NTS LogoSkeptical News for 16 February 2011

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In the Beginning(s): Appreciating the Complexity of the Bible

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/timothy-beal/in-the-beginnings-an-acci_b_822703.html

Timothy Beal Author
'The Rise and Fall of the Bible'

Posted: February 15, 2011 08:41 PM People love to argue about the Bible. Whether very many of them are actually reading it is less clear. Take the creationism-versus-evolution debates, which have become a central battleground in the larger atheist-versus-believers debates. Despite more than a century of conflict, few in these debates seem aware that there are actually several different accounts of creation scattered throughout the Bible, and they don't all agree. The opening chapters of Genesis give us two. In the first, God begins on the macrocosmic level, calling forth light from dark, waters from waters, and land from sea. Then comes vegetation, then the sun, moon and stars, and then animal life. Finally, as the piece de resistance of creation, God makes humankind, in the plural, male and female, in God's image.

In the second story, which immediately follows this one, the order of creation is entirely different. Here God's first act of creation, before there are any plants or animals, is to form a single human, not yet male or female, by shaping it from the dust of the earth and then bringing it to life by breathing into its nostrils. Thus ha'adam, Hebrew for "the human," is formed from ha'adamah, "the earth," and becomes a living soul by divine breath. A beautiful image of the ecological spirituality of humanity: a God-breathed and breathing lump of clay, human from humus, an incarnation of divine transcendence and earthy immanence, as intimate with the ground as with God. Then come plants and animals. Then, when no animal fits the bill as lifelong companion (sorry, Fido), God essentially divides the human into two, male and female. So, in the first story, humans in the plural, male and female, are created last; and in the second, a single human is created first. These two versions of creation simply do not sync.

That's just the first few pages of Genesis. There are several other creation stories in the Bible, and they don't add up to anything like a coherent biblical account of cosmic or human origins. In Job 38, for example, the first act of creation involves a conflict between God and the sea, that is, the formless, watery deep that was there before the world began. God sinks foundations into it for the earth to rest like some huge primeval offshore drilling station. God then sets boundaries for the waters so that they don't overwhelm it.

In the brief account of creation in Psalm 74, on the other hand, there are monsters, and the struggle to establish order is much more intense. God must first slay Leviathan and the sea dragons, monstrous forces of primordial chaos, in order to create the cosmos as a safe, orderly place. Then again, in Psalm 104, Leviathan is not as a monstrous opponent of creation but a sea creature with whom God plays.

And then there's the account of creation in Proverbs 8, in which God has a divine cohort, Wisdom (in Hebrew, Hokhmah), who declares that she was with God "from the beginning, from the origin of the earth ... there was still no deep when I was brought forth, no springs rich with water, before the mountains were sunk." When God "assigned the sea its limits" and "fixed the foundations of the earth," she says, "I was at his side as confidant. I was a source of delight every day, playing before him all the time" (my translation). This may remind us of the account of beginnings in the Gospel of John: "In the beginning was the logos," usually translated as "Word" but also carrying the meaning of "Wisdom," now incarnate in Christ.

You get the idea. These and other biblical visions of beginnings don't add up to a consistent biblical account of creation. Unlike the creationism in circulation today, the Bible's own creationism is rich in different, mutually incompatible ways of imagining cosmic and human beginnings. There is no single biblical account of creation. The Bible doesn't seem to have a problem with that. Why should we?

Whether or not we should have a problem with this biblical polyvocality, I've learned the hard way that many indeed do. I recently wrote a short piece for Askmen.com on "Five Things You Didn't Know" about the Bible. The first of those five things was that there are multiple accounts of creation in the Bible. I expected some people to disagree, and I looked forward to a serious back-and-forth about the texts I had pointed out. That's not what happened. Instead, I was overwhelmed with a flood of angry responses, most of which were as impious, rude and downright unchristian in tone as they were reactionary and unthinking in their "defense" of the Bible.

Once I got over being called a "gay moron" and "fatass nerd editor sitting in his basement," I could see that what I'd gotten myself into was an amplified version of the debates that go on every day between "Bible-believers" and atheists, who looked to me very much like two sides of the same coin.

Both sides agreed that my goal was to "discredit" the Bible, to "make the Bible look stupid, irrelevant, and full of holes" and "a load of bullshit." The only difference between them was whether they supported or condemned me for doing so. Neither side was remotely interested in engaging with the logic of my argument, let alone the biblical texts I used to support it. As one exclaimed, "the OP ["original poster," me] needs to actually check his facts. You would think one might actually read the books objectively before commenting on them. Seriously??? Differences in Gen 1&2??? Are you nuts!!!" Another wrote, "There is only one creation account found in the bible, which anybody with any intellectual honesty can see. There are no contradictions; You're just not reading it carefully. Probably on purpose. All I'm seeing is cheap shots being taken at the bible, all of which are based on opinion and not fact." Several made clear, moreover, that my "attack" on the Bible was also an attack on its presumed author, God, and therefore on faith in general. As one commenter put it, "i don't buy any of this futile facts ... i stand by one fact, the Bible is a true and unchanging word of God, we shouldn't take God to court."

Never mind that I'm a Christian, that I regularly teach about the Bible in confirmation classes and in Sunday school, and that I've dedicated more than two decades to studying and teaching biblical literature as a college professor. I think I have my facts right, and the biblical references were right there. It would've been easy to go and read them before responding. But no one on either side of the argument did.

It seems to me that those dedicated to removing all potential biblical contradictions, to making the Bible entirely consistent with itself, are not very different from the irreligious debunkers of the Bible, Christianity and religion in general. Many from both camps seem to believe that simply demonstrating that the Bible incorporates inconsistencies and contradictions, as I have done, is enough to discredit any religious tradition that embraces it as Scripture. Bible debunkers and Bible defenders are kindred spirits. They agree that the Bible is on trial. They agree on the terms of the debate, and what's at stake, namely its credibility. They agree that Christianity stands or falls, triumphs or fails, depending on whether the Bible is found to be inconsistent, to contradict itself. The question for both sides is whether it fails to answer questions, from the most trivial to the ultimate, consistently and reliably.

But you can't fail at something you're not trying to do. To ask whether the Bible fails to give consistent answers or be of one voice with itself presumes that it was built to do so. That's a false presumption, rooted no doubt in thinking of it as the book that God wrote. Biblical literature is constantly interpreting, interrogating and disagreeing with itself. Virtually nothing is asserted someplace that is not called into question or undermined elsewhere.

Nor can we presume that such contradictions are stupid mistakes, editorial oversights or divine typos. We'll never know all the details about the history of the development of the literature now in our Bibles. What we do know is that it was thousands of years in the making and involved countless people writing, editing, copying, canonizing, publishing and so on. Can we honestly believe that, if agreement and consistency were the goal, such discrepancies would not have been fixed and such rough seams mended long ago? That creation stories would have been made to conform or be removed? Could all those many, many people involved in the development of biblical literature and the canon of Scriptures have been so blind, so stupid? It's modern arrogance to imagine so.

The Bible canonizes contradiction. It holds together a tense diversity of perspectives and voices, difference and argument -- even and especially when it comes to the profoundest questions of faith, questions that inevitably outlive all their answers.

The Bible is not a book of answers but a library of questions. As such it opens up space for us to explore different voices and perspectives, to discuss, to disagree and, above all, to think. Too often, however, that's not what happens.

This Blogger's Books from Amazon

The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book

There's no place for creationism in education

http://www.tcudailyskiff.com/mobile/opinion/there-s-no-place-for-creationism-in-education-1.2469782

Opinion
By Jack Enright

Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Was Charles Darwin right on evolution? Does it even matter? These questions remain a controversial topic to this day, and the third question of whether his theory on the question of how life began should be the only one taught in public high schools is no exception.

A Feb. 7 article in The New York Times noted that only 28 percent of biology teachers follow the recommendations of the National Research Council in teaching evolution, a theory that claims that species evolve and distinguish themselves from others based on the principle of "survival of the fittest," leading to the great diversity in species we have today. Thirteen percent insist on teaching creationism, and the "cautious 60 percent" take no firm stance, but teach both in an attempt to allow students to draw their own conclusions.

The authors of the study continued by stating that creation has no scientific basis, is not appropriate for the classroom and that the statistics were alarming for science education.

To adequately understand the debate, we must first turn to where advocates of creationism base their doctrine.

Creationism is based on the biblical creation account in the Book of Genesis, which contains two conflicting stories of how life on earth started.

The first, contained in Genesis 1:1-2:3, is the story of God creating the universe in six days and resting on the seventh. The second, contained in Genesis 2:4-25, tells of a man, Adam, being formed on the same day as the earth and a woman, Eve, being formed from the rib of the man.

Clearly, at least one of the two cannot literally be true. Of course, it's more than probable that neither are. Instead, the two stories are intended to be metaphorical, helping readers understand a broader message. The latter story, for instance, sets up the story of Adam and Eve and the consumption of the forbidden fruit — mankind's first disobedience of God. It teaches that mankind is inherently sinful and must work to minimize sinfulness.

The only explanation for the creation of the universe that has any scientific basis is evolution. Charles Darwin's research on the HMS Beagle in the 1830s and the publishing of "The Origin of Species" more than two decades later in 1859 laid the foundation for the theory of evolution, which says every organism on earth struggles for survival and the species best adapted to its environment is most likely to survive. It is a theory that has been widely accepted in the scientific community ever since.

Ultimately, there's no reason creationism should be taught in schools. Besides its teaching being repeatedly considered unconstitutional in public schools by federal courts, it is not scientifically supported and is clearly not meant to be taken literally — something that anyone who has read the first two chapters of the Bible can clearly tell.

It's time high school science educators teach what is actually supported by more than a century of research.

Jack Enright is a sophomore political science and economics double major from Tomball.

Zinc Won't Cure Colds, but It Could Make Them Less Miserable

By Alice Park Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It's hard to separate hype from health these days, especially when it comes to treating the common cold. Without an effective, proven medical treatment to control sneezes and sniffles, all sorts of remedies — some more valid than others — have managed to muscle their way on to our medicine shelves. But at least one, it seems, may actually do some good.

After reviewing 15 studies involving zinc, in the form of lozenges, tablets or a syrup, researchers report that the mineral may help to shorten the duration of a cold and reduce the severity of its symptoms. And children who take zinc supplements regularly may even be able to prevent colds and reduce the number of days they miss from school. (More on Time.com: Sniffles and Sneezes: Canadian Herbal Remedy Wants to Be Approved for Kids)

Meenu Singh and Rashmi Das at the Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India, conducted a detailed review of the available trials involving zinc's effect on colds. Their data, published in the Cochrane Library, included 1,360 subjects and showed that zinc, if taken within 24 hours after the first signs of a cold, can shave off about a day of illness and lessen symptoms by about 40%. Previous studies have yielded conflicting results, but the combined review supports the beneficial effects of zinc in treating colds.

