How to organize against a creationist lecture

Got a creationist coming to your town or school? A commenter from Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education left an excellent summary of how to counter these travelin’ frauds effectively. The key is simple: recruit. Get the information out. Don’t let them come in and babble unopposed or with an audience imported from the local fundie churches — get informed people there, and the creationists will crumple easily.

Notice that this isn’t about suppressing their information (or even expelling them) — it’s shining the light of open public criticism on their shenanigans.

A little more background on how University of Oklahoma students and others
opposed the Dembski appearance:

  1. A group of students now forming a chapter of Center for Inquiry
    received permission to place chalkings on campus sidewalks to counter the
    ads for Dembski’s talk sponsored by ‘Pursuit College Example of the
    chalking: “A Federal judge ruled in 2005 that ID was Religion and Not

  2. The same group of students, plus some grad students from Zoology handed
    out to all entering the lecture the pre-trial statement of Jeffrey Shalitt
    that fairly demolished Dembski’s arguments for ID.

  3. A full page ad in The Daily Oklahoman student paper against Dembski
    appeared the morning (Monday)of his talk and was signed by about 200
    faculty, staff and graduate students. The ad was drafted by an English
    instructor. Dembski took bewtween 5 and 10 minutes at the beginning of his
    talk to defend the anti-Dembski comments in the ad. His defense was
    without merit, but did force him to skip about a dozen of the slides in his
    talk because he ran out of time. The ad was financed by contributions from
    many of the signers and by the OU Chapter of Sigma Xi, a national honorary
    scientific research society.

  4. An excellent Op-Ed opposing Dembski and ID also was in the student
    paper on Monday morning, along with an ineffective counter by the paper’s
    religion writer. A second excellent Op-Ed opposing ID appeared Tuesday
    morning after Dembski’s talk.

  5. The creationist group wanted a big audience and they got one. The room
    held 400 and many were turned away. However, I don’t think they expected
    that more than half the audience was against ID and showed it – especially
    during the Q and A. Of course, the ID crowd will pull out there old
    strategem – ‘See how important we are. We attracted all those scientists
    to our talk.”!

  6. The Baptist group may claim success (there is talk that they plan to
    produce a DVD , but I doubt that it will include the Q and A, where
    Dembski was pretty much skewered – mostly by undergraduate students who
    insisted on answers when Dembski waffled in his answers! We are very proud
    of our students and how they handled their pertinent questions!

That’s marvelous. It reminds me of the public reaming Paul Nelson received when he visited UMM … and again, it was the students who were able to shred their pathetic arguments, and did so with gusto.


  1. Christian Burnham says

    We be needing a Cat O’ Nine tails to put the fear into these scallywags. Raise the Jolly Roger, man the cannons and set sail for yonder creationist dens of iniquity.

    (how did I do?)

  2. says

    I was seriously impressed by the efforts of the faculty and students at the University of Oklahoma. And, it’s the perfect way of handling it. The creationists are obviously welcome to talk so long as they are also allowed to be questioned and criticized.

    My guess is that Dembski’s big stumbling point was that he probably wasn’t used to people who didn’t blindly swallow his nonsense. They clearly don’t know how to handle the doubters and skeptics without the usual threats of eternal suffering.

    Anyway, outstanding job OU. You made a fan of me.

  3. Swiftsure says

    There is little doubt that Dembski and his following of dimwit fundies will claim that they are under attack from “militant atheists”.

    But I think there is no such person as a militant atheist; there are people like myself who are speaking out in self defence. I am fed up to the back teeth with religious people forcing their own unsolocited brand of nonsense on me, and the time is right for us all to fight back.

    My personal philosophy used to be, “If you want to believe in your particular god, get on with it but leave me out”. But these people will not leave me out, and now I feel that I just have to respond.

    The bible says that the meek shall inhertit the Earth (not that I want any trouble with the meek), but they started it…

  4. steve s says

    A full page ad in The Daily Oklahoman student paper against Dembski appeared the morning (Monday)of his talk and was signed by about 200 faculty, staff and graduate students.

    Fuckin’ A. I like how these kids roll.

  5. Luca says

    That’s all good, but can you assure us that police won’t rush us out and electro-shock us as we try to ask questions? :)

  6. Brad says

    Being from Oklahoma and an alumnus of OU (mathematics), I am glad to see the fight being won in an area of the country teeming with those who outwardly and gleefully announce their support for the metaphorical ramblings-on known as the bible. I just wish I were there to witness the spectacle myself.

  7. wright says

    As many here have pointed out, Creationists are used to preaching to the choir, literally. For all their gloating about how “Darwinism” is fading and in retreat, their own views sure don’t do well under pressure and bright lights.

    Interesting how techniques like the Vise Strategy seem to work so well against these folks… Well done, students and faculty of OU.

