Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
Posted on: Friday, 29 August 2008, 03:00 CDT
By Day, Matthew
Monkey Trials and Gorilla Sermons: Evolution and Christianity from Darwin to Intelligent Design.
By Peter Bowler.
New Histories of Science, Technology, and Medicine.
Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007. x + 258 pp. $24.95 cloth.
Rummaging around for a title to his now-classic study of the religious movements that rocked central and western New York state during the first half of the nineteenth century, Whitney Cross decided that he could do no better than to lean on Charles Grandison Finney. These territories represented a burned-over district, he concluded, a land exhausted by decades of religious fervor and creativity.
Almost a century and a half has passed since the publication of Origin of Species, and in many ways the historiography of religious responses to Darwin's "dangerous idea" represents another kind of bumed-over district. The tales of how Christian communities have assimilated, resisted, or ignored Darwinian evolution have been told so often and by so many different parties that one might be excused for doubting that there is much left to say about the matter. Because of this, I don't believe it is a criticism of Peter Bowler's latest book to observe that while it occasionally gestures toward new terrain-such as the counter-cultural ties that bind Scientific Creationism and Immanuel Velikovsky's work on the veracity of ancient myths (205-208)-it never quite breaks new ground. Nevertheless, because Bowler knows the features of this landscape so well, Monkey Trials and Gorilla Sermons is a notable achievement.
The book's structure is admirably clear and efficient. Chapter 1 ("The Myths of History") offers a survey of the key historical developments with an eye toward undermining the passe notion that religion and science are ineluctably at war. Chapter 2 ("Setting the Scene") explores the intellectual trends that prepared the way for Darwin's theoretical innovations, including very useful discussions of Robert Chambers, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, and William Paley. Chapter 3 ("Darwin and His Bulldog") examines the structure of Darwin's evolutionary gambit, the philosophical ambitions of the firstgeneration "Darwinians," and the liberal Protestant willingness to see divine purpose in evolutionary progress. Chapter 4 ("The Eclipse of Darwinism") analyzes the apparent collapse of Darwinian selection theory during the early days of the "genetical" revolution and the liberal Christian embrace of nonmaterialist models of evolution. Chapter 5 ("Modern Debates") argues that appreciating the historical complexity of the engagement between Christianity and evolutionary theory necessarily undermines the rhetorical simplicity of both hard-line Darwinians who belittle religious people and unrepentant creationists who ridicule scientists.
As one might gather from this brief outline, Monkey Trials and Gorilla Sermons does not set out to radically re-imagine the historical contours of the continuing struggle over evolution. Yet, because it assembles the crucial figures and events in an easily accessible and wonderfully economical package, the book is exceptionally well-crafted for its intended general authence. Indeed, reading Bowler's book is a bit like watching a major league baseball player take batting practice. Even when routine, it is satisfying to watch a professional make something difficult look easy.
Florida State University
Copyright American Society of Church History Jun 2008
(c) 2008 Church History. Provided by ProQuest LLC
Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com
Friday 29th August 2008 - 5:21pm
The National Secular Society has written to a local council protesting against the "censorship" of an evolution exhibition, it said today.
Part of an information board about Darwin was covered up at the Abington Park Museum, Northampton, after a complaint about the wording.
Northampton Borough Council claimed it was better to obscure the wording rather than spend taxpayers' money on a new one, but has today announced it will replace the whole board.
It was alleged by a visitor to the museum that the text had been covered up after a complaint on religious grounds.
Northampton resident Andy Chapman told the Northampton Chronicle he had noticed it on a visit on the Bank Holiday weekend.
He said: "Our suspicions were confirmed by staff, who told us that following a complaint from a single religious fundamentalist, the museum had been instructed to cover up the offending statement."
Today National Secular Society president Terry Sanderson offered to buy a new board, providing only the syntax was changed, claiming any censorship was a form of "intellectual child abuse".
He said: "This is a publicly-funded museum and should not be pandering to the growing tide of obscurantism that makes up the creationist movement.
"The Council of Europe is so concerned about the growing pressures of schools to teach creationism in science lessons it has launched an inquiry.
"The museum has a duty to uphold science. Hiding the facts of evolution from children is a form of intellectual child abuse.
"The National Secular Society has offered to pay for a replacement information board with corrected grammar, but otherwise unaltered."
The exhibition explains how Darwin used the study of fossils in coming up with his theory of evolution.
An information board included the paragraph: "He used the same layers of fossils that had supported the Genesis view of evolution to show the slow changes that are taking place over the millennia of earth history, each small change enabling a species to the rigours of it's (sic) environment - the struggle for survival through natural selection leading to the survival of the fittest."
In a letter to the council, Mr Sanderson said: "Visitors to the museum are entitled to a better explanation of Darwin's world-shaping idea than the bowdlerised version you have on display at present."
But today Northampton Borough Council denied the issue had been anything to do with censorship.
A spokesman said the display had been up since 1994 and they had received a comment several years ago that the wording may be misleading, but had no records of the complainant's religious beliefs or views.
Councillor Brendan Glynane, Northampton Borough Council cabinet member for museums, said: "There was absolutely no attempt at censorship, the text contains a factual error which could cause confusion.
"It is disappointing to see that some groups have tried to use this error to further their own agenda and make proverbial mountains out of molehills.
"We have now uncovered the display board and are in the process of getting a new board produced."
The revised paragraph will now read: "He used the same layers of fossils to show the slow changes that are taking place over the millennia of earth history, each small change enabling a species to adapt to the rigours of its environment - the struggle for survival, through the natural selection, leading to the survival of the fittest."
The spokesman said the council would not be taking up the National Secular Society's offer to pay for a replacement display.
A museum covered up a key passage of text explaining Darwin's theory of evolution in a fossil exhibition after a single complaint on religious grounds.
By John Bingham
Last Updated: 11:38PM BST 29 Aug 2008
Staff at Abington Park Museum in Northampton blocked out a section of an information board after a visitor complained that it misrepresented the Bible.
The move prompted an official protest from the National Secular Society which accused the local council of "pandering" to the creationist movement.
Part of an exhibition on two local collectors, the information board included a passage explaining the role of Charles Darwin's book "On the Origin of Species" in challenging the Victorian understanding of fossils.
One sentence read: "He used the same layers of fossils that had supported the Genesis view of evolution to show the slow changes that are taking place over the millennia of earth history."
But when a member of the public complained that there was no "Genesis view of evolution", staff decided to cover the section of text with a piece of paper and order a new display board to be made.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: "Hiding the facts of evolution is a form of intellectual child abuse."
Councillor Brendan Glynane, Northampton Borough Council cabinet member for museums insisted: "There was absolutely no attempt at censorship, the text contains a factual error which could cause confusion.
"It is disappointing to see that some groups have tried to use this error to further their own agenda and make proverbial mountains out of molehills."
A spokesman for the council said it would be taking advantage of the row to amend an error on the information board in which the word "it's" had been used instead of the word "its".
Our guest blogger is Rick Weiss, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Is McCain's choice for vice president a creationist? The record offers worrisome evidence that the first woman to make it onto a Republican presidential ticket holds to this backward and wholly unscientific view of reality.
As reported in the Anchorage Daily News during her race for the governorship of Alaska, Sarah Palin offered up a classic anti-evolution answer when asked during a televised debate whether creationism should be taught with evolution in the public schools:
"Teach both," Palin said. "You know, don't be afraid of information… I am a proponent of teaching both."
"Teach both" and "teach the debate" have long been the mantras of the religious right and the Intelligent Design crowds, which have struggled over the years as court after court has batted down their efforts to inject unscientific teachings into the nation's science classes.
The legal record suggests that Palin's approach is not just ignorant of the facts, but a plain violation of the Constitutional boundary between church and state.
Recall, for example, the December 2005 United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania decision in Kitzmiller vs. the Dover Area School District. At issue was the legality of a 2004 Dover Area School District decision to inform all students that they should "keep an open mind" about evolution and to encourage students to peruse Of Pandas and People, which the school district gamely referred to as "a reference book," to gain an understanding of a competing view of how life came to be, known as Intelligent Design.
Judge John E. Jones III did not pull his punches. He found that the testimony of school board members who favored the teaching of Intelligent Design in the schools "was marked by selective memories and outright lies under oath." He labeled intelligent design as "a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory."
Judge Jones also highlighted the discovery of a secret game plan written by leaders of the Intelligent Design movement that made clear the real goal of these various academic and legal battles. The "Five Year Strategic Plan Summary," known to fundamentalist insiders as the "Wedge Document," states that the movement's goal is to replace science as currently taught and practiced with "theistic and Christian science." The group's "governing goals," according to this document, are to "defeat scientific materialism" and to "replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God."
In an interview after the 2006 debate, Palin, whose father was a public school science teacher according to the Daily News, sought to temper her initial response, saying that the classroom discussion about evolution and creationism "doesn't have to be part of the curriculum."
Well, that's for sure. No less an arbiter of reason than the U.S. Supreme Court itself ruled in the 1980s that creationism has no place in the science curriculum. That goes for Intelligent Design as well. In the Kitzmiller decision, Judge Jones found "Intelligent Design" "the progeny of creationism," which claims that all life was created by a supernatural force in exactly the form that it exists today.
Religion classes? Okay. Philosophy class? Sure. But the teaching of science becomes a farce when supernaturalism is made part of science class and the huge trove of evidence supporting evolution is belittled as "just another theory."
Or "theories," as Palin has oddly put it when talking about evolution:
"My dad did talk a lot about his theories of evolution," she told the Anchorage newspaper, apparently unaware that there is but one theory of evolution, and it is just as well grounded by evidence as is the ("just a") theory of gravity.
