NTS LogoSkeptical News for 31 January 2010

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Homeopathy: medicine that's hard to swallow?


Protesters have staged a mass 'overdose' of homeopathic remedies but, asks Laura Donnelly, what did they prove?

By Laura Donnelly, Health Correspondent
Published: 5:48PM GMT 30 Jan 2010

At 10.23 on Saturday morning, Simon took a vial out of his pocket. He examined the instructions on the label: two pills to be taken every two hours for the first six doses. The contents should not be touched by hand, but be administered directly into the mouth. The vial should be kept both out of reach and sight of children. The middle-aged man then knocked back all 84 tablets and swallowed.

As Simon Singh stood in a public square in London, and waited for the effects of his overdose to take hold, hundreds of other despairing men and women around him poured scores of pills and medicines down their throats.

What has been called a mass overdose attempt is perhaps better described as a cry for help. By taking remedies in quantities far beyond the dosages recommended by their manufacturers, Singh – a television presenter and author of several books on science – joined campaigners attempting to demonstrate the case against homeopathy, and those who supply it.

Many scientists say theories behind homeopathy – which relies on the extreme dilution of animal, plant, mineral as well as synthetic substances so that remedies do not contain a molecule of the original substance – are a nonsense.

Proponents of the model developed by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann in the late 18th century say it is based on the principle that "like cures like" – and that a substance taken in small amounts will cure the same symptoms it would cause if taken in large amounts. They insist that despite the massive dilution, to a point that the homeopathic solution usually contains none of the original substance, water retains a "memory" of a substance, giving a therapeutic effect. Many scientists say that the only possible impact of such remedies is as a placebo.

Yesterday, hundreds of self-proclaimed sceptics hoped to demonstrate that homeopathy does nothing, by consuming its products in vast quantities in 13 city centres and outside branches of Boots, the chemist chain.

As predicted, no ill effects were reported from consuming whole bottles of homeopathic remedies, even those based on dilutions of arsenic. "They were very tasty – a bit like sweets, only really expensive," said one protester who "overdosed".

The stunt was staged in protest against the sale of such remedies by Boots as part of a £40 million industry, as well as against the funding of homeopathy by the National Health Service. It was triggered by evidence that emerged during an inquiry into homeopathy by a group of MPs.

Next week, the report by the Commons science and technology committee is expected to criticise the use of NHS resources to fund the treatment based on current evidence.

It will be entering controversial territory. Advocates for complementary medicines, of which homeopathy is a part, include the Prince of Wales, who leads a charity which promotes its use.

Ahead of yesterday's publicity stunt, Singh, a long-time opponent of homeopathy, visited his nearest branch of Boots to buy supplies. "I was happy to shell out my £5 to buy some sugar pills, to prove a point," he says. "Actually, I am always buying the things. When I give lectures I like to take homeopathic sleeping pills, one after the other. I always warn the students that they are far more likely to fall asleep than I am."

Martin Robbins, one of the campaign's enthusiasts, says that anti-homeopathy groups have targeted Boots because they believe its status as a registered pharmacist gives the public false confidence in such products.

"It legitimises homeopathy, and sends out a really confused message," says Robbins. "People need to be able to trust their pharmacist to give them medicines that work." Like opponents of other alternative medicines, he objects to the notion that whether or not it does good, it does no harm.

The anti-homeopathy lobby believes that by diverting people with genuine complaints away from conventional medicine, lives can even be put at risk. They cite cases of seriously ill patients who have been advised by practitioners to swap over-the-counter medicines that treat serious diseases such as malaria with homeopathic preparations, to stop taking cardiac medicine, and even to refuse vaccinations.

David Colquhoun, professor of pharmacology at University College London, has long been concerned about the rising popularity of homeopathy. When he passes a chemist, he likes to carry out an experiment, asking the pharmacist what natural remedy they would recommend for his sickly grandchild, who has suffered from "terrible diarrhoea for days". Just one in 10 chemists advises him to send the child to a doctor immediately, or choose a conventional rehydration treatment – the course of action recommended by the medical profession.

"It's terrifying," says Prof Colquhoun. "Any sensible parent would be searching out Dioralyte, but nine out of 10 times the pharmacists will start rummaging through the homepathic shelves."

The British Homeopathic Association (BHA) says the very idea that anyone could overdose on homeopathic products betrays a misunderstanding of the model. Chief executive Cristal Sumner says that while science still has a lot to explain, the evidence base in favour of homeopathy is gradually increasing.

"There are well over 100 double-blind trials in homeopathy, and more are positive than negative," she says, adding that the association would not support any practitioner who discouraged a client with a serious illness from seeking conventional and effective care.

Paul Bennett, professional standards director for Boots, treads just as carefully. "We know that many people believe in the benefits of complementary medicines, and we aim to offer the products we know our customers want," he says.

Boots' pharmacists, Bennett adds, are trained health-care professionals and are on hand to offer advice on the safe use of complementary medicines.

Bennett is quick to describe homeopathy as "recognised by the NHS" – a major concern for those who oppose its use. Latest figures show 54,000 patients treated annually at four NHS homeopathic hospitals in London, Glagsow, Bristol and Liverpool.

Next week, the Commons select committee is expected to back calls by the British Medical Association for better research on homeopathy – especially if the NHS is going to spend money on it.

Prof Sir Ken Calman, a former chief medical officer for England, now chairman of the BMA's board of science, said its members want the NHS rationing body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), to evaluate the current evidence, and make a definitive ruling on whether such treatments should be paid for by the state.

Advocates for homeopathy want something different – they say better trials are needed, in order that homeopathy can prove its worth.

As many as 400 GPs practise alternative medicine, says the BHA. Dr Michael Dixon is one of them. The Devon GP is medical director of the Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health, a charity set up in 1993 by the Prince of Wales to promote complementary medicine.

Dr Dixon says a dogmatic opposition to homeopathy ignores the simple fact that many patients say it helps them – and that a belief in treatment itself makes it more likely to work.

"Even if it is just placebo effect," he says, "homeopathy often gives great help to people for whom conventional medicine can do nothing – or can do no more."

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Launch of Explore Evolution "Further Debate" Website


Since its publication in 2007, the innovative science textbook Explore Evolution: The Case For and Against Neo-Darwinism has helped trailblaze a new way of teaching about evolution, one based on Charles Darwin's own acknowledgment that

"a fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question."

The original goal of Explore Evolution was to provoke discussion about Darwinian evolution, and provoke discussion it has!

This week Discovery Institute launches an extensive "Further Debate" website inspired by the book in the hope of encouraging even more discussion. The new site offers cogent responses to a variety of reviews of the book issued by Darwinists over the past two years, including a hopelessly inaccurate "critique" mounted by the Darwin-only National Center for Science Education.

Explore Evolution has been targeted for attack by the Darwin lobby because it promotes critical thinking and provides an evenhanded discussion of the scientific evidence. Pro-Darwin ideologues are frightened that students might think for themselves when exposed to conflicting scientific data and views. They have reason to be afraid, because Explore Evolution's approach is catching on. The textbook has been adopted for use by 25 secondary schools and 11 universities. Educators at 14 additional schools and educational institutions use the text as a supplementary resource. In the United Kingdom, a British edition of the textbook was released in early 2009, and several thousand copies of the textbook were distributed to school libraries there late last year. In Asia, a Korean edition of the textbook is currently in preparation.

For the most part, Darwinists have responded to Explore Evolution with their usual stale mix of ad hominem attacks and red herrings. Chief among the bogus claims about Explore Evolution is the tired old chestnut that the book promotes "creationism." Of course, it doesn't. We hope the new "Further Debate" site will encourage teachers, students, and others interested in evolution to explore the evidence and arguments for themselves.

Posted by Robert Crowther on January 25, 2010 2:01 PM | Permalink

Medical Students May Soon Be Tested on Evolution


ScienceDaily (Jan. 25, 2010) — What does evolution -- a field that often deals with changes over many generations -- have to do with preventing and treating disease in our lifetime? A lot, some scientists say. If recent recommendations are implemented, future physicians may soon be tested on evolution in medical entrance and licensing exams, says an international group of doctors and researchers.

"There are many ways you can use evolution to improve medical care and medical research," said psychiatrist Randolph Nesse of the University of Michigan.

Nesse is one of a growing number of scientists who since the mid-1990s have been urging medical doctors and researchers to consider human health from an evolutionary perspective. Evolutionary training may benefit researchers in the lab, skeptics argue, but what use is evolution for everyday medical care in the clinic?

"In terms of immediate payoffs, right up at the top of the list are antibiotic resistance and cancer," said Stephen Stearns, a biologist at Yale University. Because of their rapid rates of reproduction, both bacteria and cancer cells quickly evolve resistance to the drugs we use to fight them. "Some develop resistance in just one or two years after drug release," explained Diddahally Govindaraju of the Boston University School of Medicine. "Antibiotic resistance and resistance to chemotherapy are problems that cause enormous suffering and death and also sky-high costs," added Stearns. "We can alleviate these problems if we manage the way we use chemotherapy drugs and antibiotics so as to slow or prevent the evolution of resistance."

Meanwhile in the world of infectious disease, techniques developed by evolutionary biologists -- such as methods for reconstructing genetic relationships, or family trees -- have been used to trace the origins of pathogens like flu, SARS, and HIV. By uncovering where these diseases came from and how they spread, public health officials can better prepare for outbreaks in the future.

