NTS LogoSkeptical News for 17 October 2010

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Creationist Vardy steps down from school sponsorship


Sir Peter Vardy — the Christian fundamentalist used car salesman who controversially sponsored academy schools that taught creationism — is stepping down from the role and handing the foundation of his schools to the United Learning Trust (another religious organisation).

Vardy first opened Emmanuel College in Gateshead to great controversy in 2002 and went on to sponsor three more schools, including The King's Academy in Middlesbrough. Parents defeated his efforts to take over another school in Conisbrough, near Doncaster.

He said this week that he had completed his task and reached agreement with the Board of the United Learning Trust, to join Emmanuel Schools Foundation (ESF) and its four schools with ULT.

ULT, a subsidiary of the United Church Schools Trust (UCST) is the largest sponsor of schools in the UK with 17 Academies – and Mr Vardy assured the North-East schools it would be business as usual in good hands.

But the ULT is not without controversy: it was told last year by the then Department for Children, Schools and Families not to expand until it had corrected poor performance at two schools judged by Ofsted to be inadequate. A spokeswoman for ULT said the organisation had worked hard over the past year to improve standards, resulting in Ofsted withdrawing notices to improve from the Sheffield academies.

Fri, 15 Oct 2010

Creationist threat to Scottish schools


An organisation called the Centre for Intelligent Design (ID) has been set up in Glasgow with the stated aim of promoting the idea of "Intelligent Design" as an alternative to scientific explanations. The Centre also appears to be closely allied with the US-based Discovery Institute which explicitly seeks to replace teaching of scientific explanations of origins with "the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God." ID is creationism dressed up in specious scientific language.

It is likely that the Centre has targeted Scotland because it does not specifically state in the Scottish curriculum that teaching creationism as science is not acceptable. This is not the case in England and Wales, where Ofsted has stated that creationism may be taught in schools only as a religious idea and not as a credible scientific alternative.

The NSS has written to both Michael Russell MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Lifelong Learning, and to Learning and Teaching in Scotland (the principal curriculum body) asking them to make it explicitly clear that there is no place for ID in science classes in order to prevent the Centre infiltrating schools.

Members who are concerned about this issue can read more about it and write to Michael Russell at Michael.Russell.msp@scottish.parliament.uk.

Fri, 15 Oct 2010

A Brief History of Alternative Medicine by Deep Throat, Part II


Published Online: Friday, October 15th, 2010

Philosophically, at this time, thought was divided as to causality of illness. Either it came from within, as evidenced by those with "weak constitutions"; or from without, in environments containing "bad" air, water, or other subtle poisons. Methodologies thus developed that looked both inward, searching the body's alignment of bones or organs, as well as outward, to the environment, for external influences. Anyone with a strong opinion, and a means to express it, could hypothesize a medical theory, formulate a methodology, and get rich.

In 1836, the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal listed the then current and competing medical sects. There were the "regulars"—the presumed readers of the Journal (precursor to New England Journal of Medicine), and the "irregulars"—the Baroussaisians, Sangradoarians, Morrisonians, Bradethians, Beechitareians, Botanics, Regular Botanics, Thomsonians, Reformed Thomsonians, Theoretical, Practical, Experimental, Dogmatical, Emblematical, Electrical, Magnetical, Diplomatical Homeopathians, Rootists, Herbists, Florists, and "Quacks". The listing of "Quacks" itself included chronothermalists, mesmerists, Indian doctors, clairvoyants, and spiritualists.

Meet the competition

The first successful, national, organized, medical society in this country was the Thomsonians, based on the personal experiences, teachings and texts of its founder, Samuel Thompson, a self-taught man who published his "New Guide to Health" in 1822. Thompson felt every man was qualified to practice medicine and saw the trappings of other practitioners as solely for power and mystification. His principles were simple; animal bodies were composed of the basic elements—earth, air, fire and water; disease was caused by a cold and cured by heat; heat came from the sun and was captured by herbs and other plants; and botanicals were thus curative. Non-vegetable remedies were mineral based, of the earth, and thus "cold" and non-curative.

Thomsonian medicine was the first organizational attempt at natural medicine, and its proponents strove to expose "quacks" as readily as other physicians. (From "Zell's Popular Encyclopedia", 1886: 'quack' – a verb, noun; "to cry like the common domestic duck; to boast; to talk noisily and ostentatiously; a boastful pretender to medical skill which he does not possess.")

This organizational effort was due, in part, to zealous belief in their methods—and in profit. In our profession's noble history of suppressing economic competition, this was the opening shot, and fired first by organized alternative medicine! The Thomsonian movement empowered the layman who could study those methods and practice with readily available ingredients. People could be freed from the domination of a professional healing class—a popular democratic concept in this Jacksonian era. The rights to practice, as well as the instructions, could be obtained by anyone for $20. Over 100,000 rights were sold by 1840.

The wild, wild west

Thompsonian medicine was the first of the successful patented medicines and it soon inspired its own competition. Other successful medical methodologies of the era included the following:


Dr. Wooster Beach was a 'conventionally' trained physician who, in 1827, thought an educated man could do more to further the interesting ideas of Samuel Thompson. He opened the first botanical, degree granting medical school in 1830. (Of note, it was the first medical school, ever, to admit women and blacks.) They professed to select the best single remedy from all the sects and schools that existed, be it botanical or mineral in origin. However, in the era of mercury, arsenic and other mineral poisons that conventional doctors were using, they advanced knowledge of botanicals. They were the first to use chemists to produce concentrated extracts of botanicals. And, in an astounding paradigmatic shift that brought them financial and popular success, they created botanical preparations that tasted good, a first in a world where all 'effective' remedies were supposed to taste nasty and bitter.

By 1906, there were 10 Eclectic medical schools in the US. After the Flexner report of 1910, exposing the appalling state of medical education in this country, they all closed. Their legacy, however, remains both in Mary Poppins song, "Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down," and in the evolution of laboratory-made drugs.


Founded by Andrew Taylor Still in the mid 19th-century, Osteopaths believed that the body, in a state of normal musculoskeletal structural relationship and in a favorable environment with good nutrition, is able to make its own remedies and defend itself against disease and other assaulting toxins. It emphasized the importance of manipulative methods in correcting faulty structural relationships and in detecting abnormalities. However, it believed in the "rule of the artery" where it was the circulatory system—not the nervous system—that determined health.

'Dr'. Stills, son of a preacher man who never had any formal education, discovered the principles of Osteopathy when, at the age of 10, suffering from headaches and stomach ailments, he threw a rope over a tree limb and hung himself by his head on a makeshift swing. After surviving a deep sleep in this position, he awoke cured with new insights into medical pathology. He founded the first Osteopathic Medical School in 1892; his graduates founded other, for profit, Osteopathic schools to compete with him. This competition encouraged each school to be 'early adapters' and open to accepting new breakthroughs, embracing the Germ Theory, blood studies, surgery, and pharmacology, in their effort to attract students and their tuition.

Osteopaths, confronted by 20th century medical progress in laboratory science, embraced, in 1929, "supplementary therapeutics", to go along with manipulative techniques. Such acceptance made this the only sectarian practice to survive successfully, to this day, without scientific stigma.


In 1895, a janitor in Davenport, IA, suddenly lost his hearing. A local healer, D.D. Palmer, evaluated him and found a misplaced vertebra in his back exam. With an effective snap of his hands the vertebra was pushed back into place, the janitor's hearing was restored, and Chiropracty was born.

Seen as competition to the Osteopaths (who called them "quacks"), they shunned drugs and surgical intervention. Chiropracty was based on the belief that illness is caused by abnormal functioning of the "nerve highway" as it runs through the spinal canal. Thus, by adjustments of the spinal column, all manner of cures can be obtained.

D.D. Palmer was not a financial success. He opened his first school, Palmer's School of Magnetic Cure, in 1899, and had no more than five students a year enrolled. His son, B.J. Palmer, bought the school in 1906, and under his guidance, it quickly prospered. For $500 and a six-month study, a "Doctor of Chiropractic" degree was received. B.J. was famous for many things, but his marketing skills were revolutionary. He created his own publishing and advertising firm as part of this campaign. His motto: "Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise", was promoted in his 1926 book, "Selling Yourself", a 'how to' manual on promoting Chiropracty.


Benjamin Lust, a German physician, founded the American School of Naturopathy in 1902, advancing a German based belief system holding that disease came from violations of the natural laws of living—essentially a build-up of toxins and waste matter in the body—that accumulates and causes organ malfunction and disease. It was a drugless form of healing that relied on physical forces such as massage, diet, colonic irrigation, and special "Detox Baths" focusing on the genitals. It has since evolved to focus more on diet and herbal supplements, and less on genitals and high colonics.


Based on the interesting premise that the body cannot suffer two similar illnesses at the same time (i.e. a body cannot have two fevers simultaneously), thus one illness can "drive" out the other. Hence, homeopathic followers thought "like cures like", and used infinitesimally small doses of preparations that, in higher doses, could create similar symptoms in the patient. With spiritual overtones, the dilutional theory rested on a premise of a "vital force" being present in the medicinals. By 1906, there were 20 homeopathic schools in this country.

These were the major players present on the contested medical playing field, vying for patients and the health care dollar, at the turn of the 20th century. Recall that no certification to practice medicine was necessary and attendance to medical school—any medical school—was voluntary and not required. What happened next ultimately shaped the modern medical world as we know it. It came about with the appearance of a remarkable ally that crossed taxonomic phylum to assist Regular medicine in its efforts to dominate its competition. Part III, "Success At Last", will reveal Regular medicine's ploy to achieve economic and popular success.

