NTS LogoSkeptical News for 20 April 2008

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Michael Shermer's Fact-Free Attack on Expelled Exposes Intolerance of Darwinists towards Pro-Intelligent Design Scientists (Part 1)


Scientific American has a long history of opposing intelligent design (ID), so it comes as no surprise that they have tasked their columnist Michael Shermer with the job of attacking Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Michael Shermer is the founder of Skeptic Magazine, who loves to boast about how evolution liberated him from belief in God. In fact, he does just that in his article attacking Expelled, opening it by saying: "In 1974 I matriculated at Pepperdine University as a born-again Christian who rejected Darwinism and evolutionary theory," but when he "finally took a course in evolutionary theory in graduate school I realized that I had been hoodwinked." In his book, Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design, Shermer tries to convince the reader that he believes that evolution and religion are compatible, but ultimately concedes that, "were we to take a strictly scientific approach to the God question, we would have to reject the God hypothesis."[1] It's tough to take Shermer's calls for peace between religion and Darwin seriously when he has elsewhere declared his view that "[t]here is no God, intelligent designer, or anything resembling the divinity as proffered by the world's religions."[2]

Shermer is interviewed in the documentary Expelled, and he basically denies that there is any persecution of ID proponents. Since the film provides extensive documentation of the discrimination faced by ID proponents in the academy, Expelled disproves Shermer's one-sided skepticism.

Shermer's day job is literally being a professional skeptic. He makes a living telling people that they should be skeptical of religion. But Shermer virtually never applies his skepticism to modern Darwinian theory. This film shows that sometimes his skepticism against ID goes too far. Shermer certainly has a huge stake in the debate over this film—in fact, it seems that his entire worldview, livelihood, and de-conversion experience depend heavily upon the veracity of Darwinian evolution. It therefore comes as no surprise that in his review of Expelled, he paints evolutionists as the saints, and Darwinism as a pure and unadulterated religion.

Shermer's General Approach to Handling Persecution of ID Proponents: One-Sided Skepticism, Denial, and Blaming the Victim

Having seen Expelled, Shermer now knows that his denial that ID proponents get persecuted serves as a foil for the impressive documentation of such persecution presented throughout the film. His response is not to amend his answer in light of the facts presented in the movie, but rather to issue even more forceful denials that there is any persecution of ID proponents taking place. Shermer's method of dealing with these persecution instances is as follows:

(1) Ignore all the facts showing there was persecution;

(2) E-mail the persecutor and ask them if there was any anti-ID discrimination;

(3) Withhold all skepticism from the statements of the persecutors, and then trumpet their response as evidence that there is no persecution against ID proponents, blaming the victim for losing their job and then claiming those who feel there is persecution are just promoting a "conspiracy."

Shermer's record of consistently taking the side of the persecutors shows that he is part of the problem and is in no way an objective source to analyze this subject. For example, Shermer implies that Richard Sternberg's credibility is diminished because he's a fellow of the International Society for Complexity Information, and Design or because he "is a signatory of the Discovery Institute's '100 Scientists who Doubt Darwinism' statement." (By the way, it's over 700 scientists now, Dr. Shermer.) This shows that Shermer himself could be a potential persecutor of Darwin skeptics, for he isn't interested in giving Darwin-skeptics equal treatment.

If only Shermer would turn some of his skepticism against the perpetrators instead of waging all of his skepticism against the victims. This is typical behavior of persecutors: Deny and blame the victim, telling them they are conspiracy theorists. This unwillingness to believe the facts fits perfectly with Shermer's modus operandi: unyielding and eternal skepticism…unless it supports Darwinism.

In the next two installments I will provide a closer analysis of Shermer's claims, one by one, with dose of a healthy skepticism that Shermer studiously leaves out of his analysis of the film.

References Cited:
[1]: Michael Shermer, Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design, page 122 (Times Books 2006).
[2]: Michael Shermer in What We Believe but Cannot Prove: Today's Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty, page 38 (John Bockman ed., Harper-Perennial 2006).

Posted by Casey Luskin on April 16, 2008 7:10 AM | Permalink

Michael Shermer's Fact-Free Attack on Expelled Exposes Intolerance of Darwinists towards Pro-Intelligent Design Scientists (Part 2)


In part 1 I observed that the famous skeptic Michael Shermer's attack upon the movie Expelled over at Scientific American adopts the following approach when denying the persecution experienced by intelligent design (ID) proponents:

(1) Ignore all the facts showing there was persecution;

(2) E-mail the persecutor and ask them if there was any anti-ID discrimination;

(3) Withhold all skepticism from the statements of the persecutors, and then trumpet their response as evidence that there is no persecution against ID proponents, blaming the victim for losing their job and then claiming those who feel there is persecution are just promoting a "conspiracy."

Shermer Blames-the-Victim Case #1: Richard Sternberg

The conversation with Michael Shermer in the Expelled film revolves around the publication of Stephen C. Meyer's pro-ID peer-reviewed scientific paper in the journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. The editor who oversaw the publication of that article was Dr. Richard Sternberg, who, according to investigations by both the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and also by subcommittee staff of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, was subsequently was harassed, intimidated, and demoted because he broke ranks with the unwritten (or sometimes written) rule among Darwinists that you must keep ID out of science journals.

Here's the truth of the matter: Before Meyer's paper was published, the pro-Darwin lobby had long-claimed that ID was not science because it wasn't in peer-reviewed journals. But once ID was undeniably and explicitly supported in a peer-reviewed scientific journal article, Darwinists panicked, and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) prompted the journal's publishing society, the Biological Society of Washington (BSW) to attack the paper. The BSW gladly obeyed the NCSE, issuing a statement that Meyer's paper should not have been published because ID allegedly is not science. If that doesn't sound like circular logic, consider the proof that the NCSE orchestrated the whole thing, according to the findings of an investigation by subcommittee staff of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform ("Report"):

Early on in the controversy, the NCSE circulated a set of "talking points" to the BSW Council and NMNH officials on how to discredit both Sternberg and the Meyer article. The OSC investigation found that the "NCSE recommendations were circulated within the SI and eventually became part of the official public response of the SI to the Meyer article." (Report, pg. 22)

To attack Meyer's article, Shermer cites the NCSE-inspired statement from the BSW stating that, "Contrary to typical editorial practices, the paper was published without review by any associate editor; Sternberg handled the entire review process. The council, which includes officers, elected councilors and past presidents, and the associate editors would have deemed the paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings." Shermer should have applied some of his famous skepticism here, because that statement is in fact a falsehood: Eugenie Scott herself admitted that "other editors have not always referred all articles to the Associate Editors, and because editors justifiably have discretion," that therefore the BSW should not "come down too hard on Dr. Sternberg for errors in the procedure followed in accepting this article." (See Report, pages 25-26.) Shermer conveniently spares the BSW from skepticism over Eugenie Scott's behind-closed-doors concession, which contradicts the BSW's public statement.

Moreover, Shermer and the BSW ignore that in less-politicized statements, Dr. Roy McDiarmid, the President of the BSW and a scientist at the Smithsonian, admitted that there was no wrongdoing regarding the peer-review process of Meyer's paper:

I have seen the review file and comments from 3 reviewers on the Meyer paper. All three with some differences among the comments recommended or suggested publication. I was surprised but concluded that there was not inappropriate behavior vs a vis [sic] the review process. (See Report, e-mail from Roy McDiarmid, "Re: Request for information," January 28, 2005, 2:25 PM to Hans Sues, emphasis added.)

So the truth is that Meyer's paper WAS peer-reviewed, and that Darwinists have invented the claim that it was not peer-reviewed or that there was wrongdoing regarding the publication of the article. Shermer, the famous skeptic, seems unwilling to apply his skepticism to anything the Darwinists say about this situation, blindly accepting the denials from Darwinists that any discrimination against ID took place, instead blaming the victim.

Shermer should just drop his attempts to defend the Smithsonian, but he doesn't, calling the attacks upon Sternberg part of Ben Stein's "case for conspiracy." So let's review the findings of a congressional staff investigation to see if there really was any discrimination against Dr. Sternberg (who holds two Ph.D.s in evolution), or if Shermer is right and this is all just a conspiracy inside the heads of Dr. Richard Sternberg, Ben Stein, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, and a bunch of people working at Congress. The Congressional Staff Report found the following:

Congressional Staff Report: "Officials at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History created a hostile work environment intended to force Dr. Sternberg to resign his position as a Research Associate in violation of his free speech and civil rights." As NMNH officials wrote in e-mails:

"I suppose we could call [Sternberg] on the phone and verbally ask him to do the right thing and resign?" (Dr. Jonathan Coddington)

"a face to face meeting or at least a 'you are welcome to leave or resign' call with this individual, is in order." (Dr. Rafael Lemaitre)

"if [Sternberg] had any class he would either entirely desist or resign his appointment." (Dr. Jonathan Coddington)

Congressional Staff Report: "In emails exchanged during August and September 2004, NMNH officials revealed their intent to use their government jobs to discriminate against scientists based on their outside activities regarding evolution." As NMNH officials wrote in e-mails:

"Sternberg is a well-established figure in anti-evolution circles, and a simple Google search would have exposed these connections." (Dr. Hans Sues)

"In a memo prepared on February 8, 2005, NMNH scientist Marilyn Schotte admitted that after publication of the Meyer paper, Dr. Coddington wanted to know 'if Dr. Sternberg was religious.' Dr. Schotte further admitted telling Coddington that Sternberg 'was a Republican.' Schotte even conceded that Coddington may have asked her whether Sternberg 'was a fundamentalist' and whether 'he was a conservative.'" (Description of a memo in discussed in the Report)

Congressional Staff Report: "NMNH officials conspired with a special interest group on government time and using government emails to publicly smear Dr. Sternberg; the group was also enlisted to monitor Sternberg's outside activities in order to find a way to dismiss him." As one NMNH official wrote in an e-mail:

"From now on, I will keep an eye on Dr. (von) Sternberg, and I'd greatly appreciate it if you or other NCSE specialists could let me [know] about further activities by this gentleman in areas poutside [sic] crustacean systematics." (Dr. Hans Sues)

(For more details, see National Center for Science Education Asked to Spy for the Government According to Congressional Report.)

