Jack Rivall reviews the Intelligent Design Wedge Strategy to insert Christianity into the Science Class

Jack Rivall, a friend and fellow secular activist from North Dakota, recently reviewed the Intelligent Design Wedge Strategy to insert Christianity into the public Science classroom (and to create an illusion of scientific respectability). Briefly, the Wedge Strategy is a coordinated long term effort to convince the public that Inteligent Design, the notion that the universe and life is best explained by invoking an intelligent designer, is a scientifically respectable position in order to get it into the classroom alongside the real science. Since the US Constitution prevents the insertion of religiosity into the classroom, this is an attempt at cloking standard religious Creationism in secular terms in order to sneak it under the radar and into the classroom where it can be misrepresented as a meritorious epistemological competitor to the real scientific worldviews. Rivall’s full review is presented here.

Wedging Creationism into the Academy

By: Jack Rivall. Original article link.

Creationists are pursuing a detailed, organized program to get their religious beliefs into the academic world. Past versions of creationism didn’t work, but they are hopeful that the newest – Intelligent Design – will have more success. It’s sad that so many dishonest tactics have to be used in the process.In Academe, Barbara Forrest and Glenn Branch write:

Calling themselves “the Wedge,” adherents of the movement are avidly pursuing a twenty-year plan to convince the public that intelligent design is “an accepted alternative in the sciences” and to promote “the influence of design theory in spheres other than natural science.” The sobriquet “the Wedge” reflects movement leader Phillip Johnson’s desire to insert “the thin edge of a wedge” into “the ruling philosophy of modern culture.” For Johnson, a retired professor of law from the University of California, Berkeley, the Christian gospel is what will follow the thin edge.

Its most conspicuous feature, however, is its scientific sterility. The Wedge’s most notable attempts to provide a case for intelligent design appear in books for the general reader, such as Dembski’s Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology and Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. The few university presses (such as Cambridge and Michigan State) that have published intelligent design books classify them as philosophy, rhetoric, or public affairs, not science. There are no peer-reviewed studies supporting intelligent design in the scientific research literature. The scientific community as a whole is unimpressed and unconvinced, and intelligent design’s credentials as a scientific research program appear negligible. Indeed, Dembski himself recently conceded that “the scientific research part” of intelligent design is now “lagging behind” its success in influencing popular opinion. So the Wedge needs another way to persuade education policy makers that intelligent design is academically respectable.

What are the academic supporters of intelligent design doing to advance its cause? Significantly, they are not teaching it in mainstream science courses, despite Behe’s declaration that it “must be ranked as one of the greatest achievements in the history of science.” Access Research Network, a Wedge auxiliary, lists only two “[intelligent design] colleges”: Oklahoma Baptist University (home to CSC fellow Michael Newton Keas) and Biola University (formerly the Bible Institute of Los Angeles and home to CSC fellows William Lane Craig, J. P. Moreland, and John Mark Reynolds).

[I]ntelligent design proponents have flaunted their academic credentials and affiliations for all they are worth—or beyond. … It is easy for the public, unacquainted with academic life, to suppose that the existence of a handful of scientists who reject evolution means that there is a legitimate scientific controversy about evolution. … [U]nlike young-earth creationism, intelligent design maintains a not inconsiderable base within academia, whose members seemingly exploit their academic standing to promote the concept as intellectually respectable while shirking the task of producing a scientifically compelling case for it. To be sure, academic supporters of intelligent design enjoy, and should enjoy, the same degree of academic freedom conferred on the professoriate in general. But academic freedom is no excuse for misleading students about the scientific legitimacy of a view overwhelmingly rejected by the scientific community. In short, the academic supporters of intelligent design are enjoying, in the familiar phrase, power without responsibility.

Time reports:

Putting God in the classroom is clearly illegal, but Discovery Institute strategists believe that even a push for I.D. might run afoul of zealous judges–as it has in Georgia. So the institute advocates that schools should continue teaching evolution but also present what West calls “some of the scientific criticism of major parts of the theory.”

