NTS LogoSkeptical News for 13 December 2008

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Friday, December 12, 2008

Evolution education update: December 12, 2008

Judge Jones, who presided over Kitzmiller v. Dover, is interviewed in PLoS Genetics. The fourth issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach is now available. And Roger Ebert offers his opinion about Expelled.

JUDGE JONES IN PLOS GENETICS

Judge John E. Jones III, who presided over the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, was interviewed by Jane Gitschier for PLoS Genetics. After recounting his legal career and sketching the legal history of the creationism/evolution controversy, Jones talked about the trial itself. Describing the expert testimony he heard, Jones commented, "I will always remember Ken Miller's testimony in the sense that he did A-Z evolution. And then got into intelligent design. And having laid the foundation with the description of evolution, got into why intelligent design doesn't work as science, to the point where it is predominantly a religious concept." He added, "But Ken Miller went into the immune system, the blood clotting cascade, and the bacterial flagellum -- all three are held out by intelligent design proponents as irreducibly complex, and in effect, having no precursors. He [Miller] knocked that down, I thought, quite effectively -- so comprehensively and so well. By the time Miller was done testifying, over the span of a couple of days, the defendants were really already in the hole."

The expert witnesses for the defense were less impressive to Jones: "Another remarkable moment on the science side was Michael Behe, who was the lead witness for the defendants, and a very amiable fellow, as was Ken Miller, but unlike Miller, in my view, Professor Behe did not distinguish himself. He did not hold up well on cross-examination." And the school board witnesses for the defense, whom Jones lambasted in his decision, he described as "dreadful witnesses ... hence the description 'breathtaking inanity' and 'mendacity.' In my view, they clearly lied under oath. They made a very poor account of themselves. They could not explain why they did what they did. They really didn't even know what intelligent design was. It was quite clear to me that they viewed intelligent design as a method to get creationism into the public school classroom. They were unfortunate and troublesome witnesses. Simply remarkable, in that sense."

Noting that the plaintiffs and defendants both asked for a ruling on the question of whether "intelligent design" constitutes science, Jones said, "if you're going to measure the effect of a particular policy, in this case juxtaposing intelligent design with evolution, on the intended recipients, you have to delve into what the policy is about. What was it about? It was about intelligent design. And to try to determine the effect on the recipients you have to determine what does that concept or phrase stand for? Hence, we got into a search and examination of what exactly does ID say, what is its basis, what are its scientific bona fides or lack thereof. That opens the door for a determination of whether ID is in fact science. And that is what that part of the opinion was. ... I wrote about whether ID, as presented to me, in that courtroom from September to November of 2005, was science, and I said it was not. That it was the progeny, the successor to creationism and creation science. That it was dressed-up creationism."

Looking forward, Jones expressed uncertainty about the long-term effect of the Kitzmiller decision, commenting, "This is speculation on my part -- I don't think that the concept of ID itself has a lot of vitality going forward. The Dover trial discredited that thing that is ID. To the extent that I follow it -- I'm curious about it, but it doesn't go any further than that -- the likely tack going forward is something like teach the controversy, talk about the alleged flaws and gaps in the theory of evolution and go to that place first." He noted that creationists in both Texas and Louisiana seem to be taking such a tack. And, he noted, there is no prospect of the creationism/evolution controversy subsiding any time soon: "They gave me the last word in 'Judgment Day' [a NOVA program on the trial] and I said this is not something that will be settled in my time or even in my grandchildren's lifetimes. It's an enduring, quintessentially American, dispute."

For the interview, visit:
http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pgen.1000297

For information about Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/creationism/legal/intelligent-design-trial-kitzmiller-v-dover

For the decision in the case (PDF), visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/webfm_send/73

For NCSE's coverage of events in Texas and Louisiana, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/news/texas
http://www.ncseweb.org/news/louisiana

For information about Judgment Day, visit:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/id/

THE FOURTH ISSUE OF EVOLUTION: EDUCATION AND OUTREACH

The fourth issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach -- the new journal aspiring to promote accurate understanding and comprehensive teaching of evolutionary theory for a wide audience -- is now available on-line. The theme of the issue is the evolution of the eye. Featured, accordingly, are original scientific articles "A Genetic Perspective on Eye Evolution: Gene Sharing, Convergence and Parallelism," "Charting Evolutions Trajectory: Using Molluscan Eye Diversity to Understand Parallel and Convergent Evolution," "Early Evolution of the Vertebrate Eye -- Fossil Evidence," "Evolution of Insect Eyes: Tales of Ancient Heritage, Deconstruction, Reconstruction, Remodeling, and Recycling," "Exceptional Variation on a Common Theme: The Evolution of Crustacean Compound Eyes," "Opening the 'Black Box': The Genetic and Biochemical Basis of Eye Evolution," "Suboptimal Optics: Vision Problems as Scars of Evolutionary History," "The Causes and Consequences of Color Vision," "The Evolution of Complex Organs," "The Evolution of Extraordinary Eyes: The Cases of Flatfishes and Stalk-eyed Flies," and "The Origin of the Vertebrate Eye." And there are resources for teachers and reviews of books, too, including -- consistently with the issue's theme -- a discussion of teaching about evolution with the example of blind cave fish and a review of Jay Hosler's comic Optical Allusions.

Also included is the fourth installment of NCSE's regular column for Evolution: Education and Outreach, Overcoming Obstacles to Evolution Education. In their article "Misconceptions About the Evolution of Complexity," Andrew J. Petto (a member of NCSE's board of directors) and NCSE's Louise S. Mead take the vertebrate eye as their example, since "the complexity of vertebrate eyes is a common antievolution argument." In the abstract, they summarize, "Despite data and theory from comparative anatomy, embryology, molecular biology, genomics, and evolutionary developmental biology, antievolutionists continue to present the eye as an example of a structure too complex to have evolved. They stress what we have yet to explain about the development and evolution of eyes and present incomplete information as evidence that evolution is a 'theory in crisis.' An examination of the evidence, however, particularly evidence that has accumulated in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, refutes antievolutionists' claims. The distribution of eyes in extant organisms, combined with what we now know about the control of eye development across diverse groups of organisms, provides significant evidence for the evolution of all major components of the eye, from molecular to morphological, and provides an excellent test of predictions based on common ancestry."

For the contents of the issue, visit:
http://www.springerlink.com/content/120878/

For Petto and Mead's article, visit:
http://www.springerlink.com/content/a7v3307m37236637/fulltext.html

ROGER EBERT ON EXPELLED

The popular film critic Roger Ebert reviewed the creationist propaganda movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed in a December 3, 2008, post entitled "Win Ben Stein's mind" on his blog on the Chicago Sun-Times website -- and he pulled no punches. "The more you know about evolution, or simple logic, the more you are likely to be appalled by the film. No one with an ability for critical thinking could watch more than three minutes without becoming aware of its tactics," he wrote.

"This film is cheerfully ignorant, manipulative, slanted, cherry-picks quotations, draws unwarranted conclusions, makes outrageous juxtapositions (Soviet marching troops representing opponents of ID), pussy-foots around religion (not a single identified believer among the ID people), segues between quotes that are not about the same thing, tells bald-faced lies, and makes a completely baseless association between freedom of speech and freedom to teach religion in a university class that is not about religion," he added.

"And there is worse, much worse," Ebert continued, taking especial offense at Expelled's claim that the acceptance of evolution resulted in the Holocaust -- "It fills me with contempt." Previously, the Anti-Defamation League said that the movie's claim "is outrageous and trivializes the complex factors that led to the mass extermination of European Jewry." Expelled's lead, Ben Stein, responded, "It's none of their f---ing business," according to Peter McKnight, writing in the Vancouver Sun (June 21, 2008).

For a thorough critique of Expelled, including a collection of links to reviews of the movie, visit NCSE's Expelled Exposed website. Additionally, the next issue of Reports of the NCSE (volume 28, numbers 5-6) is a special issue devoted to debunking Expelled, containing reports on its reception, a summary of the ways in which organizations with a stake in the creationism/evolution controversy reacted, a summary of the various controversies over its use of copyrighted material, and a detailed explanation of its unsuitability for the classroom.

For Ebert's blog post, visit:
http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2008/12/win_ben_steins_mind.html

For the ADL's statement, visit:
http://www.adl.org/PresRele/HolNa_52/5277_52.htm

For Peter McKnight's column, visit:
http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=f022096b-6832-4ec1-929d-92e8bc337364

For Expelled Exposed, visit:
http://www.expelledexposed.com

For subscription information for Reports of the NCSE, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/membership

ERRATUM

Although Kevin Padian discussed evolution and religion with Alan Jones, the dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, on November 22, 2008, the link provided in the December 5, 2008, evolution education update was to a video of a previous discussion between the two, filmed on November 4, 2007. The later discussion was not filmed.

For the video of Padian's talk with Jones, visit:
http://fora.tv/2007/11/04/Kevin_Padian_Investigating_Evolution

Sincerely,

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204
800-290-6006
branch@ncseweb.org
http://www.ncseweb.org

Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools
http://www.ncseweb.org/nioc

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism
http://www.ncseweb.org/evc

NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!
http://www.ncseweb.org/membership

The psychology of teleology

http://www.berkeley.edu/news/berkeleyan/2008/12/10_teleology.shtml

To understand public resistance to evolution, it's helpful to think like a child

By Hania Köver, Berkeley Science Review | 10 December 2008

BERKELEY — Charles Darwin should be spinning in his grave: More than 40 percent of American adults still don't believe in evolution. Though Darwin's theory has been uncontroversially accepted among scientists, public resistance remains remarkably forceful. Meanwhile, creationism and intelligent design enjoy widespread public support.

Why do many people find a theory so persuasive to others so hard to accept? Berkeley psychologist Tania Lombrozo, who is interested in why people find certain kinds of explanations more or less compelling than others, may have insight into at least part of the answer. Her research suggests that some theories, like evolution, may be difficult to accept because they are at odds with a human default for understanding the world in terms of design.

Lombrozo was motivated by the observation that young children often explain the existence of objects and phenomena with reference to their function, a kind of reasoning termed teleological. Ask a three-year old why it rains, for example, and you are likely to hear something like "so that plants have water to grow." Likewise, lions exist "for going to the zoo," and mountains "are for climbing." This tendency of children to infer design suggests an explanatory default: In the absence of competing knowledge, the best explanation for an object with a plausible function is that it was designed to fulfill that function.

