I have regularly taught seminars for university biology majors, which compare the scientific claims of evolution and ID. In doing so, I am not advocating the scientific merits of ID, as discussed in your News Feature “Who has designs on your students' minds?” (Nature 434, 1062–1065; 2005). I view these seminars as analogous to media literacy courses. To understand why 80% of Fox News viewers had misperceptions about Iraq, such as believing that weapons of mass destruction had been discovered there (see, media students need to learn how Fox News operates. Such a media literacy course does not necessarily vouch for the veracity of any particular Fox show.

My interest in ID was sparked in 1999 by a local high-school teacher who used ID materials in a biology course. Parents and citizens successfully defended the teaching of mainstream science against proponents of ID, in this case the Discovery Institute (see This taught me how effective pro-evolution groups are when they work with the school administration, and are supported by faculty from local colleges and universities. But to be effective in its support, the scientific community needs to understand the empirical claims of ID.

Although it seems to have been resurrected for religious or cultural agendas, ID's proponents have made empirical claims that can be examined. Many college students are curious about ID but have little knowledge of the claims made for it. In my experience, upper-level biology students with the appropriate background in molecular biology, genetics, developmental biology and evolution are capable of distinguishing the scientific merits of evolutionist and ID claims — to the great disadvantage of ID.

Students who themselves determine that ID does not cut the scientific mustard will be more effective in their support of teaching mainstream science. Students who remain creationists or fence-sitters will at least have a better understanding of why ID has not been widely accepted in the scientific community.

It may seem contradictory to offer a course on ID and evolution in colleges and oppose teaching ID in high schools. But high-school students are just learning the basics of science. To expect them to make a well-reasoned judgement about the status of any scientific theory, including evolution, is unrealistic.