NTS LogoSkeptical News for 3 August 2011

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Regularity über alles, revisited

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2011/08/regularity_uber_alles_revisited.php

Category: Alternative medicine • Medicine • Quackery
Posted on: August 3, 2011 3:00 AM, by Orac

File this under "Well, duh!"

In thinking about "alternative" medicine, occasionally I contemplate the deepest, most profound questions having to do with health and healing, the difference between science-based medicine and evidence-based medicine, and how to maximize the therapeutic effect of scientifically validated treatments. Other times, I contemplate the question of just what is, based on logic and basic science alone, the most ridiculous "alternative medicine" therapy of all time.

Certainly, there are many contenders. For example, there is homeopathy, which is basically nothing more than sympathetic magic in which water is claimed to retain the memory of whateve therapeutic substance the homepath wants to use but, at Tim Minchin puts it, to forget all the poo it's been in contact with. Then there's reiki, which, boiled down to its essence, is nothing more than faith healing, substituting a "universal energy" for the Christian god. Oh, and reiki isn't "ancient," either. It was invented in 1920. Then, of course, there are the ever-infamous Kinoki footpads or the "detox footbaths." They're both basically the same thing, wherein quacks claim that you can actually eliminate "toxins" through the soles of your feet. They're also both equally scams, with only the mechanism of producing an apparently "positive" result differing. Either way, however, a credulous mark is separated from his greenbacks.

One form of alternative medicine quackery, however, that never fails to amaze me with its combination of utter nonsense and ridiculousness, coupled with the sheer disgustingness of it all, is, of course, colon cleansing. It's something that I've written about periodically during the history of this blog (and even transplanted to my other blog), be it writing about how quacks falsely claim that "death begins in the colon," that "dual action cleanse" does anything other than make you poop, or making fun of a form of colon cleansing so ludicrious that even the most credulous believer in alternative medicine can't possibly believe it. Or maybe he could. Over the years, I've seen so much utter nonsense swallowed whole and regurgitated as though it were fact and science that I no longer believe there is any form of pseudoscience so nonsensical that someone, somewhere (and usually many people in many places) won't believe it. I'm still waiting for butt reflexology to catch on, and, actually, in some places it did.

So, even though colon cleansing is one of the stupidest--yes, stupidest--forms of alternative medicine I've ever encountered, there is indeed a large contingent of credulous believers who also seem to have a fixation about cleanliness (not to mention their nether regions) who think that colon cleansing can "remove toxins in order to treat a wide variety of diseases and conditions. Let's not forget, for instance, that the Gonzalez protocol for cancer is basically a radical diet, coupled with lots of supplements and lots of coffee enemas. There's even a Guild of Colon Hydrotherapists, not to mention the International Association for Colon Hydrotherapy, both of which to me certainly strive for the title of most useless organization ever conceived, an organization that even goes so far as to claim that Jesus advocated colon cleansing. I suppose that latter claim is possible, given that colon cleansing dates back to ancient Egypt and is based on the idea that our colons can't handle the waste and "toxins," leading to all the poo in our colons leeching into our bloodstreams and poisoning us, a concept known as "autointoxication."

Because I've written so much about just how silly a form of quackery colon cleansing is, when you, my readers, first started sending me links to this article, entitled Colon Detox Not Backed by Science, at first I resisted. After all, Orac is nothing if not a cantankerous box of multicolored blinking lights, and he hates being told what to do. On the other hand, he does, for all his alleged computer nature, feel a fierce loyalty to his readers, and, if his readers want him to blog about colon cleansing again and are deluging him with requests, well, then, damned if he won't blog about colon cleansing again! Never let it be said of Orac that he doesn't give his readers what they want (well, most of the time, anyway). Besides, this is actually an amazing little bit of victory for the forces of science-based medicine, as you will see. First, let's take a look:

Colon cleansing has no evidence to support its use, and can lead to pain, vomiting, and fatal infections, according to a new report.

"A search of the literature using the terms 'colon cleansing,' 'herbal colon cleanse,' 'colon detoxification,' and 'colon irrigation,' yielded no scientifically robust studies in support of this practice," wrote Ranit Mishori, MD, of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and colleagues, in the August Journal of Family Practice.

Colon cleansing has been practiced since antiquity as a means of enhancing health through ridding the body of toxins. These procedures are similar to enemas, except that volumes in excess of 60 liters sometimes are used, and the procedure may be done repeatedly.

60 liters? Those of you out there who've hit the age of 50 and had to undergo screening colonoscopy (or those of you who've needed a colonoscopy for a complaint such as rectal bleeding) have experienced the joy of drinking a mere 4 L of GoLytely, only to see it flow right through you and come out the other end. Imagine having fifteen times that volume being placed in your nether regions over time and squirting it out again. Gross? Well, of course it is. But that's what we're talking about here, and never let it be said, either, that Orac shies away from a topic just because it's digusting. It never ceases to amaze me what people will subject themselves too when they think it is somehow beneficial.

So let's take a look at the article itself. Interestingly, it was published by faculty at the Georgetown University School of Medicine. Those who've been longtime readers might recognize why I mention this. Yes, Georgetown is a school that is deeply entrenched in woo, so much so that it "pioneered" the "integration" of quackery in its mandatory medical curriculum. No more was it enough to offer various complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) rotations as electives for fourth year medical students. that wasn't "integrative enough" so the powers that be at Georgetown "integrated" pseudoscience into their medical school curriculum. More recently (this year, in fact), Georgetown signed an agreement with that school of quackery naturopathy, Bastyr University, to help train the next generation of CAM practitioners. The only reason that I mention these things is that it's a hopeful sign that faculty at Georgetown University are holding out against the tsunami of quackademic medicine that must be washing over them. And hold out they do, delivering a devastating critique (OK, debunking) of the quackery that is "colon hydrotherapy" or "colon cleansing."

First off, not only does colon cleansing not provide the benefits claimed for it, but it is not a safe procedure. There are a number of complications that cna occur, ranging from the unpleasant to the genuinely life-threatening:

Most reports in the literature note a variety of adverse effects of colon cleansing that range from mild (eg, cramping, abdominal pain, fullness, bloating, nausea, vomiting, perianal irritation, and soreness) to severe (eg, electrolyte imbalance and renal failure). Some herbal preparations have also been associated with aplastic anemia and liver toxicity.

Case reports also have noted back and pelvic abscesses after colonic hydrotherapy, fatal aeroportia (gas accumulation in the mesenteric veins) with air emboli, rectal perforations, perineal gangrene, acute water intoxication, coffee enema-associated colitis and septicemia, and deaths due to amebiasis.

All of these are easily predictable by anyone who knows a bit about the anatomy and physiology of the colon (like a surgeon--like me). All medicine is a balancing of risks versus benefits. Unfortunately, in this case, the procedure is all risk, no benefit.

There is one curious bit in the article, though. Let's see if you can see why I found this passage rather curious:

The preparations used for colon cleansing are considered dietary supplements, and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that they be labeled as such; the FDA does not preapprove these substances, however. The FDA also requires that colonic hydrotherapy and irrigation system devices meet certain requirements, but the agency has never approved any system for general nonmedical purposes, such as colon cleansing. Apparently the FDA has a different definition of "dietary supplement" than most people would have. Personally, I consider dietary supplements to be something that one ingests in the correct end of the gastrointestinal tract, not something that one shoots up the hole where things usually exit. Yes, I know what the authors are getting at, but, really, does it matter that much whether what's put in the hydrotherapy fluid is considered a dietary supplement under FDA regulations and the DSHEA of 1994? I think not. On the other hand, what I can't figure out is how colon cleansers get away with coming up with all these cobbled-together devices to deliver the goods, so to speak. After all, these devices have an FDA Class III designation. That means that if a device is used for purposes beyond what is medically indicated, such as preparation for radiologic and endoscopic procedures, then the manufacturer must obtain premarket approval from the FDA. Guess how many of these manufacturers bother to get such approval?

The authors conclude with four things they recommend telling patients about colon cleansing. Personally, I think that only two things are necessary. First, ask them what the hell they're thinking and, second, point out that the colon rarely needs assistance in doing its job. OK, OK, I know. As a physician, I can't be judgmental, and, believe me, when interacting with actual patients I do my damnedest not to be. On the other hand, if you're not a physician or other health care professional, you're under no such obligation. Be that as it may, in lieu of these points, then I suppose you can tell patients the more conservative things that the authors recommend:

  1. Colon irrigation is not wise--particularly if you have a history of gastrointestinal disease (including diverticulitis, Crohn's disease, or ulcerative colitis) or a history of colon surgery, severe hemorrhoids, kidney disease, or heart disease. These conditions increase the risk of adverse effects.
  2. Side effects of colon cleansing include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, dehydration, electrolyte abnormalities, acute kidney insufficiency, pancreatitis, bowel perforation, heart failure, and infection.
  3. The devices that practitioners use for the procedure are not approved for colon cleansing by the US Food and Drug Administration. Inadequately disinfected or sterilized irrigation machines have been linked to bacterial contamination.
  4. Colon cleansing practitioners are not licensed by a scientifically based organization. Rather, practitioners have undergone a training process structured by an organization that is attempting to institute its own certification and licensing requirements.
All of this is good, solid, boring advice. My further advice, though, when it comes to colon cleansing would be to quote a former First Lady, who, whether you liked her or not, did come up with a most excellently pithy catchphrase that, while being an utter failure when it comes to drugs, might function quite well with respect to colon cleansing: Just say no. Your colon will thank you.

Why we shouldn't take the Tea Party seriously

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/08/why_we_shouldnt_take_the_tea_p.php

Category: Creationism • Politics
Posted on: August 3, 2011 9:10 AM, by PZ Myers

I can't believe we elected any of these hypocritical loons to office anywhere. Look at the shenanigans in Dayton, Ohio.

Kelly Kohls, who was elected in Springboro on a platform of fiscal responsibility two years ago, requested last week the district's curriculum director look into ways of providing "supplemental" instruction dealing with creationism. Fellow member, Scott Anderson, who was elected with Kohls when the district was struggling financially, supports his colleague's idea.

"Creationism is a significant part of the history of this country," Kohls said. "It is an absolutely valid theory and to omit it means we are omitting part of the history of this country."

