NTS LogoSkeptical News for 21 January 2010

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New resources help youths explore relationship between science and faith

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/new.resources.help.youths.explore.relationship.between.science.and.faith/25115.htm

by Charlie Boyd
Posted: Wednesday, January 20, 2010, 11:37 (GMT)

The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion has produced new resources to help young people make up their own minds about the relationship between faith and science.

It has teamed up with Youth for Christ to produce 'Test of Faith' resources aimed at people working with youths aged 11 to 18. They include downloadable meeting sessions covering issues like human identity, creation, the environment, and how to relate science and faith.

Resources for teachers have been put together with the help of The Stapleford Centre, covering topics in many GCSE and A-level syllabuses, including creationism, evolution, the origins of the universe and the problems of evil and suffering.

"The Test of Faith materials are extremely strong, and will provide just the resource youth workers need to answer the questions thrown at them by confused teenagers. I totally support this project," said Gavin Calver, Director of Youth for Christ.

"In a recent ad campaign, Richard Dawkins and the British Humanist Association both insist that young people must be able to make up their own minds about faith. I agree with this completely. But we are also bombarded with the message that science and faith are incompatible," said Ruth Bancewicz, research associate at The Faraday Institute.

"Until now teachers and youth workers have not always had access to the full range of material they need to equip young people to develop their own views on science and faith. Test of Faith has launched resources aimed specifically to support those who work with young people, to enable them to explore these issues properly."

Further details can be found at www.testoffaith.com/schools and at www.testoffaith.com/youth Materials for adults can also be found on the Test of Faith website.

© 2010 Christian Today.

Teacher With Bible Divides Ohio Town

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/20/education/20teacher.html

Published: January 19, 2010

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — Most people in this quiet all-American town describe themselves as devoutly Christian, but even here they are deeply divided over what should happen to John Freshwater.

Mr. Freshwater, an eighth-grade public school science teacher, is accused of burning a cross onto the arms of at least two students and teaching creationism, charges he says have been fabricated because he refused an order by his principal to remove a Bible from his desk.

After an investigation, school officials notified Mr. Freshwater in June 2008 of their intent to fire him, but he asked for a pre-termination hearing, which has lasted more than a year and cost the school board more than a half-million dollars.

The hearing is finally scheduled to end Friday, and a verdict on Mr. Freshwater's fate is expected some months later. But the town — home to about 15,000 people, more than 30 churches and an evangelical university — remains split.

To some, Mr. Freshwater is a hero unfairly punished for standing up for his Christian beliefs. To others, he is a zealot who pushed those beliefs onto students.

"Freshwater's supporters want to make this into a new and reverse version of the Scopes trial," said David Millstone, the lawyer for the Mount Vernon Board of Education, referring to the Tennessee teacher tried in 1925 for teaching evolution. "We see this as a basic issue about students having a constitutional right to be free from religious indoctrination in the public schools."

Mr. Freshwater, who declined to be interviewed, has said he did not mean to burn a cross on any student's arm. Instead, he said he intended to leave a temporary X on the skin using a device called a Tesla coil during a science demonstration. He says he had done that, with no complaints, hundreds of times in his 21 years as a teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School.

In a radio interview in 2008, he said he had been a target for removal since 2003, when he proposed that the school board adopt a policy to teach evolution as theory, not proven scientific fact. "I ruffled some feathers," he said.

Married and a father of three, Mr. Freshwater, 53, was popular among students, always willing to stay after school to tutor or listen to students who needed someone to talk to.

In testimony at the board hearing, his supporters said he had consistently received positive evaluations from superiors and won distinguished teacher awards at least twice.

But school officials and former colleagues presented a different picture.

One high school teacher said she consistently had to reteach evolution to Mr. Freshwater's students because they did not master the basics. Another testified that Mr. Freshwater told his students they should not always take science as fact, citing as an example a study that posited the possibility of a gene for homosexuality.

"Science is wrong," Mr. Freshwater was reported as saying, "because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin, and so anyone who is gay chooses to be gay and is therefore a sinner."

A third teacher testified that Mr. Freshwater advised students to refer to the Bible for additional science research.

School officials said Mr. Freshwater's science classroom was adorned with at least four copies of the Ten Commandments and several other posters that included verses from Scripture.

Mount Vernon is not a place accustomed to controversy and news media attention. It is proud of its wholesomeness. Wooden porches are adorned with American flags. A Civil War hero sits atop a tall obelisk in the center of the impeccably preserved town square. Tour guides brag about the Woodward Opera House, which is billed as the oldest freestanding opera theater in the country.

"The whole issue has been an embarrassment," Ann Schnormeier said as she sat with 10 other women at a religious study meeting at First Congregational United Church of Christ near the center of town. She said her grandson, like many students, adored Mr. Freshwater.

"People have faith here in this town," she said, "but Mr. Freshwater was crossing the line, and the school board has rules. There are laws, and he needs to leave his teaching position."

Mr. Freshwater, who is currently suspended without pay, does not see things that way.

Last June, he filed a federal lawsuit against the school board seeking $1 million in damages, and in April 2008, he called a news conference at the town square to say that while he was willing to remove posters and other religious materials from his classroom — as instructed by the school board — he was drawing the line on removing his Bible.

The reaction was immediate.

Students held a "bring your Bible to school" day. Others started wearing T-shirts with "I support Mr. Freshwater — God" on the front. As the case dragged on, producing more than 5,000 pages of transcripts and more than 30 days of oral testimony, some Freshwater supporters vowed to broaden the fight.

Callers to local talk radio said that if Mr. Freshwater lost his job, they would look for indiscretions by other teachers and lobby for their removal.

Among those attending school board meetings were members of a local group called the Minutemen.

"This case woke a lot of people up around here," said Dave Daubenmire, the founder of the group, which he named Minutemen because they "are a group of Christian guys who will show up on a minute's notice to peacefully show support for their faith."

In town, pastors are divided.

"I support Freshwater as a man of faith, but he is not supposed to be conveying these views in school," said the Rev. R. Keith Stuart, pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ.

Miles away, Mr. Freshwater's pastor, Don Matolyak, posited that the criticism of Mr. Freshwater was part of a larger trend toward bigotry against Christians.

"If he had a Koran on his desk, he'd be fine and no one would say a word to him," Mr. Matolyak said. "If he had 'Origin of Species' on his desk, they would celebrate that."

The family of Zachary Dennis, one of the two students who say they were branded by Mr. Freshwater, said they were eager for the matter to be closed. "We are religious people," Jennifer Dennis, Zachary's mother, said in an interview. "But we were offended when Mr. Freshwater burned a cross onto the arm of our child."

After teachers and students criticized Zachary for speaking up, she said, the family sold its house and moved.

"We are Christians," she said, "who practice our faith where it belongs, at church and in our home and, most importantly, outside the public classroom, where the law requires a separation of church and state."


Monday, January 18, 2010

Monckton requires religious certification for scientists? http://sciblogs.co.nz/open-parachute/2010/01/18/monckton-requires-religious-certification-for-scientists/

Ken Perrott Jan 18

This post is syndicated from Open Parachute – Original Post

Lord Christopher Monckton, the 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley – Chief Policy Adviser of the SPPI

Christopher Monckton is one of the leading lights in the movement to discredit the International Panel on Climate Change, climate science and its findings on the human contribution to current climate change. Local climate change sceptics and deniers like Ian Wishart, the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, The Climate Coversation Group and bloggers pro0moting a denier platform eagerly promote his statements and videos.

Monckton is the Chief Policy Adviser of the Science & Public Policy Institute (SPPI) which disseminates propaganda aimed at discrediting climate science and scientists. So it's worth considering what his ideological approach to science is.

Science gives us nothing!

Monckton has a rather revealing article, What is science without religion?, on the SPPI blog. Much of the article attempts to discredit science and scientists, often associating science with the worst aspects of humanity – similar to Ben Stein's approach in his creationist Expelled film. But the last two paragraphs hint at a very objectionable policy towards science. He says

"Precisely because the worst sort of scientists are prone to say, intolerantly, that religion is not a legitimate pastime for any scientist, many scientists have come to the view that they no longer need to adhere to any moral precept at all. Morality, they say, is the province of religion and not of science. We, they say, can do what we like as long as we can get away with it, and there is no such distinction any more as true or false, right or wrong, just or unjust.

Perhaps, therefore, no one should be allowed to practice in any of the sciences, particularly in those sciences that have become the mere political footballs of the leading pressure-groups, unless he can certify that he adheres to one of those major religions – Christianity outstanding among them – that preach the necessity of morality, and the reality of the distinction between that which is so and that which is not. For science without the morality that perhaps religion alone can give is nothing."

So what can we take from this. He is saying without religion, specifically Christianity, one has no morality or concept of truth. Really he is proposing that science should be subordinate to relgion, to its concept of truth and morality. Instead of scientists determining the accuracy of their ideas by testing against reality they must test them against religious "truth" and "morals."

Climate change denial similar to intelligent design

This is exactly the approach taken by the anti-science activists of the intelligent design movement. While I don't by any means wish to equate very climate change sceptic with intelligent design, Monckton's position does give some ideological explanation to the observation that many climate change deniers are also Christian apologists and intelligent design/creationism proponents.

So just imagine of Mockton had his way. Scientists would have to have religious certification, capable of being withdrawn anytime their findings contradict the religious "truth" promulgated by the Church.

