NTS LogoSkeptical News for 22 January 2011

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Evolution education update: January 21, 2011

Not one but two new antievolution bills in Oklahoma, a column by NCSE's Steven Newton in the Christian Science Monitor, a settlement in the Gaskell case, a new antievolution bill in Missouri, and two criticisms of the proposed ark park in the newsletter of the Kentucky Academy of Science.


House Bill 1551, prefiled in the Oklahoma Senate and scheduled for a first reading on February 7, 2011, is apparently the fourth antievolution bill of 2011, and the second in Oklahoma, joining Senate Bill 554. Entitled the "Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act," SB 320 would, if enacted, require state and local educational authorities to "assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies" and permit teachers to "help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught." The only topics specifically mentioned as controversial are "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."

HB 1551 differs only slightly from Senate Bill 320, which died in committee in February 2009; a member of the Senate Education Committee told the Tulsa World (February 17, 2009) that it was one of the worst bills that he had even seen. In its critique of SB 320, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education argued, "Promoting the notion that there is some scientific controversy is just plain dishonest ... Evolution as a process is supported by an enormous and continually growing body of evidence. Evolutionary theory has advanced substantially since Darwin's time and, despite 150 years of direct research, no evidence in conflict with evolution has ever been found." With respect to the supposed "weaknesses" of evolution, OESE added, "they are phony fabrications, invented and promoted by people who don't like evolution."

The sole sponsor of HB 1551 is Sally Kern (R-District 84), a persistent sponsor of antievolution legislation in Oklahoma. In 2006 -- a year which saw no fewer than four such bills in Oklahoma -- Kern was the lead sponsor of House Bill 2107, which would have called for "academic freedom" with respect to "biological or chemical origins of life," and of House Concurrent Resolution 1043, which would have called on the state board of education to revise the state science standards to ensure that students can "critically evaluate scientific theories including, but not limited to, the theory of evolution." HB 2107 was passed by the House by a vote of 77-10 in March 2006, with one supportive legislator explaining, "Did we come from slimy algae 4.5 billion years ago or are we a unique creation of God? I think it's going to be exciting for students to discuss these issues," but died when the legislature adjourned in May 2006.

For the text of Oklahoma's HB 1551 (document), visit:

For the Tulsa World's article, visit:

For Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education's critique of SB 320 (PDF), visit:

For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit:


Senate Bill 554, prefiled in the Oklahoma State Senate on January 19, 2011, is apparently the third antievolution bill of 2011. Interestingly, two strands of antievolution strategy intersect in SB 554.

First, echoing the still popular "academic freedom" language of antievolution legislation, the bill provides that state and local education administrators "shall not prohibit any teacher from informing students about relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses of controversial topics in sciences, when being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula," where such topics "include but are not limited to biological origins of life and biological evolution." The bill also provides, "No teacher shall be reassigned, terminated, disciplined or otherwise discriminated against for providing scientific information being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula."

Second, the bill requires the state board of education to adopt "standards and curricula" that echo the flawed portions of the state science standards adopted in Texas in 2009 with respect to the nature of science and, for grades eight through twelve, evolution. For example, the content of SB 554's D1, D2, D7, D9, and D10 are identical to sections 7A, 7B, 7G, 8A, and 8B of the Texas high school biology standards -- all sections that were added or amended by antievolution members of the Texas state board of education, such as Don "Someone's got to stand up to experts!" McLeroy, in order to encourage the presentation of creationist claims in the science classroom. No fewer than fifty-four scientific and educational organizations opposed these revisions.

The sole sponsor of the bill is Josh Brecheen (R-District 6), who announced his intention to file antievolution legislation in a column in the Durant Daily Democrat (December 19, 2010): "Renowned scientists now asserting that evolution is laden with errors are being ignored. ... Using your tax dollars to teach the unknown, without disclosing the entire scientific findings[,] is incomplete and unacceptable." In a subsequent column in the Daily Democrat (December 24, 2010), he clearly indicated that his intention was to have creationism presented as scientifically credible, writing, "I have introduced legislation requiring every publically funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate of creation vs. evolution using the known science, even that which conflicts with Darwin's religion."

Oklahomans concerned about SB 554 are urged to get in touch with Steven Newton at NCSE and the grassroots organization Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education.

For the text of Oklahoma's SB 554 (document), visit:

For Texas's state science standards, visit:

For the statement from fifty-four organizations, visit:

For Brecheen's columns in the Durant Daily Democrat, visit:

For Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, visit:

For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit:


NCSE's Steven Newton contributed a guest column, entitled "Creationists have gotten clever, but there's still no debate over evolution," to the Christian Science Monitor (January 19, 2011). The tactics of creationists have evolved since the Scopes trial in 1925, and even since the Kitzmiller trial in 2005. What is now favored, he explained, is "to try to undermine the teaching of evolution by arguing that 'evidence against evolution' should be taught," adding, "The new strategy is craftier -- but just as bogus."

Observing that "there simply is no debate among scientists about the validity of evolution," Newton concluded, "Because scientists are not debating evolution, it is wrong to teach students otherwise." But creationists nevertheless seek "to misuse public resources to foist their scientifically unwarranted denial of evolution on a captive student audience, and to force their culture war into America's classrooms"; Newton cites a promised but so far not introduced bill in the Oklahoma state senate.

"Lacking any substantive evidence to make their case, creationists offer a few selective quotes from real scientists to give their arguments authority," Newton explained, giving a recent example in which a Discovery Institute staffer misrepresented biologist Eugene V. Koonin. Koonin told Newton that he was challenging only a half-century-old approach to understanding evolution, prompting Newton to quip, "Evolution is alive and well, while creationist understanding of it is apparently stuck in the Eisenhower era."

Newton concluded: "Whether by banning the teaching of evolution, or requiring the teaching of creation science or intelligent design, or encouraging the teaching of long-ago-debunked misrepresentations of evolution, creationist proposals are bad science, bad pedagogy, and bad policy. Instead of proposing scientifically illiterate and educationally harmful measures, state legislatures -- and other policy-makers -- should help students learn about evolution."

For Newton's column, visit:


A settlement was reached in C. Martin Gaskell v. University of Kentucky, and the parties are moving for a dismissal of the lawsuit. As NCSE previously reported, Martin Gaskell was a leading candidate to be the founding director of a new observatory at the University of Kentucky in 2007. He was not hired, however, in part because of his apparent views on evolution; according to the Louisville Courier-Journal (December 10, 2010), "Gaskell had given lectures to campus religious groups around the country in which he said that while he has no problem reconciling the Bible with the theory of evolution, he believes the theory has major flaws. And he recommended students read ... critics [of evolution] in the intelligent-design movement." Gaskell filed suit against the university in July 2009, alleging that he was not appointed "because of his religious beliefs and his expression of these beliefs" in violation of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991.

According to the Courier-Journal, the university "acknowledged that concerns over Gaskell's views on evolution played a role in the decision to chose another candidate. But it argued that this was a valid scientific concern" -- particularly with regard to the prospect that Gaskell's views on evolution would interfere with his ability to serve effectively as director of the observatory -- "and that there were other factors, including a poor review from a previous supervisor and UK faculty views that he was a poor listener." In November 2010, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky denied the defendant's and the plaintiff's separate requests for summary judgment, noting, "The parties greatly debate exactly what Gaskell personally believes regarding the theory of evolution and the Bible." The case was scheduled to go to a jury trial on February 8, 2011, as the Associated Press reported (January 18, 2011).

In the settlement, the University of Kentucky agreed to pay Gaskell and his attorneys $125,000; the parties are responsible for their own costs and attorney fees. The settlement provided (p. 3), "The parties agree that by entering into this Release and Settlement Agreement, the Defendant, University of Kentucky, is not admitting wrongdoing," and the university's counsel Barbara Jones said, in a January 18, 2011, statement, "This successful resolution precludes what would have been a lengthy trial that, ultimately, would not have served anyone's best interests. Importantly, as the settlement makes clear, the University believes its hiring processes were and are fundamentally sound and were followed in this case. ... We are confident that a trial court and the members of the jury would have agreed at the conclusion of all the evidence." Documents from the case, C. Martin Gaskell v. University of Kentucky, are available on NCSE's website.

For the Louisville Courier-Journal's article, visit:

For the Associated Press's article, visit:

For the settlement document (PDF), visit:

For the statement from the university's counsel, visit:

For NCSE's collection of documents from the case, visit:


House Bill 195, introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on January 13, 2011, and not yet referred to a committee, is apparently the second antievolution bill of 2011. The bill would, if enacted, call on state and local education administrators to "endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution" and to "endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies." "Toward this end," the bill continues, "teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution."

HB 195 is virtually identical to HB 1651, introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on January 13, 2010. The main difference is that HB 1651's ornate disclaimer -- "this section shall not be construed to promote philosophical naturalism or biblical theology, promote natural cause or intelligent cause, promote undirected change or purposeful design, promote atheistic or theistic belief, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or ideas, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion" -- was replaced in HB 195 with "this section shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion." When the Missouri legislative session ended on May 14, 2010, HB 1651 died without ever having been assigned to a committee.

The chief sponsor of HB 195 is Andrew Koenig (R-District 88), joined by Doug Funderburk (R-District 12), Kurt Bahr (R-District 19), Charlie Davis (R-District 128), Bill Reiboldt (R-District 130), Thomas Long (R-District 134), Dwight Scharnhorst (R-District 93), Shane Schoelle (R-District 139), Kathie Conway (R-District 14), Chuck Gatschenberger (R-District 13), Darrell Pollock (R-District 146), Rick Stream (R-District 94), Rodney Schad (R-District 115), and David Sater (R-District 68). Funderburk, Davis, Sater, Stream, Schad, and Pollock were also cosponsors of HB 1651 in 2010. HB 1651's chief sponsor Robert Wayne Cooper (R-District 155), who previously introduced a string of unsuccessful antievolution bills -- HB 911 and 1722 (which called for equal time for "intelligent design" in the state's public schools) in 2004, HB 1266 in 2006, HB 2554 in 2008, and HB 656 in 2009 -- in Missouri, was termed out of office in 2010.

For the text of Missouri's HB 195, visit:

For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Missouri, visit:


Concern over Ark Encounter, the proposed creationist theme park in northern Kentucky was expressed by two guest editorials in the January 2011 issue of the newsletter of the Kentucky Academy of Science. 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. A major part of the controversy over the park is its application to receive state tourism development incentives, which would enable it to recoup 25 percent of its development costs by retaining the sales tax generated by the project -- estimated at $37.5 million.

In his editorial, Robert Kingsolver of Bellarmine University wrote, "the Academy has long held the position that faith-based paradigms defying any sort of investigative scrutiny should not be passed off as scientific truth, especially at taxpayers' expense." He also warned, "Scientifically literate people will think twice about moving to or investing in a state that publicly endorses the replacement of established scientific methods and principles with an alternative 'creation science.' ... our Commonwealth is putting its money on a landlocked wooden boat, a failed stairway to heaven, and a bronze-age world view."

