"Intelligent Design" creationism (IDC) is a successor to the "creation science" movement, which dates back to the 1960s. The IDC movement began in the middle 1980s as an antievolution movement which could include young earth, old earth, and progressive creationists; theistic evolutionists, however, were not welcome. The movement increased in popularity in the 1990s with the publication of books by law professor Phillip Johnson and the founding in 1996 of the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture (now the Center for Science and Culture.) The term "intelligent design" was adopted as a replacement for "creation science," which was ruled to represent a particular religious belief in the Supreme Court case Edwards v. Aguillard in 1987.
IDC proponents usually avoid explicit references to God, attempting to present a veneer of secular scientific inquiry. IDC proponents introduced some new phrases into anti-evolution rhetoric, such as "irreducible complexity" (Michael Behe: Darwin's Black Box, 1996) and "specified complexity" (William Dembski: The Design Inference, 1998), but the basic principles behind these phrases have long histories in creationist attacks on evolution. Underlying both of these concepts, and foundational to IDC itself, is an early 19th century British theological view, the "argument from design."
The essence of the argument from design is that highly complex phenomena (such as the structure of the vertebrate eye) demonstrate the direct action of the hand of God. Modern ID proponents typically substitute cellular or sub-cellular structures (such as the rotor motor of a bacterium's whip-like flagellum) for anatomical complexity, but make the same argument: the appearance of complexity in nature categorically cannot be explained through natural causes; it requires the guidance of an "intelligent agent."
Following Phillip Johnson's lead, IDC promoters focus less on "proving" creationism and more on rejecting evolution and redefining science to make it more compatible with their version of Christianity. IDC advocates attack evolution as a way of attacking science itself because they believe it is the foundation of materialist philosophy. This strategy is explicitly laid out in The Wedge, a fund raising document from the Center for Science and Culture that set forth the group's "Governing Goals":
* To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.
* To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.
Although in the 1990s IDC advocates had encouraged the teaching of ID in public school science classes as an alternative to evolution, in the early 2000s they shifted their strategy. IDCs currently concentrate their efforts on attacking evolution. Under innocuous-sounding guises such as "academic freedom," "critical analysis of evolution," or "teaching the strengths and weaknesses of evolution," IDCs attempt to encourage teachers to teach students wrongly that there is a "controversy" among scientists over whether evolution has occurred. So-called "evidence against evolution" or "weaknesses of evolution" consist of the same sorts of long-discredited arguments against evolution which have been a staple of creationism since the 1920s and earlier.
- NCSE's Eugenie Scott describes the place of IDC within the Creation-Evolution Continuum.
- NCSE's Eugenie Scott on IDC's claims to scientific stature.
- Creationism's Trojan Horse, a website for the book by Professors Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross, which traces the history of the IDC movement.
- "The Wedge at Work", Barbara Forrest's history and analysis of the ID movement
- Professor Ken Miller explains "intelligent design"(on You-Tube).
- Intelligent Design?, a special report from Natural History magazine, April 2002.
- "Biological Design in Science Classrooms," by Eugenie C. Scott and Nicholas J. Matzke (pdf)
- The story of discovery of the "Wedge Document", as told by the protagonists.
- The Wedge Document
- IDC promoter Paul Nelson describes "Life in the Big Tent".