Letter—Intelligent design is not science

More than 70,000 scientists and science teachers are represented in an open letter warning that 'intelligent design' should not be taught in school science classes. The letter was published in major Australian newspapers on 21 October 2005.

The full text of the letter follows:

As Australian scientists and science educators, we are gravely concerned that so-called 'intelligent design' (ID) might be taught in any school as a valid scientific alternative to evolution. While science is a work in progress, a vast and growing body of factual knowledge supports the hypothesis that biological complexity is the result of natural processes of evolution.

Proponents of ID assert that some living structures are so complex that they are explicable only by the agency of an imagined and unspecified 'intelligent designer'. They are free to believe and profess whatever they like. But not being able to imagine or explain how something happened other than by making a leap of faith to supernatural intervention is no basis for any science: that is a theological or philosophical notion.

For a theory to be considered scientific it must be testable – either directly or indirectly – by experiment or observation. The results of such tests should be able to be reproduced by others as a check on their accuracy (and, importantly, if repeated testing falsifies the theory it should be rejected rather than taught as part of the accumulating body of scientific understanding). Finally, a scientific theory should explain more than what is already known: it should be able to predict outcomes in novel situations. Evolution meets all of these criteria but ID meets none of them: it is not science.

We therefore urge all Australian governments and educators not to permit the teaching or promulgation of ID as science. To do so would make a mockery of Australian science teaching and throw open the door of science classes to similarly unscientific world views – be they astrology, spoon-bending, flat-earth cosmology or alien abductions – and crowd out the teaching of real science.

Mike Archer
Dean of Science, University of NSW

Bradley Smith
Executive Director, Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies

Sue Serjeantson
Executive Secretary, Australian Academy of Science, Canberra

Paul Carnemolla
President-elect, Australian Science Teachers Association

(The signatories head organisations representing about 70,000 Australians who work in science and science teaching.)

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