Michael Shermer apparently has unlimited skepticism when it comes to the claims of Darwin-skeptics--he's unwilling to believe any of their statements that they have experienced persecution. But Dr. Sternberg summarized the discrimination taken against him as follows:

I was transferred from the supervision of a friendly sponsor (supervisor) at the Museum to a hostile one… I was twice forced to move specimens from my office space on short notice for no good reason, my name plate was removed from my office door, and eventually I was deprived of all official office space and forced to use a shared work area as my work location in the Museum.…I was subjected to an array of new reporting requirements not imposed on other Research Associates… My access to the specimens needed for my research at the Museum was restricted. (My access to the Museum was also restricted. I was forced to give up my master key.)

Rather than admit that any of this evidence exists, Shermer happily applies infinite skepticism to the persecuted, and withholds all skepticism from the statements of the persecutors: Shermer even e-mailed Jonathan Coddington, the chief persecutor of Richard Sternberg, asking him about the situation. It comes as no surprise that Coddington personally wrote back to Shermer claiming there was nothing to see here. In Coddington's words: "Sternberg was not discriminated against, was never dismissed, and in fact was not even a paid employee, but just an unpaid research associate who had completed his three-year term!" This is consistent with Coddington's prior behavior, as the congressional staff investigation's report concluded, "Given the factual record, the Smithsonian's pro-forma denials of discrimination are unbelievable." So are Shermer's denials.

And how did Eugenie Scott handle this situation? Unlike Coddington, Scott didn't deny that Sternberg was ousted when she spoke to the Washington Post, but rather she admitted that there was an ousting of Sternberg, and tried to justify it:

[S]aid Eugenie Scott, the group's executive director[:] "If this was a corporation, and an employee did something that really embarrassed the administration, really blew it, how long do you think that person would be employed?" ... Scott, of the NCSE, insisted that Smithsonian scientists had no choice but to explore Sternberg's religious beliefs. "They don't care if you are religious, but they do care a lot if you are a creationist," Scott said. "Sternberg denies it, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it argues for zealotry."

(Michael Powell, "Editor Explains Reasons for 'Intelligent Design' Article," Washington Post, August 19, 2005, emphases added)

So there you have it: Everything that Jonathan Coddington denies, Eugenie Scott essentially admits--and justifies--because she thinks it's permissible to persecute and investigate someone if they sympathize with the "creationists." If Michael Shermer should be skeptical of anything, it is the contradictory claims of the Smithsonian and leading Darwinists like Eugenie Scott which expose the attempts to cover-up the unfair treatment of Dr. Sternberg.

Thus, we see Shermer's method of dismissing the discrimination of Darwin-skeptics is as follows:

(1) Ignore all the facts showing there was persecution;

(2) E-mail the persecutor and ask them if there was any anti-ID discrimination;

(3) Withhold all skepticism from the statements of the persecutors, and then trumpet their response as evidence that there is no persecution against ID proponents, blaming the victim for losing their job and then claiming those who feel there is persecution are just promoting a "conspiracy."

Exploding Shermer's Cambrian Argument

While attacking Stephen Meyer's article in Proceedings for the Biological Society of Washington, Shermer briefly discusses the Cambrian Explosion, a major topic in Meyer's paper. Shermer states that the explosion is just an illusion because "according to paleontologist Donald Prothero, in his 2007 magisterial book Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters (Columbia University Press): 'The major groups of invertebrate fossils do not all appear suddenly at the base of the Cambrian but are spaced out over strata spanning 80 million years—hardly an instantaneous 'explosion'! Some groups appear tens of millions of years earlier than others. And preceding the Cambrian explosion was a long slow buildup to the first appearance of typical Cambrian shelled invertebrates.'" Is that correct? Prothero's book is hard to take seriously because, as we shall see, it reads more like a polemic than a serious academic treatment. Consider these statements from Prothero's book:

"[T]he creationist political pressure, propaganda, and lies are not restricted to public schools. In many smaller colleges … the professors are just as intimidated by creationist bullies who are eager to disrupt class." (Prothero, pg. 354; Note that Prothero provides zero documentation here of this anecdotal evidence.)

"If the fundamentalists continue to expand their political power, are we in for another Inquisition, with the religious fanatics suppressing and destroying books and evidence, and harassing anyone who doesn't agree with them?" (Prothero, pg. 355)

"Many scientists and authors have written how uplifting and liberating the scientific worldview can be for humankind, especially in comparison to the vengeful God of the Old Testament." (Prothero, pg. 358)

Prothero's book is one with an agenda that clearly falls short of a calm, collected, objective scientific analysis. Incidentally, directly following the last quote from Prothero, he goes on to praise none other than Michael Shermer—the unreligious skeptic—for purportedly showing how religious people can accept evolution. You know, the same Shermer who wrote that, "[t]here is no God, intelligent designer, or anything resembling the divinity as proffered by the world's religions."

Regardless, if we want to understand the Cambrian explosion, we have to turn to serious scientific treatments, not Prothero's polemic. So what do textbooks say? A 2001 invertebrate zoology textbook (that is a serious science textbook) states:

Most of the animal phyla that are represented in the fossil record first appear, "fully formed," in the Cambrian some 550 million years ago...The fossil record is therefore of no help with respect to the origin and early diversification of the various animal phyla.

(R.S.K. Barnes, P. Calow & P.J.W. Olive, The Invertebrates: A New Synthesis, pages 9–10 (3rd ed., Blackwell Sci. Publications, 2001).)

In fact, Richard Dawkins conceded in 1986 regarding the Cambrian fauna that, "It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history." (The Blind Watchmaker, 1986, pg. 229-230.) In another very serious treatment of the subject, John Maynard Smith and Eörs Szathmáry, leaders in evolutionary biology, wrote in 1995 that the "Cambrian explosion remains a puzzle" for Darwinian theorists despite the discovery of a some Pre-Cambrian fossils:

Some 540 million years ago, at the beginning of the Cambrian, there appeared an array of multicellular marine animals, including the major phyla that exist today—coelenterates, platyhelminths, annelids, arthropods, molluscs, echinoderms and others. Chordates are also present in the Cambrian: they are not known from the earliest deposits, in which only hard parts are preserved, but are present in the slightly later Burgess Shale, in which soft-bodied forms are preserved. Forty years ago, this sudden appearance of metazoan fossils was not only a puzzle but something of an embarrassment: the absence of any known fossils from earlier rocks was a weapon widely used by creationists. Today, the fossil evidence for prokaryotes goes back 3000 million years, and for protists some 1000 million years. The Cambrian explosion remains a puzzle, however, which has been only fitfully illuminated by the discovery of the enigmatic soft-bodied Ediacaran fauna, which had a worldwide distribution between 580 and 560 million years ago. There are still doubts about how these fossils should be interpreted (Simon Conway Morris, 1993).

(John Maynard Smith and Eörs Szathmáry, The Major Transitions in Evolution, page 203 (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1995).)

It seems that Prothero has glossed over the real problems with evolutionary explanations of the Cambrian fauna in a book that hardly looks like a serious treatment of this subject. In the end, Shermer needs to apply some of his famous skepticism to his own sources. Moreover, Meyer's peer-reviewer-approved argument still carries great weight. As Meyer explains, the explosion of new biological information in the Cambrian period is best explained by an intelligent cause:

Analysis of the problem of the origin of biological information, therefore, exposes a deficiency in the causal powers of natural selection that corresponds precisely to powers that agents are uniquely known to possess. Intelligent agents have foresight. Such agents can select functional goals before they exist. They can devise or select material means to accomplish those ends from among an array of possibilities and then actualize those goals in accord with a preconceived design plan or set of functional requirements. Rational agents can constrain combinatorial space with distant outcomes in mind. The causal powers that natural selection lacks--almost by definition--are associated with the attributes of consciousness and rationality--with purposive intelligence. Thus, by invoking design to explain the origin of new biological information, contemporary design theorists are not positing an arbitrary explanatory element unmotivated by a consideration of the evidence. Instead, they are positing an entity possessing precisely the attributes and causal powers that the phenomenon in question requires as a condition of its production and explanation.

(Stephen C. Meyer, "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories," Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 117(2):213-239 (2004).)

In the final installment, I will assess Shermer's lack of skepticism concerning the claims of Eugenie Scott regarding the discrimination against pro-ID astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez.

Posted by Casey Luskin on April 17, 2008 12:00 AM | Permalink

Michael Shermer's Fact-Free Attack on Expelled Exposes Intolerance of Darwinists towards Pro-Intelligent Design Scientists (Part 3)


In Part 1 and Part 2 I discussed how Michael Shermer's review of Expelled applies one-sided skepticism to anything that challenges Darwinism, withholding skepticism of claims made by pro-evolution sources. When claiming that Richard Sternberg faced no discrimination after sympathizing with Darwin-skeptics, but simply invented a "conspiracy," Shermer failed to scrutinize the blatantly false and contradictory claims by Darwinists trying to cover up what really happened. In that case, Eugenie Scott made private concessions that Sternberg did not do anything mortally wrong in his handling of the publication of Stephen C. Meyer's paper on intelligent design (ID), and spoke as if Sternberg had been ousted. As I observed, Shermer's methodology when dealing with the persecution of pro-ID scientists is as follows:

(1) Ignore all the facts showing there was persecution;

(2) E-mail the persecutor and ask them if there was any anti-ID discrimination;

(3) Withhold all skepticism from the statements of the persecutors, and then trumpet their response as evidence that there is no persecution against ID proponents, blaming the victim for losing their job and then claiming those who feel there is persecution are just promoting a "conspiracy."

In this post, I will assess how Shermer uses this same methodology when accepting wholesale the explanations of Eugenie Scott and Iowa State University (ISU) President Gregory Geoffroy regarding why pro-ID astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez was denied tenure.

Shermer Blames-the-Victim Case #2: Guillermo Gonzalez

Shermer blames pro-ID astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez for being denied tenure at Iowa State University (ISU). Who is the expert that Shermer consults on Gonzalez's case? None other than Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). Scott had many complaints against Gonzalez's academic record, which I'll scrutinize one at a time below.

First, Scott claimed that while at ISU, Gonzalez's "publication record tanked" while at ISU. But as I explained here, according to the Smithsonian/NASA Astrophysics Data System, Gonzalez has published 34 publications since 2001 (the year he joined ISU) and his normalized publication score is 2nd among all astronomers in his department. As Rob Crowther observed:

[H]e peaks in 2003 but ends in 2006 just as high as he was when he started at ISU. Moreover, he outperformed all ISU astronomy faculty in normalized publications during that period. The one year that is obviously less happens to be the same year that he co-authored an astronomy textbook published by Cambridge University Press.