Unlike children, most educated adults know that clouds form because water condenses, and that mountains exist because of plate tectonics. However, Lombrozo was interested in whether adults would fall back on teleological reasoning in the absence of background knowledge. To address this question, she and her colleagues Deborah Kelemen and Deborah Zaitchik examined a group of adults whose background beliefs were compromised, but who had otherwise developed normally: Alzheimer's patients.

"Alzheimer's patients have some characteristics of adults and some characteristics of children," says Lombrozo. "Like adults, they have undergone normal development and have presumably gotten rid of any reasoning strategies associated only with children. But like pre-school children, they might not have access to the kinds of rich causal beliefs that adults typically have access to."

In her study, subjects were asked to identify the most appropriate answers to a series of "why" questions. For example, for the question "Why does the earth have trees?" they could choose between "because they grow from tree seeds," or "so that animals can have shade." Lombrozo found that like young children, Alzheimer's patients were much more likely than age-matched control subjects to prefer teleological explanations, picking the teleological choice about twice as often as their healthy counterparts.

"The results support the idea that adults and children have the same sorts of cognitive mechanisms at work, and that adults are just overriding the explanatory default with background knowledge," says Lombrozo. They also fit in with findings from other studies that show more frequent use of teleological explanations in less educated adults, and in educated adults making speeded judgments.

Collectively, says Lombrozo, these results may help explain why intelligent design and creationism — teleological arguments that suggest we exist in our current form because we were designed to do so — continue to be so pervasive in today's society. "Many people find it difficult to think that we would be the result of a process that didn't involve design. As a result, intelligent design seems like a much more compelling explanation than evolution. Interestingly, even among those who do accept evolution, many misunderstand it, reinterpreting it as a goal-directed process that occurs at the level of individuals rather than populations."

Why might humans have evolved this kind of a reasoning strategy? Lombrozo has several ideas. "One possibility is that if you look at our evolutionary past or at our experiences growing up, one of the things we did most often was explaining human behavior. And human behavior is generally goal-directed — it does involve intentions and functions. We may be taking the mode of explanation that we're best at and then applying it to other domains," she says. "Another possibility is that it's more effective. We're going to learn more about the world if we go around assuming that things have functions and then sometimes discovering we were wrong, rather than the reverse."

Lombrozo points out that, most of the time, functional explanations don't do a lot of harm. In fact, they can sometimes help people understand concepts that might otherwise be too difficult. In chemistry, for example, it can be helpful to think about the electron wanting to go to where it's positive, or, when learning about evolution, that the moth doesn't want to be visible to its predator. On the other hand, says Lombrozo, systematically catering to what people find satisfying can be bad for their appreciation of science.

"Education is most successful when it gets people to undergo something like a theoretical change," she says. Recognizing what kinds of assumptions people come into the classroom with will help in figuring out how to best accomplish this."

Hania Köver, a graduate student in the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, wrote this article for the Fall 2008 issue of Berkeley Science Review, published each semester by student volunteers. For information, including archived articles from past issues, visit sciencereview.berkeley.edu.

Beliefs in God, UFOs prevail

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/dec/12/beliefs-in-god-ufos-prevail/

1 in 3 doubt Darwin theory

Jennifer Harper Friday, December 12, 2008

A cross sits at one of the candle offering tables at the National Cathedral. (Barbara L. Salisbury / The Washington Times)

Americans believe in God, angels, heaven, miracles - such traditional religious thinking is still much a part of the nation's mind-set, according to research that also plumbs a few less traditional beliefs.

"Overall, more people believe in the devil, hell and angels than believe in Darwin´s theory of evolution," said a Harris Poll released Thursday.

The numbers clearly favor the proverbial Big Man Upstairs: 80 percent say they believe in God; among those who attend church weekly, the number is 98 percent. Three-quarters believe in miracles, 73 percent believe in heaven, 71 percent say Jesus is the Son of God and 71 percent believe in angels, the survey found. Seven out of 10 say Jesus Christ rose from the dead and that the Bible is, all or in part, the "Word of God."

More than two-thirds - 68 percent - believe in the "survival of the soul after death" and would describe themselves as religious. About 62 percent think that hell exists, 61 percent believe in the Virgin Birth and 59 percent say the devil exists.

In contrast, fewer than half - 47 percent - said they believe in Darwin's theory of evolution; a third said they did not believe in it while 22 percent were not sure what they thought. A full 40 percent said they believe in creationism, though the question did not elaborate on exactly what that term meant.

Supernatural phenomena of other kinds attract Americans' attention.

Overall, 44 percent of the respondents said they believe in ghosts, 36 percent say UFOs are real while 31 percent believe in both witches and astrology. About a quarter believe in reincarnation, or "that you were once another person," the survey found.

"I think these numbers show that Americans are both devout and rebellious at the same time," said Steve Waldman, co-founder and editor in chief of Beliefnet, an online spiritual source that also polls the public.

"Americans embrace key parts of tradition and faith, but they add other sorts of stuff, the supplementary beliefs that might not be on the approved list," he added.

Although Protestants have a slight edge on Catholics in terms of church attendance, the survey revealed marked similarities between the denominations.

"There are no significant differences between the large percentages of Catholics and Protestants who believe in God, miracles, heaven and hell, that Jesus is the Son of God, angels, the Resurrection of Jesus, the survival of the soul after death, the Virgin Birth and the devil," the survey said.

"However, Catholics are more likely than Protestants to believe in Darwin´s theory of evolution (by 52 percent to 32 percent), ghosts (by 57 percent to 41 percent), UFOs (43 percent to 31 percent), and astrology (by 40 percent to 28 percent). Protestants are slightly more likely than Catholics to believe in creationism (by 54 percent to 46 percent)."

The survey of 2,126 adults was conducted Nov. 10-17.

Copyright 2008 The Washington Times, LLC

Teacher, there's a god in my evolutionary soup...

http://scienceblogs.com/evolvingthoughts/2008/12/teacher_theres_a_god_in_my_evo.php

Category: Creationism • Design • Evolution • Logic and philosophy • Philosophy of Science • Religion • Sermon • Social evolution
Posted on: December 12, 2008 1:24 AM, by John S. Wilkins

... shh, not so loud or everyone will want one.

Here's a piece by Darksyde at Daily Kos in which he reports the outgoing EPA chair (who has overseen all manner of bad science and decisions, although that may not be his own fault) as saying

"It's not a clean-cut division [between evolution and creation]. If you have studied at all creationism vs. evolution, there's theistic or God-controlled evolution and there's variations on all those themes."

It seems to me that theistic evolution is not exactly about God controlling evolution, although there may be plenty of biblical warrant for God expressing a decision through random events (in the throwing of lots - e.g., Joshua 18:6-10, 1 Samuel 14:42, I Chronicles 24:5, and 31, 25:8 and 26:13, Nehemiah 10:34). Theistic evolution must satisfy the following criteria:

1. Natural selection, involving random variations, and random drift, involving sampling variation in populations, must be accepted. The reason for this is that if it isn't random (with respect to future fitness or needs), then it isn't actually natural selection. Of course, natural selection can occur on a restricted set of variants, but no explanation fo those variants can be offered in science, leaving us with an incomplete explanation. Since evolution is supposed to be a scientific explanation by theistic evolutionists, one must not water it down.

2. It must permit a deity whose plans are realised. Now the plans can be of a general kind (let there be life, sort of thing) or the plans can be specific (let there be humans who crucify Jesus and who do a bunch of other things). While it is easy to see how general goals can be realised, it seems very hard to have a deity achieve specific goals without intervening in history and biology. Which raises the explanatory problem again - we must be able to predict, or retrodict, outcomes if we have all the information. If God intervenes, whether he hides it or not, we cannot make these predictions and so religion trumps the science. We do not want religion to do this, if we are theistic evolutionists, and so we have a conundrum at best and a contradiction at worst.

3. It must overcome the need for a deus absconditus, an absent god who wound the clockwork up 13.7 billion years ago and retied to watch the fun. This is the "deist" god, although deism actually means religion without revelation. A deist God could be quite active (say, in maintaining the machinery so it runs according to laws).

If God intervenes to make things turn out the way he plans, then theistic evolution is nothing more than creationism with an evolutionary veneer. This is not a new position to hold. At the turn of the twentieth century, it was common for the newly revivified Catholic intelligentsia to argue that while evolution may have some limited warrant, there were limits to how far evolution could change kinds - one Catholic biologist, named Erich Wasmann, argued that kinds were roughly at the Linnaean level of family (i.e., above the genus) but no further variation was possible without God's direct creation. This establishes a limitation to science, and is indistinguishable from special creation except that the species are much larger than we ordinarily say they are. This is, ironically, a reworking of Buffon's notion of a species, although Buffon was not what one might call a theistic scientist of any kind.

I have argued before that the only sense of theistic evolutionist that makes any sense without doing irreparable harm to science is something like Leibniz' notion that God has created or actualised the world that best serves whatever utility functions God has (i.e., whatever is in his Plan) out of a large number, possibly infinite, of worlds. The primary cause, in other words, lies in the choice of and creation of a world that through secondary causes (natural laws) results in the things and outcomes he Planned. This makes absolutely no scientific difference whatsoever, and so it consonant with the best scientific explanation. But because a great many theists seem to think of God as a kind of Great Pointy Haired Manager, who acts to micromanage everything in the universe, they insist that to be a theist is necessarily to give up some of the explanatory power of science in favour of a providential account (which we cannot know anyway, because God's Ways are Mysterious).

So this latter kind of "evolutionism" I propose to call Interventionist evolutionism. Theistic evolution proper is the view that God has made a world that satisfies his goals through the untrammelled action of secondary causes.

As an aside, the Pope has now declared that only through a natural law account of rights, which can only be supported by theism, can we protect human rights. Atheists are not in the game, he says. Of course, it was the increasing secularisation of western democratic societies that gave people these rights in the first place, after a over a thousand years of theistic rule in which rights were either inherited from the Roman law or were nonexistent. But let's not let facts interfere with a good trope, eh?

We might take a parallel tack here and give secular rights standing as the outcome, as it were, of secondary causes through social evolution, and still maintain that rights are ultimately underpinned by God, but it is indefensible to claim that only religion gives support to rights, both historically and conceptually.

Reference

Wasmann, Erich. 1910. Modern Biology and the Theory of Evolution. Translated by A. M. Buchanan. 3rd ed. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner. Original edition, 1906.

