Over on Panda's Thumb, Ed Brayton gives us an update on the Dover ID trial, noting that William Dembski, Stephen Meyer and John Campbell have all been withdrawn as expert witnesses in the case.
Brayton sees things through the prism of the conspiracy theory, but that doesn't really matter here. What's more significant are the following comments from Brayton:
The DI has been in a bind from the moment this case started. For the past few years, both sides in this dispute have been waiting for the case – the legal test case that would determine once and for all whether ID can be taught in public school science classrooms or whether the previous precedents against teaching "creation science" will be applied to ID in a similar manner.
On the other hand, they know that if the school board loses this case – particularly if it gets appealed all the way to the Supreme Court and loses there – it's pretty much the end for ID in public schools. That would set a nationwide precedent that would ban ID from public school science classrooms.
Of course, this can only be good news for our side. There is no more eloquent a defender of ID than Stephen Meyer and no more credible a scholar in favor of ID than William Dembski.
I'm going to upset many ID proponents, but I have to tell you that I personally hope that some Court will eventually rule against inserting ID into a public school curriculum. Let me explain.
If the Courts prevent ID from being taught in the schools, such that "it's pretty much the end for ID in public schools," the anti-Wedge forces will have won the day and no longer have reason to exist. Having taken away the only real "threat" that ID poses, they should be expected to retire their attack machine and return to what it is that they would have been doing had the socio-political expression of ID never existed.
If there is any truth to the design inference, this bodes well for it. Because of the socio-political element to ID, the concept of ID is drowned out by the shouting and politicking. Consider how the terrain might change once ID can no longer be rationally considered a threat to the public education system.
Critics of ID make a big issue out of the motivations of ID advocates. Clear-thinking people understand this to be intellectually irresponsible, as one's motivation behind a hypothesis or explanation is not relevant. But because of the socio-political dynamic, critics have convinced themselves and others that motivations are relevant. They believe that ID is a TrojanHorse to get religion taught in schools, thus they seek to impose the religious connection in any way they can. They are afraid that a perceived disconnect between religious motivation and ID will make it easier for ID to get into the schools.
Now, if we take away the realistic chance of ID getting into the schools, the connection is no longer relevant. The logic of the ID position has never entailed a dependence on religious motivation nor does it entail a religious conclusion. That an ID advocate may be religious becomes as significant as Dawkins' atheism. In fact, if the critic at this point still insists on making religious motivation an issue, it becomes anything from a cheap rhetorical point that tries to cloud the issues to an expression of anti-religious bigotry. Strip away the socio-political element and perhaps a calm, core group of people from both sides can finally begin to proceed from the logic of ID instead of people's socio-political extrapolations.
A major court ruling against ID can also put an end to the Wedge conspiracy theories. Consider an expanded excerpt from Brayton:
The DI has been in a bind from the moment this case started. For the past few years, both sides in this dispute have been waiting for the case – the legal test case that would determine once and for all whether ID can be taught in public school science classrooms or whether the previous precedents against teaching "creation science" will be applied to ID in a similar manner. That's what all of the activity in this area for the last decade has been building toward. Everything that ID advocates have done during that time has been designed (yes, intelligently) to put legal distance between ID and the type of creation science that was banned from public school science classrooms in the Edwards decision. It's not by accident that the Wedge strategy was worked out by an attorney, Phillip Johnson. Johnson knew that the courts would not allow an explicitly religious idea be taught in public schools, so it was necessary to distance ID as much as possible from religion and make it appear to be religion-neutral.
Note the theme of the conspiracy theory "“ "all of the activity" and "everything that ID advocates" is supposed to come down to getting it in schools. If the Courts prohibit this from happening, then by the logic of Wedge-centrism, the Wedge is dead. We reached the end point, party's over, so turn out the lights.
The myriad of critics who have depended on the Wedge to make sense of everything about ID will no longer have any grounding. The Wedge would be dead, the threat would be gone, so how shall they then think about ID?
I am cynical enough to expect most will still cling to Wedge-centrism, and invent exotic and convoluted reasons as to why ID still must be viewed as a threat to our way of life and why our adrenalin levels need to remain high (after all, some have built quasi-careers around fighting the wedge). But at that point, they would no longer be defending science or defending the public school system, as those things would no longer be in need of protection. Instead, the new conspiracies and attacks would mean the defenders had evolved into attackers, people who look like they are trying to censor the mere idea of ID from the public square, as if the mere idea somehow threatened them. If the critics choose to cling to Wedge-centrism when the Wedge is dead, they will look more and more like fringe extremists.
On the other hand, many critics are also probably quite sincere in their efforts to defend science and education. Once they are assured the storm is over, and there is no rational reason for thinking science and education are at risk, some may begin to shy away from the attitude that refuses to "provide ammunition" to the Wedge. In the post-Wedge world, they may actually be willing to publicly acknowledge a weakness in their own position, an ID-related question that is deemed interesting, or even come to the place where they can admit that someone like Behe or Dembski makes a good point on some particular issue. As it stands now, critics refuse to partake in this normal give-and-take and I get the distinct impression that those stray scientists who unknowingly do so are often reprimanded via a flurry of e-mails warning them about their sin. In other words, if the Courts put a barrier between ID and schools, it becomes safe for an ID critic to publicly agree with Dembski about something.
I've been arguing about ID for years. What I have found is that most of the time, my arguments and questions are drowned out by the conspiracy theories and stereotypes that obtain their sustenance from Wedge-centrism. If those in power take away the Wedge, Wedge-centrism becomes kookiness. Maybe a new day will arise where instead of hearing "theocracy" when told ID, more critics will simply hear "ID." And for those sincerely interested in whether there is any validity to ID, that can only be a good thing.
Anyway, I would like to invite discussion of the pros and cons of the post-Wedge World (a world in which the Courts rule against ID). However, keep in mind that I will moderate the comments section aggressively.