Not only that, but as explained here, Gonzalez led astronomers in his department in a normalized count of citations to his work in other scientific papers:

Gonzalez joined ISU in 2001, and for his publications since 2001 he has the highest normalized citation count of all astronomers in his department, including both tenured and untenured faculty! Moreover, despite the fact that he is much younger than many of the tenured faculty members in the department, he has the second highest lifetime normalized citation count among all astronomers in his department.

Given that Gonzalez apparently led all tenured ISU astronomers who voted against his tenure in both normalized publications and normalized citations since 2001, it's hard to see what grounds they have for complaining about his publication record. If Gonzalez's publication record went down at all during his probationary period at ISU, it still remained at an extremely impressive level that warranted tenure. If anything, this indicates that scientists should not be penalized for extraordinarily high academic achievements early in their careers if, like Gonzalez, they continue to produce outstanding publication rates during their tenure probationary period.

Next Shermer quotes Eugenie Scott claiming that Gonzalez "didn't have very many graduate students, and those he had never completed their degrees." First, this is a blatant falsehood, first promulgated by anti-ID groups in Iowa. As I explained to Iowa Citizens for Science when they made the same claim:

"Again, that statement is completely false. The truth is that in 2001, soon before Gonzalez left the University of Washington (UW) [to] join the faculty at ISU, he served as the primary advisor to a UW doctoral student in astronomy, Chris Laws. Gonzalez served as Laws' primary scientific advisor over the course of Laws' entire doctoral thesis, and Laws successfully graduated from UW with a Ph.D. in astronomy in December, 2004. Gonzalez also served on the committee of another Ph.D. student at UW, Rory Barnes, and this student also successfully graduated in 2004. You may want to also correct this false information as well and issue a retraction immediately."

Second, it's worth noting that pre-tenure faculty typically aren't expected to have as many graduate students as tenured faculty, because pre-tenured faculty are supposed to focus primarily on research. So even if they were accurate, Scott's complaints here are of little relevance. Shermer should start applying some of his skepticism to the false claims of the pro-Darwin lobbyists like Eugenie Scott.

Finally Shermer asserts that Gonzalez lacks grants, but in their tenure guidelines, Dr. Gonzalez's department does not even list grants as a criterion they consider for gaining tenure. Nonetheless, Gonzalez was awarded a $50,000 grant from Discovery Institute that allows him to collect more than enough observational astronomy data each year for the next 5 years to conduct a successful research program. In short, Dr. Gonzalez has precisely the money he needs to have a successful research program at ISU.

So if Gonzalez's department doesn't list grants as a requirement for tenure, what do their guidelines state? They state, "For promotion to associate professor, excellence sufficient to lead to a national or international reputation is required and would ordinarily be shown by the publication of approximately fifteen papers of good quality in refereed journals." In this regard, Dr. Gonzalez has over 350% more peer-reviewed science articles than what his department ordinarily requires for indicating the type of reputation that demonstrates research excellence. Having observed this, one external reviewer summarized Dr. Gonzalez's tenure application as follows:

"Dr. Gonzalez is eminently qualified for the promotion according to your guidelines of excellence in scholarship and exhibiting a potential for national distinction. In light of your criteria I would certainly recommend the promotion."

Indeed, 2/3 of the external reviewers who gave an opinion about whether Dr. Gonzalez deserves tenure agreed that he should receive tenure.

Shermer ignores these accomplishments of Gonzalez, and continues his usual method of quoting the persecutor in their denials of discrimination as if that settles the case. Thus, Shermer writes, "According to Gregory Geoffroy, president of Iowa State, 'Over the past 10 years, four of the 12 candidates who came up for review in the physics and astronomy department were not granted tenure.'" That is irrelevant, for Shermer forgets that Dr. Gonzalez's academic achievements, whether good or bad, do NOTHING to negate the undeniable evidence of bias and prejudice against him in the department because he supports ID:

ISU Physicist John Hauptman explicitly admitted in an op-ed that he voted against Gonzalez's tenure because of ID: "I participated in the initial vote and voted no, based on this fundamental question: What is science? … It is purely a question of what is science and what is not, and a physics department is not obligated to support notions that do not even begin to meet scientific standards."

During tenure deliberations in November 2006, Dr. Gonzalez's department chair Eli Rosenberg devoted a full third of his chair's statement in Gonzalez's tenure file to discussing intelligent design, instructing voting members of ISU's Department of Physics and Astronomy to make ID a litmus test where Gonzalez's support for ID as science "disqualifies him from serving as a science educator."

In the summer of 2005, atheist professor of religion at ISU, Hector Avalos, e-mailed ISU faculty, inviting them to sign a statement calling on "all faculty members to ... reject efforts to portray Intelligent Design as science" because of the "negative impact" due to the fact that "Intelligent Design … has now established a presence … at Iowa State University."

ISU physicist Joerg Schmalian endorses a plan to release an anti-ID statement from his department, intending to send a message to Gonzalez: "If we go on record, we give Gonzalez a clear sign that his ID efforts will not be considered as science by the faculty." Other faculty (see below) endorse such statements from Schmalian with an intent to directly target Gonzalez, with another scientist in Gonzalez's department stating that ISU "is not a friendly place for him to develop further his IDeas."

Two tenure-voting faculty in Gonzalez's department had links to an NCSE anti-ID petition publicly denouncing intelligent design as "creationist pseudoscience."

ISU physicist Bruce Harmon wrote in an e-mail, "As Joerg [Schmalian] says, I think Gonzalez should know that some faculty in his department are not going to count his ID work as a plus for tenure. Quite the opposite."

It seems clear that ID did play a major negative and inappropriate role in Gonzalez's tenure denial. Shermer ignores all of this evidence, finding ways to ignore inconvenient facts that make it clear what really happened at ISU. In his one-sided skepticism, he is only skeptical of the claims of ID-proponents and never doubts the demonstrably false words of Eugenie Scott. Readers can decide for themselves whether Shermer and ISU are correct to claim that ID played no significant role in Gonzalez's denial of tenure.

NCSE-Sanctioned Discrimination?

But what does Scott's organization, the NCSE, have to say about Gonzalez and ID? In fact, the NCSE has sponsored an anti-Expelled website, "Expelled Exposed," that takes an intolerant mindset that justifies discriminating against Gonzalez because he supports ID.

The "Expelled Exposed" site says that Gonzalez's "distracting work on an unscientific enterprise like intelligent design," among other things, "make[s] it impossible for supporters to legitimately claim that the decision not to grant him tenure was unfounded." When discussing Gonzalez, the NCSE site also argues that ID proponents do not deserve the protection of academic freedom, stating, "A scientist should not expect his colleagues to ignore his advocacy of a perspective that those in his field have overwhelmingly rejected." In other words, when ID-proponents like Gonzalez come up for tenure, the NCSE thinks that ID should count as an automatic and absolute negative. Clearly the NCSE endorses discriminating against Gonzalez simply because he supports ID. We have seen clear evidence that Gonzalez's Darwinist colleagues at ISU felt exactly the same.

Yet Gonzalez's work on ID has clear academic legitimacy that deserves the protection of academic freedom. Indeed, the ISU faculty handbook says that "academic freedom is the foundation of the university." Gonzalez didn't teach ID in the classroom, but his book on ID, The Privileged Planet, was written using a grant from the prestigious Templeton Foundation (a grant which ISU accepted). Moreover, leading scientists, such as Simon Conway Morris, Owen Gingerich, and Philip Skell praised his book on ID. His book was even favorably reviewed by David Hughes of the Royal Astronomical Society. Even if some ISU faculty disagree with Gonzalez's views on intelligent design, his work clearly has academic legitimacy that deserves the protection of academic freedom.

Gonzalez's tenure debate has never been, as Lauri Lebo misrepresents it to be, a case where we have argued that "it is unfair to take intelligent design into consideration." Intelligent design can be considered during tenure evaluations. The question is: how should faculty respond to it? Will they count ID as an automatic and absolute negative, as the NCSE suggests they should, or will they consider the possibility that a commitment to true academic freedom requires that scientists be granted the right to hold such minority viewpoints? Scientists have every right to dissent from ID and express their views in disagreement with ID. The relevant question here is, will scientists be given the right to support ID? The NCSE unambiguously suggests that the answer to that question should be no.

As noted, the ISU faculty handbook claims that "academic freedom is the foundation of the university." But ISU faculty in Gonzalez's department chose to follow the NCSE's approach, counting Gonzalez's support for ID as a pure negative, failing to grant academic freedom for minority, dissenting scientific viewpoints that clearly have academic respectability. Academic freedom doesn't just give scientists the right to agree with the majority viewpoint. If Lauri Lebo and the NCSE had their way, ID proponents would be dismissed simply because they support ID, taking away any academic freedom to hold such a minority scientific viewpoint.

Shermer extensively quotes the NCSE's Executive Director (Eugenie Scott) regarding Gonzalez's case, clearly showing that Shermer is taking the side of the persecutors, not the persecuted.

Shermer and Eugenie Scott's Hypocrisy regarding Defining Science

Eugenie Scott's misrepresentations about Guillermo Gonzalez are not her most incredible statements in Shermer's review. In Expelled, Ben Stein makes the point that scientists should not reject intelligent design a priori by defining science so as to exclude ID. Stein never tells people how to define science, he just suggests that scientists should not rule out ID due to what they think science is supposed to be. In response, Shermer quotes Eugenie Scott as follows:

"Who is Ben Stein to say what is science and not science? None of us speak for science. Scientists vary all over the map in their religious and philosophical views—for example, Francis Collins [the evangelical Christian and National Human Genome Research Institute director], so no one can speak for science."

This statement sounds reasonable, but it is both hypocritical and wrong on various levels.

First, as I noted, in the movie Stein never says "what is science and not science." Stein simply says that there should be academic freedom for these ideas, and scientists should not be excluded because they hold unpopular views. This is an important point, because as noted in Part 1 and Part 2, both Shermer and Scott imply that Richard Sternberg's reputation should be diminished because he has sympathized with various groups that are critical of neo-Darwinism.

Second, Eugenie Scott says that, "none of us speak for science," but it's highly hypocritical for her to suggest that people should not speak about the definition of science. Not only did Scott bless Judge Jones — a non-scientist — in his efforts to define science in the Kitzmiller ruling, but she constantly purports to speak for science. To give just one example, she writes in an article entitled "Science, Religion, and Evolution," that "science restricts itself to explaining the natural world using natural causes. This restriction of evolution to explanation through natural cause is referred to as 'methodological materialism', materialism in this context referring to matter, energy, and their interaction. Methodological materialism is one of the main differences between science and religion … There also are philosophical reasons for restricting science to methodological materialism, having to do with the nature of science itself." In fact Scott cites herself as an authority for defining science! She cites "Scott, 1995" and "Scott, 1998" to justify these statements.

