Sally Jenkins's faith-based column on intelligent design ["Just Check the ID," Sports, Aug. 29] lacked any real science and was just another attempt to brand this new installment of creationism as a theory. For Jenkins, a statement from Jeffrey M. Schwartz -- a man with legitimate scientific credentials -- that random processes could not possibly account for a NASCAR driver's focus makes for "fascinating thought." Well, it's just that, a thought, not a theory. Schwartz, like other IDers, offers nothing in the way of a testable hypothesis.
Just because I am awed by an athlete does not prove that there is some molecular intelligence behind his or her accomplishment. When athletes are "in the zone," they get there because of years of practice, trial and error, and dedication. Perception expands, motor skills are honed.
No, the "air" in Air Jordan and the "magic" in Magic Johnson are not something "marvelous in nature" that isn't explained. Yes, it is marvelous.
It's hard work.
-- Marcia Van Horn
I read Sally Jenkins's column twice looking for the punch line. After all, what athlete better proves "intelligent design" than George Plimpton's fictional Sidd Finch, whose fastball clocked in at 168 mph?
It's bad enough that we have to follow the phony debate about the theory of evolution in the op-ed pages. Please leave Sports to its intelligently designed purpose.
-- Robert Swenson
Sally Jenkins stepped beyond her admirable sportswriting expertise. She reports correctly that proponents of intelligent design argue that the level of complexity in biology is so high that it cannot be explained by a mindless process, implying that it results from "mindful" design. I and others argue that the level of complexity in biology is so high that it cannot be explained by a mindful process, implying that it can only be the result of a mindless process.
Intelligent design proponents hold that mind gives rise to complexity, and the "mindless process" proponents hold that complexity gives rise to mind. Evidence for the former is lacking; evidence for the latter is monumental. The scientific method prefers the simpler explanation; the intelligent-design explanation is far more complex, requiring new concepts and mechanisms not heretofore established, and it offers no explanation for the existence of "mind."
Theory is not the starting point of the scientific method; it is the final product. Colloquially we use the word "theory" as if it means hypothesis. In scientific parlance it does not. After awe and wonder, hypothesis is the first step, and theory formation is the final step, providing the simplest explanation (so far) that accounts for all observations. Evolutionary theory is the most well established of all theories in human history. Neither creationism nor intelligent design rises to this level, cavalier comparisons notwithstanding.
Jenkins's reference to "mere molecules" reminds me of Richard Nixon's description of Iceland as a "Godforsaken place." The government of Iceland suggested that Nixon had a rather limited concept of God. I suggest that Jenkins has a rather limited concept of molecules.
Some days I think that we humans overvalue ourselves and undervalue what we are made of.
-- Tim Clair
Sally Jenkins's column contained factual errors. One of the most important appears early, when she says: "First, let's get rid of the idea that ID (intelligent design) is a form of sly creationism. It isn't." Yes, it is.
Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago has published an excellent history of the creationist movement, from the Scopes trial to the present day, in the New Republic. It shows how creationism has "evolved" in response to decades of First Amendment challenges in the courts.
Further, the "wedge" strategy prepared by the leading proponent of intelligent design, the Discovery Institute, lays out its five-year plan to "replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God." It reveals that intelligent design is nothing but a PR strategy to get the group's version of Christian creationism into public schools. There is little mention of science in the plan, because proponents have no actual theory; they have no testable hypotheses; they have performed no experiments. They are waging a social and political battle because they have no science to put forward.
-- Neil McNamara