Live blogging Barbara Forrest at SMU

Speeding across Dallas at rush hour isn’t fun, but is sometimes necessary. Got here as Kathy Miller of TFN was introducing Dr. Forrest, found a seat with an outlet, it’s 6:25 CST.

Forrest’s book has an update for the Dover trial. She notes the key players at the Discovery Institute, and says she will discuss why Texas should be wary.


Forrest says the “Trojan Horse” term is even more adept if we forget the Greek story, and concentrate on the computer definition of some virus that, once introduced to the system, does damage.

Forrest is doing a primer on intelligent design, the usual players, the Texas friends of the Discovery Institute, and the Wedge Strategy.

Do any readers here not know the usual intelligent design stuff?

ID code words:

  • Teach the controversy
  • Academic freedom
  • Critical analysis of evolution
  • Strengths and weaknesses of evolution
  • Strengths and limitations of evolution
  • Arguments for and against evolution

Terms are used to avoid federal courts, to dodge the radar on First Amendment.


Chou Romanesco, a vegetable, a plant that grows naturally according to Fibonacci numbers, meets all of Dembski’s rules for intelligent design. Nice photo of the stuff.

Forrest points to testimony by Ariel Roth, a young Earth creationist (YEC), which echoes almost exactly Behe’s irreducible complexity. And, to Norman Geisler on complex specified information, as Dembski uses it — but 16 years before Dembski. These are YEC ideas, she says.


Forrest says only a small handful of states — five or six — haven’t had eruptions of creationism in the past three years.


History of the Wedge Strategy: Forrest got a copy of the Wedge Strategy, leaked by Tim Duss, early on. She noticed that the Discovery Institute is following all of their confrontational strategies to promote ID, but is not doing any of the research planned and promised early on. 6:43 p.m. CST


Forrest notes that ID proponents define intelligent design in Christian gospel terms: Logos theology out of John’s Gospel. Quoting Dembski in 1999 and Johnson in 1996. “Empirically detectable in biology,” they allege.

She’s showing us that ID is rooted in creationism.

Here’s a site to see: Forrest’s stuff:


Forrest said that compromise with creationists is always a win for creationists — “and the children lose, every time.”


After the March 1992 conference at SMU, Mark Hartwig described Dembski, Myer, Behe and other now-Discovery Institute minions as creationists, in an article in Moody Magazine designed to attract creationists from Baptist churches to their cause. Forrest relates the history of Dean Kenyon, and his morphing into an “intelligent design” advocate after he got slapped down for trying to teach creationism instead of science.

Myer, in Scientific Tenets of Faith in 1986, argues that science should presuppose the Bible.

At that point, they were openly working to get creationism into school curricula.


In 1999, Meyer, with DeWolf and another, wrote Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curricula – A Legal Guidebook, in which they argued that teaching intelligent design is “a mandate” by the Supreme Court in the Edwards case. In Ohio in 2002, however, Meyer backed off from “mandate.”

In November 2003, Meyer is backed off completely from requiring ID in curricula, suggesting it’s only an effort to be fair. 7:01 p.m.


Forrest played an excerpt from MSNBC’s Abrams Report featuring Steve Meyer and Eugenie Scott. He said that intelligent design is not religion, but is science.

Forrest then noted Paul Nelson’s article in Touchstone magazine, in which Meyer argues that ID doesn’t have any theory yet. She also noted several other links showing the religious nature of Meyer’s work.

Uh oh — now she turns to Dr. Don McLeroy’s Sunday School lecture on intelligent design. She’s bringing it home to Texas. McLeroy says creationists have been making these arguments for decades, and the ID movement is just the latest incarnation.

7:10 p.m.


ID is “A biological theory — or, I guess you could leave off ‘biological’ . . .” according to McLeroy. Four excerpts, each showing the link to religious dogma.


McLeroy sometimes says that he’s not interested in getting ID into the curricula. But almost as often, he wanders off the authorized script, and says he doesn’t believe evolution, doesn’t think that evolution should be taught, and suggests he’s all about getting ID into the schools. Watch out, Forrest warns: Bobby Jindal in Louisiana was targeted by the Discovery Institute, and so is Texas.

She’s concluding, with pictures of Texas school children in 1944, from the Library of Congress. “These little kids are now probably grandparents. It’s sad to think that their grandchildren will be no farther along in science.”

Much applause — people jockeying for the microphones. Ten minutes for questions.


First question. Guy from Utah originally wonders why creationists always attack the model, instead of going after the research.

“This isn’t about science,” Forrest said. “These guys are very smart — they know exactly what the evidence shows.” They believe teaching evolution without saying God did it, without any mention of God, that undermines the beliefs of children. “This is very much about their fear, and their attempt to control public policy.”

It’s about power, religion and politics, not science.