That's not true. It is neither a significant part of our history nor is it a valid "theory" — it doesn't even deserve the label of theory, since it doesn't integrate a large number of scientific hypotheses and observations. It doesn't even deserve to be called a hypothesis, since it's made in direct contradiction to the evidence. It might best be called a myth, nothing more.

One other fine piece of hypocrisy: she and many Teabaggers are getting elected on promises of fiscal conservativism. Clearly, they didn't mean it: peddling creationism in the public schools means they're going down the Dover path, and we all saw how much that cost the school district. This should be seen as a ploy to destroy public education.

Also, how's this for irony? Kohls filed for bankruptcy. They own a house valued at $450,000 (in Ohio? What kind of mansion did they splurge on?), on which they owe… $829,000. Yeah, she's a smart money manager.


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

GAPS in a doctor's reasoning about vaccines and autism

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2011/08/gaps_in_a_doctors_reasoning_about_vaccines.php

Category: Alternative medicine • Antivaccination lunacy • Autism • Medicine • Quackery
Posted on: August 1, 2011 3:00 AM, by Orac

As hard as it is to believe, I've been blogging about anti-vaccine nonsense and autism quackery since early 2005. Before that, I had been a regular on the misc.health.alternative newsgroup, where I had also encountered anti-vaccine pseudoscience, but the topic had not been a top priority for me. In fact, when I started this blog back in late 2004, I did not imagine at that time that I would somehow end up becoming one of the "go-to" bloggers for taking on anti-vaccine nonsense. Yet somehow I did, and dealing with the misinformation, lies, and pseudoscience of the anti-vaccine movement has remained a major topic of not only this blog, but the other not-so-super-secret blog of my alter ego, and I've even found myself giving talks on it. As a side effect, because one of the most pervasive anti-vaccine myths is that vaccines somehow cause autism, I've learned a lot about autism, autistic children, and the difficulties parents with autistic children have. Unfortunately, I've also learned of a whole lot of quackery to which parents subject autistic children to try to "recover" them from "vaccine injury" or "toxic injury."

All of which is yet another example of my longwinded way of introducing a topic. In this case, my long background of having been blogging about vaccine issues and autism quackery serves as the backdrop for my surprise at recently having encountered an autism quack (in my opinion) of whom I had never heard before. I first encountered this practitioner at--surprise! surprise!--at a website that is one of the foremost sources of alternative medicine pseudoscience and quackery on the Internet, a hive of scum and quackery even more wretched than The Huffington Post and only rivaled by NaturalNews.com and Whale.to. I'm referring, of course, to Mercola.com, where Joe Mercola himself posted a video entitled How a physician cured her son's autism, in which he interviewed a physician named Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, who claims, well, that she cured her son of autism:

The red flags are there from the very beginning when Campbell-McBride states quite confidently:

My first born son was diagnosed autistic at the age of three which threw me into a huge learning curve because I had to find a solution to his problem because my own profession had nothing to offer which was a bit of a shock for me.

Having found all those solutions, I went back to the university. I completed a second postgraduate degree in human nutrition and learned many more other things. As a result, my son fully recovered. He is not autistic anymore. He is living a normal life.

Whenever I hear stories like this, I always refer back to Prometheus' excellent post entitled Testimonials: Listening to people's stories. This post is, in part, about how it is not nearly as uncommon as parents think for children with a diagnosis of autism to improve spontaneously. Indeed, most parents think this never happens spontaneously, and that's one (among many) reasons why they assume that whatever quackery they treat their child with must be the cause of their child's improvement. Yet, autism is a disorder of developmental delay, not developmental stasis; autistic children can and do develop. In fact, a significant minority can even lose the diagnosis of autism or AST by age seven as they develop. As Prometheus points out, promoters of the vaccine-autism myth don't like to hear that, mainly because it casts doubt upon whether the quackery they choose to treat their children actually does anything. After all, if autism were truly a condition of developmental stasis, then you almost wouldn't need a control group. If an autistic child improved on a treatment, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that the treatment was beneficial. However, autism is extremely variable. Autistic children can develop, often in spurts punctuated by longer periods of apparent developmental stasis. If one of those spurts happens to occur after a new round of quackery, it's very easy to conclude that the quackery was responsible.

Dr. Campbell-McBride also falls for the myth of the "autism epidemic." It always disappoints me to see a physician fall for this myth so hard, much as it disappoints me whenever our favorite anti-vaccine-sympathetic pediatrician to the stars, Dr. Jay Gordon, shows up to promote this myth, but fall for it Campbell-McBride does:

DM: So about the same time I did. Do you recall the incidence of autism around then? Was it about 1 in 100,000 or so? What is your current estimate as to the incidence today in the UK?

DC: It was 1 in 10,000 when I graduated. It was a very rare disorder. Even I as a medical graduate have never seen an autistic patient. By the time I graduated from my medical school I have never an autistic individual. I have seen other psychiatric conditions through my course in psychiatry but have never seen an autistic child. To be honest, the first autistic child that I have encountered was my own.

As I said, 20 years ago in the Western world and certainly in the English-speaking world, we were diagnosing one child in 10,000. Fifteen years ago, we were diagnosing and five years ago we were diagnosing one child in 150 which is almost a 40-fold increase in incidence. Now in Britain and some countries, we are diagnosing one child in 66.

Apparently, the concept of diagnostic substitution is alien to Dr. Campbell-McBride. It turns out that most research supports the concept that broadening of the diagnostic criteria for autism in the 1990s led to a shift in diagnoses towards autism and ASDs and that the actual prevalence of the condition has remained relatively stable over the last few decades. True, the studies aren't so bulletproof that they don't completely rule out a small real increase in autism/ASD prevalence, but they do pretty authoritatively close the door on their being an autism "epidemic."

In the next part of the interview, Dr. Campbell-McBride gets to the heart of her "treatment" for autism by describing what she thinks is the cause of autism. Basically, she does not believe there is a genetic component to autism, at least not in the way that real scientists do. Instead, she expresses an absolute certainty that autistic children are born with "perfectly normal brain and perfectly normal sensory organs and they are supposed to function normally." So what disrupts this normal functioning?

This, apparently:

What happens in these children, they do not develop normal gut flora from birth, from the beginning of their life. Gut flora is a hugely important part of our human physiology. Recently research in Scandinavia has demonstrated that 90% of all cells and all genetic material in a human body is our own gut flora. We are just a shell. We are only 10%. We are a habitat for this mass of microbes inside us. We ignore them at our peril.

What happens in these children they develop very abnormal gut flora from the beginning of their lives. So as a result their digestive system instead of being a source of nourishment for these children becomes a major source of toxicity. These pathogenic microbes inside their digestive tract damage the integrity of the gut wall.

So all sort of toxins and microbes flood into the bloodstream of the child and get into the brain of the child. That usually happens in the second year of life in children who were breast fed because breastfeeding provides a protection against this abnormal gut flora.

Recognize this? It wasn't so long ago that I wrote about detoxification quackery. What Dr. Campbell-McBride is talking about here is nothing more than a variant of the ancient concept of autointoxication, whereby our own human waste products "poison" us. The difference is that she's attributing it to bacteria living in our gut. But where do many of the bacteria living in your gut end up? In your poop, of course! In any case, Campbell-McBride even has a name for her invented autism syndrome: Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS). She's even developed a whole cottage industry of dietary woo to treat it, which can be found on various websites, including Gut and Psychology Syndrome, The GAPS Diet, and in her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome Book: Natural Treatment For: Autism, ADD, ADHD Depression, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Schizophrenia. And, of course, she has her own website Doctor-Natasha.com, and if you check it out you'll see that she claims to be able to treat anything from acne to depression to diabetes to autism to ADHD to schizophrenia to tummy pain. Yes, tummy pain. (I always thought that a good shot of Pepto-Bismol would take care of your basic tummy pain much of the time.) Here is her pseudoscience explained:

Basically, when it comes to autism (due to GAPS, natch!) Dr. Campbell-McBride blames abnormalities in the gut flora (due to GAPS again, natch!) as the cause. The information and claims on her websites can be boiled down into two or three things:

Of course, listening to Dr. Campbell-McBride's claims, I had to ask one thing: Where's the evidence? Surely, such a hypothesis should be easy to test. For instance, if it were true, wouldn't bottle fed babies be far more likely to develop autism than breastfed babies? The problem is, this doesn't appear to be so. Yes, there is evidence that breastfed babies have a lower incidence of autism, but the effect, if real, is nowhere near as strong as Dr. Campbell-McBride claims, certainly not strong enough to be a cause of the "autism epidemic." In fact, the correlation argues otherwise. Indeed, as the authors of one study pointed out, the prevalence of breastfeeding increased during the 1970s, decreased during the 1980s, and then increased again during the 1990s. By 2002, breastfeeding prevalence had reached an all-time high. Using typical anti-vaccine logic, that correlation should imply that breastfeeding causes autism, not that it protects against it. The bottom line is that the evidence is at best inconclusive that breastfeeding might be somewhat protective against the development of autism, and that's not good enough to sustain a hypothesis like Dr. Campbell-McBride's. On the other hand, perhaps that's why she believes it so strongly.

Not surprisingly, though, like all good autism pseudoscientists, Dr. Campbell-McBride has a fallback hypothesis. Even less surprisingly, it's those evil vaccines, and she claims to be able to identify children who are susceptible to "vaccine injury" based changes in their gut flora identified by various woo-tastic urine and stool tests:

In my book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, I wrote a whole chapter what I described a proposal to the authorities of what they should do with our vaccination strategy because the standard vaccination protocol is damaging these babies. They're not fit to be vaccinated this way.

Seeing that the proportion of GAPS children in the population is growing, nobody has calculated how many children today are born GAPS. I would love for somebody to do that study to actually ascertain how many children and what proportion of the population are GAPS children. But this proportion is going to grow and grow and grow. These children are not fit to be vaccinated with the standard vaccination protocol.

Another problem is that vaccinations are commercial products and the number of them is growing and growing because they are highly profitable for the pharmaceutical industry, for the governments in the West and for those who administer vaccines, for the medical industry as well. It's become a profit making industry (vaccination).

Yep, the tropes are all there: That the medical industry is out only for profits, that there is a predisposition to "vaccine injury" causing autism and various other health issues. And, of course, Dr. Campbell-McBride has the cure, a special diet. How do we know it works? Why, because of the testimonials, of course! Certainly, properly conducted scientific research culminating in randomized, double-blind clinical trials has nothing to do with it.

