Wedge strategy

Wedge strategy

The Wedge strategy is a political and social action plan authored by the Discovery Institute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. The strategy was put forth in a Discovery Institute manifesto known as the "Wedge Document", [ [ The Wedge Document] Discovery Institute, 1999.] which describes a broad social, political, and academic agenda whose ultimate goal is to "defeat [scientific] materialism" represented by evolution, "reverse the stifling materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions" [ [ Wedge Strategy] Discovery Institute, 1999. Cited in Handley P. [ Evolution or design debate heats up.] "The Times of Oman", 7 March 2005.] and to "affirm the reality of God." [Phillip E. Johnson, "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds" (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 91-92,] Its goal is to "renew" American culture by shaping public policy to reflect conservative Christian, namely evangelical Protestant, values. ["Five Year Objectives. Spiritual & cultural renewal: Mainline renewal movements begin to appropriate insights from design theory, and to repudiate theologies influenced by materialism; Major Christian denomination(s) defend(s) traditional doctrine of creation & repudiate(s); Darwinism Seminaries increasingly recognize & repudiate naturalistic presuppositions; Positive uptake in public opinion polls on issues such as sexuality, abortion and belief in God" [ Wedge Strategy] Discovery Institute, 1999.]

The wedge metaphor, attributed to Phillip E. Johnson, is that of a metal wedge splitting a log and represents using an aggressive public relations programme to create an opening for the supernatural in the public’s understanding of science. [ [ Understanding The Intelligent Design Creationist Movement] , Barbara Forrest]

Intelligent design is the belief that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not a naturalistic process such as natural selection. Implicit in the intelligent design doctrine is a redefining of science and how it is conducted. Wedge strategy proponents are dogmatically opposed to materialism, [""From our vantage, materialism is not a neutral, value-free, minimalist position from which to pursue inquiry. Rather, it is itself an ideology with an agenda. What's more, it requires an evolutionary creation story to keep it afloat. On scientific grounds, we regard that creation story to be false. What?s more, we regard the ideological agenda that has flowed from it to be destructive to rational discourse. Our concerns are therefore entirely parallel to the evolutionists?. Indeed, all the evolutionists? worst fears about what the world would be like if we succeed have, in our view, already been realized through the success of materialism and evolution. Hence, as a strategy for unseating materialism and evolution, the term "Wedge" has come to denote an intellectual and cultural movement that many find congenial." [ Dealing with the backlash against intelligent design] William Dembski. 2004.] "If we understand our own times, we will know that we should affirm the reality of God by challenging the domination of materialism and naturalism in the world of the mind. With the assistance of many friends I have developed a strategy for doing this....We call our strategy the "wedge." Phillip Johnson, "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds", 1997, pp. 91-92] ["The overthrow of matter in physics and biology requires a return to the social issues that are treated in Rerum Novarum and Centesimus Annus. ... The great moldering corpse of modern materialism still overshadows and stultifies academic philosophy and contemporary culture, and its fumes even creep insidiously and pervasively through the corridors and carrels of the leading schools of divinity." [ The Soul of Silicon] George Gilder. The Acton Institute, May 1 1997] naturalism, ["The most severe challenge to theology over the last two hundred years has been naturalism. Within western culture, naturalism has become the default position for all serious inquiry. From biblical studies to law to education to art to science to the media, inquiry is expected to proceed only under the supposition of naturalism. ...If fully successful, Intelligent Design will unseat not just Darwinism but also Darwinism's cultural legacy." [ The Intelligent Design Movement] William Dembski.] and evolution, ["...there is an immediate payoff to intelligent design: it destroys the atheistic legacy of Darwinian evolution. Intelligent design makes it impossible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. This gives intelligent design incredible traction as a tool for apologetics, opening up the God-question to individuals who think that science has buried God" [ Commending President Bush] William Dembski. (PDF file)] ["Hence, as a strategy for unseating materialism and evolution, the term "Wedge" has come to denote an intellectual and cultural movement that many find congenial." [ Dealing with the backlash against intelligent design] William Dembski. 2004.] ["But there are deeper motivations. I think at a fundamental level, in terms of what drives me in this is that I think God's glory is being robbed by these naturalistic approaches to biological evolution, creation, the origin of the world, the origin of biological complexity and diversity. When you are attributing the wonders of nature to these mindless material mechanisms, God's glory is getting robbed...And so there is a cultural war here. Ultimately I want to see God get the credit for what he's done - and he's not getting it." William Dembski, quoted. [ The Faith That Dare Not Speak Its Name] Jerry Coyne. "The New Republic", August 11 2005.] ["The objective of the Wedge Strategy is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism vs. evolution to the existence of God vs. the non-existence of God. From there people are introduced to 'the truth' of the Bible and then 'the question of sin' and finally 'introduced to Jesus.'" Rob Boston describing the view of Phillip E. Johnson. [ M"issionary man"] . "Church & State", April 1999.] and have made the removal of each from how science is conducted and taught an explicit goal. ["Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies. Bringing together leading scholars from the natural sciences and those from the humanities and social sciences, the Center explores how new developments in biology, physics and cognitive science raise serious doubts about scientific materialism and have re-opened the case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature." . . . "Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions." [ The Wedge Document] Discovery Institute. (PDF file)] [ [ Darwinism is Materialist Mythology, Not Science] Phillip E. Johnson.]

