Ideological Struggle and Science – Wedge Origins

BY: Brooklyn Club| May 28, 2005

Meet Mira and Jose*. Mira is a retired needle trades worker. She has no union, few benefits and persistent medical problems. Her older husband continues to work in a small neighborhood restaurant. We met them while campaigning door-to-door for a progressive democrat in the late spring of 2004. For the first time, both candidates were Puertorican. The neighborhood is 50% Hispanic, 20% Black and 30% mixed.

Mira enthusiastically distributed leaflets in her apartment building and registered new voters. Jose was supportive. We distributed the PWW. The Labor Council endorsed the progressive candidate and Labor leaders participated in the campaign. During the campaign, someone commented that if we met a Mira and Jose on every block of the neighborhood, the election would be a shoe-in.

Then, one day, it all ground to a halt. Mira refused to talk with the progressive dem. Now, Mira was also the minister of a store front church down the street. What happened? Wed been wedged. And little did we know at the time, we were getting a rude preview of what was taking place around the country.

The fact that this was a democratic primary made no difference. Out the door went the sharp class issues like health insurance, transportation, education, drug free streets, housing and good union jobs. In came anti-abortion, anti-gay rights and, for good measure, anticommunism.

Such a political turnaround doesnt happen on its own. Where did it come from? Whose pushing the wedge issues? What are some of its ideological underpinnings?

The wedge strategy didnt just pop into Karl Roves head. The backlash to peoples movements began in the early 1970s. It was momentarily derailed by the impeachment movement and President Nixons resignation. It picked up steam again during the Carter Administration and really started ripping during the Reagan years.

All the while, ruling class elements searched for a theoretical grounding for * pseudonyms the backlash. It experimented with its old standby, that is, racism. Remember Reagan’s description of the unemployed young Black male, supposedly living the high life while on welfare. Bush, the first one, did the same with the Willie Horton ad, showing prisoners being released from a jail. The implication was that the then Democratic presidential candidate, Michael DuKaukis, would. if elected, open prison gates and flood the streets with murderous Black males. But it wasnt until the Christian right reared its ugly head in the 1984 Reagan campaign that the plan, based on so-called scientific creationism, came into view.

What is scientific creationism? Lets go back to the early 19th century because thats where reaction wants to take us.

William Paley (1743-1805) put it this way. You are walking across a field and accidentally come upon a watch. You pick it up. Wouldnt you marvel at both its complexity and purpose? If one gear were off, wouldnt the watch grind to a halt? Wouldnt such an intricate design with an implicit purpose imply a designer? Paley answered with a resounding yes! He went on as did others to marvel at the complexity of organisms and how well they were designed for their way of living e.g. wing of bird, fin of a fish etc. Scientific creationism, a la Paley, says there has to be a designer behind the beauty of a hummingbird hovering over a flower or the attributes contributing to the stealth of the panther.

The kernel of Charles Darwins (1809 – 1882) theory is simple and powerful. Yes, the best adapted organisms to their environment survive and have offspring. This may be a thick beak to crack nuts or the swiftness of feet to avoid predators. But it is the environment itself, not an outside source, that is doing the sculpting. A nut-eating bird, whose inherited beak isnt sufficiently thick enough to do the job, might not get enough nourishment. It would be more susceptible to disease and bad weather. It may not be successful in mating and having young. Theres a chance these genes wont be passed to another generation. Nature itself then is doing the selecting, not some mysterious outside force. You might say Darwin found Paley on his head and turned him rightside up.

Fast forward to the 1990s. The latest ideological wedge strand, intelligent design, is the brain child of a lawyer, Philip E. Johnson. His antievolution epiphany came during religious conversion. He initiated the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture (CRSC). This Center finances writing through fellowships which promotes this latest creationist belief. The CRSC earliest mission statement says it seeks nothing less that the overthrow of materialism and its damning cultural legacies.

Intelligent design proponents simply take this 19th century argumentation of Paley and give it a modern day molecular twist. They say: just look at the complexity and purpose of. for example, the DNA molecule. It plays crucial roles in chromosome replication, cell reproduction and protein production. If one chemical piece changes, doesnt it usually spell disaster for the organism? How could all the parts of such a complex molecule have occurred naturally and then be assembled.? Doesnt its complexity and purpose imply an intelligent designer?

Chemical evolution on the cellular and molecular level is well-documented. For example, hemoglobin is a very important molecule in many organisms and also complex. Yet data shows this molecule in a simpler form in primitive jawless fish. The molecule has been followed in its evolution through all the other vertebrate animals, gaining in complexity along the way. So complexity, even on the molecular level, is one of natural selection and evolution.

Creationists, especially those espousing intelligent design, attack Darwin as if no further evidence and theoretical development concerning evolution has occurred since the mid-19th century. For example, Darwin thought evolution was too slow to observe. This is clearly wrong. We now know bacteria can change when rapid changes to their environment occur. Bathe bacteria with antibiotics and up pop strains resistant to those antibiotics. And it doesnt take years let alone millions of years. The punch line is that this has added to both the evidence and theories of evolution. Darwin laid down a theoretical foundation that is proving expansive, as in all good science,.

