I recently watched the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. As expected from most reviews I have seen I found the film profoundly dishonest. It’s very much ideologically driven, using the old “when are you going to stop beating your wife?” approach. We are used to such tactics in political propaganda but it’s a lot worse here because this propaganda film targets science – the source of human knowledge.
However, it got me thinking. The film claims that there are many scientists who support creationist/intelligent design (ID) ideas. But I can’t remember personally encountering a single scientist supporting these ideas in my whole scientific career. Religious door-knockers – yes. But no scientists. I came across scientists who believed in astrology, spirits and ghosts. I came across scientists who had racist or sexist beliefs. I even came across one who was a member of the Act party! But never a scientist who believed the creationist/ID story.
I know they are out there – after all three New Zealanders signed the Discovery Institutes’s Dissent from Darwinism petition. But clearly, the number of scientists supporting such ideas is very much smaller than Expelled implies.
US survey of scientists
Perhaps the proportion of US scientists supporting creationism/ID is greater – after all that’s where most of the political controversy occurs on this issue. But, again, I think this proportion is overblown by the propaganda in Expelled.
A recent survey of Texan scientists – specifically biology and anthropology faculty members of Texan public universities and the largest private institutions – provides some interesting figures (Download report – Evolution, Creationism & Public Schools: Surveying What Texas Scientists Think about Educating Our Kids in the 21st Century).
Only about 2% expressed any degree of sympathy for creationism/ID (this included 1.4% who accepted much of evolution but wished to invoke “periodic intervention by an intelligent designer.” No of the scientists teaching at the graduate level supported creationism/ID.
This is particularly relevant because of the current attempts by creationists to introduce changes aimed at weakening the teaching of evolution into the Science Standards of the Texan Education Board . This is clearly a political action with no scientific justification or support.
But that is the nature of the ID controversy – it is a political controversy, not a scientific one.