While most of us are more familiar with zinc in its cream form, zinc oxide, which is used as an effective sunscreen in the summer, it turns out that zinc may work wonders in the winter as well. It's not exactly clear how zinc thwarts the cold-causing rhinovirus, but researchers think it may bind to immune cells, preventing the virus from making the same attachments and triggering infection. The zinc mineral may also interfere with viral replication by obstructing its ability to make key proteins that the virus needs to survive.

Even more encouraging, in two of the reviewed trials that studied zinc's potential in preventing colds, it appeared that regular zinc supplementation over five months reduced the number of colds that young children caught. Zinc also helped these youngsters use fewer antibiotics, and miss less school due to illness.

That's an important finding, especially since missed school days not only impact children's education but also have a domino effect on adult productivity, since parents often have to excuse themselves from work in order to take care of their sick offspring. All told, colds, which contribute to up to 100 million visits to the doctor each year, costs the U.S. economy about $20 billion annually. (More on Time.com: How to Lower Your Risk of Catching a Cold: Work Out)

So is zinc the answer to relieving the misery of a cold while saving health care costs? While the evidence is encouraging, Singh notes that the review included studies that involved different doses of zinc, which still makes it difficult for physicians to "prescribe" zinc supplements to treat a cold. "A consensus still needs to be built about the [form of zinc] to be used and the most appropriate dose," Singh wrote in an email response.

It may also end up having additional health benefits, particularly for children with other chronic conditions such as asthma or allergies. "It may be a useful adjunct in children who are at risk of exacerbations of other respiratory illnesses," wrote Singh. If that's true, it would truly make zinc a year-round health staple. Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Discovery Institute is Made an Offer it Can't Refuse

http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/1772816207.html

Contact: Tom Ritter, 570-366-1115, ritterthomas754@gmail.com

MEDIA ADVISORY, Feb. 11, 2011 /Christian Newswire/ -- The Discovery Institute of Seattle wants Tom Ritter to drop his lawsuit against The Blue Mountain School District of central Pennsylvania over the teaching of evolution.

Ritter alleges that the teaching of evolution is merely Atheism in disguise. The Discovery Institute is worried he will lose the suit.

It is worth noting The Discovery Institute LOST the infamous case of Kitzmiller v Dover School District, handed down in 2005 in the same federal court district as The Blue Mt. School District case.

Ritter also says he is not impressed for other reasons:

First, and most importantly, Ritter says there will be NO public schools in just a few years. To learn the details, see the website, predatorypricing.org

Second, Ritter does not plan to lose the lawsuit. The Blue Mountain School District has a legal problem: The Kitzmiller case outlawed the teaching of any form of Intelligent Design. Since there are logically only two explanations for the existence of life, any school teaching evolution must therefore teach blind evolution. Since The Blue Mt. SD teaches evolution, Ritter says it must teach Atheism.

(The major monotheistic religions of the world all ascribe to God's remarkably similar characteristics, among them, the ability to create. Thus no Creator = no God)

But it is illegal to teach Atheism in the public schools.

Third, at 63, Ritter says he is no longer afraid of powerful institutions, be they The Blue Mountain School District, the entire public (government) school system or the Discovery Institute.

So Tom Ritter offers The Discovery Institute the following compromise:

If The Institute will get him 10 (ten) sets of parents from different schools districts in Pennsylvania east of Harrisburg to protest the public schools, HE WILL DROP HIS LAWSUIT.

That should be easy enough for the Institute to do since they are a powerful organization

And again, see the website: predatorypricing.org, updated very recently, for the details.

Tom Ritter taught physics and chemistry in the public schools for over a decade, and hundreds of his former students will vouch that he was a great teacher.

He also calls himself a reluctant Christian, meaning he needs a personal Savior, but does not like a lot of what most of the modern Church does.

For more information contact Tom at ritterthomas754@gmail.com.

Schools respond to proposed evolution teachings

http://www.pntonline.com/news/proposed-24308-respond-administrators.html

February 12, 2011 6:20 PM
Argen Duncan

Local school administrators aren't taking a strong stance on a bill that would allow the teaching of controversial topics such as intelligent design in public schools.

State Rep. Tom Anderson, R-Albuquerque, has introduced a bill that would prevent the state from prohibiting teachers who are presenting a controversial scientific topic "from informing students about relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses pertaining to that topic."

The bill's list of protected scientific topics include "biological origins, biological evolution, causes of climate change, human cloning and other scientific topics that are often viewed by society as controversial."

The bill's opponents have said the bill promotes religion and would adulterate science education. Supporters have said teaching the strengths and weaknesses of a theory advances science and critical thinking.

Floyd Municipal Schools Superintendent Paul Benoit and Portales Municipal Schools Director of Instruction Priscilla Hernandez said their schools adhere to state standards and benchmarks, which call for the presentation of the basics of evolution.

Benoit said Floyd teachers present evolution as a concept but don't spend a great deal of time on it. Floyd students would be allowed to choose to study either side of the issue for projects and research papers, he said.

"We wouldn't discourage any study of evolution any more than we would discourage study of creationism among our students," Benoit said.

Benoit declined to comment on the bill because he hadn't read it, and Hernandez said she might comment after seeing its outcome.

Eastern New Mexico University Professor of Biology Manuel Varela teaches evolution as a portion of some of his courses.

"You can go home and believe or not believe in God, but you must believe in evolution," he said.

Varela said there is hundreds of years of evidence for evolution, which he defined as DNA mutating from generation to generation.

He thinks evolution should be taught in science classes, and intelligent design or creationism in philosophy or religion classes.

A professing Christian, Varela said he believes God created and the creation evolved. He said it's illogical to say one must believe in evolution and not God or God and not evolution.

"The way I see it, you can believe in both," Varela said.

Darwin, science and the great spiritual evolution ahead

http://blogs.hindustantimes.com/just-faith/?p=781

As the world celebrated Charles Darwin's 202nd birth anniversary yesterday, I wondered whether the process of evolution as described within the natural selection paradigm that one of the world's greatest thinkers propounded is the last word on the subject. There is no doubt that the galaxy of Darwin's work, from The Descent of Man to On the Origin of Species, spans an intellectual wealth that will rarely be matched. Without the modern tools that science today has handed over to scientists, Darwin, studied the nitty-gritty of evolution and has presented before us the intellectual shoulders upon which many PhDs and scientists can pursue their research and take the idea of evolution further.

So compelling is his study that the study of the process of evolution has now become one with the natural selection argument. It has been defined as a physical phenomenon through which species adapt to the changing environment. So, if the biggest exercise we do today is to answer mails on Blackberry, over time our thumbs will gain strength and flexibility. Who knows, it might even replace good looks or sharp mind, in the mating market. But change we will and not merely our thumbs — our brains are likely to get larger, our bodies weaker, our resilience to disease stronger, our ages longer.

But if we think that the homo sapien as he stands today represents the end of evolution — give or take a thumb or two — we have another thought coming. When I look at evolution from a distance, the process of biological natural selection only succeeds the physical process of material selection. So, from gas to liquid to solid was the birth of planets. Into that solidity entered life, first as an amoeba, through multi-cellular organisms like porifera and coelenterata. The chordates followed all the way through amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

Into that life came mind. In its most evolved form, that mind today belongs to man and hence we dare to think that we stand at the pinnacle of that evolution. That may not be the case at all. If life came into matter and mind came into life, surely the next major development would be beyond the physical. Into mind will flow the spirit and with that flowing, it will take us to the next stage of evolution.

In the academic space, the primitive religions have been dashed to the ground by science — from the earth being flat to the myth of Adam and Eve. But for its noise-making and violent attention-seeking streaks, science has made religion virtually irrelevant. Going forward, religion will have to evolve into spirituality and science will have to accept principles beyond the physical. In fact, science and spirituality may have to hold hands and walk together towards a greater exploration. In the process of exploring evolution, the two fields will themselves evolve.

I look forward to the new Darwins of this new evolution.

Scientist who sued university over religion says division of science and faith an 'illusion'

http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5jOfBkcBX1GZbRuQqNe4ienyru2GA?docId=5934692

By Dylan Lovan (CP) – 11 hours ago

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Christian astronomer who sued the University of Kentucky for religious discrimination says the perceived divide between faith and science is an "illusion."

Martin Gaskell claimed he lost out on a top science job because of his professed faith and statements he made that were taken to be critical of evolution. The controversy fueled the long-running debate between scientists and Christians who believe the Bible refutes some scientific discoveries.

Gaskell said the two sides can find agreement. He has, as a devout Christian who uses the tools of science to study the universe.

"That's one of the things that people like myself really want to counter: is this idea of some sort of incompatibility between religion and science," Gaskell told The Associated Press.

The university reached a $125,000 settlement with Gaskell last month in exchange for dropping the civil action. He said professors who discussed his employment misunderstood his faith and his views on evolution in interoffice emails that later became court evidence.

Gaskell, who studies supermassive black holes at the University of Texas in Austin, said he considers himself a "theistic evolutionist": a Christian who accepts Darwin's theory along with evidence that the earth is billions of years old.

"We believe that God has done things through the mechanisms he's revealing to us through science," he said. He has also written that evolution theory has "significant scientific problems" and includes "unwarranted atheistic assumptions and extrapolations."

Gaskell said scientists shouldn't be discouraged or rejected for holding nonmainstream views.

"The question some people ask me is, 'If I were a biologist, and if I did have major doubts about the theory of evolution, would that disqualify me from being a biologist?'" he said. "And I'd firmly say, 'No ...'"

But some prominent scientists disagree with Gaskell on that point.

"You can't discriminate based upon religion," said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, a science advocacy group in Oakland, California. "You can discriminate based upon scientific views. It's perfectly legitimate to discriminate against a candidate based on whether that candidate's scientific views are acceptable to the discipline."

Bestselling atheist author and biologist Richard Dawkins recently wrote about the Gaskell case, suggesting that a scientist's religious beliefs should not be exempt from scrutiny.

"Even if a doctor's belief in the stork theory of reproduction is technically irrelevant to his competence as an eye surgeon, it tells you something about him," Dawkins wrote. "It is revealing. It is relevant in a general way to whether we would wish him to treat us or teach us."

Gaskell, 57, attends church weekly and was reared in a churchgoing family in England. He came to the United States as a college student when he received a scholarship to the University of California, Santa Cruz.

He brought impeccable credentials to Lexington in 2007 when he applied to become director of the University of Kentucky's new student planetarium.

Gaskell said he grew suspicious during the interview when he was asked about a lecture he gave that explored Christianity and science. A few months later, Gaskell learned from a colleague that he did not get the job, and he was told that scientists in a separate department, biology, had been consulted.

In one email from court records, a biology professor said he believed Gaskell's "public premise is to provide as much intertwining between science and religion as possible, and this will most certainly lead to misconceptions about scientific evidence."