When the newspaper asked Palin for her personal views on evolution, Palin responded: "I believe we have a creator." Asked, I suppose, and unanswered. But she is clearly a candidate in sync with her running mate.
John McCain, as you may remember, signed on as the keynote speaker at a Feb. 2007 event at the Discovery Institute, the major lobbying group for Intelligent Design.
In addition to her unscientific views on evolution, Palin has said she does not believe that human activities are contributing to global climate change, a fact of planetary life on which the world's best scientists have reached complete consensus.
Alas, poor science, we knew her well. Eight years in a dungeon. Can she live four more without the light of day?
I am responding to the story about the local layman, Al Kuelling, unfortunately changing our denomination's policy to say basically that the theory of evolution is not in conflict with theology. As a United Methodist pastor who was a former high school biology teacher, I think I can speak to this issue to help bring clarity.
Let me say that Christian theology is not in conflict with real science. However, Christian theology is definitely in conflict with the theory of evolution. In fact, the theory of evolution is in conflict with real science.
First, let us look at the definition of evolution. Evolution simply means change. Now if we are talking about developmental change, such as an infant growing into an adult or variety within a species such as the different varieties of dogs or different colors of roses, this is completely consistent with Scripture.
However, the prevailing theory of evolution goes far beyond this. It says that simple chemicals by chance association become more complex and turned into living organisms that eventually turned into people.
The theory of evolution is less of a scientific theory and more of a philosophy about the origins of life and the meaning of humanity. The Bible everywhere declares that God is the creator of the heavens and the earth and everything in it. (Acts 17:24)
Second, the theory of evolution is at variance with the laws of genuine science. Let us examine some of them.
The first law of thermodynamics says "that matter can neither be created or destroyed." That leads us to the question, where did all of this matter come from? The evolutionist must reason that matter created itself. The Christian by faith accepts divine revelation "all things were made through him." (John 1:3)
The second law of thermodynamics says basically that everything tends to run down. This scientific law is an observation of the obvious. Things grow old, run down and eventually die or decay. They lose their structure. Yet the theory of evolution says that things develop their complexity and structure over time. How much time is needed for the chance formation of even the simplest living organism? The science of probability in mathematics shows that the odds are against the chance formation of even the simplest organic molecules. It would be like a tornado sweeping through a junkyard and producing a 747 jumbo jet, and even if it formed, it would tend to fall apart.
Does life come from non-life? People used to believe in a theory called spontaneous generation. They thought that flies came from rotten meat and that rats came from garbage. Louis Pasteur, a fine Christian man and probably the greatest biologist of all time, showed us through his experiments that flies lay their eggs in rotten meat and rats are attracted to garbage. Life arises only from life. Yet evolutionists tell us that life spontaneously arose from non-living chemicals in some ancient area.
Are mutations beneficial? Evolution teaches that over time changes in gene structure or mutations are beneficial to the organism, while nature shows more than 99 percent of all variations are harmful to the organism. The theory of evolution contradicts observable phenomena.
Are there transitional forms? Darwin himself said there should be many transitional forms at least in the fossil record. Yet there are huge gaps in the fossil record between fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, etc. If evolution were true, there should be millions and billions of transitional forms in the fossil record. Guess what? After 200 years of evolutionary teaching, they have never even found one transitional form in nature or in the fossil record. Instead what we find in nature and in the fossil record is just what the Bible says. Each animal and plant is there after its own kind with no crossing of the kinds.
How many of us learned in our textbooks that people evolved from monkeys? Well, guess what? All of that has been proved false. All of the so-called ape-men were shown to be false conclusions or forgeries.
The theory of evolution not only contradicts Christian theology, it also contradicts real science. Both the theory of evolution and the theory of special creation are faith assumptions, and on the basis of the evidence one must choose one or the other. I choose Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." There are so many problems with the evolutionary theory that many good scientists and philosophers now consider it an inadequate theory.
The Rev. David Ballinger is a pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Huntington. He is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and holds a master of divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary and a bachelor's degree with a double major in biology. If you want to submit a column (750 words or less), send it to Rhea Edmonds, The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802; fax 461-8893; or e-mail email@example.com. Please include your name, religious organization and a phone number where you can be reached. For more information, call 461-8728.
By Samuels, Noah Gropp, Cornelius; Singer, Shepherd Roee; Oberbaum, Menachem
The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is on the rise, especially among psychiatric patients. Acupuncture is considered a safe and effective treatment modality, and traditional Chinese medicine teaches that acupuncture harmonizes the body's energies. Scientific research has found that acupuncture increases a number of central nervous system hormones (ACTH, beta-endorphins, serotonin, and noradrenaline) and urinary levels of MHPG-sulfate, an adrenergic metabolite inversely related to the severity of illness in schizophrenics. Acupuncture can have positive effects on depression and anxiety, although evidence is still lacking as to its true efficacy for these conditions. To the authors' knowledge, no trials have been conducted for schizophrenia, and researchers evaluating acupuncture in cases of substance abuse have found conflicting results. Further research is warranted. Index Terms: acupuncture, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, substance abuse
The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is on the rise,1,2 with psychiatric patients, especially those diagnosed with disorders such as anxiety or depression, more likely to use CAM than are patients with nonpsychiatric illness.3,4 The ancient Chinese treatment of acupuncture incorporates the use of ultra-fine needles (diameter 0.15-0.30 mm), which are inserted into specific points on the skin (acupoints). Acupuncture is central to the treatment regimen of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), along with other manual therapies (eg, Tui Na, Chi Gong), herbal remedies, and nutritional and lifestyle changes. TCM promotes a holistic, energy- based approach to well-being, as opposed to the disease-oriented approach of Western (scientific) medicine. Both the US National Institutes of Health and British Medical Association recognize acupuncture as an effective treatment for many medical conditions,5,6 although for many in the medical profession, acupuncture and other CAM treatments remain enigmatic.
According to TCM, the body's energy, or Qi (pronounced chee), flows along series of points called meridians. Each of the internal organs has a corresponding meridian, and applying pressure (acupressure, Shiatsu), heat (Moxibustion), or needles (acupuncture) to relevant acupoints is believed to influence each of the internal organs and harmonize the body's Qi. There are many schools of acupuncture (eg, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian), each with its own approach to diagnosis and allocation of acupoints. Modern acupuncture has branched out into related fields, such as electroacupuncture (low-voltage stimulation of needles) and laser acupuncture. Auricular acupuncture is a related field in which needles are inserted into points located on and around the earlobe that correspond to internal organs.
TCM teaches that Qi exists in many forms in the human body. For example, Jing-considered the most concrete form of Qi-is housed in the kidneys. Levels of Jing increase and decrease in 7-year cycles in women in a circadian fashion that is similar to levels of estradiol in the fertility cycle. Shen (meaning "of the mind") is the most spiritual form of energy and is housed in the heart. Shen is responsible for the various mental activities required for day- to-day functioning. Mental illness can result when there is disharmony or imbalance in the body's energy system, especially when the Shen is affected. A number of etiological factors-such as constitutional makeup, fetal trauma, improper diet, overwork, excessive sexual activity, and narcotic drugs-can create such an imbalance.
The exact mechanism by which acupuncture induces physiological changes, relieves pain, and alleviates illness is still unclear. Research has shown that treatment with acupuncture results in local and systemic effects, such as an increased release of pituitary beta- endorphins and ACTH.7 The release of endorphins may partly explain the analgesic effects of this treatment, whereas increased ACTH secretion-which leads to elevated serum cortisol levels-may account for its antiinflammatory effects. Acupuncture can also lead to accelerated synthesis and release of serotonin and noradrenaline in the central nervous system,8 with activation of descending antinociceptive pathways and deactivation of multiple limbic areas subserving pain association.9 Clinical studies of the efficacy of acupuncture for psychiatric illness are often convincing but still inconclusive in many areas. Thus, we present a literature review (using Medline, 1966-2007) on the effectiveness of acupuncture for 4 Axis I disorders: depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and substance abuse.
Depression is the most common psychiatric illness in the United States, with a prevalence as high as 18.9% in the primary care setting.10 Many who suffer from depression may remain undiagnosed or inadequately treated because of a failure to recognize symptoms, underestimation of severity, limited access to health care, reluctance to see a mental healthcare specialist, noncompliance with treatment, or lack of health insurance.11 Conventional medical treatment is problematic for several reasons. First, as many as 35% of patients do not respond to conventional treatment, perhaps more so among those with chronic illness.12 Second, although compliance with next-generation selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor medications has improved, the dropout rate is as high as 15%.13 Last, a number of clinical trials have failed to demonstrate a significant difference between active treatment and placebo groups,14 undermining the public's confidence in these drugs. Women may be hesitant to initiate treatment during childbearing years, and elderly patients may have comorbid medical conditions that warrant specialist expertise or contraindicate the use of these drugs.
TCM teaches that depressive symptoms result from disharmony between the physical Qi and the spiritual Shen energies of the body. According to the Five-Element school of TCM, 3 distinct forms of depression exist, each with its own predominant emotional imbalance: Earth type (worry), Water type (fear), and Wood type (anger). Each of these forms of depression correspond to an imbalance in one of 3 internal organ systems: the spleen/stomach (Earth), the kidneys (Water), and the liver (Wood). In most instances, the depressed patient may suffer from more than 1. The imbalance can be caused by internal organ deficiencies (eg, innate deficiency of kidney Qi), excesses (eg, stagnation of liver Qi caused by repressed anger), or both. As with many other ailments, TCM recommends an integrated approach to treatment, using herbal remedies and acupuncture in addition to nutrition and other lifestyle changes.
