NTS LogoSkeptical News for 30 October 2010

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Evolution education update: October 29, 2010

The end of two lawsuits involving a teacher preaching creationism in the classroom in Mount Vernon, Ohio, is on the horizon. Kudos for Evolution vs. Creationism from the International Society for Science and Religion. And news of a webcast on "Molecular Insights into Classic Examples of Evolution."

SETTLEMENT IN FRESHWATER CASE IMMINENT

A settlement is in the works in Doe v. Mount Vernon Board of Education et al., the case in which John Freshwater, a Mount Vernon, Ohio, middle school science teacher, was accused of inappropriate religious activity in the classroom -- including displaying posters with the Ten Commandments and Bible verses, branding crosses on the arms of his students with a high-voltage electrical device, and teaching creationism. The Mount Vernon News (October 27, 2010) reports that the parties have signed the agreement, which still must be approved by a judge.

According to the News, "The settlement involves a $300,000 payment by Freshwater's insurer to Stephen and Jenifer Dennis [the Does] to compensate them 'for mental pain and other damages suffered.' The insurer, Ohio Casualty, is the school district's liability carrier, and is involved because Freshwater was a school district employee at the time the lawsuit was filed. A separate payment of $150,000, over the course of the next 13 years, will be used to purchase an annuity for their minor son, Zach Dennis, on whose behalf the lawsuit was originally filed."

Shortly beforehand, on October 21, 2010, Freshwater filed a notice to dismiss his own lawsuit against the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education, which he filed in June 2009 after he was dismissed from employment with the district in June 2008. Freshwater claimed that he had been offered a financial settlement, but Sarah Moore, a lawyer representing the school district, denied it, telling the Columbus Dispatch (October 23, 2010), "I can confirm there was no settlement, and we're not expecting any."

Freshwater told the Associated Press (October 22, 2010) that he abandoned his lawsuit against the board because "it would have interfered with a public airing of his complaint in a different venue" -- presumably the administrative hearing on the termination of his employment, which was conducted intermittently from October 2008 to June 2010. The referee presiding over the hearing has yet to release his decision. (Richard B. Hoppe's detailed reports on the hearing as well as the two lawsuits are available on The Panda's Thumb blog.)

For the story in the Mount Vernon News, visit:
http://www.mountvernonnews.com/local/10/10/27/settlement-signed-by-both-parties-in-civil-lawsuit

For the story in the Columbus Dispatch, visit:
http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2010/10/23/science-teacher-didnt-get-settlement.html

For the Associated Press story (via NPR), visit:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130756286

For Hoppe's reports on The Panda's Thumb blog, visit:
http://pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-search.fcgi?blog_id=2&tag=Freshwater&limit=20

For NCSE's collections of documents from the cases and hearing, visit:
http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/doe-v-freshwater-mv
http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/freshwater-v-mount-vernon
http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/freshwater-termination-hearing

FURTHER KUDOS FOR EVOLUTION VS. CREATIONISM

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism (second edition: Greenwood Press, 2008 and University of California Press, 2009) was recommended by the International Society for Science and Religion as one of 250 central texts in the field of science and religion. In his essay introducing the book for ISSR, the historian Edward J. Larson described it as "an invaluable resource for those seeking to understand the American controversy over creationism and evolution from the perspective of an eloquent and knowledgeable partisan," adding that it "offers an insightful overview of the American controversy over teaching evolution along with a representative sampling of short excerpts from both creationists and evolutionists. By reading it, teachers, parents, students and the public can be better prepared to answer creationist claims and defend the teaching of evolution."

A November 20, 2007, press release from the ISSR explained, "The ISSR, the world's leading learned society in the field of science and religion, will create a foundational library of central texts in the field. This library will consist of approximately 250 books spanning all important areas and disciplines as well as key international and intercultural voices. Upon selection of constituent titles, Society members will write critical essays on each book and these will be collected into a new, stand-alone companion volume, The ISSR Companion to Science and Religion, to be made available through a commercial publisher. ... By the end of this three-year program a basic library in science and religion will exist for the first time. A compact, critical overview will be available in the form of the companion volume, and hundreds of institutions worldwide will provide access for their students, scholars and the general public."

Other books by NCSE members and Supporters in the list include Francisco Ayala's Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion (introduced by NCSE's Peter M. J. Hess), Sean B. Carroll's Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Daniel C. Dennett's Breaking the Spell and Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Taner Edis's An Illusion of Harmony, Ursula Goodenough's The Sacred Depths of Nature, Stephen Jay Gould's Rocks of Ages and Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle, John F. Haught's Deeper than Darwin and Is Nature Enough?, Ernst Mayr's Toward a New Philosophy of Biology, Kenneth R. Miller's Finding Darwin's God, Ronald L. Numbers's The Creationists and his collection Galileo Goes to Jail, Robert T. Pennock's Tower of Babel and his collection Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics, Michael Ruse's Can a Darwinian be a Christian? and Monad to Man, and Elliott Sober's Unto Others (coauthored with David Sloan Wilson).

For the ISSR's list of recommended books, visit:
http://www.issrlibrary.org/the-library/

For Larson's introduction to Evolution vs. Creationism, visit:
http://www.issrlibrary.org/introductory-essays/essay/?title=Evolution%20vs.%20Creationism:%20An%20Introduction&ref=essays

For the press release from ISSR, visit:
http://www.issrlibrary.org/media/

For Hess's introduction to Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion, visit:
http://www.issrlibrary.org/introductory-essays/essay/?title=Darwin%27s%20Gift%20to%20Science%20and%20Religion&ref=library

WEBCAST: MOLECULAR INSIGHTS INTO CLASSIC EXAMPLES OF EVOLUTION

The annual Evolution Symposium at the National Association of Biology Teachers conference will be webcast live from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Central) on November 5, 2010. Entitled "Molecular Insights into Classic Examples of Evolution," the symposium features four exciting speakers whose research in molecular evolution is revolutionizing our understanding of familiar and compelling examples of evolution.

Edmund "Butch" D. Brodie III of the University of Virginia will speak on "Time to change the channel: Predator-prey arms races and the evolution of toxin resistance in snakes"; Allen G. Rodrigo of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center and Duke University will speak on "Rapidly evolving viruses: Studying molecular evolution in real time"; Hopi E. Hoekstra of Harvard University will speak on "From mice to molecules: the genetics of color adaptation"; and NCSE Supporter Sean Carroll of the University of Wisconsin, Madison and Howard Hughes Medical Institutes will speak on "How bugs get their spots: Genetic switches and the evolution of form."

Teachers and students are encouraged to tune in to all or part of the free webcast for an opportunity to hear internationally renowned researchers discuss their fascinating, cutting-edge work in molecular evolutionary biology. Classrooms all over the world will even be able to submit their questions online and have the speakers respond in real time.

To view the webcast, visit http://dukeuniversity.acrobat.com/nabt2010 at 11 am Pacific/12 pm Mountain/1 pm Central/2 pm Eastern and log in as a guest. (Note: It is suggested that groups do this in advance to test the connection and make sure you can access the site without problems. When you log in successfully you will see a "Congratulations" message. If you have problems, please contact eog@nescent.org.)

The Evolution Symposium, presented annually since 2004 at the NABT conference, is cosponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. Videos of previous symposia, and collections of relevant educational resources, are available in CD form from NESCent and on-line from NESCent's website.

For NESCent's press release about the symposium, visit:
https://www.nescent.org/media/NABTSymposium2010.php

For the webcast website, visit:
http://dukeuniversity.acrobat.com/nabt2010

For information about previous symposia, visit:
https://www.nescent.org/media/NABT.php

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
800-290-6006
branch@ncse.com
http://ncse.com

Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter:
http://groups.google.com/group/ncse-news

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

NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!
http://ncse.com/membership


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Two pages a 'threat' to evolutionists

http://www.onenewsnow.com/Education/Default.aspx?id=1216046

Bill Bumpas - OneNewsNow - 10/27/2010 3:55:00 AM

The publishing company of a marine science textbook designed for Florida high schools will remove two sidebar pages that contain what critics call "pro-creationism" material and information that is "bad science."

A spokesman for Current Publishing Corp. recently told the Orlando Sentinel the two pages in Life on an Ocean Planet were intended as a "critical thinking exercise for students." In fact, he noted that "everywhere else in the book, we teach evolution, and we teach it to The Sunshine State standards." But the publishers maintain those two pages seem intent on misinforming students or rehashing discredited ideas.

Casey Luskin, policy analyst at the Discovery Institute, decides that those who favor evolution are intolerant of any scientific challenges.

"You can have a whole book that's pro-evolution, but if you have a couple of pages that just mention the fact that there are some scientists out there who are raising some questions, that's way too much for them," Luskin suggests. "They want pro-Darwin-only, and that's all they're going to allow. As soon as you step out of line, they have to basically rip those pages out of the textbook [and] go and burn those pages. They do not want students learning about anybody that raises scientific challenges to evolution."

He says the real blame for what students are being taught lies with state education officials. "Florida has some of the most dogmatic science standards in the United States that really hamstring teachers from mentioning any scientific discussion of some of the weaknesses in evolution," the policy analyst points out.

Luskin adds that Life on an Ocean Planet is now being sold nationally.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Evolution alternative should be taught

http://www.cw.ua.edu/2010/10/24/evolution-alternative-should-be-taught/

by Ben Friedman

In a country that is becoming more secular, the thought of teaching Judeo-Christian creationism in public schools often seems ridiculous and outdated. As a former atheist, I once believed the assertion that God created the Earth in seven 24-hour periods to be as laughable as the long-discredited assertion that the Earth is flat.

There is certainly a great deal of evidence that can be interpreted to support evolution, and evolution itself is an inherently secular idea surrounded by no real legal qualms.

If one supports teaching creationism in public schools, however, he or she must prove that such teaching a) is both a desirable and constitutional educational goal and b) meets some minimum amount of scientific backing to even qualify it as discussion-worthy.

This column will discuss the constitutional and educational reasons why creationism should be taught alongside evolution, whereas next week's column will discuss the hard science that makes creationism a plausible theory.