I suppose, in a way, that I should thank Dr. Campbell-McBride. After over six years of blogging about vaccine- and autism-related topics, I had begun to become a bit complacent, thinking that there was no quackery that I haven't seen or examined. Dr. Campbell-McBride's concept of GAPS as a cause of autism has taught me otherwise.

A push for creationism gains in Springboro

http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/dayton-news/a-push-for-creationism-gains-in-springboro-1219896.html

The school board needs one more vote to OK it

By Christopher Magan and Lawrence Budd
Staff Writer

Updated 12:20 PM Monday, August 1, 2011

Two Springboro school board members are one vote short of having the support on the five-member board to push for "creationism" in classrooms there, which would likely ignite a wider debate on teaching religion in public schools and maybe set up a court fight.

The Ohio Department of Education sets curriculum standards and guidelines, but leaves many decisions about instruction up to local school boards. Courts have been clear on the issue of religion in public schools for decades.

"There is a segment of the population where those ideas are popular," said Mike Brickner, spokesman for the Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. "The courts have held every time, you can't teach creationism in school."

Kelly Kohls, who was elected in Springboro on a platform of fiscal responsibility two years ago, requested last week the district's curriculum director look into ways of providing "supplemental" instruction dealing with creationism. Fellow member, Scott Anderson, who was elected with Kohls when the district was struggling financially, supports his colleague's idea.

"Creationism is a significant part of the history of this country," Kohls said. "It is an absolutely valid theory and to omit it means we are omitting part of the history of this country."

The current standoff in Congress over the debt ceiling has elevated the profile of the Tea Party, which emphasizes fiscal conservatism, smaller government and free markets. But socially conservative issues, such as limiting abortion and gun control and pushing for religion in public schools, are also being advocated by those with strong Tea Party credentials.

Kohls is the head of the Warren County Tea Party. Although she said her desire to teach creationism is not directly related to the emerging political movement, it's not inconsistent with Tea Party ideals.

"My input on creationism has everything with me being a parent and not a member of the Tea Party," she said. "We are motivated people who want to change the course of this country. Eliminating God from our public lives I think is a mistake and is why we have gone in the direction of spending beyond our means."

Fellow Tea Party supporters, such as the author of Senate Bill 5, state Sen. Shannon Jones of Clearcreek Twp.; Gov. John Kasich and GOP presidential contender Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota have supported other controversial and socially conservative legislation. Earlier this month Kasich signed into law a bill banning abortions when a doctor determines a fetus can live outside the womb, part of a flurry of anti-abortion bills introduced this year.

Rob Nichols, Kasich's aide, said the governor's support of the abortion bill and legislation allowing guns in bars have not changed his focus on improving the state's economy. "Our attention remains completely fixed," Nichols said. "The governor is pro-life and he supports the Second Amendment, so he was happy to sign those bills."

Steven DeLue, interim chair of Miami University's political science department, said "right-of-center" policies, such as the effort to teach creationism, may be popular in ultra-conservative places like Warren County, but he warned they could turn off some independent voters who otherwise support the Tea Party because of its fiscal agenda.

"The problem for them and for the Republican Party is polls are showing the American people, in general, do not support these positions," DeLue said. "Whatever allure the Tea Party had to some independents, they are going to lose now with the debt crisis and these other conservative positions."

Whether creationism can be taught in public schools is a debate that never really goes away; the Texas state school board recently debated the issue while approving new textbooks.

John Silvius, a former biology professor at Cedarville University, a Christian institution that teaches both evolution and creationism, said the two theories can co-exist, even in a public school classroom.

"The joy of science, for me, is to raise questions that don't necessarily have easy answers," Silvius said. "If scientific inquiry is robust enough that it can reject false theories, why be so concerned?"

In Springboro, Kohls believes the Tea Party will play a growing role in coming elections, even at the school board level. "The majority of this county is looking for fiscal conservatives, and they will likely be social conservatives as well."

Anderson said he is not necessarily trumpeting the teaching of creationism, but "if it came up, I would support it. I'm a Christian. I believe God created us. I'd like to see God back in school."

Anderson and Kohls also have the backing of Jo Ellen Myers, who like Kohls, is a member of Educate Ohio, a statewide group of conservative board members focused on school finance issues. Myers sits on the South-Western City school board in Grove City, south of Columbus and believes creation should be taught along side evolution.

"If they're teaching the one, why not?" she said. "I just haven't brought it up."

Myers said she believes in creationism, rather than evolution because evolution is "based on a theory that can't even been proven."

New state school board President Debe Terhar, a Tea Party supporter backed by Gov. Kasich, said she was unaware of Kohl's request concerning creationism.

"I absolutely have no position at this point," said Terhar, who lives in Green Twp. in Hamilton County. "I'm not going to go there."

But Jeffrey Mims, a former Dayton Public Schools board member now on the state board, believes the issue will come up again at the state level given the political climate. Mims opposes the idea and believes debating it is a waste of time and money.

"Unfortunately, I think it will come to us at some point and time," he said. "You have people who have to justify to their supporters that they carried their water. I see this as a major distraction from the significant challenges we have in Ohio."

A sound science curriculum

http://www.dailytexanonline.com/opinion/2011/07/31/sound-science-curriculum

The board, dominated by conservative Republicans and many evangelical Christians opposed to evolution, has been no stranger to controversy. It made national headlines early last year when it approved changes to the social studies, history and economics curricula that emphasized conservative political philosophies. Some of those changes included referring to the U.S. government as a "constitutional republic" in lieu of "democratic republic" and mandating the word "capitalism" in economics textbooks be changed to the more euphonious "free-enterprise system".

Since Texas is the second-largest purchaser of textbooks and curriculum materials nationwide, national publishers often base their books' content on the state's standards. This gives the board disproportionate influence on education systems outside our state's borders. And since the board's decisions remain in effect for 10 years, any curriculum revisions would have a long-lasting effect.

It was thus particularly disquieting when the board in 2009 called on schools to examine "all sides" of evolution, a subtle nod to the theory's opponents. Unlike the partisan-driven changes to social science and economics last year, any changes implying doubt toward the validity of evolution would have undermined the field of natural sciences itself.

Evolution is the cornerstone of biology and its associated subfields in the natural sciences. It lends credence to botany's remarkable developments in high-yield crops, spurring the Green Revolution and coloring modern debates on Monsanto's bioengineered crops. It is interlaced with microbiology research, as our understanding on pathogenic evolution leads us to develop newer and stronger antibiotics. Barring evolution, no plausible scientific theory could account for the diversity of life forms.

This year, the board was asked to vote on a series of supplemental middle school materials casting doubt on evolution. Among the proposals was a set of materials submitted by International Databases, a New Mexico-based company, which claimed that life on earth came from "intelligent causes" and that evolution remained unproven. Additionally, the board's new chairwoman is Barbara Cargill, an ultraconservative opponent of evolution and, ironically, a former biology teacher. Cargill has repeatedly emphasized that students should understand the "weaknesses" of evolution.

Public hearings on the issue were predictably contentious. Science teachers, professors and scientific advocacy groups urged the board to reject changes mandating they teach non-scientific theories alongside evolution. Creationists saw the vote as their best shot at introducing their critiques of evolution into a public school system. But a contentious knock-down drag-out fight between the board members failed to materialize, as they unanimously rejected materials criticizing evolution.

The board also approved mainstream science materials by publisher Holt McDougal that firmly upheld the validity of evolution. These materials will be given to students since the state could not afford to buy new textbooks this year due to budget cuts in education. Sadly, students will continue to use science textbooks that are several years old.

Certainly, many of the more religiously and politically conservative board members would not have hesitated to insert an anti-evolution line into our curriculum if given the opportunity. But because of a new majority of moderate Republicans on the board, who would likely have vetoed any changes and caused embarrassment to the hard-line members, the status quo on science education in Texas remains.

The creationist lobby has tried to portray evolution advocates as ideologically inflexible and unwilling to allow rational criticism whatsoever. But the alternative they bring to the table is simply not science. Creationism may be a compelling philosophy, but it utterly fails to provide an empirical framework in which theories of the natural world may be proven or disproven.

Creationists also claim to stake middle ground by stating that students should learn "both sides" in science classes. But this claim is astoundingly disingenuous since creationism is simply not science. Creationism (or its fraudulent euphemism, intelligent design) imparts no discoveries, no broader understanding of the natural world through tested means. It remains an untested and untestable attempt to demean evolution.

Woodrow Wilson once wrote, "Of course, like every other man of intelligence and education I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised."

That date was in 1922. Nearly 89 years later, Texas risked substantial embarrassment for trying to undermine one of science's finest theories without any rational basis. The board made the right decision in preserving the substantiality of science education in our state.

Quazi is a nursing graduate student.

Texas education board votes in favor of reason

http://peoplesworld.org/texas-education-board-votes-in-favor-of-reason-score-a-victory-for-science/

by: Dan Margolis
August 1 2011

The Texas Board of Education voted 14-0 on July 22 to approve high school textbook supplements that promote a scientifically accurate understanding of evolution and the beginnings of life on earth. In doing so, they voted to reject a supplement from International Databases, LLC., a Utah-based company that had submitted its own supplement, which would have taught "intelligent design" as an equally valid competing theory.

According to the International Databases supplement, published on the website of the Texas Education Agency, the failure of some scientific models to fully explain the origins of life means, "the Null (default) hypothesis stands. This allows for testing of the legitimate scientific hypothesis... Life on earth is the result of intelligent causes."

A section titled "Suggestions for Teachers" said, "Students should go home with the understanding that a new paradigm of explaining life's origins is emerging from the failed attempts of naturalistic scenarios. This new way of thinking is predicated upon the hypothesis that intelligent input is necessary for life's origins."

Of the other supplements to the science books that came up for review, one, by Holt McDougal, was singled out by a creationist on the schoolbook review panel. According to the critic, there was a list of inaccuracies in the book, but the supplement was accepted anyway, under the provision that any mistakes would be cleared up.