-alan berkenwald, md

Malaysian government to pass law controlling faith healers


Published 2010-10-16 12:49:00 by KT-Andrews

Malaysian Faith HealersA sick woman squirms and screams as Islamic faith healer Haron Din drives the evil spirits away from her body.

Din, Malaysia's top faith healer recites Quaranic verses until his patient finally weeps and surrenders to the exorcism. Faith healing thrives in this Muslim country with a culture that dwells between modernity and tradition.

Malaysia is a melting pot of many Asian cultures that has long practiced alternative medicine. Although less frequent today, some still practice exorcisms and go to faith healers instead of medical doctors. The government plans to draft a law to control practitioners of alternative medicine.

Dr. Ramli Abdul Ghani, head of Traditional and Complementary Medicine at Malaysia's Health Ministry, said that people use it, and they feel the need to regulate the practices to prevent abuse and ensure that the practitioners are qualified. The new law is to be called "The Traditional and Complementary Medicine Bill", and is scheduled for review in parliament next year.

The bill also covers issues concerning acupuncture and homeopathy, and requires over 11,000 practitioners to apply for a license from the ministry. The Islamic Development Department will draw up guidelines to be followed by Muslim faith healers. This is to avoid a prevalent trend of fake practitioners victimizing innocent people.

Some healers claim to use Islamic alternative medicine when in fact, they go against Islamic beliefs.

Others use black magic which is prohibited by Islam. This is stressed even more by the notorious case of a ritual killing of a politician in 1993 whose body was chopped up into 18 pieces.

Bulgaria Govt Urged to Crack Down on Miracle Healers


Society | October 17, 2010, Sunday

Fortune-teller and miracle healer Totka Totevska from the northern town of Pleven was sentenced last week to three and a half years in jail following complaints by clients. Totevska used to compare herself to world famous profit Vanga who died in 1996. Bulgaria's alternative medicine practitioners have threatened to approach the European Commission if the government delays plans to distinguish charlatanism from therapy and translate them into a law.

"Alternative medical therapy should be practiced only by people who have been educated in this field," representatives of the association told Darik radio.

"What we are fighting for is a legal framework, which will legalize the status of those healers, who have the necessary skills and training, and wipe out those, who are just pretending to be healers, bringing nothing but problems to the people," says the association chair Zofia Shcherbak.

"When it comes to health care, the authorities' control is a must," she stresses and adds that Bulgaria's government is obliged to make sure that unconventional healing methods are in line with the European Union requirements.

But experts fear that the legislation wouldn't do much to put an end to the booming business of clairvoyants and miracle healers because too many Bulgarians believe in their services.

Numerous psychic programs of clairvoyants, soothsayers, fortune-tellers and astrologers with special powers have turned into a social phenomenon in Bulgaria.

The business of miracle healers is booming in Bulgaria as never before on the back of the economic crisis, Bulgarians' despair and their predilection for mysticism and superstitions.

These pushy women can be seen standing in front of hospitals, their ads feature in newspapers and on the internet. It is hard to avoid meeting them even in downtown Sofia.

More often than not, following these sessions, the patients end up with double-digit bills, rather than a solution to their problems.

The promise to solve virtually any problem whether it's regarding love, career, finance, stress or illness however have made the miracle healers so popular in Bulgaria that they successfully compete with the medics from the health care sector, left in tatters after the collapse of the communist regime.

According to social analysts the fear of the unknown, the feeling for being helpless when faced with corruption, the insecurity and instability that marked the period of big changes in the country, makes people seek refuge in superstitions.

Biblical Genesis not meant to be taken literally



The Canton School Districthosteda lecture on creationism because they cannot discriminate when renting their auditorium. I immediately wondered whether they would say the same if the group requesting rental was the KKK, the Communist Party or al-Qaida. I believe in freedom of speech, but I also wonder how far the Canton School Board is willing to carry their nondiscrimination policy.

I was amused to read that the title of the lecture was "Leaving Your Brain at the Church Door." A pretty apt description of belief in creationism and for that matter the beliefs of the groups mentioned above. I have been a student of the history of religion for many years and the Jews, whose literature Genesis is part of, regarded it as metaphor. Nor did Christians believe it was literal truth when they appropriated the books of the Old Testament for their Bible.

The notion that Genesis is literal history did not arise until the 18th century. There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that Genesis's versions are literal fact. There are two different versions of creation in separate chapters,and they contradict one another. My suggestion is to run the other way any time anyone asks you to "leave your brain at the door." They are trying to manipulate you.

Jim Bullard

Friday, October 15, 2010

Evolution education update: October 15, 2010

NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott visits Orange County, California; NCSE is about to visit the nation's capital for the USA Science & Engineering Festival; and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction revisits, and reaffirms, its commitment to teaching evolution.


In Orange County, California, to give a talk at Chapman University, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott was interviewed by the Orange County Register (October 11, 2010). She explained why creationism is wrong for the public school science classroom, observing, "The scientists tell us claims of scientific support for special creation are invalid. So why would we deliberately teach students information that the scientific community says is not accurate?" She addressed the creationist strategy du jour of presenting evolution but "balancing" it with the teaching of "evidence against evolution" -- which, she added, "is really just what they call creationism these days." And asked whether people in Orange County can "just relax and not worry" about the teaching of evolution in the absence of a major local controversy, she warned, "I think it would be a mistake to look at the newspaper and say, 'No creationism today. I can relax.' Because the creationist activity that matters is what's happening at local school districts and pressure on local teachers -- which never makes the newspapers."

The Orange County Register (October 12, 2010) devoted a second column to NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott's recent talk at Chapman University. "Rumor was," the columnist joked, "some Bible-thumping creationists were going to try and smite down speaker Eugenie C. Scott and turn the rest of us into pillars of salt or some such. Didn't happen." Instead, she reviewed the history of the creationism/evolution controversy, from the Scopes trial of 1925 through the Epperson and Edwards cases to the Kitzmiller case of 2005. The latest creationist strategy is to encourage individual teachers to present evolution, as with the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008. "'Creationists have found that top-down agendas ... get knocked down by courts,' Scott says. The way they get around that is to appeal to individual teachers, some 25-30 percent of whom nationwide are believed to be sympathetic to creationism."

For the interview with Scott, visit:

For the report of Scott's talk, visit:


NCSE will be participating in the Science Expo of the USA Science & Engineering Festival, October 23 and 24, 2010, on the National Mall in Washington DC. The culmination of a two-week celebration of science and engineering, the Science Expo is a giant science party on America's front lawn, aimed at inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers. All events are free and open to the general public.

So come and explore the world of science and engineering with over 1500 free hands-on activities from over 750 science and engineering organizations, and over 75 stage shows featuring science celebrities, magicians, jugglers, rappers, and more. The two-day Expo is perfect for teens, children and their families, and anyone with a curious mind who is looking for a weekend of fun and discovery.

And NCSE will be there too, inviting the general public to "find yourself on the tree of life" -- with displays featuring a panoramic view of the tree of life, the evolution of hominids, and the evolutionary path from dinosaurs to their avian descendants, as well as activities and NCSE buttons for kids. Look for NCSE's display in Booth 1420 at Freedom Plaza (Pennsylvania Avenue North at 13th Street).

For information about the Festival and Expo, visit:


The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, which adopted a strong statement on "Evolution, Creation, and the Science Curriculum" in 1982, revised its statement in 2005.

The statement describes evolution as "a fundamental and important unifying concept in science," explaining, "Evolutionary evidence is found in geologic, meteorological, astronomical, and oceanographic events. Additional evidence is found in paleontology, comparative anatomy, biogeography, embryology, and molecular biology. This broad evolutionary evidence explains why evolution is one of the unifying themes for science."

The department's statement is 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 2005 statement (document), visit:

For the 1982 statement, visit:

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

Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter:

NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter:
http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd http://twitter.com/ncse

NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Christine O'Donnell: My Views on Evolution are "Irrelevant"


Posted by Brian Montopoli

Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell refused to say during a debate Wednesday night whether she believes evolution is a "myth," as she had stated in the past.

"What I believe is irrelevant," O'Donnell said. Pressed multiple times to share her beliefs, she said that she believes local school districts should make the determination about what is taught, and that the federal government should not be mandating that schools do not teach creationism.

Check out the video at left.

During a conversation on the television show "Politically Incorrect," in 1998, O'Donnell said "evolution is a myth," prompting host Bill Maher to respond, "Evolution is a myth? Have you ever looked at a monkey?"

Replied O'Donnell: "Well then, why they -- why aren't monkeys still evolving into humans?"

Previously, O'Donnell said, "evolution is a theory and it's exactly that."

"Now too many people are blindly accepting evolution as fact," she said. "But when you get down to the hard evidence, it's merely a theory."

Aromatherapy Growing in Popularity


By Health News Team • Oct 13th, 2010 • Category: General Health, True Health News

Aromatherapy, an emerging form of alternative medicine that may become extremely popular in the near future, can help individuals who are suffering from a variety of ailments, The Journal of Queen's University reports.

"Every essential oil has three properties – they're anti-viral, anti-bacterial and they're anti-fungal," Louise Bertrand told the news provider. She noted that some of these liquids can also act as anti-inflammatory treatments.

Bertrand said that there are several ways the oils can be utilized. Some prefer to add a few drops to a candle, while others will put them in a bath. As long as the remedies are inhaled, they should be effective.

Some of the oils that the news source suggests are chamomile, lemon, lavender and rose. Each scent contains a unique formula that targets specific symptoms.

For example, chamomile is said to be helpful to those suffering from digestive problems, acne or depression. Likewise, lemon can help with skin irritation, boost the immune system and relieve headaches.