Evolutionary thinking can also yield surprising medical therapies, the authors explain. Throughout much of our history, for example, humans coexisted with beneficial bacteria and intestinal worms. Reduced exposure to these bugs due to improved hygiene leaves many with immune systems that don't respond appropriately, scientists say. Research suggests we may be able to reduce our susceptibility to allergies, asthma, and many auto-immune diseases -- from inflammatory bowel disease to multiple sclerosis -- by giving patients "cocktails" of parasite eggs. "There are now 4000 people in a clinical trial to test the efficacy of worm eggs," said Stearns.

"It's an insight that comes right out of left field," Stearns added. "Unless you were thinking about coevolution of humans and their gut flora, you never would have thought you could treat an autoimmune disease by making the immune system think the body is inhabited by parasites."

Given the numerous ways evolutionary concepts can inform medical practice, the authors argue, it's time to transmit those lessons to those best positioned to put them to use -- future physicians. Though anatomy, physiology and biochemistry have long been mainstays of medical education, evolutionary biology is largely absent from the medical school curriculum, studies find. "No medical school in the United States offers evolutionary biology as a medical science, and most have no evolution at all in the curriculum," said Nesse.

In the final paper, Nesse, Stearns, Govindaraju, and 10 other physicians and researchers -- including Jeffry Flier, the Dean of the Harvard Medical School -- call for greater evolution education both before and during medical school. "We're urging that evolutionary biology be recognized as something that all entering medical students should have a good grasp of," said co-author Peter Ellison of Harvard University.

"It's a basic science like embryology and biochemistry and all the rest," added Nesse. "We insist on students learning many of these basic sciences not because doctors need embryology everyday in the clinic, but because we want them to understand what's going on in normal functioning and disease."

Their ideas may be gaining ground. This past summer, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) published a joint report, titled Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians. The report calls for ambitious changes in the science content in the premedical curriculum and on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), including increased emphasis on evolution. "For the first time, the AAMC and HHMI are recommending that evolution be one of the basic sciences students learn before they come to medical school," Nesse explained.

If the recommendations take hold, future physicians may soon be tested on evolution in the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). "The MCATs are currently under review, and changes will be made in the next two years," said Stearns. "Those recommendations will affect thousands of colleges and universities across the country," Stearns added.

"Pre-med students often say: 'What on earth does this have to do with me? Fossils aren't going to help me get into medical school,'" said biologist Jay Labov of the National Academy of Sciences. "But without an evolutionary perspective, a doctor's tools are somewhat limited."

Citation: (2010). "Evolution in Health and Medicine Special Feature." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107(4).

The papers in this special feature issue are freely available online from the date of publication. They arise out of presentations at a 2009 Sackler Colloquium on Evolution in Health and Medicine, organized by Peter Ellison, Diddahally Govindaraju, Randolph Nesse and Stephen Stearns. The Sackler Colloquium grew out of a meeting held in 2007 at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina.

The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) is an NSF-funded collaborative research center operated by Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University.

Poor science standard in Minnesota


Category: Creationism
Posted on: January 27, 2010 11:58 AM, by PZ Myers

Our state science standards are being patched up right now, and while they're mostly just fine, one sneaky provision is still on the books.

"The student will be able to explain how scientific and technological innovations as well as new evidence can challenge portions of or entire accepted theories and models including but not limited to cell theory, atomic theory, theory of evolution, plate tectonic theory, germ theory of disease and big bang theory."

It's the old 'teach the controversy' argument. While it seems innocuous, and we actually should teach kids how to address established theories critically, it's really just a backdoor for teachers who sympathize with creationism to smuggle in instruction in intelligent design creationism. It's also more difficult than it sounds. Even this article, which is sympathetic to good science education, gets the idea wrong. Here's an example given of a 'challenge' to evolutionary theory.

The National Geographic article reports that the fossil, called Ardi, challenges portions of the theory of evolution that say the missing link between humans and apes would look something like a chimpanzee. For example, Ardi is changing our way of thinking about how hominids moved about. Its big toe splays out from the foot to better to grasp tree limbs. However, its foot contains an extra bone that keeps the toe rigid to help the hominid walk bipedally on the ground. The extra bone is not found in the lineages of chimps and gorillas. Also, the upper pelvis is "positioned so that Ardi could walk on two legs without lurching from side to side like a chimp," researchers say, while the lower pelvis was built like an ape's to accommodate huge hind limb muscles used in climbing.

No, no, no, no, no. There is absolutely nothing in the discovery of Ardipithecus that challenges any portion of the theory of evolution. It's an observation of a historical quirk, a detail of the pattern of changes in one lineage. It's the equivalent of finding an apple tree, watching the fruit fall, and noticing that one apple bounced left, and another bounced to the right — if you're really, really interested in the distribution of apple bounces (in the way we're personally interested in human evolution), it may be interesting…but it does not in any way challenge Newton's laws of gravity.

See the problem? A lot of people misunderstand the concept of a theory; we're going to get a crop of teachers who don't know what they're talking about who will intentionally try to sow doubt in students' minds by putting forward claims that miscellaneous facts challenge evolutionary theory when they do no such thing.

The only way this standard could be at all useful is if the teacher actually understands deeply that the theories listed can not be currently challenged, except by inventing weird science-fictional ideas that are unsupported by evidence…like intelligent design creationism. I can think of observations that would contradict evolution, easy, but guess what? There are no alternatives, and the creationists certainly have not provided any evidence against evolution.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Mathematician Looks at Darwin's Theory and Discovers It Doesn't Add Up


SEATTLE – "Darwin's attempt to explain the origins of all the magnificent species in the living world in terms of the struggle for survival is easily the dumbest idea ever taken seriously by science," writes Dr. Granville Sewell in his new book In the Beginning and Other Essays on Intelligent Design published by Discovery Institute Press.

What do you get when you add together the big bang, the fine-tuning of the laws of physics and the evolution of life? Definitely not a materialistic theory of origins, answers Sewell, a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Texas El Paso.

In this wide-ranging collection of essays, Sewell concludes that while there is much in the history of life that seems to suggest natural causes, there is little evidence to support Charles Darwin's idea that natural selection of random variations can explain major evolutionary advances.

In the book, he explains why evolution is a fundamentally different and much more difficult problem than others solved by science and why increasing numbers of scientists are now recognizing what has long been obvious to the layman: there is no explanation possible without design. This book summarizes many of the traditional arguments for intelligent design and presents some powerful and unique arguments as well.

"In The Beginning provides delightful and wide-ranging commentary on the origins debate and intelligent design," says biophysicist Dr. Cornelius Hunter. "Sewell provides much needed clarity on topics that are too often misunderstood, like his discussion of the commonly confused problem of entropy, which is a must read."

Granville Sewell is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Texas El Paso. He completed his PhD in Mathematics at Purdue University in 1972 and has worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Purdue University, the University of Texas Center for High Performance Computing (Austin), and Texas A&M University. He also spent one semester teaching at Universidad Nacional de Tucuman in Argentina on a Fullbright grant. Dr. Sewell has written three books on numerical analysis and is the author of a widely-used finite element computer program.

Posted by Anika Smith on January 26, 2010 2:15 PM | Permalink

Evolution education update: January 29, 2010

Barbara Forrest is profiled in Church and State. Plus a preview of Douglas J. Futuyma's textbook evolution, and a reminder about Darwin Day 2010.


Barbara Forrest was profiled in the January 2010 issue of Church and State, published by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "For Barbara Forrest, fighting for church-state separation and quality science education in Louisiana -- and the rest of the nation -- has become her civic duty," the article explains, citing both her testimony in Kitzmiller v. Dover and her efforts to mitigate the impact of the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, which threatens to open the door to creationism in the science classrooms of the state's public schools. A professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, Forrest is the coauthor (with Paul R. Gross) of Creationism's Trojan Horse (rev. ed., Oxford University Press 2007), and a member of NCSE's board of directors.

For the profile, visit:

For information about Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit:

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

For information about Creationism's Trojan Horse, visit:


NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of a chapter from the second edition of Douglas J. Futuyma's popular textbook Evolution (Sinauer Associates, 2009). The chapter is on natural selection and adaptation. As Futuyma explains, "The theory of natural selection is the centerpiece of The Origin of Species and of evolutionary theory. It is this theory that accounts for the adaptations of organisms, those innumerable features that so wonderfully equip them for survival and reproduction; it is this theory that accounts for the divergence of species from common ancestors and thus for the endless diversity of life. Natural selection is a simple concept, but it is perhaps the most important idea in biology."

Joel Cracraft writes, "Because it strikes the right balance between breadth and detail, and is conscientiously written with the student in mind, Futuyma's Evolution will resonate in the classroom," and Kevin Padian adds, "His coverage of topics such as the history of the field and macroevolution is not matched in other texts; the level of integration of different evolutionary fields is superior; and his own experience in raising scientific literacy and the public understanding of evolution really comes through." A Supporter of NCSE, Futuyma is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

For the sample chapter (PDF), visit:

For information about the book, visit:


Are you recovered from 2009's celebrations of the bicentennial of Darwin's birth and the sesquicentennial of the publication of On the Origin of Species? Good, because less than a month remains before Darwin Day 2010! Colleges and universities, schools, libraries, museums, churches, civic groups, and just plain folks across the country -- and the world -- are preparing to celebrate Darwin Day, on or around February 12, in honor of the life and work of Charles Darwin. These events provide a marvelous opportunity not only to celebrate Darwin's birthday but also to engage in public outreach about science, evolution, and the importance of evolution education. NCSE encourages its members and friends to attend, participate in, and even organize Darwin Day events in their own communities. To find a local event, check the websites of local universities and museums and the registry of Darwin Day events maintained by the Darwin Day Celebration website. (And don't forget to register your own event with the Darwin Day Celebration website!)