Debates Over Evolution and Creationism Are Headed for the Islamic World

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2008/12/12/debates-over-evolution-and-creationism-are-headed-for-the-islamic-world/

The battle that has raged over creationism and evolution in the United States is likely to spread to the Islamic world, a scholar of science and religion argues in a new essay. But author Salman Hameed writes that the opening of a new front in the battle gives scientists an opportunity to reframe the debate. Better education, the spread of Internet access and news about U.S. controversies over evolution are provoking some Muslims worldwide to start to ask whether Islam is compatible with evolutionary theory, Hameed said. "Now is the time that these ideas are going to be solidified. We can shape it. There are positive ways to shape these ideas in which we can avert a mass rejection of evolution," Hameed said [LiveScience].

The most fundamentalist form of creationism in the United States is based on a literal reading of the Bible, which implies that the earth and all its creatures were created by God in their present form over the course of six days; creationists say this narrative is in direct conflict with the idea that organisms slowly evolved over billions of years. However, Hameed notes that the Koran may be more compatible with evolutionary theory. One of the big evolution problems from the US creationist perspective is the age of the Earth. Logically speaking, if you believe in a 6000 or 10,000 year-old Earth, then you have to reject evolution. In the Muslim countries, young Earth creationism is nonexistent. The Koran is very vague about creation stories, specifically regarding the creation of the universe. If you accept an old Earth, then it makes it relatively easier to accept evolution [New Scientist].

In his essay in Science [subscription required], Hameed explains that evolution is taught in high schools in many Muslim countries. Still, today, only 25 percent of adults in Turkey agree that human beings developed from earlier species of animals, whereas 40 percent of people in the United States agree with this scientific fact, Hameed writes. And Turkey is one of the most secular and educated of Muslim countries [LiveScience]. He worries that evolution is becoming increasingly linked with atheism in the Islamic world, and it also sometimes viewed as a symbol of Western ideas and imperialism. Hameed says these association may cause many people to reject evolution out of hand.

No discussion of creationism in the Islamic world would be complete without a mention of Adnan Oktar, the wealthy Turkish autodidact who self-publishes glossy books that he claims disprove evolution, and has sent them, unsolicited, to thousands of academics and media outlets in Europe and the United States. Oktar has also feuded with Richard Dawkins, the British proponent of evolution and atheism: Oktar successfully brought a case against Mr Dawkins to a Turkish court, claiming that his website contained blasphemous and defamatory content. Internet users in Turkey can no longer access the site [The Scotsman].

Related Content:

DISCOVER: Science and Islam in Conflict

Stanford scientists scan birdlike dinosaur for evolution clues

http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_11188177

By Lisa M. Krieger Mercury News

Posted: 12/11/2008 12:01:00 AM PST

Stanford scientists are using powerful X-ray beams on a rare feathered dinosaur that perished more than 150 million years ago in an effort to see its inner tissues and perhaps someday understand the anatomical split that sent birds and reptiles down different evolutionary paths.

At SLAC's Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource in Menlo Park, the scientists are using the beams to scan one of the world's most valuable fossils, delicately transported by pickup truck from its home in a Wyoming dinosaur museum.

The X-rays, generated by a particle accelerator, cause tiny amounts of a dozen chemicals to glow without harming the ancient fossil, believed to be the earliest representation of a bird.

Scientists hope the chemicals will correlate with organs, blood vessels and other interior parts of the creature, called archaeopteryx, or "ancient wing,'' which has both reptilian and avian features. When compared with scans of other fossils, such anatomical information could help explain evolutionary changes.

"What we are hoping is that we will learn more information than just what you can see with your eyes,'' said Uwe Bergmann, staff scientist at SSRL. "The body decays, but the chemical elements — silicon, calcium, potassium, iron, all the chemicals which make up living animals — some of them will be preserved.''

What is visible in stone is just a faint imprint of a physical feature, such as a feather, he said. But soft tissues have unique chemical characteristics that aid in their identification. For instance, calcium would suggest a bone; iron might mean blood. By measuring the distribution of these chemicals in a fossil, it may be possible to re-create anatomy — and hence, evolution.

The latest effort is not the first time the intensely bright X-rays, emitted by particles circulating near the speed of light, have been used to solve ancient mysteries. In 2005, they helped decipher a 10th century manuscript that contained rare copies of works by the mathematician Archimedes.

But the tool brings new possibilities to our understanding of archaeopteryx. Some of the 10 known specimens of the creature have previously undergone extensive visual analyses and even CT scans, but nothing as comprehensive as the X-ray imaging researchers are utilizing at SSRL.

Archaeopteryx holds a unique place in history. When the first specimen was discovered about a century and a half ago, just a year after Charles Darwin published "On the Origin of Species," its shared reptile-avian features provided the strongest evidence yet for the theory of evolution.

The Jurassic-era fossil has a beaklike mouth, winglike forelimbs, long feathers and feet for perching. But it also has reptilelike teeth in its jaws, claws on its fingers and a long tail. A little over a foot long, it could probably fly — but without the grace of modern birds.

"If you want to find a single fossil which is a missing link in the evolution of dinosaurs into birds, this is it," said University of Manchester paleontologist Phil Manning. "It's a bird with sharp teeth, claws and a long bony tail. If you were to freeze-frame evolution, you would end up with archaeopteryx.''

Millions of years ago, the creature under study at SSRL sank to the bottom of a shallow lagoon and became entombed in limestone near Solnhofen, Germany. It is now owned by the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, located in Thermopolis, Wyo.

Last weekend, scientists packed the creature into a small wooden box, loaded it into the cab of a white Chevy Silverado truck and drove the 850 miles to SLAC. Upon its arrival Monday night, it was moved into a helium-filled tray for analysis.

The creature heads back home after the weekend. Then, for SLAC scientists, the real work begins.

"We could build up a library of samples,'' Bergmann said. "We'd start out with parts of creatures that are still in existence — let's say, a bird's feather, or maybe the shells of turtles or skins of lizards. Then we could do more fossils. Once you have all that information together, it's possible to compare.''

"I don't see that one measure of archaeopteryx will provide all the answers,'' he said. "But if we work hard and very broadly, studying lots of samples, I think we'll be in for a surprise.''

Contact Lisa Krieger at lkrieger@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5565.

Muslim Scientists Prepare for Battle With Creationists

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,465650,00.html

Friday, December 12, 2008

By Robin Lloyd

The next major battle over evolutionary theory is likely to occur not in the United States but in the Islamic world or in countries with large Muslim populations because of rising levels of education and Internet access there, as well as the rising importance of biology, a scientist now says.

As with Christians and Jews, there is no consensus or "official" opinion on evolution among Muslims.

However, some of them say that the theory is a cultural threat that acts as a force in favor of atheism, says Hampshire College's Salman Hameed in an essay in the Dec. 12 issue of the journal Science. This is the same beef that some Christians have with evolution.

A general respect for science in the Islamic world means scientists have an opportunity to counter anti-evolution efforts, such as the "Atlas of Creation," a glossy 850-page color volume produced by Muslim creationist Adnan Oktar who goes by the name of Harun Yahya.

Numerous university scientists and members of the media received copies of this book as an unsolicited gift in 2007.

"There is a standard narrative that science and Islam are compatible, but evolution is one thought that challenges this assumption," Hameed told LiveScience. "It's interesting to see how people respond to it and create their world view in response to that challenge."

Better education, the spread of Internet access and news about U.S. controversies over evolution are provoking some Muslims worldwide to start to ask whether Islam is compatible with evolutionary theory, Hameed said.

"Now is the time that these ideas are going to be solidified. We can shape it. There are positive ways to shape these ideas in which we can avert a mass rejection of evolution," Hameed said.

General confusion

Christian creationists believe God created animals, humanity, Earth and the universe in their original form in six days about 6,000 years ago, a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis in the Bible.

Muslim creationists have similar beliefs, based on the Quran, though they tend to be open to a wider range of interpretations.

Scientists say, however, that evolutionary theory (the idea that all organisms evolved from a common ancestor) and the mechanism of natural selection explain the diversity of life on the planet.

The theory is well-supported by evidence from multiple fields of study. Evolution not only explains how early primates evolved to become human, but how one species of bird becomes two, and how viruses morph over time to resist drugs.

Scientists can only speculate on where and exactly how life began on Earth, but fossil evidence dates the earliest life to about 3.7 billion years ago.

Hameed's essay, meanwhile, comes on the heels of an ABC "Nightline" interview this week with President Bush during which Bush said that he doesn't think that his belief that God created the world is "incompatible with the scientific proof that there is evolution," as well as a Philadelphia Inquirer story quoting EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson as saying he does not think there's a "clean-cut division" between evolution and creationism.

Now, three years after the end of the Dover trial (the upshot: U.S. District Judge John E. Jones barred a Pennsylvanian public school district from teaching "intelligent design" in biology class, saying the concept is creationism in disguise), U.S. residents remain divided on evolution.

A Harris poll conducted in November found 47 percent of Americans accept Darwin's theory of evolution while 40 percent believe instead in creationism.

Scientists worry that those who ignore or dismiss the strong evidence for evolution might also be prone to a worrisome lack of critical thinking, and that over time, support for science and medicine in general could erode.

Muslims and evolution

The Muslim take on evolution diverges somewhat from the classic Christian creationist stance.

For instance, Muslims generally accept the scientific evidence that the world is billions of years old, rather than 6,000 years old.

Some scholars point to early evolutionary thinking among medieval Muslim philosophers who discussed common descent, Hameed writes.

These philosophers, along with Aristotle and others, were among numerous early thinkers to ponder evolution, although people should be "careful in terms of not going overboard" by crediting any of them with coming up with natural selection, the mechanism for evolution that Darwin arrived at, Hameed said.

Still, today, only 25 percent of adults in Turkey agree that human beings developed from earlier species of animals, whereas 40 percent of people in the United States agree with this scientific fact, Hameed writes. And Turkey is one of the most secular and educated of Muslim countries.

Hameed cites data from a 2007 sociological study by Riaz Hassan which revealed that only a minority in five Muslim countries agree that Darwin's theory of evolution is probably or most certainly true: 16 percent of Indonesians, 14 percent of Pakistanis, 8 percent of Egyptians, 11 percent of Malaysians and 22 percent of Turks.

Nonetheless, evolution is taught in high schools in many Muslim countries, although this is often in a very religious environment, Hameed says.

Also, science foundations in 14 Muslim countries recently signed on to a statement in support of the teaching of evolution, including human evolution (it is human evolution that is often the sticking point for Muslims, rather than all evolution, he says).

