin?" he asked when Richards assented. "Do you believe he was resurrected from the dead?"

Richards said that he did.

"I rest my case," said Hitchens. "This is an honest guy, who has just made it very clear [that] science has nothing to do with his world view."

Stein interrupted with a question for Hitchens.

"Many people are deeply religious," he said. "Are they just stupider than you?"

"I think I am smarter than most people," Hitchens said, but he added that religion plays an important part in human history.

"Religion was our first try at philosophy, it was our first try at epistemology. It's what we came up with when we didn't know we lived on a round planet circling the sun."

The event was broadcast by the Church Communication Network to churches around the country. Listeners could send questions via fax or email, and audience members at Stanford could turn in written questions to be answered by the debaters.

Richards stated that just as the designers of Mt. Rushmore made the monument very different from the hills around it, "intelligent agents leave markers for their design."

"The existence of a creator God is something we can discern from the world around us," he concluded.

Hitchens disagreed.

"The world as we know it works as the world might be expected to work if it did not have a designer," he concluded. "We can finally grow up if we resign ourselves to this increasingly inescapable truth."

The event was sponsored by The Stanford Review, the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness club and Vox Clara: A Journal of Christian Thought at Stanford.


Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

Hear Dr. Don R. Patton
in a newly recorded video presentation of Noah's Ark

The Ark has long been the atheist's favorite object of ridicule. Instead of responding with factual evidence, many intimidated Christians are left cowering in their pews, wondering. Is the Biblical account of the flood and Nosh’s ark really credible. Can a truly honest person believe it? Is there any evidence that such a flood ever happened? Could all those animals fit in the ark? Could it have been just a local flood? What about the possible eye witness accounts claiming the ark still exists on Mt. Ararat? Could it still be there? Dr. Patton has just returned from Mt. Ararat and the latest information will be presented.

Additionally, see the dramatic new pictures of spectacular polystrait fossils taken just over a week ago in the Cumberland Mountain range above Knoxville, Tennessee.

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Tuesday, February 5th, 7:30 PM