NTS LogoSkeptical News for 1 January 2011

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Saturday, January 01, 2011

If I had some ham, I could make a ham sandwich, if I had some bread

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/12/if_i_had_some_ham_i_could_make.php

Category: Creationism • Kooks • Skepticism
Posted on: December 31, 2010 5:10 PM, by PZ Myers

What is it with these loons? They've got nothing, but they're continually telling us what they could accomplish, if only they…what? I don't know.

The latest trend in kook blogs is to tell us all the things that would happen if we only accepted their weird premises. Here, for example, is Terry Hurlbut, explaining what America would be like if creationists controlled science.

This hypothetical creation-oriented society would take scientific education, research, and investigation in a new direction. Astronomers would stop looking for "dark matter" and "dark energy," and instead develop a uniform cosmology with insights from the Annals of Creation. It would find this model much simpler than the Big Bang model has now become.

That's right, astronomers, forget about math and radio telescopes and Hubble and all your new-fangled physics. Throw out the textbooks and roll the curriculum back to 1625 — the only source you need is the theology of James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland!

Geology would return to its pre-Lyell understanding. The result might, perhaps, lead to improved fossil-fuel exploration, and would be more likely to lead to improvements in prospecting for uranium, thorium, and other radioactive minerals. The realization that radioactive elements on earth had their origins in a spate of ultra-high-magnitude earthquakes might lead to an investigation of whether more radioactive materials might suddenly become "discoverable" near the epicenters of any future magnitude-eight or stronger earthquakes. Indeed, the careful study of veins of uranium, thorium, and similar ores, and of the magnetic ores, might lead to better mapping of earthquake zones.

Your turn, geologists. Uniformitarianism is out. You only have to roll your discipline back to about 1830, though, throwing out everything in Lyell's Principles of Geology and anything since. Wait…you might also have to get rid of Hutton, which pushes the date back a bit further. Don't worry, though, you'll have an easier job finding fossil fuels if you forget the "fossil" part and pretend they were all generated within the last 4000 years.

Medicine would abandon its hubristic seeking after "designer drugs," its careless disregard of the possible functions of various organs (like the vermiform appendix), and its almost willful ignorance of the role of diet in human health (and animal husbandry). Creationism would reinforce the notion that mankind, and for that matter every animal, is specifically designed to use certain foodstuffs that are, in turn, specifically designed to serve as good, healthful food. Such a society would necessarily abandon the modern Western diet and rediscover the health-maintaining practices that the Bible mentions (and that are still current, in only slightly modified form, in the Middle East, and especially in Israel).

Oh, right. Let's get back to the standards of health care of Palestine in the 1st century AD.

Zoology would become a much more exciting discipline than it is today. Zoologists would look on the woolly mammoth with new understanding. Expeditions to find live dinosaurs would be more than the stuff of science fiction (cf. The Lost World, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) and would receive serious attention and funding. And this Examiner does not doubt that at least some would be successful.

Of course, creationists can seek dinosaurs in the vasty tropics. Why, so can I, or so can any man; but will they find them when they do search for them?

Hurlbut clearly lives in a fantasy world that has no connection to reality. But I have found someone even crazier: John Benneth. Benneth has written one long-ass post in which he lists every deplorable statistic he can find, and then announces that "homeopathy would have helped". Oh, really?

In one year 85,000 Americans were wounded by firearms, of which 38,000 die, 2,600 children. Homeopathy could have helped with ledum pelustre , aconitum napellum, arnica Montana and individualized constitutional treatments.

I think homeopathic firearms certainly would have helped, but otherwise, no, throwing water at wounds isn't going to cure them.

150,000 American children are reported missing every year. 50,000 of these simply vanish. Their ages range from one year to mid-teens. According to the New York Times, "Some of these are dead, perhaps half of the John and Jane Does annually buried in this country are unidentified kids." Homeopathy could have helped with individualized treatments. Homeopathy could have helped with remedies like Absin. Cimic. OP. Phos. Plb. Rhus-t. Staph. Stram., Falco-p, and Magnesium muriaticum

Homeopathic body-burials? I don't get it.

In one year 1,000,000 American children ran away from home, mostly because of abusive treatment, including sexual abuse from parents and other adults. Of the many sexually abused children among runaways, 83 percent came from white families. Homeopathy could have helped with remedies like Lyc., Falco-p. Herin.

If only those white families had been treated with John Benneth's Patented Skin Darkener, those kids wouldn't have run away!

2,000,000 to 4,000,00 American women were battered. Domestic violence was the single largest cause of injury and second largest cause of death to American women. Homeopathy could have helped the victim with recovery from the trauma with a remedies such as Arn. and Staph and helped the assailant with his anger with remedies such as Croc. Mez. and Sulph.

Ladies, next time the husband staggers home drunk and starts walloping you around, just ask him to drink a nice glass of water. Everything will be all better then.

With so much violence, should it be surprising that 135,000 American children took guns to school? Homeopathy could have helped.

More homeopathic firearms?

In one year African Americans constituted 13 percent of drug users but 35 percent of drug arrests, 55 percent of drug convictions and 74 percent of prison sentences. For non-drug offenses, African Americans got prison terms that averaged about 10 percent longer than Caucasians for similar crimes. Homeopathy could have helped.

One moment it's all those white kids running away from home, now it's all the black people in prison, and homeopathy somehow fixes it all. Maybe it turns everyone gray?

Anyway, these guys are completely nuts, but anyone can play the "If X, then Y" game. If only magic really worked, then I could fix that drippy showerhead. If the sky were purple, I'd be able to knit. If squid wore hats, then monkeys would dance on Mars.

Doesn't it matter that the centuries-old magic tricks both Hurlbut and Benneth think are panaceas were tried once, failed, and better solutions were discovered?

Creationism and science: wider implications

http://www.examiner.com/creationism-in-national/creationism-and-science-wider-implications

Terry Hurlbut
Creationism Examiner

December 30th, 2010 7:31 pm ET

Evolutionists love to assert that, if creationism gains the ascendancy in education, then science will no longer advance and will even back-slide. To the contrary, creationism, far from being deleterious to science, would be beneficial.

To begin with: to assert, as Marc Adler does, that "the building blocks of biology" (or indeed any other branch of science) "rely on evolution" is simply false. Most of biology is still an operational science, a study of how living things work. That study has never derived any benefit from a consideration of the origin of life. That's fortunate, because no one has yet settled the question of where the first cell arose. The response to repeated challenges with the question, "Where did the first cell come from?", is either:

•"Wait and see; we'll find out" (when? We've been waiting for a century and a half.) or:

•"It doesn't matter, for nothing need have had a first cause" (in which case, how can one draw a single tree of life?).

Moreover, as this Examiner has previously discussed, many of the supposed insights that modern medicine has derived from evolution have been wrongheaded and even harmful to man, in violation of the First Principle of Medicine:

Primum non nocere.

Translation: First of all, to do no harm.

With this in mind, herewith an alternative to Adler's fevered apocalyptic vision of what a society would look like if it governed itself according to "conservative" principles in politics, including the role that creationism would play.

One caveat: with regard to "the compulsory inculcation of creationism in the classroom," a conservative society would not use the government to compel any form of education. Ideally, public schools would not exist, with the result that questions of "establishment of religion" would never arise in that context. Therefore one can safely lay aside the question of "compulsory religious education." (The spectacle of compulsory anti-religious education in schools today is a different debate, for a different Examiner to take up.)

This hypothetical creation-oriented society would take scientific education, research, and investigation in a new direction. Astronomers would stop looking for "dark matter" and "dark energy," and instead develop a uniform cosmology with insights from the Annals of Creation. It would find this model much simpler than the Big Bang model has now become.

Geology would return to its pre-Lyell understanding. The result might, perhaps, lead to improved fossil-fuel exploration, and would be more likely to lead to improvements in prospecting for uranium, thorium, and other radioactive minerals. The realization that radioactive elements on earth had their origins in a spate of ultra-high-magnitude earthquakes might lead to an investigation of whether more radioactive materials might suddenly become "discoverable" near the epicenters of any future magnitude-eight or stronger earthquakes. Indeed, the careful study of veins of uranium, thorium, and similar ores, and of the magnetic ores, might lead to better mapping of earthquake zones.

Medicine would abandon its hubristic seeking after "designer drugs," its careless disregard of the possible functions of various organs (like the vermiform appendix), and its almost willful ignorance of the role of diet in human health (and animal husbandry). Creationism would reinforce the notion that mankind, and for that matter every animal, is specifically designed to use certain foodstuffs that are, in turn, specifically designed to serve as good, healthful food. Such a society would necessarily abandon the modern Western diet and rediscover the health-maintaining practices that the Bible mentions (and that are still current, in only slightly modified form, in the Middle East, and especially in Israel).

Zoology would become a much more exciting discipline than it is today. Zoologists would look on the woolly mammoth with new understanding. Expeditions to find live dinosaurs would be more than the stuff of science fiction (cf. The Lost World, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) and would receive serious attention and funding. And this Examiner does not doubt that at least some would be successful.

Linguistics would take up the question of whether Hebrew (or a sort of Old High Hebrew) is the original root language of mankind. History and ethnology would seek to expand upon the Annals of Shem (specifically the Table of Nations) and the histories and chronologies of certain ancient peoples who had contact with the Hebrew people from time to time. And every shipwright in this society would stand in humble awe of the greatest and most important project in the annals of naval architecture. For that matter, serious attempts to reverse-engineer Noah's Ark might lead to rediscoveries of certain lost shipbuilding arts that would make modern ships safer than they are today.

In short, creationism, far from retarding science, would free it to fulfill its proper role: knowledge and understanding of the true nature of man, and how to live as God intended him to live, rather than a prideful pursuit of "improvements" that turn out to be, quite simply, curses.

Reference: Adler M, "Secession! What Would It Look Like If Red States Formed Their Own Country?" AlterNet.org, 27 December 2010; retrieved 28 December 2010.

Timelines for Evolution and Creationism are Both True

http://www.24-7pressrelease.com/press-release/timelines-for-evolution-and-creationism-are-both-true-189203.php

Using Einstein's theory of special relativity, both the story of a 6-day creation of the universe and observational measurements of the universe being 15 billion years old can be non-contradictory.

TUCSON, AZ, January 01, 2011 /24-7PressRelease/ -- There has been a century's long, heated debate in regards to the theory of evolution and facts of science with the Judeo-Christian belief about the timeline of the creation of the universe. Observational measurements of the universe place its age around 15 billion years old while a literal reading of the first book of the Hebrew and Christian bibles place the age of the universe at only around 6 thousand years. Surprisingly, one of the most confirmed theories of physics, Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, resolve this issue and allow both to be true.

Simply put, Einstein's special theory of relativity says that all laws of physics are the same for all frames of reference in uniform motion. More specifically, the speed of light or speed of any electromagnetic wave is constant no matter your uniform motion and nothing in the universe can go faster than light. For this to be true, which it has been proven to be so, time and space have to be able to dilate or bend. Another way of saying it is that time and space are not absolute, the laws of physics are.