A 2004 Gallup Poll indicated that 45 percent of Americans held a Biblical view of creationism. When almost half our population believes in creationism, it can hardly be considered a fringe belief. Though popularity in no way correlates to truth (after all, majorities used to believe in a geocentric universe), when such a belief is that popular, it should at least earn the right to be discussed academically alongside evolution.

At the first mention of teaching creationism, opponents will undoubtedly yell "separation of church and state!" This knee-jerk reaction is inconsistent with the meaning of separation of church and state. Though this phrase can't be found anywhere in the constitution, "separation of church and state" refers to the establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment, which state, respectively, that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or promoting the free exercise thereof."

If the theory of creationism is to be taught in public schools, it should be presented as just that: a theory, and the same should be true of evolution. If creationism were presented as a theory, one could opt to follow if he or she judged the evidence to be sufficient, it would hardly violate the establishment clause. Presenting students with an option is a far cry from pressing unwanted religious beliefs upon them.

Even if these teachings lead some to start believing in a God-created earth, this hardly equates to a religious conversion. One can easily believe the Deist notion that God created the Earth, then stepped out of the picture. Ironically enough, the most famous Deist (Jefferson) was the very man who coined the phrase "separation of church and state."

The creation versus evolution debate is one with great consequences on our lives. Though public-school students can certainly choose to reject evolution, their academic inquiry will likely stop there if they are not given the opposing theory to consider as well. Public schools should promote these debates that will affect our major life choices, not avoid them. By teaching evolution only, debate is avoided.

Political science classes are the perfect example of this. Professors present the merits and downfalls of both liberalism and conservatism without openly endorsing either, thus allowing students to draw their own conclusions.

Some might argue that if we are going to scientifically examine anything other than evolution, we should examine all religions' origins accounts, yet with more than 100 different religions in America, this isn't plausible. It makes most sense to examine the religions (Judaism and Christianity) that represent more than 80 percent of Americans today.

We already accept this type of majority catering in every other subject. Though public school gave me a cursory knowledge of Japanese history and culture, I was taught much more about American history simply because I, and the overwhelming majority of my classmates, had lived in America my entire life.

Some might also argue that it's unnecessary for creationism to be taught in science classrooms because it's already taught in church services and Sunday school. This method of teaching, however appropriate for the setting, only seeks to notify the students that the Earth was created in seven days, not why they should believe it.

Though collegiate religious studies classes may explore creation with a more objective and academic mindset than Sunday school classes, such classes still merely serve to match a religion with a belief. There is understandably no room in their syllabi for the type of inquiry into the natural sciences that might give such creation theories their oomph.

It is only in the science classroom, where students are forced to examine hard evidence from both sides, that they can take the debate seriously enough.

Whether the creationism theory can hold up in such a setting is the debate for next Monday. I'll see you there.

Ben Friedman is a sophomore majoring in social entrepreneurship.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cancer Scams -- FDA Warns Consumers

http://westpalmbeach.injuryboard.com/miscellaneous/cancer-scams-fda-warns-consumers.aspx?googleid=285568

Posted by Alyssa DiEdwardo October 25, 2010 9:57 AM

October is the 25th anniversary of National Breast Cancer Awareness month.

In 2006 191,410 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast Cancer is ranked number one in cancer in women of all nationalities in the USA. According to Global Cancer Facts and Figures published by Cancer.Org it is estimated that of all cancers worldwide 12 million new cancer cases were diagnosed in 2007.

For as many different forms of cancer, there are thousands of treatment protocols. Hearing the words "you have cancer" was surreal, as I witnessed my mother being told of her diagnosis. In spite of the statistics and public awareness, in spite of what I knew, it was a very shocking and confusing time.

In the popular movie and book "The Secret" a woman talks about healing her cancer without drugs, through positive thinking. Hollywood star Cristina Applegate bravely went public with her choice to have a double mastectomy after her breast cancer diagnosis. There are far too many options to be faced in between the choices these two women made for themselves.

The newly diagnosed cancer patient is a lost soul. They are typically without the knowledge and sophistication for dealing with the medical community to find and choose the physicians who will walk the treatment path with them. In most cases, patients are presented with a number of potential treatment options, which are usually confusing and laden with a long list of potential complications and side effects. Often this very complex decision process must be successfully accomplished in the space of a few days or weeks. Sadly, while we all pray for a cure, the most that many breast cancer patients can be offered is palliative treatment and the hope of a disease free future.

Ironically, because of the major breakthroughs in breast cancer detection and treatment, a thriving market has developed, preying on these vulnerable women, and marshalled by unscrupulous manufacturers that make fraudulent and unfounded claims of miracle cures.

The NIH and National Cancer Institute defines "alternative medicine as treatments that you use instead of standard ones. Complementary medicine means nonstandard treatments that you use along with standard ones.

The FDA Does not regulate Complimentary Alternative medicine (CAM) or Dietary Supplements since the enactment of DHSEA in 1994. According to NIH (National Institute of Health, examples of CAM therapies are acupuncture, chiropractic, and herbal medicines. Because dietary or herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA for safety purity and efficacy the spectre of fraudulent marketing looms all around in advertising even found in well known magazines.

Since 2008, The FDA has been making great strides in targeting manufacturers who make fraudulent claims such as "cancer cures" and has sent thousands of warning letters. Additionally the FDA has posted a Consumer Guide when selecting alternative therapies to help spot health frauds and alert the public to companies who have been placed on notice for fraudulent marketing.

Partnering with your trusted health professional and choosing the correct treatment protocol is a personal decision and a choice unique to each individual. The NIH cautions, "to make sure nothing gets in the way of your cancer care, talk to your doctor before you try anything new"


Monday, October 25, 2010

Coons vs. O'Donnell: Does questioning evolution violate U.S. Constitution?

http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/not-your-average-read/2010/oct/24/coons-vs-odonnell-first-amendment-evolution/

Sunday, October 24, 2010 - Not Your Average Read by Amanda Read

Once again, the question of evolution was brought up in the race between the Senate candidates of Delaware, Chris Coons and Christine O'Donnell. The recurring theme of science education and religion is a bewildering campaign topic that has prompted some observers to ask, "So why is Christine O'Donnell spending more time on religion than on taxes?"

It was actually atheist Bill Maher who made religion a trending election topic in the first place. To figure out who revived it, I decided to look past the all-too familiar sophomoric laugh track clip and see what was really going on in that recent debate.

About ten minutes into the debate (which can be viewed in its entirety on the Widener Law school website), the doomful diversion was pitched in the crossfire round by none other than the Democratic candidate himself:

COONS: I have a different view of the Constitution, as does the vast majority of the American public, and many current legal scholars. But the larger point Ms. O'Donnell, really, is that you're not coming clean with the Delaware voters about what your real views are. As we saw in the CNN debate, you repeatedly ran away from answering clear, concise questions, whether from the moderators, from me, from students - to be clear about what your views are on a range of very important issues on which you would have to pass as a U.S. Senator. To say, for example, that it's really a question of local control whether a school district teaches science or teaches religious doctrine misses the basic question. As a repeated candidate for the United States Senate you have made public statements on everything from choice, individual liberty, evolution and others that I do think our voters deserve to hear a clear answer from you on…

O'DONNELL: Great, let me clarify your remarks. Mr. Loudell's question was about marriage, not necessarily about the so called "right to privacy". Now you say that you have a different view of the Constitution. I would agree with you that you do have a different constitution, because in the CNN debate you stated that there were three constitutions, and you don't need to go to any kind of Ivy League school to know that we have but one Constitution - and in all of my remarks it is said that that one Constitution is the Constitution that I will defend. I've made my positions very clear. Everybody knows where I stand on issues. But even where I stand on certain social issues, I will defend our constitutional right to disagree, and I have made that very clear. Our Constitution is not in opposition to my personal beliefs, and it's not in opposition to someone who might have a different position on these social issues than I do. Our Constitution protects our freedom to disagree.

COONS: That's right, and I'm grateful for this chance to continue to disagree. I just hope you'll come clean with the folks of this State and the listeners to this debate…

O'DONNELL: I have come clean on every position.

COONS: …about what your real views are. Well then, answer the question. Do you believe in evolution?

O'DONNELL: What I think about the theory of evolution is irrelevant because I will defend…

COONS: Again, you're dodging the simple question. It's a settled scientific fact.

O'DONNELL: No listen, let me ask you – what is the relevance on that other than campaigning on Sunday mornings (which you tend to do) going to the churches, and you know - do you disagree with the positions that those several churches that you've been attending? I mean,

COONS: I believe that…

O'DONNELL: Are you going to tell them that you're going to…

COONS: …churches have…

O'DONNELL: …show up just to get their votes?

COONS: …the absolute right to believe what ever religious doctrine they wish to. But you cannot impose…

O'DONNELL: And do local schools have the right to teach that?

COONS: They do not. Public schools…

O'DONNELL: Local schools do not have the right to teach what they feel…? Well there you go.

COONS: Religious doctrine does not belong…

O'DONNELL: You want a Senator who is going to impose his beliefs?

COONS: …in our public schools.

O'DONNELL: Talk about imposing your beliefs on the local schools. I'm saying that if a local community wants to teach the theory of evolution, it's up to the school board to decide. But when I made those remarks it was because a school board also wanted to teach the theory of intelligent design, and the government said that they could not.

COONS: That's right.

O'DONNELL: You have just stated that you will impose your will over the local school district, and that is a blatant violation of our Constitution. Do you want a Senator who is going to do that?

COONS: To be clear Ms. O'Donnell, I believe that creationism is religious doctrine and that evolution is broadly accepted…

O'DONNELL: How about the theory of intelligent design?

COONS: Creationism – which you like to call it "theory of intelligent design" – is religious doctrine…

O'DONNELL: No, they're two different things.

COONS: …Evolution is widely accepted, well-defended, scientific fact – and our schools should be teaching science. If we want to instruct our children in religious doctrine, or religious practice as my wife and I choose to, that's wonderful. That's what our churches are for, and that's what private or parochial schools are for. But our public schools should be teaching broadly accepted scientific fact, not religious doctrine.