Imagined lining up every six moths for your "scientific warrant of fitness." Being examined by the local Bishop, Priest, Parson, Iman, Monk, etc., and, depending on how they thought you did in their test, relying on their accreditation, their stamp of approval.

I guess that's one way of eliminating climate change!

What a silly man.

Permalink

Faith healings, dead raising teams, part of Bethel experience

http://www.redding.com/news/2010/jan/18/faith-healings-dead-raising-teams-part-of-bethel/

By Amanda Winters
Posted January 18, 2010 at midnight

Next.Jonathan Lair stood in the middle of Bethel Church's Healing Room on Dec. 5 and joyfully got straight to the point: "I'm going to get new feet today."

A pastor at a church in San Diego, Lair said he came to Redding so he could go to the Healing Rooms at Bethel and be cured of a painful condition that has caused his feet to be flat his whole life. Lair, 27, was barefoot and had rolled his jeans up above his ankles, exposing his flat, calloused feet.

"I will see my arches healed," he said just before two women on Bethel's Healing Rooms Ministry team approached him. "I really believe that."

As Lair closed his eyes and bowed his head, the two older women stood on either side of him and began to pray quietly, tapping him on the chest and back. They motioned for another woman, one with a ram's horn known as a shofar, to come to where they stood. She began to blow the shofar at Lair's feet and in moments he fell to the ground, shaking.

Healing Rooms

Every Saturday morning from 9 to 10:30 a.m., two large rooms in Bethel Church are transformed into the Healing Rooms Ministry; a place where people can come and receive prayer for any kind of ailment.

Randy Castle, who was acting director that Saturday, said the healing rooms generally see 100 or so visitors - and up to 300 on a busy weekend.

Four teams with about 70 people each work the Healing Rooms. Many pray over visitors, commanding the body to be healed, speak in tongues and invite the presence of the Holy Spirit through impartation, or laying on of hands. Others, Castle said, play worship music in the "Encounter Room" where people can go bask in the presence of God.

Music performed in the Encounter Room made its way through the Healing Room speakers, repeating "God is good, God is good, God is good," while worshippers prayed, danced, laughed, cried, fell down and lay on the floor under what they say is the power of God. According to Bethel leadership, this is the room where people are cured of cancer, broken bones, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and a host of other diseases.

Supporters of the supernatural

Adam Short, a 28-year-old from North Carolina, runs www.Healingherald.org where he posts stories of miraculous healings from the Healing Rooms and beyond.

Short is a third-year intern at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) and said he has received words of knowledge and signs from God leading him to people who needed to be healed.

During an April 2008 mission trip to Mexico with Bethel, Short said he noticed a man with a full leg cast.

"There was a thought that came to my mind, which I believe was God, and said, 'This man will walk out of here healed,' " he said.

Short said he prayed for the man and the man said the painful bone spur under the cast had dissolved. Short then prayed for the man's tunnel vision to be healed and it was, he said. During the prayers, he made declarations, he said.

"In this case we command the eyes to line up according to heaven," he said. "We're commanding those eyes to come back into alignment as to the purpose that God made for them because God made eyes to see, not to be confined to a tunnel."

Short said his goal for the Web site is for people to be encouraged by the good news and not question it.

"Nobody ever questions bad news," he said.

'Things just happen'

Bill Johnson, Bethel's senior pastor, settled into a plush black couch in his office, his arm around an animal-print pillow. Before anything else, he wanted to talk about healing.

"We just had another brain tumor case of cancer healed," he said. "We have a lot of that kind of stuff happen. It's verified by doctors, they do the tests and the cancer's gone. We have a lot of that sort of thing - miracles."

Johnson, who himself required hernia surgery last year and wears prescription glasses, teaches that the supernatural miracles that happened in Biblical times still happen today if people just value God's presence and open themselves up to receiving it.

"Because we have such value for his presence with us, things just happen," he said.

Johnson said that healings happen all the time and he doesn't feel he needs to provide any documentation or hard evidence to inquiring minds. He also said he doesn't check up on people who come to Bethel for healing - he doesn't have the time.

"If you're sitting here and you say, 'I've been deaf in my left ear since childbirth,' and I pray for you and then I have you close your right ear and I whisper 10 feet away and you can hear me, I don't feel like I need to get a doctor's report," he said. "I'm happy you're happy you can hear. That's enough for me."

Though he had people praying for his hernia to heal early in 2009, the condition still required surgery and Johnson said that was OK because God can use doctors as well as he can use Bethel's healing teams, though both are necessary.

"The doctors serve a great purpose but they'll tell you they can't fix everything," he said. "Some things need to be fixed by a miracle or just aren't fixed at all."

Johnson said in his sermons he often tells the congregation stories of miraculous healings to encourage them. One such story was about a group in the small, rural city of Shelton, Wash., whose goal it is to raise people from the dead.

Dead Raising Team

In an Oct. 19, 2008, sermon, Johnson shared a story about a former BSSM student who moved to Washington State and started a ministry called the Dead Raising Team.

"DRT," he repeated the acronym dramatically at several points during the story.

In a video of the sermon, Johnson said the team got approval from Mason County to be listed along with other county services and had been given badges so they can go behind police lines if there's an accident or fatality. Johnson told the audience, who erupted in shouts of "come on, Jesus" and cheers, that there had been one resurrection so far.

Marty Best, manager of the Mason County Department of Emergency Management, said he met the Dead Raising Team and suggested they become volunteers for his department so they could have access to emergency situations.

"Our mandate is to protect life, property and environment," he said. "If a person is raised by a defibrillator and adrenaline or by prayer they still return to their loved ones."

Best said the team must first get the permission of the unit commander before they can start praying over a fatality and they can never impose it on anyone.

In contrast to what Johnson said, the DRT is not included in the services listed on the Mason County Web sited.

Nor have there been any resurrections, Best said.

"Not yet," he added.

Johnson said the resurrection he mentioned in his sermon was from a DRT report and that he never said it had happened behind police lines.

SkepDoc weighs in

Harriet Hall, a retired family physician and former Air Force flight surgeon, writes a column in "Skeptic" magazine and "O," The Oprah Magazine, on topics including science, alternative medicine and what she calls "quackery."

"When faith healings have been diligently investigated by qualified doctors, they have found no evidence that the patients were actually helped," said Hall, who also writes under the name "SkepDoc."

After Hall took a look at the healing testimonies posted on Bethel's Web site - specifically addressing the testimony of the woman healed of brain cancer - she had a host of questions.

"Where are the medical reports? Where are the X-rays? Why was this case not written up in a medical journal? What happened to the patient afterwards?" she said in an e-mail.

Hall said the Journal of the American Medical Association formerly featured a testimony of a patient who was cured of cancer on one page with the patient's death certificate printed on the opposite page, showing that the patient had died of cancer shortly after providing the testimony.

Faith healings, Hall said, are never properly documented or investigated because the people involved want and need to believe. Without evidence, the claims ring hollow, she said.

"If you challenge the pastor to participate in a formal study to establish that these healings are really occurring, you will get lots of rationalizations and backpedaling with no understanding of how science can go about testing for the truth of a claim," she said. "They have no interest in finding out if the healing is 'real' because they already 'know' it is real for them."

Indeed, Johnson said he has no interest in proving anything to anybody.

Hall closed her e-mail with a warning: "Faith healing can be deadly when patients are led to believe they don't need conventional medical treatment."

Waking up

Back in the Healing Room, Jonathan Lair lay peacefully on the floor, covered in a dark green blanket, while the three women continued to pray over him and blow the shofar at his feet. At one point he got up and hopped up and down in the middle of the room where people were painting pictures on easels, before lying back down again. Eventually, one by one, they walked away and left him lying still on the floor.

Lair slowly sat up 10 minutes later and looked around. He looked at his feet, then stood up.

He said he had expected bones to crack and form an arch but his feet were still flat.

"I look at them, and they don't look healed," he said.

But his faith was not shaken, he said, because he felt so loved and maybe the physical healing was secondary to the spiritual experience he had.

And he still believes that, someday, God will heal his feet.

Reporter Amanda Winters can be reached at 225-8372 or awinters@redding.com.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

PULPIT: Darwinism still unconvincing to most Christians

http://www.gazette.com/articles/pulpit-92313-charles-unconvincing.html

January 16, 2010 2:16 PM
MARK BARNA THE GAZETTE

Charles Darwin can't get any respect from most American Christians.

Last year, secular groups honored Darwin's 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his "The Origin of Species". His ideas on evolution and natural selection are the bedrock of modern biology. Darwinism is increasingly being viewed as fact rather than theory.

Yet most Christians aren't impressed.

A 2009 Gallup Poll revealed that only 39 percent of Americans believe evolution is true. Natural selection — the idea that random mutations in species resulting in survival advantages are the engine of evolution — fares even worse. Only 14 percent buy it, according to Gallup. Gallup's editor in chief Frank Newport says Christian beliefs are the main reason Americans remain skeptical of Darwinism.

Bryce Lee of Simla, a speck of a town 50 miles east of Colorado Springs, has taken his anti-Darwinism to seldom-reached heights. Four years ago, he started "The Non-Evolution Revolution" seminar at his CrossRoads Youth Center, a nonprofit ministry to children and teens. His next seminar is Feb. 7.

Lee believes the earth is about 7,000 years old, dinosaurs existed in the Garden of Eden, and the Genesis creation story is literally true.

