They never rest, and you know the creationists are constantly probing, trying to find the next likely inroad into the schools. Sahotra Sarkar offers some concerns about what’s coming next in creationism—these seem like quite probable strategies to me.
As the physicist and astronomer Victor Stenger noted in the Skeptical Briefs newsletter last September, The Privileged Planet represents a new wedge in the creationists’ arsenal. Equally importantly, the Smithsonian episode shows how this new physics-based version of creationism is being propagated with unusual stealth. Biologists may now feel safe that the problem of combating creationism has moved out of their backyards to infest the haunts of the physicists. Some religious biologists have even endorsed the idea of a conscious creator of the universe, so long as it does not affect biological theory. For instance, the biochemist Ken Miller, who ably defends evolution against creationist charges in Finding Darwin’s God, goes on to claim that God created the universe with its laws and evolution is simply a result of these laws.
These moves are dangerous: once the creator enters the science classroom, even through the physicists’ backdoor, the room for mischief is enormous. Biologists would do well to remember that, ultimately, what has motivated creationists to action throughout history is the natural origin of the human species. Sooner or later creationists will return to the theory they fear and detest most: evolution by natural selection. Moreover, if religious dogma manages to breach the defenses of science, there is every reason to believe that it will proactively encroach on every other secular institution of society. The new stealth creationism is, in short, as dangerous as its older cousins, Intelligent Design and Young Earth creationism. It can and should be defeated in the same way they were.
We’ve seen this coming for a long time: the Discovery Institute has been pushing that fine-tuning argument for a while, and that line of argument makes an end run around one of our most successful debaters, Ken Miller, and also puts Francis Collins and many other theistic evolutionists on their side. We prickly, cranky, vociferous biologists, who’ve been fighting this nonsense for years and are ready to start roaring at the first attempt to smuggle a creationist onto a school board, are also going to be less effective—for instance, I don’t pay that much attention to the physics standards, and wouldn’t have any influence at all on physics teaching. We’d need more effort at the public school level in this discipline.
And, honestly, physics teachers are smart people, but they get even less training in coping with creationist arguments than biology teachers, and unfortunately, a lot of physics instructors and engineers and chemists have more sympathy for ID than do the biologists. Add to that problem the fact that a few notable evolutionists are perfectly willing to pass the headaches on to the physicists, conceding the Big Bang to a vague version of a god, and this could be a major worry.