Einstein's equations show that the faster you move in uniform motion, time will be measured differently for you since the speed of light has to remain constant. For example, if there are twins born on earth and one is put on a space ship that can travel at 80% of the speed of light and takes a 12.5 year voyage to another planet and then returns after arriving there, the twin left on earth would have aged 25 years. The proven equation of time dilation is t'=t(square root of (1-v squared). Here, t' is equal to the time that is experienced by the traveler relative to another time t and v equals the percent of the speed of light. In this spaceship example, the time experienced by the twin onboard the ship would be t' = 25yrs times the square root of (1-.64). This equals 15 yrs. So that twin would have only aged 15 yrs instead of 25yrs.

In regards to our evolution and creationism timelines, God could have simply been moving so close to the speed of light during the creation that to Him, it was only 6 days. We can now calculate how fast He was moving by doing some algebra. 6 days = 15 billion years times 365 days/1 year times the square root of (1-v2). The square root of (1-v2) equals 6 days/5,475,000,000,000 days. Square both sides to get rid of the square root and you get 1-v2 = 1.201 x 10 -24. Subtract 1 from both sides and multiply both sides by a negative and you get v2 = 0.99999999999999999999999879902421. Take the square of both sides and you find that God was traveling at 99.99999999999999999999993995121% of the speed of light. Since the speed of light is 299,792,458 meters/sec, God was traveling at 299,792,457.99 meters/sec as He was creating everything which is why it was reported as being only 6 days because that's how long it was for Him relative to an earth day and his speed.

No wonder He wanted to take the seventh day to rest after moving so fast and doing so much! And we also see that even God worked according to the laws of universe.

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

From Creationism to Anti-Environmentalism: The Religious Right's Attack on Science Expands

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-zimmerman/from-creationism-to-antie_b_801783.html

Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D..Founder, The Clergy Letter Project
Posted: December 29, 2010 06:23 PM

It can no longer be a surprise to anyone that a very vocal and well-funded minority of Christian extremists continue to attack evolutionary theory in the name of their narrow brand of religion. In addition to their attempt to distort the scientific record, these people work hard to fool the media and the general public into believing that they are something other than a fringe group.

In fact, their science is completely at odds with that being promoted by the world's leading scientific societies, and their religious perspective is very far removed from those of the vast majority of the world's religious denominations.

This same collection of religious extremists has now decided to broaden its fight on modern science in the name of religion. Under the auspices of the Cornwall Alliance, a group espousing a "Biblical view" of environmental stewardship, which largely means that anthropogenic global warming is an anti-Biblical myth, environmentalism is now under attack.

Apparently, environmentalism is "deadly to the gospel of Jesus Christ." E. Calvin Beisner, founder of the Cornwall Alliance, outlines his position as clearly as anyone could wish: "The environmental movement has actually become what I call the cult of the green dragon. And we need to be prepared as Christians to rescue people from that cult."

The Cornwall Alliance has produced a 12-part DVD entitled Resisting The Green Dragon to promote their anti-science, narrowly religious position. The DVD is filled with stellar figures from the radical right with organizations such as Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, and WallBuilders represented.

The message being promoted in Resisting The Green Dragon is as extreme as it is incorrect. Consider the following:

Around the world, environmentalism has become a radical movement. Something we call "The Green Dragon." And it is deadly, deadly to human prosperity, deadly to human life, deadly to human freedom and deadly to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Make no mistake about it, environmentalism is no longer your friend. It is your enemy. And the battle is not primarily political or material, it is spiritual. ... As Christians, we must actively trust God and obey His word. So when it comes to environmental stewardship, we must reject the false world view, the faulty science and the counterfeit gospel that threatens to corrupt society and the church.

While the scientific hogwash being advanced in the name of religion is so patently absurd that it doesn't deserve a rebuttal, the view that the modern environmentalism movement is under attack by religion should be discredited before it rises to the level of urban myth.

There is ample evidence from across the political and religious spectrum that religion and environmentalism are not at war. Indeed, there are ever increasing data demonstrating that the two are becoming solid allies. Because it is impossible to be comprehensive with the limited space available in this venue, I will simply point to two examples to support my contention.

Let me begin with the sixth annual Evolution Weekend sponsored by The Clergy Letter Project. Each year on the weekend closest to the birth of Charles Darwin (Feb. 12), congregations representing a host of faiths and from all corners of the world, participate in an event designed to demonstrate that religion and science can be compatible while raising the quality of the dialogue on this issue. Although each participating congregation acts independently, Clergy Letter Project members have decided that Evolution Weekend 2011 would focus on the environment, so many participants are exploring how their science can inform their faith as they work to protect the environment. As the Evolution Weekend website says,

Religious people from many diverse faith traditions and locations around the world understand that evolution is quite simply sound science; and for them, it does not in any way threaten, demean, or diminish their faith in God. In fact, for many, the wonders of science often enhance and deepen their awe and gratitude towards God.

Instead, the information and understanding gained through legitimate scientific inquiry can be of significant help to people of faith in better understanding this wonderful planet that we live on - its beauties and wonders, as well as the many environmental threats to the health of both natural and human communities. Science can thus be of assistance to religious leaders and communities, as they seek to fulfill their calling to care for the Earth, through more informed advocacy and actions.

With more than 14,000 clergy members from all portions of the political and geographical spectrum, The Clergy Letter Project can hardly be considered an extremist group and its members and their congregations certainly do not find environmentalism to pose any threat to their faith.

Next, let me turn to a fabulous DVD produced by Marty Ostrow and Terry Kay Rockefeller. Although I plan to focus more attention on their wonderful film soon, for now let me simply say that Renewal: Stories from America's Religious-Environmental Movement is a testament to the passion with which many deeply religious individuals have approached environmental concerns. Ostrow and Rockefeller tell eight riveting stories that demonstrate the diverse actions taken by Christians, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists as they work to integrate environmentalism with their faith. The people depicted defy simple political labels and show the absurdity of the position staked out by the Cornwall Alliance.

The religious right's attack on environmentalism mirrors its long-standing attack on evolution. In both cases, science is grossly misunderstood and/or purposefully misrepresented. And in both cases, the attack, framed in starkly religious terms, claims that there can be only one appropriate religious interpretation. As with the battle over evolution, this newly manufactured controversy over environmentalism should not be seen as a fight between religion and science but as a struggle between one small group representing an extreme view of religion and all other religious traditions.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

If evolution is a random process ...

http://www.thenewsstar.com/article/20101228/OPINION03/12280307

December 28, 2010

Since my last letter to The News-Star wasn't printed due to being too controversial I suppose, I will try to trivialize this letter.

In reference to the column in "Louisiana views" as of Dec. 14 by The Advertiser newspaper in Lafayette, the writer doesn't quite get the point of the controversy of "Intelligent Design" vs. Evolution. The scientific process of evolution has no facts, hard core to back up their theory of the process. They still cling to the "Big Bang" theory, but let's consider this: How was the material for all the planets and stars created? Did the dirt, water, gases, oil and fire for the billions of trillions of planets and suns create itself. In order for there to be enough material, the vast expanse of it would have had to literally reach a fourth or a third of the way across the entire universe.

The evolutionists don't say what caused the explosion that scattered this material untold miles, caused all fragments to be round, rotate around suns, spin and tilt, and hold themselves in these positions. Forget magnetism because magnetism either pulls objects directly to it or pushes it away. How is there enough metal in the earth or other planets to cause magnetism as we know it. I could write a newspaper page of things we see that would disprove a universe and world here by trillions of "chance happenings." Only a force so powerful that it covers heaven and earth could control what happens in this world and all the galaxies. But for this force, the universe's planets would be slamming against each other like ping pong balls gone mad and us with them.

If evolution is a random process then man is the result of a purposeless and natural process, an insignificant nothing with no purpose, the Ten Commandments on which our laws are founded mean nothing, death is all we have to look forward to. My word limit has arrived — must cease and desist.

Charles Caraway
Farmerville


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reiki: Alternative Medicine in Traverse City

http://www.upnorthlive.com/news/story.aspx?list=~%5Chome%5Clists%5Csearch&id=559976

Posted: 12.27.2010 at 9:24 PM Jamie Kramer, Health, Alternative Medicine, Spiritual Healing

TRAVERSE CITY -- Reiki is a form of self-healing that is gaining popularity in the United States.

Reiki is becoming popular in the areas of both traditional and non-traditional medicines.

Several hospitals are also choosing to provide patients with their own Reiki practitioners.

There is even a Reiki Master right here in Traverse City, who says when paired with traditional medicine, Reiki can actually reduce healing time.

"Reiki is the Japanese form of self-healing," said Kafi Lynne, Reiki Master at Higher Self in Traverse City.

"It is a series of hand positions, and a Reiki person is attuned to the energy and the life force. Reiki means ray of life," said Lynne.

"When we're stressed, or when we're hurt, we can't pull in the energy ourselves, so a Reiki person simply feeds you more energy, and your body heals or relieves stress... It helps to bring you back into balance."

The healing touch

http://tribune.com.pk/story/94308/the-healing-touch/

Acupressure is simple and safe; all you need is a little knowledge and time.

How would you like a drugless therapy with curative powers to treat just about anything, without undergoing the trauma of being pricked, poked or cut open and that too without any side- effects?

Such are the wonders of acupressure. Recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a branch of alternative medicine, it is rapidly emerging as one of the most sought after forms of treatment these days.

Where did it originate from?

An increasing number of people are shedding their apprehensions and turning to ancient techniques of acupressure to cure them. It is one of the oldest healing sciences, predating even acupuncture and dating back as far as 300 BC. Having originated mainly from Asia, it now exists all over the continent and is also gaining popularity in America, the United Kingdom, Australia, France and Germany.

How is it done?

Based on the study of the nerves, the treatment makes use of fingers to apply pressure at specific pressure points in the body, thereby activating the body's healing system. Though both forms use the same pressure points and medians, unlike acupuncture, acupressure is non invasive and uses the firm touch of the hand instead of needles.

The human body consists of 900 pressure points but emphasis is mostly laid on 90 points located on the palms, soles, neck and forehead. Applying pressure to these nerves and nerve endings activates specific organs, increasing the blood circulation and detoxifying that organ. This way it takes away any form of disease prevalent in that organ. During the process it also relieves the patient's stress, depression and upgrades the person's general well-being.

What do experts say?

"The best thing about acupressure is that you come with one ailment but in the process you get away with many other unidentified problems as well," says Dr Zahida Ali Wali, who holds a Masters degree in alternative medicine from the International Institute of Natural Therapy, Mumbai, and has been a practitioner for the past 12 years.

Reminiscing about the days when she started her practice, Wali says that it was highly frowned upon and people used to jest around saying acupressure practitioners are mere 'maalish walas.' Since its popularity mainly relied on word of mouth, it has taken many years for it to be accepted by the general public and there are still many who are not even aware of its existence.

Nilofer Anwar, a patient of arthritis, says that she turned to acupressure after she got tired of the side-effects of medicines prescribed to her. The treatment has helped her get rid of pills, eased her pain and improved her general health as well. Additionally, the tests done prior to and post treatment have shown great improvement. "My physician says that arthritis isn't a disease that can be wiped off completely, but after a year of acupressure therapy, it has gone into sleep mode," says Anwar with satisfaction.

"Along with curing, acupressure can also boost your immune system and prevent many diseases, unlike painkillers which temporarily take the pain away. Acupressure cures it forever," says Abdul Qadir Leghari, a private acupressure practitioner at Pranic Healing Centre. He says that there should be more awareness about acupressure in Pakistan so that people opt for it. They shouldn't come only when they have lost all hope from conventional medicine as it increases the duration of the treatment because usually the illness or disease has manifested fully by that time.

