News this Week

Science  22 Feb 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5866, pp. 1022

    Once Shunned, Test for Alzheimer's Risk Headed to Market

    1. Jennifer Couzin
    No treatment.

    Elderly Chinese patients suffering from dementia play chess to keep mentally active.


    A Pennsylvania company is preparing to market a genetic test that will tell healthy people whether they are at increased risk for developing Alzheimer's disease. The move comes more than 15 years after the critical gene, APOE, was linked to Alzheimer's, and it is getting a mixed response from researchers. Some of them point out that the test could upset people without giving any therapeutic benefit. On the other hand, as the company says, the information has its uses, and research has shown that receiving a bad result is not as devastating as once feared.

    The test will be offered by Smart Genetics in Philadelphia, likely starting next month. For $399, healthy people will give a saliva sample and learn whether they have a risk of Alzheimer's that's 3 to 15 times higher than normal. The analysis is based on variations in the APOE gene, which is widely agreed to play a role in Alzheimer's risk and heart disease.

    The test differs from many other gene tests for common adult diseases. For one, the science behind it is solid. And the psychological ramifications are under study: REVEAL, a large clinical trial funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, has been examining how healthy people react to learning their APOE genotype and how best to communicate this potentially explosive information. Smart Genetics executives say that they're building on the findings. They plan to screen out those who seem emotionally unstable and provide a genetic counseling session by telephone before giving out APOE results.

    Still, researchers express reservations about making the gene test widely available. They worry about the mental health consequences of telling people they may get a disease that's neither preventable nor treatable and is invariably fatal. “I think the benefits [of knowing your genotype] are trivial” and don't justify the emotional risks, says law professor Henry Greely of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who in 1997 co-chaired a working group on Alzheimer's genetic testing. The group concluded that genetic testing for Alzheimer's “is not appropriate for most people.”

    Greely says his views have shifted only slightly in favor of testing. He thinks knowing the results might help the roughly 2% of the population with the worst APOE combination: two copies of the deleterious E4 allele, which together confer a roughly 15 times increased risk of the disease. For them, Greely says, the risk is so great that the information may be useful in planning health care needs or retirement.

    But a much larger portion of the population, about 25%, carries one copy of APOE4; their risk of Alzheimer's is roughly three times higher than normal. Greely doesn't think these people need to know their APOE status, and Allen Roses of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who found the APOE-Alzheimer's link, agrees: “It isn't helpful if there's nothing you can do about it” medically.

    But Richard Watson, chief technical officer of Smart Genetics, argues that knowing one is at higher risk can trigger practical responses. Watson says these might include regular memory screenings or making certain financial decisions such as buying long-term care insurance.

    Until now, the only company offering an APOE gene test has been Athena Diagnostics in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the only patients who qualify for testing have been those with dementia. Athena licensed rights to the gene patent from Duke University, where Roses made the APOE discovery in 1992. Smart Genetics has in turn licensed rights to the test from Athena.

    Some felt that an APOE test could be useful to people without symptoms. In 1999, neurologist Robert Green of Boston University and his colleagues launched a study to examine how healthy people with a family history of Alzheimer's responded to learning their APOE genotype. The news wasn't harmful for the 500 or so who've received the information, Green's group found. But at this point, “we don't fully know if disclosing APOE is safe psychologically,” says Green, who has offered unpaid advice to Smart Genetics.

    Of course, wider use of the APOE gene test might turn up adverse effects. But the REVEAL study has provided some reassurances to those who worried that people getting APOE genotypes would “freak out, they'd go commit suicide, something really bad would happen,” says Robert Cook-Deegan of the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy in Durham. The data from REVEAL, he says, suggest that “people who don't get tested at all and people who get bad news stay in more or less the same trajectory.” Nonetheless, a person's APOE status may be considered particularly sensitive information, Cook-Deegan says. It's the only genetic information that James Watson, the DNA discoverer who recently had his entire genome sequenced, kept secret.

    Smart Genetics says it has hired enough genetic counselors to handle a large volume of tests. (The company declines to say how many.) “We saw there was a big growth” in genetic testing and believed “there was something there for adding value to what people wanted,” says Julian Awad, the company's CEO. Smart Genetics, he says, is also pondering whether to tell clients about how APOE4 can raise their risk of heart disease.

    Back in the 1990s, says Awad, “the test itself was before its time.” Now, he believes, people are ready.

  2. U.S. BUDGET

    House Panel Berates Science Adviser on 2009 'Shortfall'

    1. Jeffrey Mervis

    Congressional Democrats and Republicans don't agree on much. But last week, members of the House Committee on Science and Technology complained in one voice that President George W. Bush has fallen short on his promise to bolster U.S. innovation in his 2009 budget request (Science, 8 February, p. 714).

    “You've proposed more of the same in science education and in energy research,” Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN), chair of the committee, scolded John Marburger, the president's science adviser and sole witness at the Valentine's Day hearing. “And what you've heard today from both sides of the aisle is that more of the same is not getting the job done.”

    At issue was how the 2009 budget request stacks up against the America COMPETES Act, a set of goals for science funding that was passed overwhelmingly by Congress last summer and signed by the president (Science, 10 August 2007, p. 736). It authorizes spending of $43 billion over 3 years to increase the country's pool of scientific talent and boost research spending. These are also the top two recommendations of the U.S. National Academies' influential 2005 report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm.

    The Bush Administration has embraced the report's second priority with a 10-year plan to double the budgets of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in a package it calls the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI). But science committee members say ACI falls short on aid for precollege math and science education. They also criticize the Administration for failing to request funding for a DOE entity, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), created by the new law.

    Adding to their unhappiness was the last-minute loss of large increases slated for the three ACI agencies in 2008—a step reluctantly taken by Democratic leaders after Bush insisted on cuts in overall domestic spending (Science, 4 January, p. 18). Science lobbyists are hoping Congress will make a $500 million apology as part of an upcoming supplemental spending bill to finance the Iraq war. But the chances appear slim.

    In the meantime, committee members were not buying Marburger's arguments that the Administration's new budget is a good-faith effort to approach the 2009 spending levels in the COMPETES Act. Although the budget proposes spending 84% of the authorized level for DOE science, 93% for NSF, and 71% for NIST, it falls short of the overall target by $2.1 billion (see graphic).

    Promises, promises.

    The authorized spending levels in the America COMPETES Act far exceed what the president has requested for 2009.


    Some of the harshest criticism came from Republicans. “I'm wondering if you're fighting hard enough for your share of the pie,” asked Representative Phil Gingrey (R-GA), before hastening to add, “although as a fiscal conservative, I want to keep that pie as small as possible.” Representative Vern Ehlers (R-MI) demanded to know “why didn't the Administration propose funding the ACI agencies at the '09 authorization levels?” And Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) dismissed the Administration's proposed DOE research portfolio, claiming that “nothing you have mentioned in energy research is cutting-edge.”

    Marburger loyally defended Bush's budget. He told Ehlers that the proposed 20% boost for DOE science and NSF research “represents a huge increase,” especially when overall domestic spending is essentially held flat. “Increased funding for critical basic research in the physical sciences is my highest budget priority,” he said. “And I think our priorities are correct.”

    But Gordon saw things differently. Giving the Department of Education the lead role over NSF for improving math and science education “ensures that we'll continue our mediocre performance on international tests,” he said, and refusing to fund ARPA-E makes it less likely that the type of advances needed to develop new energy sources will occur. Gordon says he'll fight hard for changes in the 2009 budget. But his best shot may come after a new president takes office in January. “This is not a partisan issue. And I know that Dr. Marburger is only the messenger.”


