Leturgey Musings and Goings On

These are some of my writings...from events going on in the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance and elsewhere, to observations from the rest of my decidely unformulaic life.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Martin Luther King Jr. Remembered In Pittsburgh

[The following was printed as the Cover Story in The Front Weekly, dated 2/14/05]

by Tom Leturgey

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. walked into the Crawford Grill atop the bustling Hill District in late summer 1958, people were understandably excited. He had only been a national figure for about two years, but the late twenty-something King had already made a lasting impression.

During that trailblazing trip to Pittsburgh two years into the modern Civil Rights movement, Dr. King also spoke at the Central Baptist Church. It was at that church where Vera White first heard Dr. King preach live.
"It was just at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement," said White. "We had two sermons (where King spoke) and they were packed."

Nearly 2,000 people crowded into the church at the corner of Fitzpatrick and Wiley Avenues on a beautiful Sunday morning. White heard most of his homily while sitting on steps under a gigantic banner welcoming King’s visit, outside the church. As an usher (White continues to sit on the church’s usher board to this day and sings in the choir), she made sure others had better seats for the visit. Her three children—Marsha, Carol and Charles—sat in a pew together and didn’t make a peep, but that wasn’t out of the ordinary for the well-behaved family.

"He was a dynamic speaker," she said. "He had a lot of charisma."

Dr. King’s voice was "not monotone," White said. "It was a voice that got your attention. [You] wouldn’t have gone to sleep. What he had to say, you listened."

The guest speaker didn’t filibuster while in Pittsburgh. White remembers a normal 35-40 service. "That was before the church had TV broadcasts," she notes. "We televise our services now."

White, 76, was about the same age as the Atlanta, Georgia native when he came to speak nearly four decades ago. "He was already very well known," she said.

King’s star as a prominent African American leader had been climbing rapidly since 1956. He was a highly regarded and intelligent (King graduated from high school at age 15) Baptist Minister in Montgomery, Alabama when then-unknown 42-year-old seamstress Rosa Parks triggered the civil rights movement by refusing to move from a seat in the front of a public bus.

When he was in Pittsburgh, he was still the young idealist, stressing the importance to faith, family and self-empowerment..

Dr. King’s was formulating his theory of "somebodiness," which symbolized the celebration of human worth and the conquest of subjugation. The ideology, which was partially inspired by Gandhi, was designed to give African American and poor people of all colors hope, plus and a sense of dignity. According to the Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation, his philosophy of nonviolent direct action (i.e. the 381-day boycott of Montgomery’s bus lines), and his strategies for rational and non-destructive social change, galvanized the conscience of this nation and reordered its priorities. His wisdom, his words, his actions, his commitment, and his dream for a new way of life are intertwined with the American experience.

Because of his philosophy and advocacy for non-violence to solve problems, writers for Time magazine and the New York Times, among others, profiled Dr. King and anchors invited him to be on TV’s Meet the Press.
Dr. King had a few Pittsburgh contacts. Most prominent was Cornell Talley, pastor of Central Baptist Church. Talley and Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. had gone to college together and had remained close. Talley, it should be noted, was a pastor for more than 50 years, until his unexpected death in 1989. It’s believed that Talley asked King to speak at the churches in Pittsburgh that year.

To this day, parishioners at Central Baptist speak emphatically and freely share pictures from King’s visit. While White says that she’s forgotten a lot of details about that time, she will quickly spout minutiae about the doctor’s life and ambitions. It’s obvious that many lives were affected that day in the Hill District and beyond.
Protesters were on hand for many of King’s rallies in the South; however, none were on display when he spoke here. The event was widely publicized in Pittsburgh daily newspapers.

Pictures from that era show a handsome, youthful-looking King, oftentimes with his equally photogenic wife Coretta Scott King (she and the couple’s children Yolanda and infant Martin III—Dexter and Bernice had not yet been born—didn’t make that trip to Pittsburgh). Asked if she or her friends found the married Dr. King attractive, White chuckled and said, "I had more respect for him than that."

White didn’t get a chance to speak with or even shake hands with Dr. King at the church, she does remember him as approachable.

