What Has Science Done?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Boston University's "Great Debate" & Intelligent Design

This is a generic email I just sent out to the Chairs of various science departments around BU. If you would like to refer to or pass on this letter to other universities, please feel free to do so.

To whom this may concern,

On November 2 of this year, Boston University's College of Communications will be holding its 20th annual "Great Debate," whose topic will be whether "Intelligent Design (ID) should be taught in conjunction with evolutionary theory."1 The 'controversy' concerning ID has garnered recent attention due to the actions of state and local school boards2 and prominent conservatives politicians (including the President)3 advocating the teaching of alternatives to evolution. The debate will be held at the Tsai Center for the Performing Arts - 685 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston and will start around 6:30pm.

I myself am an senior at Boston University studying Physics and the History of Science. I am writing to you today to express my concern about the nature of the ID movement in the United States (and across the globe) and its impact on how Americans view science and scientists.

Intelligent Design's central tenant, which can be applied to astronomy as well as biology, is that certain organic systems such as the bacterial flagellum are of such enormous complexity that they could not be produced by a natural process such as evolution via selection. This is not only a flagrant misrepresentation of current research on complex evolutionary pathways, but also exemplifies an attempt to undermine the methodological naturalism which is one of the fundamental underpinnings of modern science. The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank and leading ID think-tank, published a scientific/PR strategy in 1998 titled the "Wedge" were they intend to "explore how new developments in biology, physics and cognitive science raise serious doubts about scientific materialism and have re-opened the case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature."4 This spring, a Education PhD student at Ohio State and his advisor attempted to pack his thesis committee with pro-ID and unqualified faculty who have no training in science education.5 From these and other examples, it becomes clear that the ID movement is not about reliable scientific research, but rather gaming the education system in any way possible to accomplish its social-religious agenda spelled out in the "Wedge Strategy."

Because of this cloaked religious attempt to undermine science, both the National Academies of Science6 and the American Association for the Advancement of Science7 have spoken out on their concern for the integrity of American science education. I would like to see the Boston area scientific community stand up as one, regardless of discipline, in defense of evolution and the teaching of sound science. I understand that everyone is quite busy in the fall, but it would be wonderful for academic and research scientists to attend this 'debate' and voice their opinions on what we should be teaching students about science.

Thank You and Best Regards,