Intelligent Design Backgrounder

INTELLIGENT DESIGN BACKGROUNDER….The driving force behind the “Intelligent Design” movement is the Seattle-based Discovery Institute. In the American Prospect today, Chris Mooney has a terrific piece outlining the history of both ID and the role of the Discovery Institute in popularizing it. Here he explains the religious background of ID:

The most eloquent documentation of ID?s religious inspiration comes in the form of a Discovery Institute strategic memo that made its way onto the Web in 1999: the ?Wedge Document.? A broad attack on ?scientific materialism,? the paper asserts that modern science has had ?devastating? cultural consequences, such as the denial of objective moral standards and the undermining of religious belief. In contrast, the document states that ID ?promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.? In order to achieve this objective, the ID movement will ?function as a ?wedge?? that will ?split the trunk [of scientific materialism]…at its weakest points.?

The Wedge Document puts ID proponents in an uncomfortable position. Discovery Institute representatives balk at being judged on religious grounds and accuse those who probe their motivations of engaging in ad hominem attacks. Yet given the express language of the Wedge Document, it?s hard to see why we shouldn?t take them at their own word. Discovery?s ultimate agenda ? the Wedge ? clearly has far more to do with the renewal of religiously based culture by the overthrow of key tenets of modern science than with the disinterested pursuit of knowledge.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Jerry Coyne has an immensely long ? but good! ? piece in The New Republic today that outlines everything: the history of creationism, the history of ID, the evidence for evolution, and the obvious problems with ID as a scientific theory:

The final blow to the claim that intelligent design is scientific is its proponents’ admission that we cannot understand the designer’s goals or methods. Behe owns up to this in Darwin’s Black Box: “Features that strike us as odd in a design might have been placed there by the designer for a reason ? for artistic reasons, to show off, for some as-yet undetectable practical purpose, or for some unguessable reason ? or they might not.”

….Well, if we admit that the designer had a number of means and motives, which can be self-contradictory, arbitrary, improvisatory, and “unguessable,” then we are left with a theory that cannot be rejected. Every conceivable observation of nature, including those that support evolution, becomes compatible with ID, for the ways of the designer are unfathomable. And a theory that cannot be rejected is not a scientific theory. If IDers want to have a genuinely scientific theory, let them propose a model that can be rigorously tested.

Read this one too.