O'DONNELL: Wow, you've just proved how little you know not just about Constitutional Law, but about the theory of evolution - because the theory of evolution is not a fact, it is indeed a theory. But I'm saying that that theory – if local school districts want to give that theory equal credence to intelligent design, it is their right. You are saying it is not their right. That is what has gotten our country into this position – the overreaching arm of the federal government getting into the business of the local communities. The Supreme Court has always said it is up to the local communities to decide their standards. The reason we're in the mess we're in is because the so-called leaders in Washington no longer view the indispensable principles of our founding as truly that: Indispensable. We're supposed to have limited government, low taxes…

COONS: Ms. O'Donnell, one of those indispensable principles is the separation of church and state.

(Moderator MACARTHUR interrupts briefly)

O'DONNELL: Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?

COONS: It's in…

(Uproarious laughter)

COONS: …no, an excellent point…

MACARTHUR: (Responding to laughter) Hold on, hold on…

---

There are so many things wrong with that exchange that it's challenging to decide where to begin.

It was bizarre enough that when Coons attempted to force O'Donnell to "come clean" on the issues, he thought O'Donnell's views on evolution were what the voters needed to hear most. But Coons almost doomed the debate to nonsensicality with this bogus premise and deduction: Any academic opinion contrary to Darwinian evolution is religious doctrine. Therefore, allowing any academic opinion contrary to Darwinian evolution to be taught in public schools is a violation of the First Amendment.

O'Donnell was correct in differentiating between creationism and the theory of intelligent design. The latter is not a religious doctrine, but rather a scientifically informed opinion that perceives intelligent design to be the most plausible way to describe the complexities of life. For instance, biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins says that intelligent design by extraterrestrial beings could possibly be a plausible idea derived from scientific observation.

Creationism, on the contrary, is the belief in a particular supernatural Creator that initiated the design seen in the universe. Creationism encompasses historical and cultural data as well as scientific data, which sets it apart from mere intelligent design.

Creationism as a whole doesn't need to be taught in the public schools. But to avoid teaching the flaws of Darwinian theory – including the not-so-flattering data and dissenting voices in the scientific establishment – has nothing to do with upholding the First Amendment. It has everything to do with bigotry and disregarding academic freedom.

Coons argued for the validity of the evolutionary theory because he thinks it is "widely accepted, well-defended, scientific fact" (yeah, and so was Aristotelian natural philosophy for about 1,900 years). He isn't keen on tolerating dissenting views in politics, so Coons' simple-minded approach to science is not surprising (though he would probably suddenly find room for tolerance in public schools if Islam was the topic at stake).

Coons has demonstrated himself to be a puppet of left-wing, politically correct ventriloquists. He thinks that the Obama administration made the right choice on health care, the stimulus and the jobs bill – the very things that have most Americans up in arms right now. No wonder Coons has resorted to taking advantage of the liberal media's cheap attack on the Tea Party movement: "Clueless Christian extremists one step away from Timothy McVeigh" (the terrorist who, ironically, was agnostic and said that science was his religion).

Yet what is most disturbing is to see a senatorial candidate essentially define public skepticism of Darwinian theory as a violation of the U.S. Constitution (the original authors of which, incidentally, did not likely believe in evolution).

Fallaciously – but smoothly – Coons invoked the legendary notion of "Separation of Church and State" to seal his case. Everybody from Rush Limbaugh to Dictionary.com has since doled out a response, clarifying that the famous phrase, of course, is not mentioned in the First Amendment. That Amendment simply makes it clear that the United States is not to have a state-sponsored religion, nor is it to prohibit the free exercise of religion (among other things).

Furthermore, the separation of these two important aspects of society can mean different things. In an ideal world, Church and State function in separate domains without interference. For instance, Church should not orchestrate imprisonment, capital punishment, etc. and State should not have to be burdened with ministering to the poor. Thus, "Separation of Church and State" is reasonable systematically.

But ideologically, one cannot separate Church from State anymore than one can separate soil from trees. President George Washington himself said that "Religion and Morality are indispensable supports" of government (there are your indispensable principles, Mr. Coons). It is futile to attempt to purge the presence of faith and independent thought from public affairs.

As O'Donnell said, "the overreaching arm of the federal government getting into the business of the local communities" is far more threatening in this country than Christianity or a non-Darwinian scientific opinion. Most voters ought to be aware of that.

Amanda Read is a scholar who never set foot in school, a Southerner without an accent, a Christian who hasn't been a churchgoer in 16 years and a college student who lives with eight younger siblings. A writer and artist, she blogs at www.amandaread.com and is the author of the historical drama screenplay "The Crusading Chemist." Amanda is majoring in history and minoring in political science at Jacksonville State University.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

qigong in Yellow Springs

http://ysnews.com/news/2010/10/qigong-in-yellow-springs

By Aaron Zaremsky Published: October 23, 2010

"Qigong" encompasses numerous meanings in a single word. It represents the various Ancient Chinese methods of physical and mental exercise, martial arts and even self-enlightenment on top of all that. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners use it to cure diseases, Buddhist monks in China use it as a meditation practice, and many people in the Modern West now practice it as alternative medicine.

There are four types of Qigong training: dynamic, static, meditative and activities utilizing external agents. Dynamic Qigong is perhaps the most recognizable, as it involves the slow, methodical movements that we usually associate with martial arts such as Tai Chi (Fun fact, Qigong is actually the precursor to Tai Chi). Static involves holding a posture for a certain amount of time. Meditative Qigong's goal is to quiet the mind and look within, and the last type utilizes items such as food or drink to help facilitate the flow of "Qi", which is Mandarin for air, breath and gas. Many Asian schools of thought believe Qi to be the energy that flows within us, a parallel to the Western concept of a soul.

The history and variances of practice are complicated indeed, but the movements are quite simple. The exercises consist of no more than subtle dips in the knees and slow yet graceful flourishing of the arms. The Senior Center hosts regular Qigong sessions in their back room, usually in the early afternoon/late morning. Look them up in the paper and try a session. I found myself quite relaxed just listening to the flute music on the DVD of Wing Cheung, a favorite instructor amongst the Center.

Kansas joins movement toward national education standards

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2010/oct/24/kansas-joins-movement-toward-national-education-st/

By Mark Fagan

October 24, 2010

Kansas education officials now have joined 37 other states in adopting national proficiency standards for reading and math.

And science could be next.

The movement toward national standards — the Kansas State Board of Education joined the program earlier this month — comes with plenty of advantages, said Rick Doll, superintendent of the Lawrence school district.

Among them is snuffing the likelihood of political flare-ups, such as the off-and-on debate over whether Kansas should de-emphasize the teaching of evolution in public schools.

"What we teach in school should not be dependent on the political leanings of a governing body," Doll said. "With this, there's less chance of that happening."

While each local school district still controls its respective curriculum, the state uses assessments and other standardized tests to set expectations for all students to achieve. Because the state now has agreed to accept national standards for reading and math, each district soon will be working toward educating its students to meet the new standards.

The standards, known as Common Core Standards, are devised through a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Kansas is the 38th state to join the program, designed to establish common expectations for students preparing for college or pursuit of a career.

Among other states already signed on are California, Florida, New York, Illinois and Ohio, along with Kansas neighbors Oklahoma, Colorado and Missouri.

Having common standards will help ensure that students coming into Kansas from participating states will arrive having worked toward the same standards in education as their new classmates, said Janet Waugh, chairwoman of the Kansas State Board of Education.

And once the folks behind Common Core Standards turn their attention to science and social studies, she said, chances will be improved that evolution will remain a small-yet-important portion of everyone's educational expectations.

'Mainstream' approach

"They will use experts from every field, plus a lot of other people, to write the standards," said Waugh, a Democrat whose district represents eastern Lawrence, Eudora, Baldwin City and all of Jefferson, Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties. "I think it will reflect the mainstream opinion of what the standards should be — 'mainstream' would be the mainstream science community, the mainstream history community and the mainstream social studies community. That's mainstream.

"To me, science, history or government should not be based on historical opinion. They should be based on scientific or historical fact."

Deciding just where that scientific fact resides has been a political battleground during the past dozen years, at least at the state level in Kansas. Back in 1999, during Waugh's first year on the state board of education, a majority of members voted to add the teaching of creationism to the state's science standards.

Two years later, however, voters had elected enough new board members to join Waugh and others in eliminating creationism from the standards.

The issue flared up again a few years ago, this time with proponents of "intelligent design" being elected to the board. A majority soon voted to de-emphasize the teaching of evolution in schools, a move that — again — would be overturned after the next board election.

Waugh concedes that while political discussion continues, the move toward common standards should help focus the board's energy on other issues: how to improve student achievement, and ways to gets students ready for success beyond the classroom.

"Evolution — that's what we're known for," Waugh said. "That's the one question we're always asked: 'What's your position on evolution? What's your position on science?'

"The politics need to be out of it. We need to focus on teaching all kids at high levels, and make sure they're prepared, when they graduate, for a career or post-secondary education — whatever they desire. That's what we need to focus on."

Balanced effort

The Core Common Standards should help, Doll said. And it's important to remember that such standards will not be the end of the discussion.

Each state adopting the core standards may opt to add content to the standards, expanding them by as much as 15 percent. Such additional standards would be just that — additional — and come on top of the national expectations for proficiency agreed to by other participating states.

Doll is confident that the core standards will help Kansas both maintain and improve its strong standing in education, all while moving closer to avoiding the political discussions that might get in the way.

"You have to have everybody at the table," Doll said, of efforts to establish standards. "All points of view should be expressed. Everybody should be at the table, but the table should be balanced.

"With national common standards, it's (easier to have) the ability to balance standards."


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Books: What they're reading

http://news.guelphmercury.com/Life/Books/article/708225

October 22, 2010

Virginia Gillham is chair of the group Friends of the Guelph Public Library. She recently read:

The Greatest Show on Earth

By Richard Dawkins

(Free Press, 496 pages, $19.99 softcover)

"This a readable summary of the science supporting evolution as fact. The scientific explanations, and the analogies to interpret them, which the author employs, are both interesting and helpful, but the real reason the book was written was to refute the trend to treat creationism or 'intelligent design' as an equally valid point of view.