    Harvard Faculty Votes to Make Open Access Its Default Mode

    1. Andrew Lawler

    Harvard University has jumped into the contentious debate on open-access publishing with a plan to make research papers freely accessible online. The 12 February vote by its 730-member arts and sciences faculty marks the first time that a major U.S. university has directly challenged the authority of academic journals to control access to research results. “This is a large and very important step for scholars throughout the country,” said Harvard computer scientist Stuart Shieber, who championed the plan. But the decision does not apply to the rest of the university, including its medical, public health, and business schools, and publishers say they doubt it will significantly affect their business.

    The resolution authorizes Harvard to place a faculty member's work in a repository that will be available to all at no cost. The researcher would retain the copyright, as in the past, but the university would have a license to release it. Papers would be posted on the Internet upon receipt or following a requested delay. Any author may choose not to participate but would need a waiver from the dean in order to opt out of the system. “What's new is that this is not imposed by the university or by funders,” says John Wilbanks, vice president of Science Commons, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, organization supporting open access. “This is the faculty stepping up and saying it has a stake.”

    “Publishers may not be quite as excited to take articles from Harvard.” –PATRICIA SCHROEDER, ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN PUBLISHERS CREDIT: ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN PUBLISHERS

    The vote comes 1 month after the U.S. National Institutes of Health required all grantees to place peer-reviewed papers in the agency's free archive, PubMed Central, within a year of publication. The Harvard decision, by contrast, “is not mandatory,” notes Patricia Schroeder, president of the Association of American Publishers in Washington, D.C. “I don't think anyone is quaking in their boots.” Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes Science), says that the new policy won't affect publishing criteria, although it could pose “a bureaucratic problem for faculty members.”

    This is the university's “first step in the creation of an open-access environment.” –STEVEN HYMAN, HARVARD UNIVERSITY CREDIT: HARVARD

    Shieber sees the new archive as a way to combat rising subscription costs and give authors greater control over their own published work. Provost Steven Hyman, who supports the change, sees it as the university's “first step in the creation of an open-access environment for current research.” Other private organizations—including the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and the Wellcome Trust in London—have taken similar steps (Science, 7 July 2006, p. 29).

    Publishers maintain that the cost of peer review, printing, and distribution require them to charge subscription fees. And they note that small nonprofit organizations, as well as large corporations, profit from the scholarly publishing system and depend on journal subscriptions to stay in business.

    Schroeder says it is too early to measure the impact of the new policy and warns that “publishers may not be quite as excited to take articles from Harvard.” Shieber agrees that the experiment is just beginning but adds that “journals will always try to get the best papers.”


    Lawmakers Claim Great Lakes Report Was 'Suppressed'

    1. Jocelyn Kaiser

    Lawmakers are again asserting that the Bush Administration is meddling in science. House Science Committee Democrats charge that federal officials have suppressed a report on potential health threats from pollution in the Great Lakes. They also say officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, may have punished a career federal scientist who oversaw it. CDC says the report had genuine scientific flaws.

    The controversy involves Christopher De Rosa, who from 1992 until last fall headed the toxicology division of CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). His troubles began after the International Joint Commission, a U.S.-Canadian organization that oversees issues involving the countries' boundary waters, asked ATSDR in 2001 to examine the human health threat from Great Lakes pollution. The region has 26 well-known “areas of concern” with high levels of PCBs, mercury, dioxins, and other contaminants.

    Under De Rosa's direction, ATSDR scientists gathered publicly available census and health data for the polluted areas. After peer review by three academics and scores of government scientists, the final draft was completed last February. A copy leaked to the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C., concludes that more than 9 million people reside in the areas of concern, and many live in counties that have elevated rates of cancer, low birth weight, and other health problems. Although the report “makes no causal inferences or associations,” it says risks in these counties “merit further attention.”

    At risk.

    A controversial analysis examined health data for 26 polluted areas.


    When De Rosa planned to release the report in July, ATSDR Director Howard Frumkin and his deputy objected, canceling a press conference. Instead, they sent copies to past peer reviewers, noting among other “concerns” that the report relied on health statistics from before 1998 and limited exposure data. ATSDR asked reviewers whether the report should even be released.

    Two outside peer reviewers told the agency it should be. “These criticisms [by Frumkin] are valid,” says Peter Orris, an occupational health researcher at the University of Illinois, Chicago. But however flawed, he says, the information “would allow people to say, ‘Maybe there's a relationship here’ and set a research agenda.” Like Orris, environmental health researcher David Carpenter of the University at Albany in New York state suspects that “someone did not want this information to get attention.” CDC spokesperson Glen Nowak says CDC expects to submit a revised draft to the Institute of Medicine or another group for review within a few weeks.

    Meanwhile, the House Science Committee has rushed to De Rosa's defense. In a 6 February letter to CDC Director Julie Gerberding, chair Bart Gordon (D-TN) and other Democrats say CDC “may have retaliated against” De Rosa. Last fall, after De Rosa sent Frumkin a letter protesting that he had “opposed the release of information to the public on several important health issues,” including the cancer risks of formaldehyde in trailers issued to Hurricane Katrina refugees, De Rosa received a poor performance review. He was reassigned to a special assistant position. Nowak declined to comment, saying it's a personnel matter. The latest example of the suppression of science by the Bush Administration? De Rosa says that “is for others to decide.”


    Microbicide Fails to Protect Against HIV

    1. Jon Cohen
    Didn't gel.

    Carraguard failed to live up to its name, providing women no protection against HIV.


    HIV prevention research suffered another setback this week with the failure of the largest trial yet of a microbicide used by women to prevent sexual transmission of the virus. The microbicide, a gel called Carraguard that women insert before having intercourse, contains carrageenan, a seaweed derivative that thwarts HIV in test-tube studies. More than 6000 women at three sites in South Africa participated in the $40 million, placebo-controlled trial, which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development. “Carraguard was shown to be safe but not effective against HIV,” said principal investigator Khatija Ahmed, a microbiologist at the University of Limpopo in South Africa.

    In a 14 February teleconference, Ahmed reported a statistically insignificant difference in infection rates: 151 women in the placebo group versus 134 who received Carraguard. Women said they used the gel only 44.1% of the time, and just 10% said they always used it before sex. “That overall number is low, and it could have had an impact on our final study results,” said Barbara Friedland, a project manager for the study at the nonprofit Population Council in New York City, which developed the product. But the low usage reflects a realworld scenario, she noted.

    Several researchers who study anti-HIV microbicides were disappointed but not surprised by the results. Last year, a large study of a similar product, cellulose sulfate, ended when an interim analysis showed more infections in treated women than in the placebo group. (Both cellulose sulfate and Carraguard do not attack HIV directly but have negative charges that interfere with its binding to immune cells.) An earlier trial of nonoxynol-9, which also has nonspecific activity against HIV, actually increased a woman's chance of becoming infected. For AIDS researcher Kenneth Mayer of Brown University, these results mean “the field should now focus on microbicides that are specific against HIV.”

    A dozen microbicides in human studies contain various anti-HIV drugs. “We'll need the force of several different protocols looking at different products to really answer the questions,” says Sharon Hillier of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who heads the Microbicide Trials Network funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. She adds that the need for women to insert a microbicide right before sex contributes to low use. This fall, Hillier plans to compare whether daily use of an anti-HIV drug works better in a microbicide or as an oral pill. “From contraceptives we've learned that women would rather take a pill every day, even if they're only having sex four times a month,” she says.

    Mayer says Carraguard's failure shouldn't be “the death knell” of microbicides. “We just have to be humble and move forward,” he says. “The stakes are too high to do anything else.”


