Pharyngula

The True History of the Wedge

Here’s a fascinating glimpse of history for those involved in the creation wars: the Seattle Weekly has published scans of the original Wedge document from the Discovery Institute. Now you too can see it in it’s original cheap-ass photocopied glory, and also learn who leaked the documents…two people to whom we owe a debt of gratitude.

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The paper also has an account of how the Wedge was revealed. I didn’t know this part of it at all, and I have to thank Matt Duss and Tim Rhodes for casually breaking the rules of their firm (I presume!) and exposing this remarkably pompous, dishonest, contemptible document to the world.

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The story begins, so far as the world at large is concerned, on a late January day seven years ago, in a mail room in a downtown Seattle office of an international human-resources firm. The mail room was also the copy center, and a part-time employee named Matt Duss was handed a document to copy. It was not at all the kind of desperately dull personnel-processing document Duss was used to feeding through the machine. For one thing, it bore the rubber-stamped warnings “TOP SECRET” and “NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION.” Its cover bore an ominous pyramidal diagram superimposed on a fuzzy reproduction of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel rendition of God the Father zapping life into Adam, all under a mysterious title: The Wedge.

Curious, Duss rifled through the 10 or so pages, eyebrows rising ever higher, then proceeded to execute his commission while reserving a copy of the treatise for himself. Within a week, he had shared his find with a friend who shared his interest in questions of evolution, ideology, and the propagation of ideas. Unlike Duss, the friend, Tim Rhodes, was technically savvy, and it took him little time to scan the document and post it to the World Wide Web, where it first appeared on Feb. 5, 1999.

The unnamed author of the document wasted no time getting down to his subject. “The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built. Yet little over a century ago, this cardinal idea came under wholesale attack by intellectuals drawing on the discoveries of modern science.” Such thinkers as Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and, above all, Charles Darwin promulgated a “materialistic conception of reality” that “eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and music.”

Not content with bewailing the intelligentsia’s falling away from faith, the author proposed to do something about it. “Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its damning cultural legacies,” he wrote. He went on to detail a 20-year plan to replace “materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God,” and to replace materialist science with a new scientific paradigm “consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.”

Also, Pim van Meurs dug up Tim Rhodes’ original announcement, and Matt Duss has a weblog.


I much prefer reading these things as pdfs, so I’ve converted it. Here you go, download your very own copy of the Wedge document (540KB pdf).

Comments

  1. #1 Rich Blinne
    February 1, 2006

    Some things I noticed:

    1. The focus was no materialism, not evolution
    2. The order as planned was opposite of the order as executed. The plan was: a.) Do the science b.) Go to the think tanks c.) influence public policy.

    To truly understand what’s going on here you need to look at the interaction between the ID proponents and the American Scientific Affiliation, particularly Howard Van Till.

    In 1992, Philip Johnson gave a founder’s lecture at Trinity Evangelical Seminary. In it he outlined his strategy of overcoming materialism (http:///www.apologetics.org/founder3.html) — here defined as the philosophical belief that the natural world is all there is. Or to use current language ontological naturalism. Johnson failed to distinguish this from methodological naturalism advanced within the ASA by Howard Van Till. In 1992, Johnson was less dogmatic. For example,

    When I say that Darwinism gave a huge boost to atheism, I am not denying that many persons found it possible to reconcile naturalistic evolution with a belief in God. Harvard Professor Asa Gray, Darwin’s leading American supporter, was among those who gave Darwinism a theistic interpretation. Even conservative theologians like Princeton Seminary Professor Benjamin Warfield made their peace with the new theory, and I described in the first of these lectures how some contemporary Christians have given Darwinism an honored place in a system of theistic naturalism. It is possible to be a Darwinist and a Christian, if one is sufficiently determined to combine the two.

    Johnson believed that so-called creation science was destructive to the debate.

    This”creation-science” strategy has been remarkably successful at maintaining an anti-evolutionist constituency, as the Gallup poll results attest. Unfortunately, it has also confused and divided the Christian world and even played into the hands of the evolutionary naturalists. It gives the impression that the important division in public opinion about evolution is between the Biblical fundamentalists and everybody else. This is a tragic misunderstanding. The truly fundamental disagreement is not over the age of the earth or the method of creation. It is over whether we owe our existence to a purposeful Creator or a blind materialistic process. This “creation-science” strategy has been remarkably successful at maintaining an anti-evolutionist constituency, as the Gallup poll results attest. Unfortunately, it has also confused and divided the Christian world and even played into the hands of the evolutionary naturalists. It gives the impression that the important division in public opinion about evolution is between the Biblical fundamentalists and everybody else. This is a tragic misunderstanding. The truly fundamental disagreement is not over the age of the earth or the method of creation. It is over whether we owe our existence to a purposeful Creator or a blind materialistic process.