Particularly galling to Kingsolver was the state's neglect of a project that genuinely would improve the public understanding of science -- the Kentucky Natural History Museum, authorized (in 2000) but never funded by the legislature. "To our knowledge, the state has sought no investors in this project, nor has it launched any public awareness campaign comparable to the recent deluge of publicity for Ark Encounter," Kingsolver commented, adding, "Opportunities lost include the natural history museum's potential tourism revenue and a critically needed educational resource, but also the preservation of our state's natural heritage."

In his editorial, Daniel Phelps of the Kentucky Paleontological Society recommended that his fellow scientists take action, with respect to the short term and the long term alike. "In the short term, speak out!" he urged. "If scientists are silent, politicians and school boards will only hear the voices of anti-scientists." Not only is there a new antievolution bill, HB 169, in the Kentucky legislature, Phelps observed, but "Kentucky has over one hundred school districts, and scientists need to pay attention to these local decisions where creationism gets taught, or evolution is misrepresented."

To help to defend the teaching of evolution in the long term, Phelps argued, "you can improve the way you teach the scientific method, evolution, and relevant sciences, especially to non-science majors," citing NCSE executive director Eugenie C. Scott's 2010 article "Dobzhansky was right: Let's tell the students." "If some public school teachers are not doing an adequate job of teaching evolution and relevant sciences," he suggested, "it may be because of pressure from administrators and the local community, but it is also because some were inadequately educated in their university science courses."

For Kingsolver's column (PDF, p. 12), visit:

For Phelps's column (PDF, p. 13), visit:

For Scott's article (PDF), visit:

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

Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncse.com -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it.

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x310
fax: 510-601-7204

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Interview With Dr. Gaskell -- Astronomer and Firm Believer in Evolution


Jason Mick (Blog) - January 21, 2011 5:55 PM

C. Martin Gaskell, a Ph.D astronomer has a keen interest in music. But reports of his keen interest in disproving evolution were grossly exaggerated. (Source: In Color: Nebraska)Apparently the published information on Dr. Gaskell's viewpoints is very misleading


Whenever we do a story -- particularly a controversial one -- we always try to get as many voices and perspectives as possible. Yesterday we wrote on the story of C. Martin Gaskell, a Ph.D astronomer who sued after being passed over for promotion and accused of being a creationist. He had just secured an out-of-court victory -- a small settlement from the University of Kentucky, the university that passed him over.

A blog from the organization responsible for the prestigious peer reviewed journal Nature attempts to sum up the story, writing:

Should the University of Kentucky have hired a qualified astronomer to lead their new observatory, despite his strong religious views and his public doubts about evolution? Or was their decision to pass him over discrimination?

Many other publications published similar accounts. There was only one problem -- Dr. Gaskell is a firm believer in evolution and to say he has "public doubts" about it, is stretching reality. For our readers who were hoping him to be the great scientific savior for creationists, sorry to disappoint -- Dr. Gaskell is a religious man, but he doesn't abandon logic.

We were fortunate enough to interview him about his beliefs and the experience he went through, being accused of believing in intelligent design or creationism by the University of Kentucky staff, who clearly misunderstood his viewpoint.

The Interview:

Jason Mick, Senior News Editor, DailyTech:

When I first wrote my article, I was primarily referencing the settlement document, the university press release, and some additional items referenced by the Nature article on your lawsuit's outcome. All of these made it sound like your viewpoint was creationism (or left ambiguity to what exactly it was).

C. Martin Gaskell, Ph.D, University of Texas Astronomy Department:

I'm afraid that the University of Kentucky has been putting out a number of false or misleading things! I complained to their spokesman about this but didn't get any response.

The ACLJ press release is at: http://www.aclj.org/News/Read.aspx?ID=4074" rel="nofollow

[Note: American Center for Law and Justice is a legal advocacy similar to the ACLU, which supported Dr. Gaskell in his case.]


You believe in an old earth (in line with current scientific consensus) right?

Dr. Gaskell:

Yes. Very much so.


How do you believe life originated?

Dr. Gaskell:

I don't work in this area and those who do have wildly divergent opinions.


From your perspective, could life have originated from abiogenesis, [perhaps by divine intervention]?

Dr. Gaskell:

That's a very reasonable description, but some people who work in the area thing that that is difficult so they postulate that life came from space.

[Note: Abiogenesis is the theory that life originated on earth from naturally occurring non-living building blocks, such as amino acids and ribonucleic acids.]


When you say that their are problems with evolutionary theory, but that creationists' theories are poorly formed, did you mean that you think the current consensus on evolution is wrong?

Dr. Gaskell:


[Note: I'm referring to a quote from the professor included in our prior piece, linked above, pointing out that evolutionary theory has "significant" unanswered issues.]


Or [did you mean] merely that certain aspects of it (e.g. natural selection v. cataclysmic events/random drift) aren't fully understood at this time, due to lack of direct observation?

Dr. Gaskell:

Right. The debate over neutral evolution, for example, something that is has been a topic of heated in the field. The wide range of views on the origin of life is another example.


What are your thoughts on the paradox between public universities needing to teach scientific fact and the fact that they receive government funding and thus are likely not allowed to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs, which may contradict scientific fact (e.g. believers in the young earth premise)? (And I mean this in the sense that this debate could come up for a biology faculty position, in which your beliefs might actually affect what you are teaching.)

Dr. Gaskell:

This HAS come up multiple times with biology positions. There is a good book covering this in great detail. It is called "Slaughter of the Dissidents" by Jerry Bergman. I'd highly recommend getting a copy to understand what goes on. The recurrent problem you'll find if you look at the cases documented in the book is that Christian biologists get fired or demoted not because of what they actually teach or do in their research, but because of who they are.

This is a major problem in the life sciences. One recent major survey showed that 51% of scientists in the life sciences believe in some sort of "higher power" (which most of them identify as "God"). Half of all scientists also claim a religious affiliation. There is an enormous problem if one disqualifies one half of biologists because of religious affiliation or beliefs!

My brother-in-law, Richard Norris, is a famous geologist at UCSD. He is not a Christian. He takes his evolution class to the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego. All hell would break loose if I did that! Interestingly the most famous astronomer at the University of Kentucky, Gary Ferland, has invited a young-earth creationist to give a lecture to his introductory astronomy class. I would never dare do that (I wouldn't want to anyhow).

Teachers are not required to personally believe what they teach. Bergman makes a very good point that probably the majority of religious studies courses at state universities are taught by non-believers. Nobody in the administration at such universities thinks there is anything wrong with a non-Christian teaching New Testament studies yet they would object to a highly-qualified biologist teaching a biology class because he or she is a Christian!


(Unlike your case in which your evolutionary views are outside your field of work.)

Dr. Gaskell:

The University of Kentucky made various mistakes. One was in not troubling to find out what my actual views were, and then the second mistake was using their perceived views, that even if true, were unrelated to the job in hand, and taking them into account as a factor as a factor in the hiring decision.


Well, we're glad we DID take the time to find out what Dr. Gaskell's actual views are. After all, they are more interesting than the garbled version that's floating around on many outlets.

We would like to thank Dr. Gaskell for taking the time to share his views with our readers and answer our questions.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

COLUMN: Oklahoma could wander into another monkey trial


Andrew Cook/The Daily
Thursday, January 20, 2011

Even before Oklahoma's Legislature was sworn in for a new term, the controversy over teaching evolution in public schools reared its ugly head.

In a December article in The Durant Daily Democrat, newly elected Republican State Sen. Josh Brecheen vowed to introduce legislation that brings parity to the debate. He believes that the "religion" of evolution receives preferential treatment in comparison to the idea that a "loving God" created the universe.

In my opinion, Brecheen has a semi-legitimate point.

In an attempt to avoid controversy, public school districts have shied away from presenting both sides of the subject for fear of litigation.

To their credit, this is a realistic fear. Beginning in 1925 with the Scopes Monkey Trial, the evolution-creationism debate has regularly appeared in courts ranging from the district level to the Supreme Court. Furthermore, the courts have already struck down creationism/intelligent design curriculum proposed by officials such as Brecheen.

In a 1971 case, Lemon v. Kurtzman, the Supreme Court held that any legislation that does not meet the secular requirements of a three-pronged "lemon" test is unconstitutional under the Establishment Cause of the First Amendment.

The three requirements are: 1) Governmental legislation must have a secular purpose. 2) Government action cannot support or oppress religion. 3) Action cannot result in "excessive government entanglement" in religion.

Brecheen's mission to teach children about a "loving God" will fail this test. In addition, if Brecheen's bill attempts to implement a curriculum that gives equal time to evolution and intelligent design side-by-side, it will still be unconstitutional according to the outcomes of two more Supreme Court cases from later years.

These cases, Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) and Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005), held that teaching creationism side-by-side was unconstitutional and that intelligent design is not science, respectively.

Adding to school districts' fears is the financial cost of fighting these cases. According to the National Center for Science Education, the latter case cost the Dover Area School System between $1 million and $2 million depending on whether pro bono fees are included. In these tough economic times, few school districts can come close to affording this.

Why then does Brecheen have a semi-legitimate point? Because there is an appropriate place for religious and creationist education in public schools: art, civics, philosophy and history classes.

According to the firstamendmentcenter.org, in Abington v. Schempp, the Supreme Court ruled, "It might well be said that one's education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization."

In other words, studying religion as a factor in our society is acceptable and advantageous. It is hard to understand the factors that led to the Puritans' voyage to America or why the state of Utah exists without an understanding of Calvinism and Mormonism, respectively.

That is not to say we should push for a one-sided solution, such as Senate Bill 1338, which the Oklahoma legislature passed into law in March. This bill allowed public schools to teach the Bible, and only the Bible, as an elective course.

Instead, we should push our leaders to propose bills that would keep scientific theories in science classes while simultaneously attempting to expand students' knowledge of diverse faiths, philosophies and traditions within their historical context.

— Andrew Cook, English writing junior

Antievolution legislation in Oklahoma


January 19th, 2011

Senate Bill 554 (document), prefiled in the Oklahoma State Senate on January 19, 2011, is apparently the third antievolution bill of 2011. Interestingly, two strands of antievolution strategy intersect in SB 554.

First, echoing the still popular "academic freedom" language of antievolution legislation, the bill provides that state and local education administrators "shall not prohibit any teacher from informing students about relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses of controversial topics in sciences, when being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula," where such topics "include but are not limited to biological origins of life and biological evolution." The bill also provides, "No teacher shall be reassigned, terminated, disciplined or otherwise discriminated against for providing scientific information being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula."

Second, the bill requires the state board of education to adopt "standards and curricula" that echo the flawed portions of the state science standards adopted in Texas in 2009 with respect to the nature of science and, for grades eight through twelve, evolution. For example, the content of SB 554's D1, D2, D7, D9, and D10 are identical to sections 7A, 7B, 7G, 8A, and 8B of the Texas high school biology standards — all sections that were added or amended by antievolution members of the Texas state board of education, such as Don "Someone's got to stand up to experts!" McLeroy, in order to encourage the presentation of creationist claims in the science classroom. No fewer than fifty-four scientific and educational organizations opposed these revisions.

