This post contains just a few off-the-cuff observations. I hope to develop it into a more elaborate analysis after some more research.
Once upon a time, proponents of intelligent design (ID) argued that ID was scientifically based, and with sufficient maturation would develop into a scientific theory as robust as the theory of evolution. Their lobbying against the exclusive teaching of evolution in biology classrooms focused in part on what they called “teach the controversy” — that evolution (in their words) was a controversial theory and not accepted by all biologists.
Basically, their arguments centered around ID as science. That was before Dover.
US District Court John E. Jones III ruled in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District that ID was in fact not science, but in effect a religious belief. I quote, “The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.” (page 43)
That Jones was a Bush appointee — no wild liberal he — only rubbed salt in the IDists’ wounds.
Following Jones’ fairly detailed fisking of the “ID is science” contention, the ID crowd has adapted a different strategy: equate acceptance of evolution with religious belief or cultic faith. In other words, the new meme is “evolution isn’t science at all.”
Assisting in the spread of this latest argument is the rightwing polemicist Ann Coulter, who has devoted a significant section of her new book to blast evolution as a “discredited mystery religion of the 19th century.”
Coulter, a lawyer and political scientist, has received most of her biology and evolution education from the likes of Michael Behe and William Dembski (late of the Southern Seminary here), both darlings of the ID set. Bloggers at The Panda’s Thumb have taken it upon themselves to counter Coulter’s anti-evolution ravings, so I will defer to their expertise.
Dembski, for his part, now argues that “darwinism” is a form of religious faith, based not on hard scientific evidence but on a belief that impersonal, naturalistic forces have shaped the development of life on Earth. He asks if evolution is a naturalistic mystery religion.
Now, ID itself is just a step away from creationism, the belief that God (YHWH, Allah, etc.) created heaven, earth and living things as they appear now. While IDists tend to avoid equating their “designer” with God, it’s clear (as Judge Jones notes) that is exactly what they believe. They were just being coy, to maintain the ruse that ID = science.
Switching their plan of attack shows that the ID movement is getting desperate. Failing on the scientific front, they are now attacking on the religious front. And while they undermine their own earlier argument that ID is science, they will again tilt at the evolution windmills and lose the battle. Evolution is no more a religion than astrology is a science. To suggest otherwise is either disingenuous or intellectually dishonest.
I vote for the second choice.