Eugenie Scott clearly thinks that she can speak for science, she just doesn't like it when other people have opinions about science that differ from her own. This sounds like a familiar theme among the Darwinists who are interviewed in Expelled.


But what else does Shermer have to say? Shermer does not dispute the admissions by Darwinists in the film that scientists lack a natural chemical explanation for the origin of life. Shermer also claims that there is no persecution because some critics of natural selection -- like Lynn Margulis or William Schopf -- are embraced by the scientific community. But these critics are fully within the mainstream Darwinian mindset: they wholly reject intelligent design and they believe that unguided processes built all of life's complexity. So they don't threaten the core of neo-Darwinism, making it unsurprising that Shermer finds they have experienced no persecution.

Shermer also gives a fairly incomprehensible rant about Expelled's discussion of the evidence that Hitler relied upon Darwin. I see no need to respond to Shermer directly on this because Shermer's arguments made little sense, and besides I'm no expert on Nazis or the Holocaust. (Erudite treatments of this question, with all the important caveats and expected quotations from Darwin and other experts, have been provided by Richard Weikart, a professor of history at California State University, Stanislaus, at "Re-examining the Darwin-Hitler Link " and "Darwin and the Nazis".)

I may not be a historian, but I am a lawyer (and a half-Jewish lawyer at that), and I have some training about how to evaluate the credibility of witnesses. As a lawyer interested in finding credible witnesses, I find it compelling that the person in Expelled who makes the most forceful argument that Hitler made reliance upon Darwin was the curator of a museum in Germany dedicated to remembering the horrors of the Nazis, who has no apparent personal agenda in the debate over Darwin. She is an expert, a neutral third party who has no reason to take a particular side, and who seems to have no stake in the debate over Darwin. Yet she is the one arguing that Hitler needed Darwin. I'm no expert on questions about whether Hitler relied upon Darwin. But if Hitler didn't rely on Darwin, then it seems that curators of Holocaust remembrance-museums in Germany must also be in on the big conspiracy to make it seem that he did.

(Important note: Denyse O'Leary rightly reminds us of the context of this debate: "Does that mean that typical modern-day Darwinists have anything in common with Hitler? No, of course not. But it does mean that we cannot understand Hitler without understanding the role that Darwin, especially as Darwin was understood in Germany, played in his thinking.")

In the end, what does Shermer really have to say against the movie? He calls the film "dishonest" because some Pepperdine biology professors complained that it brought in students as extras for a scene where Ben Stein gives a speech to...students. A movie that used extras? Shocking.

If Michael Shermer should learn any lesson from this episode, it is this: Rather than levying unrestrained skepticism against anything that challenges Darwin, he should start using some of the skepticism that made him famous upon the claims of people on his own side in this debate.

Posted by Casey Luskin on April 18, 2008 9:34 AM | Permalink

Ben Stein's New Anti-Evolution Film Should Be Expelled


Filed under: film-tv, movies — michael @ 12:54 pm

Pop quiz! What's responsible for atheism, abortion, euthanasia, and the Holocaust? If you answered anything but evolution, I'm incredibly relieved. If evolution did in fact pop into your head, you'll probably be first in line for Ben Stein's new documentary: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Using the same tactics as Big Tobacco and Global Warming skeptics, the film attempts to generate a smidgen of doubt about evolution. Stein follows the script that creationism is being dismissed from schools because of academic "prejudice" and attempts to dress up the idea that the earth is only 6,000-10,000 years old by inviting anti-evolution "think tank" cranks and under-credentialed academics to the table. From the article,

"Expelled relies on the viewer's inability or unwillingness to wrestle with a complex corner of science, double-talking its way toward a "must be a miracle" solution to anything that science may not claim to have an answer for. Dismiss that for having no basis in fact, and you're infringing on "academic freedom."

That's not it at all, Ben. And really, when academia, the courts, the opinions of the educated have all weighed in on this subject on that "other side," who's the real monkey in this 'debate'?"

Oh, snap! No wonder Ferris Bueller cut school that day. He was probably about to get an earful on cavemen and dinosaurs living together in perfect harmony. For more on the silliness of this film check out the counter-website, Expelled Exposed.

'Body of Evidence' exhibit spotlights human evolution


By JOANN LOVIGLIO Associated Press Writer

Published on Friday Apr 18, 2008

A new exhibit at the University of Pennsylvania about human evolution gives a new meaning to the expression "nobody's perfect."

Scientists say we have evolution to thank for our survival, but that it's also where we can point the finger when we experience backaches, impacted wisdom teeth or difficulty giving birth.

The remarkable yet imperfect process that has brought homo sapiens to where we are now, and where it might take us down the road, is the theme of "Surviving: The Body of Evidence," at the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

An exhibit five years in the making, it uses fossils and interactive multimedia displays to tell the story about how the human race adapted, thrived and continues to evolve. It leaves Penn in May 2009 for a multi-city tour including stops at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and The Health Museum in Houston.

The exhibit's message, right down to the title, is that finding evidence of the evolutionary process is as simple as looking at ourselves.

"You are a living artifact of evolution," said Janet Monge, co-curator of the exhibit. "We didn't want it to be something remote. It's about you _ you're the artifact and this will tell you why."

Visitors can stand toe-to-toe with a skeleton cast of 3.2 million-year-old "Lucy," one of the world's most famous fossils, and children can see how they measure up to Nariokotome Boy, a nearly complete skeleton discovered in Kenya of a child who lived 1.6 million years ago.

Also included are more than 100 touchable casts of fossil bones and skulls from the evolutionary history of primates and humans.

The show is more focused on concepts rather than artifacts, however, and is replete with child-friendly interactive elements such as peek holes, sliding panels and video monitors.

A 16-foot-long figure of a woman with transparent plastic skin, nicknamed "JaMo" in honor of Monge, is the centerpiece of the show. Stationed around the recumbent figure will be interactive display screens using animation and 3-D graphics illustrating how and why our muscles, bones and joints evolved and their complex interplay that allows us a wide range of movement.

The exhibit also highlights what might be considered evolution's hiccups: the imperfect results of the evolutionary process common to people around the world, such as stiff backs and pelvic bones that haven't adapted to the larger brain size of newborns, making childbirth difficult for many women.

"The important aspect we tried to capture ... is evolution isn't just an interesting scientific idea," said Alan Mann, exhibit co-curator. "We wanted to let everybody know what it means to be a product of evolution."

The show also provides an unequivocally scientific message about what remains a topic of debate in some places more than 80 years after the Scopes monkey trial.

Even as understanding is growing exponentially because of advances in genetics and biology, "many Americans don't understand evolution, they mistrust it, they don't get it," said Andrew Binns, Penn associate provost for education. That's why exhibits like "Surviving" are so important as educational tools for children and adults, he said.

It's also a stepping off point for a citywide "Year of Evolution" sponsored by Penn and featuring additional events at The Academy of Natural Sciences, the Philadelphia Zoo, The Franklin Institute, the American Philosophical Society Museum and the Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Timed to coincide with the approach of Charles Darwin's 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of his seminal work "On the Origin of Species," both happening in 2009, programs will include exhibits and lectures on Darwin and geneticist Gregor Mendel, IMAX movies, and other events for children and families.

The "Year of Evolution" itself is an evolution of "Darwin Day" festivities, an effort at Penn and elsewhere to highlight evolution in science and counter "intelligent design," a concept favored by some religious conservatives.

Supporters of intelligent design hold that the order and complexity of the universe is so great that a supernatural entity must have created it. The concept's critics see it as creationism masquerading as science, and a battle is ongoing in several states about whether it should be taught in public schools.

On the Net:



Opponents of Academic Freedom on Teaching Evolution Using Outlandish Rhetoric


A modified version of the Louisiana Academic Freedom Bill moved out of the Louisiana Senate Education Committee on Thursday, following testimony from both proponents and opponents of the bill. I recently predicted that, "For the Darwinists who oppose the bill, this battle is about falsely appealing to people's emotions and fears in order to suppress the teaching of scientific information that challenges evolution." If you don't believe me, consider the latest testimony from Darwinists encouraging legislators to oppose the bill yesterday before the Louisiana Senate Education Committee:

Unfortunately, Senator Cassidy's amendment seems to have passed into the rvised version of the bill; however, the bill still contains good language encouraging school boards "to create and foster an environment ... that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories" and also sanctioning the rights of teachers to "help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner."

Florida Darwinist Scientist appeals to Emotions and "Enlightenment" to Oppose Academic Freedom

Meanwhile in Florida, Darwinists are promoting similarly outlandish opposition to the Florida Academic Freedom Bill. Earlier this week, a prominent chemist, Harold Kroto, opposed Florida's Academic Freedom bill because of the fact that humans and fruit flies share some of the same genes. No, I'm really not kidding you. This was printed in the Herald Tribune:

Humans and fruit flies share the same genes.

"You may not like that but it's not my fault," Kroto, 68, said in front of the state Capitol on Monday.

"It's the way it actually is."

Brilliant. Case closed. Evolution is a fact, right? Not necessarily. As discussed in the book Explore Evolution, critics of neo-Darwinism believe that such similarities are easily explained as the result of functional requirements, not because humans and fruit flies necessarily share a common ancestor or because they evolved by random mutation and natural selection.

But don't worry, Kroto has a backup argument to oppose academic freedom in Florida: Like the Louisiana Darwinist who feared the opinion of New Yorkers, Kroto makes the enlightened British will laugh at us argument. Again, this is not a joke:

His friends back home in England, where he was a professor in Sussex, have been sending him e-mails asking why he stays, he said.

"We're the laughingstock of the enlightened world," Kroto said.

So there you have it: we shouldn't protect the academic freedom of teachers in Florida to challenge evolution because humans share genes with fruit flies and because the British will laugh at us. I'm sure glad that people like Kroto weren't the ones fighting for freedom during the American Revolutionary War.

(Note: Kroto seems to have his own materialist motives in this debate. He was one of the 39 Darwinists who wrote the Kansas State Board of Education back in 2005 to tell them that evolution is "the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection.")

Given all of the outlandish arguments that Darwinists are making to oppose these bills, it seems that my prediction was correct: "For the Darwinists who oppose the bill, this battle is about falsely appealing to people's emotions and fears in order to suppress the teaching of scientific information that challenges evolution."