The rules for selecting science textbooks in Texas require that all materials be sent to review teams beforehand. The teams are selected by the board, and include people who were nominated by it as well as those who applied on their own. Some team members and nominees were identified not only as intelligent design advocates, but also even as "young earth creationists" - those who believe that the planet is less than 6,000 years old.

While the board has a right-wing creationist fringe, popular support seems to have moved the members, who are elected officials, away from the International Databases supplement. At a July 21 hearing, the day before the vote was taken, four times as many people spoke against the creationist supplements as for them.

The Texas Freedom Network, which in 2009 led a fight that succeeded in stripping anti-evolution requirements from the state's education standards, led the fight again this time. The group circulated a petition, initiated a rapid response team and involved evolution-friendly religious leaders and congregations in the fight for school science.

Dr. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Council on Science Education, said in a statement on the group's website, "These supplements reflect the overwhelming scientific consensus that evolution is the core of modern biology, and is a central and vital concept in any biology class. That these supplements were adopted unanimously reflects a long overdue change in the board. I commend the board for its refusal to politicize science education."

The board has a long history of issuing politicized, often right wing standards for the state's education. In 2010, it voted to ban what it saw as "pro-Muslim" and "anti-Christian" books from schools.

Decisions taken in Texas have a strong impact on the curricula of school districts across the country. Most school boards in the U.S. town-, city- or county-level, but the Texas board has responsibility for the entire state. Consequently, it is the largest school board, and therefore in charge of the largest market for textbooks. Publishers, seeking a share of the market, try to ensure that their books are selected for use by the board, and therefore often cater to its standards.

Colon cleansing health benefits debunked

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20750-colon-cleansing-health-benefits-debunked.html

10:56 01 August 2011 by Amy Kraft

Colon cleansing can supposedly help you lose weight, eliminate toxins and enhance well-being. But a review of scientific research shows that claims of health benefits from such procedures may be a steaming pile of nonsense.

Ranit Mishori at Georgetown University in Washington DC and colleagues reviewed 20 studies on colon cleansing published in medical literature over the past decade. The reports showed little evidence of benefit but plenty of negative side effects, including vomiting, electrolyte imbalance and kidney failure.

Mishori, a family medicine physician, has seen people who were jaundiced or dehydrated as a result of colon cleansing. As more and more of her patients inquired about the procedures for their health, she decided to look to the literature to see whether her anecdotal evidence was symptomatic of wider problems.

Sometimes called colonic irrigation or colonic hydrotherapy, colon cleansing often involves flushing the colon with a mixture of herbs and water through a tube inserted in the rectum. Over-the-counter, self-administered alternatives come in the form of laxatives, teas and capsules that can be taken by mouth or inserted in the rectum.

"The premise that you need to do something external to detoxify is wrong," Mishori says. "The body has its own mechanism to detoxify."

Shove it

David Greenwald, a gastroenterologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, agrees with the findings. Although colonic cleansing may sound appealing, "there is no scientific evidence that really validates that", he says.

Proponents of colon cleansing, however, believe that toxins in your gastrointestinal tract can cause a variety of health problems, such as arthritis, allergies and asthma. They say colon cleansing can help restore balance in the body.

Colon cleansing has been around since ancient times, when the procedure was thought to help the body dispose of waste and toxins. Auto-intoxication, as it was formerly called, was popular until the early 20th century, when it was discredited by professional societies, including the American Medical Association.

"Focus on the proven things," says Greenwald. "Increasing fibre in the diet has been shown to be of benefit."

Mishori, too, has words of advice for those concerned about their health. "The road to wellness does not necessarily go through your rectum," she says.

Journal reference: The Journal of Family Practice, in press

Springboro Students Could Learn Creationism In School

http://www.wlwt.com/r/28732495/detail.html

School Board Member Proposes Teaching Bible-Based Theory

POSTED: 5:53 pm EDT August 1, 2011
UPDATED: 6:36 pm EDT August 1, 2011

SPRINGBORO, Ohio -- If one school board member has her way, Springboro sixth graders would learn about creationism in their classrooms.

"You can choose to believe that theory, it's just a theory," said school board member Kelly Kohls, a former college nutrition instructor and real estate developer.

Creationists believe the earth is only 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs lived alongside humans, which nearly all scientists say can be disproven by the natural historical record.

But Kohls said children should be offered the Bible-based creationist theory alongside the theory of evolution.

"Federal law simply says that it is illegal to require the teaching of creationism," Kohls said. "We're not talking about that; we're talking about adding it as a supplement to curriculum."

Ohio's Department of Education is staying out of the local debate, saying that state standards do not prohibit schools from teaching creationism and allow individual districts to make that decision.

Parents who spoke to News 5 said they were generally receptive to the idea.

"I don't want to see anything forced on my kids, but I'd like them to have the option of, hey, there could be another way," said parent James Owens.

Other parents suggested the subject could be taught as an elective.

"I think it would depend on how much, on the way that it was taught and what was said and before it was taught, I'd like to see the curriculum and how it was going to be done," said parent Lori Rowe.

The ACLU has said it plans to fight the measure, saying that teaching creationism is not a good use of school resources and class time.

Kohls said she wants community input on her plan, which she said would be discussed at upcoming school board meetings.

Copyright 2011 by WLWT.com.

Read more: http://www.wlwt.com/education/28732495/detail.html#ixzz1TuwmIPjv

Myers Divides His Blogging

http://blogs.wsj.com/ideas-market/2011/08/01/p-z-myers-divides-his-blogging/

By Christopher Shea

The contentious biologist and blogger P.Z. Myers will be writing on two sites, as of this week. There had been speculation about whether National Geographic, which in 2009 partnered with ScienceBlogs, the network of which Myers's popular Pharyngula is a part, would want to be associated with his aggressively anti-religious postings—and, relatedly, whether his voice would be muzzled.

As of today, Myers says, Pharyngula will be a part of a new network: Freethoughtblogs.com, also accessible through Pharyngula.org. (The link appears not to be active yet.*) Select material will still appear on ScienceBlogs: "that is, science, anti-creationism, that sort of thing…the openly anti-religious material will be on [FreeThoughtBlogs] only." Offering his usual olive branch to believers, he writes:

So if you're a Christian, you'll now be able to read [ScienceBlogs] Pharyngula without crying (but don't fool yourself, I'll still be despising your foolish belief system); if you're a teacher, you'll be able to tell your students to read Sb Pharyngula without fearing the wrath of the PTA.

*Myers writes, I now see, that his servers aren't bearing up well under the pressure; so the site is technically active.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Evolution education update: July 29, 2011

Survey questions about evolution and the Big Bang are restored to Science and Engineering Indicators -- but questions linger about the future. Plus Texas newspapers celebrate the state board of education's recent vote -- and NCSE's own report on that vote.

EVOLUTION AT THE NSB REDUX

Survey questions about the American public's beliefs about evolution and the Big Bang will be restored to the 2012 edition of Science and Engineering Indicators -- but concerns linger about their exact wording in the future. As NCSE reported in 2010, although survey results about evolution and the Big Bang have regularly appeared in the National Science Board's Science and Engineering Indicators, its biennial compilation of global data about science, engineering, and technology, since 1985, they were absent from the 2010 edition. Controversy ensued, with Jon Miller, a science literacy researcher at the University of Michigan, charging that the removal of the section was a clumsy attempt to downplay a national embarrassment.

Now, according to a report in Science (July 22, 2011), "The board now says that deleting that text was a mistake and that the 2012 edition of Indicators, which comes out in January next year, will contain an analysis of the survey results relating to those questions." José-Marie Griffiths, the new chair of the committee responsible for Indicators, told Science, "In retrospect, we shouldn't have omitted that text from the 2010 Indicators." But the 2012 Indicators will compare "knowledge indices measured with and without the evolution and big bang questions," and the survey for the 2014 Indicators will test versions of the questions prefaced with "According to evolutionary theory" and "According to astronomers."

Miller objected to the revisions, telling Science, "The idea that a scale should be abandoned because Americans are not scoring high enough flies in the face of the most basic principles of scientific measurement. ... We don't make statements like, 'According to some economists, we had a recession' or 'According to the weatherman, we had a tsunami.'" NCSE's Joshua Rosenau added, "Whatever the cultural context or reasons for it, rejection of evolution has profound consequences for a person's ability to fully integrate new and existing science into their own lives, to participate in their own medical care and in the 21st century economy ... If NSF's surveys downplay that fundamental concept, they will be measuring science literacy in name only."

For NCSE's story on evolution at the NSB in 2010, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/2010/04/what-happened-to-evolution-at-nsb-005412

For the article in Science (subscription required), visit:
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/333/6041/394.full

APPLAUSE FOR THE TEXAS VICTORY

In the wake of the Texas state board of education's July 22, 2011, vote to approve scientifically accurate supplementary materials and to reject creationist-inflected materials, newspapers around the state are rejoicing.

The Austin American-Statesman (July 25, 2011) was relieved by the absence of "the Bible-thumping rhetoric that has become a board trademark." "We might miss the fireworks," the editorial concluded, "but we'll gladly trade the show for balanced policymaking that will enable Texas students to compete in an increasingly complicated and increasingly global economy."

The Beaumont Enterprise (July 25, 2011) wrote, "Once again, public school students and taxpayers in Texas dodged a bullet," adding, "The recurring battles over evolution ... are something Texans can avoid. The State Board of Education should remember the final word in its title and promote classroom standards that give our children the best chance to compete and win in the 21st century."

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times (July 26, 2011), urged Texans to remember July 22, 2011, as "the day the State Board of Education decided not to impede the teaching of a theory that predates the Civil War. Thus, on that day, science education leapt forward and a slight but tectonic shift in the board may have occurred. We're talking, of course, about evolution and the endless attempts by its religiously motivated disbelievers to monkey with it."

And the San Antonio Express-News (July 27, 2011), headlining its editorial "This time, SBOE gets science right," expressed its pleasure that "the board largely stuck to scientific matters in its adoption of supplemental science instructional materials," while deploring the board's decision in 2009 to sabotage the state science standards in such a way as to "ensure that students in Texas public schools will receive an inferior science education."

What's next in Texas? The fight over evolution may resume when the adoption process for textbooks resumes in a few years -- but Senate Bill 6, recently signed into law by Governor Rick Perry, largely erodes the state board of education's authority over textbooks.

