Friday, March 09, 2007
Bad News Happens
These little setbacks have even been picked up on by journalists who now write more skeptically than ever about the never quite identified mountain of evidence that supports the "theory" of intelligent design.
A new and more threatening development has been taking shape over the last week, however, and both William Dembski's Uncommon Descent blog and the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog were quick to realize the danger and respond (ENV, UD).
Of course the IDiots, as always, brought this latest damaging revelation down about their own heads. Not long ago, The Templeton Foundation, a non-profit that publishes scholarly books on science and religion, spirituality and healing , reported that it had offered grants for scientific research that would support intelligent design theory, but no one in the ID movement had applied.
This embarrassing revelation resulted in some angry back and forth between spokespeople for the ID movement and officials at the Templeton Foundation. Ed Brayton, who writes the Dispatches From the Culture Wars blog, has done the best job of keeping up with the ins and outs of the debate.
Now, William Grassie of the Metanexus Institute, a group that advances research, education and outreach on the constructive engagement of science and religion, has written on the issue, and what he has to say is devastating to the already shaky case for intelligent design:
- There were certainly sympathies towards aspects of the ID arguments and interest in pushing the technical and theological sides of their inquiry, but as the ID Theory became a political movement [emphasis added, RSR], the John Templeton Foundation began to slowly--perhaps too slowly--to disassociate itself from the Discovery Institute, William Dembski, and other protagonists in the debate.
- The logic of the ID movement is essentially that evolution = Darwinism = materialism = atheism = immorality = nihilism. This is not a necessary correlation.
- Whatever the deficiencies in Darwinism, whether it is an exclusive or even most important mechanism in the transmutation of species, these scientific debates do not necessarily imply “intelligently designed complexity” as an alternative and certainly not the only alternative.
- One can legitimately debate the meaning of evolution and how it occurs. These are engaging and difficult issues in science, philosophy, and the theology of nature. On the other hand, it is pretty stupid to choose as one’s allies [Grassie is explicitly referring to Young Earth Creationists, RSR] those who deny the overwhelming accumulation of evidence in favor of a long Earth history and the transmutation of species.
What we're seeing here is the beginnings of a split between those who are open to a religious explanation for some natural phenomena -- but unwilling to throw science overboard -- and the intelligent design movement. We're also seeing the fruits of Dembski's journey from being someone with legitimate academic credentials to passport carrying member of the Crankosphere.
The statements by the Templeton Foundation and William Grassie mark the beginning of the end of serious consideration of intelligent design theory by mainstream religious thinkers. When added to the rejection of ID by the courts, voters, and news media, this development could well have devastating consequences for the ID movement.
More and more, I think, ID will be relegated to the same narrow niche occupied by fringe figures such as Ken Ham and Henry Morris. Their early hopes of breaking out of the creationist enclave to attract those outside the insular world of bible college and Christian academy, I think, are now past.