EPS Article Library
Atheists Against Darwinism - Page 2
Phase One: The Wedge Strategy
"My colleges and I want to separate the real science from the materialist philosophy." ? Phillip E. Johnson
Phillip E. Johnson, the so-called "god-father" of the ID movement, muses:
In a lifetime of studying and participating in controversies, I have learned that the best way to approach a problem of any kind is usually not to talk or even think very much about the ultimate answer until I have made sure I am asking all the right questions in the right order.
This wisdom underlies Johnson's "wedge strategy" for shaping the evolution debate:
The most important crack in the modernist log is the difference between two distinct definitions of science. On the one hand, modernists say that science is impartial fact-finding, the objective and unprejudiced weighing of evidence . . . On the other hand, modernists also identify science with naturalistic philosophy. In that case science is committed to finding and endorsing naturalistic explanations for every phenomenon ? regardless of the facts. This kind of science is not free of prejudice. On the contrary, it is defined by a prejudice. The prejudice is that all phenomena can ultimately be explained in terms of purely natural causes, which is to say unintelligent causes.
Johnson's strategy is a success, not because ID has yet succeeded in replacing Darwinism as the majority scientific paradigm, but because atheistic and agnostic scholars now openly champion Johnson's philosophical paradigm. Monton's defence of the scientific status of ID exemplifies this seismic shift:
rejection of the supernatural should not be a part of scientific methodology . . . scientists should be free to pursue hypotheses as they see fit, without being constrained by a particular philosophical account of what science is . . . If science really is permanently committed to methodological naturalism, it follows that the aim of science is not generating true theories. Instead, the aim of science would be something like: generating the best theories that can be formulated subject to the restriction that the theories are naturalistic . . . science is better off without being shackled by methodological naturalism . . . ID should not be dismissed on the grounds that it is unscientific?
Fuller gives Johnson credit for this shift:
Johnson hammered home the historically correct observation that naturalism is, strictly speaking, a metaphysical position with which many scientists and the scientific establishment have identified, especially since the ascendancy of Darwinism, but which is not necessary for an adequate ? or perhaps even fruitful ? account of the means and ends of scientific inquiry . . . Johnson, has stressed ? in a way that his fellow lawyer Francis Bacon would have appreciated ? the need for standards for appraising the scientific status of knowledge claims that are not inherently biased against a newcomer.
In Darwin on Trail (IVP, 1991) Johnson drove a "wedge" between metaphysical deduction and scientific inference: "I assume" wrote Johnson, "that the creation-scientists are biased by their pre-commitment to Biblical fundamentalism?" There was nothing revolutionary in this analysis. But Johnson applied a parallel analysis to Darwinism: "The question I want to investigate is whether Darwinism is based upon a fair assessment of the scientific evidence, or whether it is another kind of fundamentalism." He pointed out that defining science as "reliance upon naturalistic explanations" (a definition entailed by metaphysical naturalism, but accepted as a methodological restraint upon science by many non-naturalists), turns Darwinism into a foregone conclusion:
If science is to have any explanation for biological complexity at all it has to make do with what if left when the unacceptable has been excluded. Natural selection is the best of the remaining alternatives, probably the only alternative. In this situation some may decide that Darwinism simply must be true.1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14