IRAS President reviews Creationism’s Trojan Horse

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For those new to this subject, the current iteration of creationism-in-the-classroom goes by the name "Intelligent Design." It differs from earlier strains of "scientific creationism" in a number of ways. First, it is scrupulously vague, allowing the movement to attract supporters with a wide range of beliefs (see Nic's entry on Rael below) while avoiding any whiff of commitment to a testable hypothesis. Second, it avoids like the plague any reference to religion. Finally, it is extremely well-funded and organized on a national level.

Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross have examined the religious origins and political life of the movement (which has come to be known, somewhat ominously, as "The Wedge.") Their book, Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (1) is scrupulously researched and very well written.

In his review of the book Michael Cavanaugh, president of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS), discussed why it is so important to understand the origins and motivations of the ID movement:

Statement from Michael Cavanaugh
President, Institute on Religion in an Age of Science

This book is chilling. It lets one see how totalitarian religious thought can begin to take hold even of a multi-cultural free society. We already knew that religious fundamentalists and many evangelicals think teaching evolutionary principles is not only erroneous, but evil. We knew they objected to teaching evolution in the schools. We knew they had concocted various intellectual constructs to deny the truth of evolution, and we knew that the most recent of these constructs, "Intelligent Design," was subtle and sophisticated enough to attract the attention of many ordinary citizens.

Since 1954, with the founding of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (of which I am the current president), many scientists and religion scholars have countered such claims by enthusiastically accepting mainstream science and exploring the implications for a modern understanding, for example in journals like Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science. Our effort has been to affirm the advances of science while preserving the ethical and philosophical insights of traditional religious traditions. And we thought we were doing our part at helping keep the society on track.

Then comes this book. It shows what we did NOT already know, namely that there is a concerted and organized plan, "The Wedge Strategy", whereby this putative "scientific" construct called Intelligent Design seeks to give itself a patina of respectability, thereby to make politicians look more credible when they try to remove legitimate science from our schools. But there is no mistaking the true goal of this movement-the Discovery Institute, through its Center for Science and Culture, seeks to "renew" American culture through the enshrinement of evangelical religious doctrines as public policy. This is a development that every person interested in the science/religion dialogue needs to be aware of and needs to give serious thought to. It is not just the general wedge strategy that needs to be understood, but the detailed tactical maneuvers as well; thus, this is a book that must be read thoroughly, and not just skimmed. Fortunately it is easy and compelling reading, and many of us will want to put copies in the hands of those in a position-whether academically or politically or otherwise-to make a difference in the future of science education.

"Creationism's Trojan Horse" is a valuable resource for scientists and science educators who watch with dismay continued assaults on science. But as Cavanaugh makes clear, the book also serves to warn of the ultimate goals of the ID movement. In a world of increasing sectarianism, the effects of "the Wedge" may reach far beyond debates over the science curriculum.

(1) Barbara Forrest & Paul R. Gross, Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, Oxford University Press 2004. [link]


2 TrackBacks

To do: from Long story; short pier on March 26, 2004 9:55 AM

The homosexual agenda: 0800 - Breakfast 0900 - Work day begins 1000 - 1st coffee break 1200 - Lunch hour 1210 - Go to local deli 1230 - Plot to convert world to queerness 1300 - Back to work 1500... Read More

Gentlemen, Meet Your Dark Ages from DunneIV -- The Counterculture Doesn't Want To Kill You on December 2, 2004 10:10 PM

I hate to toot an apocalyptic horn and all, but I've been into this creationism/evolution bullshit a long time. The portents of this are a terrifying glimpse, I fear, of what is yet to come. via Long Story Short Pier... Read More

6 Comments

I’ve known about “the wedge strategy” for some time. May I suggest Mr. Cavanaugh read something by Victor Stegner?

I’m not sure about Stegner, but Victor Stenger has a number of noteable volumes. For example, >Not by Design: The Origin of the Universe.

Sure sounds like conspiracy talk to me. Just try saying “There is a vast right wing conspiracy at work to remove evolution from our schools” with a straight face. Okay, try saying it twice.

If the book is published by OUP, it must have better material than the IRAS quote.

