The intelligent design movement is a neo-creationist religious campaign for broad social, academic and political change to promote and support the idea of "intelligent design," which asserts that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not a possibly undirected process such as natural selection."Its chief activities are a campaign to promote public awareness of this concept, the lobbying of policymakers to include its teaching in high school science classes, and legal action, either to defend such teaching or to remove barriers otherwise preventing it. The movement arose out of the previous Christian fundamentalist and evangelistic creation science movement in the United States, and is driven by a small group of proponents.
The overall goal of the intelligent design movement is to "overthrow materialism" and atheism. Its proponents believe that society has suffered "devastating cultural consequences" from adopting materialism and that science is the cause of the decay into materialism because it seeks only natural explanations, and is therefore atheistic. They believe that the theory of evolution implies that humans have no spiritual nature, no moral purpose, and no intrinsic meaning. They seek to "defeat [the] materialist world view" represented by the theory of evolution in favor of "a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions".
To achieve their goal of defeating a materialistic world view, advocates of intelligent design take a two-pronged approach. Alongside the promotion of intelligent design, proponents also seek to "Teach the Controversy"; discredit evolution by emphasizing perceived flaws in the theory of evolution, or disagreements within the scientific community and encourage teachers and students to explore non-scientific alternatives to evolution, or to critically analyze evolution and the controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution. But the world's largest general scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has stated that "There is no significant controversy within the scientific community about the validity of evolution." and that "Evolution is one of the most robust and widely accepted principles of modern science." The ruling in the Dover trial,Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, where the claims of intelligent design proponents were considered by a United States federal court, stated that "evolution, including common descent and natural selection, is 'overwhelmingly accepted' by the scientific community."
The Discovery Institute is a conservative Christian think tank that drives the intelligent design movement. The Institute's Center for Science and Culture (CSC) counts most of the leading intelligent design advocates among its membership, most notably its program advisor Phillip E. Johnson. Johnson is the architect of the movement's key strategies, the "wedge strategy" and the Teach the Controversy campaign.
The Discovery Institute and leading proponents represent intelligent design as a revolutionary scientific theory. The overwhelming majority of the scientific community, as represented by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Sciences and nearly all scientific professional organizations, firmly rejects these claims, and insist that intelligent design is not valid science, its proponents having failed to conduct an actual scientific research program.This has led the movement's critics to state that intelligent design is merely a public relations campaign and a political campaign.
According to critics of the intelligent design movement, the movement's purpose is political rather than scientific or educational. They claim the movement's "activities betray an aggressive, systematic agenda for promoting not only intelligent design creationism, but the religious worldview that undergirds it." Intelligent design is an attempt to recast religious dogma in an effort to reintroduce the teaching of biblical creationism to public school science classrooms; the intelligent design movement is an effort to reshape American society into a theocracy, primarily through education. As evidence, critics cite the Discovery Institute's political activities, its "Wedge strategy" and statements made by leading intelligent design proponents.
The scientific community's position, as represented by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Center for Science Education, is that intelligent design is not science, but creationist pseudoscience. Richard Dawkins, a biologist and professor at Oxford University, compares the intelligent design movement's demand to "teach the controversy" with the demand to teach flat earthism; acceptable in terms of history, but not in terms of science. "If you give the idea that there are two schools of thought within science, one that says the earth is round and one that says the earth is flat, you are misleading children."