Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
Film companies in Germany are now making attempts to look behind what they believe is the true nature of Scientology. The movies are primarily aimed at young people, who are most likely to fall for the organization.
Young people tend to be the first to fall for Scientology and are therefore much courted by the group's scouts across the nation. This is where a new, 25-minute film by the Matthias Film company comes in. It shows interviews with Scientology leaders, former members who have turned their backs on the organization and representatives of state authorities.
The film aims to inform young people about the objectives and policies of Scientology, which does not have the status of a religious organization in Germany. It is under the surveillance of intelligence officers, because Scientology leaders are believed to work against the country's free democratic order. Currently, the sect has between 5,000 and 6,000 members in Germany.
But according to the film company's press spokesman, Thomas Krueger, the film is not meant to be yet another piece of straightforward anti-Scientology propaganda.
"It allows viewers to just listen to the statements and assertions made, compare them, and then draw their own conclusions," he said, adding that the exclusive material for the film has been collected in the United States, Austria and Germany.
Better safe than sorry
The film production has been supported by the Protestant church in the southern German state of Bavaria.
"The film comes at a crucial time when Scientology activists are stepping up efforts to lure young people into the organization," said Protestant Bishop Johannes Friedrich, who is responsible for Bavaria. "Everyone has a right to know what Scientology is after and stands for before dealing with the organization's campaigners."
The film is primarily meant to be distributed to schools. Friedrich speaks of a very modern film production with swift cuts and impressive sound that may make previous films on Scientology look awkward.
"I hope that the film can go a long way towards enlightenment by showing honest portraits of protagonists from both sides of the fence," he said.
German public television to follow suit
Germany's regional SWR public television network has also discovered the need for a film on Scientology.
Its fiction movie, which is currently in production, will tell the story of a Scientology member who is desperately trying to leave the sect behind. But his drop-out plans prove a tall order as sect leaders won't let him off the hook and ratchet up the psychological pressure on him.
SWR hasn't set a date yet when the film will first air on German television. But it's already secured itself a prime-time slot straight after the evening news. The network's production is billed as the first German feature film that deals with Scientology in a critical fashion.
In the German media, the organization was much highlighted again recently when it opened a large new office in Berlin amid vociferous protests from municipal authorities, nearby schools and residents living in the vicinity.
Voters often query state school board hopefuls
By Barbara Hollingsworth
Published Thursday, July 31, 2008
Ask Republican candidates for the Kansas State Board of Education about the issues they think are most important and you will hear about the teacher shortage or engaging students with vocational education.
On the campaign trail, however, many voters are using evolution as their litmus test.
"Everybody wants to talk about evolution and creationism," said Bill Pannbacker, a candidate for the District 6 seat.
Off and on, evolution, creationism and now intelligent design have consumed the state school board for about a decade. The yo-yo control of the board — from the hands of conservative Republicans to moderate or liberal Republicans and Democrats — has kept the issue alive.
"Somebody called it the elephant in the room," said Kathy Martin, an incumbent and Pannbacker's opponent. "I don't see that as ever completely being resolved."
As with each board election when five of 10 seats are up for grabs, power can easily shift hands. In 2005, a conservative-controlled state board pushed through state science standards critical of evolution and refused to limit the definition of science to a field that seeks natural explanations — a move decried by science associations. When elections shifted power into the hands of six moderate or liberal members, the board changed course.
Of all four Republicans running for election in District 6 and in District 4, only Pannbacker clearly opposes the conservatives' stance. Pannbacker, a 59-year-old farmer in Washington, has experience serving on a local school board.
"Science is the study of naturally occurring events," he said in response to a Topeka Capital-Journal questionnaire. "Supernatural events are a matter of faith."
Martin, who voted for the 2005 standards, worries that evolution is sometimes taught as a sort of dogma. Attempts to keep certain criticisms of evolution out of classrooms — arguments that many scientists say are bogus — seems a lot like censorship to Martin.
"Why would anything in science ever be limited?" asked Martin, a 62-year-old retired teacher from Clay Center who still substitutes. "In a way, that's what a certain group of scientists are wanting to do."
In the District 4 seat, Alan Detrich, 60, of Lawrence, argues there is no evidence to support the theory of evolution. He creates religious art out of dinosaur fossils (Detrich lists as occupation as "fossil hunter") and in 2006 described to The Associated Press how using the fossils in his art is a good way to prompt talks about evolution.
Detrich sees a lot of ills as stemming from the teaching of evolution, including sexual activity among youths.
"When you teach children that they are apes, they will reproduce like apes," he wrote in a questionnaire. "Stop teaching evolution, and the sex ed issue will take care of itself."
His opponent, 57-year-old Topeka dentist Bob Meissner, leaves the door open, saying that he would approach the job with an open mind. Still, his campaign has accepted a donation from the Free Academic Integrity and Research Committee, a political action committee that has supported evolution critics in past state board elections.
A former school board member in Shawnee Heights Unified School District 450, Meissner said he believes he could help bring people together. Evolution, he said, simply isn't the biggest issue for the state board.
"I've told this to a couple of reporters," Meissner said. "I said, 'I'm willing to talk about that, but more realistically I'm more concerned about if we are going to have a science teacher to teach the class.' "
Winners of the Aug. 5 primary will advance to the general election where Democrat Carolyn Campbell, of Topeka, is running for the District 4 seat, and Democrat Christopher Renner, of Manhattan, is seeking the District 6 seat.
Barbara Hollingsworth can be reached at (785) 295-1285 or email@example.com.
Posted on: July 28, 2008 9:22 AM, by PZ Myers
Christopher Hitchens was impressed by the existence of blind cave organisms, and wrote that they argue against a linear progression in evolution. He's quite right; creationism doesn't explain why their god tossed in to salamanders and fish a collection of complex developmental mechanisms that the animals simply throw away and do not use. Evolution does — descent from a sighted ancestor explains how blind cave animals can still possess the machinery for a lost organ.
Do you think the Discovery Institute would let this challenge pass by? Of course not. They put their top man on the job, so Casey Luskin wrote a rebuttal. After a long weekend and before a busy day of work, it always makes me happy to find a new Luskin screed — they're so dang easy to shred. Here's his devastating critique:
Hitchens, Dawkins and Carroll can have all the evidence they want that the neo-Darwinian mechanism can mess things up, turn genes off, and cause "loss-of-function." No one on any side of this debate doubts that random mutations are quite good at destroying complex features. Us folks on the ID side suspect that random mutation and natural selection aren't good at doing very much more than that. And the constant citations by Darwinists of "loss of function" examples as alleged refutations of ID only strengthens our argument.
The claim that evolution can't create new features is one of the oldest and most tired fables in the creationist playbook — note that that link cites the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society and Henry Morris. It's false. In this case, their superficial knowledge also trips them up. The loss of eyes seems like a clear-cut case of degeneration…but when you look deeper, it's not.
The best studied case is the comparison of blind and sighted forms of Astyanax, a fish that has species that live in surface waters and have eyes, and others that live in caves and have lost them.
The Jeffery lab has worked out the molecular details of eye loss, and it isn't as simple as messing things up, turning genes off, and causing loss-of-function mutations. To the contrary, all the genes for eyes are there and functional in the blind species. Simply transplanting small bits of organizing tissue from species with eyes to embryos of the blind forms can recruit host tissue to build a complete functional eye — that tells you the genes are still there. A comparison of gene expression patterns between the two also reveals that the blind species actually upregulates a majority of its developmental genes. Contrary to what Luskin claims, this is a positive change in development, not a loss, but an active suppression of eye expression.
What's actually going on is that there is an increased expression of a gene called Sonic hedgehog, which causes an expansion of jaw tissue, including both the bones of the jaw and the array of sensory structures on the ventral surface — this is an adaptation that produces stronger jaws and more sensitive skin, what the fish finds useful when rooting about in the dark at the bottom of underground rivers to find food. The expansion of Shh has a side effect of inhibiting expression of another gene, Pax-6, which is the master regulator of eye development. Loss of eyes is a harmless (if you're living in the dark) consequence of selection for better tactile reception.
Pathetic, isn't it, how abysmally wrong Luskin can be? His conclusion is even sillier.
Meanwhile, ID proponents seek to explain a far more interesting aspect of biological history: the origin of new complex biological features. Despite his quotation of Michael Shermer on the evolution of the eye, Hitchens has yet to do that.
Actually, despite claiming that ID proponents are trying to explain the origin of biological features, Luskin hasn't used this opportunity to even try. He can't; "Designer did it" is not an explanation.
Mon, Jul 28, 2008 at 12:49:27 pm PST
Bruce Chapman of the Discovery Institute says I made false claims about them, but he doesn't actually dispute a single fact in my LGF article. I was going to ignore this post at their anti-evolution blog, but on second reading it struck me as a pretty good example of the kinds of misdirection the Discovery Institute commonly employs, so we'll go through it to see how many obfuscations we can spot.
Here's the actual audio clip of the CBC broadcast again, so we can check the Disco Institute's claims against the CBC's report.
The blog site Little Green Footballs has slandered Discovery Institute, whether intentionally or not, by implying that we are in league with Islamic radicals in Turkey.
First sentence, first lie, first misdirection, and first egregious error. That's one action-packed sentence.
The lie: there was no "slander," because I didn't make any false claims.
The misdirection: I did not "imply" the Discovery Institute was in league with Islamic radicals. I stated outright that the Discovery Institute is in league with Islamist creationists, a fact that is indisputably true, as we'll see in a minute.
(We can argue whether creationism is a "radical Islamic" position, but when even Islamist shill Inayat Bunglawala believes in evolution, it strongly suggests that the creationist position is a radical one.)
And the egregious error: "slander" means a "false spoken statement." The word for which Chapman was searching is "libel," meaning a "false published statement." Which is also incorrect, of course.
They base this fantasy...
Second sentence, second falsehood. There's no fantasy, except the fantasy straw man they set up in the first sentence.
...on a CBC radio report of a year ago that was so poorly researched that it called Discovery Senior Fellow David Berlinski "Paul Berlinski" and referred to us as the "Christian Discovery organization."
The CBC did mistakenly refer to David Berlinski as "Paul," a fact which I noted in my article.
But the CBC did not make a mistake about the name of the Discovery Institute; listen to the audio above and you can hear it correctly identified by its full name. The part Chapman took out of context is a description of the group as a Christian organization.
