NTS LogoSkeptical News for 6 May 2010

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Thursday, May 06, 2010

At BioLogos, a Disregard for Truth


[Editor's note: The Evolution News blog is a wonderful propaganda mill for the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture (CSC). To reveal the distortions characteristic of this blog, follow some of the links the bloggers provide.]

When it comes to factual matters, we've come to expect a certain pious slovenliness from the folks at the BioLogos Foundation. This is the same group of Christian theistic evolution advocates who published a distorting review of Stephen Meyer's Signature in the Cell by "living legend" Dr. Francisco Ayala, who patently hadn't read the book, as honcho Dr. Darrel Falk was surely aware. Fresh from that display of integrity, BioLogos now slurs David Coppedge of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory based on an article from a really sterling peer-reviewed journal, the Huffington Post.

Whoever wrote the unsigned "news" item for BioLogos cites as his lone source the piece by Steven Newton, of the Darwinist lobby group National Center for Science Education. Newton's reporting is none too accurate itself, but BioLogos improved on Newton by introducing falsehoods not even found in the original. BioLogos is supposed to be an outfit devoted to apologetics, reconciling science and faith — an unobjectionable mission as far as it goes. What we get from these guys tends, instead, to be little more than propaganda.

A high-level computer specialist on the Cassini mission to Saturn, David Coppedge sued his employer for demoting and humiliating him. His crime? Giving away the occasional DVD of intelligent design-friendly documentaries, Privileged Planet and Unlocking the Mystery of Life. Coppedge claims — reasonably, it seems — that his constitutional rights were infringed. On Huffington Post, Newton implied with no evident factual basis that Coppedge was doing something much less low-key than his own legal complaint — the only information publicly available to our knowledge — suggests. Newton declares: "Supervisors rightly chastise employees who fail to respect their co-workers." Certainly so, but he gives no reason to think Coppedge "failed to respect" anyone.

The BioLogos author is unsatisfied with merely implied defamation. His item offers prejudicing and false accusations against Coppedge that were not cribbed from the Huffington Post version but simply invented: 1) that Coppedge "continually promoted" the films — you picture him blowing off his work every day to wander around the office pushing DVDs into people's hands; and 2) that he sued merely because he was "informed" that his actions were unwelcome — as opposed to suing because he was unfairly punished by being demoted. Quoth BioLogos:

The final story covered in this [Huffington Post] article concerns David Coppedge, a computer specialist who continually promoted the DVDs Unlocking the Mystery of Life and The Privileged Planet to his coworkers. Because his supervisors informed him that his actions were "unwelcome" and "disruptive" to the workplace environment, Coppedge has filed a suit against his company citing "religious discrimination and retaliation," harassment, and "wrongful demotion."

It's a sloppy and uncharitable reading of a source that's uncharitable to begin with. However, it is of a piece with other Darwinist commentary on academic-freedom and free-speech cases.

Thus the very same Steven Newton article invokes Darwinist martyr Christina Comer, erstwhile state science curriculum director for the Texas Education Agency. According to the NCSE's preferred narrative, she was forced out of her job merely for forwarding an email about a planned speech by Professor Barbara Forrest in which Forrest was expected to bash Darwin-doubters. Newton laments that in Texas, "the director of science must 'remain neutral' on the subject of evolution." BioLogos dutifully parrots the NCSE's interpretation, at least here getting the standard Darwinist version right without further embroidering.

But that standard version is itself a gross distortion of what happened between Ms. Comer and her employer. The lady had an extensive record of warnings and complaints against her for acting inappropriately in a freelance capacity — various instance of "insubordination" and "misconduct." Almost all of the Texas Education Agency's difficulties with Ms. Comer had nothing to do with evolutionary curricular matters — on which, because a curriculum dispute was ongoing, she was indeed reasonably required to keep her views to herself.

Contested issues of policy are for elected legislators, not agency staff, to decide. Staff are required to adopt a "neutral" stance till legislators make their decision. Comer was not hired to be a publicist for one side or the other. When she acted as one, this was the last straw for the state agency. A federal judge dismissed her suit against the TEA on precisely that ground. (She has since appealed.)

The justice of Comer's complaint has already been decided, in the negative. Coppedge's has yet to be decided. It's a shame that our friends at BioLogos don't have the sense to suspend judgment till the facts are in, and factually reported. Contributing misinformation of their own isn't just a shame — it is positively shameful.

Posted by David Klinghoffer on May 4, 2010 11:56 AM | Permalink

On Reading the Cell's Signature


January 7, 2010
Category: Guest Features

"Science and the Sacred" is pleased to feature essays from various guest voices in the science-and-religion dialogue.

Dr. Francisco Ayala, University Professor at the University of California, Irvine, is widely regarded as one of the world's leading evolutionary biologists. The former President and Board Chair of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dr. Ayala was initially trained as a Dominican priest in Spain. He came to the United States to study under the legendary Theodosius Dobzhansky, only to go on from there to become legendary himself.

Dr. Ayala has been a moderating influence in the science/religion dialog. We have seen him kindly but forcefully admonish new atheists for their style (this conference is a good example). He also is noted for his admonition of those associated with the Intelligent Design movement. He, like us, believes the approach taken by those in the Movement creates very significant theological and scientific problems. We sent him a copy of Stephen C. Meyer's Signature in the Cell. The essay below is his response. We especially ask you to take note of this sentence: "I do think that people of faith may find in the world many reasons that support their belief in God. But I don't think that intelligent design is one of them."

Note added on March 8, 2010: Dr. Ayala was not asked to do a formal review of "Signature in the Cell." He was asked to enter into the conversation initiated by our essay posted on December 28, and, at his request, was sent a copy of the book. This was his response.

How should a person of faith respond to Signature of the Cell? I am an evolutionary scientist who would suggest the following considerations.

The keystone argument of Signature of the Cell is that chance, by itself, cannot account for the genetic information found in the genomes of organisms. I agree. And so does every evolutionary scientist, I presume. Why, then, spend chapter after chapter and hundreds of pages of elegant prose to argue the point? It is as if in a book about New York, the author would tell us that New York is not in Europe, and then dedicate most of the book to advancing evidence that, indeed, truly, New York is not in Europe.

Signature of the Cell offers Intelligent Design (ID) as the alternative explanation to chance in order to account for genetic information. This suggestion turns out to be no more convincing than a proposal by the author of the book about New York, who having exhausted all possible ways of telling us that New York is not in Europe, would now offer Peoria as the alternative city to visit. We would rather read about New York's architecture, splendid avenues, and great parks; about the rich culture and ethnic diversity of the city; about its restaurants, concert venues, theatres, and wonderful sights in and around the city. But regarding natural selection, genetics, ecology, development, physiology, and behavior in the evolution of genetic information, there is nothing substantive in Signature of the Cell.

Christians and other people of faith should be troubled about Signature of the Cell for several reasons. One is that Meyer avoids consideration of the negative implications of ID as an explanation of the origin of genetic information, which is his main subject. According to Meyer, ID provides a more satisfactory explanation of the human genome than evolution does. ID's explanations envision "discrete or discontinuous intelligent activity in the history of life" (p. 481). Scientists have now obtained the complete DNA sequence of the human genome. The genome has a length of about three billion nucleotides, the "letters" of the DNA alphabet. Scientists have also obtained the complete DNA sequence of the chimpanzee genome—also three billion letters long—and of several hundred other species of organisms. How can we envision the "discrete or discontinuous activity" of the Intelligent Designer? The human and chimpanzee genomes differ from each other in just a few percent of the DNA letters, less than two percent in the genes that code for proteins. Did the Designer tweak the chimpanzee genome to make the human genome? Or, perhaps more likely, did the Designer use a preexisting genome and tweak it a bit to make the human genome and tweak it a different way to make the chimpanzee genome? Did the Designer go on tweaking genomes a bit at a time to design the genome of the gorilla and other primates, and more and more tweaking for other animals, all the way down to mice, and even to fruitflies, with which we share a good fraction of the genome?

The human genome includes about twenty-five thousand genes and lots of other (mostly short) switch sequences, which turn on and off genes in different tissues and at different times and play other functional roles. There are also lots and lots of DNA sequences that are nonsensical. For example, there are about one million virtually identical Alu sequences that are each three-hundred letters (nucleotides) long and are spread throughout the human genome. Think about it: there are in the human genome about twenty-five thousand genes, but one million interspersed Alu sequences; forty times more Alu sequences than genes. It is as if the editor of Signature of the Cell would have inserted between every two pages of Meyer's book, forty additional pages, each containing the same three hundred letters. Likely, Meyer would not think of his editor as being "intelligent." Would a function ever be found for these one million nearly identical Alu sequences? It seems most unlikely. In fact, we know how these sequences come about: one new Alu sequence appears in the genome for every ten newborns, generation after generation. The Designer at work? Unlikely: many of these sequences damage the genome causing abortion of the fetus during the early weeks of life.

Perhaps one could attribute the obnoxious presence of the Alu sequences to degenerative biological processes that are not the result of ID. But was the Designer incompetent or malevolent in not avoiding the eventuality of this degeneration? Come to think of it: why is it that most species become extinct? More than two million species of organisms now live on Earth. But the fossil record shows that more than ninety-nine percent of all species that ever lived became extinct. That is more than one billion extinct species. How come? Is this dreadful waste an outcome intended by the Designer? Or is extinction an outcome of degeneration of genetic information and biological processes? If so, was the Designer not intelligent enough or benevolent enough to avoid the enormity of this waste?

Meyer asserts that the theory of intelligent design has religious implications. "Those who believe in a transcendent God may, therefore, find support for their belief from the biological evidence that supports the theory of intelligent design" (p. 444). I do think that people of faith may find in the world many reasons that support their belief in God. But I don't think that intelligent design is one of them. Quite the contrary. Indeed, there are good reasons to reject ID on religious grounds, in addition to scientific grounds. The biological information encased in the genome determines the traits that the developing organism will have, in humans as well as in other organisms. But humans are chock-full of design defects. We have a jaw that is not sufficiently large to accommodate all of our teeth, so that wisdom teeth have to be removed and other teeth straightened by an orthodontist. Our backbone is less than well designed for our bipedal gait, resulting in back pain and other problems in late life. The birth canal is too narrow for the head of the newborn to pass easily through it, so that millions of innocent babies—and their mothers—have died in childbirth throughout human history.