Scott, who taught at the University of Kentucky in the 1970s, said Kentucky scientists were likely "really, really sensitive" about the university's image as the newly opened Creation Museum was attracting national attention to Kentucky by asserting the earth was 6,000 years old.

A member of the search committee worried that "creationists in the state would be eager to latch on to" Gaskell's hiring.

Gaskell said he never felt apprehensive about suing the school.

"If it had been a more borderline case, if the evidence had not been so clear, then I would have (hesitated)," he said. "But it was so clear right from the start."

The $125,000 settlement was based on lost income, and the amount is what Gaskell would have received if he had gone to trial and won the case, he said.

Gaskell said since the case ended he has received about 400 emails with words of encouragement ranging from atheists to soldiers and other Christians who work in the sciences.

He said he wants to work to encourage more Christians to enter the sciences.

"One thing I feel really strongly about that we need to convey to students that the scientific questions are not all settled," he said. "If all scientific questions were settled I think science would be rather dull, because what I like doing is research and solving unsolved problems."

Copyright © 2011 The Canadian Press


Saturday, February 12, 2011

NCSE's Eugenie Scott Serves as Chief of Darwinian Thought Police for University of Kentucky Faculty

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/02/eugenie_scott_serves_as_chief_043741.html

Casey Luskin February 11, 2011 9:29 AM | Permalink

As reported on ID the Future interview, Martin Gaskell's attorney Frank Manion stated that during the course of Gaskell's lawsuit, it became clear that Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), consulted University of Kentucky (UK) faculty about whether UK should hire Gaskell.

She gave Gaskell a clean bill of health--not because she endorsed hiring Darwin-skeptics, but because at the time she believed Gaskell was a died-in-the-wool evolutionist--"accepting of evolution." According to her e-mail, Eugenie Scott wrote:

Gaskell hasn't popped onto our radar as an antievolution activist. Checking his web site and affiliations (and also with a friend in Nebraska) it seems as if, as you already know, he is very religious, but accepting of evolution. Certainly he is an old-earther, and seems to be a bit of a fan of Hugh Ross, the best known OEC. This is a little troubling, as Ross though fine on astronomy, radioisotope dating and etc., still chokes on biological evolution, and requires the hand of God to specially create the "kinds" at intervals through time. No indication that this is Gaskell's position, however.

(E-mail from Eugenie Scott to Thomas Troland, 10/21/2007, emphasis added)

At this stage, it's clear that Eugenie Scott views Martin Gaskell as "accepting of evolution" with "no indication" that he agrees with Hugh Ross. Gaskell passes her litmus test.

It's later apparent that Eugenie Scott changed her mind about Gaskell, coming to the view that he was a Darwin-skeptic--or as she later calls him an "ID Creationist." This led her to flip-flop about whether UK was right in denying Gaskell the job.

Eugenie Scott Flip-Flops on Gaskell, Not on Darwin-Skeptics

We reported last month on Dr. Scott's interview in the journal Science, which showed how she endorsed UK's decision:

Pro-evolution advocates say the university was well within its rights. "It's an employment law case," says Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, an organization in Oakland, California, that lobbies to preserve the teaching of evolution in public schools. "Can an employer discriminate based on the scientific knowledge of an employee?" she asks. "Well, yeah."

(Eugenie Scott quoted in Jennifer Couzin-Frankel, "Court to Weigh University's Decision Not to Hire Astronomer," Science, Vol. 330:1731 (December 24, 2010).)

It turns out that Eugenie Scott has made further statements disparaging Gaskell and endorsing UK's decision on her Facebook page (yes, that's right, Eugenie Scott has a Facebook page). Calling Gaskell an "ID creationist" on one Facebook page, she states: "ID creationist Martin Gaskell says the Univ of KY discriminated against him because of his religion; they say because of his science." This corroborates her words in the Science interview, as she feels it's OK to discriminate against an applicant due to their scientific views on evolution.

On another Facebook post, Scott's dim views of Gaskell become even clearer when she compares him to a flat-earther. Linking to an interview by Gaskell in a tech magazine, Dr. Scott states:

He says 1) Christian biologists are discriminated against and 2)51% of biologists are Christians. So lots of them are holding jobs, thus one of these statements isn't true. It IS true that a biologist who is a creationist is on thin ice, but so would be a geographer who thought the Earth was flat.

So apparently Scott feels that a Darwin-doubter (which she calls a "creationist") is no better than a flat-earther, putting them on "thin ice."

Finally, a recent Associated Press story shows that Eugenie disagrees sharply with Gaskell about whether Darwin-doubting scientists should be disqualified from science jobs in academia:

Gaskell said scientists shouldn't be discouraged or rejected for holding non-mainstream views.

"The question some people ask me is 'If I were a biologist and if I did have major doubts about the theory of evolution, would that disqualify me from being a biologist?'" he said. "And I'd firmly say 'No ...'"

But some prominent scientists disagree with Gaskell on that point.

"You can't discriminate based upon religion," said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, a science advocacy group in Oakland, Calif. "You can discriminate based upon scientific views. It's perfectly legitimate to discriminate against a candidate based on whether that candidate's scientific views are acceptable to the discipline."

(Dylan Lovan, "God, science not wholly exclusive, astronomer says," Washington Post (Feb. 9, 2011).)

So what "scientific views" is Eugenie Scott talking about? Given that she's speaking in the context of Gaskell's lawuit where Gaskell's scientific views pertained to evolution, and given that she already said that Gaskell's purported "ID creationist" views on evolution put him on "thin ice," I think the answer is clear.

Then What Scientific Views is Eugenie Scott Talking About?

I'm used to false accusations, and I've been falsely accused of misquoting Eugenie Scott's words because supposedly nothing in her quotation in Science says anything about "Darwin-doubting." This raises the question: exactly what "scientific knowledge" is Dr. Scott talking about in Science which justifies UK from not hiring Gaskell?

She's clearly not talking about astronomy--as we've documented Gaskell was otherwise the most qualified applicant for this astronomy-related job.

Extensive evidence in this case points to Gaskell either being an actual Darwin-doubter or a perceived Darwin-doubter, and as we've seen, this was precisely why UK denied Gaskell the job--which is exactly what Dr. Scott unambiguously said UK was justified in doing. As I reported here, the evidence that UK was worried about Gaskell's perceived views on "biology and religion" is very strong. They feared (wrongly) that he was a "creationist"--largely because they thought that his online talk he expressed explicit doubts about neo-Darwinian evolution and sympathized with folks like Philip Johnson or Mike Behe, etc. I laid some of this evidence out before even mentioning Dr. Scott's quote. As I wrote:

Gaskell alarmed the Darwinian thought police at UK because in online notes from a talk, he favorably cites the works of proponents of intelligent design like Michael Behe and Phillip Johnson, and states, "there are significant scientific problems in evolutionary theory," and "these problems are bigger than is usually made out in introductory geology/biology courses." In his deposition testimony he further stated that "when it comes to trying to explain everything, and particularly the origin of life ... we just don't have any satisfactory theory."

Given that Gaskell's views on evolution formed the apparent basis for UK denying him the job, Dr. Scott said, "Can an employer discriminate based on the scientific knowledge of an employee? Well, yeah." Science reported that Scott felt UK was "well within its rights." Later on Facebook, she claimed that Gaskell's views on evolution--what she calls his "creationist" views--put him on "thin ice." It seems that Scott felt UK was justified in denying Gaskell the job due to his perceived doubts about Darwin, which UK called "religion" and "creationist." Dr. Scott too feels that creationism is religion. Thus, I stated:

1. Can a university deny a scientist a job simply because they believe he holds scientific doubts about the neo-Darwinian consensus?

2. Does a university have the right to discriminate against a job applicant based upon his perceived religious affiliation?

It would seem that Eugenie Scott thinks the answer to both questions is, "Well, yeah."

One can buy a roll of heavy-duty duct tape, tape their lips back so as to keep a straight face, and answer the question I posed with the words "I don't know" or falsely call me a "quoteminer," but it's quite plain what "scientific knowledge" Dr. Scott is talking about: She's talking about Martin Gaskell's scientific views regarding evolution, which lead her to label him a "creationist" and compare him to "flat-earthers" and claim he is on "thin ice."

What's scariest (though not surprising) about all of this is that apparently university faculty consult with Eugenie Scott about whether they should hire potential Darwin-doubting faculty. From the evidence in this case, it seems pretty clear what she tells them.

9th Circuit probes anti-Christian ruling against teacher

Published: Feb. 11, 2011
Updated: 5:47 p.m.
By SCOTT MARTINDALE
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

PASADENA – A panel of three federal appellate judges Friday probed whether a Mission Viejo high school teacher who violated his student's First Amendment rights should be held financially liable for his actions, even as the judges reconsidered the merits of the case itself.

During a 45-minute morning hearing, judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena grilled the two parties about whether Capistrano Valley High School history teacher James Corbett should be forced to pay attorney fees and damages, and whether he could have reasonably known he was being hostile toward religion in the classroom, as alleged.

Capistrano Valley High School history teacher James Corbett, pictured in this September 2010 photo, was found to have violated a student's First Amendment rights by referring to Creationism as "religious, superstitious nonsense" during a 2007 classroom lecture.FILE PHOTO: KEN STEINHARDT, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTERRelated stories

I'd like to know, one, if there is any case in which a teacher has been found to violate the establishment clause in a situation like this ... and if not, what is the analogous situation that gave clear notice?" 9th U.S. Circuit Court Judge Mark Wolf said. "What case before 2007 put him on clear notice that what he did was impermissible under the First Amendment?"

A Santa Ana federal judge ruled in 2009 that Corbett violated the First Amendment's establishment clause when he referred to Creationism as "religious, superstitious nonsense" during a classroom lecture.

But the judge – noting Corbett would not have necessarily known he was violating student Chad Farnan's constitutional rights – also barred the teacher from having to pay attorney fees and damages under a "qualified immunity" defense. Qualified immunity is a form of federal protection for government employees who have violated an individual's constitutional rights.

Both sides appealed the ruling to the 9th Circuit. Corbett is seeking to be vindicated; Farnan is seeking a stronger ruling against Corbett, and for Corbett's qualified immunity to be tossed out.

The 9th Circuit court, which did not make any decisions Friday, has wide discretion with this case. It can rule on any or all of the arguments presented, declare portions to be moot, and/or send the case back to the trial court.

Corbett remains in his teaching position; Farnan, who brought the lawsuit as a sophomore at Capistrano Valley High in December 2007, is now a freshman at Pepperdine University in Malibu.

Farnan's attorney, Jennifer Monk, argued Friday that the trial court judge appeared to have abused his discretion in accepting Corbett's qualified immunity defense, emphasizing Corbett did not raise the qualified immunity defense until after the federal judge ruled against him on the Creationism comment.