Lee, 36, examines science through a biblical lens in his seminars. "We look at science from the basis of Scripture," he told me. "A lot of people put their own spin on science. If you don't do that, science will line up with Scripture."

He considers evolution an atheistic faith. "It's just another faith system," he said, "and they try to explain science with their evolutionary science."

The annual "Non-Evolution Revolution" seminar has educated scores of children and adults in the Simla region in the finer points of creationism.

Rebekah Bandy, a 19-year-old college student from Matheson, attended the creationist seminar two years ago. She said it gave her a healthy skepticism toward her upcoming college biology classes.

"It helped me get in my mind that God created the earth in six days, and evolution is not possible," Bandy told me. "There's no evidence that animals change into other animals."

For Jessica Harms, a 30-year-old Simla resident, the seminar was important for her tween-aged daughter.

"I have a battle on my hands trying to help my child remain faithful to creationism," Harms told me.

Ridicule of Darwinism shows no sign of abating in America.

A big-screen movie about Darwin called "Creation," made by an English-based production company, reportedly struggled to find an American distributor because of possible blowback from Christians.

The film will open Friday in select theaters, but not in the Colorado Springs area.

To read more of my interviews with Lee and his students, go to my blog, The Pulpit, at www.thepulpit.freedomblogging.com. Call me at 636-0367.

California Senate Minority Leader Launches Probe Into California Science Center's Alleged Violations

http://pr-canada.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=158822&Itemid=61

Posted by marin2008
Saturday, 16 January 2010

Senate Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth has sent a letter to the California Science Center (CSC) requesting documents related to the Center's cancellation of a screening last October of the pro-intelligent design documentary "Darwin's Dilemma." The screening was sponsored by the American Freedom Alliance (AFA), a private group that had rented the Center's IMAX theater.

Senator Hollingsworth's letter follows two lawsuits filed against the state government-operated Science Center charging that it violated both the First Amendment and California's open records law in its effort to stop the screening and then cover up the real story behind the cancellation.

"The constitutional implications of [the Science Center's] actions are concerning," wrote Senator Hollingsworth in the letter, citing various court decisions protecting private parties against viewpoint discrimination. "It is fundamental that when a governmental entity or sub-unit (such as CSC) opens its facilities as a public forum, it is not constitutionally permissible to censor speech based on viewpoint or content."

"The California Science Center's assault on free speech should alarm everyone," said Casey Luskin, Program Officer in Public Policy and Legal Affairs for the Discovery Institute. "If the government can ban a private group from renting a public auditorium to show a film favoring intelligent design, it can ban private groups from showing films in support of Darwin's theory. Where does it stop?"

"Senator Hollingsworth is to be commended for launching this inquiry," added Dr. John West, Vice President for Public Policy and Legal affairs at the Institute. "Free speech is the foundation of a free society. Government agencies have no right to discriminate against citizens because of their legally-protected viewpoints."

Hollingsworth's letter is directed to Dr. Joel Strom, Chair of the California Science Center Board of Directors, requesting that he instruct the museum's management to provide copies of documents pertaining to the cancellation of the event, including e-mail communications from Science Center staff, employees, and board members which discuss the event and the topic of intelligent design versus Darwinism.

Source: Discovery Institute


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Homeopathy: A Scholarly Computer Geek Investigates for Himself

http://www.vancouverobserver.com/blogs/homeopath/2010/01/15/homeopathy-scholarly-computer-geek-investigates-himself

Susan Drury Posted: Jan 15th, 2010

To his surprise, the more he investigated homeopathy and the huge body of literature, clinical experience and research of the past 200 years, the more he became convinced of its validity. Through reading and research, "I started to learn to my COMPLETE ASTONISHMENT that homeopathy and other alternative modalities were not the absurd unscientific quackery that they had been made out to be. Many of those wonderful homeopathic doctors were no quacks or charlatans but instead among the finest and most dedicated doctors of their day. One can sense their initial disbelief that an infinitesimal dose could possibly work but with continued experimentation and experience, prove definitively to themselves (and me!) that it did work, by the detailed case studies, descriptions and clinical reports. Later on I discovered the experiments of M. Ennis and the web site of Dr. Rustum Roy (www.rustumroy.com) and learned that the scientific basis for homeopathy may not be so very far off from being discovered and that this discovery could very well be one of the greatest breakthroughs of the 21st century."

Inspired by his research and personal experience, when he retired from computer programming Pannozzi began preparing for a new career as an alternative health practitioner. He has just completed his degree in acupuncture, Chinese herbology and oriental medicine and plans to embark on a formal study of homeopathy. Somewhere in his spare time he also translates homeopathic texts into Italian (he is fluent in Russian and can read Italian and German) and is studying classical Chinese. Never one to shy away from controversy, he has become a vocal defender of homeopathy and sees it, as well as other forms of alternative medicine, as vitally important to include in our institutional medical care: "The basic principals by which homeopathy heals people remains unchanged and is so badly needed in today's health care systems, many of which lie in utter and obvious ruin."

Regarding the continued attacks against homeopathy, he says "I have seen more and more increasingly irrational attacks against alternative medicine, with most of them claiming some sort of sanctimonious 'scientific' evidence to support their absurd attacks." He leaves comments on various blogs populated by anti-homeopathy spammers, saying "I'm all for science, but oppose attempts at misrepresentation, ridicule and innuendo against alternative medicine. I remind the armchair skeptics that despite all their talk of science and 'evidence,'(and attempts to make it appear more than it is), all they really have right now until the researchers are done is opinion – and their opinion is no better or worse than anyone else's."

Oh - and regarding the mysterious family illness that was slowly killing everyone off? Turns out it was Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder causing an imbalance of hormones. Treated with a simple hormone replacement pill, Pannozzi is now free to move ahead and pursue his dream: following in the footsteps of the brilliant, dedicated homeopathic and alternative practitioners whose work continues to provide inspiration and healing on into the future.

Bee-stings as medicine? Bee-venom advocate says apitherapy can cure what ails you

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/health/os-bee-sting-therapy-20100115,0,6006294.story

11:54 p.m. EST, January 15, 2010

Reyah Carlson has been stung by bees more than 25,000 times. On purpose.

Carlson is a practitioner of apitherapy, a controversial form of alternative medicine that uses bee venom to treat everything from arthritis to multiple sclerosis. She will be a featured speaker at the 2010 North American Beekeepers Conference being held in Orlando today.

Carlson, who lives in Vermont, has traveled the world to spread the word about bee venom therapy. She has also appeared in National Geographic and on the Discovery Channel.

"Apitherapy is not a new form of alternative therapy. It has been used in other countries for centuries," said Carlson, a.k.a "The Bee Lady."

Carlson, who had been fascinated by bees since early childhood, said she first began using bee stings for her Lyme Disease after being introduced to the treatment by a man she met when she was working as a nursing assistant in Vermont.

"When you break down the chemical components of bee venom, you'll find 40-something identifiable components," said Carlson, 51.

They include mellitin, which some studies suggest blocks inflammation and has been shown to have anti-arthritic effects in mice, according to a 2009 report published by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

Carlson said bee venom can also bolster immunity and speed up the healing process.

"I don't claim cures," said Carlson. "In some cases, it's ongoing treatment for life. For many diseases including (multiple sclerosis) and lupus, it's a great way to keep things in check and under control. Drugs for these conditions have bad side effects for the liver and other parts of the body, that's why I and many other people have turned to apitherapy as an alternative."

While the benefits of bee venom remain uncertain, and little scientific research has been conducted – especially in the U.S. – the dangers are evident. About 2 percent of people have allergic reactions to bees and other stinging insects, and the dangers increase with the number of stings.

"A bee sting is always potentially serious," said Malcolm T. Sanford, emeritus professor of entomology and nematology at the University of Florida, in a 2003 report for the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "The severity and duration of a reaction can vary from one person to another….However, depending on the location and the number of bee stings received, as well as the ever-present possibility of a severe allergic reaction to bee venom, a serious reaction can be precipitated that can be life-threatening."

A number of Central Florida researchers and medical professionals contacted declined to comment on the potential benefits or hazards of apitherapy. Carlson is well aware of the controversy over her treatments.

"Reaction from the medical establishment has been two-sided," said Carlson. "Physicians who are proactive with their patients are more accepting of apitherapy. At the same time, I have had doctors saying I'm going to kill somebody."

Approximately 65,000 people in the United States use bee sting therapy, according to the American Apitherapy Society. Carlson advises anyone undergoing bee-venom therapy should always have a bee sting kit available. She keeps antihistamine on hand, as well as epinephrine, a drug that can be used if someone goes into anaphylactic shock.

Carlson said she gets lots of questions when she's on the road promoting the benefits of bees. One of the most frequently asked questions: Is it always painful?

"A bee sting hurts. I do suggest and offer ice to numb the area prior to a sting," she said. "It's well worth the temporary pain."

Fernando Quintero can be reached at fquintero@orlandosentinel.com or 407-650-6333.

Copyright © 2010, Orlando Sentinel


Friday, January 15, 2010

Evolution education update: January 15, 2010

The first antievolution bill of 2010 appears in Mississippi, with the second following in Missouri. The verdict in ACSI v. Stearns was upheld on appeal. The National Academy of Sciences is to award its highest honor to NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott. And there is further praise for the second edition of Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction.

