Monthly Archives: March 2010

A Real Cure For Blindness?

AT EurekAlert, the online news service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), we read Making the blind see: Gene therapy restores vision in mice. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

Take a look at this: Scientists from Buffalo, Cleveland, and Oklahoma City made a huge step toward making the blind see, and they did it by using a form of gene therapy that does not involve the use of modified viruses. In a research report published in the April 2010 print issue of The FASEB Journal, scientists describe how they used a non-viral, synthetic nanoparticle carrier to improve and save the sight of mice with retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited disease characterized by progressive vision loss and eventual blindness.

Here’s a link to the abstract: Gene delivery to mitotic and postmitotic photoreceptors via compacted DNA nanoparticles results in improved phenotype in a mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa. Let’s read more from EurekAlert:

“We hope the results of our study will be instrumental in generating a cure for the debilitating blindness associated with retinitis pigmentosa and other inherited and acquired retinal diseases,” said Muna I. Naash, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Cell Biology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City. “Compacted DNA nanoparticles are an exciting treatment strategy for these diseases and we look forward to exciting new developments.”

Another excerpt:

“Making the blind see was once called a miracle,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. “As we have expanded our understanding of evolution, genetics, and nanotechnology, chances are that “miraculous” cures will become as commonplace as those claimed by faith-healers past and present.”

Overheard by one of our secret microphones in Seattle: “Evolution? Oh no!”

Here’s the last paragraph from EurekAlert:

According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Rare Diseases Research, retinitis pigmentosa is a group of inherited eye diseases that affect the retina. Retinitis pigmentosa causes cells in the retina to die prematurely, eventually leading to vision loss. There is no cure.

The NIH will update its information soon enough, but a certain “think tank” in Seattle never will.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Texas Theocracy: Gail Lowe Interviewed

SBOE Chairman Gail Lowe

YOU know who Gail Lowe is. She was selected by Texas Governor Rick Perry to be chairman of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE), as successor to Don McLeroy, whose appointment had been rejected by the state Senate. We wrote about it here: Lowe Named Chairman of BOE, and then here: Gail Lowe is McLeroy’s Clone.

Lowe was recently interviewed by the the Southern Baptist TEXAN, and the results are published in the Baptist Press. This is their About Us page. Here are some excerpts from Q&A: Texas board of education chairman. The bold font was added by us:

Board chairman Gail Lowe (R-Lampasas) agreed to answer questions about the new social studies standards, which face a final vote by the 15-member elected board in May. The Texas board’s decisions have a significant influence on textbook content nationally because of the volume of textbooks the state purchases.

Yes, we know all that. Here it comes:

TEXAN: Will the new standards or textbooks include language stating America is a Christian nation founded upon and governed by Christian beliefs, as the Interfaith Alliance alleged in a letter to textbook publishers?

How does the chairman answer? Let’s read on:

LOWE: Nowhere in our social studies curriculum standards is America referred to as a Christian nation, but historians have widely acknowledged that our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles that promote the worth of the individual yet acknowledge man’s sinful nature.

Historians have “widely acknowledged” that? Lowe is probably thinking of David Barton, the “expert” she appointed for his peculiar insights. When your Curmudgeon was in school, the American history textbooks didn’t have a chapter on sin. Perhaps that’s our problem.

We’ll skip the rest of Lowe’s long answer to that question, because it seems to be all fluff. You can click over there to read it if you like. Instead, let’s move on to the next question:

TEXAN: How do you respond to the Interfaith Alliance’s allegation that the conservatives on the board believe “the Founders did not intend for the nation to have separation of church and state”?

Here’s Loew’s answer:

LOWE: A critical priority of the State Board of Education in our revision of the curriculum standards has been to emphasize the founding documents, such as the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution. We believe students need a stronger grasp of the freedoms guaranteed in these documents. The First Amendment very clearly prevents Congress from establishing a national church, but it also promotes the free exercise of religion. Students need to understand that this is what the founders intended. It is inaccurate to say the founding fathers were neutral about religion; most were strong proponents of religious faith but did not believe in a national church controlled by the federal government.

Ah — we never saw the First Amendment spun that way before. It promotes free exercise. Promotes! Yes, that’s the key. You can read it for yourself:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Our eyes have been opened. We see the mandate — the commandment! — to get out there and promote. Okay, moving along to the next question:

TEXAN: Why was Thomas Jefferson removed from the Enlightenment period and where does he appear in the new standards?

And the answer:

LOWE: A proposal had been made to list Jefferson in the world history course with European Enlightenment figures John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu and Jean Jacques Rousseau, who influenced political revolutions from 1750 to the present. Since Thomas Jefferson and his political philosophies are so heavily emphasized in the study of American history and U.S. government courses, members voted not to add this reference in world history so students could devote more time to learning about these additional philosophers.

Thomas Jefferson is taught in Grade 5 as a founding father and patriot hero. … As author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson also will be studied in reference to that pivotal document. The only historical figure mentioned more times than Thomas Jefferson in our curriculum standards is George Washington. There is no way students in Texas will avoid learning of his contributions to our country.

The news was reported differently after the decision was made. See: Embracing the Dark Ages. What shall we believe — the news or the spin?

It’s a long interview, so we’ll just give you one more question and answer:

TEXAN: Is the conservative bloc of the board allowing its religious beliefs to cause it to push an “inaccurate history of our country” and indoctrinate students in right-wing political ideology?

