NTS LogoSkeptical News for 23 May 2010

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Martin Gardner, 95, math and science writer, dies


(AP) – 10 hours ago

NORMAN, Okla. — Prolific mathematics and science writer Martin Gardner, known for popularizing recreational mathematics and debunking paranormal claims, died Saturday. He was 95.

Gardner died Saturday after a brief illness at Norman Regional Hospital, said his son James Gardner. He had been living at an assisted living facility in Norman.

Martin Gardner was born in 1914 in Tulsa, Okla., and earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy at the University of Chicago.

He became a freelance writer, and in the 1950s wrote features and stories for several children's magazines. His creation of paper-folding puzzles led to his publication in Scientific American magazine, where he wrote his "Mathematical Games" column for 25 years.

The column introduced the public to puzzles and concepts such as fractals and Chinese tangram puzzles, as well as the work of artist M.C. Escher.

Allyn Jackson, deputy editor of Notices, a journal of the American Mathematical Society, wrote in 2005 that Gardner "opened the eyes of the general public to the beauty and fascination of mathematics and inspired many to go on to make the subject their life's work."

Jackson said Gardner's "crystalline prose, always enlightening, never pedantic, set a new standard for high quality mathematical popularization."

The mathematics society awarded him its Steele Prize for Mathematical Exposition in 1987 for his work on math, particularly his Scientific American column.

"He was a renaissance man who built new ideas through words, numbers and puzzles," his son, a professor of special education at the University of Oklahoma, told The Associated Press.

Gardner also became known as a skeptic of the paranormal and wrote columns for Skeptical Inquirer magazine. He wrote works debunking public figures such as psychic Uri Geller, who gained fame for claiming to bend spoons with his mind.

Most recently he wrote a feature published in Skeptical Inquirer's March/April on Oprah Winfrey's New Age interests.

Former magician James Randi, now a writer and investigator of paranormal claims, paid tribute to Gardner on his website Saturday, calling his colleague and longtime friend "a very bright spot in my firmament."

He ended his Scientific American column in 1981 and retired to Hendersonville, N.C. Gardner continued to write, and in 2002 moved to Norman, where his son lives.

Gardner wrote more than 50 books.

Gardner was preceded in death by his wife, Charlotte. Besides James Gardner, he is survived by another son, Tom, of Asheville, N.C.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

Does do-it-yourself colon cleansing really improve health?


NuAge Colon Cleanse and Oxy-Powder makers say their products rid the body of toxins and help people lose weight. These claims 'have no basis in science,' one doctor says.

By Chris Woolston

Special to the Los Angeles Times

May 24, 2010 Judging from all of the yogurt and laxative ads on TV, lots of people have their minds squarely lodged on their digestive tracts. Concerns about colon health have definitely been a boon for the alternative medicine industry. Herbalists, naturopaths and other alternative practitioners often claim that they can improve a person's overall health, mood and energy levels simply by cleaning and detoxifying the colon.

People who don't want to hire a professional have lots of options for a do-it-yourself colon cleaning. NuAge Colon Cleanse from NuAge Labs is one of many over-the-counter supplements that claim to be up to the task. The NuAge website says that the product contains "muciligenic fibers," but it doesn't provide any other information about ingredients or directions for use. (NuAge Labs did not respond to requests for information.) According to the site, a month's supply costs a little less than $90.

Oxy-Powder, a supplement from Global Healing Center, takes a low-fiber approach to colon health. Each capsule contains a little less than 700 milligrams of "ozonated magnesium oxides," about 6 milligrams of the metallic element germanium and 25 milligrams of citric acid. Users are instructed to take four capsules with a glass of water before going to bed. They are told to increase the dose by two capsules every night until they have three to five bowel movements in a day, continue that dose for seven days then cut back to two or three times a week. A bottle of 120 capsules costs about $45.

The claims

The NuAge website says that the supplement can "break down deadly toxins" while helping users "lose excess weight" and "increase energy and focus." The home page features a slim model wrapping a measuring tape around her bottom, driving home the promise of weight loss.

The Oxy-Powder site claims that the supplement can "clean the entire 25 to 30 feet of the digestive tract." It further explains that such cleaning is important because "the average adult by age 40 has between 10 and 20 pounds of hard compacted fecal matter lodged in their intestinal tract." Daniel Davis, a consumer service manager for the Global Healing Center, explained in a phone interview that the oxygen bubbles released from the magnesium oxide forcibly break up these stubborn chunks of fecal matter. He also claimed that oxygen is a "powerful antioxidant" that can help clean up dangerous free radicals throughout the body.

The idea that typical adults are walking around with a heavy burden of toxic sludge in their colons is one of the foundations of the alternative colon health industry. The website colon-cleanse-information.com, which links to the Oxy-Powder site, claims that constipated people "can be carrying around up to 40 pounds or more of toxic fecal matter, which is continually poisoning their body and organs."

The bottom line

The lower digestive tract really does set a foundation for health and well-being, says Dr. John Inadomi, chairman of gastrointestinal medicine at UC San Francisco and chairman of the Clinical Practice and Quality Management Committee for the American Gastroenterological Assn. Among other things, what goes on in the colon can shape the immune system in the rest of the body, he explains.

But claims that colon cleansing supplements can somehow detoxify the colon and improve overall health "have no basis in science," he says.

The often-repeated claim that most colons are clogged with 10, 20 or even 40 pounds of impacted material is ridiculous, Inadomi says. He notes that people preparing for a colonoscopy have to take a strong laxative that completely cleans out the colon. Even with this total scrubbing, "they only lose a couple of pounds, maybe 5 at the most," he says. He's never heard of anyone losing anything close to 40 pounds: "You'd have to check the 'Guinness Book of World Records' for that one," he says.

There's also no reason to think that waste in the colon is full of disease-causing toxins, says Dr. David Kastenberg, an associate professor of medicine and co-director of nutrition and metabolic diseases at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He notes that people who suffer from constipation — who presumably would be in the biggest danger — don't seem to be especially likely to come down with colon cancer or any other disease.

Kastenberg sees lots of red flags surrounding NuAge and Oxy-Powder. He's never heard of "muciligenic fibers," the one ingredient mentioned on the NuAge website. (The term also failed to show up in a search of a medical journal database.) As for Oxy-Powder, he seriously doubts that oxygen would have any power to clean the colon. "We give oxygen to people in hospitals all the time, and they don't explode with bowel movements," he says. He had a good laugh over the claim that oxygen is a powerful antioxidant. (As the name implies, antioxidants work by blocking oxidation. Calling oxygen an antioxidant is like saying that water is good for drying things out.)

And then there's the question of safety. Kastenberg warns that the large amounts of magnesium in Oxy-Powder could be dangerous for people with kidney trouble. Inadomi adds that germanium, another ingredient in Oxy-Powder, is considered a potential "human health hazard" by the Food and Drug Administration. Because NuAge doesn't disclose ingredients on its site, neither Kastenberg nor Inadomi could speculate on the potential safety of that product.

Both experts agree that colon cleansing is no way to slim down. "I can't even fathom how this would help you lose weight" over the long term, Inadomi says.


Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Should Skeptics Repress Freedom of Speech in Canada!?!?


Posted on: May 21, 2010 8:05 PM, by Greg Laden

OK, before you answer, I'm going to tell you what I think. No. But that is not what is going on here (my snarky title is designed to get the attention of the usual suspects who will decry what is going on at Sandwalk Blog as repression). What is going on is a community of science-oriented people asking the Royal Ontario Museum to be more responsible and thoughtful in their programming.

We at the Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism (CASS) at the Centre for Inquiry (Canada) and its supporters were dismayed to learn that the Royal Ontario Museum will be sponsoring a talk by Deepak Chopra at the University of Toronto in connection with the Director's Signature Series: The Warrior Emperor and China's Terracotta Army.

Just go read the Letter that Larry Moran has posted. It is a good letter and you should add your signature to it. The letter is here.

It's The three P's -- Not The Three R's (In Texas)Prejudice, Politics and Partisanship rule the day


By George Stockwell

The state of Texas has an interesting approach toward education. They don't write school curriculum there the way I remember it being done in Newtown for example.

Granted, I've been out of the loop for a few years but recent conversations with friends who are still actively involved confirm that not a whole lot has changed. I'm familiar with the process because back in the day when I was a classroom teacher and especially a math/science specialist, I was heavily involved in curriculum development.

Let me tell you how I recall it being done. The Assistant Superintendent of Schools is, among other things, traditionally in charge of curriculum development. As I remember, curriculum was on a 5 or 6 year review cycle. I confess I haven't formally researched this so you'll have to take my word for it.

Anyway, every few years, the Assistant Superintendent would ask the principals to forward to him/her a few names of people to serve on a curriculum development committee.

Once that is done those people would gather with the Assistant Superintendent, receive instructions and set about writing curriculum. Once it is written -- or revised -- it's offered to the rest of the faculty to review.

If changes are in order, they're made and the process keeps cycling through in this fashion until everyone's happy. Then it goes to the Board of Education.

They listen to what we have to say, approve it and discuss the funding of any new materials that may be needed.

If the curriculum is in the least but controversial as it was when we were getting into 'sex education', public hearings are scheduled but that didn't happen very often.

And that's it.

Pretty neat system, isn't it? Let's look at how it's done in Texas.

