Outline of speech on the Wedge strategy and Calvert’s ID arguments

Evolution: What’s Controversial About It?
The “intelligent design” movement and the Wedge strategy:
what’s wrong with their fundamental argument?
Jack Krebs, Vice-president, Kansas Citizens for Science, April 6, 2004
www.kcfs.org, jkrebs@sunflower.com


1) Introduction
2) The Wedge strategy: “overthrowing materialism and creating a “theistic science.”
3) Is there a scientific “theory of intelligent design?” The answer is “no.”
4) The Fundamental Argument of Intelligent Design: Science = Materialism and Atheism
5) What’s Wrong with the Fundamental Argument?
6) What’s Really Wrong with the Fundamental Argument!
7) Conclusion
8) A question for John Calvert to answer.

2) The Wedge strategy – overthrowing materialism and creating a theistic science.

“The social consequences of materialism have been devastating. … However, we are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism.

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.” (From the Discovery Institute’s Wedge document – http://www.kcfs.org/kcfsnews/?p=127)

Also, see “Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design,” by Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross, for a complete exposé of the ID movement and the Discovery Institute: its history, goals, funding, activities, and so on, as well as a summary of the flaws in the ID arguments.

The goals of the “intelligent design” (ID) movement, in the words of the leaders of the ID movement.

“We will discover that “in the beginning was the Word” is fact not fantasy. It’s as true scientifically as it is spiritually or Biblically …” (Phillip Johnson, Northshore Church in Washington, April 19, 2001)

“The second goal was to establish a position which would tend to unify the religious world. … In the beginning was the Word: in the beginning God created: – true or false.” (Phillip Johnson, John Calvert’s IDnet DDD2 Conference, June 28, 2001)

“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.” (William Dembski, Fellowship Baptist Church, Waco, TX, February 29, 2004)

“He [Rev. Sun Myung Moon] frequently criticized Darwin’s theory that living things originated without God’s purposeful, creative activity… Father’s words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism.” (www.tparents/org/Library/Unification/Talks/Wells/DARWIN.htm)

3) Is there a scientific “theory of intelligent design?” The answer is “no.”

What ID doesn’t have: ID has

• no testable hypotheses offered about what, when, where or how design has occurred,

• no empirical procedures offered, even hypothetically, for investigating what, when, where or how design has occurred, and

• no published ID research.

• In general, there is no ID science.

What ID does have. ID has

• a philosophical and religious idea that certain parts of the world (although they are not clear about which ones) are too complex to have come about by natural processes, but must have required the specific activity of a designing intelligence (God) in order to have been created.

• a set of flawed philosophical arguments supposedly showing that natural processes are, in theory, incapable of having designed certain (unspecified) things (but no way of testing those arguments.) In essence, ID is a God-of-the-gaps argument, claiming that God can be found in (and only in) the places where we have gaps in our understanding.

• a steady supply of books, magazine articles, speeches, and conferences where they argue that mainstream evolutionary biology is inadequate, and in fact crumbling, soon to be replaced by ID.

• The intelligent design movement is a political and religious public relations campaign, based on the goals and strategies in the Wedge document.

The Fundamental Argument of Intelligent Design: Science = Materialism and Atheism

Outline of John Calvert’s version of the fundamental argument

1) Central question is “are we designs or occurrences?” – only two choices

2) Only two hypotheses about life

a) naturalistic hypothesis: we are just occurrences – no inherent purpose. Laws of physics and chemistry are sufficient to account for all phenomena. This supports atheism and agnosticism

b) design hypothesis – we are designed by a mind with intent for a purpose. The activity of a intelligent designer are necessary to account for life. This supports theism.

3) Science uses a “hidden rule” called “methodological naturalism” which allows only naturalistic explanations.

4) Therefore,

a) science is inherently biased towards atheism and materialism, and unfairly excludes design from consideration;

b) teaching science in the public schools as the search for natural explanations indoctrinates our children in a belief in materialism and atheism – teaching them that they have no inherent purpose because they are “mere occurrences,” not designed; and

c) therefore teaching science as seeking natural explanations is unconstitutional because it violates the government’s responsibility to be “religiously neutral.”

