Intelligent Design: It's NOT Science

John Stear, 22 October 2005 (revised 7 November 2005)

The following letter was published in the "Letters to the Editor" column of The Australian newspaper and other leading newspapers, on Friday 21 October 2005 as a follow up to an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) program "Catalyst" televised the previous night.  The program discussed the question of "intelligent design" being taught in science classes in Australian schools.  A transcript of the program is available here.  It's worth noting that on the program ID advocate Professor Michael Behe stated -

There are not that many people who are actively involved in it [ID]. Probably, oh maybe a handful you know, five to ten, something like that.

Behe's statement confirms that there is very little support for ID among mainstream scientists.

The letter is signed by several scientists and science educators. 

Intelligent design makes mockery of science teaching
21 October 2005

AS Australian scientists and science educators, we are gravely concerned that so-called "intelligent design" might be taught in any school as a valid scientific alternative to evolution. While science is a work in progress, a vast and growing body of factual knowledge supports the hypothesis that biological complexity is the result of natural processes of evolution.

Proponents of ID assert that some living structures are so complex that they are explicable only by the agency of an imagined and unspecified "intelligent designer". They are free to believe and profess whatever they like. But not being able to imagine or explain how something happened other than by making a leap of faith to supernatural intervention is no basis for any science: that is a theological or philosophical notion.

For a theory to be considered scientific it must be testable either directly or indirectly by experiment or observation. The results of such tests should be able to be reproduced by others as a check on their accuracy (and, importantly, if repeated testing falsifies the theory it should be rejected rather than taught as part of the accumulating body of scientific understanding). Finally, a scientific theory should explain more than what is already known: it should be able to predict outcomes in novel situations. Evolution meets all of these criteria but ID meets none of them: it is not science.

We therefore urge all Australian governments and educators not to permit the teaching or promulgation of ID as science. To do so would make a mockery of Australian science teaching and throw open the door of science classes to similarly unscientific world views be they astrology, spoon-bending, flat-earth cosmology or alien abductions and crowd out the teaching of real science.

Mike Archer
Dean of Science, University of NSW

Bradley Smith
Executive director, Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies

Sue Serjeantson
Executive secretary, Australian Academy of Science, Canberra

Paul Carnemolla
President-elect, Australian Science Teachers Association

(The signatories head organisations representing about 70,000 Australians who work in science and science teaching)