Noted philosophy professor and author Dr. Barbara Forrest answered the question above in the affirmative on February 16 in her DARWIN2009 keynote evening lecture at Northern Kentucky University (just a few miles down Interstate 275 from our ministry and the Creation Museum). She was in our area to discuss her involvement in defending evolution in the 2005 lawsuit against the Dover, Pennsylvania, school district over the teaching of intelligent design (ID) in its public schools.
Dr. Forrest’s lecture was one in a series of events in the Cincinnati metro area this year as evolutionists celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book On the Origin of Species. Dr. Forrest is a professor of philosophy in the Department of History and Political Science at Southeastern Louisiana University and co-author of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (2004; 2007, 2nd ed.).
The lecture, attended by about 180 people (evidently mostly from the university community), was very enlightening. I found that I agreed with much of what she said about the Intelligent Design Movement (IDM), but many of her criticisms also apply to her own evolutionist camp (as I will show).
Intelligent Design—Creationism in Disguise?
Dr. Forrest began by explaining the Dover trial, including her part as one of the expert witnesses for the evolutionist plaintiffs. The case was a disaster for the ID side represented at the trial.
Her main thesis was that the ID movement is a religious movement; in fact, really a creationist movement. She argued that the ID positions of 1) irreducible complexity, 2) specified complexity, and 3) intelligent design being empirically detectable are “old creationist ideas.” She documented from the five drafts of the ID book Of Pandas and People (a textbook involved in the Dover controversy), which between 1983 and 1987 became increasingly less creationist before the published text appeared. She also quoted many public statements made by ID leaders, such as William Dembski, Phillip Johnson, Jonathan Wells, and Stephen Meyer—as well as a “leaked” strategy document of the ID think-tank, Discovery Institute, to show the religious nature and intentions of the ID movement.
As a result, she frequently used the words “creationism” and “intelligent design” interchangeably. It wasn’t until near the end of the lecture that she made a clear distinction between young-earth creationists and ID proponents, most of whom she said were old-earth proponents. But because of the way many IDers hide their religious agenda in their attempts to get ID into the schools, she is convinced that its “wedge strategy” for breaking open the log of naturalism in science is ultimately a strategy to get young-earth creationism into the schools. She made a case for her conclusion that ID came out of young-earth creationism and, therefore, is a “Creationist Trojan Horse.” She also argued that the ID movement admittedly has no biological theory of origins and has produced virtually no scientific research.
It is the low level of scientific literacy that makes people think evolution is true.Regarding the legislation signed into law by the Louisiana governor on June 25, 2008 (Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1), which will allow students to analyze and evaluate the evidence for and against evolution, Dr. Forrest said that the language was so carefully crafted that it would take some serious legal work to mount a challenge in court. She urged upon her listeners that “we need to give kids a 21st century science education, rather than a medieval* education.” The reason, she contended, that the ID people can influence these school boards is because of “the low level of scientific literacy in the American public.” Actually, I contend the opposite is the truth: it is the low level of scientific literacy that makes people think evolution is true.
When asked in the Q&A time what people could do to oppose these “creationist” efforts, she said that university science professors need to act locally to teach evolution in workshops for public school teachers. But she added, “we can’t solve this with science . . . . It’s a political problem, so we need to elect people who will vote for science.” And then, if nothing else, people should send money to organizations working on the front lines to resist the ID and creationist efforts, such as the atheist-led National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Dr. Forrest thinks that IDers are all “about religion, politics, and power—it’s about controlling public policy.” But this is precisely what Dr. Forrest, the NCSE, and other anti-Christian evolutionists are focused on themselves. She doesn’t believe IDers such as Dembski, Behe, et al. really believe the science they are promoting. Rather, they are an “extension of the religious right experts’ efforts to control public education.” But we ourselves are really duped if we think that the atheist and agnostic humanists have no such agenda for education.