The three-judge panel fired back, demanding to know why it mattered.

"What difference would it have made in terms of litigation activity?" said Presiding Judge Raymond Fisher, although he then added: "I'm not convinced qualified immunity could not have been addressed earlier on."

"Maybe a tactical decision was made here," Wolf said. "They spent a lot of time and money litigating the case. Once he loses, and faces the prospect of having to pay for it, he's not feeling as enthusiastic."

The three judges on Friday also scrutinized the merits of the trial court's ruling itself. U.S. District Court Judge James Selna ruled in May 2009 that while Corbett's Creationism comment violated the law, more than 20 other tape-recorded classroom comments cited by Farnan's attorneys passed legal muster.

The judges returned to a handful of these statements, including: "When you pray for divine intervention, you're hoping that the spaghetti monster will help you get what you want."

Corbett's attorney, Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Irvine's law school, told the judges that all of the statements had been taken out of context, and that all had legitimate teaching purposes that did not promote hostility toward religion.

Wolf appeared skeptical.

"That's not the way he expressed it," Wolf said. "I may agree that certain wide scope may be given to teachers, but I doubt that you're arguing it can be unlimited. ... There should be at least some self-restraint."

As the lawyers presented their arguments in the 20 minutes allowed, the judges repeatedly interrupted, asking probing questions and appearing skeptical and critical of arguments from both sides.

Wolf even suggested that perhaps the entire case should have come before a jury, instead of a judge. (The matter did not come before a jury because the case involved interpreting federal case law, and no facts were in dispute.)

The judges on Friday gave no indication of how they might rule or when. Both lawyers said after the hearing they felt the judges had been fair and thoughtful.

"We're thrilled the judges seemed to understand the concerns with all of Dr. Corbett's statements," Monk said. "We certainly hope this court will broaden the lower court's ruling."

Added Chemerinsky: "They were properly concerned about whether any public school teacher should be held liable in a case like this, and where that line should be drawn."

Contact the writer: 949-454-7394 or smartindale@ocregister.com

Freshwater appeals termination, claims his rights, laws violated

http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2011/02/12/freshwater-appeals-termination-claims-his-rights-laws-violated.html?sid=101

Mount Vernon board yet to respond
Saturday, February 12, 2011 02:51 AM
By Dean Narciso

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Click here to Read the appeal that John Freshwater filed.

Click here to see complete coverage of the case

John Freshwater has appealed last month's decision by the Mount Vernon school board to fire him for teaching creationism and religious doctrine in his middle-school science classroom.

The 33-page appeal, filed in Mount Vernon Common Pleas Court on Tuesday, argues that state laws and school procedures protecting Freshwater's rights were violated, a hearing referee's conclusions were flawed and the school's principal contributed to confusion and poor communication of school rules.

The school board put John Freshwater on unpaid leave and voted in 2008 that it intended to fire him. Among the allegations were that he failed to remove religious materials from his classroom and burned crosses on students' arms with a Tesla coil during science experiments. (The hearing officer found that the coil was not a factor in the firing, because Freshwater stopped using it after he was told to do so.)

Freshwater said he had done nothing wrong. He fought to keep his job in a 38-day administrative hearing that was spread over almost two years. Hearing referee R. Lee Shepherd found in favor of the district.

The appeal argues that the state law that empowers a school board to fire a teacher is unconstitutional because, in part, it does not give the employee a chance to object to a referee's finding before the school board's vote.

It also says he has "additional evidence to present which contradicts the findings in the referee's report."

Freshwater's defense during the hearing included more than 200 pages of closing arguments, dozens of witnesses and hundreds of exhibits.

The appeal states that the district wanted to squelch what it believed were Freshwater's Christian views, while permitting other teachers to express opinions, including those hostile to religion.

Freshwater, the appeal says, could not have advanced a particular religion, even if he had taught creationism and intelligent design, because those alternatives to evolution are not defined as religions.

The appeal says Freshwater challenged students to think independently and cites several examples in which he encouraged students to conduct additional research, debate with classmates and decide scientific doctrine on their own.

The appeal also brings up new allegations: that Mount Vernon Middle School Principal Bill White has been criticized in district evaluations for poor communication with his staff, vague directives and violations of school policy for sending out a Christmas card in December. The appeal states that much of Freshwater's disciplinary problems stemmed from White.

Freshwater's appeal was sent to the school district Tuesday. Once certified as being received, the district has 28 days to respond.

Sarah Moore, an attorney for the Mount Vernon school board, said, "At this point we're in the process of reviewing it and considering how to respond."

Freshwater did not respond yesterday to interview requests.

dnarciso@dispatch.com

Common descent not so common

http://www.examiner.com/creationism-in-national/common-descent-not-so-common

Terry Hurlbut

Creationism Examiner
February 11th, 2011 6:09 pm ET

On the eve of "Darwin Day" (February 12), the Discovery Institute noted that evidence contradicting the notion of a single phylogenetic tree for all of life has been available for years, and the proponents of evolution have deliberately ignored it.

Richard Dawkins is a prize example. On November 24, 2010, he made a statement (see video embedded at left) concerning comparisons of the same gene from different animal families. Specifically, he asserted that one can determine a hierarchy of descent for any given gene by examining the differences in that gene between members of different pairs of animal species. His key assertion is that, no matter what gene an investigator starts with, he always obtains the same answer to the question, "What does the animal family tree look like"?

Having got the family tree for FOXP2, you then do the same thing for another gene, and another, and another. You get the same family tree.

You also get the same family tree if you take genes that are no longer functioning, that are just vestigial, that are not doing anything. It's like fragments of a document on your hard disk, which are no longer being used, they're no longer on the directory, so you no longer see them. Again, you get the same family tree.

The problem, according to the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views, is that that statement is simply not the case. And Dawson either knew it and ignored it, or did not do his homework.

In fact, Churakov, Kriegs, Baertsch, et al. noted discordant descent patterns for different animal genes nearly two years ago. (ENV even has the link to the key incriminating figure in the Churakov study.) This paper describes no less than three different hypotheses for the descent of placental mammals: the Exafroplacentalia, the Epitheria, and the Atlantogenata. Each is as different from one other as one three-member sibship can be from another. And yet each hypothesis draws support from examination of the "descent patterns" for its own set of genes.

So what is a comparative geneticist to do? The answer: pick and choose which hypothesis best fits the narrative. And yet Dawkins said, less then three months ago, that one wouldn't have to choose, that no matter what gene he started with, he'd get the same answer.

The Churakov paper isn't the only one. See here, here, and here.

Dawkins likely had this reason for saying what he did: common descent predicts it. If, as common descent posits, all life forms derive from one ancestor, and that only one hierarchy of descent exists, then the relative similarities (or differences) in any given gene ought to yield that same hierarchy, and this identification ought to be unfailingly reliable. In fact, this identification is not reliable, and the unreliability has been known for nearly thirteen years

Dawkins was so confident of the nondiscordance of the genetic tree that he finished with this rhetorical flourish:

The only way you could get out of saying that that proves evolution is true is by saying that the intelligent designer, God, deliberately set out to lie to us, deliberately set out to deceive us.

Wrong, Professor. We "get out of saying that that proves evolution" by saying that the genetic tree is discordant. And if Dawkins thought for one minute that no one else would check his statement, he has another think coming.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! The Great Oz has spoken!

One can learn much from men like L. Frank Baum—or Hans Christian Andersen.

Plaintiff who claims that teaching evolution endorses 'the religion of atheism' wants all public schools abolished and issues a challenge to the Discovery Institute

Tom Ritter, the former school teacher who has filed a federal lawsuit against the The Blue Mountain School District in the Middle District of Pennsylvania for teaching evolution because in his view, evolution promotes "the religion of atheism", says he will drop his lawsuit if the Discovery Institute will meet a challenge that he has proposed. The Discovery Institute promotes "intelligent design," a version of creationism.

Ritter claims that the Discovery Institute has asked him to drop the lawsuit because he will lose, but he says he's not planning on losing. Nonetheless, he's willing for an exchange.

Ritter wants the Discovery Institute to find at least ten sets of parents in Pennsylvania to protest public schools, which he says suppress parents' constitutional rights to teach religious values. In his "Predatory Pricing" website that takes issue with public schools, Ritter proclaims that public schools are "the home base of atheism" and that in a free society, the government is not involved in teaching children. According to Ritter, if public schools were abolished, "academically superior schools that teach the civic virtues would quickly replace them." In his opinion, Catholic and Protestant schools would be academically superior.

Ritter says that he is "a reluctant Christian, meaning he needs a personal Savior, but does not like a lot of what most of the modern Church does."

Evolution education update: February 11, 2011

A creationist publisher's plans to submit "intelligent design" material for approval in Texas are revealed. Plus the philosopher Ernan McMullin is dead; the Hechinger Report addresses "The evolution of teaching evolution"; NCSE launches a new multimedia page; and Bill Nye "The Science Guy" affirms, "The main idea in all of biology is evolution." And, of course, a further reminder about Darwin Day and Evolution Weekend.

DODGING A BULLET IN TEXAS

Before deciding not to submit any supplementary materials for approval by the Texas state board of education, the Foundation for Thought and Ethics was planning to offer a supplement that included "presentation of [the] intelligent design alternative," according to a February 10, 2011, post on the blog of the Texas Freedom Network.

FTE is perhaps best known as the publisher of Of Pandas and People, the "intelligent design" creationism textbook at the center of the Kitzmiller v. Dover case in 2005. To judge from a November 15, 2010, e-mail from FTE to the Texas Education Agency, quoted by the Texas Freedom Network, it was going to be the same old story in Texas:

***

FTE's product will be electronic written material satisfying the new and expanded Biology 1 TEKS for Texas schools, with components for both teachers and students. It will include irenic yet candid discussions of what an educated person in the 21st century must know in regard to neo-Darwinian theory of life's diversity and origin of life studies. Discussions will cover fair and accurate portrayals of the major explanations, as well as analysis and critiques of each, as advanced in scientific literature. The goal will be to equip students to see beyond the uncritical acceptance of majority viewpoints when warranted by scientific data, as well as to consider possible alternatives. Such alternatives will include intelligent design perspectives but not creationism or creation science. The major components are: (1) review of evolutionary theory; (2) critique of conventional evolutionary theory; (3) examination of origin-of-life studies and enumeration of problems with chemical scenarios for life's origin; (4) presentation of intelligent design alternative.

***

FTE's decision to withdraw its material from the approval process notwithstanding, the Texas Freedom Network warns that the battle is not over, citing (in a February 9, 2011, blog post) the presence of "more than a dozen" antievolution activists seeking to be included on the review teams that will review the proposed supplementary materials in June 2011, with a final vote by the board now expected in July 2011.