The sole sponsor of the bill is Josh Brecheen (R-District 6), who announced his intention to file antievolution legislation in a column in the Durant Daily Democrat (December 19, 2010): "Renowned scientists now asserting that evolution is laden with errors are being ignored. ... Using your tax dollars to teach the unknown, without disclosing the entire scientific findings[,] is incomplete and unacceptable." In a subsequent column in the Daily Democrat (December 24, 2010), he clearly indicated that his intention was to have creationism presented as scientifically credible, writing, "I have introduced legislation requiring every publically funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate of creation vs. evolution using the known science, even that which conflicts with Darwin's religion."

Oklahomans concerned about SB 554 are urged to get in touch with Steven Newton at NCSE and the grassroots organization Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education.


SENATE BILL 554 By: Brecheen


An Act relating to school curriculum; stating legislative intent; requiring the State Board of Education to adopt certain curricular standards; providing that schools shall not prohibit teachers from providing certain information to students; protecting teachers from retaliation for providing certain information; allowing students to be held accountable for information taught in a course; defining term; providing for codification; providing for noncodification; providing an effective date; and declaring an emergency.


SECTION 1. NEW LAW A new section of law not to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes reads as follows:

It is the intent of the Legislature that students in public school receive a comprehensive education in science and learn how to compare and contrast a variety of scientific viewpoints.

SECTION 2. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 11-105.2 of Title 70, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:

A. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 11-103.6 of Title 70 of the Oklahoma Statutes, the State Board of Education shall adopt curricular standards requiring the teaching of all relevant scientific information on the biological origins of life.

B. The State Department of Education, or any school district or school district administrator, shall not prohibit any teacher from informing students about relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses of controversial topics in sciences, when being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula. Controversial topics in sciences include but are not limited to biological origins of life and biological evolution.

C. The State Board of Education shall adopt standards and curricula that require students in all science courses to:

1. Know the definition of science and understand that it has limitations. Science, as defined by the National Academy of Sciences, is the "use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena, as well as the knowledge generated through this process." This vast body of changing and increasing knowledge is described by physical, mathematical, and conceptual models. Students should know that some questions are outside the realm of science because they deal with phenomena that are not scientifically testable;

2. Analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student;

3. Communicate and apply scientific information extracted from various sources such as current events, news reports, published journal articles, and marketing materials;

4. Know that scientific hypotheses are tentative and testable statements that must be capable of being supported or not supported by observational evidence. Hypotheses of durable explanatory power which have been tested over a wide variety of conditions are incorporated into theories;

5. Know that scientific theories are based on natural and physical phenomena and are capable of being tested by multiple independent researchers. Unlike hypotheses, scientific theories are well-established and highly-reliable explanations, but may be subject to change as new areas of science and new technologies are developed; and

6. Distinguish between scientific hypotheses and scientific theories;

D. The State Board of Education shall adopt standards and curricula that require students in grades eight through twelve to:

1. Analyze and evaluate how evidence of common ancestry among groups is provided by the fossil record, biogeography, and homologies, including anatomical, molecular, and developmental;

2. Analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning any data of sudden appearance, stasis, and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record;

3. Analyze and evaluate how natural selection produces change in populations, not individuals;

4. Analyze and evaluate how the elements of natural selection, including inherited variation, the potential of a population to produce more offspring than can survive, and a finite supply of environmental resources, result in differential reproductive success;

5. Analyze and evaluate the relationship of natural selection to adaptation and to the development of diversity in and among species;

6. Analyze and evaluate the effects of other evolutionary mechanisms, including genetic drift, gene flow, mutation, and recombination;

7. Analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning the complexity of the cell; and

8. Know that taxonomy is a branching classification based on the shared characteristics of organisms and can change as new discoveries are made and be able to:

a. define taxonomy and recognize the importance of a standardized taxonomic system to the scientific community,

b. categorize organisms using a hierarchical classification system based on similarities and differences shared among groups, and

c. compare characteristics of taxonomic groups, including archaea, bacteria, protists, fungi, plants, and animals.

9. Analyze and evaluate a variety of fossil types such as transitional fossils, proposed transitional fossils, fossil lineages, and significant fossil deposits with regard to their appearance, completeness, and alignment with scientific explanations in light of this fossil data;

10. Explain how sedimentation, fossilization, and speciation affect the degree of completeness of the fossil record; and

11. Evaluate the significance of the terminal Permian and Cretaceous mass extinction events, including adaptive radiations organisms after the events. Transitional fossils, proposed transitional fossils, fossil lineages, and significant fossil deposits with regard to their appearance, completeness, and alignment with scientific explanations in light of this fossil data.

E. No teacher shall be reassigned, terminated, disciplined or otherwise discriminated against for providing scientific information being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula.

F. This section only protects the teaching of scientific information and specifically does not protect the promotion of any religion, religious doctrine, or religious belief.

G. Students may be held accountable for knowing and understanding material taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula, but they shall not be penalized in any way for subscribing to a particular position of a scientific debate.

H. For purposes of this section, "scientific information" means information derived from observation, experimentation and analysis of the natural world conducted to determine the nature of or principles behind the aspects being studied. Scientific information is not excluded from this definition solely on the basis that it coincides with the tenets of some or all religious beliefs or doctrines. This definition does exclude information based solely on religious writings, beliefs or doctrines.

SECTION 3. This act shall become effective July 1, 2011.

SECTION 4. It being immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is hereby declared to exist, by reason whereof this act shall take effect and be in full force from and after its passage and approval.

In answer to PZ Myers re Creation Science Hall of Fame


January 19th, 2011 6:24 pm ET

A notorious anti-creationist has just acknowledged the Creation Science Hall of Fame, and by extension this Examiner. Herewith a further clarification of its purpose.

As described earlier, the mission of the Creation Science Hall of Fame is:

To honor those who honored God's Word as literally written in Genesis.

But what PZ Myers of the Pharyngula blog fails to understand is that the CSHF does not intend to limit its honors to contemporary creation-oriented scientists. He probably believes that because he is under a common misapprehension: that creation science is a new movement, one going no further back than Henry Morris and John C. Whitcomb's The Genesis Flood.

In fact, "creation science" predates Darwin, Lyell, and all the other paragons of the current flawed consensus on the origins of the universe, the earth, and life. Indeed, "creation science" originally was science. As Hall of Famer Henry M. Morris pointed out in Men of Science, Men of God (1982), modern science began "in a culture at least nominally committed to a Biblical basis, and at a time in history marked by a great return to Biblical faith." That culture was Europe during the Renaissance, and began with Leonardo da Vinci, a "Renaissance man" in the best sense of that word, a master of science as well as art (and architecture). It continued, most memorably, with Sir Isaac Newton and his contemporaries, and with many more examples.

Science began in this environment because Christianity taught that God is a God of order. He sets rules for the universe, and those rules hold, except in the most extraordinary circumstances. (Which is why Jesus shot back to Satan that He would not deliberately put God to the test.)

For that reason, the Hall of Fame will have no shortage of honorees. Indeed, the number, caliber, and especially the already-standing reputation of those honorees will no doubt shock Professor Myers and his co-belligerents. More to the point, none of these men compromised any part of the scientific method. In sharp contrast, evolutionists compromise that method all the time, by insisting upon retention of the null hypothesis (that is to say, the non-intervention hypothesis) long after it has discredited itself by every reasonable statistical standard whatsoever. Not to mention the utterly vain speculation about whether our solar system is a double-star system (with a companion star called "Nemesis"), the origin of radioactivity, the presence of "dark matter" and "dark energy," et cetera ad nauseam.

One final word is in order: the Creation Science Hall of Fame makes no representation that it will have as many inductees as the so-called "Science Hall of Fame" of which PZ Myers is so fond. In harping on the apparent scarcity of CSHF honorees thus far (and forgetting that the CSHF is under construction in cyberspace as well as under development in brick and mortar), Myers commits a classic logical fallacy: argumentum a numeris (argument from numbers), or argumentum a multitudine (argument from the crowd). Instead, the CSHF will compete on quality, not quantity.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dueling Halls of Fame


Category: Creationism
Posted on: January 18, 2011 3:37 PM, by PZ Myers

This is an awesome coincidence. The availablity of all those quantifiable metrics extracted by Google Books has fueled the establishment of a Science Hall of Fame, which lists scientists by an objective measure of their fame, the frequency with which they are cited in books. It was announced in Science, where they also introduced a new unit of measure, the milli-Darwin.

To be able to compare scientists to one another, it is helpful to have a standard unit of fame. I proposed one that would make this kind of fame easy to comprehend: the Darwin. It is defined as the average annual frequency that "Charles Darwin" appears in English-language books from the year when he was 30 years old (1839) until 2000. Because it is such a big unit of fame, it has proved more convenient to use one-thousandth of that frequency: the milli-Darwin, abbreviated as mD.

Here's the list of over 4,000 famous scientists. Some of them aren't famous for science — Lewis Carroll, for instance — but all are notable people.

So where's the coincidence? It turns out that on the same day the Science Hall of Fame was announced, a small gang of loons announced the Creation Science Hall of Fame, "Honoring those who honored God's Word as literally written in Genesis." There are a few differences between the two halls. The creation science group, unsurprisingly, is begging for money: they want $4 million in donations. Why? They want to build a physical monument somewhere in the neighborhood of the Creation "Museum," which sounds like a horrible idea to me. It would create a black hole of concentrated stupidity in the heart of Kentucky that might destroy the world!

Another difference is that they aren't using any kind of objective metric to identify famous creationists — apparently, they just look around and pick someone from the godly pantheon. So far, they've got two: Henry Morris and Duane Gish. Two against the 4,000+ in the Science Hall of Fame. Sounds about right, although zero would be a better number.

Also, opening up the door to scrutiny like that just means the scientists will use the Google microscope to examine the creationist nominees. It doesn't look good. Creationists like to compare Gish to TH Huxley — "Gish has been called 'creationism's T.H. Huxley," says Wikipedia — but now we can actually compare Gish and Huxley. Huxley gets 102mD. Gish gets 5.

No contest. It was very nice of the creationists to step into the arena and get such a drubbing, though.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Treatment through electro-homeopathy stressed


Monday, January 17, 2011

The land of Pakistan is extremely fertile with regard to the production of medicinal plants and handsome foreign exchange could be earned from their export to other countries, said Dr. Ajeet Siani from the Swedish Academy of Alternative Medicine, Stockholm.

According to a press release, he stated this during a one-day seminar on the 'Scientific Aspects of Alternative Healthcare'.

Dr. Ajeet Siani said that electro-homeopathy is the only procedure through which medicines are prepared by segregating poisonous effects without destroying nutritive elements of medicinal plants. He said that electro-homeopathy is a rapid and harmless method of curing diseases. He said after the developed countries, this method is also being appreciated in the developing countries.

The president of the electro-homeopathy, India, informed that Pakistan could play a leading role in this connection. He praised Dr. Usman Baloch's efforts in the promotion of natural cures based on scientific methods.

The head of the Department of Cardiology at Holy Family Hospital, Dr. Saeed, said that if research and treatment of patients is done sincerely, it could bring amazing results.

Former minister for tourism Maulana Atta-ur-Rahman resolved to promote healthcare tourism by utilising alternative healthcare treatments and implementing international standards to attract foreign patients. He said that inter-provincial meetings were initiated and a task force was formed to achieve the desired results. He said that if law-making is needed in this regard, then they would also strive for it.

