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James Randerson, the Guardian’s science correspondent, wrote an excellent article this week dispensing once and for all the “theory” of Intelligent Design. Apparently James has, like I do, had just about enough of the nonsense arguments used in the whole debate and established that the ID movement has crossed a line: they have started infiltrating the schools and therefore the minds of children who are not equipped with the knowledge to judge the information put forth to them. Intelligent Design DVD’s have been sent out to British schools, encouraging the teaching staff to give children “an alternative” look at Darwinian theory. Like James Randerson, I am completely fed up with the whole ID debate, which frankly doesn’t deserve the time it’s getting since it’s an untestable theory, one that is inherently non-scientific and therefore in no way in competition with Darwinian evolution theory which has been tested and verified on more than one occasion. As Randerson aptly puts it:

Let’s be honest: despite its scientific-sounding frills and baubles, ID is pure religion. It is a reincarnation of an old idea that Darwin dispensed with and it has no place in a science class.

I would even take this argument further. Those scientists propagating ID as a valid alternative to Darwinian evolution theory should be punished in some way by their peers. Politicians with irrational ideas have been publicly ridiculed and shunned for far less serious mental crimes than adhering to a mystic force to explain life’s complexity. In the Netherlands the Three Musketeers of scientific irrationality are Cees Dekker, nanotechnologist, Ronald Meester, mathematician, and philosopher Rene van Woudenberg who have written two books already on this nonsense. Highly acclaimed as they are in their own scientific fields, for me two questions arise:

  1. Can scientists adhering to obviously non-scientific theories still be taken seriously as professional scientists, and
  2. Should there be a ‘code of conduct’ in science forbidding scientists to debate and promote scientific thoughts that are not in the realm of their scientific expertise?

Because, as you might have noticed, none of the Dutch Three Erroneous Musketeers have studied biology. But what, I hear you say, of the respect that everyone deserves regardless of their beliefs? Well, for one, I have studied biology and the mere fact that these people seriously think ID has a valid argument is offensive to me as a real biologist. And secondly, I’ve had it with tiptoeing around ‘the religious’ because they ‘deserve respect’. Here’s a final thought from the Guardian article Religions don’t deserve special treatment by AC Grayling, taken straight from my heart:

It is time to reverse the prevailing notion that religious commitment is intrinsically deserving of respect, and that it should be handled with kid gloves and protected by custom and in some cases law against criticism and ridicule.

It is time to refuse to tip-toe around people who claim respect, consideration, special treatment, or any other kind of immunity, on the grounds that they have a religious faith, as if having faith were a privilege-endowing virtue, as if it were noble to believe in unsupported claims and ancient superstitions. It is neither. […]

It is time to demand of believers that they take their personal choices and preferences in these non-rational and too often dangerous matters into the private sphere, like their sexual proclivities. Everyone is free to believe what they want, providing they do not bother (or coerce, or kill) others; but no-one is entitled to claim privileges merely on the grounds that they are votaries of one or another of the world’s many religions.

In conclusion, I would like to propose a new type of sticker on books in line with the age rating on films. The books the Three Erroneous Musketeers wrote should have stickers on them saying “This book contains ideas and arguments that are not founded on any expertise by the writers.” On the other hand, maybe that would disqualify too many books…