Wednesday is the 15th anniversary of a very important event in the battle against creationism. On Feb. 5, 1999, for the first time, the famous wedge document was leaked to the public in a Usenet newsgroup by Tim Rhodes. You can see his full message here. Let me explain the importance of this document for those who may not know.
First, what is the wedge document? It was a manifesto of sorts created by Philip Johnson and the Discovery Institute, a detailed explanation of their goals and how they intended to achieve them. It’s essentially a PR strategy document laying out their plan for how they were going to “replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God” so they could “defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies.”
Why is this important? Because up until then the DI and the major advocates of Intelligent Design had been pretending — actually, they’re still pretending, at least publicly — that their movement had nothing to do with religion. They were strictly involved in a scientific project, they said repeatedly, unlike that bad old creationism — which they had nothing to do with, of course. This was necessary because the Supreme Court in 1987 ruled that creationism (or “creation science”) was a religious belief dressed up as science. After that ruling, Johnson, a retired law professor from Berkeley, devised this clever strategy of taking creationism and removing all the overtly religious statements from it. I like to refer to this as pouring the old wine of creationism into a new skin and slapping on a new label: “intelligent design theory.”After some hemming and hawing, the DI eventually admitted that the document was authentic. The wedge document was an important bit of ammunition in the legal battle over whether ID can be taught in public school science classrooms and was central to proving to a federal court in 2005 that ID was nothing more than a repackaging of the creationism that the Supreme Court had kicked out of schools in 1987. So happy wedgiversary, everyone.