As a former member of the Board of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), I read with some irritation your News story “Doubts over evolution block funding by Canadian agency” (Nature 440, 720–721; 200610.1038/440720b).
The proposed study of the effects of popularization of intelligent design was, in fact, simply rejected and thus could not be “blocked” by the council. Given that the average success rate is less than 40%, the majority of applicants are bound to fail.
In this case, an excerpt from the rejection letter, lifted from its context, has been used to suggest that the committee felt there was inadequate “justification for the assumption in the proposal that the theory of evolution, and not intelligent-design theory, was correct”. But this excerpt can be interpreted in a less dramatic manner: the committee simply thought the study was not impartial enough in its approach. After all, social-science research should study phenomena and not promote a particular view; many scholars legitimately demand a symmetric approach.
One can, of course, disagree with such comments, and many researchers do when they do not get their funding. But the author in this case is misguided in his view that the rejection “illustrates how the misunderstanding of evolution and intelligent design can go to all levels of Canadian society”.
The SSHRC does not interfere with peer-review committees. Instead of pointing his finger at the SSHRC, the researcher should complain about his peers who were not convinced by his proposal or, better still, he should learn from their comments.