I could go on about human features that betray a design that certainly is not intelligent. I will add only one more consideration. More that twenty percent of all human pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion during the first two months of pregnancy. That is because the human genome, the human reproductive system, is so poorly designed. Do I want to attribute this egregiously defective design to God, to the omnipotent and benevolent God of the Christian faith? No, I don't. It would not do to say that God designed intelligently the human genome and that it then decayed owing to natural processes. If God would have designed the human genome, surely He would have done it so that this enormous misfortune would not happen. Think of it: twenty percent of all human pregnancies amount to twenty million abortions every year. I shudder at the thought of this calamity being attributed to God's specific design of the human genome. To me, this attribution would amount to blasphemy.

Before the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and the like were attributed to direct action by God, so that the tsunami that five years ago killed two hundred fifty thousand Sumatrans might have been interpreted as God's punishment. Now we know that these catastrophes are the result of natural processes. Similarly, people of faith would do better to attribute the mishaps caused by defective genomes to the vagaries of natural selection and other processes of biological evolution, rather than to God's design.

Filed Under:
science, religion, Stephen Meyer, Alu, DNA, evolution, intelligent design, Francisco Ayala, biology, Discovery Institute, Signature in the Cell

Business Blessing Spell Kit

[Editor's note: This is not from the Web. It's an e-mail we received advertising a Business Blessing Spell Kit.]

Dear Friend,

If you're ready to create a breakthrough with your business or career, now's the time to make it happen, with our Business Blessing Spell Kit.

The Business Blessing Intention Candle Kit is our most popular reorder item, so I've taken the energy of that kit and added my powerful New Moon Ritual to create the Business Blessing Spell Kit! This will clear the path to attract clients and business that inspire and enrich you, allowing your work to enhance more like minded souls. Everything you need comes with this kit, including blessed ritual parchment paper to write your intention on that I use for all my spells.

I have made this simple and easy to use. All you have to do is follow the directions.

As part of your Business Blessing Spell Kit, you will receive the 2010 New Moon chart and the 2010 Full Moon chart to determine the best time to begin your ritual. I will design it to work with your personal Astrological Chart, and I personally make and individually assemble your kit.

It is very important to start your spell on the New Moon that is compatible to your Astrological Chart. This spell requires doing one ritual on the full moon prior to the New Moon when the spell begins. I'm offering a special free consultation to you, only available through this email. My publicly available spell kits come with an email consultation; but as a special offer to you, I'm offering a free 15 minute phone consultation with me to guide you to the most powerful day to begin your new life.

There are only 12 New Moons in a year, and only a few compatible New Moons per sign. Act now while there's still time this year so we can select the New Moon that will be most beneficial for you!

The public can receive this spell kit for $129, but as part of my "tribe," I'd like you to have it for $30 off the original price. Enter the word "businessblessing" (case sensitive) at checkout, to save $30 off the retail price of $129.

Do not delay, this price is only available through May 5th and only through this email! As always email or call me with questions.

Here's the link:


I wish you prosperity,


Naturopathic Medicine: Nature isn't always good for you


Posted: May 05, 2010, 4:00 PM by NP Editor

Naturopathic Medicine Week is taking place from May 3rd to the 9th, and one of its aims is to promote the use of so-called "natural" medicines. Naturopathic products have gained a huge market in Canada and the US during the past decade. In a survey published by Health Canada in 2005, seven in ten Canadians reported that they have used natural health products; of this group, 38% reported that they have done so on a daily basis.

A study by the Canadian Health Food Association and Statistics Canada in 2007 showed that Canadians spend $3.6 billion annually on natural health products. But are we really getting what we paid for?

According to the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), naturopathic medicine is a system of primary health care that uses natural, vitalistic, and holistic methods and substances to support and stimulate the body's "inherent self-healing processes."

Naturopathic practitioners are trained in a variety of complementary/alternative therapies, such as herbal medicine, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, nutrition, as well as some forms of manual manipulation and lifestyle counseling.

Naturopathic medicine may sound appealing to the growing number of people interested in developing a more natural way of living. The promise of more gentle medicines with few if any side effects is a compelling one, especially for people dealing with chronic illness. However, it is important to note that not every plant in nature is gentle and harmless.

Many compounds found in plants are toxic, even in small doses. One herbal medication, Laetrile, an unproven cancer cure obtained from crushed apricot pits, contains large quantities of cyanide. Siberian ginseng, which is commonly prescribed as an "immune booster", contains male-hormone like substances, which could cause hormonal imbalances and liver problems. Any substance that can affect the body positively also has the potential to harm the body, and calling something "natural" misleads the consumer into believing it is also safe.

A potentially lethal danger exists when mixing naturopathic substances with medically prescribed drugs. Most physicians are uninformed about which natural compound their patient is taking, leaving them unaware of how it may interact with other medications. In the past year both B.C. and Ontario naturopaths received permission from their provincial governments to prescribe mainstream medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, opiates and anti-biotics.

After arguing against the use of these medications in the past, how can naturopaths argue that they should have prescribing rights for the same medications?

Patients must be better equipped to choose and distinguish between conventional medicine and non-evidence based alternatives. The widespread use of the term "alternative medicine" gives many people the impression that it is a valid alternative to conventional medicine, but this is very misleading. Most of the therapies that are labeled "alternative" or "complementary" are minimally effective and, in most cases, have no reliable evidence to support them. They are not alternatives: they were abandoned by modern medicine when it was discovered that they did not work.

In contrast to conventional medicines, the mechanism through which a drug works in the majority of the naturopathic compounds is not clear. Claims about the dosage, application, timing, interactions, or efficacy of the ingredients are vague and, for the most part, uncertain and unpredictable. These and other issues surrounding naturopathic practice, which may jeopardize patient care and integrity of our health care system, are of a concern to many health care professionals and the scientific community.

Only five provinces have legislation governing Naturopaths: British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia. There are councils set up in these provinces to regulate the profession and they are charged to do so as per any other provincial regulatory health council.

In B.C. the main problem cannot be clearer. As stated directly in the Health Profession's Act: "The college must not act against a registrant or an applicant for registration solely on the basis that the person practices a therapy that departs from prevailing medical practice unless it can be demonstrated that the therapy poses a greater risk to patient health or safety than does prevailing medical practice" The B.C. government is not concerned if the naturopath's claims of efficacy are unfounded, and they can even cause harm to the patient, as long as it is no more harm than the current standard of care in mainstream medicine. Risk assessment without taking into account the benefits of a given treatment is a questionable health policy.

The Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD) is the regulating authority for natural health products, ensuring their safety, efficacy and quality. We have to hold natural health products up to the same standards as conventional drugs and demand that the manufacturers provide solid evidence of the product's effectiveness, not just a safety profile. This is the only way to ensure that the public will not be duped into purchasing ineffective products or abandoning proven mainstream interventions.

National Post

Behzad Elahi and Lauren O'Driscoll write for the Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism at the Centre for Inquiry. CFI promotes reason, science, secularism and free inquiry and represents humanists, atheists, skeptics and freethinkers.

Read more: http://network.nationalpost.com/NP/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2010/05/05/naturopathic-medicine-be-aware-of-what-you-eat.aspx#ixzz0n9q5tykd

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Geneticist donates his £1m prize


An evolutionary geneticist and molecular biologist has been awarded the £1 million Templeton prize by the Duke of Edinburgh.

Francisco J Ayala is an international authority on molecular evolution and genetics and received the honour at a private Buckingham Palace reception.

The scientist is professor of biological sciences at the University of California and will donate the prize money to his department to support graduate education.

The Templeton prize - one of the world's largest annual monetary awards - honours individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension.

The geneticist, who will give a lecture at the Royal Society on Thursday, said: "This is a remarkable prize. I hope the recognition it bestows will help propagate the notion that science and religion are not in opposition and that, in fact, they may often be complementary."

A former Dominican priest, he served as an expert witness in a pivotal US federal court challenge in 1981 that led to the overturning of an Arkansas law that stated creationism should be taught alongside evolution.

The professor, whose groundbreaking research into single celled disease causing organisms may lead to cures for malaria and other serious illnesses, has equated efforts to block religious intrusions into science with "the survival of rationality".

The geneticist added: "I have been arguing for years, and I continue to argue in all possible ways that are accessible to me, that there need not be (a) contradiction between science and religion.

"Properly they cannot be in contradiction because they deal in different subjects. They are like two windows through which we look at the world; the world is one and the same, but what we see is different."

Over the years winners of the Templeton prize have included Mother Teresa, the writer Alexander Solzhenitzyn, American preacher the Reverend Billy Graham. Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Jews also qualified to win the prize. It was created in the early 1970s by legendary Wall Street investor Sir John Templeton, who described the aim of the award as identifying "entrepreneurs of the spirit".

Copyright © 2010 The Press Association

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

UT study: No proof that eliminating gluten, casein from diets of autistic children is effective


"The diet doesn't have anything to do with autism," researcher says.


Published: 10:56 p.m. Monday, May 3, 2010

A new study by researchers at the University of Texas says there is no evidence to support the hard-to-follow gluten-free and/or casein-free diets that some alternative-medicine practitioners routinely recommend for children with autism.

Scientists at the Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute , part of UT's Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, reached that conclusion after analyzing 15 major studies published on those diets, according to the study published in the summer edition of the peer-reviewed journal Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Gluten is found in wheat, barley and other grains, while casein is found in milk and other dairy products. Putting children on a gluten-free, casein-free diet was developed on the theory that people with autism "have insufficient enzymatic activity in the gastrointestinal tract and increased gastrointestinal permeability. It's suggested that they tend to absorb toxic byproducts of the incompletely digested proteins casein and gluten," Austin Mulloy, the study's lead researcher and a doctoral student in UT's Department of Special Education, wrote in a statement.

But the study says there is no scientific evidence that the diets help, and in fact, they can lead to reduced bone thickness and cause other harm.

"As I reviewed the research, I developed the theory; the diet doesn't have anything to do with autism," Mulloy said in an interview.

However, an increasing number of parents of children with autism have tried the diet in recent years, and some, including parents of children who are patients at the Thoughtful House Center for Children in Austin, say their child's behavior has improved as a result.