Bertrand informed the news source that the most common problems for which aromatherapy is used are arthritis, joint and muscle stiffness and depression.

The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy states that the practice seeks to use the essences of plant oils to naturally heal everyday conditions.

Malaysia to control faith healers as more seek spirit aid


Wed, Oct 6 2010
Fri, Sep 24 2010

By Razak Ahmad and Angie Teo

KUALA LUMPUR | Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:57am EDT

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters Life!) - As Malaysia's top Islamic faith healer Haron Din began reciting Quranic verses, his possessed patient started to scream and fidget.

The exorcism at Haron's busy faith healing clinic on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital lasted for about a minute. The woman slammed her fists repeatedly on her lap and finally wept in submission.

Faith healing continues to find favor in this mainly Muslim country, underscoring the tension between tradition and modernity in Malaysia, a melting pot of Asian cultures with a long history of alternative medicine.

Though uncommon, the continued use of exorcists and bomoh, or faith healers, has in part led the government to draft a law to regulate practitioners of traditional and complementary medicine.

"Because our people use it, we felt the need for control to prevent abuse and ensure that practitioners are qualified," said Dr Ramli Abdul Ghani, head of Traditional and Complementary Medicine at Malaysia's Ministry of Health.

The Traditional and Complementary Medicine Bill, to be tabled in parliament next year, will require the country's 11,000 practitioners in fields ranging from acupuncture to homeopathy to register with and obtain practicing licenses from the ministry.

Muslim faith healers will also be subject to guidelines jointly drawn up by the country's Islamic Development Department and recognized practitioner bodies including Haron's clinic.

"Many faith healers claim to conduct Islamic treatments when they in fact are going against Islam, so we need the mechanism to control the practitioners," said Haron, 70, whose clinic draws up to 250 people a day.

There have been a steady number of complaints of cheats while others offer amulets, spells and curses using black magic, which is forbidden by Islam.

Malaysia's most infamous case was the gruesome ritual killing of a ruling party politician in 1993, in which his body was chopped into 18 parts.

Maznah Ismail, a bomoh who claimed to offer invincibility to her clients, was convicted and hanged for the murder.

Practicing black magic will not be listed as on offence under the proposed law, but those who go against the faith healers' guidelines could be stripped of their licenses, said Ramli.


Only Islamic faith healers will be initially subject to the proposed law, but Ramli said the government was open to the possibility of expanding its scope in future to include Chinese spirit mediums.

Famous for entering a trance-like state, mediums are believed to be able to act as intermediaries for deities to communicate with devotees seeking advice.

"In future we hope to cooperate with the relevant religious bodies so they can help draw up guidelines as well," said Ramli.

But the idea is a hard sell for some.

Wong Kin Tack, chairman of the Kau Wong Yeh Chinese temple in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, said licensing his mediums would obstruct the deities' work.

He said the mediums provided an important service to devotees, who included cancer patients seeking comfort in prayer and advice.

"After all, the spirit medium knows everything even before you ask, and if you have any problem the deities will help you to overcome it," said Wong.

(Editing by Elaine Lies)

NCSE's Scott in the Orange County Register again


October 13th, 2010

The Orange County Register (October 12, 2010) devoted a second column to NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott's recent talk at Chapman University. "Rumor was," the columnist joked, "some Bible-thumping creationists were going to try and smite down speaker Eugenie C. Scott and turn the rest of us into pillars of salt or some such. Didn't happen." Instead, she reviewed the history of the creationism/evolution controversy, from the Scopes trial of 1925 through the Epperson and Edwards cases to the Kitzmiller case of 2005. The latest creationist strategy is to encourage individual teachers to present evolution, as with the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008. "'Creationists have found that top-down agendas ... get knocked down by courts,' Scott says. The way they get around that is to appeal to individual teachers, some 25-30 percent of whom nationwide are believed to be sympathetic to creationism."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Jerry Moore: Not all anti-evolutionists have been created equal


Suburban Life Publications
Posted Oct 12, 2010 @ 12:50 PM
Last update Oct 12, 2010 @ 12:58 PM

Western suburbs — It's easy to frame the evolution debate as a battle between faith and science.

But one historian says rivalries within the various factions are more intriguing. Disagreements between anti-evolutionists are underplayed while among scientists they're exaggerated.

Ronald Numbers, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison specializing in the history of science and medicine, delivered the fall McIntyre Lecture last week at Wheaton College. Addressing the topic of "Anti-Evolutionism in America: From Creation Science to Intelligent Design," Numbers dispelled some popular myths.

Wheaton College did well in selecting Numbers to address this subject. He wrote "The Creationists," which many have called the definitive historical account of the anti-evolution movement.

His research has been considered so valuable, in fact, that he was asked to provide expert testimony — by both the plaintiffs and defendants — in a 1982 Louisiana court case involving a creationist law. This case eventually led to the landmark 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Edwards v. Aguillard, which held that teaching creationism in public schools was unconstitutional.

"I selected Ron for this fall's lecture because his work on recent history of evolution and anti-evolutionism is very good work and something that I think the Christian community needs to learn more about," said Robert Bishop, a Wheaton College professor and chairman of the school's McIntyre Lectureship in the Philosophy and History of Science.

Numbers was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist and wrote a paper about the teachings of Ellen G. White, a key Seventh-day Adventist figure. This launched his interest in creationism.

White claimed to have had visions of the universe's origins. Her literal interpretation of the six-day creation narrative became a Seventh-day Adventist doctrine.

But most other Christians, including those involved in the Scopes Monkey Trial, accepted the antiquity of nature, Numbers said. They were primarily concerned with preserving the thought that humans underwent special creation — something challenged by evolution.

George McCready Price expanded on White's teachings and called it flood geology. This is the belief that the worldwide flood described in Genesis accounted for the unique arrangement of fossils found in the Earth's geologic column.

But this view did not come to be shared by most other anti-evolutionists until the early 1960s, Numbers said. Henry Morris and John Whitcomb co-authored "The Genesis Flood," and this became the dominant viewpoint among fundamentalist Christians.

By the early 1990s, intelligent design had emerged as another argument against evolution. But most proponents do not accept young-earth creationism, which has caused deep divisions with other anti-evolutionists, Numbers said. The illusion of a unified front among evolution's opponents is compounded by the myth that evolution is contentious among scientists, he said.

"My impressions of Ron's lecture were that he was both engaging and good-natured while covering some history that many people — Christian or otherwise — simply don't know," Bishop said. "He also provided some useful and important clarification on differences between creationism and intelligent design. His presentation was historically accurate and challenging to folks who are used to thinking there is only one way to relate a biblical or theological view to the science of evolution: creationism or bust! So, I think his lecture helped add some historical perspective that there are more ways to think seriously about both the Bible and the science than many in the Christian community realize."

Through it all, Numbers said, Wheaton College has been at the forefront of this issue with names such as Charles Blanchard, S. James Bole and Paul DeVries. By inviting Numbers to shed some historic light, the school continues to serve a vital function in the ongoing debate.

Jerry Moore is the opinions editor for Suburban Life Publications. Contact him at (630) 368-8930 or jmoore@mysuburbanlife.com.

Copyright 2010 Hinsdale Suburban Life.

Are God and Evolution Compatible? Some Catholic, Jewish and Protestant Authors Say No


PR Newswire
By Discovery Institute

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010 - 10:11 am

SEATTLE, Oct. 12 -- /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Can you be an orthodox Darwinist and an orthodox theist? The plain answer is "no," according to God and Evolution: Protestants, Catholics and Jews Explore Darwin's Challenge to Faith, an important new book from Discovery Institute Press. The book provides a thorough examination of the conflict between belief in God and Darwin's theory of unguided evolution.

In the century and a half since Charles Darwin first proposed his theory, Christians, Jews, and other religious believers have grappled with how to make sense of it. Most have understood that Darwin's theory and materialistic theories of the origin of life have profound theological implications, but their responses have varied dramatically.

Some have rejected evolutionary ideas outright; others, often called "theistic evolutionists," have sought to reconcile materialist theories including Darwinism with their religious beliefs, but often at the cost of clarity, orthodoxy, or both.

"Too few people have carefully teased out the various scientific, philosophical, and theological claims at stake," says Jay Richards, director of research for discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture, and editor of God and Evolution. "As a result, the whole subject of God and evolution has been an enigma wrapped in a shroud of fuzz and surrounded by a blanket of fog."

God and Evolution includes chapters by William Dembski, author of The Design Revolution; Stephen Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design; Denyse O'Leary, co-author of The Spiritual Brain; David Klinghoffer, author of The Discovery of God: Abraham and the Birth of Monotheism; Jonathan Wells, author of Icons of Evolution; and John West, author of Darwin Day in America;

The book is a response to growing efforts by some Darwinists to enlist the support of the faith community by downplaying Darwinism's core principles. Chapters of the book detail the failures of theistic evolution, address the problem of evil, and explain how intelligent design is consonant with orthodox belief.

God and Evolution is ideal for use in small groups and classes, and each chapter comes with discussion questions to facilitate group use. Additional resources, including video clips for educational use, are available at www.faithandevolution.org.

SOURCE Discovery Institute

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/10/12/3098661/are-god-and-evolution-compatible.html#ixzz12I5qbmLd

Monday, October 11, 2010

SMU Religious Studies Professor Mark A. Chancey Attempts to Discredit Intelligent Design With Bad History


Still searching for some rhetorical crowbar to remove the "Four Nails in Darwin's Coffin," Mark A. Chancey claims ID "originated within certain religious circles and has credibility only within those same circles -- mostly theologically conservative Christian groups that find aspects of evolutionary theory threatening." Readers may find his complete comments at SMU Daily Campus, but whatever else may be said of his characterizations, the statement above is surely bad history and not an accurate reflection of the development of modern ID. Here is why.

