I’m going to describe an atomic theory of antievolution. Antievolution, I assert, is comprised of a large number of elemental arguments. The set of arguments can be arranged and deployed in a number of different ways, just as chemical compounds can be described in terms of atomic constituents.
In the beginning, there was naive creationism. It was simply part of Christian theism. Arguments for creationism were almost purely apologetics, means to support the faith of the faithful rather than to fend off natural philosophy. Among the first atomic elements of antievolution, then, are the arguments from design. In 1802, the Reverend William Paley put together a number of these, in part to counter the arguments of David Hume. These included the argument from artifacts of several parts serving a function, the argument from improbability, the argument from anthropic match to earth’s conditions, and the argument from conditions for advance of human knowledge.
As evolutionary science developed, further antievolution elements were discovered: the argument from more and more people leaving secular theories to adopt literalist biblical views, the argument from denial of the particulars of evolutionary science, the argument from recantation of authorities, and many more. So driven and diligent were the antievolutionists in their search for the elemental arguments that would cause listeners to abandon evolutionary science that almost all of these arguments were described and deployed by 1925 and the time of the Scopes trial.
The elemental antievolution arguments, though, are a small subset of arguments in general. If I represent a particular configuration, or compound, of antievolution arguments comprising “creationism” as it was before 1968, the date when the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Epperson v. Arkansas, I might choose to model it as using, say, the red blocks from a popular type of toy:
Frustrated that the Supreme Court had rejected their compound, antievolutionists could have attempted to re-evaluate their approach, perhaps take up arguments from outside their particular set of elements, and try something different. Apparently, they found it easier on the whole to work using just the same elemental arguments as before, but leaving out some that they believed were particularly troublesome in the legal sphere. Their new compound, “scientific creationism”, could be visualized like this:
As time went by, it gradually dawned on Henry M. Morris, a prominent antievolutionist, that a slightly different arrangement might be better accepted, and so “creation science” was created:
“Creation science”, though, was recognized as being just the same thing as the “creationism” that came before it in the 1982 McLean v. Arkansas decision and the 1987 Supreme Court decision in Edwards v. Aguillard. A group called the Foundation for Thought and Ethics had been working on a “creation science” textbook for use in public schools, and the 1987 Edwards decision made them think about what they would do with the draft of their textbook. Again, they could have chosen to investigate a new approach using other arguments, but this was not the path they took. They found it easier all around to once again rearrange the existing arguments into another compound that they were certain that, this time, no one would notice it had anything to do with “creation science”. They called this entirely unrecognizable compound “intelligent design”:
“Intelligent design” did cause some confusion for some people, who generally were looking at claimed motivations of advocates rather than looking at the composition of both “creation science” and “intelligent design”. Once the composition of both “creation science” and “intelligent design” was analyzed in a courtroom in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 2005, the confusion evaporated and the decision in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case noted that “intelligent design” was simply “creation science” rearranged and relabeled.
Antievolutionists are nothing if not persistent, so a “new” approach has been announced. This latest compound is simply being called “evolution”, and can be visualized like this:
One might notice the absence of the sorts of arguments that lie at the frontier of scientific inquiry in evolutionary science. The antievolutionist compound of “evolution” now simply fails to take cognizance of any portion of evolutionary science that has not been touched upon by some form of elemental antievolution argument. Antievolutionists are betting that you, your science teachers, your school board, and the legal system where you live will all demonstrate the sort of cognitively challenged view of things that does not see any similarity of antievolution’s compound of “evolution” and the compounds of “intelligent design”, “creation science”, “scientific creationism”, and “creationism” that went before.
Update: Thanks to Marshall Berman for getting my brain back on track concerning Epperson.