Back to the Disco...
Then they interview a host of people of varying views in Turkey who are critical of Darwinism and imply that they are all connected. They seemingly imply Discovery's involvement in this situation based on the fact that Berlinski was invited to speak at a conference held by the municipal government of Istanbul last year. Big deal.
Just a blatant, reeking distortion of the clip I posted, a large portion of which consists of an interview with the Disco's own David Berlinski.
Here's a complete transcript of what Berlinski had to say about their collaboration with Turkish Islamic creationists; first, a clip from the Turkish creationism conference in which he participated, sponsored by the Islamist AKP party's Istanbul Municipal Authority:
Berlinski: There is astonishingly little experimental evidence in favor of Darwin's theory. [This is] not about replacing Darwin's theory, that's not gonna happen anytime soon. But about areas that I find deeply challenging within biological theory itself, it may be rewarding to you to think about.
Then, interviewed by the CBC, Berlinski made it very clear that he's actively in favor of cooperating with Turkish Islamists to spread the "intelligent design" agenda. (Actually, the Turks don't bother with the ID facade; it's hardcore creationism all the way. Surprise!)
Berlinski: I think these ideas, these ideas, are current everywhere. There's a long interesting tradition of design theoretic arguments within Islamic theology that goes straight back to the 9th century. And there are outstanding figures within Islamic theology who participated in these discussions ... there's no reason to be surprised, this is a very rich tradition. We need to get together, we need to talk. There needs to be an exchange, a current needs to flow.
This is a hot issue. We're in the midst of a world-wide religious revival. I mean, historians 500 years from now will talk about the religious revival of the late 20th, early 21st century. There are a billion Muslims out there who are taking Islamic doctrine very seriously. Christianity too.
Notice that despite the Discovery Institute's frequent denials that their agenda is religious, here's one of their main spokespersons waxing rhapsodic over a "world-wide religious revival."
These are the facts behind the article I posted. The rest of the Discovery Institute's response is a lengthy refutation of a straw man argument, that I claimed they were "somehow soft on Islamic radicalism and terrorists" — which I simply did not.
Chapman launches into a discourse on Turkish politics and the "moderation" of the AKP (the "Justice and Development Party") that has nothing to do with what I posted, so I won't get into that too much except to note that the AKP is far from "moderate" by any definition Westerners would normally use. Here are some documents at the Stephen Roth Institute on the AKP, if you'd like to explore further. (Hat tip: Thanos.) And here's another article on the AKP's Islamist agenda: AKP Forming Closer Links with the Gulen Movement.
Chapman finishes by denying any connections with Turkish kook Harun Yahya (connections I never alleged), then boasts about the Disco Institute's associations with journalist Mustafa Aykol. Who ... uh ... just happens to be a former volunteer for Harun Yahya. Oops!
So at the end, it's nothing but smoke and mirrors and misdirection. Sleazy, deceptive business as usual for the Discovery Institute.
Many intelligent people use the "evolution is just a theory, not a fact" line—but they immediately get into trouble because, as I discussed in Part 1, the formal scientific definition of theory is typically understood to mean a "well-substantiated scientific explanation of some aspect of the natural world." In other words, when talking to a scientifically minded crowd, calling evolution "just a theory" is not a good way to express scientific doubts about neo-Darwinism. As I noted in a previous post, an article recently in The Scientist observed that, "public discontent with classical evolution as an inclusive theory stems parly from an intuitive appreciation of its limits." Thus those who call evolution "just a theory, not a fact" are trying to communicate some legitimate underlying truth about their scientific criticisms of neo-Darwinism. They are simply using poor terminology to communicate their point.
Sadly, Darwinists often then ridicule or scold Darwin-skeptics who use the "evolution is just a theory, not a fact" line by treating them as ignorant or uninformed regarding the proper definition of theory. Let's explore what people really mean when they say "evolution is just a theory, not a fact," and then I'll offer some final advice regarding how Darwin-skeptics can effectively communicate their doubts about Darwin.
All I wanted to say is that I'm a scientific skeptic of neo-Darwinism. How can I convey such skepticism without getting stepping on a semantic land mine and getting scolded by Darwinists?
Great scientific claims must be backed by great scientific evidence. When most people claim that "evolution is just a theory, not a fact," what they really mean is that there is not convincing scientific evidence to justify the great claim that all life is related through universal common ancestry and that it evolved via an process of unguided natural selection acting upon random mutation. Doubts about neo-Darwinian evolution might stem from:
The failure of evolutionary biology to provide detailed evolutionary explanations for the origin of complex biochemical features (see Opening Darwin's black box for a brief discussion);
But how does one simply communicate such viewpoints without getting into semantic trouble? As I explained in Part 4, I don't recommend one-liner sound-byte arguments against evolution because they don't communicate anything about the content of the scientific deficiencies of neo-Darwinism. Here's why:
When someone says "evolution is just a theory," it sounds like the speaker cannot cite actual scientific evidence against evolution, and that the only objection the speaker can muster is based upon appealing to postmodern rhetoric which asserts that we really can't know if anything is true. The truth is that science is capable of studying the validity of historical scientific theories such as neo-Darwinism, but the "evolution is just a theory" line makes it sound like the speaker is not interested in studying or discussing that evidence. In the debate over evolution, discussions of evidence are what matter most. As stated previously, calling something a theory doesn't necessarily tell you about the state of the evidence. The best way to express dissent from evolution is to actually discuss its failure to explain the scientific evidence.
The "evolution is just a theory" line can come off as if the speaker really thinks "evolution is just a guess, so I don't have to believe it if I don't want to." In fact, neo-Darwinian evolution as a whole is not merely a guess and most Darwinian scientists will provide reasons why they think it is the best explanation for the diversification of life. If you're like me, and you think that neo-Darwinian evolution has scientific problems, then you should be able to provide reasons beyond stating "it's just a theory." As noted above, the best strategy is for you to be prepared to give a few specific scientific reasons why you question Darwinian evolution.
But if you really must use short, one-liner sound-bytes to describe doubts about neo-Darwinian evolution, here is my advice: As we learned in Part 1, the technical definitions of theory do indeed mean "a more or less verified or established explanation," whereas a hypothesis has the meaning of "a conjecture put forth as a possible explanation." In this sense, when evolution is defined to include both universal common descent and a driving force of natural selection acting upon random mutation to produce the complexity of life (i.e. neo-Darwinian evolution), for Darwin-skeptics like me, such evolution is not a theory, nor is it fact. It is "just a hypothesis."
But as I noted above, it's best to give more information than one-liner sound-bytes. So I don't recommend that Darwin-skeptics go around saying "evolution is just a hypothesis," even though such a phrase would more-accurately use the technical definitions of "theory" and "hypothesis." What follows is a slightly longer description of what one might say to communicate doubts about neo-Darwinism without falling into soundbyte arguments:
When evolution is defined as mere change over time within species, no one disputes that such evolution is a fact. But Neo-Darwinian evolution—the great claim that unguided natural selection acting upon random mutations is the driving force that produced the complexity of life—has many scientific problems because such random and unguided processes do not tend to build complexity. According to the technical definitions of "theory," "fact," and "hypothesis," neo-Darwinian evolution is neither theory nor fact. It's just a hypothesis."
In the end, my final advice for everyone is this: Whether you think "evolution" is "fact," "theory," or "hypothesis," or some combination thereof, it's important to use all of these terms carefully and if possible, define them when you use them. It's also important to have patience with those who may misuse these terms, for each of these terms can have multiple meanings, allowing ample opportunities for confusion and miscommunication in this highly-charged debate.
Posted by Casey Luskin on July 28, 2008 8:11 AM | Permalink
Researcher Rusi P. Taleyarkhan, who says he produced tabletop fusion, falsely claimed that his findings had been independently replicated, a university panel finds.
By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
July 19, 2008
A Purdue University physicist who claimed to have demonstrated a tabletop fusion process that could revolutionize energy production is guilty of research misconduct in asserting that his findings were independently reproduced, a university committee said Friday.
The panel did not investigate whether Rusi P. Taleyarkhan fabricated his widely publicized and highly controversial research but whether he intentionally misled the scientific community in claiming that his work had been independently replicated.
It has been six years since Taleyarkhan's original publication, and no one else has been able to duplicate his findings, said physicist Michael J. Saltmarsh, who is now retired from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and had tried unsuccessfully to replicate the work.
Taleyarkhan was using a well-known technique called sonoluminescence, in which sound waves are used to collapse bubbles in a liquid, creating very high concentrations of energy and light. The technique is already used for such purposes as catalyzing chemical reactions, cleaning badly contaminated surfaces, and melting fat during liposuction.
In a 2002 paper touted on the cover of the prestigious journal Science, Taleyarkhan reported that he had used sonoluminescence on acetone in which the hydrogen atoms had been replaced with deuterium. The high temperature and pressure, he said, produced nuclear fusion, generating neutrons and tritium.
The article was published over the vehement objections of several reviewers and was heavily criticized by other physicists.
While researchers tried to duplicate the experiment, Taleyarkhan set his postdoctoral fellow Yiban Xu to the task.
Xu observed the critical fusion products and prepared a paper that was submitted to Science under his name. The paper was rejected, in part because referees maintained that he could not have carried out the experiments alone.
According to the report by the Purdue committee -- composed of scientists from inside and outside the university -- Taleyarkhan asked master's candidate Adam Butt to review Xu's data. Butt's name was then added to the paper, even though he had not participated in the research.
That, said the panel, was clearly scientific misconduct because it was designed to give the appearance of a collaboration that had not occurred.
Meanwhile, Taleyarkhan made heavy revisions to the paper, in grammar and scientific content, according to the panel. The paper was ultimately published in 2005 in the journal Nuclear Engineering and Design with virtually no mention of Taleyarkhan's participation.
The wording of the paper suggested that the work had been performed with funding and guidance from physicist Lefteri Tsoukalas, chairman of the department.
In a 2006 paper in Physical Review Letters on his own work, Taleyarkhan asserted that his original observations reported in the Science paper "have now been independently confirmed."
The Purdue committee, however, concluded that Taleyarkhan was heavily involved in Xu and Butt's paper and that "the direct assertion of independent confirmation . . . is falsification of the research record and thus is research misconduct."
