Saturday, November 03, 2007

Barbara Forrest: the evolution of creationism

Barbara Forrest's talk last night was nothing short of brilliant, a wonderfully concise and entertaining summation not only of the Dover trial, but of the shenanigans and institutionalized dishonesty and sleaze of the whole creationist movement since it began to get really politically active in the 1980's. What stood out most to me was how she described the way the ID movement, having been dealt a decisive body blow in Dover, has, in quintessential Darwinian fashion, adapted to its circumstances and is now presenting a new face to the public. Now even a number of ID proponents and old fashioned creos are disdaining the term "Intelligent Design." Dan McLeroy, the creationist who was just appointed to head the Texas State Board of Education, has actually said in newspaper interviews that ID should not be taught in classrooms because it is not supported by a scientific consensus.

But...don't get too smug and complacent, Forrest warned. The ID movement is now talking in code. They're simply recycling old creationist buzzwords from the 80's and redressing them to reflect what we're all supposed to think is a more moderate, conciliatory, even pro-science stance. They talk about "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution; in the same interview, after distancing himself from ID, McLeroy criticizes current science textbooks for not presenting the "weaknesses" of evolutionary theory well enough. (Which, of course, means they don't talk about God enough.) They're chanting the mantra of "teach the controversy," a phrase designed to persude the scientifically illiterate general public that there must be some raging controversy within the sciences regarding evolution. Sure, there are controversies within biology regarding evolution. But the idea that evolution doesn't happen and has never happened in the first place ain't one of 'em.

So one can never let one's guard down around the creos. It behooves proponents of good science to remember that these are not people motivated by a sincere thirst for knowledge and desire to learn all they can about the world around them, all the while keeping to an "open-minded" attitude that the scientific mainstream, they say, doesn't share. No, these are religious ideologues who see science as a threat to their cherished beliefs. They fear science because, as creo-godfather Phillip Johnson has repeatedly claimed, if there's no invisible magic man in the sky ready to hand them eternal life and other shiny shinies as a reward for their godly virtue, then life itself can't have any meaning. You and I know that's rubbish. But it's a powerful set of psychological and emotional shackles with which to chain someone. And it's difficult to break those chains, especially when the chained individual doesn't realize they're chained and fears being freed.

Having read such enjoyable Dover accounts as Monkey Girl and 40 Days and 40 Nights, I'm now eagerly curling up with Forrest's Creationism's Trojan Horse! I think you should, too. To the creos I say, bring it! You're no longer fooling anyone but yourselves, and we're ready for whatever the latest set of lies you choose to trot out might be.


  1. Sounds fantastic. Wish I'd been there; I'm a fan of Forrest and would have loved the opportunity to ask a few questions.

    Unfortunately, I was doing homework all weekend, and I didn't hear about the talk until the day before anyway. Glad to hear it went well.

  2. Fascinating. I knew it wouldn't take them long to play dress up with creationism again. It's good to see people are on guard now for what the new look is instead of dealing with it afterwards like with ID.


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