Until the 1970s, creation science drew little notice beyond the schools and congregations of conservative fundamental and evangelical Christians. The first creation science texts and curricula focused upon concepts derived from a literal interpretation of the Bible and were overtly religious in nature, most notably linking Noah's flood in Genesis to the geological and fossil record in a system termed flood geology. Creation science came to the attention of the wider national and international public and scientific community when its followers launched objections to the teaching of evolution in public schools and other venues, and successfully persuaded some school boards and lawmakers that creation science deserved equal consideration alongside Darwinian evolution in the science curriculum. Revised creation science texts and curricula were developed for public schools which removed the theory's explicit references to Biblical and theological doctrine, and teaching of creation science was implemented in Louisiana, Arkansas, and other regions in the United States. By the 1980s, its influence was worldwide.
Critics emphasize that creation science fails to meet the key criteria of any true science because it lacks empirical support, supplies no tentative hypotheses, and resolves to describe natural history in terms of scientifically untestable supernatural events. The teaching of creation science in public schools in the United States effectively ended in 1987 when the United States Supreme Court determined the creation science taught in Louisiana public schools was not a legitimate scientific theory, and ruled its teaching unconstitutional in Edwards v. Aguillard because its true purpose was to advance a particular religious belief.
Creation science rejects evolution's theory of the common descent of all living things on the earth. Instead, it asserts that the field of evolutionary biology is itself pseudoscientific or even a religion. Creation scientists argue instead for a system called baraminology which considers the living world to be descended from uniquely created kinds or baramins.
Creation science incorporates the concept of catastrophism to account for earth's geological formations. Creation scientists employ the concept to attempt to reconcile current landforms and fossil distributions with Biblical interpretations, proposing the remains resulted from successive cataclysmic events, such as a world wide flood and subsequent ice age. It rejects one of the fundamental principles of modern geology (and of modern science generally): uniformitarianism, which means applying the same physical and geological laws observed on the earth today to interpret the earth's geological history.
Sometimes creation scientists attack other scientific concepts, like the big bang cosmological model or methods of scientific dating which measure radioactive decay. The Young Earth Creationist branch of the creation scientists also rejects current estimates of the age of the universe, arguing for creationist cosmologies with timescales much shorter than those estimates overwhelmingly accepted by most scientists.
The scientific community has overwhelmingly rejected the ideas put forth in creation science as lying outside the boundaries of a legitimate science. The foundational premises underlying scientific creationism disqualify it as a science because the answers to all inquiry therein are preordained to conform to Bible doctrine, and because that inquiry is constructed upon theories which are not empirically testable in nature. Scientists also deem creation science's attacks against biological evolution to be without scientific merit. Those views of the scientific community were accepted in two significant court decisions in the 1980s which found the field of creation science to be a religious mode of inquiry but not scientific one.
Various ideas of transmutation of species were put forward, and though they conflicted with the doctrine of fixity of species (now known as "special creation") and were harshly condemned as a threat to the aristocratic social order and the established Church of England, by the 1840s they had wide public acceptance and were favored by liberal theologians, Unitarians and some Dissenters as well as by Freethinkers and atheists. After Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species was published in 1859, the scientific establishment came to accept the common ancestry of all species, and by the 1900s evolution through descent with modification was widely accepted as the unifying principle of biological development.
Creation science (dubbed Scientific Creationism at the time) emerged as an organized movement during the 1960s. It was strongly influenced by the earlier work of Canadian armchair geologist and Seventh-day Adventist George McCready Price who wrote works such as "The New Geology" to advance what he termed "new catastrophism" and dispute the current geological timeframes and understandings of geologic history. Price's work was cited at the Scopes Trial of 1925, yet although he frequently solicited feedback from geologists and other scientists, they consistently disparaged his work. Price's "new catastrophism" went largely unnoticed also among creationists until its revival with the 1961 publication of The Genesis Flood by Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb, a work which quickly became a classic among fundamentalist Christians and opened the field of creation science to go beyond critiques of geology into biology and cosmology as well. Soon after its publication, a movement was underway to have the subject taught in United States' public schools.
"Creation science means the scientific evidences for creation and inferences from those evidences. Creation science includes the scientific evidences and related inferences that indicate:
This legislation was examined in McLean v. Arkansas, and the ruling handed down on January 5, 1982, concluded that "creation-science" as defined in the act "is simply not science". The judgement defined the following as essential characteristics of science:
The court ruled that "creation science" failed to meet these essential characteristics and identified specific reasons. After examining the key concepts from creation science, the court found:
The court further noted that no recognized scientific journal had published any article espousing the creation science theory as described in the Arkansas law, and stated that testimony put forth by the defendants that this absence resulted from censorship was not credible.