For the editorials, visit:
http://www.statesman.com/opinion/a-no-fuss-education-meeting-were-on-board-1654375.html
http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/opinions/editorials/article/EDITORIAL-State-battles-over-science-texts-1543426.php
http://www.caller.com/news/2011/jul/26/new-age-of-reason-on-education-board/
http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/article/This-time-SBOE-gets-science-right-1600863.php

For the text of Texas's SB 6 as enrolled, visit:
http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/821/billtext/html/SB00006F.htm

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

VICTORY FOR EVOLUTION IN TEXAS

Pop the champagne corks. The Texas state board of education unanimously came down on the side of evolution. In a 14-0 vote on July 22, 2011, the board approved scientifically accurate supplementary material from established mainstream publishers -- and did not approve the creationist-inflected supplementary material from International Databases.

"This is a huge victory for Texas students and teachers," said NCSE's Joshua Rosenau, who testified before the board on July 21, 2011. In his testimony, Rosenau urged the board to approve the supplements -- recommended by a review panel largely composed of scientists and science educators -- without amendments, and to reject the submission from International Databases. The board did just that, asking for only minimal changes to the approved supplements.

Rosenau was not alone in testifying in support of the mainstream supplementary material at the July 21, 2011, hearings; NCSE members and allies -- including Texas Citizens for Science's Steven Schafersman and Texas Freedom Network's Kathy Miller -- showed up in force. At least four times as many people testified in favor of the mainstream supplementary material as testified against it.

A contentious issue was the supplementary material from Holt McDougal. A creationist member of the review panel released a list of supposed errors in the Holt McDougal material involving evolution and common descent. But in the hearing, the Texas Education Agency pointed out that the full membership of the review panel had not agreed with the complaint; it represented only that member's opinion.

Ultimately, the board approved the Holt McDougal material, while directing Commissioner of Education Robert Scott to review the list of supposed errors and to develop amended language for Holt McDougal to incorporate. NCSE and Texas education groups are confident that Scott's revisions will reflect the current state of evolutionary biology, and not any creationist alternatives.

Eugenie C. Scott, NCSE's executive director, celebrated the board's decision. "These supplements reflect the overwhelming scientific consensus that evolution is the core of modern biology, and is a central and vital concept in any biology class," she commented. "That these supplements were adopted unanimously reflects a long overdue change in the board. I commend the board for its refusal to politicize science education."

For the Associated Press's report (via the Austin American-Statesman), visit:
http://www.statesman.com/news/nation/texas-ed-board-compromises-on-evolution-materials-1634523.html

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

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 x305
fax: 510-601-7204
800-290-6006
branch@ncse.com
http://ncse.com

Read Reports of the NCSE on-line:
http://reports.ncse.com

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

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

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


Monday, July 25, 2011

Evolution education update: July 22, 2011

A progress report from Texas. A reminder that you can help to support NCSE's archives. And a voice for evolution from the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution.

PROGRESS IN TEXAS?

"Efforts to push creationist instructional materials into Texas science classrooms were dealt a setback today," the Texas Freedom Network reported on its blog (July 15, 2011). Materials submitted for approval by the state board of education by International Databases were not on the list of supplementary science materials that the Texas education commissioner recommended for approval. Those materials, as TFN and NCSE charged in a joint press release issued in April 2011, reject mainstream evolutionary science and promote "intelligent design" creationism.

TFN explained, "The commissioner's list is usually based on recommendations from Texas Education Agency review teams made up of teachers, scholars and other citizens. Those teams met in Austin last month to review all of the proposed science instructional materials. Apparently, the review teams decided that International Databases had failed to cover the required curriculum standards appropriately." The list is only a recommendation, however, and it is open to the state board of education to decide, by a majority vote, to approve the International Databases materials despite the recommendation.

There is reason to be concerned, too: the new chair of the board, Barbara Cargill, is a member of the antievolution faction on the board. In a recent speech to the Texas Eagle Forum, reported by TFN, she described the 2009 debate over the content of Texas's state science education standards as "a spiritual battle" and vowed to "work diligently" to try to undermine the treatment of evolution in the supplementary materials that the board will be considering on July 21 and 22, 2011. TFN will be reporting from the meeting, and NCSE's Joshua Rosenau will be testifying in Austin to support the integrity of science education in the Lone Star state.

For TFN's report on the setback for creationism, visit:
http://tfninsider.org/2011/07/15/setback-for-creationists-in-texas/

For NCSE's story about the TFN-NCSE press release, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/2011/04/creationist-materials-submitted-texas-006645/

For TFN's report on Cargill's remarks, visit:
http://tfninsider.org/2011/07/11/barbara-cargills-anti-science-agenda/

For TFN's coverage of the upcoming meeting, visit:
http://tfninsider.org/2011/07/18/tfn-insider-will-live-blog-science-debate/

For Rosenau's discussion on his personal blog, visit:
http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2011/07/and_now_texas.php

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

A CHANCE TO HELP NCSE'S ARCHIVES!

NCSE's archives house a unique trove of material on the creationism/evolution controversy, and we regard it as part of our mission to preserve it for posterity -- as well as for occasions such as Kitzmiller v. Dover, where NCSE's archives helped to establish the creationist antecedents of the "intelligent design" movement. We cordially invite you now to help NCSE's archives keep up-to-date by purchasing books for NCSE through our wish list at Amazon.com. And it's not just books -- gifts of needed hardware and software are welcome, too! All of these donations are tax-deductible. We're pleased to report that 142 items have been purchased already, and we thank the donors for their generosity. You can view the catalogue of books in NCSE's archives at LibraryThing.

For NCSE's wish list at Amazon.com, visit:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/39U1UMFQ22WED/

For the catalogue of NCSE's archives at LibraryThing, visit:
http://www.librarything.com/catalog/NCSE

And for information about NCSE's archives, visit:
http://ncse.com/resources/archives

CANADIAN SOCIETY FOR ECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION ADDS ITS VOICE FOR EVOLUTION

The chorus of support for the teaching of evolution continues, with a statement from the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution, which works to promote the study of ecology and evolution in Canada and to raise public awareness of the importance of ecology and evolution to Canadian society.

Describing evolution as "the single most important principle of modern biology and the foundation of any sound biology curriculum," the statement insists, "Teaching alternative theories as though they had equivalent scientific status is a perversion of education that damages children's ability to understand the natural world."

The Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution's statement is now reproduced, by permission, on NCSE's website, and will also be contained in the fourth edition of NCSE's Voices for Evolution.

For the CSEE's statement, visit:
http://www.ecoevo.ca/en/correspondence.htm

For Voices for Evolution, visit:
http://ncse.com/voices

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 x305
fax: 510-601-7204
800-290-6006
branch@ncse.com
http://ncse.com

Read Reports of the NCSE on-line:
http://reports.ncse.com

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

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

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


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Education board gives initial OK to online science materials

http://www.statesman.com/news/texas-politics/education-board-gives-initial-ok-to-online-science-1634274.html

By Kate Alexander AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Updated: 11:11 p.m. Thursday, July 21, 2011

Published: 10:03 p.m. Thursday, July 21, 2011

The State Board of Education on Thursday gave preliminary approval to new online science materials without making major changes to what publishers had submitted.

Despite some tension over how evolution was addressed in high school biology offerings, the board members made only tweaks to the materials in the end.

One change, for instance, called for the publisher to swap the images used to show similarities between different organisms' embryonic cells from drawings to photos.

"Somebody might want a refund of their ticket because there wasn't a fight," said board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont.

A final vote is scheduled for Friday, and amendments can be adopted at that time if eight board members agree to make a change.

The online submissions, which cover the new science standards approved by the board in 2009, will supplement existing textbooks. This unusual approach was taken in light of the state's budget crunch.

Southern Methodist University professor Ronald Wetherington said the supplemental materials were pretty good.

"They're not golden, but neither are they base metal. Which is to say, don't mess with them," Wetherington said.

Tensions did flare over a dispute between publisher Holt McDougal and the board-appointed reviewers regarding several evolution-related issues, such as the application of Charles Darwin's ideas.

Holt McDougal balked at the contention that several so-called errors needed to be fixed.

Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education said the reviewers' objections would undermine the theory of evolution.

It was up to the board members to referee the dispute, and they ended up siding with the review panel after Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, in her first meeting at the helm, chose to vote to end the debate. The board chair may vote but typically does not.

Members of the public who came to speak to the board during the three-hour public hearing were confined to two minutes to make their point on the complicated subject matter.

Many of the those who testified addressed the broad issue of how evolution is handled and offered few specific suggestions for changes to the science materials up for board adoption.

The Rev. Kelly Allen of University Presbyterian Church in San Antonio said students are done a disservice if religious faith rather than science influences the classroom lesson.

"True religion can handle truth in all its forms," Allen said. "Let us not be afraid of the wisdom of science. Evolution is solid science."

Several board members bristled at the suggestion that the science standards approved in 2009 included an endorsement of intelligent design, creationism or any faith-based approach to science.

"It is just not there. Period," said board member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, who offered $500 to anyone who could offer proof to the contrary.

Education Commissioner Robert Scott did not recommend the one submission that did reflect those ideas, from New Mexico-based International Databases. No effort was made to add that offering to the board-approved list.

Trinity University physics professor Jennifer Steele said the board had opened the door a crack to those concepts to be included in the classroom materials because the standards call for students to examine all sides of the evidence behind scientific theories.

"Questioning is good, but it needs to be done in the proper context," Steele said. "Too much emphasis is placed on showing the controversy of science rather than what we know to be true now."

kalexander@statesman.com; 445-3618

Science Education Triumphs in Texas

From the Texas Freedom Network
http://tfninsider.org/2011/07/22/tfn-statement-on-science-vote/

Today Texas schoolchildren and sound science finally won a major victory at the State Board of Education — and your hard work, activism and support for the Texas Freedom Network helped make that happen.

The grand strategy by creationist pressure groups to undermine instruction on evolution in Texas public schools — aided by the state board's adoption of flawed curriculum science standards in 2009 — simply fell to pieces today and yesterday. We saw far-right board members appoint creationists to teams reviewing proposed science instructional materials in June. Those board members also tried to bully educators and scientists who spoke out at a public hearing before the state board on Thursday. And state and national anti-evolution groups devoted significant resources into trying to undermine science in Texas schools.