A positive change in this regard has been the change in doctors' attitudes towards acupressure, as some have now started referring their patients to undergo it. Dr Bushra Waseem, a general surgeon at Patel Hospital and National Medical Centre, Karachi says that she went for acupressure therapy when her back disc got dislocated and was in a state near to surgery.

After experiencing the wonders of acupressure herself, Waseem started referring it to her patients as well. "It can be highly beneficial for people with chronic aches as you cannot pop a pill every time you are in pain," she recommends. She thinks that doctors should be more open to it and when they feel that their treatment and drugs are not helping the patient they should tell them about acupressure.

Regarding the authenticity of practitioners, Wali suggests that there should be a professional association that registers practitioners, which would help patients in distinguishing between qualified practitioners and quacks. "Besides lack of awareness this has been another reason why people are apprehensive about coming to us because they are scared they might fall in the wrong hands," says Wali. Speaking of the rising popularity of acupressure, Wali proposes that the University of Karachi should look into establishing a department of alternative medicine in its faculty, so that it can produce trained and certified practitioners.

In Pakistan, due to the lack of research and government's recognition of acupressure, the progress of this effectual and viable form of treatment is being hampered. If the government works on its promotion, access to medical facilities to countless people who can't afford conventional medicine due to financial constraints can be provided.

The therapists can be reached/contacted at:

Dr Zahida Ali Wali: 0321389572

Dr Abdul Qadir Leghari: Pranic Healing Centre, Sana Homes, Shop # 2, behind Bundoo Khan Restaurant, Block 13-C, Gulshan-e-Iqbal.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2010.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Five years ago, "intelligent design" ruling in Dover case set a legal landmark

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/front_page/20101220_Five_years_ago___quot_intelligent_design_quot__ruling_in_Dover_case_set_a_legal_landmark.html

Posted on Mon, Dec. 20, 2010

By Amy Worden

Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau

HARRISBURG - In 2004, almost 80 years after Tennessee teacher John Scopes attemped to resolve the battle between teaching evolution and creationism in U.S. classrooms, parents in a central Pennsylvania school district filed a suit that reignited the debate.

Eleven residents of Dover, 25 miles southwest of Harrisburg, sued over their school board's decision to introduce "intelligent design" into the high school biology curriculum.

Their suit contended that teaching intelligent design - which holds that the universe is so complex that a supernatural force must be at work - violated the constitutional separation of church and state because intelligent design is a religious concept, not a scientific one.

The 40-day trial drew worldwide attention as it pitted renowned biologists and paleontologists against Dover school board members and intelligent-design theorists.

On Dec. 20, 2005, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones 3d issued a landmark ruling that the "overwhelming evidence" at trial demonstrated that intelligent design was indeed a religious view. It was, he wrote, "a mere relabeling of creationism and not a scientific theory."

Almost immediately after Jones' decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the evolution battleground shifted to state and local governments, effectively silencing direct challenges to Darwin's theory in the courts and opening fresh debates in legislatures and on school boards.

The case's exposure generated a wave of funding for supporters of the theory of evolution through natural selection. Many scientists stepped up their roles as advocates. And Jones, of Pottsville, embarked on a mission to promote judicial independence and civics education.

"Most of the time the big impact comes with Supreme Court cases, but this was at trial court," said Eric Rothschild, a lawyer who represented the plaintiffs.

Dover, he said, was "a bigger cultural moment."

The decision - which was not appealed - refocused the work of those who defend evolution.

"We're not fighting Dovers in every fifth school district in the country," said Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, which lent its expertise to the plaintiffs.

"Dover seriously put the brakes on the intelligent-design movement."

But the creationist movement of the 1920s that became the intelligent-design movement in the 1980s has again refashioned itself, into one that promotes "teaching the controversy" of evolutionary theory, say Scott and others.

The approach, tried most recently in Louisiana, is to disclaim evolution, and to argue to teach it is poor science, Scott says.

"Intelligent design will probably not pass constitutional muster, but the movement always adapts to the court cases and calls it something else," said Michael Berkman, a Pennsylvania State University political science professor and co-author of the recently published Evolution, Creationism and the Battle to Control America's Classrooms. He and co-author Eric Plutzer, also of Penn State, surveyed more than 900 schools about their approaches to teaching evolution.

In the most recent case, the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) lobbied the state school board to reject high school biology textbooks it called biased and incorrect for neglecting the controversy surrounding evolution.

On Dec. 9, pro-evolution forces prevailed, as the board adopted textbooks over the objections of citizens who wanted to insert a mention of creationism or intelligent design - or at least, they said, for the science curriculum to note that the theory of evolution is not a fact.

"The LFF goal was to have pro-evolution passages of the books censored or rewritten," said Ken Miller, author of Miller and Levine Biology, a widely used high school biology text that was among those under debate.

Miller, a witness in the Dover trial and a Brown University biology professor, said claims of controversy over evolution are a "gross misrepresentation of fact."

"No scientific explanation, including evolution, is ever considered to be final or complete," he said. "However, the forms of 'critical analysis' promoted by the Louisiana Family Forum are actually a series of baseless arguments against evolution that have been repeatedly discredited by the scientific community."

Gene Mills, president of the Louisiana Family Forum, which had hoped to win state support to have science textbooks undergo further review, said his group sought only an honest discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of Darwin's theory.

"In spite of what our opponents claim - that it's intelligent design or introducing religion or creationism - in the hope of marginalizing legitimate concerns we have, the law is clear: Teachers may introduce supplemental material," Mills said.

He was referring to legislation signed into law in Louisiana in 2008 that lets teachers use supplemental material when teaching subjects such as global warming or the origin of species. A similar proposal fizzled in Pennsylvania, but conservative groups say they hope to resurrect it.

The battle is not over, said Mills, who plans to take up the issue with school superintendents in his state.

"The bigger question is whether what a federal judge decides is . . . the final say," he said, referring to Dover. "One of the great injustices in America today is that we have public education coming under the control of a federal judge who is not necessarily infallible. I don't think Dover is the final word."

Berkman and others say the Louisiana case is an example of the new battle over textbooks as they come up for review.

Evolution also suffers in the classroom, according to Berkman's survey, because many teachers are timid, may undermine the science, or may not present evolution thoroughly. Others slip creationism into the curriculum, he said.

"Too many biology teachers skip evolution, give one lecture, or leave it till the end," Scott said.

Rothschild argues that Dover enabled teachers to teach evolution without trepidation.

"I often think about what would have happened if we hadn't won," Rothschild said. "We would have seen dozens, if not hundreds, of schools adopt intelligent design."

The case cemented friendships among witnesses, lawyers, and plaintiffs who hold an annual reunion and share e-mailed updates on the latest evolution cases.

"There's a huge bond," Rothschild said. "The case was fun and exciting. I treasure these relationships."

Jones was named one of Time's 100 Most Influential people in 2006 and is in demand on the lecture circuit. He has delivered speeches in 30 states using Dover as a hook to explain judges' role to his audiences.

"Dover was a life-changing event in terms of allowing me to have a voice about judicial independence," said Jones, 55, in his corner office in the federal building overlooking the Capitol.

"The troubling aspect is that I've recognized we have a need to have better civics education," said Jones, who said he feels sheepish when listeners ask him to autograph copies of the decision.

Science teachers have told him they waited at their computer screens that morning five years ago when they got word the decision was at hand.

He had no idea how ugly it would get afterward, Jones said. He received death threats that required U.S. marshals' protection and was "eviscerated" by conservative TV commentators.

"I could have gone in either of two directions: bolt the chamber door shut, take my lumps, and move on, or respectfully choose a path to talk about how the judicial system works," Jones said as he sat at his office table, near a monkey skull given to him at one of his speaking engagements.

"The decision is holding up pretty well. That doesn't mean it will do down in history as a legal watershed moment," Jones said. "That will probably be decided long after I am dead."

Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or aworden@phillynews.com.

Read more: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/front_page/20101220_Five_years_ago___quot_intelligent_design_quot__ruling_in_Dover_case_set_a_legal_landmark.html?viewAll=y#ixzz19845jmE0

2010: a good year for creationists

http://www.tgdaily.com/general-sciences-features/53122-2010-a-good-year-for-creationists

Emma Woollacott | Mon 20th Dec 2010, 05:35 am

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is warning that creationists are increasingly attacking the science curriculum to get their sweet but bonkers ideas accepted as fact in schools.

In Texas, for example, a board of education dominated by creationists has successfully shoehorned creationist language into the life and earth sciences standards.

"Having students 'analyze and evaluate all sides of scientific evidence' is code that gives creationists a green light to attack biology textbooks," said Josh Rosenau, NCSE Programs and Policy Director.

Meanwhile, South Dakota passed a resolution encouraging teachers to present "a balanced and objective" view of global warming.

With around five percent of scientists disagreeing that man-made climate change is taking place, a 'balanced view' should by rights mean devoting about three minutes of a one-hour lecture to their viewpoint. That's not, apparently, what South Dakota meant.

Other 'highlights' of the year include the dishing out of government funds to a Kentucky theme park that promoted Mickey Mouse, sorry, creationism, as fact.

And in Louisiana, creationists almost derailed the adoption of nearly two dozen high school biology textbooks that, in the words of one creationist, "devoted too much time to evolutionary theory and none to intelligent design".

The books didn't devote a great deal of time to Norse myths either, but don't worry, all in good time.

There was some hope, though, for the forces of reason. John Freshwater, an Ohio middle school science teacher, was accused of displaying Biblical posters and branding crosses on the arms of his students. One family sued, costing the school district $475,000; Freshwater may soon be one of the lilies of the field.

The Jewish View of Creationism

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-adam-jacobs/the-jewish-view-of-creati_b_800257.html

Posted: December 23, 2010 10:58 PM

"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" --John Maynard Keynes

Few adjectives produce more of an emotional charge than "fundamentalist." It conjures up images of unhinged radical mobs in neuvo-Klan attire (indiscriminately) firing their AK-47's in the air, or of barefoot ignoramuses clutching their Bibles and getting excited to head off to the town lynchin'. Regrettably, there are far too many folks -- both inside and outside the religious camps -- with a sub-par comprehension of the actual fundamentals of religious thought and practice. This lack of knowledge tends to feed the stereotypes that the non-religious world perceives. Within the fundamentalist/secularist battle that has been flaring across the world stage for the last 200 plus years, there is perhaps no greater flash point than that of creationism, as was recently evidenced in the 27,000 comments made in a recent HuffPost piece on the topic.

To the secularist, the notion that we should flippantly toss aside hundreds of years of scientific investigation unequivocally demonstrating an extremely old universe simply because some ancient tome says it was created less than 6,000 years ago is nothing short of idiocy. What I hope to demonstrate is that Judaism's understanding of this matter (and many others) is significantly more nuanced, complex and surprising than what is currently believed to be the standard religious gloss on the subject. The truth of the matter is that Judaism is frequently (and unfairly) lumped together with other religious systems that actually have vastly different ways of looking at things.

