Online reading group and book discussion forum
View unanswered posts | View active topics It is currently Thu Nov 26, 2015 1:57 am

<< Week of November 26, 2015 >>
Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday
26 Day Month

27 Day Month

28 Day Month

29 Day Month

30 Day Month

1 Day Month

2 Day Month

Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 1 post ] • Topic evaluate: Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average. 
July 2001 - The Wedge: what happens when science... 
Author Message
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership Hall of Fame Owner
Diamond Contributor 3

Joined: May 2002
Posts: 14974
Location: Florida
Thanks: 2684
Thanked: 1018 times in 812 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)
Highscores: 6

Post July 2001 - The Wedge: what happens when science...
This thread is for discussing Massimo Pigliucci's Rationally Speaking article entitled The Wedge: what happens when science is taken over by ideology?

N. 12, July 2001

The Wedge: what happens when science is taken over by ideology?

By all accounts Phillip Johnson, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, is a congenial fellow with whom I'd like to have a beer one of these days. At the same time, he is keen to implement one of the most potentially destructive assaults on science ever consciously planned by a human being. He calls it the "Wedge" strategy, the idea being that there is a natural crack in the edifice of science and that evolution-deniers and other anti-intellectuals only need to widen the initial interstice to eventually bring down the whole evil tree of knowledge.

Johnson published a short version of the wedge idea in his book with the unintentionally ironic title Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds, and has followed up with another book called The Wedge of Truth. He publishes a weekly update on the Web site of the so-called Center for the Renewal of Science & Culture (CRSC), a mostly conservative Christian think tank consisting of a number of major creationists and intelligent design "theorists."

The "crack" that Johnson thinks is going to be so fatal to science is the very well-known fact that science is based on some (reasonable) philosophical assumptions (such as the existence of a physical reality independent of the observer), and it is therefore not an entirely self-consistent enterprise. I will return to this point in another column because it is too important to treat it in a few words here. What I'd like to discuss instead is what the Wedge strategy is and what would happen if it succeeded. For the first task, I will rely on Johnson's own words and on a document published by the CRSC. Lacking a crystal ball but firmly believing that we do learn from history, I will attempt the second feat by briefly discussing what happened in another occasion in which ideology overcame good science in the recent past.

The Wedge strategy document starts out with predictable rhetoric to the effect that belief in a personal God has been the bedrock of Western civilization, implying that if people should abandon such belief the end of the world would surely follow shortly thereafter. By the same token, of course, slavery was the economic cornerstone of the economy in the southern United States during the first century of its history, but-amazingly-that economy has survived and prospered even without slavery.

The core of the Wedge consists of a detailed program, spanning 20 years, during which efforts will be made to bring about three phases labeled "Scientific research, writing and publication," "Publicity and opinion making," and "Cultural confrontation and renewal." The first phase is apparently already almost over. It took only a few years, no peer-reviewed publication, and a handful of books for intelligent design supporters to claim to have established the truth of their point of view and demolished hundreds of years of painstaking scientific research conducted by tens of thousands of scientists in laboratories world-wide. Kudos to the hyper-efficient fellows of the CRSC. We are now in the midst of the second phase, which interestingly includes such serious attempts at educating the public as engaging talk-show hosts and lobbying dimwit politicians on the evils of materialistic science. Hardly something one would expect from a serious intellectual think tank, but these are strange times indeed. Most interestingly, the third phase of the Wedge is entitled "cultural confrontation," something that immediately conjures up images of religious wars, and for a good reason: the underlying idea is essentially to turn the United States from a democratic republic into a theocracy dominated by conservative Christian groupthink.

Suppose Johnson and co.-God forbid-will succeed. What will likely happen? Let us turn to a fairly recent example of ideology passed for science, how it came about, and what consequences it brought. In 1940 the leading Russian biologist Nikolai Vavilov was arrested and sent to a concentration camp at Saratov. The reason was that he was denounced by a rising star of the Soviet establishment, Trofim Denisovich Lysenko, an agronomist who had come to believe half-baked ideas about the inheritance of acquired characteristics that had been rejected by mainstream science a century earlier.

Lysenko's wacky ideas fit perfectly well with Stalin's ideology: if the twisted version of dialectical materialism officially endorsed by the Soviet Union was true, then plants and animals (and by extension people) had to be infinitely pliable by changes in their environment and Mendelian genetics and Darwinian evolution must be simply the result of sick capitalist propaganda. Accordingly, Lysenko and his cronies took over Russian genetics and agriculture, exiling or putting to death the best scientists of that country and causing an economic catastrophe that probably didn't help the USSR withstand Western-imposed pressure during the arms race.

