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Why God’s in a Class by Himself

August 2005

Intelligent Design (ID) creationism has resurfaced in the news again after President George W. Bush’s remarks were (mis)taken by IDers to be a solid endorsement by the president for the teaching of ID in public school science classrooms. (Bush’s science adviser, John H. Marburger 3rd, said in a telephone interview that “evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology” and “intelligent design is not a scientific concept.”)

There was considerable media hype over the story, and I did a number of interviews, including a query from a reporter who asked for my opinion about whether one can believe in God and the theory of evolution. (continue reading…)

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Full of Holes

August 2005
The curious case of acupuncture
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John Marino was the most driven man I ever met, a monomaniac on a mission to break the U.S. transcontinental cycling record — which he did in 1980, covering the 3,000 miles in 12 days, three hours. I wanted to be like John, so that year I took up serious cycling. In addition to pedaling hundreds of miles a week with him, I followed his training regimen of vegetarian meals, megavitamin dosing, fasting, colonics, mud baths, iridology (iris reading), negative ions, chiropractic, massage and acupuncture.

Although most of the nostrums I tried were useless, I noted with interest (because he beat me) that Jonathan Boyer, the winner of the 1985 Race Across America (co-founded by Marino and me), had a Chinese acupuncturist on his support crew. Given the successes of Marino and Boyer, it seemed possible that there might be a biomedical connection.

Traditional Chinese medicine holds that a life energy called Qi (“chee”) flows through meridians in the body; each of the 12 main meridians represents a major organ system. On these 12 meridians are 365 acupuncture points, one for each day of the year. When yin and yang are out of balance, Qi can become blocked, leading to illness. Inserting needles at blocked points — believed to number about 1,000 — supposedly stimulates healing and health. (continue reading…)

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Hope Springs Eternal

July 2005
Can nutritional supplements, biotechnology and nanotechnology help us live forever?
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As a skeptic, I am often asked my position on immortality. “I’m for it, of course,” is my wiseacre reply.

Unfortunately, every one of the 100 billion humans who have ever lived has died, so the outlook does not bode well. Unless you follow the trend line generated by Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman in Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever (Rodale, 2004): “The rate of technical progress is doubling every decade, and the capability (price performance, capacity, and speed) of specific information technologies is doubling every year. Because of this exponential growth, the 21st century will equal 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate of progress.” Within a quarter of a century, the authors say, “nonbiological intelligence will match the range and subtlety of human intelligence,” then “soar past it because of the continuing acceleration of information-based technologies, as well as the ability of machines to instantly share their knowledge.” Biotechnologies, such as designer drugs and genetic engineering, will halt the aging process; nanotechnologies, such as nanorobots, will repair and replace cells, tissues and organs (including brains), reversing the aging process and allowing us to live forever. (continue reading…)

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Woodstock of Evolution

July 2005

Charles Darwin famously described the origin of species as the “mystery of mysteries,” a phrase he cribbed from the astronomer John Herschel, whom Darwin visited in Capetown, South Africa during the five-year round-the-world voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle. The meeting happened a few months after Darwin departed the Galapagos islands, at which point he had not yet solved the “grand mystery,” despite the myth that Darwin first understood the mechanism of evolution in this magnificent archipelago. (continue reading…)

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Why I Am An Atheist

June 2005

I am an atheist. There, I said it. Are you happy, all you atheists out there who have remonstrated with me for adopting the agnostic moniker? If “atheist” means someone who does not believe in God, then an atheist is what I am. (continue reading…)

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