ANTIEVOLUTION LEGISLATION IN MISSISSIPPI

A bill in Mississippi is apparently the first antievolution bill of 2010. House Bill 586, introduced on January 12, 2010, and referred to the House Education Committee, would, if enacted, require local school boards to include a lesson on human evolution at the beginning of their high school biology classes. The catch: "The lesson provided to students ... shall have proportionately equal instruction from educational materials that present scientifically sound arguments by protagonists and antagonists of the theory of evolution."

The bill also would amend a section of existing state law that provides, "No local school board, school superintendent or school principal shall prohibit a public school classroom teacher from discussing and answering questions from individual students on the origin of life," by adding, apparently unnecessarily, "except that any discussion of the evolution of humanity shall be required to be given by a biology teacher, as required by Section 1 of this act." The legislative history of that section of state law suggests that it was intended to allow or encourage the presentation of antievolution material in science classes, as NCSE previously reported.

The sponsor of HB 586, Gary Chism (R-District 37), introduced HB 25 in 2009. The bill, if enacted, would have required biology textbooks in the state to include a hybrid of two previous versions of the Alabama evolution disclaimer. Speaking to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (January 24, 2009), Chism was candid about his motivations for the bill, explaining, "Either you believe in the Genesis story, or you believe that a fish walked on the ground," and adding, "All these molecules didn't come into existence by themselves." HB 25 died in committee on February 3, 2009.

For the text of HB 586 as introduced, visit:
http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2010/html/HB/0500-0599/HB0586IN.htm

For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Mississippi, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/mississippi

ANTIEVOLUTION LEGISLATION IN MISSOURI

House Bill 1651, introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on January 13, 2010, and not yet referred to a committee, is apparently the second antievolution bill of 2010. The bill would, if enacted, call on state and local education administrators to "endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution" and to "endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies." "Toward this end," the bill continues, "teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution."

The chief sponsor of HB 1651 is Robert Wayne Cooper (R-District 155), joined by ten co-sponsors. Cooper was the sponsor of numerous failed antievolution bills in the past in Missouri. In 2009, he introduced HB 656, which is identical to 2010's HB 1651. In 2008, he introduced the similar HB 2554. In 2006, he introduced HB 1266, which if enacted would have required that "If a theory or hypothesis of biological origins is taught, a critical analysis of such theory or hypothesis shall be taught in a substantive amount." In 2004, he introduced two bills, HB 911 and HB 1722, that called for equal time for "intelligent design" in Missouri's public schools. HB 911 moreover contained idiosyncratic definitions of various scientific and philosophical terms as well as the draconian provision, "Willful neglect of any elementary or secondary school superintendent, principal, or teacher to observe and carry out the requirements of this section shall be cause for termination of his or her contract."

For the text of HB 1651 as introduced, visit:
http://www.house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills101/biltxt/intro/HB1651I.htm

For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Missouri, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/missouri

VICTORY AGAIN IN CALIFORNIA CREATIONISM CASE

In a January 12, 2010, ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a federal district court's summary judgment in favor of the University of California system in ACSI et al. v. Stearns et al. The case, originally filed in federal court in Los Angeles on August 25, 2005, centered on the University of California system's policies and statements relevant to evaluating the qualifications of applicants for admission. The plaintiffs -- the Association of Christian Schools International, the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, California, and a handful of students at the school -- charged that the university system violated the constitutional rights of applicants from Christian schools whose high school coursework is deemed inadequate preparation for college.

Creationism was not the only issue in the case, to be sure, but it was conspicuous. The plaintiffs objected to the university system's policy of rejecting high school biology courses that use textbooks published by Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books -- Biology: God's Living Creation and Biology for Christian Schools -- as "inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community." Michael Behe, a proponent of "intelligent design" creationism, defended the textbooks, while Donald Kennedy and Francisco J. Ayala (a Supporter of NCSE) contended that they were inappropriate for use as the principal text in a college preparatory biology course. The trial judge was unpersuaded by Behe's defense.

After the trial judge granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on August 8, 2008, the plaintiffs promptly appealed, asserting, inter alia, that the University of California's policy on high school biology courses "constitutes viewpoint discrimination, content discrimination, and content-based regulation, which conflict with the First Amendment." Of particular interest in the preparation from the appeal was the California Council of Science and Technology's amicus curiae brief. Coauthored by attorneys from Pepper Hamilton LLP who were part of the legal team representing the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case over "intelligent design" creationism, the brief argued, "Students educated with these textbooks will not be adequately prepared for science courses."

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the trial court's ruling that the University of California's policy was constitutional on its face and as applied, writing, "The plaintiffs have not alleged facts showing any risk that UC's policy will lead to the suppression of speech. ... the plaintiffs fail to allege facts showing that this policy is discriminatory in any way. ... The district court correctly determined that UC's rejections of the Calvary [Baptist School] courses [including a biology class that used Biology: God's Living Creation] were reasonable and did not constitute viewpoint discrimination. ... The plaintiffs assert a myriad of legal arguments attacking the district court's decision, all of which lack merit." Documents from the case are available on NCSE's website, in a special section devoted to ACSI v. Stearns.

For the Ninth Circuit's ruling (PDF), visit:
http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/memoranda/2010/01/12/08-56320.pdf

For NCSE's collection of documents from the case, visit:
http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/acsi-v-stearns

EUGENIE C. SCOTT HONORED BY THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

The National Academy of Sciences is to honor NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott with its most prestigious award, the Public Welfare Medal. According to a January 11, 2010, press release, "the medal is presented annually to honor extraordinary use of science for the public good"; Scott was chosen "for championing the teaching of evolution in the United States and for providing leadership to the National Center for Science Education." She will receive the award on April 25, 2010, during the Academy's 147th annual meeting.

The president of the National Academy of Sciences, Ralph J. Cicerone, commented, "Eugenie Scott has worked tirelessly and very effectively to improve public understanding of both the nature of science and the science of evolution," and the chair of the Public Welfare Medal selection committee, John Brauman, added, "We honor her for many years of organizing coalitions of scientists, parents, teachers, business people, clergy, and others to defend the teaching of evolution."

"I am profoundly honored by the National Academy's choice of me to receive the Public Welfare Medal," Scott said. "Really, it honors not just my work, and not just the work of the National Center for Science Education. Rather, it honors the work of a host of dedicated, thoughtful, and passionate people who have labored in defense of the teaching of evolution in the public schools. I have been privileged to work with them over the years, and I am proud to accept the award on their behalf."

Previous recipients of the medal include Neal Lane, Norman Borlaug, William T. Golden, Maxine F. Singer, C. Everett Koop, and Carl Sagan. The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and provides science, technology, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.

For the Academy's press release, visit:
http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=01112010

FURTHER PRAISE FOR EVOLUTION VS. CREATIONISM

Lawrence S. Lerner lauded the second edition of Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction (Greenwood Press/University of California Press, 2009), writing, "Evolution vs. Creationism is a superb introductory guide through the tangle, whether the reader wishes simply to get a clear basic picture of what is going on and what one might expect in the future, or plans to dig further into the subject."

"Scott writes with crystal clarity and punctilious fairness," Lerner adds in his review, published in the American Physical Society's Forum on Physics & Society newsletter (January 2010; 39 [1]). "She never gets bogged down in excessive detail and yet never sacrifices accuracy to brevity. She is the long-time Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, the national clearinghouse for teaching good science (and especially evolution). Hence she has, and skillfully conveys, a bird's-eye view of the world of creationism."

Also reviewed is the updated edition of But Is It Science? (Prometheus, 2009), edited by Robert T. Pennock and Michael Ruse. "[T]hey have assembled essays that provide a fine historical, scientific, religious, and legal background," Lerner writes. Especially praised is Nick Matzke's contribution, which "shows in painstaking detail that for all its claims, ["intelligent design" creationism] is nothing more than a rephrasing of creationism with some changes of emphasis."

Lerner is Professor Emeritus in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at California State University, Long Beach. He is a nationally recognized expert on state science standards, having reviewed them regularly for the Fordham Foundation. A frequent contributor to Reports of the NCSE, most recently with "Whither 'Intelligent Design Creationism?" (RNCSE 29:4), Lerner received NCSE's Friend of Darwin award in 2003.

For Lerner's review, visit:
http://www.aps.org/units/fps/newsletters/201001/lerner.cfm

Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncse.com -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it.

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x310
fax: 510-601-7204
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branch@ncse.com
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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lawmaker demands answers over museum censorship

http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=121876

'Constitutional implications of Science Center's actions are concerning'

Posted: January 14, 2010
12:30 am Eastern

By Bob Unruh © 2010 WorldNetDaily

A senior California lawmaker is taking an interest in a dispute that already has prompted two lawsuits after the public California Science Center reportedly canceled a scheduled film event because one of the presentations would have challenged Darwin's theory of evolution.

"The constitutional implications of [the Science Center's] actions are concerning," Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, the Senate's minority leader, wrote in a letter. "It is fundamental that when a government entity or sub-unit (such as CSC) opens its facilities as a public forum, it is not constitutionally permissible to censor speech based on viewpoint or content."

WND reported earlier on the lawsuits. One case is from the Discovery Institute, which is accusing the center of unlawfully refusing to disclose public documents sought under the California Public Records Act.

Discovery officials filed the request for the documentation about the center's decision-making process when it rejected the video "Darwin's Dilemma" Oct. 9. The center canceled a contract with the American Freedom Alliance to show the film Oct. 26.

(Story continues below)

The action was separate from an earlier case over the intelligent-design film shut down by the museum. That case was filed by the AFA itself for the contract cancelation.