If ID is measured by the yardstick of modern evolutionary theory (one could conceivably go as far back as Anaxagorus [500-428 BC] for its beginnings), then surely the idea that certain features of the natural world give evidence of having been intelligently designed rather than due to blind chance and necessity must be ascribed to Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913). Wallace believed that nature gives manifest evidence of "creative power, directive mind, and ultimate purpose." That's right, the co-discover of natural selection--indeed, the man who prompted Darwin to stop dawdling and rush his Origin of Species to press--believed in intelligent design! In fact, the words quoted above come from the subtitle to his grand evolutionary synthesis The World of Life, first published by Chapman and Hall in December of 1910. After more than sixty years of inquiry into the nature and meaning of biological processes and life itself, Wallace concluded "that they imply first, a Creative Power, which so constituted matter as to render these marvels possible; next, a directive Mind, which is demanded at every step of what we term growth, and often look upon as so simple and natural a process as to require no explanation; and, lastly, an ultimate Purpose, in the very existence of the whole vast life-world in all its long course of evolution throughout the eons of geological time." Wallace was surely no young-earth creationist; he wasn't even Christian! And as for Wallace's politics, he declared himself a socialist in 1890, promoted land nationalization, equal rights for women, minimum wages for workers, and even a manufacturer's labeling law to protect consumers.

Chancey's "history" of the origins of ID is simply a gross mischaracterization of the intellectual heritage of the current movement. Chancey also forgets about famous astronomer, mathematician, and cosmologist Fred Hoyle (1915-2001), a great admirer of Wallace, who first announced his commitment to ID in 1982 and later expanded on his views in The Intelligent Universe (1984). This too comes from a non-Christian (for more, see Hoyle and ID).

If Chancey wants to argue the evidence as presented by Axe, Meyer, Sternberg, and Wells, all fine and good, but constructions of fanciful histories borne of stereotype and misrepresentation do not reflect well on professor Chancey and lend nothing to the discussion. His assertions regarding the historical foundations of ID are simply wrong on all counts. ID is not creationist or conservative; it has nothing to do with either. Neither Bibles nor right-wing party alliances are necessary join the ranks of Darwin's critics, as the examples above and others, like socialist Max Horkheimer (1895-1973), clearly indicate. Of course these are inconvenient facts for those like Chancey who would prefer straw caricatures (like those conjured up by bad Hollywood scriptwriters in Inherit the Wind) over real scientists and intellectuals when facing ID.

Since Chancey is at SMU, perhaps he should consult the important historian and Methodist Herbert Butterfield (1900-1979), who warned of his kind of history-turned-propaganda. Writing in 1931, Butterfield cautioned against the tendency to write on the side of the reigning power brokers, "to praise revolutions provided they have been successful, to emphasis certain principles of progress in the past and to produce a story which is the ratification if not the glorification of the present" (The Whig Interpretation of History, p. v). Unfortunately, Chancey, by perpetuating the stereotypes and implying that ID and evolution are at loggerheads, succumbs to this brand of intellectual negligence. In fact, Wallace helped to develop modern evolutionary theory and was proud of it, what he opposed were the blind processes insisted upon by Darwinian materialists. Fred Hoyle too agreed with much of Wallace's analysis. Hoyle rejected purely chemical explanations for the origin of life, was a staunch critic of Darwinian evolution, and believed that the "information-rich" universe was controlled by an "overriding intelligence" (a phrase remarkably close to the "Overruling Intelligence" Wallace used in 1869 marking his break with Darwin). The question isn't--and never was--evolution or no evolution. The real question is, is evolution directed, detectably designed, and purposeful common descent or is it, as Darwin himself suggested, no more designed "than the course which the wind blows"? In short, is evolution intelligent? In order to get an answer we'll surely need something far more intelligent than professor Chancey's Whiggish and misleading declarations.

Posted by Michael Flannery on October 11, 2010 3:07 PM | Permalink

New health guidelines


By MANDEEP SINGH , Posted on » Monday, October 11, 2010

NEW rules are being drawn up to stop alternative medicine getting "out of hand" in Bahrain and other GCC countries, it was revealed yesterday.

The guidelines, which are intended to check the "rampant and unrestricted growth" of such facilities, were discussed during a meeting of representatives of GCC health ministers at the Elite Grand Hotel, Seef.

It follows concerns that people were shunning medical treatment in favour of alternative therapies.

"An expert committee that was set up in 2008 had recommended unified guidelines for such centres in the GCC, rather than every country having its own," said Health Ministry Public Health and Primary Care Assistant Under-Secretary Dr Mariam Al Jalahma.

"This was done to try and bring to an end the rampant and unrestricted growth of such places that people were flocking to."

Dr Al Jalahma said Bahrain had taken a lead in educating people that alternative medicine should only be used to complement regular treatment, not as an alternative to it.

"We have had several cases where people started taking other (alternative) medications and resorted to stopping the use of regular medications and that led to problems," she said.

"As a result, we felt the practice of alternative medicine was getting out of hand and we felt the need to curb it."

She said the idea was not to prevent, but regulate the use of alternative therapies.

"We are now in the process of finalising the setting up of licensing procedures, penalties for violations and criteria to be followed by alternative medicine practitioners," added Dr Al Jalahma.

"We are also co-ordinating with the National Health Regulatory Authority in setting up these procedures."

Health Ministry head of licensing Dr Tawfeeq Nasee b said Bahrain had not licensed any new alternative medicine facilities or practitioners in the last two years.

"Only the licences of those already registered are being renewed," he added.

"New licences will be given only after the new law comes into force." Bahrain has facilities and centres offering homoeopathic, Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, as well as acupuncture and acupressure treatments. mandeep@gdn.com.bh

The Traveling Salesmen of Climate Skepticism


10/08/2010 11:44 AM
'Science as the Enemy'
By Cordula Meyer

A handful of US scientists have made names for themselves by casting doubt on global warming research. In the past, the same people have also downplayed the dangers of passive smoking, acid rain and the ozone hole. In all cases, the tactics are the same: Spread doubt and claim it's too soon to take action.

With his sonorous voice, Fred Singer, 86, sounded like a grandfather explaining the obvious to a dim-witted child. "Nature, not human activity, rules the climate," the American physicist told a discussion attended by members of the German parliament for the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) three weeks ago.

Marie-Luise Dött, the environmental policy spokeswoman for the parliamentary group of Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), also attended Singer's presentation. She said afterwards that it was "extremely illuminating." She later backpedaled, saying that her comments had been quoted out of context, and that of course she supports an ambitious climate protection policy -- just like Chancellor Merkel.

Merkel, as it happens, was precisely the person Singer was trying to reach. "Our problem is not the climate. Our problem is politicians, who want to save the climate. They are the real problem," he says. "My hope is that Merkel, who is not stupid, will see the light," says Singer, who has since left for Paris. Noting that he liked the results of his talks, he adds: "I think I achieved something."

Salesman of Skepticism

Singer is a traveling salesman of sorts for those who question climate change. On this year's summer tour, he gave speeches to politicians in Rome, Paris and the Israeli port city of Haifa. Paul Friedhoff, the economic policy spokesman of the FDP's parliamentary group, had invited him to Berlin. Singer and the FDP get along famously. The American scientist had already presented his contrary theories on the climate to FDP politicians at the Institute for Free Enterprise, a Berlin-based free-market think tank, last December.

Singer is one of the most influential deniers of climate change worldwide. In his world, respected climatologists are vilified as liars, people who are masquerading as environmentalists while, in reality, having only one goal in mind: to introduce socialism. Singer wants to save the world from this horror. For some, the fact that he made a name for himself as a brilliant atmospheric physicist after World War II lends weight to his words.

Born in Vienna, Singer fled to the United States in 1940 and soon became part of an elite group fighting the Cold War on the science front. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Singer continued his struggle -- mostly against environmentalists, and always against any form of regulation.

Whether it was the hole in the ozone layer, acid rain or climate change, Singer always had something critical to say, and he always knew better than the experts in their respective fields. But in doing so he strayed far away from the disciplines in which he himself was trained. For example, his testimony aided the tobacco lobby in its battle with health policy experts.

'Science as the Enemy'

The Arlington, Virginia-based Marshall Institute took an approach very similar to Singer's. Founded in 1984, its initial mission was to champion then US President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), better known as "Star Wars." After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the founders abruptly transformed their institute into a stronghold for deniers of environmental problems.

"The skeptics thought, if you give up economic freedom, it will lead to losing political freedom. That was the underlying ideological current," says Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at the University of California, San Diego, who has studied Singer's methods. As scientists uncovered more and more environmental problems, the skeptics "began to see science as the enemy."

Oreskes is referring to only a handful of scientists and lobbyists, and yet they have managed to convince many ordinary people -- and even some US presidents -- that science is deeply divided over the causes of climate change. Former President George H.W. Bush even referred to the physicists at the Marshall Institute as "my scientists."

Whatever the issue, Singer and his cohorts have always used the same basic argument: that the scientific community is still in disagreement and that scientists don't have enough information. For instance, they say that genetics could be responsible for the cancers of people exposed to secondhand smoke, volcanoes for the hole in the ozone layer and the sun for climate change.

Cruel Nature

It almost seems as if Singer were trying to disguise himself as one of the people he is fighting. With his corduroy trousers, long white hair and a fish fossil hanging from a leather band around his neck, he comes across as an amiable old environmentalist. But the image he paints of nature is not at all friendly. "Nature is much to be feared, very cruel and very dangerous," he says.

