Abusing Science

Number 50 of a series

Rupert Sheldrake obtained a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Cambridge University and more recently gained fame for his support of pseudo science, publishing multiple titles. Here are a few:

It’s this last I want to feature here. In short, Sheldrake finds it reasonable to assert that certain, maybe not all, but certain dogs know when their master is leaving work and starting home. After exploring the history of the relationship between humans and domesticated animals, he gets around to the fundamental issue:

The most convincing evidence for telepathy between people and animals comes from the study of dogs that know when their owners are coming home. This anticipatory behavior is common. Many dog owners simply take it for granted without reflecting on its wider implications.

Sheldrake, Rupert. Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home . Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

This theme is one of the seven experiments that could change the world. It is featured as number one in a YouTube video about the seven experiments. Sheldrake illustrates with an example:

When Peter Edwards arrives home at his farm in Wickford, Essex, his Irish Setters are nearly always at the gate to greet him. Yvette, his wife, says they often wait for him for ten to twenty minutes before he arrives and well before he turns off the road into his drive. She had taken this behavior for granted for years, simply thinking, “Peter’s coming home, the dogs have gone to the gate.”

Sheldrake, Rupert. Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home . Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

The most likely assumption is, of course, Edwards comes home at a regular time each day, and the dogs include that in their routine. However, Yvette Edwards took notice of the dogs’ behavior after reading about Sheldrake’s research in the newspaper. She began to observe the dogs, and one thing she did notice was Peter’s schedule was not altogether regular. He would sometimes be delayed or would arrive home early. Readers will also note the “ten to twenty minutes” mentioned in the above. That shows some leeway, to be sure. Was this the amount of variation in Peter’s arrival? Did Peter ever come home before the dogs expected him? There is no such elaboration.

One way analyze this is the application of some real science, which we presume Sheldrake’s book, Seven Experiments, should be about. I obtained copies of Seven Experiments and The Presence of the Past years ago. Neither gave me an impression of rigorous science being applied. The seven experiments proposed are:

  1. Pets who know when their owners are returning
  2. How do pigeons Home?
  3. The organization of termites
  4. The sense of being stared at
  5. The reality of phantom limbs
  6. The variability of the “fundamental constants”
  7. The effects of experimenters’ expectations

Of these, number 4, “The sense of being stared at” seems most easy for the application of experimental testing. The North Texas Skeptics (follow the link above) has long offered a prize of $12,000 to any person who could demonstrate the paranormal. Such demonstration would include number 4. Here is a test I would propose:

  • First claim a subject A has such an ability.
  • Seat the person in a chair facing in a prescribed direction.
  • Some reasonable distance behind subject A place an opaque screen (a wall or such) with an opening.
  • Appoint somebody to stare at subject A through the opening. Or not.
  • The experimenter will draw up a schedule of staring or not staring.
  • Advise subject A when to decide whether he is being stared at.
  • Subject A will write down the episode number and his declaration that he was or was not being stared at.
  • Conduct as many trials as deemed necessary to demonstrate success or failure of subject A’s claim.

If subject A claims only partial ability (“I will be right at least 60% of the time.”), then employ as many trials as necessary to rule out success by chance.

This is the kind of test that should be performed, but to our knowledge nobody has ever demonstrated Sheldrake’s number 4 by such a method. We continue to invite claimants to step forward and pluck the $12,000.

In The Presence of the Past Sheldrake brings up the famous matter of the blue tits.

The Presence of the Past p. 178

Forget the 21st century. In a previous millennium people delivered milk in glass bottles to your doorstep. These little birds learned to tear away at the paper lids and get at the cream in the upper layer. According to Sheldrake, apparently one of the birds learned to do this, and then another. After a critical population had learned the process it spread throughout the British Isles and into other regions. It was not that the birds learned from other birds, but a thing he calls morphic resonance was at work. The idea is things of the same form (morph) are interconnected. A critical mass will cause a characteristic to activate within the entire population.

Morphic resonance is associated with the hundredth monkey syndrome. Ron Amundson wrote about this in his contribution to The Hundredth Monkey and other Paradigms of the Paranormal, edited by Kendrick Frazier [p. 171]. As Amundson told it, on a Japanese island a colony of monkeys under study ate food left for them by researchers. Presently the scientists noticed the monkeys had learned to wash the sand off the fruit. Then other monkeys were observed at the practice. The phenomenon spread to other islands. The only explanation was that a critical mass (e.g., 100) had been achieved.

Frazier’s book provides succinct lessons in scientific missteps, lessons that you can carry on when reading any number of Sheldrake’s many works.

All that done with, here is an point having nothing to do with bad science. In April 2008 somebody stabbed Rupert Sheldrake while he was giving a lecture in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He survived.

Abusing Science

Number 30 of a series

There is no way I’m going to run out of material for this column as long as there are creationists around. They take abuse of science to an industrial scale. Needlessly, there are others stepping forward to add their contribution. One of these calls themselves Open Sciences.

OpenSciences.org is a portal for open-minded scientific investigations that go beyond the dogmas dominating so much of science today. The main areas covered include consciousness studies, alternative energy sources, integrative medicine and healing, post-materialist approaches to science and new aspects of cosmology, physics, chemistry and biology. The website includes selected videos, books, journals and links to the websites of open-minded scientific researchers and organisations, as well as a growing number of articles on open questions in science.

The website is a project of the Campaign for Open Science, launched in 2014, with special thanks to James Velghe for his generous support. Sebastian Penraeth is Editorial Director.

What is interesting is to read their recently-published manifesto. Here is an excerpt:

We are a group of internationally known scientists, from a variety of scientific fields (biology, neuroscience, psychology, medicine, psychiatry), who participated in an international summit on post-materialist science, spirituality and society. The summit was co-organized by Gary E. Schwartz, PhD and Mario Beauregard, PhD, the University of Arizona, and Lisa Miller, PhD, Columbia University. This summit was held at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, on February 7-9, 2014. Our purpose was to discuss the impact of the materialist ideology on science and the emergence of a post-materialist paradigm for science, spirituality, and society. We have come to the following conclusions:

1. The modern scientific worldview is predominantly predicated on assumptions that are closely associated with classical physics. Materialism—the idea that matter is the only reality—is one of these assumptions. A related assumption is reductionism, the notion that complex things can be understood by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental things such as tiny material particles.

2. During the 19th century, these assumptions narrowed, turned into dogmas, and coalesced into an ideological belief system that came to be known as “scientific materialism.” This belief system implies that the mind is nothing but the physical activity of the brain, and that our thoughts cannot have any effect upon our brains and bodies, our actions, and the physical world.

3. The ideology of scientific materialism became dominant in academia during the 20th century. So dominant that a majority of scientists started to believe that it was based on established empirical evidence, and represented the only rational view of the world.

4. Scientific methods based upon materialistic philosophy have been highly successful in not only increasing our understanding of nature but also in bringing greater control and freedom through advances in technology.

5. However, the nearly absolute dominance of materialism in the academic world has seriously constricted the sciences and hampered the development of the scientific study of mind and spirituality. Faith in this ideology, as an exclusive explanatory framework for reality, has compelled scientists to neglect the subjective dimension of human experience. This has led to a severely distorted and impoverished understanding of ourselves and our place in nature.

6. Science is first and foremost a non-dogmatic, open-minded method of acquiring knowledge about nature through the observation, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena. Its methodology is not synonymous with materialism and should not be committed to any particular beliefs, dogmas, or ideologies.

7. At the end of the nineteenth century, physicists discovered empirical phenomena that could not be explained by classical physics. This led to the development, during the 1920s and early 1930s, of a revolutionary new branch of physics called quantum mechanics (QM). QM has questioned the material foundations of the world by showing that atoms and subatomic particles are not really solid objects—they do not exist with certainty at definite spatial locations and definite times. Most importantly, QM explicitly introduced the mind into its basic conceptual structure since it was found that particles being observed and the observer—the physicist and the method used for observation—are linked. According to one interpretation of QM, this phenomenon implies that the consciousness of the observer is vital to the existence of the physical events being observed, and that mental events can affect the physical world. The results of recent experiments support this interpretation. These results suggest that the physical world is no longer the primary or sole component of reality, and that it cannot be fully understood without making reference to the mind.

There are a total of 18 position statements in the manifesto, but these will do for some Skeptical Analysis. Start by examining the backgrounds of the scientists listed above. All of them have legitimate degrees, but there work tends toward physiology and psychology, especially neuroscience. Note these are worthwhile fields of science, but additional note should be taken. There are no chemists, physicists, paleontologists, geologists, etc., among the group. Forgive me the opinion that psychology is a spongy science. Now for the separate items.

Start with number 1, containing the phrase, “Materialism—the idea that matter is the only reality.” This is not a strictly an accurate description of materialism. Materialism includes, besides matter, time and space. Notice I did not list light and energy, since these are accepted as manifestations of matter. If Open Sciences is going to kick off their manifesto with a confused description of materialism, some subsequent improvement will be required.

Number 2. “This belief system implies that the mind is nothing but the physical activity of the brain, and that our thoughts cannot have any effect upon our brains and bodies, our actions, and the physical world.” Correctly stated, “This belief system implies that the mind is nothing but the physical activity of the brain, and that our thoughts interact with the physical world through our body under control of the brain.” Even this is not quite complete. The brain may not be the sole repository of the mind. The brain is apparently a central junction of neural activity occurring throughout the body. Some activity (reflex actions) does not require participation of the brain.

Where does this line of reasoning lead? That brings up item 5, saying the materialistic approach “has compelled scientists to neglect the subjective dimension of human experience. This has led to a severely distorted and impoverished understanding of ourselves and our place in nature.” This is true on the face of it. Science typically does not get involved in such matters as art appreciation and color preference. However, the real science of psychology may be employed to make such studies.

What finally clinches it is item 7, particularly this, with the pertinent text in bold:

Most importantly, QM explicitly introduced the mind into its basic conceptual structure since it was found that particles being observed and the observer—the physicist and the method used for observation—are linked. According to one interpretation of QM, this phenomenon implies that the consciousness of the observer is vital to the existence of the physical events being observed, and that mental events can affect the physical world. The results of recent experiments support this interpretation. These results suggest that the physical world is no longer the primary or sole component of reality, and that it cannot be fully understood without making reference to the mind.