  8. Michael says

    This makes me happy. I’m not so afraid for my state now. I go to Oklahoma State University but have ties to OU. I had an evolve fish on the back of my car and it was ripped of sunday while i was at work, when the church crowd came in. I’m glad to know that there are people living here that are outspoken in their opinions against religion and ID.

  9. Jennifer A. Burdoo says

    I’m happy to see this too. A few years ago I was getting my History master’s at Emporia State University in east-central Kansas. I spent a lot of my offtime at the local Xian coffeehouse, whose proprietor invited me to the talk of an anti-evolutionist/ID-er who was speaking at the college’s science building. Well, what looked like half the science students in the school also showed up, together with their professors, who I think may have been assigning extra credit to those who spotted and pointed out the speaker’s mistakes. I stood up at one point myself and shot down the classic ‘747 in a Junkyard’ claim (very neatly, if I do say so myself). It was both fun and eye-opening, and one of my own professors stopped me on the way out and congratulated me on standing up to the guy.

    I don’t recall the speaker’s name, and I’m not sure he was one of the big guys like Dembski. He was an engineer, though. I was really surprised and happy to see such a skeptical response in Kansas.

  10. MTran says

    I can definitely identify with swiftsure’s comment. Because of the vile misbehavior by fundies, my attitudes have progressed from “live and let live” to “out with all the garbage now!”

    As for the “meek” inheriting the earth, I always preferred the French translation, which says that “les debonnaires” shall inherit the earth.

    Debonnaire. Doesn’t quite give the same image as the simpering, snivelling, passive-aggressive “meek” typically used in English translations. And if the French know about anything, they know about being debonnaire. Goes well with a good Bordeaux.

  11. says

    The meek shall inherit the earth, eh?

    I’d like to see Jesus’ proof of ownership before he goes about giving away the earth in his will.

    Thanks for the link, robotaholic, but I have to make one minor correction.

    The name is pronounced Pee Zed, not Pee Zee. And to properly anglicise the last name, we should jam a ‘u’ in there somewhere.


    There, now that’s sensibly Canadian. Healthcare’s on me, everyone!

  12. Paul Lurquin says


    Do you realize how smug and racist your comments are? So… the French know how to be “debonnaire”, hey? How the hell do you know that? You spent three days in Paris, perhaps? You think you had some Bordeaux one day, perhaps?

    Are you a stinking anglo who believes that the uncouth French people will deliver you from your creepy biblical hangups? Well, here’s the news, man: forget your “meek” crap and don’t you ever dare to turn your disgusting biblical lingo into what you think is a more palatable “debonnaire.” We don’t need your attention and we sure don’t need your admiration in religious matter.

    The French people are secular, OK? You jerks in North America deal with your christian phantoms and your fascistic theocracy. Remember, our euro is worth so much more than your greenback. You idiots now invoke the meek to make your theocracy #1 again. God ain’t on your side no more, man!

  13. MAJeff says

    There, now that’s sensibly Canadian. Healthcare’s on me, everyone!

    Do we have to elongate our uuuus? I got good at it in Vancouver, but in Boston I’ve lost it (along with my Rs).

  14. says

    Go Sooners!

    If you think Dembski’s arguments are lame, you ought to read what we get from creationists on the Oklahoma Atheists forum.

    I had one creationist tell me, who also happened to retire from teaching science in Oklahoma, that God showed him how he existed in science. He said that God told him that he (God) was the ”=” between E=mc2. Seriously.

    But things are looking up in Oklahoma, I think. I recently went in to a high school principal’s office. She taught Physiology when I graduated there back in ’98. Her bookshelf was loaded down with books from Gould and Dawkins. After I left her office I went immediately to Amazon and put some things on my wish list. I didn’t get a chance to, but I wanted to ask her what she thought about creationism (she had a few books on the subject as well). After seeing that bookshelf her cool points went up with me.

  15. MTran says

    Hey, #17, I am of (partial) French ancestry, though I usually drink local California wine. I am also an unapologetic atheist.

    There are rival translations for just about each freakin’ word in the Bible. The religious whack jobs seem to choose the most repugnant ones. Why you don’t want to recognize this is your own problem.

    And Mr.Lurquin, are you for real or just really full of yourself? Get a grip.

  16. says

    Why won’t they come in my area, Silicon Valley, we can use some entertainment. I have not heard of creationist speaking in my area. What are they scared of, why are we not special?…lol Berkeley maybe, or something more in the south bay area, I would not want to drive that far just for this, lazy and all.

    Though, on seconded thought maybe not. There is enough lunacy, rather not have it in my back yard.

  17. ferfuracious says

    Alister McGrath is visiting the University of Queensland monday week to speak on “The Bankruptcy of Atheism”.

    I don’t know about full page ads, but I’ll be getting some students together for the Q&A session.

  18. Marko says

    Just correcting a typo: it’s Jeffrey Shallit, not Shalitt. I’m reading his expert report from May 16, 2005 just now. Good stuff.

