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Saturday, September 3, 2005

More responses to intelligent design

Intelligent design should be taught as part of a "comparative religions" class, but certainly not in any science class.

Intelligent design reminds me of a "Far Side" cartoon that shows a lab coat-wearing scientist working out a long, complicated mathematical proof on the chalkboard, in the middle of which "and then a miracle occurs" appears, and his colleagues point to it and say "I believe you've got a problem here, Smithers".

Randy Nevin

The Discovery Institute argues that schools should "teach the controversy" about evolution versus intelligent design. But what class should it be taught in? Intelligent design is not science. It is untestable by scientific means, and has provided no insights into the complexity and wonder of life.

There is no scientific controversy, but rather a clash of political philosophies and religious beliefs. Teach it in a history or political science class, as a short postscript to the 1925 "monkey trial" of John Scopes, who was charged in Tennesee with the crime of teaching evolution.

Students can learn more from William Jennings Bryan, Clarence Darrow and H. L. Mencken than they can from the Discovery Institute's slick, unscientific pitch.

Ed Munoz

Intelligent design should not be part of science education.

ID is simply creationist pseudoscience.

ID is anti-intellectual and harmful.

It misleads students and "turns them off" about science. ID attempts to discredit and ridicule even the methods that confirm the factual evidence of evolution.

ID does not follow the scientific method for acquiring and confirming new knowledge based upon physical evidence.

Scientists use observations, hypotheses and deductions to propose explanations for natural phenomena in the form of theories. Predictions from these theories are tested by reproducible experiments. ID fails to meet these stringent criteria.

ID proponents obfuscate their religious motivations and use deliberate deception for financial or political benefit.

They dishonestly portray evolutionary theory as "controversial" and "in crisis," yet there is no scientific controversy to teach.

Teaching an ID curriculum clearly violates the separation of church and state.

Phillip E. Johnson of the Discovery Institute admits that his strategy is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic. ID subtly seeks to shift the debate from creationism vs. evolution to the existence of God vs. the non-existence of God. From there, ID proponents proselytize Christianity, "the truth" of the Bible and then "the question of sin" and finally "introduction" to Jesus.

Larry Happ

The answer to the question of whether or not intelligent design should be part of science education is clearly and definitively no. By coincidence, two most cogent essays in support of this conclusion were elegantly presented in the Op-Ed pages of The Seattle Times and The New York Times on the same day as your "Burning Question" was posted (Aug. 28).

Colin Mosely, in "Rising to the Challenge of WASL" (Seattle Times), points out that a solid grasp of math, science and engineering are absolutely necessary for graduates of our schools today to thrive in our current and future economy. Parenthetically, Mosely argues that our schools should really strive to exceed the WASL standards, and that this challenge is definitely achievable. Implicit in his thesis is that it is essential that our schools teach sound science principles. We should not offer astrology as a viable "alternative explanation" to astronomy, nor should we teach alchemy as a viable "alternative explanation" to modern-day chemistry. Likewise, intelligent design is not science and must not be offered as a "scientific" alternative to evolution. Astrology, alchemy, and intelligent design could conceivably be studied in comparative philosophy courses, but not in science courses.

Daniel C. Dennett (New York Times) lucidly describes the deceptive arguments of those who espouse intelligent design. As he writes, "Indeed, no intelligent design hypothesis has even been ventured as a rival explanation of any biological phenomenon." If those who support intelligent design fail to even attempt to adhere to scientific principles, there is no rationale for talking about intelligent design within a science curriculum.

I commend both of these essays.

Donald W. Mitchell

Should existentialism be taught as science in elementary school? No. Should existentialism be taught as philosophy in high school or college as a way of thought in balance and context with other sound approaches? Yes. There is a place for mature material. But you give milk before meat.

What should ID be taught as? It should not be taught as science. It is more appropriate as religion or philosophy.

That said, the idea of ID has broad intuitive appeal to the human mind. An examination of the creation myth across world cultures will show this common thread. Indeed the very fabric of Western philosophy and thought is centered on the assumed existence of, and quest for, absolute scientific truth. Does this not make ID an article of faith? The proponents of ID should quit while they are ahead! The teaching of the very act of human creativity across all the arts and sciences already drives home this principle as a metaphor far better than any explicit instruction.

Loosely speaking, science is that which can be proven using our physical senses, or tools using physical principles, or can be derived from rigorous application of logic. Principles taught as science should be widely considered to be truth by a broad constituency. They should stand the test of time and peer review. Religion on the other hand is based on faith. By faith, I mean an internal conviction that something is true, even though it cannot be proven using the scientific system of the day. It is by religion that we connect with a higher power and are able to discern higher spiritual truths.

