NTS LogoSkeptical News for 25 September 2010

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Texas State Board of Education confirms irony is dead


Blogs / Bad Astronomy

As I wrote a couple of days ago, the Texas State Board of Education was considering a resolution condemning textbooks they perceived as having a pro-Islam, anti-Christian slant. As I also pointed out, this is the very same BoE that has been removing science from the state standards and replacing it with provably wrong ideas: creationism, anti-evolution, downplaying the Big Bang model of the Universe, and so on.

Friday, they voted to pass the resolution. So this fervently fundamentalist majority on the BoE has said they don't like it when a religion tries to wedge itself into a textbook. As long as it isn't their religion, of course.

So congratulations, Texas Board of Education, you have once again managed to make yourselves, and, sadly, the rest of America, look foolish in the eyes of the entire world.

In case you think I'm being unfair, here is what a moderate Board member said:

"This resolution just seems senseless," said board member Rick Agosto, of San Antonio. "It makes this board look like we're cuckoo, which we are."

By the way, Board member Lawrence Allen, Jr., of Houston, is Muslim.

I will point out once again that two women are running for seats on the Board who are actually qualified in the field of education and understand what is actually needed when it comes to BoE business. The conservative majority on the Texas BoE are hell-bent on destroying the education of the children in that state. Hopefully it's not too late to stop them. I'll note this ridiculous resolution passed by a 7-6 vote. If one member — one member — of the Board of Education's majority had been replaced by someone more moderate, the vote would've gone down a far more reality-based path.

Tip o' the ten gallon hat to Ian Young.

Atheist's worst nightmare takes apart Hawking's 'design' flaws


Blinded with 'science'

Posted: September 24, 2010 6:25 pm Eastern

© 2010 WorldNetDaily

God didn't create the universe, Stephen Hawking says in his latest book, "A Grand Design."

Rather, the renowned physicist writes, "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing."

Everything – created from nothing? The assertion begged a reply from the author of "Nothing Created Everything: The Scientific Impossibility of Atheistic Evolution."

"It is embarrassingly unscientific to speak of anything creating itself from nothing," said Ray Comfort, a best-selling author and acclaimed minister who's confronted and confounded some of the world's most accomplished atheists. "Common sense says that if something possessed the ability to create itself from nothing, then that something wasn't nothing; it was something – a very intelligent creative power of some sort."

Hawking commits several "greater fallacies of logic," says Comfort.

"Hawking has violated the unspoken rules of atheism," he said. "He isn't supposed to use words like 'create' or even 'made.' They necessitate a creator and a maker. Neither is he supposed to let out that the essence of atheism is to believe that nothing created everything, because it's unthinking. It confirms the title of another book I wrote, called 'You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, but You Can't Make Him Think.'"

Comfort continues his dissection: "Nor should an atheist speak of gravity as being a 'law,' because that also denotes the axiom of a Law-giver. Laws don't happen by themselves. But look at how careless the professor was with his, 'The Big Bang was the result of the inevitable laws of physics and did not need God to spark the creation of the Universe.'"

Philosopher Roger Scruton noted that same carelessness in a recent edition of the Wall Street Journal.

"If Mr. Hawking is right, the answer to the question 'What created the universe?' is 'the laws of physics.' But what created the laws of physics? How is it that these strange and powerful laws, and these laws alone, apply to the world?" Scruton asks.

The apparent contradictions even caught the attention of the Huffington Post's Ervin Laszlo.

"To answer 'why' our universe 'created itself' the way it did is beyond science. To say that it did so spontaneously is not an answer: It's an excuse for an answer," said Laszlo, who's described as a "systems philosopher and integral theorist."

"When Hawking says that the spontaneous self-creation of the universe 'out of nothing' is evidence that a creator was not involved, he is not speaking as a scientist," Lazlo continued. "He is not making a scientific statement. His statement is pure theology – of the negative kind typical of atheists. To deny the existence of a transcendental creator is just as much an act of faith as to affirm it."

Still, many commenting on Hawking's writings predict that few esteemed peers will critically examine his exclusion of a creator in the creation process.

Brian Melton, an author and assistant professor at Liberty University, wrote in Intellectual Conservative, "In the end, I have no doubt that Hawking's statements will settle little, if any, of the debate. … True believers in Scientism will accept anything he says that removes God from the picture with little to no critical evaluation, because they believe such statements to be inherently axiomatic, and those who disagree (myself included) won't be satisfied until the bigger questions that Hawking is apparently avoiding are at least put on the table for honest debate."

Comfort's career solidifies his penchant for debate. He famously challenged celebrity atheist Richard Dawkins to a debate and threw in $10,000 – no matter the outcome – as an enticement (Dawkins countered he'd participate for $100,000).

Comfort also created an international storm of angry protest from the atheist community in 2009 by giving out 170,000 copies of Charles Darwin's "Origin of Species" to 170,000 students at 100 of the top universities in the United States, England, Australia and New Zealand.

The outrage? The book contained a 50-page foreword, in which Comfort made the case for creationism.

Comfort teams with actor Kirk Cameron to host the popular television series, "The Way of The Master," which appears on Trinity Broadcasting Network, Christian Television Network, among other media outlets, and is viewed in more than 100 countries.

Comfort is also writing a series of books on men who – for good or evil – changed the course of history. With research that deconstructs what each man believed about God, the series will include Hitler, Churchill, Ghandi, the Beatles and Einstein.

Einstein, Comfort recalled, famously remarked that he wanted to know the mind of God.

In 1988, Hawking wrote in his book "A Brief History of Time" that "if we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we should know the mind of God."

"Both men can easily find the mind of God and through it see how we were created: 'In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,' something of which we were reminded when the first manned mission to the moon read from Genesis chapter one," Comfort said. "We need to read it again."

Young people especially need to read it, Comfort said.

"This generation is having an atheist revival, because they have been fed the lie that atheism is intelligent, when it's obviously not," he said. "We are hoping that this series of books will give them the perspective they are missing."

He also said he knows what won't be missing is the "obligatory resistance."

"No doubt there will be opposition to the series, because atheists are afraid of their core beliefs being exposed," he said. "That's why they tried to stop us giving out Darwin's book and flooded Amazon and gave my books low reviews. No one likes to be seen as a fool, but that's what they are."

Read the arguments for yourself in Ray Comfort's "Nothing Created Everything: The Scientific Impossibility of Atheistic Evolution"

Darwinism: devilish Gnostic myth dressed up as science


September 24, 2010

By Linda Kimball

Today all people whose faith in God the Father is genuine face a seemingly insurmountable problem with what seems like an overwhelming weight of evidence that evolutionism is true and the Genesis account of creation is false. Mockers and scoffers abound, scornfully accusing the faithful of believing in "an invisible being in the sky and that a dead guy from 2000 years ago is coming back soon...instead of believing in reality," as one scofflaw said recently.

However, the real issue here is not "superstitious, backward Christianity" vs. "enlightened reason and science" but about one creation account (Genesis) vs. another creation account (Darwinian evolution). The truth of this claim can be seen in the following quotes:

"...one belief that all true original Darwinians held in common, and that was their rejection of creationism, their rejection of special creation. This was the flag around which they assembled and under which they marched... The conviction that the diversity of the natural world was the result of natural processes and not the work of God was the idea that brought all the so-called Darwinians together in spite of their disagreements on other of Darwin's theories. (One Long Argument ,1991, p.99, Ernst Mayr (1904–2005) Professor of Zoology at Harvard University)

"We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door." ("Billions and Billions of Demons" Richard Lewontin (b. 1929) PhD Zoology, Alexander Agassiz Research Professor at Harvard University)

In other words, terrible-willed evolutionists have a Cosmic Authority problem, and this is why they rally around Darwinism and force its absurd, counterintuitive teachings upon gullible, misinformed Americans while simultaneously ridiculing and otherwise psychologically terrorizing creationists, among whose numbers are many of the defenders of America's founding traditions.

Commenting on the Cosmic Authority problem of many atheists, Thomas Nagel, professor of philosophy and law at New York University confesses:

"I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind." (The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me To Faith, Peter Hitchens, pp. 149-150)

Just what is Darwinism anyway?

At bottom, Darwinism is a Gnostic myth notes Dr. Wolfgang Smith, physicist and mathematics professor at Oregon State University:

"...As a scientific theory, Darwinism would have been jettisoned long ago. The point, however, is that the doctrine of evolution has swept the world, not on the strength of its scientific merits, but precisely in its capacity as a Gnostic myth. It affirms, in effect, that living things created themselves, which is in essence a metaphysical claim....Thus...evolutionism is a metaphysical doctrine decked out in scientific garb....it is a scientistic myth. And the myth is Gnostic, because it implicitly denies the transcendent origin of being; for indeed, only after the living creature has been speculatively reduced to an aggregate of particles does Darwinist transformism become conceivable. Darwinism, therefore, continues the ancient Gnostic practice of deprecating "God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth." It perpetuates...the venerable Gnostic tradition of "Jehovah bashing." (From Old Gnosticism to New Age I, Alan Morrison, SCP Journal Vol. 28:4-29:1, 2005, pp. 30-31)


Historically, Gnostics have always been notorious God-haters to the extent of consigning Him to hell. The early Church Fathers called them the "lawless ones," as they were idolizers of their own minds, rebels against all authority, immoralists, hedonists, and builders of alternative realities (utopian fantasies) requiring the death of God, for the heart of Gnosticism is "man is god."