For TFN's blog posts, visit:
http://tfninsider.org/2011/02/10/dodging-a-bullet-2/
http://tfninsider.org/2011/02/09/creationists-target-texas-science-classes/

ERNAN MCMULLIN DIES

The philosopher Ernan McMullin died on February 8, 2011, at the age of 86, according to the University of Notre Dame's obituary (February 9, 2011). Born in Ballybofey, Donegal, Ireland, on October 13, 1924, McMullin was educated at Maynooth College, where he received his B.Sc. in 1945 and his B.D. in 1948. He was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1949, and then studied at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Dublin and the University of Louvain, where he received his Ph.D. in 1954. He spent forty years in the philosophy department at the University of Notre Dame, from which he retired in 1994. The author of numerous scholarly and popular articles on the history and philosophy of science, he was also the author of Newton on Matter and Activity (1978) and The Inference that Makes Science (1992). Among his honors were honorary degrees from Maynooth College, the National University of Ireland, Loyola University (Chicago), Stonehill College, and the University of Notre Dame.

Evolution and creation was a recurring topic in McMullin's work. For example, he edited and contributed a lengthy introduction to the collection Evolution and Creation (1985); criticized Alvin Plantinga's views on evolution and the Bible in Christian Scholar's Review in 1991 (reprinted in Robert T. Pennock's collection Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics, 2001) and in Zygon in 1993; and delivered a lecture on "Evolution as a Christian Theme" at Baylor University in 2004. In his 2004 lecture, he argued that Augustine's view of origins, though not itself evolutionary, "open[s] the way to portraying the contemporary theory of evolution as consonant with the Christian doctrine of creation," and criticized "these proponents of what nowadays goes under the label of 'Intelligent Design'" for implicitly assuming "inadequacy of the original creation to bring about the Creator's ends without further later causal supplementation on the Creator's part."

For the University of Notre Dame's obituary, visit:
http://newsinfo.nd.edu/news/18404/

For McMullin's "Evolution as a Christian Theme" (PDF), visit:
http://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/36443.pdf

"THE EVOLUTION OF TEACHING EVOLUTION"

Writing in The Hechinger Report (February 7, 2011), Jennifer Oldham addresses "The evolution of teaching evolution," explaining that, even in the face of persistent challenges and obstacles, "scientists and teachers are pushing to make evolution the backbone of biology lesson-plans from kindergarten through high school." Alluding to Michael B. Berkman and Eric Plutzer's recent column, she wrote, "They have their work cut out for them. A recent article in Science found that almost three out of four high school students will get no schooling in evolutionary biology, or a version 'fraught with misinformation.'"

Louise Mead -- formerly Education Project Director at NCSE, now Education Director at the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action -- explained, "there's been a realization that we have to address the misconceptions. There has been a renewed focus on how we teach evolution and renewed outreach." Cited were the University of California Museum of Paleontology's Understanding Evolution website, the BioKIDS curriculum developed at the University of Michigan, and the Evolution Readiness curriculum developed by the Concord Consortium.

The hope is that such resources will give teachers the knowledge they need to have confidence in teaching evolution, Judy Scotchmoor of UCMP explained. Jeremy Mohn, a biology teacher in Kansas who teaches evolution, also urged the necessity of addressing the nonscientific concerns of students in presenting evolution, observing, "You don't have people in a chemistry classroom who have been raised to believe that the periodic table comes from the devil and that if they believe in it they are going to go to hell."

For Oldham's article, visit:
http://hechingerreport.org/content/the-evolution-of-teaching-evolution_5146/

For NCSE's coverage of the Berkman and Plutzer column, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/2011/01/too-many-teachers-ignore-evolution-006454

For the cited resources, visit:
http://evolution.berkeley.edu/
http://www.biokids.umich.edu/
http://www.concord.org/projects/evolution-readiness

NCSE'S NEW MULTIMEDIA PAGE

NCSE is pleased to announce its new multimedia page, which collects videos, audios and podcasts, presentations, and charts and graphics, and moreover offers one-click access to everything on our YouTube channel, Facebook page, and Twitter and RSS feeds. In short, it's one-stop shopping for anyone who wants to follow the battle for evolution education.

For NCSE's new multimedia page, visit:
http://ncse.com/multimedia

BILL NYE ON TEACHING EVOLUTION

Prompted by Michael B. Berkman and Eric Plutzer's recent column in Science deploring "a pervasive reluctance of teachers to forthrightly explain evolutionary biology," Popular Mechanics asked Bill Nye for his reaction. "It's horrible," Nye replied.

He explained, "Science is the key to our future, and if you don't believe in science, then you're holding everybody back. And it's fine if you as an adult want to run around pretending or claiming that you don't believe in evolution, but if we educate a generation of people who don't believe in science, that's a recipe for disaster. ... The main idea in all of biology is evolution. To not teach it to our young people is wrong."

Nye was particularly concerned with the characterization of evolution as "just a theory," arguing, "People make flu vaccinations that stop people from getting sick. Farmers raise crops with science; they hybridize them and make them better with every generation. That's all evolution. Evolution is a theory, and it's a theory that you can test. We've tested evolution in many ways. You can't present good evidence that says evolution is not a fact. "

A Supporter of NCSE, Bill Nye "The Science Guy" was the host of the popular science education television programs Bill Nye the Science Guy -- which won eighteen Emmys -- and The Eyes of Nye; he is currently the executive director of the Planetary Society, the world's large space interest organization.

For the Popular Mechanics interview of Nye, visit:
http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/environment/evolution-classroom-bill-nye-science-education

For NCSE's coverage of the Berkman and Plutzer column, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/2011/01/too-many-teachers-ignore-evolution-006454

DARWIN DAY APPROACHES

It's time to dust off your Darwin costume again: Darwin Day 2011 is just about here! Colleges and universities, schools, libraries, museums, churches, civic groups, and just plain folks across the country -- and the world -- are preparing to celebrate Darwin Day, on or around February 12, in honor of the life and work of Charles Darwin. These events provide a marvelous opportunity not only to celebrate Darwin's birthday but also to engage in public outreach about science, evolution, and the importance of evolution education -- which is especially needed with assaults on evolution education currently ongoing in Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. NCSE encourages its members and friends to attend, participate in, and even organize Darwin Day events in their own communities. To find a local event, check the websites of local universities and museums and the registry of Darwin Day events maintained by the Darwin Day Celebration website. (And don't forget to register your own event with the Darwin Day Celebration website!)

And with Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Weekend! Hundreds of congregations all over the country and around the world are taking part in Evolution Weekend, February 11-13, 2011, by presenting sermons and discussion groups on the compatibility of faith and science. Michael Zimmerman, the initiator of the project, writes, "Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic -- to move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that religious people from many faiths and locations understand that evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith. Finally, as with The Clergy Letter itself, Evolution Weekend makes it clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy." At last count, 642 congregations in all fifty states (and thirteen foreign countries) were scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events.

For the Darwin Day registry, visit:
http://www.darwinday.org/events/
http://www.darwinday.org/events/register.php

For information about Evolution Weekend, visit:
http://www.evolutionweekend.org/

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

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x310
fax: 510-601-7204
800-290-6006
branch@ncse.com
http://ncse.com

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Why Evolution Should Be Taught in Church

http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/science/4208/why_evolution_should_be_taught_in_church/

Evolution is like sex—it's there, but not to be mentioned. Why?
By Paul Wallace

Paul Wallace is currently getting his MDiv at Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Previously he was a professor of astronomy and physics at Berry College in Rome, GA. Paul blogs at psnt.net.

These are busy times for those who fight the teaching of creationism in public schools. It's like playing a giant game of Whack-a-Mole: In January alone, anti-evolution forces first raised their heads in North Carolina. Whack. Then Kentucky. Whack. Then Ohio. Whack. Then Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas. Whackwhackwhack.

The fight continues. And I encourage everyone to support those who want our kids to grow up in the real world, which is so beautiful and surprising and rich.

Anyway, there's a nice little piece of snark that has popped up from the more atheistic side of the pro-science forces. This group of folks has noticed that, since the creationist and intelligent design crowd (they're the same crowd) want creationism taught in the public schools, it's only fair that the supporters of real science should ask: Well, can we teach evolution in your churches?

I think that's a mighty fine idea.

Why Go to Church?

By way of explanation, consider the question: Why do people go to church? I mean, besides the fact that churches often make dandy country clubs, besides the fact that going to church is a highly effective method for keeping us Christians from facing the facts about ourselves ("I'm at church, see? I'm one of the good ones! See?"), and besides the fact that no human being can resist doing something for the simple reason that it's always been done?

What I mean is, are there genuine social or intellectual or spiritual reasons for going to church?

Yes. Underneath all the nonsense and pomposity, there are some good reasons: community, meaning, connection with the past. But I would like to suggest that, ultimately, people go to church because of mystery. This is not mystery in the sense of Whodunit?, or "What makes a rainbow so pretty?"; instead, this is the very mystery of existence itself; it is the bare fact of us showing up, without even having been asked, on this loneliest of planets in this strangest of universes. All people who attend church—conservative, liberal, whatever—do so, at least in part, because of mystery. They may never use that word, but there it is nonetheless.

This is not to say that all are motivated by mystery in exactly the same way. Some people attend church in order to receive answers to the hard questions life throws at them, to shield them from the dark realities of modern life, to seek reliable absolutes by which to measure the world. That is, those in this group attend church in order to escape mystery. Because mystery means not knowing, and people must know.

This is broad generalization, to be sure, but many, many people are powerfully motivated by the fear of the utter mystery of life. It is, after all, the great unknown. And to not know is to give up control, to be shut out in the dark, to drift, to face the abyss with no armor. Flight is an utterly human response to mystery.

But sometimes the need for control, absolutes, and knowledge careens out of control. To wit: Those who desire to have creationism taught in our nation's public schools. They know, because the Bible says so; and what's more, they know so well that they're going to take control of the educations not only of their own children, but of everyone else's, too. After all, isn't it good to know the truth, and isn't it good to share it, even if that means stacking school boards and inciting legal battles? It's the truth, and nothing justifies like the truth.

Facing the Unknown

But some churchgoers do not attend every Sunday in search of answers. These people understand the church not as a provider of answers but as a poser of questions. That is, for these Christians the task of he church is not to clear away mystery, but to deepen it; to teach its congregation how to bear mystery—and "the truth"—lightly. The unknowns of life may be terrifying, but this group knows that facing them squarely can be fantastically liberating.

It is under this second understanding of the church that its teaching of evolution makes a lot of sense.

My earliest experiences that could be called "religious" were delivered to me by the hands of science. When I was in third or fourth grade my dad showed me a geologic timeline in a Time-Life book on natural history. My eyes followed its epochs, periods, eras, and eons down the page until they converged on the dark Hadean eon, marking Earth's very assembly 4.5 billion years ago.

