NTS LogoSkeptical News for 4 July 2008

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Friday, July 04, 2008

Evolution: If It Walks Like a Fish ...


By Jerry Adler | NEWSWEEK
Apr 17, 2006 Issue

Darwin predicted that the "missing links" of evolution--gaps in the fossil record between related species--would come to haunt his theory. He was right: even today, they're a major theme in the effort to discredit evolution with the public. Which is why there was such a stir about a paper in the journal Nature last week describing a 375 million-year-old creature dug from rocks in the Canadian Arctic. It's a four-foot-long, crocodile-headed fish with scales, gills--and primitive wrist- and fingerlike bones in its fins. Given the Inuit name Tiktaalik, the specimen neatly splits the gap between fossil fish that lived about 385 million years ago and the four-legged amphibians that came 20 million years later.

Until recently, scientists believed that legs evolved when a warming climate dried up ponds and swamps. But Tiktaalik supports the view that legs evolved in water, among fish living in what was then a tropical river delta--perhaps to help them crawl to shallows where larger predators couldn't follow. "It really blurs the distinction between land and water animals," says Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago, who led the team that found the fossil.

Shubin didn't set out to score points for Darwinism, but the implications of his find are obvious: Tiktaalik could turn out to be as iconic as Archaeopteryx, the fossil link between dinosaurs and birds. The Discovery Institute, which promotes "intelligent design" as an alternative to Darwin, was quick to assert that Tiktaalik "poses no threat to [ID] ... Few leading [ID] researchers have argued against the existence of transitional forms." Those "leading researchers" may know better, but the fossil gaps are cited many times in the controversial ID textbook "Of Pandas and People." The book takes particular note of the large difference between "the oldest amphibian" and "its presumed [fish] ancestor." It's a gap wide enough for a fish to walk through--and now we know that one did.

© 2006

Hard to swallow: the truth behind the health myths


Last Updated: 12:01am BST 02/07/2008

Health has long been an area beset by superstition and spurious claims, and despite our medical advances, some common myths persist. By Johanna Leggatt

In physicist Claudius Galen's day - around 130AD - illness was thought to be the excess of one of the four humours (yellow bile, black bile, phlegm and blood), which were treatable by bloodletting and purges.

Contrary to popular opinion, eight glasses of water a day is not necessary

While medicine has come a long way since then, some common myths still abound. Where medical science has faltered or been less than decisive, we have stepped in to fill in the gaps of our knowledge as we seek ways of making sense of our bodies' mysterious workings.

Drink plenty of water, avoid carbohydrates to lose weight and detoxify regularly are just some of the 21st-century health mantras that are often unquestioningly accepted.

Here, telegraph.co.uk, addresses some of the most commonly held health axioms in a bid to sort the fact from the fiction.

Health mantra: we must drink eight glasses of water a day

Reality: This is one of the most popular and pervasive myths, and according to Telegraph columnist Dr James Le Fanu, it is also entirely untrue.

"The myth comes from a holistic notion that you need that amount of water per day to flush all of the toxins out of the body," said Dr Le Fanu.

In fact we need only need 750ml to one litre of water, per day. "Quite simply, if we exceed that amount, we will simply excrete it."

Health mantra two: certain foods prevent cancer

Reality: Despite many newspaper reports that a low-fat diet and plenty of exercise has the potential to prevent cancer, Dr Le Fanu says cancer is, and always will be, a question of age.

"Cancer is an age-determined disease, which means your likelihood of getting it increases as you get older," Dr Le Fanu said.

"That is overwhelmingly the determiner, rather than diet."

Eating well and exercising will of course contribute to overall wellbeing, but it should not be viewed as the holy grail of cancer prevention.

Health mantra three: antibiotics and alcohol don't mix

Reality: One of the most prevalent misconceptions Dr Le Fanu comes across is that alcohol and antibiotics shouldn't be mixed. "I get asked this all the time and people are very relieved to find out that drinking alcohol while on antibiotics will not hinder their efficacy."

The NHS, however, does recommend avoiding alcohol while on the drugs Metronidazole and Tinidazole, as it may cause flushing, headaches and vomiting.

Health mantra: carbohydrates are to be avoided if you want to lose weight

Reality: Not so. According to eatwell.gov.uk, the website of the Food Standards Agency, starchy foods only become fattening when actual fat, such as cream or margarine, is added to the meal.

Gram for gram, starchy foods contain less than half the calories of fat. Starchy meals should ideally make up a third of the average diet, and the FSA advises using wholegrain varieties where possible, to ensure you receive additional nutrients and fibre.

Health mantra: computers may be harmful to our health

Reality: Sadly this is the case. According to independent health website, netdoctor.co.uk, the long-term repetitive use of computers can cause back muscle strain, RSI and eye-strain. The desk that employees use, as well as the chair and computer all have to meet certain ergonomic standards, so that you are able to sit comfortably and upright, and do not feel any eye or back strain.

To minimize eye strain it is recommended that employees take regular breaks and look away from their screen every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. Screen filters and footstools may also prove helpful.

Health mantra: shaving causes hair to grow back faster or coarser

Reality: It's a rumour that is no doubt convenient for the hair-removal industry, but let's put it straight: shaving hair will in no way make it grow back thicker, or any faster.

According to US researchers, who conducted a study last year on commonly held health myths, the illusion of thicker locks is created because the hair grows back blunt-ended without the fine tapered ends of unshaven hair.

Furthermore, the sun naturally bleaches hair over time so hair that is newly emerged may seem darker but is, in fact, no darker than any other new hair growth.

Health mantra: poor diet and hygiene cause acne

Reality: This is a common one, and generally, most doctors agree that acne is the direct manifestation of the production of hormones, which explains why it is so prevalent in teenagers. As Dr Le Fanu points out, when treating acne, doctors turn not to dietary treatments, but very often prescription drugs.

That is not to suggest, however, that in some people a vast improvement in diet won't have a noticeable impact on their skin.

Health mantra: detoxifying the body is the ultimate path to wellbeing

Reality: Detoxification has been hugely successful in the West in recent years - and expensive too - as men and women part with large sums of money for colonic treatments and embark on post-partying cleansing rituals.

But according to Dr Simon Singh and Dr Edzard Ernst in their book, Trick or Treatment: Alternative Medicine on Trial, the human body is well equipped with organs that are marvelous at detoxifying what we put in our bodies.

Gentle exercise and plenty of water are all that are needed to get the human body back on track after a period of over-indulgence. Anything else, they argue (colonics included), is likely to be a waste of time and money.

Information appearing on telegraph.co.uk is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited

Weighing Alternatives


Can Massage, Meditation And Supplements Really Improve Your Health? A Leading Expert Reflects On The Benefits And The Possible Drawbacks.

Updated: 6:00 PM ET Jan 8, 2008

Last year some 83 million Americans sought out herbalists, acupuncturists and other nontraditional health practitioners. The bill topped $27 billion. What makes alternative medicine so attractive? And how can women make the best use of it? NEWSWEEK took up those questions with Dr. Pamela M. Peeke, a former senior research fellow at the NIH Office of Complementary and Alternative Medicine and now a clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: A recent study found that about half of all Americans visit alternative-care practitioners. That's a big increase since 1990. Why so popular?

PEEKE: I think we're experiencing a backlash against many of the ways that conventional medicine has been practiced. People are looking for alternatives to drugs they believe to be fraught with side effects. And there is a growing awareness of the mind-body connection. Americans are studying meditation. And they're realizing that touch therapies like massage can help alleviate stress, depression and chronic pain.

What are some common conditions that are being treated by complementary medicine?

Chronic pain. Osteoarthritis. Migraines. Breast-cancer patients are using acupuncture to combat nausea and pain during chemotherapy or radiation. And for menopause, women are trying everything from St. John's wort to ginseng, green tea, dong quai and black cohosh.

Is there any government oversight for herbal remedies?

No, these remedies are not currently under regulation by the Food and Drug Administration. Prescription drugs are tightly regulated. So are over-the-counter remedies, such as Tylenol and aspirin. But anything sold as a nutritional supplement--whether it's vitamin C, magnesium or melatonin--is treated as a foodstuff, not a medicine.

How can you improve your chances of buying a high-quality herbal product?

I prefer to look to those products that have been prepared under some form of careful standardization. Some of the larger pharmaceutical companies have started to make these herbal preparations. They can afford to refine the herbal extracts and safely standardize them so that you get exactly the same amount and quality of herbals in every pill. Also, groups like the United States Pharmacopoeia are in the process of developing an approval process to identify the best herbal products.

So what should consumers be aware of?

People need to understand that herbals must be honored and respected as medicines. You can't just assume that because it comes from a green plant, it's free of side effects. In fact, more than 25 percent of conventional medicines in the Physicians' Desk Reference are derived from plant sources. The cancer drug Taxol comes from the yew bush. Aspirin is derived from willow bark. These are very potent plants. And they have side effects.

Give us some examples of herbal side effects.

Gingko biloba may improve memory, but at higher doses it's a blood thinner. St. John's wort shows great promise as an antidepressant, but one of its common side effects is an uncomfortable rash that appears on the skin after exposure to the sun. The danger is that people are taking many herbs and adding on lots of vitamin supplements, and they're not adding up the amount they're getting. They're thinking, If a little is good, then a lot is better. That can be a real problem.

Where should we turn for guidance?

People are wandering into vitamin shops and listening to clerks who have absolutely no medical background. And studies suggest that 80 percent of the people using complementary modalities are not telling their primary-care physicians. New information will help. Pharmacists are now putting together continuing-education programs because they're getting so many calls from people inquiring about the safety of mixing herbs and other supplements with conventional medications. And last year the first Physicians' Desk Reference devoted to herbal medicines was published. It describes hundreds of different herbs and talks about their recommended uses and side effects.