While the infamous Tower of Babel was history's first Gnostic project, the Soviet Union and Socialist Germany are modern versions. In his book, "Science, Politics, & Gnosticism," esteemed political philosopher Eric Voegelin (1901-85) identifies progressivism, positivism, Hegelianism, Marxism, and the "God is dead" school as modern Gnostic movements. All of these movements are firmly grounded on the Gnostic myth of Darwinism.

In their rage against God the Father, modern Gnostics refuse to be created in His spiritual image, thus they conceptually 'uncreate' themselves through reductionism, which in the words of Wolfgang Smith, means that they speculatively reduce themselves to "aggregates of particles." Reductionism is a tenet of the philosophy of materialism.

Materialist philosophy is neither new nor scientific, but one of the most ancient superstitious beliefs in the world. The ancient version held that matter has always existed and everything that exists consists of matter. According to the modern version, invisible dead-matter spontaneously generated itself from nothing, and then by way of evolution magically produced everything else. To believe this is to believe that the nothingness within the magician's hat spontaneously generated the bunny.

If evolutionism was a gas-powered generator, then spontaneous generation would be its indispensable fuel, admits Ernst Haeckel, pantheist mystic and ardent defender of Darwinism. In the following quote, observe that Haeckel confesses that spontaneous generation is not scientific but rather metaphysical. Furthermore, this metaphysical doctrine is the essential replacement for creation Ex Nihilo — the miracle of creation in other words:

"...spontaneous generation appears to us as a simple and necessary event in the process of the development of the earth. We admit that this process, as long as it is not directly observed or repeated by experiment, remains a pure hypothesis. But I must again say that this hypothesis is indispensable for the consistent completion of the non-miraculous history of creation, that it has absolutely nothing forced or miraculous about it, and that certainly it can never be positively refuted. It must also be taken into consideration that the process of spontaneous generation, even if it still took place daily and hourly, would in any case be exceedingly difficult to observe and establish with absolute certainty as such. This is also the opinion of Naegeli, the ingenious investigator, and he, in his admirable chapter on Spontaneous Generation, maintains that "to deny spontaneous generation is to proclaim miracles." (The History of Creation v.1, 1892, p.422)

Ray Comfort quotes evolutionist Stephen Hawking who in essence affirms that "the nothingness within the magician's hat spontaneously generated the bunny:"

"According to professor Stephen Hawking, God didn't create the universe. Instead, nothing created everything. However, Hawking has violated the basic laws of science. In an extract of his latest book, The Grand Design...published in Eureka magazine in The Times, the professor said: 'Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.'"

"It is embarrassingly unscientific to speak of anything creating itself from nothing," remarked Comfort. "Common sense says that if something possessed the ability to create itself from nothing, then that something wasn't nothing, it was something — a very intelligent creative power of some sort. "

Comfort concludes:

"Hawking has violated the unspoken rules of atheism. He isn't supposed to use words like 'create' or even 'made.' They necessitate a Creator and a Maker. Neither are you supposed to let out that the essence of atheism is to believe that nothing created everything, because it's unthinking." (Hawking Breaks Atheists Rules, Comfort, www.worldviewweekend.com)

So as it turns out, spontaneous generation is yet another "just-so" story. However, the importance of this particular fairytale is that it is the irreplaceable metaphysical foundation of the larger Gnostic myth of Darwinism. Without spontaneous generation, Darwinism...indeed all evolutionism...falls apart, leaving only the miraculous creation Ex Nihilo.

Furthermore, the respected scientist Louis Pasteur definitively disproved spontaneous generation just three years after Darwin published his book, "On the Origin of Species:"

"... Darwin's celebrated tome On the Origin of Species, which had been published just three years before Pasteur's experiments, sought to discredit the need for God to create the species by showing how one species can transmute into another. But Darwin's account left open the problem of how the first living thing came to exist. Unless life had always existed, at least one species — the first — cannot have come to exist by transmutation from another species, only by transmutation from nonliving matter. Darwin himself wrote, some years later: "I have met with no evidence that seems in the least trustworthy, in favour of so-called Spontaneous Generation." Yet, in the absence of a miracle, life could have originated only by some sort of spontaneous generation. Darwin's theory of evolution and Pasteur's theory that only life begets life cannot both have been completely right. (The Fifth Miracle,1999, p.83, Paul Davies (b. 1946) Director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science)

The Darwinian Deception

Colin Patterson writes that after studying evolutionary theory for many years, he finally "woke up and realized that all my life I had been duped into taking evolutionism as revealed truth in some way." Patterson goes on to say:

"One of the reasons I started taking this anti-evolutionary view, or let's call it a non- evolutionary view, was last year I had a sudden realization for over twenty years I had thought I was working on evolution in some way. One morning I woke up and something had happened in the night and it struck me that I had been working on this stuff for twenty years and there was not one thing I knew about it. That's quite a shock to learn that one can be so misled so long. Either there was something wrong with me or there was something wrong with evolutionary theory. Naturally, I know there is nothing wrong with me, so for the last few weeks I've tried putting a simple question to various people and groups of people....Question is: Can you tell me anything you know about evolution, any one thing, that is true? I tried that question on the geology staff at the Field Museum of Natural History and the only answer I got was silence. I tried it on the members of the Evolutionary Morphology Seminar in the University of Chicago, a very prestigious body of evolutionists, and all I got there was silence for a long time and eventually one person said, "I do know one thing — it ought not to be taught in high school."

"Evolutionism and Creationism" November 5, 1981 p.2 Colin Patterson (1933–1998) Senior Paleontologist at British Museum of Natural History

When C.S. Lewis pointedly observed that the entire edifice of the so-called 'science' of Darwinian naturalism has but one purpose, to keep the supernatural Creator out, he was merely confirming admissions made by Lewontin and many other Darwinists. In sum, Darwinism is a deception perpetrated by self-worshipping swindlers who have been 'pulling the wool' over the eyes of the uninitiated masses, to use Lewontins' own words. (The Oxford Socratic Club, 1944)

Deceptions Have Consequences

Long before Darwinian Gnostics systematically liquidated in excess of 200,000,000 men, women, and children on behalf of communist and socialist utopian fantasies, George Romanes sought to warn the world of the coming catastrophe:

"Never in the history of man has so terrific a calamity befallen the race as that which all who look may now behold advancing as a deluge, black with destruction, resistless in might, uprooting our most cherished hopes, engulfing our most precious creed, and burying our highest life in mindless desolation . . The flood-gates of infidelity are open, and Atheism overwhelming is upon us." (George Romanes, A Candid Examination of Theism ,1878)

More recently, H. Enock wrote:

"No wonder that Brig. General F.D. Frost stated in the Fundamentalist, January, 1950, p. 21: 'There is no doubt about it that the doctrine of evolution is the greatest curse in our educational system.' Whether we read Ward's Dynamic Sociology, or Russell's Code of Morals, or Briffalt's Immoralism or some other book written by the Behaviorist School, — they all seem to endeavour to justify and base their conclusions on the bestial nature of man. This philosophy seeks to.... reduce man to the level of animal nature. The surging unrest, the broken homes, the frustrated lives, the increasing divorce cases, the multiplied number of criminals are but the inevitable outcome of the acceptance and practice of this evolutionary doctrine." (H. Enock, Evolution or Creation ,1966, pp. 1146-1147)

Evolutionism "should not be taught in high school." Indeed. Gnosticism is the spiritual disorder of our age and Darwinism and spontaneous generation are its toxic roots. Conceptual murderer of God the Father, inverter of reality, hater of humanity, uplifter of Satan as the first 'free thinker,' destroyer of truth and all that is good, normal, and decent; bringer of chaos, blasphemy, hedonism, pathological lying, genocide and other evils too many to be listed, Gnosticism has all but destroyed America and the West.

In his book, "The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me To Faith," Peter Hitchens, brother of the infamous atheist Christopher writes:

"...the Bible angers and frustrates those who believe that the pursuit of a perfect society justifies the quest for absolute power. The concepts of sin, of conscience, of eternal life, and of divine justice under an unalterable law are the ultimate defense against the utopian's belief that ends justify means and that morality is relative. These concepts are safeguards against the worship of human power." (Rage Against God, p. 135)

The Western civilized nations rose to greatness on the wings of just one spiritual faith ...Christianity. Unalienable rights come from the transcendent Creator and not from weak, easily corrupted men. Through abandonment of its' spiritual roots, the West — which today is a Gnostic-West — is moving inexorably toward its death.

America is the West's last best hope, observed Mark Steyn. Yet America is itself pathologically infected by Gnosticism and near death. Gnosticism must be destroyed. To do this we must tear it out by the roots. This means Darwinism must be uprooted and exposed for what it really is: a Gnostic myth.

Evolution Quotes:


Related Essays:

The Materialist Faith of Communism, Socialism, and Liberalism

Cultural Marxism

Evolutionism: The Dying West's Science of Magic and Madness

© Linda Kimball

Evolution education update: September 24, 2010

Antievolutionism surfaces in a marine science textbook in Florida. Meanwhile, Discover is dismissive of "intelligent design"; the winners of the Stick Science cartoon contest are announced; the latest issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach is published; and statements from three museums are added to NCSE's Voices for Evolution.


