The Wedge Document

The Wedge is more than 15 years old, and was written by a man who is long retired from the ID community. What one man’s motives were are irrelevant to the science of ID Theory. Phillip Johnson is the one who came up with the Wedge document, and it is nothing other than a summary of personal motives, which have nothing directly to do with science. Johnson is 71 years old.  Johnson’s views do not reflect the younger generation of Intelligent Design (ID) Theory advocates who are partial to approaching biology from a design perspective.

Philip Johnson

Philip Johnson is the original author of the Wedge Document

Some might raise the Wedge document as evidence that there has been an ulterior motive. The Discovery Institute has a response to this as well:

The motives of Phillip Johnson are not shared by myself or other ID advocates, and do not reflect the views or position of the ID community or the Discovery Institute. This point would be similar to someone criticizing evolutionary theory because Richard Dawkins would have a biased approach to science in the fact that he is an atheist and political activist.

I. THE WEDGE AND POLITICAL VIEWS OF THE DISCOVERY INSTITUTE ARE A SOCIAL AND IDEOLOGICAL ARGUMENT IRRELEVANT TO THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD.

Some critics would contend the following:

“With regards to how this is relevant, one part of the Discovery Institute’s strategy is the slogan ‘teach the controversy.’  This slogan deliberately tries to make opponents look like they are against teaching ‘all’ of science to students.”

How can such an appeal be objectionable? This is a meaningless point of contention. I don’t know whether the slogan, “teach the controversy” does indeed “deliberately” try “to make opponents look like they are against teaching ‘all’ of science to students.” That should not be the issue.

My position is this:

1. The slogan is harmless, and should be the motto of any individual or group interested in education and advancement of science. This should be a universally accepted ideal.

2. I fully believe and am entirely convinced that the mainstream scientific community does indeed adhere to censorship, and present a one-sided and therefore distorted portrayal of the facts and empirical data.

The fact remains that Intelligent Design is a scientifically fit theory that is about information, not designers.  ID is largely based upon the work of William Dembski, in which he introduced the concept of Complex Specified Information in 1998.  In 1996, biochemist Michael Behe championed the ID-inspired hypothesis of irreducible complexity.  It’s been 17 years since Behe made the predictions of irreducible complexity in his book, “Darwin’s Black Box,” and to this day the four proposed systems to be irreducibly complex have not yet been falsified after thorough examination by molecular biologists.  Those four biochemical systems are the blood-clotting cascade, bacterial flagellum, immune system, and the cilium.

The Wedge2

II. EXCEPT QUOTATIONS OF THE WEDGE ARE ALSO IRRELEVANT BECAUSE THE DISCOVERY INSTITUTE HAS ALREADY PROVIDED THEIR UPDATED REVISION OF THE DOC.

Please keep in mind that my initial concerns about complaints concerning the Wedge document are primarily based upon relevance.  The Discovery Institute repealed and amended the Wedge.  Additionally, the Discovery Institute added extra commentary to clarify their present position.  It’s interesting when I am presented links to the Wedge Document, it is often the updated revised draft.  This being so, then it makes it questionable as to why critics continue quoting from the former outdated and obsolete version.  It is quite a comical obsolete argument that goes against the complainant’s credibility.  In fact, it’s an exercise of the same intellectual dishonesty that the ID antagonists is accusing of the Discovery Institute.

If one desires to criticize the views of the Discovery Institute, then such a person must use the materials that they claim are the actual present position held by the Discovery Institute and ID proponents.  I would further add:

1. ID proponents repudiate the Wedge, and distance themselves from it.

2. Mr. Johnson who authored the Wedge is retired, and that the document is obsolete.

Much about Intelligent Design theory has nothing to do with ideology or religion, such as when ID is demonstrated as an applied science “Intelligent Design” is simply just another word for Bio-Design.  Aside from biomimicry and biomimetics, other areas of science overlap into the definition of ID Theory, such as Natural Genetic Engineering, quantum biology, bioinformatics, bio-inspired nanotechnology, selective breeding, biotechnology, genetic engineering, synthetic biology, bionics, prosthetic implants, to name a few. 

The Wedge
III. THOSE WHO RELY UPON THE WEDGE AND MOVIE EXPELLED ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE MOTIVES OF THE DISCOVERY INSTITUTE FAIL TO MEET THE RELEVANCE REQUIREMENT.

ID antagonists claim:

“The very conception of ‘Intelligent Design’ entails just how ‘secular’ and ‘scientific’ the group tried to make their ‘theory’ sound.  It was created with Christian intentions in mind.”

This is circular reasoning, which is a logic fallacy.  The idea just restates the opening thesis argument as the conclusion, and does nothing to support the conclusion.  It also does not overcome the relevance issue as to the views maintained by the Discovery Institute and ID advocates today.

There is no evidence offered by those who raise the Wedge complaint to connect a religious or ideological motive to ID advocacy. ID Theory must be provided the same opportunity to make predictions, and test a repeatable and falsifiable design-inspired hypothesis.  If anyone has a problem with this, then they own the burden of proof to show why ID scientists are disqualified from performing the scientific method.  In other words, to reject ID on the sole basis of the Wedge document is essentially unjustifiable discrimination based upon a difference of opinion of ideological views.   At the end of the day, the only way to falsify a scientific falsifiable scientific hypothesis is to run the experimentation, and use the empirical data to confirm a claim.

Intelligent Design can be expressed as a scientific theory.  Valid scientific predictions can be premised based upon a pro ID-inspired conjecture.  The issue is whether or not ID actually conforms to the scientific method. If it does, then the objection by ID opponents is without merit and irrelevant. If ID fails in scientific reasoning, then critics simply need to demonstrate that, and then they will be vindicated.  Otherwise, ID Theory remains a perfectly valid testable and falsifiable proposition regardless of its social issues.

So far, ID critics have not made any attempt to offer one solitary scientific argument or employ scientific reasoning as to the basis of ID Theory.

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3 Responses to The Wedge Document

  1. anthropith says:

    I think it’s important to recognize that Phillip Johnson (and some others) did have an ulterior motive, and were pursuing – for want of a far better phrase – a conspiracy to undermine evolutionary theory by trickery and deception, rather than by scientific endeavor.

    It’s important for two reasons:

    First to acknowledge that there is no place in scientific inquiry for motives other than the search for facts and understanding.

    Second to acknowledge that making the accusation of one or other theory being in their entirety ‘Lies’ and ‘Conspiracy’ is just plain ignorant.

    I don’t know of any supporter of the theory of evolution who would claim that challenges against evolutionary theory are a grand malicious theory, a lie, a conspiracy.

  2. Casey Luskin says:

    Dennis — I appreciate a lot of what you say here, and you make a lot of good points. But when was it established that Phillip Johnson wrote the “Wedge document”? To my knowledge, Johnson did not write the “Wedge Document.” That’s an urban legend promoted (and invented) by ID-antagonists. I’m not sure exactly who wrote the “Wedge Document,” but I’m pretty sure it was someone whose involvement with founding the ID movement was much less than Phillip Johnson’s.

    Whoever it was, as you correctly say, one person’s motives 15 years ago don’t matter.

    • Hi Casey. Well, I might have to edit this article and make the correction. It’s been a while since I wrote this, but apparently I might have swallowed the urban legend, as you say. But, what surprises me is that of all people, I would think you would know who the author was. I would think if it was someone of less status that should be noted that it does not reflect the views of the Discovery Institute. Anyway, thanks for the feedback. I think I got the motives response from reading your “so what” essay, if my memory serves me right.

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