Taleyarkhan now has 30 days to respond to the committee's findings. A university spokesman said the school would have no comment until the 30 days had elapsed.
Taleyarkhan did not respond to phone and e-mail messages.
The panel's findings "do not clear up the central issue of the research," which is whether tabletop fusion is real, said chemist Kenneth S. Suslick of the University of Illinois.
Suslick characterized Taleyarkhan's Science paper as "sloppy . . . but not fraudulent," adding: "There is serious reason to believe that [his] later work might have been tampered with. . . . Among the scientific community, he no longer has any credibility."
Published: July 28, 2008 09:32 am
A discovery by a former Mineral Wells resident might hold proof man and dinosaur walked the Earth together
By David May firstname.lastname@example.org
A slab of North Texas limestone is on track to rock the world, with its two imbedded footprints poised to make a huge impression in scientific and religious circles.
The estimated 140-pound stone was recovered in July 2000 from the bank of a creek that feeds the Paluxy River near Glen Rose, Texas, located about 53 miles south of Fort Worth. The find was made just outside Dinosaur Valley State Park, a popular destination for tourists known for its well-preserved dinosaur tracks and other fossils.
The limestone contains two distinct prints – one of a human footprint and one belonging to a dinosaur. The significance of the cement-hard fossil is that it shows the dinosaur print partially over and intersecting the human print.
In other words, the stone's impressions indicate that the human stepped first, the dinosaur second. If proven genuine, the artifact would provide evidence that man and dinosaur roamed the Earth at the same time, according to those associated with the find and with its safekeeping. It could potentially toss out the window many commonly held scientific theories on evolution and the history of the world.
Finding scholars and experts on evolution, paleontology or creationism to speak about the discovery proved difficult. Some who were contacted said they didn't want to comment on the prints without a personal inspection or without review of data from scientific tests.
However, Dr. Phillip Murry, a vertebrate paleontology instructor in the Geoscience department of Tarleton State University at Stephenville, Texas, stated in his response to an interview request: "There has never been a proven association of dinosaur (prints) with human footprints."
The longtime amateur archeologist who found the fossil thinks that statement is now proven untrue.
"It is unbelievable, that's what it is," Alvis Delk, 72, said of what could be not only the find of a lifetime, but of mankind.
Delk is a current Stephenville and former Mineral Wells resident (1950-69) who said he found the rock eight years ago while on a hunt with a friend, James Bishop, also of Stephenville, and friend and current fiancee Elizabeth Harris.
The three were searching in July 2000 for Indian artifacts like arrowheads – Delk's specialty as a hunter and collector since he was 6 years old – when he said a pile of rocks along a creek bank caught his eye.
"I said it looks like something has been washed out of this hole," Delk told the Mineral Wells Index.
Upon inspection of the pile, he said he saw a dinosaur footprint embedded in a piece of limestone. Delk said he has found and seen dinosaur prints, but now he had one on a piece of rock he could carry off – with Bishop's help – to keep and add to his collection.
Which is what he did, for nearly eight years. The stone was kept otherwise untouched, stored amongst his other finds, which he said includes over 100,000 Indian artifacts.
A domestic fall from a ladder eight months ago nearly crippled Delk, resulting in surgeries, a long recovery and expensive medical bills. He decided to try and sell some of his archeological treasurers, so he turned to the large piece of limestone, thinking he could clean it up some and sell it to the Creation Evidence Museum located adjacent to Dinosaur Valley State Park near Glen Rose.
Two months ago – about the third week of May – Delk said he grabbed a 4-inch brush and began lightly brushing away sediments and deposits from the stone when he noticed something. He began to see another print develop – that of a human – partially beneath the dinosaur print.
"I seen the (human) track coming out and (saw) that it was a man," Delk said. "I thought to myself, 'Lord, I've been shown man was here when the dinosaur was here.'"
He said he knew what he had to do.
"When I found it, I said this has to get to someone who knows it," he said. "I took it to Dr. Baugh. He liked to have a heart attack over it. He shed some tears."
Dr. Carl Baugh is the founder and director of the Creation Evidence Museum and claims doctorates in theology and philosophy in education as well as a master's degree in archeology. The aim of Baugh's Creation Evidence Museum is to offer natural evidence to support the theories of creationism, versus the evolutionary perspective heavily portrayed by the neighboring dinosaur attraction operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Baugh said the fossil is the proof he has been searching many years for. He acquired the stone from Delk and has it in safekeeping. He was confident after his initial inspections of the stone that the specimen is genuine. He took it to a medical lab at Glen Rose Medical Center, where he said 800 X-rays were performed in a CT scan procedure.
Baugh said the scans prove that the impressions are real and could not have been carved or etched into the stone.
"The compression lines, the density features, do show, and there is no way to fake that," he said. "It is possible to carve a track in limestone. But there is no way to compress the material in the rock under the track. That is absolutely impossible. That's why the CAT scans are so important."
He said the scans demonstrate the human footprint was made "during locomotion. That's very important. That distribution is shown here. Compression is in the right place under both prints. Density. Compression, distribution. The density factor is there. Weight distribution. Forward locomotion, rocking of the foot."
He also noted how the dinosaur's impression pushed up material from the human print and altered its shape in the area of the intrusion.
The rock is approximately 30 inches by 24 inches. The human footprint, with a deep big toe impression, measures 11 inches in length. Baugh said the theropod track was made by an Acrocanthosaurus. Baugh said this particular track was likely made by a juvenile Acrocanthosaurus, one he said was probably about 20 feet long, stood about 8 feet tall and walked stooped over, weighing a few tons.
Its tracks common in the Glen Rose area, the Acrocanthosaurus is a dinosaur that many experts believe existed primarily in North America during the mid-Cretaceous Period, approximately 125 million to 100 million years ago.
Baugh said Delk's discovery casts doubts on that theory. Baugh said he believes both sets of prints were made "within minutes, or no more than hours of each other" about 4,500 years ago, around the time of Noah's Flood. He said the clay-like material that the human and dinosaur stepped in soon hardened, becoming thick, dense limestone common in North Texas.
He said the human print matches seven others found in the same area, stating the museum has performed excavations since 1982 in the area Baugh has dubbed the "Alvis Delk Cretaceous Footprint" discovery.
Baugh said he knows there are and will be skeptics, especially since the find is very recent and so far has been tested only in a medical laboratory by a medical doctor. Still, he said he is so confident in the authenticity of the specimen he is ready to put his reputation entirely on the line. He said he is willing put the rock to any non-destructive tests.
"It's dynamite," Baugh said of the fossil.
Left an impression
Bishop, himself an avid hunter of fossils and Indian artifacts, was initially reluctant to be associated with the find. But he said he knows it is a significant discovery and that he is part of what is likely to become a major story throughout scientific circles.
"Yeah, it was a nice find," said Bishop. "I know it's going to change history. That's pretty heavy."
A man of Christian beliefs who is a member of the First Assembly of God Church in Stephenville, he said his hopes are that the stone will "disprove Darwin's theory. God made man. Man did not evolve from ape."
Someone else who has had a close up, personal inspection of the stone is David Lines, who photographed the stone for Baugh, which Baugh has included in posters and on his Web site www.creationevidence.org
A technical writer for Texas Instruments in Dallas, Lines said he's no expert on rocks, but he said he has no doubt the Delk rock is real and the prints are legitimate.
"I have really worked hard to figure out how it could be faked," said Lines.
Lines said his photographs also show the rock contains a number of fossils commonly found in North Texas such as small seashells and shellfish, a fact he said lends credence to the stone's authenticity.
"When I saw this, I said this is too good to be true," said Lines. "If someone found a way to fake that, they could also get a patent for concrete that would far surpass anything."
Delk's own daughter, Kristi Delk, is a geology major at Tarleton State University in Stephenville and holds different beliefs from her dad about the creation of Earth and the origins of man.
She said she wants to see data from more tests before jumping to any conclusions.
"I haven't come to terms with it," she said. "I am skeptical, actually."
But she said if verified, this rock could change her entire way of thinking, along with the thinking of a lot of other people.
"It's going to change all the pale-ethnological principles," she said.
Baugh added he is ready to begin speaking more about his new prized possession. He said he hopes this find will lead to more balanced educational teachings in classrooms and school textbooks.
"I don't think it is going to displace the theory of evolution," said Baugh. "My hope is that the scientific concepts of archeology and paleontology will be used under the guidelines of the Texas schoolbook committee. Any evidence supporting that should be presented, and hopefully this particular fossil will be presented, for the students to be able to see that there is evidence supporting an alternative concept as opposed to just evolution."
Complementary therapies should be subjected to scientific study (wherever possible) so that the proven ones can be practised as evidence-based complementary medicine.
I AM happy to report that after many years of sharing that qigong is useful for different diseases, my message has finally been noticed by some local scientific associations and even a local university medical faculty.
Although I have been invited many times to speak about the health and healing power of qigong, the forums had been health, wellness or anti-ageing medical and non-medical seminars and conferences.
Much of a patient's healing depends on his/her own practice of qigong.
However, for the first time, I have been invited by oncologists (cancer specialists) to speak on qigong in the recovery from cancer.
The USM (Universiti Sains Malaysia) department of Nuclear Medicine, Radiotherapy and Oncology will host the seminar on Integrative Oncology on August 20 and 21 in Kota Bharu, Kelantan.
The seminar will explore, among other things, the holistic approach to cancer therapy and the integration of medical and non-medical/CAM (complementary/alternative medicine) treatment modalities.
Apart from qigong, traditional medicine, herbal medicine and mind-body medicine will also be discussed. Another important subject that will be addressed is the interaction between CAM and the various medical cancer therapies – chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.
While some oncologists have referred to qigong as "snake oil", the USM oncologists are open-minded enough to invite me to share about the claims that qigong can help in cancer recovery.
Over the years, many reports have appeared in local newspapers about cancer patients improving from cancer after practising various styles of qigong. So I am not the only one making the claim.
Admittedly, however, there has been no proper study done to the standards required by medical journals to prove our claims. But that does not mean that what is repeatedly observed is invalid. What is needed is the cooperation of the scientific community to further investigate in order to confirm or nullify these claims.
Complementary therapies should be subjected to scientific study (wherever possible) so that the proven ones can be practised as evidence-based complementary medicine. For this, I congratulate the USM oncologists for opening the door for those involved in cancer care to know more about qigong in cancer therapy.
