Tag Archives: Wedge

Who are the “dissenters from Darwinism”?

One of the weapons used by the Wedge activists is the Scientific Dissent from Darwin list. They use this to promote the idea there is a controversy about evolutionary theory within the scientific community. The idea that a significant number of scientists actually oppose the modern understanding of evolution and support “intelligent design” (ID) theory as an alternative. They then go on to demand introduction of ID into science classrooms under the slogan “teach the controversy.”

Only a small number of professionals have been prepared to support the Discovery Institute’s statement (see Dissenters from Darwinism in context). However, the understanding and motives of those who have is interesting.

  • Are they genuinely concerned about modern evolutionary theory?
  • Do they support ID as an alternative?
  • Do they even understand modern evolutionary theory?
  • What is their areas of scientific expertise?
  • Is their motivation primarily religious?
  • Or have they been duped – signing up to support the relatively innocuous statement only to find out later the real way the list is being used?

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Dissenters from Darwinism in context

While there is no real scientific support for intelligent design (ID) theory there is certainly a propaganda campaign to give that impression. The Wedge activists centered around the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture in Seattle, USA, are continually promoting campaigns with this purpose. One of these is the list of scientists, “dissenters from Darwinism,” who they claim support ID.

We could discuss the political tactics behind this list and the motivation of those professionals who have given their support to the statement of dissent. However, the undeniable purpose of the list has been to create the impression that there is a controversy among scientists about evolutionary theory. So let’s look at the “statement of dissent” and the number of signatures and compare this with the numbers who have signed statements supporting evolutionary theory.

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Intelligent design and scientific method

The intelligent design movement (ID) is not a school of scientific research – more a political, social and religious movement. IDs initiator and main theological guru, Phillip Johnson, admitted this in 1996 when he said: “This isn’t really, and never has been, a debate about science . . . It’s about religion and philosophy.”

However, ID does aspire to change the whole way we do modern science. It has a declared a Wedge Strategy which includes the aim of replacing the modern scientific method with a “theistic science” (see, for example, The Wedge Document). Alvin Platinga (a major ID supporter) also used the terms “unnatural science”, “creation science”, or science “from a Christian perspective” to describe this (see Why Faith and Reason Clash). Phillip Johnson also used the term “Theistic realism.”

Despite this lofty plan, ID proponents reveal little of what they mean by “theistic science” and characteristically will not clearly respond to requests to do so. You have to sift through their documents for evidence and be aware of the context of their statements. Doing this you start to realise that ID people are attacking the heart of modern science, the empirical, evidence-based, methodology which makes it so powerful. They, in reality, wish to return science to the stagnant days of the pre-enlightenment.

This hostility to science is not isolated to the ID movement. As Paul Bloom points out “the battle between evolution and creationism …. is where science takes a stand against superstition” (in What Is Your Dangerous Idea?: Today’s Leading Thinkers on the Unthinkable). The hostility is common to those who prefer superstitious, spiritualist and supernatural explanations. It’s worth, therefore, considering the ID attack on science as a specific example of a more widespread problem.

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