"To me, he seemed to have warmth," the Academy Heights resident said. "He seemed like you were able to walk up and talk to him." She also remembered seeing him carry on conversations with parishioners.

In 1958, Dr. King was involved in many projects. He had just founded and named president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference a year earlier and was writing the first of his six books (a second, "A Measure of A Man" a collection of sermons, would be released in 1959). In addition, he was promoting a Crusade for Citizenship, a movement that was designed to register five million southern black voters by 1960.

In Jean Darby’s 1990 King biography, she recounts some of a speech given in Miami, Florida, around the same time King visited Pittsburgh. Due to the timeline and subject matter, at least some of it must have been the same: "Let us make our intentions clear. We must and will be free. We want or freedom now. We do not want freedom fed to us in a teaspoon. Under God we were born free. Misguided men robbed us from our freedom. We want it back."

He went on to say, "Remember the words of Jesus. He who lives by the sword will die by the sword. We must meet our white brothers with love."

In another 1958 speech, King said, "In our struggle against racial segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, I came to see at a very early stage that a synthesis of Gandhi's method of nonviolence and the Christian ethic of love is the best weapon available to Negroes for this struggle for freedom and human dignity. It may well be that the Gandhian approach will bring about a solution to the race problem in America. His spirit is a continual reminder to oppressed people that it is possible to resist evil and yet not resort to violence."

As King was touring the eastern half of the U.S. to promote different agendas, Pittsburgh and Allegheny County were making their own strides toward the future. In 1958 county officials commissioned the Glenwood Bridge which would soon span the Monongahela River; meanwhile, the Mellon Family Foundation committed $3 million for 3,650 that would later become the county park system.

That same year, the federal government gave city officials $15 million to redevelop East Liberty and U.S. Steel announced that it would curtail production at the Edgar Thompson Works. However, that was only a hiccup to the steel industry, as Jones and Laughlin Mill expanded its production.

Around that same time, Dr. King and three other civil rights activists went to Washington, D.C., in an attempt to convince President Dwight D. Eisenhower to support their initiatives. King had tried for more than a year to schedule the meeting before it was finally set. He was reportedly disappointed with the outcome of that meeting.

In September of that year he was arrested in a Montgomery courtroom during a confrontation with a courtroom guard. He was found guilty and agreed to go to jail instead of paying the $10 fine, but was released when the police commissioner—fearing King would use the event for publicity—paid the fine himself.
King’s frantic year of activism concluded abruptly on September 20 when a 42-year-old woman historians have described as "criminally insane" or "emotionally disturbed," Izola Curry, stabbed Dr. King in the chest with a letter opener during a book signing in Harlem, New York. Doctors had to remove two ribs to dislodge the weapon. King was on tour promoting that first book, "Stride Toward Freedom."

History shows that around the time he was in Pittsburgh, Dr. King was looking to move away from Montgomery, where his home was damaged by a bomb in 1956. A part of the porch was destroyed and windows smashed in the blast (another, unexploded devise was found under the same porch a year later). He had been pastor of Dexter Avenue Church from 1954 to 1959. He ultimately decided to move to back to his hometown of Atlanta a year after his Pittsburgh appearance to be closer to his family. He directed the activities of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for a year before becoming co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, alongside his father.

Also in 1959, King traveled abroad to visit Gandhi, who was one of his idols.

Dr. King would return to Pittsburgh a few years later for the Freedom March at Forbes Field. White remembers celebrities like singer Harry Bellafonte that were along for the march. By the time of the Freedom March, Rev. Talley had moved on to his next church in Detroit, so Dr. King marched with other friends he made while in Pittsburgh.

Five years after visiting Pittsburgh for the first time, Dr. King gave his famous "I have a Dream" speech (which included the line, "Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania") and in 1964, at age 35, he was the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

James Earl Ray assassinated Dr. King in 1968 at age 39 while standing on a balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. His monumental achievements all occurred during a span of only 13 years.

