Evolving Thoughts

Evolution, culture, philosophy and chocolate! John Wilkins' continuing struggle to come to terms with impermanence... "Humanus sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto" - Terence

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

One Nation, Under the Designer

In a recent blog on the Phi Beta Kappa website, the international Professional Association for Educators, Mark Terry, who heads a school science department just up the road from Disco (the Discovery Institute, as they call themselves), put the Wedge Strategy into context, both politically, and what I am more interested in here, historically.

Terry rightly observes that what we are witnessing here is not merely a rejection of a single scientific theory, nor even the rejection solely of science, but an attempt to return to the days when the church controlled all intellectual life.

In short, the Wedge is about a return to Christendom - and the abandonment of the past three centuries of science and arts. Of course, that is not how it is put by Disco, or by the conservative Christians bankrolling this movement in the US or the UK or anywhere else, but that is what it means.

The person who, more than anyone else, overcame the religious patronage of science system that prevailed in Britain during the first half of the nineteenth century was Thomas Henry Huxley - Darwin's bull dog. Huxley, not born to a position of privilege like his later nemesis Sir Richard Owen (then just Richard), fought to make science a professional and independent institution, and as a result, Britain, science and society in the west flourished. Owen, indebted to and controlled by religious patronage, was unable to pursue his initial speculations on the matter of evolution. Later, he claimed to have both thought of it first and shown it to be wrong, neither of which were true. The point, however, was that had science been independent of the church then, we might now be discussing Owenism.

Whenever institutions like the church or government has tried to control science for their own ends, the results have been moribund and degenerate science, or worse. Terry is to be commended for bringing this to our attention. Go read it.