First of all it's a top down system. Unlike Newtown, and every other town in the state, the localities do not have a say in curriculum content.

Rather, the State Board of Education gathers together and writes curriculum. Note: Most of these folks are NOT educators. They're business people, religious leaders and politicians.

According to an article I recently read, it is an extremely conservative group and as such they have infused their personal ideals into the curriculum.

For example if it's decided that it's OK to teach evolution, they require equal time be devoted to 'creationism'. Plus, there can be little or no mention of the value of the multicultural nature of our society. Finally, one last example of Texas BOE wisdom, the names of important Hispanics in our country have been excluded.

Several members of the Board who realized how ridiculous this is resigned but the majority are holding fast to their twisted principles.

So why am I discussing something a bunch of right wing lunatics is doing in the great state of Texas. Who cares as long as it stays there? Right?

Well, here's why.

Texas wields enormous purchase power in the publishing industry so guess which books publishers are going to offer us when the time comes. It sure as heck isn't going to be something offensive to the fine folks on the Texas Board of Education, is it?

That's why we need to be watching what's going on there and counter it where possible. The alternative is to write/create our own materials -- which I recall we've done.

Fortunately, saner heads prevail in states like New York and California so a balance of sorts is maintained. In the meantime Texas students and educators are the unfortunate victims of the politicizing of curriculum.

Creationism in Rapture Ready!


May 21st, 2010 NCSE 2010

NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview (PDF) of Daniel Radosh's Rapture Ready! Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture (Scribner 2008; Soft Skull 2010) — featuring Radosh's account of his visit to Answers in Genesis's Creation Museum. "It took a few hours after leaving the Creation Museum for my head to clear enough to understand how utterly bizarre it was," Radosh writes. "Even if there were other creationists out there who were nuttier than Ken Ham — Kent Hovind with his tax-evading dinosaurs, Carl Baugh with his pink sky and giant humans — the ingenuity and sophistication with which Answers in Genesis pursued its agenda pretty much had me persuaded that my quest for the strangest and most hostile manifestation of Christian pop culture had come to an end."

Is the 'autism diet' really ineffective?


Friday May 21, 2010
Categories: Food, Science

Yesterday I saw a story about a study showing that the "autism diet" (gluten-free, casein-free) had not demonstrated effectiveness in treating kids on the autism spectrum. I passed that along to a Philadelphia friend and reader of this blog who has been following the diet to treat his young daughter, who has Asperger syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. He sent me the following reply, which I found so interesting that I asked him to revise it to protect his family's privacy. He did, so I present it to you here for consideration and comment:

Thanks for sending that. Always good to know what's out there being said. Keep 'em coming.

But, heavy sigh. As I am embarrassingly quick to say, and thus as I've probably said to you, and so this comes with apologies in advance for being a broken record and perhaps preaching to the choir, it drives me absolutely NUTS when gluten-free casein-free (GFCF) is referred to as "the" autism diet. It's hard to know where to begin. If you will permit me a rant...

1) As I would have said prior to this study that, thinking anecdotally from my own experience, just going GFCF only helps 1/3 to 1/2 of kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). GFCF just isn't enough in many cases and nobody should claim or expect otherwise. Some kids respond, some don't, and nobody knows until you try. The closest I see this article comes to acknowledging that is Stewart's comment, "'I think we need bigger studies that are more inclusive," she says, perhaps including children with GI issues. ''There could be subpopulations that benefit." In other words, if that hypothesis is correct, and I think it is, you roll the dice. Your kid is in the subpopulation that might get helped by GFCF, or not. Nobody knows the overall percentages in the population, and a study this small won't pick it up. Too bad the article's headline didn't allow that nuance. The headline perpetuates misinformation by obscuring this point.

Our ASD daughter, I think, was in the subpopulation that got helped. I know that's easy to dismiss as yet another parental anecdote, but what else can I offer?

When we went GFCF on Easter 2009, within the next two weeks, 10 or 12 people (neighbors, the school principal, etc.), who had no idea what we were doing with the diet at that stage and who were thus an objective reality check, commented that our daughter suddenly seemed brighter and more engaged. "She looked me in the eye and called me by name for the first time, what are you guys up to?" And lots more like that, from zero to sixty, in the fortnight after GFCF. What am I supposed to do with that? I know correlation isn't causation, but am I also to deny that we saw some smoke and so reasonably suspect fire?

2) But that's not the bigger issue. We're not told the details of the diet in this study, but for the vast majority of parents I meet online and at autism groups, going GFCF means switching from one set of industrial processed convenience foods to a different kind of industrial processed convenience foods. That's what it meant for us too at the beginning. Instead of buying Cheerios, you buy some sort of amaranth quinoa O from the supermarket cereal section. Instead of buying Kraft macaroni and cheese, you buy organic luv-a-bunny spelt macaroni-n-cheez, or equivalent. In other words, most GFCF kids are still in sugar and corn-syrup land. They are still gorging on soy and food additives and preservatives. No attempt is being made to heal their intestinal ecology. Basically, going GFCF is like buying a Prius instead of walking - and I say that as a Prius owner - for both are superficial solutions that attempt business as usual, and which are dangerous because they both mask the underlying profundities. The self-righteousness of the stereotypical Prius owner is insufferable because such people think they are doing something good, but they are actually perpetuating a larger problem that they're not seeing. A Prius is still a car, and, in our civilazaiton, few know how to use cars in moderation. A Prius is still part of the oil economy, still a metal beast that, when taken to scale, destroys pedestrian-friendly community-building neighborhoods. So just as a Prius isn't a profound enough solution to our energy and community issues, neither is GFCF a profound enough diet. A Prius will help a little, and so I bought one, but it can only be a first step or it's actually being co-opted by the beast. Ditto GFCF - if not followed by further rebellion against industrial food, I think it's a bad joke, and a joke with tragic consequences, in so far as the public is lead to believe they know what "the" autistim diet is and parents mistakenly think they're doing all they can for their children.

3) Three conversations I've had with conventional experts stick in my mind as relevant to this discussion. Conversation #1: Last week I'm on the phone with our other non-ASD daughter's pediatrician [a staff doctor at our local famous teaching hospital]. We're discussing why both our daughters keep testing positive for arsenic in their urine. Can the doctor refer me to a pediatric or environmental toxicologist who can help us investigate our home? "No, there is nobody like that in our city." [And our city has, what, four teaching hospital medical schools!] [And the doctor is wrong, by the way, sort of - I found a consultant who can help, but through a homeopath, not a mainstreamer; this guy is good and more mainstream scientific than the homeopath who referred me; web link on request ] Anyway, my question to the pediatrician: "Ok, younger daughter has 135 micrograms of arsenic in her latest test. Is that below or above the safe threshold? And if we tested 100 other kids in your practice, would they have comparable levels, or are our kids uniquely afflicted?" Pediatrician's reply: "Nobody knows. Not enough studies have been done. Nobody makes money on this kind of thing, so nobody really has looked into it."

Conversation #2, sometime last year, downtown at the same famous teaching hospital, talking to a pediatric nutrionist. I have taken our younger non-ASD daughter there to get a second opinion: will her older sister's ASD diet be ok for the whole family as well, especially younger sister? will younger sister get the nutrion she needs? Nutritionists response: having looked at a one week family food diary and submitted it for analysis, she is stunned by the levels of vitamins and good minerals in younger daughter's diet. She has practically never seen a kid so free of chemicals and preservatives. She's worried about our [everyone but the ASD daughter's] raw milk intake, but is otherwise impressed. So I lay aside the raw milk conversation for another day, and ask her: does she think this diet will help ASD daughter? Answer: she has no idea but "mainstream medicine has nothing really to offer these people [parents of ASD kids], so you might as well try it." Conversation #3, at an ASD conference last year at a nearby university. I'm talking to a big deal teaching hospital psychiatrist about alternative medicine approaches to autism in general, diets included. His response: "many of these things are promising but not proven."

What do I take from those three conversations? Mainstream medicine doesn't have a heck of a lot to offer ASD parents aside from ABA behavioral therapy. The honest experts know that and are relaxed about admitting it, and they're busy trying to fill in the gaps, and they're willing to be conversational about the gaps in knowledge and the nuances of what's promising. But many other so-called experts, especially front-line service delivery personnel with very specific applied training, are insecure about admitting how little they know,or are not curious, and/or don't know that there is so much they don't know. I'm glad somebody is studying GFCF, just like I hope somebody eventually gets around to studying the arsenic (some places are promising on the environment stuff - eg http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/service-areas/children/areas-of-care/childrens-environmental-health-center). But the problem is, the gap between "mainstream" and "alternative" is so wide, that I do not trust the mainstream types to actually ask the right questions and go deep enough. They've usually never heard of Sally Fallon (http://www.westonaprice.org/) or Natasha Campbell-McBride (http://gapsdiet.com/), and equivalents, or, if they have heard of them, they've often got snippets of half-remembered caricatures shaping their views. As our family knows from our experiences with Natural Famly Planning (I refer to the derisive snort most mainstream health practioners give towards Catholic practice, as compared to the sound science they don't know they don't know about which is coming from places like http://www.creightonmodel.com/), or as anyone should know from climate change or the current oil spill in the gulf, and a thousand other examples, that scientists and doctors are humans and subject to all the usual subjective epistemological blindspots. And so unless and until I meet a mainstreamer who actually understands GAPS or Weston Price and studies those schools of thought as they are actually supposed to be practiced (eg, no false presentations of the Weston Price as if it's pro-high fat per simplicitur), I will keep experimenting with "alternative" approaches, because ours at least are not hurting and they may be helping. My standard of evidence might not be enough for an insurance company or a public health policy, for I accept it's far from slam-dunk proof, but it is enough for a practical minded parent asking "what may help my kid right now," and it ought to be enough for an honest scientist looking to create a research agenda.

