Last night, NOVA premiered a documentary on the Dover, PA intelligent design trial of 2005. It should be up on the web soon, I'm looking forward to watching it, having played a small part myself in the controversy over ID. Greg Anrig has some comments:
"In watching the documentary, I was struck by the parallels between the Dover story and movement conservatism generally. The selling of “intelligent design,” and the idea itself, has much in common with Social Security privatization, supply-side economics, the invasion of Iraq, school vouchers, and other half-baked causes that the right has relentlessly been pushing in recent decades.
Basically, the Discovery Institute’s Center was in the business of marketing—not research. It had a product to sell – intelligent design -- and was focused on doing whatever it could to sell that idea. Even the name of the idea itself was changed from creationism to make it more palatable. Much like the unobjectionable moniker “Center for Renewal of Science and Culture,” later changed to simply Center for Science and Culture, which is about as perverse as the right’s Center for Equal Opportunity.
Now think about the role played by the Cato Institution and the Heritage Foundation in selling Social Security privatization. Akin to the “Wedge Document,” they developed the 1983 game plan “Achieving a 'Leninist' Strategy.” For years they honed a pitch aimed at reassuring everyone that, far from phasing out Social Security, they actually wanted to bolster it. They even softened the lingo from “privatization” to “private accounts.” When confronted with fundamental flaws with the concept, such as the massive additional federal debt it would create while imposing added risks on Americans, the think tanks came up with lame excuses while steaming full speed ahead with the same ill-conceived idea that would advance their broader agenda. Just as some intelligent design advocates outright lied in saying religion had nothing to do with their motivations, many privatization advocates lied in saying they wanted to strengthen Social Security."
What we have, in all these cases, are conservatives applying a veneer of dispassionate research and using the language of scholarship to support what are, at root, political and moral arguments. Social Security "reformers" aren't really interested in "strengthening" Social Security as much as they are in shrinking government. Most supply-siders aren't interested in whether or not their theory actually works as much as they are in the rich being taxed less. And intelligent design "theorists" aren't genuinely interested in the scientific evidence for or against evolution as much as they are in putting religion back in what they see as its proper place at the center of American culture.