We still need a more comprehensive research database. And we still need more knowledgeable doctors. Physicians and nurses and other health professionals need to study this field. They do not need to advocate herbal medicine, but they should understand it. Remaining ignorant is a disservice to their patients.

Many people are turning to complementary medicine not because they're sick but because they feel generally stressed out. Can it help?

People are taking vitamins and nutrients because they're too busy to shop and eat well. But the best way to pick up the great majority of minerals and vitamins is in whole foods. With an orange, for example, you're getting bulk and fiber as well as vitamin C. Herbals should be used as adjuncts to healthy living. Taking an herbal is no substitute for taking care of yourself.




By Jonathan Alter | NEWSWEEK Aug 15, 2005 Issue

A teacher in Kansas, where war over Darwin in the schools is still raging, calls the theory of intelligent design "creationism in a cheap tuxedo." Great line, but unfair to the elegant tailoring of the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based think tank that has almost singlehandedly put intelligent design on the map. Eighty years after the Scopes "monkey trial," the threat to science and reason comes less from fundamentalists who believe the earth was created in six days than from sophisticated branding experts and polemical Ph.D. s who are clever enough to refrain from referring to God or even the Creator, and have now found a willing tool in the president of the United States.

Lest you think this is merely of academic interest, consider the stakes: the Pentagon last week revealed that it is spending money to train certain scientists how to write screenplays for thrillers related to their specialties. Why? Because the status of science has sunk so low that the government needs these disciplines to become sexy again among students or the brain drain will threaten national security. One of the reasons we have fewer science majors is the pernicious right-wing notion that conventional biology is vaguely atheistic.

Now President Bush has given that view a boost. When Bush was asked about intelligent design last week, he answered, "Both sides ought to be properly taught... so people can understand what the debate is about." This sounds reasonable until you realize that, as the president's own science adviser, John H. Marburger III, admits, there is no real debate. "Intelligent design is not a scientific concept," Marburger told The New York Times, committing a bit of candor that will presumably earn him a trip to the White House woodshed.

Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute claims ID uses a scientifically valid "inference to the best explanation" to back up its theories. That might be good enough for a graduate course in the philosophy of science (and the ACLU should not prevent it from being discussed in high-school humanities and philosophy classes), but the idea of its being offered as an alternative to evolution in ninth-grade biology is a cruel joke. Its basic claim--that the human cell is too complex to be explained by natural selection--is unproven and probably unprovable. ID walks like science and talks like science but, so far, performs in the lab worse than medieval alchemy.

It's not God who's the problem but ID's assault on Darwin. Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller (who attends mass every week) says the "unspoken message" peddled by the Discovery Institute is that evolution is the single shakiest theory in science. In fact, despite its flaws, it remains among the most durable theories in all of science.

Even as the president helps pit faith against science in the classroom, popes and other clerics have long known that religion and evolution are not truly at odds. Evolution does not, for instance, challenge the idea that the universe began with a spark of divinity. Darwin himself wrote movingly of God. Only the scientific process--not the scientist--must be agnostic. Long before Darwin, enlightened Christians understood that religion and science are best kept in separate realms. In the fifth century, for instance, Saint Augustine criticized other Christians who "talk nonsense" about the laws of nature.

Louisiana Governor Signs Evolution Bill


Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has quietly signed into law Senate Bill 733, which allows local education agencies to use supplemental classroom materials that will help students "analyze, critique, and review" scientific theories, including evolution.

The governor's action was described in a list of 75 bills that he announced he had approved on June 26, with a one-sentence statement that makes no mention of evolution.

The measure, which was sponsored by state Sen. Ben Nevers, a Democrat, and drew overwhelming support from Louisiana's legislature, specifically states that it is not meant to promote any religious doctrine or belief.

But several scientific organizations believe the law will do just that. One of the leading scientific societies in the world, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, had urged Jindal to veto the bill, citing the vast amount of scientific evidence backing up evolution and its centrality to students' understanding of science.

"There is virtually no controversy about evolution among researchers, many of whom like you, are deeply religious," AAAS President Alan I. Leshner wrote in a letter to the governor. "Rather than step backward," he added, Louisiana should "look to the future by seeking to provide Louisiana students with a firm understanding of evolution and other essential concepts so they can compete for high-skill jobs in an increasingly high-tech world economy."

Jindal, a first-term Republican, has seen his national profile rise in recent months, having been mentioned as a potential vice presidential pick of presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain.

The new law, titled the Louisiana Science Education Act, says that the state board of education shall "allow and assist" teachers and administrators who want to promote critical thinking of scientific theories "including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." The legislation goes on to state that while teachers are expected to teach the material presented in standard textbooks supplied by their school systems, they can supplement those materials with resources that help students "understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner" unless otherwise prohibited by the state.

As I've written, global warming has gradually received more attention in science standards and classroom materials as teachers have sought more resources to talk about the subject. See my previous post on Florida's inclusion of the topic in its standards.

The impact of the Louisiana law would seem to depend on the actions taken by school districts and individual teachers. Opponents of the law have predicted that it could prompt a wave of lawsuits, if schools or educators seek to denigrate evolution in favor of religious-based views of life's development, such as creationism, or if they attempt to promote "intelligent design."

A federal judge in Pennsylvania, in a landmark decision, ruled in 2005 that intelligent design was a religious concept, not a scientific one, and that the Dover, Pa., school district's attempt to require that students be introduced to it was unconstitutional. One of the judge's conclusions was that the Dover policy was singling out evolution for special scrutiny or criticism, when the theory is, in fact, one of the foundational principles in all of science.

Louisiana was the setting for a major battle over evolution more than two decades ago. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 struck down a state law that required public schools to balance the teaching of evolution with creationism. The court found that the law violated the First Amendment's prohibition on government establishment of religion.

In the time since the more recent Dover court fight, bills have emerged in several states that have sought to present critiques of evolution as a matter of "academic freedom." So far those bills have not gathered the support necessary to make it into law, and they have drawn opposition from scientists, who see them as a backdoor way of promoting attacks on evolution in public school science classes.

Posted by Sean Cavanagh on July 2, 2008 10:38 AM | Permalink

God and Darwin make nice


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What happened

Karl Giberson's new book, Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution, reopens the old debate between religious doctrine and scientific theory—and claims that both are true. Giberson, a professor of physics at Eastern Nazarene College, and director of the Forum on Faith and Science at Gordon College, believes that evolution and creationism can coexist.

What the commentators said

"Many scientists today are locked in an unending match of whack-a-mole with Christian creationists," said Vincent Rossmeier in Salon. Giberson "seeks a middle way." But it requires atheists to stop being so dogmatic, and creationists to stop reading Genesis as literally as if it were a history book.

Giberson gives the impression that he wishes intelligent design were true, said biologist Paul Myers on Scienceblogs' Pharyngula blog, but can't shake the belief that it is a betrayal of scientific principles. But by that logic, Giberson should be an atheist. Instead, he's making "woolly headed" apologies for creationism.

"The curious thing about the book is that Giberson actually says very little about how to be both a Christian and an evolutionist," said mathematician Jason Rosenhouse on Scienceblogs' EvolutionBlog. Most of the book covers "the standard topics in this area ... It will be old hat for people steeped in this issue." But he does it well, so it's a good read for Creationism vs. Evolution 101.

BHA: Humanists "appalled" that creationism taught in 40 UK schools


Thursday, 03 Jul 2008 09:01

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has reacted to news that there are at least 40 schools in Britain which teach creationism in science lessons. The figures were revealed in a report broadcast on More 4 News on Tuesday, and are the result of inquiries made to 50 Evangelical, Jewish and Muslim schools.

Andrew Copson, BHA Director of Education and Public Affairs said:

"It is appalling that there are thousands of children in Britain who are being taught that evolution is a myth and creationism a fact. It is even worse that almost 1,000 of those children attend schools funded by taxpayers, which teach creationism despite national guidance that it has no place in the science classroom. We are glad that the government is currently producing new guidance on how to deal with creationism in schools but it is crucial that school inspectors are also trained to check faith schools rigorously for the teaching of creationism or intelligent design."

The BHA has written to the Education Minister Ed Balls, urging greater effort in promoting good science education in all schools.

For more information please contact the British Humanist Association on 020 2079 3584 or 07855 380 633.

Notes to Editors:

The report broadcast on More 4 News on Tuesday 2 July 2008 found that:


Press releases published on this page are from key opinion formers who promote their organisation's activities by subscribing to a campaign site within politics.co.uk. politics.co.uk does not endorse, edit, or attempt to balance the opinions expressed on this page. The content of press releases are wholly the responsibility of the originating company or organisation.

Former state science director sues over intelligent design


02:25 PM CDT on Thursday, July 3, 2008
By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – A former state science curriculum director on Wednesday sued the Texas Education Agency and Education Commissioner Robert Scott, alleging she was illegally fired for forwarding an e-mail about a lecture critical of the movement to promote intelligent design in science classes.

Also Online

Christina Comer, who lost her job at the TEA last fall, said in a suit filed in federal court in Austin that she was terminated for contravening an "unconstitutional" policy at the agency. The policy required employees to be neutral on the subject of creationism – the biblical interpretation of the origin of humans, she said.

The policy was in force, according to the suit, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that teaching creationism as science in public schools is illegal.

"The agency's 'neutrality' policy has the purpose or effect of endorsing religion, and thus violates the Establishment Clause" of the U.S. Constitution, the lawsuit said.

Ms. Comer also said in her complaint that she was fired without due process after serving as the state science director for nearly 10 years.

