December 01, 2005

Intelligent Design Creationism loses a prominent supporter

Perhaps one of the most significant indicators that Intelligent Design Creationism (IDC) is becoming an embarrassment is the defection by US Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

Senator Santorum was once one of the most prominent supporters of IDC ideas, even going so far as to propose an amendment to a bill that said "where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject." This kind of language, drafted by people from the IDC-promoting Discovery Institute, has always been the strategy of IDC advocates, to isolate evolution as somehow different from other scientific theories and as an especially poor theory, and to promote IDC by specifically focusing on evolution's alleged weaknesses. Although the Santorum Amendment never made it into law, the language remained in the conference report that surrounds legislation and supporters of IDC used it to argue that there was federal sanction for teaching intelligent design.

In a 2002 editorial page article in the Washington Times, Santorum went even further and said that "intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes."

But times change. Senator Santorum is up for re-election in 2006. He is facing a tough race and is currently trailing in the polls. The Dover school board election results may have jolted him into realizing that being seen as an IDC supporter has become an albatross. Whatever the reason, Santorum has made a complete reversal and now says "that he doesn't believe that intelligent design belongs in the science classroom." He went on to say "Science leads you where it leads you." Really.

Whether this reversal helps him win reelection is another matter. What is relevant here is that IDC has become increasingly seen as a political liability.

Of course, the IDC camp can still claim the support of President Bush who said that "he believes schools should discuss "intelligent design" alongside evolution when teaching students about the creation of life."

But Bush said this in August before his poll approval numbers started going into free-fall. It is not clear how he would reply if asked the same question now. Perhaps, like Santorum, he will suddenly see the light about how science really works and have a conversion. But given all the other issues that are buffeting the White House involving Iraq and torture and the Plame leak and corruption and secret prisons, it is unlikely that he will be asked about intelligent design again any time soon, sparing him the same kind of embarrassment that Santorum has had to undergo because of his abrupt change of heart.

If Bush asks those close to him who are assigned to have an opinion on these matters, his views may not receive much support from even them. When his scientific advisor John Marburger was asked to cite scientific evidence for supernatural design, he replied: "There isn't any. ... Intelligent design is not a scientific concept."

Of course, that still leaves Senate majority leader Frist who remains a supporter (in a wishy-washy and confused kind of way) of IDC ideas. It will be interesting to see what happens to his views when he is up for re-election or if he decides to run for President in 2008.

POST SCRIPT 1: From denials to "old news"

Once again, political cartoonist Tom Tomorrow accurately captures how this administration deals with bad news.

POST SCRIPT 2: "God's interns in DC"

Check out this strange news story from ABC's Nightline about young "interns" who go to Washington to pray 24/7. I am not sure what to make of it. But what is it with all the rocking back and forth? Is this common?


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Yet another reason (as if there weren't enough already) why not to vote for Rick Santorum. It makes perfect sense that he would support IDC since he seems to be equally ignorant about every other political issue.

Posted by Joe on December 1, 2005 09:41 AM

Just because Rick would rather see a kid be limited to seeing his dad on alternate Saturdays after his heterosexual parents divorce than see him raised by a loving, homosexual couple doesn't mean he's ignorant.

Wait a second, that's *exactly* what that means. My bad.

Posted by Barry on December 1, 2005 01:27 PM

As to the "rocking back and forth":

Yes, it is common among fundamentalist, evangelical Christians while praying. It is also common among Jews, though the prayer is usually not as... loud.

Speaking in tongues is considered to be a "gift of the Spirit", according to the Bible, though not every denomination recognizes it as such.

Posted by Liz V on December 1, 2005 02:56 PM

By all reports, President Bush is deeply fundamentalist in his beliefs, in addition to being increasingly defiant in his political speech. Wouldn't the confluence of those cause him to come out in support of intelligent design even though it may be a political liability?

Even if he did come out unequivocably in favor of intelligent design, his political capital has been so wasted trying to deal with all the catastrophes in his Administration that his support probably would be seen as a detriment and not something to be proud of.

Posted by Rian on December 1, 2005 05:17 PM

I think it may be too little, too late for Santorum, however. The last polling I saw had him down nearly 20 points against Bob Casey, Jr.

Posted by Jim Eastman on December 1, 2005 06:00 PM

What's more interesting is how ID has eaten the demographic for Creationists whole. "Young Earth" Creationism is even more lunar than it was before.

I have written an essay on this subject at

Mano, could you email me please? I want to correspond with you.

Posted by Nathan Zamprogno on December 5, 2005 01:12 AM