If he had lived, King would have been 76 and still young enough to be on the national stage. It would have been interesting to see what to see what he would have done next, and how it would have affected Pittsburgh and the entire nation. According to a Washington Post article reflecting on his death in 1998, some said Dr. King was becoming more radical. Others liked to remember his earlier victories.

"What he said made a lot of sense," said White of King’s early Pittsburgh stop. "Do the best your can do. If that meant be the best street sweeper, than be the best street sweeper."

White agrees with some of the sentiments made by comedian Bill Cosby, who blasted some in the African American community for underachieving and blaming others for their woes. "I feel the same way," she said. "It’s good common sense. [Good people] starts with a good family."
White doesn’t believe Dr. King would have gone on to be the first African American President of the United

States (some historians think he would have been asked to run if he had lived a while longer), but she thinks he would have remained an important figure in the country.

"I don’t even know if he would have wanted [to run for President]," White continued (political insiders say there were slight whispers of a Robert Kennedy/King ticket). "But he would want you to vote in every election."

Some may debate the lasting effects of King’s efforts. In today’s fast-paced media-influenced society, not much attention is given to national figures who are still in their 20’s, aside from celebrity singers, actors and professional athletes. Barack Obama, the U.S. Senator from Illinois who practically stole the show that was last year’s Democratic National Convention with a dynamic keynote address, and is considered one of the up-and-coming young African American leaders, is 43.

In Pittsburgh and around the country each January, Dr. King’s legacy is observed or celebrated in many ways on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Annually, the local Salvation Army holds an event to feed the hungry and homeless. This year, the Salvation Army hosted a chili lunch at its Youth Program Hall on Third Avenue, downtown. Primanti Brother Restaurant on Cherry Way donated food for the event and volunteers from Robert Morris University’s "America’s Promise" group served food.

Citizens Bank, along with the Pittsburgh Public Schools and the New Pittsburgh Courier also sponsored a Martin Luther King Jr. essay writing contest for city school students. Essays on the topic "What Martin Luther King Jr. did to make us better citizens," will be judged by Citizens Bank employees. The panel will select six elementary, six middle school, and six high school students for the prizes. Winners will be announced the week of March 18.

Upon winning, the 18 winners will go to Washington, D.C. on April 18 and 19 and take part in an "African American Heritage" guided tour.

"The messages of peace, harmony and self-reliance that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached decades ago ring true today," said John Thompson, former Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent. "This educational exercise will help our students focus on values that will reap rewards well beyond the classroom."

Some believe that Dr. King’s message has been lost in the 37 years since his death. They believe that his drive for equality in for all races has fallen short of his intentions and his emphasis on non-violence pushed aside.
Meanwhile, others point to the strides that have been taken by other prominent African Americans, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice to name two. Or that minority home ownership in the U.S. is at an all-time high (nearly 48% according to Marc Morial, president of National Urban League, as stated in a Detroit News interview in July, 2004), even though the rate for whites is still higher, at near 73%.

Another light should shine on Dr. King’s memory later this year when the 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ defiance in Montgomery is celebrated.

Nevertheless, none of that mattered to the supporters at the Crawford Grill and Central Baptist Church who were simply glad to see Dr. King in Pittsburgh 47 years ago.

"Anyone who was there hasn’t forgotten about it," said White.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Nancy Mimless: One Of Pittsburgh’s Busiest Actresses

[The following is a copy of my story, which ran in The Front Weekly in Pittsburgh, the week of 1/31/05]

by Tom Leturgey

Nancy Mimless may be the prototypical Pittsburgh actress; when she was asked to be the focus of a feature story, she wondered if she had done enough to warrant such attention. While she may initially come off as a girl-next-door type, like Sandra Bullock, this Steel City born and bred performer has established quite a one-of-a-kind resume.

The youngest of Kenneth the late Rona Mimless’ children, Nancy knew at an early age that she wanted to perform. It started with singing The Archie’s “Sugar, Sugar” in the living room and later performances at Peabody High School and the then-upstart CAPA in Homewood.

After graduating from high school and earning her B.A. in Theater from Pitt in the mid 1980’s, Nancy tried her hand in Los Angeles. She was immediately hired by Chuck Barris’ former Gong Show production company, which was still filming offbeat game shows.