Her lawsuit seeks a court order overturning the TEA's neutrality policy on teaching creationism and declaring that her dismissal was illegal under the Constitution. The suit also seeks her reinstatement.

A spokeswoman for the education agency said TEA officials had no comment on the lawsuit because they had not seen it.

But officials previously said Ms. Comer's e-mail about the lecture implied endorsement of the speaker's position "on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral." The speaker, Barbara Forrest, was the author of a book that asserted creationist politics were behind the national movement to get intelligent design taught in schools.

The theory of intelligent design holds that the origin of the universe and humans is best explained by an unknown "intelligent cause" rather than through evolutionary processes such as natural selection and random mutation. Critics – including at least one federal judge – contend that intelligent design is nothing more than creationism in disguise and has no business being taught in science classes.

TEA officials also said Ms. Comer made unauthorized remarks not connected to the debate over creationism and intelligent design during her tenure at the agency.

She left the agency as the State Board of Education was beginning to plan for a rewrite of the science curriculum in 2008. Curriculum standards now require that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution – including the premise that humans evolved from lower forms of life – be taught in all high school biology classes.

Document: Lawsuit filed by Christina Comer

Creation Museum: Among the believers


Paul Blaney
Last Updated: 4:44PM BST 03/07/2008The Creation Museum lies close to the borders between Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana - where the South meets the Midwest

Paul Blaney receives a fascinating insight into fundamentalist Christianity at Cincinnati's Creation Museum, where creationist theory is presented as fact.

Queuing on a Saturday morning to enter the first gallery of the Creation Museum, I have time to admire the pastoral tableau displayed before me. Real turtles swim in pools while a model of a little girl in a primitive brown tunic feeds a model squirrel. What startles me, however, is the six-foot dinosaur loitering next to the girl.

I wonder whether anyone else has noticed the anachronism: homo sapiens co-existing with the dinosaurs. But none of my fellow visitors, most of them white and many with children, seems the least bit fazed.

This is the Creation Museum, just a few miles from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport, close to where Kentucky meets Ohio and Indiana, and the South meets the Midwest. The attraction, which cost $27 million and occupies 60,000 square feet, opened in the spring of 2007 and drew some 400,000 visitors in its first year.

Its popularity should perhaps be no surprise. A survey published this week by the respected Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that the "typical" American believes not only in God (92 per cent) but also in absolute standards of right and wrong (78 per cent), life after death (74 per cent) and, most interestingly, that the Bible is the literal word of God (63 per cent).

"My starting point is the Bible," says a genial, bearded scientist from the television screens of the museum's first gallery. Between the screens, a model of a dinosaur skeleton is being unearthed by a model of the paleontologist. The paleontologist on the screen explains that the methods he uses are exactly the same as those employed by his scientific colleagues, but while they think the dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago, he believes they perished more recently, some 3,600 years back during Noah's flood: "The same evidence, but two different conclusions. That's because we begin from different starting points."

This is the central message of the museum. It is not an outright attack on Darwinian evolution and the Big Bang theory; the attack is more indirect — look what a mess people have made of the world since they stopped believing in God's truth. Instead, the museum presents an alternative theory based on the Book of Genesis.

The subsequent galleries through which I proceed over the next two hours make an argument. They provide a scientific basis — sometimes ingenious, sometimes spurious — for Creationism.

According to this literal interpretation of the Bible, the universe was created in six days and came into being around the year 4004 BC. Geological evidence for an older Earth, as well as the fossil record that underpins the theory of evolution, is explained in terms of upheavals arising from The Flood.

The layout of the museum makes the experience like walking through a canyon that widens into a gallery only to narrow again as you move towards the next one. The funnel effect is claustrophobic, particularly as there's a big crowd today, but the delays give me time to chat to fellow visitors.

"This is our third time," a man pushing a pram informs me. "We love this place." Nobody complains about the crowding or the lengthy delay of getting into the next gallery. They seem a friendly bunch, if strangely subdued. There are almost reverential as they make their way around the exhibits, as though they're visiting a holy shrine.

Entering a small cinema, we are shown a five-minute film on the seven days of creation, and in the planetarium "secular astronomers" are taken to task for their improbable theories.

The museum employs the standard apparatus of history and science museums everywhere: models, animatronics, authoritative voiceovers and computer-generated re-creations. I watch the younger children around me, trying to gauge their reactions. Predictably, they are most impressed by the more lifelike exhibits; a jaw-snapping, roaring dinosaur is a particular hit.

In one gallery is the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve standing face to face. With her downturned eyes, Eve looks so submissive that you would hardly think her capable of conniving with the serpent. And a few galleries along there is a scale model of Noah's Ark (the real thing was, according to the display, 100 times bigger).

Two mannequins are hammering away at the Ark. I notice that one of their mouths is moving and step closer to listen. "Noah reckons there's going to be a great flood," the electronic workman tells his colleague, shaking his head. "He said God told him so." A woman has moved up beside me with her young daughter. "He doesn't believe," she tells the girl. The girl is five or six; she nods her head but looks more scared than convinced.

It would be easy to mock the museum and the visitors who attend it — many on buses as part of a church group. More interesting is to try to understand their motivations. The purpose of the Creation Museum seems to be to provide those who take a literal view of Genesis with a sense that their beliefs are legitimate and coherent. They leave, I imagine, reinforced in their belief that Creationism makes sense, and with arguments to answer anyone who might ridicule it on scientific grounds. The museum's slogan sums it up neatly: "Prepare to Believe".

Creation Museum, 2800 Bullittsburg Church Rd, Petersburg, KY 41080 (www.creationmuseum.org)

"The 'typical' American believes not only in God (92 per cent) but also that the Bible is the literal word of God (63 per cent)"

Professors speak for evolution


By Laura Heinauer


Thursday, July 03, 2008

This story was originally published on December 11, 2007 int the Austin American-Statesman.

More than 100 biology faculty members from universities across Texas signed a letter sent Monday to state Education Commissioner Robert Scott saying Texas Education Agency employees should not have to remain neutral on evolution.

The letter is in response to the departure of science curriculum director Chris Comer , who says she was forced to resign days after forwarding an e-mail that her superiors said made the agency appear biased against the idea that life is a result of intelligent design.

"I'm an evolutionary biologist, and I and many others simply feel that good evolution education is key to understanding biology as a whole," said Daniel Bolnick of the University of Texas, who has been collecting signatures since last week.

In addition to UT faculty, the signers include professors from Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Texas State, Rice and Baylor universities and the universities of North Texas and Houston.

"As educators, we simply feel strongly that scientifically sound information be taught in public schools, and certainly having people sympathetic to quality evolution education at the TEA is important," Bolnick said. Having students in his classes without a basic grounding in evolutionary theory is comparable to having students in college-level math courses who haven't learned algebra, he said.

David Hillis , a UT professor of integrative biology who also signed the letter, said, "I think it is a clear sign of how far we have slipped into scientific illiteracy in this country when a science director at the Texas Education Agency is fired for merely forwarding an e-mail about a talk related to science education. It is extraordinarily unfortunate and inappropriate that religious views are dictating hiring and firing decisions at the Texas Education Agency.

"This is an enormous black eye in terms of our competitiveness and ability to attract researchers and technologies," Hillis said.

The concept of intelligent design holds that life is so complex that it must have been created by a higher authority.

State officials, meanwhile, maintain that Comer's resignation was due to a pattern of not following agency policies.

In a November memorandum recommending that she be terminated, Comer's superiors cited comments she made about leadership at the agency and a failure to get approval before making speeches and presenting slideshows.

It also cited her decision to forward an e-mail sent to her by a pro-evolution group that announced a speech about the intelligent design movement in schools. The deputy commissioner for statewide policy and programs, Lizzette Reynolds, showed the e-mail to Comer's supervisors, calling it an "offense that calls for termination."

Days later, Comer resigned.

Personnel documents released Monday under the Texas Public Information Act offer further insight into her career at the agency. In 2003, Comer was put on disciplinary probation for one year after she accepted travel reimbursement from grants that she was responsible for administering. The issue was not brought up in the termination memorandum.

In separate reviews, she was chastised for spending too much time at conferences; however, she was also given several merit raises and got high marks in other areas.

Although Comer's failure to consistently follow professional standards has been cited as an issue, Scott and other officials declined to be specific, saying they fear being sued.

"I am really frustrated with the issue, knowing the truth and not being able to talk about it," Scott said.

Comer, who said Monday that she is considering a defamation suit, added that the only time she was reprimanded recently was in February, after she attended a meeting of science educators without getting prior approval.

"Did I question them when they said things that I thought were wrong? Yes, I did that," Comer said. "I did speak up for myself. I was not a shrinking violet. But then, as the director of science, I thought it was important to hear my expert opinions of what is going on."

lheinauer@statesman.com; 445-3694. Additional material from staff writer Alberta Brooks.

Case of former state science director stirs evolution debate


7/3/2008 8:06 PM By: Catie Beck

The issue of evolution vs. creationism will be headed to court, and those involved in the debate will be closely watching its outcome.

When a science director loses her job, it seems lots of people have an opinion about it.

But after all, it's one woman and one job.

"It's because this is really about what kind of education Texas students get in their public schools," Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network said.

Evolution supporters like Miller are thinking about the bigger picture in regards to what happened to Comer.

The Texas Education Agency told Comer she had failed to remain neutral in the evolution versus creationism debate.

"It's kind of like asking the science director to be neutral on whether the earth is round and revolves around the sun," Miller said.

Miller said the idea of a divine creator is a religious idea, not a scientific one, which is why it's not in Texas textbooks.

Others disagree.

The debate is about what to put in Texas textbooks.