"The author demonstrates beyond a doubt for any thinking reader that an overwhelming amount of compelling evidence confirms evolution as an absolute fact. The author himself discards the Bible completely; however he notes that enlightened theologians are able to accept the fact of evolution as entirely compatible with the Bible if the reader understands that many of the stories in the Bible are illustrative and not intended to be interpreted literally."

Evolution education update: October 22, 2010

Five years on, New Scientist addresses the aftermath of Kitzmiller v. Dover. The Supreme Court declines to review ACSI v. Stearns. NCSE's Glenn Branch, Eugenie C. Scott, and Joshua Rosenau's "Dispatches from the Evolution Wars" is published in Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics. No fewer than three international organizations of museums and science centers add their voices for evolution. And NCSE offers a free excerpt from Edward J. Larson's Summer for the Gods.

NEW SCIENTIST ON THE DOVER ANNIVERSARY

Five years after Kitzmiller v. Dover, the case establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools, New Scientist (October 20, 2010) reports on the continuing aftermath, in Dover, Pennsylvania, and beyond. Plaintiff Cyndi Sneath, now a member of the Dover Area School Board, said, "My interest in public education and civil liberties was certainly sparked by the trial," and fellow plaintiff Robert Eschbach, a teacher, commented that the trial "forced me to be a better educator ... I went back and read more of the history around Darwin and how he came to his conclusions."

In the meantime, the "intelligent design" movement was not idle, with its greatest success the passage and enactment of Louisiana's so-called Science Education Act in 2008. Barbara Forrest -- a philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University, a member of NCSE's board of directors, and a witness for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller -- told New Scientist, "Louisiana is the only state to pass a state education bill based on the Discovery Institute's template." (A list of attempts to pass "academic freedom" antievolution bills is given in Branch, Scott, and Rosenau's "Dispatches from the Evolution Wars.")

After reviewing the continuing efforts to undermine the teaching of evolution in Louisiana -- including a policy governing supplementary materials in the state's classrooms that would enable the promotion of creationism as well as a proposal to teach creationism in Livingston Parish -- the article concludes, "Five years after the landmark case, the battle for science education continues. But for the plaintiffs and their representatives this does not detract from the achievement. Their lead attorney, Eric Rothschild [of Pepper Hamilton LLP], sums it up: 'If we'd lost, intelligent design would be all over the place now'."

For the article in New Scientist, visit:
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20827833.000-creationism-lives-on-in-us-public-schools.html

For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/louisiana

For "Dispatches from the Evolution Wars," visit:
http://ncse.com/news/2010/10/dispatches-from-evolution-wars-006257

And for NCSE's collection of information about Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit:
http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/intelligent-design-trial-kitzmiller-v-dover

THE END OF ACSI V. STEARNS

On October 12, 2010, the Supreme Court declined to review Association of Christian Schools International et al. v. Roman Stearns et al., thus bringing the case to a definitive end. The case, originally filed in federal court in Los Angeles on August 25, 2005, centered on the University of California system's policies and statements relevant to evaluating the qualifications of applicants for admission. The plaintiffs -- the Association of Christian Schools International, the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, California, and a handful of students at the school -- charged that the university system violated the constitutional rights of applicants from Christian schools whose high school coursework is deemed inadequate preparation for college.

Creationism was prominent in the case. The plaintiffs objected to the university system's policy of rejecting high school biology courses that use creationist textbooks as "inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community." Michael Behe, a proponent of "intelligent design" creationism, served as a scientific expert witness for the plaintiffs, although his defense of the creationist biology textbooks was unavailing. Wendell Bird, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, is a former employee of the Institute for Creation Research; he defended Louisiana's 1981 "equal time" act all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was ruled to violate the Establishment Clause in the decision in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987).

Relying in part on the view of defendants' expert witnesses Donald Kennedy and Francisco J. Ayala (a Supporter of NCSE) that the creationist textbooks were not appropriate for use in a college preparatory biology course, the trial judge in ACSI v. Stearns granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on August 8, 2008. The plaintiffs appealed the decision, but in a January 12, 2010, ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision, which is now reaffirmed by the Supreme Court's decision not to review the case. Documents from the case are available on NCSE's website, in a special section devoted to ACSI v. Stearns.

For the Supreme Court's order (PDF, p. 12), visit:
http://www.supremecourt.gov/orders/courtorders/101210zor.pdf

For NCSE's collection of documents from the case, visit:
http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/acsi-v-stearns

"DISPATCHES FROM THE EVOLUTION WARS"

"Dispatches from the Evolution Wars: Shifting Tactics and Expanding Battlefields," a review article by NCSE's Glenn Branch, Eugenie C. Scott, and Joshua Rosenau, was published in Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics (2010; 11: 317-338). The abstract:

Creationism continues to present a challenge to the teaching of evolution in the United States. With attempts to ban evolution education and to "balance" the teaching of evolution with creationism unavailing, creationists are increasingly favoring the approach of misrepresenting evolution as scientifically controversial. To understand the ongoing challenges facing evolution education in the United States, it is necessary to appreciate creationist actions at the different levels of educational governance -- state legislatures, state boards of education, local boards of education, and finally the individual classroom -- that serve as the battlegrounds for the evolution education wars. Scientists are in a unique position to defend the teaching of evolution, both by resisting creationist incursions as they occur and by helping to improve the teaching of evolution at both the precollege and college levels.

Complimentary access to a PDF version of the article for personal use is available from Annual Reviews via NCSE's website, but further/multiple distribution, publication, and commercial usage requires permission from the Annual Reviews Permission Department.

Published annually since 2000, the Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics covers significant developments in the field of genomics as they apply to human genetics and the human genome; it is widely considered to be a leading journal in genetics and heredity.

For the link to the PDF version of the article, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/2010/10/dispatches-from-evolution-wars-006257

THREE MUSEUM ORGANIZATIONS ADD THEIR VOICE FOR EVOLUTION

The chorus of support for the teaching of evolution continues, with statements from the Association of Science-Technology Centers; Ecsite, the European Network of Science Centres and Museums; and NATHIST, the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Natural History.

The statement from the Association of Science-Technology Centers affirms, "ASTC and its members -- science centers and museums around the world -- present information based on scientific evidence. ASTC's members are committed to advancing the public understanding of science and contributing to the development of a scientifically literate society." With regard to evolution, it states, "Evolutionary theory is central to modern science." ASTC's members include nearly 600 members in forty-five countries.

The statement from Ecsite explains that its "policy for public engagement is to present the theory of evolution as the best explanation for the ongoing generation of diversity of life on Earth." It also "strongly endorses the teaching of the theory of evolution in European schools as a core part of the science curriculum and we urge that views such as creationism and intelligent design should not be taught as science." Ecsite's members include more than 400 institutions in fifty countries.

And the statement from NATHIST describes evolution as "the best current explanation for how the diversity of life around us came to exist. It remains the only compelling scientifically rigorous account of how life evolved on our planet for which a great deal of empirical evidence has been accumulated in natural history collections," and endorses the presentation of evolution in public engagement activities. NATHIST is one of the International Committees of the International Council of Museums, representing 30,000 museum professionals across the globe.

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

For the statements, visit:
http://www.astc.org/resource/education/evolution.htm
http://www.ecsite.eu/?p=17
http://www.ggwinter.de/icom/fpe.htm

And for information on Voices for Evolution, visit:
http://ncse.com/voices

REVISITING SUMMER FOR THE GODS

NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Edward J. Larson's Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion (Basic Books, 1997; reissued with a new afterword, Basic Books, 2006). The excerpt, from chapter 7, presents the first days of the Scopes trial in 1925. A high point was the testimony of Maynard Metcalf, a zoologist at the University of Chicago who was the only scientific expert witness permitted to testify: "'The fact of evolution is a thing that is perfectly and absolutely clear,' the professor began. 'But there are many points -- theoretical points as to the methods by which evolution has been brought about -- that we are not yet in possession of scientific knowledge to answer. We are in possession of scientific knowledge to answer directly and fully the question: "Has evolution occurred?"'" Summer for the Gods received the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1998; Ronald L. Numbers described it as "quite simply, the best book ever written on the Scopes trial and its place in American history and myth."

For the excerpt (PDF), visit:
http://ncse.com/files/pub/evolution/Excerpt--summer.pdf

For information about Summer for the Gods, visit:
http://www.perseusbooksgroup.com/basic/book_detail.jsp?isbn=046507510X

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
800-290-6006
branch@ncse.com
http://ncse.com

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http://groups.google.com/group/ncse-news

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Scientists in hiding

http://newstaging.spectator.widearea.co.uk/the-magazine/features/6273393/scientists-in-hiding.thtml

Christopher Booker
Saturday, 18th September 2010

Academics who dare to question the scientific establishment's consensus on Darwinism or global warming increasingly find themselves ostracised and demonised

Three months ago I spent a fascinating few days in a villa opposite Cap Ferrat, taking part in a seminar with a dozen very bright scientists, some world authorities in their field. Although most had never met before, they had two things in common. Each had come to question one of the most universally accepted scientific orthodoxies of our age: the Darwinian belief that life on earth evolved simply through the changes brought about by an infinite series of minute variations.

The other was that, on arriving at these conclusions, they had come up against a wall of hostility from the scientific establishment. Even to raise such questions was just not permissible. One had been fired as editor of a major scientific journal because he dared publish a paper sceptical of Darwin's theory. Another, the leading expert on his subject, had only come lately to his dissenting view and had not yet worked out how to admit this to his fellow academics for fear that he too might lose his post.

So embedded in our culture is the assumption that Darwin was right that few realise that it was Darwin himself who first raised some of the most basic objections to his own theory. If each form of life gradually evolved through tiny variations, as he asked in The Origin of Species, why does every fossil we find so identifiably belong to a discrete species? Where are all the 'intermediate forms' between one species and another? How could his gradualist theory account for all those complex organs, such as the eye, which require so many interdependent changes to take place simultaneously? How could it account for those startling 'evolutionary leaps', when all sorts of changes emerged together in an improbably short time, such as those needed to transform land mammals into whales in barely two million years?