Posted by Casey Luskin on April 18, 2008 12:03 PM | Permalink



Posted: Friday, April 18, 2008 1:01 PM by Alan Boyle

The film "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" gives the impression that "Big Science" is suppressing "smart new ideas" in America's classrooms - that is, ideas claiming that features of the natural world are so complex they had to be the work of an intelligent designer. The movie also reportedly follows up on efforts to blame evolutionary theory for much of what has ailed the world since Darwin, including Hitler and the Holocaust.

I haven't seen "Expelled" yet, so it's hard for me to judge how wacky the movie really is, but plenty of other folks are already weighing in. Here are a few Web links:

Scientific American's take on 'Expelled'
National Center for Science Education: 'Expelled' Exposed
Panda's Thumb: Flying Spaghetti Monster 'Expelled' (and more)
Orlando Sentinel via Chi. Trib.: Ben Stein monkeys with evolution
Cosmic Log archives: Intelligent redesign

DSU presents Evolution and Creation: Conflicting or Compatible?


Are evolution and creation conflicting or compatible? This question will be addressed by Dr. Patricia Kelley at a public appearance on Thursday, April 24 at 7 p.m. in the Stroup Scientific Auditorium, Murphy Hall.

Kelley is a professor of geology at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. As a specialist in mollusk evolution and wife of a Presbyterian minister, she is keenly interested in teaching evolution and addressing the evolution vs. creation controversy.

Kelley was educated as a paleontologist at the College of Wooster and Harvard, where she received her doctorate under the late Stephen J. Gould, eminent paleontologist, evolutionary biologist and historian of science. She is the former chair of the Department of Geology at the University of North Dakota, a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a past president of the Paleontological Society and the Paleontological Research Institution's Board of Trustees. She received the 2003 Outstanding Educator Award from the Association of Women Geoscientists.

Kelley's appearance at DSU is sponsored by the DSU Department of Natural Sciences and the The National Association of Geoscience Teachers Distinguished Speaker Series.

4/18/2008 12:07:23 PM

£200m boom as demand for 'natural' cures soars


Leap in sales of alternative medicines led by women over 35

Caroline Davies
Sunday April 20, 2008
The Observer

Alternative medicines are fast becoming the new mainstream as Britons increasingly turn to self-medication. Sales of herbal and homeopathic remedies in chemists, health stores and supermarkets have doubled in a decade and are now estimated to be worth £200m.

And there is no sign of a slowdown as consumers - the majority women aged more than 35 years - are expected to continue sweeping 'natural' pills, potions and ointments off the shelves, according to new research. Sales are predicted to reach £265m in the next four years. Growth has been particularly rapid in the past five years, according to the British Lifestyles report by researchers Mintel as the market acquires 'a greater reputation for offering legitimate alternatives to pharmaceutical-based treatments'.

One reason is the government encouraging people towards more self-medication by relaxing regulations on prescription-only drugs and promoting the role of the pharmacist. This has prompted more people to try alternative treatments they would not have considered had they visited their GPs. The industry will be given further legitimacy by new EU legislation which will require all over-the-counter herbal medicines in the UK to have either Traditional Herbal Medicines Registration or full Marketing Authorisation.

Herbal medicines, which contain extracts from plants and minerals, account for the fastest growth. Scientific tests have shown there is evidence that some could have a beneficial effect. More controversial are the homeopathic remedies, with critics claiming they offer nothing more than a placebo effect. Homeopathy is a system of therapy based on the concept that disease can be treated with drugs, in minute doses, thought capable of producing the same symptoms in healthy people as the disease itself does.

Today's high-octane lifestyles, longer working hours and increased stress are all said to have contributed to the love affair with complementary medicine. While one in five people reportedly suffers from stress and insomnia, many do not want to tell their doctors, to avoid black marks on their medical records. Others are worried about the stigma of taking antidepressants, while others fear developing an addiction to pharmaceutical drugs. For many, complementary medicines are the answer. The Jamie Oliver effect - highlighting the ill effects of diets stuffed with additives - is also believed to have spilled over into medicine, with consumers attracted by claims of natural goodness .

Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, said he was not surprised at the increase in sales. 'The last time I tested it, there were 40 million websites promoting complementary medicine. It's incessant.' Ernst, who last week challenged the Prince of Wales to withdraw two guides published by his Foundation for Integrated Health on the basis that they misrepresented scientific evidence, said that only claims by some herbal medicines were 'biologically plausible'.

'But homeopathy is not. It doesn't work, and that's that,' he said. 'And unless people are very certain of what they are taking, they could cause more harm than good. Some can interact with prescribed medicines.' In researching his latest book examining the efficacy of alternative medicine, he said his co-author, Dr Simon Singh, visited 10 homeopathic outlets asking for protection from malaria. 'And they all provided some, without exception. They were all very nice, but the nightmare begins when you return home with malaria.'

· Verdicts on the value of herbal remedies, according to Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University

Herbal medicine: does it work?

Aloe vera

Used for: herpes, psoriasis, wound healing

Efficacy: poor


Used for: impotence, cancer, diabetes

Efficacy: poor

Milk thistle

Used for: hepatitis and liver disease caused by alcohol

Efficacy: medium

Evening primrose

Used for: eczema, asthma, menopausal problems, premenstrual syndrome, psoriasis

Efficacy: poor


Used for: insomnia, anxiety

Efficacy: poor

Tea tree

Used for: fungal infections, insect bites, boils

Efficacy: medium

No intelligence in new Ben Stein movie


Posted April 19th, 2008 at 9:00 am

Guest Post by Morbo

Ben Stein's movie "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" opened yesterday. What should be done with it?

I'm torn. One on hand, really unloading on the movie and meticulously pointing out every one of its errors and bizarre assumptions seems a bit excessive and leaves opponents open to the charge that there must be something to the movie's claims since their reaction was so severe. This plays into Stein's hands. He and his backers want the movie to be controversial, and the more it is attacked, the more attention he gets.

On the other hand, ignoring the film seems an unsatisfying response.

It reminds me of the ongoing debate among biologists, paleontologists, anthropologists, etc. about debating creationists. Some say it's not worth it to share a stage with these cranks because it leads the average person to conclude that creationism and evolution are equal concepts and all one must do is listen to the arguments and choose which one to believe. Other scientists assert that the creationists have done great damage to science education in America and must be answered.

The National Center for Science Education, a group in California that defends the teaching of evolution in public schools, has it just about right, I think. The group has set up a special site exposing the flaws of "Expelled." Visitors can dip into it and take away as much ammo as they like.

The site contains resources visitors can use to debunk the claims of the movie, including a brief YouTube video featuring Christine Comer, former director of science for the Texas Education Agency, who was forced to resign for failing to remain neutral on creationism.

Also included are reviews of the film from newspapers and magazines nationwide and articles that explain how Stein and his supporters used deception to get some of their interviews. Included is a link to this great piece from the Salt Lake Tribune noting that the film isn't being screened for critics — a sure sign you've got a dog on your hands.

Religious fundamentalists and their allies in the right-wing media are already crowing over "Expelled." Scientists and left-leaning bloggers are pointing out that the movie is absurd. I suspect in the end the film will change few minds. But if you should happen to run into someone who sees it and asks for the real lowdown on "intelligent design," send them to ExpelledExposed.com.

Expelled Gets an F


Ayn Rand Institute Press Release

April 18, 2008

Irvine, CA--Today Ben Stein's anti-evolution documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, opens in theaters. The film claims that advocates of "intelligent design"--the view that life is so complex it must be the product of a "higher intelligence"--are the persecuted victims of a "scientific establishment" dogmatically committed to evolution.

"The premise of Expelled is that proponents of 'intelligent design' have been shunned, denied tenure, and even fired because of a conspiracy to quash the scientific evidence supporting their theory," said Dr. Keith Lockitch, resident fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute. "But the truth is: there is no evidence supporting their theory. Intelligent design is completely devoid of any positive scientific content, and consists of nothing more than a religiously motivated attack on evolution. To the extent intelligent design advocates are facing obstacles in academia it is because they are not doing real science: they haven't been 'expelled' they have flunked out of the scientific community, just as a faith healer would flunk out of medical school.

"Observe that intelligent design advocates have pumped millions into publicity-seeking, rather than appealing to scientists with facts and logical arguments. They have spent more time at Christian 'apologetics seminars' than scientific conferences, and have attempted to use the courts to force schools to teach their ideas. Now they are hoping to dupe the movie-going public with a film that misrepresents Darwin's theory and the array of facts that support it--just as the makers of Expelled misrepresented the nature of the film in order to bamboozle respected evolutionary scientists into participating in it.

"Intelligent design advocates will do anything to advance their views--except science.

"The reason for that is simple: doing science has never been their goal. Their goal is to make biblical creationism appear scientific in order to skirt the constitutional ban on religion in public schools. Contrary to the film's claims, the real dogmatists are not the defenders of Darwin, but the religiously motivated advocates of intelligent design."

Dr. Lockitch has a PhD in Physics from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and is a resident fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI). He writes and edits for ARI and is a professor in the Objectivist Academic Center, where he teaches undergraduate writing and a graduate course on the history of physics. His writings have appeared in publications such as the Orange County Register and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Dr. Keith Lockitch is available for interviews. To book him for your show, please contact Larry Benson:
800-365-6552 ext. 213 (office)
949-838-5137 (cell)

For more information on Objectivism's unique point of view, go to ARI's Web site. Founded in 1985, the Ayn Rand Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

Evolution talk cut from bill


Proposed law now calls only for 'objective discussions'

Advocate Capitol News Bureau
Published: Apr 20, 2008 - UPDATED: 12:05 a.m.

A bill that backers touted as a way to spark freewheeling public school classroom discussions on evolution has lost much of its punch, the leader of the group that first promoted the measure said.

Gene Mills, executive director of the Louisiana Family Forum, said he has only lukewarm support for the legislation after it was changed and approved on Thursday by the Senate Education Committee.

State Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa and sponsor of the plan, denied that his proposal suffered a setback when a last-minute committee amendment was added.

"It didn't change the intent of the bill," Nevers said.

The legislation is Senate Bill 561. It next faces action in the full Senate.

The bill, which was initially sought by Mills' group, originally called for steps to widen classroom discussions on biological evolution, global warming, human cloning and other topics.

Backers said such a law is needed because teachers are afraid to stray from what textbooks say about evolution and other science topics.

Critics contend it would inject biblical talks into public schools.

Moments before the Senate committee approved the bill, the panel adopted an amendment suggested by opponents of the legislation.