    Tigers in Decline, Indian Survey Finds

    1. Pallava Bagla

    NEW DELHI, INDIA—The use of new sampling techniques has cut by half the estimated number of wild tigers in India. A new report this week from the Indian government puts the number at 1411, compared with 3642 in 2002. Experts say the decline reflects more than just a change in methodology: Poaching, human encroachment, and habitat loss take a heavy toll.

    “The tiger is in a state of crisis; there is no denying that fact,” says Rajesh Gopal, member secretary for the National Tiger Conservation Authority of the Ministry of Environment and Forests in New Delhi. Gopal dismissed as “complete trash” the previous estimates, based primarily on tallying tiger “pugmarks,” or footprints.

    Predator's predator.

    A police raid in Ghaziabad highlighted the toll poaching takes on India's tigers.


    Officials at the Wildlife Institute of India in Dehradun, which conducted the new study, adopted the new sampling methods 4 years ago after heavy criticism of the reliability of pugmarks (Science, 30 May 2003, p. 1355). The present survey deployed 88,000 observers across India, matching their findings with satellite imagery to estimate tiger densities in each of India's 28 states. The “unprecedented effort” cost $2 million, says lead author Yadvendradev V. Jhala, and will be repeated every 4 years.

    The new approach used camera-trap surveys, line-transect sampling, and occupancy modeling, says ecologist Melvin Sunquist of the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida, Gainesville. However, it omitted a vast marshy area known as the Sundarbans forest for which researchers had not developed a sampling method. The margin of error was 17%.

    Not everyone endorses the findings. The chief minister of the eastern Indian state of Orissa disputes the survey's estimate of 45 wild tigers in his state, which claimed 173. But Gopal stands by the report, saying, “There is just no prey base to support such large numbers as [Orissa] has claimed.”

    John Seidensticker, a large-mammal specialist and head of the Conservation Ecology Center at the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., says, “India should be applauded for moving to a science-based framework monitoring their tiger populations.” And Sunquist thinks these animals can still be conserved in the wild provided the Indian government makes “a major renewed commitment to the protection of tiger habitat, tiger prey, and the tiger itself.”


    How Human Intelligence Evolved--Is It Science or 'Paleofantasy'?

    1. Michael Balter


    Not like us.

    Even smart animals are “whoppingly different” from humans, a researcher asserts.


    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS—Richard Lewontin knows how to grab an audience's attention. Lewontin, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University, led off a session titled “The Mind of a Toolmaker” by announcing that scientists know next to nothing about how humans got so smart. “We are missing the fossil record of human cognition,” Lewontin said at the meeting. “So we make up stories.”

    Not so, responded other human evolution experts on the interdisciplinary panel. “Thanks to continuing research in comparative psychology, genetics, neuroimaging, and paleoanthropology, we know plenty about the evolution of human cognition,” said anthropologist Dean Falk of Florida State University in Tallahassee. In rebuttal to Lewontin's complaints about a meager fossil record and the dangers of inferring cognitive capacity from indicators such as skull size, they cited research that they say provides important—if indirect—insights into uniquely human mental capacities.

    Geneticist Christopher Walsh of Harvard Medical School thinks some answers to the mystery of human cognition lie in genes that govern brain development in modern human beings. Ongoing work in his and other laboratories has shown that mutations in a number of these genes lead to microcephaly, characterized by a very small brain and mild to severe retardation, and other brain malformations. Tests for “signs of selection” have shown that some of these genes were targets of natural selection during human evolution.

    For more coverage of the AAAS meeting, see

    Walsh described recent research suggesting that a well-studied gene called ASPM controls the fate of embryonic nerve cells in the multilayered cerebral cortex. The cells must divide in the correct orientation and at the right time as each cortical layer takes form. Selection for changes in ASPM, Walsh said, “may provide an evolutionary mechanism that can enlarge the cortex” and help explain the dramatic expansion of hominid brains that began about 2 million years ago.

    Anthropologist Leslie Aiello, president of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research in New York City, agreed that current research can “get us beyond the paleofantasy that Richard Lewontin is talking about.” Aiello argued that the fossil and archaeological records are strong enough to show several “major phases in human evolution,” including the split between the chimpanzee and the human lines about 6 million years ago and the invention of stone tools beginning about 2.5 million years ago. Moreover, Aiello said, sophisticated reconstructions of ancient climates have matched evolutionary events with environmental changes. “Our evolution has played out against some of the largest climatic changes in the Earth's history,” she said, including a major shift to drier and more variable conditions in Africa right about the time that the first tools appeared.

    Harvard psychologist Marc Hauser underscored the cognitive gap between humans and other “smart species” such as chimps, elephants, and dolphins—a gap that he described as being “greater than that between those animals and worms.” Recent findings in his own lab and others, Hauser said, show that nonhuman animals can solve specific problems in often sophisticated ways (for example, the nectar-mapping dances of honeybees and the ability of some bird species to hide food and retrieve it much later), but they cannot apply those talents to other situations. In contrast to such “laser-beam intelligence,” Hauser said, humans have evolved “floodlight intelligence” capable of adapting one solution to many new problems. Even tool use by animals—such as chimpanzees using sticks to fish for termites—is “whoppingly different” from what humans do, Hauser insisted. He hopes that the manifold human differences summarized in his “humaniqueness hypothesis” will yield clues about how our species evolved.


    Tracking and Tackling Deprivation's Toll

    1. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee


    Children raised in poverty generally do worse in school and in their careers than do children from wealthier backgrounds. But why exactly does poverty affect them that way, and what can be done to break the cycle?

    At the meeting, a University of Pennsylvania (Penn) psychologist described how the lack of environmental stimulation and parental nurturing in poor households might adversely affect language development and memory. Another researcher from the University of Oregon (UO), Eugene, explained how bolstering the child-rearing skills of low-income parents might help improve their children's mental abilities. “The more we learn about the pathways through which poverty affects kids, the more effective our interventions can be,” says psychologist Jeanne Brooks-Gunn of Columbia University, who was not involved in either study.

    Penn researchers have been following 110 African-American children born to mothers on welfare. Approximately half the mothers used cocaine and other drugs while pregnant. Visiting the children at home for an hour each at ages 4 and 8, the researchers rated the households on environmental stimulation (such as the child's access to books and musical instruments) and parental nurturance (emotional care such as praise). Between 2001 and 2004, when the children were between the ages of 11 and 13, the group gave them cognitive tests.

    The researchers found that prenatal substance abuse had a negligible impact on either language or memory. But there was a strong positive correlation between environmental stimulation and language ability—that is, children raised in more stimulating environments did better at language tasks. More surprising, children who received better nurturing scored higher on memory tasks. Environmental stimulation seemed to have little or no effect on memory, and parental nurturance seemed to have no effect on the children's language abilities. “Our results show that poverty affects different neurocognitive systems in different ways,” says Penn psychologist Martha Farah, lead author and presenter of the study, which is in press at Developmental Science.

    In a more recent study not yet published, Farah and her colleagues analyzed magnetic resonance imaging scans of 47 children from the group when they were between the ages of 12 and 15. Children who had received less parental nurturing tended to have a larger hippocampus. Farah notes animal studies showing that rat pups that receive less grooming and licking from their mothers develop abnormal hippocampi and poor memory later in life. She speculates that babies who don't get enough nurturing and emotional warmth have difficulty coping with stress, which hurts brain development.

    Hoping to blunt the impact of poverty, Jessica Fanning, a doctoral student at UO developed a program to teach parents ways to stimulate and nurture their toddlers. For 2 hours a week over 2 months, Fanning and colleagues taught 14 low-income parents enrolled in a Head Start program to reinforce positive behaviors and accomplishments in their children with specific praise, maintain consistent discipline at home, and use language in creative ways such as responding to something the child might say—such as, “Here goes the ship”—with a more descriptive sentence such as “The ship goes fast.”