The solution is for Muslim biologists and doctors to present evolutionary theory as the bedrock of biology and to stress its practical applications, Hameed writes, adding that efforts to link evolution with atheism will defeat efforts to help Muslims accept evolution.

Copyright © 2008 Imaginova Corp.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Two Things that Don't Go Together: Michael Egnor and Intellectual Integrity

http://scienceblogs.com/authority/2008/03/two_things_that_dont_go_togeth.php

Category: Anti-Evolutionism • Moral Flexibility • Religion
Posted on: March 12, 2008 3:47 PM, by Mike Dunford

Someone once pointed out that when a dog pisses on a fire hydrant, it's not committing an act of vandalism. It's just being a dog. It's possible to use that analogy to excuse a creationist who takes a quote wildly out of context, I suppose, but I don't think it's really appropriate. Creationists might indulge in quote mining with the same casual disregard for public decency as a male dog telling his neighbors that he's still around, but, unlike dogs, the creationists are presumably capable of self-control. We've simply grown blase about their propensity for twisting other people's words because they do it so often.

Still, I expected more from Michael Egnor. He's not some diploma mill hack, who really might not know any better. The man is a professor of neurosurgery and pediatrics at SUNY Stony Brook, and is actually the vice chairman of neurosurgery. He's been in academia for some time, and presumably has some understanding of the importance of intellectual integrity. When he picks and chooses which words to quote to make it appear that someone has said something very different from what they meant, he has very clearly chosen to tell a lie. And that's just what he did when he quoted from one of my posts.

Here's what he wrote:

Zoology graduate student and Darwinist Mike Dunford at Panda's Thumb has replied to recent posts in which Dr. Jonathan Wells and I pointed out that Darwin's theory is irrelevant to medical research on antibiotic resistance, and that antibiotic resistance itself is irrelevant to the debate about intelligent design and Darwinism. Remarkably, Mr. Dunford, referring to a recent advance in research on antibiotic resistance, concedes both points. He writes:

The scientists worked in a lab. They artificially replicated a set of conditions (an antibiotic-rich environment) that occur in nature. Finally, they placed the bacteria into this environment - something that happens spontaneously outside the lab...We'll pretend that anything that happens in a lab must be artificial selection, and that it is totally and completely wrong to use the phrase "natural selection" when referring to these experiments.

Mr. Dunford is right. Selection that happens by design in a lab is artificial selection, not natural selection. This distinction is of fundamental importance in this debate. Why? Consider Mr. Dunford's next observation:

Now, here's what I actually wrote. The portions that Egnor skipped over are highlighted in boldface:

The differences between what the scientists did in a lab and what happens in nature are small, and not incredibly significant. The scientists worked in a lab. They artificially replicated a set of conditions (an antibiotic-rich environment) that occur in nature. Finally, they placed the bacteria into this environment - something that happens spontaneously outside the lab. Strangely, I find that I'm not as impressed as Egnor is by these differences.

Still, let's be nice and (purely for the sake of argument) grant Egnor his rhetorical fun. We'll pretend that anything that happens in a lab must be artificial selection, and that it is totally and completely wrong to use the phrase "natural selection" when referring to these experiments. Even if we make those assumptions, Darwin's work remains relevant to the experiments.

Maybe I'm being nitpicky, but I don't think that what I really wrote can remotely be construed to mean that I am saying that selection that happens in a lab is artificial selection, and not natural selection. What I said was that Egnor's position on natural selection and antibiotic resistance remains wrong even if he is right to claim that any selection that happens in the lab must be artificial.

Had Egnor not decided to omit the bit where I wrote "purely for the sake of argument", it would have been very clear that I did not agree with his statement. I find it hard to attribute his selective quoting to anything other than a deliberate decision to deceive. However, let's be nice and (purely for the sake of argument) grant Egnor the benefit of the doubt. We'll pretend that even though his decision to omit certain phrases creates the appearance of a misquote designed to mislead, this might be an isolated mistake.

With that in mind, let's continue to read Egnor's description of what he wanted me to have said:

Mr. Dunford is right. Selection that happens by design in a lab is artificial selection, not natural selection. This distinction is of fundamental importance in this debate. Why? Consider Mr. Dunford's next observation:

The differences between what the scientists did in a lab and what happens in nature are small, and not incredibly significant. I find that I'm not as impressed as Egnor is by these differences.

As it turns out, that was not my "next observation". I wrote both those sentences, but in my original post the second does not immediately follow the first, and neither comes after the first of Egnor's cobbled-together quotes. In fact, the two sentences that he calls my "next observation" were part of one of the paragraphs that he (mis)quoted from before. This time, I'll highlight the sentences that he did quote in bold:

The differences between what the scientists did in a lab and what happens in nature are small, and not incredibly significant. The scientists worked in a lab. They artificially replicated a set of conditions (an antibiotic-rich environment) that occur in nature. Finally, they placed the bacteria into this environment - something that happens spontaneously outside the lab. Strangely, I find that I'm not as impressed as Egnor is by these differences.

It's common practice to use an ellipsis to indicate that you are skipping words in a quote, but Egnor failed to do so here. He also misrepresented where, in relation to the other material he quoted, those sentences actually appear. That makes two instances where he misrepresents what I wrote. Perhaps coincidentally, those are the only two instances in that post where he quotes from my article.

At this point, your reaction to all of this might very well be "so what?" or "big deal". You might be wondering why I've chosen to bring any of this up at all. Dr. Egnor might have decided not to honestly represent what I wrote, but pointing that out does nothing to address the substance of his post. That's true, and I'll address his latest claims in another post a little later today, but the intellectual integrity issue is still important.

Intellectual Design proponents are fond of claiming that they'd love to be participating members of the scientific community, but that they can't because the big bad "Darwinists" keep forcing them out. If that's really what they want, they've sure got a funny way of showing it. If they want academics to take them seriously, they might find that demonstrating a smidgen of a hint of intellectual integrity would be a good place to start.

Dr. Michael Egnor: Neurosurgeon, Stony Brook Faculty, and all around Dishonest Twit

http://scienceblogs.com/authority/2008/12/dr_michael_egnor_neurosurgeon.php

Category: Claims About Science • Intelligent Design • Moral Flexibility
Posted on: December 9, 2008 9:42 AM, by Mike Dunford

I've been dealing with creationists for a long time now, and I thought that I'd gotten over being surprised by dishonest behavior in their ranks. In fact, I thought I'd gotten over it even when I'm on the receiving end of the false witness, and when the person dishing it out is someone who really should know better. As it turns out, I might not have quite as far over it as I thought.

As regular readers know, Dr. Michael Egnor is one of the more impressively credentialed denizens of the Discovery Institute's media complaints blog. He has decades of experience as a neurosurgeon. He's on the faculty at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, where he serves as a professor of neurosurgery. And, based on the level of intellectual integrity that he just demonstrated, he's not someone I would trust to train a dog, much less a doctor.

That's a harsh statement, I know, but I just got through reading his response to my recent critique of some of his Discovery Institute ramblings. Or, rather, his response to what he says was my recent critique. It was actually an interesting experience. He managed to take what I wrote so far out of context, and distort it so thoroughly, that I actually had problems recognizing some of the quotes as being my own work.

I may (or may not) deal with the nonexistent scientific merit of Dr. Egnor's reply later on. I'm not even going to try and catalogue all of the cases where Egnor was less than honest in his characterization of my writing. Instead, I'm simply going to highlight the most egregious case of flat-out, nose-growing, pants-on-fire lying.

Here's how Egnor decided to quote me at one point in his reply. This one might well be used as an example of how to quote mine in the slimiest, most dishonest fashion possible. Egnor not only uses multiple ellipses to change my meaning, he actually also changed some of my words without indicating that he had done so. Here's the Egnor version of what I said:

...we ...need to know that spina bifida patients are typically unsuitable for military service, that there are hereditary factors involved in causing spina bifida in the first place, and that differential survival among individuals carrying an allele will affect the proportion of that allele in the next generation...this is the central principle of evolutionary biology

Here's what I actually said. The bits Egnor quoted are in italics, and I've marked one phrase in boldface:

In fact, our understanding of military history can only inform us of the cause of the (hypothetical) increase if we already understand some basic principles of evolution, and some basic facts about the disease. At a minimum, we would need to know that spina bifida patients are typically unsuitable for military service, that there are hereditary factors involved in causing spina bifida in the first place, and that differential survival among individuals carrying an allele will affect the proportion of that allele in the next generation.

The first two factors relate to our understanding of the condition. The third is nothing more nor less than the central principle of evolutionary biology. Only one of those three factors is connected with the military in any way. Military history provides us with an explanation for the differential survival, but that's all. If we didn't know the other stuff, the war alone would provide absolutely no explanation for the change.

The boldfaced words are the ones that he changed. He removed the phrase "the third" and substituted the word "this". He provided no indication that he had substituted his word for mine. Quibbling about a change of one word might look petty, but if we look at the misquote in context, it's clear that he was deliberately trying to change my meaning so that he would have an easier target to argue against. I've cleaned up the formatting of this next quote slightly - it looks like he missed closing a blockquote tag - but I have not made any other changes:

So it looks like we can't really understand spina bifida without the "central principle of evolutionary biology." Alright then, let's take a look, claim by claim, at Mike's assertion that my example demonstrates the importance of evolutionary biology to the medical understanding of spina bifida.

First:

...we would need to know that spina bifida patients are typically unsuitable for military service...

No evolutionary biology here. Our knowledge of the suitability of people with spina bifida for military service is gained from two things:

1) our knowledge of the disabilities caused by spina bifida
2) our knowledge of the requirements for military service

Second:

...that there are hereditary factors involved in causing spina bifida in the first place...

No evolutionary biology here. Our knowledge of the heredity...

In context, it's clear that he is claiming that I said that those first two factors are directly connected to evolutionary biology. He's also claiming that I was talking about the relationship between evolutionary biology and the medical condition itself, rather than the hypothetical epidemiological example he proposed. Neither is the case.

Honestly representing your opponents is the cornerstone of any productive academic discussion. I don't know if Dr. Egnor's dishonesty is substantial enough that I would have gotten him expelled from school, but I do know that any student I caught pulling a stunt like that would flunk.

I doubt that it will accomplish anything productive, but I'm actually annoyed enough at the misrepresentation that I've sent the following email to the Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin and Rob Crowther:

I will freely admit that there have been times over the years that I've been paying attention to Intelligent Design when I have been less than charitable - and less than polite - toward design proponents. I have, however, tried to always be honest, particularly when it comes to characterizing your arguments. When I disagree with something you say, I do my best to correctly and honestly describe your actual position. I see no reason why I should have to expect less than that in return.

