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Fundamentalist Politics

Tactics in Fighting Creationists and IDers

By Lenny Flank

Many people have treated the evolution/creation controversy (if they think about it at all) as if it were a scientific dispute -- as if the two viewpoints were merely differing ways of interpreting scientific data. (This, in fact, is precisely how the ID/creationists wish to present it.) Scientists in particular have tended to respond to the ID/creationist movement by first ignoring it in the hopes that it would go away, and then with long technical explanations of how the scientific conclusions of the ID/creationist arguments are unsupported, incomplete or just plain wrong. All of the scientific refutations of ID/creationism have not, however, lessened the conflict -- if anything, they have heightened it. The reason for this is simple; ID/creationism is not science and it does not have scientific goals. Because of this, it will not be beaten by science or by scientific arguments --- these are essentially irrelevant to the real goals of the ID/creationist movement. The ID/creationist movement is a political movement with political goals, and it must be beaten the same way that every other political movement is beaten -- by out-organizing it.

In my 20-plus years of fighting creationist/IDers both live and online, I have come to depend on a number of simple guidlelines for dealing with them. I offer these here in the hopes that others can put them to good use. The ID/creationist movement (and the larger fundamentalist Christian political movement of which it is only a small part) can only be beaten by a political organization that is dedicated to countering it at every turn. And the entire art of political organizing is all about knowing when to use what tactic to your best advantage (and your opponent's best dis-advantage).

The first step in beating the ID movement is to recognize that IDers have a specific agenda that they want to follow, and specific arguments that they want to make. So don't let them set the agenda. Go outside the areas they want to deal with, and force them to deal with areas they don't want to deal with — such as who funds them and why. ID also insists that it's science and not religion. That is their own argument. So force them to live up to it and either put up or shut up. Either they have something scientific to offer, or they don't -- and anything religious they want to talk about is irrelevant (as well as illegal in schools). Force them to demonstrate publicly that they simply can't live up to their own terms of argument. They have nothing scientific to offer. On my DebunkCreation list, discussions are limited only to science, and discussions about religion are specifically excluded. We have had over 400 different creationist/IDers come in over the years. Not a single one was able to state a coherent scientific theory of ID or creation, but every single one of them wanted to tell us all about their religious opinions.

The simple fact is that the creationist/IDers have a clearly articulated, deliberately planned strategy for theocracy, and virtually no one in the US agrees with the extremist political philosophy of the DI or its funders. That is power we can use. People simply don't want a theocracy. Keep pushing the IDers about it, force them to defend it publicly, and watch their public support melt away.

Don't focus on the science. Non-scientists trying to argue over science is a recipe for disaster. On the other hand, scientists arguing over science is a recipe for boredom. Nobody wants to listen to deadly-dull lectures on "pre-biotic polymer chemosynthesis" or "the homology between type III secretory apparatus and the bacterial flagellum" (yawn). This isn't a science symposium. Don't treat it as one. Treating this as a "science debate" only reinforces the false impression given by IDers that there is a legitimate scientific debate, with two equally valid sides. There isn't. It allows them to set the agenda and to fight on their own chosen terms. Don't do it. This fight is a political fight. It's simply not about science.

Keep in mind that IDers are vulnerable on many fronts, so use them all. Most theologians reject the religious assumptions of the ID/creationists and their fundamentalist base. The IDers have no science to speak of. No one agrees with their political extremism. Many of the prominent IDers spout out things that are, quite frankly, nutty (such as Phillip Johnson's denial that HIV causes AIDS). The ID movement's funding comes mostly from fundamentalist extremists and, in the case of the Center for Science and Culture, largely from one single radical ayatollah-wannabe. Internally, the ID movement's supporters are an unsteady marriage of convenience between a variety of different religious zealots, most of whom would ordinarily be ready at the drop of a hat to wage Holy War on each other. Their most vocal "supporters" undermine their own legal strategy by preaching their religious opinions at every opportunity. So attack them on every possible front. Don't let up for a second, come at them from every possible direction, and don't give them an instant's rest. Above all, take the fight to the IDers. It's not enough for us to be defensive and react to what the IDers do -- we need to start setting the agenda and go on the offensive, introducing things that we want and forcing the other side to defend themselves against it.

The only thing that will beat ID/creationism (and all its future derivatives) is an informed public that makes it clear to everyone that it does not want a fundamentalist Christian theocracy, won't support it, won't allow it, and will do whatever it takes to prevent it.

So get out there and help.


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