    In tests conducted within a month after the course, the researchers found that the children whose parents had received the training showed gains on attentional and memory tasks; children of a control group did not. “The changes in parenting seem to have had a positive trickle-down effect on the children, at least in the short term,” says psychologist Courtney Stevens, who worked on the study and presented the findings at the meeting.



    1. Eli Kintisch,
    2. Erik Stokstad


    One million tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) are dissolved into the oceans every hour, a process that helps maintain the Earth's delicate carbon balance. But CO2 also makes seawater more acidic, and too much of it can wreak havoc on a marine species. Three sessions at the meeting described how marine scientists are trying to assess the effects of acidification.

    The ocean's average pH worldwide, now roughly 8.4, has dropped about 0.1 since preindustrial times. Scientists estimate that it could fall another 0.4 by 2100 if carbon emissions continue on their current trajectories. That could put nearly two-thirds of known cold water corals into corrosive waters, Ulf Riebesell of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences in Germany told one colloquium. But although the risks to corals are well-known (Science, 4 May 2007, p. 678), the effects on other marine life are just beginning to be characterized.

    Gretchen Hofmann of the University of California (UC), Santa Barbara, reported that a one-two punch of lower pH and higher temperature can be fatal for the purple sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purports. Human's lab studied urchins in tanks of seawater at normal pH and at the stronger acidity expected by 2100 under two possible atmospheres described by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. As the pH fell from I'D to I'D, sea urchin larvae struggled to build their skeletons. DNA micro arrays showed that genes involved in biomineralization raised their activity threefold. “The larva is desperately trying to make its body,” Hofmann said. Unpublished results from the lab showed that larvae in the most acidic water grew “short and stumpy” skeletons. If the deformities carry over to adults, they could affect the valuable fishery for urchins, which are harvested for their eggs.


    Purple sea urchins are among many marine organisms likely to suffer as oceans acidify.


    When Hofmann and colleagues warmed the acidified waters, mortality among the larvae skyrocketed. “Gretchen has the story dead on with the urchins,” comments Andrew Baker of the University of Miami in Florida, who is studying the effects of temperature and acidity on corals. “Clearly, the effects are worse together than separate.”

    Hofmann and Victoria Fabry of California State University, San Marcos, are now studying how acidity and temperature affect the pteropod Limacina helicina, a peppercorn-sized swimming snail that forms a key part of the food web in the Southern Ocean. In their evolutionary history, Riebesell says, many species of pteropods “have never seen an ocean as acidic as the one they're going to see in the next 100 years.”

    Paleoclimate researchers are also beginning to study how high CO2 levels might have impacted species in ancient seas. A team led by James Zachos of UC Santa Cruz is focusing on a 150,000-year period, 55 million years ago, when the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere—nearly 4 gigatons—is similar to the pulse researchers expect from current human emissions. Estimating ocean pH for this extreme event is tricky, Zachos said, because most of the standard indicators—calcium carbonate shells in sea-bottom cores—dissolved away. But he hopes computer modeling and isotope analysis of other shell samples will give his team a handle on the past—and possibly on our torrid future.


    A New Bottom Line For School Science

    1. Jeffrey Mervis

    Companies are pursuing an array of projects that they hope will improve math and science education in U.S. schools. Can such corporate philanthropy succeed?

    Companies are pursuing an array of projects that they hope will improve math and science education in U.S. schools. Can such corporate philanthropy succeed?

    A multiplier effect.

    Exelon's support helped launch the new Rowe-Clark Math and Science Academy, a public charter school on Chicago's west side


    CHICAGO, ILLINOIS—A new math and science charter high school opened this fall on this city's west side. It's named for Exelon CEO John Rowe, who gave $2 million, and Frank Clark, chair and CEO of ComEd, a major Exelon subsidiary that lights the city, who chipped in $200,000. Their gifts, plus $2 million from the Chicago-based utility itself, created the Rowe-Clark Math and Science Academy, which currently shares space with a community health clinic in a squat, two-story building on a tired street in a mostly African-American community. “Math and science is what we do, and we hope to interest kids in careers that will eventually lead them to Exelon,” explains Peggy Davis, a lawyer who oversees Exelon's philanthropic efforts as its vice president for diversity.

    Big companies have long been involved in helping local schools. But Rowe went a step further by not only specifying the focus of the new school but also selecting the organization, the Noble Network of Charter Schools, to run it. It's a fresh challenge, admits Michael Milkie, a former Chicago math teacher who started the first school in 1999. Noble runs several college-preparatory schools, but none is focused on the sciences.

    Much of the burden of devising and implementing a new curriculum has fallen on Vanessa Galarza, the school's math and science department chair and sole science teacher for the 145 ninth graders who constitute the school's inaugural class. “Most of the students have never done a lab report or taken data from an experiment,” says Galarza, a former doctoral student in astronomy at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. And although she is grateful for the well-equipped labs that the Exelon gift made possible, Galarza knows they won't make up for the impoverished academic backgrounds of most of her students. “They've never kept a lab notebook. And I had to teach the X and Y axes,” she says. “Also, I don't use a textbook or assign written homework because so many of them wouldn't be able to read it.”

    Davis, a member of the Chicago Board of Education and a former chief of staff to the current superintendent, understands how far the students at Rowe-Clark need to travel academically before they will be capable of landing a technical job at the utility company. “Ideally,” she says, “we'd have loved to do a boarding school starting in first grade. That would have leveled the playing field by letting us deal with all the issues that students bring from home. But we have to be realistic about what we can afford.”

    Exelon's paternalistic attitude toward the new school is characteristic of the latest wave of corporate philanthropy aimed at improving precollege STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education in the United States. Corporate philanthropy is a $14 billion enterprise, and education is the biggest recipient of that largess. Although no accurate figures are available, a sizable slice of that pie is devoted to pre-K-12 (prekindergarten through high school) activities in STEM education.

    For decades, most companies supporting STEM education were content to stay in the background. The Intel (formerly Westinghouse) Science Talent Search that awards college scholarships to high school students may be the most prestigious example of such corporate altruism. Other companies have given grants to nonprofit organizations devoted to improving the skills of teachers or strengthening the math and science curriculum.

    That's still happening. But Exelon and a growing list of companies without any such track record have put themselves and their employees on the front lines in response to the disappointing performance of U.S. students on more than a decade of international math and science tests. “We believe that American businesses must be active, engaged leaders in this work,” proclaims a report issued last summer by the Business-Higher Education Forum.

    Ernst and Young's Tony Anderson couldn't agree more. “We bring discipline to the issue and accountability. That's what seems to be needed,” says Anderson, head of the Chicago office and vice chair of the New York City-based professional services firm, which operates an active mentoring program at several Chicago charter schools.

    Clark, an African-American who grew up in a poor, single-family home on the city's South Side and who began at ComEd as a mail clerk, feels a personal obligation to lend a hand. “These kids are at risk, and without help they will struggle,” he says, noting that he recognizes himself in some of the students he has met. “I won't be content if I don't do everything possible to give them a shot at getting to the top, like I did.”

    But is caring and cash enough to make a difference? Experts in corporate philanthropy and educational assessment say that although every little bit helps, many companies may have unrealistic hopes for what their dollars can accomplish. “If you lack firm goals, then measuring whether you've succeeded is very difficult. That's probably the most systemic problem we see across corporate philanthropy,” says Gregory Hills of FSG Social Impact Advisors in Boston, which was hired by Ernst & Young to produce a report last year titled Best in Class: How Top Corporations Can Help Transform Public Education. Without clear-cut targets and a rigorous way to keep score, Hills warns, “the most that a company is going to achieve is some nice headlines, better ties with local leaders, and some new customers.”

