NOTE: This review was written for the journal Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith and appears in its June 2005 issue (vol. 57, No. 2, p. 157). I thank the American Scientific Affiliation for permission to reproduce it here. It has been slightly reformatted for this webpage.

Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design

Authors: Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross
Date: 2004
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New York
ISBN: 0-19-515742-7
Reviewed by: Allan H. Harvey, steamdoc@aol.com


Review

Philosophy professor Barbara Forrest and distinguished biologist Paul Gross wrote this book to warn readers about the movement known as "the Wedge." The Wedge seeks to overthrow the theory of evolution (and what they perceive as an atheistic naturalism infecting education and culture more broadly), primarily through promotion of "Intelligent Design" (ID). Gross coauthored the provocative 1994 book Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and its Quarrels with Science. The common thread between the two books seems to be a deep concern that what is taught about science be determined by scientific evidence, not political or religious agendas.

Unlike books such as Robert Pennock’s Tower of Babel, Creationism's Trojan Horse is not primarily a scientific critique of ID. Only one chapter is devoted to debunking its claimed scientific achievements. Most of the book describes the history and aims of the movement (with help from an internal roadmap that was leaked on the Internet) and its political and public-relations activity. This approach has merit; while the early vision for the Wedge envisioned parallel scientific research and public persuasion, almost all of the effort and success thus far has been on the propaganda side.

The efforts of the Wedge include conferences, books aimed at nonexpert audiences, campaigns to influence school curricula, and lobbying in Washington. These are documented with copious endnotes and commendable attention to accuracy and detail. There is also some "dirt" as one might expect in a book hostile to the Wedge, most of which was old news. Many readers of this journal already know that their main biologist follows Rev. Moon and that Icons of Evolution is rife with misrepresentation and rhetorical tricks. Also familiar is the Wedge’s audience-dependent equivocation about its religious goals. For those who don’t follow the issues closely, however, this material might provide a wake-up call.

The final chapter, an attempt to document the Wedge’s religious agenda, betrays some ignorance of Christianity and of the variety of Christian positions on origins. For example, pages are wasted trying to tie the Wedge to "creationism," with no apparent appreciation for the numerous ways that term is used. Quotes saying that Christians should work to advance God’s purposes in the world are portrayed as advocating "theocracy" rather than as principled people living with integrity. In a section on religious backers of the Wedge (in which the specter of theocracy is invoked repeatedly), little distinction is made between those who truly are scary (like Christian Reconstructionists) and mainstream organizations like InterVarsity. The authors would have benefited by consulting an evangelical Christian on this chapter – but it should give us pause that the picture we present to the world allows two intelligent people to misunderstand us.

A related shortcoming is that there is little mention of the majority of Christians in science who accept the theory of evolution, and none at all of those of us who feel the Wedge's biggest problem is a faulty theology of God and nature. One gets the false impression (unfortunately, one also promoted by the Wedge) that all of Christianity, or at least evangelical Christianity, is depending on the Wedge to save its concept of God. It is too bad that neither the Wedge nor these authors seem to appreciate that the god threatened by evolution is the "god of the gaps," not the Christian God.

Despite these flaws, its thoroughness makes Creationism's Trojan Horse worth reading for those who are concerned about the movement's influence on public opinion and science education. If nothing else, it should dispel any illusion that the Wedge is a scientific enterprise rather than primarily a propaganda movement. For a healthy Christian perspective, readers can consult other works such as Perspectives on an Evolving Creation.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this review are the opinion of the author of this review alone and should not be taken to represent the views of any other person or organization.

Review originally written January 2005, published June 2005.
Page last modified May 23, 2005