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Atheists Against Darwinism

Johnsons' "Wedge" Breaks Through

Peter S. Williams
Assistant Professor in Communication and Worldviews
Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communication
Kristiansand, Norway


Intelligent design theory claims that 1) empirical evidence warrants 2) a scientific design inference using 3) reliable design detection criteria. Philosophia Christi published my paper "The Design Inference from Specified Complexity Defended by Scholars Outside the Intelligent Design Movement: A Critical Review" (Philosophia Christi, Vol 9, Number 2), which defended the third of these claims by reviewing the work atheists and theistic evolutionists. This paper defends the second of these claims, likewise by reviewing work by agnostics and atheists.

"A log is a seeming solid object, but a wedge can eventually split it by penetrating a crack and gradually widening the split. In this case the ideology of scientific materialism is the apparently solid log. The widening crack is the important but seldom-recognized difference between the facts revealed by scientific investigation and the materialist philosophy that dominates the scientific culture." ? Phillip E. Johnson[1]

It was one of the "Top Ten Darwin and Design News Stories for 2008"[2] according to Access Research Network[3], a leading Intelligent Design (ID) website:

Darwin v. Design public debates took an interesting turn in 2008 as atheists and agnostics took up the torch for ID and Christians went to bat for Darwin. This surprising role reversal was most evident at a November 7 debate in Texas where agnostic Dr. David Berlinski, a well-know skeptic of Darwinism, and Dr. Bradley Monton, an atheist philosopher of physics both defended intelligent design while theistic evolutionist Dr. Denis Alexander, a biochemist and editor of Science & Christian Belief, and well-known atheist and physicist Dr. Lawrence Krauss defended evolution . . . Another example of this trend was . . . philosopher and sociologist Steve Fuller's defense of ID in his newest book Dissent over Descent and the ensuing public debate about the book in the online pages of the New Humanist. Meanwhile atheist New York University Law professor Thomas Nagel authors an article defending the constitutionality of teaching ID.[4]

These events followed atheist Jerry Fodor's article "Why Pigs Don't Have Wings"[5], critiquing evolutionary psychology and the adaptationalism it builds upon; and Steve Fuller's Science vs Religion? Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evolution (Polity, 2007), which defended the "heuristic value"[6] of ID. And the trend has continued, with A.N. Wilson (an Oxford educated writer who returned to Christian faith in 2009 after two decades of atheism[7]) revealing his doubts about evolution in response to a question posed in the New Statesman about whether one can 'love God and agree with Darwin':

I think you can love God and agree with the author of The Voyage of the Beagle, the Earth Worm, and most of the Origin of Species. The Descent of Man, with its talk of savages, its belief that black people are more primitive than white people, and much nonsense besides, is an offence to the intelligence - and is obviously incompatible with Christianity. I think the jury is out about whether the theory of Natural selection, as defined by neo-Darwinians is true, and whether serious scientific doubts, as expressed in a new book Why Us by James Le Fanu, deserve to be taken seriously. For example, does the discovery of the complex structure of DNA and the growth in knowledge in genetics require a rethink of Darwinian 'gradualism'. But these are scientific rather than religious questions.[8]

In Why Us? How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves (Harper Press, 2009) James Le Fanu[9], an apparently agnostic physician and writer[10], contends:

The Ascent of Man from knuckle-walking chimp to upright human seems . . .  almost self-evident, yet it conceals events that are without precedent in the whole  of biology . . . This discrepancy between the beguiling simplicities of evolutionary theory and the profundity of the biological phenomena it seems to  explain is very striking . . . Here the greatest virtue of Darwin's proposed  mechanism, its simplicity, might seem its greatest drawback ? that it is far too  simple to begin to account for the complexities of life . . . There is . . . more than  enough evidence already to suspect that Darwin was less right than is commonly  perceived.[11]

And there's more to come, as Bradley Monton's Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design is published by Broadview Press in July 2009.[12]

The above jointly signal a breakthrough for Phillip E. Johnson's "wedge" strategy for legitimising scientific consideration of the design hypothesis. I will analyse this breakthrough in two phases. Phase one is the endorsement by agnostics and atheists of Johnson's philosophy of science. Phase two (which builds upon and signifies the success of phase one) concerns the extent to which Michael J. Behe's argument in The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism (Free Press, 2007) is endorsed by Thomas Nagel's essay. I will argue that Nagel's reticence about ID results from philosophical inconsistency.


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