"The 'Teach the controversy' party's over"

"A mendacious bit of hucksterism" is Robert Camp's description of the "teach the controversy" slogan frequently used to promote the teaching of "intelligent design" in the public schools. And it's not just idle rhetoric. Rather, it's based firmly on the results of a survey that he conducted of the heads of biology departments in colleges and universities around the country. As Camp explains, "If there are authoritative voices on the purported existence of a controversy among biologists regarding mechanisms of evolution, they belong to those individuals who are well aware of the most current scholarship in their field and are in touch with daily discussion of that scholarship."

In his new article "Turn out the lights, the 'teach the controversy' party's over," posted on the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal's Creationism and Intelligent Design Watch website, Camp reports on his survey, in which he asked the heads of biology departments whether, with respect to "intelligent design," there is "a difference of professional opinion within your department that you feel could be accurately described as a scientific controversy." Over 97% of his respondents answered in the negative. "As an attempt to put empirical weight behind that which has been well understood all along," Camp concludes, "the numbers here are unambiguous."

And the remaining 3%, representing two of the 73 respondents? Camp explains, "One, a 'No, but ...,' observed that there was virtually no professional controversy within their department but acknowledged that one colleague had spoken favorably of the concept publicly .... And the only assent to controversy came from an institution [which Camp elsewhere describes as "a theological medical university"] dedicated to an ideological view of the world, including the world of biology," adding, "This may serve as evidence of a 'controversy' in that particular university. But in the larger context, its effect is only to put the overwhelming consensus into sharper focus."