The Wedge: A Christian Plan to Overthrow Modern Science?
Doubting Thomas, Feature Story, No. 6, April/May 1999.
by Keith Lankford
n 1952, Immanuel Velikovsky published Worlds in Collision, a radical vision of the early solar system. Drawing upon religion, mythology and science, Velikovsky's tome explained that many of the myths that humans have taken for granted are based primarily on descriptions of catastrophic, astronomical events witnessed by our ancestors.
Example, he imagined that the planet Venus was somehow ejected from the planet Jupiter mere thousands of years ago, reminiscent of Athena's birth from the god Jupiter's head. Back then, Venus was a comet that meandered its way around the solar system, causing the Red Sea to part when Moses (coincidentally) raised his staff, and made the Earth stop rotating at the exact moment Joshua hailed the Sun to stop in the sky. These are a few of Velikovsky's wild conjectures.
Quickly, Velikovsky gained wide appeal, hailed as the new Einstein, especially among American audiences. It wasn't until the 1970s that scientists, led by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, confronted his bold challenges to the current paradigm in a symposium. In his book Broca's Brain, Carl Sagan goes through all of Velikovsky's claims and meticulously shows why they cannot be true.
Despite the scientific coup d'état, there is still a neo-Velikovsky movement, alive and well. You can even visit their web site (http://www.kronia.com) and learn about the "Electric Universe" and "Saturn Theory."
The neo-Velikovskians proclaim, through their web site and newsletter, Thoth, that a "fundamental paradigm shift" is coming. They call current science "dogma" and compare scientists who have not accepted their claims to religious diehards who won't own up to the evidence.
Enter Intelligent Design
Charles Darwin's Origin of Species was a near-fatal blow to the idea that a Creator designed all the species in the Beginning. Evolutionary theory offered the mechanism known as natural selection (coupled with chance and other factors) as the force behind the origin of the species.
However, although scientists increasingly accepted the validity of evolution, there was still opposition. In 1903, for example, Alexander Patterson published The Other Side of Evolution: Its Effects and Fallacy, a book that described how a Creator was still needed to explain certain aspects of "design" in organisms. Since the publishing of that book, "I haven't seen anything new," says Dr. Ed Larson.
And Larson should know. A winner of a Pulitzer Prize for his book on the 1925 Scopes Trial, Summer for the Gods, Larson has kept up with anti-evolutionism and anti-scientism in America. Last December, he held a discussion on exactly that topic at a meeting of The Sagan Society.
In the 1980s, Larson joined in on the formation of the Discovery Institute, founded by his friend from Harvard Bruce Chapman. According to its web site (www.discovery.org), the purpose of the Discovery Institute is "to make a positive vision of the future practical. The Institute discovers and promotes ideas in the common sense tradition of representative government, the free market and individual liberty."
Since then, the Seattle-based Discovery Institute has been involved in many projects. In 1996, Discovery founded a new offshoot: the Center for the Renewal of Science & Culture (CRSC). Its mission: to promote Intelligent Design (ID).
Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science & Culture's ID
The CRSC, according to its web site (www.crsc.org), "strives to replace materialism and its destructive cultural legacies with a positive scientific alternative. The Center seeks to develop a robust science for the twenty-first century, illumined by an empirically fruitful Theory of Intelligent Design (ID)."
What is the Theory of Intelligent Design? It is "a scientific research program that seeks to detect intelligent causes in natural systems, as well as apply the explanatory power of intelligent design to empirical problems in scientific research."
The idea of ID has been around for millennia. Most, if not all, human cultures have imagined that the creation of the universe (esp. humans) came as a result of a god's or gods' actions. However, although the idea was taken for granted for so long, William Paley formalized the intelligent design (teleological) argument in the 18th century to give a proof of God's existence.
Paley argued from analogy: as a watch needs a watchmaker, so does a human need a humanmaker. The evidence of the argument is given by simple observations, mainly that complex structures in organisms could not have arisen by chance.
While philosophers such as Hume challenged the philosophical foundations of Paley's argument, Darwin's evolution gave a coherent explanation for the complexity of life that left God as a needless hypothesis.
Coupled with other discoveries in science, evolution theory has helped predominate a view of the universe as being wholly unsupernatural. No longer were people asking how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Instead, they were asking how many atoms made up the pin's head.
This focus on the make up of the world has irked many religious people who see supernatural forces at work. So, it is no wonder that the opponents of unsupernatural theories like evolution and the Big Bang come from religious circles. The CRSC is one of them.
Perusing the list of people who are in the leadership of CRSC is eye-opening: they're mostly white men and they're all Christian.
Among the more notable members are: Michael Behe, biochemist and author of Darwin's Black Box; Phillip Johnson, lawyer and author of Darwin on Trial; William Dembski, mathematician and author of The Design Inference (see review this issue); mathematician David Berlinski; philosophers William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland; and, chemist Henry "Fritz" Schaefer, a prominent figure on UGA's faculty.
( The pictures above were taken at the Mere Creation conference at Biola University, November 14-17, 1996 )
That these CRSC leaders are Christian is no accident. Christianity by its very nature views the world in (at least partly) supernatural terms. Thus, as described above, they reject evolution theory as currently modeled. In its stead, ID should replace it, they say.
CRSC and its supporters work to find examples and arguments that either support ID or refute evolution. When Behe's Box was published in 1996, it raised a public awareness to potential problems with evolution, at least in the eyes of the public. Behe concluded of "irreducible complex" organic machines ("with all the certainty that is possible in this world") that only an intelligence could have produced such a result.
