Re: [asa] Conservative Christianity and Evolution

From: Janice Matchett <>
Date: Fri Feb 02 2007 - 12:35:30 EST

At 12:05 PM 2/2/2007, PvM wrote:

>Various interesting lectures at
>Including Eugenie Scott's "Conservative Christianity and
>Evolution" A lecture in the SUNY-Cortland series, "Fundamentally
>Speaking". Dr. Scott will define "conservative Christian", and
>discuss how conservative Christianity, usually considered hostile to
>evolution, nonetheless has adherents who accept evolution and see it
>as part of God's creative plan -- a theological view known as
>"theistic evolution" which is usually associated with Catholics and
>mainstream Christians. ~ Pim

@ Has she done any lectures about the religious
Gaia fundamentalists that believe stuff like this?

Some radical political environmentalists who accept some form of the
Gaia theory call themselves
<>Gaians. They actively seek
to restore the Earth's homeostasis - whenever they see it out of
balance, e.g. to prevent manmade
<>climate change,
extinction, or
loss. In effect, they seek to cooperate to 'become' the "system
consciously manipulating to make conditions more conducive to life".
Such activity 'defines' the homeostasis, but for leverage it relies
on deep investigation of the homeorhetic balances, if only to find
to intervene in a system which is changing in undesirable ways.

Tony Bondhus brings up the point in his book,
<>Society of
Conceivia, that if Gaia is alive, than societies are living things as
well. This suggests that our understanding of Gaia can be used to
create a better society and to design a better political system.

<>Gaians are attempting to
create a new ideology which fuses conclusions from science and
politics; they see this as a
<>protoscience of
<>human ecology.
These ideas include the idea of humans as the
species, say act to prevent
<>climate change,
extinction, etc., and might deliberately maintain the balances of the
entire <>biosphere with
their own cognition.

Gaians do not passively ask "what is going on", but rather, "what to
do next", e.g. in
<>terraforming or
engineering or even on a small scale as
<>gardening. Changes
could thus be planned, consented to by many people, and very
deliberate, as in
<>urban ecology and
ecology. See <>arcology
for more on this 'active' view.

Gaians argue that it is a human
<>duty to act as such -
committing themselves in particular to the
Principle. Such views began to influence the
<>Green Parties,
<>Greenpeace, and a few
more radical wings of the
movement such as the Gaia Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation
Front. These views dominate some such groups, e.g. the
<>Bioneers. Some refer to
this political activity as a separate and radical branch of the
movement, one that takes the axioms of the science of ecology in
general, and Gaia theory in particular, and raises them to a kind of
theory of
conduct or <>moral code.

NOTE: More to add in regards to (1) the terraforming of Mars as an
"offspring" of Gaia, and (2) the Internet as the Gaian nervous system.

Or, has she done any lectures on how highly educated Ph.Ds could fall
for such fundie-kook stuff as this?

 From the Fall 1991 issue of ScienceWriters:
The Newsletter of the National Association of Science Writers
The Maharishi Caper: Or How to Hoodwink Top Medical Journals
by Andrew A. Skolnick

 From time to time, even the most prestigious science journals
publish erroneous or fraudulent data, unjustified conclusions, and
sometimes balderdash. Balderdash was the right word when The Journal
of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published the article,
"Maharishi Ayur-Veda: Modern Insights Into Ancient Medicine," in its
May 22/29 issue. Discovering that they had been deceived by the
article's authors, the editors published a correction in the August
14 issue, which was followed on October 2 by a six-page expose on the
people who had hoodwinked them.

By reporting its mistake in this lengthy report and drawing the
media's attention to it with a news release, JAMA made itself an easy
target, even drawing some friendly fire from Physician's Weekly and
Science. As the person who discovered JAMA's error and wrote the
expose, I also think the journal deserves some praise.