ID should not be used to impose the values of a particular group on the teachings of the community. There are many of us who value an active spiritual belief along with the principles of science. They are really two sides of the same thing. However the place to instill spiritual belief is in the home, family and church community. The secular public education system should not be used as a bully pulpit for those who do not share these values.

Further, spiritual beliefs cannot be instilled by force from the outside. They must be incorporated by the individual according to an overall way of thinking. The understanding of ID is not an end in itself that can be taught in isolation. ID is more of a perspective that can be used to guide one's life. But it is a perspective that is only applicable to one who has been taught to follow the path. Indeed, it is a testimony that is gained by the individual through spiritual sight. Such a treasure should not be given out lightly or for free. The individual must seek, in order to find. We are told that we should not cast our pearls before swine.

William Lees

I was stunned that the leaders of our country are proposing "intelligent design" in the science program for children. It doesn't make sense that we care so much about promoting "math and science" and then turn around and add this biblical version. Isn't evolution connected to science? And anthropology? Each "day" in the six-day creation in the Bible represented millions of years. Also, if we allow religious groups to tamper with education, we will eventually go back to the "dark ages" time when religion had obscured knowledge and truth.

Eydie Eskridge

I see that the religious right wing is again trying to insert religion in our children's and grandchildren's science classes.

Please don't be fooled. "Intelligent design" is just another phrase for creationism. As such it has no place in the public classrooms!

Separation of church and state is still a part of our Constitution. It should remain that way.

E. Wherry

Unlike the years of scientific research upon which the facts of evolution is based, the theory of intelligent design would impose a deity-based belief on all school children without scientific evidence to support it. No matter how many people agree with it, it is an obstruction to freedom of thought as well as being unconstitutional to include it in the public school science curricula. It makes a perfect example of why the Constitution of the United States calls for separation of church and state.

This religious person says to keep such theory where it belongs, where believers accept it. Until there is scientific proof of the intelligent design theory it does not serve all the children in our public schools well.

There's no block to teaching it in houses of worship, or conducting research for proof. It is "not ready for prime time."

Lyn Macfarlane

The reason that it is irresponsible to include intelligent design as a part of science education is included in Horsey's article with Chapman's acknowledgement; "intelligent design is underdeveloped as a testable scientific theory."

In addition, there is the more damming problem that no compelling supportive secondary geophysical or biological evidence indicates that this is a reasonable hypothesis. A detailed discussion of the issues is not possible in a letter to the editor, but one must point out again that the Darwin acknowledgement of evolutionary processes in biological systems is supported by geophysical evidence and testing founded on the same fundamental physics used by the engineering community to design and build Boeing airplanes. Biological systems are after all physical systems. What are the proposed necessary replacements for Newtonian mechanics, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, relativity theory, and gravitation from the proponents of intelligent design?

Should the religion and philosophical communities wish to speculate on "what if," so be it. That is not science.

E.L. Roetman, Ph. D.

I went to the Discovery Institute Web site and read the extensive amount of information on intelligent design theory. While I understand the argument that evolution theory may not be robust enough to explain our evolution starting with primordial ooze and ending with what we are today I am not sure that the theory of intelligent design answers that question either.

From Darwin's first publication in 1859 to the Scopes trial in 1925 there were years of study, argument, testing, etc. that occurred in pursuit of supporting or dismissing Darwin's theory. Since the Scopes trials even more data has been accumulated and tested in various ways further cementing the theory of evolution as a viable truth.

Intelligent design has been around for all of a few years with absolutely no testing, and no provable data to support its premise: That we were created by some "intelligent designer." Why are people in a hurry to install an unproven theory in the classroom? I can already see the student-teacher exchange:

Teacher explains that some "greater being" could have created life on Earth. Student raises hand and asks, "So does that mean that we could have been created by aliens who arrived in a UFO?"

Teacher, "Yes."

Student, "Could there have been multiple entities that created civilizations on different parts of our planet?"

Teacher, "Yes, that is possible."

Student, "So we have no idea, really, about what was the catalyst that caused the initiation of life on Earth?"

Teacher: "Correct."

The idea of intelligent design raised some interesting questions. What it doesn't do is provide any answers beyond, "gee, our existence could pretty much be the result of anything, including evolution, aliens in UFOs, God, or even multiple Gods."

To me, a good theory provides a specific framework that raises testable questions that will support or debunk the theory. A good theory also projects what the answers will be. If it is not testable and verifiable, then you are not practicing science, you are participating in blind belief -- something that would fall under the purview of religion. Intelligent design fails as a theory on this front. Perhaps, after some testing, they will have a theory worthy of teaching in the classroom, but good theories usually take time to prove and justify.

Ernesto Simas

I think that it's an unnecessary and time consuming exercise in stupidity to teach Intelligent Design in science classes. With all the studies that are necessary in schools these day why waste time on this type of subject.