Children with autism commonly complain of gastrointestinal problems or act out because of the pain. A January study in the journal Pediatrics said it was undetermined whether autistic children had more gastrointestinal problems than other children because of a lack of "well-controlled studies."

Kelly Barnhill, director of the nutrition clinic at Thoughtful House, said that the diets have helped many children with autism. She said that it's difficult to do good research on dietary changes and that she hopes more research trials will be done.

She said Thoughtful House's "clinical experience of over 2,000 patients has been that a high percentage of children with autism have significant improvement in behaviors, GI function, and overall health as a direct result of this nutritionally sound, safe, and affordable intervention when done with appropriate professional supervision."

The UT study concludes that such diets should only be used on children with autism who have "acute behavioral

changes, seemingly associated with changes in diet, and/or (when) medical professionals confirm through testing the child has allergies or food intolerances to gluten and/or casein."

maroser@statesman.com; 445-3619

Transcripts of the Rashid Buttar hearings–a peak at how alternative medicine treats autistic children


04 May 2010
Author: Sullivan

Dr. Rashid Buttar was recently reprimanded by the North Carolina Medical Board. The reprimand was basically a slap on the wrist. A weak one at that.

The inquiry into Dr. Buttar discussed a number of his patients. One, patient E, was autistic. Dr. Buttar has allowed us to read about his practice by posting the testimony from the hearings.

This, from the opening statements for Dr. Buttar's hearing:

Patient E is a pattern-in-practice patient. Patient E is an eight-year-old school girl who is severely autistic. Her mother contacted the Board after receiving a solicitation from Dr. Buttar to support him in this matter.

Like the ?- like the cancer patients, Patient E's mother came across information that Dr. Buttar could help her child's autism. And without ever seeing the doctor, without ever traveling to North Carolina, Patient E was sent a kit to ?- to basically self-administer a chelation therapy on her own daughter.

And when things started going ?- deteriorating for Patient E, Patient E's only interaction with Dr. Buttar was through his nurse practitioner or other staff members in his office.

And the nurse practitioner who essentially, from the medical records, as you will see, made all decisions about the treatment and diagnosis of this child's autism across state lines without personally seeing the patient, has no formal training in autism or oncology, much like Dr. Buttar who does not have any formal training in oncology or autism.

Yet, nonetheless, they convinced Patient E's mother to take the child off of her medication so that he can apply a transdermal chelation cream on the child. A cream, not so coincidentally, that is developed and invented and sold directly by Dr. Buttar to his patients.

The mother did as instructed and took her daughter off her medication and applied Dr. Buttar's transdermal chelation cream. Her daughter began to deteriorate. The child began to have violent tantrums. She couldn't leave the house or attend school. During the weeks and months as the child deteriorated, Dr. Buttar never followed the child.

And when the mother did not get a satisfactory responses to her concerns, she called the office, made an appointment to see Dr. Buttar and drove her family to North Carolina. However, when she got to North Carolina, she did not see Dr. Buttar, only the nurse practitioner.

And the result of that meeting was that the nurse practitioner attempted to convince the patient ?- the patient's mother that the child needed to be converted to a more aggressive intravenous form of chelation therapy.

The evidence will show that Patient E's situation mirrors that of the other patients. Little or no physician involvement with the patient. Patients are seen primarily, if not exclusively, by the nurse practitioner. The patients have serious illnesses and Dr. Buttar and his nurse practitioner have no formal training in those illnesses.

The patients are prescribed expensive treatments that come straight out of their pocket because insurance does not pay for the treatments. The treatments are arbitrary, one size fits all. They have no basis or evidence of science. The therapies are ineffective and not been subjected to clinical trials and are potentially unsafe.

Dr. Buttar did not see the patient. She was in a different state, after all. But, her mother drove her to North Carolina to see Dr. Buttar and he still didn't see her?

Without seeing her, he took her off her other medications and gave her his own—and she became worse.

Here are sections from the actual testimony.

Q And your daughter never made a personal visit to Dr. Buttar's office prior to these treatments?
A That's right.
Q When you had these telephone consultations with Dr. Buttar's office, did ?- was it with Dr. Buttar?
A No.
Q Who was it with?
A With Jane Garcia.
Q And who is Ms. Garcia?
A I understand her to be his nurse.

Dr. Buttar was not in contact with the family. His nurse practitioner was handling the case. Remotely. Without seeing the patient.

Q Okay. Did Ms. Garcia ever make any recommendations about what to do with your child's medication she was presently on?

A Yes. She insisted that we remove my daughter from the medication or they would not pursue the treatment.

Q What medication was your daughter on?

A Lexapro for anxiety ?-

Q And ?- and how long did ?- how long had your daughter been on Lexapro?

A About a period of a year.

Q And who prescribed that Lexapro?

A Her local pediatrician.

Q Did Dr. Buttar's office consult with your local pediatrician when they recommended that she be taken off Lexapro?

A No, they did not.

Q And at some point what happened to your daughter after she started ?- after you started self-administering this chelation cream?

A Initially, it was uneventful, but she began to deteriorate, regress is how it's referred to, and the regression was extremely significant. We were unable to even get her to come out of the home when she had previously been very social and happy. She wouldn't wear clothes. She was no longer sleeping through the night. She wasn't eating properly and she was extremely restless.

Q Okay. And did you consult Dr. Buttar's office about these issues?

A Absolutely.

Q And what was the response?

A That we just needed to continue because this was to be expected, that she was moving metal and that we just needed to keep doing what we were doing.

Q Okay. And ?- and did you continue to do that?

A Yes.

Q And at some ?- and how did your daughter respond even after you continued the ?- the treatments?

A She just continued to get worse.

Q And at some point did ?- what did you do after that?

A Well, we had made an appointment to come to the office in person and we had hoped at that point, with an in-person physical examination by the doctor, we would get some remedy and advice for the significant amount of deterioration we were experiencing.

Dr. Buttar's office pulled the young girl off of her anxiety medication. They had the family apply a trans-dermal chelation cream. The girl started to "deteriorate"

Q And I'll read to you a note and ask you to comment. It says: Discussed plan with Jane, concur on issue regarding Lexapro, reassess patient that worsening is to be expected due to Herxheimer's response and due to mobilization. Due to age consider IV challenge for best metal yield.
Is that when you talked ?- is that when you and Dr. Buttar's office began talking about ?-
A I'm sorry, can you repeat that? My phone calling interrupted.
Q I'm sorry. It says: Discussed plan with Jane, concur on issue regarding Lexapro. Is that when you had a conversation about taking your child off Lexapro?
A Yes, but I hope that's not referring to me concurring.
Q Okay. And above that there's a typed note that says: Plan to wean off Lexapro, discussed with Dr. Buttar.
But is ?- were you having conversations with Ms. Garcia to take your child off Lexapro and then start this chelation therapy for your child's autism?

Dr. Buttar suggested a "challenge" chelation test. Here is what the Americal College of Medical Toxicologists has to say about "challenge" testing:

It is, therefore, the position of the American College of Medical Toxicology that post-challenge urinary metal testing has not been scientifically validated, has no demonstrated benefit, and may be harmful when applied in the assessment and treatment of patients in whom there is concern for metal poisoning.

I guess I am curious as to why Dr. Buttar thought an IV chelation was needed for the challenge. If his trans-dermal cream chelates, shouldn't that be sufficient?

Q I'm sorry. It says: Discussed plan with Jane, concur on issue regarding Lexapro. Is that when you had a conversation about taking your child off Lexapro?
A Yes, but I hope that's not referring to me concurring.
Q Okay. And above that there's a typed note that says: Plan to wean off Lexapro, discussed with Dr. Buttar.
But is ?- were you having conversations with Ms. Garcia to take your child off Lexapro and then start this chelation therapy for your child's autism?
A Yes, we had discussed it twice.
Q Okay. And ?- and then you began the autism treatments in January, correct?
A Correct.
Q And how did the materials get to you?
A By the mail.
Q And ?- and was there any lab testing involved?
A Yes, routine lab testing was urine, stool, hair.
Q And who did this lab testing?
A Either we did or if it required a blood draw, a local phlebotomy clinic.
Q And all this was occurring in Michigan?
A That's correct.
Q And when your daughter got the chelation cream, who administers that?
A We did, the parents.
Q And how did you do it? Did you do it pursuant to instructions from Dr. Buttar's office?
A Yes.
Q And ?- and all this is occurring without you ever coming to North Carolina to see Dr. Buttar or his nurse practitioner?
A That's correct.
Q Did you have to send money to Dr. Buttar's office before these materials were sent to you?
A Yes.
Q How much money did you send?
A The initial was right at $3,000.
Q Okay. You talked about your daughter deteriorating and then you said you made an appointment to see Dr. Buttar. Approximately when was that?
A Approximately April.
Q And what happened after you made that appointment?
A We were ?- we did another round of testing that was expected to arrive in the office prior to our visit for a review on that and other than that, we simply prepared for the trip.
Q Okay. When you got to North Carolina what ?- did you go to Dr. Buttar's office?
A Yes.
Q Was he there?
A No, he was not.
Q Who did you see?
A Ms. Garcia.

Yes, Dr. Buttar charged $3,000 for them to work with his nurse practioner. They made an appointment to travel from Michigan to North Carolina (a distance of over 800 miles) and Dr. Buttar did not see them. His nurse practitioner saw them and did not examine the patient:

Q (By Mr. Jimison) Okay. Did you have a meeting with Ms. Garcia?
A We did.
Q Did Ms. Garcia examine your child during that meeting?
A She was in a room, but she didn't have an examination, no.
Q Okay. And what was the result of that meeting with Ms. Garcia?
A The large part of the meeting was the—for lack of a better word—sell—to first do IV chelation.
Q And ?- and did you do that?
A No, we did not.
Q And why not?
A My daughter was already significantly deteriorating and appeared to be very sick and there was no way we were going to go get a more aggressive form ?-
Q Okay.
A?- when we haven't even seen the doctor.
Q And how is your daughter doing now?
A She's fine, she's much better.

The young girl is doing much better since leaving Dr. Buttar's care.

I've kept the commentary to a minimum. Take a read. Tell me what you think. Take a look at the actual transcripts and let me know if I've been cherry picking.

