Unintelligent design

Some great letters to the editor of the Independent, a London newspaper, on the phoney debate over including the “teaching” of “intelligent design” alongside evolution in our school curricula.

What next in US schools? Alchemy?
Sir: George Bush wants intelligent design, a.k.a. creationism, to be taught in American classrooms, side by side with evolution, so as to give students “both sides of the debate”. Why stop there? Children could be taught medieval alchemy along with modern chemistry, flat-earthism together with cosmology and Aristotelian physics together with relativity.
Why is one particular laughable scientific fallacy being given such prominence and other equally deserving candidates being neglected?
Sir: Intelligent design is not science; it is a strategy used by creationists of the religious right to try and get their religious ideas into the classroom. If their ideas had any merit, they would have gained acceptance by the scientific establishment.
The aim of intelligent design is to spread confusion about evolution without being too overtly religious. This will not fool scientists: the danger is that members of the public may be tricked into thinking that there is a controversy where none exists.
The same strategy is used by the economic right to spread doubt about the causes of (or even the existence of) global warming.
The problem with intelligent design is that it is defeatist and intellectually bankrupt, its proponents say, “Here is a biological structure that we can’t understand, so God did it.” Scientists say, “Here is a biological structure that we can’t understand; how can we find out about it?”
Sir: Could someone please ask George Bush (and now it seems, also the Pope) why, if everything was so intelligently designed, it was necessary to crash a Mars-sized planet into the earth in order to create the moon, which could then slow our rotation sufficiently to allow any life to develop?
And could they also ask why, as intelligent design initially led to the domination of the dinosaurs, it was then necessary to crash a New York-sized meteorite into Mexico in order to kill them off and allow tiny mammals to develop into men?
Does science not come into “intelligence”, or was God just making it up as he went along?
Sir: Alan Howe (letter, 5 August) makes an erroneous judgment, common among proponents of both “intelligent design” and creationist theories: he implies that the fact that Darwin’s theories are “under attack” within the scientific community is somehow anti-evolution.
Scientific rigour demands the continual questioning and “attack” of all current theories – it is the basis of scientific method that no idea is allowed to stand without question, and that new data demands new applications of logic. In other realms, such as religion and politics, questioning might constitute an attack, but in science it is without stigma.
Sir: It’s surely no coincidence that the majority of exponents of “intelligent design” are men. Any woman will tell you that the female reproductive system, with its monthly difficulties and risky, painful childbirth, has been anything but intelligently designed. Or maybe it just proves that God is male?