  19. AlanWCan says

    God told him that he (God) was the ”=” between E=mc2

    Well, I guess Jesus would have to be the “+” in the golden ratio: φ = 1+√5/2 …

    So, does that mean the holy spirit is the √, seeing as he/it’s that one blamed for rooting Mary?

  20. ben says

    An excellent Op-Ed opposing Dembski and ID….along with an ineffective counter by the paper’s religion writer.

    Once again, ID has nothing whatsoever to do with religion. Where do people get that crazy idea? Nothing to see here, move along.

  21. says

    #17 has got to be the most impressive overreaction to a completely non-offensive comment that I’ve seen for some time.

    If someone claimed that I had sophisticated charm I certainly wouldn’t start spewing insults in their direction ;)

  22. Arnaud says

    WTF Paul? It’s still early in France but maybe a glass of Bordeaux would do you good.
    On the other hand I spent 11 years in a Catholic school and cannot remember meeks being “debonnaires”, it was usually: “Heureux les doux car ils auront la terre en partage”.
    I think “debonnaires” for “meeks” is a more archaic usage of the word, could still be in use in some African countries maybe, or perhaps French speaking Canada.
    But really, Paul. Chill man!

  23. nat says

    I’m french and I don’t think débonnaire is an insult, it’s rather the opposite I would say. And yes, it fits quite well with a glass of Bordeaux, even if I would prefer Bourgogne… In my dictionnary I found compliant or humble or the french word bonnasse, which is near débonnaire but less nice… And Paul, even if the guy has only spent 3 days in Paris, he seems to have a nice image of the french people, and this is quite rare !!

  24. Chili Pepper says

    Jennifer A. Burdoo wrote:
    Well, what looked like half the science students in the school also showed up, together with their professors, who I think may have been assigning extra credit to those who spotted and pointed out the speaker’s mistakes. I stood up at one point myself and shot down the classic ‘747 in a Junkyard’ claim (very neatly, if I do say so myself).

    Y’know, this gives me an idea…
    Anybody here heard of ‘bullshit bingo’? – you sit in a business meeting and listen for buzzwords like ‘paradigm’, ‘champion’, etc. and yell “Bingo!” when you’ve filled your card.

    So, what I want to see is “ID bingo” – be the first one at the lecture to fill your card, ticking off items like ‘irreducibly complex’, ‘747 in a junkyard’, ‘Darwin recanted’, and you win a prize.

  25. says

    Regarding “Bullshit/ID Bingo” – I wish I remembered where, but I have seen a sheet like that. I was wishing I had it while Dembski spoke – all the “nanomachines” crap…it was almost like he was reading from a script. (Oh, yeah, wait: he was.)

  26. Frank Anderson says

    I need to remember this post. We have lesser-known clowns of this ilk (but they have Ph.D.’s in chemistry, so they are super-duper smart and certainly must know what they’re talking about!) coming through here on a regular basis. The problem is that we usually don’t find out about them until the day after they were here. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, I suppose…

  27. says

    Reminds me of how when Dawkins was at KU a local lawyer named Christiansomething asked an embarrising question and got shut down

    Yeah, Dawkins was really up front with dissent!

    Who ya kidding?

    Huh? What reminds you of this?

    Anyways, I’d like to see this. If you’ve got more details, we can probably find it on YouTube.

  28. Gavinicus says

    It looks like OU has the right idea for countering ID lectures. Pack the audience with people who know what they’re talking about. It is still a bad idea to have debates between so-called experts in ID and evolution. That just turns the event into a contest of rhetorical skill and a fallacious appeal to authority. Better to have smart people ask good questions that demonstrate the emptiness of ID “theory.”

  29. says

    I almost want one of these at my school, so I can cut my undergraduate creationist-shredding teeth. The crazy bible dudes on the plaza just aren’t worth the effort.

  30. MTran says

    #27 Dr Frank, #28 Arnaud, #29 Nat, and anyone I’ve neglected to mention,

    Thank you all for your kind defenses. I really wondered whether the comment in #17 was an odd attempt at trolling or whether the guy just has a problem.

    And Arnaud, you are right about other translation choices for what the English editions refer to as “meek.” The word debonnaire is used in the Darby translation. It’s a rather old version, but it was the first French language Bible I was introduced to so that’s the one I remember.

  31. says


    Alister McGrath is visiting the University of Queensland monday week to speak on “The Bankruptcy of Atheism”.

    I don’t know about full page ads, but I’ll be getting some students together for the Q&A session.

    I just did a search for the event; I’m at a different uni (yes, the campus in the city near the Gardens, sorry) in Brisbane and I have a research methodologies class that night. Please, for the love of mercy, will anyone be recording that event – and more importantly – you and yours students’ rebuttals?

    Or will this tool also be speaking at other campuses?