In 1981, John Brown, a new convert from Catholicism to born-again Christianity, heard evangelist Jim Spillman preach about the "treasure map in the Bible." Brown believes God has given him divine inspiration to use the map to make Israel energy independent. Genesis 49:25, says God "shall bless thee with blessings from heaven above [and] blessings of the deep that lieth under..." The deep blessing, Brown believes, is oil. Deuteronomy 33:24 says "let Asher be blessed with children...and let him dip his foot in oil." These passages lead Brown to a site in Maanit north of Tel Aviv where he believes that he will find oil, according to reports in USA Today (May 19, 2005) and the Associated Press (June 6, 2005).

Brown, a former executive in a Michigan tool company with no previous experience in the oil industry, founded the Zion Oil & Gas Company. He spent two decades raising $7 million investment money, mostly from other evangelicals, for his drilling operation. According to Brown, the "head of Joseph" referred to in Genesis is in the Maanit site. From a map of ancient Israeli tribes showing the northern coast territories of Jacob's son Asher, "You see the foot?" he asks, pointing to a foot-like tip of land along the Mediterranean. "Our license is just below that. See he's dipping his foot in oil," Brown is quoted by USA Today. Zion Oil has recently started drilling.

Oil industry geologists say some characteristics at the drilling site make it "intriguing." More than 450 test holes have been drilled in Israel since 1947, however, without finding any substantial oil fields.

The June 2005 Acts and Facts, monthly publication of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), reports ICR participated in a Christian leaders conference in April. Among the topics discussed was the age of the Earth, where efforts were made to find common ground among various religious leaders. Young Earth creationists believe that a recent creation is "crucial in understanding the nature of God, of man, of sin, and salvation," wrote John Morris, President of ICR. In his article, Morris laments that most religious leaders hold an old-earth view, consider the Genesis creation story allegory, and accept the scientific findings of evolution.

At the end of the two-day conference, Morris writes, "each participant was asked to identify ... what they would require to change that perspective. Each creationist felt the scientific evidence for the young earth was persuasive, but they would change if convinced that Scripture clearly taught long ages. To them, Scripture provides the framework in which scientific data is interpreted, not the other way around."

Morris chastised other religious leaders who accept evolution and an old Earth for allowing "Secular interpretations of scientific information [to] hold more credence than Scripture."

Europe's Kansas? Holland's minister of science and education Maria van der Hoeven wants to "stimulate an academic debate" on intelligent design, according to a report in Science (June 3, 2005, p.394). She got the idea from nanophysicist Cees Dekker "who believes that the idea of design in nature is 'almost inescapable'."

According to the report, Van der Hoeven, a Catholic in the Christian-Democratic party, wrote on her weblog, "what unites Muslims, Jews and Christians is the notion that there is a creator. ...If we succeed in connecting scientists from different religions, it might even be applied in schools and lessons. A few of my civil servants will talk further with Dekker about how to shape this debate." Since making this announcement, she has been by criticized by scientists, compared to Kansas education board members, and accused of "blurring the line between church and state." In an editorial, the NRC Handelsblad asked, "Does she want to go back the Dark Ages?" In Kansas, however, John Calvert, managing director of the Intelligent Design Network in Shawnee Mission, said, "I think it's a dynamite idea."

Have you fallen victim to the "First Instinct Fallacy"? It is commonly believed that when taking a multiple-choice exam it is best to stay with your first choice rather than switch your answer. According to Kruger et al. (J. of Pers. Soc. Psychol. 2005, 88:725) who examined 2000 undergraduate psychology tests for eraser marks indicating switched answers, students were twice as likely to switch to a correct answer than to an incorrect answer. This replicates results from other empirical studies.

Kruger et al. follow-up studies show the "First Instinct Fallacy" persists because we remember the negative emotion of giving up a right answer more than we remember having chosen a wrong answer first both instances result in an incorrect answer. Our memory retrieval process fools us into believing that our first answer is more likely to be correct.

Florida State University faculty opposed the establishment of a School of Chiropractic and its $9 million per year state funding as part of the university. The state Board of Governors rejected the proposal 10 to 3 on January 27, 2005. Had the proposal passed, it "would have been the first chiropractic school in the country affiliated with a major public university," writes Gary Posner, MD, and founder of the Tampa Bay Skeptics, in the TBS Report (Spring 2005).

Posner writes: "Leading the opposition among the FSU's faculty was Dr. Ray Bellamy, an orthopedic surgeon, who characterized chiropractic as 'almost fraudulent...It is deluding the public when you give a doctor's degree to this person.' He added, 'Other than for low back pain ... almost everything they do [can be attributed to] bed-side manner and placebo effect ... From a scientific standpoint, all of the [benefits beyond] placebo could be taught in a one-semester [physical therapy] course'."

According to Posner, other doctors opposing the affiliation with chiropractic mentioned injuries from neck manipulations, the riskiness of treating diseases such as diabetes and asthma as interruptions in nerve flow, and the lack of scientific basis for chiropractic subluxation theory.

Copyright (c) 2006 Oregonians For Rationality