Dr. Robert P. Lewis
Mercer Island

Schools "teaching" intelligent design is not the issue. There is nothing to teach. In the pending "intelligent design" case in Dover, Pa., all eight science teachers at the area high school advised the school board that "intelligent design is not science, not biology, not an accepted scientific theory." They declined to preach to their students about intelligent design. No government in this country prevents religious conservatives from preaching their beliefs in their pulpits and church classes. No government in this country should force teachers in public schools to preach material that is based on religion and faith at taxpayer expense. No child should be unwillingly subjected to preaching that is based only on a religious faith the child does not hold.

George Haldeman

Some 30 years ago when I started my education to become a research scientist, my biology professor began our introductory biology course with a lecture on the theory of creationism. He carefully laid out its tenets and ended the lecture with, "The problem with theory of creationism is that it generates no testable hypotheses for scientific inquiry using the scientific method and, therefore, is not science. We will no longer consider this theory in this class." I am so thankful because I learned the difference between science and non-science early on. If the new creationism, intelligent design, was taught in this comparative manner to establish the difference between biological science based on testable hypotheses and intelligent design, a legitimate religious philosophy that is not science, then I would encourage its inclusion in even our science classrooms including physics, chemistry, and geology. It should take no more than 20-30 minutes to outline its thesis, give it its due, and then relegate it to the world of non-science. On the other hand, if school boards truly wish to the explore the fascinating historical debate between science vs. religion in depth, as President Bush advocates, they ought to set up a history of the science and religion class expressly for that purpose.

Tom Moench, Ph.D.
Bainbridge Island

Of course Bruce Chapman?s Intelligent design theories should be part of an individual's education, but not in natural science class? Only in philosophy class.

Philosophically, I believe in God, the creative intelligent force behind complexity and diversity, but not for that reason would I try to force my philosophy into the domain of hard sciences, which throughout the history of their development have discovered and have continued to discover, how diversity and complex structures have evolved.

Evolutionary theories still evolve since Darwin first enunciated them, and they add to an already enormous contribution in explaining the natural universe. Thanks to this contribution, our body of knowledge can explain with an important degree of certainty much of the intimate workings of nature.

Creationism on the other hand, should be taught in Sunday school, or world religion class. Mysticism can only be proven in the interior domain of an individual's mind, whereas evolutionary theories can be proved or dismissed by external and public scientific enquiry. Plain common sense, or plain intelligence should dictate these basic differentiations to avoid such unnecessary and unproductive controversies.

Judy Alba
Bainbridge Island

In my opinion, Rabbi Mark Glickman, answered the question very well in his article in your newspaper on Aug. 27. Because there is no scientific research or proof that intelligent design exists (or existed) it should not be taught in science classes. It certainly is a subject that can be discussed in humanities classes; but these classes then also should consider all of the creation stories that exist, whether they be of Aborigine, American Indian, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hinduism, or similar sources.

Karl F. Dudey


My answer to your question is yes, based on the following rationale.

The debate about intelligent design hinges on one question: Was God involved in the evolution of human beings or was he not? Most scientists probably believe that he wasn't, but they can't prove it. The most they can legitimately say is that in their opinion his involvement was unnecessary. On the other hand, the proponents of intelligent design can't prove scientifically that he was, despite much circumstantial evidence to that effect. So the question cannot be answered definitively, which means that individuals must decide for themselves, based on what makes the most sense to them. The proper role of the schools is to educate students in both sides of the argument so that these decisions can be fully informed. It is not the schools' job to bias students' beliefs toward the "scientific" explanation, which may or may not be the true one. Doing so would be another step towards making atheism our established religion - something our founding fathers surely never intended.

Clark McKee

My answer to your question is absolutely not--this question was settled a long time ago in the Scopes trial. Religion belongs in our churches and our homes. We are seeing an increasing erosion of the separation of church and state. In addition, the continued denial of scientific findings is having a monumental destructive effect globally (e.g., AIDS and global warming). As a nation that at one point produced some of the brightest and the best, we increasingly seem to have our heads in the sand.

Carolyn Rasch

I absolutely believe in intelligent design. In fact, I believe in a designer intelligent enough not to leave any fingerprints. I would be delighted to go into any school to witness to my beliefs. But not in a science class.

I think that the people who want intelligent design taught in science classes are probably right about the origin of the universe. They just don't know squat about science.

Jack McCarthy
Smokey Point

Intelligent design should not be taught in public schools. ID proponents have the unrestricted freedom to teach their beliefs in Bible school classrooms in every community across the country. They may warn their flocks against the dangers of public education and science through published literature, private Bible studies, and T.V. and radio shows. Parents are free to bring their children to whatever church they choose for their weekly dose of "alternative theories" based on religious tradition. What more do they want? All these freedoms aren't enough; they also want airtime in publicly funded schools.

