Intelligent Design Gets a Boost

The small Pennsylvania town of Dover has become the latest battleground in the creation/evolution war. If it survives a legal test, this school district of 2800 children could become the first in the US to require that high school science teachers at least mention “intelligent design” (ID) theory (Dominion Post, 31 December). In October, the board passed this motion: “Students will be made aware of gaps and problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of Life is not taught.”

“The school board has taken the measured step of making students aware that there are other view-points on evolution of species,” said Richard Thompson, of the Thomas More Law Center, which represents the board and describes its overall mission as “defending the religious freedom of Christians.”

Board members have been less guarded, and their comments go well beyond the intelligent design theory. “If the Bible is right, God created us,” said Assemblies of God pastor John Rowand, a board member. “If God did it, it’s history, and it’s also science.”

Eleven parents have, however, joined the American Civil Liberties Union and filed suit in federal court seeking to block mention of ID in high school biology. “It’s not science, it’s a theocratic idea,” said Bryan Rehm, a former Dover science teacher. “We don’t have enough time for science in the classroom as it is — this is just inappropriate.” When applying unsuccessfully for a position on the board, Rehm said he was subjected to a barrage of questions, including whether he was a child abuser.

The battle is being fought in many parts of the US. In Charles County, Maryland, school board members recently suggested discarding biology textbooks “biased towards evolution.” In Cobb County, Georgia, the school board ordered that stickers be placed inside textbook covers stating: “Evolution is a theory, not a fact.”

Intelligent design argues structures such as cells are too complex to be accounted for by natural processes. Though its proponents insist it is science, Brown University biologist and textbook author Kenneth Miller said it was very clear ID had become a stalking horse for creationism. “If these school boards had their druthers, they would teach Noah’s flood and the 6000-year-old design of the Earth. My fear is that they are making real headway in the popular imagination.”

Creation Museum almost ready to go

Meanwhile Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, who makes no bones about being an old-style, Young Earth creationist, is about to achieve his dream of opening a US$25 million Museum of Creation in Kentucky this northern spring (Dominion Post, 7 January).

“Visitors are going to be hit by the professionalism of this place,” said Ham. “It’s not going to be done in an amateurish way. We are making a statement.”

Displays will include a model Tyrannosaurus pursuing Adam and Eve — “that’s the real terror that Adam’s sin unleashed” — and a reconstruction of the interior of Noah’s Ark. “You will hear the water lapping, feel the Ark rocking and perhaps even hear people screaming.” Yeah, smite those evil-doers.

Good times foreseen for Japanese clairvoyants

Japanese women’s concerns for the future are driving a boom in psychic services in the land of the rising sun (Dominion Post, 31 December). Helping to fuel the trend is a wave of daytime television shows that scare housewives with horror stories about health and relationships, then introduce them to the mysteries of the supernatural to calm their nerves.

Other hugely popular programmes invite astrologers and psychics to help solve real crimes that have baffled the police. One such seer claims to have been regularly approached by police, company presidents and, in the run-ups to elections, politicians wanting their fortunes told.

Ken Kitashiba, a former police psychologist, said, “It’s true. I really have seen the police station chief heading off with some gift to seek supernatural advice on a crime.” Along the famous Ginza in Tokyo clairvoyants charge up to NZ$70 for a 10-minute session. “Miss Tiger”, a palmist in her early 70s, says the rise in women wanting their services was understandable. “Women talk less to their parents than they used to, so their reaction is to turn to us for guidance.”

Acupuncture the new Botox?

Sticking needles in your ankles might not seem like an obvious way to rid your face of wrinkles, but acupuncture facelifts are now available in the US (Dominion Post, 6 November). A series of 10 hour long appointments will set you back about US$1500, but this is supposed to last six months or more. By comparison, Botox injections cost several hundred dollars for a treatment which lasts about three months, and “traditional” surgical facelifts cost US$5-20,000, but last for years.

“It’s better than going under the knife, that’s for sure,” said 54-year-old acupuncture client Barbara Leivent, who blamed her wrinkles on “worrying if I should get Botox or not.” However American Society of Plastic Surgery president Scott Spear said acupuncture may help with pain but such facelifts had not been shown to be effective or long lasting.

Chiropractic School for Florida University?

New Zealand is not the only place where alternative medicine is being looked at seriously at the highest levels. Florida State University is seriously considering establishing a chiropractic college, the first at a US public university (, 17 January). Many staff are upset at what they see as a threat to the university’s academic reputation. Some have been circulating a parody map of the campus of the future, featuring a Bigfoot Institute, a School of Astrology and a Crop Circle Simulation Laboratory.

Still more mediums

Psychic superstar Colin Fry’s visit to this country in November was marked in the Dominion Post (19 November) with a fullpage feature. Apparently once described in a New Zealand magazine as the Robbie Williams of mediumship, there is, writes journalist Tom Cardy, a rock star aura around Fry. He fills major venues and in October staged a show at the London Palladium.

Fry said his TV show, Sixth Sense with Colin Fry, came about after he was approached by an independent producer, who allowed him a lot of input into how the show should be presented. It has been very popular in this country, and generated a lot of buzz — and ticket sales — for this, his first tour here.

Sometimes, Fry says, he does literally see dead people; other times he only hears them. “But a lot of the time it’s a sense. It’s a feeling of some spirit temporarily sharing some aspect of your mind and you get some sense of either their memories, their feelings, their communication.”

Not all spirits are good communicators, which he says makes things a bit more difficult. “The big mistake that people make is that they think we can call them up, and we can’t. They connect to us, we don’t connect to them.”

Fry said he knew that for everyone who believes him, there’s an equal number who believe he’s either fooling himself or he’s a fake. “I don’t actually convince anybody. I just do what I do. People must make of it what they will. The hardened sceptic you’ll never convince. It doesn’t matter what you do. They’ll never be convinced because they don’t want to be. They feel safe in their fixed opinion that there’s nothing in it.”

Hey! Look! He’s talking about us!

Colourful spin-offs of Cross-wiring

People who see colourful auras around others could have faulty wiring in their brain, according to a University College London psychologist (Guardian Weekly, 29 October – 4 November). Jamie Ward, whose study of a woman known as GW is published in the journal Cognitive Neuropsychology, says the aura suggests a rare condition known as emotion-colour synaesthesia.” A popular notion is that some people have a magical ability to detect the hidden emotions of others by seeing a powerful ‘aura’ or energy field that they give off,” says Ward. “Our study suggests a different interpretation. These colours do not reflect hidden energies being given off by other people; rather they are created entirely in the brain of the beholder.”

According to the paper’s abstract, GW perceived colours around words which had emotional significance for her, such as names of people she knew, or which had an emotional connotation, such as “love”.

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