Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium gave an interesting speech at Beyond Belief 2006. He begins with the belief that the planets were gods or divinely controlled. This stopped people from making real discoveries about the planets. (And, in his book, Finding Darwin’s God, Ken Miller describes the persecution one Greek scientist experienced for suggesting that the planets were not actually gods. Which has some interesting parallels to the ID movement – getting the science wrong, and complaining that removing God from biology/astrophysics is tantamount to promoting atheism and moral decay.) He then talks about Newton and his belief that God intervenes to stabilize the planetary orbits because he couldn’t figure out how they would remain stable through natural forces. Newton missed his opportunity to explain this, and erroneously attributed it to God. A few centuries later, Simon Laplace created some new mathematics showed that the planets could remain stable without the need for an external deity to stabilize them. Tyson goes on with various discoveries, how scientists mistakenly put God in when they initially failed to explain a particular phenomena, and how the theistic explanation prevented them to making important discoveries.
I should say that I think the IDists are different than earlier scientists in that these earlier scientists made the mistake of attributing various phenomena in the universe to God – and thereby, lost their opportunity to discover the science behind it. No doubt, many of them would’ve welcomed scientific explanations. On the other hand, modern IDists are using biology as a platform to argue for the existence of God. Their primary intention is not to explain this or that phenomena, nor to aid scientific literacy, but rather, to promote and protect theistic beliefs (and the Wedge Document makes that very clear). They’re trying to find a job for God, keep Him employed and relevant, and trying to make sure everyone sees God doing stuff. If a glowing Jesus Christ suddenly appeared on earth and started walking around talking to people – and therefore, no one could deny the existence of God, the IDists would quickly forget about their whole ID program – because the only reason it exists is for the promotion of theism. They are, shall we say, working at the Universe’s Unemployment Office, trying to make sure God is visibly employed doing something.