And this is flat wrong. The basic principles of quantum mechanics do not in any way invoke the mind. While it is true that measurement of an event can affect the system under study, it is a mistake to conclude a mental process is required. It is the act of measuring, the interaction of the system under examination with the measurement process that has the effect, not the act of the experimenter observing the reading.

The authors of the manifesto have a basic misunderstanding of that which they oppose, physical science. Attacking science through ignorance is never a good idea.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Number 16 in a series

This takes some telling. Bear with me.

Start with a paper published in the journal Science 26 June 2015. It’s by Karl Thomas and others, and it carries the title “Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus.” Here’s the abstract:

Much study has been devoted to the possible causes of an apparent decrease in the upward trend of global surface temperatures since 1998, a phenomenon that has been dubbed the global warming “hiatus.” Here, we present an updated global surface temperature analysis that reveals that global trends are higher than those reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, especially in recent decades, and that the central estimate for the rate of warming during the first 15 years of the 21st century is at least as great as the last half of the 20th century. These results do not support the notion of a “slowdown” in the increase of global surface temperature.

That was a couple of years ago. Now come forward to September of this year:

WASHINGTON — Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), an early and loyal supporter of President Donald Trump, likes to make noise about the liberal media’s coverage of climate change, often dismissing it as “fake news.”

In February, however, this vocal denier of near-universally accepted climate science promoted a story about a climate data manipulation scandal that is about as flawed as they come.

The representative of Congressional District 21, just up the road from me, has, from all appearances, a mental block regarding aspects of modern science:

Smith publicly denies global warming. As of 2015, Smith has received more than $600,000 from the fossil fuel industry during his career in Congress. In 2014, Smith got more money from fossil fuels than he did from any other industry.

Under his leadership, the House Science committee has held hearings that feature the views of climate change deniers, subpoenaed the records and communications of scientists who published papers that Smith disapproved of, attempted to cut NASA’s earth sciences budget, and “the committee has earned a reputation for questioning climate scientists and environmental groups that say human activity, like burning fossil fuels, is the main cause of rising temperatures.” In his capacity as Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Smith issued more subpoenas in his first three years than the committee had for its entire 54-year history. In a June 2016 response letter to the Union of Concerned Scientists, Smith cited the work of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s as valid legal precedent for his investigation. On December 1, 2016 as Chair on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, he tweeted out on behalf of that committee a Breitbart article denying climate change.

Smith has been criticized for conducting “witch hunts,” a “campaign of intimidation,” and “a direct attack on the rights of scientists and others to conduct research independent of government interference” against climate scientists. Smith has a lifetime score of 6% on the National Environmental Scorecard of the League of Conservation Voters. Smith is an “outspoken climate naysayer in Congress”, according to Scientific American magazine. Smith has been described as a “climate change denier” by Vice Media and by Organizing for America and as “Congress’s preeminent climate change denier” by Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times.

As a life-long Texas, this brings a small lump in my throat. Such notoriety and so little merit.

It is worth linking to the Breitbart posting at issue:

Global land temperatures have plummeted by one degree Celsius since the middle of this year – the biggest and steepest fall on record.

But the news has been greeted with an eerie silence by the world’s alarmist community. You’d almost imagine that when temperatures shoot up it’s catastrophic climate change which requires dramatic headlines across the mainstream media and demands for urgent action. But that when they fall even more precipitously it’s just a case of “nothing to see here”.

Yeah, let’s chase that down. Breitbart links to a story that ran in MailOnline, an organ of the British Daily Mail.

Global average temperatures over land have plummeted by more than 1C since the middle of this year – their biggest and steepest fall on record.

The news comes amid mounting evidence that the recent run of world record high temperatures is about to end.

The fall, revealed by Nasa satellite measurements of the lower atmosphere, has been caused by the end of El Nino – the warming of surface waters in a vast area of the Pacific west of Central America.

Obviously there is much more, and you need to read the complete posting. So, what happened next?

IPSO adjudication upheld against MoS climate science article

Following an article published on 5 February 2017 in the Mail on Sunday, headlined ‘EXPOSED How world leaders were duped over global warming’, Bob Ward complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the newspaper had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. IPSO upheld the complaint and has required the Mail on Sunday to publish this decision as a remedy to the breach.

The article reported on claims made by Dr John Bates, a climate scientist formerly employed at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), about a paper published in the journal Science that suggested that there had been no ‘pause’ in global warming in the 2000s. Dr Bates had published a blog criticising the way the data used for the paper had been analysed and archived. The article detailed at length the complainant’s concerns with the data; it then characterised them as demonstrating ‘irrefutable evidence’ that the paper had been based upon ‘misleading, unverified data’.

And more. Read.

So, MailOnline published an item based on faulty information, and IPSO, the Independent Press Standards Organization, called them down on it, and the item had to be disclaimed. On a side note, IPSO is a UK institution that oversees press standards. Ever wonder whether American outlets could use some oversight?

And the total of all this is that MailOnline published what was essentially a baseless claim, leading readers to conclude anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is a hoax.

Next, Breitbart, that stellar exemplar of journalistic integrity, regurgitated the item, I’m guessing much to the delight of their readership, said readership being the cream of American conservatism.

Finally, the Republican chair of the House Science Committee, tweeted out the gist of the Breitbart posting, apparently considering it justification for his anti-science position.

Get this, readers. A fatally flawed item in a British on-line journal worked its way into shaping this country’s science policy. I’m thinking the Brits have never gotten over Yorktown.

People Unclear

An ongoing scandal – number 15

The meme doesn’t have anything to do with this installment of People Unclear. But it was handy, and the Reverend Jeffress needed some more exposure. Anyhow, here’s what’s wacko today:

Biblical prophecy claims the world will end on Sept. 23, Christian numerologists claim

A Christian numerologist claims that the world will end next Saturday when a planet will, supposedly, collide with Earth.

Saturday, 23 September 2017. That’s today, and I’m planning on taking the rest of the day off. After I take Barbara Jean out to dinner.

No, wait! This deserves more. It needs some Skeptical Analysis. Here’s more from Fox News.

According to Christian numerologist David Meade, verses in Luke 21:25 to 26 are the sign that recent events, such as the recent solar eclipse and Hurricane Harvey, are signs of the apocalypse.

Let’s examine that:

Luke 21:25-26 King James Version (KJV)

25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;

26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

And that is that. Nothing about 23 September, in any year. But wait! Fox News has still more:

Sept. 23 is a date that was pinpointed using codes from the Bible, as well as a “date marker” in the pyramids of Giza in Egypt.

This is getting deeper than I can probe before dinner. Back to Fox News for additional detail:

Meade has built his theory on the so-called Planet X, which is also known as Nibiru, which he believes will pass Earth on Sept. 23, causing volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and earthquakes, according to British newspaper The Sun.

The Sun link points to the following:

Conspiracies about the mysterious planet named Nibiru suggest it could be headed towards Earth to destroy it on September 23.

It was first mentioned in 1976 by author Zecharia Sitchin in his book The 12th Planet.

He believed the planet is home to ancient aliens called the Annunaki who he claimed created the human race.

Aw, rats! I have a copy of the Sitchin book, but it’s not handy right now, And Amazon wants $16 for a Kindle edition. Barbara Jean would never sign off on the purchase. However, a PDF download is available from FreePDF. Here’s the cover:

Here’s what Sitchin has to say by way of introduction:

THE PRIME SOURCE for the biblical verses quoted in The Twelfth Planet is the Old Testament in its original Hebrew text. It must be borne in mind that all the translations consulted of which the principal ones are listed at the end of the book – are just that: translations or interpretations. In the final analysis, what counts is what the original Hebrew says.
In the final version quoted in The Twelfth Planet, I have compared the available translations against each other and against the Hebrew source and the parallel Sumerian and Akkadian texts/tales, to come up with what I believe is the most accurate rendering.
The rendering of Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Hittite texts has engaged a legion of scholars for more than a century. Decipherment of script and language was followed by transcribing, transliterating, and finally, translating. In many instances, it was possible to choose between differing translations or interpretations only by verifying the much earlier transcriptions and transliterations. In other instances, a late insight by a contemporary scholar could throw new light on an early translation.
The list of sources for Near Eastern texts, given at the end of this book, thus ranges from the oldest to the newest, and is followed by the scholarly publications in which valuable contributions to the understanding of
the texts were found.

[Zecharia Sitchin, The 12th Planet. From the introduction]

Well, that explains a lot. A hair de loon writes a book of fables, sourcing another book of fables, and another master of confabulation picks up on that, and suddenly nobody has any place to go come Sunday, 24 September. And I had a trip out of town planned.

It’s a good thing I don’t believe in fairy tales. Unlike some politicians I could name.

Creation Evidence Museum


First I need to tell you what everybody already knows. What everybody already knows is that the Earth and everything on it were created about 6000 years ago. People, too. And there was also a world-wide flood that killed everything on Earth except for a Bronze Age family and selected species of animals. But everybody already knows that. So what is this about? It’s about the evidence for these facts.

The evidence can be found at an advanced museum of creation knowledge located on Texas Farm Road 205 outside Glen Rose, Texas. You go across the bridge and it’s there on the right, just before you get to Dinosaur Valley State Park. You will know you are there when you see the sign that says “Evidence Here.”

So, what’s there? Why, the evidence, of course. The evidence for the creation and the great flood just described. And you could not ask for more. Actually, it would be hard to ask for less. Let’s go inside.


At the door you will be warned you are entering an area worthy of great caution. No smoking. Oxygen is in use. The hyperbaric chamber is operating. There is a possibility its power will affect your pacemaker. Family and group rates are available.

Inside you will see all the evidence. I will repost here part of what I wrote 18 years ago:

The interior of the museum has been thoroughly remodeled with new and expanded exhibits, and Baugh speaks to visitors as a recorded voice, and the recording operates spotlights in the room, highlighting in turn the particular features being discussed. What a story he has to tell. Here is a synopsis created from my notes, with some of my interpretations within brackets. My apologies to Mr. Baugh if I have missed some of his finer points:

Day 1: Electrolysis by the spirit of God moving on the waters separates water into its components, oxygen and hydrogen.Day 2: Oxygen and hydrogen crystallize into a spherical “canopy” around the Earth. The canopy glows a magenta color under sunlight [producing a light that is very beneficial to things living on the planet].

