In a very smart piece in Slate, William Saletan points out that what's been challenging Darwinism in a Kansas State Board of Education hearing room isn't Scopes-era creationism any more than low-browed Australopithecus "R" us:
Liberals, editorialists, and biologists wonder aloud how people can refuse to see evolution when it's staring them in the face. Maybe they should ask themselves. It's the creationists in Kansas who are evolving. And it's the evolutionists who can't see it. . . .
The new challenger, ID, differs fundamentally from fundamentalism. Like its creationist forebears, ID is theistic. But unlike them, it abandons Biblical literalism, embraces open-minded inquiry, and accepts falsification, not authority, as the ultimate test. These concessions, sincere or not, define a new species of creationism—Homo sapiens—that fatally undermines its ancestors. Creationists aren't threatening us. They're becoming us.
Saletan traces the history. As recently as 1999, "conservatives on the education board rammed through curriculum revisions co-authored by the president of the Creation Science Association for Mid-America" -- Biblical literalists and "young earth creationists" who believe the world was actually made in six days, and that therefore scientific estimates of geological and paleontological time must simply be denied. "The Grand Canyon could have been formed 'in hours or days,' and 'dinosaurs lived very recently and coexisted with man.'"
Not so fast, testified a lawyer and geologist named John Calvert:
"I am not a creationist as that term is frequently used in the press and by the scientific community to describe one who believes in a literal and narrow interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. However, I do believe that life has resulted from design rather than by chance." Far from suggesting that a day or two was enough time to make the Grand Canyon, Calvert argued that hundreds of millions of years weren't enough time for random processes to devise the first cell.
That same year, Calvert founded the Intelligent Design Network. (Saletan provides the links.) In 2001, Calvert and biochemist William Harris wrote a piece asserting that ID does, in fact, accept the evidentiary standards of science:
"An ID proponent recognizes that ID theory may be disproved by new evidence. ID is like a large tent under which many religious and nonreligious origins theories may find a home. ID proposes nothing more than that life and its diversity were the product of an intelligence with power to manipulate matter and energy."
Saletan himself believes that once it concedes this much (and more: "They already acknowledge microevolution—mutation and natural selection within a species"), ID is likely to be defeated on the evidence. Nonetheless, he welcomes it to a level scientific playing field, and wonders why evolutionists are so unwilling to let the bright new kid play:
Perversely, evolutionists refuse to facilitate [ID's] collapse. They prefer to dismiss ID proponents as dead-end Neanderthals. They complain, legitimately, that Calvert and Harris are trying to expand the definition of science beyond "natural explanations." But have you read the definition Calvert and Harris propose? It would define science as a continuous process of "observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena." Abstract creationism can't qualify for such scrutiny. Substantive creationism can't survive it. Or if it can, it should. [Emphasis added]
It's too bad liberals and scientists don't welcome this test. It's too bad they go around sneering, as censors of science often have, that the new theory is too radical, offensive, or embarrassing to be taken seriously. It's too bad they think good science consists of believing the right things. In the long view—the evolutionary view—good science consists of using evidence and experiment to find out whether what we thought was right is wrong. If they do that in Kansas, by whatever name, that's all that matters.
OH, BY THE WAY: William Dembski debated Michael Ruse on "Nightline" last night. (For more on who they are, look here.) I missed it, unfortunately, but the video can be downloaded here (I'll do that when I get back to my "modern" computer). Afterwards, Dembski e-mailed my friend Jeffrey Schwartz, "Jeff, I owe you a key point I made in the debate, namely, that 'intelligence is perfectly natural!'" YES.