And with Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Weekend! Hundreds of congregations all over the country and around the world are taking part in Evolution Weekend, February 12-14, 2010, by presenting sermons and discussion groups on the compatibility of faith and science. Michael Zimmerman, the initiator of the project, writes, "Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic -- to move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that religious people from many faiths and locations understand that evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith. Finally, as with The Clergy Letter itself, Evolution Weekend makes it clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy." At last count, 755 congregations in all fifty states (and eleven foreign countries) were scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events.

For the Darwin Day registry, visit:

For information about Evolution Weekend, visit:

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

Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter:

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Reiki: Miracle-Gro for Humans


Learn why Bernadette Doran says "Reiki is Miracle-Gro for humans."

by Anne Boyd
Jan 28, 2010

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Each of the teachers stood and positioned himself or herself next to a student, then gently placed their hands on the students' heads. In the dimly lit room, music played as lightly as mist, almost too soft to mask the delicate breathing of the nearly 30 people gathered there.

Observing the meeting for a minute or two, it would have been difficult to tell if anyone moved. It looked as though some modern-day Merlin had frozen the group in time, creating a tableau of the laying on of hands.

This was the scene at a recent "Reiki share," a seminar at Equilibrium Energy + Education in the South Loop.

Bernadette Doran, a Reiki master and the owner of Equilibrium, said Reiki is a simple hands-on therapy that gives the body the energy it needs to heal. She promotes the therapy as part of general wellness but also works with cancer patients to help alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy.

Doran describes a therapy session: "The Reiki practitioner places his or her hands at certain points along [the] body that align with [the] endocrine system. A full Reiki treatment balances the endocrine system, which is the master hormonal regulator of the body."

Reiki is a form of energy medicine that can be used to promote overall health and alleviate symptoms of disease or the side effects of traditional medications and treatments. More that 1.2 million people used some form of energy medicine in 2007, the latest year for which statistics are available, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine's Web site.

"It's being used in hospitals nursing homes hospices and spas - all kinds of places," she said.

With that popularity also comes fakes and charlatans. Doran and others in the field are discussing creating a credentialing organization but for now, there are no certifying bodies for energy medicine.

To find a reputable Reiki master, Doran suggests that potential clients look to the International Association for Reiki Professionals. She also said ask questions.

"I'm a spiritual nerd," said Rhonda Wheatley, a business writer and painter who attended a recent Reiki share. She has been studying spirituality in various forms for 20 years.

"The very first time it [Reiki] made me feel extremely relaxed. I went outside and felt like I was moving very very slow and the world around me was moving very fast. The second time I actually felt energy moving in different energy centers. It was very powerful."

"There are no words in western culture to describe the feelings and the sensations and everything that energy work does for you," the auburn-haired Doran said. "You have to experience it to understand it all."

That's one of the reasons she holds these sessions, it's a good way to attract clients and to give people the experience of what Reiki is and what energy medicine can do for them.

Carol Balabanow, a coordinator for the laboratories of the American Dental Association, was introduced to Reiki after her parents died. She had been their primary caregiver and at the time her whole body ached. The healing impact of Reiki, she said, began immediately.

Doran explained it this way: "Reiki is Miracle-Gro for humans."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Discovery Institute Announces 2nd Annual Academic Freedom Day on Charles Darwin's Birthday


Fresh on the heels of Darwin Year, Discovery Institute announces the launch of the 2nd Annual Academic Freedom Day in honor of Charles Darwin's birthday, February 12, 2010.

Yes, it's that time of year again, and Discovery Institute is gearing up for the celebration by supporting what Darwin supported: academic freedom.

Academic Freedom Day couldn't come at a better time, as academic freedom is threatened around the country. We have seen Darwinists launch cyber attacks on a pro-ID conference website in Colorado and engage in an illegal coverup in the censorship of a pro-ID film in California.

It's time like these when Darwin's own words should instruct everyone on how to have an open and honest debate over evolution and intelligent design.

In On the Origin of Species, Darwin wrote, "A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question." This quote is the cornerstone of the Institute's Academic Freedom Day efforts.

The Institute's Center for Science and Culture is sponsoring Academic Freedom Day 2010, assisting student groups, clubs, and individual students to organize Academic Freedom Day Events centered on Darwin's birthday and his fair-minded approach to freedom of inquiry.

If you're looking to express your support for free speech and the right to debate the evidence for and against evolution, check out academicfreedomday.com, a website where you can get equipped to support academic freedom and fight censorship in tangible ways, like signing the academic freedom petition on evolution, wearing Academic Freedom Day t-shirts, screening movies like Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed and Icons of Evolution, and starting Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) clubs.

For more information on Academic Freedom Day, visit www.academicfreedomday.com.

Posted by Anika Smith on January 25, 2010 12:00 AM | Permalink

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Charles Darwin On The Ouija Channel


January 24th, 2010 7:19 AM

by Robert David Singer

[Note: If you are not up-to-date with the debate over Evolution, Creationism and Intelligent Design, you will want to read the Preface Notes first, identified by a [p] at the beginning of the sentence. Preface Notes will separate fact from fiction and rumor from humor in my prima facie case for Intelligent Design.]

[p1] Professor Richard Dawkins, one of the greatest living "experts" on blind Watchmakers and selfish gene-centric Evolution got out his Ouija Board to channel the spirit of Charles Darwin, author of The Origin of Species and the father of Naturalism and Atheism.

Contacting Darwin was considered of a dangerous and controversial nature because if his current residence is Hell then a whole lot of evolutionary biologists will be out of work.

[p2] Dawkins and company agreed it was worth the risk because there aren't enough Evolutionists to rip out the pages of one million copies of Ray Comforts new book linking Darwin and Natural Selection to Hitler.

Richard Dawkins (RD) was the designated medium and Niles Eldredge took the following notes.

Everyone placed their fingers on the planchette and Mr. Dawkins asked the Ouija board the burning question, "Charles, are you in Hell?"

Spirit Response: "The subscriber you are trying to reach out of range, planchette will now channel hypothetically."

What follows is pure Unadulterated Unverified Nonsense and reflects my belief that the scientific arguments and rational thinking of Intelligent Design is a thirst-quenching alternative from the obdurate (obstinate) Evolutionists whose only motivation is to eliminate God.

Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. Since Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins or Niles Eldredge never attended a channeling session, neither of them could endorse these views, which may or may not prove to be correct.

RD: Mr. Darwin, everyone wants to know if there are any Evolutionists in Foxholes?

Darwin: Huh?

RD: [p3] Creationists are telling everyone you repented because you were reading the book of Hebrews to Lady Hope on a beautiful autumn afternoon a few days before you died.

Darwin: Ah yes, that autumn afternoon, I can still smell her perfume.

RD: So you were with her and reading the Bible before you died?

Darwin: Well, if you mean six months before I died and "with her" in a biblical sense, the answer is yes.

RD: You read a story from the Bible to get her in bed?

Darwin: She was an evangelical, what story should I have read? Richard, do you know the difference between girls aged: 8, 18, women 28, 38, 48 and ladies 58 and 68?

RD: No

Darwin: At 8 - You put her to bed and tell her a story. At 18 - You tell her a story and take her to bed. At 28 - You don't need to tell her a story to take her to bed. At 38 - She tells you a story and takes you to bed. At 48 - You tell her a story to avoid going to bed. At 58 - You stay in bed to avoid her story.

I was 73; taking Lady Hope to bed was a BIG story!!

RD: So you never regretted coming up with the Theory of Evolution?

Darwin: Of course not, my daughter told everyone as much and getting "life from non-life" is a hypothesis not a theory and I stole that from Anaximander. [f1]

RD: But you added a plausible mechanism, "Natural Selection."

Darwin: Notice the word "plausible". Just because some birds (i.e. finches) had long curved beaks so they could get fat eating tiny bugs on the Galapagos Islands doesn't prove that life began in a "primordial soup". [f2]

RD: That was only variety, what about similarity? If you look at an x-ray of the upper limb of a crocodile, a bird and a human, they all have five digits for "fingers" and two bones in the forearm. Similarities are evidence that we have all descended from some common ancestor.

Darwin: Sure, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it was a good design…worthy of being duplicated.

Look Richard, after 150 years I expected you guys to come up with something better than if a bird was born with the wrong beak he uses it to fight because a short stout beak is useless to get insects out of crevasses in the rocks.

RD: [p4] Well we might have if Michael Behe hadn't written Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution based on your definition of "irreducibly complex."

