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Intelligent design yields confusion

Letter to the Editor | Friday, October 14, 2005

There are a few matters which should be clarified about the issues raised by Professor Charles Rice in his Oct. 13 Viewpoint column [“Evolution and the evidence of reason”] concerning the teaching of evolution, and the trial taking place concerning Dover, Penn.

As Cardinal Schoenborn recently said, “Without a doubt, Darwin pulled off quite a feat with his main work and it remains one of the very great works of intellectual history.”

One could get the impression from Rice’s essay that there is some connection with the current popular advocacy of so-called “Intelligent Design” and faith in one’s Creator. This connection is something that its advocates have been trying to avoid. Several of them have made a point of saying that their concept of “designers” is indistinguishable from “space aliens,” just to take one of their examples.

One could get the impression that there is a “controversy” in biology regarding “Intelligent Design.” However, the scientific literature is next-to-nonexistent. Of course, as with every active field of study, there are areas of investigation. But the existence of open questions in biology, or any other science, does not add a bit of support to “design,” or any other supposed alternative.

One could get the impression that, for that matter, that there is a “competing theory” of “intelligent design.” As to the advocacy of “intelligent design,” not only does it avoid any specification of “intelligent designers,” it does not say exactly what it is that has been “designed,” nor when, where, why, or how. And there is little prospect for any investigation into these, or any other, basic questions. Some of the advocates even accept much of evolutionary biology.

The only result of bringing up “intelligent design” for K-12 biology students would seem to be confusion. Confusion about biology, confusion about God and confusion about the relationship between science and faith.

If anyone is interested in the current case in Dover, I recommend reading the transcripts of testimony and other material which is being posted online at: http://www2.ncseweb.org/wp/. The testimony of John Haught, professor of theology at Georgetown, may be particularly interesting.

Tom ScharlealumnusClass of 1960Oct. 13