The Maharishi Ayur-Veda article was ostensibly about the traditional
healing system of India known as Ayurveda. It was published in JAMA's
international health theme issue as a "Letter From New Delhi" outside
the journal's "main well" for scientific papers. The authors, Deepak
Chopra, MD, president of the American Association of Ayurvedic
Medicine, Lancaster, Mass., Hari M. Sharma, MD, professor of
pathology at Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, and
Brihaspati Dev Triguna, an Ayurvedic practitioner in New Delhi,
India, represented themselves as disinterested authorities and had
signed a statement that they were not affiliated with any
organization that could profit by the publication of their article.
(JAMA's conflict-of-interest policy requires authors of accepted
manuscripts to declare all such connections.)

Subsequent investigation showed they were intimately involved with
the complex network of organizations that promote and sell the
products and services about which they wrote. They misrepresented
Maharishi Ayur-Veda as India's ancient system of healing, rather than
what it is, a trademark line of "alternative health" products and
services marketed since 1985 by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Hindu
swami who founded the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi began his rise to fame and great fortune in the
1960s when the Beatles rock group briefly joined his following of
worshipers. Today the guru rules an empire estimated to be worth
billions of dollars and has many thousands of devoted followers, some
of whom are prominent in science, medicine, education, and the news,
information, and entertainment media.

The TM movement is considered a religious cult by a number of
authorities, including Cynthia Kisser, executive director of the Cult
Awareness Network. According to long-time watchers of the movement,
Maharishi Ayur-Veda is the latest of the Maharishi's schemes to boost
the declining numbers of people taking TM courses through which he
recruits new members. The movement also stands to reap millions of
dollars through the sale of its herbal remedies, oils, teas, aromas,
healing gems, Hindu horoscopes, books, tapes, and numerous services
that carry the Maharishi's name.

Copies Already in the Mail

I first saw the Maharishi Ayur-Veda article four days prior to the
publication date, when hundreds of thousands of copies were already
in the mail. At the time, I didn't know anything about Maharishi's
medical claims, but I was aware that the TM movement widely uses
deception to promote its $3000 courses in TM-Sidhi or "yogic flying."
TM promoters claim that, by mastering this technique, people can
develop the ability to walk through walls, make themselves invisible,
develop the "strength of an elephant," reverse the aging process, and
fly through the air without the benefit of machines.

In addition, TM promoters claim that by yogic flying in large groups
they can prevent bad weather, traffic fatalities, and even war.

Former members of the movement say that the practice of TM- Sidhi
involves repeating a series of Hindu mantras during meditation
followed by several minutes of hopping up and down in the
crossed-legged "lotus" position. Adherents claim that they are not
hopping but levitating and that they have hundreds of scientific
studies to prove it.

I called Stephen Barrett, MD, and William Jarvis, PhD, of the
National Council Against Health Fraud and asked what information they
had about Maharishi Ayur-Veda. What they told me made it clear that
JAMA had been duped. After poring through the promotional TM
materials they sent and talking with several former TMers, I reported
my findings to George Lundberg, MD, editor of JAMA and suggested that
we expose the authors and the movement they represent in a JAMA
Medical News & Perspectives story. I was given the assignment, which
took me almost 3 months to complete. The resulting article,
"Maharishi Ayur-Veda: Guru's Marketing Scheme Promises World Eternal
`Perfect Health'," was published on October 2.

Unusually long for Medical News & Perspectives, the expose on the
marketing of Maharishi Ayur-Veda documents a widespread pattern of
misinformation, deception, and manipulation of lay and scientific
news media. This campaign appears to be aimed at earning at least the
look of scientific respectability for the TM movement, while boosting
the sales of their extremely lucrative products and services. (One
example is the herbal elixir known as Maharishi Amrish Kalash, which
costs $1000 for a year's supply.

Chopra says everyone should take the cure/prevent-all twice a day.
Chopra claims their health care is far more cost-effective than
conventional medicine. However, the annual cost of just this one
Maharishi Ayur-Veda product is equivalent to 40% of the average
per-capita expenditure on all health care in the United States in
1989. The other products and services he recommends just to maintain
health would cost thousands of dollars more each year. However, this
pales compared with the cost of Maharishi Ayur-Veda treatments in
case of actual illness, which can exceed $10,000 for the performance
of a ceremony to appease the gods or or for the purchase of Jyotish
gems to restore their health.

