Correspondence

Nature 423, 116 (8 May 2003) | doi:10.1038/423116a

Designer scientific literature

U. Kutschera1

  1. Department of Biology, University of Kassel, Heinrich-Plett-Strasse 40, 34109 Kassel, Germany

Sir

Your News report1 "Axeing of website article sparks row at Max Planck", describing the removal of several hundred web pages discussing a concept called 'intelligent design' (ID), is welcome.

In Germany, efforts to undermine evolution education — mostly in the form of ID, which rejects the theory of natural selection — have evolved into a successful campaign, including a standard textbook in its fifth edition, several journals and two professional video films in which proponents of ID such as the microbiologist Siegfried Scherer and the geneticist Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig give interviews in the laboratories of their government-sponsored departments. The ID strategy is not to identify the 'designer' as God in the Bible or for adherents to call themselves creationists; they have coined the term 'theists' to describe themselves (see ref. 2 for a discussion).

Last year, ID–creationism took a step towards scientific respectability when Lönnig and Heinz Saedler published an review3 entitled "Chromosome rearrangements and transposable elements". In this article they summarize arguments against Darwin's concept of gradual evolution with reference to the prominent German anti-Darwinists Otto Heinrich Schindewolf (1896–1971) and Richard Goldschmidt (1878–1958).

Lönnig and Saedler discuss the possibility of "a partly predetermined generation of biodiversity and new species", which they characterize as a "nonselection-driven and autonomous" process. Popular books by ID proponents Michael Behe and William Dembski are cited as credible sources. (For critical reviews of these books, see refs 4 and 5.) Lönnig and Saedler refer to a "wide range of opinions" and cite evolutionists such as Michael J. Benton, Stephen Jay Gould and John Maynard Smith as well as ID– creationists such as Behe and Dembski, and Lönnig's now-removed web pages. On the basis of these references and polemical comments, the authors state that we should welcome all ideas and hypotheses on the origin of life, "wherever they may lead".

In a German video film called Is The Bible Right? There is No Evidence for the Theory of Evolution, Lönnig argues that an intelligent force, endowed with consciousness and spirit, has been at work in the creation of all complex forms of life. This viewpoint is now implicitly proposed as a hypothesis in the scientific literature.3

Four years ago, this journal published two excellent editorials6, 7 entitled "The difference between science and dogma" and "Combating the exploiters of creationism". I think that the time is ripe to continue this series.

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References

  1. Abbott, A. Nature 422, 460 (2003). | Article | PubMed | ISI | ChemPort |
  2. Palevitz, B. A. Evolution 56, 1718–1720 (2002).
  3. Lönnig, W. E. & Saedler, H. Annu. Rev. Gen. 36, 389–410 (2002). | Article | ISI | ChemPort |
  4. Coyne, J. A. Nature 383, 227–228 (1996). | Article | ISI | ChemPort |
  5. Charlesworth, B. Nature 418, 129 (2002). | Article | ISI | ChemPort |
  6. Nature 400, 697 (1999). | Article |
  7. Nature 402, 843 (1999). | Article |