A cry for life
Jane (not her real name) is 48 years old and was diagnosed with breast cancer about two years ago. She had mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She was then told she was clear of cancer.
But just three months later, a scan revealed secondaries in the liver. She was promptly put on further courses of chemo, but this time it didn't work. The cancer had spread to her spine and the doctors gave up and told her nothing more could be done. She was told to prepare for the worse, and that they would give her painkillers. She was told that she had less than two months to live.
That was when she wrote to me requesting to meet my sifu (Master) after reading my previous articles about Sifu Tan Kai Sing and Shaolin Zifa Self-Healing Qigong.
My sifu had told me that he didn't want to treat cancer patients anymore, because treating them not only means exhausting his qi (life force), but also absorbing their "toxic" qi that requires hours of practice and detox exercises on his part to recover his qi and to prevent himself from suffering ill-health.
So when she met Sifu Tan, he told her that he had stopped treating cancer patients. Jane was devastated and pleaded with him to treat her, as she had two young daughters and she wanted to live for their sake.
Seeing the tears and the pleadings of this mother, and thinking of her two young daughters, Sifu Tan relented and started treating her, and also taught her the self-healing exercises. She came for qigong therapy five days a week, and did her own exercises at home as well, even though she was weak and tired. Sifu Tan told her that her own practice is essential for the healing to be sustained.
Within a week she was energised and could do one hour of standing exercises, whereas when she started, she had to do the exercises while sitting down. Soon the hardened veins (due to chemo) in her arm returned to normal and her hair began growing healthily. By the second week, her appetite improved and she started to regain the weight she had lost since the cancer was diagnosed.
She is now much better and continues to do 1½ hours of qigong practice, besides going for regular healing sessions with Sifu Tan. She has not yet been declared cancer-free, and she knows that she has to be consistent with her practice if she expects full recovery.
Already she has proved her doctors wrong, as she has survived, and is much healthier than she was when they told her nothing more could be done and that she will die.
I am sharing her story because she managed to persuade Sifu Tan to treat cancer patients again, something I had failed to do. I guess Sifu Tan realised that there are probably hundreds of desperate cancer patients out there who are looking for alternative therapies when the doctors have given up on them. But it means a lot of sacrifice for Sifu Tan, because in the long term, his own health may be affected. That was also why I stopped doing qigong therapy and concentrated on teaching qigong only.
While most qigong exercises for cancer require the patients to recharge the healing qi by themselves, which will take time, in qigong cancer therapy, the master attempts to help the patient by "jumpstarting" the healing process with high doses of his own qi.
In the process, he also unblocks the flow of stagnated qi (which is bound to exist in an unhealthy person) and also removes the bad or toxic qi as well.
The patient then continues with her own practice to build-up the healing qi further. The more often qigong healing is done, and the more often the patient does her own practice, the faster will be the recovery.
Although qigong masters can also channel the universal qi to the patient, just as in Reiki and other energy-healing methods, the healing effect is much slower compared to healing with the masters' own internal qi, which is condensed and focused before being transferred to the patient. For patients with advanced cancer, time is short and intensive therapy sessions are required.
The patients themselves may be too weak to do the self-healing exercises sufficiently, and must depend on the master to initiate the healing. However, the healing master can only give so much qi to any patient, as it is at his own expense.
Thus, much of the healing depends on the patients' own practice. Those who are committed to full recovery must do many hours a day. In Guolin Qigong, those with cancers are advised to start with four hours of practice a day, and that is a good guideline.
Qigong therapy is best combined with anti-cancer traditional Chinese medicinal herbs. It is also absolutely compatible with nutritional therapy, which seeks to provide all the nutrients necessary for healing, while qigong therapy provides the life-force that powers the cell's repair machinery.
Holistic integrative therapy
"If there is sickness in the body, all the healthy organs must fight against it." - Paracelcus
If you have been reading my articles, you will have realised that I believe that the right way to heal ourselves from most diseases is by helping our bodies recover whatever impairment in any of the organ systems that have allowed the disease to develop and worsen.
And the correct method is to provide the body with all the good things it needs – qi (life force), oxygen, water, sunlight, and sufficient nutrients to repair the malfunctioning system. We must ensure all our hormones are adequate and balanced. We must remove toxins from the body and prevent damaging chemicals and radiation from further harming it. We must also exercise regularly.
We must restore all the organs to perfect health (as much as possible) to enable them to work synergistically to overcome the disease.
I believe that we have grossly underestimated the nutrient-needs of our body, which, together with the excess intake of unhealthy refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats, contribute much to the ill-health that we see.
I believe that the drug-based treatments being practised most widely by doctors are not the best options, because in most cases, the drugs only suppress the symptoms without curing the patients of their diseases.
Which is why those with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, arthritis and many other chronic ailments are destined to consuming drugs for the rest of their lives. Even then, the disease progresses, and the drugs themselves may add more problems with their side-effects.
I believe that there is a better and more sensible alternative – that is to change the diet and lifestyle of the patients, and prescribe nutritional, herbal, natural or even drug (if there are no other alternatives) therapies that aim to cure the patients, and not make them drug-dependent for the rest of their lives. Even if drugs are necessary, they should only be temporary measures for fast relief, or while waiting for the curative effects of diet and lifestyle change (and nutritional therapy where applicable) to manifest, as these often take time.
If a disease is caused by poor diet and lifestyle, then obviously the first thing that needs to be done to reverse it is to improve the diet and lifestyle. Unfortunately many doctors still think of drugs first, and are perfectly happy when their patients' tests are "normal", although these are normal only because of the drugs given.
Medical intervention, including surgery, is necessary in many instances, but to think of treatments as exclusively medical and non-medical may prevent us from curing some diseases. Combining the various methods in a holistic integrative approach may improve our results.
It is therefore my fervent belief that the sooner we choose the holistic integrative medicine model, the better it will be for humanity.
Dr Amir Farid Isahak is a medical specialist who practises holistic, aesthetic and anti-ageing medicine. He is a qigong master and founder of SuperQigong. For further information, e-mail email@example.com.
The views expressed are those of the writer and readers are advised to always consult expert advice before undertaking any changes to their lifestyles. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.
If you like what you see, why not subscribe to RNCSE today? The next issue (volume 28, number 2) features reports on the treatment of evolution in Florida's new science standards, the recent antievolution legislation in Louisiana, and the ICR's failed bid to obtain certification for its graduate program in science education in Texas. Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch explain why allowing students to opt out of evolution is a bad mistake. And there are reviews of books by Pascal Richet, David Standish, Francisco Ayala, Michael Lienesch, Carl Zimmer, and the mysterious A. Nonimous. And more is in the pipeline for future issues of RNCSE, including articles by Lawrence S. Lerner on state science standards, Steven Salzberg on a creationist paper that almost found its way into a respected journal, and Taner Edis on a new setback for Islamic creationism. Don't miss out -- subscribe now!
For the selected content from RNCSE 27:5-6, visit:
In a statement submitted to the platform committees of both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee, the Anti-Defamation League reiterated its position on creationism and intelligent design:
The platform statement describes ADL's positions on the issues and outlines recommendations on policy direction that the organization hopes the parties will adopt, according to a July 21, 2008, press release.
The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 "to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all." Its recent activities in opposing attacks on evolution education include denouncing two recent creationist films that purport to link evolutionary science with the Holocaust.
July 22, 2008
Here we go again in Kansas, haggling about evolution. In the mean time evolution keeps on happening and in unexpected ways. For example, you may be familiar with the infectious cancer that is threatening the Tasmanian Devil (AKA Taz) with extinction. This cancer is spread when the Devils bite each other's faces during mating leading to spread of cancer cells from animal to animal.
The infectious cancer cells are genetically identical and their spread is believed to be made possible because inbreeding has led to a loss of genetic diversity so that the animal's immune systems are not able to recognize the foreign cancer cells.
See this link for background.
In an interesting twist, natural selection seems to be operating, at least in the short run, to favor precocious sexual activity and breeding. According to the research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this is the first time where an infectious disease has been shown to bring about these sorts of life history changes in mammals.
Often times natural selection favors the spread of genes conferring increased resistance to a disease so the scientist's findings are some what surprising.
The other interesting thing is that even though genetic diversity in the Tasmanian Devil has apparently been reduced by genetic drift there is still enough genetic diversity for natural selection to lead to a rapid shift in the timing of reproduction.
Presumably the scientists will now follow up with research looking at the sorts of genes that are involved and try to related the life history changes they see to genetics. Might there also be long term responses in other aspects of the animal's behavior and physiology driven by natural selection?
Aside from it's implication for the survival of the Tasmanian Devil as a species, this research may provide insight into the ability of endangered species to evolutionarily adapt to rapid environmental changes be they due to disease or to human activity.
Meanwhile back in Kansas...sigh.
From The Times Literary Supplement July 23, 2008
Today's brand of Protestant extremism should worry theologians as well as scientistsJohn Habgood
Belief in creation is a way of acknowledging that the fact of existence is not self-explanatory. That anything exists at all is an ultimate and unfathomable mystery, and it is this mystery at the point where explanations come to an end that religions have usually identified as God. This can claim to be a rational belief, not vulnerable to scientific refutation, since all assertions about the objectivity and truth of science must themselves depend on belief in some form of reality which is simply "given".
Creationism is much more specific and much less plausible. Its central claim is that the precise mode of creation has been revealed in the Bible, and follows the pattern set out in the first chapter of Genesis. In thus identifying God's action with a particular series of events and a particular timetable, rather than as the ultimate mystery underlying all reality, it lays itself open to the possibility of direct conflict with alternative scientific explanations. The main motive for risking this potential conflict has been to uphold belief in the verbal inerrancy of the Bible, and the literal interpretation of its statements about creation, which most mainstream theologians and biblical scholars have long read as myth, or poetry, or doctrine, rather than as history.
What later developed as Creationism can thus be seen in part as a reaction against nineteenth-century biblical criticism, and in part as a rejection of those branches of science, notably geology and evolutionary biology, that clearly contradicted literalistic belief in the biblical creation story. Its seedbed was among the fundamentalist Protestant Churches in the Southern States of the USA. Ronald L. Numbers's massively well-documented history traces in detail how it grew into a worldwide phenomenon.