Read more: http://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/2010/05/transcripts-of-the-rashid-buttar-hearings-a-peak-at-how-alternative-medicine-treats-autistic-children/#ixzz0myUcm6z3

Monday, May 03, 2010

Science in God's image


The greatest scientific advances presuppose something that looks very like the mind of God

Steve Fuller guardian.co.uk, Monday 3 May 2010 10.30 BST

The question: Is intelligent design bad theology?

Intelligent design theory (ID), the latest version of scientific creationism to challenge the Darwinian orthodoxy in biology, is in the unenviable position of being damned as both bad science and bad theology. However, if those charges are true, then the basis of our belief in both science and God may be irrational. At the very least, ID suggests that belief in the two may be interdependent. I agree with ID on this point, which provides the main thesis of my latest book, a defence of science as an "art of living".

The most basic formulation of ID is that biology is divine technology. In other words, God is no less – and possibly no more – than an infinitely better version of the ideal Homo sapiens, whose distinctive species calling card is art, science and technology. Thus, when ID supporters claim that a cell is as intelligently designed as a mousetrap, they mean it literally. The difference between God and us is simply that God is the one being in whom all of our virtues are concentrated perfectly, whereas for our own part those virtues are distributed imperfectly amongst many individuals.

It is easy to imagine how this way of putting our relationship with God would result in many academic disputes – and it has. But the basic point that remains radical to this day is that, in important ways, the divine and the human are comparable. Notwithstanding Adam's fall, we are still created "in the image and likeness of God". From this biblical claim it follows that we might be capable of deploying the powers that distinguish us from the other animals to come closer to God. Such is the theological template on which the secular idea of progress was forged during the scientific revolution.

This point is of more than historical interest because the scientific projects that have most impressed humanity presuppose what the philosopher Thomas Nagel has called "the view from nowhere", aka "the mind of God". I mean to include here not only the achievements of Newton and Einstein, which allow us to comprehend a universe only a tiny fraction of which we will ever experience directly, but also Charles Darwin's conceptualisation of natural history long before humans first walked the earth. Yet, from a strictly evolutionary standpoint, it is by no means clear what adaptive advantage any of this knowledge has provided us as a species whose members still struggle on earth to survive roughly 75 years.

On the contrary, the second world war – if the first had not already – demonstrated the levels of global risk that we have been willing to tolerate in the pursuit of science and technology. And that faith remains unabated. Nowadays what passes for "anti-science", be it New Age movements or ID itself, mostly reflects distrust in established scientific authorities. It is no more anti-science than the original Protestant reformers were atheists. If anything, these developments – which I have dubbed "Protscience" – speak to the increasing desire of people to take science into their own hands in the 20th and 21st centuries, as they did religion in the 16th and 17th centuries. In this context, the internet today functions very much as the printing press did five centuries ago.

Insofar as we continue to put aside our misgivings that science might destroy us and the planet – that we pursue nuclear energy despite the atom bomb, that we pursue genetics despite the Holocaust, that we pursue social science despite brainwashing and surveillance – we are trading on a residual sense of our closeness to God. Indeed, the Christian doctrine of providence, which was designed to instil perseverance in the face of adversity, is the model for this curious, and some would say, blind faith in science. Certainly such a view makes more sense if God is thought to reveal his handiwork in nature, as ID supporters presume, than if the deity is inscrutable or non-existent, as ID opponents normally do.

In this context, Charles Darwin himself provides an instructive lesson. He began as an ID supporter but fell from the fold when he could not square the mass extinctions, monstrous events and design flaws so evident in nature with a super-smart, super-good, super-powerful deity that might serve as a beacon for human progress. As this awareness set in, Darwin gradually became more pessimistic about science's capacity to ameliorate the human condition. In every science-led policy initiative of his day – not only eugenics and vivisection but even publicity about contraception – Darwin always took a cautious line, doubting the policy's ultimate efficacy and warning about the dangers of "fixed ideas", whether based on science or religion (or both).

Of course, Darwin may be right about all this, but science would not have taken the shape or acquired the significance it has if we agreed with him.

Autism Patients Treated with Alternative Diets, Probiotics


Submitted by Deborah Mitchell on 2010, May 2 - 15:31

A significant number of young people who have autism are following special, alternative diets and taking supplements such as probiotics and digestive enzymes as part of their treatment programs, according to a new study. The report is being presented on Sunday, May 2 at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting by the Autism Speaks' Autism Treatment Network.

Autism is part of a group of disorders called autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) that include autism (the most debilitating condition), Asperger syndrome, and pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of autism among 8-year-olds is about 1 in 110. Autism and other ASDs typically develop in childhood and are usually diagnosed by age three.

The Autism Speaks' study found evaluated data from a large registry of children with ASDs and their use of complementary alternative medicine as part of their treatment regimen. They found that 201 of 1,212 children (17%) were on special diets, primarily a gluten-free, casein-free diet (53%). Children with autism were more likely to be on a special diet (19%), followed by those with PDD-NOS (14%) and Asperger's syndrome (7%).

The researchers also discovered that children who had gastrointestinal problems, which is a common complication of autism, were more likely than those who did not GI problems to use alternative approaches, including glut-free and casein-free diets, use of digestive enzymes and probiotics, and diets free of processed sugars.

A new study published in Nutritional Neuroscience reported on a 24-month randomized, controlled trial that looked at 72 children (ages 4 years to 10 years 11 months) who had ASDs. The children were assigned to either a gluten- and casein-free diet or to no special diet. At the end of the study, the "results suggest that dietary intervention may positively affect developmental outcome for some children diagnosed with ASD."

In a previous article published in the Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, a review of studies of dietary intervention for autism found that patients, parents, and caregivers are increasingly trying this approach, and that some benefits have been reported.

The CDC estimates that if 4 million children are born in the United States each year, approximately 36,500 children eventually will be diagnosed with an ASD. A growing number of them will try alternative diets and supplements such as probiotics. Daniel Coury, MD, medical director of the Autism Treatment Network and professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at The Ohio State University noted that doctors who treat children who have ASDs should know if their patients are trying alternative treatments "in order to help families monitor their child's response to treatment, as well as to assure the safety of these treatments in concert with the physician's prescribed treatments."

Autism Speaks
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Pediatric Academic Societies
Srinivasan P. Annals of Clinical Psychiatry 2009 Oct-Dec; 21(4): 237-47
Whiteley P et al. Nutritional Neuroscience 2010 Apr; 13(2): 87-100

Sunday, May 02, 2010

BIO-Complexity: A New, Peer-Reviewed Science Journal, Open to the ID Debate


[Editor's note: If no reputable journal will take your stuff, what are you going to do? Start your own "peer reviewed" journal, of course. And who are the "peers?" Come on. This is going to be on the exam.]

A new scientific journal, BIO-Complexity, is set to accelerate the pace and heighten the tone of the debate over intelligent design. The purpose of the journal, according to its self-description, is to combine the rigors and accountability of peer-review, at its best, with an editorial policy open to the debate over intelligent design. It is an open-access journal, which means everyone can download all articles for free.

Here's its stated purpose:

BIO-Complexity is a peer-reviewed scientific journal with a unique goal. It aims to be the leading forum for testing the scientific merit of the claim that intelligent design (ID) is a credible explanation for life. Because questions having to do with the role and origin of information in living systems are at the heart of the scientific controversy over ID, these topics—viewed from all angles and perspectives—are central to the journal's scope.

To achieve its aim, BIO-Complexity is founded on the principle of critical exchange that makes science work. Specifically, the journal enlists editors and reviewers with scientific expertise in relevant fields who hold a wide range of views on the merit of ID, but who agree on the importance of science for resolving controversies of this kind. Our editors use expert peer review, guided by their own judgement, to decide whether submitted work merits consideration and critique. BIO-Complexity aims not merely to publish work that meets this standard, but also to provide expert critical commentary on it.

For years, scientists and other scholars who want to pursue design-theoretic research have had to deal with a Catch-22. Though many big scientific ideas appear in books, specialized science develops, in large part, through the peer-reviewed publishing process. At the same time, anyone with the slightest acquaintance with the subject knows that arguing explicitly for design in an article submitted to a scientific journal is a sure-fire way to prevent the article from seeing the light of day. But it looks like that is about to change.

As we learned recently with the "Climategate" controversy, despite the merits of the peer-review concept, it can often be used as an ideological gatekeeper. This is nowhere more true than with ID. So ID-oriented scientists have been forced either to avoid the subject in their scientific publishing, or, when dealing with design-relevant evidence, to write in such an elliptical fashion that that relevance is thoroughly disguised.

It's a Catch-22, of course, because critics claim that ID "isn't science" since it's not in the peer-reviewed literature. (That's not true; but the Catch-22 means that explicitly ID-oriented work is vastly under-represented in that literature.)

But surely, you might ask, there's an open-minded editor at some journal somewhere who would give ID a fair shake? I do know of one such editor, Richard Sternberg, who several years ago sent out for review an article by some guy defending a design perspective and then, when the article passed peer-review, Sternberg published it. If there are any remaining open-minded editors willing to send out similar articles for peer-review, the Sternberg affair reminds them what will happen if they do.

Hence the need for a journal like BIO-Complexity, especially in the biological sciences where the opposition to ID is particularly intense. The editorial board is composed of an international group of scientists with differing views about the merits of ID. But all are committed to a fair and honest assessment of the question. No doubt they will receive heat for their effort, so they are to be commended for their commitment to a fair and open exchange of ideas.

Of course, the journal itself is simply a forum for the evidence to be presented, defended, debated, and critiqued—not to be a mouthpiece for ID. The scientific merits of ID depend, of course, on the content. So stay tuned.

Posted by Jay Richards on May 1, 2010 12:16 AM | Permalink

The Health Guru Who Sued His Own Supplement


Katie Drummond Contributor

AOL News (May 1) -- He markets himself as an anti-establishment, lifesaving holistic health guru, but Gary Null might want to rethink his advertising strategy, after filing a very public lawsuit against the manufacturer of his own product.

The "extreme cracks and bleeding feet" that Null describes suffering might sound dramatic, but they're only the latest in the storied, decades-long saga of the eccentric alternative health icon.

The 65-year-old writer, talk radio host and online peddler of products like "Gary's Green Stuff" and "Age Buster! Tablets" filed a lawsuit this week against New Jersey's Triarco Industries.

The suit, which seeks $10 million in damages, alleges that the company miscalculated the dosage of vitamin D in creating his namesake product, a powdered supplement called "Gary Null's Ultimate Meal."