But faced with overwhelming opposition from TFN and other advocates for sound science education, this time they failed.

Even creationists on the state board found themselves outmaneuvered today into voting to adopt only instructional materials that will teach sound evolutionary science in our kids' classrooms. In fact, board members also voted unanimously to reject the adoption of creationist materials submitted by New Mexico-vendor International Databases.

Have no doubt: this was a sweeping victory for advocates of sound science education.

For years, the TFN team has worked diligently to educate state board members about the importance of teaching mainstream science that truly prepares our schoolchildren for college and a 21st-century economy. And we have had the invaluable support of concerned citizens — like you — who have called and written to board members and have stood up for science at public events in Austin and across the state.

Just as important has been your generous support for TFN's work. Frankly, the far right's well-financed web of pressure groups would have succeeded without all of our efforts. And we need your help to keep up the fight.

The far right's stranglehold over the State Board of Education finally began to loosen in last year's elections. And that change was clearly evident today.

But our work isn't over. In fact, next year the state board begins the process of revising health curriculum standards, including standards on what students should learn about sex education in their public schools.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rev. 18:3: evolution...primordial heresy as the science of becoming God

http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/kimball/110718

July 18, 2011

By Linda Kimball

From the days of Adam right down to our own time, the devilish belief that man is God has danced across history, seducing millions in its path. Early Church Father John of Damascus identifies barbarism as the primordial heresy, the idea that man is god:

"Barbarism is that which prevailed from the days of Adam down through ten generations to the time of Noah. It is called barbarism because of the fact that in those times men had no ruling authority or mutual accord, but every man was independent and a law unto himself after the dictates of his own will." (John of Damascus, "The Fount of Knowledge," cited in Political Apocalypse, Ellis Sandoz, p. 131)

After studying civilizations across the whole span of history, noted historian Arnold Toynbee concluded that the paramount religion of mankind is self-worship...of man as god. Tal Brooke concurs, noting that historically there has always been an exoteric polytheism-pantheism for the general masses and a high level esoteric "advaitic" monism for the higher initiate. For initiates then:

".... the Great Lie (is) the foundation stone of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism, the Kabala, the Greek Hermetic, Eleusinian and Gnostic beliefs, Neo-Platonism, all the occult creeds from Theosophy and the Masonic orders to the Rosicrucian's (and) the New Age movement. The Great Lie is...the belief that man is God, that his true identity is the immortal self...that as God, he will never die (and) Sin and depravity are...illusions since this inner divinity is at man's core." (The Great Lie, Tal Brooke, SCP Journal, Vol. 29:2-29:3, 2005)

The Book of Revelation pinpoints Babylon as the post-flood center both of an organized religion based on the primordial heresy and as the first utopian or heaven on earth project. Babylon embraced the Great Lie. Its inhabitants claimed the title, "I AM." They were earmarked by their "advaitic monism," science of magic-transformism, exalted priesthood, gnosis, secret initiations, sorcery, astrology, channeling, psychic-powers, familiar spirits, and hedonism. But the root source of this evil religion and its occult power was the Great Dragon himself....Lucifer.

God abhors these practices and sternly reminds His people through the prophet Isaiah (45:18-19) not to be seduced by Babylon's deadly delusion:

"I AM the Lord, and there is none other. I have not spoken in secret, neither in a place of darkness." "I said not to the seed of Jacob..." seek me in the monistic 'one thing'....chaos, the formless void, Kant's deified reason,' Hegel's Geist, Marx's dialectical matter, Natural Selection, the Force, the Overmind, Absolute Spirit, the Christ consciousness or the "thought-universe" of quantum mechanics.

Primordial Heresy as Modern Ideology

"Exalting mankind to the status of deity...dates from the farthest reaches of antiquity, but its development into an ideology embracing the masses is a characteristic of modernity." (Herbert Schlossberg, cited in The Seduction of Christianity, Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon)

Toynbee pinpointed the bloody French Revolution as the first orchestrated reappearance of the primordial heresy, and in tacit agreement with the findings of early Conservative intellectuals, of the entire "nightmare of destruction in which America and other nations participated" from WWI through WWII as further manifestations. (The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America, George H. Nash, p. 31)

Primordial heresy as modernist ideology takes many forms:

" rationalism, positivism, naturalism, materialism, evolutionism, social Darwinism, Natural Selection, empiricism, Hegelianism, Marxism, scientific socialism, scientism, Secular Humanism, Tran humanism, Freudianism, existentialism, progressivism, liberalism, utopianism, revolutionary activism, fascism, communism, national socialism, determinism, reductionism, nihilism, deconstructionism, moral relativism, antitheism, behaviorism and underlying them all, atheism."

In his book "Utopia: The Perennial Heresy," Catholic philosopher and historian Thomas Molnar (1910-2010) notes that the two recurring themes of modern ideologies are monism and evolutionary conceptions. At the root of these two themes there is:

" defiance of God, pride unlimited, a yearning for enormous power and the assumption of divine attributes with a view to manipulating and shaping mankind's fate." (p. 227)

In order for god-men to create a new world and a new man:

"the order of being must be obliterated (and reinterpreted) as essentially under man's control." Taking control "requires the decapitation of being — the murder of God." (Eric Voegelin, "Science, Politics and Gnosticism," p. xv)

Fundamentally, Darwinism is materialist monism and as the pillar of natural science is the devilish idea by which naturalist god-men have "decapitated God" and seized control of the order of being.

In short, Darwinism is powerful magic wielded by a cult religion's sorcerers:

"(Darwinism is) nothing but a kind of cult, a cult religion....It has no scientific validity whatsoever. Darwin's so-called theory of evolution is based on absurdly irrational propositions, which did not come from scientific observations, but were artificially introduced from the outside, for political-ideological reasons." (Jonathan Tennenbaum, "Towards 'A New Science of Life,' Executive Intelligence Review, Vol. 28, No. 34, Sept. 7, 2001)

Indeed, Daniel Dennett tacitly agrees, for he describes Darwinism as a 'universal acid.' In other words, Darwinism is the "acid bath" in which God the Father and His entire order of being are in process of dissolution, a diabolical conjuration requiring the conceptual dismantling of:

" human individuality through the dissolution of individual conscience and consciousness, and then to replace these with the collectivity (monism) and coalesced consciousness (i.e., the Force, Christ Consciousness)." (Molnar, 227, emphasis added)

"...they seek my soul to destroy it..." Psalm 63:9

In this light, when Daniel Dennett, the Wizard of Reductionism claims that there really is no you, that soul, spirit and free will are illusions caused by chemical interactions in the brain and Tom Wolfe, Sorcerer of Naturalism waves his magic wand and intones, "Sorry, but your soul just died," they speak as sorcerers (Acts 13:6-10) conjuring away man's "individual conscience and consciousness" through words that destroy. (The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul, Beauregard and O'Leary, p. 4)

Return of the Primordial Heresy: A Brief Timeline

"The leading principle of Utopian religion is the repudiation of the doctrine of Original Sin." (H.G. Wells, A Modern Utopia, 1905)

Repudiating Original Sin necessitates the obliteration of the transcendent God and His order of being, a project already underway by the time of Descartes. In her book "Total Truth," Nancy Pearcy, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, writes that one of the great ironies of history is that the enduring impact of Descartes philosophy has been precisely the opposite of what he had intended. Descartes had intended the defense of the human soul over and against the dehumanizing mechanistic and materialistic conception of the universe. Instead, the soul — and its citadel mind — was reduced to a shadowy substance totally irrelevant to the material realm known by natural science. The immortal soul became a kind of ghost only tenuously connected to the physical body. The novelist Walker Percy speaks of the:

"dread chasm that has rent the soul of Western man ever since the famous philosopher Descartes ripped body loose from mind and turned the very soul into a ghost that haunts its own house." ("Total Truth," Nancy Pearcey, p. 103)

After the success of Newtonian physics natural science began to be viewed as the way of progress and enlightenment and nature described as a cosmic machine, governed by deterministic energies working through natural laws as strictly as the gears of a clock. Though soul and spirit are crucial for reason, conscience, morality, belief, faith, prayer, theorizing, science, and religion, there was no room for them in the mindless cosmic machine.

The mechanistic conception gave rise to rationalism, determinism, positivism and scientific materialism (atheism), which grant naturalistic science a monopoly on so-called "real" knowledge while trivializing everything else to personal belief and social constructs.

"Evil thoughts...generated evil deeds." (George H. Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement, p.48)

"Observing the modern intellectual crap, it is time that someone knocked at the door of...Immanuel Kant and told him the fatidic words from that famous Brazilian comic samba — Here, take back your child." (The Father of the Crap, Olavo de Carvalho, Mar. 5, 1998, www.olavodecarvalho.org/ )

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant was a pivotal figure in the obliteration of man's immortal soul. Kant desired to cut loose from God, and being morally defective he eagerly embraced the Enlightenment's mechanistic image of man and the universe. Thus he took it upon himself to recast mind and freedom as "autonomous self" and the material realm as the deterministic Newtonian world machine. In praise of the cosmic machine he wrote:

"(it is) necessary that everything which takes place should be infallibly determined in accordance with the laws of nature." (Total Truth, p. 104)

Though Kant saw the need for reason and morality, which presupposes the soul (mind and free will), he nevertheless sought autonomy from God the Father, thus negating the existence of his own soul....and reason. Undeterred, Kant went on to define self-autonomy as being subject only to laws imposed on himself by himself. In short, Kant would be sovereign and influenced by nothing but his own deified reason. This is a variant of idealist monism that teaches that reality and creative powers exist within man's mind. As one theologian commented:

"The creation of universal (moral) law was traditionally the function of God alone, and this function is now arrogated to the individual human rational will." Thus it can be said that "Kant has made reason into God." (ibid, p. 105)

It is crucial to realize Kant's dichotomy is outright contradictory. For if mindless nature really is the deterministic machine of Newtonian physics, then mind (i.e., reason), morality, belief, and science are not possible in that man is nothing but a puppet dancing to the mindless tunes of mindless nature. Even Kant admitted that this was a paradox that he was unable to resolve. The trick, he said, is to enter into a charade. We will be swindlers who on one hand will publicly pretend to be fully caused and determined by nature while on the other we will quietly participate in a spiritual world where we conceive of ourselves as free moral agents.

