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A History of the Intelligent Design Movement
By Lenny Flank
Posted April 25, 2006
In 1981, a federal judge in Arkansas ruled (in the Maclean v Arkansas case) that creation 'science' was just religious apologetics and was illegal to teach. That ruling was affirmed in the 1987 Supreme Court ruling in Edwards v Aguillard. After these two rulings, creation "science" all but disappeared as an active political player.
Although the one-two punch of the Mclean and Aguillard rulings was devastating to the creationists, it did not lessen their determination to slay the Darwinist dragon.
The post-Louisiana strategy of the creation "scientists" depended on the enormous political pressure that the fundamentalists could bring to focus at the local level. Creationists had been very active in state textbook committees and curricula boards, where they attempted to pressure various states into dropping biology textbooks which feature evolutionary theory. In June 1996, for instance, three families in Cobb County, Georgia asked that the Cobb County Board of Education remove a chapter from a fourth grade science textbook. The offending chapter discussed the age and formation of the universe.
Historically, this had been one of the creationists' most effective tactics -- campaigns for book-banning had long been a staple of fundamentalist moralists. In the anti-evolution fight, the idea was to influence the treatment of evolution in biology textbooks, insuring that the subject is mentioned only briefly or not at all. Dorothy Nelkin describes how this tactic works:
"Twenty-two states, including Texas and California (the largest consumers of textbooks), make major educational decisions through centralized state school boards and textbook commissions. These are composed of teachers and layman, often political appointees. The commissions meet every five or six years to select textbooks in various subject areas for the state board of education. While local school districts can use textbooks that do not appear on the list, there are financial incentives to order state-approved textbooks, for these are usually the only books that are subsidized. Thus, it becomes extremely important for publishers to have their books on these lists, especially in the more populous states. State recommendations also influence the general policies of textbook publishers, who normally do not print separate editions for each state. A decision in California or Texas may have repercussions throughout the industry, affecting the character of books available in the whole country. Thus, textbook watchers direct much of their energy toward the state boards of education and curriculum committees, hoping to influence the state-approved textbook lists." (Nelkin, 1982, pp 93-94)
The creationist effort to influence the state textbook committees usually focused on a handful of large states, where they can the get maximum effect for a minimum expenditure of money and manpower. The state of California alone, for instance, accounted for over ten percent of all money spent on textbooks in the United States. Another large state, Texas, has traditionally been sympathetic to the creationists (in 1994, the Republican Party in Texas adopted a platform plank advocating teaching creationism in the schools), and also accounts for a large portion of the textbook market. In both of these states, creationists attempt to win a majority on the textbook selection committees so they can influence the content of biology textbooks.
By pressuring these large markets towards expunging or limiting mention of evolution in textbooks, the creationists hoped to influence the textbooks which are made available to other states as well. And such efforts seem to have been at least partially successful. In the late 1970's, when creationists were attempting to pressure the California state education committee to mandate "equal treatment" for creation science, the most widely-used biology textbook in the state (also used throughout the country), Biology: Living Systems, dropped the number of index entries under "evolution" from 17 lines of references in 1973 to just 3 lines in 1979.
The textbook publisher's interest is economic (it is, after all, much less expensive for publishers to produce a single "safe" version for nationwide use rather than a version without evolution for use in those states which have rejected such texts, and a separate version, including evolution, for other states). Some publishers who caved in to this sort of creationist pressure attempted to justify this by trying to sound open-minded. Louis Arnold, the senior science editor of Prentice-Hall, remarked in 1980, "We don't advocate the idea of scientific creation, but we felt we had to represent other points of view." (Godfrey, 1983, p. 25) Other publishers were more blunt about their motivations: "Creation has no place in biology books," one publisher acknowledged, "but after all we are in the business of selling textbooks." (Nelkin, 1982, p. 154)
In the late 1980's, the state of Texas mandated that all biology textbooks carry a disclaimer stating that evolutionary science was "only a theory" and was "not established fact". (This provision was withdrawn in 1990.) Despite this symbolic victory, however, efforts to have creationist textbooks adopted by state education committees were not very successful. Creationists in 1995 managed to convince the Alabama state school board to include a disclaimer in all biology textbooks stating that evolution was a "controversial theory", and listing all the standard creationist arguments against evolution (ICR Acts and Facts, January 1995, p. 4), but it was later dropped.
Efforts were also made to coerce state textbook committees into adopting anti-evolution books as texts. Early efforts focused on Duane Gish's "Evolution: The Fossils Say NO!" or Henry Morris's "Scientific Creationism", but both of these books were shot down by textbook committees as being religiously-based apologetics for creation "science". In 1989, though, a church campaign in Alabama gathered over 11,800 signatures on a petition to place a new book, "Of Pandas and People", on the list of approved textbooks. In the early 1990's, both Idaho and Alabama considered placing "Pandas" on their approved lists, but turned it down. "Of Pandas And People" was the first post-Aguillard book that was produced by the anti-evolutionists. It was also the first to introduce a new incarnation of the creationist movement -- known as "intelligent design". And, ironically, decades later, "Pandas" would be the instrument that dealt the first death blow to that Intelligent Design movement.
