Take a look at this letter published in The Times on Saturday:
Sir, Science cannot make a statement either way on the supernatural. It is no less scientific to say that an Airbus A380 requires intelligence to design than to state that the independent wing control of the damselfly (including supination and pronation timing) shows evidence of design.
To give the impression to students in the UK that it is somehow off limits even to discuss this (letter, Oct 3) is tantamount to brainwashing our next generation with the philosophy of humanism. All that Truth in Science wishes to see is an honest opening out of the origins debate in our schools and universities.
That there has been such a heated response to the DVD Unlocking the Mystery of Life, sent to every secondary school in the country, shows that there is an issue, there is a debate and there are obvious philosophical consequences.
We need to teach our children how to think, not what to think. To suggest that design cannot be scientifically verified is nonsense. The exquisite nature of nano-mechanisms in living creatures has led to the growth of the discipline known as biomimetics, copying nature to advantage in engineering.
I am eager that more students should work at the interface between life sciences and engineering and understand design in nature.
ANDY C. McINTOSH
Professor of Thermodynamics and Combustion Theory
University of Leeds
Eighty years ago a Tennessee schoolmaster, John Scopes, was convicted of violating a state law banning the teaching of evolution. His trial, said the pundit H.L. Mencken, “called attention dramatically to the fact that enlightenment, among mankind, is very narrowly dispersed”. A new organisation called Truth in Science wishes to keep it that way. The group calls for “critical examination of Darwinism in schools”, and has sent its material to every secondary school in the UK. Professor McIntosh is writing as one of the directors of this organisation.
Unaccountably, McIntosh omitted to mention his vice-presidency of the Creation Science Movement, which maintains the world was created 6.000 years ago and submerged by Noah’s Flood. But in stating that students should “understand design in nature” – a nice case of assuming in his premises the truth of his creationist conclusions – he said enough to reveal the hollowness of the venture. Truth in Science is the least aptly named organisation since the Holocaust denial movement rebranded itself the Institute for Historical Review. Mimicking open-ended inquiry, it exemplifies old-fashioned Obscurantism. Professor McIntosh’s academic field of thermodynamics and combustion theory gives him a competence in evolutionary biology equivalent to that of the next person you pass in the street. His fellow directors include a minister of the Free Church of Scotland and a publisher of evangelical literature.
In the Scopes trial, creationists secured legal victory at the price of national ridicule. Their descendants stress the ostensibly scientific notion of Intelligent Design, and the superficially democratic demand that it be granted equal time with the teaching of evolution. A liberal education certainly includes knowledge of the religious doctrines that have shaped Western civilisation. But the myths of the Creation and the Fall have no place in science education. Evolution, wrote the biologist Ernst Mayr, is not just a concept but “the name of a process in nature, the occurrence of which can be documented by mountains of evidence that nobody has been able to refute”. Its deniers – there is no polite way of putting this - are a menace to children.