The strategy was originally brought to the public's attention when the Wedge Document was leaked on the Web. The Wedge strategy forms the governing basis of a wide range of Discovery Institute intelligent design campaigns.


The Wedge Document outlines a public relations campaign meant to sway the opinion of the public, popular media, charitable funding agencies, and public policy makers. According to critics, the wedge document, more than any other Discovery Institute project, demonstrates the Institute's and intelligent design's political rather than scientific purpose.

The document sets forth the short-term and long-term goals with milestones for the intelligent design movement, with its governing goals stated in the opening paragraph:
* "To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies"
* "To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God"There are three "wedge projects," referred to in the strategy as three phases designed to reach a governing goal:
*"Phase I: Scientific Research, Writing & Publicity",
*"Phase II: Publicity & Opinion-making", and
*"Phase III: Cultural Confrontation & Renewal".

Recognizing the need for support, the institute affirms the strategy's Christian, evangelistic orientation:

The wedge strategy was designed with both five-year and twenty-year goals in mind in order to achieve the conversion of the mainstream. One notable component of the work was its desire to address perceived "social consequences" and to promote a social conservative agenda on a wide range of issues including abortion, euthanasia, sexuality, and other social reform movements. It criticized "materialist reformers [who] advocated coercive government programs" which it referred to as "a virulent strain of utopianism".

Beyond promotion of the Phase I goals of proposing Intelligent-Design-related research, publications, and attempted integration into academia, the wedge strategy places an emphasis on Phases II and III advocacy aimed at increasing popular support of the Discovery Institute's ideas. Support for the creation of popular-level books, newspaper and magazine articles, op-ed pieces, video productions, and apologetics seminars is hoped to embolden believers and sway the broader culture towards acceptance of intelligent design, which in turn leads to the ultimate goal of the wedge strategy's authors: the social and political reformation of American culture.

In twenty years, it is hoped by the group that they will have achieved their goal of making intelligent design "the dominant perspective in science" as well as to branch out to "ethics, politics, theology, and philosophy in the humanities, and to see its influence in the fine arts". A goal of the wedge strategy is to see intelligent design "permeate religious, cultural, moral and political life." By accomplishing this goal the ultimate goal as stated by the CSC the "overthrow of materialism and its damning cultural legacies" and reinstating "The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God", and thereby "renew" American culture to reflect conservative Christian values will be achieved waybackdate|site=|date=19970514072337.

The preamble of the Wedge Document [] is mirrored largely word-for-word in the early mission statement of the Center for Science and Culture, then called the "Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture." waybackdate|site=|date=19970608130849. The theme is again picked up in the controversial book "From Darwin to Hitler" authored by Center for Science and Culture Fellow Richard Weikart [] and published with the center's assistance.