The concept of "design" had long been a staple of the creation "scientists":
"In the early 1880's, William Paley published a carefully argued paper entitled, 'Natural Theology,' which developed a convincing case for the necessity of a Designer to produce the intricate design we see in living systems. He referred to human machines such as a watch, claiming we would never conclude, upon discovery of a watch, that it was the result of natural processes such as wind and rain. By observing the order of the organism, the purpose of each part, and the interdependence of the parts, one would never conclude that it happened by chance. This, I think, is a key Biblical argument for creation. In a strict sense, it is not a scientific argument, but it is an intuitive argument. In the debates in which I have participated, I always call attention to the design in living things. Perhaps the best example is a 'simple,' single-celled organism. Although the simplest of all organisms, such a protozoan is very complex, comprised of scores of functioning parts, each performing a specific function and all working together for the good of the whole. Remove any one of these functioning parts, and the whole organism dies. There are, by some estimates, tens of thousands of enzyme reactions occurring within each cell, all necessary right from the start. Of course, almost all of this information comes from the wondrous DNA code, the precise arrangement of genes which directs all growth and function. Furthermore, each gene, each organelle, each aspect of the cell is made up of complex protein molecules-specifically arranged chains of amino acids precisely placed for a particular purpose. To propose that a living, replicating cell arose without design from non-living matter is easily the weakest point of evolution theory-so weak that many famous scientists, who have worked for years to find a plausible way it might have happened (like Nobel Prize-winning geneticist, Dr. Francis Crick), have concluded that life evolved somewhere out in space where conditions are different from those here on Earth, because it evidently could not happen here. Today's evolutionists ignore Paley's argument for design in living systems, attributing such complexity to the workings of natural selection. They have traditionally argued that since living things and machines are of two inherently different categories, Paley's analogy is not valid. Thus they ignore the counter-intuitive nature of evolution. Strictly speaking, they are right! The analogy is not precise! Things are changing today, however, for the more science digs into the structure of living systems, the more the 'machine' analogy seems appropriate. When the workings of life were poorly known, science could rightly profess bewilderment, and claim that life is different. But now we can see something of how life works (not how it originated) and it bears rough resemblance to an intricate computer-driven machine, although far more complex. Experts feel that science has only begun to understand the machine-like workings of a cell. The analogy has been validated. Life is something like an amazingly well-designed machine, but much more complex than those designed by humans. Such evidence of design speaks eloquently for a Designer, and those who choose to disbelieve are still 'without excuse' (Romans 1:20). (John Morris, Dr Johns Q&A, ICR, March 1, 1990)
"By its very nature, creation involves the intelligent application of design information, which it would seem logical to conserve. For example, if the pattern of the forelimb bones in a frog works well, following good bioengineering principles, then it would seem reasonable for the same principles to be used in the other creatures, modified to fit their particular needs." (Ken Ham, AIG Creation Magazine, October 1978)
It was "Of Pandas And People", however, produced by the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, which really set the stage for the introduction of the Intelligent Design movement. The book, written by two creationist authors (one of whom had testified on behalf of the Louisiana "equal time" bill) was in the process of preparation during the Louisiana legal proceedings, and the original draft mentioned the word "creationism" prominently. After the Supreme Court decision making it illegal to teach "creationism", however, FTE edited all the references to "creationism" to refer to "intelligent design" instead. As a later Federal court document put it:
"Intelligent design followed the Supreme Court's rejection of creation science as night follows day: At the time that Edwards was decided, the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (a publisher of Christian texts) had been developing 'Of Pandas and People' as a creationist work to advance the FTE's religious and cultural mission. After the Supreme Court rejected the proffered expert opinions in Edwards claiming that creation science is 'science,' Kenyon and FTE took their draft textbook (which advocated for creationism) and, with all the elegance of a word processor's algorithm, replaced references to 'creationism' with the new label 'intelligent design.' When they issued Pandas's first edition just two years later, they presented intelligent design as if it were a new intellectual endeavor rather than merely a rechristening of creationism. But 'Pandas' defines 'intelligent design' exactly as an earlier draft had defined 'creationism.'" ("Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgement, Kitzmiller v Dover, Aug 8, 2005)
The Discovery Institute's history of design theory phrases this change somewhat differently:
"As the academic editor for the Foundation of Thought and Ethics, Thaxton was then serving as the editor for a supplemental science textbook co-authored by Kenyon, named 'Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins'. As it neared completion, Thaxton continued to cast around for a term that was less ponderous and, at the same time, more general, a term to describe a science open to evidence for intelligent causation and free of religious assumptions. He found it in a phrase he picked up from a NASA scientist. "That's just what I need," Thaxton recalls thinking. "It's a good engineering term.. After I first saw it, it seemed to jibe. When I would go to meetings, I noticed it was a phrase that would come up from time to time. And I went back through my old copies of Science magazine and found the term used occasionally." It was soon incorporated into the language of the book." (Jonathan Witt, "The Origin of Intelligent Design", Discovery Institute website)
With the crushing defeat of the creation "science" movement, anti-evolutionists were forced to adopt a new tactic, one that attempted to unify all of the various sects and dogmas into a single "big tent" which could set aside their internal doctrinal differences and focus on their common enemy. This new movement was called "intelligent design theory", and it's intellectual forefather is Phillip Johnson.