While Darwin neither invented the concept of evolution nor coined the word, he supplied a veritable mountain of evidence for it. He also supplied the theory of natural selection that made it understandable, giving it a materialist grounding. It led to Karl Marxs letter to Fredrick Engels stating that . . . this is the book which contains the basis in natural history for our view. The book was Charles Darwins Origin Of Species (1859).

Just in case you think this is so much theorizing and has little to do with our everyday work and world, consider this. When proponents of using intelligent design to wedge into public schools in Kansas were defeated, where did they go next? Ohio. Hmm. Ruling class elements, whether they believe the hokum of intelligent design or not, are finding it useful.

The Seattle-based Discovery Institute houses the aforementioned Center for Science and Culture that is pushing this antiscience. The Discovery Institute was founded by George Gilder, who is a former Nixon speechwriter, and Bruce Chapman, who was director of the Census Bureau during the Reagan years. This think tank has received major funding from the ultraconservative banking heir Howard F. Ahmanson Jr. Both believers and nonbelievers teach the evidence and theories of evolution in schools across the country. When the school board in Dover, Pennsylvania, recently mandated a disclaimer be read in science classrooms concerning evolution, the science teachers, as one, refused to disseminate it. This action by the teachers is no small matter for them and their families. Schools are not usually bastions of democracy. These teachers are putting their jobs and careers on the line. They are heroes in the struggle against this attempt to turn the clock back some 150 years

The facts of evolution and evolutionary theory are central to the life sciences. Attempting to understand natural history without them, would be like trying to understand political economy without the cyclical crises or history without the laws of social development. It would be just a jumble of facts and figures. Under those circumstances, it would be easy to disconnect causes and effects.

The political goal of the ultraright is to confuse and divide the working class, especially around causes and effects. If you can disconnect causes and their effects, you can disconnect class from economics and politics. So you dont have health insurance for you and your family? Blame the gay guy up the street. Your public school is falling apart and taxes are high? Blame teachers salaries and especially the teachers union. You dont have a job? Blame China. There are drug dealers on the streets you say? Blame the nonbelievers. Theres a dictator in Iraq. Invade on behalf of freedom and democracy. Oil prices are decimating the family budget? Drill in the pristine Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). And then global warming becomes just another scheme by the liberal big spenders in Congress and those environmental wackoos. The list goes on and on.

There is a particularly poignant paragraph in comrade Gil Greens autobiography. He was in jail, effectively cut off from meaningful family life. He asks himself, who will his children blame for the situation at hand? Would they blame the rapid anticommunism of the cold war that cost thousands their jobs, in some cases their livelihoods, and murdered the Rosenbergs? Or would they blame their father for his allegiance to the working class and the CPUSA?

Where we place blame, read causation, is an important starting point. If the class connection is made. the real enemies of the people come into focus quickly. Where to go to get the class truth and where to look for friends in class battles follows suit.

The CPUSA, the Left and the working class must not be divided, be it believers versus nonbelievers. red versus blue states etc. There is a cultural divide but it is determined by class and class ideas, not geography. The class roots of today’s problems are ones that all can grasp. Religious ideas, be they spread in the USA or Middle East, can be utilized to serve the truth and social justice. The abolitionist movement or the Civil Rights movement, under the leadership of Martin Luther King, are prime examples.

We. along with the broad movement that emerged during the 2004 election period, can win the values debate hands down. We are the torch bearers of peace and social justice. Reality and truth are on our side. Believers and nonbelievers will gravitate to the truth and what is just. It is an ideological class battle we must engage. It has to top our club agendas and we must bring it to the peoples movements. Organizationally, it means encouraging dialogue with religious leaders in our clubs, and, in particular, the Labor movement e.g. central labor councils.

Lets take some advise from a janitor from the 17th century.

On these observations I have spent more time than many will believe, but I have done them with joy, and I have taken no notice of those who have said why take so much time and what good is it?

My determination is not to remain stubbornly with my ideas but Ill leave them and go over to others as soon as I am shown plausible reasons which I can grasp. This is the more true since I have no other purpose than to place the truth before my eyes so far it is in my power to embrace it; and to use the little talent I have received to draw the world away from old heathenish superstitions and to go over to the truth and to stick to it. Anton van Leeuwenhoek (1632 – 1723) recorded the first observations of microbes. The humility, determination, flexibility and adherence to the truth he demonstrated is an example for the ages. If there was ever a time ideological struggle was of prime importance, this is it. And lets take another bit of ole Antons advice. Lets do it with joy.


Related Party Voices Articles

For democracy. For equality. For socialism. For a sustainable future and a world that puts people before profits. Join the Communist Party USA today.

Join Now

We are a political party of the working class, for the working class, with no corporate sponsors or billionaire backers. Join the generations of workers whose generosity and solidarity sustains the fight for justice.

Donate Now

CPUSA Mailbag

If you have any questions related to CPUSA, you can ask our experts
  • QHow does the CPUSA feel about the current American foreign...
  • AThanks for a great question, Conlan.  CPUSA stands for peace and international solidarity, and has a long history of involvement...
Read More
Ask a question
See all Answer