One thousand years ago, the great Jewish philosopher and physician, Moses Maimonides, wrote that there is no contradiction between Torah and science and that if one is perceived, then there was a misapprehension of the science or the Torah. Two centuries later, Rabbi Isaac of Akko, a disciple of the great Moses Ben Nachman (Nachmanides) and one of the foremost Kabbalists of his generation, wrote some surprising commentary regarding the age of the universe. In his work "the Trove of Life," he explains that the Earth was actually 42,000 years old when Adam was created and that these years are "divine" years and should not be thought of as 365 regular days. Rather, a divine year is 1,000 times longer or 365,250 years. He based this on a verse in Psalm 90 that says "1,000 years in your eyes is like a day gone by." Do the math. According to Rabbi Isaac, the universe is 42,000 x 365,250, or 15,340,500,000 years old. This figure is squarely within the ballpark of where modern cosmology places the age of the universe. How did he know this? And how did he posses the temerity to conclude it in the midst of the Dark Ages? Perhaps our fundamentalism is not quite as primitive as is supposed.

Dr. Gerald Schroeder, an Ph.D. in physics from MIT, has spent the last 35 years investigating the confluence of science and Torah and has a novel, yet compelling, approach. Starting with Einstein's discovery of the relativity of time, he explains how great changes in gravity or velocity produce measurable changes in the flow of time. He demonstrates that on an imaginary planet so massive, with a force of gravity so great, that its time was slowed by a factor of 350,000, a visitor would live out three minutes of normal-feeling time while concurrently, the folks back home would have lived out an entire two years. Looking from Earth, the actions of the "big planet" visitor would appear to be unfolding extremely slowly, and vice versa from the other vantage point. Big Bang theory posits that the entire universe at its inception was but a minuscule speck. This notion was supported and recorded by Nachmanides in the 13th Century when he explained that the universe was originally condensed into the size of a mustard seed. As the universe expanded (again, a notion supported by both science and Torah), time expanded with it so that every time it doubled in size, time would pass at half its original rate. Following this logic, Dr. Schroeder demonstrates that it is perfectly conceivable that from the universe's perspective, six 24-hour periods had passed and concurrently the dilated outer reaches of that space would view it as if 15 billion years had elapsed. Have a look at his book The Science of God for the full treatment, including charts outlining the exact duration of each Biblical day.

I understand that it will be irresistible for some to label this approach as "apologetics," "reverse engineering" or worse. Bear in mind that true intellectualism requires us to remain open to new ideas that don't fit neatly into our current worldview. Most people are so wholly invested in their way of thinking that no amount of evidence would suffice to disavow them of it. Nonetheless, there are still some brave souls out there with the courage to take a second look. These ideas are old, based on the writing of well known and established Jewish scholars, who in turn learned them from more ancient sources. These sources depict an origin of the universe that is clearly, and uncannily, similar to that of modern cosmology and quite unlike the views of some "fundamentalist" religions out there. And when these sources have in the past conflicted with the cosmological thinking of the time, it is often the science that has evolved to an understanding closer to that of the religious. The Big Bang Theory, for example, positing that the universe is expanding infinitely from a single point, was quite controversial. Since the 1960s, that theory has been largely accepted as scientific fact.

That should give us pause. Science and religion have different functions in our lives, but they are not necessarily and always in opposition. Do your own research. If it's true, then integrity demands a re-evaluation of the value (of at least one) fundamentalist religious system.

Follow Rabbi Adam Jacobs on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AdamJJacobs


Friday, December 24, 2010

Evolution education update: December 24, 2010

The latest about the plans to construct a creationist theme park in northern Kentucky. Plus the Philadelphia Inquirer and the York Dispatch both commemorate the fifth anniversary of the verdict in Kitzmiller v. Dover, while Gallup releases the results of a new poll on public attitudes toward evolution, and videos of the Evolution Symposium at the National Association of Biology Teachers conference for 2010 are now available on-line. And a reminder about the special issue of Synthese on the creationism/evolution controversy, which is freely available until December 31, 2010.

UPDATE ON THE ARK PARK

The controversy continues over the prospect of state tourism development incentives for Ark Encounter, the proposed creationist theme park in northern Kentucky. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal (December 1, 2010), "Ark Encounter, which will feature a 500-foot-long wooden replica of Noah's Ark containing live animals such as juvenile giraffes, is projected to cost $150 million and create 900 jobs ... The park, to be located on 800 acres in Grant County off Interstate 75, also will include a Walled City, live animal shows, a replica of the Tower of Babel, a 500-seat special-effects theater, an aviary and a first-century Middle Eastern village." Collaborating on the project are Ark Encounter LLC and the young-earth creationist ministry Answers in Genesis, which already operates a Creation "Museum" in northern Kentucky.

In a December 20, 2010, op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leader (December 20, 2010), the Reverend Cynthia Cain, Rabbi Marc Kline, and the Reverend Mark D. Johnson, representing the board of directors of the Interfaith Alliance of the Bluegrass, protested the incentives, writing, "we do not believe our commonwealth should be giving tax incentives to an avowedly sectarian group, at least part of the purpose of which is to promote one particular brand of religion -- namely fostering only one way to read, apply and understand scriptural revelation," and adding, "when Kentucky presents even the appearance of advancing or promoting one particular version of faith over other faiths, or over none, it does enormous damage to the future of interfaith understanding, respect and hope for peace that so many have worked so hard to ensure."

Nevertheless, on December 20, 2010, the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority voted unanimously to give preliminary approval for the park to apply for the incentives, which would allow Ark Encounter to recoup 25 percent of its development costs by retaining the sales tax generated by the project. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader (December 20, 2010), "a third-party consultant [will] do an independent analysis of financial projections for the park and to see if the park would qualify for a full 25 percent rebate of its costs. If the consultant finds that the project won't generate enough economic activity, the board could decide against granting the full 25 percent return on the $150 million investment over 10 years. It could also decide not to grant the incentive at all." The analysis is expected to take about four months to complete.

When Governor Steve Beshear (D) announced the project, he cited a feasibility study predicting that the park would attract 1.6 million visitors in its first year. But as the Lexington Herald-Leader (December 18, 2010) observed, "neither Beshear nor other state officials had seen or read the study, which was commissioned by Ark Encounter, LLC, the group building the theme park." The state lacks a copy of the study, and Ark Encounter declined to provide it to the Herald-Leader. The study, conducted by America's Research Group (whose founder Britt Beemer coauthored a book with Answers in Genesis's Ken Ham), is reportedly 10,000 pages in length, with a 200-page executive summary. "When someone asks me to do one of these studies, I'm thorough," Beemer told the newspaper, explaining that his firm conducted extensive telephone interviews with one thousand people across the country.

A further controversy over Ark Encounters centers on whether the park would be able to discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring if it receives the state incentives. Answers in Genesis already requires its employees to endorse its statement of faith. Governor Beshear told the Louisville Courier-Journal (December 9, 2010), "We're going to require that anybody that we deal with is going to obey all of the laws on hiring and not discriminate on hiring." But a consultant for the project told the conservative Christian on-line news source OneNewsNow (December 15, 2010), "There will be positions that will require Bible knowledge because ... we have certain things in there that are requiring biblical knowledge," raising the question -- broached in Cain, Kline, and Johnson's op-ed -- of who is to decide what constitutes genuine understanding of the Bible.

For the 12/1/2010 story in the Louisville Courier-Journal, visit:
http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20101201/NEWS01/312010087/Beshear+announces+creationism+theme+park+to+open+in+2014++with+$250+million+impact

For the op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leader, visit:
http://www.kentucky.com/2010/12/20/1573475/tax-incentives-for-ark-park-hurt.html

For the 12/20/2010 story in the Lexington Herald-Leader, visit:
http://www.kentucky.com/2010/12/20/1574230/ark-park-gets-preliminary-ok-for.html

For the 12/18/2010 story in the Lexington Herald-Leader, visit:
http://www.kentucky.com/2010/12/18/1570761/state-never-saw-feasibility-study.html

For the 12/9/2010 story in the Louisville Courier-Journal, visit:
http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20101209/NEWS01/312090053/Beshear+says+Ark+park+contract+will+prohibit+religious+discrimination

For the story at OneNewsNow, visit:
http://www.onenewsnow.com/Culture/Default.aspx?id=1254354

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Kentucky, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/kentucky

KITZMAS CHEER IN THE PHILLY INQUIRER

The Philadelphia Inquirer (December 20, 2010) commemorated the fifth anniversary of the verdict in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the case establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools, with a review of the trial and its consequences. NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott told the paper, "We're not fighting Dovers in every fifth school district in the country ... Dover seriously put the brakes on the intelligent-design movement." But as Michael Berkman, coauthor with Eric Plutzer of Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America's Classrooms (Cambridge University Press, 2010), explained, "the movement always adapts to the court cases and calls it something else."

As a case in point, Scott cited Louisiana, where creationist attacks on the treatment of evolution in biology -- in the guise of calls for "critical analysis" — were recently rebuffed by the state board of elementary and secondary education. Kenneth R. Miller, a Supporter of NCSE who testified in the Kitzmiller trial, told the Inquirer that "the forms of 'critical analysis' promoted by the Louisiana Family Forum are actually a series of baseless arguments against evolution that have been repeatedly discredited by the scientific community." (Barbara Forrest reflects on the importance of the Kitzmiller case to the ongoing situation in Louisiana in a December 20, 2010, post on the Louisiana Coalition for Science's blog.)

"Evolution also suffers in the classroom, according to Berkman's survey, because many teachers are timid, may undermine the science, or may not present evolution thoroughly," the story explained, quoting Scott as observing, "Too many biology teachers skip evolution, give one lecture, or leave it till the end." Eric Rothschild, a Pepper Hamilton attorney who represented the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller, commented, "I often think about what would have happened if we hadn't won," adding, "We would have seen dozens, if not hundreds, of schools adopt intelligent design." Instead, the decision served to encourage teachers -- like Dover's Jennifer Miller, according to the York Dispatch (December 17, 2010) -- to present evolution without fear.

For the story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, visit:
http://www.philly.com/inquirer/front_page/20101220_Five_years_ago___quot_intelligent_design_quot__ruling_in_Dover_case_set_a_legal_landmark.html

For Barbara Forrest's blog post, visit:
http://lasciencecoalition.org/2010/12/20/merry-kitzmas-from-louisiana-coalition-for-science/

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

For the story in the York Dispatch, visit:
http://www.yorkdispatch.com/ci_16883908

For NCSE's collection of material relevant to Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit:
http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/intelligent-design-trial-kitzmiller-v-dover

A NEW GALLUP POLL ON EVOLUTION

A new Gallup poll on public opinion about evolution hints at a slightly higher rate of acceptance of evolution in the United States over the years. Asked in December 2010 "[w]hich of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings," 38% of the respondents accepted "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process," 16% accepted "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process," and 40% accepted "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so."

Gallup observed, "A small minority of Americans hold the 'secular evolution' view that humans evolved with no influence from God -- but the number has risen from 9% in 1982 to 16% today. At the same time, the 40% of Americans who hold the 'creationist' view that God created humans as is 10,000 years ago is the lowest in Gallup's history of asking this question, and down from a high point of 47% in 1993 and 1999," but added, "But these shifts have not been large, and the basic structure of beliefs about human beings' origins is generally the same as it was in the early 1980s." Acceptance of the creationist option was associated with a lower degree of education, a higher rate of church attendance, and affiliation with the Republican party.