"Intelligent design is credible, there are things that intelligent design begins to explain that evolution cannot," creationism supporter Lane Wood said.

Wood isn't suggesting creationism should be the only version of the story on how we came to be. He just feels it should be included in the classroom discussion.

"I don't know what the point would be in excluding something that may actually be correct, there's no way to disprove it," Wood said.

But what has been proven is that a strong debate is brewing in Texas about what to put in science books.

"No matter how this lawsuit is decided, this issue will not be going away in Texas," Miller said.

The issue will be headed to court, and those involved in the debate will be closely watching its outcome.

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12/16/07 Professors write TEA in support of Castillo-Comer
12/11/07 Biology professors voice support for Comer
12/7/07 Former science director speaks up about losing her job
11/29/07 State science curriculum director resigns under pressure

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

'Historic' education bill in Louisiana


Pete Chagnon - OneNewsNow - 7/1/2008 6:00:00 AM

Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana is being praised for signing what is being hailed as a historic education act.

Jindal recently signed into law the Louisiana Science Education Act, allowing the state's teachers to freely teach the scientific evidence both for and against Darwinian evolution. Casey Luskin, who works public policy and legal affairs with the Discovery Institute, applauds Jindal for signing the law.

"[This law basically] requires the public school system in Louisiana to be friendly towards teachers who want to 'help students understand, analyze, critic, and objectively review scientific theories being studied' – including the scientific theory of evolution," Luskin contends.

However, the law states that teachers must be consistent with the prohibition of the promotion of religion. "Well, the bill does not allow the teaching of religion," Luskin explains, "but there are many legitimate scientific critics of evolution that have a purely scientific basis that you can talk about without having to get into religion at all."

Besides opening the door to critiquing leading theories of evolution, the bill also protects teachers from being harassed, intimidated, and sometimes fired for offering evidence critical of Darwinian theory. Several other states are considering similar legislation.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Americans United Will Monitor Implementation Of New Louisiana Anti-Evolution Law


Friday, June 27, 2008

National Watchdog Group Says Litigation Will Follow If Measure Is Used To Promote Religion In Public Schools

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today warned Louisiana officials that lawsuits will result if the state's new anti-evolution law is used to introduce religion into public school classrooms.

Gov. Bobby Jindal this week signed the legislation (SB 733), which allows teachers to use "supplemental materials" when discussing evolution. The measure was pushed by the Louisiana Family Forum and the Discovery Institute, two Religious Right groups that advocate creationist concepts, and is widely seen as an effort to water down instruction about evolution.

"I am very disappointed that Gov. Jindal signed this unwise and unnecessary measure," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "Louisiana has a long and unfortunate history of trying to substitute dogma for science in public school classrooms. Let me state clearly and upfront that any attempts to use this law to sneak religion into public schools through the back door will not be tolerated."

Lynn urged Louisiana residents to monitor the situation in their local communities and report any potential violations to Americans United. He noted that the organization has a new chapter in Louisiana and that activists on the ground will be watching developments in the state very closely.

Supporters of the bill, including the Discovery Institute and Sen. Ben Nevers, its primary sponsor, have insisted that the measure is not intended to promote religion. Americans United says it will hold them to that.

"I've heard from plenty of people in Louisiana who are embarrassed by this law and are concerned that it's just another attempt to bring religion into the public schools," said Lynn. "I call on all concerned residents of Louisiana to help us make sure that public schools educate, not indoctrinate."

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Jindal signature renews La. evolution debate


6/27/2008, 2:42 p.m. CDT
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed legislation said to foster "critical thinking" about evolution and other science topics in Louisiana public schools, triggering warnings that lawsuits will follow if the law leads to teachers spreading religious doctrine.

"Let me state clearly and upfront that any attempts to use this law to sneak religion into public schools through the back door will not be tolerated," the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and state, said in a news release Friday.

Lynn's group, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Institute of Biological Sciences were among organizations urging a veto of the bill. The newly formed Louisiana Coalition for science issued a statement from Jindal's former genetics professor at Brown University who urged a veto of the bill by Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa.

"Senator Nevers' bill, SB 733, gives local school boards the authority to ensure students have the best information made available to them," Jindal said in a news release.

The conservative Republican earned a biology degree at Brown. During his campaign he expressed support for teaching the concept of "intelligent design" — a view that the universe is too complex to be explained by evolution alone. Jindal said children should learn "what different theories are out there. Not all things are answerable by science. Let them decide for themselves."

Nevers' bill was backed by the Louisiana Family Forum, a conservative Christian organization. And it was supported by the Discovery Institute, a self-described think tank based in Seattle that is critical of evolution theory.

Discovery Institute spokesman John West said similar laws in other states have not resulted in lawsuits.

Arguments over the bill during the recent legislative session often harked back to the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning a Louisiana law requiring that schools teaching evolution also teach "scientific creationism," a law the court said advanced a particular religious belief. A similar law in Pennsylvania, requiring teaching of "intelligent design" was struck down by a federal judge in 2005.

This law, however, is far less explicit about what should be taught. It says state and local education authorities shall "allow and assist" local school systems and teachers to "create and foster an environment" that promotes critical thinking and objective discussion on scientific topics including evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning.

It specifies that teachers in public school science classes will have to teach from state approved science textbooks. However, it also allows local teachers and school boards to introduce "supplemental materials" in science classes. The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education can step in to prohibit use of those materials if it deems them unsuitable, but there is no requirement that BESE clear the material ahead of time.

"Any school board can permit any teacher to put any type of creationist supplement into a classroom and use it until they get caught," Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University and a strong opponent of the bill, said in a recent interview.

West said Friday that many critiques of evolution are not religion-based and he pointed to a section of the bill specifically stating that it cannot be construed to promote religious doctrine.

© 2008 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Louisiana: Do Forrest and the NCSE Really Oppose Religious Instruction in Evolution?


Reading Barbara Forrest's impassioned plea on Richard Dawkins' website against the Louisiana Science Education Act, one might get the impression she opposes injection of religion in biology classes (even though the Act isn't intended to do that).

Indeed, when I followed the link to her Louisiana Coalition for Science "open letter" to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, I found the following statement, with which I agree wholeheartedly:

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is violated when the government endorses a sectarian doctrine. . .

On the other hand, Forrest is on the board of directors of the National Center for Science Education.

As recently reported here, the NCSE partnered with the University of California on the Understanding Evolution website, on which the UC endorses the sectarian doctrine of religious organizations, including the United Church of Christ. By Forrest's own admission, the UC is in violation of the Establishment Clause.

The truth is that Forrest and her colleagues at NCSE have no problem with government endorsing religious doctrine in relation to evolution, as long as it is a religious doctrine they agree with.

Forrest and her colleague Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of NCSE, also have no problem with injecting religion into biology class. Indeed, NCSE Executive Director Scott authored an article available on the UC Understanding Evolution website in which she recommends that public school teachers initiate discussions of religion in their biology classes.

As an example of a recommended strategy, the article relates the experience of teachers who

have had good results when they begin the year by asking students to brainstorm what they think the words "evolution" and "creationism" mean. . . . Don't be surprised to find some variant of, "You can't believe in God" or some similar statement of supposed incompatibility between religion and evolution. Under "creationism" expect to find more consistency: "God"; "Adam and Eve," "Genesis," etc. The next step in constructing student understanding of concepts is to guide them towards a more accurate view. . . . After one such initial brainstorming session, one teacher presented students with a short quiz wherein they were asked, "Which statement was made by the Pope?" or "which statement was made by an Episcopal Bishop?" and given an "a, b, c" multiple choice selection. All the statements from theologians, of course, stressed the compatibility of theology with the science of evolution. This generated discussion about what evolution was versus what students thought it was. By making the students aware of the diversity of opinion towards evolution extant in Christian theology, the teacher helped them understand that they didn't have to make a choice between evolution and religious faith. A teacher in Minnesota . . . had good luck sending his students out at the beginning of the semester to interview their pastors and priests about evolution. They came back somewhat astonished, "Hey! Evolution is OK!" Even when there was diversity in opinion, with some religious leaders accepting evolution as compatible with their theology and others rejecting it, it was educational for the students to find out for themselves that there was no single Christian perspective on evolution. The survey-of-ministers approach may not work if the community is religiously homogeneous, especially if that homogeneity is conservative Christian, but it is something that some teachers might consider. . . . (Emphasis added.)

Despite Forrest's current public posturing to the contrary, she and her colleagues at the NCSE really believe that a good "science" education should include a healthy dose of religious instruction in biology class.

Perhaps that's why Forrest's colleague, Scott, sometimes refers to herself as the "Evolution Evangelist."

Posted by Larry Caldwell on June 28, 2008 7:03 AM | Permalink

Louisiana gov. signs controversial education bill


Fri Jun 27, 2008 7:33pm EDT

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed into law a bill that critics say could allow for the teaching of "creationism" alongside evolution in public schools.

Jindal, a conservative Christian who has been touted by pundits as a potential vice presidential running mate for Republican presidential candidate John McCain, signed the legislation earlier this week.

The law will allow schools if they choose to use "supplemental materials" when discussing evolution but does not specify what the materials would be.

It states that authorities "shall allow ... open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning."

It also says that it "shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion."

Jindal's office declined on Friday to comment. The bill was backed by the Louisiana Family Forum, a conservative Christian group, and the Discovery Institute, which promotes the theory of "intelligent design" -- a theory that maintains that the complexity of life points to a grand designer.

"Intelligent design is currently not in the Louisiana state science standards and so could not be taught. But this allows scientific criticisms of Darwin's theory to be taught," said John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.