The AFA complaint alleges free-speech-rights violations occurred when the science facility abruptly reversed a decision to allow the showing of the films at the museum's IMAX Theater.

CSC officials did not respond to a WND e-mail request for comment.

Alliance officials said they believe their lawsuit is the first since 2005 to focus specifically on the public's right to learn about intelligent design.

"AFA's lawsuit alleges that the museum violated its First Amendment rights by caving in to demands within the scientific and academic communities to deny Intelligent Design a public forum for discussion," the organization's announcement said.

"The center is a public institution and our event was planned as a debate with both sides of the controversy represented," said Avi Davis, AFA's president. "It is Orwellian when a public institution tries to suppress particular ideas it deems unsavory. It can be likened to a public library removing certain books from its shelves because the librarian disagrees with the viewpoints expressed in them."

The museum was chosen for the presentation because one of the two films scheduled to be shown required a 3D IMAX projection system, Davis said.

The pro-evolution film, "We Are Born of Stars," was meant to provide balance to a discussion about life's origin. The other film, "Darwin's Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record," argues against evolution by questioning the absence of any fossil record predating the Cambrian period.

Hollingsworth's letter seeks a long list of documents relating to the dispute.

"The California Science Center's assault on free speech should alarm everyone," said Casey Luskin, program officer in public policy for the Discovery Institute. "If the government can ban a private group from renting a public auditorium to show a film favoring intelligent design, it can ban private groups from showing films in support of Darwin's theory. Where does it stop?"

"Sen. Hollingsworth is to be commended for launching this inquiry," said John West, vice president for public policy at the institute. "Free speech is the foundation of a free society. Government agencies have no right to discriminate against citizens because of their legally-protected viewpoints."

Hollingsworth's letter is directed to Joel Strom, chair of the California Science Center board of directors, requesting that he instruct the museum's management to provide copies of documents pertaining to the cancellation of the event, including e-mail communications from Science Center staff, employees and board members that discuss the event and the topic of intelligent design versus Darwinism.

The situation makes it appear "that CSC engaged in viewpoint and content based censorship of a scheduled scientific exhibition," the letter from Hollingsworth said. "This is especially disturbing in light of CSC's Mission Statement. … 'We aspire to stimulate curiosity and inspire science learning in everyone by creating fun, memorable experiences. …'"

His letter requests copies of "all documents" that address the dispute, including papers or e-mails that reference intelligent design, the Discovery Institute and the American Freedom Alliance.

Access Research Network Publishes Top Intelligent Design Stories for 2009

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2010/01/access_research_network_publis.html

Each year the Access Research Network (ARN) provides an excellent service to the intelligent design (ID) debate by publishing its Top ID Stories of the year. They recently released their "Key Darwin and Design Science News Stories of the Year" for 2009, but before I review some of them I want to make a preliminary note about ARN.

ARN is one of the most important ID organizations in large part because their online "media resources" bookstore has a huge collection of ID resources, ranging from books to videos to audio products, and even YouTube clips. There are conspiracy theorists at Wikipedia who claim that ARN "acts as a de facto auxiliary website to the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture." This statement reflects a common theme on Wikipedia articles about ID that Discovery Institute is the wizard pulling the strings of some nefarious (though non-existent) ID conspiracy. Of course such "point of view" assertions are supposedly disallowed on Wikipedia, but double-standards abound when it comes to ID and Wikipedia editors insert anti-ID "points of view" all the time. I'm also not even sure exactly what the "de facto auxiliary website" statement even means--if it means anything--but in any case, it's a falsehood: ARN is a fully autonomous organization that has its own bloggers that generate their own unique content on a daily basis. But I have no problem reporting that it's great content, and that readers of ENV might also enjoy following ARN's blogs, such as the ID Update, ID Report, ID News, and the stellar ID Literature blog. In fact, ARN's involvement with the ID movement predates Discovery Institute's. So while Wikipedia is dead wrong to claim that ARN is some puppet of Discovery Institute, ARN has great people, and if you're looking for something produced by the ID movement, there's a good bet you can find it at ARN's online store. Now on to review some of ARN's top Intelligent Design stories for 2009:

"The Modern Synthesis is Gone"

Citing to a post by David Tyler at ARN's ID Literature blog, they reviewed a groundbreaking 2009 paper by Eugene Koonin of the National Institutes of Health explaining why "[t]he edifice of the modern synthesis has crumbled, apparently, beyond repair":

In February 2009 Eugene Koonin published a masterly analysis of the impact of genomics on evolutionary thinking ("Darwinian evolution in the light of genomics", Nucleic Acids Research, 2009, 37(4), 1011-1034). Koonin notes that the 1959 Origins centennial was "marked by the consolidation of the modern synthesis" but subsequent years have witnessed great changes which have undermined its credibility. The modern synthesis was formulated in the 1930's and 1940's to draw together seemingly conflicting evidence from natural selection, population genetics, cytology, systematics, botany, morphology, ecology and paleontology into one modern theory of neo-Darwinian evolution. Three distinct revolutions have occurred over the past half-century to bring down the modern synthesis theory: the molecular, the microbiological, and the genomic revolutions. Koonin tentatively identifies two candidates to fill the vacuum left by the discarded modern synthesis. The first appears to emphasize the role of chance; the second appears to emphasize the role of law. While many in the scientific community will continue to cling to the modern synthesis for years to come, it is significant that articles are now appearing in the peer-reviewed scientific literature declaring the theory needs to be abandoned because it no longer fits the molecular, microbiological and genomic data.

The Demise of Icons and Missing Links

ARN also wrote about the demise of various missing links, including "The Ida Hype and Bust," noting that even an August 2009 issue of Science published an article on Ida titled "Much Hype and Many Errors." But Ida wasn't the only overhyped fossil in 2009. ARN also noted the "The Ardi Hype and Bust" noting that:

The first fossils of the species, Ardipithecus ramidus ("Ardi"), were unearthed in 1994 and were first described in a series of papers in the journal Science in October 2009. The very poor condition of the ancient bones is one reason it took researchers 15 years to excavate and analyze them. The Science editors declared Ardi to be the "central character in the story of human evolution" and named the fossil the science breakthrough of 2009. Evidently the Science editors have not been reading any of the other published opinions on Ardi. These articles reveal that Ardi is an "Irish stew" fossil that has undergone extensive reconstruction in order to become part of a PR campaign to make bold claims of ancestral status to the human line, even though at base its qualities are very similar to previously known fossils.

ARN reported that fossils weren't the only Darwinian icons to lose force in 2009. ARN discussed how the "Peppered Moths Oscillates Back to Gray," meaning that this alleged example of natural selection "is now becoming at best a case of oscillating selection, much like what has been observed in the oscillating sizes of beaks of the Galapagos finches, which grow slightly larger during a drought but revert back to their original size when the drought is over." Darwin's tree of life also faced challenges in 2009, as ARN reported that the "Cambrian Explosion Continues to Challenge Materialistic Theories," stating "A paper in the July 2009 issue of BioEssays admits the lack of a 'materialistic basis'–that is, a plausible materialistic explanation–of the Cambrian explosion."

Debating the Origin of Biochemical Evolution

ARN highlighted debates between Michael Behe and University of Oregon biologist Joseph Thornton regarding Thorton's 2009 paper, "An epistatic ratchet constrains the direction of glucocorticoid receptor evolution." ARN commented, "Although the work is interpreted by its authors within a standard Darwinian framework, it also confirms the primary thesis of Michael Behe's recent book, The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, demonstrating the looming brick wall which confronts unguided evolution in at least one system. It points strongly to the conclusion that such walls are common throughout all of biology."

In a section titled, "Failed Assault on Irreducible Complexity," ARN discussed the stir caused by a 2009 paper in Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences titled "The reducible complexity of a mitochondrial molecular machine." ARN reported that "The Darwinian guardians appear anxious to debunk irreducible complexity, one of the key scientific concepts for intelligent design. This was evidenced by the editor's refusal to print a letter to the editor by Michael Behe exposing the basic problems with the article." It also cited to my "detailed response documenting how the claims made in the paper far surpassed the data, and how distinctions between such basic ideas as 'reducible' versus 'irreducible' and 'Darwinian' versus 'non-Darwinian' were essentially ignored."

Other potential biochemical challenges to Darwinism may come from an interesting story ARN found in ScienceDaily, which stated, "Even within cells, the left hand knows what the right hand is doing" since "molecular motors operate in an amazingly coordinated manner." ARN reports that the story says "The new U.Va. study provides strong evidence that the motors are indeed working in coordination, all pulling in one direction, as if under command, or in the opposite direction – again, as if under strict instruction." Similar coordinated complexity is found in ARN's story on "Walking White Blood Cells," where white blood cells find sites of infection or injury by "crawl[ing] swiftly along the lining of the blood vessel–gripping it tightly to avoid being swept away in the blood flow–all the while searching for temporary 'road signs' made of special adhesion molecules that let them know where to cross the blood vessel barrier so they can get to the damaged tissue." ARN also reported that cells use "Cloud Computing," as an article in Science Daily stated: "Gene regulatory networks in cell nuclei are similar to cloud computing networks, such as Google or Yahoo!, researchers report today in the online journal Molecular Systems Biology" because "each system keeps working despite the failure of individual components, whether they are master genes or computer processors." Finally, ARN highlighted some great articles by its blogger David Tyler on the topic of biomimetics

ARN's conclusion to its top 2009 news stories is striking:

An ID skeptic might be able to dismiss any of the individual news stories above as simply aberrations to the forward marching drum of scientific materialism. However, reflecting back over these scientific developments in 2009 as a whole, a rather grim picture emerges for Darwin's theory. In a year in which Darwin's disciples were celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth that the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, mainstream scientific journals published articles declaring: 1) the modern synthesis was dead, 2) Darwin's tree of life should be abandoned, 3) new "missing links" were a bust, 4) limits to Darwinism were demonstrated in the lab, 5) evolutionary icons like the peppered moths reverted back to their old colors, 6) the Cambrian Explosion lacks any plausible materialist explanation, and 7) an interdisciplinary revolution is occurring in biology that rejects the reductionist paradigm of Darwinian evolution. Meanwhile the evidence for design continues to mount with 1) peer-reviewed articles and books by ID theorists, 2) the information content in DNA demanding a non-materialistic source, 3) scientists continuing to "reverse engineer" amazing designs from biological systems, and 4) the irreducible complexity in living systems continuing to be discovered and documented. Wow, what a year!