Depression is among the top 10 diagnoses for which patients turn to CAM treatment, often as a result of dissatisfaction with conventional treatments, the feeling of personal autonomy and empowerment offered by CAM therapies, and compatibility with personal values and beliefs.15 Acupuncture may alleviate symptoms of depression through central effects, such as the release of noradrenaline and serotonin,8 or as a result of patient expectations. Although many researchers who have examined the efficacy of acupuncture treatment for depression were limited by study size and methodology, enough evidence exists to support a role for this treatment modality. In their double-blind, placebo- controlled, multicenter study of first 29 and then 241 depressed inpatients, Luo et al16 found electroacupuncture to be as effective as amitriptyline for depressive symptoms. Patients in this study who were treated with acupuncture had better outcomes with respect to somatization and cognitive process disturbances than did those treated with medication, an effect that Yang et al17 also observed. Acupuncture is also a promising treatment for depression during pregnancy.18 Table 1 summarizes clinical study findings regarding the efficacy of acupuncture for depression.
Anxiety disorders are the second most prevalent psychiatric condition in the United States, with a lifetime prevalence of 5%.24 Anxiety is also a common complaint in any medical environment, especially in prehospital and inhospital settings. Because preoperative anxiety has a negative effect on postoperative outcomes,25 physicians use sedative medications and preparation programs to treat preoperative anxiety, which is a practice that incurs increased operational costs for the healthcare system. According to TCM, anxiety results from an innate deficiency of the heart and kidney energies, excess of liver Qi, and a lack of communication between the heart and the kidneys, among other imbalances.
Acupuncture may alleviate anxiety through a number of mechanisms. Acupuncture results in a "stillness," with prominent alpha rhythm in electroencephalography readings, deep general relaxation, and a high degree of unresponsiveness to ordinarily painful stimuli.26 Acupuncture also can modulate the neuropeptide Y system in the basolateral amygdale of rats,27 increase nocturnal endogenic melatonin secretion in humans,28 and increase the release of previously mentioned endogenous endorphins. Investigators studying acupuncture as a treatment for anxiety have observed beneficial responses. In a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 30 patients scheduled to undergo colonoscopy, Fanti et al29 found that treatment with acupuncture decreased patients' demand for sedative drugs, reducing both discomfort and anxiety during the procedure. In another randomized, blinded, controlled trial of 91 ambulatory surgery patients, Wang et al30 found that patients treated with auricular acupuncture at relaxation points reported significantly lower levels of anxiety than did controls. Table 2 summarizes results from clinical studies of the efficacy of acupuncture on anxiety-related conditions. Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a psychiatric illness characterized by thought disturbances, bizarre behavior, and cognitive impairment that may diminish a person's social relations, school, work, and self-care. Because of the distorted thought process, treatment is difficult and conventional treatments are of limited benefit. Antipsychotic medication has limited efficacy and many potential side effects, with second-generation agents such as Clozapine more effective but requiring frequent monitoring of the leukocyte count. Newer agents such as Risperidone have a relatively safer profile and result in lower recurrence rates.37
TCM categorizes schizophrenia as 2 types: depressive psychosis and manic psychosis. The onset of the depressive form is gradual and accompanied by reduced mental clarity, followed by incoherent speech, mood swings, anorexia, and insomnia. Depressive psychosis requires regulating Qi, alleviating mental depression, and calming Shen. The onset of manic psychosis is sudden and accompanied by irritability, excessive motor activity, and abusive and violent behavior. This form of schizophrenia must be treated by cooling and calming methods that tranquilize the mind and calm the Shen. Few clinical studies in the field of acupuncture treatment address schizophrenia, with only 1 comparative study38 and a few case reports39- 41 published. However, electroacupuncture may increase the urinary secretion of 3-methoxy-4-hydroxypheylglycol sulphate,42 a metabolite of noradrenaline that is inversely related to the severity of illness in schizophrenics.43 The clinical significance of this finding has yet to be correlated with clinically significant findings.
Substance abuse is prevalent in Western society, with as many as 15% of patients who present to a primary care practice exhibiting an at-risk pattern of alcohol use or an alcohol-related health problem, and 5% a history of illicit drug use.44 Treatment of addiction is limited by poor compliance and toxic effects of long-acting agents that are substituted for the abused drug and then tapered gradually. In TCM, drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, heroine, and LSD deeply affect Shen, with prolonged use leading to confusion, memory loss, and decreased concentration.45
Although many clinical studies of auricular acupuncture treatment for substance abuse have been published, the results are far from conclusive. In a randomized controlled trial of 82 cocaine- dependent methadone-maintained patients, Avants et al46 found that those assigned to acupuncture treatment were significantly more likely to provide cocaine-negative urine samples than were controls. Margolin et al47 repeated the study protocol (N = 620) but found no difference between the groups. The latter authors posited that the discrepancy in outcome may have resulted from factors such as differences between counseling protocols. Also, a participation payment in the second study may have fostered retention of more severely addicted and unmotivated patients. Table 3 provides a substance-specific list of clinical studies.
Psychiatric illness is both common and complex, with conventional therapeutic options limited by partial efficacy, toxicity, and poor patient compliance. Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment option that, along with other CAM treatments, patients with psychiatric illness choose far more often than do nonpsychiatric patients. When used in conjunction with conventional therapies, CAM treatment modalities such as acupuncture do not decrease adherence to conventional medical treatment.62-65 Although patient compliance is high for acupuncture treatment of chronic pain,66 it remains to be shown that psychiatric patients would be as compliant.
Many of the studies cited regarding the Axis 1 psychiatric diagnoses presented are either not yet convincing (as with schizophrenia) or show conflicting results (as with substance abuse). Better studies of disorders such as depression have been conducted, although it is still not possible to recommend routine use of acupuncture for this disorder.67 The Cochrane Corporation, via its Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, has investigated the efficacy of acupuncture treatment for depression,68 schizophrenia,69 and cocaine dependence.70 Each review reached the same conclusion: because of poor design and a limited number of studies, there is no evidence that acupuncture is effective for any of these conditions.
A recent Institute of Medicine committee was formed at the request of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine of the US National Institutes of Health to define principles that will guide the research agenda for CAM. The committee recommendation was that "the same principles and standards of evidence of treatment effectiveness apply to all treatments, whether currently labeled as conventional medicine or CAM."71(p149) At the same time, however, the world of conventional medicine is expected to take CAM seriously. For this to happen, future researchers must conduct large and controlled studies, unlike most of the studies presented here, which are small and, at best, exhibit limited statistical power. Such studies would allow mental health professionals to consider acupuncture a complementary treatment with the potential to augment current therapy and increase the frequency of positive outcomes without increasing the risk for potentially harmful effects.
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29. Fanti L, Gemma M, Passaretti S, et al. Electroacupuncture analgesia for colonoscopy: a prospective, randomized, placebocontrolled study. Am J Gastroenterol. 2003;98:312-316.
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31. Kober A, Scheck T, Schubert B, et al. Auricular acupuncture as a treatment for anxiety in prehospital transport settings. Anesthesiology. 2003;98:1328-1332.
32. Liu GZ, Zang YJ, Guo LX, Liu AZ. Comparative study on acupuncture combined with behavioral desensitization for treatment of anxiety neuroses. Am J Acupuncture. 1998;26:220-223.
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37. Freedman R. Schizophrenia. N Engl J Med. 2003;349:1738-1749.
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41. Wu F. Treatment of schizophrenia with acu-moxibustion and Chinese medicine. J Tradit Chin Med. 1995;15:106-109.
42. Wenhe Z, Hechun L, Yucun S. The effect of electric acupuncture treatment on urinary MHPG-sulphate excretion in unmedicated schizophrenics. Int J Neurosci. 1981;14:179-182.
43. Joseph MH, Baker HF, Johnstone EC, Crow TJ. Determination of 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol conjugates in urine. Application to the study of central noradrenaline metabolism in unmedicated chronic schizophrenic patients. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1976;51:47-51.
44. Manwell LB, Fleming MF, Johnson K, Barry KL. Tobacco, alcohol and dug use in a primary care sample: 90-day prevalence and associated factors. J Addict Dis. 1998;17:67-81.
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46. Avants SK, Margolin A, Holford TR, Kosten TR. A randomized controlled trial of auricular acupuncture for cocaine dependence. Arch Intern Med. 2000;160:2305-2312.
47. Margolin A, Kleber HD, Avants SK, et al. Acupuncture for the treatment of cocaine addiction: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2002;287:55-63.
48. Bullock ML, Umen AJ, Culliton PD, Olander RT. Acupuncture treatment of alcoholic recidivism: a pilot study. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1987;11:292-295.
49. Bullock ML, Cullington PD, Olander RT. Controlled trial of acupuncture for severe recidivist alcoholism. Lancet. 1989;1:1435- 1439.
50. Bullock ML, Kiresuk TJ, Sherman FE, et al. A large randomized placebo controlled study of auricular acupuncture for alcohol dependence. J Subst Abuse Treat. 2002;22:71-77.
51. Karst M, Passie T, Friedrich S, Wiese B, Schneider U. Acupuncture in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal symptoms: a randomized, placebo-controlled inpatient study. Addict Biol. 2002;7:415-419.
52. Sapir-Weise R, Berglund M, Frank A, Kristenson H. Acupuncture in alcoholism treatment: a randomized out-patient study. Alcohol Alcohol. 1999;34:629-635.
53. Trumpler F, Oez S, Stahli P, Brenner HD, Juni P. Acupuncture for alcohol withdrawal: a randomized controlled trial. Alcohol Alcohol. 2003;38:369-375.
