Despite the claims of its critics, Intelligent Design is indeed a scientific theory that can be-- indeed is--contradicted by evidence. Examples are the human appendix and the inverted construction of the human retina—bad design with good evolutionary explanations.
The real objection to Intelligent Design is not that it is not a theory, nor that it is a theory that we have reason to reject. The real objection is that its supporters are driven by religious, not scientific, motives. Somewhere in the world there must exist someone who was persuaded of its truth by scientific arguments—but looking at those arguments makes it clear that they were generated by people who knew what conclusion they wanted and were doing their best to fudge up reasons to believe it.
My first post in this blog discussed another example of faith based science--Nuclear Winter. Its scientific credentials were a good deal better than those of Intelligent Design. But it was clear from the sales campaign, at a point when the scientific basis was still very shaky, that it was a theory propounded by its supporters for a non-scientific motive. The campaign for nuclear disarmament had gotten a lot of mileage out of the claim, almost certainly false, that fallout from a nuclear war would wipe out life on earth, or at least human life. Nuclear Winter provided a new argument designed to reach the same conclusion—one that might even be true.
Quite a lot of environmentalism fits the same pattern. The economic, biological and climatological arguments--about global warming, species extinction, pollution, and the like--are sometimes right, sometimes wrong. But the driving force, for a lot of those making those arguments, is the essentially religious belief that natural is good.
As evidence, consider how few in the environmental movement are willing to support nuclear power. Nuclear reactors are the one source of power that provides a plausible alternative to fossil fuels—a way of generating electricity almost anywhere without producing CO2 or consuming fossil fuels, and doing it at a cost not wildly higher than the cost of coal fueled generators. They thus provide at least a partial solution to what environmentalists claim are two of the big problems—depletable resources and global warming.
A few environmentalists accept that argument—most, by casual observation, don’t. The reason is clear. Nuclear reactors are as unnatural as you can get—a symbol of the evils of high technology, used as such for decades by many of the same people pushing environmentalism.
The risks of faith based science.