    Strategic philanthropy

    There are three reasons companies invest in STEM education, says Hills. The first, and most common, is what he calls “communal obligation.” By spending money in locations where they have plants and offices, companies hope to demonstrate that they are good corporate citizens. But because such philanthropy lacks any specific goals, he says, it's nearly impossible to assess the impact of those dollars on students.

    PNC Financial Services found itself in that position a few years into a 10-year, $100 million initiative begun in 2004 called Grow Up Great. After two rounds of grants to Head Start programs in nine states that the bank serves, says Eva Blum, president of the PNC Foundation, company officials realized that the portfolio was so diverse that it would be hard to scale up any projects found to be effective. So last year, the initiative, which has several components aimed at getting children ready for school, was refocused on giving Head Start teachers the math and science skills they lack to prepare children for a lifetime of learning.

    Thanks to a 3-year, $135,000 PNC grant, the 54 teachers at the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center's Head Start program in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, “have become a lot more comfortable with science,” says center director Maggie Gombas. In addition to receiving a flood of science materials, she says, the teachers learned at workshops led by the city's Carnegie Science Center “how to look beyond the obvious” by, for example, turning the tale of the Three Little Pigs into a lesson on wind as a force of nature.

    The second type of philanthropy, which Hills calls “brand imaging,” is meant “to influence its customers and the external world: government regulators, local officials, and so on.” That approach may help companies improve their bottom lines and deflect unfavorable publicity, Hills says, but it makes them less likely to join forces with others and, thus, limits the impact of their philanthropy. “If PR and one-upmanship is the ethos” in the company, says Hills, it leads to “these silo programs.”

    Building momentum.

    Science teacher Vanessa Galarza helps Rowe-Clark students set up a lab in their introductory physics class.


    S. Anders Hedberg, head of corporate philanthropy at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), has tackled the branding problem head-on with a new program for high school students. Since the early 1990s, the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant has given out tens of millions of dollars to improve the curriculum and quality of teaching at middle schools. Those programs, directed by the nonprofit National Science Resources Center (NSRC), a joint effort of the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. National Academies, have been lauded for their progress in addressing two factors—uninspired instruction and poorly trained teachers—that give many preteens another reason to lose interest in math and science. But a few years ago, Hedberg, a cardiovascular pharmacologist who joined the company in 1980, decided that BMS needed “to move the needle forward.” His team spent a few million dollars putting together a 12-lesson unit, called RxeSEARCH, that tells a fictitious story of an outbreak of an unknown, highly contagious disease. The unit, now being piloted in the mid-Atlantic region, combines what the company knows best—drug discovery—with what it has learned about reforming STEM education.

    One novel twist in the RxeSEARCH project is that it's run by a consortium of pharmaceutical and biotech companies, each of which has anted up for the material and for a summer institute to train teachers. The idea is for each partner company to work with school districts in the communities it serves, modifying the curriculum as needed with examples from its own labs. “It's always hard for a company to say to a competitor, ‘I have a good idea. Do you want to join me?’ So we decided to give it away before it became branded with the BMS name,” Hedberg explains. The group has asked NSRC to help implement the project in an arrangement that is still being hashed out.

    North Carolina-based Wachovia bank, third largest in the country, is also eschewing the “brand imaging” approach in an effort to encourage partnerships. In 2004, the bank began making competitive 3-year grants of as much as $750,000 to universities and community organizations for new teacher training and professional development, with a focus on science and math. But it attached two strings. “We told them you can't use Wachovia's name [on any promotional material] because it turns off other potential donors,” says Dee Lee, who runs the teaching initiative. “It was a huge change in our corporate philosophy.” In addition, she says, the size of the grants tapers off over the life of the project. “It puts the onus on them to find other partners and not use us as a crutch,” she explains.

    Hills's third type of corporate charity is the one he says works best. He calls it “strategic philanthropy,” and it's distinguished by companies that ask: “What are our strategic business interests, and how does education and the work force fit into that strategy?” As a result, Hills says, “they pick things that they really care about and that they are good at.”

    That's what The Boeing Company has tried to do, says Joyce Walters, director of global community investing at the aerospace giant, which recently moved its corporate headquarters from Seattle, Washington, to Chicago. “We take a business approach to education investments” that include a Washington state science initiative, districtwide math reform in both cities, and a national program to train principals in urban school systems, she says. And rather than waiting to see whether a particular project succeeds or fails, Walters says Boeing stays involved after the money is handed out. “If one of our suppliers had a problem, we wouldn't just walk away. We'd try to figure out how to solve it. And that might include more resources.”

    Strategic philanthropy isn't the answer for every company, says Hills. “Some corporations don't believe that their business and social interests can overlap,” he explains. “They see it as too self-serving.” The Merck Institute for Science Education (MISE), created in 1993 to improve science and math in U.S. elementary and secondary schools, may be a case in point.

    Then-CEO P. Roy Vagelos decided that a company so dependent on scientific talent “should be looking much earlier in the pipeline” than the small undergraduate program to attract minorities into the pharmaceutical industry that the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company had been funding for years. Instead of making MISE an arm of the company's corporate philanthropy, however, Vagelos decided that the new, freestanding institute “should be clearly independent from the business part of Merck.” He also recruited a director, Carlo Parravano, a chemistry professor at the State University of New York, Purchase, who had considerable experience in precollege science education.

    That hands-off approach seems to have worked well. During the past 15 years, MISE has funded $50 million worth of projects, most aimed at improving the quality of middle school science and math teachers. The institute has leveraged the support of its corporate benefactor to win two multimillion-dollar teacher-training grants from the U.S. National Science Foundation, the gold standard for work in the field of STEM education. And this year, Merck asked MISE to manage all of its science education activities.

    Return on investment

    Whatever a corporation decides to do, it will want to know at some point what its dollars have accomplished. But evaluation can be a casualty when corporate largess and the U.S. education system collide. “Measurement is a huge problem,” says Mary Wright Benner, who runs the education arm of the Conference Board, a coalition of 2000 companies and organizations that has been a major voice in promoting STEM education. “Most schools are focused on what the state or federal government wants them to measure. Funders want to see results, and they may consider evaluation to be part of overhead.”


    Employees from Ernst & Young's Chicago office use the PBS show Cyberchase to help Perspectives-Calumet Middle School students with math.

    One problem with evaluation is its price tag, says W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and an adviser to the Grow Up Great program. “To do a real scientific evaluation, you can spend more than what the initiative itself costs,” he says. “I think it's better for a company to advise policymakers to spend more on STEM rather than actually try to do it themselves.”

    Blum, of the PNC Foundation, admits that assessing what Grow Up Great has accomplished hasn't gone as smoothly as she had hoped. “Evaluating children at this age is difficult. And it's hard to isolate the impact of separate interventions,” she says. The foundation has received a federal grant to hire an outside evaluator for its math programs, and it is paying for a separate evaluation of its science efforts. The results of these evaluations, she says, will determine the future of the initiative.

    Three Rivers's Gombas isn't sure that her center will even be able to teach other Head Start programs what it has learned. “I don't think it will work out that way,” she says. In addition to the staffing problems created by sending teachers out periodically to work with programs at other locations, she says that the training “will lose a lot” of its value if the Carnegie center is no longer involved. Gombas also notes that her teachers feel “saturated with science” and eager to shore up their skills in other content areas.

    Wachovia has also hired outside evaluators, Lee says, and initial results suggest that teachers who participated in the program feel more confident about their skills in many areas. But Lee says the initiative is really aiming at systemic change of STEM education. “We want to scale up what they've learned about leadership, decision-making, and working in teams,” she says. “And the more outside groups that get involved, the better it will be for the kids.”