Darwin: So what? Only the religious dummies go to Christian bookstores. Bush Jr., Quayle and the Creationists prove Professor Lynn's research that less than 7% of university academics believe in God. [f3]

RD: Normally, that would be so, but Behe makes a credible, sophisticated case for Creationism without using the Bible so his book is at Borders, Barnes & Noble. Thank "god" for Judge John E. Jones III, who was nominated by President George W. Bush, who ruled Intelligent Design is not science but essentially religious in nature and cited Behe's testimony in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. [f4]

But I got to tell you it's hard to attack a reputable scientist from a reputable institution with a sophisticated argument even with a court case from a biased judge. And wait till you see his photo.

Darwin: So what's the problem?

RD: Michael Behe represented himself as a scientist persuaded by the evidence, not a Creationist with an evangelical agenda like John Sanford with a toothy smile bragging about being saved: [f5]

Darwin: What's Behe saying?

RD: He maintains that biological systems are irreducibly complex and possess incredibly complicated structures that can be reduced to very basic states.

Darwin: Didn't I say that?

RD: Yes but he proved that if an everyday non-biological irreducible complex mousetrap could not have developed in stages then a species which originally possessed no eyes will never come to possess perfect ones due to a small chance development because it affords an advantage due to natural selection. Behe says, "such a system without an Engine of Change could not have evolved slowly, piece by piece." Behe and his buddies found out modern genetics, not random radioactive mutation is the engine of change. [f6]

Darwin: Well, random mutations are random. Haven't we proven a mutated gene can cause cancer, organ failure and death? New species result from trillions of trillions of random tiny "beneficial" random mutations. Did I mention they are random and life probably came about through… you guessed it, a series of … random mutations?


This is another favorite deductive method of the evolutionary theorist. The "improbability drive", in which they decide upon a conclusion without any evidence whatsoever to support it, and then continually speculate a series of wildly improbable events and unbelievable co-incidences to support it, shrugging off the implausibility of each event with the vague assertion that sometimes the impossible happens (just about all the time in their world). There is a principle called "Occam's Razor" which suggests that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the simplest explanation, Intelligent Design, is most likely to be correct. Evolutionists hate Occam's Razor.


RD: Yes, Charles we get it. But Michael Denton wrote Evolution a Theory in Crisis and points out "The the tiniest bacterial cells are irreducibly complex, and are actually a microminiaturized factory containing thousands of exquisitely designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery made up of a hundred thousand million atoms far more complicated than any machine made by man and absolutely without parallel in the non-living world."

A new generation of bacteria typically grows in 20 minutes to a few hours and although there is much variation in bacteria and many mutations they never turn into anything new. They always remain bacteria.

Forget human vision being formed by Natural Selection, molecular biologists have demonstrated that the cell could not have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications. [f7]

Darwin: Well, you can't say I didn't warn you when "I freely confessed that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, WAS absurd in the highest degree."

RD: But you said, "the absurdity was illusory and that the difficulty of believing a perfect and complex eye could be formed by Natural Selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real"… Of course, no one knows what the Hell you are talking about… "illusory, insuperable, can be considered real" but it was all we had.

Darwin: Yes, I wrote a confusing sentence, what did you want me to do? Admit I wanted to find an alternative to God because I could not persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice." Richard, have you persuaded yourself there could be a beneficent God that would allow suffering?

RD: No, but I'm not omnipotent and why does there have to be a benefit in beneficent? On the other hand, a "perfect and complex eye" is a benefit for human vision.

Darwin: The "ayes" were a problem even before modern ophthalmology.

RD: Damn those eye scientists. They found three, almost imperceptibly tiny eye movements 'tremors, drifts and saccades' caused by minute contractions in the six muscles attached to the outside of each of your eyes. Every fraction of a second, they very slightly shift the position of your eyeball, automatically, without conscious effort on your part, making human vision possible.

Tremors — the tiniest and probably the most inexplicable of these movements, continuously and rapidly wobble your eyeball about its center in a circular fashion. They cause the cornea and retina (front and back) of your eyes to move in circles with incredibly minute diameters of approximately 1/1000 (.001) of a millimeter, or .00004 inch. [f8]

This size is about 70 times smaller than the thickness of a piece of paper.

Darwin: You can't be serious, are you saying that 70 circles of the same diameter (OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO) all touching can be placed in a row straight across the thickness of the paper?

RD: Yep. There are other problems too; people are questioning the benefit of symmetrical mutations in aiding survival. How would you explain two symmetrical, arms, ears, nostrils and eyes?

Heck, I'm thinking an eye in the back of my head would be handy but on the other hand two arms are necessary to pop open a can of Beer.

Darwin: Well, an eye in the back of your head would be useful if your only concern was a predator sneaking up behind you when you were drunk, but you need to think Survival of the Symmetrists and Lady Hope. There would have been no story about taking her to bed if I looked like The Elephant Man.

By the way, did you go to inaugural Gordon Conference in Neuroethology in the UK?

RD: [p5] No, but Bora Zivkovic did and made the mistake of exposing Carl Zimmer for leaving out the Ampulex compressa (Emerald Cockroach Wasp) and its prey/host the American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana) out of his research.

Darwin: [p6] We have an explanation for the wasp: They represent an evolutionary transition.

In the beginning, wasps were bigger and strong enough to drag a paralyzed cockroach to their burrow where they laid an egg on the belly of the roach.

The egg hatches and the larva chews a hole in the side of the roach and begins devouring the organs one by one for about eight days. However, the offspring of the fit wasps were stupid and ate the organs in the wrong order and the roach died before they could hatch. This gave an evolutionary advantage to the smart larva, one that saved the nervous system organs for dessert.

However, the larvae that survived weren't strong enough to drag a big roach into its burrow so they had to learn how to retool the roach's neural network that only affects the specific circuits that are involved in walking. The wasps took classes in neuroanatomy, neurophysiology and neurochemistry so they could learn about the nervous systems, metabolism and the specific factors that regulate dendritic branching patterns of neurons; molecular, cellular and behavioral effects of neurotoxins in cockroaches.

Then the smaller smarter wasps can inject it's venom very precisely into the subesophageal ganglion in the head of the roach so they can grab the roach by its antennae and walk it around like a dog on a leash back to its nest.

RD: And don't forget the witty comment from "Kafka" on Zimmer's blog:

"I had a dream that I was a cockroach, and that wasp Ann Coulter stuck me with her stinger, zombified my brain, led me by pulling my antenna into her nest at Fox News, and laid her Neocon eggs on me. Soon a fresh baby college Republican hatched out, burrowed into my body, and devoured me from the inside. Ann Coulter's designs may be intelligent, but she's one cruel god."

Darwin: I must freely confess this example of evolutionary transition is absurd. By the way what are you doing to stop Ray Comfort from giving away his special edition of My Origin of Species making me responsible for Hitler's "final solution"?

RD: We are using a favorite Creationist tactic: Unilateral resistance, book burnings and I'm telling the students to rip out the Introduction of the book.

Darwin: Is that working?

RWD: No, but it doesn't matter because someone is now arguing the existence of God with Intelligent Design based on the perceived evidence of order, purpose, and design in nature. They got it from Plato and Aristotle.

Teleology: study of causes says the existence of God is intuitive and makes a prima facie case for an intelligent designer. Though modern science rejects creationism, which holds that the human race can be traced to a talking snake and a spare human rib, Kent Hovind stresses it requires even more faith to believe in evolution. [f9]

Buzzzt –Negative energy detected…Charles Darwin wanted to find an alternative to God; Richard Dawkins wants to prove he is smarter than God.

Please wait…. take a few deep breaths while we fill Richard Dawkins with an entirely different personality. Tuning RD to an Intelligent Designed spirit.

RD: (Spirit-filled):

Creationists try and prove the existence of God, which is true with false and absurd statements from the Bible:

"In the beginning God..." Genesis 1:1 Actually the Bible doesn't need to prove God. It simply declares His existence as a settled fact, and then tries to win the debate with a free pass to heaven for all that believe that he is, and a promise of Hell for those who those fools that hath said in his heart, there is no God". Psalm 53:1. They know the bible is true because it couldn't have been authored by men-it foretells the future with 100% accuracy every time.

Evolutionists try and prove that Macroevolution, which is false with Microevolution, which is true.

Microevolution can explain the types of bird beaks, the colors of moths and the length of the giraffe's neck because they are variations in the gene pool of each species. Selective breeding cannot create a new species and when it goes too far the species doesn't evolve into something different it dies out.

It's been 150 years and no one has found a natural process that can show how things to fall together into organized complexity (macroevolution).

According to the brilliant English astronomer, Sir Fred Hoyle, the chances of higher life forms ever evolving is the same as a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard, assembling a Boeing 747 from the materials therein or about 1 in 10 to the 40,000th power.

To illustrate just how impossible it is, imagine this: On the ground are all the materials needed to build a house (nails, boards, shingles, windows, etc.). We tie a hammer to the wagging tail of a dog and let him wander about the work site for as long as you please, even millions of years. The swinging hammer on the dog is as likely to build a house as mutation-natural selection is to make a single new working part in an animal, let alone a new creature.

You can cross a cocker spaniel with poodle and get a cockapoo but if it looks like a dog, barks like a dog, a cockapoo is still a dog. If you want to prove The Theory of Evolution, then let's see a frogapoo.

Darwin: I know not what course others may take, but as for me if it's a choice between Evolution, Creation and Deism I'll stay dead.


Believe it or not, the best essay about the debate over Evolution was written by Jim Pappas and published in the Indianapolis Christian Issues Examiner on September 11, 2009.

