20 Years Ago, the Intelligent Design Movement’s “Wedge Document” Was Exposed

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This might be a good opportunity for some of the ID folks here to explain this incident.
@Agauger, @pnelson, it would be interesting to read your perspective, although I can certainly understand any reluctance.

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There’s not a lot to say that hasn’t already been said:


It was a leaked (actually, stolen, by two employees at the copy shop where the original was brought to be duplicated) fundraising document. Fundraising statements as a literary genre are not known for modest, “we’ll spend your money on sherry hours and seminars” claims. :wink:

Are you saying that the document contained lies?

This link is not to the document but to an opinion piece that puts its own spin on what the document says. Fair enough. But at least admit that.

You may find it hard to believe but I have never read the Wedge document. I have been associated with ID since 2005, that means 13 years, so it happened well before my time. But that’s not why I have never read it. It’s because it is irrelevant to the institute as I know it. Nobody at DI refers to it. It is not mounted on the wall or quoted on plaques. There is no political oath required or pledge of faith to be loyal to it or to advance its causes to be employed, no litmus test to see if you are devoted enough, though I suppose if you were a hard-core atheist evolutionary biologist you wouldn’t be hired. There is no desire at DI that I have seen to impose our beliefs on other people (Some of you disagree.)

Bringing up this document every year is like bringing up that time Uncle Harry got drunk and embarrassed himself by spouting politics he never would have admitted to if he were sober. And then bringing it up to him every year for 20 years, even though he never did intend to overthrow the government and establish a religious cabal. Though perhaps Uncle Harry did learn something from the event, and it was not just to avoid getting drunk.


No, just a load of ambitious plans. In 1999, most of the “intelligent design” controversy (e.g., the Time magazine cover story, the series by Ken Chang in the NY Times, the Dover Trial) lay in the future. I don’t know what Discovery staffer wrote the Wedge Document – which, like Ann, I’ve never actually read in its entirety – but he was feeling his oats, so to speak. You know: conquer the world, and all that.

The Wedge Document is a historical curiosity, nothing more. I like Ann’s analogy – remember that one time Uncle Harry got drunk and threw up into the fireplace?

Yeah, that was gross.

Yup. Good old uncle Harry.

Problem is the DI’s actions show they’re still following the Wedge guidelines in everything they do. They’re still trying to push the pseudo-science ID into public schools and bypassing all proper professional scientific vetting. They’re still trying to attack “materialism” by fighting to weaken school science standards. They’re still pretending there is some huge science controversy over evolution by pushing “teach the controversy” legislation which they have once again rebranded “academic freedom”.

If it looks like dog poo, smells like dog poo, sticks to your shoe like dog poo… :roll_eyes:

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Problem is “good old uncle harry” is still vomiting up anti-science dreck in public venues and making an ass of himself in the professional scientific community.

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Bringing up this document every year is like bringing up that time Uncle Harry got drunk and embarrassed himself by spouting politics he never would have admitted to if he were sober. And then bringing it up to him every year for 20 years, even though he never did intend to overthrow the government and establish a religious cabal. Though perhaps Uncle Harry did learn something from the event, and it was not just to avoid getting drunk.

Sure, but once drunk Uncle Harry reveals that he thinks all democrats are lizard people (or whatever), it kinda changes your opinion about him, even when he’s sober.


@davecarlson Twice under anesthesia I said or did things I would never have done were I conscious. Which was the true me?

I bragged I was writing a book. Was I? Sort of. Would I ever have made that claim when awake? No.
I had had pills for a dental procedure, the kind that make you forget everything. A contractor had come over to talk to my husband about minor repairs. I came out of the bedroom, and proceeded to tell the contractor about all the extensive remodeling I wanted done. Then I went back to bed. I had no recollection of it the next day. Did the house get remodeled? No. Did I follow up with the contractor.No. How do you judge the event? By what followed after.

@Timothy says we are still bent on taking over through the schools. That’s not true. That’s propaganda.
And Paul and I are proof positive we don’t think you are lizard people.