But many scientists–and science teachers–don’t think there is any valid criticism. Sure, some 350 scientists have signed a declaration challenging evolution. But many tens of thousands of scientists reject I.D.’s core argument–that evolution can’t produce complex structures. Take the eye. I.D. theorists say it could not have evolved bit by bit because a bit of an eye has no survival value; it would never have been passed on. Biologists see it differently. They say, for example, a primitive, light-sensing patch of skin–a forerunner of the retina–could help animals detect the shadows of predators.

Then there’s the assertion that evolution is “just” a theory. “They are playing on the public’s lack of understanding of what a scientific theory is,” says Bingman. “It’s more than a guess. It’s a set of hypotheses that has been tested over time.” Evolutionary theory does have gaps, but so do relativity, quantum theory and the theory of plate tectonics. … A look at where the Discovery Institute gets much of its money and at the religious beliefs of many scientists who support I.D. makes it reasonable to suspect that Scott’s assertion is correct: intelligent design is just a smoke screen for those who think evolution is somehow ungodly.

There are no sound, scientific reasons for the wholesale rejection of evolution as the driving force of genetic change and speciation. There are no sound, scientific reasons for speculation in the realm of “Intelligent” Design. There are only religious reasons for this position and the leaders of the movement have made it abundantly clear that their agenda is to cause large-scale cultural and religious changes in America. They don’t see themselves as doing science, they see themselves as doing Christian ministry — science simply happens to be the field where they think that they can make some progress, substituting fairy tales for facts and revelation for research.

Religious believers like to claim that nature shows characteristics of having been “intelligently” designed and this then qualifies as evidence for the existence of a (divine) designer. What about all of the examples of “unintelligent” design around us?

Jim Holt writes in 5/02/20/magazine/20WWLN.html“The New York Times about all the imperfections in nature, imperfections that shouldn’t exist if nature were designed in detail by an even vaguely competent designer:

It is hard to avoid the inference that a designer responsible for such imperfections must have been lacking some divine trait — benevolence or omnipotence or omniscience, or perhaps all three. But what if the designer did not style each species individually? What if he/she/it merely fashioned the primal cell and then let evolution produce the rest, kinks and all? That is what the biologist and intelligent-design proponent Michael J. Behe has suggested. Behe says that the little protein machines in the cell are too sophisticated to have arisen by mutation — an opinion that his scientific peers overwhelmingly do not share. Whether or not he is correct, his version of intelligent design implies a curious sort of designer, one who seeded the earth with elaborately contrived protein structures and then absconded, leaving the rest to blind chance.

One beauty of Darwinism is the intellectual freedom it allows. As the arch-evolutionist Richard Dawkins has observed, ”Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” But Darwinism permits you to be an intellectually fulfilled theist, too. That is why Pope John Paul II was comfortable declaring that evolution has been ”proven true” and that ”truth cannot contradict truth.” If God created the universe wholesale rather than retail — endowing it from the start with an evolutionary algorithm that progressively teased complexity out of chaos — then imperfections in nature would be a necessary part of a beautiful process.

Of course proponents of intelligent design are careful not to use the G-word, because, as they claim, theirs is not a religiously based theory. So biology students can be forgiven for wondering whether the mysterious designer they’re told about might not be the biblical God after all, but rather some very advanced yet mischievous or blundering intelligence — extraterrestrial scientists, say.

Holt is right that proponents of “Intelligent” Design avoid using “the G-word,” but it’s not out of scrupulous adherences to principles of science or skepticism. It’s because their program is religious in nature and designed to further religious goals, but they don’t want to be too obvious about it.

They avoid using “the G-word” in order to plausibly deny the fact that they are seeking to encourage belief in “the G-word.” They don’t seriously think it even remotely possible that some blundering extraterrestrial scientist is responsible for the “design” of the universe. Of course, the makes the existence of imperfections all the more problematic for their ideology.

One Response to “Jack Rivall reviews the Intelligent Design Wedge Strategy to insert Christianity into the Science Class”
  1. Cody says:

    There’s no such thing as intelligent design. It’s just creationism in sheep’s clothing.

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