And it’s a right embarrassing spotlight to be caught under, I imagine. A couple of years ago, The New Republic polled various well-known conservatives about their position on evolutionary biology; Digby reviews their responses, and they’re a mess (I also summarized their views diagrammatically way back then). Most wouldn’t be caught dead admitting to believing the kind of nonsense Ken Ham favors, so they’re spluttering evasively and many are embracing with great relief the concept of Intelligent Design.
Digby is making the point that it reveals how uncomfortable the leaders of the conservative movement are with the actual beliefs of their base, but I think it shows something else, too. Intelligent Design has always been a bridge or enabler; it isn’t as tainted with snake-handlin’ bible-quotin’ old school fundamentalism as outright creationism, so the big shot conservative intellectuals are willing to harrumph over it and wax pontifical in its favor, without dirtying themselves with biblical populism; meanwhile, the creationist hoi-polloi can look up to it as an intellectually respectable, cleaned-up and pseudo-secular version of their myth. Very few people on either side actually believe it, but it won popularity as a middle ground where neo-con and religious right could meet.