According to Kant's swindle the material realm is the realm of publicly verifiable scientific facts which in our own time are for example, Darwinism, atheism, man as evolved ape, determinism, and moral relativism while the spiritual is the politically-incorrect realm of belief, faith, religion, special creation, God the Father and moral absolutes. Kant's swindle is behind the Orwellian-speak or politically-correct cognitive dissonance that has become pandemic in our own day through the efforts of contemporary Kantians: social scientists, evolutionary biologists, Hollywood, media, higher education, jurists, and sorcerers such as Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins.

Following Kant's lead, a legion of neo-pagan ideologues openly advocated total integration into mindless nature. What these malcontents sought was salvation from God the Father, Original Sin, Universal Moral Law, sexual ethics, and their own immortal souls by immersing themselves into the "forces and rhythms of nature." Lester Crocker summarizes the Enlightenment premise:

"There existed in the eighteenth century a widespread desire to equate the moral with the physical world...." What was desired above all was, "total integration of man in nature, with refusal of any transcendence, even though it was admitted that his more complex physical organization gave him certain special abilities and ways of thinking. The important thing, as La Mettrie, d'Holbach, and others made clear, is that he is submitted to the same laws; everything is response to need — mechanically, some added, like a tree or a machine. Man merely carries out natural forces — without any freedom whatsoever — in all he does, whether he loves or hates, helps or hurts, gives life or takes it." (Monsters from the Id, E. Michael Jones, p. 5, 7)

In his influential "History of Jacobinism," Abbe Barruel commented:

"With Voltaire, man is a pure machine; Frederick the Great maintains..."I know that I am an animal organized, and that thinks; hence, I conclude that matter can think, as well as that it has the property of being electric." La Mettries' "man-machine, or his man-plant, only caused the Sect to blush from the open manner in which he had said what many of them wished to insinuate." (ibid, p. 6, 7)

The Enlightenment was in effect a diabolical effort to murder God the Father and obliterate His order of being, allowing for reality to be replaced with escapist fantasy: the cosmic machine and soulless machine-man, fully caused and determined by unseen forces of nature, with Newtonian physics as its guide.

Though Kant and others had speculated on a naturalistic origin of the universe, the picture was not complete until Darwinian materialism replaced God the Father and creation ex nihilo with a counterfeit: spontaneous generation of mindless matter from nothing.

The roots of evolution stretch back to the ancient Upanishads of India and to ancient Greece, and in its modern version evolution describes the progress (transmigration) of a divine spark or energy as it inhabits in succession the bodies of different beings over the course of millions and billions of years. In the words of Emergent Church leader Rob Bell:

"There is an energy in the world, a spark, an electricity that everything is plugged into. The Greeks called it zoe, the mystics call it 'Spirit,' and Obi-Wan called it 'the Force'.....This energy, spark, and electricity that pulses through all of creation sustains it, fuels it, and keeps it growing. Growing, evolving, reproducing..." (Love Wins, pp. 144-145)

For initiates and adepts however, evolution magically transforms man into god:

"the evolution of man into superman — was always the purpose of the ancient Mysteries, and the real purpose of modern Masonry is not the social and charitable purposes to which so much attention is paid, but the expediting of the spiritual evolution of those who aspire to perfect their own nature and transform it into a more god-like quality. And this is a definite science, a royal art, which it is possible for each of us to put into practice..." (The Meaning of Masonry, W.L. Wilmhurst, p. 47)

Charles Darwin received the idea of evolution from his grandfather Dr. Erasmus Darwin who was a neo-pagan monist known to attend séances. As master of the famous Masonic Canongate lodge in Edinburgh he had close ties with both the Jacobin Masons, the organizers of the bloody revolution in France, and with the infamous Illuminati, whose diabolical cause was overthrow of the Church and destruction of Christendom. Thus Erasmus Darwin was an important name in European Masonic anti-religious organizations engaged in revolutionary activism. Erasmus Darwin mentored his grandson Charles:

"Dr. Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) was the first man in England to suggest those ideas which were later to be embodied in the Darwinian theory by his grandson, Charles Darwin (1809-1882) who wrote in 1859 Origin of Species." (Scarlet and the Beast, Vol. II, John Daniel, p. 34)

Pope Leo XIII issued a famous bull in 1884 entitled Humanum Genus in which he discussed the evil undertakings of the Free Masons and the Illuminati:

"...the partisans of evil seems to be combining together, and to be struggling with united vehemence, led on or assisted by that strongly organized and widespread association called the Freemasons. No longer making any secret of their purposes, they are now boldly rising up against God Himself." They intend nothing less than "the utter overthrow of that whole religious and political order of the world which the Christian teaching has produced, and the substitution of a new state of things in accordance with their ideas (that) shall be drawn from mere naturalism." (Humanum Genus, Encyclical on Freemasonry)

Neo-Pagan God-men Remake Mankind as Apes

"Instead of Adam, our ancestry is traced to the most grotesque of creatures; thought is phosphorous; the soul complex nerves, and our moral sense a secretion of sugar." (Disraeli, quoted by John Passmore "A Hundred Years of Philosophy," p. 36)

With the triumph of natural science and Darwinism in the nineteenth century, the murder of God and the obliteration of His order was cast in the cement of "enlightened" pseudo-science. Westerners would be cut off from God the Father and their own souls, thereby disrupting:

"the bio-psycho-spiritual unity of human consciousness...." (Authenticating the Activities of Jesus, Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans, 1999)

The modern secular "scientistic" West has almost succeeded in obliterating the souls of its' citizens and now seeks obliteration of the two sexes:

"Little Johnny went to school; There to learn a brand new rule; No longer could the boys be boys Or have their special trucks and toys; Only six, so young and tender, It's time for him to unlearn gender." (Here At School the Slant is Gay, cited in Our Gay Pride President, David A. Noebel, http://www.worldviewweekend.com/worldview-times/article.php?articleid=7292 )

Primordial Heresy as Natural Religion of Science

The Christian Truth which had been undermined and displaced by primordial heresy developed as ideology and natural religion was no mere philosophical truth but the Truth of Life and salvation. Once there began to:

"gain ground, among the multitudes who have been nourished by that Truth, the conviction that it is no longer credible, the result will be...a spiritual catastrophe of enormous dimensions." (Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age, Eugene Rose, pp. 44-45)

The climate of naturalist scientism established by eighteenth-century rationalists was extended by nineteenth-century positivists and evangelists of the idea of collective progress (monism), giving birth to the first natural religion of science: scientific socialism and/or Marxist Communism.

Fyodor Dostoevsky had a bitter foretaste of the demonically malignant effects of scientific socialism, "a spiritual catastrophe of enormous dimensions." This evil religion, said Dostoevsky:

"....is that terrible scourge of mankind, a scourge worse than plague, famine and war, an evil that didn't exist until this century... one that has its own priests and slaves; a tyrant that is worshipped with unprecedented awe and adulation before which science itself fawns and cringes." (The Restitution of Man: C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism, Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 37)

Toward the close of the nineteenth century thinkers like Nietzsche foresaw the spiritual catastrophe that would eventuate in the genocidal "nightmare of destruction in which America and other nations participated" from WWI through WWII.

Rev. 18:3 The West....drunk on the Primordial Heresy of Babylon

Today the Christian West is dead, leaving it with no moral defense against either jihadist fanatics and the imposition of Sharia on one hand or the approach of the satanic New Age on the other.

The contemporary West is drunk on the primordial heresy of Babylon. As progressive Christian Liberalism, it is the carrier of the devilish occult spiritual virus into the embattled Body of the Church where it acts to divide Christians against themselves. Peter Jones, author of "Spirit Wars: Pagan Revival in Christian America" connects progressive Christian Liberalism to ancient devilish Gnosticism, saying they are kindred-spirits.

As the natural religion of America's bipartisan (left-right) Ruling Class, it leads them to pray:

"to themselves as saviors of the planet and as shapers of mankind in their own image." (The Ruling Class, Angelo M. Codevilla, p. xix)

The Primordial Heresy is at the root of the 'scientific' religion of New Age Transnational Progressives, the Masters of the Universe, who with their Transcended Spirit Masters, aspire to complete control of the world and every man, woman, and child. Lee Penn notes that evolution is absolutely central to New Age theology, a syncretistic, monistic stew of Liberal Christianity, Theosophy, Spiritism, the Ancient Mysteries, Buddhism, Wicca, Goddess worship, and adulation of Lucifer. In the newest version of that "terrible scourge of mankind, a scourge worse than plague, famine and war," New Age god-men envision a spiritualized version of Marxist Communism that includes:

1. Praise for Lucifer

2. Progressive adepts as gods

3. Advocacy for global depopulation

4.Utter contempt for authentic Roman Catholics, Protestant Christians, and faithful Jews

5. Forecasting a pending (and for them, desirable) "selection" of mankind, in which the progressives enter the New Age and the reactionaries face extinction. For the New Age Apostles of "progressive" Social Darwinism, these casualties are a necessary price to pay for human evolution." (False Dawn: The United Religions Initiative, Globalism, and the Quest for a One-World Religion, Lee Penn, pp. 5,7, 23-26)

The West's suicide looms in tandem with a rising spiritual catastrophe as the demonic in modern ideological movements penetrates ever deeper into the souls of Westerners, materializing and disordering them. On a daily basis, evolutionist ideologues and other secular naturalists in control of media, institutions of learning, Hollywood, law, and politics reinforce the demonic closing of souls to God the Father. Thus every day witnesses the spread of barbarism as more and more Westerners become "independent and a law" unto themselves.

"One Ring to rule them all...One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them." J.R.R. Tolkien

Though all of the ideologies have gone into the casting of the One Ring, none are so mesmerizing nor powerfully attractive as evolution, the Primordial Heresy as the royal science of becoming God.

copyright 2011 Linda Kimball

Education Or Indoctrination?: Texas School Board Dives Into 'Spiritual Battle' Over Science

http://blog.au.org/2011/07/18/education-or-indoctrination-texas-school-board-dives-into-%E2%80%98spiritual-battle%E2%80%99-over-science/

July 18th, 2011

The official blog of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Learn more about our work, our magazine, and ways to support us.

By Sandhya Bathija

The Texas State Board of Education is heading back into the news this week.