54. Zalewska-Kaszubska J, Obzejta D. Use of low-energy laser as adjunct treatment of alcohol addiction. Laser Med Sci. 2004;19:100- 104.
55. Avants SK, Margolin A, Chang P, Kosten TR, Birch S. Acupuncture for the treatment of cocaine addiction. Investigation of a needle-puncture control. J Subst Abuse Treat. 1995;12:195-205.
56. Bullock ML, Kiresuk TJ, Pheley AM, Culliton PD, Lenz SK. Auricular acupuncture in the treatment of cocaine abuse. A study of efficacy and dosing. J Subst Abuse Treat. 1999;16:31-38.
57. Lipton DS, Brewington V, Smith M. Acupuncture for crack cocaine detoxification: experimental evaluation of efficacy. J Subst Abuse Treat. 1994;11:205-215.
58. Margolin A, Chang P, Avants SK, Kosten TR. Effects of sham and real auricular needling: implications for trials of acupuncture for cocaine addiction. Am J Chin Med. 1993;21:103-111.
59. Otto KC, Quinn C, Sung YF. Auricular acupuncture as an adjunctive treatment for cocaine addiction. A pilot study. Am J Addict. 1998;7:164-170.
60. Schwartz M, Saitz R, Mulvey K, Brannigan P. The value of acupuncture detoxification programs in a substance abuse treatment system. J Subst Abuse Treat. 1999;17:305-312.
61. Washburn AM, Fullilove RE, Fullilove MT, et al. Acupuncture heroin detoxification: a single-blind clinical trial. J Subst Abuse Treat. 1993;10:345-351.
62. Feldman DE, Duffy C, De Civita M, et al. Factors associated with the use of complementary and alternative medicine in juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2004;51:527-532.
63. Matthees BJ, Anantachoti P, Kreitzer MJ, Savik K, Hertz MI, Gross CR. Use of complementary therapies, adherence, and quality of life in lung transplant recipients. Heart Lung. 2001;30:258-268.
64. Pucci E, Cartechini E, Taus C, Giuliani G. Why physicians need to look more closely at the use of complementary and alternative medicine by multiple sclerosis patients. Eur J Neurol. 2004;11:263-267.
65. Sollner W, Maislinger S, DeVries A, Steixner E, Rumpold G, Lukas P. Use of complementary and alternative medicine by cancer patients is not associated with perceived distress or poor compliance with standard treatment but with active coping behavior: a survey. Cancer. 2000;89:873-880.
66. Moroz A, Spivack S, Lee MH. Adherence to acupuncture treatment for chronic pain. J Altern Complement Med. 2004;10:739- 740.
67. Mukaino Y, Park J, White A, Ernst E. The effectiveness of acupuncture for depression-a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Acupunct Med. 2005;23:70-76.
68. Smith CA, Hay PP. Acupuncture for depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005;4:CD004046.
69. Rathbone J, Xia J. Acupuncture for schizophrenia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005;4:CD005475.
70. Gates S, Smith LA, Foxcroft DR. Auricular acupuncture for cocaine dependence. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006;1: CD005192.
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Noah Samuels, MD; Cornelius Gropp, MD; Shepherd Roee Singer, MD; Menachem Oberbaum, MD
Drs Samuels, Singer, and Oberbaum are with the The Center for Integrative Complementary Medicine in Jerusalem, Israel. Dr Gropp is with Psychiatric Consultation and Liaison Service at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
Copyright (c) 2008 Heldref Publications
For comments and further information, address correspondence to Dr Noah Samuels, The Center for Integrative Complementary Medicine, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, P.O.B. 3235, Jerusalem 91031, Israel (e- mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Copyright Heldref Publications Summer 2008
(c) 2008 Behavioral Medicine. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.
Story from REDORBIT NEWS:
Published: 2008/08/30 09:00:21 CDT
© RedOrbit 2005
Sunday 31 Aug, 2008
Herbal pills, powders, oils and liquids are the foundation of Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient system of health care that originated in India around 5,000 years ago. Renowned as 'the science of life', Ayurvedic medicine is widely considered to be the oldest continuously practiced system of medicine on the planet. It is used by millions of people in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, but has also become popular in the West, as interest in yoga and alternative medicine has grown significantly.Ayurvedic medicine recently came under scrutiny however, when a study from the US revealed that one fifth of Ayurvedic medicines sold on the internet contain unhealthy levels of dangerous substances like lead, mercury, and poisonous arsenic."Since 1978 more than 80 cases of lead poisoning associated with Ayurvedic medicine use have been reported worldwide," says medical researcher Robert Saper, one of the authors of the recent study on Ayurvedic applications sold over the internet."Our first priority must be the safety of the public. Herbs and supplements with high levels of lead, mercury, and arsenic should not be available for sale on the internet or elsewhere."According to doctors, high amounts of lead can harm the nervous system, kidneys and other major organs. Anemia, a decline in red blood cells, can also occur, as well as damage to the nervous system that may impair mental function. And at worst, lead poisoning can cause seizures or death.The study notes that there are two types of Ayurvedic medicines: one using only herbs and another, called 'rasa shastra', in which herbs are mixed with metals like mercury, lead, iron, zinc, and other materials like mica and pearl. However, Ayurveda practitioners still maintain that these medicines are safe and therapeutic when properly prepared and administered.As Ayurvedic medicine is hugely popular in this part of the world, we spoke to Suresh Kumar, an Ayurveda consultant at Cleopatra's Spa at Wafi City, to find out his reaction to the news that 20 per cent of Ayurvedic medicines sold online contain harmful metals. "Of course it is dangerous to randomly buy Ayurvedic medicine online, because specialists like myself cannot assure the quality of the product if it is bought over the internet. It could be fatal," says Kumar.
Kumar highlights that Ayurvedic specialists are extremely knowledgeable about all the plants used and their properties, and therefore only they can recommend suitable products, but through a proper consultation for each individual case. "With Ayurvedic medicine, combination and dosage is also very important. This cannot be figured out correctly with an online product, hence the danger," warns Kumar, who also emphasises that research and experience are vital in administering the medicine. In the Southern part of India where Kumar trained in Ayurvedic medicine, the use of rasa shastra is limited. He says that rasa shastra is just one of eight branches of Ayurveda science. "In the region where I trained, we rely 99 per cent of the time on plant products. I will seldom use rasa shastra, concentrating more on herbal extracts, herbal wines distilled for 40 days, tablets and powders," says Kumar. Where metals are concerned, Kumar explains that they have to be purified in different manners, but that when done correctly they can be used in a very effective and beneficial manner. The problem, stresses Kumar, is that with online Ayurvedic products, it's difficult to guarantee whether the manner in which the medicine is produced is up to standard. "I hear horror stories about Ayurvedic medicines bought from the internet and these medicines are damaging the good reputation of Ayurvedic medicine," says Kumar."Not everybody knows about Ayurvedic medicine, but if dodgy medicines are being sold freely over the internet, people are going to get the wrong idea and become sceptical. "If herbal products on the market are not being properly regulated it gives Ayurvedic medicine a bad name. This needs to be addressed," he says. It's important to exercise caution when taking medicine and with Ayurvedic medicine the same rules apply.
As an alternative to traditional medicine Kumar says that there are many benefits to visiting an Ayurvedic specialist. "Ayurveda has great remedies for stress relief. Our programmes include excellent treatments in the form of herbal medicines to help pacify the mind and aid with concentration," says Kumar."Also regarding obesity, a major health problem in this region, we have some successful remedies that help with weight loss simply by regulating the fat metabolism."With Ayurvedic medicine we don't just tackle the obvious ailment, we strive to enhance overall health by targeting the physical body, the mental state and the soul inside."For more information on Ayurvedic medicine contact Suresh Kumar at Cleopatra's Spa at Wafi City - telephone 04 324 7700.
Metroplex Institute of Origin Science
´The Evils of Evolutionismˇ
´Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? Either a vine, figs?
So can no fountain yield both salt water and fresh.ˇ (James 3:11-12)
Stephen Mathieson, Doctor of Ministry from Louisiana Baptist Theological Seminary and Department Head of Ovilla Christian School, will present the irrefutable fact that the philosophical, cultural, and scientific fruits of evolutionism (e.g., eugenics, abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, etc.) are bitter fruits grown with bitter water. You?re invited to see and hear the evidence from our guest speaker who will be echoing the following words of our Creator: ´Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree brings forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringeth forth bad frui. A good tree cannot bring forth bad fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.ˇ (Matthew 7:16-18)
Dr. Pepper Starcenter
12700 N. Stemmons Fwy
Farmers Branch, TX
Tuesday, September 2nd, 7:30 PM
"A TEACHER ON THE FRONT LINE"
"A Teacher on the Front Line as Faith and Science Clash" -- a story on the front page of The New York Times (August 24, 2008) -- examines the creationism/evolution controversy as it plays out in the classroom of David Campbell, a biology teacher in Orange Park, Florida. The Times's reporter Amy Harmon writes, "in a nation where evangelical Protestantism and other religious traditions stress a literal reading of the biblical description of God's individually creating each species, students often arrive at school fearing that evolution, and perhaps science itself, is hostile to their faith." Campbell's students are a case in point, and "their abiding mistrust in evolution, he feared, jeopardized their belief in the basic power of science to explain the natural world -- and their ability to make sense of it themselves."
In addition to helping his own students, Campbell also helped to improve the treatment of evolution throughout Florida by co-founding the grassroots organization Florida Citizens for Science and by serving on the committee that revised Florida's state science standards in 2007. The new standards describe evolution as a "fundamental concept underlying all of biology" -- a far cry from their predecessors, which sedulously avoided even using the e-word. Harmon writes, "Campbell defended his fellow writers against complaints that they had not included alternative explanations for life's diversity, like intelligent design. His attempt at humor came with an edge: 'We also failed to include astrology, alchemy and the concept of the moon being made of green cheese,' he said. 'Because those aren't science, either.'"