A sidebar in a marine science textbook recommended for approval in Florida is "packed with good ol' fashioned creationist language," Florida Citizens for Science charges. The text in question, Life on an Ocean Planet (Current Publishing, 2011), was recently recommended for state approval by the state's instructional materials adoption committee on a 7-2 vote, according to the education blog of the St. Petersburg Times (September 22, 2010). But as FCFS's president Joe Wolf wrote to Florida Department of Education Commissioner Eric Smith, the sidebar on "Questions about the Origin and Development of Life" is "simultaneously actively misinforming, at odds with state standards, and ultimately irrelevant to marine science." Smith has the final say in the textbook adoption process, and Wolf recommended that the sidebar "should be removed entirely, as there is so little information that is either correct or useful to make it worth retaining."

The sidebar makes a variety of historical and scientific errors. For example, it claims that in the Origin of Species "Darwin proposed that life arose from nonliving matter"; it equates microevolution with genetic drift; and it contends that selective breeding demonstrates genetic drift. Moreover, although the sidebar acknowledges that "the vast majority of biologists (probably more than 95%)" accept evolution, it also airs, without attempting to debunk, a variety of creationist claims (which are attributed to unnamed "skeptics"). Among these claims: that the fossil record "does not contain the many transitional species one would expect," that "evolution doesn't adequately explain how a complex structure ... could come to exist through infrequent random mutations," that transitional features could not be favored by natural selection, and that "the hypotheses that ... chemicals can lead to abiogenesis are highly debatable."

The St. Petersburg Times's education blog cited a Florida Department of Education spokesperson as stating that the committee's vote to recommend Life on an Ocean Planet for approval included the provision that the publisher remove two specific pages -- presumably the problematic sidebar. But FCFS isn't so sure about what was recommended, reporting, "Information we have about the committee vote indicates that they voted to approve the textbook overall, and then a second vote was called for to remove the sidebar. That second vote failed but a compromise was reached to 'fix' the sidebar." FCFS added, "Further muddying of the waters comes from there being two versions of the textbook: an electronic one on CD and a print one. It's unclear whether the votes pertain to both versions or just one since it looks like the committee only reviewed the electronic one."

For the story on FCFS's blog, visit:

For the story in the St. Petersburg Times's blog, visit:

For the sidebar itself, visit:


The October 2010 issue of Discover commemorates the magazine's thirtieth anniversary by looking back at, among other things, the scientific debacles of the past three decades -- including "intelligent design" -- under the rubric "Who asked for that?"


Not satisfied with the biblical God who created the world in six days, creationists developed a "science" that aims to explain the supernatural force behind the whole shebang: intelligent design. Because we cannot reverse-engineer things like the human eye, they say, it follows that all must be designed by a higher being. (The human knee presumably came together during a moment of distraction.) This tactic had some success easing intelligent design/creationism into American public-school science lessons. But in 2005 a jury prohibited its teaching in the schools of Dover, Pennsylvania, delivering a stinging rebuke.


(Discover errs in attributing the verdict in Kitzmiller v. Dover to "a jury"; it was a bench trial, and the decision -- which was indeed a stinging rebuke to the scientific pretensions of "intelligent design" -- was due to Judge John E. Jones III.)

For the article in Discover, visit:


The winners of the Stick Science cartoon contest, sponsored by Florida Citizens for Science, were announced on September 19, 2010. "The basic concept here," as FCFS's Brandon Haught explained in announcing the contest, "is to draw a cartoon that educates the public about misconceptions the average person has about science." And lack of artistic ability was no barrier: "all entries must be drawn using stick figures. This is about creative ideas, not artistic ability."

The third place winner was Anastasia Scott of Saint Augustine, Florida; the second place winner was Aaron McGinniss of Little Meadows, Pennsylvania; and the first place winner was Jimmy Grayson of Stanford, California: congratulations to all three! Their winning cartoons, along with those of seven runners-up, can be viewed on the Florida Citizens for Science website.

The entries were judged by NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott; Carl Zimmer, the author of The Tangled Bank and Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life; Jorge Cham, the writer and artist of the web comic Piled Higher and Deeper; and Jay Hosler, associate professor of biology at Juniata College and the author and illustrator of such comics as The Sandwalk Adventures.

For the announcement of the winners, visit:

For the winning cartoons and runners-up, visit:


The latest issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach -- the new journal aspiring to promote accurate understanding and comprehensive teaching of evolutionary theory for a wide audience -- is now published. Devoted to human evolution and edited by William E. H. Harcourt Smith, the issue (volume 3, number 3) features Tom Gundling on "Human Origins Studies: A Historical Perspective"; Kieran P. McNulty on "Apes and Tricksters: The Evolution of Diversification of Humans' Closest Relatives"; Harcourt-Smith on "The First Hominins and the Origins of Bipedalism"; David S. Strait on "The Evolutionary History of the Australopiths"; Holly M. Dunsworth on "Origin of the Genus Homo"; Katerina Harvati on "Neanderthals"; Jason A. Hodgson and Todd R. Disotell on "Anthropological Genetics: Inferring the History of Our Species Through the Analysis of DNA"; Ian Tattersall on "The Rise of Modern Humans"; Monique Scott on "The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Teaching Human Evolution in the Museum" -- and much more besides!

Also included is the latest installment of NCSE's regular column, Overcoming Obstacles to Evolution Education. In "Fossils that Change Everything We Know About Human Evolution (... Or Not)," NCSE's W. Eric Meikle and Andrew J. Petto explain, "Dramatic headlines touting new fossil discoveries often proclaim that our view of human evolution has been revolutionized. While this is occasionally the case, it is more often true that new fossils enrich our understanding of our own ancestry or answer scientific questions that could not be resolved with previous data. Even spectacular new discoveries, such as the now famous 'hobbit' skeleton (Homo floresiensis), can usually be included in the human family tree without any significant change in the inferences about the phylogenetic relationships or taxonomic status of the rest of its members. It is a testament to the power of evolutionary theory and the careful comparative study of human and other fossils that what we know about human evolution changes so little, even when spectacular new discoveries are announced."

For information about the journal, visit:

For Meikle and Petto's article (subscription required), visit:


The chorus of support for the teaching of evolution continues, with three statements from the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science, the Manchester Museum at the University of Manchester, and the Minnesota Science Museum.

In its statement, the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science writes, "The Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science comprises a community of students, professors, and researchers of natural history. As members of the worldwide scientific community, we use the theory of evolution and other scientific principles to study the natural world. Evolutionary theory has greatly enhanced progress in the fields of medicine, anatomy, archaeology, biology, biochemistry, geology, neuroscience and many other disciplines. Without an understanding of evolutionary biology, our perception of the natural world would be greatly diminished."

The Manchester Museum at the University of Manchester (in Britain) states, "The theory of evolution states that the diversity of life has developed over time," adding, "The theory of evolution is central to the field of biology." With respect to the age of the earth and the evolution of life, the museum's statement explains, "These facts are accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists and are established beyond reasonable doubt as the simplest explanations of the physical and biological evidence."

The Science Museum of Minnesota proclaims, "The theory of evolution is grounded in well-substantiated, testable hypotheses that have stood the tests of time and peer review. The word 'theory' as it is used here, does not mean a mere speculation or a best guess. Rather, in referring to a scientific theory, it is a set of firmly established scientific principles supported by research. Evolutionary theory serves as a foundation for natural history including the museum's core competencies in paleontology, anthropology, and biology. To compromise the explanations of evolution or to permit unscientific alternative explanations into our galleries or our programs would misrepresent the principles of science."

All three of these statements are now reproduced, by permission, on NCSE's website, and will also be contained in the fourth edition of NCSE's Voices for Evolution.

For the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science's statement, visit:

For the Manchester Museum's statement (PDF), visit:

For the Science Museum of Minnesota's statement, visit:

And for information about Voices for Evolution, 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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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bad Faith (in Science): Darwin as All-Purpose Boogey Man?


John Farrell.Author, 'The Day Without Yesterday: Lemaitre, Einstein and the Birth of Modern Cosmology'

Posted: September 20, 2010 12:59 AM

In a press release at the Discovery Institute's Evolution News, Institute Fellow John G. West recently attacked British scientist Denis Alexander for downplaying Darwin's use of the term "survival of the fittest" in his work.

The philosopher Herbert Spencer first coined the term, and Darwin had reservations about employing it in his book The Origin of Species. But this is of small consequence to West and conservatives of a certain bent who loathe evolution. As far as they're concerned, evolution simply means survival of the fittest, and the application of natural selection to society in their view has inspired dangerous social movements, from Social Darwinism to Nazism.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. West writes:

Darwin opposed slavery (to his credit), but he also was a thoroughgoing racist who thought natural selection provided a scientific rationale for why we should expect to see races with different intellectual capacities. In his book The Descent of Man, Darwin disparaged blacks and observed that the break in evolutionary history between apes and humans fell "between the negro or Australian and the gorilla," indicating that he considered blacks the humans that were the most ape-like. [Darwin, Descent of Man (1871), vol. I, p. 201] Darwin also predicted that "[a]t some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races." [Darwin, Descent of Man (1871), vol. I, p. 201] Darwin's contribution to scientific racism is hard to deny, no matter how much contemporary Darwinists try to rewrite history.