When asked if there would be any legal challenges to the new Louisiana law, she replied that these creationists, led by the Discovery Institute, are “using sanitized language to get their ideas accepted by school boards.” Because of this “any attempt to litigate against it will have to be very carefully thought out.” Well, the evolutionists are masters at using deceptive language to get their ideas accepted by the public, such as the equivocal terms “evolution,” “natural selection” (see Is Natural Selection the Same Thing as Evolution? and Natural Selection vs. Evolution), and “beneficial mutations” (see Are There Beneficial Mutations?).
Dr. Forrest also informed the audience that the president of the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) has sent a letter (Feb. 5, 2009) to the Louisiana governor to inform him that the SICB will not hold any future meetings in New Orleans because of the new law. The last SICB meeting, held in Boston, attracted over 1850 scientists and graduate students to the city for five days. According to the website of the National Center for Science Education (ardent defenders of evolution), the SICB president wrote, “As you might imagine, a professional meeting with nearly 2,000 participants can contribute to the economic engine of any community.” In 2011, Salt Lake City, not New Orleans, will reap those economic benefits from the SICB. NCSE commented on this letter that “the law threatens to open the door for creationism and scientifically unwarranted critiques of evolution to be taught in public school science classes.”
I’ve also just yesterday seen an email from a PhD member of another national science organization asking the president to have the group boycott Louisiana for its 2011 annual national meeting because the new state law could open the door to teaching creation in the public schools. He declared that the association should not bring their business to New Orleans and that the group must support science.1
Too Weak to Stand
Think about the implication of these evolutionist statements. The evolution view is so weak, and the evolutionist science teachers are so incompetent, and the ID and creationist science teachers are so slick in their teaching skills, and the students are so poorly-trained (by the public schools) to think critically, that students cannot be exposed to “scientifically unwarranted critiques of evolution” because they almost certainly will be duped into believing those “ridiculous” anti-evolutionary views of origins.
The evolutionists indeed have a problem. And that’s why they resort to legal and political intimidation, firing or denying tenure to scientists and science teachers who are creationists or ID proponents (see the DVD documentary film Expelled and the related book Slaughter of the Dissidents), and using economic boycotts to protect their theory. If evolution were really the truth, then evolutionist teachers, professors, and scientists would welcome challenges from IDers and creationists because they could very easily expose their arguments as scientific absurdities. The fact that the evolutionists don’t welcome the challenges but do everything they can to avoid or prevent them is strong evidence that Neo-Darwinian “microbe-to-microbiologist” evolution is a massive deception masquerading as proven scientific fact.
Evolutionist professor of biology, Dr. Scott Todd (Kansas State University), was exactly right when he wrote in a 1999 letter to the editor of Nature:
Additionally, one must question the interpretations of the observed phenomena and discuss the weaknesses of the model. Honest scientists are far more inspiring than defensive ones who scoff arrogantly at the masses and fear that discussing the problems of macro-evolutionary theory will weaken general acceptance of it. On the contrary, free debate is more likely to encourage the curious to seek solutions.2
But free debate is what Dr. Forrest and other evolutionists don’t want to allow in the schools, lest curious students discover the truth. In Dr. Todd’s next paragraph in the same letter he said (in seeming contradiction to the above statement): “Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an [sic] hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.”
But why don’t evolutionists want to allow the students to read and discuss in the science classroom whether or not only naturalistic explanations should be allowed in science? Why should students be exposed to the anti-Christian religion of naturalism used to interpret the observed biological, geological, or astronomical phenomena (without being told that they are being exposed to this religion), but be denied exposure to other religiously motivated scientific interpretations of the same phenomena?
That’s not good scientific methodology to expose students to only one set of scientific interpretations. Nor is it consistent with the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech in America. Nor is it even consistent with the alleged notion of “separation of church and state” (a phrase not in the Constitution) because naturalism is a religion, just as much as Christianity is.
Here are some concluding thoughts of mine from the evening with Dr. Forrest.