I was stupefied. With its boxes and numbers and colors and fine print the timeline seemed to me a thing of great elegance. The words—Ordovician, Silurian, Jurassic, Eocene—were themselves rare discoveries, whatever they signified. Yet standing at the edge of that precipice was, for me, secretly scary. It was profoundly disorienting. It made me feel utterly empty, like I was an absolute nothing. Like I was a ghost.

But it also made me feel giddy, joyful, and free. I could not take my eyes from it. Night after night, I took the Time-Life book to bed with me and I read it until I could read no more.

This quiet but transformative introduction to deep time started me off on a terrific three-year-long obsession with dinosaurs and evolution and geology and astronomy. Other encounters with nature had similar effects on me: They made me feel empty, terrified, and utterly happy and free; and I wound up being a physicist and astronomer. And the irony is, it was science and the natural world—and not the church—that introduced me to mystery. Or, to be more direct, it was science and the natural world—and not the church—that introduced me to God.

Mine is not an isolated case. Over time I have come to know many others with similar experiences. Many of these are scientists who, like me, entered the scientific world out of their love of nature. Yet unlike me, most of them were, and still are, agnostics or atheists. They know the wonder, they know the profound amazement, they know the jaw-dropping disbelief that comes with even a modestly scientific view of the world. Whatever their theological position, they know something about what we religious sorts call mystery. And they don't have to give it the same name I do to know what I'm talking about. I suspect many atheistic scientists know more about mystery—about God, even—than most "believers," but they would never call it God.

small-god-ism

The church, in its ignorance of and hostility to evolution (and science in general), is passing up one of its greatest opportunities to apprehend the very God it claims to represent. This irony is due to a terrible case of what may be called "small-god-ism" and is, unfortunately, encouraged by much popular theology. This theology makes claims about scripture and church practice that reduce God to a cheerleader, or a cosmic vending machine, or some domesticated and pale image of our own confused selves. Such a god is clearly not sufficient to contain all of reality. And in the face of the challenge posed by modern science, instead of rejecting whatever idea of God one has constructed, reality itself is rejected. So evolution is like sex—it's there, all right, but it is not to be mentioned in church. What would decent people think? What would God think?

If "God" is not large enough to contain this universe in all its immensity and complexity and age, then it's just not God. God is not a thing; God does not exist like we exist, or like the moon exists. God is like nothing we can know in language or image. God transcends these things and all we can know or imagine. This includes what we know of evolution, cosmology, geology, and any other science. Christians have absolutely nothing to fear.

Here's another irony: None other than the late great atheist Carl Sagan has said all of this already. In his book Pale Blue Dot, he wrote,

How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, "This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed"? Instead they say, "No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way."

Rather sentimental people often argue that the more science one knows, the less mysterious and wondrous nature becomes. But this is simply not so. The insistence that the wonder of nature is reduced by scientific knowledge is no different than the insistence that scripture can only be understood literally; both are fixated on appearances and are based in the fear of the unknown. At the initial stages, historical criticism may seem to needlessly desiccate the Bible. But over time the effect of study is a radical deepening of the text. Careful and sustained attention releases a kind of wonder from the pages of scripture; this has been attested to by many over the centuries. But this level of appreciation does not come from a literal reading; it comes by digging deeply and patiently in order to find the meaning that is found beneath and between the words on the page.

The "book of nature," as the natural world is sometimes called, is no different. Beauty in nature begins at the surfaces but compounds rapidly beneath. All scientists know this. Keeping this beauty and wonder and mystery from those who come to church in search of God is simply unfair. By keeping the best of modern science out of the church, a disservice is done not only to those who come looking for God, but to society at large.

Who knows—it may be that, by teaching evolution in the church and presenting it in the context of the Christian faith, we may help, in some small way, to shut down the great national game of Whack-a-Mole.


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Midlands church sparks controversy at plans to take creationism in the classroom

http://www.sundaymercury.net/news/midlands-news/2011/02/07/midlands-church-sparks-controversy-at-plans-to-take-creationism-in-the-classroom-66331-28119650/http://www.sundaymercury.net/news/midlands-news/2011/02/07/midlands-church-sparks-controversy-at-plans-to-take-creationism-in-the-classroom-66331-28119650/

Feb 7 2011 by Kat Keogh, Sunday Mercury

A MIDLANDS evangelical church is planning to bring creationism into the classroom by opening its own school.

The Everyday Champions Church has sparked controversy after applying to open a new free school in Newark, Nottinghamshire, next year.

The church, which believes the Bible is an "accurate" depiction of God's word, and that God is the "creator of all things", is hoping to open the new 625-pupil school in September 2012.

According to the church, the proposed Everyday Champions Academy will possess a "Christian ethos that permeates everything that happens throughout the school".

But the plans have caused an almighty rumpus with the National Secular Society, who have called on Education Secretary Michael Gove to keep creationism out of science lessons.

Executive director Keith Porteous Wood said: "The secretary of state should emphasise that in regards to science, schools should teach the accepted theory of evolution and that any biblical teachings should be left to religious education.

"If creationism were taught in a science environment, there is a danger that it would be taught with the implication that it is the real explanation and that the scientific version was 'only a theory'."

A video on the Everyday Champions Church website states: "If creation is true, there is a purpose to life.

"If evolution is true, there is no purpose to life.


Monday, February 07, 2011

Oklahoma Senate ideologue caucus rolls out agenda

http://newsok.com/fourscore-senate-ideologue-caucus-sets-agenda/article/3538731

Oklahoman 0 Published: February 7, 2011

"Scoring" in a legislative sense means determining the impact a bill will have or what it would cost taxpayers. Keeping score in the Legislature means toting up the won-loss record of the political parties or individual authors.

State Senate Democrats have been examining bills prefiled by members of what we call the Republican "ideologue caucus" and others call the "liberty caucus," consisting of the most conservative members of the Legislature.

We're also keeping score on these bills and thought you might like to know that three bills have been pre-filed in the category of "birther" legislation, which has to do with the notion that President Obama wasn't born in Hawaii. The National Review, a conservative political magazine, has repeatedly dismissed this contention and pointed out the harm its perpetuation does to the conservative cause.

Four bills have been filed in the reproductive rights category, joining a slew of such bills that went through the Legislature last session. A bill related to the evolution-creationism debate is in the hopper, as are three bills that would expand gun rights.

The top score for ideologue caucus bills, though, goes to the topic of immigration "reform." No fewer than 10 bills on that topic are pending.

What links these bills isn't just the ideology behind them but the names that show up as authors. That list, if you're keeping score, is quite small: Four men are responsible for virtually every bill on the list.

Read more: http://newsok.com/oklahoma-senate-ideologue-caucus-rolls-out-agenda/article/3538731#ixzz1DKNZlwLx


Saturday, February 05, 2011

Evolution education update: February 4, 2011

A new antievolution bill in New Mexico. Additionally, a preview of David N. Reznick's The Origin Then and Now; a retreat by a creationist textbook publisher in Texas; and a reminder about Darwin Day and Evolution Weekend.

ANTIEVOLUTION LEGISLATION IN NEW MEXICO

House Bill 302, introduced in the New Mexico House of Representatives on February 1, 2011, and referred to the House Education Committee, is the fifth antievolution bill to be introduced in a state legislature in 2011. If enacted, the bill would require teachers to be allowed to inform students "about relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses" pertaining to "controversial" scientific topics;The bill would protect teachers from "reassignment, termination, discipline or other discrimination for doing so." The sole sponsor of HB 302 is Thomas A. Anderson (R-District 29).

Describing the bill as "a train wreck waiting to happen," Dave Thomas, the president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, a group that promotes science and science education in the state, told NCSE, "The proposed legislation is not needed by New Mexico's students or teachers. New Mexico's existing standards already protect students from religious indoctrination or harassment by their teachers. Furthermore, the bill is unconstitutional as written, and its passage and enactment will almost certainly result in expensive litigation."

HB 302 is similar to Senate Bill 433 from the 2009 legislative session. The most salient difference is that where SB 433 was limited to "biological evolution" and "chemical evolution," HB 302 is ostensibly about "controversial" scientific topics in general -- of which the only examples offered are "biological origins, biological evolution, causes of climate change, [and] human cloning." The sponsor of SB 433, however, told the Santa Fe New Mexican (March 3, 2009) that he conceived of his bill as covering "biological evolution, human cloning, global warming, you name a dozen different things."

A further difference is in the definition of the scientific information that teachers would be allowed to present to their students about "controversial" scientific topics. Both bills make a point of excluding information derived from religious "writings, beliefs or doctrines," but where SB 433 provided, "'scientific information' may have religious or philosophical implications," HB 302 provides, "'[s]cientific information' may include information that coincides or harmonizes with religious tenets" -- which would appear to be intended to cover "intelligent design" creationism.

According to a summary analysis, various state agencies were not enthusiastic about SB 433, worrying that the bill would allow the teaching of creationism, inviting litigation; observing that the state science standards already require students to understand the evidential basis for evolution; and questioning the bill's premises "that the theory of evolution lacks scientific validity ... and that teachers and students need protection when addressing 'relevant scientific strengths or scientific weakness pertaining to biological evolution or chemical evolution.'" SB 433 died in committee in March 2009.

For the text of New Mexico's HB 302, visit:
http://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/11%20Regular/bills/house/HB0302.html

For the NMSR website, visit:
http://www.nmsr.org/

For the text of New Mexico's SB 433 from 2009, visit:
http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/_session.aspx?Chamber=S&LegType=B&LegNo=433&year=09

For the story in the Santa Fe New Mexican, visit:
http://www.santafenewmexican.com/Bill-protects--controversial-science--teaching

For the summary analysis (PDF), visit:
http://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/09%20Regular/LESCAnalysis/SB0433.pdf

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in New Mexico, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/new-mexico

A PREVIEW OF THE ORIGIN THEN AND NOW

NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of David N. Reznick's The Origin Then and Now: An Interpretive Guide to the Origin of Species (Princeton University Press, 2010). In the excerpt, Reznick discusses speciation and the case of the mosquitoes of the London Underground, writing, "Public use of the London Underground began on January 10, 1863. That date, or perhaps some earlier date when the tunnels were being readied for traffic, marks the beginning of the path toward the formation of a new species of mosquito. We often wonder how long it takes to form a new species; Darwin speculated timescales on the order of tens of thousand to hundreds of thousands of generations. The mosquitoes of the London Underground show that if conditions are right, the process can be much faster."

Reviewing The Origin Then and Now for BioScience, James T. Costa wrote, "Reznick succeeds in producing a highly engaging and informative 'interpretive guide' to the original On the Origin of Species with an approach that will prove quite useful in different ways to different groups of readers. Those who have read Darwin but perhaps lack knowledge of contemporary evolutionary biology will find the case studies, examples, and discussion of modern context highly instructive; modern biologists will gain much insight into the state of evolutionary thinking at its genesis, à la Darwin. ... I join Resnick in hoping that his interpretive guide will inspire readers to pick up the Origin and enjoy Darwin with a whole new level of comprehension and appreciation."