Upon discovering the deception, JAMA requested from the authors a
full account of their connections to TM organizations. The confusing
statement they provided was published as a financial disclosure
correction on August 14 and represents only what the authors
admitted. While it appears to hold the record in terms of length for
a financial disclosure correction in the journal, the account is
still incomplete. Among other things, Chopra did not acknowledge that
he collects hundreds of thousands of dollars from his seminars on
Maharishi Ayur-Veda and by providing Maharishi Ayur-Veda treatments.
(According to David Perlman's October 2 San Francisco Chronicle
article, Chopra claims he gives 50% to 70% of his fees to the
movement.) He also did not report that he had been the sole stock
holder, president, treasurer, and clerk of Maharishi Ayur-Veda
Products International, Inc (MAPI), the sole distributor of Maharishi
Ayur-Veda products. Although he no longer holds these titles, Chopra
still has the same office address and phone number as MAPI.

Peer Review Not Foolproof

JAMA's publication of the Maharishi Ayur-Veda article brought a hail
of angry letters from readers (also published in the October 2 issue)
along with some snickers from other publications. In its November 11
issue, Physician's Weekly published an account of JAMA getting
"flimflammed by a swami." The October 11 issue of Science knocked
JAMA for publishing "shoddy science" and getting itself into an
"Indian herbal jam."

Science writers know that the peer-review system of scientific
publications is not foolproof. Drummond Rennie, MD, deputy editor
(West) of JAMA has written: "There seems to be no study too
fragmented, no hypothesis too trivial, no literature too biased or
too egotistical, no design too warped, no methodology too bungled, no
presentation of results too inaccurate, too obscure, and too
contradictory, no analysis too self-serving, no argument too
circular, no conclusions too trifling or too unjustified, and no
grammar and syntax too offensive for a paper to end up in print."
Peer review determines where rather than whether a paper should be
published, Rennie says. However, from time to time, "shoddy science"
ends up in the most prestigious of journals.

It may be hard to understand how a system so effective in sifting out
errors in experimental design, statistical analyses, and faulty
conclusions could fail to catch blatant deceit.

However, errors are usually easier to spot than outright deceit.
Journals do not have the staff and resources to investigate
contributing authors and must rely in large part on trust. Obviously,
failure to disclose their conflicts of interest is a serious betrayal
of that trust.

The editors who handled the Maharishi Ayur-Veda manuscript did not
know about the history of deception associated with the TM movement,
but they did know that two of the three authors had excellent medical
and academic credentials. In addition, the authors were able to cite
studies that were published in peer- review journals to support their
claims. (One study listed in their references was published in the
prestigious Yale University publication, The Journal of Conflict
Resolution [December 1988]. This study purported to show that a group
of yogic fliers in Israel was able to reduce the level of violence in
war-torn Lebanon.) They also could point to the National Cancer
Institute research grants awarded Sharma and others to study the
herbal elixir, Maharishi Amrit Kalash.

Few people are aware of how far the TM movement has been able to
penetrate into the halls of medicine and academia. According to the
letterhead for the American Association of Ayurvedic Medicine, its
research council and advisory council include physicians at many
prestigious medical schools and institutions. Sharma is professor of
pathology and director of the Division of Cancer Prevention and
Natural Products Research at Ohio State University College of
Medicine. Others associated with Chopra include Steele Belok, MD, and
Amy Silver, MD, both clinical instructors at Harvard Medical School;
Agnes Lattimer, MD, medical director of Cook County Hospital in
Chicago; Kelvin O. Lim, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry and
behavioral science, Stanford University School of Medicine; Barry
Marmorstein, MD, associate professor, University of Washington School
of Medicine; S.M. Siram, MD, director of the Surgical Intensive Care
Unit and Trauma at Howard University School of Medicine.

