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A friend of mine, who happens to be a biology teacher, recedntly forwarded me an e-mail. Quite apart from the fact that the sender had sent it to what looks like every secondary school in the country & didn’t have the courtesy to bcc the mailing list, there are a number of issues around it that give me some soncern.

But first, the e-mail:

TO: Faculty Head of Science / Head of Biology Department

Please find attached a new resource (pp. 12-14) by Dr Jerry Bergman on the left recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) for the teaching and learning of Senior Science/Biology (human evolution). [Edit: I've removed the link for 'RLN' as I don't see why I should drive traffic to the ICR website.]
 
•  Much evidence exists that the present design results from developmental constraints.
•  There are indications that this design serves to fine-tune laryngeal functions.
•  The nerve serves to innervate other organs after it branches from the vagus on its way to the larynx.
•  The design provides backup innervation to the larynx in case another nerve is damaged.
•  No evidence exists that the design causes any disadvantage.
 
Freely share this resource with the teaching staff in your faculty/department.
 
Yours sincerely,
Scientists Anonymous (NZ)
 
PRIVACY ACT/DISCLAIMER
Dissemination of extraordinary science resources will be made once or twice a year at the most ().
All replies will be read but not necessarily acknowledged (no-reply policy applies).
The distribution of resources through this mailing system is not by the Publishers.

It’s immediately obvious that this is a thinly-disguised attempt by cdesign proponentsists to get ‘intelligent design’ materials into the classroom. The use of the word ‘design’ is a dead giveaway there. The arrangement of the laryngeal nerves has been noted by biologists as an example of poor ‘design’ as it doesn’t follow a straightforward path to the organs it innervates (& in fact follows an extremely lengthy detour in giraffes!), leading to the question, why would a ‘designer’ use such poor planning? (There’s a good youtube clip on the subject here.) That the ID proponents now seem to be arguing that poor design is actually purposeful & thus still evidence of a designer smacks of grasping at straws. Furthermore, the article that the e-mail originally linked to is mounted on the Institute for Creation Research website – it’s not published in a peer-reviewed journal. So there’s nothing ‘extraordinary’ about this particular ‘resource’.

Of more significance, I think, is the identity of the originators of this message (& I note they promise others in future; at least one can opt out!). ‘Scientists Anonymous’. This is an attempt at an appeal to authority – a bunch of scientists say so, so we should give it some weight.

But we shouldn’t – because we don’t know who they are. No-one’s publically signed their name to this stuff, so why should we accept their authority in this matter? Are there really any practising scientists there? Are any of them biologists? Who knows… but it adds no weight to their proclaimed position on this issue. The only person mentioned by name, Jerry Bergman, is indeed a biologist by training, for whom the first ‘google’ entries are citations by answersingenesis and the creation wiki. Google Scholar indicates that his recent publications are not in the area of biological sciences but promote anti-evolution ideas including the one that Darwin’s writings influenced Hitler’s attitudes to various racial groups (an idea that’s been throroughly debunked elsewhere – here and here, for example).

A search for ‘scientists anonymous’ brings up a students’ Facebook site & a book of the same name about women scientists. So who, exactly, are these ‘Scientists Anonymous’ who are behind the e-mail to schools, and why aren’t they prepared to put their names to the document?