As well as explaining the scientific evidence for common descent and natural selection, Campbell discusses the limits of science, telling his students, "Faith is not based on science ... And science is not based on faith. I don't expect you to 'believe' the scientific explanation of evolution that we're going to talk about over the next few weeks. But I do ... expect you to understand it." The approach seems to be helpful, to judge from a case recounted in the article. One student who earlier refused to answer a test question that asked for two forms of evidence supporting evolutionary change and natural selection, writing, "I refuse to answer ... I don't believe in this," later relented. Grading the student's retest, Campbell found that "the question that asked for evidence of evolutionary change had been answered."
Accompanying the article is a sidebar discussing the treatment of evolution in state science standards, comparing the ratings assigned by Lawrence S. Lerner in his 2000 study Good Science, Bad Science with NCSE's assessment, using Lerner's criteria, of the standards currently used. The standards "have improved in many states since 2000 ... [b]ut most states' standards do not explicity require teachers to explain that humans evolved from earlier life forms." There is also a historical timeline illustrating "A Fading Resistance to Evolution Education," furnished by NCSE, and, apparently only on the newspaper's website, a version of NCSE's answers to Jonathan Wells's "Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution." For a more extensive rebuttal of Wells's claims about evolution, see Alan D. Gishlick's "Icons of Evolution?"
For the article in the Times, visit:
For Florida Citizens for Science's website and blog, visit:
For the sidebar and timeline in the Times, visit:
For Good Science, Bad Science, visit:
For NCSE's answers to Jonathan Wells, visit:
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Florida, visit:
"ERODING EVOLUTION" IN LOUISIANA
"Eroding Evolution," a new article in the July/August 2008 issue of Church and State, addresses the recently enacted "Science Education Act" in Louisiana, which threatens to open the door for creationism and scientifically unwarranted critiques of evolution to be taught in public school science classes. Veteran science teacher Patsye Peebles told Church and State that she worries about the scientific literacy of Louisiana's students: "Now this muddies the waters and keeps students from having a really good education," she said. "When they go to college, they will be at a disadvantage because they will not have a good understanding of science."
As New Scientist (July 9, 2008) reported, "Supporters of the new law clearly hope that teachers and administrators who wish to raise alternatives to evolution in science classes will feel protected if they do so. The law expressly permits the use of 'supplemental' classroom materials in addition to state-approved textbooks." Creationists have historically often tried to undermine evolution education by proposing supplementary materials: Of Pandas and People is a notorious example. NCSE's Joshua Rosenau told Church and State, "They may not be saying 'Noah's flood' or 'Adam and Eve' anymore, but it is the same creationist argument they are making."
Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, a member of NCSE's board of directors, co-author of Creationism's Trojan Horse (Oxford University Press, 2007), and a leader in the pro-science grassroots group Louisiana Coalition for Science, put the law in historical context. Referring to the radical religious right organization that engineered the bill, the Louisiana Family Forum, she explained, "The LFF has been lobbying the legislature for nine years laying this groundwork. They have been waiting for a number of factors to come together -- now the legislature as a whole is conservative and we have a governor who favors creationism."
After observing that a previous antievolution law in Louisiana occasioned the Supreme Court's decision in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) that it is unconstitutional to teach creationism in the public schools, the article observes, "It looks like Louisiana is repeating history, despite concerns from teachers, scientists and legal scholars." And, returning to the perspective of the science teacher, it concludes by quoting Peebles again: "They just aren't even paying attention to what teachers are telling them ... We don't need this, we don't want it." Church and State is a publication of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a non-profit organization that protects separation of church and state.
For "Eroding Evolution," visit:
For New Scientist's report, visit:
For information about Of Pandas and People, visit:
For information about Creationism's Trojan Horse, visit:
For Louisiana Coalition for Science's website, visit:
For American United's website, visit:
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit:
Thanks for reading! And as always, be sure to consult NCSE's web site: http://www.ncseweb.org where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it.
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools
Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism
NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Chapman University grad David Ingrassano follows a woman's treatment at a controversial Mexican clinic.
BY COURTNEY PERKES
The Orange County Register
Anaheim film maker David Ingrassano will premiere a controversial documentary Saturday that follows a patient's cancer treatment at a Mexican hospital headed by a former Orange County chiropractor, who some have accused of preying on the desperate and dying.
The Rosarito Beach hospital, started by Kurt Donsbach, was shut down by Mexican health authorities after Coretta Scott King died there in 2006. The hospital specialized in offering alternative treatment not approved by the U.S. government. A new center has opened nearby offering the same services, according to a receptionist at Donsbach's Chula Vista office.
In 1988, the U.S. Postal Service sought a court order to stop delivering mail to Donsbach's Huntington Beach supplement company, saying his claims of treating cancer and arthritis with hydrogen peroxide amounted to health fraud.
Dr. Stephen Barrett, a retired North Carolina psychiatrist who runs a Web site called www.quackwatch.org, turned down an invitation to speak at Ingrassano's forum. He said there's no evidence the unapproved treatments work and said he's heard from patients who were harmed by them.
But Ingrassano, a recent graduate of Chapman University's film school, said big money interests in the United States are threatened by more effective alternative treatments. He said he made the documentary, in part out of gratitude for the treatment he received there.
Here he discusses the film, called "Illegal Hope" and his interest in alternative medicine.
Q. How did you get the idea for the film?
A. There was a lot of controversy about this particular hospital in 2006 when Coretta Scott King died there. I think for three months all I heard was bad publicity. I decided to go and shoot a film about the patients. I was actually a patient at the hospital in 1994. I had an immune problem and was on five prescriptions a day. The doctors here said, 'There's nothing else we can do for you.' I decided to look into alternatives. I spent about five and a half weeks there. I didn't have enough money for the treatment. Somebody gave $26,000 for the treatment. They didn't want a thank you they only said to go out and help other people. I'm kind of trying to pay myself out of that debt.
Q. How did you meet Peri Carter, the Missouri cancer patient featured in the film?
A. The day I got there is the day Peri got there. She had two daughters and her husband was with her. It was the complete family. She was dying of a brain tumor. She couldn't speak.
Q. What treatment did she receive?
A. They deal in alternative treatments down there, low-dose chemotherapy. In a three-week period we saw Peri go from not being able to talk and slurred speech to pretty much back to normal. She went back to Missouri; we followed her back. Outside Peri's home were these huge cell phone towers and the story changes dramatically after that.
Q. How is she doing now?
A. Peri passed away. Three weeks after being home and around the cell tower and all that she went downhill and became exactly like we saw her when she first got to the hospital. Her family opted to do traditional medicine. She chooses to do chemo and radiation…. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of people questioning alternative (medicine) because the lady we follow does die, but there are choices her family does make.
Q. How do you think Americans should decide what alternative treatments are safe?
A. I think we should have a fair playing field. The pharmaceutical companies fund the med schools and all the doctors. You have the FDA saying all this alternative stuff is quackery when they should give it a chance.
Q. How is your health?
A. Wonderful. They did a lot of stuff with hydrogen peroxide. Bad things can't live in an oxygen environment. They did a lot of infusions with the hydrogen peroxide. It's a very slow drip. The idea behind it is it kills all the bad stuff but doesn't hurt anything else. They do a lot of detox things to clean out the body. Change of diet, cutting out sugar.
Q. What kind of discussion do you want to spark?
A. I don't want a Hollywood movie where someone gets up and feels good when they walk out the door. It's not that kind of movie. It's one to make you think. I want people to question why if we're Americans and we're supposed to be free we can't have this treatment.
Contact the writer: 714-796-3686 or email@example.com
Published 21 August 2008
According to some Muslim scholars, everything from genetics to robotics and space travel is described in the Quran. What nonsense
Science has acquired a new meaning in certain Muslim circles. When classical Muslim scholars declared that "whosoever does not know astronomy or anatomy is deficient in the knowledge of God", they were emphasising the importance of the scientific spirit in Islam and encouraging the pursuit of empirical science. But today, to a significant section of Muslims, science includes the discovery of "scientific miracles" in the Quran.
The Quran does contain many verses that point towards nature, and constantly asks its readers to reflect on the wonders of the cosmos. "Travel throughout the earth and see how He brings life into being" (29:20) is a piece of advice we frequently find in the Muslim sacred text. "Behold," we read elsewhere, "in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding . . ." (3:190).
But these verses do not have any specific scientific content - they simply urge believers to study nature and reflect on the awe-inspiring diversity and complexity of the universe. The emphasis in many of these verses, such as "The sun and the moon follow courses (exactly) computed; and the stars and the trees both prostrate in adoration; and the heavens He has raised high, and He has set up the balance" (55:5-7), is on the general predictability of physical phenomena.
It requires considerable mental gymnastics and distortions to find scientific facts or theories in these verses. Yet, this height of folly is a global craze in Muslim societies, as is a popular literature known as ijaz, or "scientific miracles of the Quran". Islamic bookshops are littered with this literature, television preachers talk endlessly about how many different scientific theories can be found in the Quran, and numerous websites are devoted to explaining the phenomenon. It can seem as if ijaz literature has taken total control of the Muslim imagination.
"Almost everything, from relativity, quantum mechanics, Big Bang theory, black holes and pulsars, genetics, embryology, modern geology, thermodynamics, even the laser and hydrogen fuel cells, have been 'found' in the Quran," says Nidhal Guessoum, professor of astrophysics at the American University of Sharjah. Whereas centuries ago, Muslim mathematicians discovered algebra (and led the world in countless fields of knowledge), some of today's believers look to the Quran for equations to yield the value of the speed of light or the age of the universe, and other bewildering feats.
