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Austin Cline

Wedge Strategy of the Christian Right: Pushing Religion in the Guise of Science

By January 1, 2006

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One of the refreshing things about Judge Jones' decision in the Dover trial was his reference to the infamous 'Wedge' strategy of Intelligent Design supporters. Far from being a scholarly and scientific research program, Intelligent Design was conceived from the outset as a means for injecting more religion, theism, and Christianity into schools and American culture generally.

Americans United reported during the Dover, Pennsylvania trial over teaching Intelligent Design in public schools:

Phillip Johnson, a former law professor at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law, pioneered a strategy to promote intelligent design that he calls “The Wedge.” A conservative Christian who began attacking evolution after a conversion experience, Johnson makes little effort to downplay his theological opinions. He tells religious audiences that evolution inherently promotes atheism while outlining his plan to use ID to cast doubt on Darwin’s theory. (In fact, an array of Christian denominations and leaders, including Pope John Paul II, have concluded that evolution does not conflict with religion.)

Johnson has ambitious goals. Addressing a receptive crowd of fundamentalists at a 1999 conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., sponsored by TV preacher D. James Kennedy, Johnson was frank in outlining them.

To Johnson, intelligent design is just a vehicle to get people thinking about religion. He argued that the debate should be shifted from evolution vs. creationism to the question of God’s existence. Once people are persuaded that evolution denies the existence of God, Johnson said, they are ready for the next step: They are introduced to “the truth” of the Bible, “the question of sin” and finally “introduced to Jesus.”

If you wonder why so many creationists falsely claim that evolution entails atheism, this is why: the assertion is necessary for their larger goal of getting people to read the Bible and accept Jesus Christ as their personal lord and saviour. It is, in effect, yet one more example of people lying for the sake of converting people to their religion.

Johnson called for temporarily suspending the debate between young-Earth creationists, who insist that Earth is only 6,000 years old, and old-Earth creationists, who accept that the planet is ancient. The debate can be resumed, he said, once ID has been used to overthrow Darwinism. “You must unify your own side and divide the other side,” Johnson, himself an old-Earth creationist, told the crowd.

Is it honest to mask fundamental theological differences in order to attack science and replace it with religion? That’s debatable; less debatable is the foolishness of those who buy what Phillip Johnson is selling. His goal is to replace science with religion... but whose religion?

Everyone following along with him expects or at least hopes that it will be their religion that comes out on top, but what assurances do they have of this? So long as there is no debate among the various groups, there is also no discussion about what, precisely, will replace naturalistic science. They have to be hoping that Phillip Johnson and other leaders of Intelligent Design will support them, but there’s little foundation for such faith.

More than once Johnson had admitted that his crusade really isn’t about science. In an interview with the evangelical magazine World in 1996, he said, “This isn’t really, and never has been, a debate about science…. It’s about religion and philosophy.”

Johnson reiterated the religious nature of ID during a 2003 appearance on American Family Radio, a broadcast outlet run by the Rev. Donald Wildmon of the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association. “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,” he said.

Here was have it just as plain as it can be: Intelligent Design has been designed to introduce the “reality of God” (by which is meant a conservative evangelical conception of God and Jesus Christ) to schools and, ultimately, throughout America’s highly secularized culture. A secularized culture is one which relegates religion to a personal choice, something unacceptable to Christian Nationalists and Supremacists.

It is worth pondering the fact that there is nothing stopping people from “introducing” God, Jesus, and Christianity into culture on their own — they can and do talk about religion all they really want. Why focus on science classes? One reason may be the fact that science is highly respected in modern society and comes with a strong aura of truth — something which traditional religion lacks.

 

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