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UPDATE: Sun Sentinel Suppresses Accurate Definition of Intelligent Design

Editor's Note: In the original post we mistakenly identified the newspaper in question as the Orlando Sentinel. It was in fact the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. While the identification was incorrect, the links all went to the right articles.

In what was supposed to be a news article, the Sun Sentinel yesterday substituted its own inaccurate definition of intelligent design for the definition actually used by proponents of the theory. In so doing, its editors apparently suppressed a more accurate definition of ID written by the reporter with whom I spoke. In addition to misdefining intelligent design, the Sentinel article engages in blatant editorializing by pejoratively labeling efforts to correct textbook errors as "watering down" the teaching of evolution. Below is the text of the letter I just sent to the Sentinel's reader's representative.

Dear Reader's Representative:

The definition of intelligent design given in Chris Kahn's article, "Broward selects biology text with watered-down passages on evolution" (Feb. 24), bears no resemblance to the definition actually used by the scholars and scientists who have proposed the theory. It also bears no resemblance to the definition I discussed with your reporter. Why is that? Why does the Sentinel refuse to allow the proponents of intelligent design to define their own theory, and instead substitute a highly inaccurate definition of its own?

Contrary to your article, the scientific theory of intelligent design makes no claims about "god" or a "guiding force." Instead, it merely proposes that there is good evidence that some features of nature--like the intricate molecular motors within cells and the finely-tuned laws of physics--are best explained as the products of an intelligent cause, not chance and necessity. Whether this intelligent cause identified through the scientific method is (or is not) "god" cannot be answered by the science alone and is therefore outside the scope of the theory of intelligent design. The issue addressed by intelligent design is a limited one: Is there evidence in nature that many key features are the products of an intelligent (goal-directed) process rather than an undirected process? Put another way, are there empirical indicators for intelligent activity in nature?

Your article also engages in blatant editorializing by insisting that Discovery Institute has tried to "water down" the teaching of evolution. In fact, we want to improve how evolution is taught by making sure students are exposed to the best evidence for and against Darwin's theory. Regarding the textbook changes we have achieved, I fail to see how correcting documented factual errors (like bogus embryo drawings, false statements about peppered moth research, overstatements about origin of life experiments, and inaccurate statements about the fossil record) constitutes "watering down" the coverage evolution--unless one believes that it is good science education to teach students falsehoods. The "watering down" label is pejorative, not impartial, and has no place in what was supposed to be a news story, not an opinion piece.


John G. West, Ph.D.
Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Discovery Institute