One thing that strikes me about Intelligent Design is that it must have been much more intuitively appealing before the failure of socialism. Socialism in the 1920s--1940s was in part based on the idea that the world had become so complex that central planning was necessary to deal with this complexity. Yet Von Mises was arguing just the opposite, that as the world became more elaborate, no one could plan it. ID seems to be based on an assumption that most conservatives reject in the economic sphere--that as the economy gets more elaborate, to work well it must be the product of the intelligent design of a master planner.
But, Jim! The whole point is that "divine" intelligence, or whatever you want to call it, is everywhere at once and can be trusted. (Like Adam Smith's Invisible Hand?) Only humans would be stupid enough to come up with the idea of central planning!
As an amateur ID enthusiast (who thinks that the great weakness of Darwinian evolutionary theory is its insistence on random mutation), I once wrote a whole long post on Intelligent Design, and lost it while juggling windows, and painstakingly recreated it, and lost it again! Someone was apparently trying to tell me that I didn't yet know enough about the subject (or maybe just about posting and linking). For an introduction to the most sophisticated Intelligent Design thinking, go here. Meanwhile, I'm putting out this idea (and also e-mailing it to ID maven William Dembski): ID people need a fish to put on their cars, so how about the fish with a lightbulb over its head?
UPDATE: As I understand it, and I'm not at all sure I do, "the most sophisticated ID thinking" doesn't posit a single "central intelligence agency" or a Designer sitting somewhere in a cosmic drafting room. We don't know how intelligence is distributed throughout the universe and we don't know how or whether it is unified. Our ways of imagining the creative process are extremely limited and anthropomorphic. My friend Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz (whose credits also include coaching Leonardo di Caprio on his portrayal of Howard Hughes' OCD in "The Aviator") has collaborated with quantum physicist Henry Stapp to show how quantum theory can account for the scientifically demonstrable fact that the conscious mind can change the material brain, the focus of his fascinating work treating obsessive-compulsive disorder with a technique derived from Buddhist mindfulness meditation.
The following are just my own goofy musings: A brain is a material information storage system that is associated with "a" consciousness (or just with consciousness), that gets information about the outside world through the senses, and that can interpret, manipulate, recombine and even innovate -- "new ideas" sometimes arise in brains, whatever their source. Genes are also a material information storage system, one that gets information about the outside world through the survival rates of species members, and perhaps in other ways we don't understand. Could there be a consciousness associated with this system, albeit one working in a time frame we can't grasp? Could this system and its associated consciousness innovate and problem-solve -- like the mind/brain, could it propose as well as dispose? Could it design?
Only an amateur would ask such questions. The pros are more immediately concerned with demonstrating that the intricate complexity of life systems is too great to have evolved blindly.
ID theory posits that certain features of the natural world CAN ONLY be explained by the active intervention of a designing intelligence. Since the entire history of science displays innumerable instances of hitherto inexplicable phenomena yielding to natural explanations (and, in fact, innumerable instances of "intelligent design" notions to explain natural phenomena being scrapped when more obvious natural explanations were worked out), the whole ID outlook has very little appeal to well-informed scientists.
I suggest, above, that ID's critics (and maybe some of its proponents as well) are hobbled by an unconscious anthropomorphic, old-man-in-the-sky conception of what "the active intervention of a designing intelligence" might mean. Since we see a "designer" as one person with one brain sitting at a drafting table or workbench, we imagine "designing intelligence" that way, as centrally located and separate from what it is designing.
Derbyshire says that science means "trying to find natural explanations for natural phenomena." My question is whether much more of "nature" might be conscious and proactive, permeated and directed by intelligence, than we can almost begin to imagine.
Derbyshire also says, "We know a great deal about the actual mechanisms of natural selection". If he thinks so, he really owes it to himself to read (if he hasn't yet) a book called Uncommon Dissent, edited by Dembski.