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Intelligent Design Bibliography Misleading

In a fifteen-page analysis sent earlier this week to every member of the Ohio Board of Education, the National Center for Science Education exposed the Discovery Institute’s “Bibliography of Supplementary Resources for Ohio Science Instruction” as a systematic misrepresentation of the scientific literature that it cites.

The Bibliography, given by two representatives of the Discovery Institute — which seeks to promote “intelligent design” — to the Ohio Board of Education on March 11, claims that it lists publications that “represent dissenting viewpoints that challenge one or another aspect of neo-Darwinism (the prevailing theory of evolution taught in biology textbooks), discuss problems that evolutionary theory faces, or suggest important new lines of evidence that biology must consider when explaining origins.”

But the authors of the publications disagree. Twenty-six scientists, representing 34 of the 44 publications listed in the Bibliography, responded to NCSE’s request to evaluate the Discovery Institute’s description of their work. More than half of them regarded it as inaccurate and tendentious. As NCSE asks in its analysis, “Should the state of Ohio be guided in the development of its science standards by people who are apparently incapable of reliably and objectively summarizing the scientific literature?”

NCSE also asked Brian J. Alters, an internationally recognized expert on science education who holds appointments at Harvard University and McGill University, where he is the Director of the Evolution Education Research Centre, to comment on the pedagogical value of the Bibliography. Alters responded, “Not only is this selection of papers inappropriate for the high school level, it will likely engender numerous misconceptions among high school students about the science of evolution — something no science teacher would want.”

“In fact,” said Dr. Alan Gishlick of NCSE, “although the publications in the Bibliography are valuable contributions to the scientific literature, they provide neither evidence for ‘intelligent design’ nor evidence against evolution. The Discovery Institute is simply engaged in ‘quote-mining’ — searching for passages that it can misrepresent as somehow discrediting evolution.” He added, “If the Discovery Institute were really serious about improving science education, it would not be fomenting confusion about evolution.”

The complete analysis is available in both html and PDF formats.

The National Center for Science Education is a nonprofit organization, based in Oakland, California, dedicated to defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools. On the web at www.ncseweb.org.