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Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse

At an IDEA meeting at UVa last fall, before 100 students, I was explaining what ID was. I was trying to communicate how cool it is to be an IDer.

I said, “What is ID? Some critics claim that it’s ‘creationism in a tuxedo’. My response to them is: what’s so bad about being in a tuxedo?” (I then showed this slide, and the room broke out in laughter):

What’s so bad about being in a tuxedo?

And then I pointed out that in their book, Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross (a UVa professor) claimed ID was Creationism’s Trojan Horse.

I asked the students if they had seen the movie Troy. The majority said, “yes.”

I then said, “My response to them is: what’s so bad about Trojan horses? After all, ladies, what do you find when you look inside a Trojan horse?” (I then showed this slide and got an even louder laugh):

What’s inside a Trojan horse?

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13 Responses to Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse

  1. I hate to spoil the fun but I generally appreciate a more direct answer from speakers, such as: “No, ID is not the same as Creationism.”

  2. I think most people there already know that. ;)

  3. Hey! I thought Pitt was one of the world’s unsexiest men. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12371978/?GT1=7938 :)

  4. Hi Qualiatative,

    Oh, I did point that out eventually, and spent a good part of the talk pointing out the differences. I was just starting off the talk on a light hearted note given the topic is so emotionally charged.

    I also wanted the crowd to have imprinted in their subconscious minds that IDers are charming guys like James Bond and Brad Pitt.

    (And for what it’s worth, ID basher, Roger Ebert got the ignoble honor of being one of the top 5 unsexiest guys in the world.)


    I recall when Barbara Forrest’s book came out in 2002, but in 2004, the movie Troy came out, and lots of IDers were laughing at the fact Hollywood was making heroes of the guys who waged war with the Trojan horse. Not that I agree with Barbara Forrests slanderous labels, but it was just too funny to see the events unfold. I just thought the timing of the Forrest’s book (a fear mongering book about Trojan Horse) was followed by a movie which made heroes of the guys who made the Trojan Horse.


  5. Oh, I did point that out eventually, and spent a good part of the talk pointing out the differences.

    I’m sure you did a great job! I just would hate to see IDers become like Creationists and Darwinists — mocking adversaries rather than addressing the accuracy of claims.

  6. “Creationists and Darwinists — mocking adversaries rather than addressing the accuracy of claims.”

    Interesting, many in the modern Creationist movement have more-or-less given up debating Darwinists at all. They’ve decided instead of trying to convince people, it would be better use of their time just to persue biological research in the light of Creation rather than trying to convince Darwinists of the same.

    For an example of this movement, see:


    And a book on the same:


  7. A little off topic but the movie Troy did not paint the Greeks as heroes. They were despoilers of the much more noble kingdom of Troy. Brad Pitt (Achilles) was not the hero it was Eric Bana, the elder prince of Troy that was the hero. Achilles was presented as a remorseless and unprincipled killing machine who slowly starts to see the light as he falls in love with a Trojan priestess and sees the nobility in the Trojan king.

  8. johnnyb wrote:

    Interesting, many in the modern Creationist movement have more-or-less given up debating Darwinists at all. They’ve decided instead of trying to convince people, it would be better use of their time just to persue biological research in the light of Creation rather than trying to convince Darwinists of the same.

    I don’t believe in debating Darwinists to convince them, it is to expose them before everyone else who is on the fence. Bill Dembski put it well:

    Dealing With the Backlash

    The appropriate response to attacks by critics is to see the attacks as opportunities to advance our cause. Think of them as gifts. As a student of the Old Testament, I’ve always been fascinated with the Israelite conquest of the Promised Land. The pattern that kept repeating itself was this. The Israelites would approach a fortified city. Instead of entrenching themselves in their city and allowing their countryside to be ravaged, the inhabitants of the city would come out for battle. Once outside their positions of safety, however, they were fair game, and the Israelites were able to make short work of them. That’s the pattern I see in this debate. The proponents of evolution would very much prefer to stay in their fortified positions. They don’t want to dignify us by devoting time and energy to refute us. They would prefer to ignore us. They wish we would just go away. But the challenge to evolution in the schools and public square is real and threatens their monopoly. The unwashed masses are not with them. The evolutionists cannot leave these crazy design theorists unanswered. So, out they come from their positions of safety to challenge us. But, in the very challenge, they open evolutionary theory to a scrutiny it cannot withstand.