Of course, Jim is a Creationist who wants to show "how to mine the riches of God's Word and ferret out the truth of history and science in the Bible", but we won't hold that against him.

[Beginning of "Emperor of evolution has no clothes", by Jim Pappas]

"...we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated." Dr. Richard Lewontin - 1997

You can see by many of the comments to this series on Dr. Lewontin's quote that evolution's adherents claim science is counter-intuitive, and often against common sense.

There is a plainly stated reason for this, "we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes".

Evolutionists are "forced" by their "a priori adherence to material causes" to believe evolution is the only possible answer.


Because their pre-existing belief that there is no God, and there is nothing beyond the observed natural realm.

Evolutionists purposely limit their views to fit their presupposition, and anything that disagrees with them they decry is "unscientific" or "religious".

The truth does not matter to the evolutionist; the only thing that matters is their absolute faith in material causes.

It does not matter to them that their explanations are counter-intuitive.

They just claim "science" is counter-intuitive.

But is science really counter-intuitive?

When the apple fell on Newton, was it counter-intuitive to think there is some force causing the apple to fall down, instead of falling up? Is it counter-intuitive to observe that mammals drown if they breathe under water because they need oxygen in the form of gas?

Is in counter-intuitive to understand that the heart is what pumps the blood through the body and not the liver? Science is NOT counterintuitive.

So what else are evolutionists left with?

Creating "an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations...no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated."

In the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary (online), "mystify" means "to intentionally perplex the mind of", "impose upon the credulity of" and "make obscure or difficult to understand", or "to embellish (as fact) or fancifully".

Why in the world would evolutionists want their concepts to "intentionally perplex the mind of" people, or make them "obscure or difficult to understand"?

It is so they will seem so intelligent and beyond question that people will follow lock step into their belief system because of their perceived brilliance without noticing that the Emperor of Evolution has no clothes.

Just who are these "uninitiated"?

The "uninitiated" are all people, and particularly all people who do not readily buy into the hoax of evolution. The "uninitiated" are anybody without advanced degrees who dare to question the so-called science used by evolutionists. What about the people with advanced degrees who disagree with evolution? Just ask an evolutionist, who will describe the highly qualified and educated scientists who disagree with them as "stupid", "insane", "out of their minds", and "not really scientists".

When you think about it, evolution is more of a fanatical religion whose adherents absolutely despise anyone who would defile their system of beliefs, than honest science. Do not dare expose their way of thinking, or their faith; unless their wrath means little to you.

[End of "Emperor of evolution has no clothes", by Jim Pappas]

Preface and Footnotes

[p1] Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL (born 26 March 1941) is a British biological theorist with a background in ethology and who came to prominence in 1976 book with his book The Selfish Gene, which popularized the gene-centered view of evolution. Dawkins was a co-founder of the Out Campaign, as a means of advancing atheism and free thought and is one of world's most widely publicized atheists. He is a prominent critic of religion, creationism and pseudoscience

19th Century: Watchmaker analogy William Paley said that if you were walking through the woods and saw a smooth stone on the ground, no big deal, just a river stone formed by the forces of nature. But if you saw a watch on the ground, you would immediately know that this was made by a watchmaker because of its complexity. Since a living organism is more complex than that watch, it too must be designed.

Dawkins in 1986 said living systems "give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose." But then wrote "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design" to prove the "appearance of design" was only an illusion which could be explained by evolution and natural selection.

In the book he argued against the watchmaker analogy, and described a dysteleological perspective on the process of evolution by natural selection as "blind", without a design or a goal.

In his 2006 million-selling book The God Delusion, he contended that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist, writing that beliefs, based on faith rather than on evidence are a delusion.

[p2] "We have a clip on livingwaters.com of Richard Dawkins speaking about 'Survival of the fittest.' In responding to the statement 'So the way we have created our human society where we look after the weaker people is counter evolutionary,' he said, 'profoundly counter Darwinian, and thank goodness for that.'"

Ray Comfort is the Founder/President/CEO of Living Waters Publications. After relocating from New Zealand to Southern California in the late 1980s, Ray introduced a long line of pastors and churches to a biblical teaching which he called Hell's Best Kept Secret.

If the special edition of Ray Comfort's special edition of The Origin of Species that presents the case for Intelligent Design is as weak as atheists maintain, why would Dawkins telling his followers to rip it out? Answer: Because it would strengthen the case for evolution? But it does the opposite, and that's why they are so threatened," Comfort says. "Among other things, they don't want students to discover how Hitler used evolution as the catalyst for his 'final solution.'" Los Angeles, Nov. 24 /PRNewswire-US Newswire/

[p3] Darwin's theory of evolution according to an "Urban Legend" bothered Darwin later in life because he was worried it would lead to atheism. He, himself, admitted that something as infinitely complex as the human eye could not come about through blind random chance. Shortly after his death, Lady Hope addressed a gathering of young men and women at the educational establishment founded by the evangelist Dwight Lyman Moody at Northfield, Massachusetts. She had, she maintained, visited Darwin on his deathbed on a beautiful autumn afternoon. He had been reading the Epistle to the Hebrews, had asked for the local Sunday school to sing in a summerhouse on the grounds, and had confessed: "How I wish I had not expressed my theory of evolution as I have done." He went on, she said, to say that he would like her to gather a congregation since he "would like to speak to them of Christ Jesus and His salvation, being in a state where he was eagerly savoring the heavenly anticipation of bliss."

However a letter written by Darwin's daughter on February 23, 1922 to The Christian, a religious journal refute any such savoring of heavenly bliss, her comments:

"I was present at his [Darwin's—BT] deathbed. Lady Hope was not present during his last illness, or any illness. I believe he never even saw her, but in any case she had no influence over him in any department of thought and belief. He never recanted any of his scientific views, either then or earlier. We think that story of his conversion was fabricated in the USA. In most of these versions, hymn singing comes in and a summerhouse where the servants and villagers sang hymns to him. There is no such summerhouse and no servants or villagers ever sang hymns to him. The whole story has no foundation whatsoever (see Hawton, 1958, p. 4)."

Also to be considered is this: many of the "facts" of the Lady Hope story are, quite simply, wrong. For example, Darwin died April 19, 1882. But the story of Lady Hope specifically states that she visited him on a beautiful autumn afternoon. That would have left six months between her visit, and his demise. Yet evidence available to us proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that Darwin was neither bedridden nor "on his deathbed" during that six-month period

[p4] Michael Behe is a biophysics professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and his book, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution released last summer, has been causing a firestorm of activity in academic circles ever since. Creationist books are rarely sold in secular bookstores or reviewed in secular publications and are usually released by Christian or small secular publishers willing to take a chance. Darwin's Black Box has gained the attention of evolutionists not normally accustomed to responding to anti-evolutionary ideas in the academic arena. People like Niles Eldredge from the American Museum of Natural History, Daniel Dennett, author of Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Richard Dawkins of Oxford University and author of The Blind Watchmaker, Jerry Robison of Harvard University, and David Hull from the University of Chicago have all been forced to respond to Behe either in print or in person. In summary, the reason for all this attention is that they readily admit that Behe is a reputable scientist from a reputable institution and his argument is therefore more sophisticated than they are accustomed to hearing from creationists. Creationists and intelligent design theorists are usually dismissed Ad Hominem, but not Behe's Darwin's Black Box.

Behe's simple claim is that when Darwin wrote The Origin of Species, the cell was a mysterious black box. We could see the outside of it, but we had no idea of how it worked. In Origin, Darwin stated,

"If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case."

Behe found the case in the Black Box and your everyday non-biological irreducible complex mousetrap. It is composed of five basic parts: a catch (to hold the bait), a powerful spring, a thin rod called "the hammer," a holding bar to secure the hammer in place, and a platform to mount the trap. If any one of these parts is missing, the mechanism will not work because each individual part is integral and therefore must be…irreducibly complex. http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/behe/review.html, Darwin's Black Box Irreducible Complexity or Irreproducible Irreducibility? by Keith Robison

[p5] Revenge of the Zombifying Wasp, Bora Zivkovic, February 04, 2006

I am quite surprised that Carl Zimmer, in research for his book Parasite Rex, did not encounter the fascinating case of the Ampulex compressa (Emerald Cockroach Wasp) and its prey/host the American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana, see also comments on Aetiology and Ocellated).

In 1999, I (Bora Zivkovic) went to Oxford, UK, to the inaugural Gordon Conference in Neuroethology and one of the many exciting speakers I was looking forward to seeing was Fred Libersat.

The talk was half-hot half-cold. To be precise, the first half was hot and the second half was not.

In the first half, he not just introduced the whole behavior, he also showed us a longish movie, showing in high magnification and high resolution all steps of this complex behavior (you can see a cool picture of the wasp's head here).

First, the wasp gives the roach a quick hit-and-run stab with its stinger into the body (thorax) and flies away. After a while, the roach starts grooming itself furiously for some time, followed by complete stillness. Once the roach becomes still, the wasp comes back, positions itself quite carefully on top of the roach and injects its venom very precisely into the subesophageal ganglion in the head of the roach. The venom is a cocktail of dopamine and protein toxins so the effect is behavioral modification instead of paralysis.

