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11 October 2005

please excuse USA, we are having technical problems with brain, government, religion & education

Flying Spaghetti Monster:
a creation theory which makes
every bit as much sense
as Intelligent Design
(postage stamp of Planet Vleeptron)

The Philadelphia Inquirer (Pennsylvania USA)
Monday 10 October 2005


Intelligent design's
big ambitions


Advocates want much more than textbooks.

By Paul Nussbaum, Inquirer Staff Writer


The advocates of "intelligent design," spotlighted in the current courtroom battle over the teaching of evolution in Dover, Pennsylvania, have much larger goals than biology textbooks.

They hope to discredit Darwin's theory as part of a bigger push to restore faith to a more central role in American life. "Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions," says a strategy document written in 1999 by the Seattle think tank at the forefront of the movement.

The authors said they seek "nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies."

Intelligent-design advocates have focused publicly on "teaching the controversy," urging that students be taught about weaknesses in evolutionary theory. The 1999 strategy document, though, goes well beyond that.

That "wedge document," outlining a five-year plan for promoting intelligent design and attacking evolution, has figured prominently in the trial now under way in federal court in Harrisburg. Eleven parents sued the Dover school board over a requirement to introduce intelligent design to high school biology students as an alternative to evolutionary theory.

"The social consequences of materialism have been devastating ... We are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source," wrote the authors of the strategy plan for the Center for Science and Culture, an arm of the Discovery Institute and the leader of the effort to promote intelligent design. "That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a wedge that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points."

The center and the Discovery Institute, financed primarily by Christian philanthropists and foundations, have succeeded in putting evolutionary theory on the hot seat in many school districts and state legislatures. By sponsoring books, forums and research by a group of about 40 college professors around the country, they have made intelligent design a prominent player in the nation's culture wars.

Intelligent design holds that natural selection cannot explain all of the complex developments observed in nature and that an unspecified intelligent designer must be involved.

Its critics, including civil libertarians and the nation's science organizations, say intelligent design is not science, but creationism in a new guise. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that public schools could not teach creationism in science classrooms because it unconstitutionally promoted a particular religious viewpoint.

Advocates of intelligent design say it is a scientific, not a religious, concept based on scientific observations, though they acknowledge its theological implications.

And they say the wedge document was written as a fund-raising tool, articulating a plan for reasoned persuasion, not political control. Critics, they say, have an agenda of their own -- to promote a worldview in which God is nonexistent or irrelevant.

"The Center for Science and Culture does not have a secret plan to influence science and culture. It has a highly and intentionally public program for 'challenging scientific materialism and its destructive cultural legacies,'" the center says on its Web site.

John G. West, associate director of the center, said last week that those destructive legacies have included such things as defense of infanticide, the notions that ethics are an illusion and morality merely a reproductive survival tactic, support of eugenics, and the over-reliance on psychoactive drugs to control behavior.

The center was founded in 1996, with grants from conservative Southern California billionaire Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., and the Maclellan Foundation, which says that it supports groups "committed to furthering the Kingdom of Christ."

The wedge document was written three years later and outlined a three-phase plan for advancing its goals: (1) scientific research, writing and publication, (2) publicity and opinion-making, and (3) cultural confrontation and renewal.

William Dembski, director of the Center for Science and Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and a leading intelligent-design advocate, argues that "virtually every discipline and endeavor is presently under a naturalistic pall.

"To lift that pall will require a new generation of scholars and professionals who explicitly reject naturalism and consciously seek to understand the design that God has placed in the world,"Dembski writes in his book, Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology. "The possibilities for transforming the intellectual life of our culture are immense."

The wedge document calls the proposition that human beings are created in the image of God "one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization is built." It also says that thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud undermined the idea by portraying humans "not as moral and spiritual beings, but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces and whose behavior and very thoughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry and environment."

The wedge document was highlighted in the Dover trial in Harrisburg last week. One witness, Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor who wrote Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, used the document to buttress her contention that intelligent design is creationism and that "it is essentially religious."

Defense lawyer Richard Thompson said the Dover school-board members had never heard of the wedge document when they changed the biology curriculum to include a mention of intelligent design.

The intelligent-design movement's activist approach has alienated some likely allies.

The John Templeton Foundation, of West Conshohocken, spends millions each year to explore and encourage a link between science and religion. But, except for a contribution to fund a debate forum in 1999, the foundation has declined to give money to the Discovery Institute.

Charles Harper Jr., senior vice president of the Templeton Foundation, said Discovery's involvement in "political issues" was troublesome.

"We want to advance real scientific research," Harper said. "Discovery Institute has never done - has never moved forward - any scientific research. On these deep issues, they've done absolutely nothing."

The push for cultural change has not distracted intelligent-design advocates from their core education mission: to change the way biology is taught.

The intelligent-design textbook at the heart of the Dover case, Of Pandas and People, is being rewritten and updated by Dembski and is slated for publication later this year by the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, a Christian organization in Texas. It will be renamed The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems.

Contact staff writer Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com

1 Comments:

Anonymous patfromch said...

Stupid Idiot Question:
Is it possible to file suit against a community School Board or the Education board on state level for violating the seperation of Church and State (which I think is noted in your Constitution)?
(Sorry about the question, we don't know that much about how you run things like that)

Your posts on Intelligent Design et al got me interested in this Evolution thing. Even got me an audio book from the Teaching Company on the History of Evolution. Hard to believe nowdays that
some of Darwin's supporters in the 1860s were clerics...
What was that problem you had with Malthus again ?

12:29  

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