It stripped references to evolution, global warming and other subjects from the proposal.

Instead, the proposed law calls for more general changes in science classes.

It now calls for state assistance so that students could pursue "critical thinking skills, logical analysis and open and objective discussions of scientific theories."

That fails to go far enough, Mills said.

Omitting evolution and other topics from the bill, he said, would leave teachers without confidence that they can have wide-open discussions on such issues.

"We want an explicit expression," he said. "We wanted to hang out a sign that said academic inquiries welcomed.

"And that is not a sensationalist notion," Mills said.

Mills' group describes itself as an advocate for traditional family values.

Barbara Forrest, a member of the board of trustees for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said Nevers' proposal still needs to be defeated.

"The bill itself is still a very problematic bill, a stealth creationism bill," Forrest said.

Forrest's organization calls itself a national watchdog group to prevent government-backed religious teaching.

Creationism is the view that life began about 6,000 years ago in a process described in the Bible's Book of Genesis. Intelligent design advocates, which critics contend are also behind the bill, believe that the universe stems from an intelligent designer rather than chance.

"The strategy now is to sanitize the terminology, which is what they did with the original bill and which they are doing now," Forrest said.

Nevers' bill also would allow teachers to use supplemental materials in science classes. Critics contend that some of those supplements challenge Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

Nevers said that, even without specific mention of evolution, his bill would improve the way science is taught in Louisiana.

"We just want to make sure that science teachers understand that they are to teach science objectively.

"The reason I did not object to the amendment is it really did nothing to the bill," he added.

But Tom Tate, a lobbyist for the Louisiana Association of Educators, disagreed.

Tate said stripping the specific mention of evolution and other topics from the legislation caused his group to go from opposed to neutral.

"It is a much cleaner bill," Tate said. "I think we are just going to stay out of the battle."

Asked for a comment from Gov. Bobby Jindal or for Jindal's position on the bill, the governor did not respond but spokeswoman Melissa Sellers wrote in an e-mail:

"This is not an administration bill. The governor has always said that this regular session is the time for legislators to present their own initiatives and he looks forward to working with them."

La. evolution debates

JULY 1981: Gov. Dave Treen signs law that requiring equal time on creationism when evolution is taught in public schools.

DECEMBER 1981: American Civil Liberties Union and others challenge constitutionality of law.

JUNE 1987: U.S. Supreme Court votes 7-2 to strike down Louisiana law on grounds it violated constitutional principle of separation of church and state.

MAY 2001: Louisiana House derails resolution that would have rejected Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which the legislation called "racist."

APRIL 2008: Senate Education Committee approves bill to revamp the way evolution is taught in public schools.

Source: Files of The Advocate.

DSU presents Evolution and Creation: Conflicting or Compatible?


Are evolution and creation conflicting or compatible? This question will be addressed by Dr. Patricia Kelley at a public appearance on Thursday, April 24 at 7 p.m. in the Stroup Scientific Auditorium, Murphy Hall.

Kelley is a professor of geology at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. As a specialist in mollusk evolution and wife of a Presbyterian minister, she is keenly interested in teaching evolution and addressing the evolution vs. creation controversy.

Kelley was educated as a paleontologist at the College of Wooster and Harvard, where she received her doctorate under the late Stephen J. Gould, eminent paleontologist, evolutionary biologist and historian of science. She is the former chair of the Department of Geology at the University of North Dakota, a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a past president of the Paleontological Society and the Paleontological Research Institution's Board of Trustees. She received the 2003 Outstanding Educator Award from the Association of Women Geoscientists.

Kelley's appearance at DSU is sponsored by the DSU Department of Natural Sciences and the The National Association of Geoscience Teachers Distinguished Speaker Series.

4/18/2008 12:07:23 PM

Discovery Salutes Expelled


[Discovery Institute President Bruce Chapman just asked me to post this on his behalf:]

by Bruce Chapman

The producers of Expelled have high hopes as the film opens today.

Practical questions of theater exposures and audience awareness are things that we, as a think tank, cannot assess, of course. But we are cheering the filmmakers on. First signs look positive. The over-the-top attacks of most official reviewers--offended by the film's message, not its quality--may turn out to help in some quarters. These are the exact same reviewers who commonly tell us not to object to offensive Hollywood products, but just to judge a film for its production quality. By now a large share of the population is wise to such hypocritical standards.

Some other things already are clear. Just making a major documentary film on subject so serious--although it is packaged in Ben Stein's unique and uproarious humor--and opening it in so many theaters nationally is a huge achievement. The preview screenings that Premise media conducted around the country brought the story of Darwinism's attack on objective science to the attention of thousands of people who didn't know about it before, let alone understand it. The initial theater run will be followed by small-group screenings, TV and DVDs.

This film is going to be a classic and there is nothing the fulminating opposition can do about it. (In recent days they even resorted to threatening lawsuits, just confirming their growing reputation for ill-liberal spite.)

There is no way that we, for our part, could have persuaded the evangelizing atheists in science--that is, the big guns of Darwinism--to let their true personalities appear in front of a camera so people actually could witness their furious, unreasoning contempt.

Expelled has done that. Hearing and seeing Richard Dawkins criticize the disingenuous and propagandistic approach of the National Center for Science Education (a part of the film the Darwinists simply do not want to acknowledge in public, let alone discuss) was worth it all for me. And that was before Dawkins went on to explain the space alien theory of life's origin that Carl Sagan, Francis Crick and many other Darwinians promote as their own creation story. (This theory is real science, right, Richard? Testable, falsifiable, based on evidence you have researched?)

The film has one moment after another like that. The second time I saw it brought out aspects I had missed in the first. I'll see it in a theater this weekend. Already one can tell that this is a documentary that will be watched for years; it is authentic and path finding.

Almost all the main elements of the struggle in which the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture has been engaged are in this film pulled together in an artful, witty, memorable account. It is a great credit to the writers, editors, Ben Stein of course (who has found, as one does, that defending those under attack is to bring attack on oneself), and most of all the producers--and, most notably, Walt Ruloff.

Oh, if we had been making the film, there would have been even more about the scientific flaws in Darwin's theory and even more about the scientific case for intelligent design. If the filmmakers had been able to wait a few months we would have been able to provide them with some exciting new scientific studies and books to cite. But I have to concede that the resulting film would have been twice as long and probably unusable as a Hollywood feature!

In any case, this is not our film. We didn't come up with the idea and we didn't come up with the money (critics who think we did flatter us!).

Frankly, I not only was skeptical, but also suspicious when I first heard about the film project a couple of years ago. That suspicion was wrong. While it is not our film our fellows are the focus of much of the attention and Ben Stein has electrified his audiences with their story. It is brilliant. And for all this we are grateful. It moves the whole question of "what it means to be human" forward. It opens new doors. And it forces many potential allies who would prefer to avert their eyes to recognize that the fight for academic freedom in science is inevitably their fight, too.

Posted by Casey Luskin on April 18, 2008 6:07 PM | Permalink

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Scientist: Ben Stein's 'Expelled' should really be 'Flunked Out'


Muriel Kane Published: Wednesday April 16, 2008

Comedian and former Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein's new documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, will not open until this Friday, but it has already been widely blasted for its alleged dishonesty and looseness with the facts.

Stein has recently emerged as a prominent spokesperson for so-called "intelligent design," a pseudo-scientific gloss over the religious philosophy of creationism. Using film-making techniques clearly borrowed from Michael Moore, Stein set out to confront scientists and educators about their alleged persecution of supporters of intelligent design, whom Stein claims have been "targeted for retaliation and harassment."

However, the National Center for Science Education has performed an extensive investigation of the "martyrs" profiled in Stein's file and has found a consistent pattern of misrepresentation.

"We reviewed public records and reports on the intelligent design promoters who were supposedly discriminated against, and we discovered that the claims that they lost their jobs over intelligent design are unsupported," biologist Josh Rosenau explained. "That said, professors who aren't making advances in their field, editors who disregard their journal's established practices, and lecturers who repeat creationist falsehoods shouldn't be surprised if they have trouble holding jobs. These people weren't expelled; they flunked out."

The controversies over Expelled began last fall, when two supporters of evolution who are interviewed in the film, Professors Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers, claimed that they were tricked into appearing by being told the film would present a serious debate about the "controversy that exists in America between evolution, creationism and the intelligent design movement."

"At no time was I given the slightest clue that these people were a creationist front," Dawkins complained. Stein countered, "I don't remember a single person asking me what the movie was about."

Myers recently noted that the producers of Expelled appear to have stolen some of their sequences from PBS and from a small animation company, XVIVO. Those producers have now counter-sued XVIVO, alleging that its claims are "part of an ongoing campaign attempting to discredit the film and its producers."

Expelled has also come under fire for its attempt to link a belief in evolution to Nazi genocide. When its producers offered a private screening to Scientific American, hoping for some sort of positive -- or at least newsworthy -- reaction, editor-in-chief John Rennie was withering in his criticism.

"We could simply ignore the movie," Rennie wrote. "Unfortunately, Expelled is a movie not quite harmless enough to be ignored. Shrugging off most of the film's attacks — all recycled from previous pro-ID works — would be easy, but its heavy-handed linkage of modern biology to the Holocaust demands a response for the sake of simple human decency."

Scientific American columnist Michael Shermer, who also appears in the film, expanded further on the Holocaust issue: "Cleverly edited interview excerpts from scientists are interspersed with various black-and-white clips for guilt by association with: bullies beating up on a 98-pound weakling, Charlton Heston's character in Planet of the Apes being blasted by a water hose, Nikita Khrushchev pounding his fist on a United Nations desk, East Germans captured trying to scale the Berlin Wall, and Nazi crematoria remains and Holocaust victims being bulldozed into mass graves. This propaganda production would make Joseph Goebbels proud."

Shermer pointed out in contrast that Darwinian theory has often been used as the unpinning for a belief in Stein's preferred doctrine of free market capitalism, a fact of which he found Stein to be "astonishingly ignorant." In fact, Shermer notes, Enron's CEO, Jeffrey Skilling, has said that his favorite book while at Harvard Business School, "was Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene ... a form of Darwinism that Skilling badly misinterpreted."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fla. legislature listens to Ben Stein on "alternatives" to Evolution


Posted on Apr 9, 2008 7:31:16 AM

Stuff like this is why Ben Stein's little movie matters.

Teachers have been "muzzled" from unloading their Bob Jones/Oral Roberts/Liberty University ignorance of science on their students? News to me. I had an ultra-fundamentalist chemistry teacher in high school, a real card carrying cultist, and he'd let fly with his prostelyizing nonsense every now and then, encouraging much rolling of the eyes amongst his classes.