My question is this: Why do Christian leaders and educators need the public education system, and therefore the government, to do their jobs for them?

Why do they need my tax dollars to prop up their religious dogmas? Let the churches compete, using their vast financial resources, for the minds and hearts of American school children. Perhaps healthy competition will encourage them to provide solid evidence, rather than mere hopes and hunches, for their "theory." People have theories about all kinds of things, including UFOs, ghosts, and channeling the dead, all supported by passionate feelings, personal testimony, and a great deal of questionable "evidence." That doesn't mean they deserve to be given equal time in a public classroom alongside true science.

Tiffany Greenleaf

Should intelligent design theory be taught in science classrooms?

Absolutely not. It is not an alternative scientific theory: it is untestable. Appeals to "irreducible complexity", that some structures are so complex that to evolve them would be like expecting to throw bricks into the air and expecting them to come down in the form of a house, are misleading analogies. Houses have not evolved this way -- they come from simpler forms of architecture that have undergone development, innovation and testing, a form of selection over millennia. Natural selection is a mechanism that sorts out successful small steps towards complexity from small unsuccessful variations, building complexity from the ground up.

Evolutionary theory has been severely tested for a nearly a century-and-a-half. Darwin had no mechanism for inheritance, but discovery of the gene and particulate inheritance provides a mechanism consistent with evolution. Early estimates of the age of the earth did not provide enough time for evolution to have occurred, but the discovery of radiation and its role in warming the earth significantly expanded estimates of the earth's age to over 4 billion years. Species distributions that could not be naturalistically explained were resolved by the discovery of continental drift.

Evolutionists have given straightforward accounts of the evolution of eyes, rotary flagella, and other complex features of organisms in hundreds-of-thousands of peer-reviewed articles relying on multiple independent forms of evidence, a process known as "consilience."

Intelligent Design theory is promoted by a small number of scientists, often non-biologists, who ignore the vast number of natural phenomena that evolutionary theory does explain. To count as a scientific theory, Intelligent Design theory must be able to provide a better explanation of these successes than existing theory rather than focusing on a handful of anomalies. Rather than providing explanatory tools for these patterns, it is fundamentally an appeal to miracles. While people are free to hold their opinions and express their faith as citizens, not all opinions should be taught in science classrooms. Evolutionary theory remains the "best science" of the day.

Preston Hardison

Evolution is a religion based solely on faith while science is the accumulation of physical knowledge. Science can be used to disprove evolution and show it for what it really is -- the product of an over-active imagination -- a fairy tale for adults.

For example, there is a law that governs the entire universe. Everyone uses it and is impacted by it. It is the law of cause and effect. Part of this law's definition states that you may never have an effect that is greater than its cause. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is directly related to cause and effect. It is summarized by saying that everything moves toward disorder -- or a condition known as entropy -- unuseable energy. Scientifically speaking, because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, every cause will create a lesser effect! How does a more advanced life form - the effect - come from a simpler life form - the cause? Energy is continually moving into a more chaotic state -- with less usable energy -- not into a larger, more complex universe. So begins the quandry of evolution.

But an even bigger problem for evolution is the First Law of Thermodynamics, often called the Law of Conservation of Energy. It states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can change in form. If energy cannot be created, then something cannot appear from nothing. Interestingly, the First Law of Thermodynamics actually proves that God has always existed. This law states something could not come from nothing. There has to be a creator God, or there would never have been a physical universe.

Is it possible for a rock to come to life? While such a question seems silly, this is, in essence, what the theory of evolution teaches. Evolution stands and falls on whether non-living matter can be transformed, through a series of random events, into organic - living matter. At the heart of the "origins of life" debate lies the fundamental scientific law - the Law of Biogenesis. It states that life can only come from life. Only living matter produces living matter. Non-living matter cannot be transformed into living organisms. Stop and think about the careful creative forethought that has to precede even the existence of matter.

Anything complex that appeared too quickly, or appeared without any prior organism being its precursor, would be an embarrassment to proponents of evolution. So is the trilobite. These extinct invertebrates existed in vast numbers millions of years ago. Also, these creatures seem to have appeared suddenly, with no fossil record of anything of the like before them. What is amazing is that these creatures had remarkably complex vision systems. So complex were their eyes (hexagonal-lensed), that no vertibrae possesses anything comparable today.

Think for a moment on the complexity required to form the first eye. Or what caused a cell to become sensitive to light. You cannot explain the process by evolution, there is only one other option - it was designed. The same is true for sexual reproduction or the human body for that matter. And how does one explain the human spirit?