Johnson was a law professor at Berkeley when he underwent a painful divorce that crushed him deeply and prompted him to turn to fundamentalist religion in a search for meaning. One of the pet projects that Johnson has undertaken since then has been an effort to demonstrate that AIDS is not caused by HIV, but by what he terms "an unhealthy lifestyle". Johnson has declared that it is the "science establishment" that is hiding "the cracks in the official story" and preventing "more open investigation" by "ridiculing opponents" and "deception" which is "fostered by the AIDS industry". (http://www.virusmyth.net/aids/index/pjohnson.htm)
But it was the fight against evolution that Johnson made his life's work (although all of his paranoid conspiratorial approach to AIDS would be echoed in his crusade against Darwin). In the same year that the Supreme Court struck down creation 'science', Johnson read "Evolution; A Theory in Crisis", a creationist book by Michael Denton. And here, Johnson later recalled, he found his purpose in life; "This is it. This is where it all comes down to, the understanding of creation." (Christianity Today, "The Making of a Revolution", December 8, 1997) In 1991, Johnson published his first book, "Darwin on Trial", which argued that evolution was not science but an atheistic religion based on "philosophical materialism". In "Darwin on Trial", Johnson did not offer any alternative to evolution, but the book's publication lead directly to the formation of the Intelligent Design Movement. In 1992, a group of scientists and philosophers who were influenced by Johnson's book met at Southern Methodist University, which brought together Johnson, William Dembski, Michael Behe, and Stephen Meyer. They formed the core of the ID movement for the next 15 years. When paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould published a withering critique of Johnson's book in "Scientific American", Johnson responded with a letter that noted:
"What divides Gould and me has little to do with scientific evidence and everything to do with metaphysics. Gould approaches the question of evolution from a philosophical starting point in scientific naturalism. From that standpoint the blind watchmaker thesis is true in principle by definition. Science may not know all the details yet, but something very much like Darwinian evolution simply has to be responsible for our existence because there is no acceptable alternative. If there are gaps or defects in the existing theory, the appropriate response is to supply additional naturalistic hypotheses. Critics who disparage Darwinism without offering a naturalistic alternative are seen as attacking science itself, probably in order to impose a religious straitjacket upon science and society. One does not reason with such persons; one employs any means at hand to discourage them. But maybe Darwinism really is false -- in principle, and not just in detail. Maybe mindless material processes cannot create information-rich biological systems. That is a real possibility, no matter how offensive to scientific naturalists. How do Darwinists know that the blind watchmaker created animal phyla, for example, since the process can't be demonstrated and all the historical evidence is missing? Darwinists may have the cultural power to suppress questions like that for a time, but eventually they are going to have to come to grips with them. There are a lot of theists in America, not to mention the rest of the world, and persons who promote naturalism in the name of science will not forever be able to deny them a fair hearing." Johnson, "Response to Gould", available at http://www.arn.org/docs/orpages/or151/151johngould.htm)
When "Scientific American" refused to publish Johnson's religious criticism, Dembski, Behe and Meyer and 36 other anti-evolutionists responded by mass-mailing a copy of it, along with a supporting letter, to scientists and biology departments all over the US. In its supporting letter, the group, calling itself the "Ad Hoc Origins Committee", identified itself as "Scientists Who Question Darwinism", and declared: "We are a group of fellow professors or academic scientists who are generally sympathetic to Johnson and believe that he warrants a hearing -- thus this mailing. Most of us are also Christian Theists who like Johnson are unhappy with the polarized debate between biblical literalism and scientific materialism. We think a critical re-evaluation of Darwinism is both necessary and possible without embracing young-earth creationism. It is in service of this re-evaluation that we commend the Johnson/Gould discourse to you." (available at http://www.apologetics.org/news/adhoc.html#3)
In 1993, the nascent ID movement met again in California, and this meeting is generally acknowledged as the birth of the Intelligent Design movement. As young-earth creationist turned IDer Paul Nelson later reported:
"In June 1993, Johnson invited several of the (mostly younger) members of that community to a conference at the California beach town of Pajaro Dunes. Present were scientists and philosophers who themselves would later become well known, such as biochemist Michael Behe, author of 'Darwin s Black Box' (1996); mathematician and philosopher William Dembski, author of 'The Design Inference' (1998) and 'Intelligent Design' (1999); and developmental biologist Jonathan Wells, author of 'Icons of Evolution' (2000). Of the 14 participants at the Pajaro Dunes conference, only three (microbiologist Siegfried Scherer of the Technical University of Munich, paleontologist Kurt Wise of Bryan College, and me) could be seen as traditional creationists. Moreover, theological diversity marked the meeting: in addition to the expected presence of evangelicals, Behe was Roman Catholic; Wells was a member of the Unification Church; and one participant, paleontologist David Raup of the University of Chicago, was an agnostic. Pajaro Dunes thus became a model for what has come to be known as the intelligent design movement. Unlike other science and faith organizations (such as the traditional creationist CRS or the moderate American Scientific Affiliation [ASA]), no statement of faith was required at Pajaro. What united the participants (with the possible exception of Raup) was a deep dissatisfaction with neo-Darwinism and its naturalistic philosophical foundation and an interest in scientifically exploring the possibility of design.