I doubt Uncle Harry planned and wrote out a manifesto about his plans to get drunk at the family reunion. Dismissing this embarrassing event like it never happened rather than repudiating it does nothing to allay the suspicion that understandably resulted. There was obviously an anti-science theme and an agenda to change public education. Why would reasonable people accept that it was just an irrelevant, harmless, historical quirk when it obviously wasn’t? I have read claims that DI is NOT trying to change public education, but the claims are unconvincing without a serious confrontation with the history of the organization. Perhaps this has been addressed before, but if it has, I have never read anything official from DI claiming the document (and strategy) was an outright mistake and no longer representative of the organization.


LOL! We’ve now had two senior DI members describe the DI as like being drunk or on drugs when they produced their Wedge strategy. That’s certainly the kind of “science” organization I aspire to work for. :slightly_smiling_face:

Really? Then why is the DI still pushing their “academic freedom” legislature which would allow teachers to introduce to classrooms pseudo-science garbage like ID-Creationism which has zero scientific backing?

Speaking of propaganda I see the DI today was crowing because they just got their 1000th signature on their ridiculous “Dissent from Darwin” propaganda document. Are you proud to work for a group who has no hesitation crawling in the gutter with such cheap political tricks?


Read the statement from Discovery, posted above, replying to the Wedge Document controversy.

It is impossible to perform the historical counterfactual, but Ann and I are certain that if the Wedge Document had never been written, stolen, and put onto the web, the controversy about ID in general and Discovery Institute in particular would still be occurring. So, like everyone who currently works at Discovery, and among our (much larger) circle of like-minded scientists and scholars, we just don’t care, and see the whole business very much akin to revisiting the antics of a drunk uncle.

The fact is, you’ll all be back here tomorrow, Wedge Document notwithstanding.

As long as the DI keeps using the Wedge strategy in trying to undermine science education in the U.S. to push their religious pseudo-science, damn straight we’ll be here.

I’m pretty sure everyone agrees with this.

But I am confused though, because this document says differently:

  • Our initial strategy for influencing science and culture (which was first articulated in the “Wedge Document”) has been repeatedly discussed at numerous conferences, in book and articles, on our website and in our brochure. Indeed, much of the offending text from the document had already appeared on our website and in our Center brochure. (So much for a secret conspiracy.) Further, Professor Phillip E. Johnson of the University of California at Berkeley published an entire book articulating his version of the wedge strategy in the year 2000.

How do I square this paragraph with @Agauger and @pnelson’s comments? The claim in the DI’s defense of the Wedge is that it is all true and already well known. It was being misrepresented as “secret.” This seems to be pretty different than saying it was an internal overstatement of something that has no relevance now. In fact, it does not seem there is anything that DI disagrees with now in the Wedge.

So I am confused. Which one is it? (1) a mistaken statement, but not reflected of DI’s true mission, or (2) an accurate statement of the DI’s true mission? Which one is it?


what are you talking about?

Paul and I are the embarrassed relatives who had nothing to do with it, who would probably not have expressed things the way they were, or who would have perhaps tried to temper things, but who now, having never had such opportunity or responsibility, are expected to keep apologizing for Uncle’s behavior, and explaining it. Does Uncle feel regret for having said things the way he did? Probably. Has his stance softened? I think so. But I can’t say. Is there anything Uncle disagrees with? I don’t know.

This isn’t true. That’s not what I said. I said the situation with the Wedge was like when anesthesia caused me to give an exaggerated statement of what I thought or wanted, not what was true. Poor analogy. What I was trying to say was the Wedge was an exaggerated fund-raising appeal. The language was strong, and definitely an overstatement of DI’s policy now. And they no doubt wish it had never been written.


@Agauger, I know you didn’t say it, but that quote was from @pnelson’s link to the defense, which does not call it an overstatement of DI’s policy back then.

I suppose those are the important questions. If you don’t know, how could any of us?

Point taken, especially in your case. Wasn’t @pnelson with DI at the time though?

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@Swamidass You know organizations well enough that not everyone is consulted on all matters, and in drafting a fundraising appeal, it probably doesn’t pass through a scientist/philosopher’s hand’s even though he does turn a good phrase. Fallacy of guilt by association. If it’s not one it ought to be.

@swamidass Another ice storm keeps me here. I’m staying put til Thursday.

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