    Richard Dawkins is a case in point. Dawkins refuses, as a matter of principle, to debate me and my colleagues because it would, in his view, dignify our position. Yet he cannot resist criticizing us in print. Notwithstanding, whenever he does so, he makes himself vulnerable. This was brought home to me in a foreword that Dawkins wrote for a recent book attacking intelligent design — Niall Shanks’s God, the Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory. In that foreword, Dawkins asks who owns the argument from improbability. His answer: Not those crazy design theorists but evolutionists like himself. Thus, he writes, “Darwinian natural selection, which, contrary to a deplorably widespread misconception, is the very antithesis of a chance process, is the only known mechanism that is ultimately capable of generating improbable complexity out of simplicity.” At the risk of immodesty, I’m the guy who wrote the book on the argument from improbability — it’s called The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities. Dawkins is a great popular science writer and he is expert in certain aspects of biology, but he is a duffer when it comes to the argument from improbability. He’s now on my turf, and I’m only too happy to instruct him.

    The whole essay is worth a read, but here are more gems:

    4. Putting Critics to Use

    Critics and enemies are useful. The point is to use them effectively. In our case, this is remarkably easy to do. The reason is that our critics are so assured of themselves and of the rightness of their cause. As a result, they rush into print their latest pronouncements against intelligent design when more careful thought, or perhaps even silence, is called for. The Internet, especially now with its blogs (web logs), provides our critics with numerous opportunities for intemperate, indiscreet, and ill-conceived attacks on intelligent design. These can be turned to advantage, and I’ve done so on numerous occasions. I’m not going to give away all my secrets, but one thing I sometimes do is post on the web a chapter or section from a forthcoming book, let the critics descend, and then revise it so that what appears in book form preempts the critics’ objections. An additional advantage with this approach is that I can cite the website on which the objections appear, which typically gives me the last word in the exchange. And even if the critics choose to revise the objections on their website, books are far more permanent and influential than webpages.

    An illustration might be helpful here. As I was working on my book No Free Lunch, I wrote a section critical of Thomas Schneider’s article “Evolution of Biological Information,” which appeared in Nucleic Acids Research. I would have liked to get from Schneider a well-considered response to my criticisms. But with Darwin fish crawling over his website, I frankly doubted that he could serve as a fair-minded respondent. I therefore posted the relevant section on the science-religion listserve META, framing the discussion around some remarks on design by the German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg. I posted my 3000 word critique one day. Wesley Elsberry immediately alerted Schneider. Schneider posted his rebuttal the following day. I love the Internet!

    That’s what debate is good for.

  9. Sal –

    While ID’s critics are often even more helpful than its proponents (compare Dawkins to the Dover school board), I think there is a technique which is much, much better.

    All too often, ID’ers (and Creationists as well) are trying to get into mainstream science journals. I say “screw that”. I think a better plan is abandonment. If everyone who agrees with ID (which I suspect is a considerably larger group than those publicly claiming ID right now) simply stop publishing their research in “prestigious” journals, and instead published their research in ID journals and Creationist journals (depending on their perspective), the result would be unignorable.

    For example, right now I get CRSQ. An enjoyable journal. However, imagine if someone working in immunology decided that, rather than publishing their results in Nature, opted to publish them in CRSQ? Next thing you know, the Darwinists would have to make the choice of either (*gasp*) citing CRSQ, or essentially plagiarizing the material.

    Now, I don’t think that CRSQ is necessarily the right place for this. OPBSG is a much better avenue, though it is not currently in full swing. What I think is really needed are more publishing avenues for such research. Obviously funding is still a difficult problem, but I think just a few successes would turn the tide.

    And it doesn’t have to span the gamut of biology topics. If such studies provide ONE area of inquiry with a lot of practical benefits, that’s all that’s needed to get started. I consider this the “Linux” factor. Linux is currently the hot topic in computers. It has always been good at many things, but it has _always_ been the clear win for webservers and cheap supercomputers. By nailing both of those uses, it made headway and legitimacy in other areas as well.