By then the Gong Show (at that time hosted by some guy named Jeff McGregor) and its companion shows—the Newlywed Game and Dating Game—were shadows of their once famous incarnations, but it did provide a unique opportunity and a paycheck. Nancy met celebrities of the day like Raider’s lineman John Matuzak, members of the LA Dodgers and wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper.

If the Game Show Network were to ever pick up Gong Show episodes from the Reagan era, you’d see Mimless’ appearances as “Rappin’ Katherine Hepburn,” or “Flashdance Nancy” from the Pittsburgh-themed show. “We did a lot of (those) shows,” she says. “I spoke Pittsburghese and danced.”

Tuned into “the industry,” she was able to parlay her position as a Contestant Coordinator into more than three dozen appearances as an extra.Nancy’s infectious enthusiasm and verve caught the eye of showbiz superstars Steve Martin and Robin Williams. Martin tried, unsuccessfully, to get her a few lines in LA Story and Williams remarked, “you’re funny,” when Nancy herded a group of extras together “like cattle” and spontaneously created a dance during an Earth Day special.

She says if you blink, you’ll miss her appearances on TV’s Night Court and Married…with Children, as well as the Val Kilmer big screen dud, The Doors.

The game shows were soon canceled, but because of her tenacity Nancy continued to find work here and there, including a spot on the first season of the tabloid show Hard Copy.

A lack of money quickly became a problem so she moved back to Pittsburgh. Back in town she found a tight-knit group of agents and producers, but armed with beauty, charisma and optimism, she was able to find a small crease with local talent scouts. Nancy has worked consistently (including a stint as a line dancer with the Parrot on top of her beloved Pittsburgh Pirates’ dugout during the country dance craze in the early 90’s), but not enough to quit her day job downtown.

Over the past decade, Mimless, who easily allures with a smile and quicker wit, has been in nearly 20 theater productions throughout Western Pennsylvania, including a standout lead performance in Agnes of God last year. She’s also performed in other meaningful shows with a touring group for children and Crisis Center North. While Mimless almost always earns favorable reviews for her wide array of work locally, she still occasionally fields calls from friends who see a repeat of The Weakest Link in which she was the first contestant booted by the persnickety Anne Robinson.

“Pittsburgh’s a nice place,” she says. “Unfortunately, I can’t make a living doing what I love.” Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop the East End resident from participating in audition almost continually for a variety of parts. In the past year, she been has seen in Armstrong Cable and Shop n’ Save (as a seen-it-all bathrobed wife who frowns as her husband juggles flaming skillets) commercials, not to mention her most famous role—a counter-dancing diner waitress who wins the Ohio Lottery. “It must still be running,” she says. “I still get checks.”

Mimless was also heard last summer in radio ads for Kennywood Park and the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. “I’ve done a lot of funky things.”A loyal member of the Screen Actors Guild, Equity and the American Federation of Radio and TV actors (she’s Secretary for the Pittsburgh AFTRA chapter’s Executive Board) Nancy will keep charging ahead, despite the fact that fewer major motion pictures and TV shows are spending time in Pittsburgh. “My goal is to make a living as an actor,” she says. “My dream is to make a mark and have an impact on the industry.”

It seems there isn’t anything typical about this modest girl next door.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Media Maverick Jerry Bowyer Uses Intelligence To Surge In Radio

[My feature story on Pittsburgh media personality Jerry Bowyer from 1/31/2005 issue of The Front Weekly]

by Tom Leturgey

On January 20, Jerry Bowyer clicked on the microphone in Pittsburgh’s Talk Radio 1360 WPTT’s Green Tree studio and asked callers to reflect on President George W. Bush’s just-completed inauguration speech. He found very few takers, largely because his new 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. audience was most likely still at work about the time Bush’s second-term officially began.

The change from morning to afternoon drive has been a boon for Bowyer. In what he routinely calls, “the best job I’ve ever had,” Bowyer finds himself more rested, primed and ready for action.