Its beginnings were unpropitious. When little was known about the Earth's origins or the development of life, it seemed reasonable to cling to biblical stories which most Christians had hitherto regarded as reliable history. There was some freedom of interpretation, but little agreement about how it was to be exercised. The "days" of creation in Genesis, for example, could be treated metaphorically as ages of unknown duration, thus leaving plenty of room for geological and biological development between them. This, however, was not acceptable to Seventh-Day Adventists, whose distinctive beliefs were tied to a literal interpretation of the seventh day.
An alternative device for extending the time available for the creative process was to identify a gap between the first and second verses of Genesis 1. Aeons of geological development could thus be accommodated, before the final rushed job was completed in a mere six days. The third, and eventually the most popular, theory relied on the story of Noah's flood as evidence for a period of geological stratification and fossilization, which was presumed to have taken place after the creation of human beings. This, it was claimed, could explain away awkward geological discoveries which wrongly implied that the Earth was immensely old. An ingenious, but false, interpretation of some famous fossil-bearing strata in Alberta lent plausibility to what might otherwise seem an unlikely tale.
The story of the rivalry between these three attempts to reconcile geology and Genesis is told in great detail. The Creationists is packed with mini-biographies of the main participants, and mini-histories of organizations set up to provide counter-arguments to the scientists, with increasing emphasis on the dangers of Darwinism, as the theory of evolution gained more widespread acceptance. It is a remarkable story of passionate believers with, at the start, few scientific qualifications, barnstorming their way into popular consciousness, on the basis of ideas which were at best perversely ingenious, and frequently based on very dubious evidence. There were fierce battles between protagonists of the three different ways of interpreting Genesis. The surprising popularity, and ultimate dominance, of the theory of a six-day creation followed by a catastrophic and worldwide flood, was an interesting echo of themes dominating much late eighteenth-century geo-history, which likewise made extensive use of Noah's flood. The Deluge Geological Society, founded in 1938, actively promoted the theory, and The Genesis Flood, published in 1961, is now a Creationist classic. It was Darwinism, though, rather than geology, that in the mid-twentieth century became the main focus of attention.
Lest all this should seem a ludicrous storm in a teacup among ignorant religious eccentrics, it may be useful to recount a personal experience. In the mid-1950s, as a research student in Cambridge, I lodged for two years with a chemistry lecturer and author, who was highly critical of Darwinism. He was an intelligent and open-minded man, with a wide knowledge of other sciences in addition to chemistry. He was convinced, however, that evolution could not possibly work as Darwin supposed, because to do so would violate the second law of thermodynamics, whereby order decays into disorder rather than vice versa. He was a conservative Evangelical, a commitment that undoubtedly motivated him, but the detailed arguments we frequently had were based on science rather than theology. I was surprised to find several pages about him in Numbers's book, where he is identified as having been a leading British Creationist. I cite him as a warning not to underrate the intelligence and persuasive power of those who, maybe for personal religious reasons, find themselves driven to reject current scientific orthodoxy. Persuading such people that they are wrong is not helped by those, such as Richard Dawkins, who, for essentially anti-religious reasons, assert that the evidence for evolution must necessarily be, and be paraded as, the enemy of religion.
In short, there are clever people who try to make a plausible case against some aspects of modern science in the mistaken belief that this is necessary for the defence of their faith. Numbers's remarkably comprehensive book provides a detailed history of how it is done, and how a small minority of determined publicists have managed to capture worldwide attention, and in some countries to gain a following which poses a serious threat to scientific orthodoxy, particularly in the field of biology.
Outside the ranks of the most extreme biblical literalists, the concept of Intelligent Design has now become the main battleground between Creationists and orthodox scientists. It feeds on a residual suspicion of evolutionary theory by employing the notion of "irreducible complexity" in some of the more awkward evolutionary transitions, not least in the origin of life itself. Objections to it have come both from scientists and theologians. To introduce a supernatural agency at certain points in what is being studied as a scientifically explicable process, is in effect to abandon science. It also presupposes a God whose creative activity is so inefficient that it requires constant readjustment. If science and theology are to live together in this contentious area, both need to be treated as comprehensive. If God is the ground and basis of all existence, this is the best possible reason for believing that even the most unlikely events can have a rational explanation.
Ronald Numbers has given us what must surely be the definitive study of the rise and growth of a cluster of well-meaning, but irrational, theories over a period of some 160 years. The Creationists is an expanded version of an earlier edition published in 1991. During the interval, the proportion of Americans who favour some form of Creationism has risen from 47 per cent to 65.5 per cent and the phenomenon has spread worldwide. It seems churlish to ask for more but, given that the basis of many people's distrust of orthodox science is a rather simplistic biblical literalism, it would have been helpful to have had some reference to the kind of exchanges taking place between European biblical scholars and scientists in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It was a period when many fruitful adjustments in traditional thinking were occurring, without giving rise to the extremism that later characterized some shades of American Protestantism. The fact that such extremism has now become global should worry theologians as well as scientists.
The Christian faith, outside its more sectarian Evangelical manifestations, claims to be rational, and therefore has as much vested interest in scientific integrity as in the historical and philosophical integrity of belief. Fundamentalism tends to discount the significance of historical development in the biblical narratives, preferring to treat each revealed word as a relevant expression of God's truth. This encourages a concentration on supposedly infallible statements, detached from their historical context and from the intentions of those who wrote them, thus paradoxically imitating those sciences in which statements of fact can be treated as objectively precise. Conflict with science is the inevitable result. The "fact" of God's design, for instance, has to be defended in ways that are incompatible with the "fact" of natural selection. A greater awareness that reality is often more subtle and elusive than this, and that different perspectives may need each other, might encourage fundamentalists to be less literalistic, and some scientists to be more conscious and critical of their own materialistic assumptions. If this were to happen, the issues raised by Intelligent Design might be worth some attention, even though the theory muddies the distinction between science and religion. At present, it merely reinforces the impression of inevitable conflict, which a few protagonists on both sides are only too happy to exacerbate.
Ronald L. Numbers
From scientific creationism to Intelligent Design
577pp. Harvard University Press. Paperback, £14.95 (US $21.95).
978 0 674 02339 0
John Habgood was formerly Archbishop of York. His books include Church and Nation in a Secular Age, 1983, Being a Person: Where faith and science meet, 1998, and The Concept of Nature, 2002.
By Fiona Macrae
Last updated at 12:06 AM on 25th July 2008
GPs are turning their backs on homeopathy, with the number of prescriptions for the alternative medicine falling by almost half.
Official figures show that just 49,300 prescriptions were made for homeopathic remedies in 2007 - a 40 per cent drop on two years earlier.
The slump comes despite a rise in prescribing conventional medicines.
Homeopathic remedies are falling in popularity, with critics arguing they are no more effective than placebos
In addition, many health trusts have stopped or reduced funding for homeopathy.
Homeopaths aim to counter diseases by using dilute forms of plants, minerals and other materials that in higher concentrations could produce the symptoms of the condition itself.
Ailments commonly treated with homeopathic remedies include eczema, osteoarthritis, chronic disease and menopausal disorders.
Homeopathic remedies are made from dilute forms of plants and minerals
Scientists argue the 'cures' are so diluted they are unlikely to contain any of the original substance.
But homeopaths claim the water retains a 'memory' of the active ingredient, which it passes to the body to help fight the illness.
The technique has been likened to witchcraft and described as 'outrageous quackery'.
Scientists say there is little evidence the remedies work, other than in making people feel better simply because they are receiving care and attention.
A leading critic of homeopathy, Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, said the figures - from the Prescription Pricing Authority - 'reflect a more critical attitude on homeopathy and a shift towards evidence-based medicine'.
He told the GP newspaper Pulse: 'The trend is bound to increase as the evidence that homeopathic remedies are pure placebos is getting stronger.'
But Dr Tim Robinson, a GP who provides a local homeopathic service in Dorset, blamed bad publicity for the drop.
A spokesman for the British Homeopathic Association claimed there is no evidence GPs are shunning homeopathy. GP referrals to the four main NHS homeopathic hospitals are stable or growing, she added.
Despite concerns about homeopathy, many people believe it has the power to heal, with a study published in the journal Homeopathy yesterday finding that almost 60 per cent of patients felt their health improved after treatment.
Richard Hoey, acting editor of Pulse, said: 'In this era of evidencebased medicine, homeopathy was always going to struggle to survive.
'But it will be interesting to see how the Government attempts to reconcile cuts in homeopathy with its obsession with patient satisfaction. Homeopathy may not work, but patients seem to like it.'
By Simon Singh
The trial appeared to back the theory of homeopathy
The news that the number of prescriptions for homeopathic medicines written by GPs in England has nearly halved in just two years coincides with the 20th anniversary of a seminal scientific paper on the subject.
Twenty years ago, in the summer of 1988, the science world was rocked by one of the most controversial research papers ever published in the highly-respected journal Nature.
According to a charismatic French scientist named Jacques Benveniste, pure water could somehow remember what it had previously contained.
Benveniste had started with a substance that caused an allergic reaction, he diluted it over and over again until there was nothing left except water, and then he observed that the pure water still managed to trigger an allergic reaction when it was added to living cells.
If the experiment was correct then it would mean rewriting the laws of physics and chemistry.
Moreover, the research would have a major impact on the credibility of homeopathy, because it is a form of alternative medicine that relies on remedies made by diluting the key curative ingredient over and over again until that ingredient has disappeared.
Even Benveniste was shocked by the implications of his own work.
"It was like shaking your car keys in the Seine at Paris and then discovering that water taken from the mouth of the river would start your car!"
John Maddox, editor of Nature, realised that Benveniste's research would be controversial, so it was accompanied by a disclaimer similar to one that had been run when he published research about Uri Geller's supposed supernatural powers.
It said: "Editorial reservation: Readers of this article may share the incredulity of the many referees ... Nature has therefore arranged for independent investigators to observe repetitions of the experiments."
The investigation team was led by Maddox himself, and he was joined by chemist Walter Stewart and James Randi, a magician, who had a reputation for debunking extraordinary claims.
Homeopathy is still not understood, however his efforts started a new era of rigorous scientific investigation of the field
Alex Tournier, of the Homeopathy Research Institute
Unfortunately for Benveniste, the investigators soon discovered that the results in his laboratory were unreliable.
The three of them went on to publish a report explaining how Benveniste's assistants were being subconsciously selective in the way that they interpreted their data.