Day 3: Robert Gentry has previously demonstrated that granite was created in about 0.164 second. The evidence for this is the presence of pleochroic halos [which indicate the prior existence of short-lived radioactive isotopes in the stone at the time it was formed]. [Arthur Strahler discusses this subject in his excellent book Science and Earth History.[3]]

Day 4: God stretched out the heavens. The fabric of the universe was stretched out in a manner which, according to Einstein’s equations and the equations of quantum mechanics, caused a few hours time to give the appearance of millions of years. Russell Humphreys, a Ph.D. physicist working at Sandia National Laboratory has published equations that demonstrate that if the dimensions of the universe were stretched in this manner, then millions of years in outer space would be equivalent to only thousands of years on Earth.

Day 5: There is still a pinkish glow on the Earth. The canopy 10 miles above the Earth’s surface has compressed the air to produce this effect. Also, the Earth’s electromagnetic energy is stronger and there is no UV radiation [because of the canopy] to cause free radical damage, allowing living organisms to express their optimal genetic information.

Day 6: The fabric of the universe continued to stretch out.

Hundreds of years later: From science we know that the thought processes of man in discord can affect nuclear decay. The discord and violence in man during this time would disrupt the nuclear reactions within the Earth, causing enormous heating and causing 70-mile-high fountains of water to burst through the granite crust and to penetrate and disrupt the canopy above the Earth. This would result in the rain that drowned all but Noah’s family and the animals on his ark. Also during this time the creator bowed the heavens, further stretching the fabric of the universe. [There is some mention of the Moon bringing the waters into resonance, but I could not follow the explanation.] Baugh also reminds the audience of the quantum interconnection between all parts of the universe. [See Roger Penrose for more on this.]

About 200 years after the flood was the Peleg episode[4] during which the Earth expanded and divided. There was a 10% expansion in the Earth’s radius due to internal thermonuclear reactions. During the original creation and during the Peleg episode the continental land masses were thrust upon each other producing the ice ages, which lasted 100s of years instead of 1000s of years. This and the previous episode of thermonuclear expansion are confirmed by geophysics. Since the canopy was gone, the Earth’s electromagnetic field could not be contained, and it dissipated into space. Likewise a portion of the Earth’s gravitational attraction was lost, and there was [and has been since] a smaller oxygen ratio resulting in compromised and shorter-lived life forms. Also, the spring 1995 issue of Scientific American contains a report that in 1500 years all of the Earth’s electromagnetic field will be lost unless there is a return of the creator. [Since Scientific American did not publish a spring 1995 issue, I have had a hard time tracking down this reference.]

Finally, there will be in the future a millennial sphere in which people will live in utopia. Music will play in the heads of the inhabitants.

This is all great stuff, but the hyperbaric chamber is the star of the exhibit. Let me explain.

You see, 6000 years ago, right after God created Earth and everything on it, including people, things were pretty peachy. Life was good. People went around naked, of course there were only two of them. Tigers didn’t eat little bunny rabbits. There was never any bad weather, and nobody needed under arm deodorant.

And the reason everything was so peachy was the atmospheric pressure. It was twice what we have today, and that increased the oxygen partial pressure, so living things got plenty of oxygen and lived longer lives, and people lived for hundreds of years.

Then things started to go south.

One of the people, a woman, was having a conversation with snake (who was really a demon in disguise), and the snake would walk and talk, because back then I guess snakes had legs. But anyhow the snake persuaded the woman to eat some fruit that was forbidden by God, and then she shared it with the man, who was the other person on Earth. Of course, they figured that God, who created everything in just six days, and was omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, would never ever find out. But he did in his tender, loving way, and he cast the people out of their Paradise on Earth, and they thereafter had to clothe themselves and to grub for their existence and also screw to make babies.

Then things got worse. God decided the entire science project had gone haywire, and the people were behaving badly, so he decided to reset the system and start over. He figured he needed to save some seed stock, so he picked a hapless individual to save selected animals and his own family, and then God flooded the whole place and drowned everything else.

Of course atheist scientists these days would tell you that kind of thing is impossible. First of all, there’s not enough water on this planet to cover the tallest mountains, which even now reach nearly six miles above sea level. But creation scientists properly tell us that was no problem, since there were no high mountains then, and it didn’t take all that much water to cover the Earth and drown everything out. They tell us the double pressure in those days was due to the water in the atmosphere, which a quick calculation indicates would have to be about 34 feet worth of liquid.

Anyhow, all that liquid came down in about 40 days (and nights), and about the same time great upheavals vastly changed the face of the earth, and the water ran into the oceans and into cracks that opened up in the ground. And gone was the double oxygen partial pressure, and gone was the prospect of living hundreds of years. Bummer!

Anyhow, that’s what the hyperbaric chamber is to demonstrate. You grow stuff at double pressure, and you will see the miracle that existed prior to The Flood. I previously dipped a bit into the story behind the hyperbaric chamber.

Carl Baugh’s fascination with hyperbaric chambers has previously been mentioned. Located at the rear of the exhibition area is a working chamber, which museum operator Doyle Roberts says is kept at 13 psi above atmospheric pressure. It’s about 30 inches in diameter and 7 feet long with numerous viewing windows, and Baugh’s presentation states it is the world’s first hyperbaric biosphere. We are told that the lives of fruit flies have been extended, and the molecular structure of snakes has been altered; simply by placing them in the chamber. Additionally, near the chamber there is a large aquarium containing two full-grown piranhas, which are affected by the electromagnetic energy of the chamber. This chamber has gained the attention of scientists at NASA.

Of course, that is all great news, but there is more to Carl Baugh than you would get from these goings on. Over 14 years ago I obtained a tape of a radio show from the producer. The program featured Baugh expounding on a view of science you will not even get from the Bible. I wrote an item for the newsletter of The North Texas Skeptics, and I’ve reposted it for your reading pleasure.

Take a walk on the museum grounds, and you will be treated to an industrial strength version of the hyperbaric chamber.




Take a look at this mother. Apparently an all-weather enclosure was in the works at the time I took this photo, but, as I mentioned before, there are issues with putting this contraption into service:

No mention is made about the future of the existing hyperbaric chamber shell still resting on the grounds of the museum. When I first visited the site and toured the inside of the tank, I noted that it was far from being a hyperbaric chamber in its then current state. A number of circular openings had been sawed or flame-cut in the shell to let in light. Screw holes had been drilled adjacent to the openings to facilitate the installation of protective coverings, but at time only clear plastic sheeting was in place. The plastic sheeting is now gone. In order for this structure to become a hyperbaric chamber, it will have to be modified to become pressure tight, which means at the least that pressure flanges will have to be welded to these new openings, and appropriate view ports will have to be installed. Additionally, the State of Texas will have to inspect the finished product and issue a pressure vessel certificate before the operators will be allowed to increase inside pressure more than about a few pounds per square inch. This is not likely to happen, considering the deteriorated state of the tank. The only improvement I note since my first visit four years ago is that the tank now rests on a concrete slab instead of lying on the ground.

The remaining oddities of the museum are worth the price of admission. That is if you have a yearning to have your intelligence insulted:

The museum’s other major attractions include artifacts that have become hallmarks of the Carl Baugh phenomenon:

  • The hammer in the stone, the original of which is kept in a bank vault and which is exhibited here only as a replica. In fact, hammer in stone replicas are for sale to the public, and the ones I have seen would be hard to tell from the original. The idea behind the hammer in the stone is that it was found in what Baugh claims was native rock, demonstrating that people (who must have made the hammer) lived at the time the rock was created. Baugh further asserts that analysis of the hammer head reveals it to be remarkably pure iron with 2.6% chlorine bonded to the iron.
  • Likewise the famous Burdick Track is exhibited in replica. It is about 14 inches long in a piece of flat stone and, though it looks like no human print I have ever seen, it is neither ape nor reptilian. The print has been sectioned by means of thin saw cuts across the middle of the foot and across the toes in four places all-together. A selected cross-section through the toes is being exhibited by Baugh and others to demonstrate that the print was made by an impression in soft soil and not by carving.
  • The finger is another of Baugh’s prime exhibits. Although some scientists assert it looks for all the world like a fossilized worm hole, Baugh has had this item examined by 20 medical experts and has had it x-rayed and CAT-scanned. The result, he says, is that it exhibits the internal structure of an actual human finger. This curious fossil, with its remarkable fingernail-like feature, shows no evidence of any finger joints where there should be at least one and perhaps two. Visitors at the museum can purchase postcards picturing the finger.


Trust me, a postcard featuring the finger is worth the trip.

New Age Creationism

I previously posted this in The North Texas Skeptic, the newsletter of The North Texas Skeptics. I’m just going to let it speak for itself:

By John Blanton

Fred van Liew has sent us an audio tape from his radio program in early December.  The program, which he hosted, was Your Health, Your Choice.  Fred introduced his guest for the show, Dr. Carl Baugh, founder of the Creation Evidence Museum, which is just north of Glen Rose, Texas.1

Figure 1.  The Creation Evidence Museum, just north of Glen Rose, Texas,
is a creationism “poster child.”

Fred congratulated his guest on his remarkable accomplishments in refuting the phony case for evolution.  Dr. Baugh accepted the recognition and reminded listeners that he, too, once believed in evolution.  He had been schooled in Darwinism, as had an entire generation of students.  However, after years of research it has become apparent that evolution is baseless.

Dr. Baugh also told about his new book Why Do Men Believe Evolution Against All Odds, which contains over 200 technical references.
Baugh mentioned that he has been invited by NASA to lecture their scientists and engineers about Earth’s original ecosphere.  He pointed out that they wanted independent scientific sources without reliance on religious beliefs.

He took some time to praise Fred van Liew’s research on energized water.  Van Liew’s results are in agreement with the creation model (of which Baugh is a strong proponent).

Dr. Baugh went on to explain how all of this ties together.  The famous German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss originally studied the Earth’s magnetic field about 200 years ago and found that it was decreasing.  Actually it is not only decreasing, but it is varying up and down.  It is pulsing.  It pulses about eight cycles per second, and this action is what energizes water naturally.

The structure of water accounts for this effect.  As shown in the diagram, a water molecule is two atoms of hydrogen bound to an atom of oxygen.  The three atoms are not in line-the hydrogen atoms are separated by about 104.5 degrees (see Fig. 2).  This angle can stretch and rebound, and this motion is what puts energy into the water.

