Centrist Rick Heller attended "The Great Debate" at Boston University (where he's studying journalism) on the question, "Should Public Schools Teach Intelligent Design Along With Evolution?" He covers it on Transparent Eye, his own "blog at the intersection of religion and science." The stars of the debate were ID heavyweight Bill Dembski (click his name for links to downloadable.pdfs of his most recent writings; here's his ID blog) and Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the fiercely pro-evolution National Center for Science Education. Rick was surprised by his own reaction:
I went into the debate more open-minded than many, I would think, as I do believe there is a divine element governing creation, and presumably evolution too. However, I think Scott's side won decisively. [. . .]
Eugenie Scott exceeded expectations. I have been put off by her writings in the past, which I have sometimes felt to be condescending. That was not a problem Wednesday. Scott argued that the schools have so little time to devote to science, that there is no room in the curriculum for digressions, and schools should teach the scientific consensus. Let the ID advocates argue their case in scientific forums, and if over time it prevails, then it can be taught in schools. [. . .]
While Rick's own personal view ("I don't advocate it being taught in public schools") is that "evolution occurred, and that Divine Providence may have had a role in it," it seemed evident to him that "Dembski [. . .] is keeping the ID tent wide open to creationists. My sense is that he does this because creationists provide the money and popular support for the ID movement."
Actually, Dembski is both a keen intellect and a devout Evangelical Christian, who has disagreed much more gently, even deferentially, with creationists than with Darwinists. In this 2005 paper written from a Christian insider perspective, he is perfectly candid about his relationship to creationists:
I am not a young earth creationist nor do I support their efforts to harmonize science with a particular interpretation of Genesis. Nonetheless, it was their literature that first got me thinking about how improbable it is to generate biological complexity and how this problem might be approached scientifically. [. . .]
Unlike many Darwinists and theistic evolutionists, young earth creationists have been extraordinarily gracious to me, and I've always tried to return the favor.[. . .]
Despite my disagreements with [Henry] Morris and young earth creationism, I regard those disagreements as far less serious than my disagreements with the Darwinian materialists. If you will, young earth creationism is at worst off by a few orders of magnitude in misestimating the age of the earth. On the other hand, Darwinism, in ascribing powers of intelligence to blind material forces, is off by infinite orders of magnitude.
Dembski has written just as frankly about the ulterior cultural agenda of Intelligent Design: "integrating science and faith" ("Complexity, information, and design are precisely those aspects of science that naturalism tries to undercut and that are congenial to theism") and "[d]ismantling materialism [. . .] this ideology, which suffocates the human spirit." Speaking to fellow Christians, Dembski says this of ID:
I've found that it opens the path for people to come to Christ. Indeed, once materialism is no longer an option, Christianity again becomes an option. True, there are then also other options. But Christianity is more than able to hold its own once it is seen as a live option. The problem with materialism is that it rules out Christianity so completely that it is not even a live option. Thus, in its relation to Christianity, intelligent design should be viewed as a ground-clearing operation that gets rid of the intellectual rubbish that for generations has kept Christianity from receiving serious consideration.
Dembski and other ID leading lights contend that materialist science, too, has an ulterior cultural agenda and is not as objective as it boasts of being. Ideally, science should not be driven by cultural agendas at all. This blog that just published an interview with the controversial nonmaterialist British biologist Rupert Sheldrake makes that argument right in its name: AMNAP -- "Science is a method, not a position." Or, in the words of philosopher John Searle, quoted here:
[S]cience does not name an ontological domain; it names rather a set of methods for finding out about anything at all that admits of systematic investigation.
In this case, I agree with Rick Heller: Eugenie Scott is right to say that ID needs to prove that its premise "admits of systematic investigation" before it is taught as science. In fact, here on Beliefnet is an IDer, Casey Luskin, who partially agrees:
Unfortunately, when school boards mandate the teaching of such a new and controversial idea, they politicize a debate that should be taking place among scientists, free from political considerations. Schools boards are best advised to require the teaching of something long-established in the literature: that Neo-Darwinism fails to account for much of what we observe in biology.
That ID's premise, or Sheldrake's, involves nonmaterial forces should not necessarily put it beyond the reach of "systematic investigation." But looking for support for a foregone conclusion -- that Intelligent Design equals Biblical (if not literal) creation -- ends the investigation before it begins, just as surely as does ruling out any possibility that intelligence of some kind is inherent in evolution. It's sad to see science turned into a proxy fight in the two-dimensional culture wars.