In Florida, students and teachers who want to throw their faith into the fact-based sanctuary of science class are not just free to do so, as they always were, but pretty much encouraged in their superstitious ignorance by the Fla. legislature.

Let me guess. Students who stand up and demand equal time for the Flying Spaghetti Monster ("Why not? We have just as much proof as you!") will be heard, or "expelled?"

Just got the word today, too. No "preview" of the movie here in Fla. Anybody hear of one the non-ordained press might be able to check out? Anywhere in America? Anywhere? Anyone?

Ben Stein roused by Suppression in Science


Diana deRegnier

April 09, 2008

"Scientists are supposed to be allowed to follow the evidence wherever it may lead…" announces Premise Media Corporation. Their latest movie production, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" reveals the dirty little worldwide secret that scientists are being censored, silenced and even persecuted for digressing from "reigning orthodoxy."

Expelled's host, commentator and muckraker, Ben Stein, best known as the lovable, deadpan economics teacher in "Ferris Beuller's Day Off," takes his role very seriously and with perceptible passion. In the controversial documentary, which opens April 18, the former presidential speechwriter, economist and self-described "scold" travels the world speaking with scientists, chemists and philosophers asking, "Were we designed or are we simply the end result of an ancient mud puddle struck by lightning?"

Produced by Premise Media Corporation and marketed by Motive Entertainment, the movie rejects the notion that the case on how we came to be is closed and exposes the widespread harrying of scientists and educators who pursue legitimate opposing scientific views.

"The attack on scientific freedom was so egregious that it prompted a congressional investigation. The results of which were published in Discovery Institute – Center for Science and Culture: US Congressional Committee Report: Intolerance and the Politicization of Science at the Smithsonian, December 15, 2006.

"The debate over evolution is confusing and to some, bewildering." Darwinism does not take into account DNA, microbiology, The Big Bang, Einstein's Theory of Relativity or the human genome.

"The theory of Intelligent Design is simply an effort to empirically detect whether the 'apparent design' in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations."

Heralding release of the movie, Stanford Review, the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness club and VOX Clara: A Journal of Christian thought at Stanford University sponsored the debate "Atheism vs. Theism and Scientific Evidence of Intelligent Design" on January 27, 2008.

The event featured Christopher Hitchens, visiting professor of liberal studies, New School in New York, author, "God is not Great" vs. Jay W. Richards, research fellow and director of Acton Media at the Acton Institute, co-author, "The Privileged Planet." Ben Stein hosted the event with Michael Cromertie, Vice President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington and co-editor "Piety and Politics" as moderator.

The nearly full house at Dinklespiel Auditorium consisted of Stanford students, faculty and the larger community, including those in t-shirts that read, "Stand up for Evolution" and "Atheists are friendly in Silicon Valley. Church Communication Network telecast the live event to churches around the country.

Each debater was given 14 minutes for opening remarks. Hitchens began, "I can't imagine it'll take me 14 minutes to demolish intelligent design, as I refuse to call it."

Christopher – don't call me Chris – Hitchens cited barbarism, misery, ignorance, slavery and early death as proof of an absent or undeserving God. "Who's design? What kind of design? What kind of caprice, what kind of incompetence, what kind of cruelty?" Hitchens asked. His argument was largely based on the premise that religion condones and colludes in atrocities and immorality, citing genital mutilation, suicide bombings and child molestation.

"We all know that it's wrong to torture little children just for the fun of it," Richards said in his opening remarks, adding "a sneer is not an argument." Richards moved quickly into a case for a scientifically complex design only afforded planet earth and pointed to the universe's "beginning" as further evidence of intention.

"Where does the evidence point in terms of two competing hypothesis, to an atheistic or theistic world view? Richards asked. For theists, "there is a personal being, a transcendent, eternal, personal being. This being is by definition goodness and love."

Both speakers received numerous outbursts of applause, but Hitchens credibility suffered when he resorted to vulgarity and name-calling.

Each presented an argument deserving merit, though rather than offering a final say on the question of atheism vs. theism, the debate roused contemplation and potential for discussion.

After the debate, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ben Stein and "Expelled" producer Walt Ruloff:

deRegnier: What did you think of the event?

Stein: It went much more smoothly that I thought it would. Chris, Christopher Hitchens conducted himself in a very refined and dignified way. And, I thought the other guy {Jay Richards] was spectacularly good. I couldn't get over him. He was just overwhelming. I had not realized he was such a powerhouse. He was amazing and conducted himself magnificently. So I thought it went very, very well.

deRegnier: A few days ago, I asked Barry Kibrick, interviewer of authors on the PBS show "Between the Lines" what he would ask the debaters. He said that his only question would be, "If you believe in the awe of creation does it really matter whether you're an atheist or a theist?"

Stein: Gee, I don't really know how to answer that. I'll answer it in a fumbling way to say that something magnificent and awe-inspiring is going on every day that the sun rises on this planet. Something magnificent and awe-inspiring is going on every day that the universe exists. Something so huge and spectacular and complex that it inspires a sense of deep wonder and worshipfulness in me. That it's almost instinctive, so that I'm not sure that it needs to be argued about.

What I kept thinking about [during the debate] is I don't think there needs to be an argument about it. I can just feel it. I don't need their argument. I feel it.

deRegnier: Have you always felt this way? [I asked with envy.]

Stein: Yes. [He answered quickly and indisputably.]

deRegnier: Are you the originator of the idea for the movie? Where did that come from?

Stein: No, that came from him [pointing to producer Walt Ruloff].

Ruloff: The original idea came from my background in technology. And, in technology, you're allowed and you're supposed to ask all questions. You're supposed to push the paradigm of thought. And, if you're restricted in being able to do that, well, we're not going to have an obsolescence rate with technology, which is basically every 6 months.

And, so, when I started looking into the area of biotech in the area essentially of genomics, there was a whole series of questions that you weren't allowed to ask, or, more importantly, be able to openly talk about. And the key element of great science is if you have collaboration, scientific collaboration. So I was blown away by this censorship that was happening.

deRegnier: How did you discover that?

Ruloff: By interviewing and talking to many scientists about it. Being able to really put the current mechanism under the microscope which is the so-called random mutation combined with natural selection. The driving force is random mutation and there is a lot of evidence and a lot of work that people want to do in breaking this paradigm. This paradigm really based on our work needs to be broken because it's holding back science.

And that is fundamental to finding out what is going on within the cell. And so that got me very passionate about it and I immediately got in touch with Ben. And, Ben and I started working together and started dreaming about this documentary.

deRegnier: Did you know each other before hand?

Stein: No, we met each other about 2 years ago.

deRegnier: Was the idea of going around and interviewing scientists …

Stein: That was Walt's idea. It was all Walt's …

Ruloff: No, no.

Stein: It was all Walter. It was.

Laughter all around.

deRegnier: What was your part in the movie?

Stein: I'm the host and narrator.

Ruloff: The star, and the genius and the brains.

Stein: No, no, no, no, no. Walter's the genius.

deRegnier: I don't know about all your books.

Stein: You can look them up on Wikipedia…

deRegnier: Oh, I know, and I will tell you that, as a parting gift to my last love, I gave him an anthology of your, "How to Ruin your Life; How to Ruin your Love Life, How to Ruin your Financial Life."

Do you write about this issue [atheism vs. theism]?

Stein: I wrote about it in "The American Spectator" and I expect to write about it more. [And I'd swear I saw a glint of excitement in the great poker-face.}

deRegnier: Do you feel like you're on a mission now?

Stein: I've been on a mission in terms of trying to get people to think more about the role of God in their lives for a while. I've been involved in the right to life movement for quite a long time. So, this is really an extension of that. It's about recognizing the role that God plays in our daily life.

deRegnier: As my final question, what would you like to tell me that people should know?

Stein: I think that people should know that there's an awful lot that Darwinism does not explain. It does not explain where the laws of physics and thermodynamics and motion and all the laws that keep the universe running come from. It does not explain how life began.

Contrary to all the fudging going on onstage, science has never observed the evolution of one distinct species. And, people can say, 'oh the genome this, the genome that.' The genome of a human is not that distant from the genome of a frog. So, that fact, that they are of similar genomes doesn't prove that man evolved from frogs, just that they're similar. So, there's never been a singular species that I'm aware of that's been observed to evolve.

So there's a lot that has not been answered yet by Darwinism. Christopher Hitchens, I'm sure, is being sincere when he says, 'It's considered ridiculous to even challenge it.' That's just nonsense.

I turned off the recorder and thanked Ben Stein and Walt Ruloff for the interview. As I got up to leave, Ben Stein added, "Thank you for reading my books."

"You bet!" I hope I said.

Diana deRegnier is a freelance writer on living well in a complex world. Diana writes the syndicated column SpiritLinks for United Press International (UPI) ReligionAndSpirituality.com from the San Francisco Bay Area. Her articles appear in numerous Internet and print publications around the world. Diana is also editor and webmaster for the non-profit program SpiritLinksNewsletter.org for spiritual explorers of any or no religious affiliation. © Copyright 2008 by Diana deRegnier.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Intelligent design bill author wants debate


Camdenton legislator says teachers should have an alternative to theory of evolution.

Chad Livengood • News-Leader • April 5, 2008

Missouri lawmakers who want intelligent design taught in public schools as an alternative to evolution hope a documentary starring actor Ben Stein will prompt new debate on the subject.

Rep. Wayne Cooper, R-Camdenton, introduced legislation Tuesday that would give teachers academic freedom to offer alternative evidence to Charles Darwin's 19th century theory of evolution.

"I believe what is packaged and sold under the label of science is not science, but is people's personal world view," Cooper said Thursday during a press conference with Stein, who was in the state Capitol promoting his new movie challenging Darwinism.

Past attempts by Cooper to get intelligent design -- the assertion that an intelligent designer or God created the world and organisms -- have failed.

With the governor's office up for grabs, where do the three major party candidates stand on presenting the controversial intelligent design theory to Missouri's schoolchildren?

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kenny Hulshof, a U.S. congressman from Columbia, favors teaching intelligent design, according to campaign spokesman Scott Baker.

"He believes students should be presented a range of views of the origin of life," Baker said.

The campaign for state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, Hulshof's Aug. 5 Republican primary opponent, did not return phone calls seeking comment on her stance on the issue.

