The Wedge: A Progress Report


Phillip E. Johnson
Berkeley, California, April 16, 2001

Approximately ten years ago, I formulated the Wedge strategy with two related goals. The first was to legitimate the topic of intelligent design, and hence the critique of Darwinism and its basis in naturalistic philosophy, within the mainstream intellectual community. The second was to make the critique of naturalism the central focus of discussion in the religious world, replacing the deadlocked debate over the Genesis chronology which had enabled the Darwinists to employ the "Inherit the Wind stereotype" so effectively. The goals are intertwined because the approach which is capable of challenging the dominant philosophy in the secular world will also tend to attract the most interest in the religious world. Likewise, the secular world finds it fairly easy to ignore a view which it can categorize as marginal in the religious world, but very difficult to ignore a view which has widespread and growing public support. I believe that getting the right issues on the table for unprejudiced discussion is the all-important step. Once that is accomplished, it will be impossible to conceal for long that Darwinism is based on naturalistic philosophy rather than on scientific testing, and that unprejudiced evaluation of the scientific evidence points to the existence of intelligent causes in biology.

I optimistically predicted at the beginning that both goals would be achieved by the start of the new millennium. That could be dated either at January 1, 2000 or, to give a bit of wriggle room, a year later. I was not ready to declare success on either of those dates, although I knew we were very close. The recent front page stories in the Sunday Los Angeles Times (March 25) and the Sunday New York Times (April 8), in the context of other developments, meet the criteria for success I have specified. One key development has been the publication of so many excellent articles and books written or edited by Wedge participants. The books by Michael Behe, William Dembski, and Jonathan Wells are already well known, and others just as important are on the way. Another key development has been the increasingly cordial and mutually respectful relations among the differing factions of those who advocate creation, or who merely oppose the dominant naturalistic system of thought control. Indeed, my own personal friendships cut right across the traditional divisions. Everyone who wants to encourage open-minded critical thinking about fundamental issues is our ally; only those who want to keep minds closed or confused are adversaries.

This is a progress report, not a victory statement. One of my agnostic friends described the front page of the New York Times (especially Sunday) as "the most valuable intellectual property in the world." We have established a beachhead in that territory, but there are many difficult steps ahead. Most journalists and professors are still confused by an education that has taught them that science and naturalism are virtually the same thing. Theistic methodological naturalists still dominate the Christian academic world and the "religion/science" dialogue. Many people who are potentially on our side don't yet understand the importance of the rules of reasoning. They ask questions like "Couldn't God have used evolution?" or allow themselves to be pacified by spin doctors who reassure them that epistemic naturalism is merely a methodology confined to science.

There is plenty of difficult (and fascinating) work ahead, but the Wedge is lodged securely in the crack. I am confident that there will be a continually growing public acceptance of the principle that intelligent causation is a legitimate subject for scientific investigation. Once the principle is accepted that we should distinguish between the philosophical support for Darwinism and the claimed empirical support, the train is already moving along the logical track and it will not stop until it reaches its destination. The inadequacy of the Darwinian mechanism to account for complex specified information and irreducible complexity is only the first subject to have emerged into the mainstream, and others will follow. The importance of this intellectual movement is by no means limited to science. Scientific naturalism has done its greatest damage in the arts and humanities.

The initial goals of the Wedge strategy have been accomplished. As Winston Churchill said after a crucial victory, it's not the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning.

Phillip E. Johnson