- ID’s covert strategy with the schools is not fooling the evolutionists or the courts, especially since young-earth creationists are also involved in these school battles. In fact, the deception (and Dr. Forrest documented some lying by IDers) of the movement is counter-productive. Christians must be people of truth.
- Evolutionists (at least leaders like Dr. Forrest) have no more respect for IDers than they do for young-earth creationists. Hiding one’s spiritual convictions or compromising with millions of years does not increase the acceptability of one’s views.
- There is no way the educational system will change to become open to creation science unless the vast majority of scientists, judges, and politicians are converted to Christ, which is, sadly, doubtful.
- Christians must wake up to the challenge of evolution and its associated belief of millions of years and get grounded in the truth of Genesis—and in the growing scientific evidence that confirms that truth. They must equip themselves, their children, and their grandchildren to defend the truth of Genesis and the gospel (which is based on Genesis; see, for example, Genesis 3:15) in the midst of this aggressively and increasingly anti-Christian, evolutionized culture. The resources in the AiG webstore can help tremendously. Creation: Facts of Life by a former evolutionist is a good place to start during this “Year of Darwin” (in honor of his 200th birthday and 150th anniversary of the publication of his famous book). High school students need this research tool. For a more technical response, see Genetic Entropy & the Mystery of the Genome by a Cornell University geneticist who was an evolutionist for most of his career, and Not by Chance by a Jewish scientist who is an expert on mutations and evolution.
- This origins controversy is ultimately a spiritual battle, not a scientific or a political one. Dr. Forrest condemned the ID people for their covert, religiously motivated attempts to get control of public education. But she and her evolutionist colleagues are guilty of the very same thing. As a member of the board of directors of the National Center for Science Education (headed by openly atheistic Dr. Eugenie Scott) and the board of trustees of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Dr. Forrest herself is hardly religiously unbiased, as she subtly presented herself during the lecture. She did not reveal if she is an atheist or a believer in some kind of god. But regardless, she is religious. Everyone worships some kind of a god, whether the God of the Bible or of some other recognized religion or the god of science—or of political or academic power, self, money, sports, etc. And out of that conventional or unconventional worship flow a person’s views about the biblical God, morality, the meaning and purpose of life, and what happens to us when we die—all religious issues. So, decades ago when the schools embraced evolutionism and removed Christianity from the schools, they didn’t remove religion from school or science, but simply substituted another religion: the religion of secular humanism or atheism. Dr. Forrest said: “unless you are a biblical literalist [i.e., a young-earth creationist], evolution is very compatible with religion.” That is true. The battle is not science against religion, but rather all other religious views against the Word of God.
Dr. Forrest did admit that most IDers are believers in an old-earth. Most IDers are, in fact, quite opposed to the young-earth view. So, the IDM is not a young-earth creationist movement in disguise, as she claims, although many young-earth parents at the grassroots level are supportive of ID efforts to get criticisms of evolution allowed in science classes in the public schools. While we appreciate many of the scientific and philosophical critiques of Darwinism that ID leaders are publishing, we think there are serious flaws in their old-earth thinking and in their strategy to change science. All old-earth or IDM-inclined Christians need to grapple with the scholarly, but layman-understandable, biblical and historical arguments for young-earth creationism in the new book, Coming to Grips with Genesis, which includes a specific critique of the strengths and weaknesses of the ID movement.
Christians must stand without apology, shame, or compromise for the truth of the Word of God as they expose the religious and deceptively “scientific” nature of evolution. Dr. Forrest understands and commented on Christians’ and others’ concerns that evolution destroys any basis for morality or purpose and meaning in life and rejects our concerns. But she gave no explanation of how evolution can provide any basis for these things. The simple fact is that it can’t. Evolution is like an acid—it eats away at faith, morality, and meaning. May all Christians look to God for strength in these challenging times and cling to His promise in Isaiah 66:1–2:
Thus says the LORD, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD. “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”
* Upon publishing this article at the above date, the article said “evil” here. Dr. Mortenson, from where he was sitting, had misheard her, and Dr. Forrest graciously corrected him by email. Return to text.