Critics say intelligent design is biblical creation theory by another name and that the new legislation is an attempt to water down instruction about evolution.

"Louisiana has a long and unfortunate history of trying to substitute dogma for science in ... classrooms," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, an executive director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a religious liberty watchdog.

The group says similar legislation has been attempted previously in other states such South Carolina, Alabama, Michigan, Missouri and Florida. Similar battles have also taken places at the school board level in Kansas.

The teaching of evolution -- the basis of modern biology rooted in 19th-century naturalist Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection -- has become one of the leading battlefields in the America's "culture wars."

Many U.S. conservative Christians reject evolution and believe in the biblical story of creation. A nationwide survey conducted last year by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that 45 percent of U.S. adults did not think evolution was the best explanation for the origins of human life.

((Reporting by Kathy Finn, Writing by Ed Stoddard, Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Letter: Creationism has place in classroom


Sunday, June 29, 2008

This letter is in response to Roger Huie's recent letter critiquing my letter as well as a couple of other letters on the subject of evolution.

I would ask Mr. Huie, why is it that your school system can teach only evolution and not teach creationism? Naturalistic processes have failed miserably to explain how non-living cells could somehow build themselves into the first living cell.

One the world's leading authorities (bio-chemist Klaus Dose) on the origin of life said, "At present, all discussions on theories and experiments in the field either end in stalemate or in ignorance." Famed astronomer Owen Gingerich, as well as Fred Hoyle, agree on this point. I quote: "A common sense and satisfying interpretation of our world suggests the designing hand of a super-intelligence." That is the same Hoyle who came up with the term "big bang" to explain the theory of how we got here.

Your school system is responsible for teaching this theory. Talk about propaganda. Ask yourself one question: Maybe, just maybe, the world looks designed because it really is designed.

Science shouldn't scare any person of faith, because done correctly, it drives them to the existence of a Creator. I wonder if Mr. Huie would consider letting the creationist use his classroom. Bet not.

David Brown

Port St. Lucie.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Evolution education update: June 27, 2008

A teacher in Ohio is being both sued and fired, in part over his teaching creationism in his classroom. The New York Times and the American Association for the Advancement of Science call upon the governor of Louisiana to veto the antievolution bill on his desk, while Barbara Forrest reviews the dismaying situation in the Bayou State. And a batch of new articles and reviews from Reports of the NCSE is now available on-line.


A complaint filed in federal court on June 13, 2008, accuses John Freshwater, a Mount Vernon, Ohio, middle school science teacher, of inappropriately bringing his religion to school -- including by displaying posters with the Ten Commandments and Bible verses in his classroom, branding crosses into the arms of his students with a high-voltage electrical device, and teaching creationism. The complaint also alleges that the principal of the school, the superintendent of the school district, and the board of education allowed Freshwater to continue teaching and failed to discipline him, even after the branding incident (which occurred in December 2007) was brought to their attention. The attorney representing the complainants (who are identified only as "John Doe and Jane Doe") told the Columbus Dispatch (June 20, 2008), "These concerns had been going on for at least 11 years, and the school had not done anything."

According to the conclusions of a report on Freshwater commissioned by the district and dated June 19, 2008, "Mr. Freshwater engaged in teaching of a religious nature, teaching creationism and related theories and calling evolution into question. He had other materials in his classroom that could be used for that purpose." Investigators found various creationist literature in his classroom, including Jonathan Sarfati's Refuting Evolution and Jonathan Wells's Icons of Evolution. Additionally, high school teachers in the same district complained that they had to "re-teach" concepts related to evolution that Freshwater misrepresented: one commented, "At the ninth grade level when we bring up evolution there is challenge and argumentation from students who have had Mr. Freshwater, bordering on hostility." And the principal of the high school specifically asked for her daughter not to be assigned to Freshwater's class.

A lawyer for the Mount Vernon City School District told the Dispatch (June 19, 2008) that the administration directed Freshwater not to discuss his religious beliefs in class: "They told him he was to teach -- not preach." He added that Freshwater could not have been disciplined before the completion of the investigation; the board of education is expected to review the report and decide what action, if any, to take on June 20, 2008. The Dispatch (June 20, 2008) subsequently reported, "Neither Freshwater nor his attorney, Roger Weaver, could be reached for comment last night. Freshwater's friend Dave Daubenmire defended him. 'With the exception of the cross-burning episode. ... I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district,' he said." Daubenmire previously acknowledged to the Dispatch (April 17, 2008) that Freshwater taught "intelligent design" in his classroom.

At its June 20, 2008, meeting, the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education unanimously voted to begin proceedings to terminate Freshwater's employment with the district. "Freshwater preached his Christian beliefs about how the world began, discredited evolution and didn't teach the required science curriculum, the board says. He was told to stop teaching creationism and intelligent design, but he continued to do so, an investigation found," the Columbus Dispatch (June 21, 2008) reports. According to the Dispatch, "After learning of the board's decision, Freshwater called the consultants' report half-truths and said he never veered from the state standards for teaching science"; his lawyer described the complaints as "fabrications," adding that Freshwater intends to appeal the board's decision.

For the stories in the Columbus Dispatch, visit:

For the report commissioned by the district (PDF), visit:


The New York Times, in a June 21, 2008, editorial, urged Governor Bobby Jindal to veto Louisiana's Senate Bill 733, a bill that would, if enacted, in effect open the door for creationism to be taught in public school science classes. According to the editorial, "it would have the pernicious effect of implying that evolution is only weakly supported and that there are valid competing scientific theories when there are not. In school districts foolish enough to head down this path, the students will likely emerge with a shakier understanding of science." Noting that Jindal was a biology major at Brown University, the editorial commented, "Jindal must know that evolution is the unchallenged central organizing principle for modern biology," and concluded, "If Mr. Jindal has the interests of students at heart, the sensible thing is to veto this Trojan horse legislation."

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, which previously lobbied against the bill, also urged Kindal to veto the bill in a letter dated June 20, 2008. "The bill disingenously implies that particular theories, including evolution, are controversial among scientists," wrote AAAS's chief executive officer, Alan I. Leshner. "In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a Louisiana 'creation science' law. Rather than step backward, look to the future by seeking to provide Louisiana students with a firm understanding of evolution and other essential scientific concepts so they can compete for high-skill jobs in an increasingly high-tech world economy. Asserting that there are controversies about these concepts among scientists -- when in fact there are not -- will only confuse students, not enlighten them," he added. "I urge you to protect the future of science education in your state by rejecting this bill."

Meanwhile, in a detailed discussion on the Talk to Action website, Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, the coauthor of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (Oxford University Press, 2007) and a member of NCSE's board of directors, reviews the situation in Louisiana. SB 933 "threatens to drag Louisiana back to 1981," she writes, "when earlier legislators pushed the state into the annals of creationist history by passing the 'Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act,' which the Supreme Court struck down in 1987. Louisiana has come a long way since then." But, she adds, "The legislature's passage of SB 733 threatens to undercut decades of educational progress ... A recent editorial in the New York Times had it right: 'All that stands in the way of this retrograde step is Gov. Bobby Jindal.'"

For the editorial in The New York Times, visit:

For the letter from the AAAS (PDF), visit:

For Barbara Forrest's column on the Talk to Action website, visit:

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


Selected content from volume 27, numbers 3-4, of Reports of the National Center for Science Education is now available on NCSE's website, featuring Joe Felsenstein's "Has Natural Selection Been Refuted? The Arguments of William Dembski." Felsenstein concludes, "Dembski argues that there are theorems that prevent natural selection from explaining the adaptations that we see. His arguments do not work. There can be no theorem saying that adaptive information is conserved and cannot be increased by natural selection. ... When we see adaptation, we are not looking at positive evidence of billions and trillions of interventions by a designer." And there are reviews, too: Lauri Lebo (the author of The Devil in Dover) reviews Matthew Chapman's Forty Days and Forty Nights, Tim Berra reviews Stanley A. Rice's Encyclopedia of Evolution, and Gary Hurd reviews Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross's Origins of Life.

If you like what you see, why not subscribe to RNCSE today? The current issue (volume 28, number 1) features a suite of articles and commentaries on the forced resignation of Chris Comer from the Texas Education Agency, Paul Heinrich's debunking of the mysterious spheres of Ottosdal, and reviews of Robert Schadewald's Worlds of Their Own, Science, Evolution, and Creationism, Deborah B. Haarsma and Loren D. Haarsma's Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design, & Evolution, and Sean B. Carroll's The Making of the Fittest. And more is in the pipeline for future issues of RNCSE, including articles by Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch and reviews of books by Pascal Richet, Francisco Ayala, and Carl Zimmer, as well as reports of creationist activity in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. Don't miss out -- subscribe now!

For selected content from RNCSE 27:3-4, visit:

To subscribe to RNCSE, visit:

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


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

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

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gov. Jindal should veto anti-science Senate bill


By: Neal Hebert Posted: 6/24/08

With the legislative pay raise fiasco dominating newspaper headlines, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that everyone under the sun is airing their grievances with Republican golden-boy Bobby Jindal and our state legislature. This is unfortunate, considering both have been assaulting the integrity of our classrooms when they weren't busy stealing money from our pockets to increase legislator salaries.

During the past ten days, nine of our nation's premier scientific societies went "all-in." They purchased their place in the firing squad assembling in front of both Louisiana's wunderkind and the ladies and gentleman who just gave themselves a shiny new pay raise.

It isn't just retrograde right-wingers whining anymore. And this time, the outrage being directed toward both Jindal and the legislature actually affects the University - both now and in the years to come.

The state legislature has passed an education reform bill that sets its sights on changing the way science is taught in grades K through 12.