At the invitation of UGA's Christian Faculty Forum in February 1998, Behe presented his conclusions to a large audience at Hugh Hodgson Hall. The following May, after the formation of The Sagan Society, Dr. Claiborne Glover, a UGA molecular biochemist, presented a reply to Behe at TSS's first-ever lecture. In a recent communication, Glover called Behe's speculations on intelligent design "maddening."
"[Behe] has found a soft spota spot where we are ignorantand he has used it to his advantage," Glover says. "But it is a cheap shot really. He appeals to the evidence that is good and qualifies him as a scientist but then is willing to accept the absence of evidence as proof of divine intervention. For him a conclusive proof of the existence of God derives directly from the fact of our ignorance of all of the details of the evolutionary past. Well, I cannot follow him there."
But, for all the bolstering of new evidence and arguments in favor of ID, Larson views all the recent excitement about ID to be a rehashing of Patterson's The Other Side of Evolution, mentioned above.
"[It] totally anticipates the complexity argument that underlies Behe's book," says Larson. "Of course, Patterson was not a scientist, and his critique of evolution was just representative of many early works raising the 'design' objection."
In fact, Larson notes, although the recent study he published in Nature showed that 40% of the general population of scientists believe in God, 100% accept evolution. The percentage of scientists that reject evolution is so small, that "it doesn't even register on the radar," he says. For the last fifteen years, he says, he is still searching for the first example of a scientist who: 1) has no religious predispositions; and, 2) rejects evolution on its own grounds.
Although the number of scientists who support ID is lacking, this doesn't discourage them in the least bit. In their eyes, the way to usurp evolution from its throne is by influencing not scientists, but the public at large. And that is what "The Wedge Strategy" is about.
"The Wedge Strategy" document began circulating the Internet early last March. It was not long until Doubting Thomas acquired a copy and traced the source of its circulation from someone who wishes to remain anonymous. "Wedge" caused a great stir and soon the Internet Infidels published an article on it in their online newsletter, ii.
In short, "Wedge" describes a 3-phase strategy to implement ID over the next 5 then 20 years. Its goals are to "defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies," and "replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God."
That evolution is seen as a force of amorality is telling. Objective moral standards have been discounted by evolution by its proponents, the document says. The time has come to return to the older world-view of a Creator of the universe who enforces morality. And it shouldn't be surprising that this Creator is the Christian one.
The very name of CRSC tells us their position: the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. It is viewed that contemporary science and culture have lost the "bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built" that were once accepted a long time ago, and the time has come to refurbish science.
What is troublesome about the document (and CRSC in general) is that it focuses on overthrowing evolution, not from within scientific establishments, but through convincing the public that its theory is the morally acceptable one. Whether or not there is evidence to back up ID, evolution's evils (seen by them as amorality, social Darwinism, personal unaccountability, racism, and general bad things) must be put to an end and only ID can do that. By convincing the public that there are significant problems with evolution theory and that evolution has destructive consequences for humanity, there is little doubt that the public would be deluded into doing its best to force science to reject evolution theory in place of ID.
The paper includes a "Five Year Strategic Plan Summary" (in which Phases I and II will be completed by 2003) and a "Wedge Strategy Progress Summary." In the "Books" section of the summary, it says, "Finally, Discovery Fellow Ed Larson has won the Pulitzer Prize for Summer for the Gods, his retelling of the Scopes Trial, and InterVarsity has just published his co-authored attack on assisted suicide, A Different Death."
This insertion sticks out among the other books in the section because neither these books, nor its author, support ID. "First, I believe in evolution," says Larson.
When Dr. Barry Palevitz, UGA botany professor and TSS Faculty Advisor, contacted Larson regarding his mentioning in "Wedge," Larson was not very happy. By the end of the day, he sent e-mail to Discovery asking them to not have him associated with the document.
"There is little new in the arguments of the Wedge," Larson says, "they are as old as antievolutionism itself."
In searching for authenticity of "Wedge," ii was able to contact Jay Richards, Senior Fellow and Director of Program Development for CRSC. Although he would not confirm "Wedge" as an actual CRSC document, he did say that most of what you see in the paper can be found in Johnson's Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds book. He also said the document is an "older, summary overview of the 'Wedge' program."
Doubting Thomas has also tried contacting Dr. Stephen Meyer, Director of CRSC, but he has been unavailable for comment at press time. DT hopes that there will be an update soon on its web site.
Case Study (2)
The ID movement has many particular qualities: 1) it is a radical shift from the prevailing paradigm; 2) it seeks to overthrow the prevailing paradigm by "educating" the public, not from within science circles; 3) it views the prevailing paradigm as "dogma" and paints scientists as not owning up to the evidence.
Another movement shares these qualities: the neo-Velikovskian.
For all the similarities ID shares with neo-Velikovskian claims, the biggest difference is that ID has major resources to draw on. The CRSC is but one organization devoted to the downfall of evolution theory. There are also countless agencies and books that promote literal creationism. And let's not forget that most Christian churches do not accept evolution theory as currently modeled.
Surely, if the neo-Velikovskians had the money and power to publicize their views in books, TV, radio, and various other media, there would be a much bigger portion of the population that would agree with them. Unfortunately for them, though, the only way they will be able to overthrow the current paradigm is by convincing the scientists to listen to them.
Too bad ID proponents don't have the same constraints.
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