It'll be interesting to see where ASD studies are in ten or 20 years time. After that conference where I spoke to the psychiatrist, I had lunch with a guy I'd met there who had an Aspie kid in his 20s. The premise of the lunch was supposed to be that this older dad had been through the paces, and he was going to tell me what I had to look forward to, and offer fraternal consolation and advice. But within about ten minutes, the conversational dynamic had turned around. It became clear that having an Aspie kid in 1989 was different in important ways than in 2009, and that I knew things he didn't. So please keep sending me studies like this one, keep me stimulated from outside my bubble, and let me not get stuck in my ways. Keep me supple and evolving, so I've grown in 20 years too. But let everyone else be humble too, and it is surely a safe bet that many things regarded as alternative now will be mainstream in 20 years. Which ones? Who knows. But that only gives me more, not less, incentive to try whatever might work now.

Please leave your comments below. Autism is a subject that tends to bring out the worst in people, so please be civil.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Evolution education update: May 21, 2010

News from the Show Me State, where NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott received an honorary degree and where an antievolution bill died.


Receiving her honorary degree from the University of Missouri, Columbia, on May 15, 2010, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott addressed the graduating class, recommending, "Use sunscreen, and use your brains." She added, "use your brains, but use your heart, too. You'll be a better functioning organism if you use both of them." Additionally, at a banquet, she offered a few autobiographical remarks about her career in defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools -- "It starts here, after all," she explained. "Because it was at the University of Missouri [where Scott earned her Ph.D.] that I was first introduced to something called 'creation science'." Transcripts of both of Scott's addresses are available on NCSE's website.

For the transcripts, visit:


When the Missouri legislative session ended on May 14, 2010, House Bill 1651 died, without ever having been assigned to a committee. The bill would have, if enacted, called on state and local education administrators to "endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution" and to "endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies." "Toward this end," the bill continued, "teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution."

The chief sponsor of HB 1651 was Robert Wayne Cooper (R-District 155), joined by Doug Funderburk (R-District 12), Ed Emery (R-District 126), Cynthia Davis (R-District 19), Therese Sander (R-District 22), David Sater (R-District 68), Rick Stream (R-District 94), Jeff Grisamore (R-District 47), Jeanie Riddle (R-District 20), Rodney Schad (R-District 11), and Darrell Pollock (R-District 146). Cooper was the sponsor of a series of failed antievolution bills in the past in Missouri. In 2004, he introduced two bills, HB 911 and HB 1722, that called for equal time for "intelligent design" in Missouri's public schools. In 2006, he introduced HB 1266, which if enacted would have required that "If a theory or hypothesis of biological origins is taught, a critical analysis of such theory or hypothesis shall be taught in a substantive amount." In 2008, he introduced HB 2554, which is similar to 2010's HB 1651, and in 2009, he introduced HB 656, which is identical to HB 1651.

For NCSE's information on HB 1651, visit:

For previous coverage of events in Missouri, 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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A matter of faith?


Posted: Friday, May 21, 2010 12:00 am


Evolution was never proven. Yet, proposals to teach creationism in schools are struck down, inhibiting education and freedom of speech. But, in the name of that freedom, profane language and sex can be viewed anytime on television and the Internet, leading many morally astray.

Space flight began in the 1960s, advancing rapidly in several years. Yet, 150 years following Darwin's theory, evolution has not been scientifically proven. The search for "missing links" resulted in mistakes and fraud. Piltdown Man, a deliberate hoax, consisted of an orangutan's jawbone combined with a man's skull. Java Man, when a human and ape were found in the same location at different times, was eventually dismissed by the finder. Tools and human bones, adjacent to Peking Man, were actually people in China who had eaten brains of nearby apes. A single tooth, later judged to have come from a pig, was envisioned as Nebraska Man. Ramapithecus' jaw and teeth were exposed as that of an orangutan. Lucy was reclassified as an extinct ape. Are evolutionists so desperate to prove evolution that they jump to conclusions?

Supposedly creating building blocks of life, the Stanley Miller experiment, instead of supporting evolution, shows more its impossibility. Mutations are almost always destructive, and are not inherited by offspring, excepting a few bacteria. A structure's chemistry does not lend itself to a change to something vastly different. A large number of favorable mutations would be necessary, e.g. for a bird, including wing formation, lightweight bone structure, a brain that knew how to fly. No one knows how the cell that supposedly started evolution occurred. Did it fall from space?

Consider the order of the universe, e.g., planets circling the sun. How did it come about without a Creator? Not long after the space program began, during the 1968 Apollo flight, the astronauts read from the Bible on Christmas Eve: "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth ..." Those men were scientists. There are scientists who do not believe in evolution. Even Darwin began to doubt. Could evolution be a matter of faith? Then why shouldn't creationism also be considered in classrooms?

DORIS SOULE, Wheatland

California Tells Texas Not to Mess with Textbooks


by bethany sanders posted Friday, May 21, 2010

Bethany Sanders: "Don't mess with Texas," the saying goes -- but California has a different message for the Lone Star State: "Don't mess with history!"

That's after the conservative Texas School Board proposed changes to its social studies curriculum that some say not only have a strong conservative bent, but are also historically inaccurate and ignore the contributions of African-Americans and Hispanics. Here are some of the proposed changes, which will be voted on this week:

The vote in Texas is important, because those curriculum changes could affect textbooks across the nation. Traditionally, the states that buy the most textbooks hold sway over publishers and the content that makes it into the textbooks. But according to Jay Diskey, executive director of the schools division of the Association of American Publishers, that's no longer the case. "It's an urban myth, especially in this digital age we live in, that content can be tailored and customized for individual states and school districts," he told MercuryNews.com.

Even so, California isn't taking any chances. Calling the Texas Board's curriculum changes "a sharp departure from widely accepted historical teachings," a new California bill (SB1451) would require that reviews of public school textbooks include looking out for the Texas changes and reporting them to the Legislature and the Secretary of Education.

It seems simple enough: Social studies should just be about the facts -- a balanced reporting on the forces that have shaped our country. But as we've seen in the fight between evolution and creationism, even biology class somehow ends up in the political arena.

As a parent, are you concerned that politics could play a heavy hand in your child's history education?

Read more: http://www.momlogic.com/2010/05/california_tells_texas_not_to.php#ixzz0oZtYl0Xo

Creationism Alert: City of Portland Employees Unlock the Mystery of Life


12:52 PM May 20th, 2010 by Beth Slovic

Curious fact No. 1: City of Portland employees have a "Faith & Friends Affinity Group" that meets regularly at lunchtime to discuss religious matters.

Curious fact No. 2: Today the group was scheduled to meet at noon in the Portland Building to watch a pro-creationism movie called Unlocking the Mystery of Life.

Check out part of the video below. Meanwhile, here's an excerpt from a City of Portland email announcing the event:

"UNLOCKING THE MYSTERY OF LIFE is one of the most incredible video documentaries ever assembled. It takes you into the microscopic universe of cells with magnificent animation and photography to help the viewer clearly understand the core issues and reasons why Darwinism cannot stand. Through state-of-the-art computer animation, UNLOCKING THE MYSTERY OF LIFE transports you into the interior of the living cell to explore systems and machines that bear the unmistakable hallmarks of design. You will discover the intricacy of a bacterial rotary motor, which spins at 100,000 rpm. Within the cell nucleus, you'll see the wonder of DNA, a threadlike molecule that stores instructions to build the essential components of every living organism. These instructions are part of a biological information processing system more complex and more powerful than any computer network.

This remarkable documentary examines the scientific case for intelligent design – an idea with the power to revolutionize our understanding of life . . . and to unlock the mystery of its origin. This video should be shown in every school in the nation and given to every teacher and school board member. It is a tool that could help alter the way science is practiced and taught."

Practitioners and patients of alternative medicine plead to insurers for cover


Matt Kwong

Last Updated: May 20. 2010 9:42PM UAE / May 20. 2010 5:42PM GMT

ABU DHABI // Homeopathic practitioners and their patients are lobbying for health insurance firms to cover treatments.

Specialists who practise the unconventional system of alternative medicine – said to have been founded in Germany and administered for 200 years – have been trying to legitimise themselves to insurance companies, many of which do not include homeopathy in standard packages.

Proponents argue that as thousands of people in the UAE, particularly those from the subcontinent, regularly use the treatments and because they are accredited by the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD), homeopathy should be recognised by insurance firms.

For Bindu Nair, who works at the Ahalia Hospital, the insurance obstacle means that many would-be patients cannot afford to try her treatments. "Patients come to us every day and ask if they would be getting covered," she said.

"When we tell them all the insurance are not covering consultation and homeopathic medicines, they find it difficult. They're reluctant. Some just leave the consultation."

Her colleagues agreed that only "affluent" patients can pay out-of-pocket for the consultations and medicines, which can cost 10 times their price in India after shipping and labelling.