"Until recently, the majority of active dissenters from neo-Darwinian (naturalistic) evolution could be classified as young-earth (or what I call traditional ) creationists. Their dissent could be dismissed as motivated by biblical literalism, not scientific evidence. While this criticism of traditional creationists is unfair to the actual content of their views many prominent creationists are outstanding scientists the absence of a wider community of dissent from Darwinism hindered the growth of scientific alternatives to the naturalistic theory. Such a wider community now exists in the intelligent design (ID) movement. Within the past decade, the ID community has matured around the insights of UC Berkeley professor Phillip Johnson, whose central insight is that science must be free to seek the truth, wherever it lies. The possibility of design, therefore, cannot be excluded from science. This outlook has deep roots in the history of Western science and is essential to the health of science as a truth-seeking enterprise. Under the canopy of design as an empirical possibility, however, any number of particular theories may also be possible, including traditional creationism, progressive (or old-earth ) creationism, and theistic evolution. Both scientific and scriptural evidence will have to decide the competition between these theories. The big tent of ID provides a setting in which that struggle after truth can occur, and from which the secular culture may be influenced. (Paul Nelson, "Life in the Big Tent", Christian Research Journal, 2002, available at: http://www.equip.org/free/DL303.htm)
At this conference, biochemist Michael Behe first presented his ideas about "irreducible complexity", the idea that certain structures within a cell could not have evolved piece-by-piece because if any one piece were missing, the entire structure would be nonfunctional and thus could not be preserved by natural selection. This, of course, was a rehash of the old "what good is half an eye" argument used by creation "scientists", but in 1996, Behe released his book, "Darwin's Black Box", laying out his arguments. It was this book which first brought ID to public attention; it was followed two years later by William Dembski's "Mere Creation" and "The Design Inference". With the publication of these books, the anti-evolution movement was transformed; no longer did they talk about old ICR staples like thermodynamics or transitional fossils or radiodating -- now they talked about irreducible complexity and complex specified information.
Shortly after this conference, the ID movement reached organizational maturity. In 1995, Johnson released another book, "Reason in the Balance; The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law and Education", which argued against atheistic "methodological materialism" (which he defines as "The Creator belongs to the realm of religion, not scientific investigation" (Johnson, 1995, p. 208) ) in favor of "theistic realism", which Johnson defined as:
"A theistic realist assumes that the universe and all its creatures were brought into existence for a purpose by God. Theistic realists expect this "fact" of creation to have empirical, observable consequences that are different from the consequences one would observe if the universe were the product of nonrational causes . . . . Many important questions -- including the origin of genetic information and human consciousness -- may not be explicable in terms of unintelligent causes." (Johnson, 1995, p. 208-209)
That same summer, Johnson and the IDers organized a conference titled "The Death of Materialism and the Renewal of Culture". A year later, the conservative Seattle think tank Discovery Institute, using a grant provided by extremist fundamentalist Howard Ahmanson, founded a division specifically to carry on the political work of expanding "intelligent design theory" into education. This division grew directly out of Johnson's "Death of Materialism and the Renewal of Culture" conference, and was itself originally named the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. Shortly afterwards, the name was changed to the Center for Science and Culture because the old name produced too much religious connotation. At about the same time, the Center's logo, showing Michealangelo's God reaching out to touch a strand of DNA, was dropped and replaced by some photos from the Hubble Space Telescope -- apparently the old logo was too explicit about the Center's religious aims.
All of the founding figures in the design movement -- Johnson, Dembski, Meyer, Behe, Nelson, Wells -- are Fellows or Senior Fellows at Discovery Institute, and the Center for Science and Culture remains the largest, most prominent and most prolific advocate of Intelligent Design "theory".
The "intelligent design" movement, like the earlier creation "scientists", claims to be a solely scientific group which argues that the "scientific evidence" supports the view that "an unknown intelligent designer" manipulated the development of life. Unlike the creation "science" movement, though, which published book after book detailing their conclusions about evolution (or the lack of it) and a young earth, the intelligent design movement is very careful to avoid any and all discussion about such topics as the age of the earth, or whether humans are descended from primates. This is a deliberate strategy on their part to avoid the internal doctrinal schisms which have always destroyed creationist organizations -- it is also a deliberate effort to distance themselves from the earlier creation "scientists" who the Supreme Court had rejected. IDers are also very careful to make no statement or implication about who or what this "intelligent designer" is, or what exactly it is supposed to have done. In particular, they deny strenuously that ID is just creationism renamed, or that the "intelligent designer" is really just God, instead asserting that it could just as easily be space aliens who "intelligently designed" life:
"Creationism is focused on defending a literal reading of the Genesis account, usually including the creation of the earth by the Biblical God a few thousand years ago. Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text." (Discovery Institute website)
"Intelligent design theory may hold implications for fields outside of science such as theology, ethics, and philosophy. But such implications are distinct from intelligent design as a scientific research program." (Discovery Institute website)
"Although intelligent design fits comfortably with a belief in God, it doesn't require it, because the scientific theory doesn't tell you who the designer is," Behe said. "While most people -- including me -- will think the designer is God, some people might think that the designer was a space alien...". Michael Behe (quoted in Pittsburg Post-Gazette")
"It could be space aliens. There are many possibilities." (William Dembski, quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle)
"For this purpose, it does not matter whether the intelligence is thought to belong to God, or to some alien race of intelligent beings, or to some entity we cannot yet imagine." (Phillip Johnson, posting in the ARN discussion forum)
In their candid moments, though, the prominent IDers are open about their real aims:
"We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). 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." -- Discovery Institute's "Wedge Document"
"1. To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies. 2. To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God." -- Discovery Institute's "Wedge Document"
"What I always say is that it's not just scientific theory. The question is best understood as: Is God real or imaginary?" (Phillip Johnson quoted, The Search for Intelligent Design in the Universe, Silicon Valley Magazine, January 9, 2000).