Evolutionists theorize that at some point in this expanding universe of non-organic matter, an environment formed that allowed a "soupy goop" to make the transition from inorganic, non-living matter into organic, living matter. But this cosmic goop could not just form directly into a working cell. First, amino acids must link together to become more complex structures --proteins. By their very nature, amino acids have to be specifically arranged to form functioning proteins. Could this happen by chance?

There is even another degree of complexity required to form proteins. Not only do these amino acids have to come together, they must bond in "an extraordinarily complex and irregular three-dimensional shape - a twisting, turning, tangled chain of amino acids" -- DNA. It has been estimated that the odds of forming just one protein naturalistically is approximately 1 in 10,125 -- not to mention the numerous proteins required for a living cell.

Why do people reject fact when it is shown to them? "For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:19-20). We are without excuse when we teach evolution as fact, instead of the simplistic and fanatical myth that it is.

Evolution has gone from something "understood only by the scholarly elite" to an utterly illogical fallacy, believed only by the blind, foolish -- and ignorant!

Richard Lee

Can intelligent design and evolution co-exist, on an equal footing, or in other words, did both happen simultaneously or does one negate consideration of the other? If there is an intelligent designer, then, on the cosmic scale under discussion, He/It would surely have to take responsibility for ALL OF IT. Cannot take credit just for what is perceived, by humans, as good.

Millions of years ago, a huge rock smashed into this planet, affecting the environment so drastically that the dinosaurs, etc. who had inhabited this planet for millions of years, all perished. Was there an "intelligent decision" behind this catastrophe, guiding that rock, thereby abolishing the dinosaurs, and preparing the planet for occupation by the "chosen" human race?

Are we honest enough to ask ourselves is it sheer human ego to not accept a beginning and an end to all life, and all life forms, on this planet, this relatively tiny speck in the universe? One day the sun will burn out, and all life forms on this planet will cease to exist, and there will be no one left to ask the original question.

John Spencer

Any person who sincerely believes in God believes in evolution. Witness the magnificence of fossilized dinosaur bones protruding from an escarpment of geological layers from 200 million to a few thousand years ago. Or witness the accumulation of thousands of fossil specimens illustrating the march of species over the ages. Witness the many, many experiments in evolution routinely performed in classrooms and labs in quality schools around the country and seen in current observations in the field. Witness the new insights developed with DNA analysis.

All of these consistently expound the same evolution.

God is not a prankster who put all these in place to trick us. They are there for us to appreciate, understand, and take awe at. If one wants to discuss a God who generously provides all this for us, that is fine, but such discussion takes nothing away from evolution, is not an alternative to evolution, and has no place in the science classes where evolution is taught.

Len Goodisman


You report that "one of the smartest guys in Seattle" believes "evolution does not reasonably explain the complexity of biological systems" and intelligent design offers an alternative. We don't know what formed your opinion of this "guy" as smart or what he actually said but we do know the statement about evolution is neither smart, intelligent, nor informed.

Evolution, as a science, leaves very few significant gaps in what it tries to explain. We do not "know," have not proven everything but where other sciences may have significant gaps, evolution does not.

Responsible reporting requires that a statement about the alleged weaknesses of evolutionary theory, or any theory, should offer at least one such sample weakness and allow for a response. To date, all such allegations of weaknesses have been seen to be ignorant, misinformed, or disingenuous, and do not deserve to be reported seriously. If such an example is offered, I would be happy to clarify the situation as would many scientists with more specific credentials. Dawkin's book, "The Ancestor's Tale," gives a good assessment of what we know and don't know in evolution.

Len Goodisman

The simple answer to this question is NO!

I know there is a growing amount of pressure by many very religious people to include creationism or its subtle twin intelligent design in schools as part of a science curriculum and given equal weight to evolution and cosmology. However, both creationism and intelligent design are theological, not scientific concepts. If the state allows either or both of them to be taught in our schools, it should only be in a class on religious philosophy or world religions{lsaquo}as an elective subject{lsaquo}or in church Sunday schools. Otherwise it would violate the separation of church and state. Additionally, neither subject should appear in any of our stateΉs science textbooks.

Many people think that intelligent design is more scientific than creationism, but it is not. It allows for evolution within but not between species, as if that makes it more scientific. The concept still requires the existence of a deity that created and designed the universe and living beings. How intelligent a design is it when male apes and humans have nipples and humans have a vermiform appendix, neither of which has any physiological function?

David Tonkin
Port Townsend

Should intelligent design be taught in science class? Yes, but only if science and evolution can be taught in the church, including church schools.