Actually, the “intelligent design” movement is a small, but well-funded and well-motivated socio-political movement. They do plan in advance. Their current strategy is not to ask for removal of evolution from the curricula, but rather to work to insert their own invalid, overblown, or misleading criticisms of evolutionary biology into the curriculum in order to, so far as possible, discredit or undermine evolution. The ID advocates are able to leverage their small numbers by pursuing a “big tent” strategy, in which the far more numerous young-earth and old-earth creationists (YEC and OEC) are recruited for action and a voting block. The doctrinal problems that would splinter the coalition of antievolutionists is intentionally deferred until such time as the primary shared target is acted upon.

The rapprochement sought by ID advocates with the rest of the antievolution community hasn’t been perfectly realized. There are the criticisms from the “Institute for Creation Research” and “Answers in Genesis” that ID advocates aren’t forward enough and should be promoting the Bible explicitly. And there was the unfortunate remark by a “Discovery Institute” staffer about YEC “guitar-strumming hillbillies” after the airing of the last segement of PBS’s “Evolution” series (for which Carl Zimmer wrote the companion volume).

“Creationism’s Trojan Horse” does have great material. Give it a read, and let me know if it didn’t convince you.

Great post, Wes. I would add, an overt plan is not a conspiracy. As you note, the Wedge Document is the strategic plan of the ID movement. Much as, oh, say businesses, have strategic plans.

& it is no secret (another typical characteristic of a conspiracy). ARN’s reports from Phil Johnson (now another person) are entitled the Wedge Reports. Phil Johnson’s book _Reason in the Balance_ clearly outlines the strategy. Phil’s most recent book is _the Wedge of Truth_. His books are absolutely required reading for anyone interested in the socio-political underpinnings of ID.

The wedge metaphor has become so powerful that Bill Dembksi characterized it as a liability at the RAPID conference last October. He also stated at that time that the cultural movement’s successes were very strong, and he was concerned that it was outstripping the scientific successes. Oh, and the event that got me interested in ID in the first place was a guest on Hank Hanegraff (Bible answer man) show who stated that the YEC’s should quieten and support ID so that the ID movement could get evolution out of the classroom - then, among Christians, doctrinal issues like the age of the earth would be sorted out. Hardly secret, these are public airwaves.

The irony of the comment is that conspiracy-type accusations abound on the ID side. Bill Dembski characterized the NCSE as a pro-Darwinian lobby group, J. Budziweski stated that the Darwinians were filling kids with propaganda, and Mike Behe stated that evolution was being taught with inappropriate philosophical overtones, and John West testified with disgust about the religious devotion to Darwin as evidenced by Darwin Day celebrations; all at the Texas State Board of Education textbook hearings. (Where, oddly, the “solid conservatives” complained that DI representatives were prohibited from testifying at the hearing.)

Who accuses the Darwinist elites of suppressing ID from the peer-reviewed literature? ID’rs Mike Behe, Phil Johnson.

Who accuses Christians who accept evolution of being accomodationists or paying lip service to evolution for fear the Darwinists will cut their funding? ID’r Phil Johnson.

Who accuses humanists of hoodwinking Board of Education members into permitting Darwinist dogma to dominate the textbook treatment of biology and “liberals” of recruiting and supporting opposition to Board members who try to get ID (in the form of “weaknesses” of evolution) into textbooks? ID’r Frank Mayo (this is a Houston guy).

IOW, there’s a little pot/kettle action going on here.

I agree the Wedge is not a conspiracy, put a polical action plan. It only looks like a conspiracy to people who are not otherwise aware that for years there has been an entirely non-secret, well-funded and organized, concerted political and legal attempt to undermine (and ultimately eliminate) the teaching of evolution in schools.

The embarassment for the IDists when the Wedge document was leaked (and Dembski’s recent partial disavowal of it) is not due to being “found out”, but to the fact that when one looks at the document in isolation (e.g. separate from the arguments in books, etc), it looks exactly what it is: a nutty, megalomaniac document from a fringe political and pseudo-scientific group.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Brauer published on March 25, 2004 4:57 PM.

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