In a recent post on your Evolution News and Views website, Dr. Michael Egnor fell well short of honesty. He mischaracterized and misrepresented my arguments throughout his entire article. At one point in his post, he went so far as to change words in a quote he attributed to me, without providing any indication that he had done so. Looking at the misquote in the context of Dr. Egnor's argument, I find it impossible to believe that this was an accident. It is also not the first time that Dr. Egnor has misrepresented things I've written.

A more detailed explanation of my objections to Dr. Egnor's misrepresentation will appear shortly on my blog (http://scienceblogs.com/authority), as will a copy of this email.

I would not dream of taking a position on whether or not you should continue to provide a platform for someone who is apparently incapable of meeting the basic standards of academic discourse, but I would like to see a public retraction and apology appear on your site.

I'll let you know what, if any, response I get from the Discovery folks. Based on the auto-reply I just got, Casey is out of the office until tomorrow, so there might not be anything before then. 38% of Adults Use Alternative Medicine

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/10/AR2008121001601.html?hpid=moreheadlines

Study Prompts Critics to Warn of Therapies' Risks

More than one-third of adults and nearly 12 percent of children in the United States use alternatives to traditional medicine, according to a large federal survey released today that documents how entrenched acupuncture, herbal remedies and other once-exotic therapies have become.

The 2007 survey of more than 32,000 Americans, which for the first time included children, found that use of yoga, "probiotics," fish oil and other "complementary and alternative" therapies held steady among adults since the last national survey five years earlier, and that such treatments have become part of health care for many youngsters.

"It's clear that millions of Americans every year are turning to complementary and alternative medicine," said Richard L. Nahin of the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which released the survey. "The use of complementary and alternative medicine seems to have stabilized in the United States."

The most commonly used are dietary supplements and herbal products such as echinacea, flaxseed oil and ginseng, followed by deep-breathing exercises, meditation, chiropractic therapy, massage and yoga. Although fewer Americans were using certain diets and trying herbal remedies such as echinacea to cure colds, the popularity of acupuncture, meditation, yoga and massage grew.

"I think it's fair to say we can conclude that this is part of the steady state of medical care in the United States," said David Eisenberg, director of the Harvard Medical School's division for research and education in complementary and integrative medical therapies. "I think the news is complementary and alternative medicine use by the U.S. public is here to stay."

Others said the findings were disturbing because most alternative treatments have not been scientifically validated and those that have been rigorously tested have overwhelmingly been found to be ineffective.

"They are either unproven or disproven," said Wallace Sampson, founding editor of the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine. "Acupuncture is a placebo. Homeopathy is one step above fraud. It goes on and on. The fact that they are so widely used is evidence for how gullible large segments of our society are."

Some critics went further, saying studies have found that some dietary supplements might increase the risk of some serious health problems, including cancer. Parents could be putting their children at risk if they deny them proven mainstream treatments, they said.

"In addition to the fact that these things are unproven and potentially dangerous, they also feed the mentality that you can forgo proven treatments in favor of these magic potions," said Seth Asser, a pediatrician and consultant to Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, a nonprofit group that opposes faith healing and other nontraditional medical practices.

The survey comes soon after a flurry of large studies failed to validate the suspected benefits of many "antioxidants" widely used to try to stave off cancer and other diseases. Just this week, two large studies found no evidence that taking vitamins E and C and selenium reduces the risk of prostate and other cancers.

The new survey of about 23,300 adults and 9,400 children was conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics as part of a broader ongoing study.

Adults were most likely to use alternative therapies for pain, including in the back, neck or joints. Women were more likely to use them, as were those who are more educated and more affluent.

Because children presumably use alternative medicine mostly because their parents provide it, use among children closely mirrored that of adults. Children whose parents used alternative treatments were almost five times as likely to have used one, compared with children of parents who did not.

The most common reason children used alternative therapies was also back or neck pain, followed by colds, anxiety or stress, musculoskeletal problems and attention-deficit disorder or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. About 16.4 percent of adolescents received such treatments, compared with 10.7 percent of those ages 5 to 11 and 7.6 percent of those too young to go to school.

The findings will help set priorities for studying such therapies, Nahin said.

"There are hundreds, if not thousands, of therapies that the public is using. The National Institutes of Health is slowly going through that cornucopia to study them and provide information to the public," he said.

Critics said the survey was being used to justify continued government spending on research into such treatments.

"There's a tremendous amount of money being wasted on this," said Stephen Barrett, who runs Quackwatch (http://www.quackwatch.org), which monitors false medical claims. "That money could be used to do research on something that has been waiting in line to get money."

Nahin acknowledged that there are legitimate concerns about many alternative therapies. Dietary supplements are not regulated as closely as standard medication, leaving them more likely to be contaminated, for example. And some products can interfere with prescription drugs.

But Nahin said government-funded research into such therapies is useful, citing a federal study that concluded that St. John's wort was ineffective. After the results were released, use of the herbal remedy dropped sharply, he said.

"The research is working," he said. "It's doing what it's supposed to do, which is provide reliable information to the public so they can make decisions."


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Evolution for everyone

http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/2008/12/evolution_for_everyone.php

Category: Evolution
Posted on: December 8, 2008 1:19 PM, by Razib

T. Ryan Gregory is getting the word out that the latest issue of Evolution is free online.
http://www.ntskeptics.org/creationism/evolution

Bush talks of belief in God, evolution

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hCYtFu7zZc-ScV1AHeaf0uG-F7GAD94V08601

WASHINGTON (AP) — President George W. Bush said his belief that God created the world is not incompatible with scientific proof of evolution.

In an interview with ABC's "Nightline" on Monday, the president also said he probably is not a literalist when reading the Bible although an individual can learn a great deal from it, including the New Testament teaching that God sent his only son.

Asked about creation and evolution, Bush said: "I think you can have both. I think evolution can — you're getting me way out of my lane here. I'm just a simple president. But it's, I think that God created the earth, created the world; I think the creation of the world is so mysterious it requires something as large as an almighty and I don't think it's incompatible with the scientific proof that there is evolution."

He added, "I happen to believe that evolution doesn't fully explain the mystery of life."

Interviewer Cynthia McFadden asked Bush if the Bible was literally true.

"You know. Probably not. ... No, I'm not a literalist, but I think you can learn a lot from it, but I do think that the New Testament for example is ... has got ... You know, the important lesson is 'God sent a son,'" Bush said.

"It is hard for me to justify or prove the mystery of the Almighty in my life," he said. "All I can just tell you is that I got back into religion and I quit drinking shortly thereafter and I asked for help. ... I was a one-step program guy."

The president also said that he prays to the same God as those with different religious beliefs.

"I do believe there is an almighty that is broad and big enough and loving enough that can encompass a lot of people," Bush said.

When asked whether he thought he would have become president had it not been for his faith, Bush said: "I don't know; it's hard to tell. I do know that I would have been — I'm pretty confident I would have been a pretty selfish person."

Bush said he is often asked whether he thinks he was chosen by God to be president.

"I just, I can't go there," he said. "I'm not that confident in knowing, you know, the Almighty, to be able to say, Yeah, God wanted me of all the other people."

He also said the decision to go to war in Iraq was not connected to his religious believes.

"I did it based upon the need to protect the American people from harm," Bush said.

"You can't look at the decision to go into Iraq apart from, you know, what happened on Sept. 11. It was not a religious decision," he said. "I don't view this as a war of religion. I view this as a war of good, decent people of all faiths against people who murder innocent people to achieve a political objective."

He said he felt like God was with him as he made big decisions, but that the decisions were his.

"George W. Bush has to make these decisions."

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press.

Scientology in New Mexico

http://www.koat.com/news/18228723/detail.html

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Las Cruces is ending a new anti-drug program aimed at third-graders after it was revealed it was backed by the Church of Scientology. The city's mayor acknowledges that he failed to fully check out the program - called Drug-Free Marshal -before approving it. The program began a few weeks ago.

Re-considering Human origins: Creationism, Darwinian Evolutionism and UFOs

by Dr. John Chang

Educational and mass-media agents have sought to socialize humanity into having the view that the idea that "Creationism", and Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution are two radically different concepts. However Gary Zeitlin's and John Lash's Gnostic research suggests that there is an alternative perspective. This alternative perspective is that "Creationism", and the idea of humans evolving from "more primitive primate states", are alternative constructs that have been ultimately propagated by the same aspiring intellectual "puppetmaster". Gary Zeitlin and corresponding Gnostic insights presented by John Lash, suggest a regressive alien artificial intelligence have sought to spread the dialectical ideologies of "Creationism" and "Evolutionism".

In the apparent view of the Pagan Gnostics, and further reinforced by Gary Zeitlin's research. "Creationism" operates to disempower humanity into obedience which leads them to worship of a regressive alien construct.

The socially engineered regressive alien construct of God, as a supernatural force, that makes judgement as to those who are "saved", or not saved, has a nefarious target. The promoted focus, on what should be understood inspires a broad ideological system of elite social control against the "masses". The result is that rather than pursuing a life path of mutualistic social responsibility, the "masses" are conditioned to overlook the defence of their vital quality of survival targets. Instead, they are conditioned to leave that outcome to into elites that are ultimately operating in behalf of Manipulative Extraterrestrials.

Gary Zeitlin exposes Darwin's Theory of Human Evolution as "Transhumanism", that in turn is linked with Eugenics ideology, that is in turn, Eugenics, linked to a regressive alien agenda which aims to genetically modify humanity. Zecharia Sitchin's exhaustive research also documents the genetic modification which altered humanity to perform as slaves to regressive aliens.

The idea that humans evolved from "primitive" primate species without technological capabilities into successive mutations that are yielded a more "advanced" and "technologically capable" species, appears to have been a world view orchestrated by Pagan Gnostic-identified regressive aliens.

What if the purpose of the genetic modification of humans documented by Zecharia Sitchin was not to "advance" a human from primates, but to "regress" humans into a less capable sentient being?

Indeed, the apparent fact that humans were genetically modified and conditioned to be slaves, suggests that the intent of these Pagan Gnostic identified aliens were not, in fact, benevolent toward humanity; but instead sought to operate against human free will. Correspondingly, through organized religion, clerical elites seek to indoctrinate the masses into bigoted doctrines and dogmas, that require humans to retard their critical awareness into the need for "blind faith", in order to be "saved". The Pagan Gnostics specifically referred to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as the "doctrine of the aliens". LINK.