Figure 2.  Diagram of water molecule showing angle between hydrogen atoms.

In clouds the molecules are spiraling downward.  When a water molecule passes through a thermal barrier this angle is flexed, and the water picks up energy from its environment.  This is why clouds darken.  Clouds get darker because the water is picking up energy.

One NASA engineer has told Baugh that they are producing mechanisms to energize water following Baugh’s principles.  They have learned that today we are depleting ourselves of energy by constricting the spiraling of the molecules.  Pipes, conduits, and channels constrict the natural flow of water and de-energize it.  Water that has so been mistreated takes energy out of our bodies rather than adding it.

An engineer added energized water to his regular organic fertilizer and was able to produce corn eighteen feet tall with three ears per stalk.  On another occasion at a university they added a few gallons of energized water to a sour well, and by the next morning the anaerobic bacteria in the well had been wiped out.

A rancher in West Texas once told Baugh that he now realizes why his cattle will drink rain water in muddy puddles rather than well water.  The cattle feel more energy from drinking the energized rain water than from drinking the de-energized well water.  Van Liew agreed, citing the fact that dogs drink out of puddles rather than their water dish.  The rain water still contains all the information that God put in it.

Baugh explained that living systems today use only 3% of the information stored in their DNA.  The other 97% is what geneticists call “junk” DNA.  In reality, that 97% tells the active 3% how to respond.  Energized water corrects this problem (presumably making more of the 97% active).  By conducting experiments in gene splicing and recombination geneticists today are playing God, and they need to stop that and get back on track.

Toward the end of the program van Liew and Baugh took calls from listeners.  Nancy posed the question of whether life on Earth would be more viable today had Adam and Eve never sinned.

Baugh was glad to reassure listeners that life today would be much better without the legacy of original sin.  For example, originally there were no poisonous plants (they were all good to eat) and no poisonous snakes.  Snake venom viewed with a scanning electron microscope is gnarled and unstructured.  The sulfide bonds in snake venom produce the toxic agent under such conditions.

When ultraviolet light is eliminated and the atmospheric pressure is doubled (simulating conditions that existed before The Flood) the venom regains its structure.  As always, he emphasized that he is having independent tests performed to confirm these findings.

Manfred Bauer is a scientist from Germany who is famous for his work in energizing water.  Carl Baugh obtained a special mug from Bauer that energizes water.  This mug is one of the products marketed by Essential Water & Air, the sponsor of the radio program.  Baugh explained how the mug works.  The mug’s lining contains energized water, and water poured into the mug is affected by the water in the lining. Water inside the mug is “singing” (spiraling) at a different spin-it is energized.

Baugh lent the mug to his friend Robert Summers, who used the energized water from it to resuscitate a wilting cilantro plant.  The plant, which had been only an inch tall, blossomed and grew to seven inches tall within 24 hours.2

While they were on the topic of health Fred took time to emphasize that no drug makes us healthy.  Modern drugs just eliminate symptoms.  The root illness remains.
Baugh agreed.  Given sufficient volume, energized water could turn around the environment, because it attracts oxygen.  Fred was ecstatic at this revelation.  Suddenly everything became clear to him.  That’s why energized water is so beneficial.
Fred went on to lament modern medicine’s dreadful practice of removing cancerous organisms.  To him this seems like just removing defective parts (as from a machine).

Also Carl Baugh brought listeners up to date on the status of the man tracks in the Paluxy River.  Up to summer this year his workers had identified 303 dinosaur tracks.  An additional 175 have since been added.  They have also identified 70 human prints in the Cretaceous limestone.  On July 3rd of 1997 they discovered a 9-3/4 inch human print along with some matching prints that make up a trail.  This shows that people and dinosaurs lived contemporaneously, completely refuting the theory of evolution.

Fred was astounded that modern scientists still try to bury this significant evidence.

In closing, Baugh noted the new Web site for the Creation Evidence Museum.  I’ve checked it out, and you should, too.  It looks really great. The URL is

The company Essential Water & Air markets a number of useful devices for energizing water.  I will just note two of them.  The mug that was previously mentioned is available in 16 and 14-ounce sizes.  They are being offered for $63.30 and $55.20 on special sale.  Literature from the company indicates that you should place water in the mug for 60 seconds before transferring it to your preferred glass or dish.

Another product is the “whole house wand.”  One model is about 22 inches long, and you attach it to your existing main water supply pipe to positively energize water to all taps in your house.  The wand does not hook directly into the water system.  You just strap it to a straight run of pipe with non-conducting tape.  Two sizes are on special sale for $220.15 and $293.25.  Supplies will probably not last long at these prices.

Along with the audio from the radio program Fred sent me his marketing video.  His product line includes several models of reverse osmosis water purification systems for home and for travel.  He also touts an electrostatic precipitator that provides a nice side benefit.  Plants nearby have their immune systems improved.  “Get healthy” he reminds us.

Carl Baugh will be remembered from early discussions in this newsletter.3 Years ago he appeared to have given himself a Ph.D., since the college that awarded his degree was a religious school in which he was involved in the management. Closer inspection disclosed that the address given for the school mapped to a frame house on a street in Irving, Texas.  More recently Baugh has received a Ph.D. from Pacific College Incorporated, in Australia.4  His academic background is long and storied, as previously reported.5,6,7

The Creation Evidence Museum is what we call a creationism “poster child.”  In a previous experience a nice gentleman admonished me by letter that I should go to the museum and see the evidence for creation myself.  I could not have expressed it better.  I recommend this to all who say they favor creationism in the schools.  You may hear about creationism, and you may talk about creationism, but you have never actually seen creationism in action.  If you really want to get up close to creationism, if you really want to experience creationism, if you really want to “ride side-saddle on the golden calf,” then you need to head on down to Glen Rose.8

[John Blanton is current Secretary of The North Texas Skeptics.  He was born and raised near the dinosaur track site.]


1. Blanton, John, “Creation evidences museum” in The Skeptic, September 1996.

2. Robert Summers, who grew up in Glen Rose, is the artist who created the famous cattle drive bronze sculpture that graces the Dallas City Hall grounds.  He is an avid young Earth creationist, and has produced some of the sculpture art in the Creation Evidence Museum.

3. Blanton, John, “Creation science education” in The Skeptic, July 1998.

4. Blanton, John, “Living Dinosaurs at MIOS” in The Skeptic, February 1997.

5. Hastings, Ronnie, Rick Neeley, and John Thomas, “A Critical Look at Creationist Credentials” in The Skeptic, July-August 1989.

6. Kuban, Glen J., “A Follow-Up on Carl Baugh’s Science Degrees” in The Skeptic, September-October 1989.

7. Glen Kuban’s Web page on creationists’ degrees is at http://members.aol.com/Paluxy2/degrees.htm.

8. The quote is from Bob Dylan.


NBC’s Mysterious Origins of Man

Number 9 in a series. Concerning the outrageous TV special NBC’s Mysterious Origins of Man, I previously told the story of Tiahuanacu, the archaeological site 12,000 feet up in Bolivia. Purported to be 17,000 years old by a couple of dubious researchers featured on the show, it is, in fact, less than 2000 years old, in keeping with what is known about the history of human habitation on the American continents.


Host Charlton Heston states:

Mysterious metal clamps revealed a level of technology far beyond their time.

Meso-American Archaeologist Neil Steede reminds us:

The antiquity and the technological sophistication of Tiahuanacu should make each and every one of us fully question the origins of civilization.

Actor and host Charlton Heston wants to know:

Where did the Tiahuanacans learn all of this complex process?

Then he proposes to answer his own question:

The answer may lie half way around the world in one of Man’s most mysterious monuments…

Finally, we get around to talking about the Sphinx. We were all wondering when NBC’s mysterious special would get around to the Sphinx. I count this 32 minutes into a 51-minute video clip.


Is it possible there was an advanced civilization on this planet thousands of years before history tells us?

Notice it’s a question, not a statement. This is called plausible deniability. We next meet “investigative journalist” Graham Hancock, author of Fingerprints of the Gods.


There’s a lot of stuff here, so I’m going to have to summarize:

  • We see Hancock at the Stonehenge archaeological site in England.
  • He has “dedicated nine years of his life to tracking down the evidence.”
  • This monument is one of a category of such monuments in the world.
  • They have a number of things in common.
  • They have large stone components, some weighing hundreds of tons.
  • They have “very precise, scientific astronomical alignment.”
  • In all cases we don’t know who built them.
  • “We are looking at a common influence that touched all of these places long before recorded history began.”
  • This unknown intelligence left behind a legacy in all of these places.


Back to the Sphinx. Host and narrator Charlton Heston explains further, but I will here just repost from other sources. We are introduced to John Anthony West:

John Anthony West (born January 1, 1932 in New York) is an American author, lecturer, guide and a proponent of Sphinx water erosion hypothesis in geology.

Influenced by R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, in 1993 his work with Robert M. Schoch, a geologist and associate professor of natural science at the College of General Studies at Boston University was presented by Charlton Heston in a NBC special called “The Mystery of the Sphinx” that won West an News & Documentary Emmy Award for Best Research and a nomination for Best Documentary. The documentary contends that the main type of weathering evident on the Great Sphinx (pictured) and surrounding enclosure walls could only have been caused by prolonged and extensive rainfall during the time period from 10,000 to 5000 BCE and was carved out of limestone bedrock by an ancient advanced culture (such as the Heavy Neolithic Qaraoun culture). This challenged the conventional dating of the carving of the statue circa 2500 BCE. West suggested that the Sphinx may be over twice as old as originally determined, whereas Schoch made a more conservative determination of between 5000 and 7000 BCE.

[Some links deleted]


And Robert Bauval:

Robert Bauval (born 5 March 1948 in Alexandria, Egypt) is a Belgian author, lecturer, and Ancient Egypt researcher, best known for his Orion Correlation Theory.

Bauval is specifically known for the Orion Correlation Theory (OCT). This proposes a relationship between the fourth dynasty Egyptian pyramids of the Giza Plateau and the alignment of certain stars in the constellation of Orion.