What’s Wrong with the Fundamental Argument?

1) Science does not embrace nor endorse materialism. It does not address theological explanations for natural phenomena, nor does it attempt to explain our moral, aesthetic, or spiritual experience. Science does not claim that what it studies is all that exists, or that the methods of science are the only valid human ways of seeking knowledge. Science is not a dogmatic philosophy about either the ultimate nature of the world or of human beings.

2) The “rule” of methodological naturalism (MN) is not very hidden: The Kansas Science Standards state that science is “the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us. … Scientific explanations consistent with experimental and/or observational data and testable by scientists through additional experimentation and/or observation.”

3) Seeking natural explanations has proven to be highly successful in building a universally accessible body of knowledge about how the world works. Explanations involving non-natural causes cannot be investigated empirically with the tools of science, and have not successfully contributed to science. MN is not a dogmatic a priori “rule,” but rather a shorthand way of referring to the whole body of practical and successful considerations that comprise the scientific method.

4) In fact, design explanations are not excluded from science. ID advocates themselves frequently refer to the fact that design explanations are a part of forensic science, archaeology, the search for extraterrestrial life, and so on. In these fields, evidence that intelligent designers were responsible for an event is considered.

However, the ID movement, as explained above, has made no progress in offering testable hypotheses nor practical methods for investigated whether some specific aspects of life have been designed by God.

What’s Really Wrong with the Fundamental Argument?

1) Millions of people with theistic beliefs accept the nature of science knowledge, and reconcile their acceptance of the theory of evolution with their religious beliefs.

2) However, the ID movement denounces and dismisses this “silent majority.” For instance, Phillip Johnson has said that those Christians who accept evolution are “worse than atheists because they hide their naturalism behind a veneer of religion.” (Lawrence, KS, April, 2000)

3) On the other hand, mainstream orthodox Christian theology holds that God is continually active in the outflowing of natural processes, and that all that happens reflects his Will and design for the world. The means by which he guides the world, however, are beyond our human comprehension. Human beings are limited in their perspective: we see law and chance operating through time, but God sees all things omnisciently and omni-presently. Our understanding of the world as revealed through science cannot possibly comprehend the world as it really is to God.

4) Keith Miller, evangelical Christian, paleontology professor, and author of “Perspectives on an Evolving Creation” (a collection of essays on the compatibility of evolution and Christianity) is one of many Christians who object both scientifically and theologically to ID. Keith has written,

“Creation was not a past accomplished act, but rather is a present continuing reality…. God is intimately and actively involved in what we perceive as “natural” or “law-governed” processes….” From this perspective, “a completely seamless evolutionary history of life is entirely acceptable theologically,” and does “not violate one’s understanding of the nature and character of God.

The interventionist view of God posited by “intelligent design theory” is much closer to deism than my view. It implies that God is somehow withdrawn, or at least uninvolved in creation, except during special exceptional events. As others have noted, a doctrine of God’s occasional intervention is really a doctrine of God’s usual absence.”


1) The intelligent design movement is wrong about the nature of science – it does not imply materialism and atheism.

2) The intelligent design movement is wrong about religion – many religious perspectives accept science.

3) The intelligent design movement is wrong that ID is a scientific alternative to the theory of evolution.

4) The intelligent design argument is not about religion vs. science, although that is the divisive conflict the Wedge strategy would want us to adopt.

The ID argument is about religion vs. religion: A narrow Christian sectarian viewpoint that believes that God has left empirically verifiable “fingerprints” in the world vs. the views of the majority of Christians and others who believe that God’s presence permeates the natural world, and that a limited form of knowledge about Him and His world is accessible via science.

A question for John Calvert to answer

How do you account for these millions of people who do not believe that science inherently implies materialism and atheism?

These millions of people, and millions of Christians, do not believe that just because science seeks natural explanations that it is inherently materialistic and atheistic.

They do not believe that the theory of evolution teaches children that they are “mere occurrences.”

They do believe that their religious beliefs incorporate both scientific knowledge about the world and beliefs about purpose, meaning, values, morals and other issues that are beyond the reach of science.

To put it bluntly, they think your argument is wrong.

How do you respond to them?