The apparent purpose of "Creationism" is to socialize humanity into accepting a paternalistic supernatural entity as being responsible for human origins. The specific "brand" of Creationism advanced by organized religions like Christianity, links human origins to 'God'. However, Pagan Gnostics pursuit of a higher consciousness facilitated in part, through tantric sexual energy, became scientifically cognizant and spiritually aware of the "God of organized religions" being a Manipulative Extraterrestrial construct.

The Biblical story of Genesis in the Bible, for example, is presented by Pagan Gnostics, as religious literary expression of the genetic manipulation of humans during the Sumerian era, that has been documented by Zecharia Sitchin. Dr. Sitchin expresses an affinity for the other "brand" of Creationism that seeks to remove the "God face" of regressive aliens, into a direct worship context of regressive alien genetic engineers, as the "Intelligent Designers" of an attributed "improved" humanity.

Charles Darwin advanced the idea of human origins being as a "product" of natural selection, that produced an "evolutionary path" from primitive "proto-humans" to "successful mutations" into modern humans. However, it is apparent from the insights of Gary Zeitlin, that the effect of this theory, is to condition humanity into accepting a world-view of a technologically supported "linear-time"-based "progression" of humanity. Such a supported world view is consistent with the agenda of the Gnostic-identified alien "artificial man", that apparently has sought to "download" (to borrow a conceptually computer terminology) artificial technological devices intended to retard human organic technological capabilities. These capabilities include the apparent ability of humans to communicate telepathically over distance without the need for speech, and such devices as telephones, and the ability of human to travel through time-space without aeroplanes, the use of cars, or the kind of UFO vehicles used by various Extraterrestrials.

African Zulu Elder Credo Mutwa, among other indigenous elders testify to such an alternative critical presentation of human origins.

Darwin in 1871, and his cousin Francis Galton advanced a "transhumanistic" eugenics ideology, that is fully consistent with Sitchin documented regressive alien ideology. As "master geneticists", these identified artificial intelligence not only sought to be worshiped as Gods in Creationist-oriented organized religion, but also sought to inspire humans to accept a transhumanistic eugenics conception of themselves.

Fearing public opinion, Darwin did not openly advocate the controlled breeding of human beings until the publication of his Descent of Man in 1871. By that time, his cousin, Francis Galton, had already coined the term "eugenics" to describe "the science of improving stock… especially in the case of man," a science that would "give to the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable than they otherwise would have had."

For both Darwin and Galton, and the rest of the eugenic movement, the point of eugenics was to remove the production and maintenance of human nature from the hands of chance. The blind forces of evolution had given us a good start, but to progress yet further, we would have to take evolution into our own hands. For Darwin, that meant that we must "prevent the reckless, the vicious and otherwise inferior members of society from increasing at a quicker rate than the better class of men…" because progress "depends on an increase…on the number of men endowed with high intellectual and moral faculties…" LINK

Darwin's Theory of Evolution morphs into eugenics ideology which supported human elites seeking to in effect "play God" in the image of the same alleged regressive alien master geneticists, that sought to inspire humanity to worship them as God. Human elites who pursue unethical genetic engineering of their environment through terminator seeds, and the denuding scientifically-rationalized manipulation of animal species for self-serving agendas, express the similar mindset of Sitchin's identified aliens.

In other words, "Creationism" and Darwin's Theory of Evolution are simply points of the same "circle of consciousness", that has an apparent social psychological agenda to assimilate human perspectives into the mentality of regressive aliens, that pursue an enslavement agenda.

Through the dissemination of Darwin's Theory of Evolution, humans could be fooled into thinking that their de-evolution into conditions of enslavement, was in fact, a progressive evolution from a primate to a supposedly more and more technologically sophisticated being. Michael's Cremo's book on 'human devolution' further explores the scientific censorship of evidence on human origins that has apparently accompanied the dissemination of Darwin's theory on human origins.

Apparently through the alien-inspired ideologies of "Creationism" and "Transhumanistic" Evolution à la Darwin, humans could then be further fooled into accepting their retardation as a species, under the destructive social and genetic engineering designs of regressive aliens. The "hatching" of human clones by regressive aliens, could then act as "shepherds", through the Hegelian dialectic. This dialectic would be to jointly condition humanity into a broad disempowering prism, inspired by organized religion as a counterfeit spirituality, that voids synergistic social responsibility. The alien-inspired eugenic subtext of secularism, (against the dialectic of organized religion), could then deceive humanity to accept the actual worsening retardation of humanity as part of "evolutionary advancement".

Gary Zeitlin provides the following insights on the use of a Hegelian Dialectic to corall the masses into their enslavement through "Creationism" and Dawinian Human Evolutionism and Eugenics:

One is reminded of the Hegelian Dialectic and its use of Thesis and Antithesis to reach a desired Synthesis. Although often criticised as a philosophical method, it is a time-honoured technique of societal control.

In War in Heaven (1988), Griffith introduces another layer of controllers, the so-called "Theocracy", the force behind the religions; and the "Invisible College", which masterfully employs the Hegelian Dialectic to mould an advanced, space-faring human society... [W]e are the pawns in their game.

In America's Secret Establishment, Antony Sutton (2004) clearly describes how the Hegelian Dialectic method has been and continues to be employed by secret societies to guide our modern society through the sure control of its massive cultural organizations.

Guide to what? The control groups are structured as circles within circles, each receiving instructions from a member at its centre, who in turn belongs to a still deeper circle. The ultimate purpose is lost to our view, unless we look at the world itself and understand that whatever its condition, and wherever it is going, this has been guided from the deepest circles.

The condition, of course, is one of monumental distraction from our nurturing planet. LINK

As Zeitlin and Lash show Creationism and Charles Darwin are apparently operatives, in behalf of a Manipulative Extraterrestrial agenda against Human Development. The elite orchestrated censorship discussed by Michael Cremo, and other investigative researchers, suggest that both "Human Evolutionism" and Creationism are ideological-inspired deceptions linked to elite agendas, that are in turn apparently ultimately linked to the operations of "archonic" regressive aliens.

Dr. Michael Cremo on 7 February 2008 spoke in Portugal about his research into the controversial findings of Carlos Ribeira, a 19th century archaeologist and head of Portugal's Geological Survey. The controversy centres on the ageing of human tools (now in the Museum of Geology, Lisbon) found by Dr. Ribeiro in the 1860's in the areas of the east bank of the Ribatejo at Cadafais and at Monte Redondo.

According to Cremo, in the course of time, the original dating placed on the tools by Ribeiro has been altered to suit 'accepted thinking'. Generally accepted theory is that human tools do not date back before 2 million years ago, however Ribeiro dated his finds to as far as 15 - 65 million years ago and has downgraded his original estimates to meet more generally acceptable dates for the first human use of tools. 'Java Man', found in Indonesia in 1891 is dated to about 700.000 years ago, with no linkage to tools. Consequently, scientists considered that the dating put by Ribeiro on his finds in Portugal were unlikely to be correct.

However, in the early 19th century scientists visited the locations of Ribeiro's findings and, supported by their own findings the committee confirmed that the flints found by Ribeiro were tools made by humans and that they came from the Miocene. Further support came later from Dr. J. D. Whitney, whose work was centred on Table Mountain, California. Answering a question from the audience, Dr. Cremo confirmed that he was not aware of any further current research into Ribeiro's findings other than his own. LINK

Humans may have originated billions of years ago in waves of consciousness

http://www.agoracosmopolitan.com/home/Frontpage/2008/12/08/02874.html

by Dr. John Chang

What are the origins of humankind? Who are we? And, where did we come from? The article "Re-considering Human origins: Creationism, Darwinian Evolutionism and UFOs", explores insight that suggests "Creationism" inclusive of "Intelligent Design", and Charles Darwin's "Evolutionism" are apparent Manipulative Extraterrestrial inspired constructs. LINK On the surface, "Creationism" and "Evolutionism" appear to be polar opposites. However, closer critical enquiry illuminates Gary Zeitlin's insight on a dialectic of manipulation against the human psyche.

On one level, "Creationism" was broadly intended to captivate among humans, a certain perception of "God". Indeed, "God" tends to be viewed among religious communities and secular non-religious individuals, as some sort of "skyward" and paternalistic "supernatural" entity, that seeks to stand in judgement of the activities of "Earthly dwelling" humans. God in society is widely considered to be a "judger" that imposed a mandatory moral code. or "rules" in the form of religious doctrine. God is also generally presumed to exist external to humanity, also capable of "miracles" and inflicting "punishment" against Earthly dwelling humans that ignore "Him".

Dr. John Lash's extensive research on pagan Gnostic insights suggests that the prevailing broad societal conception God is the simulated "face" of Manipulative Extraterrestrials. Pagan Gnostics through rigorous introspection and critical observation, detected sentient artificial intelligences that sought to intrude on humanity's free will. Pagan Gnostics detected these alien intruders as operating most perniciously in elite driven institutions. These include, for example, organized religions that include theocracy, and also political-military complexes.

Having spiritually disoriented humanity through organized religion, Darwin's "Evolution" construct, then deceives humanity into believing that as a sentient species, it is "progressing". However, Michael Cremo's critical archaeological research and analysis reinforces pagan Gnostic and ancient indigenous insights, that humanity is in fact substantively "devolving". Michael Cremo suggests that the goal of entities that operate through organized religion, and also through Darwin-supporting "mainstream" scientific communities, is to keep humans totally alienated and ignorant of their true origins. In so doing, elites can better control humanity.

If humanity appreciated their true origins as a former higher evolved sentient being of great conscience and empathy, then, for example, they would not so readily accept an elite driven prevailing context of alienation and barbarity, as "progress".

Creationists with particular reference to Christian clerics, have suggested that humankind is less than 10,000 years old. Darwin's Theory, that furthers an apparent instrumental mass-deception objective, suggests that humankind is "evolving up" from primates, over many tens of thousands of years. However, in contrast, Indian vedic knowledge testifies to human origins in "linear time", as being apparently, billions of years ago.

Pagan Gnostics, suggest that the Manipulative Extraterrestrials sought to "devolve" humanity as a being a former sentient existence of conscience, and other abilities, into an alienated ego-driven being, that could be more easily controlled and manipulated by regressive aliens. Part of this Manipulation, based upon Gnostic insight, and that of African elders like Credo Mutwa, was to apparently infiltrate human societies with bio-genetically imprinted humans and possibly artificial intelligence engineered 'clones'.