As Darwin himself raised each of these objections, it is almost comical to see how he could not give any coherent answer. The fossil record, he argued, was incomplete; one day we would find those 'missing forms'. And however sophisticated our latter-day neo-Darwinians such as Richard Dawkins imagine themselves to be, they have no more been able to prove their theory as fact than Darwin himself. They are simply 'believers' taking a leap of faith, just like those Biblical 'Creationists' they love to despise. And nothing better reveals the hole at the heart of their belief system than the fanaticism with which they turn on anyone who dares question the assumption on which it rests, who must be anathematised with all the venom once turned on heretics by the churches.

Some years back, a number of expert scientists came together in America to share their conviction that, in light of the astonishing intricacies of construction revealed by molecular biology, Darwin's gradualism could not possibly account for them. So organisationally complex, for instance, are the structures of DNA and cell reproduction that they could not conceivably have evolved just through minute, random variations. Some other unknown factor must have been responsible for the appearance of these 'irreducibly complex' micro-mechanisms, to which they gave the name 'intelligent design'.

But the response of the Darwinians has not been to engage in debating these very serious questions but simply to scorn them, caricaturing anyone who raises them as a 'neo-Creationist', no different to those zealots who take Genesis as literally true.

To some of us taking part in that seminar in the south of France, including a world-renowned atmospheric physicist, another instance of this pattern of intolerance was equally familiar. We have seen a remarkably similar response from the scientific establishment to anyone dissenting from that other dominating theory of our time, that rising CO2 levels caused by human activity are leading to runaway global warming.

Right from the start, one of the more conspicuous features of the global warming cause has been the way its adherents felt the need to elevate their belief system into a rigid orthodoxy, a 'consensus' not to be challenged. They deal with challenges not through scientific debate, but by denouncing the dissenters as being beyond the pale.

The 'sceptics' are demonised as Flat Earthers, equivalent to Holocaust deniers, who could only hold the views they do because they have been paid to do so by 'Big Oil'. The only debate which can be allowed, as we saw confirmed by those Climategate emails, is that between the believers themselves, while anyone outside the faith, however knowledgeable, must be vilified as a dangerous heretic, excluded from scientific journals, forbidden to examine the often highly suspect data and condemned as being 'anti-science'.

Such fanatical intolerance, in defence of pseudo-scientific causes which reflect the prejudices of the age, has become only too common. A notorious example was the ruthless attempt to suppress the most rigorous study ever carried out into the effects of passive smoking. When this mammoth 40-year project by two non-smokers found the health risks of environmental tobacco smoke to be negligible, its sponsors, the American Cancer Society, withdrew their funding. Not a single US scientific journal would publish their work. They were subjected to sustained vilification even by their own universities. Their findings only saw light of day when the editor of the British Medical Journal decided, in the name of scientific principle, that such scrupulous research should no longer be suppressed.

Our host in France, a thoughtful and youngish billionaire, prefaced our seminar by questioning how science in our time has become hijacked by the politics of correct-thinking orthodoxies, turning any dissent into a 'thought crime'. Inevitably we think of parallels from the past, ranging from the Church's suppression of Galileo to Stalin ruling that the dotty doctrine of Lysenko should become unchallengeable Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy. We look back on such perversions with lofty contempt. But the truth is that our own age has fallen prey to the same corrupting of the authority of science — and on an unprecedented scale.

Christopher Booker is a columnist on the Sunday Telegraph and author of The Real Global Warming Disaster.

The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, London, SW1H 9HP. All Articles and Content Copyright ©2007 by The Spectator (1828) Ltd.

Glenn Beck calls evolution 'ridiculous,' says he's never seen a half-human, half-monkey

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/10/21/2010-10-21_glenn_beck_calls_evolution_ridiculous_says_hes_never_seen_a_halfhuman_halfmonkey.html?r=news/national

BY Sean Alfano
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Thursday, October 21st 2010, 8:57 AM

Glenn Beck thinks the theory of evolution is a bunch of monkey business.

The wildly popular Fox News host Wednesday called the idea that humans evolved from primates "ridiculous."

While the deeply religious Beck denouncing evolution isn't a shock, his defense was a head-scratcher: "I haven't seen a half-monkey, half-person yet. Did evolution just stop?"

Scientists have shown humans and chimpanzees share roughly 96% of the same DNA. Chimps are classified as apes, not monkeys.

Beck, however, is only interested in what God has to say on the matter.

"I don't know how God creates. I don't know how we got here," Beck said. "If I get to the other side and God's like, 'You know what, you were a monkey once,' I'll be shocked, but I'll be like, 'Whatever.'"

The most recent polls on the debate show Beck is certainly not alone in his dismissal of evolution. More than 40% told a 2006 Pew survey that humans have only existed in our present form and of the 51% who did accept evolution, 21% said it was guided by a "supreme being."

CBS News' 2005 poll found more than 50% rejected evolution.

Beck equated the argument to global warming, which he says scientists, along with evolution, "force it down your throat."

"When anybody has to force it, that's a problem. You didn't have to force that the world is round. Truth is truth. You don't have to force the truth."

salfano@nydailynews.com

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/10/21/2010-10-21_glenn_beck_calls_evolution_ridiculous_says_hes_never_seen_a_halfhuman_halfmonkey.html?r=news/national#ixzz13BGl3kt0

NHS HOMEOPATHY CLINIC FACING AXE

http://www.dailyexpress.co.uk/posts/view/206870/NHS-homeopathy-clinic-facing-axe/

Friday October 22,2010
By Judith Duffy

SCOTLAND'S second biggest health board is planning to axe an alternative medicine centre amid criticism of scarce NHS resources being used to fund unproven homeopathic treatments.

The service at Dalkeith, which covers Edinburgh, the Lothians and the south of Scotland, has a waiting list of five years.

But NHS Lothian is conducting a review of the centre, with sources confirming that the likely outcome will be the withdrawal of its £70,000-a-year funding.

The move is said to have been prompted by financial pressures and warnings from medical experts that homeopathy has no proven clinical benefit for patients.

Earlier this year, the British Medical Association (BMA) recommended there should be no further NHS cash spent on homeopathy.

The BMA has also called for the funding of Scotland's only homeopathic hospital, in Glasgow, to cease, unless the effectiveness of the treatments used there can be proved.

However, the plans to axe the service at Dalkeith Medical Practice have prompted criticism from supporters of alternative medicine.

The closure would mean patients in the area would have to be referred to the homeopathic service in Glasgow or to private clinics in the Lothians.

Retired GP Dr Michael Wilson, who helped establish the centre, said there had been no public consultation on the possible closure.

He said: "The homeopathic clinic has been a most useful resource for treating a wide range of people.

"It took a heck of a long time to get going, and the chances of getting it ­going again are slim."

Patient Bosco Santimano, who uses the service, said: "Homeopathic medicines work for us and give no side effects."

Gerry Power, general manager for the East and Midlothian community health partnerships, said no final decision had been made about the future of the service.

He added: "We are currently reviewing our homeopathy service in Dalkeith in light of the British Medical Association's recommendation. This involves taking the views of a number of partners, including members of the Public Partnership Forum."

Earlier this month, NHS Highland decided to phase out funding for homeopathic remedies in the area, which costs around £13,000 a year.

Director of public health Dr Margaret Somerville said experts had concluded that homeopathy is "no better than a placebo". However, in August, the Daily Express revealed that NHS Tayside was recruiting a £70,000-a-year "speciality doctor in homeopathy" in the midst of a £30million economy drive.

Disgruntled scientists and medical professionals subsequently submitted around a dozen spoof applications for the post in the wake of an internet campaign.

Glenn Beck Final Stand on Evolution

http://thebrilliantstories.com/glenn-beck-final-stand-on-evolution/452721/

22 October 2010 | posted by: Margery Zimmerman

Glenn Beck has gone ahead and seen mischief on the whole story of evolution that man could never have been a monkey. The well-known Fox News anchor Wednesday termed the theory of evolution crazy. While making a mockery of the whole story of evolution, the devoted Christian wondered what happened to evolution as no more primates were being transformed.

Researchers have proved that human beings and the chimpanzee family had about 96% similar DNA. Chimps fall in the class of apes and not monkeys. To his aid, Mr. Beck is only concerned with what God has expresses on the whole issue.

Glenn Beck Evolution isn't True

Still mesmerized on how the creation happened, he affirmed that he had no idea how humans came into being. After the current life, mused that if he meets God and confirms that he created a monkey and not humans, he would be shocked.

A research by Pew survey, 2006, revealed about 40% of those interviewed was supportive of Mr. Beck in their dismissal of the whole story of evolution. This stands at 11% below the number of believers of the whole theory of gradual development, with 21% of them believing that it was led by a "super natural creature."

A 2005 CBS News research reported over half of those interviewed were not believers of evolution.

Mr. Beck claims evolution is just like the way global warming is being forced into people by scientists, adding that the truth should always stand just as the earth is a sphere and no one should be forced to believe it.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Alternative Biomedical Treatments for Autism: How Good Is the Evidence?

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=alternative-biomedical-treatments

Research on only one treatment is rigorous enough to earn an A grade

By Nancy Shute |October 7, 2010 | 6

The International Energy Agency predicts that fossil fuels will continue to meet the bulk of rising energy demand for decades to come, but they are currently responsible for 60% of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions. So, managing CO2 emissions from coal, oil and natural gas is crucial in tackling climate change.

Which steps do you think should be prioritized when reducing emissions from fossil fuels? (Check all that apply)

Desperation Drives Parents to Dubious Autism Treatments .Parents who research treatments for autism are confronted with a bewildering array of options, almost all of which have never been tested for safety and effectiveness. Organizations like The Cochrane Collaboration, which reviews the quality of evidence for medical treatments, are putting more effort into evaluating popular alternative treatments.

So far, the most comprehensive review of alternative autism treatments comes from two pediatricians: Susan Hyman of the University of Rochester School of Medicine Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong and Susan Levy, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Their 2008 analysis gave each treatment a letter grade for the quality of the research conducted up to that point; the mark, however, is not a ranking of the treatment's safety or effectiveness.

The two pediatricians based the grades on the amount of testing done on the treatments, which in most cases was skimpy at best. Research that got an "A" grade included randomized control trials, the gold standard for medical research, and meta-analyses, which compare research from different labs. A "B" went to treatments that had been studied in "well-designed controlled and uncontrolled trials," according to Hyman. The "C" grades, the lowest category (there were no "D"s or "F"s), were based on case reports, theories and anecdotes, which are not considered acceptable for mainstream medical research.