Jerome Chroman

Einstein argued that matter can't be created or destroyed -- just rearranged. Even if we are to accept Darwin's well-stated theory of evolution, we have to trace those beginning molecules to somewhere. Humans come from monkeys; monkeys come from fish; fish come from ancient oceans throbbing with photo-synthesis; oceans come from those original molecules floating around in space that finally collided in one giant bang. (To state it very, very simply.) But where did those first molecules come from? We have seen phenomenal rearrangements of matter throughout our world's development, but I have never heard an answer to the question as to where those first molecules originated. How can something finite 'just always exist'? How can something that is subject to our world's law of physics, which stresses limits and rules, come into being all by itself, and defy those laws? My only guess is that they didn't defy any laws: that something bigger, grander, and INFINITE put them there. In a universe where nothing can create or destroy itself, there had to be something beyond the laws of physics to create something out of nothing. That leads me to a creator. I believe there is enough question in Darwin's theory, and enough credibility in the intelligent design theory, to at least warrant a teaching of both in schools.

Greta Weisman

This long running war between religion and science seems totally unnecessary to me.

Science is about the logical world of facts and mathematics while religion is about the intuitive world of spirituallity and reflection.

Isn't the Golden Rule still golden whether the sun goes around the Earth or the Earth goes around the sun?

Are the laws of gravity affected by our speculations about its origins?

We were given the gift of curiosity, so, over time, we could come to appreciate the full majesty of the universe we live in.

We should teach our children both science and religion to prepare them for the future, science to advance our understanding of the physical world, and religion to help them feel comfortable with the vast amount of things that we do not yet understand.

Jan Hillmam

Intelligent design is another term for creationism and is not in anyway, shape, or form -- science. Clearly it should not be part of a science curriculum. ID is an idea that is not accepted by mainstream scientists, cannot be supported by evidence, can not be tested, and can not be analyzed. ID is an idea, not a science. Voodoo and a flat Earth are other ideas among many others that are not taught in school. Leave ID out of the science class!

David Gould


How did God do it? Intelligent design is no answer; it is a movement that promotes ignorance and darkness. "Life is complex; therefore God must have created it." Suppose Copernicus and those who followed him had blindly accepted the religious view of the time, "The movements of planets are complex; God obviously put Earth and Man at the center of the universe." That would have squashed development of the scientific method that has brought us astronomy, physics, biology, medicine, modern agriculture and delivered us from the filth and misery of the Dark Ages.

Perhaps science curricula should include a practical examination of the scientific method and comparison with pseudo-sciences such as intelligent design, astrology, and UFOs. It's clear that many people don't understand the difference. A healthy dose of humor might also help. The Flying Spaghetti Monster Web site ( proposes a theory that is equally as valid as intelligent design.

Jim Corbin

I move that all atheists and agnostics accept the existence of God or a higher power as a hypothetically true initial premise for the purposes of further argument. That way we can actually focus on the science issue.

The existence or non-existence of a greater power has no bearing on the scientific method, which only assumes that the universe operates according to consistent laws, and that we can get increasingly reliable information about them by asking falsifiable and testable questions. There is no conceivable scientific answer to the question of whether or not the operating system of the universe had an author, or whether it just exists. Asserting the existence of a higher power does not add anything to scientific inquiry, but neither does it subtract anything from it.

The problem with creationism (and Intelligent Design is just another version of it) is not that it posits the existence of a higher power, but that it posits constant diddling with an inadequate system by said power, with the explicit intent of promoting biblical literalism at some level. Intelligent design is more appropriately called stupid design, because it assumes that a higher power smart enough to invent the operating system of the universe is nevertheless too stupid to get the job done right the first time -- it's still and must always be in beta test mode.

The computer analogy is modern, but the basic idea certainly isn't. Newton personally believed that God could and did intervene in the workings of the universe to keep the planets on track, but his minister friend Thomas Burnet strongly disagreed. In the 18th century they used clockwork rather than computers for the analogy.

"We think him a better Artist that makes a Clock that strikes regularly at every hour from the Springs and Wheels which he puts in the work, than he that hath so made his Clock that he must put his finger to it every hour to make it strike: And if one should contrive a piece of Clockwork so that it should beat all the hours, and make all its motions regularly for such a time, and that time being come, upon a signal given, or a Spring toucht, it should of its own accord fall all to pieces; would not this be look'd upon as a piece of greater Art, than if the Workman came at that time prefixt, and with a great Hammer beat it into pieces?"

And that's far from the oldest assertion of the concept. Augustine of Hippo and several Islamic scholars had similar notions. For a long time many theologians have thought that constant diddling with natural law by its creator would automatically imply that the creator isn't very bright-a notion very much at odds with traditional concepts of God.