To shore up the emirate's burgeoning homeopathic movement, the homeopathic community started this year to hold monthly "continuing medical education" meetings. By proving they are serious about the science, they hope that the Ministry of Health may take up their cause with insurance providers.

"Many revolutions started in small rooms," said Shaikh Rahman, one of the specialists at the meeting in a clinic behind Hamdan Street. "This is the same."

Their push comes during hard times for homeopaths. Fewer than a dozen are approved by HAAD to practise in the emirate.

Annu Mathews, a popular homeopath in Sharjah, has struggled to find work since moving to Abu Dhabi in 2006. "I'm feeling I'm wasting my time, my knowledge," she said.

Others are frustrated with restrictions on registered medicines.

Last week, the British Medical Association dismissed homeopathy as "witchcraft", urging the UK's National Health Service to stop funding homeopathic therapies, and condemning homeopathy as no more effective than placebos.

France and Denmark cover homeopathy at least partially under their national health insurance.

The UAE's national health insurance company, Daman, does not, saying "its efficiency and results are not proven by studies according to scientific international standards".

Rightly so, according to homeopathy's detractors, who argue that the key principle of the treatment – that heavy dilutions of natural substances or even toxins such as mercury can cure ailments by stimulating the body's immune system – is quackery. As an alternative to antihistamine drugs, for instance, a homeopath might prescribe pollen "globules" or diluted sulphur to clear a rash.

Peer-review journals have also called homeopathy into doubt. A study published in the British medical journal The Lancet in 2005 found no difference between homeopathic medicines and placebos in 110 trials.

However, homeopathic doctors working in the capital argue that HAAD already recognises the value of their treatments, because it has registered several specialists since last year.

The first among them was Mapolin D'Souza, a specialist for 13 years who trained in India. "Lots of patients want to go for homeopathy, but because of this insurance they try to avoid it," said Mrs D'Souza, who sees patients from Canada, Australia, Pakistan and India.

"But actually it's more practised in Dubai and Sharjah. In Abu Dhabi, there's not much knowledge about homeopathy."

Abu Dhabi also has stringent licensing requirements, with specialists required to pass rigorous exams to qualify to practise alternative medicine.

Sassan Behjat, the former director of the Ministry of Health's complementary and alternative medicine department, helped to integrate complementary medicine into the national health care system several years ago by setting up the regulatory framework.

He left the ministry in 2008 and currently sits on Dubai Healthcare City's Complementary and Alternative Medicine Council.

"Passing the complementary examination in Abu Dhabi is tougher than in the other emirates, because we wanted to ensure there were only the most qualified people," Mr Behjat said. "There was only a 12 per cent pass rate during my years there."

Health insurance companies should recognise licences are difficult to obtain, the homeopaths believe.

"We are not against regulations," Mrs Nair said. "We're saying that if they're making it so strict to practise homeopathy, then insurance should also be covering for it."

The major obstacle is the lack of science and study to prove to the companies that homeopathy works.

"We have not had a proper set of evidence to show to the insurance companies and say, 'At least for these cases – upper respiratory tract infection, asthma, allergy cases, non-life threatening conditions – homeopathy can be of use'."

Santhosh Kumar, a homeopathic doctor with a clinic in Abu Dhabi, said sceptics might be persuaded by the successful treatment of babies too young to have formed biases.

"We treat so many infants," he said. "So how does an infant know what's placebo?"

The lack of homeopaths also put off companies that made the medicines they administered, making them reluctant to send special batches with UAE-compliant labels if there was no perceived demand, Mr Behjat said. "The importers don't find it viable to register more medicines," he said.

HAAD's Scope of Practice in Traditional Complementary and Alternative Medicine (TCAM) does not refer to homeopaths as "doctors", but it acknowledges that "TCAM practitioners can offer hope to patients."

Dr Bhanu Sanjayan, a paediatrician in the capital, said he would never refer his patients to homeopaths. "I don't believe it works, so I don't think it's worth it to cover."

Dr JP McCulloch, a family doctor in Abu Dhabi, said: "I doubt they'll ever be covered because the insurance companies can see this as another point of haemorrhage for them."


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Medical drama


Sai Raje, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, May 20, 2010
First Published: 13:37 IST(20/5/2010)
Last Updated: 13:49 IST(20/5/2010)

Media professional Subhashini Sarangapani, 27, used to suffer from severe acidity until a few years ago. In fact, the problem was so acute that she would suffer from it almost every month. "Imagine never being able to eat out at a restaurant. The acidity was terrible," Sarangapani remembers. It was something that even a five-year allopathic treatment hadn't been able to cure.

Then she decided to give homeopathy a try and it worked very well. "After I had taken the dose for a month or so, I was fine. I never had acidity trouble again. Had I known that it would work wonders for me, I wouldn't have suffered for five years," says Sarangapani.

Like her, scores of people in the country are satisfied with an alternative medicine like homeopathy because they claim that it really works for them, sometimes in ways that even allopathy cannot. Many people report that homeopathy does a better job of treating their long-term or chronic conditions like recurrent infections, skin conditions, tonsillitis, and chronic fatigue.

Take the case of 28-year-old Deepika Aggarwal, who used to suffer from frequent infections like colds and cough. She researched and checked on a recommended homeopath's success rate before opting for the treatment.

"It's helped me a great deal and improved my general health as well. Now I don't get frequent infections like I used to. I only resort to allopathy in case a health problem lasts over a week," says Aggarwal.

But most allopathic or regular medical practitioners have strong doubts about whether or not this alternative medicine works.

What allopathy says

"The theoretical basis of the homeopathic system of medicine itself, is flawed," argues Dr Anand Bhave, consultant physician, practising in Thane. "How can a drug have a positive effect on the body in an extremely diluted form? It's obvious that a larger medicine dose has a stronger effect and if you dilute it to 1 in 10,000 parts, its effect is going to be minimised further," says Bhave.

Allopathy, on the other hand, adds Bhave, is strongly supported by medical trials and empirical evidence of what medicines work and what don't. Modern medicine changes as newer research and trials challenge old beliefs. "There just isn't enough empirical data to prove that homeopathy indeed works and because of a lack of new evidence, it never changes," says Bhave.

Allopathic practitioners also don't buy the argument that if many people are opting for the treatment and are happy with it, then it must be good.

"Many people who have used homeopathy swear by its ability to cure chronic conditions like tonsillitis, skin conditions etc. But with a homeopathic treatment typically lasting over a long period, who's to know whether it was the homeopathy that actually helped cure the condition?" says Bhave.

A homeopath's view

"How homeopathy actually helps cure chronic conditions is because of the homeopath spends a great deal of time getting to understand individual patients and takes factors like the pace of the disease and immunity into consideration. Yes, allopathy is good at managing immediate conditions like heart attacks, accidents etc. But homeopathy's individualistic treatment gives it the human touch that allopathy lacks," says Dr Hemant Nandu, a homeopath practising in Matunga.

"It's quite shocking that the BMA termed homeopathy as 'witchcraft'. To me, it seems like a conspiracy by drug and pharmaceutical majors to curb the rising popularity of homeopathy," says Nandu.

Homeopaths also feel that there isn't such a thing as a lack of empirical evidence or clinical trials in homeopathy. "Our medicine trails are different. Yes, they take time. But homeopathy is very individual focused and we don't have animal-tested drugs. All our drugs are instead tested on individuals who are best matched for them," says Nandu.

What's homeopathy?

According to the Society of Homeopaths in the United Kingdom, homeopathy is a system of medicine which is based on treating the individual with highly diluted substances given in mainly tablet form, which triggers the body's natural system of healing.

Scientifically it can not yet be explained precisely how homeopathy works, but new theories in quantum physics are going some way towards shedding light on the process.

What is allopathy?

Strangely enough, Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, coined the term allopathy. Allopathic medicine refers to a broad category of medical practice that is also called western medicine, biomedicine, scientific medicine, or modern medicine" with varying degrees of acceptance by medical professionals in different parts of the world.

Sources: www.wikepedia.com and www.homeopathy-soh.org

Todd Wood talks sense


Category: Creationism • Policy and Politics
Posted on: May 19, 2010 6:34 PM, by Josh Rosenau

First, my very favorite creationist in the wide world has an appropriately snarky (but optimistic) take on a new ID journal. He opens by noting, "The last time ID supporters tried their own journal was PCID, which seemed to whither and die five years ago." Indeed, they appear to have been unable to generate sufficient submissions to even complete their final volume.

I and others have taken this as a sign of the intellectual vacuity of ID. Even their own house organs cannot manage to maintain an appearance of vibrant research. And what papers they generate are simply absurd. But Wood, a young earth creationist who teaches at Bryan College, in the town where namesake William Jennings Bryan fought to block evolution from classrooms, is still hopeful for the ID journal:

Frankly, I'm glad this journal has launched. I know a lot of people have been waiting a long time to see what (if anything) the ID movement had to offer besides yet another populist anti-evolution crusade. In particular, since the launch of Biologic [Institute, the DI's "research" lab], I've been hoping they would ... well... do something. Something other than churn out books, debate atheists, and make spectacles of themselves.

Indeed we have been waiting a long time for ID to produce anything of value, and we're likely to be waiting a lot longer. Wood tips his hand that he thinks the journal won't live up to his expectations by writing: "I hope it will go beyond just anti-evolution rhetoric research, but I guess that remains to be seen."