    What Johnson couldn’t get was that he just proposed a false dichotomy. When Van Till advanced methodological naturalism thus proposing Johnson’s excluded middle Johnson saw it as capitulating.

    You get further feel for it when Dembski and Van Till debated on the AAAS Doser page over Van Till’s No Free Lunch. (http://www.aaas.org/spp/dser/evolution/perspectives.shtml)

    Kenneth Miller and Micheal Behe debated in front of the ASA in 1995. Here Miller was confronted with the impression that his Biology text implied that evolution was “purposeless”. Miller noted his mistake and updated his text. The result produced fine theater in Dover as the lawyer for the defense tried to pin Miller on the pre-ASA edition of his work. What this should have taught Johnson was the so-called capitulators were successful in eliminating hard materialism from the texts(not only in Biology but also in convincing people such as Eugenie Scott to advocate revising the NABT standards in 1995).

    Johnson was disturbed over the disunity amongst the Christians (and this gets us to the modern strategy of DI).

    As a relative newcomer to the controversy over evolution, I have found two things particularly shocking. One is the dogmatism and arrogance of the scientific establishment. The other is the extraordinary amount of bad feeling on this subject within the Christian community.

    This drove his “big tent” strategy where ID aligned with YEC rather than theistic evolution. This flipped the order of the strategy from the leaked document because the YEC folk were desperate to find a way to get into the public schools first. ID until recently in the California case has not tried to distinguish themselves from YEC. There was some behind-the-scenes grumbling but by and large ID let themselves be misunderstood by YEC in the interest of “unity”.

    The ultimate irony is this. By losing in Dover, Johnson won. Why? Becuase Judge Jones stated that religion and science were not necessarily incompatible. This means that you cannot teach hard materialism ala Dawkins. Or more precisely, the so-called capitulators like myself, Howard Van Till, Ken Miller, and Keith Miller — KSU geology professor and ASA member and who went up against the Kansas School board — won.

  2. #2 Torbjorn Larsson
    February 1, 2006

    “The ultimate irony is this. By losing in Dover, Johnson won. Why? Becuase Judge Jones stated that religion and science were not necessarily incompatible. This means that you cannot teach hard materialism ala Dawkins.”

    Interesting argument, but I can’t see why that last bit follows.

    Applying science (methodological materialism) it seems safe to say that ontological materialism is the correct theory (simplest theory currently explaining observations).

    But it shouldn’t be necessary; even the possibility puts it inside science (since it argues, somewhat tautological or rather selfconsistent, that natural observations is enough; naturally, since they are enough elsewhere :-) until possibly falsified by future observations.

    And religion has to back off, or at least one could “teach the controversy” to use a now wellproven sociological design pattern.

  3. #3 Rich
    February 1, 2006

    “The ultimate irony is this. By losing in Dover, Johnson won. Why? Becuase Judge Jones stated that religion and science were not necessarily incompatible. This means that you cannot teach hard materialism ala Dawkins.”

    Interesting argument, but I can’t see why that last bit follows.

    From Judge Jones’ conclusion:

    Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs? scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the
    scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator. [Emphasis mine.]

    Seems to me you can neither promote nor deny a creator and only teach the science. By science I mean real science and not ID made up stuff. If the teacher is an ontologica naturalist this should be easy by keeping his metaphysical conclusions to himself. If the teacher is a theistic evolutionist this should be easy by keeping his methaphysical conclusions to himself. The ID person and the YEC would have problems, though.

  4. #4 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    February 2, 2006

    The ultimate irony is this. By losing in Dover, Johnson won. Why? Becuase Judge Jones stated that religion and science were not necessarily incompatible. This means that you cannot teach hard materialism ala Dawkins.

    If anyone were attempting to sneak Dawkins-like naturalist philosophy in under the lie that it was actually science, and force it to be taught to public school science students, that might be relevant.

  5. #5 Harry Eagar
    February 2, 2006

    As a newspaper reporter, I’m glad that uninvolved people do copy documents and pass them along.

    It happens. Get over it. People didn’t evolve to keep secrets.

    There’s an ethical issue, but it arises with the third party (me), who gets to decide whether to further multiply whatever the information is.

    I was more interested in Chapman’s religious evolution, though. So he became a Roman Catholic in 2002. How’s that sitting with him now, given the church’s at least partial endorsement of Darwinism. (I know, professor, you HATE the word, but Dawkins uses it, among many others; and for Catholics, it’s perhaps the right word.)

    Also, how in the hell can an antimaterialist joine the Roman Catholic Church? There’s no more materialist organization on earth.

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