At conferences, Singer likes to introduce himself as a representative of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). As impressive as this title sounds, the NIPCC is nothing but a collection of like-minded scientists Singer has gathered around himself. A German meteorologist in the group, Gerd Weber, has worked for the German Coal Association on and off for the last 25 years.

According to a US study, 97 percent of all climatologists worldwide assume that greenhouse gases produced by humans are warming the Earth. Nevertheless, one third of Germans and 40 percent of Americans doubt that the Earth is getting warmer. And many people are convinced that climatologists are divided into two opposing camps on the issue -- which is untrue.

So how is it that people like Singer have been so effective in shaping public opinion?

Experience Gained Defending Big Tobacco

Many scientists do not sufficiently explain the results of their research. Some climatologists have also been arrogant or have refused to turn over their data to critics. Some overlook inconsistencies or conjure up exaggerated horror scenarios that are not always backed by science. For example, sloppy work was responsible for a prediction in an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that all Himalayan glaciers would have melted by 2035. It was a grotesque mistake that plunged the IPCC into a credibility crisis.

Singer and his fellow combatants take advantage of such mistakes and utilize their experiences defending the tobacco industry. For decades, Big Tobacco managed to cast doubt on the idea that smoking kills. An internal document produced by tobacco maker Brown & Williamson states: "Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public."

In 1993, tobacco executives handed around a document titled "Bad Science -- A Resource Book." In the manual, PR professionals explain how to discredit inconvenient scientific results by labeling them "junk." For example, the manual suggested pointing out that "too often science is manipulated to fulfill a political agenda." According to the document: "Proposals that seek to improve indoor air quality by singling out tobacco smoke only enable bad science to become a poor excuse for enacting new laws and jeopardizing individual liberties."

'Junk Science'

In 1993, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published what was then the most comprehensive study on the effects of tobacco smoke on health, which stated that exposure to secondhand smoke was responsible for about 3,000 deaths a year in the United States. Singer promptly called it "junk science." He warned that the EPA scientists were secretly pursuing a communist agenda. "If we do not carefully delineate the government's role in regulating ... dangers, there is essentially no limit to how much government can ultimately control our lives," Singer wrote.

Reacting to the EPA study, the Philip Morris tobacco company spearheaded the establishment of "The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition" (TASSC). Its goal was to raise doubts about the risks of passive smoking and climate change, and its message was to be targeted at journalists -- but only those with regional newspapers. Its express goal was "to avoid cynical reporters from major media."

Singer, Marshall Institute founder Fred Seitz and Patrick Michaels, who is now one of the best known climate change skeptics, were all advisers to TASSC.

Not Proven

The Reagan administration also appointed Singer to a task force on acid rain. In that group, Singer insisted that it was too early to take action and that it hadn't even been proven yet that sulfur emissions were in fact the cause. He also said that some plants even benefited from acid rain.

After acid rain, Singer turned his attention to a new topic: the "ozone scare." Once again, he applied the same argumentative pattern, noting that although it was correct that the ozone concentration in the stratosphere was declining, the effect was only local. Besides, he added, it wasn't clear yet whether chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from aerosol cans were even responsible for ozone depletion.

As recently as 1994, Singer claimed that evidence "suggested that stratospheric chlorine comes mostly from natural sources." Testifying before the US Congress in 1996, he said there was "no scientific consensus on ozone depletion or its consequences" -- even though in 1995 the Nobel Prize had been awarded to three chemists who had demonstrated the influence of CFCs on the ozone layer.

The Usual Suspects

Multinational oil companies also soon adopted the tried-and-true strategies of disinformation. Once again, lobbying groups were formed that were designed to look as scientific as possible. First there was the Global Climate Coalition, and then ExxonMobil established the Global Climate Science Team. One of its members was lobbyist Myron Ebell. Another one was a veteran of the TASCC tobacco lobby who already knew the ropes. According to a 1998 Global Climate Science Team memo: "Victory will be achieved when average citizens 'understand' (recognize) uncertainties in climate science."

It soon looked as though there were a broad coalition opposing the science of climate change, supported by organizations like the National Center for Policy Analysis, the Heartland Institute and the Center for Science and Public Policy. In reality, these names were often little more than a front for the same handful of questionable scientists -- and Exxon funded the whole illusion to the tune of millions of dollars.

It was an excellent investment.

In 2001, the administration of then-President George W. Bush reneged on previous climate commitments. After that, the head of the US delegation to the Kyoto negotiations met with the oil lobbyists from the Global Climate Coalition to thank them for their expertise, saying that President Bush had "rejected Kyoto in part based on input from you."

Singer's comrade-in-arms Patrick Michaels waged a particularly sharp-tongued campaign against the phalanx of climatologists. One of his books is called: "The Satanic Gases: Clearing the Air about Global Warming." Michaels has managed to turn doubt into a lucrative business. The German Coal Association paid him a hefty fee for a study in the 1990s, and a US electric utility once donated $100,000 to his PR firm.

Inconsistent Arguments

Both Michaels and Ebell are members of the Cooler Heads Coalition. Unlike Singer and Seitz, they are not anti-communist crusaders from the Cold War era, but smooth communicators. Ebell, a historian, argues that life was not as comfortable for human beings in the Earth's cold phases than in the warm ones. Besides, he adds, there are many indications that we are at the beginning of a cooling period.

The professional skeptics tend to use inconsistent arguments. Sometimes they say that there is no global warming. At other times, they point out that while global warming does exist, it is not the result of human activity. Some climate change deniers even concede that man could do something about the problem, but that it isn't really much of a problem. There is only one common theme to all of their prognoses: Do nothing. Wait. We need more research.

People like Ebell cannot simply be dismissed as cranks. He has been called to testify before Congress eight times, and he unabashedly crows about his contacts at the White House, saying: "We knew whom to call."

Ebell faces more of an uphill battle in Europe. In his experience, he says, Europe is controlled by elites who -- unlike ordinary people -- happen to believe in climate change.

Einstein on a Talk Show

But Fred Singer is doing his best to change that. He has joined forces with the European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE). The impressive-sounding name, however, is little more than a P.O. box address in the eastern German city of Jena. The group's president, Holger Thuss, is a local politician with the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the respected Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and an adviser to Chancellor Merkel on climate-related issues, says he has no objection to sharing ideas with the EIKE, as long as its representatives can stick to the rules of scientific practice. But he refuses to join EIKE representatives in a political panel discussion, noting that this is precisely what the group hopes to achieve, namely to create the impression among laypeople that experts are discussing the issues on a level playing field.

Ultimately, says Schellnhuber, science has become so complicated that large segments of the population can no longer keep up. The climate skeptics, on the other hand, are satisfied with "a desire for simple truths," Schellnhuber says.

This is precisely the secret of their success, according to Schellnhuber, and unfortunately no amount of public debate can change that. "Imagine Einstein having to defend the theory of relativity on a German TV talk show," he says. "He wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan


The Expensive Dream of Clean Energy: Will High Costs Kill Merkel's Green Revolution? (09/23/2010)
Not Under My Backyard: One German Town's Fight against CO2 Capture Technology (08/20/2010)
German Climatologist on Criticism of IPCC: 'We Received a Kick in the Pants' (08/17/2010)
Not So Much Trouble in Paradise: Are Coral Islands Really Doomed? (07/23/2010)
The Climategate Chronicle: How the Science of Global Warming Was Compromised (05/14/2010)
SPIEGEL 360: Our Complete Climate Change Coverage




CREATIONISM TALK: Speaker tells Christians evolution threatens their faith

CANTON — In the beginning, there was a reading from Genesis.

Then, the tone was set for the rest of Jonathan Sarfati's Sunday lecture at the First Baptist Church here, which denounced the science behind evolution and warned Christians that it was not compatible with their faith.

"You can trust the Bible from the very first chapter, which we just read here today," Mr. Sarfati told the roughly two dozen people sitting in the pews.

Dressed in a red shirt and a black tie with black slacks, topped with brown, unruly hair, Mr. Sarfati expounded for more than an hour on subjects ranging from aeronautic design to the geology of Mars to the origins of the Grand Canyon to convince those in the audience of what he called the science behind creationism.

His academic credentials include a Ph.D in chemistry and playing Boris Spassky to a tie in chess. (Mr. Sarfati was New Zealand's chess champion three times, according to his organization's website.)

Critics call him a propagandist, and some controversy arose when he was scheduled to speak last Friday night at Canton Central School.

But he says that criticism was overblown. He's not interested in evangelizing to non-believers; only preaching to a choir of Christians whose concessions that Genesis can't be taken literally is undermining their faith.

"You can't compromise on Genesis," Mr. Sarfati told his audience. "It's like having an instruction manual where the first page is torn out."

Mr. Sarfati, and his group, Creation Ministries International, believes that the creation of the universe as described in Genesis is literal fact — God created the world and all its inhabitants in six days — and that evolution is impossible.

A slew of PowerPoint slides helped him make his point Sunday morning. Fossil records, he said, are proof of a great flood, as described in the story of Noah and his ark in Genesis. So is the topography of the Grand Canyon.

And DNA is no proof of evolution, Mr. Sarfati said.

DNA is like a book, he said, and "a book requires an author."

Evolution is the theory that says, among other things, that humans and apes have a common ancestry. Pioneered by Charles Darwin in the 19th century, evolution is accepted by mainstream scientists and taught in public schools and textbooks.

Or, as Mr. Sarfati derisively calls it, "From goo to you, via a zoo. ... Jesus is the son of God, not the son of an ape."

What troubled him, he said, was that public schools, universities and the media do not give the science behind creationism any credence. His presentation was interspersed several times with slides showing creationists how to arm themselves with knowledge: he's written several weighty and scientific books on the topic, available for $29 after the event.