According to Gallup, "The poll was based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 10-12, 2010, with a random sample of 1,019 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling"; the samples were weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. The maximum range of sampling error for the total sample was +/- 4%. Conveniently, Gallup provides a graph showing the results from its polls using the same question since 1982. Additionally, a collection of material -- including NCSE's coverage, articles from RNCSE, and links -- relevant to polls and surveys concerning the creationism/evolution controversy is available on the NCSE website.

For Gallup's report, visit:
http://www.gallup.com/poll/145286/Four-Americans-Believe-Strict-Creationism.aspx

For NCSE's collection of material on polls and surveys, visit:
http://ncse.com/creationism/polls-surveys

BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE KITZMAS

Five years after the verdict in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the case establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools, the York Dispatch (December 17, 2010) marked the anniversary with a review of the trial and its significance, including brief interviews with a number of the figures in the trial. The verdict was issued on December 20, 2005, prompting the Kitzmiller family to refer jokingly to the date as "Kitzmas" -- a term apparently coined by P. Z. Myers in a December 20, 2005, post on The Panda's Thumb blog celebrating the Kitzmiller verdict.

Commenting were the lead plaintiff Tammy Kitzmiller (who remarked, "I still get my hate mail"), Witold "Vic" Walczak of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Judge John E. Jones III, William Buckingham (a former member of the Dover Area School Board who supported the challenged policy), and Dover Area Senior High School biology teacher Jennifer Miller. While Miller used to relegate evolution to the end of the semester in her classes, she explained, "Now I teach it first and make sure I emphasize it. And I keep referring to it, to show them how important evolution is to biology."

Expert witnesses commenting included "intelligent design" proponent Michael Behe as well as Barbara Forrest (a member of NCSE's board of directors) and Kenneth Miller (a Supporter of NCSE). Forrest told the newspaper, "We need to remind people that we have now a federal court precedent that applies explicitly to ID. The next time there is a court case, the first thing that judge is going to do is look at that case," and Miller similarly said, "When evolution comes under attack, people are able to point to the Kitzmiller trial. There was a complete absence of scientific evidence for intelligent design."

For the article in the York Dispatch, visit:
http://www.yorkdispatch.com/ci_16883908

For P. Z. Myers's post at The Panda's Thumb, visit:
http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/12/unconstitutiona.html

For NCSE's collection of material relevant to Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit:
http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/intelligent-design-trial-kitzmiller-v-dover

"MOLECULAR INSIGHTS" VIDEOS ON-LINE

Videos from "Molecular Insights into Classic Examples of Evolution" -- the Evolution Symposium at the National Association of Biology Teachers conference for 2010 -- are now available on-line! Featured are 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 speaks 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 speaks on "Rapidly evolving viruses: Studying molecular evolution in real time"; Hopi E. Hoekstra of Harvard University speaks 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 speaks on "How bugs get their spots: Genetic switches and the evolution of form." In addition, research and teaching resources are provided for each topic.

The Evolution Symposium, presented annually since 2004 at the annual 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 the videos and related materials, visit:
https://www.nescent.org/media/NABTSymposium2010.php

REMINDER: "EVOLUTION AND ITS RIVALS"

"Evolution and its rivals" -- a special issue of the philosophy journal Synthese focused on the creationism/evolution controversy -- was just published. Coedited by Glenn Branch, NCSE's deputy director, and James H. Fetzer, professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, the issue (volume 178, number 2) contains Glenn Branch's introduction; Robert T. Pennock's "Can't philosophers tell the difference between science and religion?: Demarcation revisited"; John S. Wilkins's "Are creationists rational?"; Kelly C. Smith's "Foiling the Black Knight"; Wesley Elsberry and Jeffrey Shallit's "Information theory, evolutionary computation, and Dembski's 'complex specified information'"; Bruce H. Weber's "Design and its discontents"; Sahotra Sarkar's "The science question in intelligent design"; Niall Shanks and Keith Green's "Intelligent design in theological perspective"; Barbara Forrest's "The non-epistemology of intelligent design: Its implications for public policy"; and James H. Fetzer's "Evolution and atheism: Has Griffin reconciled science and religion?" Fortuitously, as part of a special promotion on the part of the journal's publisher, access to Synthese is free until December 31, 2010.

For the table of contents, visit:
http://www.springerlink.com/content/0039-7857/178/2/

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

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http://www.facebook.com/evolution.ncse
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NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!
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Poll: Belief in Evolution Increases

http://news.discovery.com/human/poll-belief-in-evolution-increases.html

Analysis by Benjamin Radford
Tue Dec 21, 2010 09:03 AM ET

A new Gallup poll surveying public opinion finds a slightly higher rate of acceptance of evolution in the United States over the years.

When people were asked "Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings?" 38 percent of the respondents accepted "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process."

Culture (Not Just Genes) Drives Evolution

Sixteen percent accepted "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process."

And 40 percent accepted "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so."

While four in 10 creationist Americans may seem like a lot, it's down significantly from just a decade ago. The study noted that "the 40 percent of Americans who hold the 'creationist' view that God created humans as-is 10,000 years ago is the lowest in Gallup's history of asking this question, and down from a high point of 47 percent in 1993 and 1999."

Pets Vital to Human Evolution

Frank Newport, a spokesman for Gallup, noted in a press release that "Americans' views on human origins vary significantly by level of education and religiosity. Those who are less educated are more likely to hold a creationist view. Those with college degrees and postgraduate education are more likely to hold one of the two viewpoints involving evolution."

Though there was of course a strong correlation between religiosity and belief in creationism, the poll found that about a fourth of those who rarely or never attend church reject evolution. The poll was based on telephone interviews conducted with a random sample of 1,019 adults between Dec. 10 and 12.

When did Oklahoma start electing shaved apes to their legislature?

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/12/when_did_oklahoma_start_electi.php

Category: Creationism • Kooks • Politics
Posted on: December 22, 2010 8:19 PM, by PZ Myers

Oh, actually, shaved apes would be an upgrade from Josh Brecheen, who is more like a shaved and bipedal member of the subgenus Asinus. He's a new legislator who has announced his intention to introduce creationism into Oklahoma schools (or, as perhaps I should refer to them, "skools") for a set of reasons he laid out in a notably ignorant column in the Durant Daily Democrat.

His column is amazing. The faculty of Southeastern Oklahoma State University are covering their eyes in shame right now, since apparently this creationist-cliche-spewing plagiarist and professional goober managed to successfully graduate from their institution. My students ought to be worried, too, because now I feel like I've got to tighten up my standards and start flunking more students out lest they come back and haunt me from positions of power. Seriously, it's a remarkable work he's posted: it's largely cribbed from the creationist Lee Strobel, but at the same time, he's managed to make standard creationist arguments worse. Here's his whole column, with a little helpful annotation from me.

One of the bills I will file this year may be dismissed as inferior by "intellectuals" [It's not a promising beginning when you're discussing a scientific topic and immediately dismiss intellectuals] so I wanted to devote particular time in discussing it's [sic] merits. It doesn't address state waste, economic development, workers comp reform or lawsuit reform (although I have filed bills concerning each) [I dread learning about their quality, given the dreck espoused here] but it is nonetheless worthy of consideration. It is an attempt to bring parity [a familiar refrain, in which a fringe belief is undeservedly promoted to equal time with well-established science] to subject matter taught in our public schools, paid for by the taxpayers and driven by a religious ideology [says the guy who wants to promote a religious ideology] . I'm talking about the religion of evolution [eyes roll everywhere]. Yes, it is a religion [No, it isn't]. The religion of evolution [Seriously. It isn't. It's a scientific theory that explains a large body of confirmable facts, and that provides a useful framework for new research. It has no resemblance to any faith of any kind.] requires as much faith as the belief in a loving God [God: no evidence, no math, no experiments, no observations. Evolution: evidence, math, experiments, observations. Case closed.], when all the facts are considered (mainly the statistical impossibility of key factors [Here comes the bad math]). Gasp! Someone reading this just fell out of their enlightened seat!!! [Only at the sight of three exclamation points…we're all wondering if he typed this while wearing his underpants on his head] "It's not a religion as it's agreed upon by the entire scientific community," some are saying at this very moment [No, we're not, because its status as a science rather than a religion is determined by its properties, not some kind of consensus or vote]. Are you sure? Let's explore the facts. [As if Brecheen has any.]

As a high school and university student forced to learn about evolution [If only someone had forced him to learn about logic and grammar!] I was never told there were credible scientists who harbor significant skepticism toward Darwinian Theory [Because there aren't any, at least not in the sense Brecheen is talking about. There are critics of aspects of the theory and differences in emphasis, but no credible, knowledgeable scientist has any doubts about the overall fact of evolution]. I easily recall a full semester at SOSU where my English 1 professor forced us to write [What we professors call "teaching", or dumber students call "forcing"] almost every paper over the "facts" of evolution. That professor had a deep appreciation for me [Oh, really?] by semester end due to our many respectful debates [In the classroom, professors tend to avoid expressing what they really think of some of the clowns in our student body. Don't mistake professionalism for intellectual respect] as I chose to not be blindly led [Says the creationist]. I specifically remember asking how in 4,000 years of recorded history how we have yet to see the ongoing evidence of evolution [But we do! Bacterial resistance, new species, observations of changing frequencies of alleles, etc., etc., etc.] (i.e. a monkey jumping out of a tree and putting on a business suit [Jebus. What a maroon. No, evolution does not predict that monkeys will don business suits]).

Following a 2001 PBS television series, which stressed the "fact" of evolution, approximately 100 [100 fringe cranks out of a population of about a million scientists] physicists, anthropologists, biologists, zoologists, organic chemists, geologists, astrophysicists and other scientists [Don't forget the dentists! Relatively few on the "Dissent from Darwinism" list were actually qualified biologists, and quite a few have since been very surprised to learn that they were included] organized a rebuttal. So much disagreement arose from this one sided TV depiction that this group produced a 151 page rebuttal stating how the program, "failed to present accurately and fairly the scientific problems with the Darwinian evolution". These weren't narrow minded fundamentalists, backwoods professors or rabid religious radicals [Actually, yeah, they were] ; these were respected world class scientists like Nobel nominee [Anyone can be nominated, and nominations are supposed to be secret; why this is always cited as a qualification is mysterious] Henry Schafer, the third most cited chemist [chemist, no expertise in biology] in the world and Fred Figworth [This is called a plagiarized error. Lee Strobel made this typo, and now it gets echoed in creationist rants everywhere. There is no Figworth at Yale; his name is Sigworth] , professor of cellular and molecular physiology at Yale Graduate School.

Ideologues teaching evolution as undisputed fact are not teaching truth [Yes, they are. Evolution is firmly established.]. Renowned [Fact not shown] scientists now asserting that evolution is laden with errors are being ignored [Also laughed at] . That's where we should have problems with state dollars only depicting one side of a multifaceted issue [Oklahoma: mountain state, archipelago, rain forest, or lunar mare? That's a multifaceted issue, too. Shall we teach invented geography with equal time?]. Using your tax dollars to teach the unknown, without disclosing the entire scientific findings is incomplete and unacceptable [OK, if we're to teach the complete story, we'll rightfully have to invest 179.99 days in teaching the scientific evidence, which all supports evolution, and 3 minutes on creationism on the last day. Fair's fair]. For years liberals have decried how they want to give students both sides of an argument so they can decide for themselves [Both sides doesn't imply a body of evidence is equal to a body of myth and superstition], however when it comes to evolution vs. creation in the classroom, the rules somehow change [Wrong. We're consistent: we want the scientific evidence taught. It's not our fault the creationists haven't provided any]. Their beliefs shift, may I say... evolve to suit their ideology.