Lysenko retained control of Soviet biology well into the 1960s, essentially holding the progress of Russian science in that area to pre-WWII levels. Of course, the rest of the world progressed while in Russia countless lives were ruined, economic opportunities were lost, and huge setbacks in science education afflicted a country in which ideology reigned supreme over reality.

This, I submit, is what would happen in the United States if Johnson and his buddies succeed in implementing the Wedge strategy. It will not be the end of the world, and not even the end of science. There will be a brain drain of scientists and educators (and probably artists) toward more fertile intellectual grounds in other countries, and the good ol' US of A will be left behind and will eventually have to struggle to catch up over a period of decades (unpleasant as it may be, reality does have a way of reminding people of the practical limits of their fantasies). Meanwhile, we will experience the same kind of waste of human potential and economic resources that cursed the USSR under Stalin and Lysenko.

It is somewhat amusing to ponder the symmetry between the two cases: communist and atheist ideology for Lysenko, religious and conservative for Johnson. The real danger does not seem to be either religion or atheism, but blind commitment to an a priori view of the world that ignores how things really are. In fact, if I believed in conspiracy theories, I would be tempted to suggest that the Wedge strategy is a communist plot to have the West experience the same kind of tragedy that the East went through and level the playing field. But I am too busy attempting to insure the failure of Johnson's dangerous campaign to idly speculate on whose orders he may be following. For all I know he could be a lonely evil genius acting directly on the Devil's orders.

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward,for there you have been, and there you will always want to be."

Sat Jul 19, 2003 1:23 pm
Profile Email WWW
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 1 post ] • Topic evaluate: Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average. 

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests

You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:

2015 Cleveland Christian Home Christmas Giving


Interbane- $30.00
Robert Tulip- $40.00
Geo - $50.00
DWill - $50.00
Dexter - $30.00
Chris O'Connor - $50.00
Total Donations: $250.00 Links 
Forum Rules & Tips
Frequently Asked Questions
BBCode Explained
Info for Authors & Publishers
Featured Book Suggestions
Author Interview Transcripts
Be a Book Discussion Leader!

Love to talk about books but don't have time for our book discussion forums? For casual book talk join us on Facebook.

Featured Books

2015 Cleveland Christian Home Christmas Giving


Interbane- $30.00
Robert Tulip- $40.00
Geo - $50.00
DWill - $50.00
Dexter - $30.00
Chris O'Connor - $50.00
Total Donations: $250.00

Books by New Authors is a free book discussion group or online reading group or book club. We read and talk about both fiction and non-fiction books as a group. We host live author chats where booktalk members can interact with and interview authors. We give away free books to our members in book giveaway contests. Our booktalks are open to everybody who enjoys talking about books. Our book forums include book reviews, author interviews and book resources for readers and book lovers. Discussing books is our passion. We're a literature forum, or reading forum. Register a free book club account today! Suggest nonfiction and fiction books. Authors and publishers are welcome to advertise their books or ask for an author chat or author interview.