He was never better than the day a few weeks ago when a caller, who dubbed himself ‘Rabbi Art’, spent upwards of 20 minutes arguing whether the Torah advocated a tax code. The caller interpreted the virtues as civic responsibility and high levies. Bowyer, who backs lower taxes, repeatedly asked the rabbi for the exact location of his source material. Flummoxed, the left-leaning Rabbi simply couldn’t keep up with the right-leaning host, who effortlessly dispatched opinion and translation, sometimes verbatim from text. Near the end of the spirited conversation, Bowyer, 42, a self-described “Historical Christian,” appeared to both toy with and be irked by the caller, who allegedly was the expert. He blistered that caller the same way he masters some of his actual guests, like conservative favorite Ann Coulter. And Bowyer wasn’t the first to call outlandish commentator Pat Buchanan a racist for his views.

“He’s one of the most intelligent talk show hosts I’ve ever heard,” said producer Greg Kuntz, who has teamed with Bowyer since the talker switched time slots with another excellent veteran, Doug Hoerth, in September. “Jerry’s big thing is debate. And he’s not as right-wing as some may think.”

The debate with the rabbi is just the most recent dust up from dominant one-sided debate. A few years ago when some area leaders floated a “Living Wage” for city-contracted workers, more than one activist bailed on their guest appearances—in the middle of broadcast conversations—unable to back their claims with fiscal reality.

Much like other radio chat fests, most of 2004 was dominated by Bush v. John F. Kerry presidential talk. Bowyer’s program was as neck deep as any other, but it was also more about hard issues and less about flag waving and Bush bashing.

Bowyer and his wife Susan’s media company last year published the host’s book on economics and job numbers entitled “The Bush Boom.” The well-reviewed publication found its way to the White House last year and earned Bowyer one-on-one interviews with vice president Dick Cheney and an in-studio chat with then National Security Advisor, now Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice. “She was brilliant and friendly,” Bowyer said of Rice. “And she hugged our receptionist.”

The success of “Boom” provided an opportunity for national television exposure with cable’s Neil Cavuto and guest hosting gigs on other radio shows from Los Angeles to Chicago to the syndicated Mike Gallagher program.

He also continued writing for National Review Online, Tech Central Station and Crosswalk.Nevertheless, with the last presidential election safely in the annals of history, Bowyer looks ahead to the next subject du jour.

“The callers decide the topic,” he says. “They are in charge and they know it.”

Bowyer expects a lot of Pittsburgh Mayoral talk over the next few months. “It depends on who’s in,” he adds. County Prothonotary Michael Lamb has “grabbed some news cycles” by being the first to enter what pundits believe will be an interesting race. “(Presumptive heir to Tom Murphy’s throne, Former City Council president) Bob O’Connor has not been heard from.

“Harry Readshaw would be Pittsburgh’s next Mayor if he ran,” Bowyer said confidently of the Democrat state Representative from Carrick, who was considered and courted by many Democrats and Republicans alike (former Republican county executive Jim Roddey has called Readshaw “my favorite Democrat”) as a formidable dark horse. However, Readshaw and his son were injured in a rather serious weather-related auto accident over the Thanksgiving holiday season, and it’s believed that he will not enter the mayoral sweepstakes.

Bowyer doesn’t plan on waiting for issues to fall into his lap. On Inauguration Day, despite only a few calls with every man reaction, his radio show was stuffed with presidential historians, primed with opinions. In addition, he’s quick to talk about new movie releases, technology, business or religion.

In fact, Bowyer’s next big project is World View, a Sunday morning talk show he describes as “Meet the Press with religious topics.” The show started as a series of five specials around the election but has been picked up for a longer run. He continues to host topical Focus on the Issues and assists Susan, who manages their other TV show, Pennsylvania Newsmakers. World View, he says, is his true growth product, as few real syndication opportunities exist for radio hosts who can switch gears from topical politics, presidential and social economic history to the latest in pop culture, without ranting and sometimes foaming at the mouth.