For the preview of The Origin Then and Now (PDF), visit:
http://ncse.com/files/pub/evolution/Excerpt--reznick.pdf

For information about the book from its publisher, visit:
http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9005.html

For Costa's review in BioScience, visit:
http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1525/bio.2010.60.8.13

CREATIONIST PUBLISHER BACKS OFF IN TEXAS

The Foundation for Thought and Ethics is not going to submit supplementary biology materials for approval by the Texas state of board of education after all, according to a January 31, 2011, post on the blog of the Texas Freedom Network. A list of vendors released by the Texas Education Agency on January 20, 2011, included FTE, which is perhaps best known as the publisher of Of Pandas and People, the "intelligent design" creationism textbook at the center of the Kitzmiller v. Dover case in 2005. But according to FTE, it told the TEA by e-mail on November 15, 2010, that it was not going to submit any materials; it reiterated its withdrawal by way of "a signed letter on publisher's stationary [sic]" dated January 25, 2011.

Describing FTE's withdrawal as "very good news for supporters of sound science education and students in Texas public schools" and "a huge disappointment for evolution deniers on the Texas State Board of Education," the Texas Freedom Network nevertheless warned, "other dangers remain for science education in Texas. Anti-evolution groups and state board members are likely to pressure legitimate publishers and other vendors to water down instruction on evolution in the materials they submit for board approval." Materials submitted for approval will undergo for public review in March 2011, with a final vote from the state board of education expected in April 2011. Approved materials will be available for purchase by local school districts.

For the TFN blog post, visit:
http://tfninsider.org/2011/01/31/creationist-group-backs-out-in-texas/

For NCSE's collection of materials on Of Pandas and People, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/analysis/critique-pandas-people

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

DARWIN DAY APPROACHES

It's time to dust off your Darwin costume again: Darwin Day 2011 is approaching! Colleges and universities, schools, libraries, museums, churches, civic groups, and just plain folks across the country -- and the world -- are preparing to celebrate Darwin Day, on or around February 12, in honor of the life and work of Charles Darwin. These events provide a marvelous opportunity not only to celebrate Darwin's birthday but also to engage in public outreach about science, evolution, and the importance of evolution education -- which is especially needed with assaults on evolution education currently ongoing in Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. NCSE encourages its members and friends to attend, participate in, and even organize Darwin Day events in their own communities. To find a local event, check the websites of local universities and museums and the registry of Darwin Day events maintained by the Darwin Day Celebration website. (And don't forget to register your own event with the Darwin Day Celebration website!)

And with Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Weekend! Hundreds of congregations all over the country and around the world are taking part in Evolution Weekend, February 11-13, 2011, by presenting sermons and discussion groups on the compatibility of faith and science. Michael Zimmerman, the initiator of the project, writes, "Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic -- to move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that religious people from many faiths and locations understand that evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith. Finally, as with The Clergy Letter itself, Evolution Weekend makes it clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy." At last count, 575 congregations in all fifty states (and thirteen foreign countries) were scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events.

For the Darwin Day registry, visit:
http://www.darwinday.org/events/
http://www.darwinday.org/events/register.php

For information about Evolution Weekend, visit:
http://www.evolutionweekend.org/

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

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x310
fax: 510-601-7204
800-290-6006
branch@ncse.com
http://ncse.com

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The Martin Gaskell Case: Not an Isolated Incident

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/258892/martin-gaskell-case-not-isolated-incident-david-klinghoffer

February 3, 2011 5:29 P.M. By David Klinghoffer

In his January Diary, John Derbyshire comes down on the side of the University of Kentucky for refusing to hire Martin Gaskell, a superbly qualified astronomer, for the sole reason that he expressed sympathy for intelligent design. The case of Professor Gaskell, who sued UK for religious discrimination, needs to be understood in the context of widespread anti-Christian discrimination in academic science. I thought readers might be interested in some background on the story and many others like it to which Brother John did not draw our attention.

The University of Kentucky chose to pay a $125,000 settlement to Gaskell, now at the University of Texas, after Gaskell's attorneys released records of e-mail traffic among the faculty hiring committee. Seeking a scientist to head UK's observatory, professors complained that Gaskell was "potentially Evangelical," while a lone astrophysicist on the committee protested that Gaskell stood to be rejected "despite his qualifications that stand far above those of any other applicant."

This is no isolated incident. An enormous, largely hidden transformation has taken place in what we mean when we speak of "science." For centuries, the free and unfettered scientific enterprise was fueled by a desire to know the mind of God. "The success of the West," writes historian Rodney Stark in his important book The Victory of Reason, "including the rise of science, rested entirely on religious foundations, and the people who brought it about were devout Christians." Now, increasingly, voicing such a desire is likely to get you excluded from the guild of professional scientists.

For years, I've tracked the stories that come out regularly about scientists of impeccable credentials whose religion-friendly beliefs proved injurious to their career. In some fields, notably biology and cosmology, Christians who voice doubts about Darwinian theory pay a particularly high price.

Last month, a top-level computer specialist on the NASA's Cassini mission to Saturn, David Coppedge, got fired after he sued JPL for religious discrimination. Coppedge had occasionally chatted with interested colleagues about the scientific case for intelligent design, which made good sense since JPL's officially defined mission includes the exploration of questions relating to the origin and development of life on Earth and elsewhere. For this, his supervisor severely chastised him for "pushing religion" and humiliated and demoted him.

At Iowa State University, astrophysicist Guillermo Gonzalez was refused tenure, despite a spectacular research publication record, because of a book he co-authored arguing that life is no cosmic accident.

At the Smithsonian Institution, supervisors harshly penalized evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg for editing a pro–intelligent design essay in a peer-reviewed technical-biology journal. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel examined the 2005 case, finding that Smithsonian colleagues investigated his religious beliefs and created a "hostile work environment" aimed at "forcing [him] out."

Similar incidents have occurred at the University of Idaho, George Mason University, and Baylor University.

There is, in fact, an underground of Darwin-doubting scientists, fearful for their livelihoods, who believe that evidence from cell biology, cosmology, and paleontology tells an increasingly complicated and contradictory story about life's evolution.

In every such instance I'm aware of, the suppressed scientist is a Christian, whether Protestant or Catholic. Meanwhile, among members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, 95 percent of biologists identify as atheists or agnostics. The fact of their religious (or irreligious) beliefs doesn't invalidate their scientific opinions. Nor should the religious belief of Christians cast their otherwise sterling scientific training and acumen into doubt. However, in academia, it is understood to do just that.

It's bad enough when private universities clamp down on the free exchange of ideas. But government-run institutions have often seemed to be the worst offenders of all, something the First Amendment cannot permit. The public is poorly served by a system of scientific research and funding that seems locked into reaching predetermined conclusions.

Science has become a business like many others, unfortunately, and a largely nationalized one at that. Workers must toe a company line. With the government's $7 billion National Science Foundation and $31 billion National Institutes of Health heavily supporting research, localized pressures easily take on the form of a universal compulsion to conform.

The search for truth should be unimpeded by such orthodoxies, whether religious or anti-religious. The scientists who initiated the scientific revolution itself, all Christians, knew that better than scientists, or John Derbyshire, do today.

— David Klinghoffer is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.

Anti-evolution Bill in New Mexico

http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2011/02/anti-evolution_bill_in_new_mex.php

Posted on: February 4, 2011 11:06 AM, by Ed Brayton

We have the 5th, and certainly not the last, anti-evolution bill to be submitted in a state legislature in the new term, this time in New Mexico. The NCSE reports on the new bill, which contains some notable similarities and differences from a bill in the same state in the last term. The first key difference:

HB 302 is similar to Senate Bill 433 from the 2009 legislative session. The most salient difference is that where SB 433 was limited to "biological evolution" and "chemical evolution," HB 302 is ostensibly about "controversial" scientific topics in general -- of which the only examples offered are "biological origins, biological evolution, causes of climate change, [and] human cloning." The sponsor of SB 433, however, told the Santa Fe New Mexican (March 3, 2009) that he conceived of his bill as covering "biological evolution, human cloning, global warming, you name a dozen different things."

In other words, all the subjects that are inconvenient for the ignorant myths believed by the right wing.

The second key difference:

A further difference is in the definition of the scientific information that teachers would be allowed to present to their students about "controversial" scientific topics. Both bills make a point of excluding information derived from religious "writings, beliefs or doctrines," but where SB 433 provided, "'scientific information' may have religious or philosophical implications," HB 302 provides, "'[s]cientific information' may include information that coincides or harmonizes with religious tenets" -- which would appear to be intended to cover "intelligent design" creationism.

That is very interesting and I wonder if we'll be seeing similar language in bills in other states. If we do, that's a good indication that there's a national strategy behind it and it's probably coming straight from the Discovery Institute.

Human DNA Reveals That We Are Someone Else's 'Property'

http://www.ufodigest.com/article/human-dna-reveals-we-are-someone-elses-property

Submitted by Paul Schroeder on Fri, 02/04/2011 - 08:58
DNA as Nanotech Design: Darwin Never Met Aliens
By Paul Schroeder

God is responsible for the spiritual entities within our bodies, and more likely, aliens are the most likely candidates for the geniuses behind the amazing nanotech DNA which designs our life form physical bodies; there is no argument required.

There are many predominant planets whose entire intelligent life forms are spiritual entities who have no physical DNA required to house such a spirit being.

Our physical world is an anomaly, by virtue of the sheer numbers of many such noncorporeal worlds, by comparison.

Does human DNA reflect a computer code, an alien nanotech, and thus the not so hidden hidden fingerprint of a "Creator"?

Scientists have found that our genetic code has all of these key elements.

"The coding regions of DNA," expostulates Dr. Stephen Meyer, "have exactly the same relevant properties as a computer code or language" (quoted by Strobel, p. 237, The Case for a Creator, 2004)

Whose mind or what entity could shrink and miniaturize such information and place our DNA's enormous number of 'letters' in their correct sequence as a genetic building block instruction manual?

Could evolution in itself have progressively come up with a nanotech system like this?

It is difficult to fathom, but the quantum of information in our human DNA is roughly comparably equal to 12 sets of The Encyclopedia Britannica-an amazing 384 volumes worth of detailed data that would fill 48 feet long of required library shelves .

Yet in their precise size-only two millionths of a millimeter thick-a teaspoon of DNA, according to molecular biologist Michael Denton, has "all the information needed to build the proteins for all the species of organisms that have ever lived on the earth, and there would still be enough room left for all the information in every book ever written" (Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, 1996, p.

"God is responsible for spiritual entities within, aliens are the geniuses behind nanotech DNA which is our physical bodies. Most planetary intelligent spiritual entities need no physical DNA to house a being. " p. 334).

