Professor Gerald Coyne has an excellent six page story on Creationism/ID in the TNR, some of which I will excerpt:
Why all the fuss about a seemingly inoffensive statement? Who could possibly object to students “keep[ing] an open mind” and examining a respectable-sounding alternative to evolution? Isn’t science about testing theories against each other? The furor makes sense only in light of the tortuous history of creationism in America. Since it arose after World War I, Christianfundamentalist creationism has undergone its own evolution, taking on newer forms after absorbing repeated blows from the courts. “Intelligent design,” as I will show, is merely the latest incarnation of the biblical creationism espoused by William Jennings Bryan in Dayton. Far from a respectable scientific alternative to evolution, it is a clever attempt to sneak religion, cloaked in the guise of science, into the public schools…
Given the copious evidence for evolution, it seems unlikely that it will be replaced by an alternative theory. But that is exactly what intelligent-design creationists are demanding. Is there some dramatic new evidence, then, or some insufficiency of neo-Darwinism, that warrants overturning the theory of evolution?
The question is worth asking, but the answer is no. Intelligent design is simply the third attempt of creationists to proselytize our children at the expense of good science and clear thinking. Having failed to ban evolution from schools, and later to get equal classroom time for scientific creationism, they have made a few adjustments designed to sneak Christian cosmogony past the First Amendment. And these adjustments have given ID a popularity never enjoyed by earlier forms of creationism. Even the president of the United States has lent a sympathetic ear: George W. Bush recently told reporters in Texas that intelligent design should be taught in public schools alongside evolution because “part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought.” Articles by IDers, or about their “theory,” regularly appear in mainstream publications such as The New York Times…
It is clear, then, that intelligent design did not arise because of some long-standing problems with evolutionary theory, or because new facts have called neoDarwinism into question. ID is here for only one reason–to act as a Trojan horse poised before the public schools: a seemingly secular vessel ready to inject its religious message into the science curriculum.
Read the whole thing– it is a fascinating description of the chronology of events and the flaws in ID/Creationism.
None of his story, however, gets to why ID/Creationism is being pushed by certain segments of society. On Nightline Wednesday, Ted Koppel had George Will and Cal Thomas on, and they provided the best description for the “Whys?”
Why did President Bush make his ID remarks?
TED KOPPEL: All right. Let me – let me bring George into the same question. Why do you believe that the President has taken a stance on this?
GEORGE WILL: Well, let me apply Occam’s razor to that question and give the simplest answer that comes forward. I think he believes it. I would be amazed if the President did not believe in intelligent design because this President believes in a providential view of history. That is, he believes that events, wars and other developments are infused with God’s purposefulness. This is not an eccentric belief. If you read the 16th President, Abraham’s second inaugural, it’s full of the idea of providential history. Once you subscribe to that, infusing purposefulness and benevolence, if you will, into the evolution of species is a piece of cake. The critics of the teaching of evolution, the adherence to -intelligent design do not, as I understand it, question that the species do evolve. It is the postulated mechanism that they object to. They say that it is purposeful and benevolent, as God is, and not cruel and random. It’s not nature, red in tooth and claw.
And why is there a renewed attempt to infuse science with faith:
TED KOPPEL: Why can this not, even from a political point of view, Cal, simply be set aside in the context of saying, whether or not we want to say that evolution is God’s doing or random design, however you want to describe it, nevertheless, we have an obligation to try and figure out how it happened?
CAL THOMAS: Well, Ted, I think it could be if it was seen as a stand-alone issue. But taken together with school prayer, same-sex marriage, abortion on demand, the Terry Schiavo case, it is a general feeling that everything that a lot of God-fearing, tax-paying, flag-waving, patriotic Americans care about is taken away. It’s being taken away by the courts and by the wider culture. So, standing alone, this might not have had the resonance that it does. But taken together with all of these other things, I think that’s where the problem lies.
TED KOPPEL: So, part of this, George, is about science but most of it, really in the final analysis, is about politics?
GEORGE WILL: It’s about cultural anxiety. It’s about a sense of being marginalized and disrespected by certain groups. It’s a worry about the coarsening of the culture. All of these may be, to varying degrees, legitimate worries. They have absolutely nothing to do with the scientific puzzle of explaining the mechanism that produced us.
I regret I can not provide the entire transcript for you, as it is available only via Lexis-Nexis, but I think Will and Thomas are absolutely right- were the religious right not fighting pitched battles on every front, and, perhaps, losing many of these skirmishes in the Culture Wars, this would not be an issue. The world is changing, many feel alienated and marginalized, and thus, we have these Quixotic rear-guard actions in battles that in all likelihood have already been lost.