President George W. Bush and Senate majority leader Bill Frist have recently publicly advocated teaching intelligent design in science classes. Their endorsement of a discredited, nonscientific view could signal a huge step backward for scientific education. It is time for educated, motivated scientists to get involved and to educate others.
Ushma S. Neill
Submitter: Melanie A Reap | firstname.lastname@example.org
Winona State University
Published November 15, 2005
Ushma Neill's article "Don't be stupid about intellgent design" was in most ways excellent. However, the author repeated an error promulgated by the proponets of ID and passed along via uncritical writers. The Minnesota Academic Standards in Science in no way promote or allow the teaching of non-scientific theories in science class. For a full discussion of this I direct readers to my essay "A Brief History of the Minnesota Science Standards" posted on The Panda's Thumb (www.pandasthumb.org).
Submitter: Joseph A. Gallien | email@example.com
Published November 15, 2005
The point about irreducible complexity isn't that "evolution" cannot account for it. It is that there isn't anything to select for until the system is fully configured and put into place. Such an event violates the concept of "natural selection", yet fits with the concept of "artificial selection".
Natural selection works on what exists. What works it keeps. Improvements are welcome. Until an apparent IC system is up and running there wouldn't be anything to select for. And even once an appendage like a flagellum appears (evolved from a flagellum-less population) the organism needs to know how to operate it. That is the concept of "complex specified information". The intersection of physical information, the information required to assemble the flagellum and put it in the correct place, and conceptual information, using it.
Submitter: Balaji Ravichandran | firstname.lastname@example.org
Madras Medical College, Chennai, India
Published October 20, 2005
Richard Feynman, the late Nobel-winning physicist and a firm advocate of repeated experimentation, in his famous lecture 'What is science?' defined science thus: "[the] phenomenon of having a memory for the race (human beings), of having an accumulated knowledge passable from one generation to another... had a disease in it... there came a time in which the ideas, although accumulated very slowly, were all accumulations not only of practical and useful things, but great accumulations of all types of prejudices, and strange and odd beliefs.
"Then a way of avoiding the disease was discovered. This is to doubt that what is being passed from the past is in fact true, and to try to find out ab initio again from experience what the situation is, rather than trusting the experience of the past in the form in which it is passed down. And that is what science is: the result of the discovery that it is worthwhile rechecking by new direct experience, and not necessarily trusting the [human] race['s] experience from the past..." 
Evolution fits this description - it doubted the hitherto prevailing belief that God created everything on the planet, and it has virtually the entire biological, archaeological and geological sciences to back it up. (One only needs to look at human and fish embryos, or analyse their corresponding genomes side by side to 'see the proof' for evolution, that has been in so much a demand since the time of Darwin.)
Intelligent design is no science - it is faith. Because you can't account for the overwhelming complexity of living things, you (in a primitive sense) attribute it to a supernatural power. Evidence? "Gaps in evolution." Experimentation? Well... The bible?
To even suggest that a fundamentalist doctrine should be taught in a science class is beyond contempt. And shame on the politicians who politicise this issue for ulterior motives, and shame on those scientists who back the proposals to include ID in science curricula! The editor and the journal are to be congratulated on taking a firm stand against this scientific murder.
 Feynman R. "What is Science?" The Physics Teacher. Vol. 7, issue 6, 1968, pp. 313-320.
Submitter: Craig Spiro | email@example.com
Published October 10, 2005
Many established scientific theories have been wrong (e. g. the unique role of proteins as catalysts, the flow of information from DNA to RNA to protein, or the etiology of peptic ulcers). And these theories have been dismantled, but by evidence rather than belief.
One danger of giving belief equal time in science classrooms is that belief will metastasize to universities and medical schools. Beliefs about health and nutrition now promulgated on infomercials may become "the other side" that deserves equal time in medical practice.
Your argument against teaching intelligent design makes important points, but it does not, I think, address the essential issue--why intelligent design does not belong in the science curriculum.
The issue is method. The theory of evolution was arrived at by observation, by establishing models based on observation, by testing the models, and then by refining the models. Models can be challenged. The method of science is agnostic--models shouldn't be accepted without evidence and they are challenged only by evidence. Intelligent design takes a contrary approach--this is, belief outweighs evidence so that the theory cannot be challenged by evidence.
A common argument for teaching intelligent design is that students should learn "both sides." That "both sides" are easily defined and make up a satisfactory curriculum seems naive or misleading. Intelligent design does not provide necessary balance to evolution, since it has not been tested by evidence. That is why intelligent design should not be admitted.
Submitter: Ushma S. Neill | firstname.lastname@example.org
Published October 4, 2005
I guess religion is a hot button issue. But I am glad that several have taken the time to respond to the Editorial recently published in the JCI. However, I have a few specific responses.