    After spending nearly 2 decades with one foot in industry and the other in education, BMS's Hedberg knows that systemic change is incredibly hard to achieve. And he offers a few lessons from his dual life to any company thinking of engaging in STEM philanthropy.

    One is to start with what you know. “This curriculum is based on our industry's genetic code: how we develop a new drug,” he says. “We're not telling teachers what to do. And it's not a marketing program. We're just giving them a version of the science, which is not suitable for the classroom in its raw form, in a format that they can use.” Another is that one-shot approaches don't work. “We're hoping to follow the NSRC model, which incorporates professional development, curriculum, materials, community involvement, and assessment,” he explains. “None is enough by itself.”

    A third lesson is that reformers need patience to overcome the tremendous inertia within both the education and the pharmaceutical sectors. “This is going to take years,” Hedberg admits. “But I think the idea of multiple companies with equal voices is pretty darn new for the industry.”


    From an Idea to a School

    1. Jeffrey Mervis

    Motorola is funding a charter school in Chicago that is expected to be a test bed for university-based work on delivering STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education in an urban setting.

    Not far from the neighborhood where Exelon has helped launch a school focusing on science and math (see main text), another giant Chicago-based corporation is funding a charter school with similar aims but using a different approach. Instead of the donor, Motorola, calling the shots, the new school for grades 6 through 12 is expected to be a test bed for university-based work on delivering STEM education in an urban setting.

    Before the charter organization, Perspectives Charter Schools (PCS), even approached Motorola, it first teamed up with science educators Norman and Judith Lederman of the nearby Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). The Ledermans, who are already working with several Chicago public schools, have spent years developing a curriculum that uses scientific inquiry as the driving principle for teaching every subject. The Ledermans found PCS, which runs four charter schools, through one of its science teachers-turned-administrators, Mary Cummane, who is working on her doctoral degree at IIT. Together, they drew up a proposal for a school that would incorporate their ideas on curriculum and professional development for STEM teachers. And Motorola, which had already promised to support a fund that aims to create 100 public charter schools in Chicago, loved it.

    It didn't hurt that the director of the Motorola Foundation, Eileen Sweeney, had, a decade ago, helped start another inner-city charter high school, North Lawndale College Preparatory, while running the foundation for Chicago-based United Airlines. That experience taught her the value of assembling and retaining a top-notch teaching staff. She says PCS's ability to do that in the four other schools it runs, combined with the resources that IIT will contribute, makes the new academy “a dream come true” for Motorola, which in November made public its $500,000 donation.

    Motorola also hopes the school will augment ongoing efforts to increase student participation, especially by girls and minorities, in technology-related fields. Last fall, Motorola announced it would hand out $3.5 million to 106 projects with that goal as part of its new Innovation Generation Grants program. A call for a second round of proposals, with $4 million to be awarded, went out in December.

    Brain trust.

    From left, IIT's Judith and Norman Lederman plan a new Chicago charter school to be led by Mary Cummane.


    Asked what Motorola hopes to accomplish after 5 years by funding the new academy, Sweeney answers, “I'm glad that you said 5 years, because any change takes a while to show up.” And whatever improvements occur, she adds, won't be something for which Motorola can claim credit. “We won't be breathing down their necks,” she promises. “Sometimes the most important thing a company can do is to put its hand up and say, ‘Yes, we believe all kids deserve a quality education.'”


    Money Doesn't Always Talk

    1. Jeffrey Mervis

    Companies are eager to describe their philanthropic efforts to improve math and science education, but Science found that they can be less forthcoming about the details.

    Companies are eager to describe their philanthropic efforts to improve math and science education. But they can be less forthcoming about the details. That's what Science found when it tried to follow the money trail of some large corporate STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) initiatives.


    Boeing Co. spends $21 million a year on education at all levels, says Joyce Walters, director of global community investing at the company and “subject matter expert” for the foundation's education activities. It supports dozens of programs that have attracted national attention, including the Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform project in Washington state, and has recently ramped up a preschool learning initiative. But Susan Birkholtz, a company spokesperson, says, “We do not provide lists of grantees, nor the amount of individual grants.”

    Houston, Texas-based Shell Oil Co., a subsidiary of the global energy giant, has a half-century track record of supporting precollege, university-based, and informal science education programs aimed at increasing the pool of students pursuing technical careers. In 2004, it shifted its mechanism for giving from the Shell Foundation to corporate offices “so that we could get more personally involved and be more of a partner,” says Frazier Wilson, the company's social investment manager. In 2006, it joined with Weekly Reader to create a Web site for students and teachers called Energize Your Future with Shell that Wilson says tries “to make math and science fun” while building basic skills.

    But again, don't bother to ask for too many details. “It is Shell policy not to disclose project budgets,” explains company spokesperson Darci Sinclair. Also under wraps is a recent outside evaluation of its philanthropic efforts; Wilson would only say that it had led Shell to become “more engaged and increase its volunteerism.”


    Crossing the Divide

    1. Jennifer Couzin

    Like others who have rejected creationism and embraced evolution, paleontologist Stephen Godfrey is still recovering from the traumatic journey.

    Like others who have rejected creationism and embraced evolution, paleontologist Stephen Godfrey is still recovering from the traumatic journey

    Digging for answers.

    Paleontologist Stephen Godfrey rests his hand on shells embedded in Maryland's Calvert Cliffs, which were underwater 14 million years ago.


    SOLOMONS, MARYLAND—On a clear January day, Stephen Godfrey is dressed for fossil-hunting: frayed baggy jeans, a puffy green vest, and a leather jacket that's seen better times. A paleontologist and curator at the modest Calvert Marine Museum here, Godfrey frequents the nearby Calvert Cliffs, which rise from the shoreline of Chesapeake Bay and hold everything from ancient shark teeth to dolphin skulls. “You start collecting them because, well, they're beautiful,” he says of his beloved fossils.

    It was the study of fossils that, 25 years ago, set Godfrey on an anguished path. Raised in a fundamentalist Christian family in Quebec, Canada, embracing a 6000-year-old Earth where Noah's flood laid down every fossil, Godfrey began probing the underpinnings of creationism in graduate school. The inconsistencies he found led step by step, over many years, to a staunch acceptance of evolution. With this shift came rejection from his religious community, estrangement from his parents, and, perhaps most difficult of all, a crisis of faith that endures.

    Powerful emotions bind together young-Earth creationists, members of a movement making inroads from Kenya to Kentucky, where a $27 million Creation Museum opened last year. Scientists and educators have responded mainly by boosting biology's place in the classroom and building rational arguments for evolution. But reason alone is rarely enough to sway believers. That's because letting go of creationism carries enormous emotional risks, including a loss of identity and community and an agonizing, if illusory, choice: science or faith.

    People like Godfrey tend not to advertise their painful transition from creationist to evolutionist, certainly not to scientific peers. When doubts about creationism begin to nag, they have no one to turn to: not Christians in their community, who espouse a literal reading of the Bible and equate rejecting creationism with rejecting God, and not scientists, who often dismiss creationists as ignorant or lunatic.

    “Nothing else I have done in my life has made me such an outsider,” says Brian Alters, director of McGill University's Evolution Education Research Centre in Montreal. Alters has written books on teaching evolution and testified in the 2005 Dover, Pennsylvania, trial against bringing intelligent design—a form of creationism— into the classroom. But few of his friends or his enemies know that Alters, who had a fundamentalist Christian upbringing in southern California, rejected creationism in college. More than 2 decades later, he says, “I still have childhood friends and relatives who won't speak to me.”

    Turning point.

    These fossilized footprints from an early reptile sent Godfrey into a tailspin and forced a letting go of creationism.