Now, what's interesting about this broadside is the selective quoting to make the point that Darwin was not just your average Victorian with a condescending bias against the intellectual capacity of non-whites. After all, this is an attitude even Abraham Lincoln shared, and he waged a destructive civil war to end slavery and keep the Southern States from seceding from the U.S.

West wants his readers to realize that Darwin's racism had murderous overtones and that therefore the science of evolution must be suspect.

It goes without saying that neither West nor anyone else at the Discovery Institute has any peer-reviewed research papers to counter the massive scientific evidence for evolution (a healthy sample of which can be found in this new book, already headed for its second printing: Evolution: The Extended Synthesis).

West merely has to make insinuations about the theory's founder in order to satisfy the confirmation bias of a certain minority of conservatives who are fearful of science.

West admits that Darwin was opposed to slavery, but without bothering to inquire as to why. As a young man, long before he formulated his theory of evolution by natural selection, Darwin adopted his father's hostility to slavery, and he had heated arguments with the captain of the HMS Beagle regarding the issue when Darwin was on the five-year voyage that inspired his lifelong work. (Captain Fitzroy, a classic six-day creationist, relied on the Bible to justify his belief in the superiority of Europeans and the enslavement of non-whites, a fact that is not noted by West.)

West makes a quick nod to Darwin's abolitionist sympathies and moves on to Darwin's later controversial book on the evolution of humans.

The passage from which West lifted his brief quotes about "negroes and Australians" is from Chapter 6 of Darwin's Descent of Man. Titled "On the Affinities and Genealogy of Man," it says something quite different from what West claims:

The great break in the organic chain between man and his nearest allies, which cannot be bridged over by any extinct or living species, has often been advanced as a grave objection to the belief that man is descended from some lower form; but this objection will not appear of much weight to those who, convinced by general reasons, believe in the general principle of evolution. Breaks incessantly occur in all parts of the series, some being wide, sharp and defined, others less so in various degrees; as between the orang and its nearest allies--between the Tarsius and the other Lemuridæ--between the elephant and in a more striking manner between the Ornithorhynchus or Echidna, and other mammals. But all these breaks depend merely on the number of related forms which have become extinct. At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as at present between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.

As seen in full, this passage does not support the reading West gives it. Darwin is talking about "missing links" and arguing that as civilization progresses there will be an ever greater gap between humans and our closest living animal relatives. The "negroes and australians" he mentions are cited not because of their race, but because they represent populations considered less civilized in Victorian terms. Darwin's point is that eventually these populations, too, will become more civilized than even his own Caucasian race, and the resulting larger gap between humans and their relatives will be due to the greater degree of civilization present in human populations.

The claims of an animus against blacks and the aborigines of Australia and that their extermination is justified are unfounded.

Indeed, West's selective citations do not support claims that Darwin's prejudice against non-whites was any more harmful than, say, the claim that G.K. Chesterton's prejudice against Jews amounted to the kind of murderous anti-Semitism that led Hitler to gas six million of them.

The claim that Darwin was an enthusiastic supporter of the term "survival of the fittest" fares no better. Denis Alexander's point in the video West cites is entirely correct. In fact, Darwin's younger colleague Alfred Russel Wallace, who for religious reasons was a more vociferous proponent of man's special status in the order of nature, was also a more enthusiastic proponent of "survival of the fittest" in the scientific literature. But Darwin did not want the distinction between artificial and natural selection to be blurred, so he was very careful about how often the term "fittest" should be employed.

No doubt this is an historical detail that West does not want to get in the way of a good talking point. A more scholarly treatment of how ideology abuses science can be found in Biology and Ideology: From Descartes to Dawkins, a collection of historical essays edited by Alexander and Ronald Numbers.

So, what is one to make of these ceaseless ideological attacks on Charles Darwin? Apparently, having failed at the Dover Trial to get their revised "intelligent design" philosophy into public school science classes, the Discovery Institute now resorts to the only strategy they have left to undermine science and science education: smear the character and the motives of the founders of evolutionary biology.

Farrell and Rosenau, Stating it Plain


Category: Politics • Religion

Posted on: September 22, 2010 4:57 PM, by Jason Rosenhouse

If you are looking for some popcorn reading, have a look at this post from John Farrell, over at HuffPo. He takes John West of the Discovery Institute to task for parroting ye olde "Darwin was a big, fat racist!" canard. Here's the conclusion:

So, what is one to make of these ceaseless ideological attacks on Charles Darwin? Apparently, having failed at the Dover Trial to get their revised "intelligent design" philosophy into public school science classes, the Discovery Institute now resorts to the only strategy they have left to undermine science and science education: smear the character and the motives of the founders of evolutionary biology.

Now go read what led up to that! Nice to know that HuffPo comes through once in a while.

Meanwhile, Josh Rosenau goes to town on the Pope's statement blaming the holocaust on atheism.

Benedict XVI used the first papal state visit to Britain to launch a blistering attack on "atheist extremism" and "aggressive secularism", and to rue the damage that "the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life" had done in the last century.

The leader of the Roman Catholic church concluded a speech, made before the Queen and assembled dignitaries at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, with the argument that the Nazi desire to eradicate God had led to the Holocaust and a plea for 21st-century Britain to respect its Christian foundations.

Josh replies,

I'd like to think that if I had been in the Hitler Youth, had worn the Nazi uniform in combat, went on to head a church that - through the blood libel, pogroms, Crusades, Passion plays, and Inquisitions - has done more to sustain a culture of anti-Semitism in Europe than anything else, and if I held the same position in that Church as Pius XII, who abetted the rise of Hitler and Mussolini, not to mention the toxic nationalism that they exploited, and if Hitler had been an adherent of my religion, I might just shut the fuck up about who is to blame for Naziism, World War II, and the Holocaust.

If it were me, I wouldn't launch an effort at trivializing the Holocaust during the Jewish Days of Awe, the holy time between the beginning of the year and the day of atonement. But I'm not a wizened procurer for pedophile priests who gets regularly mistaken for Emperor Palpatine, so what do I know.

Yikes! Remind me never to get on Josh's bad side. (Hmmm, come to think of it, I have been on Josh's bad side!)

Incidentally, there is another long paragraph after this one. Go read the whole post.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Is Ayurveda the Next Yoga?


Dhanvantari - An Avatar of Lord Vishnu and known as the Bhagwan of Ayurvedic Medicine

New York, USA – Will students be heading to American universities to get their degrees as Ayurvedic doctors? Will patients seek out practitioners of this 5000-year old system of medicine from India? And will Ayurveda form the basis for new health and beauty products, even of restaurant menus, in the U.S.? Ayurveda (commonly known as Ayurveduc medicine) is defined as a system of traditional medicine native to Hinduism and practiced in other parts of the world as a form of alternative medicine.

If that sounds unlikely to you, consider the journey of Yoga through American consciousness. This once equally obscure ancient practice from India is hardly considered Indian anymore and has gone global. Now there's a yoga studio in practically every mall across America.

Ayurvedic practitioners are gradually taking root in the U.S., and Ayurveda is entering the lexicon in everything from spas to restaurants to supplements and cosmetics. As the world turns ever more complex, people yearn more for the natural and the organic, the simple and the pure.

"Ayurveda" is being heard more often, with many of the Western spas providing Ayurvedic massage and treatments. Skincare products which are based on Ayurvedic formulations are also increasing in the U.S., from tulsi body lotion to neem hand cream to Indian-rose scented bath salts.

To read more about Ayurveda in America and its roots, culture, diet and future then please visit Ayurveda – an American Story by Lavina Melwani

William Morrow: It's really no surprise study finds mind-body link


Success of medical treatment hinges on it

William Morrow • special to news-press.com • September 19, 2010

I have recently encountered what is, in my opinion, the best article of the year. It is the most important piece of research I have seen on the subject of simple psychological tools for the general practice physician.

The article is a major contribution to the field of medical science known as Complimentary and Alternative Medicine.

Simply put, this study validates everything I have learned about mind-body medicine, and the psychic/brain factors in physical health and wellness. Modern brain scan technology has produced new and informative data.

The mind-body connection is no longer mere speculation; vital research points up the importance of the patient's perceived role in the healing interaction between patient and doctor.

Patients are human beings with crucial human reactions to doctors and the medicine they offer.

Patients' reactions are based on the meaning and perception both of the illness involved and the treatment of it. Perceptions are highly individualized and directly affect the patient's own immune response.

In fact, sometimes the meaning attributed to the treatment is more curative than the pharmaceuticals themselves! There is now plenty of proof that positive expectation in pain management can be at least equal to the actual pain pill itself.

I am happy to supply references, but what this all means is that, without conscious awareness, the brain responds to any suggestion implied in the manner in which the medicine is delivered.

I am indebted to the work of Walach and Jonas on this subject in the "Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine." Below is an impressive list of recommendations to all medical doctors. It deserves wider audience. Although some savvy and sensitive physicians are already employing such good practices, you, the patient, should insist on your personal physician utilizing these well-researched ideas, which harness the power of the brain's connection to the physical body.

Why should doctors take the time to attend to these things, considering they are busy people? If patient wellness is the goal, the time involved in paying attention to these measures is going to be cost-effective in the long run.