The point I was trying to make was that this is OUR ISSUE. We can't have our heads in the sand about this and wait for someone else to get involved. And I have no quibbles with people having their own religious beliefs- in fact I have my own, which do not always reconcile themselves with my scientifc nature. But religion has NO place in the SCIENCE classroom.
Dr. Kennedy wonders why I am foolish enough to think that bringing this up now will make any difference. Would ignoring it be any better? Would being complacent and allowing others to dictate what gets taught be better- especially when we are the ones who can properly teach what is known?
And I do find it unreasonable to do as Dr. Miano suggests and spend time within a scientific class to discuss alternate theories. When was the last time a religion class called attention to the lack of proof that God exists? When was the last time a religion teacher counseled their students to attend a biology class to hear the other side for proof that there is an alternate theory? I am not saying that alternate religious theories should be shunned, I am simply saying that there is no room for presenting them in a public school science classroom.
I heard from my colleague Alan Attie (University of Wisconsin, Madison) who has gotten involved in exactly the way I was hoping more of us would. He said, "Our department published a letter unanimous letter protesting the introduction of ID into a rural Wisconsin school district. Now, several of us are working with state legislators to modify the education statute in a way that would keep ID out of the science curricula. I gave a talk to Rotarians last week about the subject. On the positive side, it is a great teaching opportunity about what is science, and about Darwin."
I applaud Alan for his efforts and hope more of us will get involved.
Submitter: Michael A Kennedy | email@example.com
University of British Columbia
Published October 4, 2005
In regards to your recent editorial “Don’t be stupid about intelligent design” (J. Clin. Invest. 2005 115: 2586).
I applaud your attempt to invoke your readership to become more actively involved in the current maelstrom that surrounds the debate on intelligent design in the classroom but the tone of this editorial has left me with a great uneasiness about the potential role scientists will play in the development of science education curricula. Involvement of the scientific community is undoubtedly required and indeed paramount for the education of the next generation of scientists and lay people alike. However, as ambassadors of reason and seekers of truth scientists should temper the arguments for evolution with an understanding of the fallability of scientific “fact” as perceived by individuals outside of the scientific community. Rather than a call-to-arms for the defense of evolutionary fact and promoting an antagonistic attack on proponents of intelligent design or other such theories a greater effort emphasis should be placed on educating individuals as to the weaknesses of evolutionary theory in concert with the well established truths. Because of this very approach of critically denying the scientific merit of other “theories” without accepting the limitations currently present within the evolutionary theory in an open forum advocates for the evolutionary process are often viewed as demeaning, politically motivated and arrogant. Advancing the argument for evolution at a school board, a coffee shop or in your own neighborhood by simply pointing to inaccuracies of other beliefs without accepting the limitations of the current model is not based upon reason or good science and is indeed itself stupid. In fact, this approach has not worked since the 1800’s why do you believe that it will now?
Submitter: Joseph M Miano | firstname.lastname@example.org
University of Rochester School of Medicine
Published October 4, 2005
Evolution or Creationism (forget about the politically correct ID alias)? This all or none question has been the subject of bitter debate for centuries and, frankly, it’s needless. The fact that the majority of people in the US believe in God and support basic research should be at once both comforting to worried evolutionists and revealing in our overall views as to the origin of life. The reality is that neither side of this contested issue can claim exclusive rights to our understanding of the origins of life. Both go hand-in-hand with God-invented laws governing the sciences as we know and can evaluate them. It is foolish and arrogant for one to take literal translations of ancient texts as fact; how, for example, do we know for sure what the authors of such texts really understood as constituting a “day” or even a “year” as we understand these measures of time? Similarly, what are the driving forces for heritable mutations (coding and, especially, non-coding) that must occur in germ cells to advance an evolving organism? How exactly does a transacting factor coevolve with a cis-acting DNA element that the factor can bind in order to direct correct spatio-temporal patterns of gene expression necessary for appropriate development of an organism? There are plenty of questions on either side of the issue that remain unknown and perhaps will be for as long as we exist. But this is what drives us as curious scientists and lay people. It is an awesome privilege to participate in studying tiny aspects of nature that we only are beginning to truly appreciate and comprehend. Thus, while evolution is in part, amenable to the rigors of scientific inquisition, there are as many (if not more) questions that will remain difficult if not impossible to evaluate. It is not unreasonable for scientists to humble themselves and admit gaps in understanding (and there are indeed many!). Therefore, it is not unreasonable for a young adult of any denomination or faith to be exposed to complementary (as opposed to alternate) views on the origins of life. Perhaps a reasonable compromise would be an admission of our limited understandings in the science classroom and a suggestion that additional viewpoints (such as creationism) be explored in another classroom setting. All of this can be summarized in a few sentences approximating about 45 seconds of lecture time.