The wedge strategy was largely authored by Phillip E. Johnson, and features prominently in his book The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism.

Origins of the Wedge Document

Drafted in 1998 by Discovery Institute staff, the Wedge Document first appeared publicly after it was posted to the World Wide Web on February 5, 1999 by Tim Rhodes, [ [ virus: A Peek Behind Enemy Lines] Tim Rhodes., February 5 1999.] having been shared with him in late January 1999 by Matt Duss, a part-time employee of a Seattle-based international human-resources firm. There Duss had been given a document to copy titled "The Wedge" and marked "Top Secret" and "Not For Distribution." [ [ Discovery's Creation] Roger Downey. "Seattle Weekly", February 1 2006.]

Though Discovery Institute co-founder and CSC Vice President Stephen C. Meyer eventually acknowledged the institute is the source of the document, [Citation | last=Mooney | first=Chris | title=Survival of the Slickest: How anti-evolutionists are mutating their message | newspaper=The American Prospect | volume=13 | issue=22 | year=2002 | date=2002-12-16 | url= ] the institute still seeks to downplay its significance, saying "Conspircay [sic] theorists in the media continue to recycle the urban legend of the 'Wedge' document" [ The "Wedge Document": So What?] Discovery Institute staff, February 3 2006] and portraying the scientific community's reaction to the Wedge document as driven by "Darwinist Paranoia." [ [ The "Wedge Document": How Darwinist Paranoia Fueled an Urban Legend] Discovery Institute staff, July, 2005.] Despite insisting that intelligent design is not a form of creationism, the artwork chosen by the Discovery Institute for the Wedge Document's original cover is Michelangelo's "The Creation of Adam," depicting God reaching out to impart life from his finger into Adam. Meyer once also claimed the Wedge Document was stolen from the Discovery Institute's offices."Q. Now is it true that that document was purportedly stolen from the office of Discovery Institute? A. According to Dr. Meyer that's what happened." Barbara Forrest, 2005, testifying in the "Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District" trial. [] , p. 41]

Origins of the movement and strategy

According to Phillip E. Johnson, the wedge movement, if not the term, began in 1992: Johnson established a "cadre of intelligent design (ID) proponents for whom Mr. Johnson acted as an early fulcrum... he made contact, exchanged flurries of e-mail, and arranged personal meetings. Johnson framed these alliances as a 'wedge strategy,' with himself as lead blocker and ID scientists carrying the ball behind him." [ [ Science vs. science] Lynn Vincent. WORLD Magazine, February 26, 2000, Vol. 15, No. 8.] In 1993, a year after the SMU conference, "the Johnson-Behe cadre of scholars met at Pajaro Dunes.... Here, Behe presented for the first time the seed thoughts that had been brewing in his mind for a year--the idea of 'irreducibly complex' molecular machinery." [ [ Meeting Darwin's Wager] Christianity Today Magazine. April 28, 1997 Vol. 41, No. 5, Page 14.]

Nancy Pearcey, a CSC fellow and Johnson associate, acknowledges Johnson's leadership of the intelligent design movement in two of her most recent publications. In an interview with Johnson for World magazine, Pearcey says, "It is not only in politics that leaders forge movements. Phillip Johnson has developed what is called the 'Intelligent Design' movement." [] In "Christianity Today", she reveals Johnson's religious beliefs and his animosity toward evolution and affirms Johnson as "The unofficial spokesman for ID" []

In his 1997 book Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds Johnson summed up the underlying philosophy of the strategy:

At the 1999 "Reclaiming America for Christ Conference" [] called by Reverend D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries, Johnson gave a speech called How the Evolution Debate Can Be Won [] . In it he sums up the theological and epistemological underpinnings of intelligent design and its strategy for winning the battle:

Johnson cites the foundation of intelligent design is the Bible's Book of John, specifically, John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God."

