Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design

i-5545603e6630aacbffde7a2ccceb8dd4-Forrest_Gross.jpgCreationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design is a must read for those interested in the Evolution - Creationism controversy. In particular, this volume is an essential part of the personal library of every science educator, for reasons that I will describe below. If you know a Life Science Teacher, this is a perfect birthday present. If you have a child in the public K-12 education system in the US, or the analog somewhere else, donate a copy of this book to the appropriate life science teacher!

In this important book published by Oxford University Press in 2004, Forrest and Gross assert that there is a new strategy afoot among pro-creationists. What Forrest and Gross claimed four years ago is every bit as much true today. This strategy consists of ...

... a no-holds-barred commitment to particular, parochial religious beliefs about the history and fabric of the world ... This variant has eliminated brilliantly the obstacle of rational opposition to ideology ... The new strategy is wonderfully simple. Here is how you implement it: exploiting that modern, nearly universal, liberal suspicion of zealotry, you accuse the branch of legitimate inquiry whose results you hate, in this case the evolutionary natural sciences, of -- what else? -- zealotry! ... Crying "viewpoint discrimination," you loudly demand adherence to the principle of freedom of speech, especially in teaching, insisting that such freedom is being denied your legitimate alternative view...

This bold strategy is working, not just with religious fundamentalists, who do not need to be convinced anyway, but with people who have no such fundamentalist commitment and who are in principle well-enough educated to see what is happening. ...

This lusty new variant of creationism is advancing rapidly by means of a strategy called "The Wedge."

Forrest is a philosopher, currently situated at Southeastern Louisiana University in the Department of History and Political Science. She was a key witness in the famous Dover Trial (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District), in which a federal judge ruled (or through upholding earlier decisions affirmed) that religion can not be promoted in a public school, that creationism is religion, and that intelligent design is creationism. This last part ... the link between intelligent design and creationism ... was based in part, possibly large part, on Forrest's testimony.

Knowing this was coming, the defendant's legal team tried very hard to keep Forrest off the stand. She was described by the defendant's lawyers, in an effort to squash her testimony, as "little more than a conspiracy theorist and a web-surfing, 'cyber-stalker' of the Discovery Institute..."

The Discovery Institute, which was involved in this trial in any real way only at the beginning (they pulled out the moment they realized that defeat was a near certainty) tried to smear Forrest on their web site, posting fabricated information.

Forrest's testimony was critical to the plaintiff in this case. One of the most important features of her testimony was providing incontrovertible proof that the textbook "Of Pandas and People" was originally drafted as an explicitly creationist textbook. (The defendants tried to claim that it was not.)

The key thesis of this book, as indicated in the excerpt provided above, is to contextualize and describe (functionally and historically) the strategy crafted by the Discovery Institute and others to literally sneak past the religion/science boundary, in a number of ways. This strategy, now vehemently denied yet predictably and consistently followed by the Discovery Institute, is a somewhat evolved variant of the Wedge Strategy, outlined in this document. Creationism's Trojan Horse is an account of this strategy, and an argument that every science educator and school administrator should read, in order to provide the background and, literally, training, to recognize the Trojan Horse when it comes to the gate. Teachers need to develop a significant degree of self confidence in this area in order to deal effectively with creationist students and parents, less than supportive colleagues, and sometimes ignorant (of this issue) administrators. Of all of the books related to this controversy, I would recommend that teachers read two or three (minimally), and this is one of them.

Related posts:

Something is Rotten in the State of Texas

The Wedge Strategy
Teachers Under Fire
How to not make a Trojan Horse
Life Science Teachers ...


More like this

The Wedge Strategy would appear to me to be a consequence of post-modernist thought styles. The denigration of expertise that has developed over the past 40-50 years. This is the shadow side of the more positive empowerment of individuals that is consequent with adopting this perspective.

Certainly recognizing the elements of this strategy is the first step in defeating it. Sometimes we need to act against our natural instinct to doubt "common knowledge" or the consensus of experts. Meta is where it's at.

I agree. Creationism's Trojan Horse is essential to understanding the "intelligent design" creationism movement, especially its funding and tactics.

The Wedge Strategy is not really an example of "post modernist thought styles" but rather a contemporary update to pre-modernist appeals to the fallacy of unquestioned authority. The strategy depends upon a rarely noticed pun.

The Wedge document, and its acolytes, make a point of disparaging "materialism" by which they equate the intellectual meaning (the universe is made up of matter, period) with the colloquial (materialism is a philosophy of greed and vulgar obsession with objects and money). By conflating the two and linking scientific "materialism" with greed, the people behind the Wedge claim (wrongly) to offer an alternative, a universe filled with meaning and absolutes.

This is hardly post-modernism. In fact, it is the antithesis of the postmodern stance, which asserts - roughly - that simplistic narratives of meaning and absolutes whose truth claims cannot be robustly questioned are highly suspect. Some, not all, postmodernists go further, claiming that meaning is always contingent and that the only absolute is the denial of the absolute.

The Wedge-ites ("wedgies?"), insist that the innate morality of those supporting their position overrides any lies or distortions they might use to advance their cause. A postmodernist - heck, even anyone with a lick of a commonsense - will respond that the innate virtue of the speaker is a dubious criterion by which to judge the efficacy of that person's scientific assertions.

Postmodernism has many faults. And yes, the Wedge followers sometimes deploy a crude postmodernism when it suits their purpose (how can anyone really know what happened one billion years ago?). But "intelligent design" creationism's anti-intellectualism has its roots in the counter-Enlightenment arguments of the royalists and the priests rather than in modern French theory.

A fine companion to this terrific book is the recently released 'Icons of Evolution' (Greenwood, 2008) (no not the anti-evolution one!). This two volume set has 24 chapters written by some of the best known and respected evolutionists, historians and philosophers of the topic. It has a really good chapter on the history of Intelligent Design. It totally puts the other book by the same name in the ground!

UPDATE: See this.

You are correct that the Wedge Strategy comes from the counter-enlightenment tradition, at least from the originators. But I was commenting on why it has gotten so much traction now. We have become a populace primed to doubt knowledge and the basis for knowing anything so a creationist tale is as good as an evidence based description. The origin of the ID story is classic counter-enlightenment, but it is dressed in the garb of post-modernism for a country steeped in the internet and the "all information is equal" fallacy.