"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." (Phillip Johnson, American Family Radio, Jan 10, 2003 broadcast)
"Intelligent design is the Logos of John's Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory." (William Dembski, Jul/Aug 1999, Touchstone, p. 84)
"So the question is: "How to win?" That's when I began to develop what you now see full-fledged in the "wedge" strategy: "Stick with the most important thing" -- the mechanism and the building up of information. Get the Bible and the Book of Genesis out of the debate because you do not want to raise the so-called Bible-science dichotomy. Phrase the argument in such a way that you can get it heard in the secular academy and in a way that tends to unify the religious dissenters. That means concentrating on, "Do you need a Creator to do the creating, or can nature do it on its own?" and refusing to get sidetracked onto other issues, which people are always trying to do." (Phillip E. Johnson, Touchstone Magazine interview, June 2002.)
"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." (Phillip Johnson, "The Wedge", Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, July/August 1999.)
"Intelligent Design is an intellectual movement, and the Wedge strategy stops working when we are seen as just another way of packaging the Christian evangelical message. ... The evangelists do what they do very well, and I hope our work opens up for them some doors that have been closed." (Phillip Johnson. "Keeping the Darwinists Honest", an interview with Phillip Johnson, Citizen Magazine, April 1999.)
"Intelligent design theory" is simply a watered-down version of creationism which attempts to avoid falling afoul of Constitutional conflicts by removing nearly all of the previously accepted tenets of creationism. It is, as one reviewer memorably referred to it, "creationism in a cheap tuxedo". Rather than a "creator", ID "theory" speaks of an un-named "intelligent designer", which they make no effort to identify. In order to avoid identification with Genesis or other religious beliefs, "intelligent design theory" makes no statements about the age of the earth, or any of the particular actions which the "intelligent designer" may or may not have done. By limiting ID "theory" to vague assertions and inferences, advocates hope to avoid identifying their "scientific theory" with religion, and thus to avoid the Constitutional issues that had doomed all of the previous anti-evolution efforts.
Some idea of the Discovery Institute's real aims, however, can be revealed by looking at its funding sources. Nearly all of the Discovery Institute's money comes in the form of grants from wealthy "conservative" fundamentalist Christians. In 2003, the Discovery Institute received some $4.1 million in donations and grants. At least twenty-two different foundations give money to the DI; two- thirds of these are religious institutions with explicitly Christian aims and goals. In its first year of operations, DI got around $450,000 from the Maclellan Foundation, a fundamentalist lobbying group in Tennessee. The executive director of the Maclellan Foundation was explicit about the purpose of its donation; "We give for religious purposes. This is not about science, and Darwin wasn't about science. Darwin was about a metaphysical view of the world." (NY Times, Aug 21, 2005) DI has also received donations from the Henry P. and Susan C. Crowell Trust of Colorado Springs. The trust's website states, "Our Mission: The teaching and active extension of the doctrines of Evangelical Christianity through approved grants to qualified organizations." Another DI donor is the AMDG Foundation in Virginia, run by Mark Ryland, a former Microsoft exec and Discovery vice president. According to the New York Times, "the initials stand for Ad Majorem Dei Glorium, Latin for 'To the greater glory of God,' which Pope John Paul II etched in the corner of all his papers." (NY Times, Aug 21, 2005) The Stewardship Foundation gave the group more than $1 million between 1999 and 2003. According to their website, "The Stewardship Foundation provides resources to Christ-centered organizations whose mission is to share their faith in Jesus Christ with people throughout the world."
The single biggest source of money for the Discovery Institute's anti-evolution fight, though, is Howard Ahmanson, a California savings-and-loan bigwig. Ahmanson's gift of $1.5 million was the original seed money to organize the Center for Science and Culture, the arm of the Discovery Institute which focuses on promoting "intelligent design theory". By his own reckoning, Ahmanson gives more of his money to the DI than to any other politically active group -- only a museum trust in his wife's hometown in Iowa and a Bible college in New Jersey get more. In 2004, he reportedly gave the Center another $2.8 million. Ahmanson has, by himself, provided about one-third of the total donations to the Discovery Institute during its existence, and funds about one-fourth of the Institute's annual operating expenses. He sits on the Board Directors of Discovery Institute.
Ahmanson was, for 20 years, a member of the board of directors of the Chalcedon Foundation, a think tank belonging to the Christian Reconstructionist movement -- a fringe group of fundamentalists who argue that the US Constitution should be abandoned and the US should be "reconstructed" under "Biblical law". They are the Christian equivalent of the Muslim fundamentalists who want to form "Islamic states" under "Islamic law". Ahmanson was long associated with JR Rushdooney -- one of the original founders of the Reconstructionist movement and one of the original financial backers of Henry Morris and the ICR (Rushdooney paid most of the publishing costs for Morris's first book, The Genesis Flood. Similarly, Phillip Johnson dedicated his book Defeating Darwinism to "Howard and Roberta" -- Ahmanson and his wife.)