    Don’t try to get papers into Nature. Create your own journal with such compelling content that everyone desperately desires to read it. Then Nature becomes irrelevant.

  10. Qualititative wrote: “just would hate to see IDers become like Creationists and Darwinists — mocking adversaries rather than addressing the accuracy of claims”

    I pretty much left the a large segment creationist community (namely the AiG types) even though I personally believe in special creation. I can’t get along with them and the way a lot of them do business. Even though I consider myself a YEC (I was formerly an Old Earth Darwinist), I’ve been viewed as too compromising by some YEC circles because of my association with the Intelligent Design movement.

    When AiG called James Dobson a compromiser because he used the word “Big Bang”, I said to myself, “I’ve had it with these guys.”

    I don’t particularly care for AiG, and I’m ambivalent to ICR. These orginzations have stabbed other YECs in the back, and I said, “enough is enough”. I don’t like the way AiG makes adversaries and mocks them, especially when they mock people of faith like James Dobson and label them as “compromisers”. It’s particularly irritating when their science is flawed. I get along with the IDers a lot better.

    The best creationists however are the Walter Brown, Barry Setterfield, and the BSG (Baraminology Study Group):


    These organizations are far more temperate and less rhetorical in their approach and more scientific.

    I also highly recommend Crevo’s webblogs:

    However, if you want some entertainment:


  11. “The best creationists however are the Walter Brown, Barry Setterfield, and the BSG (Baraminology Study Group)”

    Does that mean I’ll get to meet you at the BSG conference this summer?

  12. Qualitative, I began from the YEC side, and carefully examined a bunch of arguments for a young earth. My model was simple, kina like the old “draw a line down the middle of the page, list the stuff you like on the left and the stuff you don’t on the right”. Instead I listed the stuff that suggested that the earth was old on the left, and young on the right. The results, at the time, were an overwhelming support for “old”.

    I have, however, found a few pieces of compelling evidence that is drawing me to reconsider that science may be incredibly diluded, and young may be correct. Two of these come from recent issues of the bastion of religion, “Discover Magazine”. The first is the discovery of “a bloodlike substance” found on T.Rex fossils. What I find particularly interesting about this discovery is that science, rather than being attracted to the mystery of it, is repulsed. Its as if the scientific community is afraid to discover that thier strongly held belief in an old earth is wrong. What’s wrong with our science when mysterious data is not seen as exciting.

    The second is a machine that is producing oil from anything with an organic origin. They are stuffing the leavings from a slaughter house into this machine, and getting out diesel. The issue with this is that it has always been claimed that oil takes heat + pressure + a whole lot of time.

    I am still old earth, but I must admit that I have nudged in the direction of a young earth.

  13. johnnyb asked: “Does that mean I’ll get to meet you at the BSG conference this summer? “

    Golly, what a great thought. I hadn’t even thought of it, but just to see you, maybe I should come out. :-)

    I have to admit I was extremely impressed that the BSG got Richard Sternberg to work with them. This is a very significant thing in that he is not an evangelical, he is not a creationist, and he is not pro-ID. But his expertise was received and welcomed. That is a very healthy approach for YECs to undertake. I would presume Sternberg did not have to sign any profession of faith to participate, and I think that is a good thing in that all great ideas should welcome healthy skepticism.

    3 of the guys who have come out to BSG are from GMU, and 2 of them attended our last major IDEA GMU meeting (Dr. Gordon Wilson, Dr. Tim Brophy). I haven’t met Dr. Timothy Standish yet. Todd Wood was Gordon Wilson’s student.

    I’m deeply grateful some YECs like Nelson, Wilson, and Standish are friendly to ID.

    What I pointed out at the UVa meeting is that ID is theology free, ID arrives at its conclusions outside of religious texts. It’s been hard convincing the YEC community to accept ID as one would accept molecular biology, as it’s a purely scientific theory.

    I almost laugh that Forrest and Gross consider ID as creationism Trojan horse given that the YEC community has been rather lukewarm to ID.

    Anyway, I hope our participation here, johnnyb, will help enlighten the creationists out yonder that ID’s role is not theological, but scientific, and that there is a place for theology-free scientific theories in the community of creationists.

    And in the meantime while the ID message is getting out, if people associate IDers with James Bond or Brad Pitt, I won’t complain.

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