They said: "We believe that experimental data have been uncritically assessed and their imperfections inadequately reported."
Benvensiste gradually moved out of academia as a result of the Nature debacle, but right up to his death in 2004 he maintained that his research was valid and that he was being ignored by a blinkered scientific establishment.
Twenty years after his research was published, perhaps now is the ideal time to asses his long-term impact on the debate surrounding ultra-dilute solutions and homeopathy.
Was he an unrecognized genius who was ahead of his time or was he a deluded scientist who failed to see that his research deeply flawed?
First of all, it is worth noting that there have been many attempts to reproduce Benveniste's experiments - occasionally there are positive results, but they are neither consistent nor convincing, and in any case these are countered by several negative results.
For example, the BBC science series Horizon attempted to test Benveniste's claims in 2002, and the conclusion was announced by Professor Martin Bland, of St George's Hospital Medical School.
He said: "There's absolutely no evidence at all to say that there is any difference between the solution that started off as pure water and the solution that started off with the histamine [an allergen]."
Similarly, Benveniste started a spin-off company called DigiBio, which claimed that water could not only have a memory, but that this memory could be digitized, transmitted via email and reintroduced into another sample of water, which in turn could have an impact on living cells.
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) tested DigiBio's claim and came to the following conclusion: "Our team found no replicable effects from digital signals."
Nevertheless, Benveniste's research continues to be very influential among many homeopaths, such as Alex Tournier, the founding director of the Homeopathy Research Institute.
He said: "Benveniste was a very inspiring and dedicated scientist, who at the very apogee of his career at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research, was ready to put his reputation on the line to report a phenomenon he didn't understand: homeopathic dilutions.
"Homeopathy is still not understood, however his efforts started a new era of rigorous scientific investigation of the field."
Other homeopaths are convinced by Benveniste's idea of digital homeopathy and are even willing to sell such remedies over the internet.
Some might argue that, as there are over 200 clinical trials, but still no convincing evidence that homeopathy is effective for treating any condition, the idea that digitized homeopathy can help patients is fanciful.
But for $1,000 you could go online and buy yourself a digital homeopathy software kit and start treating yourself and others today.
Serious question marks remain over the Benveniste paper, but what is not in doubt is that its influence is still powerful and profound 20 years on.
Simon Singh is the co-author of 'Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial'.
Darwinists love to bash Darwin-skeptics who call evolution "just a theory, not a fact." The truth is that I rarely, if ever, hear people who are closely involved with the ID movement using this line to oppose evolution. The "evolution is just a theory, not a fact" phrase tends to come from the vox populi—intelligent people who studied this issue in their biology class or perhaps have read books like Darwin's Black Box, Icons of Evolution, or Darwin on Trial, but otherwise don't follow the issue very closely. As I discussed in Part 1, many of us who are closely involved with the ID movement actually agree with the Darwinists that the "evolution is 'just a theory', not a fact" line not only (in the technical sense) misuses the word theory but generally comes off as a meaningless statement. In this post I'll offer four reasons why I think that Darwin-skeptics should not use the "evolution is just a theory, not a fact" line and answer the question, "Is it best for Darwin skeptics to call evolution 'just a theory, not a fact'?"
Having taken over a dozen courses covering evolutionary biology at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, I'm a scientific skeptic of neo-Darwinism. But I've long opposed using such a rhetorical line of "evolution is just a theory, not a fact" to oppose evolution because it gets you caught up in a semantic debate over the proper definition of fact and theory, and communicates very little about the most important component of this debate—the scientific evidence. (For an early example of my writings on this topic, see my Response to the ACLU ID FAQ.) I'll start with criticism of people on my own side of this debate by offering four reasons why I oppose using the "evolution is just a theory, not a fact" line:
1. The statement "evolution is just a theory, not a fact," hopes to convey some kind of skepticism regarding evolution, but it fails to adequately define the term. As we learned in Part 3, no one doubts evolution when it is defined as "populations of living organisms change over time." Evolution so-defined is an unquestionable fact. But when evolution is defined as "natural selection acting on random mutation serves as the primary driving force that built the complexity of life" or even "all species share a universal common ancestor" (collectively called "neo-Darwinian evolution") then you've traipsed into more controversial definitions of evolution.
2. The "evolution is just a theory" line is simply not a good way of expressing skepticism about neo-Darwinian evolution because it assumes that a theory is something which necessarily lacks evidentiary support. As we learned in Part 1, the problem with this phrase is that the word "theory" can indeed mean a scientific idea that is well-backed by large amounts of scientific evidence.
3. When someone says "evolution is just a theory," it sounds like the speaker cannot cite actual scientific evidence against evolution, and that the only objection the speaker can muster is based upon appealing to postmodern rhetoric which asserts that we really can't know if anything is true. The truth is that science is capable of studying the validity of historical scientific theories such as neo-Darwinism, but the "evolution is just a theory" line makes it sound like the speaker is not interested in studying or discussing that evidence. In the debate over evolution, discussions of evidence are what matter most. As stated previously, calling something a theory doesn't necessarily tell you about the state of the evidence. The best way to express dissent from evolution is to actually discuss its failure to explain the scientific evidence.
4. The "evolution is just a theory" line can come off as if the speaker really thinks "evolution is just a guess so I don't have to believe it if I don't want to." In fact, neo-Darwinian evolution as a whole is not merely a guess, and most Darwinian scientists will provide reasons why they think it is the best explanation for the diversification of life. If you're like me, and you think that neo-Darwinian evolution has scientific problems, then you should be able to provide reasons why you're a skeptic beyond stating "it's just a theory." As noted above, the best strategy is for you to be prepared to give a few specific scientific reasons why you question Darwinian evolution.
So if we shouldn't call evolution "just a theory, not a fact" then how should us Darwin-skeptics refer to evolution? Theory? Fact? Hypothesis? Something else? I'll explore this question in the final installment of this series, Part 5.
Posted by Casey Luskin on July 25, 2008 7:55 AM | Permalink
By Amy Binder and John H. Evans
Saturday, July 26, 2008; Page A15
A proposal before the Texas Board of Education calls for including the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution in the state's science curriculum. This initiative is understood by supporters and opponents to be a strategic effort to get around First Amendment restrictions on teaching religion in science class. The proposal is a new round in an old debate, and, if it fails, creationists will innovate once again, just as they have since the 1920s.
If they succeed, there could be national implications: Because of Texas's sizable school population, the state curriculum can influence national standards. Book publishers don't want to produce multiple versions of the same text for different states or regions, so ideas that work their way into Texas's curriculum often end up shaping content in classrooms elsewhere.
Opponents of teaching intelligent design -- civil libertarians, scientists and educators alike -- have fought these challenges with a scorched-earth line of attack. No compromise, ever. Bloggers opposed to the idea of intelligent design ridicule its proponents as fundamentalist hicks, while formal assessments tend to condemn them in a slightly more civil tone. Those who study social movements, as we do, know that loss does not always deter; in fact, crushing one's opponents, especially again and again, can create feelings of persecution and solidarity among them and deepen their commitment to their cause.
From a tactical perspective, this may not be the best way to protect the science curriculum or the separation of church and state. From a more humanistic viewpoint, stigmatizing those who believe in intelligent design does not get us any closer to a respectful discourse. We presume that the Texas challenge will be found to violate the Constitution and that scientists will never accept the watering down of evolutionary concepts in the classroom. But by taking seriously a concern of critics of evolution, educators could offer an olive branch that might result in less debate overall and in better-informed students.
Intelligent design and previous creationist debates appear to center on where humans came from. A less public yet similarly powerful motive of activists is their belief that the materialist underpinnings of evolutionary theory harm children's values. For example, the defender of fundamentalism in the 1925 Scopes "monkey trial," Williams Jennings Bryan, was motivated by his conclusion that Darwinism taught "the law of the jungle" and had led to World War I by subverting the morality of the Germans. More recently, "the Wedge," an infamous leaked strategy document of intelligent design proponents, suggests that advocates are not as concerned about the truth of evolution as they are about the underlying values they think it teaches. The paper concludes that teaching evolution leads to moral relativism. As one contemporary supporter of intelligent design put it, "Darwinian evolution tells us not only where we came from but also what behavior is natural and normative for humans. . . . Teach kids they are animals, and they'll act like animals."
We propose a compromise that would neither violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment nor limit the teaching of evolution in the public schools. Most defenders of evolution do not consider valid the critics' fears that evolution teaches values. Even so, teachers could take these concerns seriously by clarifying what evolutionary theory does not imply about values. To assuage the type of concern articulated by William Jennings Bryan, teachers could tell students that even though evolutionary science talks about the survival of the fittest organism, it is not a model for how humans should treat each other. They could explain that students should not make an "ought" about human behavior from an "is" of nature and that competition in contemporary society will not lead to increased survival rates. Moreover, they could explicitly note that just because mutations in organisms are random, it does not follow that human morality is random.
We are not asking teachers to discuss what morality should look like but, rather, to explain that morality does not logically flow from evolutionary theory. This will not allay all the fears of those who could be attracted to intelligent design. But it's understandable that parents could be concerned that evolution entices their children to think unconsciously of themselves as creatures with animalistic impulses, to lose faith in their religious traditions and to think that if the nature of animals is determined by random mutations, then morality must be random as well. Teaching consciously what evolution does not need to imply for morality recognizes these concerns and does not cross church-state separation boundaries. Furthermore, challenging students to think about the connections between science and society would promote high-quality science instruction.
We recognize that, ultimately, we are asking teachers to shoulder yet another burden. To us, though, this seems lighter than the burden that would ensue if evolution's opponents became even more disgruntled with their public schools and tried still more novel challenges, straining the courts and generating conflict in communities across our country.
Amy Binder and John H. Evans are associate professors in the Sociology Department at the University of California at San Diego.
by Babu Ranganathan July 26, 2008 10:00 AM EST
As a creationist, I often get statements from individuals that natural selection doesn't work by chance.
I realize the fact that natural selection doesn't work by chance, but natural selection doesn't design or produce biological traits and variations. Genes produce biological variations. Natural selection simply "selects" those variations from genes that help with survival. Evolutionists believe that chance mutations in the genetic code will produce the variations that natural selection can act upon. There is no evidence that chance mutations in the genetic code will produce more complex genes for natural selection to "select" or act upon. Thanks to the popular writings of evolutionst Richard Dawkins, these individuals are confusing natural selection with genetic mutations. They do not understand the difference.