Elaborating on the goals and methods of wedge strategy, Johnson stated in an interview conducted in 2002 for Touchstone Magazine that "The mechanism of the wedge strategy is to make it attractive to Catholics, Orthodox, non-fundamentalist Protestants, observant Jews, and so on." He went on to elaborate

Other statements of Johnson's acknowledge that the goal of the intelligent design movement is to promote a theistic and creationist agenda cast as a scientific concept. quotation
*"Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools." []
*"This isn't really, and never has been a debate about science. Its about religion and philosophy." []

Rob Boston summarised Johnson's vision of the Wedge as:
*"The objective [of the Wedge Strategy] is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism vs. evolution to the existence of God vs. the non-existence of God. From there people are introduced to 'the truth' of the Bible and then 'the question of sin' and finally 'introduced to Jesus.'" [ [ "Missionary Man"] , Rob Boston, "Church & State", April 1999]

Johnson's statements validate the criticisms leveled by those who allege that the Discovery Institute and its allied organizations are merely stripping religious content from their anti-evolution, creationist assertions as a means of avoiding First Amendment prohibitions on the teaching of creationism. The statements when viewed in the light of the Wedge document show ID and the ID movement is an attempt to put a patina of secularity on top of what is a fundamentally religious belief. [, page 29]

The wedge strategy details a simultaneous assault on state boards of education, state and federal legislatures and on the print and broadcast media."Alongside a focus on the influential opinion-makers, we also seek to build up a popular base of support among our natural constituency, namely, Christians. Well will do this primarily through apologetics seminars. We intend these to encourage and equip believers with new scientific evidences that support the faith, as well as "popularize" our ideas in the broader culture." [ The Wedge Strategy] Discovery Institute, Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. 1998 (PDF file)] The Discovery Institute is currently carrying out the strategy through its role in the intelligent design movement, where it aggressively promotes ID and its Teach the Controversy campaign to the public, education officials and public policymakers. [ [ Defending science education against intelligent design: a call to action] "Journal of Clinical Investigation" 116:1134-1138 (2006). doi:10.1172/JCI28449. A publication of the American Society for Clinical Investigation.] Intelligent design proponents, through the Discovery Institute, have employed a number of specific political strategies and tactics in their furtherance of their goals. These range from attempts at the state level to undermine or remove altogether the presence of evolutionary theory from the public school classroom, to having the federal government mandate the teaching of intelligent design, to 'stacking' municipal, county and state school boards with ID proponents. ["Seattle Times". March 31, 2005. [ Does Seattle group "teach controversy" or contribute to it?] ]

The Discovery Institute has been a significant player in many of these cases, providing a range of support from material assistance to federal, state and regional elected representatives in the drafting of bills to supporting and advising individual parents confronting their school boards. ["Q. Has the Discovery Institute been a leader in the intelligent design movement? A. Yes, the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. Q. And are almost all of the individuals who are involved with the intelligent design movement associated with the Discovery Institute? A. All of the leaders are, yes." Barbara Forrest, 2005, testifying in the "Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District" trial. [ Kitzmiller Dove Testimony, Barbara Forrest] ] In some state battles, the ties of intelligent design proponents to the Discovery Institute's political and social agenda and its strategy and the Institute's role in the debate have been laid bare to the public and lawmakers, resulting in their efforts being temporarily thwarted. The Discovery Institute takes the sophisticated view that all publicity is good and that no defeat is real. It has relaxed its campaign of promoting ID science curriculum, and in some cases asked it be withdrawn from consideration, in favor of science teachers being required to present evolution as a "theory in crisis"; in other words, "teaching the controversy." The strategy is to move, relentlessly, from standards battles, to curriculum writing, to textbook adoption, and back again doing whatever it takes to undermine the central position of evolution in biology.

