Being Stalked by Intelligent Design
Scientists must stop ignoring "Intelligent Design"—religious prejudice disguised as intellectual freedom
The success of the ID movement to date is terrifying. In at least 40
states, ID is being considered as an addition to the required
science curriculum in public schools. This year a poll by the
National Science Teachers Association showed that one-third of
science teachers feel pressured to include ID, creationism or other
"nonscientific alternatives" in their science classrooms.
Some teachers are so intimidated by the threat of parental
complaints that they skip material dealing with evolution in their classes.
And on August 5, President George W. Bush endorsed the teaching of
intelligent design in science classes so that students learn
"both sides of the debate." This comment explicitly
parallels the talking points of the Discovery Institute, revealing
the reach of its persuasive campaign. In response, John H.
Marburger, III, director of the federal Office of Science and
Technology Policy, flatly stated, "Intelligent Design is not a
The ID movement is more than an attack on biology because
evolutionary theory unifies the life and earth sciences with physics
and chemistry. If ID is accepted as a credible science, then the
most basic definition of a scientific theory and the fundamental
principles of the scientific method are not being taught. Johnson is
right: ID can be the wedge that splits science wide apart.
Science education is already in trouble in the United States,
particularly in comparison to other countries. On international
tests, U.S. students in the 4th and 8th grades score at or above the
average in scientific literacy and mathematics, but by the time
those students reach the end of high school, they have slipped to
19th out of 21 nations in science and math, according to the most
recent data for each age group. As the scientific preparedness of
American students falls, others fill the gap. At American
institutions in 2001-2002, 41 percent of those receiving doctoral or
professional degrees in biological science, engineering and physical
science combined were international students. Similarly, in the 2000
U.S. Census, 44.9 percent of the Ph.D.s in life science who worked
in industry were foreign born. Should Johnson's vision come to pass,
these numbers are likely to worsen, and our country will jeopardize
its position of leadership in many kinds of scientific research,
including medicine, agriculture and biotechnology.
ID is an insidious attempt by a religious caucus to impose its views
on the whole country. The avowed aim of ID advocates—to
undermine science and replace it with their personal religious
convictions—amounts to a form of prejudice that is both
poisonous and horribly frightening. Inevitably, young people will
suffer most. As Francisco Ayala wrote in "From the
President" (July-August 2004), science training will be a
fundamental necessity in the technological world of the future.
As scientists, we must stop ignoring the ID movement. It won't go
away. Each of us must learn to avoid jargon in order to communicate
better with the public. Every scientist should become a mentor;
share your experience of the wonder and beauty of science! Finally,
critically, we must expose Intelligent Design for what it really is:
religious prejudice masked as intellectual freedom.