Among the articles delivered by OWL (omnipresent Wisconsin librarian) Dave Lull this weekend, and posted on Librarian’s Place, is a piece about "intelligent design". See here for the Librarian’s Place posting.
If I have understood it correctly, the self-described "tomeboy the ‘right’-minded liberrian" has analysed the collections of various US libraries and finds that books favourable to "intelligent design" are outnumbered by books not favourable to the concept. He also notes that fewer "pro" books are reviewed than "anti". He concludes that the American library service is failing in its mission to protect the diversity of ideas, while at the same time unconvincingly claiming not to be an apologist for intelligent design.
I completely disagree with tomeboy’s arguments.
First, what is factually correct is not decided by voting, but by the quality of the argument. You could fill a library with books stating that water flows uphill, but that would not mean that water does flow uphill.
Second (a corollary of the first point, which says it all really), the books listed as "not favourable" to intelligent design omit a number of authors (Ridley, Steve Jones, Conway Morris et al.) who have written excellent books on evolution and Darwinism. Richard Dawkins’ considerable output is represented by only one title. Because lots of books "unfavourable" to intelligent design do not figure in tomeboy’s analyses, his case that the library system is "biased" seems more to do with stock issues than anything else.
Finally, tomeboy makes the interesting point that "Continental Drift, Cloning, Osteopathy, String Theory, Cold Fusion, Cosmology, Electromagnetism, Meteors, Big Bang Theory, Black Holes" were all once considered pseudoscience and, tomeboy extrapolates, "presumably" not worth collecting in a "balanced fashion" as he calls it. (An aside: of tomeboy’s list, cold fusion remains pseudoscience until there is some credible evidence for it, and I’m unsure of the status of osteopathy but I believe there is not any objective evidence for it to date — I hastily add that this doesn’t mean I don’t think it can be useful.)
Intelligent design, or any other form of creationism, is not a credible theory because there is better, indeed overwhelming, evidence for evolution. So why libraries should provide "balanced" representation of them, as tomeboy concludes, beats me.
Of course, it can certainly be hard for theories to gain general acceptance. Like every other profession or walk of life, science is conservative. From the selection on tomeboy’s list, Clare Dudman has written an excellent scientific novel called Wegener’s Jigsaw about the considerable difficulties Wegener had in gaining general acceptance for his continental drift theory by the scientific establishment. Nobel prizewinners frequently had enormous difficulty in getting their ideas published or taken seriously. Examples include Marshall and Warren’s discovery that peptic ulcers are caused by a bacterium, and Lauterbur and Mansfield’s discovery of magnetic resonance imaging. Our favourite example at Nature is how the journal rejected Hans Krebs’ paper outlining the TCA (citric acid, or Krebs) cycle, by which sugars are metabolised, which won the Nobel in 1953. Nature did offer to reconsider the article when it had more space available, though😉