Null alleges that he was plagued by exhaustion -- both mental and physical -- along with cracked, bleeding feet and severe kidney damage. One serving of the supplement apparently contained 2 million IUs of vitamin D; the Food and Drug Administration recommends a daily intake of 1,000 IUs.

The lawsuit marks the first time the guru has raised doubts about the merits of his own products. But it's not the first time others have wondered about the merits of Null himself.

"He promotes hundreds of ideas that are inaccurate, unscientific and/or unproven," writes Dr. Stephen Barrett, the founder of Quackwatch.org and a critic of Null since the 1970s. "His web site contains a huge amount of misinformation and bad advice."

Null got his start in 1972, when he published the first of more than 70 books on everything from "How to Kiss Your Fat Goodbye" to "Natural Pet Care."

His first tome, "The Complete Guide to Health and Nutrition," led to a decades-long column in Penthouse magazine, where Null railed on topics like the ineffectiveness of mainstream cancer treatment and the deadly health risks of vaccinations.

And while Null's website describes him as a "Ph.D." and "International Expert in Health & Nutrition Sciences," his actual credentials might not live up to the impressive moniker.

Null holds an associate degree in business administration from West Virginia's Mountain State College. He got his Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies from Ohio's Union Institute, a "nontraditional" school where students design their own curriculum and decide who gets to chair their doctoral committees.

He defended his thesis on caffeine's impact on human health before a panel that included a professor of geological sciences and an adjunct professor who often sat in for Null on his radio show, according to Quackwatch.

The show, "Natural Living With Gary Null," has been on the air in New York for more than 27 years.

But being an author, radio host and supplement salesperson hasn't been enough to satisfy Null's appetite for alternative medicine advocacy. He's also an avid documentary filmmaker, with flicks like "AIDS Inc." and "Autism: Made in the USA," available for sale on his website.

In the late 1990s, health advocates derided PBS for airing the movies during pledge drives in an effort to capitalize on Null's massive fan base. Indeed, one Null flick raised more than $4 million for various PBS stations.

PBS president Ervin Duggan, however, put a quick stop to the cash grab.

"What does it profit us to honor science in 'Nova,' only to open the door to quacks and charlatans on pledge specials?" he said.

But for those interested in a sneak preview, Null also owns a grocery store on New York's Upper West Side, where the films are aired daily on large TV screens behind the cash registers.

Null's "Ultimate Meal" has been pulled from the shelves at his store, as Null continues to recuperate. Following his overdose, Null says he "sequestered himself and fasted," consuming copious quantities of water to detoxify his body.

But the do-it-himself approach didn't really work. Several months later, Null reports that he's still occasionally peeing blood. That's likely curbed one of his favorite healthy-living strategies -- drinking jugs of his own urine.

And while Null is seeing red, many of his customers are crying foul. At least six were hospitalized for kidney problems related to the same product.

"Gary was getting a lot of phone calls from customers with many, many complaints," Null's lawyer, Leslie Fourton, told ABC News. "This is the only time in 30 years that an incident like this has happened. We don't want anything to affect the physical well-being of anyone or the reputation of the company."

But despite the mounting evidence of Null's questionable credentials and potentially hazardous products, the guru still has a broad fan base.

His website attracts around 30,000 unique visitors a month, and YouTube videos feature dozens of Null patients who celebrate the power of the guru's healing regimes.

Maureen McGovern credits Null with "curing" her Alzheimer's disease.

"When I met Gary and his staff ... I was unable to take care of myself," the singer said. "[Now] I have great joy in my life, and I am incredibly grateful to Gary and his group of medical experts."

Others are even more zealous in their devotion.

"How dare you call Gary null a quack!!" wrote one devotee in an e-mail to Barrett at Quackwatch. "GARY NULL IS A GOD."

Improving Science Education by Ignoring Evolution? Absurd!


Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D..Founder, The Clergy Letter Project

Posted: May 1, 2010 04:48 PM A much needed report on teacher preparation in the United States has just been released by the National Research Council (NRC). While the attention it focuses on ways to improve the education prospective teachers acquire is of critical importance, a major disappointment (perhaps embarrassment would be a better word) with the report is that it completely ignores the manufactured controversy over the teaching of evolution as a central tenet of biology.

This isn't to say that the report ignored the teaching of science itself. Indeed, science was one of the three areas given primary attention, joined by reading and mathematics. Additionally, the committee writing the report recognized two salient points about science education. First, in a participatory democracy it is essential that citizens achieve at least a basic level of science literacy. Second, national and international studies of students' science knowledge continue to show that U.S. students, on average, fare very poorly.

And yet, probably in a desire to avoid controversy, the report omits any mention of the single issue likely to impact teacher training and student learning more than any other. Fear of facing the dominant problem means that progress is likely to be small at best.

Ignoring the issue, however, isn't going to make it disappear. Rather, ignoring the issue is going to make it increasingly difficult for teachers to understand science fully and to teach it well.

The science curriculum advanced by young earth creationists such as those at Answers in Genesis, the folks behind the Creation Museum-cum-theme-park outside of Cincinnati where school kids go to see dinosaurs and humans cavorting, is completely at odds with that of the world's scientific community. And it's important to note that if such an extreme curriculum were to be fully implemented, there would be significant impact on subjects well beyond biology. In fact, significant restructuring of chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, anthropology and linguistics, as well as biology, would have to take place.

That the problem is very real has been strikingly demonstrated by a relatively recent study showing that one in six high school biology teachers could be considered to be a young earth creationist. Given that evolution is the framework upon which all of biology is dependent, or as the great population geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky so well and so famously said in 1973, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution," it isn't surprising that our students are being poorly educated in science. Even though the NRC report makes a general call for teachers to have a richer understanding of scientific content, it just couldn't bring itself to tackle this critical issue.

Perhaps even more important than the lack of specific scientific information taught to our students is our inability, or unwillingness, to educate students about the very nature of science. For the most part, we refuse to help students differentiate between science and non-science -- and between non-science and nonsense.

The science curriculum advanced by such creationist organizations as the Discovery Institute makes an already bad situation far worse. They're attempting to have science redefined to include the supernatural and to move away from the well established concept of hypothesis testing that is central to the scientific method. And they're promoting intelligent design creationism which has the concept of irreducible complexity at its core -- a concept that calls for the end of scientific investigation once a creationist "expert" declares that further investigation would be fruitless. Remember that Michael Behe, irreducible complexity's leading proponent, declared under oath in the Dover, PA "intelligent design" trial, that by his definition, astrology is every bit as much a scientific theory as is intelligent design.

If science education is going to be strengthened in the United States, something that virtually everyone agrees should happen, people must be willing to stand up and be unafraid to declare that some concepts fall outside the bounds of science. And then, collectively, we need the will to say that those topics will not be taught in science classes -- period. We should be no more worried that creationists will be upset when we forcefully declare their ideas unscientific than we are concerned about the feelings of those who promote astrology.

Accomplish this simple goal and have serious discussions with prospective teachers about the nature of science, showing them how to differentiate science from pseudoscience, and we will make great strides toward educating a scientifically literate population.

Refuse to move in this direction, refuse to even raise the issue in a major national report about improving science education and instead continue to allow local school boards and state legislatures to promote nonsense as science because of the fear that very vocal religious fundamentalists will be disappointed and the students of the United States will continue to land at the bottom of all of those international science tests.

The choice about how to proceed is ours -- and very clear.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Fake Noah's Ark found on Mt. Ararat


Category: Creationism • Culture Wars • Policy and Politics
Posted on: April 29, 2010 12:33 AM, by Josh Rosenau

So Fox News breathlessly reported that Chinese researchers had found Noah's ark. "Has Noah's Ark been found on Turkish mountaintop?," they asked, dumbly. "No," answered slacktivist.

Gawker replied at greater length:

A group of evangelicals found some 4,800-year-old wood on top of Mount Ararat. They are "99.9 pecent" sure that it's Noah's ark. This is totally real, which is why it's on the front page of Fox News' "SciTech" section.

Slacktivist didn't actually just say "no," he expanded on the point by noting:

The expedition seems to have found a wooden structure. They hear hoofbeats, so they're "99.9 percent" certain it must be a zebra. Or a unicorn with zebra stripes.

Considering the style of argumentation offered by Noah's Ark Ministries, he continues:

If you had these people read Aesop's story of the Ant and the Grasshopper and then asked them what the story means, they would reply that it means they should start raising money for an entomological expedition to Greece, because holy cow -- talking insects!

Atrios was just bemused, wondering:

Weren't there like 15 In Search Of documentaries and even a movie around that time about how they so totally found Noah's Ark? Also, Sasquatch.

Various sciencebloggers responded to the incident with predictable ire, with PZ Myers jumping on the Chinese creationists' claim that the wood had been carbon dated to 4,800 years old:

Oh, yeah. Now the creationists are willing to say carbon-dating is valid.

You wish. Todd C. Wood, a baraminologist (creationist who knows better than to reject evolution outright) at William Jennings Bryan College in Dayton, TN, rejected the finding, observing:

1. They claim that radiocarbon dates the wood to 4800 years before present, but the Ark was constructed of pre-Flood wood, which would mean that the carbon dating should be much, much older.

2. The modern "Mt. Ararat" (Agri Dagh) is a post-Flood volcano. The Ark could not have landed on Agri Dagh because it did not exist at the end of the Flood, and even if it did land on modern Agri Dagh, it would have been destroyed by the many, many eruptions of Ararat since the Flood. You can observe all the fresh lava flows on Agri Dagh at Google Maps.

3. Given that the Flood survivors left the Ark to find a devastated world, the Ark would have been the best source of timber for the first decade or so. I think it highly likely that the Ark was dismantled to supply the growing population with building material for shelter.

Say what you will about creationists, some of them have genuine critical thinking skills. But as the saying goes, garbage in, garbage out. Wood assumes that magic things happened to radioisotopes during the Flood, so wood from before the Flood should, like dinosaur bones and preCambrian fossils, have an apparent age of millions of years old.

And then the whole thing collapsed. Wood later reported on comments by someone who tagged along on some of the Ark expeditions and absolutely debunked the story. He concluded:

So there you have it. You know, creationists give evolutionists a hard time over hoaxes like Piltdown, but frankly, we've got just as many skeletons in our closet. Paluxy, Durupinar, the Burdick print, and so it goes.