One night in 1983, while working in Saudi Arabia, he took his family and a friend’s family up into the sand dunes of the Arabian desert for a camping expedition. His friend pointed out Orion, and mentioned that Alnitak, the smaller more easterly of the stars making up Orion’s belt was offset slightly from the others. Bauval then made a connection between the layout of the three main stars in Orion’s belt and the layout of the three main pyramids in the Giza necropolis.The theory, known as the Orion Correlation Theory or OCT, was first published in Discussions in Egyptology (DE, Volume 13, 1989)

However the Orion Correlation Theory has been challenged within mainstream archaeology and history as a form of pseudoscience. Among his more notable theories is the possible connection with the Giza necropolis and the epoch of 12,500 years ago. Several Egyptologists have however entertained the general idea that some astronomical correlations may have figured in or been represented by certain physical features and orientations in Ancient Egyptian monuments. In particular, the aspects of the OCT which claim there is a link between the Ancient Egyptian structures at Giza and the constellations as they looked some 12,500 years ago are yet to find support from many within the field.

[Some links deleted]


The similarities between Egyptian and American sites are hard to escape, according to Heston:

  • Huge pyramids precisely aligned
  • Temples with megalithic stones
  • Extremely find joints (between stones) with less that 1/50 inch gaps
  • Similar style royal headdresses
  • Construction using L-shaped corner blocks
  • Same style metal clamps to hold stones together
  • Use of mummification to preserve dead bodies

Except the metal clamps were not so similar. Other than that, we find that diverse groups solved identical problems in the most logical and identical way to be remarkable. I mean, if you don’t build a pyramid, then you’re going to have to build a sphere or a rhomboid. That would really show off the influence of an advanced intelligence.


What does all this point to? Glad you asked. There must have been a sophisticated group of sea-faring people who crossed the Atlantic and brought the same advanced intelligence here. That gets us to the Piri Reis Map:

The Piri Reis map is a pre-modern world map compiled in 1513 from military intelligence by the Ottoman admiral and cartographer Piri Reis (pronounced [piɾi ɾeis]). Approximately one-third of the map survives; it shows the western coasts of Europe and North Africa and the coast of Brazil with reasonable accuracy. Various Atlantic islands including the Azores and Canary Islands are depicted, as is the mythical island of Antillia and possibly Japan.

The historical importance of the map lies in its demonstration of the extent of exploration of the New World by approximately 1510, and in its claim to have used Columbus’s maps, otherwise lost, as a source. It used ten Arab sources, four Indian maps sourced from the Portuguese and one map of Columbus. More recently it has been the focus of pseudohistoric claims for the premodern exploration of the Antarctic coast.

[Some links deleted]


What is so amazing about this map, according to the narrator, is its accuracy. It was a long time after this map was produced before clocks were invented with enough accuracy to allow navigators to compute longitude. Yet this map shows the coasts of Africa and South America within a half a degree of longitude. In case you are wondering, half a degree at the equator is about 36 miles.

There’s only a slight problem as I see it, looking at the map of Piri Reis. The coast lines are not even close to what is depicted in modern maps. Another way of saying that is the coast lines in the Piri Reis Map are wrong by a whole lot. Forget about half a degree. Let’s talk about hundreds of miles off. If it was an advanced technology behind the creation of this map, then we are going to need a new definition for the term advanced technology. Graham Hancock is eager to remind us this an accuracy we can hardly match today. I am eager to remind you let’s hope not.

That’s enough of Egypt, the Sphinx and Meso American archeology. We need to get on to Charles Hapgood. But you will have to wait until the next post.

Ferris Bueller Gets Expelled

This is the fourth in a series of a review of the video Expelled, produced by Premise Media and featuring Ben Stein. The subtitle of the video (I am deliberately not using the word “documentary”) is No Intelligence Allowed, a reference to the pseudo science of Intelligent Design, which is the main topic of the video.

The previous post centered on the issue of astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, who was supposedly expelled because he advocated Intelligent Design. The case presented in the video is that he had a promising career as a professor of physics and astronomy, but he was denied tenure at Iowa State University after he co-authored (with Jay Richards) the book The Privileged Planet and a video of the same title.

Gonzalez has asserted the denial of tenure was a result of his advocacy for Intelligent Design. Wikipedia notes:

Two years later, an article in the local newspaper The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported Gonzalez’ appeal against his denial of tenure and claimed he was “the unnamed target” of the ISU petition. The article noted that “Gonzalez won’t discuss the reasons for the tenure denial” but that he “noted, however, that he has frequently been criticized by people who don’t consider intelligent design as a legitimate science.” Comments from John West, the associate director of the Discovery Institute‘s Center for Science and Culture – with whom Gonzalez was a senior fellow – blamed the failure to secure tenure directly upon Gonzalez’ belief in intelligent design and compared it to a “doctrinal litmus test” typical of his native Cuba.

[Some links removed]

Typically a candidate for tenure at a college or university must pass review by his peers. Tenure is almost a lifetime assurance of employment and can be denied if your peers do not look forward to working with you. I have stated elsewhere that there are only so many times you can show up for the party with your fly unzipped before you are no longer invited.

Robert Marks

Shut up, you freak.

Shut up, you freak.

Ben Stein interviews Robert Marks, Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Baylor University. Professor Marks notes that he has tenure, and his position is secure. However, Ben Stein remarks, “A few months after this interview Baylor University shut down his research website once they discovered a link between his work and intelligent design.” The video shows a clip from the movie Planet of the Apes:

Julius: [Julius stops hosing Taylor briefly] Shut, up you freak!

George Taylor: Julius, you…

Julius: [He turns on the hose again] I said shut up!

This is a terrible way to treat a distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering. Information presented by the National Center for Science Education brings some clarity:

Robert Marks’s “Evolutionary Informatics Laboratory” website – touting intelligent design – was originally hosted on a Baylor University server. Concerned that the material on the website misleadingly suggested a connection between the intelligent design material and Baylor, administrators temporarily shut the website down while discussing the issue with Marks and his lawyer. Baylor was willing to continue hosting the website subject to a number of conditions (including the inclusion of a disclaimer and the removal of the misleading term “laboratory”), but Marks and Baylor were unable to come to terms. The site is currently hosted by a third-party provider.

Wikipedia has additional information on the website:

Marks did not seek permission from Baylor University to form the lab, but created a website for it on a server owned by the university. The website was deleted when Baylor’s administration determined that it violated university policy forbidding professors from creating the impression that their personal views represent Baylor as an institution. Baylor said they would permit Marks to repost his website on their server, provided a disclaimer accompany any intelligent design-advancing research to make clear that the work does not represent the university’s position. The site now resides on a third-party server and still contains the material advancing intelligent design.

After removing the site, the Baylor administration stated that it contained “unapproved research” and that university policy forbids professors from creating the impression that their personal views represent Baylor as an institution. Baylor has said that it will permit Marks to repost his website on its server, provided he (1) delete any reference to a “Lab,” (2) delete listing of any Baylor graduate students, and (3) post at the bottom of every page and the top of the home page a 108-word disclaimer.

[links removed]

Baylor’s action was apparently driven by its past experience with creationism. In 1999 creationist William Dembski established the Michael Polanyi Center at Baylor, and it was quickly identified, to the embarrassment of the science and other faculty, as a creationist activity:

In 1999, Dembski was invited by Robert B. Sloan, President of Baylor University, to establish the Michael Polanyi Center at the university. Named after the Hungarian physical chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi (1891–1976), Dembski described it as “the first intelligent design think tank at a research university.” Dembski had known Sloan for about three years, having taught Sloan’s daughter at a Christian study summer camp not far from Waco, Texas. Sloan was the first Baptist minister to serve as Baylor’s president in over 30 years, had read some of Dembski’s work and liked it; according to Dembski, Sloan “made it clear that he wanted to get me on the faculty in some way.”

The Polanyi Center was established without much publicity in October 1999, initially consisting of two people – Dembski and a like-minded colleague, Bruce L. Gordon, who were hired directly by Sloan without going through the usual channels of a search committee and departmental consultation. The vast majority of Baylor staff did not know of the center’s existence until its website went online, and the center stood outside of the existing religion, science, and philosophy departments.

The center’s mission, and the lack of consultation with the Baylor faculty, became the immediate subject of controversy. The faculty feared for the university’s reputation – it has historically been well regarded for its contributions to mainstream science – and scientists outside the university questioned whether Baylor had “gone fundamentalist.” Faculty members pointed out that the university’s existing interdisciplinary Institute for Faith and Learning was already addressing questions about the relationship between science and religion, making the existence of the Polanyi Center somewhat redundant. In April 2000, Dembski hosted a conference on “naturalism in science” sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation and the hub of the intelligent design movement, the Discovery Institute, seeking to address the question “Is there anything beyond nature?” Most of the Baylor faculty boycotted the conference.

A few days later, the Baylor faculty senate voted by a margin of 27–2 to ask the administration to dissolve the center and merge it with the Institute for Faith and Learning. President Sloan refused, citing issues of censorship and academic integrity, but agreed to convene an outside committee to review the center. The committee recommended setting up a faculty advisory panel to oversee the science and religion components of the program, dropping the name “Michael Polanyi” and reconstituting the center as part of the Institute for Faith and Learning. These recommendations were accepted in full by the university administration.

Despite all the creationists’ yearnings and despite all their assertions that science fails to answer important questions, science as a human endeavor long ago abandoned invoking the supernatural as an answer and also as a starting point for research. The supernatural answers no legitimate questions and provides nothing useful for serious research. It is the intellectual equivalent of conceding you do not know the solution to a problem and then making up an answer and putting that forward as the solution. This is a point the creationists can not or will not come to grips with.

Expelled features six individuals who were “expelled.” I have covered four of them. Next up is author and journalist Pamela Winnick.

Skeptical Videos

I have been associated with the North Texas Skeptics since about 1988. During that time a bunch of skeptical stuff has come my way, and some it represents history. This weekend I converted a number of VHS tapes to DVD.

