Griffith University Skeptics and Freethinkers

A GUSSF Summary of an Intelligent Design Lecture with Thomas E Woodward

In Creationism/ Intelligent Design, Uncategorized on May 12, 2008 at 1:12 PM

One week before the official registration of this group my university campus Griffith University Gold Coast Campus was “fortunate” enough to be a stop over on the East coast tour of the self proclaimed premier historian of the Intelligent Design movement, Thomas E Woodward.

Mr Woodward is professor of missions, evangelism and science at Trinity College of Florida/Dallas Theological Seminary (Tampa Bay Extension) and is the author of “Doubts about Darwin: A history of Intelligent Design” and “Darwin Strikes Back: Defending the Science of Intelligent Design”.

The hosts of this event were the Griffith Christian Students group whom I later found out were approached by Mr Woodward’s promotional people to host the talk. I attended the event alone and worried I would be the only person in attendance who would be viewing the talk with a critical eye, not to mention a fairly thorough prior knowledge of just what was being discussed.

Mr Woodward began by introducing himself as the premier historian on the subject of Intelligent Design and explained that there are only two possible causal processes in the universe, Law and randomness. To clarify, the example was used of a Royal Flush in poker. Not a common occurrence but definitely possible. But what if we were to get a Royal Flush over and over again? Surely this would not be random would it? It would be mathematically impossible for this to happen by chance!

Unfortunately I would say the majority of the audience was far more impressed than I was by this point (not 5 minutes into the presentation) laughing as if on cue and hanging on Woodward’s every word.

Things only got worse from there however for next was presented what Woodward called the materialism narrative-

For eternity there were particles

And the particles became more complex living stuff

And the living stuff became aware

And the living stuff conceived God.

This insight into the minds of materialist thinkers was met unsurprisingly with much mirth and fist shaking from the audience. Upon much online searching after the talk, I was unable to find anything resembling the above phrase anywhere but on a web site named The Lords Mountain

which does not after much examination, seem to be a font of materialistic wisdom. Throughout the remaining 50 minutes or so we were taken on a Willy Wonka like journey of ID “facts”, evolutionary “lies”, the Goldilocks problem and much more of the standard ID talking points. We were shown an ancestral tree diagram that appeared to be at least twice as old as I am (strangely it did not have primates at all) and it was explained to the audience that ID is so very different from creationism as of course ID has no religious premises! In fact Mr Woodward knows a “whole slew of agnostic proponents of intelligent design”.

I was previously unaware that “Darwinism” was in such dire straits until my eyes were opened on this fateful night. Between learning that mousetraps were irreducibly complex, just like a bacterial flagellum, and that we have fewer transitional fossils now than in Darwin’s day, I could not believe that this was not more widely publicised. It was explained that proteins are just like “long words” and that the origin of life has been solved (although this was never explained, the audience seemed not to mind), despite scientists still battling it out. The meeting closed with the statement “don’t retreat into an evolutionary worldview rather than a Christian one, as science is in a state of flux”.

At this point I was forced to stand up and ask what had happened to the Q and A that was advertised on the posters around campus. It seemed that time had run out and the lecture theatre had to be vacated but it was possible to meet up in the foyer quickly. I had expected to be alone in my concerns/queries and needing of clarification but fortunately I this was not the case and the informal question time ran for longer than the actual talk.

Here I met two people who would come to make up a significant part of our groups executive committee. David Robertson and William Bennet were both Post graduate science students and both were equally as concerned as I was with the talk given. David and William having far more formal education than I did on the topics of natural selection and evolution, questioned Woodward on the validity of what data he did discuss and they were not surprised by the mercurial nature of any answers given. I asked why since the ID movement has no religious premise, the talk was hosted by the Griffith Christian Students. Apparently Woodward’s publicist had contacted universities up and down the east coast and none of the science facilities were keen to have him talk. As a last resort the Christian groups were contacted and were happy to have him (thankfully the organisers from the Christian group were in ear shot of his revelation that they were the second choice, and they were less than impressed).

My next question regarded the quality of the ancestral tree diagram and why an updated chart was not used. Apparently these are very hard to come by as I was asked to present one to help out. Tom Woodward had stock answers to stock questions and as soon as any questioning went outside of his standard repertoire he fumbled around like a new born fowl, which while comical and very revealing, was sad when his façade of expertise slipped and his rhetoric failed him.

My main regret is that only a portion of the audience was able to witness Mr Woodward’s fall from grace in the face of well reasoned questions and critical thought. Still afterward the group leader for the Griffith Christian Students said to us that he wasn’t sure about ID before the talk, and now had very serious reservations.

Since then I have met with the Griffith Christian students on a weekly basis and have had great discussions on the nature and varieties of faith, belief, and the nature of science. It turned out that they believed that the scientific community was adamantly opposed to creation being taught in any school and in any class room, rather than just science class rooms.

Such is the power of the propaganda they are led to believe by groups such as those that sponsor Thomas E Woodward.

Jayson D Cooke

  1. […] Speaking of flavour, take a taste of another side of the country – The Griffith University Society for Skeptics and Freethinkers. Like many great and flourishing critical thinking youth groups worldwide, they network on Facebook and, hold pub nights and lectures and get the intellectual juices flowing! On their blog, they present A Summary of Intelligent Design Lecture with Thomas E Woodward: […]

  2. Nice piece Jason. Yet another, “unsinkable rubber duck” as Randi would say. The arguments haven’t changed in over 150 years. The answers to the creationists’ propaganda are overwhelmingly supported by facts. Cognitive dissonance in the arena of human self-delusion must be a stressful and paranoid perpetual state, for the ‘believers’ to be constantly averting one’s eyes to knowledge and reason.

  3. […] than my fair share of encounters with evolution deniers in the past (here, here, here, here, here, here and here are just some examples). Creationists, biblical literalists, intelligent design proponents; […]

  4. […] In 2007, while he was at university, Mr Cooke attended a presentation by American intelligent design advocate Thomas Woodward. […]

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