In creationist math, three hoaxes are "just as many" as one, I suppose. And Wood gives some tolerably good advice (if you edit it right):

Here's some friendly advice to my readers: Please stop pouring money into fruitless searches for Noah's Ark. Do you know what real good you could accomplish with your money? Instead of gambling it away on the hope that you'll find Noah's Ark on a mountain where it can't possibly be? If you're really into creationism, invest in creationist education or research. There are plenty of creation scientists out there struggling with little or no research funding, and it physically sickens me to see people getting swindled out of thousands of dollars on ridiculous Ark expeditions. Don't like research? Then just donate to the Creation Museum. Or give your money to a legitimate missions organization, like the Bible League. Support your local soup kitchen or shelter for battered women or addiction rehab facility. There's so much good you could do with that kind of financial blessing.

There is no Ark. There never was, and if there had been, it wouldn't still be sitting on Mt Ararat. Do something useful with that energy. And remember a point slacktivist made about this in 2007:

it's still startling how many people have gotten drowned in the details of this story. They travel to Mt. Ararat in search of the ark, or they obsess over details of hydrology and storage space. Just as lost at sea are these poor folks' mirror opposites -- those who obsess over the details to prove that the story is "literally" false. (I'm forced to place the word literally in quotation marks here because it is the word they insist on using, although what they mean by it is far from clear.)

Both sorts of literalists approach these stories with the same incomprehension as that of people who don't understand jokes. "What kind of bar?" they ask. You try to ignore them, to get on to the punch line, to the point, but they keep interrupting. "A duck? I don't think you'd be allowed in the bar if you were carrying a duck."

Such people are particularly infuriating when you're trying to tell a really good joke. They're even more infuriating when you're trying to tell a really important story.

Enjoy the story. Study the story. If you find meaning in the story, retell the story and help other people understand it. But the truth of the story about Noah's ark has nothing to do with exactly how long a cubit was, what sort of wood is meant by "gopher wood," or what happened to all the poop. Noah's ark is a story about the dangers of selfishness, about the importance of being good to one another, and ultimately of honoring our ancestors. It's also about the patriarchal society of the era in which it was written down, a culture in which the sins of the father pass to the children, and in which Noah's religious devotion could save not only himself, but his family, just as Lot's goodness (including a willingness to offer his virgin daughters to be raped by a mob to save a guest) was sufficient to save his family.

In other words, a good story, but also a problematic one. And sometimes, problematic stories are the best ones, since you need to think about them more, and reward careful consideration. But not an excuse for chasing around Turkey sneaking rotten wood up a mountain to build a fake boat.

Meet the candidates:


School board election guide


News Editor

West Yellowstone School District No. 69 is holding an election at the school library from noon to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 4, to fill one seat on its board of trustees, as well as a levy increase proposition.

Incumbent Brad Loomis is running for a third term, along with candidates David Arnado, Rachael Burden, Clint Fowler and Sandi Peppler.

The News posed the following four questions to each of the five candidates:

What experience would you bring to the table that qualifies you to be a school board member?

Do you believe that creationism or intelligent design should be taught public schools? Please explain.

What is the biggest challenge facing the West Yellowstone School and how would you address it?

How do you feel about drug testing our staff and students?

David Arnado

1. I am a parent of three children that will be attending our school, from a sophomore, sixth grader and next year a kindergartener. And I am also a taxpayer so I want the best of both worlds. I have also run my own business for over 15 years ranging from dealing with many issues from budgets, employees, public involvement, and lawyers. I feel I can bring a range of experience to the board and a new and fresh input to our school and school board.

2. First of all, I am a Christian and very proud of it. Second, I believe that what ever you believe as a family or individual should be taught by us as parents in our homes or in church on your day of worship. Third, I believe our county was set up to separate church and state. I feel the teaching of religion should be kept within the walls of our family and that teaching of education should be taught in our school system and by dedicated educated teachers.

3. I think there are many challenges facing our school today. First, as with every year money is one of the biggest challenges. Second, drugs and alcohol and third, one of the most important is the quality of our teachers. Today, in a time of a down economy and taxes. I feel that we as taxpayers want the most out our money and as parent we want the best for our children. I think that as a school board member I can help bring the two together. I think teachers are the most important role models to our children other then we as parents. I really believe that teacher sculpt and model our children's minds and for that they shape all of our futures. I believe that teachers should be compensated for that but for that compensation, they should be held to a higher standard then they are today.

4. I am for drug and alcohol testing for teachers and students. I feel that teachers should be held to a higher standard, for they are teaching my children and yours. I do believe that people should be able to do what they want in their own time. But what if that comes over into the time when they are teaching our children. I know there are laws and rules that must be followed as we deal with this issue to safeguard people rights and our children future. As for students, our children need to be held to a higher standard too. Do we as parents not want the best for them? Protecting, sheltering or hiding our children from the consequences of their actions doesn't help them prepare for the real world. There will be nobody out there that can shelter them when we are gone. They need to grow to be responsible and productive adults.

Rachael Burden

1. I have had the opportunity to work in the school district as an educator and as a parent. Having been part of the school system gave me unique perspectives and the opportunity to observe the day to day school operations. I would bring a strong work ethic, a willingness to take on a challenge, andthe ability to listen to others with an open mind. I feel thatIcould work effectively with the other members of the board toget things done in an efficient and professional manner. Additionally, I have a personal vested interest because my two boys currently attend the West Yellowstone School system.

2. No. The First Amendment forbids public schools run by the state from teaching religion. The public school system is created for ALLstudents and supported by ALL taxpayers. For that very reason it should remain neutral on religious issues and all other personal beliefs.

3. The lack of financial support. In a time when the economy is suffering it's hard to decide where to use the fundingin the most effective way. I would address it by making sure those decisions are meeting the children's educational needs,strengthening the programs we currently have, and work towards providing a place where parents want to raise their kids in this amazing and unique community.

4. I don't fully support drug testing in schools. There are so many pros and cons towards the drug testing in schools debate, and I feel that there is so much more to learn about the effectiveness as to whether it is successful or not. As a community we realize that druguse is an issue, but I feel thatthe schools roleshouldbe to educate the dangers of drug, alcohol and tobaccoabuse. Spend the money towards providing assembliesanddrug resistanceprogramsto prevent future use,rather than funding mandatory drug testing to the students and staff.In a time where budgeting is already an issue the benefit per dollar would bemore effective as a whole.

Clinton Fowler

1. I have three children currently attending West Yellowstone Schools. I have lived in 7 different states and 2 different countries where I have attended school or been involved with the schools. I will bring a Fresh open mind that can see opportunities where others see impossibility. I currently serve (and have served) our community on the Sign Ordinance Committee and Sign Review Advisory Board.

2. It is difficult at times for most of us to separate our personal desires from what is right. In our schools, we must avoid the promotion of one religious belief over another (Not all religions support "Intelligent Design" or "Creationism"). The children go to school to learn facts that will help them through life, help them become a better citizen of the World, not to learn about a particular religious belief. That is for the parents to administer outside of school.

3. The lack of involvement of parents in the education of their children, both at home and in school. I propose three processes. The first is an Education Foundation that raises funds to support extracurricular activities, classroom supplies and parental involvement. The second, Teachers need to send home more notes with required signatures for return. The third is a monthly class meeting of parents and the respective teacher to discuss issues, needs, and educational goals.

4. Anyone employed at the school, including volunteers and school board members, should be drug tested prior to hire, and randomly throughout the school year. If a student has been identified through the legal process as having a drug issue, as a condition of returning to school the student must participate in a drug testing process. The cost to test all students without probable cause would not be a responsible use of funds. In addition, the Federal Court of Appeals in the 10th Circuit held that the drug testing policy (of testing all students) violated the students' Fourth Amendment rights.

Brad Loomis

1. I believe I have substantial experience that qualifies me to be a school board member. I have been elected twice serving six years as a school board member. I am a father of 3 boys that attend the school. I care about our school system and want to assure every child gets the education they deserve. During my tenure, I have gained great experience in dealing with budget, school, policies and student issues. I am proud of my contribution to the board and our school.

2. In my opinion, creationism or intelligent design should be taught in public schools as an option. I find it strange that schools can teach the evolution theory or the big bang theory but not teach intelligent design as an option. This great nation was built acknowledging God.

3. The biggest challenge facing the West Yellowstone School is budget. The budget is based on legislation and school enrolment, thus it changes. The board needs to maintain quality educators, a solid education, and co curricular activities that our children deserve. The board needs to watch expenses and look at improvements that will save the district money. For example, the new energy efficient lights.

4. The board has previously visited the idea of drug testing for students. We decided not to pursue it because student privacy would be an issue in our small school. The school has policies for alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs which the board adheres to. I hold the staff to higher standards and feel there is no need for testing.

Sandi Peppler

1. There are many roles I play; qualifications from those various roles would make me a strong board member with experience as follows: 1) Business Owner. Federal, State, Local Compliance. Legal issues. Budgeting, Employee negotiations. 2) Professional. Contracts. Confidentiality. Negotiation Skills. 3) Parent. Active Member Booster Club, Attend School Board Meetings (missed 1 in the last year and .) aware of the issues effecting the school, staff, students and parents. Active Volunteer. Compassionate. Intuitive. Informative. Teacher. Listener.

2. Both theories should be explored in school. Scientifically there are many mysteries of the universe that have not been explained or have "yet" to be explained. Religion/God is a great part of an individual's heritage & should not be discriminated against. God should be allowed in school as an individual's heritage. Our country's beliefs were founded on God and I still believe in those beliefs.

3. Positive Attitude and Environment is the biggest challenge facing the West Yellowstone School. I think when better communication and information are exchanged between parents, staff, administration and students we will be able to understand and face any issue with ease and as a united front for the benefit of all.

4. The school staff and administration undergo background checks, health vaccinations and fingerprinting as a pre-requisite for hiring. I believe that drug testing the school staff and administration should be added to the pre-requisite and random drug testing thereafter. I do not believe that students should undergo drug testing.

More rival ark-hunters comment on Ark find claim


April 30, 8:48 PM Creationism Examiner Terry Hurlbut

Today two more creationists came forward with their analysis of the latest Noah's Ark discovery claim, pointing out inconsistencies in the account and sharply criticizing the seemingly regular nature of claim after claim by "amateur archaeologists" to have found Noah's Ark, with the public learning only later that the claimants have found no such thing.