In its ruling, the court wrote that for any theory to qualify as scientific, the theory must be tentative, and open to revision or abandonment as new facts come to light. It wrote that any methodology which begins with an immutable conclusion which cannot be revised or rejected, regardless of the evidence, is not a scientific theory. The court found that creation science does not culminate in conclusions formed from scientific inquiry, but instead begins with the conclusion, one taken from a literal wording of the Book of Genesis, and seeks only scientific evidence to support it.
The law in Arkansas adopted the same two-model approach as that put forward by the Institute for Creation Research, one allowing only two possible explanations for the origins of life and existence of man, plants and animals: it was either the work of a creator or it was not. Scientific evidence that failed to support the theory of evolution was posed as necessarily scientific evidence in support of creationism, but in its judgment the court ruled this approach to be no more than a "contrived dualism which has not scientific factual basis or legitimate educational purpose.
The decision was not appealed to a higher court, but had a powerful influence on subsequent rulings. In 1982 Louisiana passed a "Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction" Act, and the Supreme Court in the 1987 case Edwards v. Aguillard issued a similar ruling against the teaching of creation science, also finding that the law violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Kenyon later wrote with creationist Percival Davis a book intended as a "scientific brief for creationism" to use as a supplement to public high school biology textbooks. Thaxton was enlisted as the book's editor, and the book had publishing support from the FTE. Prior to its release, the Supreme Court's ruling was handed down which barred the teaching of creation science and creationism in public school classrooms. The book, originally titled Biology and Creation but renamed Of Pandas and People, was released in 1989 and became the first published work to promote the anti-evolutionist design argument under the name intelligent design. The contents of the book later became a focus of evidence in the federal court case, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, when parents filed suit to halt the teaching of intelligent design in Dover, Pennsylvania public schools. School board officials there had attempted to include Of Pandas and People in their biology classrooms and testimony given during the trial revealed the book was originally written as a creationist text but that it underwent simple cosmetic editing after the ruling in 1987's Edwards v. Aguillard to remove the explicit allusions to "creation" or "creator", and replace them instead with references to "design" or "designer".
By the mid 1990s, intelligent design had become a separate movement. The creation science movement is distinguished from the intelligent design movement, or neo-creationism because most advocates of creation science accept scripture as a literal and inerrant historical account, and their primary goal is to corroborate the scriptural account through the use of science. In contrast, neo-creationism eschews references to scripture altogether from its polemics and stated goals as a matter of principle (see Wedge strategy). By so doing, intelligent design proponents have attempted to succeed where creation science has failed by securing a place in public school science curricula. Carefully avoiding any reference to the identity of the intelligent designer as God in their public arguments, intelligent design proponents sought to reintroduce the creationist ideas into science classrooms while sidestepping the First Amendment's prohibition against religious infringement. However, the intelligent design theory was struck down as a violation of the Establishment Clause in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, the judge in the case ruling "that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism".
Today, creation science as an organized movement is primarily centered within the United States, although creation science organizations are known in other countries, most notably Creation Ministries International which was founded (under the name Creation Science Foundation) in Australia. Proponents are found primarily among various denominations of Christianity described as evangelical, conservative, or fundamentalist. While creationist movements also exist in Islam, and Judaism, these movements do not use the phrase creation science to describe their beliefs.
The proponents of creation science often say that they are concerned with religious and moral questions as well as natural observations and predictive hypotheses. Many state that their opposition against scientific evolution is primarily based on religion.
The overwhelming majority of scientists concur that the claims of science are necessarily limited to those that develop from natural observations and experiments which can be replicated and substantiated by other scientists, and that claims made by creation science do not meet those criteria. Duane Gish, a prominent creation science proponent, has similarly claimed, "We do not know how the creator created, what processes He used, for He used processes which are not now operating anywhere in the natural universe. This is why we refer to creation as special creation. We cannot discover by scientific investigation anything about the creative processes used by the Creator." But Gish also makes the same claim against science's evolutionary theory, maintaining that on the subject of origins, scientific evolution is a religious theory which cannot be validated by science.
can hinder rigorous thought and scientific progress.
Creation science advocates argue that scientific theories of the origins of the universe, the earth, and life are rooted in a priori presumptions of methodological naturalism and uniformitarianism, each of which is disputed. In some areas of science such as chemistry, meteorology or medicine, creation science proponents do not challenge the application of naturalistic or uniformitarian assumptions. Traditionally, creation science advocates have singled out those scientific theories judged to be in conflict with held religious beliefs, and it is against those theories that they concentrate their efforts.
Many Christian theologies, including Liberal Christianity, consider the Genesis narrative to be a poetic and allegorical work rather than a literal history, and many Christian churches – including the Roman Catholic, Anglican and the more liberal denominations of the Lutheran, Methodist, Congregationalist and Presbyterian faiths – have either rejected creation science outright or are ambivalent to it.