Second question: Who are the primary financial supporters (guy with great white beard).

No real faith-based connection — biggest donor is Howard Ahmansen, is now on the DI’s Board of Directors. Grants from evangelical organizations, but Ahmansen is the biggest donor.

Third question: How successful have they been in their goals — and what about Dawkins?

Biggest success is getting stuff out to public — “a public relations operation to kill for” — and getting information out to churches. They also cultivate high level political support, all the way up to President Bush. “That’s probably going to change.” Some applause.

Academic freedom bills introduced in six states last year. Clock ran out in Florida. Passed in Louisiana.

Dawkins: Everything DI does is in response to Dawkins’ book. It was one of two that Phillip Johnson read to make him launch the ID movement.

Fourth question: What can we do? Any chance of slick PR?

Educate and organize. They don’t hesitate to use other people’s children — organize to stop it.

Fifth question: ‘I’m aware of most of the weaknesses argument — any new ones?’

Nothing really new with evolution. “They’re recycling the old creaitonist complaints against evolution.”

But they’re now attacking the idea that the mind is a function of physical bodies. They’re claiming there is a supernatural connection — an attack on neuroscience. They say the mind is a product of the soul, not the body.

Sixth question: Fibonacci numbers used against ID. Couldn’t an intelligent being have made math that way?

“If you’re asking couldn’t there be a supernatural being who works through natural processes, that sounds like you’re asking whether God could be involved in the workings of nature.”

“I guess that’s what I’m asking.”

That’s basically mainstream religious belief, where most mainstream Christians and Jews make peace with science.

And that is something the Discovery Institute rejects utterly.

Seventh question: What about the anthropic principle?

It’s not new in ID. Forrest explains the principle with regard to ID, notes DI has a book on the stuff.

Eighth question: Thanks, guy says — he heard Meyer last spring, and he’s glad to see the dirty underbelly exposed. Are the academic freedom laws vulnerable?

Forrest says she has a paper on how the language of DI is changing, even before the Dover trial. “We at the NCSE knew we’d be seeing a raft of bills with this sanitized terminology.”

Language is sanitized, and presents more of a problem with litigation — facial challenge problems. Louisiana bill doesn’t mention ID, but uses the code words. Forrest says to look for her analysis at the Louisiana Citizens for Science website. The bill has the code words, and was sponsored by religious organizations.

But what would a judge think? Can’t say.

Ninth question: “I’m a physicist . . . but I’m also a Christian.” If there’s a supernatural explanation, it’s still not science. “They’re giving me a bad name.”

Forrest said the bad name rap is not fair. She notes Ken Miller and Keith Miller.

Questioner asks her to keep science as science and not redefine it. How do we keep science and religion separated?

Forrest said it’s a Constitutional question. Constitution says the government won’t establish religion, but that’s what a teacher does when she introduces religion into her classroom.

Forrest noted how she deals with the issue in her classes. Religion takes us beyond where science can reach. “There’s really no way to incorporate that into a science class. And why would you want to do that?” If you introduce a religious question, and science answers that question, “You have shrunk your god. Why would you want to do that?”

Kids will get religion in church and at home. They’ll get science only at school. Kids need to get it there.


Done at 7:39.  I’ll correct typos, mispellings, and other errors if I find them, and add links if I can — but later.

4 Responses to Live blogging Barbara Forrest at SMU

  1. […] spoke at Southern Methodist University in Dallas about creationism and intelligent design.  Ed Darrell from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub was in attendance and has given us a rundown of the highlights from her […]


  2. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Ed Darrell says:

    One of the things that makes Forrest so astoundingly devastating to the ID group is her calm and cool. Not once do I recall her saying “lie” or “falsehood.” She didn’t disparage anyone in the ID bunch. Instead, she quoted them directly, then contrasted what they said with their earlier statements, or the statements of others.

    The difficulty here in Texas, right now, is that even such dramatic demonstrations have no effect on the true believers on the State Board of Education.

    Would Dembski stick by his confirmation today? I’ll wager he testifies to the State Board.


  4. RBH says:

    “Forrest points to testimony by Ariel Roth, a young Earth creationist (YEC), which echoes almost exactly Behe’s irreducible complexity. And, to Norman Geisler on complex specified information, as Dembski uses it — but 16 years before Dembski. These are YEC ideas, she says.”

    The late Henry Morris wrote a review of one of Dembski’s books bitching at ID proponents for using creationist arguments without crediting the creationists. One of the examples Morris used was “organized complexity,” which he said was a creationist’s idea.

    Dembski replied, saying that what he was doing was building on earlier creationist ideas:

    By contrast, much of my own work on intelligent design has been filling in the details of these otherwise intuitive, pretheoretic ideas of creationists.

    So Dembski is confirming what Forrest said.


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