Senate Bill 733 - a bill that innocuously "Provides for the La. Science Education Act" according to the Louisiana Legislature's Web site - is a bill designed to weaken the teaching of evolution in public schools. The Louisiana Coalition for Science called the effort a "stealth creationism bill."

As best as I can tell from the legislation and its proponents, the coalition is dead on. My mother always told me if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas - and any time I see a list of endorsements from the Louisiana Family Forum and the Discovery Institute listed prominently on a piece of legislation, I reach for my insecticide.

The American Institute of Biological Sciences - joined by the American Ornithologists Union, the American Society of Mammalogists, the Botanical Society of America, the Natural Science Collections Alliance, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, the Society of Systematic Biologists and the Society for the Study of Evolution - called for Jindal to oppose and if necessary veto SB 733.

"It is difficult to understand how Louisiana or the nation can recruit and educate the quality health care providers our citizens deserve if we are willing to sacrifice science education in our K-12 classrooms," the organizations wrote in a June 13 letter to Jindal. "If SB 733 is signed into law, Louisiana will undoubtedly be thrust into the national spotlight as a state that pursues politics over science and education."

The organizations also noted the blatantly political and anti-scientific agendas of the Discovery Institute and the Family Forum. Their letter derided the bill as an attempt "to manufacture questions that do not exist around issues such as evolution and climate change" and "require that teachers consider and accept non-scientific explanations for natural phenomena" - such as evolution, the origins of life and global warming.

Not to be outdone, the American Association for the Advancement of Science sent its own letter to Jindal on June 20, also urging him to veto the bill. Citing Jindal's June 15 assertions on CBS's "Face The Nation" that "the way we're going to have smart, intelligent kids is exposing them to the very best science," the AAAS called for Jindal to stand by his beliefs and veto this bill.

"The bill disingenuously implies that particular theories, including evolution, are controversial among scientists. In short, there is virtually no controversy about evolution among researchers, many of whom, like you, are deeply religious," wrote the AAAS.

State Sen.. Ben Never, D-Bogalusa and the author of SB 733, claims his reasons for introducing the bill were far more innocent.

"It is important that supplemental scientific information be able to be brought into the school system," Nevers told The Advocate on June 17.

The "supplemental scientific information" allowed by the legislation would be entirely subject to government fiat. The bill in question delineates that all supplementary scientific information can be discarded by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education if the Board considers it to be inappropriate.

More importantly, it's unclear why supplementary materials are necessary since there are no real controversies about the science in question other than the political controversies that always plague scientific advancements. Further, if there are substantial scientific controversies then it stands to reason that these controversies must be identified and resolved within the scientific community, using the scientific method.

Louisiana is in a period of rebuilding after hurricanes Katrina and Rita left so many homeless. Some pundits seem to believe the election of Jindal this past fall signaled a coming restoration of our state. But I fail to see exactly how casting doubt on the scientific method will take our state where it needs to be.

As the flagship university we have a duty to speak out against this attempt to turn future students into political pawns manipulated by the anti-science community - and Jindal needs to stand strong for the doctors and researchers Louisiana hopes to soon boast.

Weakening science education by opening the doors just wide enough for the next sham theory put forward by the Discovery Institute isn't just irresponsible, it further sets back the men and women who already have to overcome so much to make it to college.

Contact Neal Hebert at nhebert@lsureveille.com

© Copyright 2008 Daily Reveille Creation bill wrong signal http://www.2theadvocate.com/opinion/20724364.html

Published: Jun 24, 2008 - UPDATED: 12:05 am

Gov. Bobby Jindal ought to veto the neo-creationism bill that is now heading to his desk. The practical matter is that he won't.

Yet we fear that its passage will be, sooner as well as later, an embarrassment for the state of Louisiana.

The so-called Louisiana Science Education Act is on its face a defense of academic freedom but is in reality pushed by advocates of Bible-based notions of creation and the formation of life on Earth. The open advocates of creationism have a new tack: It's a right of teachers to explore all theories in the classroom and "update" science teaching with "supplemental" material.

Right. If that's the case, the bill is unnecessary. Legislators ignored extensive testimony from science teachers and other experts in opposition to the bill.

More is at work here, and the lopsided legislative majorities voting for the bill know what the disingenuous supporters of it won't admit: It's a stalking horse for pushing religious material in science classrooms.

In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that mandated "equal treatment" of creationism when evolution was taught in public school classrooms. Today's bill by Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, is the old argument in a slightly different form.

We believe the signing of this bill will be a particular problem for Jindal.

After all, he's courting major businesses to come to Louisiana, including major white-collar employers. We hope he will be successful in this effort, and he might be even when national news focuses on this outbreak of Elmer Gantry legislation. Yet this sort of foolishness doesn't help.

The economic development business is focused on the "creative class" of knowledge workers who are the seeds for new businesses of the future. How many of them will be attracted to a state that cannot reconcile itself to the legitimacy of the theory of evolution?

The governor was not at his best on this subject recently on "Face the Nation." Even by our talkative governor's standards, Jindal gave a long-winded and round-about answer to his CBS interviewer that was strikingly unpersuasive in its unwillingness to say "yes" or "no" about the bill.

The best Jindal could do was suggest that state and federal government should not be in the business of school curricula.

That is a decent enough argument, except that the horse is out of the barn: The state buys textbooks and sets standards for teaching and testing. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education sets criteria for the accountability program. The state is taking over and running many failing schools.

State involvement in education is deep in Louisiana, more so than in many states. The Jindal argument might sound plausible on national television to audiences who don't know the score in Louisiana, but it's divorced from the Louisiana reality.

Further, there are huge potential legal problems that the state cannot evade behind "local control" or "academic freedom" arguments.

When, not if, the Nevers legislation is used to promote religious objections to orthodox science in the classroom, the federal courts are likely to intervene. We suspect they won't be amused at the "equal treatment" ruse wrapped up in an academic freedom argument.

The governor's long-windedness was striking for what it did not say. He did not raise the principle of separation of church and state. He might have said that the state's interest is not served by needless provocations caused by groups pushing creationist materials in the schools. No, the governor's remarks were aimed at not giving offense to his supporters among the neo-creationism lobby.

The narrow-minded are on the march, in the name of open-mindedness. And the governor and Legislature are falling in step with them.


More Dirt from Derb


NRO's John Derbyshire has another bombastic blog post ("Governor Jindal, Veto This Bill!"), this time decrying the Louisiana Science Education Act.

According to Derb, "The act opens the door to the teaching of creationism in Louisiana public schools." Of course, this is patently absurd. The bill says that students should be able to critically analyze scientific evidence regarding evolution, global warming, and human cloning; and secondly the bill says it should not be construed to promote religion (bear in mind that SCOTUS deemed creationism "religious" in 1987). This bill is about scientific evidence, whatever there may be, pro and con. No more no less.

Attempting to scare the promoters of this bill (which, BTW, just passed the LA House 94-3, with 35 co-sponsors), Derb claims that lawsuit is in the air. This too is misinformation. No state or school district which has adopted this middle-of-the-road, common-sense policy regarding the teaching of hot-potato scientific issues has ever been sued. What would the suit-bearers say? That hot-button scientific issues should be taught as unchanging dogma? That no critiques—no matter how scientific—deserve to be discussed?

With all due respect to our friends at NRO, how can they let Derb post information that can be shown false with a Google search? Derb has every right to criticize any bill he chooses—but he has no right to misrepresent it.

Posted by Logan Gage on June 23, 2008 10:03 AM | Permalink

Sunday, June 22, 2008

No intelligence allowed in Stein's film


The makers of Expelled, including Ben Stein, have not let facts stand in the way of their anti-Darwin screed

Peter McKnight Vancouver Sun

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Although you're probably not aware of it, scientists, lobby groups, the media and the courts are all united in a massive conspiracy to destroy your freedom. But have no fear, freedom fighter Ben Stein is here.

That, in effect, is the thesis of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, the new anti-science "documentary" which opens across Canada on June 27, was produced by Vancouver's Premise Media, and stars Stein, the lawyer, actor, game show host and speechwriter for former U.S. president Richard Nixon.

The subtitle of the film is wholly appropriate as there is precious little intelligence displayed in its more than 90 minutes. But the subtitle's reference to the content of the film was unwitting -- it was meant to refer to a giant conspiracy to banish intelligent design theory from the halls of academe and the culture as a whole.

Now, you might ask, what exactly is intelligent design? But don't ask the producers of the film, since they don't even bother to define it. Don't ask Stein, either: I did, but all I got from him was a suggestion that the meaning of the term comes through in the film.

Since the producers evidently saw no need to define what their movie is about, allow me: Though proponents deny it, ID is the latest form of creationism, as it states that the apparent design in nature reveals that there must have been a designer. While proponents insist that ID has nothing to do with religion, they inevitably conclude that the designer is none other than the Judeo-Christian God.

ID is therefore a religious theory, rather than a scientific one. Scientific theories must yield testable hypotheses -- that is, they must make predictions and we must be able to test whether those predictions come true. But since we never know what God will do next, there is nothing to test, no way of knowing whether the evidence supports or refutes the theory. This explains why ID has failed to produce an empirical research program.

Had the producers included such a discussion, which would have taken all of five minutes, viewers would understand why university science faculties eschew ID. But Expelled is not about understanding -- it's propaganda pure and simple. Any discussion of the nature of science -- Stein demurred when I asked him to define "science" -- would collapse the fantasy world created by this deeply dishonest film.

By failing to tell us what ID is, and what science is, the producers are free to claim that universities have launched a witchhunt for scientists who've had the temerity to mention ID in their papers or lectures. Jobs lost, careers ended, live destroyed, all because these intrepid folks dared to challenge the "Darwinian establishment."