Research on just one treatment, secretin, was good enough to earn an A. In short, there is a lot more work that needs to be done toward testing popular alternative treatments and getting more potential treatments into development at research institutions and pharmaceutical companies.

Dietary supplements

B6/Mg++—Grade: B

Vitamin B6 and magnesium have been a popular treatment for autism over the past 20 years. The Cochrane Review identified three studies that compared outcomes of B6 and magnesium treatment with those for placebo or no treatment, but just 28 subjects were treated altogether. One study found no improvements; another reported improvement in IQ and social behaviors. But all the studies suffered methodological weaknesses aside from the small sample size.

DMG—Grade: B

Dimethylglycine (DMG), an antioxidant and derivative of the amino acid glycine, is marketed as an immune system booster. Two small double-blind studies of DMG found it had no effect on autism symptoms.

Melatonin—Grade: B

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland that regulates sleep. Melatonin supplements are popular for self-treating insomnia or jet lag. Many people with autism-spectrum disorders report sleeping problems, and at least one study has found improvements in falling asleep and staying asleep.

Vitamin C—Grade: B

Vitamin C, an antioxidant, is often part of vitamin supplements given to children with autism. One study reported less repetitive behavior in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of vitamin C in 18 children with autism.

Amino Acids—Grade: C; L-Carnosine—Grade: B

Neurotransmitter abnormalities have long been a focus of autism research. Some amino acids act as neurotransmitters or prompt their production, so amino acids like tryptophan have been tried as alternative treatments. No trials have studied the benefits of supplementation with tryptophan, taurine, lysine or GABA. L-carnosine, a molecule made of two amino acids that has antioxidant properties, is marketed as an anti-aging remedy. One double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of L-carnosine in 31 children with autism found improved expressive and receptive vocabulary.

Creationism lives on in US public schools

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20827833.000-creationism-lives-on-in-us-public-schools.html

20 October 2010 by John Farrell

IN DOVER, Pennsylvania, five years ago, a group of parents were nearing the end of an epic legal battle: they were taking their school board to court to stop them teaching "intelligent design" to their children.

The plaintiffs eventually won their case, and on 16 October many of them came together for a private reunion. Yet intelligent design and the creationism for which it is a front are far from dead in the US, and the threat to the teaching of evolution remains.

Cyndi Sneath was one of the Dover plaintiffs who had a school-age son at the time of the trial. She has since become an active member of the American Civil Liberties Union and a member of the Dover Area School Board. "My interest in public education and civil liberties was certainly sparked by the trial," she says. "And that interest permeates our family discussions."

Chemistry teacher Robert Eschbach, who was also a plaintiff, says the trial has made teachers less afraid to step on people's toes when it comes to evolution. It "forced me to be a better educator", he says. "I went back and read more of the history around Darwin and how he came to his conclusions."

None of this means that the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based think tank that promotes intelligent design, has been idle. The institute helped the conservative Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), headed by Christian minister Gene Mills, to pass a state education act in 2008 that allows local boards to teach intelligent design alongside evolution under the guise of "academic freedom".

Philosopher Barbara Forrest of Southeastern Louisiana University, another key witness for the Dover plaintiffs in 2005, testified against the Louisiana education act. "Louisiana is the only state to pass a state education bill based on the Discovery Institute's template," she says. Similar measures considered in 10 other states were all defeated.

Forrest heads the Louisiana Coalition for Science, and has been monitoring developments since the bill passed. In January 2009, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved a policy that prevents Louisiana school boards from stopping schools using supplementary creationist texts hostile to evolution, such as books published by the Discovery Institute.

Mills has now made public his desire to change the process for selecting biology textbooks statewide. In one Louisiana township, Livingston Parish, creationist board members have proclaimed their desire to have creationism taught alongside evolution in the next academic year. "This is happening with no outcry from the media or from the scientific community in Louisiana," Forrest says.

Since Dover, states wanting to teach alternatives to established science have used deliberately vague language. In 2008, Louisiana passed a law requiring "open and objective discussion" of climate change, evolution and human cloning. Five years after the landmark case, the battle for science education continues. But for the plaintiffs and their representatives this does not detract from the achievement. Their lead attorney, Eric Rothschild, sums it up: "If we'd lost, intelligent design would be all over the place now".

The end of ACSI v. Stearns

http://ncse.com/news/2010/10/end-acsi-v-stearns-006258

October 19th, 2010California

On October 12, 2010, the Supreme Court declined (PDF, p. 12) to review Association of Christian Schools International et al. v. Roman Stearns et al., thus bringing the case to a definitive end. The case, originally filed in federal court in Los Angeles on August 25, 2005, centered on the University of California system's policies and statements relevant to evaluating the qualifications of applicants for admission. The plaintiffs — the Association of Christian Schools International, the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, California, and a handful of students at the school — charged that the university system violated the constitutional rights of applicants from Christian schools whose high school coursework is deemed inadequate preparation for college.

Creationism was prominent in the case. The plaintiffs objected to the university system's policy of rejecting high school biology courses that use creationist textbooks as "inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community." Michael Behe, a proponent of "intelligent design" creationism, served as a scientific expert witness for the plaintiffs, although his defense of the creationist biology textbooks was unavailing. Wendell Bird, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, is a former employee of the Institute for Creation Research; he defended Louisiana's 1981 "equal time" act all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was ruled to violate the Establishment Clause in the decision in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987).

Relying in part on the view of defendants' expert witnesses Donald Kennedy and Francisco J. Ayala (a Supporter of NCSE) that the creationist textbooks were not appropriate for use in a college preparatory biology course, the trial judge in ACSI v. Stearns granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on August 8, 2008. The plaintiffs appealed the decision, but in a January 12, 2010, ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision, which is now reaffirmed by the Supreme Court's decision not to review the case. Documents from the case are available on NCSE's website, in a special section devoted to ACSI v. Stearns.

Supreme Court declines creationist appeal

http://www.science20.com/adaptive_complexity/blog/supreme_court_declines_creationist_appeal

By Michael White | October 19th 2010 02:17 PMWe can add one more case to creationism's long record of legal failures. Yes, a creationist biology class is not adequate preparation for college coursework. The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in a case involving applicants to the University of California system who were deemed to have inadequate college preparation in biology. From the NCSE:

On October 12, 2010, the Supreme Court declined (PDF, p. 12) to review Association of Christian Schools International et al. v. Roman Stearns et al., thus bringing the case to a definitive end. The case, originally filed in federal court in Los Angeles on August 25, 2005, centered on the University of California system's policies and statements relevant to evaluating the qualifications of applicants for admission. The plaintiffs — the Association of Christian Schools International, the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, California, and a handful of students at the school — charged that the university system violated the constitutional rights of applicants from Christian schools whose high school coursework is deemed inadequate preparation for college.

This is yet another one of those instances in which creationists try to have it both ways: creationism is religion when it's convenient accuse people of religious discrimination, and it's science when they're trying to get it into the public school curriculum.

HOW OLD? Age of Earth debated among SBC scholars

http://www.gofbw.com/news.asp?ID=12220

Oct 20, 2010
By DAVID ROACH
Witness Correspondent

FORT WORTH (FBW)—The age of the earth has generated discussion recently among several Southern Baptist scholars.

It began with a 2009 book by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor William Dembski but includes a broader dialogue about evolution and the boundaries of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

Dembski's book, The End of Christianity (B&H Academic), argued that the universe is billions of years old—rather than thousands, as young-earth creations contend—and that God brought death, decay and natural disasters to earth long before Adam and Eve sinned. That natural evil, he said, was a retroactive punishment for their disobedience. In a similar manner to God's application of the effects of Christ's death to humans who lived prior to it, He also applied the Fall to a creation that existed prior to it, according to Dembski.

"The young earth-solution to reconciling the order of creation with natural history makes good exegetical and theological sense," wrote Dembski, who holds Ph.D. degrees in both philosophy and mathematics and is a leading proponent of the Intelligent Design movement. "Indeed, the overwhelming consensus of theologians up through the Reformation held to this view. I myself would adopt it in a heartbeat except that nature seems to present such strong evidence against it."

He went on to argue that "there never was a chronological moment when the world we inhabit was without natural evil (or a disposition toward it; it is, for instance, not apparent how, at the moment of the Big Bang, the universe could have exhibited natural evil)." Dembski, research professor of philosophy at the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary, speculated that the Garden of Eden could have been merely a pocket of unfallen creation amid a world already afflicted by natural evil.

He also argued that Noah's flood likely was limited to the Middle East rather than being global in scope. However, he later retracted that claim in a statement released by Southwestern.

Dembski declined an interview request by Florida Baptist Witness, saying by email that he has already expressed his opinions through his writings. But he emphasized that he is not an evolutionist and has a forthcoming book countering theistic evolution.

RESPONSE TO DEMBSKI

In response to The End of Christianity, Tom Nettles, professor of historical theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., wrote a review in which he critiqued Dembski for allegedly letting scientific commitments to trump the most natural reading of the Bible. The review appeared in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (Vol. 13.4, 2009), Southern Seminary's official theological journal.

"One thing that's not driving [Dembski's interpretation of Genesis] is just a straightforward exegesis of the text," Nettles told the Witness. "And he admits that if the text were to stand as it is, then the traditional view would be there. And he also is committed to a tremendously old earth. So these things, one theological idea and one scientific idea, drive his interpretation."


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chelation is Not a Treatment For Autism

http://www.care2.com/causes/health-policy/blog/chelation-is-not-a-treatment-for-autism/

posted by: Kristina Chew 1 day ago

In a post about the Supreme Court entering the vaccine wars, I wrote that a sort of subculture of practitioners and parents has arisen of alternative medicine-type practitioners offering 'treatments' for autism, and of parents writing, on blogs and other sites, very anecdotally of the success of such treatments for their children. And, of 'autism advocates' whose focus is not so much on increasing understanding about autistic persons and the accommodations and services they need, but on 'curing,' 'preventing,' and 'eliminating' autism.