Dr. Ashfaq, Dr. Sajjad and Dr. Shahid Iqbal presented arguments in favour of effective, harmless and rapid treatments available in electro-homeopathy.

In the end, awards were distributed among professionals on the basis of best performance. Students of Federal Institute of Tourism were also awarded shields.

The chairman of the Institute of Health & Management Sciences, Dr. Usman Baloch, presented souvenirs to the chief guests, Maulana Atta-ur-Rahman and Dr. Ajeet Siani of the Swedish Academy of Alternative Medicine and Electro Homeopathy, and Dr. Tarseem of India.

Christians urged by creationist to proclaim, 'I Am Not Ashamed' to believe in creationism, to deny gays marriage and to stand for Christian nationalism


With videos, billboards, Internet social networking and t-shirts, Christians are telling the world that that they are not ashamed.

Powered by Ken Ham's biblical creationist group, "Answers in Genesis," the "I Am Not Ashamed" website seeks to get Christians to proudly proclaim the gospel and give their financial support for religiously-based political viewpoints. Amongst the various offerings to state their cause, Ham and his group are seeking sponsors for billboards that condemn gay marriage, promote Christian nationalism, advocate creationism, and protest abortion.

Since the Garden of Eden, the Word of God has been questioned and attacked, and in today's era, the cry of "millions of years" rises from the trenches of autonomous human reasoning. As Martin Luther called his generation to make Scripture alone the authority, we desire to send a renewed clear call (1 Corinthians 14:8) for God's people to stand unashamedly and uncompromisingly on the Bible in these troubling times. While we are commanded to proclaim the gospel and give answers for the hope that is ours in Christ (1 Peter 3:15), we are ever mindful that it is God's Word that convicts and is "sharper than any two-edged sword" (Hebrews 4:12). It is God's Word that "shall not return unto me (God) void" (Isaiah 55:11). And "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17).

The "I Am Not Ashamed" project also features videos of people who share their favorite scriptures in an online bible video project.

Study: Many college students not learning to think critically


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

By Sara Rimer, The Hechinger Report
The Hechinger Report
Published: Monday, Jan. 17, 2011 - 9:01 pm

NEW YORK — An unprecedented study that followed several thousand undergraduates through four years of college found that large numbers didn't learn the critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills that are widely assumed to be at the core of a college education.

Many of the students graduated without knowing how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument or objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event, according to New York University sociologist Richard Arum, lead author of the study. The students, for example, couldn't determine the cause of an increase in neighborhood crime or how best to respond without being swayed by emotional testimony and political spin.

Arum, whose book "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses" (University of Chicago Press) comes out this month, followed 2,322 traditional-age students from the fall of 2005 to the spring of 2009 and examined testing data and student surveys at a broad range of 24 U.S. colleges and universities, from the highly selective to the less selective.

Forty-five percent of students made no significant improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills during the first two years of college, according to the study. After four years, 36 percent showed no significant gains in these so-called "higher order" thinking skills.

Combining the hours spent studying and in class, students devoted less than a fifth of their time each week to academic pursuits. By contrast, students spent 51 percent of their time — or 85 hours a week — socializing or in extracurricular activities.

The study also showed that students who studied alone made more significant gains in learning than those who studied in groups.

"I'm not surprised at the results," said Stephen G. Emerson, the president of Haverford College in Pennsylvania. "Our very best students don't study in groups. They might work in groups in lab projects. But when they study, they study by themselves."

The study marks one of the first times a cohort of undergraduates has been followed over four years to examine whether they're learning specific skills. It provides a portrait of the complex set of factors, from the quality of secondary school preparation to the academic demands on campus, which determine learning. It comes amid President Barack Obama's call for more college graduates by 2020 and is likely to shine a spotlight on the quality of the education they receive.

"These findings are extremely valuable for those of us deeply concerned about the state of undergraduate learning and student intellectual engagement," said Brian D. Casey, the president of DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. "They will surely shape discussions about curriculum and campus life for years to come."

Some educators note that a weakened economy and a need to work while in school may be partly responsible for the reduced focus on academics, while others caution against using the study to blame students for not applying themselves.

Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard's Graduate School of Education known for his theory of multiple intelligences, said the study underscores the need for higher education to push students harder.

"No one concerned with education can be pleased with the findings of this study," Gardner said. "I think that higher education in general is not demanding enough of students — academics are simply of less importance than they were a generation ago."

But the solution, in Gardner's view, shouldn't be to introduce high-stakes tests to measure learning in college because, "The cure is likely to be worse than the disease."

Arum concluded that while students at highly selective schools made more gains than those at less selective schools, there are even greater disparities within institutions.

"In all these 24 colleges and universities, you have pockets of kids that are working hard and learning at very high rates," Arum said. "There is this variation across colleges, but even greater variation within colleges in how much kids are applying themselves and learning."

For that reason, Arum added, he hopes his data will encourage colleges and universities to look within for ways to improve teaching and learning.

Arum co-authored the book with Josipa Roksa, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. The study, conducted with Esther Cho, a researcher with the Social Science Research Council, showed that students learned more when asked to do more.

Students who majored in the traditional liberal arts — including the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences and mathematics — showed significantly greater gains over time than other students in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills.

Students majoring in business, education, social work and communications showed the least gains in learning. However, the authors note that their findings don't preclude the possibility that such students "are developing subject-specific or occupationally relevant skills."

Greater gains in liberal arts subjects are at least partly the result of faculty requiring higher levels of reading and writing, as well as students spending more time studying, the study's authors found. Students who took courses heavy on both reading (more than 40 pages a week) and writing (more than 20 pages in a semester) showed higher rates of learning.

That's welcome news to liberal arts advocates.

"We do teach analytical reading and writing," said Ellen Fitzpatrick, a history professor at the University of New Hampshire.

The study used data from the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a 90-minute essay-type test that attempts to measure what liberal arts colleges teach and that more than 400 colleges and universities have used since 2002. The test is voluntary and includes real world problem-solving tasks, such as determining the cause of an airplane crash, that require reading and analyzing documents from newspaper articles to government reports.

The study's authors also found that large numbers of students didn't enroll in courses requiring substantial work. In a typical semester, a third of students took no courses with more than 40 pages of reading per week. Half didn't take a single course in which they wrote more than 20 pages over the semester.

The findings show that colleges need to be acutely aware of how instruction relates to the learning of critical-thinking and related skills, said Daniel J. Bradley, the president of Indiana State University and one of 71 college presidents who recently signed a pledge to improve student learning.

"We haven't spent enough time making sure we are indeed teaching — and students are learning — these skills," Bradley said.

Christine Walker, a senior at DePauw who's also student body president, said the study doesn't reflect her own experience: She studies upwards of 30 hours a week and is confident she's learning plenty. Walker said she and her classmates are juggling multiple non-academic demands, including jobs, to help pay for their education and that in today's economy, top grades aren't enough.

"If you don't have a good resume," Walker said, "the fact that you can say, 'I wrote this really good paper that helped my critical thinking' is going to be irrelevant."

(This article was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education-news outlet affiliated with Teachers College, Columbia University.) ..

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/01/17/3330387/study-many-college-students-not.html#ixzz1BRE39qWC

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Alternative therapies are put to the test


Jan 14, 2011 - 13:23

by Jessica Dacey, swissinfo.ch

The Swiss government has given complementary medicine a second chance to prove its worth as an insurable health cost.

Interior Minister Didier Burkhalter has announced five therapies previously struck off the state insurance list will be reimbursable from 2012 as part of a six-year trial period. The sting: all must prove their "efficacy, cost-effectiveness and suitability" by 2017.

Back in 2005 the interior ministry rejected the therapies, arguing they failed to meet the legal requirement of "scientific proof" of the three efficacy criteria.

The reversal in policy follows a nationwide vote in 2009 in which two-thirds of Swiss backed including the therapies on the constitutional list of paid health services. It also takes into account an opposing recommendation by a federal commission in December to strike them permanently from the list because of a lack of scientific evidence.

For the new trial, providers of homeopathy, holistic, herbal and neural therapies and traditional Chinese medicine will have to evaluate their effectiveness. The findings will then go before a recognised international institute – still to be determined – that will provide an independent scientific assessment.

The medical establishment praised the decision to put the case before international scientific scrutiny while complementary medicine proponents welcomed the chance for "fair" assessments.

Ignazio Cassis, national vice-chairman of the Swiss Medical Association, said it was a "very wise and pragmatic" move as it left the decision up to the international scientific community, rather than the government or the Swiss population.

It will take advantage of international developments in medical science and better inform a decision on the issue in six years, he noted.

"It's the law"

The outcome remained open, Jean-Marc Crevoisier, head of communications at the interior ministry, told swissinfo.ch.

"Until now we have not been able to prove fully that these five therapies are efficient, cost-effective and suitable. Some do it more than others."

"The goal of these six years is to fill in the gaps for those that don't manage to [meet these criteria] or do so only partially. We'll see what happens, we cannot prejudge the results."

The scientific testing will be done according to a mandate and standards fixed by the government, he explained.

"We must prove these three criteria to accept a therapy in the list for reimbursement. It's required by the law."

He noted that it was an "emotional" issue and the six-year trial period was set in order to examine the issue in the "most correct way possible".

The government's proposal also includes provisions to boost research and training in the field, which Crevoisier said would not be counter-productive, even if there is a negative result for the therapies after the trial.

International scrutiny

The government is now considering which international institute to approach. It could be a state-sponsored body such as the United States's lead agency for scientific research on complementary medicine, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The National Institute of Clinical Excellence in Britain has been name-checked by others.

"The idea is that an international body evaluates existing studies adequately and they do not draw up new studies. That would not be possible in this timeframe. Many studies have been done already. The point is to assess them fairly," said Hansueli Albonico, president of the federation of Swiss societies of complementary medicine.

He noted there was already evidence of the cost-effectiveness of the medicines, so it came down to the question of efficacy.

Fair hearing

Practitioners were "confident" in the outcome, he noted, "if we have the chance to convey solid facts from existing scientific studies – of which we have already 2,000 clinical trials – and if these contribute to a fair assessment".

"I really welcome this move towards the international arena. I see this as a great opportunity."

"In Germany, for example, the medical profession has been engaged in a dialogue for the past decade on pluralism in medicine and applying different methods – always with a view to effectiveness, appropriateness and efficiency."

Switzerland has the highest number of practitioners per capita in the world – 17,200 registered with health insurers – this due notably to the various insurance packages covering complementary medicine.

He said the time had now come to widen the terms of reference for medicine.

"We need a shift away from methods used for testing effectiveness, such as are appropriate for drugs, to studies that show the overall benefit provided by these [complementary] methods," he concluded.

Jessica Dacey, swissinfo.ch
(With input from Christian Raaflaub and Andrea Clementi)

Fractured limbs? Traditional bone setters to the rescue


Sunday, 16 January 2011 00:00 Nigerian Compass

From time to time, people become victims of various types of accidents from domestic slips, to auto-crashes and physical assaults. Many of such victims look up to conventional orthopaedics for treatment. But, the beginning of the last decade gave prominence to alternative medicine in Nigeria, as a result, many patients of fractured limbs now seek treatment from unorthodox sources.