Intelligent Design of our Human DNA

As scientists began to unravel and decode the human DNA molecule, they found something amazingly unexpected-a computer programmer's exquisite 'language' composed of some 3 billion genetic letters.

"One of the most extraordinary discoveries of the twentieth century," says Dr. Stephen Meyer, director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, Wash., "was that DNA actually stores information-the detailed instructions for assembling proteins-in the form of a four-character digital code" (quoted by Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator, 2004, p. 224).

As George Williams explains it: "The gene is a package of information, not an object. The pattern of base pairs in a DNA molecule specifies the gene. But the DNA molecule is the medium, it's not the message" (quoted by Johnson, p. 70).

Design from an intelligent source

To any discerning mind, this type of nanotech high-level information has been deduced to originate only from a seemingly intelligent source.

As Lee Strobel explains: "The data at the core of life is not disorganized, it's not simply orderly like salt crystals, but it's complex and specific information that can accomplish a bewildering task-the building of biological machines that far outstrip human technological capabilities" (p. 244).

For example, the precise nature of this genetic language is such that the average error that is not caught turns out to be one error per 10 billion letters.

If an error occurs in one of the most important parts of the code, in the genes, it causes diseases such as sickle-cell anemia. Yet even the best and most apt typist in the world couldn't come close to making only one mistake per 10 billion letters-far from it.

Michael Behe, a biochemist and professor at Pennsylvania's Lehigh University, explains that DNA genetic data is primarily an instruction manual.

He reasons: "Consider a step-by-step list of [genetic] instructions. A mutation is a change in one of the lines of instructions. So instead of saying, "Take a 1/4-inch nut," a mutation might say, "Take a 3/8-inch nut." Or instead of "Place the round peg in the round hole," we might get "Place the round peg in the square hole" . . . What a mutation cannot do is change all the instructions in one step-say, [providing instructions] to build a fax machine instead of a radio" (Darwin's Black Box, 1996, p. 41).

We therefore have in our human genetic code an huge complex instruction manual that appears to have been eloquently designed by a more highly intelligent source than mere human beings.

The God agnostic and recently deceased Francis Crick, one of the discoverers of DNA, after decades of work deciphering it, admitted that "an honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going" (Life Itself, 1981, p. 88, emphasis added).

Dean Kenyon, a biology professor who repudiated his earlier book on Darwinian evolution-because of discoveries of information found in DNA-states: "This new realm of molecular genetics (is) where we see the most compelling evidence of design on the Earth" (ibid., p. 221).

As well, one of the world's most famous atheists, Professor Antony Flew, admitted that he couldn't explain how DNA was created and developed through evolution. He now sees the demanding need for an intelligent source to have been involved in the making of our human DNA code.

"What I think the DNA material has done is show that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinary diverse elements together," he said (quoted by Richard Ostling, "Leading Atheist Now Believes in God," Associated Press report, Dec. 9, 2004).

" I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made . ."

Written some thousands of years ago, King David's words about our constructed human bodies seems most true. He wrote: "For You formed my inward parts, You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made . . . My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought. . ." (Psalm 139:13-15, emphasis added).

Where does all this deposit the theory of evolution? Michael Denton, an agnostic scientist, concludes: "Ultimately the Darwinian theory of evolution is no more nor less than the great cosmogenic myth of the twentieth century" (Denton, p. 358).

Thus we are left like a precipitate out of a solution with the astounding Creator notion that every life-form on Earth carries a genetic code for his extraterrestrial cousin and that evolution is hardly what we deduce that it is it .

This discovery shall shake our roots of humanity and confirm or deny our beliefs, both in our concept of a Creator as well as in our own concept of our destiny.

Within this very paradigm, all forms of life farmed throughout the Universe may well be seen as an enormous molecular nanotech creation by a intelligent Creator using amino acid thoughts expressed mathematically.

Crick, DNA's discoverer, perhaps, said it best:

"Life did not evolve first on Earth, a highly advanced civilization became threatened so they devised a way to pass on their existence.

They genetically-modified their DNA and sent it out from their planet on bacteria or meteorites with the hope that it would collide with another planet.

It did, and that's why we're here.

The DNA molecule is the most efficient information storage system in the entire universe.

The immensity of complex, coded and precisely sequenced information is absolutely staggering. The DNA evidence speaks of intelligent, information-bearing design.

Complex DNA coding would have been necessary for even the hypothetical first 'so-called' simple cell(s).

Our DNA was encoded with messages from that other civilization.

They programmed the molecules so that when we reached a certain level of intelligence, we would be able to access their information, and they could therefore "teach" us about ourselves, and how to progress.

For life to form by chance is mathematically virtually impossible."

Right: A carbon nanotube. Copyright Prof. Vincent H. Crespi Department of Physics Pennsylvania State University.

Abductions and their remnant elusive memories have opened all this for Paul, a confirmed atheist, until he saw aliens float him out of his body, in his bed, at night. Then, he knew that they were interested in an essence he never suspected that he had; a soul. Our spiritual powers that interest and addict interdimensionals are the very powers that can be used to thwart further attacks. They infect auras with attachments to themselves and ride the reincarnation roller coaster with people, to avoid the death that they fear and to steal the spiritual recycling that we have.

These joyriding grays can be sinister, discorporate alien souls ,stuck to your energies, who bring a new meaning to the concept of a silent invasion.

Traditional herbal medicines face deadline for EU regulations

http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=177732

by Alexandra Arkin
Feb 03, 2011

Herbal remedies are about to face tougher scrutiny in the European Union.

As of May 1, a new EU registration requirement for herbal treatments takes effect, addressing potential side effects of many alternative medicines.

The EU defines "herbal medicinal products" as products made from plant substances which may be used to treat illnesses. These cover traditional herbal medicinal products - herbs that have been used for at least 30 years anywhere, including at least 15 years in the EU - that are intended for use without a medical practitioner's supervision.

The medicines may not be administered by injection. Examples of traditional herbal products are Echinacea and calendula.

All medicinal products - and herbs are treated as medicinal - need authorization to be placed on the market in the EU. However, because of traditional herbal medicines' long tradition of use, the EU introduced the new but simpler registration procedure in March 2004 with the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive.

Member countries of the EU have had seven years to register traditional herbal medicines. Traditional herbal product manufacturers must provide documentation showing the product is safe in specified conditions of use and that its effectiveness is plausible based on long-standing medicinal use (30 years worldwide, including at least 15 in the EU).

If the makers can prove this, the product does not have to undergo the rigorous safety tests and clinical trials necessary to register other mainstream and non-traditional herbal medicinal products.

Traditional herbal medicinal products not registered by the April 30 deadline may not be sold in the EU. New herbal products will require the same safety tests and clinical trials that are required of mainstream and non-traditional herbal products. The directive does not apply to holistic alternative therapies such as acupuncture or reiki.

The United States hasn't made a similar move to tighten use of herbal remedies and largely regulates them more as foods or supplements.

But Seanna Tully, clinical services manager of the Apothecary at Whole Health Chicago, said she worries the Food and Drug Administration will follow suit in the U.S. because the FDA usually follows Europe's lead.

A contact at the American Medical Association's Department of External Communications would not comment on the EU regulations beyond stating the AMA's 2008 policy on alternative medicines. Courses on alternative medicine offered by medical schools "should present the scientific view of unconventional theories, treatments, and practice as well as the potential therapeutic utility, safety, and efficacy of these modalities," according to the AMA policy.

Dr. Jack Killen, deputy director of the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, said that while many alternative medicinal remedies are very safe, others may not be.

"There are definitely concerns with some traditional herbal medicines interacting with drugs or other herbal medicines," he said. They may have toxic side effects of their own, or be contaminated by pesticides or other things from the environment.

Another concern of his is about the makers of the herbal remedies. "There are unscrupulous makers who adulterate some of these products with conventional medicines and other drugs," Killen said.

There are similar issues with mainstream medicines, which have their own side effects or can interact with other medicines a person is taking, Killen pointed out.

Alternative medicine specialists say herbal remedies are generally very safe but can have side effects, especially when taken with other herbs or mainstream prescription medicines.

Micaela Angle is a licensed acupuncturist and manager for the National College of Natural Medicine's Medicinary in Oregon. The medicinary provides supplements, herbs, homeopathic remedies, tinctures and other products to the public, doctors, and patients of the college's clinic. She said, in her opinion, there is a lower rate of side effects from herbal remedies - including dietary supplements, herbs, teas, and tinctures - compared to mainstream prescription medicines.

Still, "everything has the potential to cause a side effect," she said. Depending on the herb, the dosage, and other herbs or mainstream medicines someone is taking, side effects of herbs may range from headache to digestive upset.

"A trained practitioner knows what herbs not to prescribe with something else," she said. Patients should consult a trained herbal practitioner before taking a product rather than self-treating with products bought in a health store, to limit the risk of side effects, she said.

Angle said the medicinary takes further steps at the National College of Natural Medicine to ensure safety of herbal products by requiring a doctor's prescription for many herbs.

"We're trying to support the professionalism of naturopaths and of Chinese medicine," she said. A naturopathic product may pose a risk depending on the strength of the dose or whether it has been misused in the past.

At naturopathic schools in the U.S., medicinaries usually require prescriptions to sell Chinese herbal medicines. Angle estimated that, at the National College of Natural Medicine, 95 percent of Chinese herbs are prescription products because most Chinese medicines are prepared for people individually depending on their symptoms.

Licensing for herbal practitioners is stringent in the U.S., according to Angle. For instance, after graduating with a master's degree from an alternative medicine school, people who hope to become specialists in Chinese medicine take a two day-long test through the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. But each state chooses whether or not to acknowledge the licensure.

Killen and Angle said that different states have different standards for recognizing alternative medicine practitioners. Some states recognize different kinds of practitioners, such as naturopaths, osteopaths, acupuncturists, or chiropractors. Others may allow only one kind of specialist to practice, or none at all. Killen said that in general, states that license professions base their licensing requirements on the standards of national organizations.

In Illinois, medical doctors, osteopaths, chiropractors and registered dieticians can prescribe herbs, but not acupuncturists - even though, according to Tully, they have training in herbs.

"The regulatory framework for herbal medicines in the U.S. is different from conventional drugs" because they are manufactured and marketed according to different governmental standards, said Killen. If someone wants to market an herb as a medicine and claim that it cures a disease, it is considered a drug and must meet certain FDA standards. Herbs marketed as supplements face different standards.

Most herbs are regulated as foods, in the supplement category, not as medicines, according to Tully.

Tully said she was not surprised by the stricter rules in Europe because Europe tends to be more restrictive when regulating alternative medicines. She said she expects that the restrictions will create an underground herbal industry in Europe.

©2001 - 2010 Medill Reports - Chicago, Northwestern University.