Although I am not given to sensational headlines or tabloid journalism, I am very excited about news from the medical frontier, where mind and body are forging a merger agreement more powerful than Goldman and Sachs.

I respectfully submit the following, which are more than good ideas or prudent practices; these are sure triggers of as many of the healing resources as can be brought to the treatment room: The medical doctor should:

- Take a careful history and determine which treatment the patient does or does not believe in.

- Align all such beliefs to match those of patient, family, culture, as well as the doctor him/herself.

- Listen and provide empathy and understanding. What are patient's perceptions of the illness and its treatment? Setting-up an "ambience of treatment" enhances expectation.

- Incorporate reassurance, relaxation, suggestion, and anxiety reduction methods into the delivery of treatment

- Deliver therapies in a warm and caring way.

- Be sure he/she believes in the treatment and finds it credible

- Deliver therapies with confidence and in a credible way.

- Touch the patient. Medical doctors should do this. psychotherapists, on the other hand, have to consider the ethics of physical contact with patients.

- Inform the patient what they can expect, considering the importance of raising hope

Why should doctors take the time to attend to these things, considering they are busy people? If patient wellness is the goal, the time involved in paying attention to these measures is going to be cost-effective in the long run.

- William Morrow is a Florida licensed marriage and family therapist, with offices in Cape Coral and Fort Myers. He is the author of "The Rain Doesn't Fall Straight Down: A Positive Slant on Marriage Relationships." Learn more at WilliamRMorrow.com. Email to: wmorrowmft@embarqmail.com

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Evolution education update: September 17, 2010

A new format for NCSE's journal is in the works. In Ireland, a government official decides not to attend a launch party for a self-published antievolutionist book. And the eminent evolutionary biologist George C. Williams is dead.


Reports of the National Center for Science Education will undergo a transformation in 2011. Starting with vol. 31, no. 1, articles, features, and reviews will appear on-line -- and only on-line -- at NCSE's website, http://ncse.com. These materials will be available on-line to the public free of charge, helping to expand access to the contents of RNCSE to those defending the teaching of evolution across the country and around the world.

The printed version of RNCSE will shrink -- to about sixteen pages -- and contain abstracts of those materials as well as special members-only items, such as the regular "News from the Membership" column and stories from the front lines by NCSE staff. The printed version will be sent only to members of NCSE, who will also be entitled to free delivery of any articles from the on-line version of RNCSE they wish to have in print.

As Andrew J. Petto, the editor of RNCSE, explained, "this change will allow NCSE to make a more efficient use of your financial contributions. Printing and mailing costs continue to increase, and the publication of RNCSE takes up an increasing proportion of our budget. This change ... will allow us to devote more of our resources to our primary mission of promoting good science education and evolution education everywhere."

For the announcement from RNCSE's editor, visit:


The Irish minister of state for science was to appear at a launch party for a self-published antievolutionist book, according to the Irish Times (September 13, 2010). Conor Lenihan, who represents Dublin South West for Fianna Fáil in Dáil Éireann (the lower house of the Irish parliament) and serves as Minister of State for Science, Technology, Innovation, and Natural Resources, was billed as launching John J. May's The Origin of Specious Nonsense (Dublin: Original Writing, 2010) at a September 15, 2010, event in Dublin.

In a sample provided on the book's promotional website, May writes, "It is sacrificing reason on the altar of treason to accept that the greatest construction of all time -- a human being with a brain [--] is the result of chance, random selection and destructive mutations. It is the irrational 3-legged chair of hopeless speculation that bears no resemblance whatsoever to reality and observable functioning perfect order. ... We are free to believe what we want, but I have chosen reason." The website also contends that "Thousands of reputable non[-]religious Scientists reject evolution as an unscientific hoax."

According to the Times, "Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland said the Minister's appearance at the launch is an abuse of his position and an attack by the Government on both scientists and science education." Lenihan, for his part, told the newspaper that he was appearing not in his capacity as minister for science but because May is a constituent of his. Neither Lenihan (who previously worked as a journalist and as a telecommunications executive) nor May (who describes himself on his website as a self-educated polymath) appears to have a significant level of scientific education.

Later, however, the Irish Times (September 14, 2010) reported, "Lenihan will not now launch a book in Dublin which describes evolution as a fantasy and a hoax, after the author asked him to withdraw in the wake of controversy on the web." May told the newspaper that he asked Lenihan not to participate in the event "because I am so embarrassed that the Minister for Science has been so insulted" by those critical of his involvement in the event. "He doesn't even believe in my central argument," May remarked, and indeed Lenihan said that he "remained to be convinced" by May's arguments -- while insisting that "diversity of opinion is a good thing."

For the articles in the Irish Times, visit:

For the book's website, visit:


The eminent evolutionary biologist George C. Williams died on September 8, 2010, at the age of 84, according to the Evolution & Medicine Review blog (September 10, 2010). Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, on May 12, 1926, Williams served in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946, and then studied at the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his A.B. in zoology in 1949, and the University of California, Los Angeles, where he received his Ph.D. in biology in 1955. During his academic career, mostly at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, he published a string of important work, including the books Adaptation and Natural Selection (1966), Sex and Evolution (1975), Natural Selection (1992), Why We Get Sick (coauthored with Randolph M. Nesse, 1994), and Plan and Purpose in Nature (1996). His honors include induction in the National Academy of Sciences (1993) and the Crafoord Prize in Biosciences (1999).

A long-time member of NCSE, Williams was concerned about creationism. In a brief 1996 article in Biology and Philosophy, he defended his treatment of genetic information in Natural Selection against "intelligent design" advocate Phillip Johnson's misrepresentations of it: "Johnson's argument is based on some obvious fallacies," he explained, "such as information requiring an intelligent author." In 1999, he reviewed the early "intelligent design" anthology Mere Creation for the Quarterly Review of Biology, writing that the contributors "reject the idea that a strictly trial-and-error process of natural selection can account for the functional design of organisms, and propose that a creator's wisdom has been directing evolution. They make no attempt to deal with the many examples of egregious unwisdom seen in functionally arbitrary and sometimes maladaptive historical legacies, which suggest a creator with no understanding or concern with what he was imposing on organisms."

For the obituary at the Evolution & Medicine Review blog, 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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O'Donnell questioned evolution


September 16, 2010
Posted: September 16th, 2010 02:59 PM ET

From CNN's Gabriella Schwarz

In 1996, GOP Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell expressed doubt about the theory of evolution.

(CNN) – Christine O'Donnell may be the GOP Senate nominee in Delaware, but in 1996 she was the press secretary for the Christian group, Concerned Women for America, and in an interview with CNN, said there was "just as much, if not more evidence" supporting the theory of creationism as there is supporting the theory of evolution.

In the CNN interview with then correspondent Miles O'Brien that aired on March 30, 1996 O'Donnell also said DNA is linked to God.

"I think that when you look at genetic engineering, it all points to creationism, because genetics can be traced back to the obvious existence of a higher being - of God," O'Donnell said.

Although she said she thought the theories creationism and evolution should both be taught in public schools, she voiced her skepticism over the validity of evolution.

Read the full transcript, after the jump:

"Evolution is a theory and it's exactly that," O'Donnell said. "There is not enough evidence, consistent evidence to make it as fact."

O'Donnell's comment came from a section of the interview where she defined creationism.

"Well, creationism, in essence, is believing that the world began as the Bible in Genesis says, that God created the Earth in six days, six 24-hour periods. And there is just as much, if not more, evidence supporting that," O'Donnell said.

The O'Donnell campaign did not immediately respond to CNN's request for a comment on whether she stands by her comments, and CNN is waiting for a response from the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

O'Donnell won the GOP primary Tuesday night with the support of Tea Party activists. She defeated centrist Republican Rep. Mike Castle who had the backing of the GOP establishment.


MILES O'BRIEN, Anchor: Tennessee is not alone in reconsidering evolution and creationism. Alabama has approve inserting a disclaimer in biology books that calls evolution a controversial theory. And conservative Christians have joined school boards and pushed for the teaching of creationism in districts from California to New Hampshire.

Two guests are joining us now to discuss what children should be taught about humanity's origins. Michael McKinney is an associate professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. And Christine O'Donnell is the press secretary for the conservative Christian group Concerned Women for America. She previously worked for the Republican National Committee's cable network. Welcome to you both.

Let me ask you first, Ms. O'Donnell, what are the facts as far as you see them then?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL, Concerned Women for America: Well, as the senator from Tennessee mentioned, evolution is a theory and it's exactly that. There is not enough evidence, consistent evidence to make it as fact, and I say that because for theory to become a fact, it needs to consistently have the same results after it goes through a series of tests. The tests that they put- that they use to support evolution do not have consistent results. Now too many people are blindly accepting evolution as fact. But when you get down to the hard evidence, it's merely a theory. But creation-

MILES O'BRIEN: All right. Well, Dr. McKinney, let me ask you this – Do most scientists believe that evolution is fact or a theory which has an awful lot of evidence supporting it?

Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY, Professor of Evolutionary Biology: Well, we've been using the work scientist pretty loosely here. I'd like to distinguish, you know, the different kinds of scientists, and certainly most evolutionary scientists believe that evolution is a fact. I wouldn't feel particularly qualified to discuss say nutonium [sp] mechanics, so I think we need to be very clear when we say this.