This subculture has gone a bit 'mainstream' among families with autistic children. While treatments such as a gluten-free, casein-free diet seemed novel when my son was diagnosed with autism in July of 1999, most parents today have heard of an array of biomedical and other 'remedies,' often involving nutritional supplements and dietary changes, and, too, at least tried some such protocols in an understandable desire to help their child.

None of these 'alternative treatments' have been scientifically proven to achieve to do what they are routinely claimed to do. While some might see progress or improvements in a child, these reports remain anecdotal and unsubstantiated by scientific studies. It happens too often that families spend significant resources chasing hopes and promises, speculating that this next supplement will be the elixir.

Last week the FDA finally exerted its authority and stated that chelation--- in which heavy metals are removed from the body through powerful drugs--- is an untested treatment for autism. As reported in the October 15th US News and World Report, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

.... just slapped the hands of eight companies for marketing chelation as a medical treatment for autism, saying that the treatments could be dangerous, and could also keep people from using therapies that are safe and effective.

"These products are dangerously misleading because they are targeted to patients with serious conditions and limited treatment options," Deborah Autor, director of the Office of Compliance in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a press release. "The FDA must take a firm stand against companies who prey on the vulnerability of patients seeking hope and relief."

Chelation chemicals are approved for treating poisoning with lead and other heavy metals; they bind to the metals in the body, and are then excreted in urine. But chelation chemicals also can cause serious harm, including kidney failure and death. In 2005, a 5-year-old boy died of a heart attack while being treated with chelation for autism by a Pennsylvania physician. The physician was sued by the child's parents, and his medical license was suspended for three years.

This should be welcome news to families of autistic children, as the FDA's announcement provides clarity for those desperately seeking help. Unfortunately, this announcement is very likely to bring down much ire and mudslinging as practitioners, parents and advocates of the theory that something external and environmental like vaccines, 'heavy metals,' or some such causes autism decry the FDA, and anyone (as yours truly) who notes that chelation is dangerous and is not a treatment for autism, and has contributed to the death of at least one autistic child.

In the case of that one child, Abubakar Tariq Nadama, proponents of the notion that vaccines, etc., can be linked to autism are quick to defend chelation. The child died, such proponents say, because the doctor, Roy Kerry, erred in the procedure of treating the child. Go to the right medical practitioner, such proponents say, and chelation is not only 'safe' but 'effective.'

I hope the FDA will continue to speak up and out about the dangers, and the ineffectiveness, of chelation and many other of the unregulated, untested biomedical treatments that parents so earnestly, and, may one say, too blindly, seek out in the name of helping a child. There are plenty of challenges in raising an autistic child, in supporting an autistic adult throughout her and his lifespan. So many families go down a dead-end of treatments that don't really treat anything.

Read more: health policy

Dozens killed by incorrectly placed acupuncture needles

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/oct/18/dozens-killed-acupuncture-needles

Professor of complementary medicine calls for adequate training for all acupuncture practitioners after survey reveals punctured hearts and lungs among causes of death over past 45 years

Ian Sample, science correspondent guardian.co.uk, Monday 18 October 2010 17.21 BST

Punctured organs and infection as a result of failure to sterilise needles were among the causes of death after acupuncture. Photograph: Getty

Eighty-six people have been accidentally killed by badly trained acupuncturists over the past 45 years, according to Britain's leading expert on alternative medicine.

A review of patients who died soon after acupuncture found a history of punctured hearts and lungs, damaged arteries and livers, nerve problems, shock, infection and haemorrhage, largely caused by practitioners placing their needles incorrectly or failing to sterilise their equipment.

Many of the 86 patients, aged between 26 and 82 years old, died after being treated by acupuncturists in China or Japan, but a handful of fatalities were recorded in the US, Germany and Australia. The most recent death, of a 26-year-old woman in China, occurred last year.

The most common cause of death was a condition called pneumothorax, where air finds its way between the membranes that separate the lungs from the chest wall and causes the lungs to collapse.

In most of the cases, doctors were certain that acupuncture was to blame, but in some the cause was less clear.

Describing his research in the International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine, Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, said: "These fatalities are avoidable and a reminder of the need to insist on adequate training for all acupuncturists."

The number of deaths was likely to be "the tip of a larger iceberg", he added.

"Dispatches from the Evolution Wars"

http://ncse.com/news/2010/10/dispatches-from-evolution-wars-006257

October 18th, 2010

"Dispatches from the Evolution Wars: Shifting Tactics and Expanding Battlefields," a review article by NCSE's Glenn Branch, Eugenie C. Scott, and Joshua Rosenau, was published in Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics (2010; 11: 317-338). The abstract:

Creationism continues to present a challenge to the teaching of evolution in the United States. With attempts to ban evolution education and to "balance" the teaching of evolution with creationism unavailing, creationists are increasingly favoring the approach of misrepresenting evolution as scientifically controversial. To understand the ongoing challenges facing evolution education in the United States, it is necessary to appreciate creationist actions at the different levels of educational governance — state legislatures, state boards of education, local boards of education, and finally the individual classroom — that serve as the battlegrounds for the evolution education wars. Scientists are in a unique position to defend the teaching of evolution, both by resisting creationist incursions as they occur and by helping to improve the teaching of evolution at both the precollege and college levels.

Complimentary access to a PDF version of the article for personal use is available from Annual Reviews, but further/multiple distribution, publication, and commercial usage requires permission from the Annual Reviews Permission Department.

Published annually since 2000, the Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics covers significant developments in the field of genomics as they apply to human genetics and the human genome; it is widely considered to be a leading journal in genetics and heredity.

Uni scraps creationism seminar

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/10/19/3042168.htm?site=widebay§ion=news

Posted October 19, 2010 11:20:00

The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) has defended its decision to cancel a seminar on creationism.

The seminar, presented by Creation Ministries International, was to have critiqued the theory of evolution, at the university's Hervey Bay campus in November.

But the USQ withdrew its sponsorship after a complaint by a sceptics' group.

USQ spokesman Aidan Burke says the decision was made to cancel the event after it could not find a speaker to debate the creationists' views.

"The university often looks at controversial and topical issues and in this particular instance there was a community forum that had been planned - when indeed we couldn't provide a balanced debate to that particular forum we disassociated ourselves from the event pretty quickly," he said.

Governor's race 2010: Creationism in public schools

http://www.sunjournal.com/state/story/922937

By Steve Mistler, Staff Wrter
Published Oct 19, 2010 12:00 am | Last updated Oct 19, 2010 12:00 am

The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to religious freedom, but it does not permit religious theory to be taught as science in the public school system.

That reading of the Constitution has been backed by several U.S. Supreme Court decisions, each striking down attempts to teach creationism — the belief that God created the universe and humankind — alongside evolution in science class.

In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional Louisiana's Creationism Act that prohibited the teaching of evolution unless it was paired with teachings in creationism.

Such precedent would seemingly extinguish efforts to teach creationism in public schools. But this year the debate has been reignited locally and nationally by candidates who have expressed support for teaching creationism or "intelligent design" alongside evolution.

Proponents argue that students should be allowed to consider both theories.

Opponents say teaching creationism, a religious belief, is designed to undermine the proven science of evolution, thus confusing students and potentially indoctrinating them in a specific state-sponsored religion and violating the Constitution's guarantee of religious freedom.

The creationism debate has recent context. In 2008, 11 years after the Supreme Court struck down Louisiana's Creationism Act in Edwards v. Aguillard, that state's Legislature passed a bill permitting local school districts to create curriculum that allows "critical thinking" and "objective discussion" about evolution.

The National Center for Science Education, which describes the provision as a backdoor approach to subvert evolution science, is contesting the law.

The law doesn't mention creationism or intelligent design. However, it appears to have emboldened pro-creationists. According to a July 24 report in The Advocate, in Louisiana, the Livingstone Parish School Board discussed adding creationism to the district's curriculum.

Here's where gubernatorial candidates stand on the issue.

Eliot Cutler, 64, independent

Cutler said it's unacceptable to teach creationism in public schools.

"I believe the government should not be making rules for religion and religion should not be making rules for government," he said.

John Jenkins, 58, independent

Jenkins opposes creationism being taught in public schools.

"Whose religion are we talking about?" he said. "People who follow Islam have a different idea about creation than those who follow Judaism, and on and on. Whose creation are we talking about? No, no, I wouldn't support that. Not at all."

Libby Mitchell, 70, Democrat

Mitchell said creationism is an appropriate discussion in church, but not in the public school system.

"There's no scientific evidence to support (creationism)," she said.

Paul LePage, 61, Republican

LePage's stance on creationism has generated the most controversy.

His position has become more ambiguous since he stated he would support a local school board adding creationism to its curriculum during a debate before the Republican primary.

"Whether it should be taught in school or not is not my decision," he said recently. "I'm not running for school board and I'm not running for pope, and I'm not running for commissioner of education. I'm running for governor. My feeling is creationism is something that should be taught in philosophy, evolution and science. Now whether it should be taught in school or not, it's not mine to decide."

He added, "Knowledge is power. The more they know, the better decisions they make in life."

LePage noted that creationism wasn't high on his agenda.

Scott Moody, 51, independent

Moody opposes teaching creationism in public schools. He was critical of LePage for expressing support for it.

"It concerns me about a person that would propose that," Moody said. "The governor isn't the guy who shoots from the hip. I kind of challenge the person, Mayor LePage, for saying that because, OK, you want to have creationism? OK, which bible, which religion?"

Moody added, "It's a shallow idea that to me exposes a little shoot-from-the-hip-type personality that doesn't always provide the best leadership."

Kevin Scott, 42, independent

Scott, a self-described Christian, said creationism taught at the university level might be appropriate, but not in public schools.

"The grade schools don't teach Hinduism and all the other religions, so why should a particular religion be taught?" Scott said.