Chief among these Stein-sanctioned martyrs is Richard Sternberg, whose "life was nearly ruined," we are told, after he published a pro-ID paper by the Discovery Institute's Stephen Meyer in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington journal. The movie claims that as a consequence, Sternberg lost his job and his office at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History, where he worked as an unpaid research associate.

In reality, Sternberg had resigned as editor of the journal six months before publishing the Meyer paper, and he still has an office at the Smithsonian, though he apparently has not shown up there in years.

Similarly, the film charges that Iowa State University astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez -- who, according to Stein, had a "stellar academic record" -- was denied tenure thanks to his ID views and his pro-ID book, The Privileged Planet. Yet one-third of Iowa State's astronomers fail to receive tenure, and Gonzalez's previously impressive publication record dropped off dramatically when he assumed his position at the university.

That Expelled plays fast and loose with the facts regarding the situations of these and other academics reveals the producers' less than enthusiastic commitment to truth. But the truth would merely get in the way of the producers' efforts to show, not just that the "Darwinian establishment" expels ID advocates, but wishes to expel God Himself.

In order to do the latter, Stein interviews well-known atheist biologists such as Richard Dawkins and P.Z. Myers -- who were deceived about the purpose of the film -- in an attempt to dupe people into believing that Darwinism leads to atheism. Nowhere do we hear from prominent religious biologists such as Roman Catholic Brown University cell biologist -- and ID critic -- Ken Miller, or evangelical Christian geneticist -- and ID critic -- Francis Collins, who led the Human Genome Project.

When I asked Stein about the absence of scientists like Miller and Collins, he said the producers determined who would be interviewed. In what is about the only honest statement I've heard from the producers, associate producer Mark Mathis told the editors of Scientific American that including "Ken Miller would have confused the film unnecessarily."

Mathis also made certain outrageous comments about Miller's faith, disputing whether he is a real Catholic, which would have come as a surprise to Pope John Paul II, who saw no conflict between Catholicism and evolution. But Miller's inclusion in Expelled would certainly have confused the film -- that is, harmed the producers' efforts to present evolutionary biology and belief in God as mutually exclusive.

That's not the worst of it. According to the film, Darwinism has led not only to atheism, but to something much worse: The Holocaust. Expelled intersperses clips of the Nazis with Stein's visit to Dachau, and Stein talks to several people who claim the Nazis were inspired by Darwin.

Nowhere does Stein mention the centuries of anti-Semitism before Darwin -- in fact, Expelled all but ignores anti-Semitism as a reason for the Holocaust. Consequently, the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement saying, "Using the Holocaust in order to tarnish those who promote the theory of evolution is outrageous and trivializes the complex factors that led to the mass extermination of European Jewry."

When I asked Stein about this statement, his response revealed his hostility toward the Anti-Defamation League more than anything else, as he told me bluntly, "It's none of their f---ing business."

In any case, to support the Darwin-Nazi thesis, Stein quotes a passage from Darwin's The Descent of Man, which supposedly indicates Darwin's support for eugenics: "With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick, thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. Hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed."

Now the first thing to observe here is that this is not a literal quote -- parts of sentences are excised so the passage effectively says the opposite of what Darwin said. Further, Stein fails to quote the very next passage, which includes the lines: "Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature . . . if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil."

In effect, then, the producers are doing precisely what the Nazis did: Distorting Darwin's writing in order to justify their beliefs. On this point, there may be hope for Stein yet: When I alerted him to the alteration of the Darwin quote and read him the full passage, he said he was "kind of dismayed if that's true." He also said he would check it out, so I look forward to Stein disavowing at least that part of the movie.

I don't, however, expect the producers to disavow any part of the movie because their disdain for truth comes through loud and clear. Consequently, I'm not particularly bothered by the existence of Expelled. For it displays, in a way a movie review never could, the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the ID movement which, unable to construct a convincing argument, resorts to dishonesty and deceit.


© The Vancouver Sun 2008

Governor Jindal, Veto This Bill!


[John Derbyshire]

Friday, June 20, 2008

Louisiana's misleadingly-named "Science Education Act" has now been passed by both houses of the state legislature and awaits Governor Bobby Jindal's signature. The act opens the door to the teaching of creationism in Louisiana public schools.

The Louisiana Coalition for Science has published an open letter to Gov. Jindal, laying out the facts, and urging him not to sign the bill. The letter is here. Some extracts:

SB 733 is a thinly disguised attempt to advance the "Wedge Strategy" of the Discovery Institute (DI), a creationist think tank … John West, associate director of DI's Center for Science and Culture … indicated that DI hopes to see its own creationist textbook … used in our science classes as one of the supplements that SB 733 will permit teachers to use (Opelousas Daily World, 6/16/08). DI apparently has a financial as well as a religious and political interest in this legislation …

Since you hold a biology degree from Brown University, one of the nation's most prestigious schools, you certainly appreciate Theodosius Dobzhansky's famous insight, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." You also surely understand that there is no scientific controversy over the fact of evolution …

If SB 733 becomes law, we can anticipate the embarrassment it will bring to the state, not to mention the prospect of spending millions of taxpayer dollars defending the inevitable federal court challenge. Consider also that federal courts have uniformly invalidated every effort to attack the teaching of evolution in public schools …

The Coalition website also links to a press release (in PDF format, at the top there) well worth reading. The press release includes a plea from the guy who taught genetics to Gov. Jindal at Brown:

Arthur Landy, Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology and Biochemistry in the Division of Biology and Medicine at Brown University, taught Jindal genetics in college. "Without evolution, modern biology, including medicine and biotechnology, wouldn't make sense," says Professor Landy. "In order for today's students in Louisiana to succeed in college and beyond, in order for them to take the fullest advantages of all that the 21st century will offer, they need a solid grounding in genetics and evolution. Governor Jindal was a good student in my class when he was thinking about becoming a doctor, and I hope he doesn't do anything that would hold back the next generation of Louisiana's doctors." Landy is a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Academy of Microbiology.

The entire effect of this law, if Gov. Jindal signs it, will be that one cartload of Louisiana taxpayers' money will go to the Discovery Institute for their mendacious "textbooks," then another cartload will go into the pockets of lawyers to defend the inevitable challenge to the law in federal courts, which will inevitably be successful, as they always are, and should be.

Any Louisianian who wants his kids to have a religious education can send them to parochial schools; although if the parochial school is Roman Catholic, the kids will learn standard biology ("Darwinism") in science classes, since the RC Church — Gov. Jindal's church — approves it. Or they can home school them. Everybody's fine with this. I'm fine with it. Louisiana Coalition for Science is fine with it. Raise you kids the way you want to. You may not, though — you constitutionally may not — oblige taxpayers to fund your religious beliefs.

Veto this bill, Gov. Jindal, or explain to Louisiana taxpayers the pointless waste of public money that will inevitably ensue from your signing it.

Beyond the Firmament Returns to Creationism Top Ten


Beyond the Firmament

20.06.2008 21:16:22 Debut book on creation, evolution, intelligent design, Genesis, and the Bible reaches the top ten on the Amazon.com creationism sales chart.

(live-PR.com) - In advance of the second printing release, Beyond the Firmament: Understanding Science and the Theology of Creation returned to the Top Ten Amazon.com Creationism charts today. This debut release from Watertree Press author Gordon J. Glover challenges Christians who struggle with the relationship between faith and science to consider a Biblical hermeneutic of Genesis that removes the perceived tension between Creation and evolution.

Beyond the Firmament has been hailed as "energetic, well-researched, and constructive" by Pastor Brian McLaren, one of Time Magazine's top 25 most influential evangelicals. Stephen F. Matheson, Associate Professor of Biology at Calvin College, praised Beyond the Firmament. "Gordon Glover has created a delightfully readable yet comprehensive exploration of the relationship between the Genesis narratives and the science of our day."

Beyond the Firmament is the first release from Watertree Press, new Christian publishing house dedicated to quality non-fiction works which fulfill our motto: Read. Think. Grow.

Beyond the Firmament is distributed by Ingram Book Group and may be ordered online at Amazon.com or BN.com.

About Beyond the Firmament:

Author: Gordon J. Glover
ISBN-10: 0978718615
ISBN-13: 9780978718619
Format: Soft Cover, 9x6", 228 pages
Retail Price: $16.00
Publisher: Watertree Press | www.watertreepress.com

About Watertree Press:

Watertree Press LLC is a new Christian publishing house dedicated to quality non-fiction works which fulfill our motto: Read. Think. Grow. Our first release entitled Beyond the Firmament: Understanding Science and the Theology of Creation by Gordon J. Glover highlights our purpose – well-researched and thought-provoking content from an impressive first-time author.

Watertree Press LLC
PO Box 16763
Chesapeake, VA 23328

Press Information: Watertree Press

PO Box 16763
Chesapeake, VA 23328

Contact Person: Jason Baker

Phone: 757-512-5517
eMail: eMail

Web: http://www.watertreepress.com

Creation Science

Visual PowerPoint presentations proving Earth was Created by God

Republicans, Democrats Differ on CreationismRepublicans much more likely than Democrats to believe humans created as-is 10,000 years ago


USA Evolution Religion and Social Trends Americas Northern America by Frank Newport June 20, 2008

PRINCETON, NJ -- There is a significant political divide in beliefs about the origin of human beings, with 60% of Republicans saying humans were created in their present form by God 10,000 years ago, a belief shared by only 40% of independents and 38% of Democrats.

Gallup has been asking this three-part question about the origin of humans since 1982. Perhaps surprisingly to some, the results for the broad sample of adult Americans show very little change over the years.