The 15-member elected board will convene for a public hearing on Thursday to hear testimony and on Friday to debate and vote on instructional materials for public school science classes. Since Texas legislators don't have enough funding to purchase new science textbooks, the state will buy $60 million worth of online supplemental science materials based on the board's recommendation.

This is not something scientists, educators, parents and civil liberties groups are taking lightly. The board is infamous for its adoption of science curriculum standards in 2009 that left open the door for approval of creationist materials.

What's more, on July 1, Texas Gov. Rick Perry appointed Barbara Cargill (R-Woodlands) to serve as the chair of the board. Cargill, a former science teacher, believes that the debate over science education is a "spiritual battle."

Cargill has voted with the board's far-right bloc since elected. She is a strong proponent of teaching the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution – code language for religiously grounded attacks on accepted science — and was instrumental in the board's passage of the current science standards.

During the 2009 debate, Cargill nominated Ralph Seelke, a crony of the Discovery Institute, to serve on the recommendations panel. The Discovery Institute is a Seattle-based outfit that pushes so-called "intelligent design," a variant of creationism.

This round of Texas deliberations doesn't seem to be any different. Cargill is responsible for appointing one of three anti-evolutionists serving on the current science review panel. The panel will make recommendations to the state board about the science materials.

In a recent speech to the Eagle Forum, Cargill explained her concern that the board was short one Christian since it approved the creationist-friendly curriculum standards in 2009.

"Right now there are six true conservative Christians on the board, so we have to fight for two votes," she said. "In previous years, we had to fight for one vote to get a majority."

Her comments alerted critics that Cargill planned to continue voting based on her fundamentalist religious beliefs – not based on what scientists recommend or what's best for Texas students.

Her words also offended other members of the board. Though they choose to vote for sound science, they are also Christian and don't like intimations that they aren't.

"It's going to continue the divisiveness rather than bring us together for the benefit of the schools and the kids," said board member Thomas Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant), a Sunday school teacher and leader in the United Methodist church. "She's continuing to draw a line that is very judgmental."

But for all the criticism Cargill has received from fellow board members and scientists, she's drawn praise from the Religious Right.

Needless to say, there is reason for alarm once again in Texas.

If you live in the Lone Star State, let the board of education know that you want sound science materials produced by scientists – not the Religious Right.

Meet Barbara Cargill, the SBOE's Latest Chief

http://www.texastribune.org/texas-education/public-education/meet-barbara-cargill-sboes-latest-chief/

by Morgan Smith

As Barbara Cargill details the menagerie she keeps to teach schoolchildren about science, the new chairwoman of the State Board of Education wants to make something clear: There's only one snake in her house.

"There are a couple of lizards, I have turtles, I have salamanders, tree frogs, I have a toad, only one snake — I don't want to freak people out — it's a corn snake, and bunny rabbits," she says.

Cargill's skills as an animal wrangler may serve her well in managing the fractious group whose ideological debates over the state's education curricula in recent years have sometimes lent its gatherings a circus-like atmosphere. On Thursday, the Republican from The Woodlands will preside over her first full meeting of the state board that oversees Texas public education.

During this week's three-day meeting, which begins today, members are set to take up a topic that promises contention: which publisher will provide the supplemental materials that will update textbooks to the science standards the board adopted in 2009, which include the requirement that students learn "all sides" of scientific theories like evolution and natural selection.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed Cargill, a former high school biology teacher who directs a science camp through her local Methodist church, on July 1 after the Legislature left town without confirming her predecessor, Lampasas Republican Gail Lowe.

Her supporters say the Baylor University graduate is a mild-tempered, fair leader who is well suited to lead the 15-member board. Her critics say she is a dangerous culture warrior who injects her religious and political agenda into the classrooms of the country's second largest public school system. But for those who follow the board's every movement, there's agreement on one point: For better or worse, Cargill's tenure will likely bring more of the same.

Cargill's immediate predecessors in the chair were, like her, a part of the majority-Republican board's tightly knit gang of six social conservatives.

Because of that, her appointment "doesn't change a lot," said Dan Quinn, the spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network, a liberal watchdog of the board and fierce opponent of its social conservatives.

"She has voted in lockstep with Gail Lowe and Don McLeroy in the past," he said. "There's no real space between them."

McLeroy held the chairmanship from 2007 to 2009 and said Lowe and Cargill share many qualities. "She is so similar to Gail with her complete integrity and honesty," he said. "Those two ladies are some of the finest I ever met."

McLeroy suffered the same fate as Lowe during the 2009 legislative session. The Bryan dentist, who lost to current member Thomas Ratliff in the 2010 Republican primary, describes Cargill and Lowe as some of his best friends. He said Cargill was "the scientist on the board" and that she was known for independently investigating all the issues that came before it.

The board's longest-serving current member, David Bradley, echoed McLeroy. "She does her homework," said Bradley, who consistently votes with Cargill. "Sometimes she would make light of the fact that when I get to the meeting I'm just opening my agenda for the first time."

He also praised her modesty, a quality he said would serve her well as chairwoman. "I don't think you'll ever find her using the word 'I,'" he said. "She blushes at the drop of a hat, quicker than Gail Lowe. So the guys on the board have to be very careful."

Cargill's critics point to her role in the rewrite of science curriculum as evidence that she has used her position on the board to promote her own political and religious beliefs. She was instrumental in pushing the new science standards that students "analyze, evaluate, and critique" evidence for scientific explanations for theories like evolution — a move praised by the Discovery Institute, which supports research challenging what its website refers to as "neo-Darwinian theory." During the debate on science curriculum, she also passed an amendment that added the discussion of different scientific estimates on the age of the universe to the standards.

In an interview, Cargill questioned what her religious beliefs had to do with the board's business, and balked at describing her views on evolution. "I do go to a church that teaches that God created all life, so I do support that," she said, adding, "All of us as board members have our own personal religious beliefs but we have to be professionals and stick to the business at hand."

She emphasized that the science curriculum standards did not contain creationism and intelligent design, a statement Quinn called "very disingenuous."

"You have standards that include classic intelligent design arguments that have been rejected in mainstream science for decades," Quinn said. "Real scientists do not make arguments about the fossil record and the complexity of the cell when discussing evolution."

McLeroy, who readily labels himself a creationist, said he and Cargill had never discussed her specific views on evolution while they served on the board together. Though he said she is "clearly an evolution skeptic," he said he "never asked her how old she thought the Earth was."

"I never tried to pin her down on that," he said. "I never pushed it."

In the short time since her appointment, Cargill has already given her opponents new ammunition. Addressing a Texas Eagle Forum audience this month, Cargill described her allies on the board as its "six true conservative Christians." The comment earned Cargill the first negative headlines as chairwoman, and it is the subject of an inaugural post on a newly formed blog, "Christians Against Cargill," targeting voters in her district.

State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, D-San Antonio, said she is waiting to judge Cargill on how she handles the debate over the supplemental science materials. But she said Cargill's remark at the Eagle Forum meeting was "disheartening."

"Her leadership skills will be sorely needed, but it seems like she's really stepped in it," she said.

In her new position, Cargill will set the agenda for the board's quarterly meetings. She also has the task of facilitating the meetings — which can mean enforcing parliamentary rules and keeping members on topic. She will also occupy a less clearly defined role as the face and voice of education policy in Texas, in particular to out-of-state observers.

Though she said she had some nerves about leading her first meeting, Cargill said she felt well prepared from conversations with the governor, who she said told her to "stay focused on the job," fellow board members and Texas Education Agency staff.

"As a teacher I've learned that you have to expect the unexpected," she said. "As I've been calling the other board members to tell them, 'I'm delighted to be your chairman,' I have said ahead of time, 'Thank you for your patience and your grace in helping me through the first meeting.'"

State pulls negative letter from Freshwater's file

http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2011/07/20/state-pulls-negative-letter-from-freshwaters-file.html

Fired science teacher also has had his license renewed
Wednesday, July 20, 2011 03:08 AM
By Dean Narciso

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

John Freshwater is appealing his dismissal from Mount Vernon public schools in court.

The Ohio Department of Education has removed its letter of admonishment from the disciplinary file of a fired Mount Vernon science teacher while it considers a legal challenge.

The Virginia-based Rutherford Institute told the department this month that John Freshwater was denied his due-process rights when the state rebuked him for using an electrical device to burn students' arms.

The institute said Freshwater was not given the opportunity to defend himself before the admonishment was issued.

Freshwater, fired in January for teaching creationism and religious doctrine in his eighth-grade classroom, yesterday hailed the news.

Story continues belowAdvertisement "The admonishment letter was there and now it's not there," he said from his Mount Vernon home. "It's a victory and I'll take any victory I can get."

The department also renewed Freshwater's five-year high-school teaching license on April 8, meaning he is eligible to teach again in Ohio.

"A letter of admonishment would not prevent an educator from applying for a renewal license or whatever type of certificate," Education Department spokesman Patrick Gallaway said in an email.

After the institute objected to the department's actions, the head of the teacher-discipline office wrote that the letter and Freshwater's response were removed from the disciplinary file "while considering this matter."

The July 12 letter from Lori M. Kelly, director of the Office of Professional Conduct, said, "You will be notified if the department intends to proceed with discipline."

Freshwater said he wants to return to teaching but has been unable to land a job.

"I've come across several times where positions have been available and I was refused the position," Freshwater said yesterday. "Obviously, I've been affected by the litigation, all the negative publicity. ...

"I want to go back to teaching and to put my Bible back in the corner of my desk."

Galloway said the department doesn't have to provide notice or a hearing before a letter of admonishment. "The state was not pursuing a suspension, revocation or limitation of Mr. Freshwater's license. Those are the types of discipline that would trigger a hearing etc.," he wrote.

To pay legal fees, Freshwater said he's sold his home on several acres to a former student. He now lives with his wife and daughter in a Mount Vernon rental.

He is appealing the school district's unanimous decision to fire him in Knox County Common Pleas Court.

"Religious freedom is considered the first freedom," said Rita Dunaway, staff attorney for the institute. "A big factor in the reason we got involved in this case ... is that it looks like a lot of what happened to Mr. Freshwater dealt with him expressing his beliefs."

As for allegations that Freshwater taught creationism over evolution, she said, "I think it's a great teacher who encourages his students to think critically about everything they are taught."

dnarciso@dispatch.com