Better yet, staying local means there’s always time spend with the Bowyer’s expansive brood and sprawling 7-bedroom, 4-acre fixer upper in Elizabeth Township. In addition to seven children, the family took in a family friend, Marlena, a few years ago.

The Bowyer’s eldest son, Chris, 20, is a budding movie critic who’s encyclopedic knowledge of filmdom and culture rivals that his father.The younger six children, plus Marlena, are all home schooled. One principle of their education is a “Reading Circle,” where each child, regardless of their age, take turns reading old political speeches aloud. That unique way to encourage reading is the focus of Bowyer’s next book.

“It’s a slow train,” he jokes of the book’s progress. Bowyer Media is closer to publishing its second book for a local financial planner.Sometimes slowing down, reflecting and prioritizing is the right plan of attack for someone who seemingly has dozens of plates simultaneously spinning.

Kind of like an inaugural address.

Evolutionists, Creationists And Intelligent Design

[The following is my Cover Story for the Front Weekly in Pittsburgh]

by Tom Leturgey

Ever since Charles Darwin floated his theory of natural selection, it has been debated, sometimes feverishly. Creationists, unwilling to succumb to scientific data they believe to be flawed, won’t waver from their belief that a higher power, specifically God—and argument’s sake, a Judeo-Christian God (other religions like Hinduism do touch on other “ancient earth” topics)—was the true pragmatist behind mankind.

Some public minds have asserted that evolution and creationism are both flights of fantasy, simplistic explanations to far more sophisticated issues. Creationists say they’ve come a long way from the early days, when they were called “Flat Earthers” or “Geocentrics” who believe the earth the epicenter of the universe.Both sides have waged contention in courts, laboratories and schools, oddly hedging for their own survival of the fittest.

Then came the Intelligent Design faction.

For some, advocates of Intelligent Design (ID) seem to provide the best of both worlds: a foundation of science and a pinch of holy intervention. Some say science fiction.

ID is the theory that there is a higher intelligence—Supreme Being or extra terrestrial—that has distinct plans for humanity. One base of the ID movement is the Center for Science and Culture, while another is a growing community of alien life aficionados. Legal scholar Phillip E. Johnson popularized the term Intelligent Design in his 1991 book Darwin on Trial. Many ID followers believe that evolution and natural selection are insufficient explanations for life.

“I can see where they’re coming from,” said James Gibbs, a defender of Creationism, about the theory of Intelligent Design. “It’s not too far off from my own beliefs.”

Gibbs, 27, a Long Island New York native now living in Pittsburgh, believes an “outside force” did populate the planet with a diversity of people, plants and animals. He says it was God. A “born again Christian” for three years, Gibbs always attended church, and not just because his mother was the pastor. “I’m not a connotative Christian,” he said. “I’m denotative.”

He started learning toward the creationist theory while as a student studying science at Carnegie Mellon University. His intellectual appetite was primed while in the New York public school system. “Teachers would chuckle because they knew (the subject matter) wasn’t true,” Gibbs said. “And they were as liberal as you could get.

Once he got to CMU, his own beliefs developing beliefs clashed with the compelling data faculty was bringing his way. “The more questions I had, the less answers I was getting,” he said. His interests were not unlike many Progressive Creationists, who accept most of modern physical science, even viewing the Big Bang as evidence of the creative power of God, but rejects much of modern biology.

He was principally inquisitive about gravity’s true meaning (he didn’t completely buy into centrifugal force) and why, despite exact scientific recreations of what professors thought “the big bang,” was all about, things just didn’t appear to make sense.

“I was a naïve kid with a flurry of questions,” he said. When scientists at CMU were able to make two ions collide at the speed of sound, Gibbs was expecting to see a blast of monumental proportions. Instead physics teachers, tired of his litany of questions, sent him to the back of the room.It’s at that time Gibbs started looking for answers in the Bible. “God is like gravity, you can’t see it but you know it works,” he says.

Gibbs furthermore believes man just may be de-evolving with the advent of the Internet and other tools that may be used to dull once promising and creative brains. And he’s a software developer.

Steve Babin, a believer of Evolutionism, disagrees with the notion that people are de-evolving because they’re caught up with television programs or Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video games.

