Saturday, February 03, 2007

Friday quote: The three streams of ID

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Categories : Intelligent Design, Creationism, History, Friday Quote, The Critics

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published: vendredi 2 février 2007 20:21:42

Darwinian Fundamentalist points me to this interesting article (PDF) on the history of the intelligent design movement. Written by Donald A. Yerxa, a professor of history, it takes a more nuanced approach than the "ID=creationism" meme spread by many ID critics. Yerxa identifies three distinct streams that came together in the intelligent design movement, only one of which he terms "neocreationism":

Using the historian's most powerful and potentially distorting device - hindsight, it is possible to detect at least three streams that fed into the contemporary intelligent design movement. [1] During the 1980s, new concerns were expressed about the under determination of several aspects of evolutionary theory. [2] At the same time, cosmologists were suggesting that a strong teleological thread seemed to be running through cosmic history. So-called anthropic arguments gave encouragement to those inclined to recoil from the stark materialist assumptions of some spokespersons of science. [3] Also during the 1980s, there were a growing number of neocreationists whose objections to scientific naturalism and aspects of evolution were as much religious as they were scientific, but for whom the approach of creation science was woefully inadequate. In the 1990s, Johnson was able to bring these streams together under the banner of intelligent design. [Numbers added by me.]

One of the most influential works from the first strain was Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, by the agnostic biologist Michael Denton. Because he can't be fitted into the traditional "evangelical Christians railing against evolution" stereotype, many ID critics simply ignore him. Creationism's Trojan Horse by Forrest and Gross, touted by critics as the definitive history of the intelligent design movement, only has a handful of entries for Michael Denton in the index: Two referring to lists of ID supporters, where Denton is mentioned, another two referring to mentions of Phillip Johnson and George Gilder having read his books, and the final two referring to a laundry list of ID books, with no details about their content. But in a book where even Michael Behe's "invocation of Cardinal Ratzinger" has an entry in the index, the authors couldn't find the time to mention that one of the earliest and most influential books of intelligent design was authored by an agnostic.

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