A few days ago I saw a poster that advertised a talk on the merits of creationism versus evolution. A gentleman called Philip Bell (BSc Zoology) is crossing Ireland and the UK on a one man mission to convert us all to a Young-Earth, biblical view of the Universe.

They are coming for us. Here in Ireland. Should we run for the hills?

I don’t think so. For me, the whole thing is rather laughable. Most kids are taught about evolution in school, and it’s rarely an issue for parents. Evolution here is taught as a scientific subject, not as a moral issue. Biblical Creationism, to-date, has only found purchase in small evangelical communities across the country.

I cannot imagine anyone in Ireland being interested in a talk like this unless, a) you happened to be convinced creationist already, b) you are sceptical of creationism and interested in challenging their claims, or c) you are there because someone else decided you needed to be there (journalists, kids, etc.). There may well be genuinely undecided, non-afilliated seekers around who are interested in human origins, but I suspect they are a small minority. In the main, it’s probably an exercise in preaching to the already converted.

And the subject: listening to someone waffle mendaciously about Darwin, Dawkins and CS Lewis while peddling Genesis? Eh, don’t I have to get my hair washed, or something? Anything?

Ireland is not America, where a significant minority of the population are born into a fundamentalist creationist tradition and where creationism has taken on political overtones. It’s difficult to see creationism gaining purchase any time, except amongst the tiny evangelical community.

This community, while growing, will need to compete for ideas like everyone else. It will continue to gain adult members for various reasons which have nothing to do with a dislike of Darwin’s great idea. More likely, converts will arise from pastoral and charitable work with the community, the numbers bolstered by convinced evangelicals arriving into Ireland from abroad. Maintaining these ideas among their children will be more difficult, as parents will need to be much more attentive than many of their American peers in controlling the information their kids are exposed to. It’s an uphill battle for them in the age of international travel and the Internet.

And here’s another question: how strong are creationist ideas even in America? We often here the statistic that nearly 50% of the US population are creationists, but how many of these people think much about origin stories in the same way they think about baseball, the Dow Jones and traffic on the Interstate-95? I suspect that, even in the US, the proselytisation of creationism is pursued only by a very small, determined, group of people, who get far more attention than they deserve, as the majority of people they try to convince probably don’t care very much.

Do a Google image search on “creationism”, and you will see something very interesting. Pages and pages of send ups and jokes about creationists. At least on the Internet, creationists are figures of ridicule. Ken Ham is treated with derision. While there are many motivated people in the ranks of global creationism, the opposing site is at least as vocal and focused. Creationism does not look like winning significant mindshare any time soon – even on their own home territory – without major changes in public education and an attenuation of the separation between church and state.

The way in which creationists around the globe believe they can achieve their aims is not through mass persuasion, but instead through more subtle strategies like influencing school boards, lobbying for changes in legislation and fooling unwary state authorities to adopt their viewpoints. This is the area where skeptics need to remain vigilant, and wise to the tactics being used by creationists.