Check ARN's Top Stories Page or stay tuned for more updates as ARN will release its top public policy stories and top resources for 2009 in the near future.

Posted by Casey Luskin on January 13, 2010 10:23 AM | Permalink


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

evolution & metaphysics

http://www.ordinary-gentlemen.com/2010/01/evolution-metaphysics/

by E.D. Kain

I appreciate Tim Kowal's long, thoughtful response to my post on Ben Stein and intelligent design, but after reading and re-reading it I'm afraid it misses the mark. Lines like "Strictly speaking, natural selection is not a scientific theory" only help to harden that impression. They don't call it the Theory of Evolution for nothing.

Science, as I see it, is the process by which we as humans attempt to better understand the natural world. Whether we want to phrase this as "God's creation" or merely as "the natural world" is unimportant. When it comes to actually taking apart the radio and figuring out how it works, we don't need to ask whether it was made by hand or by a machine, in America or overseas. All we need to do is take it apart and then put it back together. Similarly, with science – whether it is biology or geology or physics – all we need to do is ask the question "how?"

How does it all tick?

That, to me, is science. The exploration of how the natural world ticks. To me, as a person of faith, I think of this as a way to better understand God also, to understand how creation ticks. I find the anthropomorphizing of God in "theories" like Intelligent Design to be insulting both to God and to my intelligence.

Let me explain. Let's take, for example, the rock cycle. This is the natural cycle whereby rock is pressed down into the earth and then reemerges as magma. That rock – now igneous rock – is pressed slowly down into the earth, turns into sedimentary and then metamorphic rock, and finally is melted down once again into magma. It is a process which takes millions upon millions of years. Understanding this process helps us understand the earth beneath our feet (and a great deal more) and it is entirely irrelevant to our understanding of this process whether or not it was created or designed by God. If a group of Intelligent Rock Cycle Designers came around arguing that instead of this being a natural process it was instead one guided by some other Intelligence, I simply fail to see how their alternative theory would be at all useful to our understanding of the rock cycle.

But does it diminish from it?

I think it does. Because the rock cycle is nothing more than an observation of what is happening. It carries no metaphysical weight. It doesn't posit that an intelligent designer, an alien overlord, or a giant deific infant is responsible (or not responsible) for anything. It doesn't ask why or who – just as no other scientific process asks why or who (except perhaps in the initial exploration of the idea, i.e. "Why are plants green?" not "Why do we exist?" "Why do rocks change the deeper into the earth we travel? not "Who created rocks?") Once we start changing the scientific process to include "who" as an integral part of the discussion, we change the very nature of science from one of observation and theory to one of metaphysical inquiry – which it is not.

Besides, this idea of design betrays the need for an anthropomorphic God, one who could not possibly think big enough to design the process of natural selection and so must "guide" that process step by step. Intelligent design detracts not only from the hard science and from understanding that science fully, but from a deeper, more reverent belief in God – who surely is more clever than any of us, and who just might have come up with evolution and natural selection and genetics and astrophysics and all of this (without terming them such). We are, with a tool we call science, only barely scratching the surface of the cleverness which is creation/the natural world/the giant deific baby's playground….

That we are scratching that surface does not diminish God in any way, but attributing our own human concepts of design to his far more clever biological processes, I would argue, certainly does. That we have a mind and can use it and can use it to explore the natural world, and that we term that exploration "science" does not diminish God. We don't need to talk about intelligent design to be in awe when we study the natural world – from the infinitesimal to the vast, it is awe-inspiring. Natural selection is more awe-inspiring, more clever, and more intuitive than some endlessly tinkering deity who must forever shape and shift his creation. Even if God is endlessly shaping, perhaps he has utilized natural selection as one in a larger array of tools. This is God we're talking about, no? Perhaps he is beyond any stretch of our imagination.

Intelligent Design no more helps us understand biology than it does the rock cycle or the death of a star. We still have to take the radio apart and put it back together. Figure out how it ticks. We still have to understand how it is that some species survive while others fail, how traits are passed on from one generation to the next, how our genetic composition can effect what diseases we're prone to, and on and on and on. If there is an intelligent designer I suspect he is far more intelligent than the ID proponents give him credit for. Hard science will do a better job of convincing me of his existence and omnipotence than any snake oil salesman, pushing pseudo-science for political points, as a cultural battlefield in a larger, ultimately pointless war.

All that being said, if schools would like to teach theology of science classes, or philosophy of science classes, or whatever, that's great. Kids can learn about ID or creationism or young-earth creationism or Scientology or deific-babyism there. The more the better. Metaphysics and philosophy and all of that are good for young minds. We just need to teach them biology when they're in biology class.

Dembski Admits to Being a Creationist

http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2010/01/dembski_admits_to_being_a_crea.php

Posted on: January 12, 2010 9:16 AM, by Ed Brayton

There are few things you can to to get an ID proponent more riled up than call them a creationist. The Discovery Institute screams bloody murder at the notion that ID is creationism and that ID advocates are creationists:

1. "Intelligent Design Creationism" is a pejorative term coined by some Darwinists to attack intelligent design; it is not a neutral label of the intelligent design movement.

Scientists and scholars supportive of intelligent design do not describe themselves as "intelligent design creationists." Indeed, intelligent design scholars do not regard intelligent design theory as a form of creationism. Therefore to employ the term "intelligent design creationism" is inaccurate, inappropriate, and tendentious, especially on the part of scholars and journalists who are striving to be fair. "Intelligent design creationism" is not a neutral description of intelligent design theory. It is a polemical label created for rhetorical purposes.

William Dembski himself cried foul at being labeled a creationist in his response to my friend Rob Pennock's book Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics (though he falsely says that the book is entitled Intelligent Design Creationists and Their Critics).

Pennock chose popular and outdated work of mine, positioned various critiques of my work with it, gave me no opportunity to reply to my critics, and packaged it all in a volume titled _Intelligent Design Creationists and Their Critics_, thus casting me as a creationist, which in contemporary academic culture is equivalent to being cast as a flat earther, astrologer, or holocaust denier.

And in his follow up, after being shown to be full of crap on everything else he claimed about the book, he wrote:

"Creationism" is a dirty word in contemporary academic culture and Pennock knows it. What's more, as a trained philosopher, Pennock knows that intelligent design is not creationism.

And yet here is Dembski, when accused of being a theistic evolutionist by a Christian critic, using that very dirty word to describe himself:

Johnny T. Helms' concerns about my book THE END OF CHRISTIANITY as well as his concerns about my role as a seminary professor in the SBC are unfounded. I subscribe to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as well as the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. I believe Adam and Eve were literal historical persons specially created by God. I am not, as he claims, a theistic evolutionist. Within the Southern Baptist seminaries, both old-earth and young-earth creationism are accepted positions. True, young-earth creationism remains the majority view in the SBC, but it is not a litmus test for Christian orthodoxy within the SBC. I'm an old-earth creationist and the two SBC seminaries at which I've taught (Southern in Louisville and Southwestern in Ft. Worth) both were fully apprised of my views here in hiring me.

I hear crow goes down better with a little single malt scotch.


Monday, January 11, 2010

PBS: Pushing Bad Science

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/12/pbs_pushing_bad_science.html

As 2009 comes to an end, so does the delirium of "Darwin Year." From "Darwin Day" on February 12 (Charles Darwin's 200th birthday) to November 24 (the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species), Darwin's disciples spared no expense (using mostly taxpayers' money) in their exuberant celebrations, even though most of Darwin's ideas were mistaken and his contributions to science were insignificant compared to those of hundreds of others—including (to name just a few) Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell, and Albert Einstein in physics; Robert Boyle, Antoine Lavoisier and Willard Gibbs in chemistry; and Carolus Linnaeus, Georges Cuvier and Gregor Mendel in biology.

What Darwin promoted was not empirical science but materialistic philosophy. As historian Neal C. Gillespie wrote in 1979, "It is sometimes said that Darwin converted the scientific world to evolution by showing them the process by which it had occurred," but "it was more Darwin's insistence on totally natural explanations than on natural selection that won their adherence." (Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation, p.147) The Darwinian revolution was primarily philosophical, and Darwin's philosophy limited science to "the discovery of laws which reflected the operation of purely natural or 'secondary' causes." Furthermore, "there could be no out-of-bounds signs... When sufficient natural or physical causes were not known they must nonetheless be assumed to exist to the exclusion of other causes."