And there's been a lot of terms here used loosely anyway. I would, in fact, disagree with the idea that evolution is a theory. I think evolution is a fact. There's a huge body of evidence to support it. It goes on now. Every time we genetically engineer a bacterium that is, in a sense, evolution. There's a lot at stake here, by the way. I don't want to get bogged down in ideology and opinions. Our economy could suffer if we don't teach our students about biology. Genetic engineering is very important to our economy, and if people don't learn how biology DNA evolution really works, we could suffer in practical terms.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: I agree with you-

MILES O'BRIEN: Ms. O'Donnell, let me just ask you this question – The net result of all these debates and controversy and discussion is that teachers tend to just sort of ignore this subject, and isn't that something that leaves our students less off- worse off than they would be otherwise?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Absolutely, and I agree with what the gentleman said about we need to teach DNA, and I think that when you look at genetic engineering, it all points to creationism, because genetics can be traced back to the obvious existence of a higher being – of God.

Now, he said that it's based on fact. I just want to point out a couple things. First of all, they use carbon dating, as an example, to prove that something was millions of years old. Well, we have the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens and the carbon dating test that they used then would have to then prove that these were hundreds of millions of years younger, when what happened was they had the exact same results on the fossils and canyons that they did the tests on that were supposedly 100 millions of years old. And it's the kind of inconsistent tests like this that they're basing their 'facts' on.

MILES O'BRIEN: All right. But let me ask you this – There's a lot of people who would suggest that creationism and evolution are not mutually exclusive. That the big bang- after all, something had to create the big bangs, perhaps some higher being, and there's a tremendous amount of scientific evidence that there was a big bang which started this whole process underway. You can't go along with that?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Well, creationism, in essence, is believing that the world began as the Bible in Genesis says, that God created the Earth in six days, six 24-hour periods. And there is just as much, if not more, evidence supporting that.

MILES O'BRIEN: All right. Well, Dr. McKinney, is that science or is that religion then?

Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY: I think it's religion. I want to point out that there are a lot of very religious scientists, a lot of evolutionary biologists who are firmly religious. I don't want to get trapped into this thing that if you're not a creationist, you're not religious and don't believe in God, because a lot of scientists do.


Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY: Creationists have a very strict interpretation. They believe that the Earth is approximately 6,000 years old and it's stricter than a lot of people think it should be and that's really the point. It's not Godless evolutionists versus say creationists. There's a lot of ground in between. I also- I can't let it pass when you said that a lot of these dating techniques are not valid. There's a huge body of scientific evidence that I can't go into that says that they are valid. For instance, we don't use carbon to date fossils. Carbon is only good back to about 50,000 years old. Most of the fossil record is based using potassium argon and other types.

MILES O'BRIEN: Dr. McKinney, what's wrong with saying that evolution is a theory?

Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY: It makes it sound as if it's on an equal plane with any other theory that we all come up with. I could come up with a theory that maybe the world was created in this way or that way.

MILES O'BRIEN: Yeah, but if the theory is brought forth along with the evidence, allow the students to draw the conclusion then.


Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY: I'll buy that if the word theory isn't abused, and the word theory has been incredibly abused. There's a huge philosophical issue and people get bogged down in these huge debates saying it's just a theory and that's the problem. It is a theory, but there's some- I mean, in that sense, but there's so much evidence that most of us just say it's easier to say it's a fact.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: And there's so much evidence-

MILES O'BRIEN: Ms. O'Donnell, would you agree with that, that if it's brought forth as a theory and then the evidence is laid out so the student can make his or her own decision, is that OK?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Well, I think definitely. However, you need to weigh them side by side – creationism and evolution side by side. When they're-

MILES O'BRIEN: In the same classroom?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Right. When they're-


CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: -together then it is not the establishment of religion. And another thing that we're overlooking is that evolution is also based on a set of belief systems, i.e., a religion and that's secular humanism. So if you're going to say that you can't have religion in school, you-

Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY: I disagree with that.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: -can't have secular humanism in schools either, and if you're- and that's just impossible.

Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY: I have to strongly disagree with that. Evolution-

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Well, you need to teach the two side by side and let the children determine for themselves, because I think the kids will.

MILES O'BRIEN: All right, Dr. McKinney, go ahead.

Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY: Well, let me ask you this. Then why not let us teach evolution in churches if we have to have everything side by side?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Because you're getting out of a public arena. The public schools are a public arena and you can't present one view point as more accurate than another. Now when you get in the church setting, I mean, that's a whole different ball game there, because you are talking about people who very specifically believe in the Bible and believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible and they are there to be taught the word of God and what it has told.

MILES O'BRIEN: Well, Dr. McKinney, in bringing this into the schools, are we undermining the separation between church and state here?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: No, not at all.

Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY: I think so, I think so, and I want to say and I want to be very clear, that evolution is not a value system, it is not a philosophy, it's not humanism. Science is supposed to be, when it works right, it's a value free pursuit. It's what's, basically, makes our economy and our society run. What- when we get into trouble is when we get away from the value free pursuit and start doing just this thing. We start trying to bring our values into science, we start talking about what should be right, what shouldn't be right. What we do as scientists is look at the empirical facts, report it and tell you what we see. That's all.

MILES O'BRIEN: All right. We're just about running out of time. I want to ask you both, briefly, do you suspect we've heard the last of this issue in Tennessee and for that matter, the rest of the country.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Absolutely not.

Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY: Oh, absolutely- yeah, absolutely not.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: No, but I just want to clarify something. Church and state has nothing to do with this, because as I said before, it's not about putting the church into the government. When you teach them side by side, you're not favoring one over the other.

MILES O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much, Christine O'Donnell and Michael McKinney, we appreciate you joining us this morning for a lively debate.

Public should be wary of alternative therapies


By REMIGIO G. LACSAMANA, M.D., Daytona Beach
September 17, 2010 12:05 AM
Posted in: Letters to the Editor

This is in response to the story "Retired general crusades for chiropractic care," in The News-Journal on Aug. 26.

I applaud retired Brig. Gen. Becky Halstead for her 27 years of military service, but I find troubling her advocacy of chiropractic as an "integral part of health care," including providing it in the military services.

Gen. Halstead did not provide any reason as to why she believes chiropractic adds anything to mainstream medicine other than to say she felt better with chiropractic treatment for her fibromyalgia when conventional treatments provided by physicians did not help her. But isolated testimonials like this do not provide scientific evidence that chiropractic works, particularly for an ill-defined disease-complex like fibromyalgia for which a lot of controversies still exist.

A chiropractic student's statement that "all forms of health care are important" and that there is no right or wrong way, just a different approach, ignores the reality that a lot of pseudo-science is being peddled to the public.

Science-based health care should be grounded on established laws or principles of human biology including anatomy, physiology and chemistry. Chiropractic has been an utter failure in that regard. It was founded in 1895 by a charismatic magnetic healer, D.D. Palmer, on the notion that all human illness is caused by so-called "subluxation," or misalignment of the vertebrae, and through which a force he called Innate Intelligence flows. But chiropractic has never provided scientific validity for this ideology and, in fact, has been discredited by multiple scientific reviews. A noted anatomist from Yale University, Dr. Edmund S. Crelin, demonstrated beyond doubt in 1973 that subluxation of the vertebrae as an anatomical concept is nonexistent, except in very rare circumstances in which the spine is damaged by trauma or disease like cancer. Chiropractic treatment in the form of manipulation, therefore, ought not to work for a long list of problems that chiropractors treat.

Many chiropractors claim they are capable of treating illnesses like asthma, allergies, menstrual cramps, colic, bed-wetting, autism and ADHD. Some even believe that the process of birthing gives rise to subluxation, which explains why they schedule regular chiropractic treatment for infants and babies.

But the advocacy by chiropractors of regular "spinal adjustments" to maintain health, in essence, constitutes a useless therapeutic exercise. Yes, it costs a lot of money, but for what?

I begin to wonder whether Gen. Halstead, in this age of science, really believes in what she is advocating. The fact is, a significant number of chiropractors have distanced themselves from D.D. Palmer's antiquated notion of subluxation, giving rise to the "mixers," as opposed to the "straights" who still embrace the chiropractic founder's philosophy. It's not surprising, therefore, that a number of chiropractors today engage in other "alternative practices" like acupuncture, homeopathy, reflexology, herbal medicine and megavitamin therapy.

Multiple analyses of chiropractic treatment in the form of back manipulation, including the famous RAND study, have shown that it is only marginally effective for the short-term relief of back pain, but is not better than that given by physicians, osteopaths and physical therapists. Beyond that, it is useless for most things that chiropractic is being touted for.

Although mainstream or science-based medicine does not have all the answers to human disease, it at least embraces only those drugs, other forms of treatment, and diagnostic methods that have undergone rigorous clinical trials. That means accepting new discoveries and discarding others when better ways of diagnosing and treating disease are found. That is not true for most of "alternative medicine," including chiropractic.

I find regrettable that Gen. Halstead, in advocating for chiropractic, has not given us any compelling reasons why this would add any value to conventional, mainstream and science-based medicine. As a physician, I reject her stand on chiropractic as shortsighted and unacceptable.