The thing that's so shocking about the failure of all previous attempts at an ID journal is that the young earth creationist movement has actually done quite well at creating its own pseudoscientific infrastructure. They have several journals that imitate the peer-review of proper scientific journals. Sure, authors have to swear that their results won't contradict a fundamentalist reading of the Bible, and the actual arguments they make tend to fall apart once you start pushing on them, but many of the papers are quite sharp, and do a decent job of testing hypotheses within the straightjacket imposed on them by fundamentalist ideology.

ID, which is often presented as the "more sciency" cousin to scientific creationism has never lived up to that billing. They've never created such an infrastructure, nor anything resembling the technical sophistication of baraminology. Baraminology has no logical or empirical basis outside of the fundamentalist subculture, but at least it's an attempt to flesh out the scientistic implications of that theology. It's as true now as it was when Paul Nelson said it 6 years ago (already 10-20 years into the ID project):

Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don't have such a theory right now, and that's a problem. Without a theory, it's very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we've got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as 'irreducible complexity' and 'specified complexity'–but, as yet, no general theory of biological design.

The heralded "first research article" to be published in the journal is a rehash of research that Ralph Seelke has been touting since at least 2005's Kansas Kangaroo Kourt, at which he had to admit that his research to date was still "whoosy," adding that "I wouldn't publish this until I had probably 10 to 100 trillion [cells]." The article he's now published is based on roughly 1 trillion cells, and therefore still "whoosy" by his own standards.

The second instance of Todd Wood talking sense comes in his response to an article by old earth creationist Faz Rana. Rana is trying to explain why harmful bacteria would exist if they were created by a good and benevolent god. Rana argues that they were created to be perfect, but have since evolved their harmful natures. "Wow," writes Wood, "I could totally be reading a young age creationist here." Indeed, this is essentially the YEC argument, but in their model harmful mutations arise after the Fall (for reasons scientifically unexplained but theologically significant).

So what's Wood's problem? Aside from the theological differences, Wood doesn't like Rana's special pleading:

Everything Rana writes applies only to humans not animals… He wants to cut off humanity from the rest of creation, even though everything he says applies equally well to animal diseases. Shoot, you could even say that disease has been an effective population control on humans! …

A pathogen's a pathogen, whether it infects a horse or cat or human. Disease is disease. If we think there was no human disease before the Fall, it just seems weirdly inconsistent to say that animals had diseases. It's a bizarro world, where Fido can catch a cold but his master can't. If RTB wants to allow animal disease in the world before the Fall, then humans should have been susceptible to those same diseases from the moment they were created.

I don't see any reason to believe Rana's special treatment of humans. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Alas, my ellipsis above is important, because that's where Wood simply crashes and burns. The elided sentence reads: "It seems to me more biologically consistent to attribute pathogens in general to the effects of the Fall."

There is nothing biologically consistent about invoking a magical moment where mutations started happening which were not capable of occurring previously. There's also nothing about that sentence consistent with what we know about physics, chemistry, or any other science.

So why do I bring this up? In the past I've cited Wood as a reminder to anti-creationists that it's not enough to simply dismiss creationism as irrationality run amok. Wood's approach is rational, but premised on faulty assumptions. Rationality is dependent on the quality of the minds inputs and presuppositions, and some folks tend to wrongly claim that simply being rational would solve all our problems.

I also point it out in the hopes that Wood will, at some point, confront the special pleading he's using, and will realize that if he extends his arguments to their logical results, he'll have to abandon his creationism. His critiques of ID creationism and of old earth creationism are spot on, and if he'd only turn the same analytical approach toward his adherence to young earth creationism, interesting things might happen.

For instance, consider his third inadvertently sensible comment. Discussing a recent paper by Doug Theobald which statistically tests whether universal common ancestry is the best explanation for the similarity of the genomes of all living things, Wood opens with a mistake. "Although Theobald does not cite creationists in the article," Wood acknowledges, "I think it's pretty clear who his primary target is."

But no! As John Wilkins points out, there's an interesting discussion among biologists about the root of the tree of life. There are three domains of life: the Archaea, Eubacteria, and Eukarya. It seems to be the case that eukaryotic cells are the result of a eubacterium engulfing an archaean, but the Archaea and Eubacteria are quite different. So different that it isn't totally impossible that they represent separate origins of life. There's a lot of evidence of gene flow between the lineages over time, making it tricky to tell for certain whether similarities between those lineages represent convergent evolution, lateral gene exchange, or common ancestry. So biologists working within a standard evolutionary context have argued back and forth about this problem of distinguishing how many distinct lineages life would have had a couple billion years ago. Theobald's paper explicitly applies itself to testing among several proposed evolutionary models.

And perhaps unwittingly, Wood acknowledges the problem with applying this approach to a creationist "orchard" model. He writes:

A correct alternative [i.e. creationist] model would have to assess the probability of created similarity vs. evolved similarity. Impossible? Maybe…

Impossible? Definitely. Doing so requires knowing a great deal about the entity doing the creating. A supernatural being who wished to make the universe appear to be 13.7 billion years old despite having created it last Thursday could do so. A supernatural creator who wished to make it seem as if all life shared a common ancestor a couple billion years back could do so, and could do so with such skill that science could never detect the difference. Which means that there is no way that any test Theobald or anyone else might propose could conceivably serve as a falsification of creationism.

This is why creationism is inherently unscientific, and all Wood's attempts to make a scientifically plausible account of creationism are doomed. They're all built on quicksand. This need not mean that they're wrong, but they're not science, and don't belong in a science class or science lab, even at Bryan College.

I know Wood knows that, because all I'm doing is quoting his own argument. Hopefully he'll recognize its significance some day.

Christian author embraces scientific theory


By Stephanie Bertholdo bertholdo@theacorn.com

Dr. Joel "Jody" Martin of Oak Park will speak about evolution and Christianity at Barnes and Noble in Thousand Oaks at 2 p.m. Sun., May 23 . Martin wrote the book "The Prism and the Rainbow: A Christian Explains Why Evolution is Not a Threat." Oak Park resident Joel "Jody" Martin is a world renowned professor, author, marine biologist and a devout Christian who wants to set the record straight about the theory of evolution.

Martin, the 54-year-old curator curator at The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and a professor at UCLA and USC, has written a 192-page book, "The Prism and the Rainbow: A Christian Explains Why Evolution is Not a Threat." He hopes the book will help readers bridge the gap between science and their culture and faith.

Martin will host a talk and book signing at Barnes & Noble in Thousand Oaks at 2 p.m. Sun., May 23.

While the divide between some Christians and accepted scientific precepts has been debated since Charles Darwin published his seminal book, "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection," more than 150 years ago, Martin hopes his treatment of the subject will show that the teaching of evolution has never been anti-Christian.

Science, Martin said, "doesn't invent the world around us; it reveals the world around us."

Martin believes that some Christians have trouble blending their Christian beliefs with science because of fear. "People are terrified that their faith might be questioned, that they might be wrong," he said. "When you're scared it's always easier to lash out rather than slow down and learn something."

The book, which is being published by The Johns Hopkins University Press later this month, is Martin's first book written for nonscientists.

"Many people feel, or rather are told, that automatically rejecting the tenets of evolutionary biology is 'the Christian thing to do,'" Martin said. "It's not. Most Christians actually have no problem whatsoever in accepting all of modern science, including evolution, and many mainstream denominations have stated that evolution even helps strengthen and enrich their faiths, not the oppo site."

Martin said he doesn't expect to dislodge e n trenched Christian views from many people but hopes that his book will help in the fight against teaching creationism in public schools.

"What gets lost in all the battles is the kids," Martin said about the long-standing divide between faith and science.

Martin wears many hats, working as a scientist by day and as a youth adviser on the weekends at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Westlake Village.

Some people, he said, think that his dual roles present a conflict of interests, but Martin sees his work as an opportunity to enlighten people, specifically young people, to the wonders of both science and God.

The argument that Martin must explain most frequently is that evolution is "just a theory" or is somehow flawed because gaps exist in scientific knowledge.

"Well, the word 'theory' as used in science is quite different from how we use it in everyday language," Martin said. "A scientific theory, like germ theory or gravitational theory or cell theory, is a large, interconnected body of explanatory statements, not a good guess, as we use it in everyday speech."

As for the expected gaps in human understanding, Martin said that "incomplete knowledge is a hallmark of all the sciences, not a criticism of them."

"We don't know everything about any of the sciences," he said. "Evolution is no more controversial among scientists than electricity, gravity, geology or any of the other sciences."

Martin says that the push to teach creationism in public schools "waxes and wanes" depending sometimes on the focus of the country. "It's related to our interest in science," he said. "When we were behind in the space race, we put more effort and money into science. When we do that, creationism goes away for a while, but it always resurfaces."

Martin admits that the arguments he presents in his book are not new to the debate. What makes his book different than other books on the general topic of evolution and creationism is that his book is more concise and is written for both teens and adults to absorb the material quickly.

"Additionally, because it's written from the perspective of an active scientist who is also a Christian, it attempts to be more respectful to readers who might otherwise feel that their faith is being threatened," Martin said. "A lot of students, as well as their parents, struggle with the concept of reconciling their faith with an understanding of modern science, and my hope is that this will help them."

