False science

Proponents of the intelligent design concept contend that life is so complex and the earth so perfectly positioned to sustain it that a great designer must be responsible. There’s not a bit of sound science in their thinking, but proponents have managed to enlist the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in legitimising these notions. The Smithsonian, a symbol of the federal government’s commitment to advancing knowledge, should fend off any attempts to infiltrate this quasi-religious doctrine into its scientific work.

The trouble started when an article by Scott C Meyer, vice president of the Discovery Institute, chief proponent of intelligent design was published.

He contended that the sudden profusion of complex life forms in the Cambrian era, about 500 million years ago, could not be explained by evolution. By linking a museum fellow to intelligent design, the Sternberg case gives this unscientific concept a whiff of Smithsonian respectability. Congress needs to focus on expanding scientific knowledge, not on worrying about unscientific theories.

Intelligent design has an audience among Americans because many are ignorant of biology. The National Museum of Natural History could help remedy that by mounting exhibits that emphasise the importance of evolution for the study of life on earth. — The Boston Globe