The apparent goal in mind, was to derail human societies into existence under the intermediary control of biogenetic "drones", ultimately controlled by regressive aliens. Gnostic insights suggest that the objective of the creation of drone-guided organized religious doctrine, and also fabricated secular constructs, was to keep humanity in the dark about the true origins of the species. In the process, humans analogous to someone with an "erased memory", could be rendered more amenable to the "power of suggestion", under charismatic alien controlled genetically manipulated drones.

Human society rather than "progressing" is apparently spiralling into a human societal decline and decay, into the lower dimensional existential context, of the very artificial intelligences that seek to control humanity. When religion refers to "man created in God's image", Gnostic insights suggest that such a reference actually refers to the attempt of regressive aliens to re-shape humanity into their own regressive and demonic image.

Michael Cremo's video below this article, conceives of humanity as a combination of 'ordinary matter', with mind and pure consciousness or spirit. Cremo alludes to humanity's higher state of consciousness breaking down. The result are human beings being left to be driven primarily by 'mind', that manifests into a selfish, self-absorbed, and greed-driven being, that seeks the instant self-gratification of power, irrespective of social, environmental, and other costs.

Cremo's documents, for example, extensive archaeological findings of fully developed modern humans who walked with the dinosaurs, long before the supposed origins of humanity, according to Charles Darwin. However, "mainstream" scientists, and other interests who are linked to a political-industrial-military complex have apparently sought to repress such artefacts. This suggests that Darwin's "Evolutionism" is not 'objective science", but is as politically motivated as "Creationism", that has been defended by various clerical elites throughout history.

Cremo as reinforced by pagan Gnostics and indigenous elders suggest that human origins may very have been "waves of consciousness", expressed by pre-existing biological organisms, and to the spirit that exists within Nature in general. That is why aboriginal peoples are so reverent to "sacred plants", "trees as symbols of peace" and to the spirits associated with all life which "Mother Earth" as the womb of nature, sustains, and that invigorates our Earth.

The continued persecution of indigenous peoples, may very well have been a manifestation of the efforts of sentient artificial intelligences, that have sought to alienate humanity from a higher evolved state of spiritual consciousness that was once pervasive across humanity.

Native/indigenous people of many lands believe that they can communicate directly with ancestral spirits, often pictured as magical animals who possess the traits of distinct species such as possum, lizard and owl. The possibility of interspecies communication, now becoming recognized by some scientists, seems to have long been a reality to many indigenous peoples. See animism. (Dreamtime Ancestor by Djawida, 1985 in Aboriginal Art by Wally Caruana, Thames & Hudson, 1993.) LINK

Metahistory illuminates specifically an "animist spirituality" as being the foundations of former higher state of consciousness, that regressive aliens have apparently sought to break down in a eugenic agenda of control, manipulation, exploitation and enslavement against humanity:

Animism assumes that a broad range of communications can occur between humanity and other species, for the totemic and tutelary connection with "animal powers" can take many forms; but inter-species rapport is not limited to communication with animals. It also includes communication with plant species, especially those characterized in shamanistic traditions as sacred plants or "teacher plants." Animism encompasses the entire range of such contacts and indigenous lore abounds with vivid stories of these interactions. By asserting that our place in the greater order of Nature depends on inter-species rapport, animist belief provides a crucial factor in the metahistorical view of learning, a capacity that may represent the distinctive mark of the human species. LINK

In essence, humanity's apparent origins billions of years ago in linear time, was apparently inspired by Animist spirituality. Gnostics, meticulously document the presence of regressive aliens referred to as "Archons", that would be served by the spiritually disorienting context of organized religion, and "evolutionism". Indeed, Darwin valued "natural selection" or more precisely eugenics. The Pagan Gnostics identified eugenics an alien ideology, that is associated with the "survival of the fittest" context of artificial intelligence based inorganic life forms that Gnostic also suggest, dominates the planets that surround Earth in this solar system.

Indigenous elders like Zulu Elder Credo Mutwa suggest the presence of a former state, in which humans as beings of great conscience and empathy, primarily communicated through telepathy, and may have been immortal. In contrast with the prevailing de-evolved state of human beings, indigenous elders, and Cremo suggest a former state of humans who operated as custodians of nature, and that may have had great telekentic based powers of healing, as entities that were also capable to space travel without the aid of such "modern" technology as aeroplanes or spacecraft.

Humans apparently were not limited by the confines on linear time; and could travel in time-space at the blink of an eye, without the need of the UFOs, apparently used by various alien races, or other technology that regressive aliens with hostile agendas against humankind have apparently constructed, to further dull our vital synergistic interconnected spiritual-biological essence as human beings.

Through "Creationism" and eugenic-linked Darwinian Evolutionism, and through a narrative that serves an alien social control and enslavement agenda, apparently regressive aliens seek to shape humanity image of themselves.

Alex Collier, an alleged contactee of Ethical Extraterrestrials further suggests that Earth may have been trapped in an alien solar system and universe, as a result of a "rip through time". Collier alleges that Nazis in a parallel time-space continuum instigated a rift, and through a created "time portal" or worm-hole of some sort, introduced regressive aliens. Apparently, Nazis sought the alliance of entities that Gnostics referred to as "artificial man". Apparenty, also Nazis sought out aliens that could use their computer-like disciplined lower dimensional alien technology to entrap humanity, along with Mother Earth (as a spiritual-biological consciousness), under a Nazi-alien hegemony to create a parallel time-space continuum, toward executing their spiritually bereft ego-driven control.

Based upon critical modern insights which include Cremo, and ancient indigenous knowledge that include the Pagan Gnostics, Humans can be conceived as the physical manifestation of an interconnected pure consciousness that formed relatively shortly after the formation of our universe. The trees, the plants, the birds, and other pre-existent spiritual entities can be conceived of as the ancestors of humankind, that also expresses themselves in humankind.

Humankind's relationship to Nature, if cognizant of such an origin, a vital human existential responsibility becomes being a custodian of 'our ancestors', within aboriginal/indigenous traditions, rather than that of simply an exploiter seeking "raw materials".

By seeking to "convert" the indigenous peoples of Africa, Canada and other parts of the Americas, regressive aliens apparently, sought through religion, to "convert" indigenous peoples away from knowledge and wisdom of invigorating ancient knowledge.

Humans who seek to rejuvenated human civilization from a spiralling descent into social malaise, war, genocide, and environmental destruction may wish to critically consider the insights of the ancient Pagan Gnostics, indigenous elders, and modern investigative reseachers who include Michael Cremo, and also, for example, David Icke, and Michael Salla. With that in mind, to what extent, if any, are we, as humans, perpetuating the results of alien instrusions against human free will.

If there is such an alien instrusion. Cremo's insights on human devolution suggest that critically appreciation our origins as de-evolved sentient beings is a precursor to re-embracing a vital human spirituality. Gnostics suggest re-embracing humanity's spirituality with billions of years in its origins, is vital to defend ourselves collectively from an alien-induced course of human destructions.

Related Article: Re-considering Human origins: Creationism, Darwinian Evolutionism and UFOs

Judge Jones in PLoS Genetics

http://ncseweb.org/news/2008/12/judge-jones-plos-genetics-003299

December 8th, 2008 General 2008

Judge John E. Jones III, who presided over the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, was interviewed by Jane Gitschier for PLoS Genetics. After recounting his legal career and sketching the legal history of the creationism/evolution controversy, Jones talked about the trial itself. Describing the expert testimony he heard, Jones commented, "I will always remember Ken Miller's testimony in the sense that he did A–Z evolution. And then got into intelligent design. And having laid the foundation with the description of evolution, got into why intelligent design doesn't work as science, to the point where it is predominantly a religious concept." He added, "But Ken Miller went into the immune system, the blood clotting cascade, and the bacterial flagellum — all three are held out by intelligent design proponents as irreducibly complex, and in effect, having no precursors. He [Miller] knocked that down, I thought, quite effectively — so comprehensively and so well. By the time Miller was done testifying, over the span of a couple of days, the defendants were really already in the hole."

The expert witnesses for the defense were less impressive to Jones: "Another remarkable moment on the science side was Michael Behe, who was the lead witness for the defendants, and a very amiable fellow, as was Ken Miller, but unlike Miller, in my view, Professor Behe did not distinguish himself. He did not hold up well on cross-examination." And the school board witnesses for the defense, whom Jones lambasted in his decision (PDF), he described as "dreadful witnesses ... hence the description 'breathtaking inanity' and 'mendacity.' In my view, they clearly lied under oath. They made a very poor account of themselves. They could not explain why they did what they did. They really didn't even know what intelligent design was. It was quite clear to me that they viewed intelligent design as a method to get creationism into the public school classroom. They were unfortunate and troublesome witnesses. Simply remarkable, in that sense."

Noting that the plaintiffs and defendants both asked for a ruling on the question of whether "intelligent design" constitutes science, Jones said, "if you're going to measure the effect of a particular policy, in this case juxtaposing intelligent design with evolution, on the intended recipients, you have to delve into what the policy is about. What was it about? It was about intelligent design. And to try to determine the effect on the recipients you have to determine what does that concept or phrase stand for? Hence, we got into a search and examination of what exactly does ID say, what is its basis, what are its scientific bona fides or lack thereof. That opens the door for a determination of whether ID is in fact science. And that is what that part of the opinion was. ... I wrote about whether ID, as presented to me, in that courtroom from September to November of 2005, was science, and I said it was not. That it was the progeny, the successor to creationism and creation science. That it was dressed-up creationism."

Looking forward, Jones expressed uncertainty about the long-term effect of the Kitzmiller decision, commenting, "This is speculation on my part -- I don't think that the concept of ID itself has a lot of vitality going forward. The Dover trial discredited that thing that is ID. To the extent that I follow it — I'm curious about it, but it doesn't go any further than that — the likely tack going forward is something like teach the controversy, talk about the alleged flaws and gaps in the theory of evolution and go to that place first." He noted that creationists in both Texas and Louisiana seem to be taking such a tack. And, he noted, there is no prospect of the creationism/evolution controversy subsiding any time soon: "They gave me the last word in 'Judgment Day' [a NOVA program on the trial] and I said this is not something that will be settled in my time or even in my grandchildren's lifetimes. It's an enduring, quintessentially American, dispute."