I'd love to baptise ET, says Vatican's stargazer


By David Derbyshire

Last updated at 9:16 PM on 17th September 2010

The Pope's Astronomer, Guy Consolmagno, says that intelligent life elsewhere is probable, but believes that we are unlikely ever to encounter it

Intelligent aliens may be living among the stars and are likely to have souls, a senior Vatican scientist said yesterday.

The Pope's astronomer, Guy Consolmagno, said he would be happy to 'baptise an al ien' - but admitted that the chances of communicating with life outside the Earth were low.

Speaking at the British Science Festival in Birmingham, Dr Consolmagno also dismissed Creationism and claimed that the revival of 'intelligent design' - the controversial theory that only God can explain gaps in the theory of evolution - was 'bad theology'.

Dr Consolmagno, one of a team of 12 astronomers working for the Vatican, said the Catholic Church had been supporting and funding science for centuries.

A self-confessed science fiction fan, he said he was 'comfortable' with the idea of alien life.

Asked if he would baptise an alien, he replied: 'Only if they asked.'

He added: 'I'd be delighted if we found life elsewhere and delighted if we found intelligent life elsewhere.

'But the odds of us finding it, of it being intelligent and us being able to communicate with it - when you add them up it's probably not a practical question.

New frontiers for Christianity: NGC 300, a spiral galaxy similar to the Milky Way, and located in the nearby Sculptor Group of galaxies. Taken at the La Silla Observatory in Chile

Anyone out there? The discovery of aliens would raise huge theological problems for the Catholic Church

'God is bigger than just humanity. God is also the god of angels.'

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1312922/Pope-astronomer-Guy-Consolmagno-Aliens-souls-living-stars.html

Why did Ireland's science minister agree to launch an anti-evolution book?


That Conor Lenihan even considered endorsing such a preposterous piece of work is outrageous

Eoin Butler guardian.co.uk, Friday 17 September 2010 09.30 BST

The decision, since reversed, by Ireland's minister for science, Conor Lenihan, to speak at the launch of a book that condemns evolution as a hoax is a damning and depressing indictment of Irish politics. But not, perhaps, for quite the reason readers might expect.

John J May, the author of The Origin of Specious Nonsense, believes that evolution "cripples sanity, promotes myth and obscures reality". Anyone who teaches evolutionary theory, he says, is "either ignorant or deliberately suppressing the known scientific facts". Most of May's arguments are so preposterous as to defy serious scrutiny. In a YouTube video posted to his site, he says: "They say we used to live up in trees. Well folks, climb a tree and live there for a week, and see how you feel. They also say we came out of the sea. Eh? If you lie in your bath for nine hours your skin is so wrinkled it's not [sic] hardly recognisable. Yet a baby can be in a womb nine months in liquid without drowning, and when it's born it's not particularly wrinkled."

That a minister for science should think it appropriate to endorse such hilarious (and unscientific) hokum is obviously outrageous. Ireland is still viewed by some as a country with an overly strong attachment to Christian dogma. But it would be wrong to assume that the minister was pandering to an undercurrent of creationist-inspired anti-evolutionary feeling among voters here. Despite falling mass attendances, Ireland remains a Catholic country. And the Catholic Church has never taken a strong position against evolution.

In Ireland, our dwindling band of religious fundamentalists opposed the legalisation of homosexuality and divorce. They remain fiercely opposed to any liberalisation of the law on abortion. But on the subject of evolution they have been mostly silent.

Besides, as the former editor of a sex magazine called SIN, John J May cannot be what anyone would call a prude. He describes himself as "like Abraham Lincoln, self educated, and might be viewed as a polymath. [I] left school young and commenced my real education." I took part in a television discussion with him last year and felt that I had never before encountered a man whose self-confidence was so wildly out of proportion to his erudition. He is, quite simply, a crank.

So why on earth did Lenihan agree to launch his book? In his only public statement, the minister's spokesperson claimed that he had only planned to attend in his capacity as May's local TD and that he did not necessarily agree with the book's central thesis (such as it is.) That would mean that he did not see (or perhaps was not even aware of) any conflict between his duties as the country's minister for science and the endorsement of such a profoundly unscientific book.

It would be nice to say that the spokesperson was definitely bending the truth here, and that the minister couldn't possibly have been so stupid. But I would hesitate to do so in this instance.

It's no secret that Lenihan is one of Dáil Éireann's less highly evolved thinkers. In 2005, he famously referred to exploited Turkish construction workers as "kebabs" during a Dáil debate. (To get the reaction of the Turkish community, the equally cerebral and culturally sensitive TV3 News visited a kebab shop and interviewed a man making a kebab!)

But there are two other points to be made to put the minister's decision in context. Firstly, there is the local nature of Irish politics. Ireland has 166 members of parliament representing a country of less than 4.5 million people. That's one TD for about every 26,000 people. So it is expected that TDs will be available to their constituents in way that would not be common in other countries. While he was a TD for Sligo-Leitrim in the 1970s, my late grandfather was once asked to collect a greyhound in Athlone on his way home from a Dáil session and deliver it to a constituent. (He refused.)

The second important thing to understand is that Lenihan is steeped in the traditions of Fianna Fáil. Like the Chinese communist party, Fianna Fáil has long since jettisoned whatever principles and ideals it was founded upon. Today, its only raison d'être is the pursuit and consolidation of it's own power.

As far as this preposterous book goes then, the only consideration likely to have weighted on Lenihan's mind is whether helping to launch this book would help garner a few extra votes for him at the next election. When it seemed that it might, he agreed to help. When he realised that it wouldn't, he withdrew. It was gombeen politics, nothing more.

Those popular joint-pain supplements? They don't work.


BOOSTER SHOTS: Oddities, musings and news from the health world
September 17, 2010

Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times

An analysis of 10 studies involving more than 3,800 people has found that glucosamine and chondroitin supplements for joint pain are ineffective either alone or in combination.

Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements have been popular for years among people with arthritic knees or hips. According to the authors of the study, worldwide sales of the supplements reached almost $2 billion in 2008. Previous studies on whether the drugs work to relieve arthritis pain, however, have been conflicting. A study publishedearlier this year from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that people who took the supplements for two years had outcomes similar to people who took the prescription pain medication celecoxib or placebo pills.

The new analysis included 10 large, randomized, controlled studies. Researchers concluded that people taking the supplements did not differ from those taking a placebo on measures of pain or any changes in joint space.

The supplements don't appear harmful, the authors note. But if people begin to feel better while taking them it could be due to the placebo effect or just the natural healing of joints over time.

"We see no harm in having patients continue these preparations as long as they perceive a benefit and cover the costs of treatment themselves," the authors wrote.

The study appears Friday in the British Medical Journal.

-- Shari Roan / Los Angeles Times

O'Donnell In 2007: Scientists Have Created Mice With Human Brains!

[Editor's note: We always appreciate it when our politicians take a keen interest in science.]


Eric Kleefeld | September 16, 2010, 5:19PM

Delaware Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell has previously sounded the alarm against cloning and stem-cell research -- and what she's described as the current terror of human-mouse hybrids.

We previously noted that O'Donnell had attacked her primary opponent, Congressman Mike Castle, based on his support for stem-cell research. But it turns out that her interest in the subject goes back much further. As Little Green Footballs has spotted, O'Donnell appeared in 2007 on The O'Reilly Factor, to speak out against such research in response to the cloning of some monkeys. Then came her warning on human-mouse hybrids.

"They are -- they are doing that here in the United States. American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains. So they're already into this experiment."It's possible that O'Donnell was misremembering this 2005 report on scientists who successfully grew human brain cells within mice -- which is not the same as an actual functioning human brain, but a demonstration that human brain cells can be made from stem cells.

However, there is also some other stunning video evidence proving O'Donnell's dire warnings, and the potential terrible consequences for not only America, but indeed the whole world. Check it out after the jump.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Disco. rubs out new writer's ministry background


Category: Policy and Politics
Posted on: September 16, 2010 7:51 PM, by Josh Rosenau

Every now and again, the Disco. 'tute's blog rolls out some breathless announcement. Sometimes they've been invited to join other creationist groups at a public forum, or maybe they're angry at a newspaper article claiming they have ties to religion, or they might just have come up with another reason to claim evolution is at odds with their theistic understanding.

My favorites, though, are the times when they invite a new contributor to their blog. First it was the incomparable Michael Egnor. Then Martin Cothran, who is such a stereotypical wingnut that I'd have had to invent this global warming denying, Holocaust denial-defending, anti-Semitism-trivializing, murder-condoning, racism-coddling, homophobic, anti-woman, anti-sex, logic-refuting logician as an antithesis to TfK if the Discovery Institute hadn't brought him to my attention.

Now comes Heather Zeiger. Her introductory essay is, by the standards of other DI bloggers fairly tame. A bit too much like a college paper that she keeps circulating in hopes that some day someone will see the brilliance in it that her professors missed. But it doesn't accuse anyone of inspiring a murderous rampage, and doesn't even seem bothered by acknowledging that evolution can do some things. Her argument is … oh who cares?

The point is really the introduction, which was presumably penned either by blog editor Anika Smith, DI communications director Rob Crowther, or the ever-charming Casey Luskin.

Today we welcome a new contributing writer to Evolution News & Views, Heather Zeiger. Ms. Zeiger graduated magna cum laude from the University of Texas at Dallas with a B.S. in chemistry and a minor in government and politics. She received her M.S. in chemistry, also from UTD; her research was in organic synthesis and materials.