The Martian - by Andy WeirGood Thinking - by Guy P. HarrisonThe Post-American World: Release 2.0 - by Fareed ZakariaGo Set a Watchman: A Novel - by Harper LeeFlowers for Algernon - by Daniel KeyesGoing Clear - by Lawrence WrightKing Henry IV, Part 1 - by William ShakespeareAtheist Mind, Humanist Heart - by Lex Bayer and John FigdorSense and Goodness Without God - by Richard CarrierFrankenstein - by Mary ShelleyThe Big Questions - by Simon BlackburnScience Was Born of Christianity - by Stacy TrasancosThe Happiness Hypothesis - by Jonathan HaidtA Game of Thrones - by George R. R. MartinTempesta's Dream - by Vincent LoCocoWhy Nations Fail - by Daron Acemoglu and James RobinsonThe Drowning Girl - Caitlin R. KiernanThe Consolations of the Forest - by Sylvain TessonThe Complete Heretic's Guide to Western Religion: The Mormons - by David FitzgeraldA Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - by James JoyceThe Divine Comedy - by Dante AlighieriThe Magic of Reality - by Richard DawkinsDubliners - by James JoyceMy Name Is Red - by Orhan PamukThe World Until Yesterday - by Jared DiamondThe Man Who Was Thursday - by by G. K. ChestertonThe Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven PinkerLord Jim by Joseph ConradThe Hobbit by J. R. R. TolkienThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas AdamsAtlas Shrugged by Ayn RandThinking, Fast and Slow - by Daniel KahnemanThe Righteous Mind - by Jonathan HaidtWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max BrooksMoby Dick: or, the Whale by Herman MelvilleA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer EganLost Memory of Skin: A Novel by Russell BanksThe Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. KuhnHobbes: Leviathan by Thomas HobbesThe House of the Spirits - by Isabel AllendeArguably: Essays by Christopher HitchensThe Falls: A Novel (P.S.) by Joyce Carol OatesChrist in Egypt by D.M. MurdockThe Glass Bead Game: A Novel by Hermann HesseA Devil's Chaplain by Richard DawkinsThe Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph CampbellThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainThe Moral Landscape by Sam HarrisThe Decameron by Giovanni BoccaccioThe Road by Cormac McCarthyThe Grand Design by Stephen HawkingThe Evolution of God by Robert WrightThe Tin Drum by Gunter GrassGood Omens by Neil GaimanPredictably Irrational by Dan ArielyThe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki MurakamiALONE: Orphaned on the Ocean by Richard Logan & Tere Duperrault FassbenderDon Quixote by Miguel De CervantesMusicophilia by Oliver SacksDiary of a Madman and Other Stories by Nikolai GogolThe Passion of the Western Mind by Richard TarnasThe Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le GuinThe Genius of the Beast by Howard BloomAlice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll Empire of Illusion by Chris HedgesThe Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner The Extended Phenotype by Richard DawkinsSmoke and Mirrors by Neil GaimanThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsWhen Good Thinking Goes Bad by Todd C. RinioloHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. DanielewskiAmerican Gods: A Novel by Neil GaimanPrimates and Philosophers by Frans de WaalThe Enormous Room by E.E. CummingsThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeGod Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher HitchensThe Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama Paradise Lost by John Milton Bad Money by Kevin PhillipsThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson BurnettGodless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists by Dan BarkerThe Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienThe Limits of Power by Andrew BacevichLolita by Vladimir NabokovOrlando by Virginia Woolf On Being Certain by Robert A. Burton50 reasons people give for believing in a god by Guy P. HarrisonWalden: Or, Life in the Woods by Henry David ThoreauExile and the Kingdom by Albert CamusOur Inner Ape by Frans de WaalYour Inner Fish by Neil ShubinNo Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthyThe Age of American Unreason by Susan JacobyTen Theories of Human Nature by Leslie Stevenson & David HabermanHeart of Darkness by Joseph ConradThe Stuff of Thought by Stephen PinkerA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniThe Lucifer Effect by Philip ZimbardoResponsibility and Judgment by Hannah ArendtInterventions by Noam ChomskyGodless in America by George A. RickerReligious Expression and the American Constitution by Franklyn S. HaimanDeep Economy by Phil McKibbenThe God Delusion by Richard DawkinsThe Third Chimpanzee by Jared DiamondThe Woman in the Dunes by Abe KoboEvolution vs. Creationism by Eugenie C. ScottThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanI, Claudius by Robert GravesBreaking The Spell by Daniel C. DennettA Peace to End All Peace by David FromkinThe Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerThe End of Faith by Sam HarrisEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonValue and Virtue in a Godless Universe by Erik J. WielenbergThe March by E. L DoctorowThe Ethical Brain by Michael GazzanigaFreethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan JacobyCollapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared DiamondThe Battle for God by Karen ArmstrongThe Future of Life by Edward O. WilsonWhat is Good? by A. C. GraylingCivilization and Its Enemies by Lee HarrisPale Blue Dot by Carl SaganHow We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God by Michael ShermerLooking for Spinoza by Antonio DamasioLies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al FrankenThe Red Queen by Matt RidleyThe Blank Slate by Stephen PinkerUnweaving the Rainbow by Richard DawkinsAtheism: A Reader edited by S.T. JoshiGlobal Brain by Howard BloomThe Lucifer Principle by Howard BloomGuns, Germs and Steel by Jared DiamondThe Demon-Haunted World by Carl SaganBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownFuture Shock by Alvin Toffler

Banned Book ListOur SalesMassimo Pigliucci Rationally SpeakingOnline Reading GroupTop 10 Atheism BooksFACTS Book Selections

Copyright © 2002-2015. All rights reserved.
Display Pagerank