    Faithful upbringing

    Religion anchored Godfrey's childhood. He was the third of five children—“a great place to be overlooked,” he jokes. Every evening after dinner, his father, a Sunday school teacher, pulled out the Bible. “We would go systematically through two readings of books,” says Godfrey, and devote time to prayer. The family attended church twice on Sundays, in the morning and in the evening, and one parent or the other often dropped in on a Bible study class midweek.

    From a young age, Godfrey had a keen interest in biology. He adored touring natural history museums and collected pinecones, rocks, minerals, and anything else he could find outdoors. Skeletons in particular captivated him for their visual aesthetic. During visits to his mother's family in New York state, he began gathering the skeletal remains of groundhogs and squirrels left by the side of the road, carefully wrapping them in black garbage bags for the trip home to Quebec.

    His parents saw no conflict between their son's love of biology and their beliefs and encouraged his interests. “I guess they figured that the young-Earth creationist position was strong enough, was robust enough, that he would believe in young-Earth creationism and he would be a biologist, and that would be fine,” says Godfrey.

    Now 48, Godfrey came of age after young-Earth creationism took hold in North America in the early 1960s. Its leaders argued that during the previous 150 years, Bible-believing Christians had gone too far in accommodating science in their interpretation of scripture and pushed for a literal reading of the Bible, says Ronald Numbers, a historian of science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Fossils, for example, are the remains of plants and animals left out of Noah's ark. The description of Adam and Eve in Genesis suggests that humans had never been subject to evolution. Using calculations drawn from genealogy, young-Earth creationists consider the planet to be 6000 to 10,000 years old. (Geologists say it is about 4.5 billion years old.)

    Godfrey, who subscribed wholeheartedly to these views, vividly recalls his earliest encounter with evolution. In the first grade, when he was about 6 years old, a student teacher said that apes were the ancestors of people. “I remember having this visceral reaction … and saying, ‘No, that can't be.’” Around the dinner table that night, his family discussed the experience, concluding that the teacher must have been mistaken. “It couldn't be true because apes aren't evolving into humans today; they're apes,” Godfrey remembers. And that was that.

    Although creationism might seem bizarre to individuals who have never believed in it, for those who do, its power is almost beyond words. Alters remembers, as a young teenager, sitting in on a sermon by Robert Schuller, a televangelist whose California church is fairly liberal. Listening to Schuller endorse the views of scientists who consider rocks to be millions of years old, Alters began to cry, horrified that the preacher would lie. “It was almost as if he stood there and said Jesus Christ didn't exist,” he recalls. For biblical literalists, belief is generally an all-or-nothing proposition.

    Identity crisis

    Godfrey entered college convinced that scientists were engaged in a vast conspiracy to promote evolution. At Bishop's University in Sherbrooke, Quebec, he majored in biology and lived at home, several kilometers away. In one sense, his studies had little effect on his faith. “You can learn facts, and you can do really well on exams and not believe” what you're learning, he says. But then, his classes also raised niggling questions that biblical literalism could not easily answer.

    For example, there was the quandary of death. A literal reading of Genesis indicates that no animals perished before Adam and Eve ate the fateful apple—in other words, that there were no carnivores preying on other animals. But in his biology classes, Godfrey learned of predators perfectly framed to kill: cats with stereoscopic vision, enlarged canines, and claws; spiders that weave webs as traps; and sharks that replace serrated teeth throughout their life. “They're not eating seaweed,” says Godfrey, who puzzled over how these animals had emerged if God hadn't intended them to prey on others. “That was the first thing at university that really started to disturb me,” he says.

    Rebutting Noah's flood.

    Godfrey drew these sketches to show how Noah's flood cannot explain fossil footprints, as they're found in different layers of rock and depend on an animal resting its weight on the ground.


    In his final year, Godfrey gave a presentation on the origin of flight, arguing that Archaeopteryx, the earliest known bird, could not have evolved from the dinosaurs. Although impressed by similarities between Archaeopteryx's anatomy and that of dinosaurs, he pushed this to the back of his mind. By this time, Godfrey was at a crossroads and determined to find out for himself whether the claims of biologists and paleontologists were true. He enrolled in graduate school in paleontology at McGill University and was taken in by Robert Carroll. Carroll had heard that Godfrey was a creationist but didn't give it much thought, he says now. In Carroll's lab, Godfrey prepared and described fossils of an ancient amphibian called Greererpeton. The fossils “could have come from the moon,” says Carroll. Analyzing them out of context had little impact on Godfrey's views.

    Then Godfrey's world came crashing down.

    His first summer in graduate school, he was invited to join a field expedition in rural Kansas, where University of Toronto paleontologist Robert Reisz and some students were digging for pelycosaurs, 300-million-year-old animals that display some features of mammals that evolved later. Living in tents on a farmer's field in searing heat and humidity and surrounded by cows, the group visited the nearest town, Garnett, weekly for food and other supplies. At night, the sky glowed with stars, and Godfrey pointed out the constellations to his companions.

    By day, quarrying through thin layers of rock, “we started to come across footprints of terrestrial animals,” says Godfrey. “You can't imagine a global flood and animals finding ground to make footprints on. … That, more than anything, any other experience in my life, really shook me to the core.” Godfrey agonized about where these footprints might have come from. Some creationists argue for floating mats of vegetation during the flood, but Godfrey found that unconvincing.

    “He was one of the brightest students that I'd ever seen,” says Reisz, who at the time knew that Godfrey was a devout Christian but had no idea of the crisis triggered by his fieldwork. “The ease with which he learned, the ease with which he accumulated new ideas, … all spoke to a superior intelligence.”

    Godfrey held out from embracing evolution, however, until after moving in 1989 to Drumheller, Alberta, dubbed the “dinosaur capital of the world” because of its diversity of fossils. Godfrey often drove southeast to Dinosaur Provincial Park, passing through a landscape of sediments laid atop one another: deposits from freshwater and terrestrial environments in one, marine organisms and mollusks in another, and a third that mimicked the first, a mix of fossils from fresh water and land. “These animals were living here in this same place, but they couldn't have all been there at the same time,” he says, a fact that was irreconcilable with flood geology. It was then that “the rest of the young-Earth creationist ideas kind of exploded.”

    Earth according to Bible.

    The expansive Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, opened last May.


    Godfrey ran through bitterness, anger, and disappointment about having been deceived for so many years. He sought out creationists and confronted them. Late in graduate school, he and his devout Christian wife, mother-in-law, and mother attended a weekend symposium at a Bible school in New York state, where Godfrey says he angrily stood up at the end of a talk and argued passionately with the speaker.

    It was there, and in conversations during holiday meals, that Godfrey's parents realized that he had changed. Deeply unhappy, they worried whether their son could endorse an old Earth and remain a Christian. Their message was, “It's all or nothing,” says Christopher Smith, Godfrey's brother-in-law and a pastor at the University Baptist Church in East Lansing, Michigan. “I do remember a discussion one year at Christmas; the tone quickly turned angry,” Smith says. Godfrey's father eventually asked that he stop mentioning evolution, as the topic was too upsetting to the family, who believe that their afterlife depends on embracing creationism.

    Parents often cannot cope with such an upheaval in a child. “The day I had to tell my mother I wasn't a young-Earth creationist was the scariest day of my life,” says Denis Lamoureux, who teaches science and religion at St. Joseph's College in the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. His mother was so embarrassed by his work in biology that she told her friends her son was still in the profession he once belonged to: dentistry. Some compare these conversations to informing fundamentalist Christian parents that they are gay—but perhaps even more wrenching.

    Jagged resolution

    Trying to articulate where his religious beliefs stand now, Godfrey's eyes fill with tears. “It's been so long, a lifelong struggle, to sort out,” he says. He has flirted with atheism but found it too depressing. Several years ago, he stopped attending church for a year before returning. He believes in God today, he says, but tomorrow may be different.

