The “Wedge Document”: How Darwinist Paranoia Fueled an Urban LegendI strongly support the Discovery Institute. Bruce Chapman and his crew do first-class work. The following is from Discovery and I quote it in full: In 1999 someone posted on the internet an early fundraising proposal for Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. Dubbed the “Wedge Document,” this proposal soon took on a life of its own, popping up in all sorts of places and eventually spawning what can only be called a giant urban legend. Among true-believers on the Darwinist fringe the document came to be viewed as evidence for a secret conspiracy to fuse religion with science and impose a theocracy. These claims were so outlandish that for a long time we simply ignored them. But because some credulous Darwinists seem willing to believe almost anything, we decided we should set the record straight. 1. The Background § In 1996 Discovery Institute established the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture (now just the Center for Science & Culture). Its main functions were (1) to support research by scientists and other scholars who were critical of neo-Darwinism and by those who were developing the emerging scientific theory of intelligent design; and (2) to explore, in various ways, the multiple connections between science and culture. § To raise financial support for the Center, Discovery Institute prepared a fundraising proposal that explained the overall rationale for the Center and why a think tank like Discovery would want to start such an entity in the first place. Like most fundraising proposals, this one included a multi-year budget and a list of goals to be achieved. 2. The Rise of an Urban Legend § In 1999 a copy of this fundraising proposal was posted by someone on the internet. The document soon spread across the world wide web, gaining almost mythic status among some Darwinists. § That’s when members of the Darwinist fringe began saying rather loopy things. For example, one group claimed that the document supplied evidence of a frightening twenty-year master plan “to have religion control not only science, but also everyday life, laws, and education”! § Barbara Forrest, a Louisiana professor on the board of a group called the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association, similarly championed the document as proof positive of a sinister conspiracy to abolish civil liberties and unify church and state. Forrest insisted that the document was “crucially important,” and she played up its supposed secrecy, claiming at one point that its “authenticity…has been neither affirmed nor denied by the Discovery Institute.” Poor Prof. Forrest—if she really wanted to know whether the document was authentic, all she had to do was ask. (She didn’t.) § There were lots of ironies as this urban legend began to grow, but Darwinist true-believers didn’t seem capable of appreciating them:
- Discovery Institute, the supposed mastermind of this “religious” conspiracy, was in fact a secular organization that sponsored programs on a wide array of issues, including mass transit, technology policy, the environment, and national defense.
- At the time the “Wedge Document” was being used by Darwinists to stoke fears about Christian theocracy, the Chairman of Discovery’s Board was Jewish, its President was an Episcopalian, and its various Fellows represented an eclectic range of religious views ranging from Roman Catholic to agnostic. It would have been news to them that they were all part of a fundamentalist cabal.
- Far from promoting a union between church and state, Discovery Institute sponsored for several years a seminar for college students that advocated religious liberty and the separation between church and state.