Attorney General Jay Nixon, the lone Democrat in the race, believes teaching intelligent design blurs the line of separation between church and state, his spokesman said.

"Jay Nixon believes there is time and a place for religious discussion, but we should stick to teaching science at public schools," said Nixon campaign spokesman Oren Shur.

On Wednesday, Stein gave lawmakers a free screening of his documentary, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," in the Capitol Rotunda.

His film debuts April 18.

Stein talks Intelligent Design and other topics with the Missourinet


Sunday, April 6, 2008, 10:00 PM
By Brent Martin

Actor Ben Stein has visited Missouri to promote his new film, a documentary called "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." He has sat down with the Missourinet to talk about it.

You can call him an actor, or a presidential speechwriter, or an economist, or a game show host, or a columnist. Ben Stein ranges far and wide and has made his mark on so many aspects of America. Now, he tackles the controversial subject of evolution versus Intelligent Design.

Stein tells the Missourinet the tie between social Darwinism and Nazism's effort to exterminate so-called inferior races has always disturbed him, "I would say probably the Nazis would have found some rationale to kill the Jews without Darwinism, but Darwinism made it awfully convenient for them."

For the past few years, Stein has been studying evolution. He says he has found it rests on little evidence. That led him to study the theory of Intelligent Design.

Stein tells us this isn't an insignificant point, "If man is just animated mud, mud struck by lightning, which is what some Darwinist, said then he has no moral content whatsoever. If man has a little touch of the divine within him, then he has plenty of moral content."

Stein says he hopes the film, due for release on the 18th, sparks a free and frank discussion of evolution.

Alternative medicine gets $1.7m extra research boost


Adam Cresswell, Health editor | April 05, 2008

COMPLEMENTARY medicine research has received another boost, with a pledge from the federal Government of an additional $1.7 million to establish three new research centres that will each study the efficacy of alternative treatments for specific conditions.

The money, announced by Parliamentary Secretary for Health Jan McLucas at a complementary medicines conference in Sydney this week, will give another leg-up to the credibility of alternative treatments after the previous government's decision to earmark $5 million to test the efficacy of herbal and alternative therapies.

Previously, most complementary medicines have suffered from a restricted evidence base of high-quality research.

The three new research centres, to be set up as collaborating centres of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine -- itself announced just nine months ago -- will be based at the University of Queensland, the University of Sydney and Swinburne University of Technology.

The UQ centre will receive $660,000 to focus on nutraceuticals and herbal medicine, with an emphasis on cardiovascular medicine, including diabetes and obesity, and ageing and skin health.

The biggest of the three grants, of $734,000, goes to the Sydney centre -- in fact a consortium of eight universities -- which will have a remit to look at traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), including acupuncture. The research will include an examination of how these might benefit in diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.

The third centre, for the study of natural medicines and neurocognition, will study how natural medicines might help in improving memory and brain function. Based at Swinburne, it will receive $350,000.

Announcing the grants, Senator McLucas said the complementary medicine sector "represents a substantial proportion of activity in the Australian health care sector".

"More than $2 billion is spent nationally, with up to two-thirds of the Australian adult population using at least one product and one in four using complementary medicine services," Senator McLucas said in a statement.

"There is growing testimony that complementary medicine can make a significant, cost-effective contribution to public health in chronic disease management and in preventative care.

"Until now there has been a gap between those who believe in and use complementary medicine, and the strength of the evidence to support that use. Today's announcement is intended to help bridge the gap."

In addition, the National Health and Medical Research Council announced the winning projects that will share in a $5.3 million research pool specifically for studies that will look at complementary medicines.

The money was originally announced by the former Howard Government at the end of 2006.

The biggest single grant, worth $661,024, will go to researchers from Monash University to study aspects of complementary medicines among people with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The second biggest, worth $643,680, will go to experts from the University of Adelaide to conduct a randomised, placebo-controlled trial to investigate the efficacy of a herbal treatment for dyspepsia.

Associate Professor Luis Vitetta, the lead investigator of the University of Queensland investigating centre, welcomed the grants as a "fantastic initiative".

"The community has been demanding that medicine and science provide evidence as to the efficacy of certain products and practices that are not part of conventional medicine -- such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, psycho-social support and exercise for cancer patients, the use of nutritional supplements, and so on," he said.

"The evidence has always been conflicting. So this is a fantastic initiative that allows researchers in the field to unite with conventional scientists to build a base of evidence in this area, so we find out what works and doesn't work. We can then translate this into preventive treatments or therapies."

Among some of the lesser grants that form part of the $5.3 million, the University of Western Sydney wins $590,200 to study the effect of Chinese medicine on constipation and irritable bowel syndrome, while Edith Cowan University receives $484,676 to evaluate nutritional supplements as treatments for Alzheimer's disease in mice, and Swinburne University wins $444,900 to study glycine therapy in schizophrenia.

Researchers from Macquarie University will receive nearly $150,000 to study the potential of medicinal plants used by Aboriginal people of northern NSW.

Wikileaks.org Tells Church Of Scientology To Get Bent


04/07/2008 (12:53 am)

We could have seen this one coming ten miles away. The RTC, or Religious Technology Center as it also known (David Miscavige is President) has issued a cease and desist letter to Wikileaks.org for posting several high level and "copyrighted" documents on its site. From the WikiNews article:

On March 9, 2008, Wikileaks published several documents relating to the Church's Office of Special Affairs and personal notes gathered by Frank Oliver, a former Scientologist and former member of the Church's Special Affairs office. On March 26, 2008, Wikileaks published the entire set of the Churches 'Operating Thetan Level' documents which included handwritten notes by Scientology's founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Although the letter does not mention specific legal threats against Wikileaks, the letter asks that they "preserve any and all documents pertaining to this matter and this customer, including, but not limited to, logs, data entry sheets, applications — electronic or otherwise, registrations forms, billings statements or invoices, computer print-outs, disks, hard drives, etc."

Despite the letter, Wikileaks states they will not to comply with the "abusive request" by the Church.

"Wikileaks will not comply with legally abusive requests from Scientology any more than Wikileaks has complied with similar demands from Swiss banks, Russian off-shore stem cell centers, former African Kleptocrats, or the Pentagon. Wikileaks will remain a place where people of the world may safely expose injustice and corruption," stated Wikileaks in a statement on their website.

The data posted is the Operating Thetan Levels 1 through 8 and these documents are considered secret and I've heard that when you pay your $300,000 plus "donations" to the Church, they send you in a sealed room, with the sealed documents (OT levels) and you must sign all sorts of legal documents declaring you will never tell another soul what you saw.

*rolls eyes*

Well, I guess so much for all the secrecy. Now, like any sacred scripture meant to enlighten and guide spiritually those who desire truth and wisdom, they need only venture over to WIKILEAKS.ORG for their fix of Hubbard goodness.

My advice to Wikileaks is DON'T PULL THOSE DOCS. Gawker doubled their traffic and made a assload of money for refusing to pull some goofy video of Tom Cruise spewing like a Scilon puppet, imagine the gold bouillon those OT Levels will bring you.

Scientist: Belittling evolution has dubious origins


BY BRIAN WILLIAMS bwilliams@nwitimes.com

Monday, April 07, 2008

VALPARAISO | The Darwinian theory of evolution, because it has not been disproved by rigorous testing over time, has become accepted knowledge, and disbelieving it is not an option.

That was the conclusion of Murray Peshkin, a physicist with Argonne National Laboratory, in a recent talk on science and religion at Valparaiso University.

Opponents of teaching Darwinian evolution have lost the court fight to keep it out of the public schools, Peshkin said, so they have changed the battle to push for equal billing for creationism, or intelligent design.

"What's wrong is teaching those as part of science -- they are not. They belong to religion because their assumptions and their logic belong to religion," he said.

Dismissing science with "it's only a theory," Peshkin said, is "intellectually appalling" and a material threat to the country. Science in the 21st century offers chances to conquer diseases and achieve other advances, opportunities that could be lost if students aren't taught the best science and if parents aren't taught respect for science, he said.

Scientists have failed to explain the limits of science, Peshkin said. Science deals in what can be observed and measured through experimentation. Assertions or beliefs are not part of it. A theory, he said, is a hunch about how the world works that is then subjected to experimental observation.

Religion, on the other hand, accepts revealed knowledge. The two, therefore, take different approaches to reality, Peshkin said.

But each is valid and the conflict between the two is unnecessary, he said.

Peshkin said experimentation can only disprove a theory, but never finally prove it.

With proof always impossible, then, scientists rely on the repeated successful testing of a theory to make conclusions about the physical world, he said. Newton's laws of mechanics are accepted because they have accurately described observable phenomena consistently over centuries. They have been found to apply not only to planets, as Newton started with, but also to baseballs and jet engines. An airplane designed to fly under a different theory of motion would not get any riders, Peshkin said.

Disbelieving well-tested theories is not an option intellectually or practically, he said.

Since the 1900s, Darwin's prediction of primates' descent from a common ancestor through natural selection has been confirmed by repeated observation. The theory of evolution has been subjected to numerous and varied tests and has not yet encountered limitations, he said.

Harun Yahya's Islamic creationist book pops up in Scotland


April 7th, 2008

Remember Harun Yahya's Atlas of Creation, the lavishly illustrated Islamic creationist book that first turned up in Turkey, then France and other European countries and prompted a disapproving resolution by the Council of Europe? It's now being mailed to universities in Scotland, the Sunday Herald there reports:

"I find it quite staggering," said Aubrey Manning, emeritus professor of natural history at the University of Edinburgh. He houses his seven copies in a cupboard in the zoology department's staff room. "Every academic I know says they've got one of those. And it's peddling an absolute, downright lie…"

According to Taner Edis, a physicist at Truman State University in the US who has written several books on Islam and science, Oktar is "the leader of a small religious sect and an art school drop-out."

Copies of Atlas Of Creation began appearing in American universities last year. Edis has two in his office. He said they caught academics' eyes because of their high production value, but also because the book argued for creationism from a Muslim perspective, as opposed to the more widely heard Protestant Christian tradition.

The Evangelical Church in Germany, the main Protestant church association there, issued a warning last week against teaching creationism in schools. It didn't mention Atlas of Creation but it's been reported to have been distributed there.

The mysterious Istanbul writer Harun Yahya (actually Adnan Oktar) is clearly spending large amounts of money sending this unwelcome book around Europe. Where does he get it from?

Since the last time we wrote about Oktar, he has given interviews to several news organisations from Muslim countries. Here's one with Al-Jazeera (video in Arabic, text in English) and several other news groups.