Today we aren’t consumed with hunting for that day’s food and finding shelter, he says. “Some argue that society is falling,” he continues. “It isn’t. “Modern man is always ‘Modern Man’,” he says. “There will always be geniuses in any age.”

Babin, 38, a North Side resident working in Sales and Marketing, believes that followers of Intelligent Design and Creationism base their faith, beliefs, or theories on fear. That opinion parallels that of many evolution-leaning philosophers and historians who think that debates with creationists is simply science versus religion. “Look around,” he continues. “Evolution shows itself every day.”

Babin points to present-day squirrels in the Grand Canyon. Squirrels on the north end of the valley are a different color than their cousins to the south, and they “respond differently to their environment.” In addition, the squirrels rarely communicate with those from the other end of the canyon, and live exclusively apart.

Natural selection among animals explains why towering and dominating Tyrannosaurus Rex couldn’t survive through ice ages and other natural obstacles, while turtles and alligators remain plentiful in particular areas of the planet. “[Meanwhile] Forces that man has caused has caused for the extinction of a number of cockatiels and parakeets in South America,” said Babin.

Believers of ID suggest that some ancient archeological gems, like the rocks at Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Egypt are souvenirs from a long-gone mystical power. “I think they’ve leave something more ego-based,” says Babin. “I don’t discount a Creator…but I don’t think a God would create the errors (he does).”

As for Gibbs’ hypothesis that scientists should be able to recreate the Big Bang, Babin says there’s something “missing to the blueprint,” that the brightest minds of today just haven’t yet been able to comprehend. “We think we know everything,” he explains. Chance, chaos and just plain old luck may have something to do with creating a new universe.

“Scientists aren’t able to recreate the Big Bang because they cannot set up the original conditions,” said John Kulinski, an advocate of Intelligent Design. “They would have to have everything in ‘potential,’” so that when everything exploded, you’d have everything there.”

Kulinski doesn’t know if it is possible for any modern being to recreate a life-triggering explosion.

It’s the “X” factor, or random chance odds, that have so many people perplexed.“I believe everything was created and is held in place by creation, but note a anthropomorphic God,” noted Kulinski.

Kulinski, 61, studied in a seminary school from ages 17-24 before deciding he wasn’t cut out for a life of religious servitude. A long-time Medical Laboratory Technician, Kulinski has vast experience in science, as well as religion. He can talk at length about another interest, the Pleidians—the race from Star System Pleides, the Lyra constellation in particular—whom he believes remains to be the driving force behind humanity of Earth.

The Whitehall resident says the pacifist Pleidians escaped their own world to escape growing tyranny and landed here, after first setting up colonies on Mars. “They are not from our time/space continuum,” he says.

The Pleidians, he suggests, genetically engineered all humans; however, Asians, Africans and Native Americans (possibly including the 9,000 year old Caucasian fossil Kennewick Man), among others actually originated on other planets in the Pleidians Star System. As Humans were born and bred on our home planet as a warrior race, designed to protect their originators from other aliens. The “petrie dish” or “primordial soup” that isn’t too far off of more than a few religious fundamentalists, according to Creationist follower Jim Gibbs.

“Earth is at the outer edge of the universe,” Kulinski explains. “[Pleiadians] needed soldiers.” However, he contests that earthlings have one major flaw: we are genetically engineered to die before reaching age 100, whereas Pleidians can live past 1,000 years old. Dying young would stop any full-assault rebellious uprising. Much of this backstory is available thanks to a Swedish farmer named Billy Meier who some say can still communicate with the Pleiadians. Meier’s website, www.figu.org, reports some of the latest information, as the Pleidians, fearing World War III, left Earth possibly for good in 1995.

Pleidians aren’t to be confused with the similar-sounding Raelians, who also lay claim to creating life on Mars and then Earth. Those who believe in the Raelians say that alien race comes back to earth more often, and is more social to a select few of descendants. Pleiadians, who are described as “far more advanced than humans” are more anti-social according to Kulinski, and perhaps intimidated by quick-tempered earthlings.

