Sometimes a specialized subject matter expert is actually not the most qualified person to critique a related idea. Case in point: Who would you trust more for advice on a difficult end-of-life decision for a loved one? A life support machine technician or a medical ethicist? Theoretically you would probably want a qualified mediator who is able to listen to the technician and the ethicist, like a family doctor. But with only two choices, who is more qualified to counsel you on the right thing to do? The mechanic or the theologian-philosopher? I think many reasonable people would choose the ethicist. But then again, many others would be more comfortable with the technician. In all probability these two groups would condemn each other as wrong, foolish, ignorant, and maybe even evil. Alas, such is human nature.
When it comes to the subject of science and origins, this kind of fighting is common. Neo-Darwinism is the only respected scientific theory of origins in Western culture. Any acceptable critique of this theory must come from inside the camp and must be kept away from the public eye to foster the illusion of unanimous agreement. If any scientist outside the camp criticizes Neo-Darwinist theory or questions its foundational assumptions, they are treated as heretical troublemakers and denied access to the guild. And if any non-scientist outside the camp dissents from the evolutionary orthodoxy, they are denied access to the table as unqualified, uneducated, and undeserving of a response. The problem with this response to the questioning dissenter should be obvious. In order to make a wise decision regarding a subject, wouldn’t it be best to hear from the mechanic and the philosopher? Wouldn’t you want to hear the criticisms of the intelligent outsider?
Which brings us to Phillip E. Johnson (not to be confused with Phillip R. Johnson), a distinguished legal mind, professor of law, and aspiring philosopher of science. Johnson is the grandfather of the Intelligent Design movement challenging the Neo-Darwinist status quo. His strategy is named “The Wedge of Truth” which seeks to split the log of scientific orthodoxy by focusing on the known and acknowledged problems associated with evolutionary theory, namely the question of evolutionary mechanism, the cause of the Big Bang, and the contrary evidence in the fossil record. As far as I can tell, The Wedge strategy is first explained in print in his third book on the subject: Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds (DD). I first read DD as a recent college graduate as a helpful and simplified summary of the issues the author first laid out in considerably more details his books Darwin on Trial and Reason in the Balance. Recently I reread it to my oldest daughter who is a freshman in high school. DD is a little over her head (and for that reason she didn’t much enjoy it), but I came to appreciate how this book crystallizes the issues for a target audience of upper high school and college. The second time through it also surprised me at how relevant the book continues to be. The only thing that feels dated about the book is its optimism for Intelligent Design (ID) theory for the near-term. What has actually happened in the last 20 years is that ID has been barred from the public schools and scientific academia with a stroke of power. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not another brand of biblical creationism meant to sneak Genesis into the science curriculum at your local public school. Rather it is a centuries-old alternative scientific theory to naturalistic materialist macro-evolution. ID has a long history of support by many esteemed scientists, philosophers, practitioners in the STEM fields, and academics. In the computer age and the explosion of information in the last 30 years, ID has become a formidable challenger to the followers of Darwin. And boy has it been a wild ride. Continue reading