Bill Crouse and Gordon Franz of Christian Information Ministries published an e-mail release early this morning detailing their concerns. In all fairness, Crouse and Franz favor an alternate report by Ark hunter Bob Cornuke, who claimed to have found a promising artifact, not on Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey, but on another mountain, 200 miles further south.

Crouse and Franz begin by observing the regular nature of Noah's Ark discovery claims (emphasis in the original):

The problem with this is that it seems like the "discovery" of Noah's Ark is getting to be almost an annual event. What in the world is going on? We think it's a question that is easy to analyze. Genesis 1-11 is the most attacked portion of Scripture for its historicity. Finding an antediluvian artifact like Noah's Ark could be the greatest archaeological discovery ever. It evokes many wannabe Indiana Jones' to search for Noah's Ark. We see no problem with this quest, and would welcome such a discovery. The problem is not in the finding of the Ark; but in its substantiation.

Crouse and Franz then explain what they mean: that anyone claiming such a discovery should share their findings with other scientists before announcing them to the public.

Amateur archaeologists can and do find things that turn out to be fantastic discoveries....However, to properly document a discovery, the proper scientific protocol must be followed. Scientists are trained to gather and analyze evidence. They then publish their research so that other scientists can test their results. These "Indiana Joneses" invariably do not do this. They put the cart before the horse by announcing the discovery first and declare exactly what it is in a spectacular news conference rather than publishing their results in a scientific journal. The news media, on the other hand, is all too willing to do what gets good ratings, and at the same time it usually puts evangelical Christians in a bad light.

Crouse and Franz then give details on what is wrong with Mount Ararat as a site, and what is inconsistent about the pictures shared thus far:

  1. The claimed site is in glacial ice. A glacier would have pulverized any wooden structure caught within its substance.
  2. Mount Ararat is a post-Flood volcano with no sedimentary rock on it at all.
  3. The choice of laboratory for the radiocarbon dating (in Iran, a closed country) is suspect.
  4. Whether the wood is coated with bitumen, as the Bible specifies, is unclear.
  5. Frames of reference for the still pictures and video footage are singularly lacking.
  6. The explorers are apparently planning to make a documentary as a for-profit project--before they publish to any journals. While this Examiner has noticed in other contexts that "peer review" tends to be an exclusionary game, by now creation science has a sizeable body of periodical literature. These latest claimants could and should have submitted findings to the Journal of Creation, or Answers, or any of several other such journals.

Crouse and Franz also raise the issue of the reputation that the team's Kurdish guide has for dishonesty--a question that other sources have previously raised. They conclude that the latest find does not appear genuine, though they are willing to be convinced otherwise, and suggest how these latest explorers might convince them:

At this point we are skeptical of the claims but would rejoice in the end if they proved to be true. If this someday is the case we will be the first to apologize for our doubts. We would strongly urge the Hong Kong group to follow proper scholarly procedures and publish this material in scientific, peer-reviewed archaeological and geological publications so that the scholarly community can examine the material first hand and critique it in order to offer helpful, and constructive, criticism. For the person in the pew, we caution you to not get too excited about something that is at best, unsubstantiated; and at worst, a fraud perpetrated by the Kurdish guide!

This article is part of the Noah's Ark series.

Evolution, Creationism, and the Workplace


In America, a state science director can be forced out of her job for forwarding an e-mail about an upcoming lecture about the creationism/evolution controversy. A veteran public school teacher can be ordered by his principal not to teach evolution, even though it is mandated by state standards. And a creationist who proselytizes at work by repeatedly offering colleagues intelligent design DVDs can sue if he feels slighted by his supervisors.

Chris Comer was the Director of Science for the Texas Education Agency until 2007, when she forwarded an email about an upcoming lecture by Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University. In her lecture, Forrest was going to discuss her experience serving as a pro-science expert witness in the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover case, which established the unconstitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" creationism in the public schools.

To anti-evolution forces in Texas--where the state board of education habitually brings ridicule upon the state with its attempts to undermine the teaching of evolution--forwarding an e-mail about the lecture constituted taking a position on evolution. In the words of one of the people responsible, "Comer's e-mail implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the speaker's position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral."

That's right: in Texas, the director of science must "remain neutral" on the subject of evolution.

In Connecticut, veteran teacher Mark Tangarone proposed a course for gifted and talented students using Darwin's voyage on the Beagle as a way of integrating scientific discoveries with the cultures and history of the South Pacific. This is the kind of creative, exciting project that can inspire children to study science. The presentation of evolution in this outline corresponded with the Connecticut state science standards, which mandate that evolution be taught.

Unfortunately, Tangarone's principal thought otherwise, asserting in an e-mail that if evolution were taught, some "parents might object." Moreover, the principal added, evolution was a "philosophically unsatisfactory explanation for the diversity of life." Tangarone found this so galling, he took early retirement. Shocked at the news, the chair of the local school board said,

"Evolution is already part of our curriculum in the school system, and as this also involves personnel issues, I cannot comment any further. On a personal note, both of my children were fortunate to have Mark, and this is a real loss for our system."

Evolution is the foundation of the biological sciences, and a critical component of many other scientific disciplines. Far from being a "philosophically unsatisfactory explanation for the diversity of life," evolution is the only scientific explanation for life's diversity. Evolution is as well-established and accepted as plate tectonics, or the idea that germs cause disease. That's why state and local educational administrators should not be impeding or penalizing educators like Comer and Tangarone.

The case of David Coppedge, a computer specialist at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, provides a contrast. On April 14, Coppedge filed suit against JPL, claiming "religious discrimination and retaliation," harassment, and "wrongful demotion." The genesis of these claims involved Coppedge's alleged use of the workplace to promote creationism.

According to the complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Coppedge was informed by his supervisors that his promotion of the DVDs Unlocking the Mystery of Life and The Privileged Planet was "unwelcome" and "disruptive" to his colleagues. Although Coppedge's attorney believes JPL "ought to have an openness" to the ideas expressed in these DVDs, the truth is that these films are thinly-disguised religious tracts.

Both Unlocking the Mystery of Life and The Privileged Planet were produced by Illustra Media, an outfit associated with Discovery Media, whose mission statement reads:

"We believe that God reveals Himself, today, through His creation and the Biblical record. Our mission is to utilize every form of available media to present the reality of His existence through compelling scientific evidence and academic research." This quote clearly demonstrates that Discovery Media's goal is to promote a religious agenda. Illustra Media acknowledges they are "a division of Discovery Media," and confirms "we have produced films with biblical themes," but claims Unlocking the Mystery of Life was somehow different, as it was "based entirely on science." The creationist content of the film, however, flatly contradicts this claim.

Americans should be free to do their jobs without having to fend off colleagues evangelizing their religion. Supervisors rightly chastise employees who fail to respect their co-workers. Coppedge, who serves on the board of Illustra Media, enjoys the freedom to advocate for creationism on his own time--as, indeed, he frequently does on the sites Creation Safaris and Creation Evolution Headlines.

These three cases are disturbing examples of how evolution and creationism conflict in the modern workplace. A science director is forced from her job after being accused of taking a position on one of the most well-established theories in all of science. A veteran teacher is forbidden to take a creative approach to his job by teaching students about evolution. And a creationist indignantly sues for the right to promote creationism in his workplace, which happens to be one of the nation's premiere science facilities.

In each case, there is one clear loser: science.

Toxic Supplements


April 30, 2010 - 10:09 am
Peter Lipson Peter A. Lipson is a practicing physician and blogs about medicine at White Coat Underground and Science-Based Medicine

When alternative medicine gurus whine about the "corruption of Big Pharma", and then go on to shill their own supplements, I cry just a little bit. The multi-billion dollar U.S. supplement industry is not some beneficent alternative to Big PhARMA; it is an under-regulated market of highly profitable products with friends in high places. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) allows for essentially unregulated distribution and promotion of dietary supplements, many of which are as pharmacologically active as "real" drugs, and sometimes even contain real drugs.

Dr. Steven Salzberg recently wrote about one of the biggest supplement promoters, Joe Mercola, a doctor in Illinois with a robust national marketing and sales presence. One of the other popular supplement boosters is Gary Null, a New York-based dietician whose radio shows and PBS infomercials have helped him create a large and loyal following. That following recently found out that Null was poisoned by one of his own products. Null was using Gary Null's Ultimate Power Meal when he developed fatigue, weakness, skin problems, and blood in his urine. He was found to have dangerously high levels of vitamin D in his system. All irony aside, how could this happen?Dietary supplements such as Power Meal are not regulated as drugs, even if they are pharmacologically active. According to the FDA, under DSHEA:

[T]he dietary supplement manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that a dietary supplement is safe before it is marketed... Generally, manufacturers do not need to register their products with FDA nor get FDA approval before producing or selling dietary supplements. Manufacturers must make sure that product label information is truthful and not misleading.

In Null's case, his supplement contained massive doses of vitamin D due to a manufacturing error. Under DSHEA, the supplement manufacturer is under no obligation to seek FDA approval for their products, and does not have to prove the stated content of the product. The results of this can be disastrous, as Null found out.

Of course, he still has complete confidence in his products and his aversion to real, tested medicines:

All my other products are fine. It would seem that the media's angle was not to show concern for my health but rather as per its normal pro-Big Pharma approach to try to bring criticism towards any natural product that may have an error in formulation.

I do not share his confidence. Americans would be much safer if DSHEA were revised (as John McCain tried to do earlier this year). I'm sure supplement hucksters will always find a way to make money off of our hopes, but at least the products they shill might be safer.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Evolution education update: April 30, 2010

Chris Comer's appeal was heard by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Eugenie C. Scott received the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences. Plus a variety of new articles and videos from NCSE staff.


A three-judge panel from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in Comer v. Scott on April 26, 2010. Chris Comer was forced to resign her post as director of science at the Texas Education Agency in November 2007 after she forwarded a note announcing a talk by Barbara Forrest; according to a memorandum recommending her dismissal, "the TEA requires, as agency policy, neutrality when talking about evolution and creationism." She filed suit in June 2008, arguing that the policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The case was dismissed on March 31, 2009, but Comer appealed the decision to the Fifth Circuit.