The Discovery Institute fellows have significant advantages in money, political sophistication, and experience over their opponents in the scientific and educational communities, who do not have the benefit of funding from wealthy benefactors, clerical and technical support staff, and expensive advertising campaigns and extensive political networking. [ [ Intelligent design group is just a religious front] by Fred Barton, "Lansing State Journal". September 11, 2005] [ [ Battle on Teaching Evolution Sharpens] By Peter Slevin "Washington Post", March 14, 2005] [ [ Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive] By Jodi Wilgoren, "New York Times", August 21, 2005]

The Discovery Institute's "Teach the Controversy" campaign is designed to leave the scientific establishment looking close-minded, appearing as if it is attempting to stifle and suppress new scientific discoveries that challenge the status quo. This is made with the knowledge that it's unlikely many in the public understand advanced biology, or can consult the current scientific literature or contact major scientific organizations to verify Discovery Institute claims. This part of the strategy also plays on undercurrents of anti-intellectualism and distrust of science and scientists that can be found in particular segments of American society. ["some hair-splitting that could only look ridiculous to outsider observers." What looks to scientists to be a very compelling rebuttal to Dembski's arguments made by Dr. Schneider is portrayed to non-scientists, and especially the public, as "ridiculous hair-splitting" [ Dealing with the Backlash Against Intelligent Design] William A. Dembski., April 14, 2004]

There is a noticeable conflict between what ID backers tell the public through the media and what they say before conservative Christian audiences. [Barbara Forrest. Expert Testimony. "Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District" trial transcript, Day 6 (October 5) "What I am talking about is the essence of intelligent design, and the essence of it is theistic realism as defined by Professor Johnson. Now that stands on its own quite apart from what their motives are. I'm also talking about the definition of intelligent design by Dr. Dembski as the Logos theology of John's Gospel. That stands on its own." ... "Intelligent design, as it is understood by the proponents that we are discussing today, does involve a supernatural creator, and that is my objection. And I am objecting to it as they have defined it, as Professor Johnson has defined intelligent design, and as Dr. Dembski has defined intelligent design. And both of those are basically religious. They involve the supernatural." ] This is studied and deliberate as advocated by wedge strategy author Phillip E. Johnson. ["The objective (of the Wedge Strategy) is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism vs. evolution to the existence of God vs. the non-existence of God. From there people are introduced to 'the truth' of the Bible and then 'the question of sin' and finally 'introduced to Jesus.'" Phillip Johnson. Church and State Magazine, April 1999, as cited by [ Not Intelligent, and Surely Not Science] Michael Shermer. Los Angeles Times, March 30 2005. [ Intelligent Design: An Ambiguous Assault on Evolution] Ker Than. LiveScience, September 22 2005. [ "Intelligent Design": Stealth War on Science] Revolution #021, November 6 2005.] [Phillip Johnson. "Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity". July/August 1999."...the first thing that has to be done is to get the Bible out of the discussion. ...This is not to say that the biblical issues are unimportant; the point is rather that the time to address them will be after we have separated materialist prejudice from scientific fact." [ The Wedge] ] When speaking to a mainstream audience and to the media, ID proponents cast ID as a secular, scientific theory. But when speaking to what the Wedge Document calls their "natural constituency, namely (conservative) Christians," ID proponents express themselves in unambiguously religious language. This in the belief that they cannot afford to alienate their constituency and major funding sources, virtually all of which are conservative religious organizations and individuals such as Howard Ahmanson.

Having written extensively about ID, philosopher of science Robert Pennock says "When lobbying for ID in the public schools, wedge members sometimes deny that ID makes any claims about the identity of the designer. It is ironic that their political strategy leads them to deny God in the public square more often than Peter did." [Pennock, Robert T.. [*DNAbyDesign.pdf DNA by Design?: Stephen Meyer and the Return of the God Hypothesis] . In Ruse, Michael and William Dembski (eds) "Debating Design". New York: Cambridge University Press, (pp. 130 - 148, 2004)]