We must discuss the most recognizable icons of the evolution religion. Darwin sketched for The Origin of Species a visual [This one? Wrong. It's not in the Origin, it's in Darwin's notes, which I doubt that Brecheen has read. It also looks nothing like what he describes] to explain his hypothesis that all living creatures evolved from a common ancestor. The tree of life scenario, engrained upon most of our memories [What he's about to describe isn't the tree of life, and I don't know where he came up with it, but plucked from his ass seems a reasonable hypothesis], depicts gue transitioning into a hunched over monkey which then turns into a business suit [What's with all the monkeys in business suits?].

Darwin himself knew the biggest problem with his visual (cornerstone concept of his hypothesis) was the fossil record itself. He acknowledged major groups of animals, he coined "divisions" (now called phyla) appear suddenly in the fossil record [Fair enough, Darwin does propose this as an issue, saying that there should have been long periods of time prior to the Cambrian, during which life swarmed in the seas. Of course, he's since been shown to have been right.]. The whole basis for evolution is gradual differences and changes to be confirmed by modified fossils (phyla cross-over [What? Never heard of it]). Even Christians believe in biological change from species to species (adaption) over time. The taxonomic hierarchy which includes species, genus, family, order and class must be visualized [What?] for understanding separation from phyla and species classifications. As an OSU Animal Science graduate [I'm so sorry, OSU] I readily admit the adaption of animal species from interbreeding such as Santa Gertrudis cattle, a "weenie" dog or even a fruit fly. Even the difference among lions, tigers and cougars could be attributed to species adaption and interbreeding if one so decried [sic]. Additionally, human differences seen notable in ethnicity proves that change among species is real but this is NOT evolution [No, it is evolution. You don't just get to define away obvious examples of changes over time as non-evolution] , its [sic] adaption. Changes with the classification of species is DRAMATICALLY different then changes among Phyla [Again, I say, what? I've been grading a lot of papers lately. I can tell when a student is trying to BS his way through a topic he doesn't understand, and Brecheen is showing all the signs] . Phyla changes would be if an insect, with its skeleton located on the outside of soft tissue (arthropods), transformed into a mammal, with its skeleton at the core of soft tissue (chordates) [Ah, so that's what he's getting at. An insect must turn into a mammal for evolution to be true. Sorry, guy, such a phenomenon would demonstrate that evolution was wrong — biologists make no such prediction]. Phyla changes must be verified for Darwin's common ancestor hypothesis to be accurate [Nope. This nonsense about "phyla changes" or "phyla cross-over" is simply stuff Brecheen has made up out of whole cloth (or stolen from one of his creationist source). Real biologists argue that mammals and insects evolved from a common ancestor in the pre-Cambrian, which would have been a generalized worm-like creature. Organisms do not suddenly leap across lines of descent; it's like arguing that before you'll believe I'm descended from my grandmother, I have to give birth to my cousin].

The rapid appearance of today's known phylum-level differences, at about 540 million years ago, debunks the tree of life (common ancestor) scenario [No, it doesn't.]. This biological big bang of fully developed [Nonsense. Cambrian organisms were precursors to modern forms, and the full range of extant forms was not present in the Cambrian—there were no bumblebees or birds, no squirrels or snakes.] animal phyla is called the Cambrian explosion. The Cambrian explosion's phyla fossils and the phyla of today are basically one in [sic] the same [Nope. The Cambrian chordates, for instance, were represented only by small wormlike swimmers that were spineless and jawless and brainless; modern chordates are significantly more diverse. Mr Brecheen, for instance, possesses a jaw, although he may be lacking in some of the other key characters]. These phyla fossils of that era are fully developed [What does that even mean? Of course they were functional organisms], not in a transitional form ["Transition" refers to an intermediate between two forms. They were transitional between pre-Cambrian forms and modern chordates]. In fact we don't have a transitional form fossil [Of course we do.] crossing phyla classification [Again with this bizarre "phyla crossing" nonsense. We expect no such thing] after hundreds of years of research looking at sediment beds spawning the ages. There are certainly plenty of good sedimentary rocks from before the Cambrian era to have preserved ancestors if there are any [Again, we do! We have fossils from the Vendian/Ediacaran; we have 600 million year old embryos; we have trace fossils and the small shelly fauna. Brecheen's ignorance is not evidence of absence] . As for pre-Cambrian fossils being too tiny or soft for secured preservation there are microfossils of bacteria in rocks dating back beyond three billion years [As I just said, we've got 'em. They're worms and slugs and fans and weird quilted creatures] . Absolutely ZERO phyla evidence supporting Darwin's hypothesis has been discovered after millions of fossil discoveries [Imagine Brecheen closing his eyes real tight right now, sticking his fingers in his ears, and going "lalalalala". What exactly did he learn in that OSU Animal Science program? It sure wasn't any basic biology]. Darwin's cornerstone hypothesis where invertebrate's transition into vertebrates is majorly lacking [No, it isn't. The molecular evidence is robust. Brecheen just doesn't understand it, or more likely, never saw it] and so is Darwin's "theory".

I will be introducing legislation this session to ensure our school children have all the facts [So, Oklahoma, you elected this idiot to office. Are you going to stand by and watch him poison your educational system with this garbage?].



Thursday, December 23, 2010

Echinacea: What Was Something May Have Been Nothing

http://inewp.com/?p=6051

Posted on 21 December 2010.

A study published in the December issue of Annals of Internal Medicine showed that echinacea's longstanding reputation for treating the common cold may be belied by the study experiment's results. The study, funded in part by the U.S. NCCAM (National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine) at the National Institutes of Health, assorted through 719 individuals within the age range of 12 – 80 with cold symptoms in the early stages and found out that Echinacea had no significant hand in treating the colds.

The participants in the study received an Echinacea pill, a "blind" pill (false Echinacea/sugar) or no pill at all.

Echinacea, a herbal remedy first to be used in the practice of medicine by Plains Indians, comes from specific species of purple coneflowers mostly found in central and eastern North America. It is a legitimate product that has been used as an immunostimulator for those with colds. As of now there are hundreds of medicinal products that utilize echinacea.

There have been several attempts in determining whether or not echinacea could treat colds in the past, the most notable being Taylor's 2003 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that proved echinacea products had little effect. However, supporters of echinacea criticized the study for only experimenting with whole echniacea plants and not root extracts.

Later in 2005, the New England Journal of Medicine published similar results to today's study which statistically found that echinacea had no major effects on the common cold.

The lead researcher of the study, Bruce Barret of the Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, and his colleagues, Roger Brown and Dave Murkel and others, observed that the "illness duration and severity were not statistically significant with echinacea compared with placebo."

In conclusion, the study team stated that the results "do not support the ability of this dose of the echinacea formulation to substantively change the course of the common cold".

However, Barret also stated that individuals who "have found echinacea to be beneficial should not discontinue use based on the results of this trial" seeing as the results are inconclusive. as there are no proven effective treatments and no side-effects were seen."

The team also noted that there were no serious side-effects in taking echinacea as no serious "side-effects were seen" during the study.

Senator Plans Bill to Address Evolution in Public Schools

http://www.kten.com/Global/story.asp?S=13724262

Posted: Dec 21, 2010 7:00 PM CST OKLAHOMA--It's been a controversial issue for years and now one Oklahoma lawmaker says he plans on introducing a bill next year dealing with teaching evolution in public schools.

Meredith Saldana has more on what the senator says is a very important issue.

State Senator Josh Brecheen stressed that the final wording of the bill is not complete but says the issues the bill deals with are vital to our children.

Senator Brecheen says children should be given all the facts when it comes to evolution.

"If we really are going to use science in the classroom, let's use the full science, let's not just be selective in our science. That's what my legislation is designed to do," Brecheen said.

The senator says he supports having creationism--the belief that God created the world without evolution--taught in public schools.

"You either remove both or you put both in," he said.

In an op-ed he wrote last week, Brecheen called evolution, "a religion," and says there are serious flaws in the theory that students ought to know.

"The main fallacy with Darwinian theory," he argued, "is the sudden appearance at about 540 million years [ago] of fossil records. It's like a guy standing at the chalkboard and saying okay here's an atom [and then writing] question mark, question mark, human--here we are. But its fact, and there's zero evidence to back it up."

But reputable scientists disagree including Murray State Professor Bruce Stewart who says the evidence for evolution is overwhelming.

He argues that the fossil record shows many transitional forms that support evolutionary theory.

"Science departments everywhere in accredited universities or any sort of legitimate research organization all work on the founding principle that we use science and evolution is science," he said.

Professor Stewart says teaching any alternatives to evolution would hurt Oklahoma kids' education.

"Teaching creationism or intelligent design would be a disastrous thing to include in a science course. It could be appropriately included in world religions or in other forums, but certainly not as science," he said.

"This is the future of our state, the future of our nation is dependant on what we teach our kidos in the classroom," said Senator Brecheen.

Oklahoma's major universities including OU and OSU all agree that evolution is the best science and that alternatives such as creationism should not be taught in public schools.

Meredith Saldana, KTEN News

Prof says he was denied job for being Christian

http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2010/12/21/prof-says-he-was-denied-job-for-being-christian/comment-page-1/

By Macleans.ca | December 21st, 2010 | 6:09 pm

Filed Under: NewsTags: faculty

Lawsuit filed against the University of Kentucky

An astronomy professor is suing the University of Kentucky over allegations he was denied a job running an observatory because he is an evangelical Christian. C. Martin Gaskell alleges in papers filed in a Kentucky federal court, that he was asked about his religious beliefs by the selections committee. The lawsuit states that Michael Cavagnero, chair of the physics and astronomy department, said that he "had personally researched Gaskell's religious beliefs," and warned that "expression of them would be a matter of concern." A departmental staffer who had discovered online lecture notes where Gaskell apparently drew links between creationism and recent astronomical research, wrote in a 2007 email to the chair, "If we hire him, we should expect similar content to be posted on or directly linked from the department Web site." Another candidate was awarded the position, and Gaskell currently works at the University of Texas. A trial is scheduled for February.

Ark Encounter Creationist Theme Park Gets Preliminary Approval For Kentucky State Funds

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/21/ark-encounter-creationist-theme-park_n_799603.html

The Huffington Post
Nick Wing First Posted: 12-21-10 10:22 AM | Updated: 12-21-10 10:38 AM

Ark Encounter, a creationist theme park slated for construction in Northern Kentucky, may soon be eligible for state tax incentives that would allow its planners to recoup up to $37 million of building costs. The attraction has already received preliminary approval from the state tourism board.

After receiving support from Democratic Governor Steve Beshear early this month, Kentucky's Tourism Development Finance Authority laid down some conditions under which Ark Encounter's financial backers could receive compensation for up to 25 percent of their $150 million investment in the religious theme park.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that a new feasibility study will be conducted by the state, following news that the park's backers had never provided a copy of their own findings to Kentucky officials:

The Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet will employ a third-party consultant to do an independent analysis of financial projections for the park.

If the consultant finds the project won't generate enough economic activity, the board could decide not to grant the full 25 percent return on the $150 million investment over 10 years. It also could decide not to grant any incentives.

