Presenting 'the scientific theory of' evolution
Presenting 'the scientific theory of' evolutionBy Tony Plakas - 2/28/2008 - South Florida Sun Sentinel - originalLast week's 4-3 decision by the Florida Board of Education to embrace evolution in its science standards attracted a predictable amount of media attention. But the board's debate was more than just a tale of two theories; it was a clear illustration of a strategy outlined in The Wedge Document to bring intelligent design into your home.
The Wedge Document was developed nearly 10 years ago by the Discovery Institute, the nucleus of the intelligent design movement, as a business development strategy. It detailed an aggressive 20-year plan to utilize "research and writing, publicity and opinion making, and cultural confrontation" as tools to infuse "religious, cultural, moral, and political life with intelligent design theory." The Wedge's approach first focused on academic research and writing to document doubt in evolution, then on publicity campaigning to prepare those doubts for "popular reception," and finally on the mass introduction of the theory itself. The plan's governing goal is for intelligent design to prevail as a dominant perspective in science and in many other areas of life.
In 2005, a U.S. district judge ruled the Dover, Pa., school district violated the Constitution by requiring intelligent design theory be taught as an alternative to evolution. His action indicted intelligent design as a creationist Trojan horse. The real Trojan horse, however, is the strategy to target Christian constituencies by casting local, state and national debates on education, legal and personal responsibility and other life issues within a theistic framework. As suggested by its name, the basis of the approach is that "even the smallest wedge can split the trunk of a large tree when aimed at its weakest points."
In this most recent incarnation, a very small wedge was aimed at science standards reviewed by the Florida Board of Education. It was in the shape of a phrase — "scientific theory of" — and it targeted the space directly preceding the word "evolution." The debate pivoted another public podium into a pulpit for preaching and ultimately split the board right down the middle. The chair's deciding vote shoved the wedge securely into place and the tree fell toward the side of intelligent design in a divisive decision. Opponents of evolution will fill that fine fracture with faith having already used it as a springboard to a statewide spectacle. One, focused, last-minute revision granted intelligent design equal time in a public hearing as well as in the subsequent media accounts.
Ironically, members of the public who fought to keep the standards as presented, without the wedge, met a disciplined opposition who employed a scientific method. In fact, as noted by one speaker, it was proponents of evolution, so moved to message against the motivations of their detractors, who instigated a deity debate. In a masterful display of political prowess, evolution opposition gained ground promoting only academic freedom, cognitive inquiry, the scientific process, and of all things, choice!
Board member Roberto Martinez was widely acknowledged as the hero du jour for identifying the wedge as a strategy to water down the best possible science standards. But those who recognized there was no need for a wedge between fact and faith in the first place were the real champions. They knew the wedge for what it was — a method not only to divide but also to conquer.
The Wedge strategy is premeditated and predictable. It uses our public process as a platform for debates intelligently designed. It is replicated in combat involving complex social issues everywhere, which is why officials must work harder to achieve unanimity in the face of them. Every controversial issue must not be used as a platform to splinter fact and faith just to capitalize on weak points.
Tony Plakas is the president of HomeRule Strategies, LLC. He can be reached at HomeRule@post.Harvard.edu.