Oddly, when you check Ms. Zeiger out on Google, you find her much more informative bio at PROBE Ministries, a fundamentalist religious organization run by a DI fellow who also likes to wax on about the perils of masturbation (I count at least 60 articles on masturbation at the PROBE website, including this, which should be framed: "As an overcomer in pornography and masturbation…").

Anyway, Zeiger has worked for PROBE for 4 years, a fact which Disco. dances around. Compare their bio of Zeiger to her bio at PROBE:

Heather Zeiger graduated magna cum laude from the University of Texas at Dallas with a B.S. in chemistry and a minor in government and politics. She received her M.S. in chemistry, also from UTD; her research was in organic synthesis and materials. She interned at Probe Ministries prior to graduate school and now serves with Probe as a Research Associate. Her interests involve science and culture issues, including bioethics, origins, and the environment. She is currently working on a M.A. in bioethics from Trinity International University. She is married to David, another former Probe intern and teacher at Trinity Christian Academy. You can find Heather's updates on her web site: www.hz-probe.ministryhome.org.

The bolded portion is almost identical to DI's, the rest was oddly omitted. It's like DI wants to hide something about her background. And it's not uncommon for people involved with DI to want to hide parts of their résumé. So maybe it was her choice to elide her last 4 years of work. After all, the last update on her PROBE website doesn't mention DI, either, just indicating, "I am transitioning out of Probe and will be working on some new and exciting things!"

Then again, she hasn't been shy about noting her ties to PROBE or to Disco. Looking through her posts to the PROBE website make stimulating reading. Here's her "prayer update" (a personal fundraising newsletter, as far as I can tell), describing how she came to testify against accurate science standards in Texas 2 years ago:

Discovery Institute called [Disco. fellow] Dr. Ray Bohlin and I to testify for the State Board of Education's public hearing regarding the new wording for the TEKS before their final vote in March. I was asked to testify as someone who went through Texas public schools and is now a scientist. Since my background is in chemistry, I addressed the origin of life issue as an example of an active field of research with many unanswered questions, yet it is presented in class as a case-closed fact, a boring tid-bit which does not foster scientific curiosity in our students.

Now, her masters dissertation doesn't indicate that she has any specific expertise on origin of life research, and she's got no papers in that field. Maybe Disco. just figures some of Bohlin rubbed off on her. A review of her other prayer letters and writings at PROBE doesn't inspire confidence in her scientific background.

She a peek at her work at PROBE and Trinity University in her prayer letter from spring, 2009:

One of the big areas that God has called me to work in is bioethics. I am pursuing a bioethics degree from Trinity International University in Deerfield, IL...from a distance. I am still working at Probe full-time, […]

I'm looking forward to this because everything I learn and study at Trinity I have been able to use in a ministry context at Probe, from my articles on human/animal hybrids, to healthcare, to questions about genetic engineering. […]

This program has truly been one of the best investments I've made. Everything I have done with it, I have been able to put back into service for God either at Probe or in conversations and interactions with others.

And now she's bringing her evangelical-school bioethics ministry to the "it's all about the science" Disco. 'Tute, not back to PROBE Ministries (whose doctrinal statement demands belief that "Man was originally created in the image of God. He sinned by disobeying God; thus, he was alienated from his Creator. The historic fall brought all mankind under divine condemnation.")

In fairness, she might just have got uncomfortable with all the talk about "overcomers in masturbation" around the ministry. But her stated mission fits nicely with Disco.'s. Compare this remark she tossed off:

My personal calling (and vision, if you will) is to keep the Christian perspective in science,

With a document from Disco.'s found (which they've since tried to hide like a dirty Kleenex, or perhaps a tube sock):

Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies. …the Center explores how new developments … raise serious doubts about scientific materialism and have re-opened the case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature. …

Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions. …

Governing Goals

* To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.

* To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.

They fit together like… I mean she'll be handy around … I'm sure she'll work out fine.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Finding an SBOE Balance: District Roundup



At least a minimal level of change on the State Board of Education was guaranteed last December, when District 10 board member Cynthia Dunbar announced she would not run for re-election. But the SBOE's conflicts have been about ideology, not individual candidates – the concern for moderates and progressives around Texas is whether seats can be taken back from the fundamentalist bloc that holds seven of the 15 slots on the board. In that battle, the anti-fundamentalist fight could be seen as having taken two steps forward and one step back – and one of those forward steps is uncertain.

District 9: The forward step that appears to be a lock is in District 9 (Central East Texas–College Station up to Red River). In the Republic­an primary, moderate Thomas Ratliff used both his well-known name – his father is popular former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff – and the antics of the incumbent to take down former SBOE Chair Don McLeroy. McLeroy, a Bryan dentist who believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old, became the poster boy for creationist dogma and lost his chairmanship when more than a third of the state senators refused to confirm his renomination by Gov. Rick Perry. Ratliff's race against McLeroy was hard-fought, but enough Repub­licans were sufficiently embarrassed by McLeroy to give Ratliff the win, by just 402 votes of the 116,204 cast. Ratliff now faces only Libertarian Jeff McGee and Green Paul Cardwell in November. Unless the radical right makes a stunning rally behind McGee, Ratliff is as good as seated.

District 10: The less certain progress was made in Dunbar's stepping down, followed by her handpicked successor's defeat in the primary. That defeat still leaves uncertainty – a win by Democrat Judy Jennings would thrill progressives, but a victorious Republican Marsha Farney will be good news only if her "Common Sense Conservative" motto actually translates into sensible votes; thus far, she hasn't firmly rejected fundamentalist ideology.

District 12: The likely step backward was the primary defeat of Geraldine "Tincy" Miller (north suburban Dallas) – one of only three Republicans on the board who defended the teaching of evolution and rejected creationism (the others were Lubbock's Bob Craig and Weath­er­ford's Patricia Hardy). Miller was taken down by George Clayton, a Dallas Independent School District administrator, who's a bit of a cipher. While his dislike of "teaching to the test" – the overemphasis on standardized testing that plagues Texas schools – is encouraging, science teachers must have cringed when he told the Dallas Observer, "It's an impossibility to talk about evolution without mentioning creationism." The defeat was stunning – according to the Texas Tribune, Clayton spent a mere $1,788 on the campaign, against Miller's $54,685 and her tenure dating back to 1984. That tiny bit of cash netted him almost 52% of the vote. Only Libertarian Amie Parsons now stands between Clayton and the SBOE.

District 3: Another seat that's a question mark: Democrat Rick Agosto (San Antonio down to the Valley) was always considered an unreliable swing vote, sometimes siding with the fundamentalists at crucial moments. Amid charges that he had business relationships with companies seeking contracts from the board, he decided not to run for re-election. Democrat Michael Soto, a Trinity University literature professor, appears likely to replace him, although Republican Tony Cunningham drew a respectable number of votes in the primary.

District 5: This conservative district (the Hill Country, including southern Travis County) seems likely to re-elect conservative ideologue Ken Mercer over Democratic educator Rebecca Bell-Metereau.

Incumbents either unopposed or facing only token opposition:

District 1: Democrat Rene Nuñez, southwest border

District 4: Democrat Lawrence A. Allen Jr., Houston

District 15: Moderate Republican Bob Craig, the Panhandle

The Fundamental Divide

Christian fundamentalists have for years held sway on the 15-member State Board of Education. Here's a statewide breakdown of the current membership and what to expect after the November election – and a bit of uncertainty in at least three districts, including the open District 10 race between Democrat Judy Jennings (sane) and Republican Marsha Farney (who could swing either way).

If You've Got Questions, We've Got Answers

[Editor's note: Skeptics, it doesn't get much better than this.] http://www.evolutionnews.org/2010/09/id_scientists_coming_to_smu_to038171.html

Scientists from Discovery Institute and Biologic Institute are heading to Texas to Southern Methodist University Thursday, September 23rd for a special evening event: 4 Nails in Darwin's Coffin Presents New Scientific Challenges to Darwinian Evolution. Following a screening of Darwin's Dilemma they will answer questions from attendees.

Three years ago Discovery funded and organized a two-day conference on the SMU campus titled Darwin vs. Design and featuring several scientists including Stephen Meyer who will also be at this year's event. At that event some of the faculty and other Darwin activists around Dallas said that such a discussion had "no place on an academic campus" and tried to shut it down.

We thought that created a teachable moment. So we called their bluff and offered an opportunity for Darwinist faculty to debate the scientists and scholars in attendance. Not surprisingly they did what smart cardplayers do when they have a losing hand, they folded.

This time we're coming to present our case to whoever attends. Darwinists, especially those interested in the science, are encouraged to come and bring their questions. We're hoping for a respectful, civil discourse with both Darwin skeptics, and Darwin believers.

Molecular Biologist Dr. Jonathan Wells and philosopher of science Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, will be joined by molecular biologist Dr. Douglas Axe and evolutionary biologist Dr. Richard Sternberg at a free screening of the acclaimed documentary Darwin's Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record. Afterwards they will present some additional scientific challenges to Darwinian evolution and will also engage in a Q & A session with attendee.

The event is from 7:00-9:30pm, is free and open to the public and is sponsored and organized by SMU's Victory Campus Ministries.

Posted by Robert Crowther on September 15, 2010 12:00 PM | Permalink