The bottom line is that the proposition put forward by proponents of Stupid Design, "Biologists haven't explained everything yet," does not happen to be a scientific theory at all. George Gilder, a long-time affiliate of the Discovery Institute, has even admitted as much, being on record as saying "Intelligent Design itself does not have any content." And if you believe in a creator deity, characterizing that deity as a third-rate engineer is bad theology as well

Martha K. Koester

Yes, intelligent design should be taught in science classes as an example of the kind of uncritical mystic thinking that is the exact opposite of the scientific method which requires that a problem be identified and critically examined leading to an hypothesis which can be tested. If it fails, it must be abandoned, if it cannot be tested, it must be set aside. Intelligent design is the kind of authoritative, uncritical, undisciplined thinking that suffocated the human mind for 1500 years (from the Greeks to the Renaissance). In intelligent design, if someone asks why the sun rises then sets, they are told it is the intelligent designer's (God's) plan, therefore, no further thought on the matter is required.

G.R. Chambers

Life as a product of chance versus design has been debated as far back as ancient Greece. Today scientists are observing nanotechnology: astonishingly sophisticated molecular machines in all living cells. In human experience, such complex machines are always the result of intelligent design. Thus hundreds of highly credentialed scientists from every continent are increasingly skeptical of Darwin's mechanism of natural selection acting on random mutations as adequate explanation for all of life's marvels. Your statement that "available physical evidence supports [Darwinism]" is exactly the point in dispute.

In your column you pictured the hands (presumably) of "the designer" like a magician conjuring up the Earth. But that image could just as well depict Darwinian theory: a little mutation here and there and, presto! the mammalian eye, an organ of staggering complexity. We the public are getting tired of these claims that Darwin practically invented biology. Although ID is caricatured as the stuff of fundamentalist Christianity; Muslims, Hindus and people of every religious stripe are applauding design theory. Even Deepak Chopra's blog (Aug. 24) weighed in for ID.

So yes, I believe we should discuss the intelligent design hypothesis in school. Let the controversy begin; biology will have never been so much fun!

We should also ask why excellent scientists like Richard Sternberg and Guillermo Gonzales are in danger of losing their jobs for showing a favorable disposition toward ID.

Carol Johnson


The usual criticism of intelligent design is that it's bad science, or that it is not science at all. And proponents of intelligent design are criticized for not understanding the scientific method or the meaning of theory.

I don't understand why no one criticizes ID on religious grounds. Perhaps ID should stand for insulted deity. Why do these people need to dumb-down-God to somewhere in the Bronze Age? Is it really so difficult to imagine that an almighty God just might have fabricated the universe in something like the four to ten dimensions of space-time or string theory or according to some more exotic mechanism not yet even contemplated? Is it really so difficult to imagine a creator that set in motion laws of thermodynamics and quantum mechanics that would enable the formation of self-replicating molecules like DNA?

As we argue that intelligent design is non-science, we should also consider that it may be a narrow, simplistic, and shallow view of creation.

Tom Hiester

Intelligent design is not science. Papering over the weak spots in our knowledge with divine intervention is equivalent to filling in the blank spots on the map with "here there be dragons." But assuming there is a designer still leaves science with the task of trying to understand the design. And as best we can tell from the evidence, that design includes evolution.

On the other hand, putting forth intelligent design as science opens the question of who or what the designer is to investigation. Given the lack of scientific evidence in this matter, we can only speculate. Those parents who are uncomfortable with their children learning evolution and cosmology will be even less happy when science class includes discussions of demiurges and universal consciousness.

By failing to understand the respective roles of religion and science, intelligent design is a disservice to both. Not very intelligent, really.

David Brodeur
Lake Stevens

1. "Science" used to mean "knowledge obtained by the scientific method."

Later, "scientific" became synonymous with "credible" because the method reliably yielded credible results that everyone could see.

Today, creationists want to ride the coattails of science to credibility by teaching creationism or its variants in science classes.

But they reject the scientific method that made "scientific" synonymous with "credible" in the first place. Their statements are therefore not scientific and therefore not credible, no matter where they are taught.

2. You can't directly observe evolution but you can directly observe the benefits that humans reaped from evolutionary theory. All modern biology and medicine is based on evolution. To see this you don't need to dig through fossils; just dig through medical journals and see how often they mention evolution.

(Experiments on mice only make sense if mice and humans share key biological mechanisms derived from a common ancestor.) Who cares if evolution actually happened or not, if medicines developed using the theory of evolution reliably cure real people?

3. Creationists are not just saying, "evolution doesn't explain everything."

They're saying, "evolution doesn't explain some things -- so God must exist -- and it must be the God of the Bible -- and it must be the God of the Bible as we understand him -- so the religious decrees that we derive from the Bible must be the law of the land." Each of these steps is a giant leap of faith, much bigger than any gaps in evolutionary theory. Poking holes in evolution does not make any of the remaining inferences any more believable.

Ilya Shlyakhter
Princeton, N.J.