The amusement park, which will include a three-stories high, two-football-fields long replica of Noah's Ark on part of its 800-acre ground, follows up on the Creation Museum, another Kentucky attraction also created by religious group Answers in Genesis that has now attracted more than a million visitors.

A recent study found 40 percent of Americans still believe in creationism, a statistic that suggests a large pool of potential customers for the religious theme park.

Help Support Discovery Institute in 2010

Editor's note: The North Texas Skeptics does not endorse this appeal for funding.

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2010/12/help_support_discovery_institu042051.html

Evolution News & Views comes to you as a service of Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, which produces other online media, such as ID the Future, the podcast about evolution and intelligent design, and websites like IntelligentDesign.org and FaithandEvolution.org, where videos, articles, and other resources are available and accessible. We've had a busy and memorable year, and we couldn't have done it without support from readers like you. Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture is a nonprofit 501(c)3, and looking ahead we know that the next year will be a great one as intelligent design continues to advance as a theory -- but we will need your help. Please consider partnering with us, whether it be as a member of the Discovery Society or a one-time gift. Your contributions make our work possible, and we are so grateful for everyone who continues to support us.

Posted by Evolution News & Views on December 22, 2010 5:48 AM | Permalink

Warning over alternative remedies

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5jqVDxQNRyVQVup3qpYA9-JWYtA4g?docId=N0286781293025358978A

Alternative remedies can be dangerous for children and could even lead to death, experts have warned.

Parents are sometimes misguided into thinking they are "more natural", with fewer side effects than conventional drugs.

Experts writing in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood warned of possible adverse reactions in youngsters.

They analysed monthly data reported to the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit between 2001 and 2003. During this period, there were 39 separate incidents of side effects linked with complementary medicine treatment, including four deaths. The children ranged from babies to 16-year-olds, and issues ranged from mild to severe.

In 25 cases (64%), the adverse events were rated as severe, life-threatening or fatal. In 30 cases (77%), the issues were "probably or definitely" related to complementary medicine, and in 17 (44%) the patient was regarded as being harmed by a failure to use conventional medicine.

All four deaths resulted from a failure to use conventional treatments, the reports showed.

One death involved an eight-month-old baby admitted to hospital "with malnutrition and septic shock following naturopathic treatment with a rice milk diet from the age of three months for 'congestion'".

"Another death involved a 10-month-old infant who presented with septic shock following treatment with homeopathic medicines and dietary restriction for chronic eczema," it said. The third death was sudden and "was reported in a child who had presented with multiple seizures, including one with cardiorespiratory arrest".

The fourth death was of a child who needed blood-clotting drugs but was given complementary medicine instead. Some other children were given echinacea, which is thought to be linked to the adverse reaction of poor growth. Gingko-ginseng was linked to bleeding as a side-effect.

The authors, from the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, said: "Many of the adverse events associated with failure to use conventional medicine resulted from the family's belief in complementary and alternative medicine and determination to use it despite medical advice."

Copyright © 2010 The Press Association

Complementary medicine 'can be lethal for children'

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1340985/Complementary-medicine-lethal-children.html

By Jenny Hope
Last updated at 3:05 AM on 23rd December 2010

Using complementary medicine on children can be fatal, experts warn today.

Parents can be misled into believing treatments such as homeopathy are more 'natural', with fewer side effects than conventional drugs.

But they may have direct dangerous effects, and even lead to death, when substituted for effective conventional medicines, according to a study.

It found the deaths of four children could be blamed on parents failing to use orthodox treatments for illness and using alternative remedies instead.

Homeopathic remedies: A study has raised fears that they may have dangerous side effects

The study team from the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, used data from 2001 to 2003 showing 39 separate incidents of side effects in children up to the age of 16 thought to be linked with complementary treatment, whether used as a substitute or alongside conventional medicine.

In three-quarters of cases the issues were 'probably or definitely' related to complementary medicine.

In 25 cases (64 per cent), the adverse effects were rated as severe, life-threatening or fatal.

Homeopathic drops: A study in Australia showed 39 separate incidents of side effects in children who had been given complementary medicine. Picture posed by model

In almost half of cases, including the four deaths, the patient was harmed by a failure to use conventional medicine.

One involved an eight-month-old admitted to hospital with malnutrition and septic shock following naturopathic treatment with a rice milk diet from the age of three months for constipation.

'Another death involved a ten-month-old with septic shock following treatment with homeopathic medicines and dietary restriction for chronic eczema,' said the report in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The third death was sudden in a child who had presented with multiple seizures. 'A number of different complementary and alternative medicine therapies had been used instead of anti-convulsant therapy due to concerns about potential drug side effects,' the report said.

The fourth death was of a child who needed blood-clotting drugs but was given complementary medicine instead.

Other reactions to complementary medicines included constipation, pain, seizures, vomiting, infections and malnutrition.

The report said: 'Many of the adverse events associated with failure to use conventional medicine resulted from the family's belief in complementary and alternative medicine and determination to use it despite medical advice.'

Alternative treatments are not subject to pharmaceutical testing as they are classified as food supplements.

In the UK, homeopathy has been funded on the NHS since 1948.

The Commons Science and Technology Committee earlier this year criticised state funding, saying it conferred scientific legitimacy.

Doctors at the British Medical Association's annual meeting voted 3-1 in support of removing 'scarce' NHS funding for homeopathy, despite protests from patients.

Professor Edzard Ernst, from the department of complementary medicine at Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, said parents must be very careful.

'The ethics of using alternative remedies in children are complex,' he added.

Cristal Sumner, of the British Homeopathic Association, said: 'With millions in Britain using complementary medicines (CAM), this study only emphasises the importance of CAM being integrated into the healthcare system and delivered by statutorily regulated health professionals.

'Most of the risks from CAM come from the failure to responsibly integrate therapies appropriately rather than a direct risk from treatments.'

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1340985/Complementary-medicine-lethal-children.html#ixzz18w9VUeai


Monday, December 20, 2010

Creationism Loses Believers

http://www.kjct8.com/news/26190160/detail.html

Numbers fall of people who believe God created man.

For many, Christmas is a religious holiday. A new survey shows the number of people who believe "God" created man is declining.

According to a Gallup poll only 40% believe in Creationism, down from 44% in 2008.

On the rise, is the number of people who believe God has been guiding the evolution of humans: 38% have faith in that belief.

For those atheists, 16% believe we evolved without the help of a higher being.PrintEmail

Copyright 2010 KJCT


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Keep evolution theory, creationism separate in classroom

http://www.shreveporttimes.com/article/20101217/OPINION0106/12170314/Keep-evolution-theory-creationism-separate-in-classroom

December 17, 2010

Over recent months, beginning with an opinion by John Byrd (The Times, 23 July) and at least two more recent guest editorial opinions (including another by Byrd on Dec. 1), The Times has printed opinions in support of teaching both evolution and intelligent design/creationism in our science classrooms.

Byrd quoted a philosopher: "There are two kinds of people in the world ... ." And that is correct. There are those who want to believe and those who want to find out.

Belief systems fall into the realm of religion and philosophy. Science seeks to find truths about nature.

The most recent opinions champion faith over reason and belief over fact.

A letter by a non scientist (in fact, a lawyer) is a demonstration of exactly why we need to teach science, including the evolution theory, in schools separately from creationism, which is pseudo-science promulgated by an anti-science cabal that caters to those who choose a very fundamentalist literal interpretation of the first book of the Old Testament. The "questions" about evolution raised in that letter are easily addressed in a proper academic course, but not so easily countered in a short letter — this is what the anti-science folks count on: ignorance of science and how it works. They would opt to confuse our children about natural truths to support their own world view, yet they accuse the science teacher of trying to confuse the student about his religious beliefs.

I have no problem with discussing intelligent design or creationism. However, being belief systems, these allied topics belong in religion or philosophy classes — not in science classes. Religion is a fine topic for churches, families and philosophy classes. But intelligent design/creationism is not science and does not belong in science classes except as a model for how not to reason or understand the natural world. The feeling/belief that God created the universe is a personal and religious belief and not the proper topic of science or science teaching.

It is not just a question of "two possible answers," as Byrd wrote, of truth or falsehood, but a fundamental question of what is science and what is belief. It is a basic misunderstanding of science that leads people to support equating evolution theory and creationism dogma. They should be viewed separately and critically.

The real agenda of many of the supporters of the teaching of creationism (or its camouflaged twin, intelligent design) is not equal treatment but the defeat of reason and science — the rolling back of 200 years of advance of knowledge. The legislative bill is an affront to knowledge and a blatant attempt to undermine the separation of church and state.

Lastly, unlike the implication by Byrd that this is an atheist vs. Christian debate, science has no bearing on belief systems. Not all scientists are atheists by a long shot. Evolution theory does not demand an atheist interpretation; it just allows one. On the other hand, intelligent design and God are not scientifically testable concepts.

These are separate views of the world. Let us keep them separate in the classroom.

Michael T. Roberts lives in Shreveport.

Top Ten Evolution Stories of 2010

http://www.newswise.com/articles/top-ten-evolution-stories-of-2010

Released: 12/17/2010 3:45 PM EST
Source: National Center for Science Education

Newswise — Those crafty creationists just won't let up. Since they can't get their way in the courts or state legislatures, their new tactic is to attack the curriculum itself, from science standards to textbooks, forcing teachers to teach science the creationist way.

In Texas, for example, a creo-dominated board of education in 2009 successfully shoehorned creationist language into the life and earth sciences standards. "Having students 'analyze and evaluate all sides of scientific evidence' is code that gives creationists a green light to attack biology textbooks," said Josh Rosenau, NCSE Programs and Policy Director.

But the board didn't stop there. In March of 2010, the board turned on Texas social studies standards, booting Thurgood Marshall out of the history books and inserting Phyllis Schlafly. "We are adding balance," said board chairman Dr. Don McLeroy.

Echoing language from the evolution vs. creationism wars, South Dakota passed a resolution encouraging teachers to present "a balanced and objective" view of global warming.

In Louisiana, creationists waving the banner of the 2008 Science Education Act almost derailed the adoption of nearly two dozen high school biology textbooks that, in the words of one creationist, "devoted too much time to evolutionary theory and none to intelligent design".

In short, it was a busy year.

Here's the National Center for Science Education's list of the ten hottest evolution stories of the year:

1. Louisiana biology textbooks under siege

Attacks orchestrated by The Louisiana Family Forum nearly upended the adoption of biology textbooks that (gasp) didn't talk about intelligent design. But the textbook subcommittee and the full board of education overwhelmingly approved the books.

http://ncse.com/news/2010/12/biology-textbooks-approved-louisiana-006357

Expert contact: Josh Rosenau

2. Gov backs Kentucky creationism theme park

A theme park complete with a replica of Noah's Ark and the Tower of Babel? A park backed by state funds? Believe it.

http://ncse.com/news/2010/12/creationism-theme-park-controversy-continues-006354

Expert contact: Josh Rosenau

3. Teacher makes an impression

John Freshwater, an Ohio middle school science teacher, was accused of displaying Biblical posters, branding crosses on the arms of his students, and teaching creationism. One family sued; the school district is out $475,000; Freshwater may soon be out of a job.

http://ncse.com/news/2010/12/settlement-freshwater-case-final-006348

Expert contact: Glenn Branch

4. Don McLeroy booted off Texas board of education

During his heyday as board chairman, McLeroy (an avowed creationist) made news during a hearing by crying out "Somebody's got to stand up to experts!". The voters thought otherwise and McLeroy lost his re-election bid.

http://ncse.com/news/2010/03/mcleroy-booted-texas-005354

Expert contacts: Josh Rosenau, Genie Scott

5. UC vs. Christian high schools

The University of California refused to give credits for high school biology classes that relied on creationist textbooks such as Biology: God's Living Creation. Several Christian schools sued, but the Supreme Court let stand a ruling supporting UC's policies.

http://ncse.com/news/2010/01/victory-again-california-creationism-case-005282

Expert contact: Glenn Branch

6. Anti-evolution bills DOA

Anti-evolution bills were proposed in Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Mississippi. The Kentucky bill was typical, "help[ing] students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner, including but not limited to the study of evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." All died in committee.