Alien Autopsy

Here is a list of titles and topics, in no particular order:

  1. Robert Tilton: video from the Trinity Foundation
  2. Trinity Foundation on Robert Tilton and the Jews
  3. D. James Kennedy: creationism, homosexuality and more (3 disks)
  4. McCuistion on Waco
  5. CSICOP: Beyond Belief, with Steve Shaw
  6. Frontline on Waco
  7. John Thomas interview from 1990
  8. Alien Autopsy
  9. Scientific American on pseudo science, also near death
  10. Ramtha, St. Germaine, also Randi with Jose as Carlos
  11. Prime Time Live: Men of God, featuring Robert Tilton, Larry Lee and W.V. Grant
  12. Sally Jessy Raphael featuring Uri Geller and more
  13. Frontline: The Search for Satan
  14. Firing Line: featuring Forrest Mimms and Eugnie Scott
  15. BBC – Wales: In Search of the Dead
  16. BBC – Wales: In Search of the Dead – Visions and Voices
  17. Waco, the Big Lie by Linda Thompson
  18. UFOs are Real, part 1
  19. The Truth in Love featuring Thomas Warren and Dave Miller on creationism and evolution

Let me know if you are interested in any of these.

It was the best of times, it was the end of times

From several news sources. Here is the take from the San Jose Mercury News.

End of the world for Oakland’s Family Radio?

By Matthias Gafni

Contra Costa Times
Posted: 05/11/2013 04:47:42 PM PDT
Updated: 05/12/2013 07:57:26 AM PDT

Two days before the date his boss had predicted as the Apocalypse, Matt Tuter made an auspicious decision: He canceled the skywriters.
Family Radio, the Oakland-based evangelical network run by Harold Camping, had already spent more than $5 million on 5,000 billboards announcing Judgment Day — May 21, 2011 — according to tax documents. Now, Tuter said, he feared that the airplanes, which were to inscribe the warnings in the skies above major U.S. cities, were one expense too many for a business operating as if there really would be no tomorrow.

This is not news. What I want to know is: Why is this guy still around? Didn’t The North Texas Skeptics already do this story two years ago? Here is what was said then:

It’s about that time again.
The end of the world, that is. The EoW seems to come around from time to time. There seems to be no end to it. The world, that is. If The World had the staying power of the EoW, nobody would be worrying about the EoW.
We’ve seen it before. We can start with Ezekiel. Wikipedia has a good description. According to the Talmud, Ezekiel “prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple.” He apparently did this on a regular basis but never got the date right (it was about 587 BCE).

More to date, there was the strange case of William Miller during the century before the previous one.

Ultimately Miller predicted the end of the world for 22 October in 1844. The day came and went, and John Tyler was still president of the United States. This reversal eventually came to be known as The Great Disappointment. Other things have come and gone, but the Earth still revolves around the sun, and two of John Tyler’s grandchildren (as of last year) are still alive.

Apparently many of Miller’s followers had sorely counted on the coming of the end of times and had disposed of their earthly belongings, since they didn’t think they would be needing them come 23 October 1844. The Seventh Day Adventist Church was one off-shoot of the scattering of Miller’s true believers.

The Times article continues:

Former and current insiders allege the situation may be even worse than it appears, claiming donations have dropped almost 70 percent since the Rapture prediction proved incorrect, leading to numerous layoffs of longtime Family Radio staff members. Those insiders say the nonprofit mishandled the sales of the stations, reaping far less than they were worth, and is on the hook for millions of dollars to devotees who have loaned them money over the years. Since the failed prediction, at least two letters have been sent to the California Attorney General’s Office requesting an investigation into the station sales and Family Radio’s handling of donations. The office does not confirm or deny investigations.

No. This cannot be so. The American public turned off by failed prophecies? No way. We are just not that smart.

In U.S., 46% Hold Creationist View of Human Origins
Highly religious Americans most likely to believe in creationism

by Frank Newport
PRINCETON, NJ — Forty-six percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years. The prevalence of this creationist view of the origin of humans is essentially unchanged from 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question. About a third of Americans believe that humans evolved, but with God’s guidance; 15% say humans evolved, but that God had no part in the process.

But then, let’s get serious. What has Harold Camping been predicting? The Rapture. The what? Camping has been predicting a fictional event? He needs to get real. Predicting something that cannot and will not happen is the first disastrous misstep on the road to ruin. He needs to start predicting something that can actually happen. He needs to start predicting real stuff. But what?

Well, the lottery for starters. Pick all six Powerball numbers. We all know that picking all six numbers is next to impossible, odds of hundreds of millions to one, but this is not an impossible event. Unlike the Rapture, which is a made up story from a bunch of people with a loose grip on reality.

Here’s one even better. Harold should have been predicting when the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series. Now we all know that the Cubs franchise is never ever going to win the Series, but here is a difference between this event and the Rapture. There is a city named Chicago on the North American Continent, and there is a baseball team called the Chicago Cubs, whereas there is not a Heaven, much less a Hell. Heaven and Hell are made up places essential for the Rapture, again a made up event.

So, Harold Camping’s problem is not so much that he based his Earth-bound enterprise on predicting an improbable event. He based it on predicting a non-event. My advice to Harold is this. If you will predict when the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series, I will make it happen. This is my promise to you. I swear to God.

Web News

Web News is an occasional item pulled directly from on-line news outlets. The aim is to exploit Web News to highlight the absurdities of creationism and other forms of pseudo science. Some political oddities may be featured from time to time.

This is from the Texas Freedom Network blog:

Creationists Target Texas Colleges and Universities Again

By Dan  | Published April 15, 2013

Once again creationists are trying to undermine science education in Texas. On Wednesday the Texas House Higher Education Committee will consider legislation that would bar the state’s colleges and universities from discriminating against or penalizing “in any manner” faculty members or students who engage in research on “intelligent design” — the name creationists have given to their pseudo-scientific attacks on evolution.

Now Rep. Zedler is back with his academic fraud protection legislation, House Bill 285. This year he’ll get his committee hearing. We have a briefing paper on HB 285 here, but the key points are the same as in 2011.

Here is the essential text of Zedler’s bill:

Sec. 51.979.  PROHIBITION OF DISCRIMINATION BASED ON RESEARCH RELATED TO INTELLIGENT DESIGN.  An institution of higher education may not discriminate against or penalize in any manner, especially with regard to employment or academic support, a faculty member or student based on the faculty member’s or student’s conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms.

A free reading of this indicates shoddy or fraudulent research must get a free ride so long as it supports or even mentions Intelligent Design. That’s all well and very convenient for creationists. The need for such legislation has manifested itself in recent history.

Guillermo Gonzalez was on the road to success as an astronomy researcher. He did post doctoral work at the University of Texas at Austin before going on to a position as assistant professor at Iowa State University. His wanderings into support for Intelligent Design led his co-workers to question his commitment to science. In any event, Gonzalez was denied tenure and promotion. The Wikipedia entry for Gonzalez includes the following.

Two years later, an article in the local newspaper The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported Gonzalez’ appeal against his denial of tenure and claimed he was “the unnamed target” of the ISU petition. The article noted that “Gonzalez won’t discuss the reasons for the tenure denial” but that he “noted, however, that he has frequently been criticized by people who don’t consider intelligent design as a legitimate science.” Comments from John West, the associate director of the Discovery Institute‘s Center for Science and Culture – with whom Gonzalez was a senior fellow – blamed the failure to secure tenure directly upon Gonzalez’ belief in intelligent design and compared it to a “doctrinal litmus test” typical of his native Cuba.

The Gonzalez case is featured in the 2008 “documentary” Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

Gonzalez claims that, prior to his tenure review, he was the subject of a campaign on campus to “poison the atmosphere” against him, and that he would almost certainly have been granted tenure had he not been an advocate for intelligent design. The film interviewed a member of the Iowa State University faculty who stated that Gonzalez was denied tenure because the university feared that if they granted Gonzalez tenure the university would become associated with the Intelligent Design movement.

ISU reports a different scenario:

Gonzalez’s failure to obtain research funding has been cited as a factor in the decision. “Essentially, he had no research funding,” said Eli Rosenberg, chairman of Gonzalez’s department. “That’s one of the issues.” According to the Des Moines Register, “Iowa State has sponsored $22,661 in outside grant money for Gonzalez since July 2001, records show. In that same time period, Gonzalez’s peers in physics and astronomy secured an average of $1.3 million by the time they were granted tenure.”On February 7, 2008, his appeal to the Board of Regents was denied.

Expelled also features researcher Richard Sternberg.

Expelled features excerpts from an interview Stein conducted with Richard Sternberg, described as an evolutionary biologist (he has two PhDs in evolutionary biology) and a former editor for a scientific journal associated with the Smithsonian Institution. The film says his life was “nearly ruined” after he published an article by intelligent design proponent Stephen C. Meyer in 2004, allegedly causing him to lose his office, to be pressured to resign, and to become the subject of an investigation into his political and religious views.

A coarse examination of the case reveals that Sternberg’s life was not ruined, and he had, in fact, acted with gross impropriety in publication of the Meyer article. Without consulting other members of the editorial board he arranged for publication of the article and left his unpaid position as editor prior to publication of the issue. He was harshly criticized for his actions, and if there was any damage done to his career or to his reputation it was of his own doing.

Carolyn Crocker is another worthy featured in Expelled. She had temporary status as lecturer at colleges in Virginia, but was subsequently not renewed. Some of her students complained about her promotion of Intelligent Design, and Crocker blames that for her lack of success.

It is apparent Representative Zedler’s Act has the intent of protecting people of varying degrees of competence, provided they are supportive of Intelligent Design. From all appearances this is not a bill to protect academic freedom. It is government support for Intelligent Design at its face and government support for religion by extension. Dan’s post also notes that Zedler submitted the same bill two years ago, and it never obtained a committee vote. A vote is expected this time around, but it’s possible that sanity will again prevail. We can only hope.

The Skin Game

So I see (every day) these ads on cable TV. It’s a “homeopathic” remedy for skin tags. That is, it’s a product that you apply to remove skin tags. It’s called Tag Away.

But wait. Let’s go back to the quoted word in the second sentence.

Tag Away™ Skin Tag Remover removes skin tags in an all-natural, homeopathic way.

Product image from Amazon.com

I highlighted the magic word. The ad seems to be touting Tag Away as a homeopathic remedy. Now let’s go to the definition of the word homeopathy.

Homeopathy involves a process known by practitioners as “dynamisation” or “potentisation” whereby a substance is diluted with alcohol or distilled water and then vigorously shaken in a process called “succussion”. Insoluble solids, such as quartz and oyster shell, are diluted by grinding them with lactose (trituration). The founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann (1755 — 1843) believed that the process of succussion activated the “vital energy” of the diluted substance, and that successive dilutions increased the “potency” of the remedy.