Monday, October 18, 2010

FDA Cracks Down on Unapproved Chelation Products

http://www.thenewamerican.com/index.php/usnews/health-care/4914-fda-cracks-down-on-unapproved-chelation-products

Written by Michael Tennant

Monday, 18 October 2010 00:00

The Food and Drug Administration, in its role as enforcer of politically-acceptable medical practice, has just "sent warning letters to several companies notifying them that the substances they sell without a prescription for a procedure known as 'chelation' are 'unapproved drugs and devices,' which makes them illegal," according to a report in the Washington Post. Chelation therapy is a well-established treatment for patients who have been exposed to high levels of heavy metals such as lead; there are even FDA-approved prescription-only products for administering the treatment. However, as the Post points out, "the companies that received the warning letters sell products without a prescription, often as 'dietary supplements,' and describe multiple health benefits, none of which have been proven, the agency said."

There lies the nub of the matter: Those selling these products, often on the Internet, have not bowed and scraped before the potentates at the FDA; and undoubtedly, the products they are hawking cannot be patented by the big pharmaceutical companies whose interests the FDA lives to protect. Therefore, they must be crushed lest Americans come to believe they have the right to determine for themselves which medical treatments they wish to employ.

The FDA's Deborah Autor told the Post, "These products are dangerously misleading because they are targeted to patients with serious conditions and limited treatment options. The FDA must take a firm stand against companies who prey on the vulnerability of patients seeking hope and relief." To an FDA bureaucrat, taking away one of a "limited" number of treatment options for "patients with serious conditions" is somehow for the best. It just wouldn't do to let the patient choose which treatment to undergo.

Speaking of companies who "prey on the vulnerability of patients seeking hope and relief," how about all those drug companies whose products have been approved by the FDA only to end up causing serious harm? The Post mentions that FDA officials say that unapproved chelation "substances may cause serious health complications, including dehydration and kidney failure, and possibly be deadly." Yet, to take just one example of harm from approved drugs, the FDA approved the diabetes medicine Avandia and then helped its manufacturer cover up a study that showed the drug posed serious heart attack risks.

"The agency," says the paper, "is aware of the death of one autistic child who underwent the procedure," though it is careful not to assert that the procedure was the cause of the child's death. Criminal charges filed against the doctor who administered the treatment were dropped. Dr. Joseph Mercola, a nationally recognized expert on alternative medicine, wrote concerning the incident:

Chelation therapy — as well as some other alternative treatments — is not entirely without risk. However, you see far more lawsuits and headlines in major media when something goes wrong as a result of an alternative therapy than when a more conventional treatment takes a life, which, by the way, happens hundreds, if not thousands of times a day.

Many conventional physicians who are critical of chelation routinely use drugs like Risperdal and Clonidine when treating autism, despite the fact that the safety and effectiveness of these drugs in children have never been established, and death is a known side-effect of such drugs.

However, deaths and serious adverse effects from "standard drug treatments" do not attract similar media attention or outrage.

It's ironic in a way, when you consider the fact that a mere 15 percent of all conventional medical treatments have been proven safe and effective in practice. The other 85 percent is pure guesswork and trial and error, and yet this is what the masses cling to as the gospel of safety.

Charles Lee of the FDA's division of new drugs and labeling compliance admitted to the Post that "we don't have evidence of a lot of adverse effects [from chelation products], but [that] does not mean there are not health problems associated with them" — shades of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's comment with regard to Saddam Hussein's mysteriously missing weapons of mass destruction: "The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

Even if the FDA had real evidence that chelation products are dangerous, so what? The federal government has no constitutional authority to prohibit people from using products that Washington doesn't like. Moreover, the very notion that there exists some group of "experts" who, given the authority to determine which treatments shall be made available, can make healthcare risk-free for everyone, is absurd. Every treatment, including those approved by the FDA, contains an element of risk. Why shouldn't the patient who is assuming the risk be permitted to make his own decisions as to which treatments he will accept? As economist David Henderson put it, "The FDA may have some expertise when it comes to drug safety and efficacy, but on the only issue that matters — your trade-offs between various risks — you are the expert, and the FDA's scientists are rank amateurs."

A word to the FDA: Leave the chelation-product merchants alone. Let patients, doctors, and researchers determine which products are safe and effective for which symptoms and share their discoveries with others — the same process that has been used for decades to discover alternative ("off-label") uses for FDA-approved drugs. In other words, let medical freedom ring.

An Enclave of Intolerance: Anti-Intelligent Design Pressure from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2010/10/an_enclave_of_intolerance_anti039141.html

A major reason that the California Science Center (CSC) ultimately cancelled its contract with the American Freedom Alliance (AFA) to show a pro-intelligent design film was pressure from museums -- both nearby and far away -- to distance itself from anything associated with intelligent design (ID). My previous post recounted the Smithsonian's opposition to the CSC's allowing a pro-ID event. But there was also pressure from much closer to home -- from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC), right across the street in Exposition Park.

NHMLAC's involvement began after the NCSE sent an e-mail warning Southern California-area evolutionists about the imminent pro-ID event at CSC. USC marine paleoecologist David Bottjer forwarded the e-mail on to various colleagues, including Luis Chiappe, Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology and Director of the Dinosaur Institute at NHMLAC. Chiappe then dutifully forwarded Bottjer's e-mail to NHMLAC Division Chiefs, as well as to John Long, NHMLAC's new Vice President of Research and Collections:

This is to give you the heads up of this forthcoming creationist event in our neighbor institution (John, welcome to the US!). Perhaps we can discuss if we can do something about this tomorrow in our meeting.

The day after receiving Chiappe's e-mail, Jody Martin, an evolutionary biologist who studies crustaceans at NHMLAC, suggested that the NHMLAC ought to forge a response to the event. Martin unwittingly provides the very sort of argument that probably convinced CSC to ultimately cancel AFA's event:

I do think that a spokesperson from the Museum should say something to the responsible party at the California Science Center. It's possible, I suppose, that they do not realize who the Discovery Institute is (?) or what the film is really about (what it's goals are), but it is certainly not in the best interests of the Science Center to damage their reputation in this way. I can easily foresee funding problems for them in the future if this is brought to light, and perhaps they should be made aware of this as well. (emphasis added)

Obviously Martin himself is intolerant of ID. But it's important to understand what's going on here at a deeper level. What we see in this enclave in Los Angeles encompassing CSC and NHMLAC is a culture of intolerance. Not only are individual science museum staff opposed to ID, but they are committed to enforcing a rule preventing others in the community from doing anything that would lend support to ID.

With his concern for the CSC's "reputation," Martin might sound compassionate. But the concern really arises from the same culture of intolerance that says sympathy for ID ought to harm one's reputation. This is no conspiracy. Instead what you are witnessing is institutionalized discrimination at work.

More importantly, Martin is not alone in his mindset; it reflects the culture in this enclave. He undoubtedly expresses the sentiments that many local evolutionists, including those at CSC, would have if AFA's event had gone forward. They would view it as causing "damage" to the "reputation" of the CSC. These are the same fears the CSC cited in ultimately canceling AFA's event. As Chris Sion wrote to AFA in the cancellation e-mail, publicity about the event "damaged our relationship with the Smithsonian and the reputation of the California Science Center." Of course, such concerns are not a legitimate reason to cancel an event -- they are evidence of viewpoint discrimination. But Martin's way of thinking makes the CSC's actions all the more comprehensible, even though they were illegal.

Martin even hints there could be "funding problems for them in the future if this is brought to light," and he wants to make CSC "aware" of this. He also writes to his colleagues at NHMLAC:

Clearly, even if the IMAX unit is run separately from CSC, this will still be very damaging to the Science Center, as the event is being promoted as something under the CSC umbrella with their implied endorsement. In my attached draft, I have taken a quote from the Discovery Institute's web page to show that they are clearly and proudly touting their association with CSC. Thus, I would not dismiss it if it turns out that the IMAX theater is run as a separate entity, this will still reflect on CSC directly.

In another e-mail to an NCSE staff member, Martin similarly writes that AFA's event "is counter to [CSC's] stated mission and can only harm their credibility and reputation." Martin's point is that any association between CSC and a pro-ID event will be bad for CSC and thus pro-ID speech must be banned.

We also learn from Martin's e-mails that NHMLAC staff planned to draft a letter pressuring CSC to do something about the situation. E-mails obtained from the NHMLAC under California's Public Records act show some contents of the draft letter:

•Darwin's Dilemma is a "creationist film" that is "deeply dishonest" because it is "a creationist film masquerading as a science documentary."

•"ID is a thinly veiled version of creationism, as has been noted in several high profile court cases (notably the Dover, Pennsylvania, Federal Court trial in 2005)." (This is inaccurate, since only one court-case has addressed the teaching of ID.)

•The letter then lays out the rationale why showing the film will supposedly "undermine the credibility and reputation" of CSC:

"Clearly, the promotion of religious materials under the rubric of science would be in conflict with these strongly stated and commendable vision statements. Both the University of Southern California and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County feel strongly that the implied endorsement of this film by the CSC will seriously undermine the credibility and reputation of CSC as a leader in science education in the Los Angeles Basin. Media attention to this event could prove devastating in terms of CSC's reputation as a science education institution. We are also concerned that some of your current supporters and donors, including the State of California, might not continue to support CSC if it became known that you had, knowingly or otherwise, eschewed the presentation of solid science and instead offered a venue for spreading the religious propaganda that masquerades under the name Intelligent Design."

•The draft letter concludes: "We urge you to cancel this event."

The letter never got sent, because soon thereafter CSC canceled AFA's event. With this kind of thinking prevalent among the local friends and colleagues of CSC staff -- not-so-veiled threats of harm to CSC's reputation and loss of funding -- no wonder CSC buckled. John Long sounds pleased to report the following to his colleagues about his boss's conversation with Jeff Rudolph, CSC's CEO:

Jane Pisano, (our CEO) rang Jeff Rudolph the CEO of California Science Center last night and had a chat to him about the screening of the ID film at CSC's IMAX. They had in fact cancelled the event as being not in line with their mission to educate the public about science, so it is not going ahead (emphasis added)

So we see that behind closed doors, CSC was openly acknowledging that it would not resist the pressure from neighbors like NHMLAC to cancel the pro-ID event.

No doubt CSC was under immense pressure to cancel. In this case, the pressure stemmed from a culture of intolerance that cared nothing for First Amendment protections of freedom of speech and prohibitions of government discrimination against certain viewpoints.

Posted by Casey Luskin on October 18, 2010 1:31 AM | Permalink