"There's no reason to be afraid of science being on the evolutionists' side," he said, "because it's not."

His ideas might not be mainstream, but he was welcomed by a friendly audience at the First Baptist Church.

"I think it's good for someone of his expertise to remind people who compromise (on evolution) of what that's going to do to undermine our faith as a whole," said Robert Emmett, a churchgoer from Hopkinton who brought his 9-year-old daughter to the lecture on Sunday.

Mr. Emmett, who said that he does not believe in evolution, leads youth programs in the church, and brought several teens to hear Mr. Sarfati speak at earlier events over the weekend.

"It's helping people in our church," said the Rev. J. Frederick Sykes. "If you take out Genesis, it undermines our beliefs."

After the speech, churchgoers huddled, describing what they saw as efforts by schoolteachers to brainwash their children with evolution.

"You hear a lot of people tell you about evolution, but I know the truth," said Debra L. Thompson, a creationist who brought her two nephews, 13-year-old Benjamin D. and 17-year-old Matthew D.

Said Matthew Thompson: "If you throw out creationism, you throw out the whole Bible."

Darwin's Legacy: Scientific Breakthrough or Breakdown?


On Thursday, October 28 the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History will host a panel discussion exploring the impact of Darwin's theory on eugenics and scientific racism: Darwin's Legacy: Scientific Breakthrough or Breakdown? Currently the museum is exhibiting LUCY: The Story of Human Origins, which explores the use of anthropologic findings and fossil casts, and The Genographic Project Exhibition that explores the use of genetic/DNA scientific techniques in understanding the origins of humankind.

The Wright Museum describes itself as the world's largest institution dedicated to the African American experience. So, because the exhibit pays homage to Darwinian evolution, it shouldn't be surprising that they would want to also look at the impact Darwin's theory has had over the years.

According to the Museum's website:

Four scholars with four distinct perspectives debate the link between scientific racism throughout history and the advancement of Darwinian evolution. Speakers include author, Discovery Institute senior fellow and Intelligent Design proponent, Dr. John West; in defense of Darwinian evolution from a biological perspective, Dr. Morris Goodman, distinguished professor with the Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics at the Wayne State University School of Medicine; Dr. Damon Salesa, author and associate professor in the History Department, the Program in American Culture, and Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies at the University of Michigan; and from a Biblical creation perspective, Dr. Jerry Bergman, professor of physics, biology and chemistry at Northwest State Community College in Archbold, Ohio.

$8 for members / $10 for nonmembers. The museum's exhibitions will be open until 7 pm to allow event attendees to explore beforehand (museum admission is included in ticket price). Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/131800.

Sponsored in part by the Discovery Institute in Seattle, WA and WLQV-AM 1500. For more information, please call (313) 494-5817.

Posted by Anika Smith on October 11, 2010 7:32 AM | Permalink

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A world without design is not without purpose


Whilst atheists persist in their battle against Creationism, they fail to answer the questions religions ask.

by Rebecca Usden

Friday 8th October 2010, 16:58 GMT

It would appear that Hawking has finally done it – with the revelation of his M-Theory last month, religious believers who query the origins of the Big Bang are surely silenced. Atheists across the world punch the air. But they should not get too excited, because the reply of the UK's religious leaders has shifted the grounds of the debate.

In a response to Hawking printed in The Times, the Chief Rabbi of Britain, Lord Jonathan Sacks, argued that religion does not seek to provide a rival explanation to science, but an additional interpretation. Religious texts guide us on how we should live, rather than documenting how we have come to be living. According to Rabbi Sacks, science and religion are "different intellectual enterprises". The Church of England issued a similar response, arguing that they do not claim the Bible to be "a compendium of all knowledge". Science and religion serve different purposes and, as a result, science can be accepted without faith being forfeited.

This is a dramatic movement away from young earth creationist thinking, which actively competes with science to explain the creation of the world. In a recent UK survey, 10% of a 2000 strong sample identified with biblical creationism and up to half were not convinced by the theory of evolution. With this in mind, the decision by religious leaders to embrace science seems both a brave and unnecessary move. If sections of our population cannot be persuaded by Darwin, it is doubtful that they will be by Hawking – the leaders did not need to start waving the flag for science to prevent the religious from losing their faith. However, the religious response to Hawking's theory is far more potent than a simple act of damage limitation. By accepting science rather than dismissing it, they have changed the whole tone of the debate.

If it is not young earth creationism with which they are in conflict, then atheists cannot rely on the science of creation or the science of evolution to provide them with ammunition. Spouting Darwin does nothing to rebuke the Chief Rabbi's kind of faith, where questions about how life has evolved hold little relevance. Whilst Hawking's theory may be remarkable, the use of it to attack religion now seems misdirected. Scientists can keep explaining the Universe (or even the Multiverse) as much as they like, but that will not stop the religious from finding meaning in their explanations.

But do scientists have any reason to take issue with this? Surely everyone should be content; scientists can go on explaining, religious believers can go on interpreting, and no one steps on anyone else's toes. If only the reality was this peachy. The "I'll stay on my side of the bed if you stay on yours" kind of arrangement is not going to satisfy the militant atheism of those who spend their lives trying to denounce religion using science. I imagine the name "Richard Dawkins" springs to mind.

But it is precisely people like this who should be taking note of the religious response the most. While atheists are encouraging people to reject religion in favour of science, the religious are arguing that people can and should have both. The Chief Rabbi has presented religion in a way which does leave room for science. If the proponents of scientific atheism continue to talk as though the debate is a case of either/or, they risk appearing as though they are paying no attention to the dialogue. A seeming unwillingness to engage is what makes views appear dogmatic rather than reasoned. In an ironic twist, it is the non-believers who are at risk of looking the more rigid and uncompromising, whilst the religious present themselves as the more open minded. This cannot be good for atheist PR.

This, of course, is not to say that the atheist argument from science is now ineffective. But it does mean that to have impact, atheists should now turn to address interpretive religion rather than continuing to fight the creation narrative. If we are to be convinced that science and religion are in fact mutually exclusive, we need to be shown why and the Chief Rabbi's claims of compatibility must be addressed directly. A dismissal of the religious response will not suffice as a rebuttal. Rather, this would only serve to make it all the more compelling.

Would you Adam and Eve it? Top scientists tell Scottish pupils: the Bible is true


Dr Alastair Noble is the director of the Centre for Intelligent Design


10 Oct 2010

They are among Scotland's most eminent scientists, they believe the world was created in six days and women were made from Adam's rib ...and they're coming to a school near you.

A new creationist group that preaches the "scientific" theory of intelligent design has set up in Glasgow with the stated aim of promoting its beliefs to schools and colleges.

The Centre for Intelligent Design, headed by a Northern Irish professor of genetics, a vice-president of the Royal College of Physicians and a former school inspector, has already prepared the ground for a clash with authorities.

The group's director, Dr Alastair Noble, told the Sunday Herald it was "inevitable" the debate would make its way into schools – even though the Scottish Government says teachers should not regard intelligent design as science.

"We are definitely not targeting schools, but that doesn't mean to say we may not produce resources that go to schools," Dr Noble said, adding that he had already been asked to speak in Scottish schools, and agreed to do so.

I think people are afraid of this debate because they sense it's religion from the back door. Dr Alastair Noble

The C4ID, as it calls itself online, insists its views are purely scientific, but critics have pointed to the leaders' fundamentalist Christian backgrounds and the leaps of faith inherent in their logic.

Its president, Professor Norman Nevin OBE – a geneticist at Queen's University in Belfast – told a meeting in the city earlier this year he believed Adam was "a real historical person". He also said: "Genesis chapter 1-11, which indeed many Darwinists and evolutionists say is myth or legend, I believe is historical, and it is cited 107 times in the New Testament, and Jesus refers himself to the early chapters of Genesis at least 25 times." In these books of the Bible, the universe is created in six days, God makes Eve out of Adam's rib, and Noah saves the Earth by building an ark.

Dr Alastair Noble is a Glasgow University graduate who became a teacher and later HM inspector of schools. He is currently education officer for CARE, a Christian charity which campaigns for more faith teaching in schools.

Dr David Galloway, C4ID's vice- president, is also vice-president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, and a member of the Lennox Evangelical Church in Dumbarton.

C4ID has now set up a base in Glasgow and runs a website. The group is financially based in Guernsey, and apparently funded solely by backers in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.

Dr Noble denied the theory of intelligent design – that a universal engineer, or god, created the initial spark of life then used physical laws and natural selection to develop it – was religious.

"I think people are afraid of this debate because they sense it's religion from the back door. They see it as an invasion of science with religion, but it most certainly is not that," he said.

However, critics dismissed intelligent design as "a front for creationism".

Paul Braterman, an emeritus professor of chemistry, now at Glasgow University, and a founder of the British Centre for Science Education, a campaign to keep religion out of science classes, said intelligent design was simply using God to plug the gaps that science has yet to answer.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, called on the Government to "keep a close eye on this organisation to ensure it doesn't manage to wheedle its way into schools".

James Gray, of the British Humanist Association, said the C4ID had a right to say what it liked, but guidelines were needed to "ensure this pseudoscience never finds its way into science classes".

In 2007 the BHA successfully lobbied the UK Government to publish guidance on how teachers should deal with creationism south of the Border, but no such policy exists in Scotland.

Ann Ballinger, of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, urged ministers here to clarify the situation, while the EIS union said authorities should ensure teachers knew their position regarding intelligent design in the classroom.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said ministers would be against any moves to teach intelligent design in science classes, stating "we do not recognise the teaching of intelligent design in a scientific context".

