Are we in the final days of the "intelligent design is science" movement? Thanks to the attention of the Texas Freedom Network, we now know that this weekend should actually put an end to a charade that has gone on for far too long.
An article in the TFN Insider points out that Faith Bible Church in the Woodlands north of Houston will host a conference this weekend that explicitly links this form of creationism to "essential Christian doctrines." This is of particular significance because the most important talking point of those who promote intelligent design is that it has absolutely no link to Christianity in particular or to religion in general.
The description of the conference is clearly at odds with this perspective. Here's how the organizers describe the purpose of the event:
Are science and Christian faith friends or enemies? Do advances in cosmology, biochemistry, paleontology, and genetics undermine essential Christian doctrines, or is there in fact compelling evidence for design in nature? Join us as we explore these questions under the guidance of leading scholars specializing in the fields of intelligent design, science and faith and cultural apologetics.
The choice is starkly presented. Scientific advances either undermine "essential Christian doctrines" or they provide evidence for intelligent design. According to the conference promoters, therefore, intelligent design is the only interpretation of scientific evidence that is compatible with their version of Christianity.
Of course, any random conference might be organized by a fringe group and thus it would be wrong to draw too big a conclusion from such a singular event. The event at Faith Bible Church, however, is absolutely not something being hosted by a fringe group far from the intelligent design mainstream.
Indeed, promotional materials indicate that three of the seven speakers scheduled to participate in the conference are intelligent design's leading lights. (The other four are all on the faculty of nearby Houston Baptist University.) All three are employed by the Discovery Institute, the world's foremost advocacy organization for intelligent design. And all three, up until now, have been steadfast in their assertions that intelligent design is independent of religion.
John West, for example, the Discovery Institute's vice president for public policy and legal affairs and associate director of their Center for Science & Culture, published an op-ed piece in the Dallas Morning News entitled "Intelligent Design is Based on Science, Not Religion."
Similarly, William Dembski, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, made it clear in a debate with Christopher Hitchens that intelligent design is "the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the product of intelligence." He made it clear that while intelligent design does not attempt to prove the existence of God, it is "friendly toward theism."
The third Discovery Institute speaker, Stephen Meyer, is director of their Center for Science and Culture. He too has previously made it clear that there is a distinction between intelligent design and religion. In an interview with the Religion News Service Meyer said:
Contrary to media reports, Intelligent Design is not a religious-based idea, but instead an evidence-based scientific theory about life's origins--one that challenges strictly materialistic views of evolution.
All three of these intelligent design stars are now comfortable moving away from their previous position and saying what all of us have known from the beginning: intelligent design is linked to "essential Christian doctrines."
All three of these luminaries are now aligning themselves with Judge John E. Jones III when he ruled against the proponents of intelligent design in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case. Judge Jones was very clear in his ruling noting at one point that "ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents." He went even further a bit later in his ruling when he said:
We find that ID is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community. ID, as noted, is grounded in theology, not science.
Needless to say, the Discovery Institute was not pleased with what Judge Jones had to say. Within minutes of his decision being released, they issued a statement saying:
The Dover decision is an attempt by an activist federal judge to stop the spread of a scientific idea and even to prevent criticism of Darwinian evolution through government-imposed censorship rather than open debate, and it won't work.
Now, nine years later, given the intention of the conference and their role in it, I wonder if the leaders of the Discovery Institute will be issuing a formal apology to Judge Jones.
Truthfully, I don't wonder that at all!