This letter to Nature by scientists well-known for their antipathy toward religion has already been widely publicized, but I include it here for completeness. When ID does win the day, my colleagues and I will long savor such letters.
Nature 435, 275 (19 May 2005) | doi: 10.1038/435275a
When science meets religion in the classroom
In the Editorial “Dealing with design” (Nature 434, 1053; 2005), Nature claims that scientists have not dealt effectively with the threat to evolutionary biology posed by ‘intelligent design’ (ID) creationism. Rather than ignoring, dismissing or attacking ID, scientists should, the editors suggest, learn how religious people can come to terms with science, and teach these methods of accommodation in the classroom. The goal of science education should thus be “to point to options other than ID for reconciling science and belief”. In this way, students’ faith will not be challenged by scientific truth, and evolution will triumph.
This suggestion is misguided: the science classroom is the wrong place to teach students how to reconcile science and religion. For one thing, many scientists deem such a reconciliation impossible because faith and science are two mutually exclusive ways of looking at the world. For such scientists, Nature apparently prescribes hypocrisy. The real business of science teachers is to teach science, not to help students shore up worldviews that crumble when they learn science. And ID creationism is not science, despite the editors’ suggestion that ID “tries to use scientific methods to find evidence of God in nature”. Rather, advocates of ID pretend to use scientific methods to support their religious preconceptions. It has no more place in the biology classroom than geocentrism has in the astronomy curriculum.
Scientists are of course free (some would say duty-bound) to fight ID outside the classroom, or to harmonize religion with science. But students who cannot handle scientific challenges to their faith should seek guidance from a theologian, not a scientist. Scientists should never have to apologize for teaching science.
Jerry Coyne, Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA
Peter Atkins, Lincoln College, University of Oxford
Colin Blakemore, Medical Research Council, London
Richard Dawkins, Oxford University Museum, University of Oxford
Steve Jones, Galton Laboratories, University College London
Richard Lewontin, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University
John Maddox, 9 Pitt Street, London W8 4NX
Paul Nurse, The Rockefeller University, New York
Linda Partridge, Department of Biology, University College London
James D. Watson, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories, New York
Steven Weinberg, Department of Physics, University of Texas, Austin
Lewis Wolpert, Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, University College London