However, teaching unions and councils said they were aware of no formal guidance on the subject.

What is intelligent design?

Intelligent design came to prominence in the early 1990s after a law in America forbade the teaching of creationism in school science classes. Its proponents argue that while natural selection does play a part in shaping life on earth, the origins of life betray signs of a conscious creator – in Dr Noble's words: "The problem is not, as Darwin saw it, the survival of the fittest; the problem is the arrival of the fittest."

Generally, proponents of intelligent design think a god created living matter and established the rules of the universe to guide its development.

Mainstream science, on the other hand, states these biological structures can – and did – arise without intelligence behind them. Supporters have produced a wealth of evidence showing the individual stages of development in supposedly irreducably complex structures, such as the eye.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Evolution Readiness Project Overplays the Evidence for Evolution


As discussed in previous posts, the $1,990,459 taxpayer funded Evolution Readiness Project recommends reading to fourth graders a book called Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution.

The book gives a misleading picture of the development of biological thought when it comes to common ancestry. It says that when "scientists were creating systems to organize living things by placing them into groups," the same "scientists thought, many different plants and animals had come from the same ancestors and had changed over time." The problem is that this omits the glaring fact that the father of taxonomy himself, Carl Linnaeus, was not an evolutionist and in fact believed in the fixity of species.

While no one--including Darwin critics--would endorse in the fixity of species today, Linnaeus's views aren't totally irrelevant. He believed that biological groups were built upon common blueprints, and accounted for biological similarities through a view much more like common design rather than common descent. His non-common-descent-based view did not prevent him from inventing the working classification systems for biology that is still used today, 350 years later.

Linnaeus's work proves that we can understand patterns of similarities and differences among biological species without assuming or inferring common descent. Somehow his inconvenient views got left out of the book. And of course, no mention is made of difficulties that scientists are currently facing when trying to fit all of life into a single "tree."

Playing the Mutation Game

Life on Earth mentions the standard evolutionary view that sometimes "something unusual happens and completely new features, called mutations, appear in the next generation." While it acknowledges that "most mutations are harmful" it states that "[s]ometimes, though, they provide an advantage and are passed on." This is of course the standard evolutionary view and students should learn it. But there's no mention of credible scientific critics of the standard Darwinian view of mutation.

Students are thus given a whitewashed version with no mention of the views of Lynn Margulis who believes that "Mutations, in summary, tend to induce sickness, death, or deficiencies. No evidence in the vast literature of heredity changes shows unambigious evidence that random mutation itself, even with geographical isolation of populations, leads to speciation."

Moreover, we're told that "After millions of years, accumulated small differences between one generation and the next have become big differences. ... This is how evolution works." But does the fossil record show evidence of such gradual change? While the book mentions the concept of stasis, there's no hint that highly complex animal forms appear abruptly in the fossil record in the Cambrian explosion, without clear evolutionary precursors. Nor does the book mention that such sudden emergence of fossil groups is a common feature of the history of life.

From Ape to Human

As for human origins, the book states that 5 million years ago "The ancestors of early humans, descended from apes ... are the first apelike animals to walk upright." This is incorrect since there are earlier suspected examples of bipedal apes that are not ancestral to humans. Nonetheless, the graphic in the book shows an ape-like creature with a similar stature to man, as follows:

Intelligent Design is the dingle-berry of science

Once again, critics might accuse me of quibbling over technical details, but the gait of the "apelike" creature is portrayed as being nearly identical to that of humans. Yet even an evolutionist would concede that the alleged hominid ancestors of humans--species like artificially-reconstructed "Ardi" or the better established australopithecines--had a form of locomotion that was at best only semi-bipedal and was very different from that of modern humans.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, and this picture wrongly suggests that our "apelike" ancestors stood much like you and me in terms of posture and stature.

The intent here seems clear: present students with a dumbed-down and whitewashed version of evolution in the hopes that they will "believe in" this simple, neatly packaged version. The problem of course is that this version of evolution is sharply disputed by many credible scientists, and in some cases it's plain wrong.

The "Evolution Readiness Project" curriculum goes far beyond merely reading the book Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution to students. It comes with a set of lesson plans that teachers can use to get students to "believe in" understand evolution.

Next, I will assess some of those lesson plans, and also offer a much-improved lesson plan for teachers who truly want their students to understand evolution objectively.

Posted by Casey Luskin on October 8, 2010 8:15 AM | Permalink

Evolution education update: October 8, 2010

In Israel, the chief scientist in the Ministry of Education is finally sacked over his denial of evolution and global warming, while in Florida, a problematic sidebar will be removed from a marine science textbook. And NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott discussed the continuing relevance of Inherit the Wind with the Los Angeles Times.


Gavriel Avital was dismissed from his position as chief scientist in Israel's ministry of education due to his denial of evolution and global warming, according to Haaretz (October 5, 2010). In February 2010, Avital's views sparked a furor; Haaretz (February 21, 2010) quoted him as saying, "If textbooks state explicitly that human beings' origins are to be found with monkeys, I would want students to pursue and grapple with other opinions. ... Part of my responsibility, in light of my position with the Education Ministry, is to examine textbooks and curricula."

Sa'ar distanced the ministry from Avital's remarks, telling a session of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, that Avital's remarks "are not in line with Education Ministry policy, and are unacceptable to me," as reported in Haaretz (March 4, 2010). But after Avital promised to follow the ministry's policy on evolution and the environment, the controversy seemed to have subsided. Avital's dismissal now appears to be connected to the expiration of what Ynetnews (October 4, 2010) described as "a scandal-filled trial period of less than a year."

Avital told Ynetnews that he was fired "because of an interview I gave to the press, not because I didn't do my job well." He added, "In the interview I expressed my opinion on evolution, science and literature -- there was no negative response to the interview, only good feedback." Yet the responses to his interview included a protest from ten recipients of the Israel Prize -- the country's highest civilian honor -- protesting that his remarks "undermine the standing and importance of science and take us centuries backward," as Haaretz (February 26, 2010) reported.

For the stories in Haaretz, visit:

For the story on Ynetnews, visit:


The antievolution sidebar in a marine science textbook recommended for approval in Florida will be removed. The textbook in question, Life on an Ocean Planet (Current Publishing, 2011), was under fire after the grassroots pro-evolution-education organization Florida Citizens for Science charged that its sidebar on "Questions about the Origin and Development of Life" was "simultaneously actively misinforming, at odds with state standards, and ultimately irrelevant to marine science."

The Orlando Sentinel (September 23, 2010) reported that state education officials stated that the publisher agreed to remove the sidebar, and a week later, the newspaper's education blog (September 30, 2010) quoted excerpts from e-mail correspondence from the publisher to the state department of education confirming that the sidebar would be removed: "We will also review all of the curriculum components and remove any content that refers to the information on these pages."

Eileen Roy, a member of the Alachua County School Board who was on the committee and voted against the textbook's approval, told the Sentinel's blog that she feared that the "very, very egregious ... discussion of evolution" might be reflected in the rest of the textbook. She also said that she worried that, if the textbook were approved, it would be adopted by the Florida county school boards that in 2008 adopted resolutions opposing the proposed improvements to the treatment of evolution in Florida's state science standards.

Subsequently, Dean Allen, the vice president and general manager of Current Publishing, told the Sentinel's education blog (October 4, 2010) that the sidebar was intended to provide a "critical thinking exercise for students" and not to undermine the teaching of evolution. "Everywhere else in the book we teach evolution," he said, "and we teach it to the Sunshine State standards." He confirmed that the sidebar would be removed from both the printed and the electronic version of the textbook.

For FCFS's story, visit:

For the sidebar, visit:

For the Orlando Sentinel's story, visit:

For the posts on the Orlando Sentinel's blog, visit:

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


As the fiftieth anniversary of the film adaptation of Inherit the Wind approached, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott discussed its enduring relevance with the Los Angeles Times (October 2, 2010). Scott, Edward J. Larson (who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book on the Scopes trial, Summer for the Gods), and Karen Kramer and Kat Kramer (the widow and daughter of Stanley Kramer, who directed the film adaptation) participated in a panel discussion on Inherit the Wind at the Malibu Film Society on October 3, 2010.

Karen Kramer, Larson, and Scott all emphasized that Inherit the Wind was not intended as a documentary, with Kramer saying, "It is not about the Scopes trial. It's about freedom of thought, freedom of speech," Scott explaining, "I always tell people, 'Don't look at it as a movie reporting on the Scopes trial,'" and Larson adding, "In the 1950s, everybody realized that. ... What happens was that they set up the Creationists as strawmen for McCarthy and they didn't think there were any Creationists left. But the strawmen outlived the McCarthyites."

Nevertheless, Scott contended, B00005PJ6V "does capture a very important mood that reflects the anti-evolution movement ... That theme is particularly strong in the movie and is central to the Creationist message today: Evolution leads to evil, and evolution means that you can't believe in God and you have no moral rudder." In addition, she suggested that the film retains its appeal simply "because it's a great story. It engages your interest and deals with serious issues. The Scopes character … he does what is right."

For the story in the Los Angeles Times, 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
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Pope Benedict XVI's astronomer - the Catholic Church welcomes aliens


The senior Vatican scientist, Brother Guy Consolmagno, said that he would be delighted if we encountered intelligent aliens and would be happy to baptise them.

His pronouncement opens up the possibility of space missionaries heading out to the stars to convert aliens to Christianity.

Speaking on the eve of addressing the British Science Festival, Dr Consolmangno said he had no problem with science and religion co-existing together.

But he 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 Consolmango is one of a team of 12 astronomers working for the Vatican, said the Catholic Church had been supporting and funding science for centuries.

