for November/December 2008

Flip-Flop Textbook Errors.  We have mentioned from time to time the fact that the Mel Gabler Institute in Texas has reviewed and found massive errors and bias in high school books, many of them promoting atheistic views.  Now a government book titled American Government Institutions and Policies, 10th Edition, published by Houghton Mifflin Company has stirred up complaints among skeptics and atheists because of its inaccuracies and pro-fundamentalist views.  The book claims that global warming evidence is unreliable, that prayer in a public school is illegal, and that colonists wrote the constitution as they did because of their belief in original sin.  Skeptics are complaining about what they view as fundamentalist bias on the part of the authors, who by the way are a Pepperdine professor and a former director of the Bush administrations faith-based initiative.  It is hard to write a textbook that will please everyone, but it is interesting to see atheists and skeptics being the ones who have the complaint this time.  By the way, prayer in the public school is legal it just cannot be compulsory or led by a teacher.  Source:  Skeptical Inquirer, July/August 2008, page 7.

Phoenix Lights--Another UFO Scam.  The number of UFO claims seems to be dropping rapidly, and one of the most recent claims will contribute to a continuance of that trend.  On April 21, 2008, hundreds of residents in Phoenix reported four or five bright red lights hovering over the city.  Many stories developed about the lights, but it has now been confirmed that a local huckster tied road flares to helium balloons and released them at one minute intervals.  A neighbor of the man has confirmed the incident and what caused it.  We need to remember that UFO means unidentified flying objects, meaning we do not know what it is.  UFO does not mean that little green men are flying around manipulating us and using us for some bizarre plot they are hatching.  Source:  The Business Journal of Phoenix, April 22, 2008.  Available at with a follow-up story at

Gene complexity and Humanness.  Why are humans so different than every other life form on this planet?  What gives us our creativity, our inventiveness, our communication skills, etc.  That question has been batted around for a long time, and as the human genome was mapped out in recent years many people felt the unique complexity of the human genome would answer these questions.  It turns out that humans do not have more genes than other forms of life.  In fact, humans have fewer than 25,000 genes, roughly the same as a fruit fly or a roundworm.  What IS different about humans is the interactions that take place among proteins.  Human genes interact in roughly 650,000 different ways which is ten times more than a fruit fly and three times that of a roundworm.  These interactions allow for the massive diversity and complexity seen in the human species.  These interactions also involve RNA and other parts of the gene machinery.  Michael Stumpf summarized the complexity of the system by saying "It's much, much more than just the organization of protein interactions.  There's so much we don't know."  When you have such enormous complexity in something as basic as the gene pool that controls heredity, it is obvious that trying to explain its creation on a chance basis also becomes something that we know very little about, and in fact is probably an inadequate explanation of how life came to be on this planet.  Source:  Science News, June 7, 2008, page 10.

Enceladus Comet Like.  One of the moons of Saturn named Enceladus has been studied by the Cassini spacecraft as it flew within 120 miles of the surface of this unusual moon.  As it did so it found Enceladus was jetting plumes of gas in the same way comets do.  The plume contained water vapor, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and organic material--some twenty times denser than scientists had expected.  There may be a connection between the debris found in the distant parts of the solar system and the moons orbiting our Jovian planets.  Astronomical sources of organic material have great interest to scientists and may have some interesting connections to the geologic history of the earth.  Source:  Astronomy, July 2008, page 26.

Hippies Are Not Growing Out of It.  Those of us who lived through the 1960s used to say of the bizarre things that were being done by us and our peers that we would all grow out of it.  Some of us matured to the point of becoming responsible self-supporting adults.  However, a recent study reported in Scientific American (May 2008, page 22) indicates that drug indulgences have continued for many baby boomers.  Emergency room treatment for cocaine abuse has risen from 1400 in 1995 to almost 5000 in 2002, an increase of 240 percent.  Heroin use rose 160 percent, marijuana use rose 467 percent, and amphetamine rose 700 percent in the same period.  Admissions to illicit drug use in the past 12 months rose from 2.7 percent in 2002 to 4.4 percent in 2005.  The same study reports that the physical effects of alcohol and these drugs have "devastating consequences."  All attempts to justify the use of drugs of all kinds including alcohol fly in the face of the evidence.

EPA Scientists Have Political Interference.  A questionnaire distributed to 5,500 EPA scientists received 1,586 responses in which 60 percent of them said they had experienced political interference during the past five years.  Rep. Henry Waxman said that there was a pattern of ignoring and manipulating science to affect risk assessment and the crafting of regulations.  Source:  From an AP release which can be viewed at

Another Ghost Busted.  In our obsession with wacky news today, any claim of a ghost gets front page attention, but when it is explained away it rarely gets in the paper at all.  In June 2006 a surveillance camera on the Sante Fe courthouse revealed a glowing spot drifting in front of a patrol car.  When it was put on YouTube it generate 132,000 hits with a general consensus that it was a ghost.  Benjamin Radford an investigator specializing in bizarre claims has shown that the ghost was lady bugs crawling across the lens of the camera.  It was glowing because of the morning sun hitting the lens at a low angle.  It is blurry because of how close it was to the camera.  Like bigfoot, crop circles, psychic claims, the Loch Ness monster, and UFOs we have a case of when people do not believe in something they will believe anything.

ANNOUNCING THE DOES GOD EXIST? 2009 CANYONLANDS TRIP.  WHAT:  A bus tour of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Petrified Forest, and Zion national parks, Lowell Observatory, and Meteor Crater with John Clayton, Alan Doty, and Mark Story.  A Christian experience of instruction and devotionals in one of America’s great natural areas.  WHEN:  September 13 –18, 2009.  HOW MUCH:  From $549 (three or four in a room) to $898 for single occupancy.  The cost covers the bus trip, all motels, breakfasts, instructional materials, park fees, IMAX presentation, and the final dinner.  The cost does not include lunch and dinner, tips, spending money.  No money is given to John Clayton or Does God Exist?  WHO:  Anyone over the age of eight.  The ability to walk is not an issue.  Hiking is available, but not compulsory.  For more information and an itinerary contact John Clayton at, 1555 Echo Valley Drive, Niles MI 49120, or 269-687-9426.  Or contact Queenslander Tours at or 877-865-6711.

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