There is a heartening item in today’s New York Times: the creation myth known as Intelligent Design is having a tough time taking root. The ID movement’s complete and unsurprising lack of any scientific agenda is apparently beginning to catch up with it.
The story lists several symptoms of this happy trend. It mentions the Templeton Foundation, an organization that will be familiar to readers who follow the dialogue between science and religion. The foundation, whose mission is “to pursue new insights at the boundary between theology and science through a rigorous, open-minded and empirically focused methodology”, had given grants to several ID groups to support conferences and classes. But when it asked these groups to submit research proposals, nothing was forthcoming.
Even in theological institutions ID-as-science is a tough sell, apparently. “[ID] just doesn’t have the compelling or explanatory power to have much of an impact on the academy,” said one professor of Christian theology.
So: there was once an idea, very popular and successful, that all living things were created in their present form by the unmediated action of God. This idea managed to replicate itself in millions of minds. But then came enormous changes of the global climate, and the idea found its habitat shrinking. Recently, a mutated subspecies – Intelligent Design – appeared, and seemed to thrive for a while. But the hardier, more adaptable idea known as Evolution by Natural Selection, which has spread to minds in all corners of the world, may yet by its inherent robustness win the struggle for available niches after all. It is unlikely that creationism and its taxonomic cousins will go completely extinct – there are always going to be habitats where even the oddest organisms can survive – but with luck, in due time they will no longer be the memetic kudzu that they seem to be at the moment.