BUKOLA BAKARE takes a peep into the world of traditional bone setters, their challenges and why they are fast becoming the resort of those who are losing their limbs.

Towards the last quarter of 2010, popular gyration musician, Olaitan Adebukola a.k.a, Basics, was traveling in company of his friends and on their way , the group was involved in an auto accident.

Unfortunately, Basics died as a result of injuries sustained from that ghastly encounter while his friends had their legs broken.

For some time, one of them Segun Olowookere groaned in pain at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Oyo State as his legs had been infested with maggots and were slated for amputation!

However, succour came his way when someone referred them to a traditional bone setter. Today, his on their feet again.

Welcome to the world of traditional bone setters who are beginning to give hope to the hopeless and complement orthodox medicine.

Findings by this reporter show that traditional bone setting has been around for ages, even before the advent of orthodox medicine. Some families are well noted for this art and pass it on from one generation to another.

Although, the advent of modernity heralded great accomplishments in orthodox medicine, such that by the 1960s into the late 1970s, several teaching hospitals were constructed in the country and more people began to embrace orthodox medicine to alternative medicine.

However, towards the end of the last century, there was an upsurge in the rise of alternative medicine.

Incidentally, one major aspect of traditional medicine that enjoyed patronage is in the field of orthopedics – traditional bone setting.

Although it might be difficult to give an empirical explanation to the development, but it will not be out of place to find a direct relationship between the rise in the use of motorcyles as a form of mass transportation to the upsurge in the patronage of traditional bone setters.

Reason: Most victims of motorcycle crash might find it hard to meet up with the financial cost of orthodox treatment, hence the search for traditional bone setters.

Traditional bone setters exists in virtually every communal settings in Nigeria, and in recent times, the high level of patronage for their services is fast pushing them to the cities.

Practitioners of the trade are more prominent among the Hausas, Yoruba's(Ilaje), Ijaws and the Igbos.

A patient of traditional bone setter, Mrs. Funke Alaran, a mother of three, had had a domestic accident. While relieving her experience with the Nigerian Compass, she said: "I had just prepared dinner for my children and decided to take a shower.

"Suddenly, I tripped and heard a crack in my arm. I was motionless for a split second and couldn't move.

"I still can't figure out what could have become of me if not for the timely intervention of my children, aged 4, 6 and 8. They raised an alarm as my husband was not around

"The idea of going to the hospital didn't come to my mind as I had seen the efficacy of traditional bone setters from previous victims. So I went there and in no time, I was healed."

Is she saying that she wouldn't have been healed in an Orthopedic hospital for instance? She retorted, "I believe that if I had gone to a teaching hospital, I would have been cured all the same but like I said, it was out of my own free will that I opted for the traditional method of healing," she stressed.

Another victim, Ismail Bello, who was involved in a ghastly accident two years ago had this to say during an interview with our correspondent: "I was traveling from Ibadan to Lokoja and we were almost approaching Okene when the driver lost control.

"Some people were not so lucky as they didn't leave to tell the story while those of us who escaped were badly injured. That was all I could remember and few days later, I met myself in the hospital.

"After some time, my elder brother decided to move me to a traditional bone setter because he felt it was efficacious.

"I must add that even though the process of healing was painful at some point, the most important thing is that I was back on my feet in a matter of months."

One major criticism of traditional bone setting is the alleged unhygienic environment in which the treatment is being taken.

But some practitioners of traditional bone setting centers disagree with this claim, saying that despite the fact that they treat their patients with local herbs and other traditional methods, they are aware of the saying that cleanliness is next to Godliness.

Alternative treatments for diabetes -- do they work?


The Healthy Skeptic

Supplements include Sugar Crush and Blood Sugar, which make varying claims. One expert says there's still no natural treatment with a scientifically proven track record for helping control blood sugar.

Sugar Crush Drink Mix Combo says that it is an all natural and organic diabetes supplement that helps maintain "healthy blood sugar levels." (NaturEra / January 17, 2011)

By Chris Woolston, Special to the Los Angeles Times

January 17, 2011

There's something about Type 2 diabetes that inspires creativity, innovation and promises from the alternative medicine industry. People who want to control their blood sugar without medications can choose from a huge variety of pills and elixirs. "I hear new claims on a nearly daily basis," says Dr. Daniel Einhorn, clinical professor of medicine at UC San Diego and the president of the American Assn. of Clinical Endocrinologists. "There's a constant market for new products."

Many current products take an herbal approach to blood sugar control. The liquid supplement Sugar Crush from NaturEra, for example, combines common sage, cinnamon, hibiscus and fenugreek, among other ingredients.

The product comes in two varieties, regular Sugar Crush and the milder Sugar Crush Daily. Users are instructed to drink 2.5 milliliters of regular Sugar Crush mixed with a glass of water right before breakfast and dinner every day. Sugar Crush Daily is recommended as a prelude to lunch and bedtime. After two or three months, users are told that they can stop taking Sugar Crush and stick with two doses of Sugar Crush Daily, one before each of the two largest meals of the day. Sugar Crush isn't yet sold in stores — company President Uri Man says it will be widely available starting in March — but you can buy a 125 ml bottle of either variety online for $89.95. https://shop.buysugarcrush.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=SUGARD2//

If you prefer more simplicity in your supplement, you could always try one of several products offering Cinnulin PF — an extract of cinnamon bark made by Integrity Nutraceuticals — as their sole active ingredient. Each capsule of Cinnulin PF from iVitals contains 125 milligrams of the extract. Users are instructed to take one capsule before breakfast and one before dinner for best results. A bottle of 120 capsules, available only online, costs about $30.

Nature's Way sells a supplement called Blood Sugar that contains, among other things, 133 mg of cinnamon bark extract, 100 micrograms of chromium and 33 mg of extract of the tropical South Asian herb Gymnema sylvestre per capsule. Users are instructed to take three capsules twice daily. You can buy a bottle of 90 capsules, available at many health food stores, for about $15.

The claims

The Sugar Crush website says that the products "are the world's first liquid, clinically tested, completely natural dietary supplements which help maintain healthy glucose levels." Man, the NaturEra president, says that company studies have found that the supplements, which are already very popular in Israel, have been shown to reduce blood sugar levels by up to 40% in just 30 days. The company has not yet published any studies in medical journals, although it did present results at a recent meeting of the American Diabetes Assn. and the American Assn. of Diabetes Educators. (Both the ADA and the AADE declined to comment on Sugar Crush or any other specific products.) Adds Man, "99% of the other [diabetes] products on the market haven't been proven to do anything."

The iVitals website doesn't expressly claim that Cinnulin PF can help treat diabetes. Instead, the site says the product "may support healthy glucose levels in healthy individuals." Tim Romero, president of Integrity Nutraceuticals, says cinnamon reduces blood sugar levels by making cells more sensitive to insulin, the hormone that helps cells take in blood sugar.

The website for Nature's Way Blood Sugar hardly makes any claims beyond the name of the supplement. The site simply says that the product contains "chromium which is an important factor for insulin." A spokesperson for the company declined to answer any questions about the ingredients or potential benefits of the product.

The bottom line

There's no doubt that diet — including supplement choices — can affect blood sugar levels. But Einhorn says there's still no herbal supplement with a scientifically proven track record for helping people with diabetes really get their blood sugar under control. "It would be very attractive to have natural treatments," he says. "But the scientific evidence that they work is very slim."

Richard Anderson, a research chemist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Diet, Genomics and Immunology lab in Beltsville, Md., has a more optimistic view of the potential of herbs and supplements, especially cinnamon and chromium. Anderson says research in his lab — including human trials of Cinnulin PF — suggests that each of these ingredients can increase the body's sensitivity to insulin. A 2006 study of 22 people with pre-diabetes published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that taking 500 mg of Cinnulin PF a day for 12 weeks reduced fasting blood glucose — a measure of blood sugar after one hasn't eaten for eight hours that is used to diagnose pre-diabetes or diabetes — by about 8%. And in 2007, researchers at UC San Francisco reported in the journal Pharmacotherapy that cinnamon might have "modest" effects on blood sugar, but they also warned that the spice shouldn't be used as a substitute for standard treatment of diabetes, including exercise, a healthy diet and prescription drugs.

Anderson cautions that some claims about diabetes remedies may be overblown. To his mind, it's "hard to believe" that Sugar Crush could reduce blood sugar levels by 40%. He adds that, although cinnamon and chromium are generally safe, it would be risky for anyone to switch medications for herbs without first talking to his or her doctor.

Einhorn, meanwhile, thinks it would be unwise to expect anything from an herbal diabetic product. "I'm surprised that anyone from the USDA said that these things have any therapeutic value," he says. Einhorn adds that there are exactly two proven and reliable ways to control blood sugar without resorting to prescription medications: regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Curious about a consumer health product? Send an e-mail to health@latimes.com.

Read more at latimes.com/skeptic.

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Baseless complaints by KAS against Ark Encounter


Terry Hurlbut
January 14th, 2011 4:05 pm ET

Two guest editorials in the Kentucky Academy of Science newsletter (January 2011) contained yet more baseless criticism of the Ark Encounter project and, furthermore, turn out to be rife with hypocrisy.

Robert Kingsolver of Bellarmine University complained bitterly about the package of tax incentives (the value of which he sets at $43 million, though he will not say how he arrives at that figure) that Ark Encounter is now applying for, and the proposed interchange improvements to Interstate Highway 75 to accommodate the anticipated 1.6 million visitors to Ark Encounter in its first year of operation. As this Examiner has said before, a tax incentive is a partial rebate of sales taxes during the first ten years of operation of a new tourist attraction. Whether said attraction has a religious or a secular theme does not matter under the law (and if it did, then Ark Encounter LLC would have a cause of legal action). A tax incentive is not a government grant.

Kingsolver, however, equates this partial discount with the government grants that he clearly is seeking for a proposed Kentucky Natural History Museum.

To our knowledge, the state has sought no investors in this project, nor has it launched any public awareness campaign comparable to the recent deluge of publicity for Ark Encounter.

In fact, the only contribution that any State official has made to any "deluge of publicity" has been a speech by Governor Steve Beshear. Beyond that, Ark Encounter LLC and its managing member Answers in Genesis have generated some of their own publicity. The rest has come, ironically, from the project's opponents. The more they fuss, the more people search for information on the project just to find out what the fuss is all about.

Even laying that aside, Kingsolver displays his hypocrisy here:

Though KAS respects any group's right to celebrate its cultural and religious traditions, the Academy has long held the position that faith-based paradigms defying any sort of investigative scrutiny should not be passed off as scientific truth, especially at taxpayers' expense.

Sorry, Dr. Kingsolver, but lying about a group hardly constitutes respect for its rights. No "taxpayers' expense" is involved, and in fact Kingsolver is seeking to promote his own paradigm at taxpayers' expense. The real "faith-based paradigm defying any sort of investigative scrutiny" is the grand theory of evolution, which in fact cannot withstand scrutiny. This Examiner has provided dozens of examples of such failure to withstand scrutiny, and is confident that AiG, Creation Ministries International, the Institute for Creation Research, and many other groups can provide hundreds more.