In a report from the Associated Press (April 26, 2010), Douglas Mishkin, one of Comer's lawyers, explained that the policy violates the Establishment Clause by in effect endorsing a religious belief: "It takes something that's not science and treats it as if it is." Fortunato Benavides, one of the judges on the Fifth Circuit panel, seemed skeptical, however, commenting, "I can see a free speech claim ... This looks like to me a First Amendment claim in the robe of an establishment claim." It is not known when the panel will issue its ruling. Documents from the case are available on NCSE's website, and a brief video about the case is available on NCSE's YouTube channel.

For the Associated Press story, visit:

For documents from the case, visit:

For NCSE's YouTube channel, visit:


NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott received the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences in a ceremony on April 25, 2010, in Washington DC. According to a January 11, 2010, press release, "the medal is presented annually to honor extraordinary use of science for the public good"; Scott was chosen "for championing the teaching of evolution in the United States and for providing leadership to the National Center for Science Education."

Accepting the medal, Scott said, "That an organization comprised of the finest scientists in the nation would bestow this award on a small, underfunded, understaffed, nonprofit laboring to defend the teaching of evolution is both humbling and inspiring. On behalf of all the people who have worked at NCSE over the last 22 years to make it an effective organization, I thank you from the bottom of my heart." (A transcript of her remarks is available on NCSE's website.)

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

For the January 11, 2010, press release, visit:

For the full text of Scott's remarks, visit:


NCSE's Joshua Rosenau was asked by the Washington Post to comment on a chapter about evolution in a new book accusing "the liberal media" of attacking Christianity. The author's "handling of science and religion misrepresents the nature of evolution, obscures the science of biology and dismisses the deeply held religious views of most Christians outside of the fundamentalist subculture," Rosenau explained. A short version of his response appeared in the April 25, 2010, issue of the newspaper, with a long version appearing on the Post's Political Bookworm blog on April 21, 2010.

For the short version, visit:

For the long version, visit:


"Dobzhansky was right: Let's tell the students." That's NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott's advice, as just published in the journal BioEssays (2010; 32 [5]: 372-374). "University instructors are responsible for a good part of the general public's ignorance about evolution," she argues: "it is they who teach the university students who become the science teachers in our schools, as well as the students who become members of the educated public. University scientists therefore have a special responsibility -- and opportunity -- to help to cope with the antievolution problem in the United States."

First and foremost, she recommends that university scientists "think about how they teach evolution. Is evolution as central, integrated, and pervasive in their syllabus as it is in biologic research? Will their students realize that -- in the words of Theodosius Dobzhansky's famous 1973 article for high school biology teachers ... -- nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution?" She adds, "If university instructors do not make explicit the centrality of evolution to biology, we should not be surprised when students complete their courses ignorant of evolution."

Beyond the classroom, she urges, "scientists need to speak up when evolution is under attack in their schools. And more generally, scientists have a special responsibility to work to ensure a scientifically literate citizenry, which includes educating them in the importance of evolution to science, and in science education. In a nation where the majority of financial and institutional support for science predominantly depends on the public, it is in the best interests of neither science nor our nation that the public understanding of a major principle of science continues in its dismally low state."

For Scott's essay, visit:


Three videos featuring NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott have recently been added to NCSE's YouTube channel. First, a mini-documentary on Scott's life and work, produced in 2008 by the University of California, San Francisco, to complement the ceremony in which she received the UCSF Medal, the university's highest honor. Second, a talk on "Evolution versus Creationism" that she delivered at a course on "Darwin's Legacy" at Stanford University in 2008. And third, "In the Beginning," a discussion among Scott, Francisco Ayala, and Denis Lamoureux, hosted by NPR's Neal Conan, in Columbus, Ohio, in 2009. Tune in and enjoy!

For NCSE's YouTube channel, 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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Science teacher's hearing resumes


Friday, April 30, 2010 2:49 AM
By Dean Narciso


MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - Participants hope to wrap up a hearing on whether John Freshwater should keep his teaching job by sometime in June, but sessions could resume next fall, they said yesterday.

The administrative hearing started almost two years ago after Mount Vernon school board members voted that they intended to fire the eighth-grade science teacher for teaching creationism and intelligent design, failing to remove religious materials from his classroom after being told to do so, and burning crosses on students' arms.

The hearing appeared to end three months ago, but Freshwater's attorney, R. Kelly Hamilton, never closed his case.

The hearing resumed yesterday and is to continue today. At least three additional dates are scheduled for early June, and both sides have agreed not to hold any sessions during the summer school break, because witnesses will be difficult to schedule.

Once the hearing is concluded, the referee will make a recommendation to the board, which can take final action. Freshwater has been suspended without pay.

Hamilton has subpoenaed 16 additional witnesses since Jan. 15, when Freshwater and the school board received an anonymous letter telling them about materials allegedly taken from his classroom that might exonerate him.

The items include textbooks with handwritten notes that Freshwater testified would illustrate his science-teaching techniques at Mount Vernon Middle School.

David Millstone, attorney for the school district, said the items have always been available.

"Had they asked for it, I could care less," he said. "There's nothing there."

Several former students testified yesterday that Freshwater touched students' arms with an electrostatic lab instrument to illustrate electricity. But each denied that anyone was forced to participate.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

A few coynes short?


Posted on: April 26, 2010 5:19 PM, by Josh Rosenau

Jerry Coyne, in the throatclearing before an otherwise reasonable dissection of wankery on the Huffington Post, brings the ahistorical and gratuitous FAIL:

I'm coyneing the term "New Creationism" to describe the body of thought that accepts Darwinian evolution but with the additional caveats that 1) it was all started by God, 2) had God-worshipping humans as its goal, and 3) that the evidence for all this is that life is complex, humans evolved, and the the "fine tuning" of physical constants of the universe testify to the great improbability of our being here—ergo God.

Two main thoughts occur. First, this is the creationism that preceded the Enlightenment. It's not, in any sense, new. And there's already a term for it: Theistic Evolution.

Second, the term "New Creationism" is not new. Creationist Henry Morris used the term "neo-creationism" to describe his strategy in 1997. A chapter in Scott's sourcebook on the controversy has a chapter titled "Neo-creationism." Barbara Ehrenreich and Janet McIntosh used the term "New Creationism" in 1997 to describe a particular front in the Science Wars then waging, in which certain social scientists rejected biological explanations for human behaviors. Creationist Paul Garner titled his work of young earth creationism The New Creationism. It was published last year. Philosopher/a-life researcher Robert Pennock described intelligent design as "the new creationism" in the subtitle to his 2000 book Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism. Robert Wright used the same term to describe ID in a 2001 article in Slate. A 2005 article by Marshall Berman in APS News described intelligent design as "the New Creationism."

Which is all by way of saying, "the New Creationism" is not different from ID because it is ID in the common usage of the community of evolution-defenders to which Coyne belongs.

So I propose my own coinage:

coyne: (v) To invent a new pejorative which adds heat, not light, and which tends to collide with established usage.

Or, to borrow a phrase, You're Not Helping. "New Creationism" is a term already widely used to refer to enemies of honest science education. Applying that term to proponents of honest science education promotes confusion and divides his own ranks, to no obviously helpful end.

I see two plausible defenses for Coyne. He could claim to have been unaware that the term was in wide use already. This would indicate a) he can't operate the Great Gizoogle and b) he isn't aware of some of the major works in this field (one in which he considers himself a leading light). Alternatively, he could claim to have known that and been indifferent to the confusion he'd cause. But neither ignorance nor douchebaggery are generally-accepted defenses.

Darwinist defends atheist educators


By Gin A. Ando | The News Record

Published: Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Updated: Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In more than 40 years of writing books on evolution, Darwinist Michael Ruse has ruffled some feathers.

Ruse, who is currently a professor of history and philosophy at Florida State University, made a stop at the University of Cincinnati Tuesday, April 27, to explain his unique view about atheism, evolution and religion — something that puts him in the crosshairs of both creationists and evolutionists alike.

Ruse's presentation, "Biology in the classroom: Should atheists be allowed to teach?" laid out his ideal situation: a separation of science and faith. If achieved, it would not only rid some hostilities among influential scientists and religious figures.

"I believe it is possible to reconcile religion with Darwinism," Ruse said. "I'm not saying you should be Darwinian and I'm certainly not saying you should be Christian."

Although Ruse is an outspoken "skeptic" when it comes to religion, Richard Dawkins — a University of Oxford professor and poster child of publicly professed atheism — claimed Ruse's outlook makes him comparable to Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who signed a treaty with Adolf Hitler in an effort to avoid conflict.

Science and faith in themselves have been lumped together to the point in which both are classified as a religion — which undermines what science does, Ruse said.

"What I find fascinating is either side's unwillingness to look [at each other's arguments] for five minutes," he said. "I don't think the conflict between science and religion is a God-given thing."

Ruse also explained how the Scopes Trial, which gained fame for its implications on the origin of humankind, was more so about the social strata in the South as opposed to whether or not creationism, intelligent design or evolution should be taught to students.

In a classroom environment, Darwinism might be being misconstrued. Darwinism has been and still is being used as a metaphor for social issues, Ruse said.

"I don't think Darwinism implies atheism," he said. "We've got a historical conflict."

Comer appeal heard


April 27th, 2010

A three-judge panel from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in Comer v. Scott on April 26, 2010. Chris Comer was forced to resign her post as director of science at the Texas Education Agency in November 2007 after she forwarded a note announcing a talk by Barbara Forrest; according to a memorandum recommending her dismissal, "the TEA requires, as agency policy, neutrality when talking about evolution and creationism." She filed suit in June 2008, arguing that the policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The case was dismissed on March 31, 2009, but Comer appealed the decision to the Fifth Circuit.

In a report from the Associated Press (April 26, 2010), Douglas Mishkin, one of Comer's lawyers, explained that the policy violates the Establishment Clause by in effect endorsing a religious belief: "It takes something that's not science and treats it as if it is." Fortunato Benavides, one of the judges on the Fifth Circuit panel, seemed skeptical, however, commenting, "I can see a free speech claim ... This looks like to me a First Amendment claim in the robe of an establishment claim." It is not known when the panel will issue its ruling. Documents from the case are available on NCSE's website, and a brief video about the case is available on NCSE's YouTube channel.