He said he was "comfortable" with the idea of alien life and asked if he would baptise an alien, he replied "Only if they asked".

"I'd be delighted if we found life elsewhere and delighted if we found intelligent life elsewhere," he said.

"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.

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

He said the characteristics synonymous with having a soul - intelligence, free will, freedom to love and freedom to make decisions may not be unique to humans.

"Any entity – no matter how many tentacles it has has a soul,' he said.

However machines were unlikely to be smart or human-enough to have souls.

Dr Consolmango, 57, the curator of the Pope's meteorite collection, is a trained astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican's observatory.

He worked as a scientist in California for 15 years before turning to the church.

He said "intelligent design" had been "hijacked" by religious fundamentalists.

"The word has been hijacked by a narrow group of Creationist fundamentalists in America to mean something it did not originally mean at all.

"It's another form of the God of the gaps," he said.

'It's bad theology in that it turns God once again into the pagan god of thunder and lightning.'

The phrase 'Intelligent Design' was centuries old and described the idea that God could be discovered in the laws of space and time and the existence of human reason.

The Vatican was 'very aware' of what was going on in the world of science, he added.

The Pontifical Academy of Science, of which Stephen Hawking is a member, kept the senior cardinals and the Pope up-to-date with the latest scientific developments, he said.

The discovery of aliens would raise huge theological problems for the Roman Catholic church that would make the debate over women priests, clerical abstinence and contraception pale into insignificance.

Publisher agrees to cut 'pro-creationism' material from high school science textbook, state officials say


Group that reviewed marine-science book recommended approval only if passage was removed

September 23, 2010|By Leslie Postal, Orlando Sentinel

The publishers of a marine-science textbook that critics say contains pro-creationism material has agreed to remove two offending pages from editions sold to Florida schools, state officials said.

An advisory group, made up mostly of educators, that reviewed the book on CD-ROM last week recommended that "1878663348" be approved only if the pages were cut, a participant said.

The Florida Department of Education said the publisher has agreed. Current Publishing, in California, did not respond to a request for comment.

More Battles over Textbook Curriculum


Author: Jeremy Styron — Published: Oct 05, 2010 at 7:54 pm

In step with the Texas Board of Education's attempts — and successes — in seeking to alter educational curriculum to give materials a more conservative bent, the state of Florida recently approved utilizing a marine science textbook that included a section that opponents say contains the language of creationism and intelligent design.

The textbook, "Life on an Ocean Planet," was approved for use as a whole or, as was later voted, with the sidebar section containing the inaccurate and specious arguments redacted. This article from the St. Petersburg Times quotes a Florida Department of Education spokeswoman as saying the book was adopted with the provision in place to remove the two pages in question. But according to a statement from the Florida Citizens for Science,

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. ... 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.

So, what's in this two page sidebar? The section called "Questions About the Origin and Development of Life" gives lip service to the idea that some questions — for instance, that life might have developed by unnatural forces before evolution got going — deserve our attention. Florida Citizens for Science member Jonathan Smith pulled out a few problem areas he found within the section, which were submitted to the
' education blog:

Skeptics [Read: creationists or anti-evolutionists] observe that general evolution doesn't adequately explain how a complex structure, such as the eye, could come to exist through infrequent random mutations. Such structures consist of multiple integrated components...a subcomponent has no survival advantage by itself, it would not be passed along by natural selection. There's no survival advantage unless all the components exist at once, yet no random mutation process would produce all the required components at the same time. Transitional forms for some specialized characteristics would be expected to have a survival disadvantage, say skeptics. An example is the bat wing...

Smith then commented: "This is a standard creationist trope, well known to be wrong."

Read more: http://blogcritics.org/culture/article/more-battles-over-textbook-curriculum1/#ixzz11rRqx6gj

Yes, "wrong" being the key word.

And about the eye and bat wing: Richard Dawkins has already answered the argument from irreducible complexity, and even Darwin, speaking from the mid-19th century, and astoundingly to me, anticipated that some would attempt to dash his theory of evolution by bring to bear the argument that various organs, like the eye, were irreducibly complex.

But, Dawkins explained in The God Delusion and in The Blind Watchmaker, and in great detail, the usefulness of partial eyesight or partial wing matter. For, as he argues, surely part of a wing is better than no wing. At least with part of a wing, a bat can temper the blow of a fall from the sky. So it is with the eye. My eyesight, for instance, is quite poor when looking at something from a distance, but without the invention of glasses, I would prefer my current level of poor sight to outright blindness. Further, our eyes can function on less complex levels without some of their parts, as in the case of cataract surgery and the removal of the natural lens. So it is with bat wings. Take away a bone or two, and the bat may not be able to fly perfectly, but again, he could temper his fall. Thus, arguments from irreducible complexity break down, and the Florida board of education was quite right to redact this section from the marine science textbook because it gives lip service to theories that have few long since been debunked.

For further reading, here's an interesting look at how Darwin came to develop his theory of evolution by natural selection and his personal journey to accept it in light of what he formerly believed about God and creation.

Israeli educator fired after pushing creationism


Tuesday, October 05, 2010 Ryan Jones

israel today Magazine

Dr. Gabi Avital, the chief scientist of Israel's Education Ministry, was fired on Monday after reiterating his position that evolution is just a theory, and that it should be taught alongside creationism as the two most widely held beliefs regarding how our world originated.

In an interview with Israel's Ma'ariv newspaper last month, Avital insisted that "the conditions [for life on earth] were not accidental. [Charles] Darwin was a great scientist, but he took his theory in dangerous directions, and we need to teach the flaws of that theory, too."

Speaking to Israel National News a day after being fired, Avital insisted the education of Israel's young people is incomplete because it does not take into account the "numerous studies that refute the science of evolution" and show that a human being is not just a "substance without a soul."

Shortly after being appointed to the post of chief scientist in December 2009, Avital advocated for adding creationism to the school curriculum.

The office of Education Minister Gideon Saar (Likud) issued a statement on Monday claiming that Avital had been hired on a trial basis, and that his trial period had simply expired without a decision to keep him on in the position of chief scientists.

But Avital told Israel National News that there was no question that Saar decided not to keep him because of the Ma'ariv interview. "Apparently, he did not like it."

Being a scientist who also believes strongly in the Bible, Avital was regularly attacked by the liberal Israeli media from the moment he was hired by the Education Ministry.

The most vicious attacks came from the radical left-wing newspaper Ha'aretz, which in addition to his views on evolution, faulted Avital for saying global warming is a farce used by liberal environmentalists to advance their political agendas.

Avital has maintained that industry and technology have had only a very minor effect on the global temperatures and the climate in general, and that the "green" agenda is more about economic interests.

Avital noted the ludicrous message that his firing sends - that a chief scientist, a recognized expert, cannot and should not be heard if his findings and views oppose those of the established mainstream.

Israeli government scientist fired for his views on evolution and climate change


Dr Gavriel Avital was sacked for 'denying the tenets of evolution and global warming'

Quite why Dr Gavriel Avital was even selected to be chief scientist at Israel's ministry of education is probably the most intriguing question that hangs over his tenure. But this week we learned that his time in office is no more for he has finally been sacked for the controversial remarks he made this year about evolution and climate change.

The Israeli daily Haaretz is reporting that Gideon Sa'ar, the education minister who installed Avital as his chief scientist on a "trial period" last December, dismissed the former head of aeromechanics at defence firm Elbit Systems and member of the right-leaning Professors for a Strong Israel, over his statements "denying the tenets of evolution and global warming". (Avital also unsuccessful ran for Sa'ar's Likud party in the 2006 Knesset elections.)

The paper reports a ministry official as saying: "Someone who holds the opinions of Avital cannot serve as chief scientist of the education ministry."

Avital responded: "It is Sa'ar's right to fire me. I speak about principles and somebody did not like this."

So what were the comments that led 10 recipients of the Israel prize, including two Nobel prize laureates, to first call for his dismissal in February?

If textbooks state explicitly that human beings' origins are to be found with monkeys, I would want students to pursue and grapple with other opinions. There are many people who don't believe the evolutionary account is correct. There are those for whom evolution is a religion and are unwilling to hear about anything else. Part of my responsibility, in light of my position with the Education Ministry, is to examine textbooks and curricula. If they keep writing in textbooks that the Earth is growing warmer because of carbon dioxide emissions, I'll insist that isn't the case.

But these are not the only remarks by Avital to have raised eyebrows. Previous statements include:

I don't recycle, I put plastic in the trash. The earth will not be harmed, God promised us.

Another scientific field that is problematic is biology, or life and environmental sciences. When your doctrine is based on Darwin's theory of evolution and its implications, you are standing on unreliable foundations – that is, there is no God, there was only something primeval, and then there are certain random developments which led to the apex of all creation, the human being.

A "green crusade" has taken place around the world over the past few years, part of a broader phenomenon that could indeed be called "green religion". Why are environmental organisations pressuring the government over alternative energy that is both unattainable and probably very costly? These questions cannot be avoided. The answers to them are likely to surprise and possibly disappoint. But the moment science is enlisted for political ends – that is, in the name of ideology – questions arise as to the scientific basis of environmental organisations.

This last quote is, perhaps, the most intriguing. The "green religion" meme has been repeated a thousand times by opponents of environmentalism. As with any label of abuse, it reflects both home truths and distortions. But here we have a man – superficially, at least – making the case for environmentalists to employ some critical thinking (unarguably, a good thing), while seemingly being oblivious to the fact that he is so obviously deeply imbued with politics and religion himself.

But, ultimately, what's more unsettling? That a ministry of education's chief scientist can hold such anti-scientific views? Or that a ministry of education would even think to employ someone as its chief scientist with a track record for making such statements?