After the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture was established (with Ahmanson's money), one of its first tasks was to organize the fledgling ID movement. At the 1996 "Mere Creation" conference at Biola University in California, over 160 ID supporters met to plan strategy. Participant John Angus Campbell reported:
"The theme of the talks on Friday morning was "Foundations for a Theory of Design" and in the afternoon "Biological Evidence for Design." . . . Dembski gave what I thought was one of his most cogent accounts of how and where "intelligent design" fits into science as an explanation. His talk was titled "Redesigning Science" -- and that clearly is what he had in mind. He offered us the Explanatory Filter, explaining how the three levels (law, chance, design) functioned in scientific explanation. Meyer was just as cogent and came through with an exceptionally lively and detailed talk on "DNA and the Origin of Information." . . . . Of this trinity presaging the designed philosophic wrath to come, Nelson spoke last, on "Applying Design Within Biology." He stressed that worries about making erroneous design inferences (as, for instance, Kepler did concerning intelligent life on the moon) should not exclude design from science generally. In the afternoon Michael Behe (Lehigh) weighed in with the most entertaining and one of the most effective talks of the conference. . . . What I thought was particularly helpful and new in Mike's talk was his theme, which as his title indicated was "Intelligent Design As a Tool for Analyzing Biochemical Systems." I came away from Mike's talk in particular impressed with the point that "intelligent design" offers real research program." (Campbell, "Report on the Mere Creation Conference", Origins and Design, 1997, available at: http://www.arn.org/docs/odesign/od181/mere181.htm)
William Dembski's first book, "Mere Creation", was an edited compilation of presentations from this conference. Other books by IDers followed; William Dembski's "Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology", and "No Free Lunch"; Jonathan Wells' "Icons of Evolution"; "Privileged Planet", by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards; and "Darwinism, Design, and Public Education", by John Angus Campbell and Stephen Meyer.
The most important document in understanding the Intelligent Design movement, however, was one that was not intended for publication at all.
In 1999, an internal Discovery Institute document was leaked to the Internet by two people in Seattle. In January 1999, Matt Duss, a part-time employee in a copy center, was handed a document from the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, stamped TOP SECRET and NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION, to copy. Having an interest in evolution and science, Duss glanced through the document and was amazed at what he saw -- he promptly made himself an extra copy and passed it on to friend Tim Rhodes, who scanned the entire document and put it up on the World Wide Web on February 5, 1999 . The document appears to have been written in 1998, and it outlines the Discovery Institute's longterm plan to, as it states, replace science with a "broadly theistic understanding of nature" (Discovery institute, The Wedge Document, 1999), and its tactic of using the fight against evolution as a "wedge" to do this. The authenticity of the "Wedge Document", as it quickly became known, was later admitted by the Discovery Institute.
The Wedge Document is crucial in understanding exactly what the goals of the ID movement are, and how they planned to meet them. The document is reproduced, in its entirety, as an appendix at the end of this book.
It is a remarkable document. It lays out, in clear detail, a five-year plan to, in effect, undo the Enlightenment, replacing the entire idea of a secular society with the ID movement's own vision of religious supremacy. Not just biology or science, but all of civil society, including law, politics and even art, would bow before fundamentalist religious views. The influence of not only the Christian fundamentalists, but the radically extremist Reconstructionists, is apparent throughout the Wedge's program.
The Wedge outlines its plan for "cultural renewal" in three phases, containing a number of different tracks and approaches. All of them have been put into effect.
"Phase I: Research, Writing and Publication
Phase I is the essential component of everything that comes afterward. Without solid scholarship, research and argument, the project would be just another attempt to indoctrinate instead of persuade. A lesson we have learned from the history of science is that it is unnecessary to outnumber the opposing establishment.
Scientific revolutions are usually staged by an initially small and relatively young group of scientists who are not blinded by the prevailing prejudices and who are able to do creative work at the pressure points, that is, on those critical issues upon which whole systems of thought hinge. So, in Phase I we are supporting vital witting and research at the sites most likely to crack the materialist edifice.
"Phase II: Publicity and Opinion-making
Phase II. The primary purpose of Phase II is to prepare the popular reception of our ideas. The best and truest research can languish unread and unused unless it is properly publicized. For this reason we seek to cultivate and convince influential individuals in pnnt and broadcast media, as well as think tank leaders, scientists and academics, congressional staff, talk show hosts, college and seminary presidents and faculty, future talent and potential academic allies. Because of his long tenure in politics, journalism and public policy, Discovery President Bruce Chapman brings to the project rare knowledge and acquaintance of key op-ed writers, journalists, and political leaders. This combination of scientific and scholarly expertise and media and political connections makes the Wedge unique, and also prevents it from being "merely academic." Other activities include production of a PBS documentary on intelligent design and its implications, and popular op-ed publishing. Alongside a focus on influential opinion-makers, we also seek to build up a popular base of support among our natural constituency, namely, Christians. We will do this primarily through apologetics seminars. We intend these to encourage and equip believers with new scientific evidence's that support the faith, as well as to "popularize" our ideas in the broader culture.