Apparently, (apparently is a word evolutionary psychologists often use when trying to describe events that took place centuries ago. In the absence of hard evidence speculation reigns supreme) the wasp's stinger has receptors that guide it to its precise target:

"To investigate what guides the sting, Ram Gal and Frederic Libersat of Ben-Gurion University in Beer-Sheva, Israel, first introduced the wasp to roaches whose brains had been removed. Normally, it takes about a minute for the wasp to find its target, sting, and fly off. But in the brainless roaches, the wasps searched the empty head cavity for an average of 10 minutes. A radioactive tracer injected into the wasps revealed that when they finally did sting, they used about 1/6 the usual amount of venom. The wasps knew something was amiss."

The wasp then saws off the tips of the roach's antennae and drinks the hemolymph from them. It builds a nest - just a little funnel made of soil and pebbles and leads the roach, by pulling at its antenna as if it was a dog-leash, into the funnel. It then lays an egg onto the leg of the roach, closes off the entrance to the funnel with a rock and leaves. The roach remains alive, but completely still in the nest for quite some time (around five weeks). The venom, apart from eliminating all defensive behaviors of the roach, also slows the metabolism of the cockroach, allowing it to live longer without food and water. After a while, the wasp egg hatches, eats its way into the body of the roach, eats the internal organs of the roach, then pupates and hatches. What comes out of the (now dead) cockroach is not a larva (as usually happens with insect parasitoids) but an adult wasp, ready to mate and deposit eggs on new cockroaches.

Why was the second half of the talk a disappointment?

I know for a fact I was not the only one there who expected a deeper look into evolutionary aspects of this highly complex set of behaviors. However, the talk went into a different direction - interesting in itself, for sure, but not as much as an evolutionary story would have been. Libersat described in nitty-gritty detail experiments that uncovered, one by one, secrets of the neuroanatomy, neurophysiology and neurochemistry of the cockroach escape behavior - the one suppressed by toxin - as well as the chemistry of the toxin cocktail. Ganglion after ganglion, neuron after neuron, neurotransmitter after neurotransmitter, the whole behavior was charted for us on the screen. It's an impressive feat, but disappointing when we were all salivating at a prospect of a cool evolutionary story. http://sciencepolitics.blogspot.com/2006/02/revenge-of-zombifying-wasp.html

[p6] Transitional Fossils

"The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, must be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graded organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory." Charles Darwin

Transitional Fossils, 150 years later: have they found them yet? No.

Do you notice any fish today growing little stumps, legs, so they can crawl up on land?

Are there any reptiles developing feathers today?

We should be able to see this sort of evidence if evolution is occurring today. Why don't we see half formed organs instead of complete ones?

Stephen Jay Gould knew about the absence of transitional fossils and invented the idea of "punctuated equilibrium" to explain this absence. The basic idea is that there were periods of extreme biological changes that occurred over short periods of time which precluded the build-up of a fossil record due to lack of time.

What is his primary evidence for his theory?

Answer: The lack of evidence!

What do we actually find in the record?

We find a sudden appearance of a vast number of highly complex organisms (known as the Cambrian explosion) then stasis.

How can this support a transitional theory?

Non-viability of transitional forms

Two lizards had some little babies. They noticed their scales were a bit fuzzier than normal. Then these fuzzy scaled lizards passed on these traits to their offspring and the scales continued to mutate to more feather like things.

You see, these are the pre-cursor to wings. But the feathers are getting so long now, they are getting in the way and even though they can't yet fly, they can't run very well either. They are having trouble escaping predators and getting food.

This is the problem with transitional forms for complex features. Until some primitive if not complete functionality is there, there is no advantage. This is known as the non-viability of transitional forms.


[f1] Many people misunderstand what Darwin's theory is about. Perhaps the most common error is that it is a theory of the origin of life ("abiogenesis"), that is not the case - Darwin's theory does not deal with that matter, but rather is only about how successive generations of organisms change over time ("evolution"). Another common point of confusion about Darwin's work is that he was the first person to propose the idea of evolution - this is far from the case - evolutionary ideas date back to at least the 6th century BCE (e.g. the Greek philosopher Anaximander). Instead Darwin's great "insight" was "natural selection", which is an explanation of how evolution works to produce new species and to create organisms suited to their environments.

[f2] Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882 was trained to be a Clergyman of the Church of England. After graduating from Cambridge at the age of 22, he gave up the Christian ministry to become a naturalist.

Charles Darwin is today known for his theory of evolution by natural selection. He developed this theory over a number of years after returning from a 5 year (1831 to 1836) round the world voyage on HMS Beagle. He observed the varieties of plants, animals and fossils in different regions of the world and noticed certain similarities in some species and came to the conclusion that simpler life forms evolved into more complex life forms. The outline of the theory was first presented in a paper read to the Linnean Society by Charles Darwin's friends, Sir Charles Lyell and John Dalton Hooker (Darwin himself was unable to attend this presentation of his work because of the recent death of his infant son from scarlet fever) on July 1st 1857. Darwin then presented his ideas to a wider public, and at considerably greater length, in his classic 1859 book, "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life", which today is usually referred to simply as "On the Origin of Species."

[f3] In a forthcoming paper for the journal Intelligence, Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Ulster, argues that there is a strong correlation between high IQ and lack of religious belief and that average intelligence predicts atheism rates across 137 countries. Several Gallup poll studies of the general population have shown that those with higher IQs tend not to believe in God." A survey of Royal Society fellows found that only 3.3 per cent believed in God - at a time when 68.5 per cent of the general UK population described themselves as believers. A separate poll in the 90s found only seven per cent of members of the American National Academy of Sciences believed in God. Times Higher Education magazine.

[f4] The decision of the court in the Kitzmiller et al. v Dover Area School District et al. case: Judge John E. Jones III, who was nominated by President George W. Bush, made a very strong ruling that intelligent design is creationism not science and that members of Dover's school board lied under oath to hide their religious motivations. Archive includes transcripts of the trial, http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dover/kitzmiller_v_dover_decision.html

[f5] Curriculum vitas of:

Dr. John Baumgardner John is a highly respected geophysicist in both Christian and secular circles, and is the leading creationist figure in developing the model of Catastrophic Plate Tectonics. Dr. Rob Carter Rob is CMI–USA's head scientist and speaker in Atlanta, Georgia. A marine biologist and expert in genetics (doctorate from the University of Miami) he is also a co-researcher with the Institute for Creation Research on their GENE Project. John Sanford, a former Cornell University professor, is well known in genetic engineering circles as inventor of the gene gun. A scientific convert to six-day creation, his groundbreaking new book Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome demonstrates why human DNA is inexorably deteriorating at an alarming rate and therefore cannot be millions of years old.

[f6] Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Michael Behe http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/darwinbx.html

[f7] Michael Behe and Darwin's Black Box, Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. http://www.uwgb.edu/DutchS/PSEUDOSC/Behe.HTM

[f8] The Saccades Of The Oculomotor System In Vision Processes In Biological Vision, http://www.neuronresearch.net/vision/reading/saccades.htm, Creation ex nihilo 16(4):10–13?September 1994, by Tom Wagner

[f9] From Florida's "Florida Today" Jan 24, 3:51 PM ?Seminar debates evolution theory by Breuse Hickman,?Florida Today. However, the first ID scientists were actually motivated by the inability of modern biology to explain the origin of the digital information encoded in the DNA molecule well prior to the 1987 ruling. And many physicists during the 60's and 70's, including Fred Hoyle who coined the famous "Big Bang" quote, had increasingly been persuaded by the evidence of a finely tuned universe ideally suited to support the existence of life.

There is however an interesting tension between the ID movement in science and Christians who believe the Genesis account of creation literally. The ID people do not advocate any particular designer or even refer to God at all. That is not their interest. This tension is not to say that ID is not a friend to Christians who believe the Bible Creation story. Their scientific arguments and rational thinking are a refreshing respite from the bulldog like evolutionists whose primary motivation appears to be to eliminate God.


Robert Singer is an Entrepreneur and the author of a forthcoming book on the Federal Reserve. His articles cover politics and the financial and environmental implications of our consumer society. The articles have been main headlined and can be found on numerous popular websites: Marketoracle, Silverseek, Pakistan Daily, Silver Bear Café, Goldseek, Dissident Voice, The Peoples Voice, LAprogressive, Canadafreepress, disinformation.com, Opednews, and many of the Wordpress sites. Richard Daughty, The Mogambo Guru, proclaimed him a Junior Mogambo Ranger (JMR).

Alt Med guy whacked with Shorty end of the stick


..This story is too funny, but it takes a little background.

Mike Adams is an alt-med pusher; he writes at Natural News, a website chock-full-o' nonsense about vaccines, homepathy, and so on. Regular readers may remember Mr. Adams from his particularly vile and horrific diatribe about real medicine after Patrick Swayze died. Adams claims to want to help people, but instead peddles all manners of treatments that are known not to work at all.

So that ought to give you a picture of how Adams operates.

The Shorty Awards are a popular new internet award for people who use Twitter. It allows tweeters to vote for someone in various categories like science, humor, celebrity, and, oh, say, health.

Adams, who tweets under the name HealthRanger, was doing well with votes in the Shorties last week, well ahead of everyone else. In second place was another alt-med antivax promoter named Joe Mercola. I've written about him before as well.

But then skeptic Tim Farley noticed something– with only one actual tweet: a vote for Mercola or Adams for the Shorties.


