AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner Calls Intelligent Design A Manufactured Controversy
Alan I. Leshner
With a landmark evolution trial underway in Harrisburg, Penn., AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner has written in the nearby York Dispatch that scientists and mainstream religious leaders are largely united in their acceptance of the theory of natural selection.
While some news accounts have described the federal court case as "the Scopes Monkey Trial II," Leshner cautioned that it would be a mistake to view the trial as a Super Bowl pitting science against religion.
In fact, he said, evolution should not be seen as an attack on religion. Many scientists are guided by faith, and thousands of religious leaders in all faiths have expressed opposition to efforts by the leaders of the Intelligent Design movement to inject their views into public school science classrooms.
In the commentary published 5 October, Leshner said religion typically does not distort the work of scientists.
But "the leaders of the intelligent design movement reverse the scientific process," he writes. "They begin with their conclusion and manipulate science to suit their purpose. Their 1999 "Wedge Document" makes the true goal clear: 'Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist world view, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.'"
In addition to serving as AAAS's chief executive officer, Leshner is the executive publisher of the journal Science.
The federal court case was filed by eight Dover, Penn., families to challenge a 2004 Dover Area School District policy seen as hostile to the teaching of evolution in public schools. Under the policy, school officials read a statement in biology classes claiming that Charles Darwin's theory is not a fact and that it is undermined by gaps that science has been unable to resolve. The statement offers Intelligent Designand its belief in a supernatural creatoras an alternative.
In their suit, the eight families charge that the Dover school board policy violates the separation of church and state set out in the U.S. Constitution. The trial began 26 September as is expected to last into November.
The controversy manufactured by the leaders of the ID movement "is social, not scientific, and as such it is more appropriate for discussion in social studies or philosophy classes," Leshner concluded.
"If the ID campaign is successful in court, it will lead the nation down a dangerous, slippery slope. If science classrooms are opened to their teaching, fairness requires that the views of countless other religions and denominations be taught as well. This would make a hash of science education, confusing our students and undermining the process of objective scientific research that has brought so much benefit to so many people."
To read the full commentary, click here.
Edward W. Lempinen
7 October 2005