With the help of such well-placed physicians and academicians, the TM
movement has been able to project a respectable front in its scheme
to market Maharishi Ayur-Veda. In June, the American College of
Preventive Medicine accredited Maharishi Ayur-Veda courses for
Continuing Medical Education for physicians, for the second time. The
National Cancer Institute is currently funding 11 studies testing the
anti-cancer potential of the concoction of herbs and minerals called
Maharishi Amrit Kalash -- even though its exact composition has not
been revealed. The National Institutes of Health allows its
facilities to be used for monthly introductory seminars on Maharishi
Ayur-Veda. And for years, U.S colleges and universities have allowed
their facilities to be used by the TM movement to teach yogic flying.

JAMA'S Goof Not Unique

The TM movement has an extremely aggressive p.r. operation with a
remarkable record in getting favorable reports in newspapers,
magazines, and the broadcast media. Like mushrooms after a spring
rain, articles on Chopra, TM, and the Maharishi's medicines keep
popping up in places like The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal,
The Washington Post, and even American Medical News (also published
by the American Medical Association). Favorable reviews of Chopra's
books on Maharishi Ayur-Veda have appeared in many leading medical
journals. Joanne Silberner, medical reporter for U.S. News and World
Report, says that Dean Draznin, former director of public affairs for
Maharishi Ayur-Veda, used to call her about twice a month with
another angle to pitch.

In August, Johns Hopkins Magazine published an uncritical profile on
Nancy Lonsdorf, MD, medical director of the Maharishi Ayur-Veda
Medical Center in Washington, DC. Lonsdorf is the physician who, in a
fund-raising letter distributed to members of the TM community, is
described as having recommended a $11,500 yagya for a patient with a
serious health problem. The Maharishi's yagyas are Hindu ceremonies
to appease the gods and beseech their help for ailing followers.

Despite the extraordinary costs of these ceremonies, patients do not
take part or even get to see them performed. (Chopra and Lonsdorf
both deny that they recommend yagyas. Chopra insists that yagyas are
not part of the Maharishi Ayur-Veda program. Nevertheless, I have a
copy of another patient's health analysis from Chopra's center in
Lancaster, Mass. that recommends the performance of not one but two
different yagyas.)

In its 1989 September/October issue, Harvard Magazine published a
cover story on Chopra by associate editor Craig Lambert that touted
the Maharishi's wares. Reprints of this article were widely
circulated by the TM movement. The magazine's readers were not
informed that the author practices yogic flying.

[N.B.: After this article had been written for ScienceWriters Lambert
informed me that, at the time he wrote his article for Harvard
Magazine he had not yet started yogic flying although he was a TM
practitioner. He also said that Harvard Magazine's managing editor
had misinformed me about the movement's ordering/circulating reprints
of his article. -- AAS]

Lambert wrote JAMA a letter protesting my investigation and accusing
me of "sleazy" and "deceptive" behavior. This letter was one of many
sent to protest my inquiries. Among them were repeated requests from
Chopra and his attorney that they be allowed to preview my article
before publication, along with warnings that they may sue if defamed.

In the February 1984 NASW Newsletter, Patrick Young wrote, "Reporting
any story that might prove embarrassing to a publication is filled
with delightful irony. Editors, writers and others who believe in and
argue the public's right to know, suddenly react as any good group of
company executives, government bureaucrats, or union officials would
in a similar situation. They draw up the wagons in a tight circle."

When I reported my findings to my editors, I feared that they too
might choose to circle the wagons. Instead, they asked me to recount
how the journal had been deceived and backed me against a stream of
protests and threats from Maharishi's followers and attorneys.


Andrew Skolnick is associate editor for the Journal of the American
Medical Association's Medical News & Perspectives Department.

[N.B.: In the summer of 1992, Deepak Chopra and two TM associations
filed a $194 million libel suit against the AMA, JAMA's editor, and
me. The suit was dismissed without prejudice in March 1993. -AAS]

~ Janice

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Received on Fri Feb 2 12:36:40 2007

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