Kingsolver then suggests that Ark Encounter will be a net job-killer, not a net job-provider, in that "scientifically literate people" (by his definition) will not move in or "invest" in Kentucky. This Examiner seems to recall a famous line by Hans Christian Andersen:

[A]fter many years of research we have invented an extraordinary method to weave a cloth so light and fine that it looks invisible. As a matter of fact it is invisible to anyone who is too stupid and incompetent to appreciate its quality.

Kingsolver goes on:

While competing states are investing in solar energy, broadband infrastructure, and the biotechnologies of the future, our Commonwealth is putting its money on a landlocked wooden boat, a failed stairway to heaven, and a bronze-age world view.

Of course, Kingsolver has made no showing to justify the three other government grants that he seeks. He also misses the point about the Tower of Babel exhibit. As to "bronze-age worldview," he should know that evolutionism is not new (in fact it goes all the way back to Anaximander in ancient Greece), and creationism was current until the last half of the 19th century. Moreover, none of the technologies he touts depends on evolution in order to work, though some of those biotechnologies, if evolutionism indeed informs them, are likely of highly dubious ethical standing.

Daniel Phelps of the Kentucky Paleontological Society weighs in, too, and merely continues a rant that he wrote three and a half years ago when the Creation Museum opened. (This Examiner answered him here.) He talks a great deal about the scientific method, but leaves out the wholesale violations of it that occur in evolutionary science. He digresses to criticize the proposed Kentucky Scientific and Intellectual Freedom Act (HR 169), but fails to show any just cause why a teacher should not

create and foster an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of scientific theories being studied.

This Examiner understands that secular scientists have railed against the notion of a creator ever since Morris and Whitcomb's The Genesis Flood (1960), and likely will continue. This Examiner has also expressed a few reservations about Ark Encounter as currently planned. But the critiques appearing in this month's KAS Newsletter are neither valid nor reasoned nor logically consistent.

Mohler takes on 'theistic evolution'


By Bob Allen
Thursday, January 13, 2011

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (ABP) -- A Southern Baptist seminary president and evolution opponent has turned sights on "theistic evolution," the idea that evolutionary forces are somehow guided by God.

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote an article in the Winter 2011 issue of the seminary magazine labeling attempts by Christians to accommodate Darwinism "a biblical and theological disaster."

Mohler said being able to find middle ground between a young-earth creationism that believes God created the world in six 24-hour days and naturalism that regards evolution the product of random chance "would resolve a great cultural and intellectual conflict."

The problem, however, is that it is not evolutionary theory that gives way, but rather the Bible and Christian theology.

Mohler said acceptance of evolutionary theory requires reading the first two chapters of Genesis as a literary rendering and not historical fact, but it doesn't end there. It also requires rethinking the claim that sin and death entered the human race through the Fall of Adam. That in turn, Mohler contended, raises questions about New Testament passages like First Corinthians 15:22, "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive."

"The New Testament clearly establishes the Gospel of Jesus Christ upon the foundation of the Bible's account of creation," Mohler wrote. "If there was no historical Adam and no historical Fall, the Gospel is no longer understood in biblical terms."

Mohler said that after trying to reconcile their reading of Genesis with science, proponents of theistic evolution are now publicly rejecting biblical inerrancy, the doctrine that the Bible is totally free from error.

"We now face the undeniable truth that the most basic and fundamental questions of biblical authority and Gospel integrity are at stake," Mohler concluded. "Are you ready for this debate?"

In a separate article in the same issue, Gregory Wills, professor of church history at Southern Seminary, said attempts to affirm both creation and evolution in the 19th and 20th century produced Christian liberalism, which attracted large numbers of Americans, including the clerical and academic leadership of most denominations.

After establishing the concept that Genesis is true from a religious but not a historical standpoint, Wills said, liberalism went on to apply naturalistic criteria to accounts of miracles and prophecy as well. The result, he says, was a Bible "with little functional authority."

"Liberalism in America began with the rejection of the Bible's creation account," Wills wrote. "It culminated with a broad rejection of the beliefs of historic Christianity. Yet many Christians today wish to repeat the experiment. We should not expect different results."

Mohler, who in the last year became involved in public debate about evolution with the BioLogos Foundation, a conservative evangelical group that promotes integrating faith and science, has long maintained the most natural reading of the Bible is that God created the world in six 24-hour days just a few thousand years ago.

Writing in Time magazine in 2005, Mohler rejected the idea of human "descent."

"Evangelicals must absolutely affirm the special creation of humans in God's image, with no physical evolution from any nonhuman species," he wrote. "Just as important, the Bible clearly teaches that God is involved in every aspect and moment in the life of His creation and the universe. That rules out the image of a kind of divine watchmaker."


Bob AllenThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Evolution education update: January 14, 2011

The Mount Vernon, Ohio, science teacher accused of teaching creationism was officially fired. Church & State reviews the developments in the creationism/evolution controversy in the five years since Kitzmiller. And a preview of In the Light of Evolution: Essays from the Laboratory and Field.


On January 10, 2011, the Mount Vernon City Schools Board of Education voted 4-1 to terminate the employment of John Freshwater. A middle school science teacher in Mount Vernon, Ohio, Freshwater was accused of inappropriate religious activity in the classroom -- including displaying posters with the Ten Commandments and Bible verses, branding crosses on the arms of his students with a high-voltage electrical device, and teaching creationism. A local family sued Freshwater and the district in 2008; the case was finally settled in December 2010, with a payment to the plaintiffs of almost half a million dollars.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed in 2008, the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education voted to begin proceedings to terminate his employment in the district; as the Columbus Dispatch (January 8, 2011) explained, "Before Ohio teachers can be fired, they are entitled to a hearing before a referee, who then makes a recommendation to the school board." In Freshwater's case, the administrative hearings proceeded sporadically for the better part of two years. Detailed reports on the hearings by Richard B. Hoppe are available on The Panda's Thumb blog (search for "Freshwater").

In his report, issued on January 7, 2011, R. Lee Shepherd, who presided over the hearings, recommended Freshwater's firing, writing, "he persisted in his attempts to make eighth grade science what he thought it should be -- an examination of accepted scientific curriculum with the discerning eye of Christian doctrine." Discussing Freshwater's presentation of "the evidence both for and against evolution," he observed that while the evidence for evolution was provided by the science textbooks, "the evidence against evolution was based, in large part, upon the Christian religious [principles] of Creationism and Intelligent Design."

Although Shepherd's recommendation was not binding on the board, four of its five members voted to fire Freshwater. Margie Bennett, the president of the board, told the Mount Vernon News (January 11, 2011), "It was not an easy decision. We don't believe there are any winners or losers in this situation. It is a very difficult situation for everyone. We are glad it has been resolved." The News added, "Freshwater, by law, may file an appeal with the Knox County Court of Common Pleas." The Associated Press (January 11, 2011) reports Freshwater as expressing disappointment in the board's decision but not indicating whether he would appeal.

The Columbus Dispatch (January 11, 2011) described the hearings as "among the most costly and lengthy that education experts can recall." Allowing teachers on the verge of termination to have a hearing "protects teachers and also discourages districts from keeping rogue teachers in less-sensitive positions." With regard to the Freshwater case, however, Rick Lewis, the executive director of the Ohio School Boards Association, commented, "It's sad that they had to spend all that money to do what they thought was right all along." (The cost to the board was reportedly $902,765, the bulk of which was for the board's legal counsel.)

For the 1/8/11 story in the Columbus Dispatch, visit:

For Hoppe's reports on the hearings, search for "Freshwater" on: http://pandasthumb.org/

For the referee's report (PDF), visit:

For the story in the Mount Vernon News, visit:

For the Associated Press report (via CBS News), visit:

For the 1/11/11 story in the Columbus Dispatch, visit:

For information on the Freshwater lawsuits, visit:


Writing in the January 2011 issue of Americans United for Separation of Church and State's journal Church & State, Sandhya Bathija reviewed the developments in the creationism/evolution controversy since the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. Warning, in the words of her subtitle, "Five years after a landmark court ruling against 'intelligent design,' evolution opponents are still on the prowl," she allowed that there's good news to accompany the bad news: "it's clear the decision gave the science community new momentum to ramp up instruction on evolution."

"After the large amount of publicity from Dover," NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott explained, "the science community is much more attuned to why individual scientists as well as their representative science societies have to take an interest in these local education issues." The article quoted confirmation from Education Week, which recently reported (November 17, 2010), "the ruling ignited an unprecedented push by scientists and education researchers to become more directly involved in integrating evolution in science classes."

Among the efforts cited by both Bathija and Education Week were Evolution Readiness, a project of the Concord Consortium and Boston College aimed at producing curricula for introducing evolution in the elementary grades; the Evolution Education Research Center, founded by Brian Alters (vice president of NCSE's board of directors) and with participants at Harvard University, McGill University, and now Chapman University; and the journal Evolution: Education and Outreach, edited by Niles Eldredge (a Supporter of NCSE) and Gregory Eldredge.

Citing Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer's Evolution, Creationism and the Battle to Control America's Classrooms (Cambridge University Press, 2010), however, Bathija explained that creationists have regrouped, modifying their tactics and trying again. Richard Katskee, a former attorney for Americans United for Separation of Church and State who helped to represent the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller, commented, "The Kitzmiller court exposed intelligent design as what it is -- dressed-up creationism -- so the Discovery Institute had to go back to the drawing board."

After reviewing various episodes in the renewed creationist campaign, such as the advent of "academic freedom" antievolution bills, the 2008-2009 debate over the treatment of evolution in Texas's state science standards, and the recent assault on evolution in textbooks in Louisiana, Bathija summarized, "Texas and Louisiana will continue to remain on the watch list for civil liberties groups and the scientific community." So will the new Congress, she added: "John Boehner (R-Ohio), incoming speaker of the House of Representatives, has supported teaching creationism in public schools," referring to his misuse of the so-called Santorum Amendment.

For Bathija's article, visit:

For information on the mentioned initiatives, visit:

For NCSE's resources on the Santorum Amendment, visit:


NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of In the Light of Evolution: Essays from the Laboratory and Field (Roberts & Company 2010). The excerpt is Carl Zimmer's "Darwin Under the Microscope: Witnessing Evolution in Microbes." "Darwin had seen evidence for evolution in all of the animals and plants he studied, but he never believed that anyone could see natural selection take place in his own lifetime," Zimmer writes. "Biologists now know that this is not always true. ... In fact, biologists can now carry out experiments in evolution, testing out different hypotheses about how natural selection works, over the course of a few months. And some of the most compelling results come from research on a kind of life that Darwin did not study: microbes."

Edited by Jonathan B. Losos, In the Light of Evolution includes a foreword by David Quammen and articles by Janet Browne, James Curtsinger, Carl Zimmer, Daniel Lieberman, Jonathan B. Losos, Edmund D. Brodie III, Naomi E. Pierce and Andrew Berry, Luke Harmon, Douglas Emlen, Marlene Zuk and Teri Orr, Michael J. Ryan, David Reznick, David Queller, Axel Meyer, Hopi E. Hoekstra, Ted Daeschler and Neil Shubin, and Harry W. Greene. Edward O. Wilson describes it as "exactly what both other scientists and the public need in the quest for understanding of this vitally important subject: a dispatch from the front, by scientists directly engaged in research on evolution, accompanied by a leading historian and the most knowledgeable journalists."