Moreover, wedge advocates are now disavowing their own terminology because the term "intelligent design" has become a liability for them since the ruling in "Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District". ["In a country in which more than 50 percent of adults consistently tell pollsters that they believe God created humans in their present form within the past 10,000 years, however, there will undoubtedly be a fourth wave that will feature yet another strategy to promote creationism by questioning evolution. It looks as if this next wave will jettison the creationist and intelligent-design baggage and concentrate exclusively on a "teach the controversy" strategy." [ Intelligent Judging — Evolution in the Classroom and the Courtroom] George J. Annas, "New England Journal of Medicine", Volume 354:2277-2281 May 25, 2006] Because of the success of the Discovery Institute's public relations campaign to make "intelligent design" a household phrase, and the ruling in "Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District" that ID is essentially religious in nature [] more people recognize it as the religious concept of creationism. Having come closest to accomplishing getting ID into public school science classes in Kansas and Ohio where they succeeded in getting the State Board of Education to adopt ID lesson plans, intelligent design proponents advocated "teach the controversy" as a legally defensible alternative to teaching intelligent design. The Kitzmiller ruling also characterized "teaching the controversy" as part of the same religious ploy as presenting intelligent design as an alternative to evolution. ["has the effect of implicitly bolstering alternative religious theories of origin by suggesting that evolution is a problematic theory even in the field of science." . . . The effect of Defendants’ actions in adopting the curriculum change was to impose a religious view of biological origins into the biology course, in violation of the Establishment Clause. ] This prompted a move to a fallback position, teaching "critical analysis" of evolutionary theory. Teaching "critical analysis" is viewed as a means of teaching all the ID arguments without using that label. [ [ No one here but us Critical Analysis-ists...] Nick Matzke. The Panda's Thumb, July 11 2006] It also picks up the themes of the teach the controversy strategy, emphasizing what they say are the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolutionary theory and "arguments against evolution," which they portray as "a theory in crisis."

Examples of the wedge strategy in action

Both being heavily promoted and funded by the Discovery Institute and its Center for Science and Culture, the intelligent design movement and the "Teach the Controversy" movements are considered examples of the wedge strategy in action. Other examples include:
*The Santorum Amendment
*The Discovery Institute's Ohio Board of Education Model Lesson Plan
*The Discovery Institute's Smithsonian donation controversy
*Kansas evolution hearings

Defending the wedge strategy

The wedge strategy received attention from groups opposed to the intelligent design movements as the document appears to advocate a particularly strident strategy for promoting a wide-range of politically conservative ideas that seem unrelated to the question of science. In response, the Discovery Institute published a document entitled The "Wedge Document: So What?" to defuse many of the claims stating:

It states that the original document was only a fundraising proposal, and criticizes its opponents for what it believes are baseless accusations. The wedge strategy is claimed to be an opposition to the dominant "a priori" philosophy and a support of the interpretive freedom of scientists. The goal of the strategy is described as "influencing science and culture "with our ideas" through research, reasoned argument and open debate.

Their response in "Wedge Document: So What?" describes the religious agenda they are pursuing:

Future of the Strategy

Speaking in October 2002 the Discovery Institute's William Dembski said, However, as one critic has noted,

ee also

* Center for Science and Culture
* Discovery Institute
* Intelligent design movement
* Phillip E. Johnson
* Santorum Amendment


External links

* [ A scan of the original wedge document] (pdf format)
* [ Discovery's Creation] A brief history of the Discovery institute and how the Wedge Document was made public.
* [ Tim Rhodes puts a text copy of the wedge on the Internet]
* [ The Wedge Document]
* [ The "Wedge" Archives] at the Access Research Network website.
* [ The Wedge Strategy: So What?]
* [ The Wedge at Work: How Intelligent Design Creationism Is Wedging Its Way into the Cultural and Academic Mainstream] Chapter 1 of the book "Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics" by Barbara Forrest, Ph.D. MIT Press, 2001
* [ The Wedge: Breaking the Modernist Monopoly on Science] by Phillip E. Johnson. Originally published in "Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity". July/August 1999.
* [ Wedging Creationism into the Academy. Proponents of a controversial theory struggle to gain purchase within academia. A case study of the quest for academic legitimacy.] By Barbara Forrest and Glenn Branch. 2005. Published in Academe.

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