Between 43% and 47% of Americans have agreed during this 26-year time period with the creationist view that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so. Between 35% and 40% have agreed with the alternative explanation that humans evolved, but with God guiding the process, while 9% to 14% have chosen a pure secularist evolution perspective that humans evolved with no guidance by God.

The significantly higher percentage of Republicans who select the creationist view reflects in part the strong relationship between religion and views on the origin of humans. Republicans are significantly more likely to attend church weekly than are others, and Americans who attend church weekly are highly likely to select the creationist alternative for the origin of humans.


Although it is not a front-burner issue (particularly in light of the economy and the price of gasoline) the issue of teaching evolution in schools came up on the campaign trail last year, and could resurface in one way or the other between now and the November election.

Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain is facing the challenge of gaining the confidence and enthusiasm of conservative Republicans. Turnout among this group could be an important factor in determining the final vote outcome in a number of key swing states. As seen here, Republicans are in general sympathetic to the creationist explanation of the origin of humans, and if the issue of what is taught in schools relating to evolution and creationism surfaces as a campaign issue, McCain's response could turn out to be quite important.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,017 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 8-11, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Teacher Accused of Branding Kid With Cross


An Ohio Teacher Stands Accused of Teaching Creationism and Burning Student

By RUSSELL GOLDMAN June 20, 2008—

The school board of a small central Ohio community voted Friday to fire a teacher accused of preaching his Christian beliefs despite staff complaints and burning the image of a cross on students' arms, according to the Associated Press.

Mount Vernon Middle School veteran science teacher John Freshwater has denies any wrongdoing, his attorney told the Mount Vernon News.

Freshwater also displayed the Ten Commandments in his classroom and taught creationism, according to an independent investigation launched after the parents of the student who was allegedly branded filed a lawsuit.

The suit alleges that he regularly discussed Christianity in his science class, even "teaching the meaning of Easter and Good Friday," and kept at least one and sometimes several Bibles in the room.

The investigation commissioned by the Mount Vernon school board and conducted by HR On Call, Inc., a human resources company, conducted interviews with Freshwater, faculty and students.

In its report, released Thursday, the company found Freshwater "did improperly use an electrostatic device on the student who filed the report" and had violated Ohio State standards by "teaching creationism and intelligent design."

According to On Call's report, Freshwater told investigators, "I teach evolution."

Company investigators, however, concluded that "contrary to Mr. Freshwater's statement, the evidence indicates he has been teaching creationism and intelligent design and has been teaching the unreliability of carbon dating in support of opposition to evolution. He has passed out materials to students for the past several years challenging evolution and then collected the materials back from the students. He has done so in spite of specific directives not to teach creationism and intelligent design."

In the civil suit brought against Freshwater, the plaintiffs  the student, identified as James Doe, and his parents, identified as John and Jane Doe  allege that in December 2007, "Mr. Freshwater burned a cross in James Doe's arm using an electric device."

The burned area allegedly "resulted in an easily identifiable cross consisting of red welts with blistering, swelling and blanching in the surrounding area," according to the lawsuit.

No criminal charges have been filed in connection with the cross incident, school officials said.

On April 7, 2008, Freshwater received a letter from the school's principal, William D. White, ordering him to remove a Bible and other religious materials from his classroom.

On April 16, Freshwater wrote a letter in response, agreeing to remove the Ten Commandments from a collage, but he refused to remove his Bible.

"In addition, my superiors have ordered me to remove the Bible from the desk of my classroom. Because the Bible is personal, private property and the source of personal inner-strength in my own life the removal of it from my desk would be nothing short of infringement on my own deeply held, personal religious beliefs granted by God and guaranteed under the 'free-exercise clause' of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution," Freshwater wrote in a letter obtained by ABC News.

Neither Freshwater nor his attorney, Roger Weaver, returned calls placed by ABC News.

The teacher's friend, David Daubenmire, who was himself sued by the ACLU in 1999 for praying with the high school football team he coached, called the accusations against Freshwater a "witch hunt."

"The science experiment [the alleged burning of the student] took place in December, and the parents did not go to the police and didn't file a criminal complaint. It was not until April, when John Freshwater refused to remove his Bible, that the school board rapidly made the decision to accuse him of things and then go back and find evidence," he said.

"With the exception of the science experiment, John Freshwater is teaching the beliefs and values that the majority of people in this community agree with. The only thing the On Call report found is evidence that Mr. Freshwater is a Christian."

Stephen Short, the district superintendent, who along with the principal is also named as a co-defendant, told ABC News that the school board began investigating "with the cross incident and other things followed after that."

He said he could not comment on details of the case because it was a pending legal matter. The board hired an independent company "to ensure the findings were properly vetted."

He said both he and Principal White did not take their current positions until early in 2008.

School board members were scheduled to meet Friday afternoon to discuss the findings in On Call's report.

Copyright © 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures

Ohio board moves to fire teacher over creationism


Article published Friday, June 20, 2008


COLUMBUS, Ohio — A school board in central Ohio has voted to move ahead on firing a science teacher accused of preaching his Christian beliefs in class and using a device to burn the image of a cross on students' arms.

The Mount Vernon school board voted 5-0 Friday to pass a resolution of intent to terminate the contract of middle school teacher John Freshwater.

Board attorney David Millstone says Freshwater is entitled to a hearing to challenge the dismissal. A lawyer for Freshwater says he will request such a hearing.

A family has sued Freshwater and the school district, saying Freshwater burned a cross on their child's arm that remained for three or four weeks.

Ohio board moves to fire teacher over alleged creationism


June 20, 2008

COLUMBUS (AP) — The Mount Vernon school board in central Ohio voted 5-0 late Friday to move ahead on firing a science teacher after an investigation showed he preached his Christian beliefs in class and used a device to burn the image of a cross on students' arms.

The board's attorney, David Millstone, said John Freshwater would be entitled to a hearing to challenge the dismissal.

Kelly Hamilton, who represents Freshwater, told the Mount Vernon News he would request such a hearing and that Freshwater denied any wrongdoing.

School board members took up the issue one day after consulting firm H.R. On Call Inc. released its report on the teacher's case.

The report was released one week after a family filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Columbus against Freshwater and the school district, saying Freshwater burned a cross on their child's arm that remained for three or four weeks.

Freshwater's friend Dave Daubenmire defended him.

"With the exception of the cross-burning episode. ... I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district," he told The Columbus Dispatch for a story published Friday.

Creationism teacher burns crosses onto students


Birmingham Star Friday 20th June, 2008

A teacher in the US state of Ohio has been sacked after using an electronic device to burn crosses onto the arms of his students.

The school board has fired the science teacher, John Freshwater, who was accused of preaching his Christian beliefs in class.

Mr Freshwater has been told he can appeal the ruling.

A report by independent school officials found that Freshwater also taught creationism in his science class and had failed to remove a Bible and other religious materials from the science classroom.

The investigation also showed that Freshwater taught creationism in his science class and told students that carbon dating was unreliable to argue against evolution.

Ohio Science Teacher May Lose Job For Teaching Creationism


June 20, 2008 8:56 p.m. EST

Windsor Genova - AHN News Writer

Mount Vernon, OH (AHN) - The school board here decided Friday to fire a science teacher accused of burning a cross on a student's arm and teaching creationism in his class.

The board, however, will give John Freshwater, 51, of Mount Vernon Middle School two weeks to appeal the decision to end his contract and argue his case before the firing is made official on July 7.

The panel's decision was prompted by Freshwater's continued defiance of the board's 2003 order for him not to teach creationism, the Bible-based theory that God created matter and all things that exist.

The decision followed the filing of a lawsuit against Freshwater and the school district by the family of one of his students, whom he allegedly branded with a cross. The teacher used a high frequency generator to burn an image of a cross on students' arms in December to demonstrate the device. He said the image is an "X" not a cross.

Freshwater has worked for the Mount Vernon school district for 21 years. He commands many supporters from the board and teachers and students from the middle school.

In April, he figured in a controversy for defying the board's order to remove a Bible from his desk, though the teacher removed other religious items in his classroom.

Copyright © 2003 - 2008 AHN

Teacher accused of burning cross on student's arm


Ohio teacher accused of branding cross on student's arm, teaching creationism

John Freshwater was reprimanded for refusing to move his Bible from his desk

School board passed resolution to terminate Freshwater's employment

From Nkechi Nneji CNN

(CNN) -- School administrators in Ohio voted Friday to begin the process of firing a middle school teacher accused of burning a cross into a student's arm and refusing to keep his religious beliefs out of the classroom.

The Mount Vernon School Board passed a resolution to terminate the employment of John Freshwater, an eighth-grade science teacher for the past 21 years.

Freshwater, according to an independent report, used an electrostatic device to mark a cross on the arm of one of his students, causing pain to the student the night of the incident and leaving a mark that lasted for approximately three weeks.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, the student's family has filed a lawsuit.

Freshwater was also reprimanded several times for refusing to move his Bible from his classroom desk and teaching creationism alongside evolution, according to the 15-page independent report. The report also cites evidence that Mr. Freshwater told his students that "science is wrong because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin and so anyone who is gay chooses to be gay and is therefore a sinner."

The Board of Education of the Mount Vernon City School District met in special session Friday to address the case.

Freshwater has the option to contest the process by requesting a formal hearing before the Board of Education. Neither Freshwater nor his attorney could be reached by CNN for comment.

Board votes to fire science teacher who preached in class, branded students


The school board in Mount Vernon, Ohio, has voted to fire middle-school science teacher John Freshwater for preaching his Christian beliefs in class and branding some students on the arm with a cross.

The board voted, 5-0, on its intent to terminate Freshwater's contract. His lawyer said he would request a hearing to challenge the firing.