The tendency to read science in the Quran has a long history. In the 1950s, for example, when the US and the Soviet Union were competing to put a man in space, pamphlets appeared in India and Pakistan in which Quranic verses on the all-powerful nature of God were quoted to "prove" that manned space flight would never happen. However, for the current manifestation of ijaz, we need to thank not writers from the madrasas of the Middle East, but two western professors - neither man a Muslim.
It began in 1976, with the publication of The Bible, the Quran and Science by Maurice Bucaille, a French surgeon who had served the Saudi monarchy and acquired his basic knowledge of the Quran in the kingdom. He set out to examine "the holy scriptures in the light of modern knowledge", focusing on astronomy, the earth, and the animal and vegetable kingdoms. His conclusion was that "it is impossible not to admit the existence of scientific errors in the Bible". In contrast: "The Quran most definitely did not contain a single proposition at variance with the most firmly established modern knowledge." Many Muslims embraced Bucaille's thesis as proof of the divine origins of the Quran.
Ijaz literature received a further boost almost a decade later with the publication of the paper Highlights of Human Embryology in the Quran and the Hadith by Keith Moore, a Canadian professor of anatomy who was then teaching in Saudi Arabia. Moore illustrated certain verses from the Quran with clinical drawings and textbook descriptions. For example, the verse "We created man from a drop of mingled fluid" (76:2) is explained by Moore as referring to the mixture of a small quantity of sperm with the oocyte and its follicular fluid.
He was quite a performer, and stunned the gathering at the seventh Saudi Medical Meeting, held in 1982 in Dam mam. He read out the Quranic verses: "We have created man from the essence of clay, then We placed him as a drop of fluid in a safe place, then We made that drop into a clinging form, and made the form into a lump of flesh, and We made the lump into bones, and We clothed these bones with flesh, and We made him into other forms . . ." (23:12-14).
Moore then shaped some Plasticine to resemble an embryo at 28 days and dug his teeth into it. The chewed Plasticine, he claimed, was an exact copy of the embryo, with his teeth marks resembling the embryo's somites (the vertebral column and musculature). He displayed photographs to show that bones begin to form in the embryo at six weeks, and muscles attach to them. By the seventh week, the bones give a human shape to the embryo; ears and eyes begin to form by the fourth week and are visible by the sixth. All these developments, Moore claimed, fit the Quranic description exactly.
Both Bucaille and Moore played on the inferiority complex of influential Saudis, suggesting that the Quran was a scientific treatise and proof that Muslims were modern long before the modern world and modern science. The Saudi government poured millions into ijaz literature. The Commission on Scientific Signs in the Quran and Sunnah was established. The first international conference on the subject was held in Islamabad, in 1987. Moore's paper was included in an illustrated study: Human Development As Described in the Quran and Sunnah. The field has been growing exponentially ever since.
Guessoum, who is about to publish a book on ijaz literature, says that most works on scientific miracles follow a set pattern. They start with a verse of the Quran and look for concordance between scientific results and Quranic statements. For example, one would start from the verse "So verily I swear by the stars that run and hide . . ." (81:15-16) and quickly declare that it refers to black holes, or take the verse "[I swear by] the Moon in her fullness; that ye shall journey on from stage to stage" (84:18-19) and decide it refers to space travel. And so on. "What is meant to be allegorical and poetic is transformed into products of science," Guessoum says.
These days, the biggest propagator of ijaz literature is Harun Yahya (real name Adnan Oktar), a Turkish creationist. He has published scores of pamphlets and books that are heavily subsidised and sold very cheaply. The latest, Miracles of the Quran, explains the verses of the Quran "in such a way as to leave no room for doubt or question marks". The author suggests that the verse "We have sent down iron in which there lies great force and which has many uses for mankind" (57:25) is a "significant scientific miracle", because "modern astronomical findings have disclosed that iron found in our world has come from the giant stars in outer space". The verse "Glory be to Him Who created all the pair of things that the earth produces" (36:36) is claimed to predict anti-matter.
But these inanities are not limited to crackpots. "Even respected university professors believe this nonsense," Guessoum says. "In my own university, around 70 per cent of science professors subscribe to the view that the Quran is full of scientific content, facts as well as theories." Indeed, many respected scientists have contributed to the literature. Prime among these is The Geological Concepts of Mountains in the Quran (1991). Written by the Egyptian scientist Zaghloul el-Naggar, who held the chair of geology at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, the book has gone through numerous editions. It was so successful that el-Naggar gave up teaching to become the chair of the Committee of Scientific Notions in the Glorious Quran, established by the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs in Cairo. Today, he lectures on "geology in the Quran" and CDs of his talks sell out.
The latest tome on the subject is The Computer Universe: a Scientific Rendering of the Holy Quran by P A Wahid, the former dean of the Faculty of Agriculture at Kerala Agricultural University. In the book, he develops a model of science in the Quran and purports to explain the existence of angels ("intelligent robots in Allah's kingdom"), the Divine Master Plan, and how the Quran predicted the advent of chemistry and biology. Ehsan Masood, who writes on science in developing countries for Nature, recounts how he "once met a former chief scientist to a defence ministry who told me excitedly he was refining a research paper that would use mathematics to prove the existence of angels".
All their own creation
The underlying message of these books is that all the science you need is in the Quran - no need to get your hands dirty in a lab or work within mainstream theories. But there is an overt message, too: works such as those of Wahid and el-Naggar are aggressively anti-evolution. Many more Muslim scientists, says Guessoum, are "scientists by day and creationists by night".
Creationism is not at all a natural Muslim position. In the early 10th century, Muhammad al-Nakhshabi wrote in The Book of the Yield: "While man has sprung from sentient creatures, these have sprung from plants, and these in turn from combined substances." In Life of Hai by the 12th-century Andalusian philosopher ibn Tufayl, evolution is strongly emphasised. Hai is "spontaneously generated", emerges from the slime, evolves through various stages and discovers the power of reason to shape his world and to understand the universe. In contrast, creationism has taken hold over the past decade in Muslim societies - Turkey, for example, came last, just behind the US, in a recent survey of 34 countries on public acceptance of evolution.
Ijaz literature goes hand in hand with creationism, though Masood says that Muslim creationists are strongly influenced by their American Christian counterparts: "The two groups genuinely believe that the destiny of Islam and Christianity is to work together to defeat evolution and that this alliance is the answer to the clash of civilisations."
Yahya's lavishly illustrated tome Atlas of Creation is widely distributed. In Turkey, it anonymously turned up in numerous schools and libraries. Last year, it was sent unsolicited to schools across France, prompting the education ministry to proscribe the volume. The Atlas blames everything, from Nazism to terrorism, on evolution. "It contains lie upon lie upon lie," says Jean Staune, visiting lecturer in philosophy of sciences at the HEC School of Management in Paris, who has made a special study of Harun Yahya's works. "It denigrates the faith which it purports to support."
And we can say the same about all literature, popular or academic, that purports to discover "scientific miracles" in the Quran.
Aug 21, 8:53 PM EDT
By MIKE STOBBE
AP Medical Writer
ATLANTA (AP) -- Measles cases in the U.S. are at the highest level in more than a decade, with nearly half of those involving children whose parents rejected vaccination, health officials reported Thursday.
Worried doctors are troubled by the trend fueled by unfounded fears that vaccines may cause autism. The number of cases is still small, just 131, but that's only for the first seven months of the year. There were only 42 cases for all of last year.
"We're seeing a lot more spread. That is concerning to us," said Dr. Jane Seward, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pediatricians are frustrated, saying they are having to spend more time convincing parents the shot is safe.
"This year, we certainly have had parents asking more questions," said Dr. Ari Brown, an Austin, Texas, physician who is a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The CDC's review found that a number of cases involved home-schooled children not required to get the vaccines. Others can avoid vaccination by seeking exemptions, such as for religious reasons.
Measles, best known for a red skin rash, is a potentially deadly, highly infectious virus that spreads through contact with a sneezing, coughing, infected person.
It is no longer endemic to the United States, but every year cases enter the country through foreign visitors or Americans returning from abroad. Measles epidemics have exploded in Israel, Switzerland and some other countries. But high U.S. childhood vaccination rates have prevented major outbreaks here.
In a typical year, only one outbreak occurs in the United States, infecting perhaps 10 to 20 people. So far this year through July 30 the country has seen seven outbreaks, including one in Illinois with 30 cases, said Seward, of the CDC's Division of Viral Diseases.
None of the 131 patients died, but 15 were hospitalized.
Childhood measles vaccination rates have stayed above 92 percent, according to 2006 data. However, the recent outbreaks suggest potential pockets of unvaccinated children are forming. Health officials worry that vaccination rates have begun to fall - something that won't show up in the data for a couple of years.
The vaccine is considered highly effective but not perfect; 11 of this year's cases had at least one dose of the vaccine.
Of this year's total, 122 were unvaccinated or had unknown vaccination status. Some were unvaccinated because the children were under age 1 - too young to get their first measles shot.
In 63 of those cases - almost all of them 19 or under - the patient or their parents refused the shots for philosophical or religious reasons, the CDC reported.
In Washington state, an outbreak was traced to a church conference, including 16 school-aged children who were not vaccinated. Eleven of those kids were home schooled and not subject to vaccination rules in public schools. It's unclear why the parents rejected the vaccine.
The Illinois outbreak - triggered by a teenager who had traveled to Italy - included 25 home-schooled children, according to the CDC report.
