Possibly the most significant threat to science in the US today is the Intelligent Design movement. By threat I don’t mean that they are right, but that they appeal to a large number of people who believe in a literal interpretation of the Book of Genisis. Since they purport to have a scientific basis for their postulates (I won’t call them “theories”), they carry implied authority. This should not be confused with actual authority, which in this case derives from actual science. In order to clarify what ID is, let me translate their own definition into plain English. They say:
Intelligent design refers to a scientific research program as well as a community of scientists, philosophers and other scholars who seek evidence of design in nature. The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection. Through the study and analysis of a system’s components, a design theorist is able to determine whether various natural structures are the product of chance, natural law, intelligent design, or some combination thereof. Such research by observing the types of information produced when intelligent agents act. Scientists then seek to find objects which have those same types of informational properties which we commonly know come from intelligence. Intelligent design has applied these scientific methods to detect design in irreducibly complex biological structures, the complex and specified information content in DNA, the life-sustaining physical architecture of the universe, and the geologically rapid origin of biological diversity in the fossil record during the Cambrian explosion approximately 530 million years ago.
Intelligent design begins with the observation that intelligent agents produce complex and specified information (CSI). Design theorists hypothesize that if a natural object was designed, it will contain high levels of CSI. Scientists then perform experimental tests upon natural objects to determine if they contain complex and specified information. One easily testable form of CSI is irreducible complexity, which can be discovered by experimentally reverse-engineering biological structures to see if they require all of their parts to function. When ID researchers find irreducible complexity in biology, they conclude that such structures were designed.
The “theory” of Intelligent Design states that when we see something we don’t understand, it must be because God did it. Furthermore, ID “research” will go actively looking for things we don’t understand, so we can say God did those too. ID will not stop there, we will even go so far as to make up an arbitrarty mathematical definition of things we don’t understand, in order to test whether we understand them or not, so we can say God did it. But we ar enot creationists, we are scientists, because we say so, and we use CSI, just like on television.