The biological variations have to come first before "natural selection" can do anything. Evolutionists must depend on chance mutations in the genetic code to provide natural selection with entirely new and more complex genes and not just variations of already existing genes. But, again, there is no evidence that chance mutations can or will provide increasingly more complex genes for natural selection to act upon so that evolution would be possible from simpler species to more complex ones.
Furthermore, a partially-evolved organ, even if it could evolve by chance, would have no survival value so it would never be "selected" by natural selection. Species cannot wait millions of years to evolve organs that are necessary for survival!
Natural selection is not an active force. It is a passive process in Nature. Only those variations that have survival value will be "selected" or be preserved. Once a variation has survival value then, of course, it's not by chance that it is 'selected'. But, natural selection, itself, does not produce or design those biological variations. The term "natural selection" is simply a figure of speech. Nature does not do any active or conscious selecting. It is an entirely passive process. 'Natural selection' is just another way of saying 'natural survival'. If a biological change occurs that helps a species to survive then that species, obviously, will survive (i.e. be 'selected').
Again, thanks to Dawkins, many have confused natural selection with evolution itself. Natural selection works with evolution but it is not evolution itself. Again, since natural selection can only "select" from biological variations that are possible, the real question to be asking is what kind of biological variations are naturally possible. How much biological variation (or how much evolution) is naturally possible in Nature?
The evidence from science shows that only microevolution (variations within a biological "kind" such as the varieties of dogs, cats, horses, cows, etc.) is possible but not macroevolution (variations across biological "kinds", especially from simpler kinds to more complex ones). The only evolution that occurs in Nature is microevolution (or horizontal evolution) but not macroevolution (vertical evolution).
The genetic ability for microevolution exists in Nature but not the genetic ability for macroevolution. The genes (chemical and genetic instructions or programs) for microevolution exist in every species but not the genes for macroevolution. Unless Nature has the intelligence and ability to perform genetic engineering (to construct entirely new genes and not just to produce variations and new combinations of already existing genes) then macroevolution will never be possible in Nature.
We have varieties of dogs today that we didn't have a couple of hundred years ago. All of this is just another example of microevolution (horizontal evolution) in Nature. No matter how many varieties of dogs come into being they will always remain dogs and not change or evolve into some other kind of animal. Even the formation of an entirely new species of plant or animal from hybridization will not support Darwinian evolution since such hybridization does not involve any production of new genetic information but merely the recombination of already existing genes.
Modifications and new combinations of already existing genes for already existing traits have been shown to occur in nature but never the production of entirely new genes or new traits. This is true even with genetic mutations. For example, mutations in the genes for human hair may change the genes so that another type of human hair develops, but the mutations won't change the genes for human hair so that feathers, wings, or entirely new traits develop. Mutations may even cause duplication of already existing traits (i.e. an extra finger, toe, etc. even in another part of the body!), but none of these things qualify as new traits.
Evolutionists believe that, if given enough time, random or chance mutations in the genetic code caused by random environmental forces such as radiation will produce entirely new genes for entirely new traits which natural selection can act upon or preserve.
However, there is no scientific evidence whatsoever that random mutations have the ability to generate entirely new genes which would program for the development of entirely new traits in species. It would require genetic engineering to accomplish such a feat. Random genetic mutations caused by the environment will never qualify as genetic engineering!
Mutations are accidents in the sequential molecular structure of the genetic code and they are almost always harmful, as would be expected from accidents. Of course, just like some earthquakes that don't do any damage to buildings, there are also mutations that don't do any biological harm. But, even if a good mutation does occur for every good mutation there will be hundreds of harmful ones with the net result over time being disastrous for the species.
Furthermore, only those mutations produced in the genes of reproductive cells, such as sperm in the male and ovum (or egg cell) in the female, are passed on to offspring. Mutations and any changes produced in other body cells are not transmitted. For example, if a woman were to lose a finger it would not result in her baby being born with a missing finger. Similarly, even if an ape ever learned to walk upright, it could not pass this characteristic on to its descendants. Thus, modern biology has disproved the once-held theory that acquired characteristics from the environment can be transmitted into the genetic code of offspring.
Most biological variations within a biological kind (i.e. varieties of humans, dogs, cats, horses, mice, etc.) are the result of new combinations of already existing genes and not because of mutations.
For those who are not read-up on their biology, a little information on genes would be helpful here. What we call "genes" are actually segments of the DNA molecule. DNA, or the genetic code, is composed of a molecular string of various nucleic acids (chemical letters) which are arranged in a sequence just like the letters found in the words and sentences of a book. It is this sequence of nucleic acids in DNA that tells the cells of our body how to construct (or build) various proteins, tissues, and organs such as nose, eyes, brain, etc. If the nucleic acids in the genetic code are not in the correct sequence then malfunctioning, or even worse, harmful proteins may form causing serious health problems and even death.
There is no law in science that nucleic acids have to come together in a particular sequence. Any nucleic acid can just as easily bond with any other. The only reason for why nucleic acids are found in a particular sequence in the DNA of the cells of our bodies is because they are directed to do so by previously existing DNA. When new cells form in our bodies the DNA of the old cells direct the formation of the DNA in the new cells.
The common belief among evolutionists is that, if given millions of years, radiation and other environmental forces will cause enough random changes (mutations) to occur in the sequential structure of the genetic code of a species so that entirely new sequences for entirely new genes will develop which in turn will program for the formation of entirely new biological traits, organs, and structures that natural selection can then act upon.
Would it be rational to believe that by randomly changing the sequence of letters in a cookbook that you will eventually get a book on astronomy? Of course not! And if the book were a living being it would have died in the process of such random changes.
Such changes, as transforming one book into another or the DNA of one species into the DNA of another, especially one more complex, simply cannot occur by random or chance alterations. It would require intelligent planning and design to change one book into another or to change the DNA of a simpler species into the DNA of a more complex one.
Yes, it is true that the raw biological materials and chemicals to make entirely new genes exist in every species, but the problem is that the random forces of nature (i.e. radiation, etc.) simply have no ability to rearrange those chemicals and biological materials into entirely new genes programming for entirely new traits. Again, mutations only have the ability to produce variations of already existing traits. It would require intelligent manipulation of genetic material (genetic engineering) to turn a fish into a human being. The random forces of the environment cannot perform such genetic engineering!
Furthermore, a half-evolved and useless organ waiting millions of years to be completed by random mutations would be a liability and hindrance to a species - not exactly a prime candidate for natural selection. In fact, how could species have survived over, supposedly, millions of years while their vital (or necessary) organs were still in the process of evolving!
How, for example, were animals breathing, eating, and reproducing if their respiratory, digestive, and reproductive organs were still incomplete and evolving? How were species fighting off possibly life-threatening germs if their immune system hadn't fully evolved yet?
Scientist and creationist Dr. Walt Brown, in his fantastic book "In The Beginning", makes this point by saying, "All species appear fully developed, not partially developed. They show design. There are no examples of half-developed feathers, eyes, skin, tubes (arteries, veins, intestines, etc.), or any of thousands of other vital organs. Tubes that are not 100% complete are a liability; so are partially developed organs and some body parts. For example, if a leg of a reptile were to evolve into a wing of a bird, it would become a bad leg long before it became a good wing."
Usually what is meant by the term "biological kind" is a natural species but this may not always be the case. The key to keep in mind here is that in order for evolution in nature to occur from one biological "kind" to another biological "kind" entirely new genes would have to be generated and not just merely modifications and/or recombination of already existing genes. If, for example, offspring are produced which cannot be crossed back with the original stock then there is, indeed, a new species but if no new genes or traits developed then there is no macro-evolution (variation across biological kinds) and the two distinct species would continue to belong to the same "kind".
If the environment doesn't possess the ability to perform genetic engineering and if macro-evolution really did not occur then how else can one explain the genetic and biological similarities which exist between various species and, indeed, all of life. Although it cannot be scientifically proven, creationists believe that the only rational explanation for the genetic and biological similarities between all forms of life is due to a common Designer who designed and created similar functions for similar purposes and different functions for different purposes in all of the various forms of life from the simplest to the most complex. Even humans employ this principle of common design in planning the varied architecture of buildings!
If humans must use intelligence to perform genetic engineering, to meaningfully manipulate the genetic code, then what does that say about the origin of the genetic code itself!
Young people, and even adults, often wonder how all the varieties or "races" of people could come from the same human ancestors. Well, in principle, that's no different than asking how children with different color hair ( i.e., blond, brunette, brown, red ) can come from the same parents who both have black hair.
Just as some individuals today carry genes to produce descendants with different color hair and eyes, humanity's first parents possessed genes to produce all the variety and races of men. You and I today may not carry the genes to produce every variety or race of humans, but humanity's first parents did possess such genes.
All varieties of humans carry genes for the same basic traits, but not all humans carry every possible variation of those genes. For example, one person may be carrying several variations of the gene for eye color ( i.e., brown, green, blue ) , but someone else may be carrying only one variation of the gene for eye color ( i.e., brown ). Thus, both will have different abilities to affect the eye color of their offspring.
Some parents with black hair, for example, are capable of producing children with blond hair, but their blond children (because they inherit only recessive genes) will not have the ability to produce children with black hair unless they mate with someone else who has black hair. If the blond descendants only mate with other blondes then the entire line and population will only be blond even though the original ancestor was black-haired.
Science cannot prove we're here by creation, but neither can science prove we're here by chance or macro-evolution. No one has observed either. They are both accepted on faith. The issue is which faith, Darwinian macro-evolutionary theory or creation, has better scientific support.
If some astronauts from Earth discovered figures of persons similar to Mt. Rushmore on an uninhabited planet there would be no way to scientifically prove the carved figures originated by design or by chance processes of erosion. Neither position is science, but scientific arguments may be made to support one or the other.
What we believe about life's origins does influence our philosophy and value of life as well as our view of ourselves and others. This is no small issue!
Just because the laws of science can explain how life and the universe operate and work doesn't mean there is no Maker. Would it be rational to believe that there's no designer behind airplanes because the laws of science can explain how airplanes operate and work?
Natural laws are adequate to explain how the order in life, the universe, and even a microwave oven operates, but mere undirected natural laws can never fully explain the origin of such order.