The idea is considered a pseudoscience, because at common dilutions, no atoms of the original material are likely to remain. It is illogical that a process of dilution would arrive at a higher potency. There is not enough water on earth to produce the highest homeopathic dilutions from one molecule.

In quoting the original text from Wikipedia I have removed the notations to referenced sources.

So, if Tag Away really is homeopathic, then the active ingredient, Thuja occidentalis, is possibly diluted to zero.

Tag Away™ Skin Tag Remover is a homeopathic, topical remedy made from all-natural plant extracts that help eliminate those harmless skin overgrowths without any pain. Tag Away™ Skin Tag Remover removes skin tags the all-natural way with its special formula that contains natural plant extracts and the active ingredient Thuja occidentalis – a pure essential oil recognized for its tag-removing properties.

Recall the supposed basis behind homeopathy.

In producing remedies for diseases, homeopaths use a process called “dynamisation” or “potentisation”, whereby a substance is diluted with alcohol or distilled water and then vigorously shaken by 10 hard strikes against an elastic body in a process homeopaths call “succussion”.[73] Hahnemann advocated using substances that produce symptoms like those of the disease being treated, but found that undiluted doses intensified the symptoms and exacerbated the condition, sometimes causing dangerous toxic reactions. He therefore specified that the substances be diluted, due to his belief that succussion activated the “vital energy” of the diluted substance[74] and made it stronger. To facilitate succussion, Hahnemann had a saddle-maker construct a special wooden striking board covered in leather on one side and stuffed with horsehair.[75][76] Insoluble solids, such as quartz and oyster shell, are diluted by grinding them with lactose (“trituration”).

In true homeopathic practice, the cure is a substance that produces the symptoms, but is diluted to eliminate its adverse effects. So, does Tag Away contain active Thuja occidentalis, which, according to homeopathic practice would be a substance that produces skin tags? Or is the Thuja occidentalis so diluted that it is hardly present or even not present in the product? The ads for Tag Away do not specify.

In the 19th century Thuja was in common use as an externally applied tincture or ointment for the treatment of warts, ringworm and thrush. “An injection of the tincture into venereal warts is said to cause them to disappear.”

Once again, I have removed notes from the quoted text. Contrary to expected homeopathic practice, Tag Away uses a curative agent, not an agent that produces skin tags. What kind of homeopathic remedy is that? And does Tag Away really contain any active ingredient? I went to a site that advertised itself as an ingredients list. Here is what I found.

Tag away ingredients list

Males might develop penis skin tags because of friction caused by sporting tight undies, utilizing condoms, and also sexual intercourse. Don�t stop utilizing the product. Though it bled like crazy! The often takes place during the course of maternity because an outcome of hormone imbalances and also skin stretching.

There is more, but there is no ingredients list. It is just a product testimonial in fractured language of some derivative. I was hoping to find an active ingredients list for this product, but nowhere have I found one. I am thinking that if I purchase the product I will not find such a list on the label, unless the label says something like “Active ingredient less than 1% Thuja occidentalis.” Since I am unwilling to shell out $19.99 (plus $9.95 postage and handling) for two small bottles of the product (buy one get one free), I will likely never know the answer to that question.

In that case let’s suppose. Let’s suppose Tag Away really is a homeopathic remedy. If that’s the case, and if the dilution is what is typical of many homeopathic products, then the product contains zero Thuja occidentalis. If there are no active ingredients, then what you are purchasing (buy one, get one free) is two small bottles of water. Why do I keep thinking of an old poem from the century before the previous one:

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

Would that the ancient mariner had some bottles of Tag Away.

But wait. There’s more.

You do not need to pay anything to get rid of skin tags. I had one. It was at the hair line in one of my sideburns. I was being treated for a skin condition, and I pointed it out to my doctor. He told me that was only a skin tag, and I could just scrape it off. And I did. A bit at a time, and it was gone in a few days. And I did not have to pay $9.95 for postage and handling (buy one and get one free).

Is this a great country or what? You can pay $19.99 (plus $9.95 for postage and handling) for a product that you don’t need (buy one and get one free). How come P.T Barnum is not still around to enjoy all this fun?

Currents Of Fear

Many years ago I posted this in the newsletter of The North Texas Skeptics. It doesn’t seem this is anywhere near the fad it was back then. Possibly people have gotten smarter or else distracted by really critical issues. From the September 1995 issue:

Currents of fear
By John Blanton

Paul Brodeur has been a writer for The New Yorker for 35 years, and has published several books on issues of environmental hazards, including Currents of Death, The Zapping of America, and Asbestos and Enzymes. His book The Great Power-Line Cover-up (Little, Brown and Company, paperback, 351 pages, $12.95) was published in 1993, and an updated edition was released earlier this year.

The story according to Brodeur begins with “The Calamity on Meadow Street.” Two hundred and fifty yards long with only nine houses, Meadow Street in Guilford, CT, has had more than its share of cancer cases since the 1970s. It didn’t take the residents long to spot the culprit, a prominent electric substation on the street. After explaining the travails of the Meadow Street residents, the author spends the remainder of the book detailing his evidence that man-made electromagnetic fields in general and power lines specifically are a cause of cancer in humans.

The unfortunate inhabitants of Meadow Street are not the only victims. Brodeur describes endangered sites as diverse as Slater Elementary School in Fresno, California, and Essex County Vocational Technical High School in West Caldwell, New Jersey, both of which are located adjacent to high voltage transmission lines. Throughout the book he seeks to show the magnitude of the risk. Using his relentless, well-crafted journalistic style, the author builds a powerful argument for the hazards of electromagnetic fields and for the cover-up he says is concealing the truth from the public. The book includes numerous interviews with residents, who recount their efforts to obtain redress from bureaucrats and elected officials. There are also quotes and interviews with scientists, who all this time have been having trouble finding a link between electromagnetic fields and human health problems.

In June the PBS television series Frontline aired a show called Currents of Fear, which dealt extensively with the subject of Paul Brodeur’s book. The show features, among others, residents of Omaha, Nebraska, who perceive a correspondence between the incidence of cancer in their neighborhood and the presence of power lines. The program’s treatment of the whole issue was so enlightening that it’s worthwhile to present here some major excerpts from the transcript. The transcript reveals the nature of the fears of people like the Omaha group and the difficulty the scientific community has in dealing with those fears.
In the Frontline video resident Dee Hendricks describes the origins of their concerns:

“. . . I knew, instantly, that this was not a normal thing going on. I wondered what it was in my neighborhood or in Omaha that could have possibly caused my son to have cancer, and driving home one night, I noticed that there were huge transmission towers that were scattered throughout the neighborhood.” (From Currents of Fear)

Others in Omaha expressed their outrage and their frustration at the lack of public concern. One was Adrian Dendinger:

“Those are people. My sister, dying of brain cancer. I’ve watched her rot in Mayo Clinic for a year. And then a head of a health department doesn’t come to the meeting? That’s baloney. We get lied to, we get ignored, we have to go get our own information, we have to make our own maps, we have to find out about substations. That is not what our elected officials are for. We’re getting screwed from both sides.” (From Currents of Fear)

The Omaha group went further. Currents of Fear featured a diagram, which I have attempted to simulate in Figure 1. The Omaha group performed a survey, and, in an effort to remove human bias, they correlated the incidence of cancer within postal ZIP codes with the presence of power lines within the zones.

Figure 1. Power lines and ZIP codes

Figure 1 is not the real Omaha diagram, but it will illustrate the point. First, grant either that population densities for the different zones are the same, or else that some compensation is made if they are not. Zones 75044, 75202, 75221, 75234, and 75403 have power lines, and they have a higher average incidence of cancer than 75019, 75066, and 75080, which have no power lines. I will get back to this figure later. The residents considered that this qualified as scientific evidence that cancers were correlated with the presence of power lines.

As mentioned, the scientists were not so quick to pick up on this idea. First of all, there seemed to be no physical basis for a connection. William R. Bennett, Jr., a Ph.D. physicist at Yale University stated on the program:

“The thing that struck me as most puzzling about it is that the fields these people were dealing with are absolutely minuscule. They’re talking about fields of two or three milligauss, fields that are 1/200th or so of the earth’s magnetic fields.” (From Currents of Fear)

Further, the American Physical Society (APS) [see Note] earlier this year released a statement that “purported health effects of power line fields have not been scientifically substantiated, and the cost of mitigation and litigation `is incommensurate with the risk, if any.’” See the sidebar for a full statement from the APS.

Brodeur’s book mentions many instances of fields much higher than this, but still only a fraction of the earth’s magnetic field. Brodeur is not ignorant of this fact, and he has a response:

“There is absolutely no reasonable biological comparison between the earth’s magnetic field, in which we evolved as human beings and which, as some people think is responsible, at least partially, for the way our brains and central nervous systems develop, and the power frequency fields, which have only been with us, really, in a meaningful way for 50, 60, 70 years.” (From Currents of Fear)

Who is right? Obviously Brodeur has not supplied a physical link, and the best physicists in the world have not been able to, either. However, good science tells us that even when a cause-effect relationship is not visible, the presence of a strong statistical correlation hints at some physical connection. Thus, the protesters present their epidemiological studies.

In his book Brodeur cites the results of a recent Swedish study. Epidemiologists there investigated the incidence of cancer among 436,503 people who had lived for at least one year within 1000 feet of Sweden’s high-voltage transmission lines. The results were reported in 1992, and they were astounding. Children exposed to more than one milligauss experienced twice the risk of developing leukemia as children exposed to less than one milligauss. Exposure to more than two milligauss showed three times the risk, and those exposed to more than three milligauss had nearly four times the risk. Results for adults showed correlations for acute myeloid leukemia and chronic myeloid leukemia, but these were judged to be not statistically significant. A study of industrial exposure produced similar findings. In this case correlations with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and brain tumors were demonstrated.