Most Christians, Martin said, are "cool with evolution." Catholics, who represent the majority of Christians with 1.2 billion congregants, and mainstream Protestants are fully accepting of evolution. Only a small percentage of Christians don't accept the theory of evolution, he said.

While Martin does not expect his book to put to rest all the questions on the subject, he hopes to make a dent with students who might have questions, especially children who are being told that they must make a choice between science and faith.

"It's a tragic thing happening in our country," he said.

Acupuncture: An Alternative Approach to Infertility


By Anna Clark

May 18, 2010 - 7:00am

While the notion of "infertility treatment" typically conjures images of invasive insemination procedures, acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to increase the chances of natural pregnancy. Indeed, many contemporary acupuncturists are pairing their personalized practice of needles with herbal treatments to enhance the fertility of their patients … and finding high rates of success.

Acupuncture draws from traditional Chinese medicine, which views physical symptoms as caused by alterations in the flow of the body's qi (pronounced "chee"), or energy, whether by illness, stress, or other factors. By placing very small, fine needles into particular points of the body called the energy meridians, acupuncture shifts the qi to restore balance. It is used to treat a host of health care needs, including chronic pain, insomnia, allergy symptoms, stress, and smoking cessation.

When it comes to infertility treatment, acupuncture stands apart from traditional Western practices in that it is not a medical intervention; rather, it is process-oriented. The personalized care consists of regular acupuncture sessions and a regiment of Chinese herbs, as well as coaching on diet. Patients typically visit their acupuncturists at least once a week. For most patients, pregnancy happens within six months after beginning treatment; some happen much more quickly, some take longer, and still others, of course, simply do not happen. Unlike Western treatment with assisted reproductive technology, which often requires patients to take strong fertility drugs, there are nearly no side effects to acupuncture.

At the Acupuncture Center for Reproductive Health in New Jersey, Candace Jania said that her practice is made up of about 90 percent people who are looking to enhance their fertility. Nearly all of her patients come by her practice through personal referral. Many of her patients have already been through Western procedures, including intra-uterine insemination and in vitro fertilization, while others hope to improve their chances for conception naturally before moving on to more expensive and complicated strategies. Some patients practice both acupuncture and IUI/IVF at the same time. For 2009, the total rate of pregnancy success of all patients the ACRH treated was 73 percent By comparison, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine reports an IVF success rate of 29.4 percent per egg retrieval, and a delivery rate of about 30 percent. More research is being done to explore the influence of acupuncture on fertility, as well as the influence of acupuncture paired with IUI/IVF. Some peer-reviewed studies are finding that acupuncture boosts fertility in both women and men, while some contend that if it has no measurable effect but at least does no harm. It is, however, difficult to assess the effectiveness of a traditional Chinese form of medicine with the strictures of Western research, and more investigation continues to be done.

Most of ACRH's patients stay with the clinic throughout their pregnancy because, Jania said, the acupuncture treatment also reduces the risk of miscarriage, eases morning sickness, and lessens the chances for a complicated labor.

"Acupuncture treatments help tremendously on so many levels, from beginning to end," Jania said.

Beyond her vantage as a specialist, Jania speaks from personal experience; she went through IVF when she conceived her first child back when she was just beginning to pursue her career as an acupuncturist. The IVF attempts were "really tough" on her body, Jania said. Later, when she went back to her endocrinologist to discuss a second pregnancy, she asked what her chances were of conception happening naturally. "None," she was bluntly told.

Jania went on to an acupuncturist. She and her husband both began taking herbs. With no invasive treatment, she was soon pregnant with her second son – who she calls "my Chinese herb baby."

"I've experienced both sides of the coin," Jania said, which puts her in a position to better facilitate the experiences of her patients who are navigating both Eastern and Western fertility treatments; she collaborates with a reproductive endocrinologist for patients who are doing both treatments simultaneously.

While infertility causes can rest with people of either sex, Jania's clientele skews heavily female – at an 80/20 ratio.

"Men are harder," she said. "Many only come because their wives wanted them to come, though they enjoy it when they're here."

Julie Ormonde at Auburn Community Acupuncture, is more straightforward about the skewed gender ratio that she sees mirrored in her own clinic: "Usually men come kicking and screaming—unless the man is really on board with fertility and with having a baby."

For Ormonde, acupuncture fertility treatment is ultimately about balance. At her clinic, she emphasizes a unique process for each patient, drawing from the information that she can learn by reading temperature charts and cervical mucus.

"Most women have a period and cervical mucus and they don't pay any attention to it," Ormonde said. "Is it clotted, bright red, dark red? This tells us an incredible amount of information. … (and) so much in-depth information is needed for fertility treatment because there are so many variables in fertility."

Her work has convinced her that there is a broad general confusion about how pregnancy even happens.

"Western medicine doesn't do a lot of teaching about how you get pregnant," Ormonde said. "Schools don't do this either. People really don't know how to get pregnant. They're never taught how to take control of their cycle; they don't know about temperature charts and mucus.

"We're supposed to teach sex ed in classes, but we don't teach this," Ormonde added, noting that this same information is meaningful for understanding how not to get pregnant. "A lot of people get pregnant fairly quickly once they learn when to have sex based on their body."

Ormonde herself came to acupuncture after suffering from narcolepsy. After a long series of Western treatments and specialists, she took a chance on Eastern needles and herbs in 1997. While narcolepsy is considered an incurable disease, Ormonde found quick relief as her sleep patterns stabilized during acupuncture treatment. She hasn't experienced her former symptoms in the thirteen years since. Later, when Ormonde was ready for pregnancy, she used acupuncture to regulate her menstrual cycles and was able to facilitate her own fertility.

But despite the potential for acupuncture treatments for infertility, its widespread use as a positive alternative--or perhaps complement--to assisted reproductive technology is hindered by the systematic segregation of acupuncture as viable health care.

Acupuncture is not covered by many health insurance companies for fertility treatments or anything else – making services at traditional clinics, which cost $100-$200 per individual session far too expensive for many people (even though they remain much more affordable than IUI/IVF treatments).

Community acupuncture clinics like Ormonde's are premised on making this potent form of care accessible and affordable to as many people as possible. In a strategy that may help fill the gap, these clinics offer acupuncture services in a communal setting that are provided on a sliding scale of $15-$45.

"One of my issues with acupuncture was, as an acupuncturist, I could not afford to get it myself," Ormonde said about her early years practicing in traditional settings.

When she came by the community model of practice, she embraced it. "When I started, there were just a few clinics doing this. Now it's just blossomed into an incredible movement."

But even as the community acupuncture movement is developing rapidly—there are more than 120 community clinics across the nation, and the number is growing—large swaths of the United States still don't have one available to them. Therefore, because of costs, acupuncture is not always a feasible source of care for those struggling with infertility.

Changes in the Medicare bill could alter this; it's possible the new version of it will include coverage for alternative medicine, including acupuncture.

Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) has re-introduced legislation every year that he's been in Congress—since 1993—that would make acupuncture a covered service for the 44 million Americans on Medicare. When he again brought the bill forward last year, Hinchey said that, "It is entirely unacceptable that Medicare and the Federal Employees Health Benefits program don't cover acupuncture treatment and thus force plan participants to forego acupuncture or pay for it entirely out of their own pocket ... In a country as great as ours no American should ever be denied access to any legitimate forms of medical care that can make them healthier and more comfortable."

The number of co-sponsors to this bill has steadily increased each year since Hinchey first introduced it. If and when Medicare is adapted to include acupuncture, it will pose a compelling pressure for other health insurance agencies to follow suit and expand their coverage to do the same.

Another obstacle to widespread acceptance of acupuncture as a viable fertility treatment comes down to simple fear of needles, according to Jania.

"It's a huge barrier," said Jania of this fear. "People have a scary image in their minds, but (we don't use) hypodermic needles; our needles are about the size of a hair."

Nonetheless, misconceptions about acupuncture needling as an ominous or painful treatment may compel many to avoid it and ironically, to turn to riskier and more invasive infertility procedures.

In addition, acupuncture is an infertility treatment that requires a certain amount of patience—another turn-off for some people who are anxious for pregnancy.

"Western medicine is fabulous at taking something and forcing it to happen," Ormonde said. "Chinese medicine is about re-balancing the body to help the body get pregnant naturally. That takes time. I can't give it to you in one month."

It takes an average of six months for people receiving acupuncture treatment to become pregnant. If time truly is short—that is, depending on the age and medical history of the patient—Ormonde may recommend simultaneous treatment with Western fertility clinics. These clinics she noted, are becoming more receptive and respectful to her own work as they see positive outcomes from acupuncture.

The effectiveness of acupuncture can't be well put to standard Western proofs. While Western medicines are often tested in standardized double-blind studies, there is no clear way to similarly apply scientific controls to test acupuncture. At the same time, the nature of the practice resists formula; each treatment is very much personalized, making generalizations from test results somewhat futile.

There is no single acupuncture prescription for infertility; even as there are common elements in the treatment process, it is always uniquely tailored to the biology and needs of each patient. Auburn Community Acupuncture offers an FAQ section on its website that provides responses to questions about how acupuncture can influence fertility, specifically enumerating the reproductive issues that it can be used for, from endometriosis to irregular menstrual cycles to recurrent miscarriage.

Ormonde noted that if acupuncture didn't work, it's unlikely it would have been around for as many years as it has.

"Things don't last 5000 years if they don't work," she said.