Of course, once there is a complete and living cell then the genetic program and biological mechanisms exist to direct and organize molecules to form into more cells. The question is how did life come into being when there was no directing mechanism in Nature. An excellent article to read by scientist and biochemist Dr. Duane T. Gish is "A Few Reasons An Evolutionary Origin of Life Is Impossible" (http://icr.org/article/3140/).
There is, of course, much more to be said on this subject. Scientist, creationist, debater, writer, and lecturer, Dr. Walt Brown covers various scientific issues ( i.e. fossils, "transitional" links, biological variation and diversity, the origin of life, comparative anatomy and embryology, the issue of vestigial organs, the age of the earth, etc. ) at greater depth on his website at http://www.creationscience.com.
On his website, Dr. Brown even discusses the possibility of any remains of life on Mars as having originated from the Earth due to great geological disturbances in the Earth's past which easily could have spewed thousands of tons of rock and dirt containing microbes into space. In fact, A Newsweek article of September 21, 1998, p.12 mentions exactly this possibility.
An excellent source of information from highly qualified scientists who are creationists is the Institute for Creation Research (http://www.icr.org) in San Diego, California. Also, the reader may find answers to many difficult questions concerning the Bible (including questions on creation and evolution, Noah's Ark, how dinosaurs fit into the Bible, etc.)at http://www.ChristianAnswers.net.
It is only fair that evidence supporting intelligent design or creation be presented to students alongside of evolutionary theory, especially in public schools which receive funding from taxpayers who are on both sides of the issue. Also, no one is being forced to believe in God or adopt a particular religion so there is no true violation of separation of church and state. As a religion and science writer, I encourage all to read my Internet article "The Natural Limits of Evolution" at my website http://www.religionscience.com for more in-depth study of the issue.
The author, Babu G. Ranganathan, is an experienced Christian writer. Mr. Ranganathan has his B.A. degree with concentrations in theology and biology. As a religion and science writer he has been recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis Who's Who In The East. The author's articles have been published in various publications including Russia's Pravda and South Korea's The Seoul Times. The author's website may be accessed at: www.religionscience.com.
The blog site Little Green Footballs has slandered Discovery Institute, whether intentionally or not, by implying that we are in league with Islamic radicals in Turkey. They base this fantasy, apparently, on a CBC radio report of a year ago that was so poorly researched that it called Discovery Senior Fellow David Berlinski "Paul Berlinski" and referred to us as the "Christian Discovery organization." Then they interview a host of people of varying views in Turkey who are critical of Darwinism and imply that they are all connected. They seemingly imply Discovery's involvement in this situation based on the fact that Berlinski was invited to speak at a conference held by the municipal government of Istanbul last year. Big deal. (Berlinski, by the way, is a secular Jew, so work with that fact for a while, boys.)
If people at LGF think they can make the case that Discovery Institute is somehow soft on Islamic radicalism and terrorists, perhaps they should pick up a copy of our Senior Fellow John Wohlstetter's new book, The Long War Ahead: And the Short War Upon Us. It is published by Discovery Institute Press and I challenge the LGF folks to read it—or any of my own writings on the Iraq War and the war on terrorism generally—and continue contending that this institute would ever have any truck with people—Muslim or otherwise—who doubt the danger of Islamic fascism.
Both the LGF blog and the CBC story have a naïve and simplistic understanding of the politics of Turkey today. As it happens, on most issues, including foreign policy, the more leftist party in Turkey is the "secularist" one that is now out of power. The Justice and Development Party (AKP), known as an Islamist party, is the more moderate party. That doesn't mean that they are ideal. But it does mean that they are more willing, ironically, to advance freedom in the economy and religion and to support the U.S. in the war against terrorists. Christians overall backed that party in the last elections, which tells you which party they think is most tolerant. Prominent Jews have found them easier to work with. (Turkey recognizes Israel, by the way.) The European and American press, by and large, preferred them in the last elections. The secularists in Turkey, in contrast, for several decades have been the most repressive against all religions, as well as the more xenophobic on international affairs and trade.
Incidentally, the government has recently arrested members of an extreme Islamist group that it claims were planning a terrorist attack on the government!
I realize that this picture doesn't accord with one's expectations—or, maybe I should say, prejudices. It also doesn't mean that issues, like whether women in universities and businesses will be allowed to wear headscarves, are trivial. But it does suggest that there is nothing wrong with attending conferences put on by the Turkish government.
Within Turkey there also are different people who are anti-Darwinian—just as in the U.S. Some are, indeed, creationists and could be called fundamentalists within Islam. Many are not. There is one controversial creationist who goes by the pen name Harun Yahya and has published a lavish book against Darwinism and has raised the ire of the government on other grounds, but we have no connection with him or his products.
In contrast, we definitely do appreciate knowing Mustafa Akyol, a very different writer whose columns appear in the Turkish Daily News in Istanbul and the Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard in the U.S. He is cited favorably by such publications as Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report. For a time, Akyol volunteered with Harun Yahya's group, but he broke with it in 2003, sharply disagreeing with many of its views, especially its link to anti-semitism. Akyol is not a creationist and he does support intelligent design. He also is pro-West, pro-religious tolerance, pro-free markets and anti-terrorist. The Economist rightly describes Akyol as "an advocate of reconciliation between Muslims and the West who is much in demand at conferences on the future of Islam" and who believes in "the compatibility between Islam and Western liberal ideals, including human rights and capitalism." (By the way, the Economist erroneously says that Akyol had a "fellowship at Discovery Institute." Akyol has not received funding from Discovery, but he did help organize the city-sponsored conference where Berlinksi appeared.)
Would LGF like to smear Akyol because they disagree with his support for design? Are they willing to smear Discovery because we know and like Mustafa Akyol? It is bizarre!
Posted by Bruce Chapman on July 23, 2008 8:00 AM | Permalink
Jul 23 08 - 03:18 PM
"To the chagrin of the science thought police, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has signed into law an act to protect teachers who want to encourage critical thinking about hot-button science issues such as global warming, human cloning, and yes, evolution and the origin of life," wrote John G. West in the National Review online.
West continued to say that "Opponents allege that the Louisiana Science Education Act is 'anti-science.' In reality, the opposition's efforts to silence anyone who disagrees with them is the true affront to scientific inquiry."
The law was so carefully framed that even the head of the Louisiana ACLU has had to concede that it is constitutional as written, West noted.
As Charles Darwin himself acknowledged, "a fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question."
(Dr. John West is a Senior Fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, where he is Associate Director of Discovery's Center for Science & Culture and Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs. His current research examines the impact of Darwinian science on public policy and culture during the past century. His other areas of expertise include constitutional law, American government and institutions, and religion and politics.)
Scientific American Magazine - July 25, 2008
Why subjective anecdotes often trump objective data
By Michael Shermer
The recent medical controversy over whether vaccinations cause autism reveals a habit of human cognition—thinking anecdotally comes naturally, whereas thinking scientifically does not.
On the one side are scientists who have been unable to find any causal link between the symptoms of autism and the vaccine preservative thimerosal, which in the body breaks down into ethylmercury, the culprit du jour for autism's cause. On the other side are parents who noticed that shortly after having their children vaccinated autistic symptoms began to appear. These anecdotal associations are so powerful that they cause people to ignore contrary evidence: ethylmercury is expelled from the body quickly (unlike its chemical cousin methylmercury) and therefore cannot accumulate in the brain long enough to cause damage. And in any case, autism continues to be diagnosed in children born after thimerosal was removed from most vaccines in 1999; today trace amounts exist in only a few.
The reason for this cognitive disconnect is that we have evolved brains that pay attention to anecdotes because false positives (believing there is a connection between A and B when there is not) are usually harmless, whereas false negatives (believing there is no connection between A and B when there is) may take you out of the gene pool. Our brains are belief engines that employ association learning to seek and find patterns. Superstition and belief in magic are millions of years old, whereas science, with its methods of controlling for intervening variables to circumvent false positives, is only a few hundred years old. So it is that any medical huckster promising that A will cure B has only to advertise a handful of successful anecdotes in the form of testimonials.
Take wheatgrass juice ... if you can stomach it. The claims for its curative powers are bottomless. According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (the "bible" of natural medicines: www.naturaldatabase.com), wheatgrass is "used therapeutically for increasing hemoglobin production, improving blood sugar disorders such as diabetes, preventing tooth decay, improving wound healing, and preventing bacterial infections." And that's not all. "It is also used orally for common cold, cough and bronchitis, fever and colds, inflammation of mouth and pharynx, tendency to infection, gout, liver disorders, ulcerative colitis, cancer, rheumatic pain, and chronic skin problems."
The alleged salubrious effects of wheatgrass were promoted in the 1940s by a Lithuanian immigrant to Boston named Ann Wigmore, a holistic health practitioner who was inspired by the biblical story of King Nebuchadnezzar, recounted in Daniel 4:33, in which "he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws." Wigmore also noted that dogs and cats eat grass when they are ill and feel better after regurgitation, which gave her the idea of the wheatgrass detox. Because we have fewer stomachs than cows do, she hatched the idea of blending freshly cut wheatgrass into juice form for easier digestion—through either orifice—a practice still employed today. She believed that the enzymes and chlorophyll in wheatgrass constitute its healing powers.
According to William T. Jarvis, a retired professor of public health at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine and founder of the National Council against Health Fraud (www.ncahf.org), this is all baloney: "Enzymes are complex protein molecules produced by living organisms exclusively for their own use in promoting chemical reactions. Orally ingested enzymes are digested in the stomach and have no enzymatic activity in the eater." Jarvis adds, "The fact that grass-eating animals are not spared from cancer, despite their large intake of fresh chlorophyll, seems to have been lost on Wigmore. In fact, chlorophyll cannot 'detoxify the body' because it is not absorbed."
I tried wheatgrass juice at the Oh Happy Days natural food store in Altadena, Calif., as part of an investigation for the pilot episode of Skeptologists, a series we hope to sell to a television network (where another biblical phrase is apropos: "Many are called, but few are chosen"). My co-stars—Kirsten Sanford, who has a Ph.D. in physiology and is now a science journalist, and Steven Novella, director of general neurology at the Yale School of Medicine—also imbibed. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I will double this essay's length by sharing the above snapshot.
Note: This article was originally printed with the title, "Wheatgrass Juice and Folk Medicine".