For Zimmer's article (PDF), visit:

For information about http://ncse.com/files/pub/evolution/Excerpt--lightofevolution.pdf, visit:

Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncse.com -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it.

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x310
fax: 510-601-7204

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Friday, January 14, 2011

A "spiritual science"


Category: Skepticism
Posted on: January 13, 2011 8:07 PM, by PZ Myers

Back in the dim and ancient days of usenet, I used to take astrologers apart for fun. They had such goofy ideas, and they were so serious about it. But fortunately for us, astrology is unlike creationism in that it is mostly powerless and unpersuasive, and only the deeply gullible and ignorant can fall for it any more. And it's so darned inconsistent — even the rationale that forms the foundation of the belief doesn't hold up. I've tended to ignore the irrelevancies of astrology most of the time, but the Star Tribune had a short piece on astrology, and it's nicely dismissive — so I'll mention it again.

"When [astrologers] say that the sun is in Pisces, it's really not in Pisces," said Parke Kunkle, a board member of the Minnesota Planetarium Society.

Indeed, most horoscope readers who consider themselves Pisces are actually Aquarians. So instead of being sensitive, humane and idealistic [Hey, I'm a Pisces, that's a perfect description of me!], they actually are friendly, loyal and inventive.[Oh, wait…that's also a perfect description of me! Maybe there's something to this astrology mumbo-jumbo}

Or not. [I think I'm going to go with that choice]

There is no physical connection between constellations and personality traits, said Kunkle, who teaches astronomy at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. "Sure, we can connect harvest to the stars," he said. "But personality? No."

That's the case. There are no good correlations even between astrology and personality, and definitely none that match the claims of astrologers. All horoscopes are is a crude form of cold reading.

The funny thing about this article is that it has smoked out a kooky astrologer, who is quite irate. He fulminates about the article, explaining that there are three kinds of zodiacal interpretations, the Sidereal, the Tropical, and the Constelllational, and while those wicked scientists may have nitpicked away at one of them, they haven't touched his zodiac. He does medieval astrology which has its own specific set of pulled-out-of-his-ass presumptions and assertions and funky clunky rules.

And then he goes further and declares that Scientists should stay the hell out of astrology. Why? It's hilarious. Because science doesn't support his lunacy and works to debunk his beliefs.

Why would astrologers even CARE what modern science has to say about astrology? Modern science is almost universally hostile to astrology; and modern scientists who do have some sympathy for our Art usually are trying to "help" by proving astrology on scientific grounds. Being a Spiritual Science, if you will, astrology will never be proven correct, true, or valid to the satisfaction of the modern academy, which is still held captive by the materialist/atheist world view. I'm not suggesting that astrologers ignore everything that modern scientists say about astrology (or any other field), but why would we give it such weight? Is their goal to work with us? In most cases, their goal is to debunk astrology completely. Do you think that these scientists who "corrected" the zodiac dates actually consulted with an astrologer? Of course not! If they had, they might have realized how absolutely ridiculous their "corrections" are.

This is the attitude I recall from all the astrologers I used to argue with, and it's the same stuff we get from any pseudoscience or theology. In the rare cases when astrologers made specific and testable claims, they didn't work. So they demand exemption from the way the universe works; their art doesn't actually have results that can be assessed empirically, or measured, or even seen…which makes one wonder how astrologers and theologians ever came up with their claims, and why we should care about the operation of invisible rules that simply don't function.

But maybe some astrologer out there will try to defend his superstitions here. If they show up, try not to break them right away — they can be fun, but they're very fragile.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Only 16% of Americans Believe Scientific, Secular Evolution Theory


January 9, 2011 at 09:27:25

That 16% figure is up nine percent from 1982, Gallup reports in a new poll.

The poll found that 40% believed " the "creationist" view that God created humans as is 10,000 years ago." That's the lowest percentage since they started polling. IN 1999, 47% believed the creationist theory.

Gallup also reported that t hirty-eight percent believe God guided a process by which humans developed over millions of years from less advanced life forms.

The poll found that 60% of weekly church-goers adhere to the creationist viewpoint that God created humans within the past 10,000. Years. Only 22% of postgraduate study grads held that viewpoint, but 44% of people with some college and 37% of people with college degrees also believed in creationism.

The poll also found that Republicans are more likely to believe in creationism or that God was involved in creating humans, with 52% believing in creationism versus 34% for either Democrats or independents.

See the full Gallup report here.

Rob Kall is executive editor, publisher and site architect of OpEdNews.com, Host of the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show (WNJC 1360 AM), President of Futurehealth, Inc.

Ohio school district fires science teacher that urged creationism


Denver Science News Examiner
Hank Lacey
January 10th, 2011 5:16 pm MT.

An Ohio science teacher who repeatedly told students that God created all life on Earth, and who posted the Ten Commandments and Bible verses in his public school classroom, was fired Monday night.

John Freshwater, a middle school teacher in Mount Vernon, has been on unpaid leave from his job since 2008.

The local school board voted 4-1 to terminate his employment after a hearing officer appointed by the state recommended the sanction.

The recommendation by the hearing officer, R. Lee Shepherd, was released on Friday.

Shepherd wrote in the document explaining his findings that Freshwater tried to use his eighth grade classroom as a forum to examine science through the theological lens of Christianity.

"He used his classroom as a means of sowing the seeds of doubt and confusion in the minds of impressionable students as they searched for meaning in the subject of science," Shepherd said.

An investigation conducted before he was put on leave revealed that Freshwater, 54, had taught "young Earth creationism" in his classroom since at least 2006.

The introduction of religion into the science curriculum is forbidden by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment.

Ohio requires that middle school biology classes include instruction about evolution.

Freshwater had also been accused of branding crosses on the arms of several of his students.

He agreed last autumn to settle a lawsuit brought by one alleged victim.

Shepherd said the mutilation allegations had no bearing on his recommendation that Freshwater lose his job.


Continue reading on Examiner.com: Ohio school district fires science teacher that urged creationism - Denver science news | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/science-news-in-denver/hearing-officer-recommends-firing-ohio-science-teacher-who-urged-creationism#ixzz1AsLhvEek

Sir Peter Vardy settles libel action


Thursday 13 January 2011
Published on Wed Jan 12 17:37:21 GMT 2011

Durham-born businessman Sir Peter Vardy has accepted a donation to charity in settlement of his libel action over a claim that his schools taught creationism.

Sir Peter, knighted in 2001 for services to education, brought proceedings in London's High Court against the publisher of the Tribune magazine and its editor Chris McLaughlin.

His solicitor, Jonathan Coad, told Mr Justice Tugendhat that in 1987 Sir Peter set up the Vardy Foundation to assist in the education of young people in the most socio-economically deprived parts of the UK through sponsorship of the City Technology College initiative.

Three of the schools with which it was concerned had been awarded excellent Ofsted and HMI inspection reports and the fourth was rated as good.

Mr Coad said that in October 2009 Tribune published an article which said the Foundation was imposing fundamentalist beliefs on children, who were being taught in biology lessons that evolution was as much a "theory" as creationism and that everything was designed by a God creator as stated literally in Genesis.

None of these allegations was correct, said the lawyer, who added that the schools founded by the Foundation were not faith schools, let alone ones which advocated creationism.

"The schools sponsored by the Vardy Foundation teach an entirely orthodox syllabus, including its science teaching.

"Sir Peter Vardy has specifically requested that at each Ofsted inspection, inspectors look for creationism anywhere within the curriculum of the schools sponsored by the Vardy Foundation, and on each occasion inspectors found no evidence at all of creationist teaching."

He said that both Tribune Publications 2009 Ltd and Mr McLaughlin now accepted the allegations were untrue and had apologised and paid a sum by way of damages to a charity of Sir Peter's choice. They also accepted that Sir Peter was not a creationist, and still less had sought to advance the teaching of creationism.

Counsel Eloise Power said that the magazine accepted that the aims both of Sir Peter and the Foundation were to promote the education of the underprivileged and that Sir Peter had not sponsored schools for any other reason.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Some scientists also embrace creationism


By David Menton, Andrew Snelling and Georgia Purdom at 12:00am on Jan 10, 2011 Modified at 6:54am on Jan 10, 2011

by Roger Guffey, "How about tax incentives for museum about evolution, natural history?"

As scientists who reject Darwinian evolution, we are writing to correct the many errors found in the Dec. 26 anti-creationist column.

For one, the guest columnist, Roger Guffey, claimed there were no "serious" scientists who are creationists. We are full-time Ph.D. researchers with the Creation Museum and Answers in Genesis in Northern Kentucky, and we will be helping to design the full-scale Noah's Ark and other attractions to be built north of Lexington.

There are thousands of serious scientists who doubt evolution. At the Creation Museum, we have full-time staff with earned doctorates (one from an Ivy League school) in astrophysics, geology, cell biology, genetics, medicine and the history of geology, plus several adjunct speakers and researchers who hold doctorate degrees.

We point out as well that most of the founding fathers of science were creationists, and many were contemporaries of Charles Darwin.

While scientists who reject evolution make up a minority of the scientific community, it is a significant number nonetheless. And when is truth determined by the majority anyway?

If germs that are resistant to drugs is the best evidence that Guffey can present to defend his belief in molecules-to-man evolution, then evolution is in sadder shape than we thought.

For "fish to turn into philosophers" requires a mechanism for creating new and useful genetic information. That does not happen when germs resist antibiotics. Either the drug-resistant germs were already in place before the antibiotic was used, or the DNA information was already there in another bacterium and transferred (in the form of a plasmid via a tiny tube) or where it has arisen from a genetic copying mistake (mutation). Regardless, the information decreases.

When you apply antibiotics to a population of bacteria, those lacking resistance are killed and any genetic information they carry is eliminated.

In other words, the surviving gene pool carries less information, the opposite of what molecules-to-man evolution requires. Such natural "selection," first described by creationist Edward Blyth, is a fact of life. Guffey implied that we do not accept it, but it does not turn fish into philosophers.

Also, and contrary to the columnist's claim, the state of Kentucky has not approved the application for a sales tax rebate for the Ark Encounter. Even if it did, the Ark project will not take money from the state budget.

The people who would pay taxes for the Ark's operation will be the Ark Encounter visitors, who will pay sales tax at the attraction (for tickets, food, and concessions), and then the state will rebate a portion of the sales tax to the Ark Encounter based on attendance performance standards.

Incredibly, the columnist claims that tax dollars should be used instead to build an evolution museum. But there already are hundreds of pro-evolution museums all across the country, and some are receiving millions of taxpayer dollars each year.

These natural history museums heavily promote an evolutionary worldview, and yet the columnist is alarmed about one new facility that will compete against hundreds of pro-evolution museums?

He then suggests that we are in it for the money. Well, we can certainly use our doctorate degrees elsewhere and earn much more money. The accusation is a sad form of ad hominem argument against us.

Lastly, the questions posed by the columnist that he uses to supposedly undermine the validity of the Book of Genesis have been addressed by us over and over again in books, magazines, lectures and on the Answers in Genesis Web site. Guffey presents his list as stumpers. He apparently has not done his research into what we have actually researched and now teach.

