Wedge Stupidity

4 01 2007

So much has been going on in the Evolution/Intelligent Design debate as of late that it’s easy to forget where ID’s roots really lie. The Judge Jones flash cartoon, the news about the Biologic Institute, the Sternberg/Meyer peer-review controversy: to say the least there’s been a lot to discussed over the past few months. Nevertheless, I decided to take a look back at a lecture entitled How the Evolution Debate Can be Won , given by Phillip Johnson right when the controversy was just getting riled up about Behe’s first book.

There has been a lot of debate over the intentions of ID, presenting itself as secular science to the masses but revealing itself to be step 1 in a multi-step creationist program to turn people away from the materialism that pervades Western society. With condescending paternalism as the basis for your argument, what could go wrong? I’ve had lots of people tell me that ID is real science and claiming that it has anything to do with religion is false/immaterial, but lets look at what Johnson, considered the father of the current ID movement, has to say about the subject:

“Now, some Bible believers are a bit concerned when they hear the issue presented in exactly this way. They ask “Are you only bringing in the god of the philosophers and not biblical authority?” I think when that objection is made, they don’t quite understand the program and where it’s going. You have to start someplace, and you have to prepare minds to hear the truth. You can’t give it to them all at once.

Likewise, if you’re going to introduce people to scriptural truth, the first thing they have to understand is that there is a possibility that God actually could communicate. And in order for that to be possible, it has to be possible for God to be our Creator. And that is impossible if God is just an imaginary idea in our minds. So, one has to start at the most basic level with opening the mind so that it is in a position to receive truth well before it actually gets the truth or is capable of absorbing it.”

Such a strategy is plain to see when ID is looked at seriously and explains why so little work is done to scientifically verify the idea. This isn’t about doing good science and explaining the natural world, but instead it’s about saving souls, taking back America for Christ, and similar ideas. It’s always difficult to combat such ideas as well, as if someone believes they have the absolute truth, revealed to them personally by God, then your word is worthless at best (and you’re a minion of Satan at worst). For all the talk of truth and honesty and values ID advocates talk about, they seem to be pretty deceitful and for one reason or another a lot of people are buying it.

Sure, ID thinkers could try and scientifically prove their claims to be true by really sticking their necks out and outlining the process of intelligent design (it is not enough to mere say “Life is designed” and then clam up), but that wouldn’t be very effective because there is no emprical way to falsify God, nor would they want to. If ID thinkers believed they actually could prove their assertions I’m not sure they would want to identify any details because that opens up the hypothesis to falsification, a very bad move when you’re trying to slowly convince people you’re right. No, instead they will continue to pump up popular books and do speaking engagements, trying to use logic, “common sense”, and gut feelings about religion to bring people over to their side and once enough people agree with them there will have their way without actually having to prove anything. Such is the aim of sites like Overwhelming Evidence, to indoctrinate people young so that when they actually get to the point where they may be going to grad school and publishing papers there will be an ID-following built in. I don’t mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist here, but it is painfully obvious that ID thinkers put a lot of effort into converting laypeople hoping that those people will put pressure on the government to allow ID as science, opening the floodgates for a whole bunch of spurious claims and essentially reverting scientific thought back to the days prior to Darwin when much effort was made to find out the mind of God through science.

I feel this has been something of a fruitless post: those on the evolution side already know the dubious history and aims of ID and ID followers will continue to deny the evidence up and down. I actually would love it if ID came out with some sort of empirical evidence that could be constructively argued and studied to bring about a better understanding, regardless of whether the hypothesis was correct or not, but for the meantime scientists will continue to argue from observation and evidence and ID advocates will continue to insist that we are a morally corrupt bunch standing on shifting sand.


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