But the assumption that everything can be explained by natural causes is characteristic of materialistic philosophy. This is why atheists want to establish Darwin Day as a secular alternative to Christmas.

The U. S. "Public" Broadcasting System (PBS) has a long history of promoting materialistic philosophy disguised as empirical science. In 1980, PBS brought us Carl Sagan's thirteen-part Cosmos series, which featured Sagan—in the name of Science—assuring us that "The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be."

In 2001, PBS broadcasted the seven-part series Evolution. The first episode featured atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett praising "Darwin's dangerous idea," which according to Dennett "eats through just about every traditional concept"—including the concept of God. (Darwin's Dangerous Idea, p. 63) At the time, the Discovery Institute published a scene-by-scene viewer's guide that documented the flawed science and anti-religious bias of the series, yet PBS's Evolution is still being used to indoctrinate students in U. S. public schools. My son's high school biology teacher used it; her favorite episode was the fifth, "Why Sex?", in which an evolutionary psychologist confidently claimed that artistic achievements such as Handel's Messiah are produced by "our sexual instincts for impressing the opposite sex."

Now PBS is about to jump on the departing Darwin Year bandwagon with another special, "What Darwin Never Knew," scheduled to air on December 29. According to PBS, the special will offer "answers to riddles that Darwin couldn't explain. Breakthroughs in a brand-new science—nicknamed 'evo-devo'—are linking the enigmas of evolution to another of nature's great mysteries, the development of the embryo. NOVA takes viewers on a journey from the Galapagos Islands to the Arctic, and from the explosion of animal forms half a billion years ago to the research labs of today. Scientists are finally beginning to crack nature's biggest secrets at the genetic level. The results are confirming the brilliance of Darwin's insights while revealing clues to life's breathtaking diversity in ways the great naturalist could scarcely have imagined."

"Confirming the brilliance of Darwin's insights…" Oh, really? Darwin was completely wrong about the nature of inheritance; it took Gregor Mendel (who was unconvinced by Darwinism) to set things straight. Darwin was also wrong about the origin of variations; he (like Lamarck) thought that they came from use and disuse. When Darwinists finally embraced Mendelian genetics in the 1930s and molecular genetics in the 1950s, they assumed that embryo development is controlled by a genetic program encoded in DNA. Accidental mutations in DNA, they believed, could then alter the program and modify embryo development to produce the raw materials for evolution.

In the 1980s, however, biologists discovered that many of the genes involved in embryo development are similar in many different types of animals—from fruit flies to humans. Since differences in development were supposedly due to differences in genes, the similarities seemed paradoxical, but a new discipline called "evolutionary developmental biology," or evo-devo (pronounced eevo-deevo) attributed them to inheritance from a common ancestor. Now evo-devo is all the rage among Darwinists.

Yet the paradox remains. If the developmental genes of insects and mammals are similar, then—as Italian geneticist Giuseppe Sermonti puts it—why is a fly not a horse?

The standard Darwinian answer still attributes differences to DNA mutations. But biologists have now generated all possible developmental mutations in fruit flies, and the evidence shows that there are only three possible outcomes: a normal fruit fly, a defective fruit fly, or a dead fruit fly. Not even a new species of fruit fly, much less a horse fly or a horse. Evo-devo has not come close to cracking "nature's biggest secrets." In fact, there is growing evidence that DNA contains only a small part of the program for embryo development.

No matter. PBS falls back on what Darwin himself thought was the best embryological evidence for his theory: similarities in the embryos of vertebrates (animals with backbones). "It seems to me," Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species, "the leading facts in embryology, which are second to none in importance, are explained on the principle of variations in the many descendants from some one ancient progenitor." And those leading facts, according to him, were that "the embryos of the most distinct species belonging to the same class are closely similar, but become, when fully developed, widely dissimilar." Darwin even believed that early embryos "show us, more or less completely, the condition of the progenitor of the whole group in its adult state."

On the website for its December 29 special, PBS offers an interactive "Guess the Embryo" exercise featuring four different vertebrate embryos: an 8 day-old mouse, a 5 day-old quail, a 17 day-old turtle, and a 40 day-old bat. The purpose of the exercise is to convince viewers that "embryos of different species can appear startlingly similar to one another." A discerning viewer, however, will notice that the turtle embryo already has a rudimentary shell on its back—thus distinguishing it clearly from the others. A discerning viewer might also notice that the bat embryo bears little resemblance to the mouse embryo, even though both are mammals.

What viewers may not know—and PBS does not tell them—is that the interactive exercise shows embryos midway through development. The earliest stages are systematically omitted. Perhaps this is because in their earliest stages vertebrate embryos are striking different from each other. They follow a pattern that embryologists call the "developmental hourglass"—wide at the top, narrow in the middle, and wide at the bottom. In other words, vertebrate embryos start out very different from each other, become superficially similar midway through development, then diverge again as they mature. Like Darwin's German disciple Ernst Haeckel, PBS distorts vertebrate development to make it seem to provide evidence for Darwin's theory.

The American people deserve better from their "Public" Broadcasting System.

Posted by Jonathan Wells on December 28, 2009 12:00 AM | Permalink

Science teacher can't recall Lego lesson

http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2009/12/31/fresh31.ART_ART_12-31-09_B2_JTG5J9F.html?sid=101

Tape of radio show indicates he used toys to make point in his classroom
Thursday, December 31, 2009 3:15 AM
By Dean Narciso

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio— John Freshwater said yesterday that he couldn't recall ever using Lego blocks to illustrate a scientific point in his eighth-grade science classroom.

David Millstone, an attorney for the school district here, then played an audiotape of an April radio program in which Freshwater described using Lego blocks to show that cars, buildings and other structures cannot build themselves.

If you mixed up the blocks for years, the likelihood that they would become something tangible is improbable, Freshwater told the show's host, Dr. Patrick Johnson of Rightremedy.org. He compared the blocks to human cells and said that the chances that a random combination of cells could become an eyeball are "slim to none."

Freshwater also said he used the experiment in science classes until 2003, when school officials told him to stop.

Asked yesterday by Millstone why he couldn't recall the blocks exercise, Freshwater testified that his students initiated it.

"Mr. Millstone, you have to understand my classroom. Students are doing experiments and bringing in things all the time," he said.

The Mount Vernon school board voted last year to fire Freshwater for teaching creationism and intelligent design, failing to remove religious materials from the classroom after being told to do so,and burning crosses on students' arms. He is entitled to a hearing before a referee, who will make a recommendation to the board. Freshwater has been suspended without pay.

Millstone has been cross-examining Freshwater this week after Freshwater testified this month that he might have used religious materials or discussion in class to illustrate scientific bias and faulty science.

Millstone also has been showing him handouts and other materials from his classroom and asking him about notes he supposedly made. Freshwater's attorney, R. Kelly Hamilton, has alleged that some of the items have been doctored and notes have been forged.

Hamilton asked for but was denied a break in the hearing in the Knox County commissioners' offices to talk to Freshwater about the handouts, including one from Science World magazine that has hand-printed notes about God, the Tower of Babel and Genesis.

"I need to make sure I caution him to look for any examples of forgery," Hamilton said.

Freshwater also said that he decided not to remove his personal Bible from his classroom on constitutional grounds and after reviewing the school's collective-bargaining agreement.

"I had a constitutional right to keep my Bible silently at the corner of my desk," he told Millstone.

Freshwater was the last direct witness in the hearing, which has been held, off and on, over about 14 months and has cost the school district more than $500,000 in legal fees. Rebuttal witnesses are expected to be called beginning Jan. 15.

How thoroughly have we examined the fossil record?

http://scienceblogs.com/authority/2010/01/how_thoroughly_have_we_examine.php

Category: Basic Concepts • Geology • Science
Posted on: January 11, 2010 8:30 AM, by Mike Dunford

The big paleontological news of last week was the announcement that fossil footprints have been discovered that predate - by about 20 million years - the previous contender for the earliest fossil evidence of tetrapods. Naturally, this announcement led almost immediately to a new round of "learning anything new about evolution means that Darwinism is totally wrong" claims from the Creationists.

Their complaints don't impress me much. There's very little difference between the Discovery Institute's "if there were tetrapod footprints 20 million years before Tiktaalik, how can something Tiktaalik-like have been an ancestor to tetrapods" line and the far older "if we descended from apes, why are their still apes" canard. If you're interested in another explanation of why you shouldn't be bothered by having ancestors and descendants alive at the same time, PZ's written a good one. I'm going to look at a different question.

It seems like someone finds some new fossil form somewhere every couple of years that changes our understanding of the evolution of some major group of plants or animals. Paleontology has been a serious scientific pursuit for the better part of the last two centuries. How is it that we continue to make so many spectacular new discoveries? Shouldn't we be at the point where we're just filling in the little gaps in the fossil record?

How thoroughly have we actually examined the fossil record? How much rock have we actually looked through in our quest to understand the evolution of the major branches of life?

Paleontology is time and labor intensive. When it comes to detecting fossils in rock, there is still no substitute for the Mark 1, Mod 0 eyeball. Finding fossils is a slow process. Removing fossils from rock is a slow process. Identifying and describing fossils is a slow process. It takes a lot of time to thoroughly examine a little bit of rock.

Still, there's been a lot of time and a lot of people working. So let's make some back-of-the-envelope calculations. I'm going to be very generous in my basic assumption.