The nation once routinely saw hundreds of thousands of measles cases each year, and hundreds of deaths. But immunization campaigns were credited with dramatically reducing the numbers. The last time health officials saw this many cases was 1997, when 138 were reported.
The Academy of Pediatrics has made educating parents about the safety of vaccines one of its top priorities this year. That's partly because busy doctors have grown frustrated by the amount of time they're spending answering parents' questions about things they read on the Internet or heard from TV talk shows.
In June, the CDC interviewed 33 physicians in Austin, suburban Seattle and Hollywood, Fla., about childhood vaccinations. Several complained about patient backlogs caused by parents stirred up by information of dubious scientific merit, according to the CDC report.
Questions commonly center on autism and the fear that it can be caused by the measles shots or by a mercury-based preservative that used to be in most vaccines. Health officials say there is no good scientific proof either is a cause. Also, since 2001, the preservative has been removed from shots recommended for young children, and it was never in the measles-mumps-rubella combination vaccine. It can still be found in some flu shots.
Brown said she wrote a 16-page, single-spaced document for parents that explains childhood vaccinations and why doctors do not believe they cause autism. She began handing it out this spring, and thinks it's been a help to parents and a time-saver for her.
"People want that level of information," she said.
At least one outbreak this year of another preventable disease was blamed on lack of immunizations. At least 17 children were sick with whooping cough at a private school in the San Francisco Bay area, and 13 were not vaccinated against the disease, which can be fatal to children.
Associated Press writer Marcus Wohlsen in San Francisco contributed to this story.
On the Net:
The CDC report: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr
© 2008 The Associated Press.
by Chris Chambers
Depending on where you live in the world 'alternative' medicine can be seen as either controversial and quackery or essential.
In poorer countries, people and governments can't afford or don't even have access to western drugs and treatments. Instead, they rely on traditional treatments that go back centuries and have become part of the cultural make-up of the country. In Western culture, although alternative treatments like acupuncture, homeopathy and Chinese medicines are becoming increasingly popular, they are still taken with a great pinch of salt by many people.
Trick or treatment
Simon Singh is the co-author of Trick or Treatment and he is unequivocal in his thoughts on alternative treatment.
"There's a huge boom in alternative therapies but the evidence is not there and the public don't realise about the lack of evidence, but you have lots of websites and newspaper articles, lifestyle magazines and clever marketing and if people knew the truth then there wouldn't be such a boom in these therapies."
But what about countries that rely on alternative treatment? In Sri Lanka a large section of the population use Ayurvedic treatment, an ancient system and philosophy of health care using oils and herbs and massage. The treatment is mostly a lot cheaper than western medicine and the government is also funding Ayurvedic hospitals.
Upul Tammita's wife was very seriously ill and was told by a doctor that there was nothing they could do but pray. They then went to an Ayurvedic clinic.
"My wife got sick in 2007 for 9 months, went to Colombo and spent more than 300,000 rupees. One doctor said we can't do anything because the brain has problems and you must pray. I couldn't believe it and came to an Ayurvedic clinic and the doctor there said it was not a big problem. The treatment was very hard. Every morning and afternoon you have a massage. The medicine is cheap and fortunately my wife is now 90 percent fit and she can walk and go to the market and go to school with my son and she seems very well."
However, the problem with this sort of therapy is that so little research has been done to see whether it really does work or not. Simon Singh is not convinced.
"My attitude would be that the Sri Lankan government should really examine it properly and thoroughly, because if elements of it do work then it's great, we should embrace them and exploit them further, but if other bits are hazardous or of no impact whatsoever then they should be put to one side regardless of how natural they feel or regardless of how many thousands of years they've been used."
But there's a problem. What happens if research shows that there's very little real benefit for a country's population using alternative medicines? For example, with a population of 1.3 billion, how would a country like China, which relies heavily on alternative medicines, be able to afford modern Western treatments? Simon Singh says:
"We need to treat people with respect and say that if this oil is dangerous we should stop using it. As opposed to just saying that these people can't afford anything better and so let's just give them placebos or something that they've been used to for hundreds of years. We need a level of protection for the public, so that they know they're receiving treatments that aren't giving them false hope. People have the right to good information and the right for protection by their governments."
AYALA INTERVIEWED IN HHMI BULLETIN
NCSE Supporter Francisco Ayala was interviewed about evolution and creationism for the August 2008 issue of HHMI Bulletin, published by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Responding to a question about whether the controversy ended with the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover, he explained, "Creationism is still a live issue in Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Michigan, and Missouri -- other places." Noting that opposition to evolution is typically motivated by religion, he insisted that nevertheless, "One can accept scientific principles and also hold religious beliefs." And he urged that "[t]he only way to deal with the problem is education and specifically science education, which is unfortunately lacking, by and large, and not only in this country."
A Supporter of NCSE since its founding, Ayala is University Professor, the Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, and Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Irvine. Among his contributions to the defense of the integrity of science education are his testimony for the plaintiffs in the challenge to Arkansas's 1981 "Balanced Treatment Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act" (McLean v. Arkansas) and his lead authorship of the recent publication from the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, Science, Evolution, and Creationism (National Academies Press, 2008). His latest book is Darwin's Gift: To Science and Religion (Joseph Henry Press, 2007).
For the interview, visit:
For information about Science, Evolution and Creationism, visit:
For information about Darwin's Gift: To Science and Religion, visit:
NCSE AND THE GRAND CANYON 2009
Explore the Grand Canyon with Scott and Gish! Seats are now available for NCSE's next excursion to the Grand Canyon -- as featured in The New York Times (October 6, 2005). From July 3 to 10, 2009, NCSE will again explore the wonders of creation and evolution on a Grand Canyon river run conducted by NCSE's Genie Scott and Alan ("Gish") Gishlick. Because this is an NCSE trip, we offer more than just the typically grand float down the Canyon, the spectacular scenery, fascinating natural history, brilliant night skies, exciting rapids, delicious meals, and good company. It is, in fact, a unique "two-model" raft trip, on which we provide both the creationist view of the Grand Canyon and the evolutionist view -- and let you make up your own mind. The cost is $2480; a deposit of $500 will hold your spot. Call or write now: seats are limited.
For information about the trip, visit:
For a summary of the story in The New York Times, visit:
A NOTE FROM NCSE'S ARCHIVES
NCSE's archives house a unique trove of material on the creationism/evolution controversy, and we regard it as part of our mission to preserve it for posterity -- as well as for occasions such as Kitzmiller v. Dover, where NCSE's archives helped to establish the creationist antecedents of the "intelligent design" movement.
We are now in the process of transferring our library catalogue to LibraryThing -- a social networking site for bibliophiles -- so that it will be available to anyone with a web connection. Over 1500 volumes are now listed.
We cordially invite you now to help NCSE's archives keep up-to-date by purchasing books for NCSE through our wish list at Amazon.com. We're pleased to report that seventy-eight books have been purchased already, and we thank the donors for their generosity.
For NCSE's catalogue at LibraryThing, visit:
For NCSE's wish list at Amazon.com, visit:
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools
Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism
NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!
Posted : Wed, 20 Aug 2008 13:30:34 GMT
Author : RESEARCH-AND-MARKETS
Category : Press Release
DUBLIN, Ireland - (Business Wire) Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/10550a/complementary_and) has announced the addition of the "Complementary and Alternative Medicines in the United States 2008" report to their offering.
The U.S. Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) market has been growing steadily since 2003. Consisting of herbal and homeopathic remedies, purchases in the market are driven by consumers seeking alternatives to conventional medicine to maintain health and wellbeing. The benefits of CAM are many-all natural medicines with no harmful side effects that do not counteract any other drugs. Yet research on CAM needs to become more rigorous to continue illustrating efficacy in the eyes of Americans.
This report explores why Mintel expects sales of CAM to continue to grow, especially in light of ever increasing fears of side effects and negative long term effects of conventional pharmaceuticals. Going " "au naturel" " has been strongly affecting the food and beverage market, and is helping to pave the way for CAM to carve out more shelf space in traditional supermarket aisles and in consumers' medicine cabinets alike.
This report offers an in depth discussion of:
-- Factors driving sales of CAM, including the aging of America and how living longer brings with it a host of chronic diseases with related symptoms to be addressed
-- The role of race and ethnicity in use of CAM-along with a portrait of CAM users
-- Opportunities for marketers seize upon to expand the use and acceptance of CAM
-- A review of successful CAM companies, and their brand qualities, along with a look at the competitive environment in which they operate
-- The entrance of CAM into mainstream retail channels and its acceptance in mainstream medicine
Key Topics Covered:
-- Executive Summary
-- Scope and Themes
-- What you need to know
-- Data sources
-- Sales data
-- Consumer survey data
-- Abbreviations and terms
-- Greenfield Online
-- Food and Drug Administration
-- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
-- National Institutes of Health
-- Pharmavite LLC
-- Matrixx Initiatives Inc.
-- BOIRON SA
-- Wal-Mart Stores (USA)
-- Garden of Life, Inc.
-- Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA)
-- Improvita Health Products Inc
-- U.S. Bureau of the Census
-- The New York Times Company
-- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
-- Burt's Bees Inc.
-- Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA)
-- Coca-Cola Company (The) (USA)
-- Gaia Herbs Inc.
-- Macy's, Inc.
-- Holland & Barrett Retail Ltd
-- Solgar Vitamin and Herb Company
-- Amerifit Nutrition, Inc.
-- Green Pharmaceuticals Inc
-- Los Angeles Times
-- American Nutraceutical Association (ANA)
-- American Association of Integrative Medicine (AAIM)
For more information visit http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/10550a/complementary_and.