Jania echoed this idea – and suggested that acupuncture may be that it is due for a surge of popularity, having no less of a mainstream endorsement than Dr. Oz.

"It's hard for me to explain the passion I feel for this medicine," Jania said. "It has save me time and time again. I wish more people experienced it."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Center for Inquiry Board Statement: Board to accept Paul Kurtz resignation

[Received by e-mail]

Amherst, N.Y. (May 18, 2010)—The Board of Directors of the Center for Inquiry, the world's leading and largest organization promoting humanism and skepticism, issued the following statement today: The board will accept Dr. Paul Kurtz's resignation as chairman emeritus and as a member of the board:

The board sincerely thanks Paul Kurtz for his decades of service to the Center for Inquiry and its affiliates. The board deeply respects Dr. Kurtz and his work and knows that this organization will always be associated with his efforts on its behalf. Dr. Kurtz founded and led our organization and helped it thrive. Much of CFI's success is due to Paul Kurtz's inspiration and leadership.

Our success is also due in no small part to the efforts of CFI's dedicated staff, its many skilled volunteers, and its generous financial supporters. CFI has never been a one-person operation.

At Paul Kurtz's behest, CFI began years ago to organize a leadership transition. Moreover, in recent years the board had concerns about Dr. Kurtz's day-to-day management of the organization. In June 2008, the board appointed Dr. Ronald A. Lindsay president and CEO; in June 2009, the board elected Richard Schroeder chairman, with Dr. Kurtz moving to chairman emeritus. During this two-year transition, CFI continued to hold a rigorous schedule of more than 110 national and international events, to develop its grassroots network, and to advocate effectively for humanism and skepticism.

As a result of this transition, CFI is well-prepared to move forward into the next phase of its institutional life, confident that the organization will remain at the forefront of secular humanism and skepticism.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Debate over homoeopathy rages on


Deepa Suryanarayan / DNA Tuesday, May 18, 2010 1:03 IST

Mumbai: As a 10-year-old, Vineeta Raikar suffered from frequent bouts of colds. "And, unlike common cold, my illness used to be severe that lasted for months together," recalled the Vineeta, who is now 28. The Andheri-resident then took a two-year-long homeopathic treatment. "I have never had to worry about cold since," the home-maker, who swears by homoeopathy, said.

Similarly, homoeopathy changed septuagenarian T Ramaswamy's life. Diagnosed with psoriasis — a chronic and non-contagious autoimmune disease that affects the skin and joints — at the age of 20, Ramaswamy's life came to a standstill every winter. But then he was advised homoeopathy by a friend. "I have been on lifelong homoeopathic treatment for the past 40 years. And, it has worked wonders for me," said Ramaswamy.

The British Medical Association (BMA) may have called homoeopathy a "witchcraft", but it's unlikely to impact the popularity of the alternative medicine. Once considered to be a treatment sought by only the older generation, even youngsters now seem to be interested in the alternative medicine. "I prefer homoeopathy as it has answers to questions that allopathy can't answer," said Thomas John, 26, a businessman. "The approach is holistic unlike allopathy, which treats you one symptom at a time."

According to most homoeopathic doctors, a majority - about 60% —of their patients are in the paediatric age group. This indicates that a huge number of parents trust the alternative medicine when it comes to their children. "The biggest advantage of homoeopathy is that you can offer specialised 'customised' treatment," said Dr Rajesh Rambhiya, homoeopathic physician, who runs Vishesh Clinic, a paediatric speciality homoeopathy centre at Matunga.

"Although we have a family doctor, we also have a homoeopathy doctor, who we go to for almost everything from common cold and fever to chronic problems," said bank employee Manisha Puthran, 30.

Dr Sujja Appukutaan, a homoeopathic doctor, practicing for the past 13 years at IIT Powai, said the debate over effectiveness of homoeopathy has been raging for well over 40 years, and will never subside. "A majority of classical homeopaths hail from India. A classical homeopath is one who follows all the rules and regulations of basic homoeopathy. We believe that each individual is unique and needs to be treated differently even if the complaint is similar to what someone else suffers from," Appukutaan added.

However, there is a section within the medical community, which does not feel homeopath is as effective as it is portrayed to be. "While a patient has the right to decide the treatment he wants to receive, his decision should be an informed one. Several clinical trials abroad, including the one done in January 2010 in UK, have shown that homoeopathic medicine has nothing more than a placebo effect," said Dr Rajesh Dedhia. He added that even the prestigious Lancet Journal had published an article disproving effect of homoeopathy.

"Would you opt for a long-term homoeopathic treatment to show its effect if you meet with a car accident? There is no comparison between allopathy and homoeopathy," said Dr Sameer Rane, intensivist at Sharada Nursing Home in Mulund.

Santa Barbara Secularists Speak


Call for Uniform Education Standards and End to Preferential Treatment of Religious Institutions

To celebrate 15 years of existence, the Humanist Society of Santa Barbara on May 15 hosted Sean Faircloth, a lobbying advocate for the Secular Coalition for America, and Dan Barker, a musical activist for the separation of church and state. The Humanist Society was originally called the Rationalists, but they considered the name too old-fashioned. According to their Web site, they "share the conviction that rational inquiry can provide the best foundation for human progress."

The Secular Coalition for America is a non-partisan lobbying group for the "nones," a term many Humanists have affectionately taken on to describe their non-theistic philosophy. Though it is difficult to measure, it is estimated that 20 percent of the population considers itself non-theistic. The Secular Coalition stands against "politicians who succumb to pressure" and fight the "special rights" for religion that, they argue, are unconstitutional.

Faircloth spoke of current issues the group is taking on, including more uniform educational standards and less unfair privileges for religious institutions. Core standards are only required for math and English courses, they said, which leaves history and science to be interpreted. Faircloth said that in some areas of the country, this ambiguity is allowing creationism to be taught as fact and evolution to be misrepresented.

Faircloth said that religious institutions receive preferential treatment from the government. Religion-based childcare centers do not have to meet the same standards of health and safety, he asserted, and ordained members of the clergy can escape paying taxes on property and income.

In between singing songs, Dan Barker spoke of recently protesting National Prayer Day. He said, "America wasn't birthed in prayer, it was born in protest," and said that he considers National Prayer Day to be "divisive."

In the next decade, the group wants to reframe how it is perceived, increase lobbying and membership, and get people active. It wants to broaden its base, reaching to the LGBT community, libertarians, the scientific and technical communities, as well as ordinary people. The group also said it wants to teach "the poor, the dispossessed, and the vulnerable" about morality and "improve how human beings interact with each other."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Study: Cell phone-brain cancer link inconclusiveArticle


By FRANK JORDANS - Associated Press Writer

GENEVA -- Cell phone users worried about getting brain cancer aren't off the hook yet.

A major international study into the link between cell phone use and two types of brain cancer has proved inconclusive, according to a report due to be published in a medical journal Tuesday.

A 10-year survey of almost 13,000 participants found most cell phone use didn't increase the risk of developing meningioma - a common and frequently benign tumor - or glioma - a rarer but deadlier form of cancer.

There were "suggestions" that using cell phones for more than 30 minutes each day could increase the risk of glioma, according to the study by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer. But the authors added that "biases and error prevent a causal interpretation" that would directly blame radiation for the tumor.

Longer call times appeared to pose a greater risk than the number of calls made, the study found.

Among the factors that weren't examined were the effects of using handsfree devices during calls or the risk of having cell phones close by while not making calls - such as in a pocket, or next to the bed at night.

The authors acknowledged possible inaccuracies in the survey from the fact that participants were asked to remember how much and on which ear they used their mobiles over the past decade. Results for some groups showed cell phone use actually appeared to lessen the risk of developing cancers, something the researchers described as "implausible."

The authors said further investigation is necessary before they can conclude with certainty that there is no link between cell phone radiation and brain cancer, partly because people's use of the devices has changed considerably since the start of the study in 2000.

Scientists are also planning to examine whether cell phone use increases the risk of tumors in the ear's acoustic nerve and the parotid gland, where saliva is produced. A separate study will look into the effects of cell phone use on children, who are believed to be more susceptible to the effects of radiation.

The paper, which will be published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, was compiled by researchers in 13 countries including Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Japan, but not the U.S. Scientists interviewed 12,848 participants, of which 5,150 had either meningioma or glioma tumors.

Almost a quarter of the euro19.2 million ($24 million) required to fund the study was provided by the cell phone industry, though WHO said measures were taken to ensure the scientists' independence was protected.

Network operators and handset companies had keenly anticipated the results, which could have threatened the rapid development of their business. There were an estimated 4.6 billion mobile phone subscriptions at the end of last year, compared with about 1 billion in 2002, according to the International Telecommunication Union.

In a statement Sunday, the Mobile Manufacturers Forum welcomed the study.

"The mobile phone industry takes all questions regarding the safety of mobile phones seriously and has a strong commitment to supporting ongoing scientific research," the industry group said.

The study's lead authors are due to present their findings to the media in Geneva on Monday.

Read more: http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/05/16/485484/major-study-on-cell-phones-and.html#ixzz0oEJ6JVDr

Candidate Attacked for Believing Evolution


by Tommi Avicolli-Mecca‚ May. 17‚ 2010

Religion and politics makes the strangest bedfellows. Throw in Republicans and evolution vs creationism, and you have a freak of nature. As anyone following the Alabama Republican gubernatorial primary can clearly see.