Let's presume that one paleontologist can thoroughly examine 2 cubic meters of rock per day.

If that's the case, then 10,000 paleontologists, working continuously (365.25 days/year) for 150 years will have thoroughly examined 1,095,750,000 cubic meters of rock. That sounds like a lot, until you remember just how big the planet is. So let's put that figure in perspective.

According to the US Geological Survey, the explosive 18 May 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption removed 0.67 cubic miles of the mountain. That converts, according to Google, to 2,792,681,820 cubic meters - that's more than twice the amount of rock that our hypothetical ten thousand paleontologists spent 150 years combing through.

Still surprised that we keep finding new tetrapod remains?

Alternative Medicine Flourishes in Sealed-off Gaza

http://english.cri.cn/6966/2010/01/09/1361s541254.htm

2010-01-09 21:40:37 Xinhua Web Editor: Yang Yang

Spices and herbs section in Gaza city's al-Zaweya (the corner) market is always crowded with people seeking alternative therapies due to a suffocating Israeli blockade and its ensuing effects on the impoverished coastal strip's medical facilities.

A hole-in-the-wall store with tens of bottles standing on wooden shelves, Ali Muhissen's shop is the destination of many patients in this public market.

Proud of his experience in the filed, the 58-year-old Muhissen runs a business that depends on vinegar and honey that he puts in prescriptions.

"The vinegar I made from fresh fruits, mainly apple and grapes, is one of the best and more beneficial means of treating several illnesses, including dermatitis and ulcer of the stomach," he said.

He also claims to be the best in Gaza when it comes to utilizing traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture and homeopathy. For an example, Muhissen says he uses his finger to press instead of inserting needles in the body.

Mostly a mixture of herbs, prescriptions from spice dealers always are trusted by the customers. If not useful, at least they won't harm, explains Yousef Radi, who was watching Muhissen putting the ingredients of his medication into a bottle.

But Mona al-Killani, a renowned alternative medicine specialist, says resorting to spice and herbs dealers to get medication is not always a solution. "Everything these dealers do is irrelevant to studies in this issue; it is not only more than a practical experience."

"Herbal remedies have known basics and it is not a passing prescription," she said, adding that "many frauds in Gaza use this as a means of quick gain."

Fouad al-Hello, another herbs seller in al-Zaweya market, says he inherited this business from his father and grandfather. Familiar with the new technology, al-Hello said he uses the internet to search for alternative medicine materials and tips on how to come up with prescriptions that meet the demands of his clients.

"In the same time, the increasing television programs on herbs and their medical effect have encouraged people to turn out at our stores," al-Hello explained.

According to al-Killani, using herbs as medicine without sufficient knowledge of their possible side effects to some diseases, and mixing up the ingredients could cause serious repercussions.

In Gaza, the Israeli blockade, imposed for more than two years, makes it difficult for patients to travel outside Gaza for advanced treatment. The already ill-equipped hospitals are also on the verge of collapse due to the siege.

Agronomist Rateb Samour has been keeping bees for thirty year. Since the blockade has made it difficult for him to continue producing honey, he used his bees for another purpose.

In a bid to treat his father from stiffness in the joints (rheumatism) after taking him to several doctors in vain, Samour started testing a medicine from his bees, thanks to his "in-depth university studies and research about bees' venom."

"My father's case has notably improved after bees stung him," Samour said. "The news of his recovery spread" in the Beach refugee camp in the west of Gaza city and then to all over the Gaza Strip, he added.

There, at the camp, Samour's bee venom clinic is one of a kind in Gaza as treatment there goes beyond rheumatism to include skin and bone diseases.

Rashad al-Shawa, 23, was one of about 50 men and women waiting to see Samour at the modest waiting room in the clinic.

"I started coming here for three months and I'm recovering better after every session here," said al-Shawa, suffering from extra brain electrical impulses.

Al-Shawa said he resorted to Samour after physicians failed to treat his problem with their orthodox techniques.

Theory of Evolution - Is Creation an Evolutionary Process?

http://www.english.globalarabnetwork.com/201001104310/Opinion/theory-of-evolution-is-creation-an-evolutionary-process.html

By Louay M. Safi
Sunday, 10 January 2010 21:09

In recent years, the debate over teaching the account of human creation provided by religious texts has intensified in the U.S. Some Christians insist that schools teach "creationism" side by side with the theory of evolution. Most recently this call has been echoed by several Muslim writers, most notably the prolific Turkish scholar Harun Yahya.

The call for embracing the theory of creationism should be treated with caution. Not only because it would undermine scientific research that aims at exploring metaphysical assertions through scientific methodology, which has for long been embraced and supported by Islamic scholarship, but also because it seems to contradict facts alluded to by the Qur'an itself.

Undoubtedly, no human being has ever had the opportunity to witness the beginning of human life. We are members of a species whose origin is counted by tens—if not hundreds—of thousands of years. The many narratives about the origins of human life can be ultimately subsumed under two grand narratives: creation and evolution. Evolution is widely embraced by natural scientists who attempt to reconstruct the beginning of human life by tracing prehistoric animal life, finding in the shared biological traits of all living creatures evidence of common ancestry and common evolution. Human life, they claim, evolved from the general animal life through a process of "natural selection".

The followers of monotheistic religions, however, share a grand narrative that places the beginning of human life with the creation of the first masculine human being, Adam, along with his feminine spouse. The Qur'an describes human creation by narrating an exchange between God and the angles:

"Behold, your Lord said to the angels: "I am about to create man from clay: When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My Spirit, fall down unto him." (38:71-2)

Another Qur'anic verse provides a similar but a more elaborate account. It describes that the clay from which the human body was shaped went through organic transformation that it turned into smelly and darkened clay:

"Behold! Your Lord said to the angels: "I am about to create man, from dark malodorous clay, from mud molded into shape; "When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of my spirit, fall you down [in prostration] unto him." (15: 28-29)

The human being, according to the Qur'an, is made of earthly matter mixed with water, and left for a while until it went through a process of transformation. This clay had already gone through a transformation to become a malodorous and dark substance, thereby suggesting an organic process. This transformed clay was then molded into the human shape, and into which the Divine breathed a spirit derived from His own.

The Qur'an is silent as to the nature of the process through which the human body took its final shape. Was the human body created instantaneously, or did it go through an evolutionary process? What is clear, though, is that the Qur'an places the question of the origin of life within the realm of natural observation rather than theoretical reflection. Thus, investigating human creation belongs to scientific observation and not to theology.

"Say: Travel through the earth and see how God did originate creation; so will God produce a later creation: for God has power over all things" (29:20)

Yet the Qur'an describes in so many different ways human creation as an elaborate and phased process, whereby the human being goes through various phases before it evolves into the human shape. The above verses of Chap. 15 refer to a process of "molding into shape" or taswiyah that culminates in the human creation. In Chapter 7, the Qur'an refers to the two phases of human creation: the act of creation and the process of shaping:

"It is We who created you then gave you shape; then We bade the angels bow down to Adam, and they bowed down; not so Iblis (Lucifer); he refused to be of those who bow down" (7:11).

Indeed, the Qur'an describes human life as an ever evolving through distinct stages, taking different forms, beginning with the most primordial stage of earthly matter, the dust, through various stages in the mother's womb, through the various stages of development from infancy, to full adulthood, to senility for those who reach the very advanced age, ending with death.

"O mankind! if you have a doubt about the Resurrection, (consider) that We created you out of dust, then out of sperm, then out of a leech-like clot, then out of a morsel of flesh, partly formed and partly unformed, in order that We may manifest (Our Power) to you; and We cause whom We will to rest in the wombs for an appointed term, then do We bring you out as babies, then (foster you) that you may reach your age of full strength; and some of you are called to die, and some are sent back to the feeblest old age, so that they know nothing after having known (much). And (further), you see the earth barren and lifeless, but when We pour down rain on it, it is stirred (to life), it swells, and it puts forth every kind of beautiful growth in pairs" (22:5).

In this account, one sees a clear allusion to an evolutionary process of creation, in which life starts with dust, and then evolves into a single cell (sperm) that multiply to form a clot ( 'alaqah) that grows into bone and finally to flesh. While the process that referred to here mainly describes the growth of the fetus in the mother's womb, the Qur'an starts its description of the fetus's growth by referring to the earthly dust, thereby suggesting a comparable evolutionary process that was part of the act of creation of the first human being. This suggestion is further enforced by the conclusion of the verse, where the Qur'an invokes the ever observable process of rejuvenation of vegetation in the desert during the annual rain season. The return of life to an apparently lifeless desert after receiving heavy rain is gradual and relatively slow process associated with the growth of vegetation.

While the Qur'an describes a purposive act of creation of human beings, it does not exclude an evolutionary biological process leading to the completion and physical maturation of the human being. What sets human and animal lives apart, according to the Qur'an, is not primarily the biological development of the human body, but the moral, intellectual, and spiritual capacity of the human spirit. Human life enjoys dignity that is unique to human being, dignity that is rooted in human spirituality, not biology.

The debate over creation and evolution is lively one. While Muslims may question an account of evolution that is used to propagate a purposeless process of creation, it should not close the mind to scientific methods that look at natural evidence to figure out the natural dimension of human existence.

Global Arab Network

Dr. Louay Safi is executive director with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). He writes and lectures on issues relating to Islam and the West, democracy, human rights, leadership, and world peace. His commentaries are available at louaysafi.com.