• Intelligent Design: Giving Science a Wedgie

    This is part two of a three piece series on Intelligent Design that I wrote back in July of 2009. The first part can be found here.

    For those of you not in the know, what the title refers to is the infamous Wedge document [1] that was leaked onto the internet by Matt Duss and Tim Rhodes in 1999. This document was an internal document of the Center for the Renewal of Science & Culture (currently called the Discovery Institute) that laid out the battle plan of the intelligent design movement. I’m unaware about how Matt Duss got a hold of the document but it was Tim Rhodes who actually leaked it.

    The Wedge proposed a three step process in order to essentially change the definition of science to include the supernatural (ie. God). They are as follows:

    I. Scientific Research, Writing & Publicity
    II. Publicity & Opinion-making
    III. Cultural Confrontation & Renewal

    The first phase has been taking place for many years (with the exception of “scientific research”) and spawned such books as Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box and William Dembski’s The Design Inference.

    Included in the second step in their strategy are their attempts to confuse the public about what science is. To quote the founder of the movement, Phillip E. Johnson:

    “We call our strategy ‘the wedge.’ A log is a seeming solid object, but a wedge can eventually split it by penetrating a crack and gradually widening the split. In this case the ideology of scientific materialism is the apparently solid log. The widening crack is the important but seldom-recognized difference between the facts reveled by scientific investigation and the materialist philosophy that dominates the scientific culture. What happens when the facts cast doubt on the philosophy? Will scientists and philosophers allow materialism to be questioned, or will they rely on Microphone Man to suppress the facts and protect the philosophy?” [2]

    In another book Johnson also had this to say about naturalism:

    “Naturalism is not something about which Darwinists can afford to be tentative, because their science is based upon it. As we have seen, the positive evidence that Darwinian evolution either can produce or has produced important biological innovations is nonexistent. Darwinists know that the mutation-selection mechanism can produce wings, eyes, and brains not because the mechanism can be observed to do anything of the kind, but because their guiding philosophy assures them that no other power is available to do the job. The absence from the cosmos of any Creator is therefore the essential starting point for Darwinism.” [3]

    I would say that Johnson is badly mistaken because first of all, natural selection can be observed and even controlled. In the 1930’s a breakthrough called population genetics, which are mathematical models that describe changing gene frequencies through many generations, have simulated the effects of mutation and selection. Later on in 1937 geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky published Genetics and the Origin of Species which showed how selection in fruit fly experiments gave amazing demonstrations of evolution in action. [4] [5]

    Second, Johnson’s argument that natural selection cannot be observed is not only false, but hypocritical. The reason is because Johnson, nor any other intelligent design proponent has ever given any proof or proposed any mechanism by which the Christian God has acted, or will act in a way that “helped” the natural processes of natural selection along.

    Third, this claim that there is a non-material world is not supported by the facts. There is overwhelming evidence that materialism is true and that there are no supernatural dimensions, occurrences, or beings simply because of a lack of solid evidence. [6]

    Even if there were such a thing as a non-material world, it would be impossible to test such occurrences because there would be no way to determine why or how God chose to “design” something. In order for something to qualify as science it must be testable and must be reproducible. This cannot occur with a being that does what it wants, when it wants. To hammer the matter home further allow me to quote Donald R. Prothero:

    “[S]cientists practice methodological naturalism, where they use naturalistic assumptions to understand the world but make no philosophical commitment as to whether the supernatural exists or not. Scientists don’t exclude god from their hypotheses because they are inherently atheistic or unwilling to consider the existence of god; they simply cannot consider supernatural events in in their hypotheses. Why not? Because…once you introduce the supernatural to a scientific hypothesis, there is no way to falsify or test it.” (emphasis in original) [7]

    This phrase “methodological naturalism” is very important because that’s what scientists do, despite their personal religious beliefs. Science must exclude the supernatural not because of some bias, as Johnson claims, but because it’s untestable, and therefore, it isn’t true science.

    So far the Wedge strategy hasn’t really gotten past stage two, which is where I hope it will stay, but I’m afraid the damage has already been done. The public has largely already been duped.

    Intelligent design proponents usually avoid publishing their views in legitimate scientific journals because they know what they’re peddling is religion – not science – and so they avoid the people who actually have detailed knowledge of scientific matters and go after the less knowledgeable: John Q Public.

    Real science is done through peer reviewed research, where experts in the field examine and critique other scientists’ findings. Intelligent design, with it’s outrageous claims, wouldn’t last in a real scientific journal (of course there are a few I.D. advocates who have gotten into legitimate scientific journals, but usually it’s either through deception [8] or they water down the I.D. aspects of their paper so it’s more in line with peer-reviewed research).

    Because of this they target the general population, attempt to get their ideas taught in school classrooms across the country (many legal battles have been fought and won against this tactic. Two examples are Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District and Edwards v. Aguillard), and appear on national news [9] to get their views heard and influence the populace.

    This is why I believe education is so very important. Especially science education. The I.D. movement is preying on peoples’ ignorance and I’m sorry to say it’s working. With many atheists, educators, and scientists working hard [10] to battle the rising tide of intelligent design it’s a battle that’s going to continue for a long time to come.

    1. The document can currently be found here: The Discovery Institute’s Wedge Document – accessed 2-10-13

    2. Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds, by Phillip E. Johnson; 92

    3. Darwin On Trial, by Phillip E. Johnson; 117

    4. Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters, by Donald R. Prothero; 93

    5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drosophila_melanogaster#History_of_use_in_genetic_analysis; accessed 2-10-13

    6. http://arizonaatheist.blogspot.com/2007/12/evidence-against-supernatural-there-are.html

    7. Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters, by Donald R. Prothero; 11

    8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sternberg_peer_review_controversy; accessed 2-10-13

    9. http://arizonaatheist.blogspot.com/2009/06/discovery-institute-lies-they-tell.html – The second video refutes Discovery Institute member Casey Luskin’s bogus claims.

    10. Some excellent references about intelligent design/creationism are the following:

    a. Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, by Barbara Forrest & Paul R, Gross
    b. Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters, by Donald R. Prothero
    c. The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design – Expanded Edition (2006), by Ronald L. Numbers
    d. The Science of Evolution and The Myth of Creationism: Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters, by Ardea Skybreak
    e. http://www.talkorigins.org/

    Category: Uncategorized


    Article by: Arizona Atheist