For the moment, let us take on two of them, and categorically state that vestigial organs are the opposite of what onward and upward evolution requires (there is a loss of genetic information), and we also reject the urban myth that human babies are occasionally "born with tails" (which instead are a type of fatty tumor and are merely embryological or pathological defects; there are no bones or muscles in them and thus they have absolutely nothing to do with an animal-like tail).

It's amazing how one evolution activist can make so many errors in a column which ended up in a major U.S. newspaper.

It only reveals his dogmatism and fear of the opposing position. Would this person be willing to engage in a public debate on the topic of creation vs. evolution?

David Menton holds a doctorate in biology; Andrew Snelling holds a doctorate in geology and Georgia Purdom holds a doctorate in molecular genetics. They work for the Creation Museum/Answers in Genesis.

Read more: http://www.kentucky.com/2011/01/10/1593366/some-scientists-also-embrace-creationism.html#ixzz1AmSVWboN

Ark Encounter does raise serious questions


January 10th, 2011 10:38 pm ET.Do you like this story?

Apart from the still-erroneous objections by some that the Ark Encounter project is receiving a government grant (which is not true), several other, more serious questions remain about the likely effect, and effectiveness, of the project.

The Lexington Herald-Leader obtained a copy of the Executive Summary of Ark Encounter LLC's market-research report. The report gives many optimistic projections but, of course, does not show the data behind the projections. Happily, the Kentucky Tourism Authority has commissioned its own study, as part of the tax-incentive application process (of which more below), and in so doing will provide an impartial examination and, if necessary, a reality check.

Reporter Linda Blackford seems very much concerned about who Ark Encounter LLC's other members are, besides Answers in Genesis. For reasons best known to them, the other members do not want their involvement known. Blackford's concern about the apparent secrecy is difficult to discern, because she is not specific. But this Examiner would like to know who the other investors are as well.

The question is not one of fraud or racketeering. The question concerns the investors' values. When AiG built the Creation Museum, that was entirely an AiG project. Moreover, every employee or volunteer at the museum had to sign the AiG statement of faith. In that manner, museum visitors knew that the guides were all on the same page.

But Ark Encounter LLC has applied for tax incentives from the Kentucky Tourism Authority. In order to qualify, they may not require anyone to sign any statement of faith. The immediate question is whether the quality of the experience will suffer as a result.

This Examiner has seen that happen in another historical themed attraction: Plymouth, Massachusetts, site of the landing of a ship called Mayflower in 1620. There, re-enactors are supposed to entertain visitors to the replica ship Mayflower II and other attractions. Disturbing reports have reached this Examiner that some of the re-enactors simply do not understand the mind-set of the roles they are supposed to play, much less believe in them. This affects their performances and leaves the impression that they are acting a part, and badly.

This same sort of result could occur at Ark Encounter, if AiG, as managing member, are not careful. RoseAnn Salanitri, webmistress of Creation Science Alive, says that Ken Ham, head of AiG, "is walking a fine line" with his business decision.

Another question concerns the seriousness-of-purpose of the project. In answer to a rather silly canard that "no serious scientist supports the creation paradigm," three AiG scientists beg to differ. But does Ark Encounter have serious educational and cultural value? The Ark replica itself shouldn't present a problem, and if the project had started with the replica and continued with detailed exhibits of the probable construction methods, a mock-up of the "crew's quarters," and the like, it could have had inestimable educational value. But to take one example, the plans for Ark Encounter call for a speculative exhibit of a hypothetical antediluvian city, with no apparent plans to exhibit any evidence to support that particular vision. As to the "five-dimensional theater," this reminds this Examiner of a similar special-effects theater at the Creation Museum. That theater showed a presentation that seemed intended more to be "seeker-friendly" than to educate.

The Guardian (London, UK) seems to think that the very idea of an Ark replica is a ridiculous concept, but that's only because they reject the notion, either of Noah's Ark or the Global Flood. But Ark Encounter's exhibits (other than the Ark replica) could turn out to be unedifying distractions from what ought to be its true purpose: to show, in detail, that Noah could and did build a wooden vessel to the exact dimensions that the Annals of Shem, Ham and Japheth give, and that he and his family saved themselves, and all the "created kinds" of land animals, from immediate extinction.


Continue reading on Examiner.com: Ark Encounter does raise serious questions - National creationism | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/creationism-in-national/ark-encounter-does-raise-serious-questions#ixzz1AmQTxfTK

Ohio Referee Issues Recommendation to Fire Controversial Science Teacher


Written by Don Byrd
Monday, 10 January 2011

A state referee has recommended that Mt. Vernon, Ohio science teacher John Freshwater should be fired after repeated violations of the Establishment Clause. Freshwater's case drew national attention after school officials placed him on unpaid leave for using the classroom to teach creationism and to otherwise invoke his own personal religious beliefs. The Columbus Dispatch reports on the official's strongly worded conclusion:

"Unfortunately, John Freshwater was not satisfied with the positive results of his teaching in terms of successful state test scores and the development of a love for the subject of science in the minds of his students," Shepherd wrote.

Instead, "he was determined to inject his personal religious beliefs into his plan."


In 2003, Freshwater asked the district to allow discussions of creationism, as well as evolution, in class. The board refused. The report said that Freshwater "overtly and covertly" began to teach creationism himself.

"He used his classroom as a means of sowing the seeds of doubt and confusion in the minds of impressionable students as they searched for meaning in the subject of science," Shepherd wrote.

You can read the recommendation here (pdf).

Monday, January 10, 2011

Does the NCSE Target Faith Viewpoints?


A recent blog post here at ENV by Michael Egnor, "Why Doesn't the NCSE Have an Atheism Project?," stated that "for quite a while; people of faith have long been the target of NCSE litigation." To be fair to the NCSE, I don't think that Egnor's statement is exactly accurate; however, the truth is probably just as bad, or worse. It would be more accurate to say that the NCSE targets people who adhere to a certain purported faith and has eagerly supported litigation against those people. Part III (A) of my law review article from last year, "Zeal for Darwin's House Consumes Them: How Supporters of Evolution Encourage Violations of the Establishment Clause," provides some documentation on this:

In the summer of 2005, President Bush stated his view: in the teaching of ID and evolution, "both sides ought to be properly taught."46 Susan Spath, a spokesperson with the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), a pro-evolution lobbying organization, then criticized Bush in the New York Times, arguing that his view was untenable in light of her organization's position that ID is a religious viewpoint that is unconstitutional to advocate in public schools:

"It sounds like you're being fair, but creationism is a sectarian religious viewpoint, and intelligent design is a sectarian religious viewpoint," said Susan Spath, a spokeswoman for the National Center for Science Education, a group that defends the teaching of evolution in public schools.47

Evolution lobbyists like Spath, the NCSE, and others in their movement, have long contended that ID is a "sectarian religious viewpoint," and that advocating it in public schools is thereby unconstitutional.48 To illustrate, in the Kitzmiller case, the plaintiffs (who were closely advised by the NCSE) complained that "[t]he purpose and effect" of the Dover Area School District's policy requiring the teaching of ID would "advance and endorse the specific religious viewpoint and beliefs encompassed by the assertion or argument of intelligent design."49 Likewise, an article published in 2007 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA by NCSE executive director Eugenie Scott and former NCSE staff member Nicholas Matzke asserts that ID promotes "a sectarian religious position,"50 but then claims it "has been rejected for its scientific failings" because "ID does not adequately explain the natural world."51 Another article, published in Biochemical Journal and co-written by Matzke and NCSE president Kevin Padian, asserts that ID is "not science, but a form of creationism," that "ID is theology," further endorsing the view that ID is "religiously based" and is "entirely a religious proposition . . . ."52 They claim that ID's leading proponents are motivated by "a crypto-fundamentalist Christian ideology."53 Yet these authors also assert that the "case for ID" has "collapsed,"54 and argue that "no one with scientific or philosophical integrity is going to take [ID] seriously in future."55

Darwin's legal defenders unmistakably contend that ID is a religious viewpoint, yet such an organization as the NCSE clearly evinces no small measure of hostility and animus towards this purported "sectarian religious position." This, of course, is their constitutional right,56 but could the government adopt such an attitude towards ID or creationism? If ID is a religious viewpoint, then the Kitzmiller plaintiffs were correct that it cannot be advocated in public school science curricula. But in such a case, would it be constitutional for the government to attack, inhibit, denigrate, oppose, disparage, or show hostility towards ID?


[I]magine the uproar over a textbook that explicitly attacked the Christian doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, or explicitly argued against the resurrection of Christ. Or imagine the outcry against a textbook denying that Mohammed was divinely inspired when writing the Koran. Along these very lines, the NCSE's publication Voices for Evolution quotes The National Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty offering analogous hypothetical situations, saying that "[t]o teach pupils that the account of Moses splitting the sea or Jesus walking on it is only a theory could hardly be reconciled with the Amendment's ban on the inhibition of religion."200 Yet the NCSE and its cohorts in the evolution lobby advocate making far harsher critiques of ID or creationism - viewpoints they deem are religious.

(Casey Luskin, "Zeal for Darwin's House Consumes Them: How Supporters of Evolution Encourage Violations of the Establishment Clause," Liberty University Law Review, Vol. 3(2):403-489 (Spring, 2009) (emphasis added).)

NCSE types have tried to deflect this exposure of their disregard for the First Amendment by pretending that I am somehow stating that ID is a religious viewpoint. I want to make it unmistakably clear that I do NOT think that ID is a religious viewpoint, and thus I think that there is no legal problem with public schools advocating or critiquing intelligent design. However, given that the First Amendment prohibits the government from attacking, inhibiting, denigrating, opposing, disparaging, or showing hostility towards religion, it seem wrong for the NCSE to claim to uphold the First Amendment while claiming ID is a religious viewpoint and encouraging public schools to critique ID.

Michael Egnor was only a little off: NCSE targets people who they believe adhere to a certain purported faith and has eagerly assisted in litigation against those people.

References Cited:

[46.] Elisabeth Bumiller, Bush Remarks Roil Debate on Teaching of Evolution, N.Y. TIMES, Aug. 3, 2005, at A14.

[47.] Id.

[48.] See Kitzmiller v. Dover Area Sch. Dist., 400 F. Supp. 2d 707, 763 (M.D. Pa. 2005) (holding that teaching of ID violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause).

[49.] Complaint at 19-20, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area Sch. Dist., 400 F. Supp. 2d 707 (M.D. Pa. 2005) (No. 4:CV 04-2688).

[50.] Eugenie C. Scott & Nicholas J. Matzke, Biological Design in Science Classrooms, 104 PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES 8669, 8675 (2007).

[51.] Id. at 8671.


[53.] Id. at 39.

[54.] Id.

[55.] Id.

[56.] Bd. of Educ. of Westside Cmty. Schs. v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226, 250 (1990) ("[T]here is a crucial difference between government speech endorsing religion, which the Establishment Clause forbids, and private speech endorsing religion, which the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses protect.").

[200.] NAT'L CTR. FOR SCI. EDUC., INC., VOICES FOR EVOLUTION 201 (Carrie Sager ed., 2008).

Posted by Casey Luskin on January 8, 2011 2:14 AM | Permalink