However, regardless of their stand on issues such as the age of Earth or common ancestry of living things, common to all ID proponents is the rejection of Darwinism. In ID literature, Darwinist becomes an epithet, though it is not always clear in any given passage exactly what is meant by Darwinism. In evolutionary biology, Darwinism may refer to the general idea of evolution by natural selection or it may specifically refer to the ideas held by Darwin in the nineteenth century. Usually the term is not used for modern evolutionary theory, which, because it goes well beyond Darwin to include subsequent discoveries and understandings, is more frequently referred to as neo-Darwinism or just evolutionary theory. Evolutionary biologists hardly ever use Darwinism as a synonym for evolution, though historians and philosophers of science occasionally use it this way. In ID literature, however, Darwinism can mean Darwin's ideas, natural selection, neo-Darwinism, post-neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory, evolution itself, or materialist ideology inspired by Godless evolution.

The public, on the other hand, is unlikely to make these distinctions, instead simply equating Darwinism with evolution (common descent). For decades, creation science proponents have cited the controversies among scientists over how evolution occurred—including the specific role of natural selection—in their attempts to persuade the public that evolution itself, the thesis of common ancestry, was not accepted by scientists, or at least was in dispute. Within the scientific community, of course, there are lively controversies, for example over how much of evolution is explained by natural selection and how much by additional mechanisms such as those being discovered in evolutionary developmental biology ("evo-devo"). No one says natural selection is unimportant; no one says that additional mechanisms are categorically ruled out. But these technical arguments go well beyond the understanding oflaypeople and are easily used to promote confusion over whether evolution occurred.2 Intelligent design proponents exploit this public confusion about Darwinism to promote doubt about evolution.

The rejection of Darwinism, however, is not merely the glue that holds the disparate ID proponents together; it is also central to their movement. The natural selection mechanism of evolutionary change has long vexed conservative Christians who have difficulty reconciling it with the concept of a loving, all-good creator who is personally involved with creation. Concern with theodicy (the problem of evil) in Christian theology of course predated Darwin's discoveries, but there is no escaping that natural selection has implications for certain Christian views. There are many ways that Christian theologians have integrated the natural selection mechanism into different views of God (Peters and Hewlett 2003), though these compromises, along with theistic evolution, are rejected by ID proponents. Natural selection is acceptable—in fact, undeniable—on the level of a population of organisms: neither ID nor creation science proponents deny the ability of natural selection to lengthen bird beaks or produce antibiotic-resistant bacteria or pesticide-resistant insects. But for God to use the wasteful and cruel mechanism of natural selection to produce the diversity of living things today is theologically unacceptable to many in the ID camp. In presentations to the public, however, they focus more on the alleged scientific failings of natural selection, which they believe lacks the creative power to produce new body plans and bring about significant evolutionary changes among groups.

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