"Phase III: Cultural Confrontation and Renewal
Phase III. Once our research and writing have had time to mature, and the public prepared for the reception of design theory, we will move toward direct confrontation with the advocates of materialist science through challenge conferences in significant academic settings. We will also pursue possible legal assistance in response to resistance to the integration of design theory into public school science curricula. The attention, publicity, and influence of design theory should draw scientific materialists into open debate with design theorists, and we will be ready. With an added emphasis to the social sciences and humanities, we will begin to address the specific social consequences of materialism and the Darwinist theory that supports it in the sciences." (Wedge Document)
The very first sentence of the Wedge Document makes plain the underlying religious aim of the Discovery Institute's anti-evolution campaign: "The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western Civilization was built." (Wedge Document) The Discovery Institute, like other fundamentalist Christians, refers to the rejection of this religious idea as "the philosophy of materialism" or "naturalism" or sometimes "darwinism" (all are phrases which have long been the fundamentalist code words for "atheism"), and explicitly states that this materialistic atheism is the direct result of science: "This cardinal idea came under wholesale attack by intellectuals drawing on the discoveries of modern science. Debunking the traditional conceptions of both God and man, thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud portrayed humans not as moral and spiritual beings, but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces and whose behavior and very thoughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry, and environment. This materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art." (Wedge Document) Thus, the Discovery Institute's basic complaint can be summed up as "science is atheistic". Under the heading "Governing Goals", the Discovery Institute lists, "To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God." (Wedge Document, 1999)
The goal of Discovery Institute's "intelligent design theory", then, is to replace "materialism" with . . . . well . . . they are very careful in court and in legislation to not name their replacement. However, since "materialism" and "naturalism" have long been the fundamentalist code words for "atheism", and since nothing but a god or deity is capable of using any non-"materialistic" or super-"naturalistic" mechanism or process, it seems pretty certain that what Discovery Institute wants is to introduce theism into science and to force science to bow before its religious opinions. As the Wedge Document puts it, "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."
The Discovery Institute, after a long silence, has attempted to deflect concerns about the Wedge Document in a web article ("The Wedge Document; So what?", Discovery Institute website, March 1, 2004). Their "response" is fraught with deception and evasion.
The Institute first tries to downplay the significance of the document, by dismissing it as a mere "early fundraising proposal". Even a cursory reading of the document, however, demonstrates this claim to be nonsense. Nowhere in the entire document is there any appeal for funds, nor any mention of fundraising. What is mentioned, however, are things such as "The Wedge Strategy", "Five Year Strategic Plan Summary", "Governing Goals", "Five Year Goals", "Twenty Year Goals", and "The Wedge Strategy Progress Summary". The document also lists a number of steps to be taken to advance the ID agenda -- every one of which Discovery Institute subsequently carried out (or attempted to). The DI's claim that the Wedge Document is just a "fundraising proposal" and not actually a planning document outlining the goals of the Institute and the steps it plans to take in order to reach those goals, is not only dishonest and plainly untrue, it is also completely irrelevant. It makes no difference whether the Wedge Document is a strategy guide, a fundraising proposal, or a memo for the Institute's janitor. What does matter (and what the Discovery Institute's "response" fails utterly to acknowledge or defend) is that the Wedge Document clearly, unequivocably and unmistakably declares, in print, that the "governing goal" of the Institute is to advance their religious beliefs, that "intelligent design theory" is the primary method they have chosen to pursue that goal, and that they have an articulated pre-planned 20-year strategy to use ID "theory" as a method of advancing their religious goals. Despite all the DI's arm-waving, the Wedge Document demonstrates that the sole and only aim of the Institute is to use "intelligent design theory" in classrooms as a means of advancing a religious renewal -- exactly what the US Constitution says they cannot do. And when they claim that ID "theory" has no religious aims or purpose, the Wedge Document demonstrates that IDers are flat-out lying to us.
Published statements by DI associates confirm that "renewing our culture" by replacing "scientific materialism" with "God" or a "theistic understanding of nature" is indeed the only aim and purpose of "intelligent design theory". DI associate George Gilder wrote an entire piece entitled "The Materialist Superstition" which decries "the Darwinian materialist paradigm", and advocates replacing it with "intelligent design", which, Gilder implies (but is very careful not to explicitly state), is non-materialistic. ("The Materialistic Superstition", Discovery Institute Website, 2005). Other ID advocates, however, have at times been less circumspect.
Phillip Johnson, who talks much more openly than the others about the explicit anti-atheistic goals of "intelligent design theory", specifically contrasts "scientific materialism" with "divine intervention";
"It is the alleged absence of divine intervention throughout the history of life -- the strict materialism of the orthodox theory -- that explains why a great many people, only some of whom are biblical fundamentalists, think that Darwinian evolution (beyond the micro level) is basically materialistic philosophy disguised as scientific fact." (Johnson, "The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism", First Things, November 1997, PP 22-25)
"Science also has become identified with a philosophy known as materialism or scientific naturalism. This philosophy insists that nature is all there is, or at least the only thing about which we can have any knowledge. It follows that nature had to do its own creating, and that the means of creation must not have included any role for God. . . . The reason the theory of evolution is so controversial is that it is the main scientific prop for scientific naturalism. Students first learn that "evolution is a fact," and then they gradually learn more and more about what that "fact" means. It means that all living things are the product of mindless material forces such as chemical laws, natural selection, and random variation. So God is totally out of the picture, and humans (like everything else) are the accidental product of a purposeless universe." (Johnson, "The Church of Darwin", Wall Street Journal, August 16, 1999).
"For now we need to stick to the main point: In the beginning was the Word, and the 'fear of God -- recognition of our dependence upon God -- is still the beginning of wisdom. If materialist science can prove otherwise then so be it, but everything we are learning about the evidence suggests that we don't need to worry. (Johnson, "How to Sink a Battleship; A Call to Separate Materialist Philosophy from Empriical Science", address to the 1996 "Mere Creation Conference")
Johnson explicitly calls for "a better scientific theory, one genuinely based on unbiased empirical evidence and not on materialist philosophy" (Johnson, "How to Sink a Battleship). Johnson doesn't tell us what this non-materialistic philosophy might be that he wants to base science on, but it is clear from the rest of his statements that he, like every other IDer, wants to base science on his religious beliefs.