All too often those who oppose intelligent design take the position that evolution and/or Darwinism alone can explain the origin of life on planet earth. They also seem to deny the implications of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity as relates to the origin of the universe which proves that the universe came from nothing (ex nihilo). The General Relativity Theory also violates the First Law of Thermodynamics which states matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed but it is still accepted as scientific fact.

As to origins of life, here are just a few of the many facts science alone cannot explain:

No living cell, plant or animal, has ever been discovered that does not contain DNA, the instruction set of all known life forms, even those billions of years old. Even the most basic modern bacteria, a single cell organism, have about 1.2 million base pairs (rungs) in its DNA molecule. Just this year it was reported that Anthony Flew, an internationally renowned atheist, acknowledged he is now a Deist based primarily on the DNA issue.

Mutations are, according to evolutionary theory, the only means of new species coming to be. Yet science has never been able to demonstrate that any mutation adds information to the DNA molecule, a necessity for new species to develop.

It is known by the scientific world that most phyla suddenly appeared within a geologically short period of time about 530 million years ago, a period known as the Cambrian explosion or Biological Big Bang! This is not generally taught in our schools and is inconsistent with the micro changes proposed by evolutionary theory.

Two well known atheists, Carl Sagen of Nova fame, and Frances Crick, co-discoverer of DNA determined that the odds of human beings evolving on earth were 1 chance in 1 with 2 billion zeroes after it (10 to the minus 2,000,000,000). This became one of the arguments used to get funding for the SETI project (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence).

There are many other incredibly complex issues related to the most basic living cell, but space does not allow expanding on the above for this brief note.

D. Brent Warwick

Yes, intelligent design should be taught.

As a scientist (BS, biochemistry and genetics, Ph.D. Pathology) I accepted evolution for most of my life (I'm 58 years old). Unlike most scientists, however, I took the time to actually read a few books about intelligent design to gauge for myself it's credibility. The most shocking revelation to me was not the argument for an intelligent designer, but the presentation of scientific evidence and arguments weighing against the validity of current and past evolutionary theories. These evidences and arguments, often originally made by competing evolutionary theorists in peer-reviewed publications, are not fully disclosed to students by educators or the lay press, possibly because they undermine that individual's , or organization's, personal conclusions on the subject.

Frankly, my own conclusion is that belief in evolution as "fact" has itself become a religion, defended blindly by "faith," without distortion by intellectual honesty, objectivity or an effort to even scrutinize available, if contrary, evidences. "Religious Darwinism" might be an appropriate label of this faith.

The debate for many is, in reality, not about origins, but about whether God is real. For those who think not, evolution is simply an offensive weapon. Nevertheless, I primarily support teaching intelligent design in schools not as a defense regarding the existence of God, but as "full disclosure" regarding what is currently a distorted, one-sided and scientifically dishonest presentation of a theory in crisis (a conclusion only discernable if one has taken the time and effort to inspect all the evidences, not just the Readers' Digest version).

Robert T. Abbott

No, intelligent design should not be part of science education. The ID advocates seem to think that they can remove the religious components from "creation science", and build valid science out of what's left.

Their plan failed because there was never any real science in creation science -- all they have to work with is pseudoscience.

If and when the ID advocates do manage to come up with some real science to support their views, the place for them to push their ideas will be in the scientific community, not grade schools. New scientific ideas NEVER succeed by being legislated into the schools -- they succeed by convincing scientists of their value. ID advocates want to bypass this step, ostensibly because the scientific community is biased against them. If they had a real case, this would slow down acceptance of their arguments, but not stop it, so they could afford to be patient.

Since they have no real case, they've chosen to try an end run instead.

So, let's just say I oppose government bailouts for failed science.

Gordon Davisson

Should intelligent design be part of science education? Should poetry be a part of chemistry? Art history a part of calculus?

The bottom line is that Intelligent Design simply isn't science. A scientific theory is different than any old "theory" you or I might come up with. Evolution is a scientific theory that has mountains of supporting evidence in archeology, microbiology, and more. Intelligent Design is a philosophical speculation, not a scientific theory. It's not a provable claim, and has only political and religious, not scientific, inspirations.

At this point in history, Evolution may or may not have a couple gaps in the puzzle, but it is the leading theory that is overwhelmingly supported by scientists who are experts in the field. If you put together a jigsaw puzzle, and find you're missing a piece, can you still recognize the picture, or do you toss it out and proclaim it useless? The evolutionary model works, and is the cornerstone for all of our work from antibiotics to zoology.

Philosophic debate and religious discussions are important, but only science gives us a solid foundation to understand our world. How many of these scientific theories have you relied upon today: gravity, chemical interactions, a spherical earth revolving around the sun?

What's truly dangerous is the growing contempt for science. The last time we shunned scientific inquiry, we called it the Dark Ages.

Megan Spielbusch


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