Theos commissioned the "independent ethnographic research agency" ESRO to carry out the study on their behalf, and the finished report draws on "50 in-depth interviews with creationists and other evolution sceptics". One of its major findings is that creationism in this country in no way resembles a coherent movement. In fact, the use of the word "movement" is entirely out of place:
"This implies a unity where there is, in fact, only divergence and disunity. On issues as broad as the interpretation and importance of Scripture, the philosophy of science, the geological age of the earth, the relationship between science and faith, and even the central question of descent with modification, there is considerable disagreement."I don't think that this will come as a surprise to anyone who has had some experience with British creationism. While there are some large (certainly well-funded) American organisations such as the Discovery Institute and the ludicrous Answers in Genesis, we (thankfully) don't have anything comparable here in the UK. And there's certainly no ideological unity – for example one of Britain's better-known creationists Anthony Bush, the proprietor of Noah's Ark Zoo Farm near Bristol which I wrote about earlier this year, advocates his very own “creation plus evolution” theory. He told me his "paradigm is radical" – others might argue he's making it up as he goes along.
The report also suggests that, while many secluar opponents of creationism paint opponents of evolution as "anti-science", this is not strictly the case, as many have an active interest in science and try to reconcile the two. It also, perhaps unsurprisingly for a Christian think tank, argues that the way to argue against creationism is not with the use of "fierce rebuttal and public derision in the mode of Richard Dawkins". Creationists, the report suggests, are eager to engage in debate:
"The evolution-sceptical community is not really what reputation would make it. Listening carefully – knowing who ‘creationists’ really are and what they really think – is a first step to understanding the roots of their antagonism. In time, this understanding could undergird strategies which improve public engagement with science."This, of course, sounds reasonable enough. But it's preceeded by the usual caricature of aggressive secularists shouting down what they see as stupid creationists, which as always misunderstands the stance of Dawkins and other scientists. Just because Dawkins won't take the stage in debate with such people (he famously said it would look better on their CV than his), doesn't mean he's unwilling to enagage with them. His new book, The Greatest Show on Earth, is all about laying out the incontrovertible evidence for evolution for anyone who may have their doubts about it. And having read it myself recently I have to say that, if anyone reads it properly and still comes away a creationist, then no kind of engagement is going to change their mind.