Interestingly, a quick search on the Internet shows that Raelians claimed a tight relationship with Jesus Christ. Through common day interpreters, Raelians say they allowed Christ to walk on water by using a force field. They may also believe Christ was Raelian.

Another link from a search engine shows a drawing of Quetzal, a Pleiadian visitor who looks remarkably like popular renderings of Christ.

The concept of Pleiadians leaving in fear of potential world wars appears on the surface to parallel the “fearful thought” ideas Steve Babin purports. “Creationists and believers of Intelligent Design are out to prove a point,” says Babin.

Kulinski explains the Pleiadians wiped all evidence of their existence away, except for what they tell Billy Meier. And earth scientists that survive any world wars should be able to unlock the secret of longevity in about 2,000 years because of “inspiration” we haven’t discovered. The Raelians are reportedly more hands-on with day-to-day existence on earth, which could explain Stonehenge and the ancient pyramids.

Kulinski also disagrees with Gibbs’ assertions of de-evolution. “We can get more information and learn more and more quickly than ever before,” he says. “[But] in any era if someone chooses to be lazy, they’ll be lazy. The Internet doesn’t have anything to do with it.”

Babin and Kulinski, the evolutionist and ID follower, both mentioned a prominent “Life Force,” but regardless, had stark ideological differences. “Life Force is like gravity,” said Babin. “It’s weak and it’s strong. Gravity in a finite term, keeps everything here. It’s powerful. Not a linear line.”

“I wouldn’t express Life Force the same way (associating with gravity),” said Kulinski. “But I understand where he’s coming from.”Kulinski related his theory of Life Force to electricity. “Messages from the brain are delivered through the nervous system and power of electricity. It’s basically electricity that keeps people living.”

Then there’s the deliberation among scientists and others who wonder if chimpanzees, orangutans or another primate is “the missing link” in human evolution. Bibin says they’ve evolved over 200 years, just as humans have gotten larger, quicker and live longer lives, despite not knowing the Pleiadian’s secret.

Kulinski says apes and the like are simply a different branch of the same tree. “Older branches don’t necessarily die,” he says. “The main growth of the tree still allows for old growth.” Conversely, Pleiadians may be responsible for other forms of life on earth.All three ideologists agree that there should be tolerance when it comes to teaching evolution, creationism and intelligent design. For some, each of the choices features something, “weird.” In some public schools, the thought of teaching anything approaching religion would probably be more sour than anything Kulinski’s Pleiadians would have students swallow.

“Basically, if all schools would emphasize all without the exclusion of others, that would be best,” said Kulinski. “Sure there are some things they wouldn’t believe, just like now. It’s par for the course.”

“If [something] was found out to be 100% untrue, you’d like to know that 50 years from now, it wouldn’t be taught in schools,” said Gibbs.Recently, the York (PA) Daily Record reported that eight science teachers in Dover Senior High School have refused to teach Intelligent Design and “gaps/problems” curriculum. They cited, “theory…not a fact,” as their rationale. They specifically complained about using Of Pandas and People, a book they decided wasn’t “good science.”

Meanwhile, in Mississippi, a bill calling for “balanced treatment to the theory of scientific creationism and the theory of evolution” was introduced to the state legislature. On January 10, 2005, it was introduced to the state’s Committee on Education. State Bill 2286 defines “scientific creationism” as “the belief, based on scientific principles, that there was a time in the past when all manner, energy and life and their process and relationships, were created ex nihulo and fixed by creative and intelligent design,” and “would if enacted, require “instruction in scientific theories of both evolution and scientific creationism if public schools choose to each either.” If passed, students in kindergarten through 12th grade would be affected by the bill. The bill seems to be modeled after a Louisiana bill that was held to be unconstitutional in the Supreme Court’s 1987 decision in Edwards v. Aguillard.

What’s clear in the debate between evolution, creationism and Intelligent Design it that there isn’t a clear delineation of them. In some ways they are nearly mirror images (some ID followers are linked with conservative Christian groups, and there are Intelligent Design Creationists), while diametrically opposed in others (see the link between Christ and Raelians).