Now, someone who may be a bit conspiracy-minded might assume that either Mercola or Adams, or their followers, might be working a campaign to stuff the ballot box by setting up fake Twitter accounts for the sole purpose of making sure these alt-med public health threats would win the Shorty award in health.

So Tim tweeted about it, and a bunch of us started to promote our friend Australian Rachael Dunlop, who has been tirelessly fighting alternative medicine quackery for years. Within a few days Rachael had moved into first place. Yay!

But there's more! Tim (as well as several others, including me) reported Mercola's and Adams' voter fraud to the people at the Shorty Awards. Today it was announced that Adams was being removed from the contest due to this fraudulent ballot stuffing.

Adams, of course, took this all in stride and has been gracious and self-deprecating about it all.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh my. Of course he hasn't. Instead, he posted what can only be called a frothing rant about this, accusing the Shorty Awards and many of us reality-based people with all kinds of evil doing. You have to read his diatribe to believe anyone could post something so filled with rage, righteous indignation, logical fallacies, made-up transgressions, self-contradictions, and paranoid conspiracy mongering. It's really a masterpiece of woo-based garment-rendering nonsense. He's even threatened to sue!

Maybe he should win a Shorty Award for fiction.

To be fair, I actually don't think Adams should have been disqualified; we don't know who set up the fake votes for him. It might have been just one overzealous altmed fan. What should have happened was all the fake votes should have been struck from the count — a large fraction — and then let the most popular person win. It hardly matters anyway, since Rachael is so far out front that she'll win anyway. But it would be the fair thing to do.

Not that this would assuage Adams anyway. Since he doesn't deal with anything using facts and logic in the first place, he'll just continue to post his nonsense as he pleases.

Orac posted a lovely satirical takedown of all this, which is worth reading. It's always a good idea to keep yourself abreast of what these people are like. The alt-med movement talks a good game about the evil of Big Pharma and Western Medicine, and also claiming they want to help people out of the goodness of their hearts… but when you actually get a glimpse of what's in their hearts, well, it's not exactly rainbows and unicorns.

January 23rd, 2010 10:46 AM Tags: antivax, HealthRanger, Joe Mercola, Mike Adams, Natural News, Orac, Shorty Awards, Tim Farley
by Phil Plait in Alt-Med, Antiscience, Skepticism | 47 comments | RSS feed | Trackback

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Darwin, 200 years later


Written by Rizal Raoul Reyes / Correspondent
Saturday, 23 January 2010 17:31

Revisiting the man and 'The Origin of the Species,' experts affirm that science, religion can exist together

Extremist views by religious fundamentalists and atheist scientists don't contribute to the healthy discussion on the issue of evolution, natural selection, intelligent design and other relevant issues that result in never-ending discussions, according to an academician from one of the country's premier universities.

In a lecture at the recent symposium on the "The Impact of Darwin on Science and Society" at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, marking the 200th year of Darwin's birth (February 12, 1809), Dr. Michael Tan said science can thrive in a religious environment, as exemplified by the ancient Muslim scholars who developed mathematics during the golden age of Islam between 622 and 1600.

"Islam has proven that science and religion can be a good combination as Muslim scholars have developed algebra and algorithm," said Tan, chairman of the Department of Anthropology of UP Diliman.

Conflicts do exist, however. "Hard-line" atheist scientists insist there is no room for a god in science, especially around evolution, and that religion is "one big fraud."

"Hard-line" religionists insist there is no room for evolution in explaining the world, that a creator God, "constantly intervening in the world and in human affairs, is necessary."

According to Prof. Keith Devlin, Arab mathematicians started to make waves in the 9th century. He mentioned scholar Abu Ja'far Mohammed ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi, who penned several books on mathematics that influenced the thinking of the times.

Devlin said one of Al-Khwarizmi's manuscripts was called "Kitab al jabr w'al-muqabala," meaning "restoration and compensation."

According to scholars, the manuscripts signaled the start of the development of algebra. Interestingly, the manuscripts have discussions on quadratic equations, geometry, linear equations and applying mathematics to solve inheritance problems. It would be a surprise to modern people that the Arab mathematicians solve problems not in the manipulation of symbols but through the use of words.

Darwin versus God?

Tan said Darwin's work on The Origin of the Species angered the religious authorities, resulting in the prominent English scientist being pitted "against God" as the focal point of the discussion.

"Evolution became a flash point which led to the development of some scenarios like science versus religion and science versus God," said Tan.

"According to one high-school science teacher in the Philippines, it was Darwin versus God," said Tan.

Scientists like Darwin who introduced revolutionary ideas were also not spared by the trials—led by the Catholic Church's persecution of Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher Galileo Galilei and Polish astronomer Nicolai Copernicus.

After publicly supporting the heliocentric view, which placed the sun at the center of the universe, Galileo was met with bitter opposition from some philosophers and clerics, and two of the latter eventually denounced him to the Roman Inquisition. Moreover, his advocacy was condemned as "false and contrary to the Scripture" in 1616.

Realizing that their predecessors had committed a major faux pas, the Vatican issued an apology in 1992, 359 years after Galileo's trial.

In issuing the apology for the condemnation of Galileo, Pope John Paul II said the Catholic Church was using "knowledge available at the time."

In a related development, the Anglican Church in the United Kingdom also issued a controversial apology in 2008 for refuting Darwin's theory of natural selection.

However, Tan said conservatism is still pervasive in the Catholic Church as it continues to oppose contraception and prevention of HIV through condoms.

Despite the antiscience stance of conservative elements in very religious Western societies, Tan said science thrived with many of the scientists themselves having strong religious beliefs in a God and in established religion.

"The sciences developed in the context of economic changes, such as money to finance scientific inquiry and political power," said Tan.

On a cultural perspective, Tan said science developed as people became more curious and inquisitive.

"There was a willingness to go beyond absolutes, a willingnes to 'deconstruct' nature [and society]," he said.

Moreover, Tan said Christianity's viewpoint of a finite world opened ways to go beyond by "existing in the world" to a "looking at the world" and deciphering nature's "laws."

He said the emergence of capitalism, highlighted by the rise of corporations with economic and political power, has led to a neutral space for inquiry to seek further knowledge.

The bubonic plague was considered a major factor, according to Tan, for people in Europe in the 1340s to seek alternative answers to the crisis.

However, there was a problem of developing science in a feudal society because scientists, especially the younger ones, would face difficulties in reviewing their older peers.

Tan noted religious beliefs such as Hinduism and Buddhism do not have nontheistic components which clash with Darwin's view.

However, this is different with Islam, Catholicism and Judaism, because the three religions' belief in a "Creator God" were causing conflict with Darwin's works.

"Hinduism and Buddhism could easily accommodate Darwin's ideas. The other components of these religions, such as beliefs in karma, kept people 'in' the world rather than fostering an inquisitive investigation of that world," says Tan.

Diverse views

Even if the Catholic Church is a highly centralized institution, Tan said there were still a lot of diverse views prevailing within, which was overshadowed by the noisy elements.

One such example was Fr. George Coyne, director of the Vatican Observatory.

"Religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly," said Father Coyne.

Even in the 19th century, Tan said Darwin had a supporter in Cardinal John Newman, a convert from Anglicanism in October 1845.

In 1868, he pointed out, "The theory of Darwin, true or not, is not necessarily atheistic. On the contrary, it may simply be suggesting a larger idea of divine providence and skill."

In his 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the late Pope John Paul II said, "New scientific knowledge has led us to the conclusion that the theory of evolution is no longer a mere hypothesis."

Putting it in a proper perspective

To enable an observer to get a broader view on the issues in the science-versus-religion debate, Tan suggested that the audience review the works of Dr. Francisco Jose Ayala, an evolutionary biologist and geneticist at the University of California, Irvine.

"Science concerns the processes that account for the natural world: how the planets move, the composition of matter and the atmosphere, the origin and function of organisms," said Ayala.

"Religion concerns the meaning and purpose of the world and of human life, the proper relationship of people to their Creator and to each other, the moral values that inspire and govern people's lives," said Ayala.

He praised Darwin's work as the "most significant intellectual contribution that brought the origin and diversity of organisms into the realm of science."

He pointed out that the Copernican Revolution "consisted in a commitment to the postulate that the universe is governed by natural laws that account for natural phenomena."

"Darwin completed the Copernican Revolution by extending that commitment to the living world," he said.

Ayala, a former Dominican priest, has told his audiences in lectures not just that evolution is a well-corroborated scientific theory, but also that belief in evolution does not rule out belief in God.

In fact, he said, evolution "is more consistent with belief in a personal god than intelligent design. If God has designed organisms, he has a lot to account for," said Ayala in an online article posted in The New York Times.

Dr. Fidel Nemenzo, president of the Science and Society program, said that extremist views from both camps would only lead to unproductive debates resulting in deepening the gap between science and religion.

"Equating science with the abandonment of religion fits into the prejudices of advocates of intelligent design and creationism. A deeper look at science and culture show that there is much room for dialogue. It is only when assertions are made beyond the legitimate boundaries of these nonoverlapping realms of knowledge that the theory of evolution and religion seem antithetical," said Nemenzo.

Conference explores Genesis creation story as truth


By KARI HELTON / The Valley Chronicle
Published: Friday, January 22, 2010 2:16 PM CST

Calvary Chapel in San Jacinto will host a conference Sunday and Monday that explores creationism.

