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Scientists and teachers speak out

A coalition representing more than 70,000 Australian scientists and science teachers has called on all schools not to teach Intelligent Design (ID) as science, because it fails to qualify on every count as a scientific theory.

In an open letter published today [Thursday, 20 October, 2005] in major newspapers, the nation's leading researchers and science educators have joined forces for the first time to express "grave concern" that ID might be taught in any school as a valid alternative to evolution.

The signatories to the letter include all the nation's peak groups in the field, notably the Australian Academy of Science, the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, and the Australian Science Teachers Association.

The letter is a unanimous initiative of the executive of the Faculty of Science at the University of New South Wales, led by its Dean, Professor Mike Archer.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

Intelligent design is not science:

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.

Signed by:

Professor Michael Archer, Dean of Science, University of New South Wales;

Professor Sue Serjeantson, AO, Executive Secretary, Australian Academy of Science;

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

Gary Thomas, President, Australian Science Teachers Association;

Paul Carnemolla, President, Science Teachers Association of NSW;

Julie Webber, President, Science Teachers Association of Western Australia;

Peter Turnbull, President, Science Teachers Association of South Australia;

Niels Hider, President, Science Educators Association of the ACT;

Rob Brooks, President, Australasian Evolution Society.

*[We thank the many other individuals who have asked for their names to be included as signatories. Our intention is to make a public statement, not to generate a petition. However, we will consider expanding this published list of signatories in future.]

Media contact:
Bob Beale, Faculty Public Affairs Manager
0411 705 435