Just ask Bradley Byrne. A conservative political action committee (PAC) called "True Republican" has put out a television ad denouncing Byrne, who is seeking the GOP nomination for Governor, for saying that he believes in evolution and that the bible is "only partially true."

The ad, funded by PACs connected to the Alabama Education Association, describes Byrne as "another liberal blowing in the wind trying to look conservative." Guess we know where the Education Association stands on evolution.

Instead of standing up for what he believes, Byrne, a Democrat turned Republican (he thinks the Democrats have gotten "too liberal"), has denied everything, calling the charges "despicable lies." Bet he wishes he were still dealing with those "liberal" Democrats.

"As a Christian and as a public servant," he told CBS News, "I have never wavered in my belief that this world and everything in it is a masterpiece created by the hands of God. As a member of the Alabama Board of Education, the record clearly shows that I fought to ensure the teaching of creationism in our school text books. Those who attack me have distorted, twisted and misrepresented my comments and are spewing utter lies to the people of this state."

He also said that he thinks "every single word" of the Bible is absolutely, positively the truth.

This from a man who was the chancellor of Alabama's Community College System and on the State Board of Education. An educated man should know better.

It's tragic that in 2010 politicians still need to defend having rational beliefs in scientific ideas such as evolution. And it's doubly tragic that these same politicians feel they need to deny their rational beliefs when challenged by the same stupidity that gave us the Scopes Monkey Trials.

A person's view on evolution or the Bible is irrelevant to his or her qualifications for public office. How can our country elect the best and brightest minds when those seeking office have to profess belief -- or pretend to do so -- in a lot of religious gobbly-gook?

I'd say this is a case of "only in Alabama," but there are far too many other places where it happens as well. It's strange, though, that the GOP race in Alabama sure has more than its share of right-wing oddballs, including Roy Moore, the rural circuit court judge who refused to remove a replica of the Ten Commandments from his courtroom; and Tim James, whose campaign ad says, "We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it."

A scary lineup, for sure.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is co-editor of Avanti Popolo: Italians Sailing Beyond Columbus, and editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation, which has been nominated for both an American Library Association and a Lambda Literary award. His website is www.avicollimecca.com.

Prehistoric 'footprints' falsified by science


By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY

Human footprints frozen in time, lodged in volcanic ash in a Mexican valley, seemed poised to rock history.

In the current Journal of Human Evolution, a study tells the story of how they didn't — and how science checks out extraordinary claims.

"The timing and origin of the earliest human colonization of the Americas has been the subject of great debate over the last 100 years and is still a matter of heated discussion today," begins the study. Hiking on the dried bed of Mexico's Valsequillo Lake in the summer of 2003, an archeology team made a discovery they suspected would open a new chapter in the debate.

Crisscrossing the lakebed, they saw tracks, an ash field littered with hundreds of impressions that resembled footprints from adults and children, " along with birds, cats, dogs and species with cloven feet," as Nature magazine later reported. The team led by geoarchaeologist Silvia Gonzalez of the United Kingdom's Liverpool John Moores University, suspected the track's makers had fled an ancient eruption of the looming Cerro Toluquilla volcano, leaving their tracks in the now-famous "Xalnene Ash."

But how long ago did they flee? In 2005, Gonzalez and colleagues announced at the UK's Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition that "optical stimulated luminescence" results, where ash from the site was baked and then examined for the kind of light it emits as a signal to the last time it melted, gave a result of 40,000 years ago.

"Accounting for the origin of these footprints would require a complete rethink on the timing, route and origin of the first colonisation of the Americas," said a Royal Society statement announcing the find. People only emigrated to the America's about 13,000 years ago, suggests the conventional picture, suggested by archaeological records. These " Clovis" people, named for the New Mexico town where the oldest dated site for their distinctive tools ands arrowheads were discovered, populated the continent in as little as two centuries after crossing the Bering Strait.

A handful of sites, notably a suspected hearth in Chile's Monte Verde ruins suggest some people arrived a bit earlier, perhaps 15,000 years ago. But 40,000-year-old footprints in Mexico would suggest that prehistoric modern humans, who are thought to have left Africa as recently 60,000 years ago, raced across Asia and colonized the New World remarkably fast.

A debate erupted. In December of 2005, a team led by geochronologist Paul Renne of the University of California, Berkeley, reported in Nature that the trackway ash layer dated to 1.3 million years ago, according to analysis of radioactive Argon elements in the rock. If the ash dated to 1.3 million years, that meant the footprints in it couldn't have been made by modern humans, who have only been around for about 200,000 years, tops, as indicated by bones and tools. "I never thought they were tracks," Renne says now. "I've seen them and they really don't have the left-and-right pattern of footsteps. They only look like tracks if you see them in the right light." Quarry marks and recent foot traffic from people who today live nearby more likely explained the impressions, Renne and others suggested.

A number of papers flew back and forth, some supporting the Argon results and one confirming the younger luminescence date. But in the latest turn, the Journal of Human Evolution paper led by Darren Mark of the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, and co-authored by Gonzalez, concedes the fight, replicating the Argon results from Renne's lab.

"Dr. Gonzalez and colleagues from Liverpool John Moores University have accepted that the age of the Xalnene Ash is approximately 1.3 (million years)," Mark says, by e-mail. He adds the finding, "casts considerable doubt on the interpretation that the markings in the Xalnene Ash are hominid footprints."

Could they be footprints of some human precursor "hominid" species? Archaeologists have looked for signs of older human species, such as homo erectus, which was living in Asia more than a million years ago, but have seen no signs of them in the New World, Mark says. "Considering what we know about the timings of hominid migrations out of Africa up into Europe and Asia, it is highly improbable that hominids could have made it to the America's by 1.3 million years before present."

So, science worked, in this case. Someone makes a claim and scientists check it out. Most of the time, the extraordinary claims fails, but there is no shame in science for trying, and that is how scholars have made some of their biggest advances, from plate tectonics to Einstein's theory of gravity.

"The message here is that extraordinary claims do need extraordinary evidence," Renne says. "The fact that the original claimant is recanting the first observation is the news here. No, that doesn't always happen in science, but it should, and that is to (their) credit."

So, does that rule out the chances that people emigrated into the America's further back than 15,000 years ago? Nope, says Mark, it just means there is no evidence for it. "Although the reporting of the alleged footprints by Dr. Gonzalez and colleagues may have been premature, the idea that hominids had made it into the New World by forty thousand years before present is not a radical supposition," Mark says. "It is always worth remembering: absence of proof is not proof of absence and I am sure within the near future there will be much more debate and controversy surrounding the peopling of the America's."

So stay tuned folks. Those sound like fighting words. The end of this chapter in the debate over the First Americans might just mean a new chapter is about to begin.

Review: Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails)


by Devilstower

Review: Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails) Sat May 15, 2010 at 04:16:04 PM PDT

When you think of books on science, emotion isn't always the first word that comes to mind. Facts, sure. Rational arguments, absolutely. Only those arguments are too often couched in dispassionate terms. The best science writing (and science writers) understand that "just the facts" doesn't have to make a work as dull as Joe Friday plodding through a case. In Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails), writer and physicist Matt Young and evolutionary biologist Paul Strode deliver plenty of facts, plenty of rational arguments, and plenty of illuminating examples, but they also deliver a passionate argument for the importance of evolution both in nature and in the classroom.

Above all, what they may have delivered here is the best handbook you could look for when going into discussion on the subject. If you're just interested in learning some of the science behind evolution, you'll find that here -- with nice examples that include some of the odd evolutionary tracks left behind in the human body. If you're interested in the history of the dispute over evolution, you'll find that in the book as well, with a neat review of the important court cases along the front lines of the science vs. anti-science war. And if you have any doubt that the opposition to evolution is based out a disregard for science, you'll find the other side of the argument (whether in the older clothing of creationism or wearing a new "intelligent design" suit) thoroughly dissected and discredited.

If that sounds dry, it's only because my description of the book doesn't match up to the energy and insight that make the work extremely readable. Even when getting into the technical aspects of how the age of the Earth was established, showing how the arguments for ID are nothing more than misdirection, or dealing with the testimony delivered before courts and school boards, the book manages to keep the story moving without ever dumbing down its arguments.

This isn't really a book on evolution (though there are some chapters with neat looks as some of evolution's implications). If you're unfamiliar with the concepts, you'll get the basics, but really this is more a book about how evolution fits into our knowledge of the universe, how fundamental that knowledge is to science, and how important it is to prevent the substitution of non-science and nonsense for this critical concept. Young and Strode take the time to show, point by point, why this isn't a fight between two opposing scientific theories, but an argument between the rational and irrational.

If your only experience with evolution since getting out of high school is hearing the term pop up on the news when Kansas or Texas or some local school board decides to foist the latest version of creationism on children, I'd recommend that you read this book to understand both the history and importance of the fight. If you need to argue the case for evolution, whether it's before your own local school board or just a skeptical friend, then this book serves as a terrific reference.

On the other hand, if you're looking for a book to give to that skeptical friend, you might want to hold off shipping them a copy of Why Evolution Works, if only because it is so effective. For anyone taken in by creationism, this book is going to hit like a 2x4 between the eyes, and if that skeptical person really is a friend, you might want to cushion the blow by first reading it yourself and breaking it to them gently.