The Answers in Genesis Conference will include speakers Ken Ham and Jason Lisle. Ham is founder and president of Answers in Genesis USA. The organization emphasizes a literal interpretation of the Bible's Book of Genesis and states the universe is about 6,000 years old.

Lisle is creationist astrophysicist with Answers in Genesis USA.

Ham will give the sermon at each of Calvary Chapel's regular Sunday service times: 7:30 a.m., 9:15 a.m., 11 a.m., and 5 p.m. The theme of his talk is "Not Ashamed: Standing on Biblical Authority Beginning With Genesis."

The evening service will be extended to include a second message at 6:30, when Lisle will discuss "The Ultimate Proof of God."

On Monday, Ham will give talks geared for children. At 9 a.m., he will discuss "Dinosaurs for Kids" for children in kindergarten through sixth grade.

At 11 a.m., he will talk to seventh- through 12-graders on "Not Ashamed: Defending the Christian Faith Biblically and Scientifically."

Students and parents are welcome to attend the morning sessions.

At 6 p.m. Ham will discuss "Not Ashamed: How to Reach the Secularized World With the Gospel."

Lisle will conclude the conference at 7:30 p.m. with a talk on creation astronomy.

Admission to the conference is free.

Calvary Chapel is at 1450 W. Seventh St.

For information, call the church at 654-1401, visit its Web site at http://www.ccsjonline.org, or visit the Answers in Genesis USA Web site at http://www.answersingenesis.org/.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Evolution education update: January 22, 2010

The Creation "Museum" reaches the pages of Vanity Fair, while the Freshwater case reaches the pages of The New York Times. Meanwhile, Darwin Day 2010 is approaching, and the movie Creation is making its debut.


A. A. Gill reports on his visit to Answers in Genesis's Creation "Museum" in the February 2010 issue of Vanity Fair -- "a breathtakingly literal march through Genesis, without any hint of soul." "The Creation Museum isn't really a museum at all," Gill writes. "It's an argument. It's not even an argument. It's the ammunition for an argument. It is the Word made into bullets. An armory of righteous revisionism. ... This place doesn't just take on evolution -- it squares off with geology, anthropology, paleontology, history, chemistry, astronomy, zoology, biology, and good taste. It directly and boldly contradicts most -onomies and all -ologies, including most theology."

Accompanying Gill was the actor Paul Bettany, who plays Charles Darwin in the film Creation. (Creation premieres in the United States on January 22, 2010, in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC, and Boston. Remember, a strong opening weekend improves the chances that the film will subsequently appear in further cities, so NCSE encourages its members and friends to show up in force!) A number of Bettany's photographs from their visit to the Creation "Museum" appear on Vanity Fair's website, although he seems to have missed the ceratopsian accoutered with a saddle (photographed by Daniel Phelps).

NCSE's previous coverage of the Creation "Museum" includes Daniel Phelps's review and overview and Timothy H. Heaton's account of his visit. NCSE also sponsored a statement signed by over 1200 scientists in the three states surrounding the museum -- Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana -- expressing their concern about the effect of the scientifically inaccurate materials displayed there: "Students who accept this material as scientifically valid are unlikely to succeed in science courses at the college level. These students will need remedial instruction in the nature of science, as well as in the specific areas of science misrepresented by Answers in Genesis."

For Gill's article, visit:

For Bettany's photographs, visit:

For information about Creation, visit:

For Phelps's and Heaton's reports, visit:

And for the NCSE-sponsored statement of concern, visit:


The controversy over John Freshwater, a Mount Vernon, Ohio, middle school science teacher accused of inappropriate religious activity in the classroom, reached the pages of The New York Times (January 19, 2010), just as the lengthy administrative hearing on his termination is finally nearing its end. In June 2008, a complaint filed in federal court, Doe v. Mount Vernon, accused Freshwater of inappropriately bringing his religion into school -- including by posting posters with the Ten Commandments and Bible verses in his classroom, branding crosses into the arms of his students with a high-voltage electrical device, and teaching creationism. Shortly thereafter, the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education unanimously voted to begin proceedings to terminate his employment in the district.

As the Times reported, Freshwater, who is currently suspended without pay from his job, "asked for a pre-termination hearing, which has lasted more than a year and has cost the school board more than a half million dollars." Creationism, while not the only issue at the hearing, was conspicuous throughout. "Freshwater's supporters want to make this into a new and reverse version of the Scopes trial," David Millstone, the lawyer for the Mount Vernon Board of Education, told the Times, adding, "We see this as a basic issue about students having a constitutional right to be free from religious indoctrination in the public schools." Detailed reports on the hearings by Richard B. Hoppe are available on The Panda's Thumb blog (search for "Freshwater").

In August 2009, a partial settlement in Doe v. Mount Vernon was reached, in which, according to The Mount Vernon News (August 27, 2009), "the board's insurance company has agreed to pay $115,500 toward the plaintiffs' legal fees, $5,500 to one of the plaintiffs as compensation and the sum of $1 each to two other individuals." Not covered by the settlement agreement was Freshwater himself, so the case remains open. Complicating the legal situation, Freshwater filed a counterclaim in Doe v. Mount Vernon in 2008 and his own lawsuit, Freshwater v. Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education et al., against the board and a number of district administrators in 2009, alleging religious discrimination, defamation, conspiracy, and breach of contract.

For the story in The New York Times, visit:

For Hoppe's reports at The Panda's Thumb, visit:

For documents from the two cases, visit:

For the story in The Mount Vernon News, visit:

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


Are you recovered from 2009's celebrations of the bicentennial of Darwin's birth and the sesquicentennial of the publication of On the Origin of Species? Good, because less than a month remains before Darwin Day 2010! Colleges and universities, schools, libraries, museums, churches, civic groups, and just plain folks across the country -- and the world -- are preparing to celebrate Darwin Day, on or around February 12, in honor of the life and work of Charles Darwin. These events provide a marvelous opportunity not only to celebrate Darwin's birthday but also to engage in public outreach about science, evolution, and the importance of evolution education. NCSE encourages its members and friends to attend, participate in, and even organize Darwin Day events in their own communities. To find a local event, check the websites of local universities and museums and the registry of Darwin Day events maintained by the Darwin Day Celebration website. (And don't forget to register your own event with the Darwin Day Celebration website!)

And with Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Weekend! Hundreds of congregations all over the country and around the world are taking part in Evolution Weekend, February 12-14, 2010, by presenting sermons and discussion groups on the compatibility of faith and science. Michael Zimmerman, the initiator of the project, writes, "Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic -- to move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that religious people from many faiths and locations understand that evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith. Finally, as with The Clergy Letter itself, Evolution Weekend makes it clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy." At last count, 710 congregations in all fifty states (and ten foreign countries) were scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events.

In a January 27, 2009, story at Religion Dispatches, Lauri Lebo -- the author of The Devil in Dover (The New Press, 2008), the latest book about the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial -- discusses the genesis of Evolution Weekend and the Clergy Letter Project. Michael Zimmerman told her that after organizing a number of letters in Wisconsin to counteract a local attempt to undermine the teaching of evolution, it struck him: "All of a sudden, here it was ... I realized, OK, I have this letter signed by 200 people in one state. I did the calculations, and figured I could come up with 10,000 signatures nationwide. I thought if I could get the signatures, I could put an end to this silliness." He added, "It never crossed my mind how big 10,000 is." (There are presently 12,307 signatories.) Lebo continues, "Despite its success, Zimmerman is under no delusion that the Clergy Letter Project will end the attacks on evolutionary education by those of fundamentalist faiths. ... Instead, he's trying to reach out to people of more mainstream faiths, who are open-minded but scientifically illiterate."

Writing on the Beacon Broadside blog in February 2008, NCSE's deputy director Glenn Branch asked, "Why make such a point of celebrating Darwin Day, as opposed to, say, Einstein Day on March 14?" He answered, "A crucial reason, particularly in the United States, is to counteract the public climate of ignorance of, skepticism about, and hostility toward evolution," citing a number of current attempts to undermine the teaching of evolution in the public schools. The onslaught continues in 2010, with struggles in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and elsewhere. "So that's a fine reason," as Branch recommended in 2008, "for you to devote a day -- at the museum or in a pew, at a lecture hall or in a movie theater, out in the park or indoors on a badminton court -- to learn about, discuss, and celebrate Darwin and his contributions to science, and to demonstrate your support of teaching evolution in the public schools."

For the Darwin Day registry, visit:

For information about Evolution Weekend, visit:

For Lebo's story and Branch's post, visit:


A reminder: Creation, the new film about Darwin featuring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly, premieres in the United States on January 22, 2010, in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC, and Boston. In her review of Creation at The Panda's Thumb blog, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott described it as "a thoughtful, well-made film that will change many views of Darwin held by the public -- for the good." Scott, the film's director Jon Amiel, and Kevin Padian, president of NCSE's board of directors, will participate in a discussion panel at the San Francisco premiere, and similar events are planned for the premieres elsewhere. A strong opening weekend improves the chances that the film will subsequently appear in further cities, so NCSE encourages its members and friends to show up in force. For updates, visit NCSE's "Darwin on the Big Screen" and Creation's website.

For Scott's review, visit:

For "Darwin on the Big Screen," visit:

For Creation's website, visit:

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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