    Complicating matters are the people he most loves and their stance on creationism. Godfrey and his wife met as teenagers in a church youth group. They and their five children have always attended an evangelical, young-Earth creationist church. About 6 months ago, Godfrey seethed through 12 weeks of a DVD presentation on creationism. During an early session, he raised objections in front of a church youth group that included his 15-year-old daughter. The group was not brought back for later showings.

    “I was really torn,” he says, “because I would have loved to have been given the opportunity to say, ‘Okay, I'm now going to do a presentation on the other side.’ But they don't want to hear it. It's too threatening and it's too upsetting.”

    Like many creationists-turned-evolutionists, Godfrey is conflicted about how, and how forcefully, to press his case. In 2005, he and his brother-in-law Smith published Paradigms on Pilgrimage, a book describing their own transition and making the case for evolution. His father prayed that it would not be published, and Godfrey did not send his parents a copy. He thought his book would change minds among creationists but isn't sure it has.

    “I haven't” read it, says his younger sister Esther Godfrey, of Sherbrooke. “I'm feeling it's a very odd way of viewing the Bible, if you can choose which parts you believe literally and not literally.” Esther Godfrey is not sure what turned her brother away from a young Earth, as they've never discussed it. “I know he saw something at some point, maybe a fossil, and thought the Earth has to be old,” she says. “That is what I've heard.”

    Just as he longs for biblical literalists to be more receptive to evolution, Godfrey also wishes that biologists would join the discussion. He was incensed 5 years ago when, participating in an evolution-creationism debate at Bishop's University, where he once argued against the fossil record, no one from the biology department attended.

    “I continue to think that scientists have made a serious mistake in not engaging the issue,” agrees entomologist Susan Fisher of Ohio State University in Columbus. Fisher, always an evolutionist, was shocked to learn that more than half the students in her 700-person introductory biology class identified themselves as creationists. Last year, she received funding from the John Templeton Foundation to bring in scholars, most of them Christians who reject creationism, to speak to the students. “We need to figure out among students changing their minds, what does that?” says Jason Wiles, who studies evolution education at McGill and Syracuse University in New York state and was himself once a creationist.

    But sometimes, former creationists believe, changing minds is not worth the heartache it brings. Godfrey no longer considers evolution worth mentioning to his parents, now 78 and 79 years old, and he asked that they not be contacted for this article. “You can live your life just fine and not know squat about evolution,” he says.

    When it comes to his children, Godfrey's not sure what they believe nor how firmly to steer them. Certainly, he says, they are exposed to creationist teachings. Of all his children it's his youngest, 4-year-old Victoria, who shows the strongest penchant for science. Wandering the beaches near her home, she often asks to bring home bones she finds, just as her father did years ago. Will her view of the world make room for evolution? Godfrey watches and waits and wonders whether to step in.


    Japan's Ocean Drilling Vessel Debuts to Rave Reviews

    1. Dennis Normile

    Early finds from Chikyu’s first scientific voyage hint at a coming treasure trove of data on the generation of earthquakes, tsunamis, and other geological phenomena.

    Early finds from Chikyu's first scientific voyage hint at a coming treasure trove of data on the generation of earthquakes, tsunamis, and other geological phenomena

    SHINGU, JAPAN—Two years after leaving the shipyard, Japan's first deep-ocean drilling vessel has finally got down to business. Wrapping up its first scientific voyage earlier this month, the Chikyu stopped at Shingu, a port town on the Kii Peninsula, about 400 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, where researchers rhapsodized about findings that promise a better understanding of processes that generate earthquakes and tsunamis. “I've been on five [ocean drilling] cruises before, and these are the most exciting results I've seen so far,” says Elizabeth Screaton, a geologist at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

    In three back-to-back expeditions over 19 weeks along the Nankai Trough, one of the planet's most active fault zones, the $550 million Chikyu bored 33 holes, retrieved cores as deep as 1000 meters below the sea floor, and extracted thousands of samples. Scientists will be analyzing the data and samples for years. But preliminary analyses in Chikyu's labs are already offering insights into fundamental seismic processes.

    After receiving the Chikyu in July 2005, the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) equipped it and sent it on shakedown cruises. The agency then leased it to an oil-exploration operation to subsidize the scientific work. Chikyu, which JAMSTEC runs for the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), started scientific drilling last September in the Nankai Trough, where the Philippine Sea Plate is subducting beneath the Eurasian Plate. Sediment on the Philippine Plate gets scraped off and piled into what is called an accretionary prism on the Eurasian Plate.

    Drill sergeants.

    Geologists Elizabeth Screaton and Gaku Kimura examine cores returned by Chikyu (inset).


    Ruptures along the boundary and in megasplay faults—which branch off the plate boundary and rise to the sea floor—have triggered some of Japan's most devastating earthquakes, including a 1944 magnitude-7.9 temblor centered about 100 kilometers southeast of Shingu. The shaking and the 9-meter tsunami that resulted from shifts in the accretionary prism killed more than 1200 people, devastated the Kii Peninsula, and caused damage as far as Osaka, 110 kilometers north of Shingu. Scientists drilled into the fault that ruptured in 1944 and the surrounding rocks and sediment to gain a better understanding of the subduction zone's evolution and the mechanisms of earthquake and tsunami generation, says Asahiko Taira, a geologist and directorgeneral of JAMSTEC's Center for Deep Earth Exploration.

    Initial findings have perplexed—and delighted—researchers. Speaking at a December press conference after the second expedition, Siegfried Lallemant, a geologist at the University of Cergy-Pontoise in Paris, France, said he and his colleagues were surprised at the young age of the Nankai Trough's features. Material in the accretionary prism appears to date back only 4 million to 6 million years. “I was expecting much older [material],” Lallemant said. “The prism is growing very fast in this area, much faster than I expected.”

    The megasplay fault system is also more complex than anticipated. Previous work indicated that the 1944 quake occurred along a single shallow fault that branches off the plate boundary. But core samples revealed a second fault. “We're hoping further analysis will tell which fault slipped in 1944 and what is the relationship between the two faults,” says Gaku Kimura, a geologist at the University of Tokyo and co-chief scientist of the third expedition. Screaton, the other co-chief scientist, says that temperatures deep in the boreholes are much cooler than models predicted, suggesting that the current understanding of heat flow and fluid movements in the fault zone is flawed.

    The early insights are largely thanks to Chikyu's lab capabilities, particularly a computed tomography (CT) scanner that produces 3D images of the core before its casing is removed. After viewing the images, microbiologists, geochemists, and structural geologists agree on where and how to cut the core to preserve materials and features of interest, says Daniel Curewitz, a structural geologist who served onboard as project manager. “We can make a plan before the [core] is cut open,” he says.

    CT scanners were too unwieldy and costly for routine use on previous expeditions. “I can't emphasize how much the CT scan has changed how we do science out here,” says Screaton. “Now sometimes I wonder if previously there were fault zones that we missed because when we opened the core, [sediment] got disturbed. We were working blind.” Curewitz says IODP planners are now considering adding a CT scanner to the JOIDES Resolution, the other IODP drill ship, which is being refurbished.

    Chikyu's full capabilities have yet to be tested. Its drill is designed to reach 7 kilometers below the ocean floor, but the deepest it has gone so far is just over 1 kilometer. Going deeper might require use of a riser, a tube enclosing the drill pipe that circulates lubricating mud that flushes cuttings from the drilling face and shores up sediments. A new riser is expected to see action in 2009, after the vessel returns from another round of oil exploration. “It's too bad we don't have the ship for science full-time, but there are budgetary issues,” says Taira. Chikyu will resume scientific drilling along the Nankai Trough in November.

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