Expert contacts: Josh Rosenau, Steve Newton

7. We don't need no stinkin' accreditation!

The Institute for Creation Research wanted to offer Masters of Science Education degrees without getting the Texas Higher Education board's certification. The board said no and the ICR sued and lost. Said the exasperated judge: "[ICR] is entirely unable to file a complaint which is not overly verbose, disjointed, incoherent, maundering, and full of irrelevant information"

http://ncse.com/news/2010/06/legal-defeat-icr-005583

Expert contact: Glenn Branch

8. Forward an email, lose your job.

Chris Comer, Director of Science at the Texas Education Agency, was fired in 2007 for forwarding an email announcing a public lecture by NCSE Board member Barbara Forrest. Comer sued, lost, appealed, and in 2010, had her appeal denied.

http://ncse.com/news/2010/07/comer-loses-appeal-005612

Expert contact: Josh Rosenau

9. Top Doc Nabs Fab Sci Prize

The National Academy of Sciences awarded Dr. Eugenie C. Scott the Public Welfare Medal for her "extraordinary use of science for the public good". She joins an elite club that includes Carl Sagan, C. Everett Koop, David Packard, and Vannevar Bush.

http://ncse.com/news/2010/01/eugenie-c-scott-honored-by-national-academy-sciences-005277

Expert contact: Robert Luhn

10. Friends of Darwin Announced

NCSE's "Friend of Darwin" award was bestowed on three Texas educators who stood tall for science education: Dr. David Hillis (UT), Dr. Gerald Skoog (Texas Tech), and Dr. Ronald Wetherington (Southern Methodist).

http://ncse.com/news/2010/02/friends-darwin-awards-three-texans-005341

Expert contact: Robert Luhn

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is a non-profit membership organization that promotes and defends the teaching of evolution. It provides scientific, educational, legal, and other information and advice relating to the evolution vs. creationism controversy to schools, educators, parents, and other concerned citizens. NCSE's members are scientists, teachers, clergy, and citizens with diverse religious affiliations.

CONTACT: Robert Luhn, Director of Communications, NCSE, 510-601-7203, luhn@ncse.com

Web site: www.ncse.com

To see more news from NCSE, go to: http://ncse.com/news

Permalink to this article

4 in 10 Americans still hold creationist views

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40732028/ns/technology_and_science-science/

The percentage is declining, however, from a 1999 high of 47 percent
updated 12/18/2010 2:16:37 PM ET 2010-12-18T19:16:37

If you're in a room of 100 people, odds are likely about 40 think God created humans about 10,000 years ago, part of a philosophy called creationism, according to a Gallup poll reported Friday (Dec. 17). That number is slightly lower than in years past and down from a high of 47 percent in both 1993 and 1999.

And 38 percent of Americans, the poll estimates, believe God guided the process that brought humans from "cavemen" to today's incarnation over millions of years, while 16 percent think humans evolved over millions of years, without any divine intervention.

This secular view, while a relatively small number, is up from 9 percent in 1982, according to Gallup.

Like most American attitudes, Gallup wrote, views on human origins have political consequences. For instance, debates and clashes over which explanations for human origins should be included in school textbooks have persisted for decades. And with 40 percent of Americans continuing to hold to an anti-evolutionary belief about the origin of humans, it is highly likely that these types of debates will continue, according to Gallup.

The findings also stand in stark contrast to another announcement Friday, this one by John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The memo was issued to federal science agencies to guide them in making rules to ensure scientific integrity.

The Gallup results are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 10-12 with a random sample of 1,019 adults, ages 18 and older, living in the continental United States. The findings were weighted by gender, age, race, education, religion and phone lines to make the sample nationally representative.

Americans' views on human origins varied significantly by level of education and religion, the poll found. Those with less education were more likely to hold a creationist view that God created life thousands of years ago, while college graduates were more likely to hold one of the two viewpoints involving evolution.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Americans who attend church frequently were most likely to accept explanations for the origin of humans that involve God. Still, the creationist viewpoint, which was held by 60 percent of weekly churchgoers, wasn't universal even among the most highly religious group. Also, about a fourth of those who seldom or never attend church choose the creationist view.

A significantly higher percentage of Republicans indicated a creationist view of human origins, which Gallup experts say reflects in part the strong relationship between religion and politics in contemporary America. Republicans are also significantly more likely to attend church weekly than are others. Democrats and Independents showed similar views on human origins:

•Republicans: 36 percent think humans evolved through a God-guided process; 8 percent say God had no part in the process; and 52 percent held the creationist view.
•Democrats: 40 percent agree with evolution through a God-guided process; 20 percent say God had no part in the process; and 34 percent held the creationist view.
•Independents: 39 percent agree with evolution through a God-guided process; 21 percent say God had no part in the process; and 34 percent held the creationist view.

Gallup officials wrote that it's not surprising some 80 percent of Americans hold a view of human origins that involves God, since most Americans believe in God and about 85 percent identify with a religion.

•Top 10 Mysteries of the First Humans
•Top 10 Intelligent Designs (Creation Myths)
•God and Evolution Can Coexist, Scientist Says

You can follow LiveScience Managing Editor Jeanna Bryner on Twitter @jeannabryner.

© 2010 LiveScience.com

Astronomer Sues the University of Kentucky, Claiming His Faith Cost Him a Job

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/19/us/19kentucky.html

By MARK OPPENHEIMER
Published: December 18, 2010

In 2007, C. Martin Gaskell, an astronomer at the University of Nebraska, was a leading candidate for a job running an observatory at the University of Kentucky. But then somebody did what one does nowadays: an Internet search.

C. Martin Gaskell, who currently works at the University of Texas, says he is not a creationist and does not deny evolution.

That search turned up evidence of Dr. Gaskell's evangelical Christian faith.

The University of Kentucky hired someone else. And Dr. Gaskell sued the institution.

Whether his faith cost him the job and whether certain religious beliefs may legally render people unfit for certain jobs are among the questions raised by the case, Gaskell v. University of Kentucky.

In late November, a federal judge in Kentucky ruled that the case could go forward, and a trial is scheduled for February. The case represents a rare example, experts say, of a lawsuit by a scientist who alleges academic persecution for his religious faith.

Both sides agree that Dr. Gaskell, 57, was invited to the university, in Lexington, for a job interview. In his lawsuit, he says that at the end of the interview, Michael Cavagnero, the chairman of the physics and astronomy department, asked about his religious beliefs.

"Cavagnero stated that he had personally researched Gaskell's religious beliefs," the lawsuit says. According to Dr. Gaskell, the chairman said Dr. Gaskell's religious beliefs and his "expression of them would be a matter of concern" to the dean.

Federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, so interviewers typically do not ask about an applicant's faith. Depositions and e-mails submitted as evidence suggest why Dr. Cavagnero may have raised the issue with Dr. Gaskell.

For the plaintiff, the smoking gun is an e-mail dated Sept. 21, 2007, from a department staff member, Sally A. Shafer, to Dr. Cavagnero and another colleague. Ms. Shafer wrote that she did an Internet search on Dr. Gaskell and found links to his notes for a lecture that explores, among other topics, how the Bible could relate to contemporary astronomy.

"Clearly this man is complex and likely fascinating to talk with," Ms. Shafer wrote, "but potentially evangelical. If we hire him, we should expect similar content to be posted on or directly linked from the department Web site."

In his deposition, Dr. Cavagnero recalled reading Ms. Shafer's e-mail and said he discussed Dr. Gaskell's faith with the department chairman at the University of Nebraska, where Dr. Gaskell worked at the time. Dr. Cavagnero also said a colleague, Moshe Elitzur, worried that Dr. Gaskell "had outspoken public views about creationism and evolution."

Dr. Elitzur, in his deposition, said he feared that bad publicity could arise from bringing Dr. Gaskell to the university, which is less than 100 miles from the Creation Museum, in Petersburg, Ky.

"There's no way you can avoid the headline in The Herald-Leader saying 'U.K. hires a creationist for public outreach,' " Dr. Elitzur remembered saying.

Referring to Ms. Shafer's concern that Dr. Gaskell was "potentially evangelical," Francis J. Manion, Dr. Gaskell's lawyer, said: "I couldn't have made up a better quote. 'We like this guy, but he is potentially Jewish'? 'Potentially Muslim'?"

Dr. Elitzur and Dr. Cavagnero did not return phone calls for comment. Reached by phone, Ms. Shafer said that "it would not be a good idea" for her to answer questions. Jay Blanton, a university spokesman, said the hiring committee "had a responsibility to discuss his comments on evolution and science in general. Part of the job is lecturing publicly on science."

Dr. Gaskell has written that "there are significant scientific problems in evolutionary theory (a good thing or else many biologists and geologists would be out of a job.)" And in the lecture notes Ms. Shafer found online, Dr. Gaskell tried to reconcile the creation account in Genesis with recent astronomical findings.

Dr. Gaskell, however, said he accepted standard evolutionary science. In e-mail responses to questions, he said he was not a creationist and did not deny the theory of evolution.

The University of Kentucky says it chose another candidate for the job based on "bona fide occupational qualifications."

With his faith, Dr. Gaskell, who now works at the University of Texas but has accepted a job in Chile, does embrace views that most of his peers find indefensible. In a 1998 survey, 7.5 percent of physicists and astronomers in the National Academy of Sciences said they believed in God — and many of the believers would still concede that science explains the universe better than a reading of Genesis.

Daniel Mach, who works on religious freedom issues for the American Civil Liberties Union, said he knew of no cases similar to the one filed by Mr. Gaskell.

At least two scientists have made accusations of similar discrimination, but neither sued. Richard Sternberg, a biologist, said he was harassed after a journal he edited published a paper, in 2004, supporting the "intelligent design" theory of the universe, which scientists generally say owes more to religion than to science. And an astrophysicist, Guillermo Gonzalez, said he was denied tenure by Iowa State University in 2007 because of his advocacy of intelligent design.

A version of this article appeared in print on December 19, 2010, on page A18 of the New York edition..

78% of Americans Believe Creationist Myth Rather than Science

http://www.shortnews.com/start.cfm?id=86938

12/19/2010 02:40 AM ID: 86938 Permalink

A recent Gallup poll revealed that 40 percent of Americans believe in the creationist explanation of the origin of humans. Another 38 percent see that the Abrahamic deity "God" aided early cavemen into the modern day.

Where the 40 percent and 38 percent differ is in the actual time it took. Creationist believe humans were created 10,000 years ago, while the 38 percent believe it was over millions of years.

Only 16 percent of Americans who were polled agreed that humans evolved over millions of years without supernatural interference.