If ever there was a smoking gun, this appeared to be one. However, as Frontline pointed out, something seemed to be wrong with the Swedish statistics. To scientists this seemed to be a case of “the multiple comparisons fallacy.” Quoting John Moulder, Medical College of Wisconsin:

“The problem is, when you do as they did, hundreds and hundreds of comparisons, something in the neighborhood of 800 different comparisons, by the standard way we do statistics, we would expect 5 percent of those to be statistically elevated and 5 percent to be statistically decreased. And now you have a problem. If you find, by one measure of exposure, that leukemia is up in a group of kids, is that real, or is that the result of just random noise in the system?” (From Currents of Fear)

Moulder again:

“It is not scientifically reasonable to do all the measurements, but then only pick out the ones that give you the answer you want for publication. If I dredge through their original report, I can find situations which, looked at in isolation, without looking at the rest of the report, that if that was the only data I gave you, I could claim that that proved that power lines protected children against childhood leukemia.” (From Currents of Fear)

Having said this, I ask you to go back and look at Figure 1. This is what is known in the jargon as a “cancer cluster.” What we have here is a small sample taken in isolation. It is possible that a quirk in the statistics produced the result the Omaha group was looking for. Closer inspection reveals more than was originally stated. Look at ZIP code 75066. Even though the power line runs right along its border, residents there seem not to have been effected. Zone 75234 has one case, but that one is not located very close to the power lines within its boundaries. It is clear that shifting the ZIP code boundaries a few blocks in certain directions would have radically altered the results of the survey.

This is not to say that the Omaha group used invalid methods. Naturally, using the actual proximity to the power lines, as the Swedish study did, would have resulted in a more accurate survey, but something like the ZIP code basis can be made to work, provided the sample is large enough.

Figure 2 shows the result of adding “noise” to some underlying signal. Here the signal might correspond to the actual effects of an environmental factor on health. The noise represents the fact that some people will get the disease even in the absence of the environmental factor, and some people do not get the disease, even in the presence of the environmental factor. In this computer simulation, I made the noise 20 times as large as the underlying signal. The graph shows what one would see if 100 samples are taken. With this “signal to noise” ratio, it is still not possible to see the underlying signal. The signal is just swamped by the random noise.

Figure 2. Noisy data with 100 sample points.

In Figure 3, 10,000 samples have been taken, and now the underlying signal becomes apparent. The effect the Omaha group saw was not this but was the result of finding a pattern within a random sample. If they had been able to duplicate their survey in several thousand additional, independent trials, the pattern they saw would have persisted only if there were a real correlation between presence of the power lines and the disease.

Figure 2. Noisy data with 10,000 sample points

The Frontline program further discussed some recent scientific tests that were conducted under controlled conditions in an attempt to find and measure any link between electromagnetic fields and health. Although the studies used laboratory animals, it is hard to see how the results would be different with people. Here is a summary of some results mentioned on the show:
In a test of whether power line magnetic fields caused fetal abnormalities, no effects were found.
In a study involving 12 litters from three generations of animals bred under magnetic fields, no effect on the reproductive cycle was found.
In two studies using cancer-prone mice, no evidence was found that magnetic fields stimulated lymphoma production.
In a study at the Pacific Northwest Laboratories in Washington State of whether magnetic fields could influence a specific cancer gene, the researchers were unable to replicate the results of an earlier New York study that had produced positive results, even after going to the New York laboratory and using their facilities.
A study to determine if electromagnetic fields affect melatonin levels in humans found no effect.
A study involving pregnant women and electric blankets was negative.
The results of a test involving laboratory rats living their entire life span in electromagnetic fields will be available next year.
It is not likely that these arguments will persuade those affected that their fears are groundless. Quoting John Moulder:

. . . [P]eople are less afraid of risks they think they control, and they’re less afraid of risks that they understand, so the things that people are most afraid of is things they can’t control and don’t understand, and certainly power lines fall right in that category.” (From Currents of Fear)

And still many people have a lack of understanding and a lack of trust in science. They do not see science as something in their everyday lives. Tell one of the Omaha mothers that science cannot explain why her child has cancer, but you are sure it is not because of the power lines. There are places where reason does not intrude.

Author Paul Brodeur is a different matter. Here is a guy who has been around the block a few times, so it is hard for him to claim naiveté.

In the Frontline program he expresses disdain for the physicists who assert there is no link between power line electromagnetic fields and health, and throughout his book points out that these scientists and others are tied to the electric power industry. He reminds us that he is the journalist who first alerted the American public to the dangers of asbestos, and he has now made power lines and electromagnetic fields a crusade of his:

It’s pervasive. You literally have millions of unsuspecting men, women and children exposed to power frequency magnetic fields that have already been associated in dozens upon dozens of studies conducted and published in the peer-reviewed medical literature, levels that are associated with the development of cancer. Never before has there been this much epidemiological evidence of the carcinogenicity of any agent, and that evidence subsequently declared to be invalid, and that agent subsequently declared to be benign.” (From Currents of Fear)

The link between electromagnetic fields and health is a new issue, and it is just beginning to be studied seriously. Early on the proponents of this conjecture were motivated by the cancer cluster studies, and they have received recent encouragement by the Swedish survey and some others. All the while, scientific tests of the EMF-cancer link continue to report negative results.

Interested readers can obtain a complete transcript of the Frontline program for $5 from Journal Graphics, Inc., 1535 Grant Street, Denver, CO 80203-1843. Ask for Frontline Show #1319. A copy of the video can be obtained from PBS Video, 1320 Braddock Place, Alexandria, VA 22314. The July 1995 issue of Physics Today has a follow-up on their previous discussion:

For an analysis of electromagnetic fields in the environment, see William R. Bennett Jr’s Physics Today article Cancer and Power Lines (April 1994, page 23) and letters in response (January 1995, page 13, and March 1995, page 124). A background report by [California Polytechnic State University physics professor David] Hafemeister, as well as the complete text of APS’s statement, can be found through the APS home page on the World Wide Web, http//aps.org/.

Further, the August/September issue of APS News carries two letters critical of the APS stance and the involvement of James Randi on the side of the APS. Robert Park of the University of Maryland has responded to these criticisms in the same issue. I will try to get permission to reprint these letters in a future issue of The Skeptic.

Note: John Blanton is a member of the American Physical Society — Editor

Following is the APS sidebar referenced in the main article:

From the APS

The APS Council approved a statement in April declaring that purported health effects of power line fields have not been scientifically substantiated, and the cost of mitigation and litigation “is incommensurate with the risk, if any.” This is the strongest position on the issue taken by a major scientific society. Since electromagnetic fields (EMFs) were first linked to cancer in 1979, epidemiological evidence has grown ever fainter and proposed mechanisms more speculative. The Council action was a result of several years of discussion and monitoring of the issue by the APS Panel on Public Affairs, and was endorsed by the leaders of the APS Division of Biological Physics. Complete text of the statement follows:
“Physicists are frequently asked to comment on the potential dangers of cancer from electromagnetic fields that emanate from common power lines and electrical appliances. While recognizing that the connection between power line fields and cancer is an area of continuing study by research workers in many disciplines in the United States and abroad, we believe that it is possible to make several observations based on the scientific evidence at this time. We also believe that, in the interest of making the best use of the finite resources available for environmental research and mitigation, it is important for professional organizations to comment on this issue.

The scientific literature and the reports of reviews by other panels show no consistent, significant link between cancer and power line fields. This literature includes epidemiological studies, research on biological systems, and analyses of theoretical interaction mechanisms. No plausible biophysical mechanisms for the systematic initiation or promotion of cancer by these power line fields have been identified. Furthermore, the preponderance of the epidemiological and biophysical/biological research findings have failed to substantiate those studies which have reported specific adverse health effects from exposure to such fields. While it is impossible to prove that no deleterious health effects occur from exposure to any environmental factor, it is necessary to demonstrate a consistent, significant, and causal relationship before one can conclude that such effects do occur. From this standpoint, the conjectures relating cancer to power line fields have not been scientifically substantiated.

These unsubstantiated claims, however, have generated fears of power lines in some communities, leading to expensive mitigation efforts and, in some cases, to lengthy and divisive court proceedings. The costs of mitigation and litigation relating to the power line/cancer connection have risen into the billions of dollars and threaten to go much higher. The diversion of these resources to eliminate a threat which has no persuasive scientific basis is disturbing to us. More serious environmental problems are neglected for lack of funding and public attention, and the burden of cost placed on the American public is incommensurate with the risk, if any.”

For further information contact the APS Washington Office, 529 14th St. NW, Suite 1050, Washington, DC 20045; phone: (202) 662-8700; email: opa@aps.org.

See the item from the APS:

Trio Takes Aim Against Spread of Pseudo-Science

Saving My Worthless Life

So, I developed this chest congestion and a cough. And it stayed on, and on, and on. It just would not go away. So, what did I do?

I did what any modern 21st century person would do. I went to a faith healer. I paid him some money, and he prayed to Jesus to heal me, because if you don’t pay, then Jesus won’t listen to the faith healer’s prayers.

Naw. I didn’t do that. I may be stupid, but I’m not that stupid. I went down to my neighborhood Oriental medicine center and purchased for a small sum a package of an ancient remedy that has been used successfully since the days of the Pharaohs.

Oops. I didn’t do that either. What did I do? Oh, yes. I stopped by my local pharmacist and purchased a modern, 21st century homeopathic remedy. When it comes to healing, nothing beats modern pseudo science.

Of course, I never did any of that. So, what did I really do?

I drove down the street to my family doctor, who obtained his training at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, studies modern scientific medical practices and relies on proven diagnostic and treatment regimen. He first gave me free samples (from the manufacturer) of an inhaler and wrote me a prescription for more of the same, should I require it. He also referred me to a radiological lab to obtain some x-ray images of my chest region.

And I am getting better. After a few days of using the inhaler I could tell the difference. The feeling of intense irritation in my lungs subsided greatly, and the coughing has diminished by 75% (my estimate) in the past two weeks. The doctor’s office phoned me yesterday and told me he had examined my x-rays. He said I had bronchitis (I could have told him that) and mild COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) and that I should fill the prescription that he gave me and continue to take it. I am scheduled for a follow-up visit at the end of this month.

And that’s it in a nut shell. Modern medicine works. Faith healing does not, traditional remedies almost always do not, and pseudo scientific cures such as homeopathy never work. Science is based on determining what works and discarding what does not work. The other three are based on the gullible continuing to return for more of the same worthless treatment. Modern medical science should be a reminder to all of us that we should base our lives on what works rather than on what we wish would work. Now if only we could get our government to operate that way.