Research and Markets
Laura Wood, Senior Manager
Fax from USA: 646-607-1907
Fax from rest of the world: +353-1-481-1716
By Jeff Knebel
Mount Shasta Area Newspapers
Wed Aug 20, 2008, 01:49 PM PDT
Weed, Calif. -
Butteville Union Elementary School District trustees, as well as school administrators, are considering adding "intelligent design" to the school's seventh-grade science curriculum.
In a discussion on an information/action agenda item, "Evolution versus Intelligent Design Taught in the Classroom," during the district's board meeting last Wednesday, trustees agreed to seek legal counsel regarding the issue.
"I think this will be a big issue in the Supreme Court before long," said board president Stephen Darger, a practicing attorney and former police officer. "Maybe it will be with this school."
Intelligent design is a theory which posits that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by an "unspecified higher power."
Court cases in recent years involving the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, including two highly publicized California cases, have resulted in lawsuits against the schools and loss of government funding.
In a 2006 landmark lawsuit, a Dover, Penn., school was successfully blocked by Americans United from teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in high school biology classes. The court ruled that intelligent design was religion shrouded as science and that it cannot be taught as an alternative to evolution in public school science classes.
The following month, two rural California public high schools contended that the Pennsylvania ruling by Judge John E. Jones, an appointee of President Bush, opened the door to the possibility of teaching intelligent design in philosophy or religion classes
But the new strategy was immediately struck down when a high school in Lebec, Calif., a rural town north of Los Angeles, terminated one such course as part of a court settlement involving 11 law suits. As a result, a hearing scheduled before a federal judge in upcoming days was cancelled.
In a similar case just days later Frazier Mountain High, a rural school district outside of Fresno, with pressure from lawsuits and Americans United, settled the issue with the agreement to halt its intelligent design course and to never again offer a class that promotes creationism.
Darger said that in order to legally teach intelligent design in a public school the subject would have to remain entirely secular and only offer possible explanations for what evolution cannot explain.
He cited a decision nearly 20 years ago in the case of Edwards v. Aguillar, where the Supreme Court concluded that "teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to school children might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction."
In recent years many scientists have developed issues surrounding Darwinism and are uncovering evidence that is contradicting certain aspects of the widely accepted theory, Darger said
"The key problem is that [intelligent design] isn't viewed as an accepted scientific theory," he said. "This isn't an issue of creation versus evolution, and it's not pointed toward religion. Intelligent design can help explain the problems with Darwinism and introduce ideas about life's origins beyond evolution."
College of the Siskiyous biology instructor Dave Clarke said he views intelligent design as a veiled attempt to impose creationism, a biblical-based view that credits God for the origin of life, on public schoolchildren. Public schools are required to teach evolution as the theory of how life originated – life forms have developed over millions of years on Earth, which is billions of years old.
Clarke said he respects creationism and intelligent design and that he doesn't disregard their possibilities, but that it is not a viable science and has no place being taught along side of evolutionary biology.
"It's a belief system, not a science," he said. "Science is a process of inquiry – you have a question and you test it. Science doesn't prove truth it disproves claims; a scientist starts with a hypothesis, tries to disprove it, and then either accepts or rejects it. Intelligent design offers no falsifying facts, nothing can be disproved."
Clarke explained that many of the claims intelligent design supporters hold simply cannot be tested because of science's inability to do so.
"Intelligent design is used to defend fallacies," said Clarke. "Supporters say there is a lack of evidence for evolution, but a lack of evidence for one thing is not evidence for another."
One major aspect that separates intelligent design from science, according to Clarke, is that science starts with a question that needs supporting answers, whereas intelligent design starts with an answer that needs supporting questions.
"Intelligent design states that because of the complexity of the universe it must have been created by an 'unspecified' higher power," Clarke said. "This leaves the possibilities wide open for what the intelligent designer could be – aliens, multiple Gods....anything."
BUESD trustee Steve Hart reported during the meeting that the subject would only be applied to the seventh-grade curriculum because it is the grade level at which Darwinian evolution is introduced.
"What we would like to do is include [in the curriculum] a way for students to look at evolution with critical minds and become aware of things (in evolution) that are no longer accepted," said Hart, who proposed the idea. "Science has always excluded supernatural phenomenon. Although there are risks, this is something that would benefit the entire school."
Hart also reported that he has been in contact with an attorney from Redding and suggested that board members seek advise as to legal ramifications. It was also reported that school funds could not fund either legal counsel or the proposed program.
School principal and superintendent Cynthia McConnell reported that teachers would not be legally required to teach intelligent design, or anything other than state education requirements.
By J. Eugene Fox
Grand Junction CO, Colorado
One of the greatest scientific achievements of the human mind "ranks with Copernicus' discovery that the Earth is not the center of the universe" ... "compares with Einstein's formulation of the laws of general relativity" ... "is as important as the Watson-Crick model of DNA which set off the genetic revolution." This is the language used by historians of science to describe Charles Darwin's principles of evolution. These principles underlie and inform every facet of the biological world. They are the foundation on which all of biology and medicine are built.
"Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution," said renowned American biologist T. Dobzhansky, a devoutly religious Christian.
The evidence for the current model of evolution is so voluminous that it fills whole libraries and so strong that among the hundreds of thousands biological scientists around the world it is extremely difficult to find one who does not regard the principles of evolution as fundamental. These principles are taught as part of the biological curriculum in schools in all parts of the world. Evolution is the underlying theme on hundreds of television shows about the workings of nature and is accepted as fact by most people on the planet.
There exists, however, one glaring exception to the otherwise universal celebration of these discoveries about how the biological world operates: the Christian fundamentalists of the United States. And herein lies one of the great enigmas of our time. How is it that in the most advanced scientific country in the world, we have at the same time one of the most scientifically illiterate general populations on the planet?
According to a recent poll nearly half of all Americans believe that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time, making us a laughingstock of the educated world. In every survey of scientific literacy conducted in recent years, Americans rank at the bottom of the 40 westernized nations compared, placing us at about the same level as several Third World nations which spend only a fraction of what we do on education. Our collective preference for ignorance is mirrored in the newspapers we read which have daily columns on astrology but none on science, except in a few of the better big city journals.
This enigmatic and sad state of American science education is skewered nicely by a new book, "Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters" by Donald Prothero, by far the best and most readable discussion (written for non-scientists) to appear in many years. Dr. Prothero pulls no punches in laying much of the blame at the feet of the Creationists and the Christian far right, a large and increasingly vocal part of our population, especially prominent in the Grand Valley. Even though these folks (who like to style their views as "Intelligent Design") have lost every single court battle in attempts to force their religious agenda on the public schools, they have been very effective in using political intimidation, community pressure and right wing politicians — notably among the Bush administration (the most anti-science presidency in memory) to dumb down the teaching of the biological sciences in our public schools.
In many high schools across the country the subject of evolution is barely mentioned because teachers are endlessly intimidated by local fundamentalist parents and not supported by their politically nervous administrations who lack the will to face the constant political battles raised by the well financed religious extremists.
I have been told by bright young students that the teaching of the principles of evolution is nearly nonexistent at Grand Junction High School because of parental intimidation. I hope that rumor is wrong and that I will be corrected. However, the bottom line is that we are creating yet another generation of students who, with the notable exception of a few gifted individuals who take charge of their own education, are largely ignorant of the facts which their peers around the world take for granted. The scientific advances of the future and the concomitant economic prosperity will be in the hands of those who understand the tools of science.
The fundamentalists argue that their literal interpretation of the Bible is the only one and that anyone who accepts evolution is an atheist. In this stance they grossly insult many millions of other Christians who accept evolution as the method which God chose to populate the planet. For the Catholic world the issue is clear, as Pope John Paul II announced that "Evolution is compatible with Christian faith." The same is true of most mainstream Protestant and Jewish denominations as demonstrated by the Clergy Letter Project signed by nearly 12,000 (as of August 2008) ministers, priests and rabbis who accept evolution and do not view it as incompatible with religious belief.
As for me the term "intelligent design" always brings forth a big chuckle as I contemplate my own body with those useless tonsils which caused me so many problems as a young college student, with this functionless appendix which may become lethally infected, with those nipples which have no possible function in males, with the wisdom teeth some of which never appeared and others which caused much grief, with the tail bone vertebrae which still result in a functional tail with musculature in a small number of humans but which are otherwise merely a remnant of our evolutionary past as with all of the other vestigial organs mentioned above. So much for "intelligent design!"
Dr. J. Eugene Fox is a retired professor of biochemistry and a medical scientist who spent two years in Washington, D.C., as director of the cell biology program for the National Science Foundation. The Grand Junction resident writes a column twice a month for the Grand Junction Free Press.
Published: Aug. 21, 2008 at 12:01 PM
CHAMPAIGN, Ill., Aug. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say new analyses of cellular structures for making proteins -- the ribosome -- are consistent with a theory of life's early evolution.
The theory of life's early evolution states that life forms branched into three domains: bacteria, certain microbes and eukarya -- the domain that includes plants and humans. The theory was based on 1970s studies by University of Illinois Professor Carl Woese that found differences in the sequence of nucleotides in ribosomes.
In the current study, graduate student Elijah Roberts created computer programs that analyzed the three-dimensional sequence of nucleotides making up a cell's ribosome. He found most of the differences in nucleotide sequence between bacteria and microbes occurred in regions critical to ribosomal function.
"In that the ribosome constitutes the core of the cellular translation mechanism, which is the sine qua non of gene expression, which is the essence of life as we know it, these findings constitute a major step in understanding the evolution of life, which is still a journey of a thousand miles," said Woese, one of the new study's authors.
The research is reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.