LOWE: The social studies framework is not about religious dogma, church traditions or specific denominational beliefs. To the secular, radical left thinker, however, any mention of religious belief is anathema. It is those voices who are screaming most loudly because they do not want to admit the extent to which religious liberties and religious faith have influenced our country.

Yeah, well, let ‘em scream. Right, Gail?

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Creationism & Bar Codes: Mark of the Beast!

ONCE again, we bring you some cutting-edge creation science from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — the fountainhead of creationist wisdom. This highly informative article appears at their website: Printable Devices Promise Easier Tracking. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Most people are familiar with the barcode labels on items purchased at the store. Silicon-based radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags are another kind of label that has been used for decades to track containers, farm animals, and library books. Now, new nanotube-based tags may replace bar codes and revolutionize the way goods are tracked, shipped, and purchased.

Why does a young-earth creationist outfit like ICR care about a possible replacement for barcode labels? Let’s read on:

Rice University in Houston, Texas, is famous for developing carbon nanospheres, called “buckeyballs,” as well as carbon nanotubes. Researchers there have developed nanotubes for various technologies, and they found that the nanotubes can be activated under a specific radio frequency signal.

Where’s the creationism? Skipping a lot … ah, here it comes:

When UPC bar codes became industry standards in the United States between the 1970s and 1980s, some Christians speculated that the technology could be used to track not just products, but also people. To them, this would make the plain sense reading of several passages in the book of Revelation feasible. Revelation describes an evil world ruler who will masquerade as the Lord Christ reigning on earth, and his government will strictly track and ration buying and selling:

And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. (Revelation 13:16-17)

Whoa! For people who take their scripture literally, we see big problems. Here’s more:

The late Institute for Creation Research founder Henry M. Morris wrote about this passage in his 1983 book The Revelation Record: “The mark is something like an etching or a tattoo which, once inscribed, cannot be removed, providing a permanent identification.” And since there will be three options for this visible identifier — a mark, a name, or a number — this future tracking system seems in context to be enforceable with simple technology.

Hey, they’re quoting Henry Morris: the Ultimate Creationist. This really is serious. The ICR article has only one more paragraph:

Although it is interesting to theorize that some variant of RFID tags could centralize the tracking of people and products, the use of such high technology for the purpose described in Revelation 13 remains speculative.

This is most admirable. The creationists at ICR aren’t yet willing to sound the alarm and spread panic. But there’s certainly cause for concern. What would we do without those guys?

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Discovery Institute: Fossil Gaps Discredit Darwin

YES, dear reader, the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids) have done it again. The Discoveroid blog has another post by Casey Luskin, everyone’s favorite creationist: Smithsonian’s New Human Origins Exhibit Targets Students Who Doubt Darwinism.

Like so many of Casey’s efforts, this is a terribly tangled essay — but it’s worth a glance. It’s actually one of those mirthful moments when it seems as if someone wrote across the cyber sky: Lookin’ for a good time? Read Casey!

Except as indicated, the bold font was added by us. Casey says:

The Smithsonian has a new human origins exhibit, “What does it mean to be human?” specially targeted at swaying student visitors who might doubt Darwinian evolution.

The most amusing part of the exhibit proudly explains that evolution predicted we’d lack evidence for evolution; that’s how we know it’s true! [Bold font in the original.]

We suspect that Casey failed to understand the Smithsonian’s message. But we’re not surprised — misunderstandings are the essence of creationism. Let’s read on:

That’s right, this is how the nation’s most prestigious natural history museum presents evolution: evolution predicts that evolution is supported both when we do and when we don’t find confirming fossil evidence.

Okay, Casey, you’ve made your claim. Now let’s see if you can back it up. We continue:

Consider the following from the educator’s guide:

[Casey quotes the guide:] Misconception: Gaps in the fossil record disprove evolution.

Response: Science actually predicts gaps in the fossil record. Many species leave no fossils at all, and the environmental conditions for forming good fossils are not common. The chance of any individual organism becoming fossilized is incredibly small. Nevertheless, new fossils are constantly being discovered. These include many transitional fossils — e.g., intermediary fossils between birds and dinosaurs, and between humans and our primate ancestors. Our lack of knowledge about certain parts of the fossil record does not disprove evolution.

That couldn’t be more clear — to a rational mind. Although many transitional fossils have been found (which shouldn’t exist at all according to creationism), gaps in the record are inevitable. How could Casey fail to grasp the point? We don’t know, but he does. He even drives home his “point”:

Did you get that? Ignoring the fact that transitional fossils are often missing even among taxa whose records are very complete, now Darwin’s defenders argue that their theory “predicts gaps in the fossil record.” How convenient!

Here’s another excerpt from this monument of misunderstanding:

What’s ironic, however, is that if you ask the question How Do We Know Humans Evolved? the answer you’re given is, “Fossils like the ones shown in our Human Fossils Gallery provide evidence that modern humans evolved from earlier humans.” So whether you find fossils or you don’t, that’s evidence for evolution.

What can we say about such a mentality? Nothing, really. Like an exhibit at a circus sideshow, it’s sufficient to take a look, shudder, and then carry on.

But there’s more! Casey then rambles about the incomplete record of human evolution. We’ll skip that and go right to the end:

I guess according to the Smithsonian’s exhibit, this large, unbridged gap is just more evidence for evolution.

So there you are, dear reader. The “think tank” in Seattle strikes again. Thanks for another good time, Casey.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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