Despite the clear lack of science in Intelligent Design, the whole effort is actually quite clever from a PR standpoint. The greatest asset ID advocates have going for them is this nation’s overall ignorance of science, and they exploit this asset to its fullest.
Unfortunately, most citizens of this country don’t have a solid understanding of science. The scientific method is almost always misunderstood, especially when it comes to the idea that hypotheses and theories have to be falsifiable. Furthermore, theories don’t actually “prove” anything, but are supported by evidence. Most people assume the opposite. They think science proves the existence of something and that scientific truths become infallible “laws.” One common argument I hear in favor of “scientific truths” is: “science has proven that the Earth revolves around the sun,” which is not entirely true. All science is driven by evidence, and evidence supports the theory that the Earth revolves around the sun. This theory could still be falsified with the proper evidence. I seriously doubt we’ll ever find this evidence, but that’s the best part of science. The door always stays open to allow new ideas to flourish and refuses to encourage rigid dogma.
ID advocates have seized this ignorance and run with it. Since most of the public has no idea that scientific theories must be falsifiable, ID advocates can push a “theory” that is impossible to falsify, and the public accepts it out of a lack of knowledge. When actual scientists or people who understand science speak out, IDists turn around paint themselves as victims of scientific dogma, saying that science is a religion that refuses to allow new ideas and will never let go of its evolution “myth.” However, ID advocates ignore the fact that evolution would be falsified overnight if paleontologists found human fossils that were contemporary with dinosaurs (or found anything else in the fossil record out of order). Of course, that would require them to do actual research and publish peer-reviewed articles—something they have yet to do—and they continue to cling to their long-debunked evidence that they claim falsifies evolution.
Next, ID uses scientific-sounding words and concepts such as irreducible complexity to further confuse the public. To a layperson, it sounds like real science. ID advocates use examples such as the mousetrap problem to show that mechanical devices don’t work if you take out a piece of it or that evolution is like a tornado going through a junkyard and assembling a fully functional Boeing 747. These are nothing more than gross distortions of the theory of evolution, and ID advocates know it. Evolution is a complex theory and difficult to understand. Indeed, many Americans do not understand it, so it is not hard for IDists to use the examples above to distort evolution to make it seem preposterous. ID advocates also cling to obscure aspects of biology such as the bacterial flagellum to show that it could not possibly have evolved. Then, when scientists find evidence suggesting otherwise, IDists simply refuse to acknowledge it. The fact that ID advocates have not pushed their “evidence” falsifying evolution past their well-used and debunked examples shows just how little they actually have to go on. Even then, it’s all erroneous because evidence falsifying evolution does not automatically become proof of ID.
Furthermore, people don’t know enough about ID to realize what it stands for. When most people think about intelligent design, they assume it’s something closer to theistic evolution (evolution directed by God). Few people realize that ID is the complete antithesis to evolution and suggests that animals just suddenly appeared on Earth after being made by the “intelligent designer.” I’m certain ID advocates know this, which is why they remain vague with the public when it comes to explaining ID.
Then, of course, there's the "evolution is just a theory" claim. You can see my earlier post on the subject here.
What am I getting at? Even though most scientists scoff at those who support ID, we need to realize that ID advocates have actually been extremely clever. They’ve done an excellent job disguising the scientific shortcomings of ID by relying on public ignorance. Furthermore, they appeal to Americans’ sense of freedom and equal opportunity to demand equal time in science classrooms. Since most people are confused about the nature of ID, it sounds like a reasonable demand. Plus, the straight-up lies that IDists tell by claiming that there’s a debate within science over the validity of evolution certainly helps their case. To the average layperson, it might sound like evolution is not accepted just because a few people with science PhDs, regardless of whether or not they are biologists, speak out against evolution.
Even considering how clever ID advocates have been, all it takes is knowledge to defeat ID. Once a person understands science, it’s easy to see ID for what it is: theology. Plus, the public needs to know why ID came to be. It doesn’t come any clearer than the Discovery Institute’s document, “The Wedge Strategy” (you can see it here), where they proclaim that the purpose of ID is “nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies” (“The Wedge Document,” Introduction). Once the public realizes this, ID will no longer be an issue and will go by the wayside. However, one can never let down their guard. ID supporters have proven time and again just how effective they are at influencing an ignorant public.Correction: Smokey brought an important correction to my attention:
Unfortunately, setting the goalpost at "peer-reviewed" was a mistake, because there are a couple of peer-reviewed articles (that really suck).Thanks Smokey.
The most important criterion is that they use tests of a hypothesis to generate new data. This works even if the hypothesis is wrong.
Real scientists are eager to do the most stringent tests when they have confidence in a hypothesis. The fact that no ID proponent has sufficient faith in ID to put it to the test says that in their hearts, they know that ID is a crock.
Update: PZ Myers of Phayngula was kind enough to post a link to this article on his blog. There he said:
There's an important ingredient of the recipe missing there: in addition to understanding that ID is theology, they have to understand that that is a bad thing. I suspect the majority of the IDists already know that it is a strategem to grant a god the privilege of being scientifically credible…the only issue is that they know you're not supposed to admit it.I was hoping it was obvious that ID was sneaky and a bad thing. Oh well. Thanks to Prefessor Myers, though.