Monday, December 08, 2008

Stanford Dean's Newsletter and Koch Foundation Redefine Freedom to Support Censorship of Intelligent Design

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/12/stanford_deans_newsletter_and.html

The recent Dean's Newsletter from Philip A. Pizzo, Dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine, announces a statement from the "Scientific Advisory Board" of the Koch Foundation that recommends creating a brave new world of censorship. According to Dean Pizzo's newsletter, when giving an award recently to a biology researcher, the Koch Foundation's "Scientific Advisory Board" stated: "Research must remain free and therefore has to be protected from non-scientific influences such as 'Creationism,' 'Fundamentalism,' 'Intelligent Design,' or other non-scientific ideas or religious convictions." Ignoring their inappropriate lumping of intelligent design with "creationism," "fundamentalism," "non-scientific ideas" and "religious convictions," it seems that in the Koch Foundation's vision of the future, being "free" means that ID cannot have any influence upon research. I guess that "free" must be their newspeak word for censorship of ideas they don't like. I suppose if you don't like the conclusion that life was designed, it's much easier to just ban such ideas and "influences" from the scientific research community. Such censorship and suppression has been done before, and if the Koch Foundation — cheered on by the Dean of Stanford's Medical School — has its way, it will be done again.

Posted by Casey Luskin on December 8, 2008 12:12 AM | Permalink

Marketing evolution

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/12/marketing_evolution.php

Category: Creationism

Posted on: December 6, 2008 12:33 PM, by PZ Myers

Seth Godin is a marketing guy, and he recently turned his eye to the evolution-creation wars and offered a marketing perspective. That's useful, but I don't think he looked deeply enough, and his suggestions don't really help much. In particular, he compares the acceptance of Darwin's theory of evolution to Newton's "law of gravity" and tries to extract a message about why one is unquestioned and the other is not.

1. If the story of your marketing requires the prospect to abandon a previously believed story, you have a lot of work to do.

Nobody had a seriously described theory of gravity before Newton named it. No one walks around saying that they have a story about why we stick to the earth better than the gravity story. As a result, there was no existing story or worldview to overthrow. Naming something that people already believe in is very smart marketing.

Actually, there was an existing theory of gravity — several, in fact. The best known was Aristotle's, who posited that there was a natural place where every object ideally wished to be located. For most solid objects, that ideal place was the center of the earth, and for less substantial objects, like steam and smoke, it was in the heavens, so everything was drawn naturally to it's optimum destination unless hindered. Simple.

Newton's laws were accepted by the common people without question because they didn't know what they were. Ask anyone now, outside of a university at least, and you won't get many who say 'G•m1•m2/d2', or even understand that he quantitatively described the force of attraction between any two masses. It's enough that he didn't say something crazy, like that apples fall up, therefore it was OK.

Godin is right here. Everyone simply takes the force of gravity for granted, so hearing that some smart guy figured out how to calculate the exact magnitude of that force is unchallenging. Evolution is different. There are lots of creation myths around, all of them created out of a complete absence of evidence and describing past phenomenon of which the storytellers had no understanding, and evolution is directly challenging all of them with facts and evidence. So, sure, it makes for a harder sell. It's not particularly helpful to be told that your product is hard to market, though: it's the product we've got.

2. If the timeframe of the message of your marketing is longer than the attention span (or lifetime) of the person you are marketing to, you have your work cut out for you as well.

Evolution is really slow. Hard to demonstrate it in real time during a school board meeting. Gravity is instantaneous. Baseball players use it every day.

Baseball players do not, however, use Newton's laws. People can hit a ball with a stick without using a single equation, and had been doing so long before Newton started scribbling. Try going into a schoolboard meeting and convincing them that students need to learn G•m1•m2/d2, rather than that they have to fund supplies for athletics. Then you'll discover how well established gravity is as an educational essential.

We also have some immediately persuasive props for evolution, too: fossils. Plop a dinosaur bone down in front of students, and it is immediately effective, and far more impressive than bouncing a ball. What you find, though, is immediacy is not enough. Creationists go to great lengths to contrive elaborate rationalizations to dismiss direct demonstrations. There's something more going on.

Godin's explanations miss the key points of contention.

Number one is human evolution. All those surveys of people's attitudes towards evolution experience major shifts if the questions are simply reworded: ask whether they believe humans evolved from apes, and half of Americans will say no. Ask them if animals evolved from simpler forms, and the yes answers surge upwards by tens of percentage points. It is not an objection to evolution in principle, but to evolution as an explanation of their personal history. I'm sure there's a marketing principle to be stated there.

The second objection is to chance and the lack of purpose. People really, desperately want there to be a personal agency to causality — they become utterly irrational about it all if you try to imply that no, fate, destiny, and ultimate cosmic purpose guided them to their mate, for instance. It couldn't have been just chance. I suspect this is a consequence of the first contention: people want to believe that they are important agents in the universe, and one of the implications of evolution is that they aren't.

If a marketing guy wants to help out with the evolution debates, those are ideas I'd like to know how to sell better.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Research ayurvedic treatment for autism

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Bangalore/Research_ayurvedic_treatment_for_autism/articleshow/3805742.cms

8 Dec 2008, 0021 hrs IST, TNN

Bangalore : Over 400 people, including institutions, NCC cadets, volunteers and families of those with autism participated in the 3rd annual Autism Awareness Walk on Sunday.

Organized by the Information and Resource Centre (IRC), in association with the Autism Society of India, an autism clinic and ayurveda kendra were launched on the sidelines of the event.

The clinic will have a team of medical experts guiding parents in identifying, diagnosing and treating autism. The clinic will help kids with autism and other special needs, using alternative medicine and therapy. It was launched in association with Keraleeya Ayurveda Samajam, Shoranur, at the Sharada Ayurveda Kendra.

Former vice-chancellor, Manipal University, Dr B M Hegde, stressed that use of alternative medicine for autism needs to be properly documented. Ayurvedic treatment for autism must be scientifically researched, he said.

Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder typically appearing in the first three years of life and characterized by impairment in communication and social skills.

According to head of IRC, V R Ramesh, ayurveda prescribes specific measures for ensuring physical and psychological welfare of mother and child, as also development of the child during formative years.

For children identified with autism spectrum disorders, ayurveda has a range of internal medications and external treatments that are done for an average of 21 days and repeated periodically. These contribute significantly to improved social interaction, improved eye-to-eye contact, reduced hyperactivity, improved communication and also improvement in metabolism and other associated complaints, he added. For details, call the clinic on 41203426.

Darwinian Medicine 2.0

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/12/darwinian_medicine_20.html#more

I recently pointed out that Darwinian stories about the evolution of diseases were of no tangible use to medical science. Few physicians and medical scientists and educators with genuine experience with medical education, research, and practice, and who are not ideologically committed to the materialist-atheist metaphysics for which Darwinism is the creation myth, honestly believe that evolutionary biology is important to medicine. There are many important disciplines in medicine today, such as microbiology, epidemiology, molecular and population genetics, and mathematical biology, that deal with the real science for which evolutionary biologists routinely claim credit, and these genuine medical disciplines, unlike evolutionary biology, are very important to medicine. We've done very well for more than half a century without Darwinian medicine. The recent drive to introduce Darwinian Medicine 2.0 into medical education was initiated by Darwinists. They weren't invited.

Years ago, medicine turned away from Darwinian "science" after eugenics was widely exposed and denounced in the aftermath of WWII. Of course, like Darwinian medicine 2.0, eugenics (Darwinian Medicine 1.0) was based entirely on Darwinian stories — on the theory that man was merely an evolved animal. Darwinists concocted stories about the evolutionary origin of all sorts of maladies, real and imaginary. If you can, get an copy of Charles Davenport's Heredity in Relation to Eugenics, published in 1910. It's loaded with Darwinian stories — the Darwinian and eugenic science of eye color, Meniere's disease, Chorea, Hysteria, Myopia, Deafness, "Catarrhal affections," Splenic anemia, and Hypospadius, to name just a few of the disorders on which Darwinian medicine could shed light.

Eugenics was based on the explicit Darwinian postulate that man is an animal evolved by the process of natural selection. We are human because our ancestors struggled, often to the death. The Darwinian concern was that human civilization was corrupting natural selection by foolish solicitude for the unfit. The solution was to "take evolution into our own hands," which was to breed human beings. Eugenics was a major part of American medicine for the first half of the 20th century, until growing public and professional awareness of the banality and the venality of eugenics, capped by the Nazi atrocities that were motivated in significant part by the same Darwinian science and Darwinian metaphysics, got evolutionary biology, as an explicit discipline, kicked out of American medicine.

We haven't missed it. For more than half a century, "evolution-free" medicine has done very nicely. Heart, kidney, and lung transplants, cardiopulmonary bypass (the heart lung machine), extraordinary advances in brain surgery, joint replacements, major advances in the treatment of heart attacks, congenital heart disease, stroke, and infectious diseases, and remarkable improvements in the survival of patients with cancer and the survival of premature babies, to name just a few, have come about very nicely without evolutionary biology in the medical school curriculum. We haven't missed the mass sterilizations, the pseudo-diagnoses of "feeble-mindedness" and the carefully planned quarantine and even exterminations of the handicapped (merely planned in the U.S. — at the Eugenic Records Office at Cold Spring Harbor — but actually carried out in Germany). In American medicine in the past half-century, evolutionary biology wasn't missed at all.

Now, there is a push among Darwinists to bring evolutionary science back to medicine. Of course, no one talks anymore about mass sterilizations and exterminations. That was Darwinian Medicine 1.0. Darwinian Medicine 2.0 is gentler, interested in finding "evolutionary causes and remedies for diseases." Of course, eugenics was the search for "evolutionary causes and remedies for diseases," in the sense that it attempted to explain human maladies in terms of natural selection and the impediment to the beneficial influence of natural selection on man that was caused by human benevolence toward the disabled, and to correct those perversions of natural selection by scientifically directed social policy.

Darwinian Medicine 2.0 retains the silly stories at the heart of eugenics, but leaves out, at least explicitly, the genocide. The problem is that the inference that care for the ill and disabled "sins" against natural selection is the logical denouement of Darwinian metaphysics. "Survival of the fittest" is the origin of the human animal. Natural selection is our creator. Human benevolence often sins against its creator. Darwin himself pointed out the problem: lamenting the life-saving effectiveness of the recently developed smallpox vaccine, he asked whether it was wise to risk the degradation of mankind by "allowing our worst animals to breed."

Can we reintroduce Darwinian Medicine 2.0, despite its obvious banality, into modern medicine without opening the door again to its lethal doppelganger?

Do we really want to find out?

Posted by Michael Egnor on December 6, 2008 6:36 PM | Permalink