DI associate Michael Behe also makes the connection between fighting "scientific materialism" and "theistic understanding of nature" explicitly clear.
"Darwinism is the most plausible unintelligent mechanism, yet it has tremendous difficulties and the evidence garnered so far points to its inability to do what its advocates claim for it. If unintelligent mechanisms can't do the job, then that shifts the focus to intelligent agency. That's as far as the argument against Darwinism takes us, but most people already have other reasons for believing in a personal God who just might act in history, and they will find the argument for intelligent design fits with what they already hold. With the argument arranged this way, evidence against Darwinism does count as evidence for an active God, just as valid negative advertising against the Democratic candidate will help the Republican, even though Vegetarian and One-World candidates are on the ballot, too. Life is either the result of exclusively unintelligent causes or it is not, and the evidence against the unintelligent production of life is clearly evidence for intelligent design." (Behe, "The God of Science", Weekly Standard, June 7, 1999, p. 35)
"Naturalism is a philosophy which says that material things are all that there is. But philosophy is not science, and therefore excluding ideas which point to a creator, which point to God, is not allowed simply because in public schools in the United States one is not allowed to discriminate either for or against ideas which have religious implications." (Behe, Speech at Calvary Chapel, March 6, 2002)
Another DI associate, William Dembski, makes the connection between ID and Christian apologetics even more explicit:
"Not only does intelligent design rid us of this ideology, which suffocates the human spirit, but, in my personal experience, I've found that it opens the path for people to come to Christ. Indeed, once materialism is no longer an option, Christianity again becomes an option. True, there are then also other options. But Christianity is more than able to hold its own once it is seen as a live option. The problem with materialism is that it rules out Christianity so completely that it is not even a live option. Thus, in its relation to Christianity, intelligent design should be viewed as a ground-clearing operation that gets rid of the intellectual rubbish that for generations has kept Christianity from receiving serious consideration." (Dembski, "Intelligent Design's Contribution to the Debate Over Evolution", Designinference.com website, February 2005).
Indeed, Dembski titled one of his books Intelligent Design; the Bridge Between Science and Theology (Dembski, 1999). In that book, Dembski makes the religious basis of ID "theory" explicit: "The conceptual soundings of the theory can in the end only be located in Christ." (Dembski, 1999, p. 210). Other statements by Dembski make it clear that his designer cannot be anything other than God:
"The fine-tuning of the universe, about which cosmologists make such a to-do, is both complex and specified and readily yields design. So too, Michael Behe's irreducibly complex biochemical systems readily yield design. The complexity-specification criterion demonstrates that design pervades cosmology and biology. Moreover, it is a transcendent design, not reducible to the physical world. Indeed, no intelligent agent who is strictly physical could have presided over the origin of the universe or the origin of life." (Dembski, "The Act of Creation", ARN website, Aug 1998)
"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." (Dembski, "Dealing with the backlash against intelligent design", 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." (Dembski, address given at Fellowship Baptist Church, Waco, Texas, March 7, 2004) "Even so, 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." (Dembski, Why President Bush Got It Right about Intelligent Design, 2005)
"We are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a "wedge" that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points. The very beginning of this strategy, the "thin edge of the wedge," was Phillip Johnson's critique of Darwinism begun in 1991 in Darwinism on Trial, and continued in Reason in the Balance and Defeatng Darwinism by Opening Minds. Michael Behe's highly successful Darwin's Black Box followed Johnson's work. We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). 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." (Wedge Document, 1999)
In these public statements by DI associates and its own internal documents, we see the legal and political strategy of "intelligent design theory" in a nutshell -- ID wants to eliminate "materialism" and "atheism" in favor of "theistic understanding", but since it's illegal in the US to advance religion in public schools, ID advocates have no choice but to downplay and avoid mentioning their clearly stated goal of doing exactly what the law says they cannot do -- using the public schools to advance their religious beliefs. In other words, they must be deceptive.
It is important to understand that intelligent design "theory" is, if you will pardon the pun, intelligently designed -- specifically and solely to attempt to evade and get around all of the Federal court cases which make it illegal to use the schools to advance religion. However, the fundamentalist IDers seem to be their own worst enemies, and their own incessant compulsion to attack "materialism", "atheism", "darwinism" and "naturalism", gives the lie to their claims to be non-religious. The entire approach of ID is fatally flawed, right from the start, by an insoluble contradiction. In order for the ID strategy to be successful, it absolutely requires that all of its supporters keep quiet, indefinitely, about the one thing they care most about in the whole world -- their fundamentalist religious opinions. As the history of ID shows, they can't do it. They don't want to do it. What IDers want to do is preach, and it is simply an impossible task to preach while at the same time claiming that one is not preaching. Intelligent design "theory" is, as the Discovery Institute admitted from the beginning in its own internal document, simply a legal and political strategy to "wedge" their religious opinions into public schools and from there to larger society. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. It has the sole and only aim of advancing religion by attacking science's presumed "atheism" and "materialism". ID "theory" is nothing but an advancement of religious beliefs, and IDers are flat-out lying to us when they claim otherwise.
Since ID is, at root, simply an attempt to continue the creationist program of teaching religious opinions in public schools, it is no surprise that all of the "scientific arguments" made by the IDers are simply rehashed versions of thirty-year-old creation "science" boilerplate. All of the ID arguments are subordinated to the overall political goal laid out in the Wedge Document.
Lenny Flank is the author of Creation "Science" Debunked and Lenny Flank's Herp Page.