Vladimir Svetlov makes some interesting points, in Correspondence, about the proliferation of peer-reviewed journals and the publication of flawed papers (Nature 431, 897; 2004doi:10.1038/431897a). But he does not take the recent publication of an ‘intelligent design’ (ID) paper (Nature 431, 114; 2004doi:10.1038/431114a) seriously enough.
We agree that the paper presented no new arguments and appeared in a relatively obscure journal. For such reasons it is unlikely to influence scientists. However, this does little to diminish its usefulness to ID proponents, who wish to influence public rather than scientific opinion.
The point is that, before it was withdrawn, this ‘peer-reviewed publication’ could be used by ID supporters in the United States to lend apparent legitimacy to their efforts to convince legislators and state and local education boards that ID is science and should be taught alongside darwinian evolution in public schools.
Such efforts are, alarmingly, bearing fruit in many US states — including Ohio (see http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2004/OH/832_critical_analysis_of_evolutio_3_10_2004.asp), where Svetlov himself is currently based.