Those churches rejecting creation science hold theological positions which have been described as Theistic evolution.
For any hypothesis or conjecture to be considered scientific, it must meet at least most, but ideally all, of the above criteria. The fewer which are matched, the less scientific it is. If it meets two or fewer of these criteria, it cannot be treated as scientific in any useful sense of the word.
Scientists have considered the hypotheses proposed by creation science and have rejected them because of a lack of evidence. Furthermore, the claims of creation science do not refer to natural causes and cannot be subject to meaningful tests, so they do not qualify as scientific hypotheses. In 1987 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that creationism is religion, not science, and cannot be advocated in public school classrooms. Most major religious groups have concluded that the concept of evolution is not at odds with their descriptions of creation and human origins.
A summary of the objections to creation science by scientists follows:
Creation science's lack of adherence to the standards of the scientific method means that it cannot be said to be scientific in the way that the term "science" is currently defined by the leading world science organisations. Creation science was described as an oxymoron by Stephen Jay Gould.
Some opponents consider creation science to be an ideologically and politically motivated propaganda tool, with cult-like features, to promote the creationist agenda in society. They allege that the term "creation science" was chosen purposely to blur the distinction between science and religion, particularly in countries that are religiously-neutral by law (such as the United States), in an attempt to gain official government sanction and recognition of specific religious tenets above those of other faiths. In the United States, the principal focus of Creation Science advocates is on the government-supported public school systems, which are prohibited by the Establishment Clause from promoting specific religions.
Popular arguments against evolution have changed over the years since the publishing of Henry M. Morris's first book on the subject, Scientific Creationism, but some consistent themes remain: that missing links or gaps in the fossil record are proof against evolution; that the increased complexity of organisms over time through evolution is not possible due to the law of increasing entropy; that it is impossible that the mechanism of natural selection could account for common ancestry; and that evolutionary theory is untestable. The origin of the human species is particularly hotly contested; the fossil remains of purported hominid ancestors are not considered by advocates of creation biology to be evidence for a speciation event involving Homo sapiens.
Biologists challenge creation scientists who claim the fossil evidence disproves evolution. Richard Dawkins has explained evolution as "a theory of gradual, incremental change over millions of years, which starts with something very simple and works up along slow, gradual gradients to greater complexity", and described the existing fossil record as entirely consistent with that process. Biologists emphasize that transitional gaps between those fossils recovered are to be expected, that the existence of any such gaps cannot be invoked to disprove evolution, and that instead the fossil evidence that could be used to disprove the theory would be those fossils which are found and which are entirely inconsistent with what can be predicted or anticipated by the evolutionary model. One example given by Dawkins was, "If there were a single hippo or rabbit in the Precambrian, that would completely blow evolution out of the water. None have ever been found.
Geologists conclude that no evidence for such a flood is observed in the preserved rock layers and moreover that such a flood is physically impossible. For instance, since Mount Everest is approximately 8.8 kilometres in elevation and the Earth's surface is 510,065,600 km², the volume of water required to cover Mount Everest to a depth of 15 cubits (6.8 m), as indicated by Genesis 7:20, would be 4.6 billion cubic kilometres. The Earth's atmosphere, however, only has the capacity to store water in vapor form sufficient to blanket the globe to a depth of 25 millimeters. Nevertheless, there continue to be many adherents to flood geology, and in recent years new theories have been introduced such as catastrophic plate tectonics.
Cosmology is not as widely discussed as creation biology or flood geology, for several reasons. First, many creationists, particularly old earth creationists and intelligent design theorists, do not dispute that the universe may be billions of years old. Also, some creationists who believe that the Earth was created in the timeframe described in a literal interpretation of Genesis believe that Genesis describes only the creation of the Earth, rather than the creation of the entire universe, allowing for both a young Earth and an old universe. Finally, the technical nature of the discipline of physical cosmology and its ties to mathematical physics prevent those without significant technical knowledge from understanding the full details of how the observations and theories behind the current models work.
In response to increasing evidence suggesting that Mars once possessed a wetter climate, some creation scientists have proposed that the global flood affected not only the Earth but also Mars and other planets. People who support this claim include creationist astronomer Wayne Spencer and creationist cosmologist Russell Humphreys.
An ongoing problem for creationists is the presence of impact craters on nearly all solar system objects, which is consistent with scientific explanations of solar system origins but creates insuperable problems for young Earth claims. Creationist Paul D. Ackerman asserts that impact craters on the moon are subject to rock flow, and so cannot be more than a few thousand years old. While some creationist astronomers assert that different phases of meteoritic bombardment of the solar system occurred during creation week and during the subsequent Great Flood, others regard this as unsupported by the evidence and call for further research.
Creationists point to experiments they have performed, which they claim demonstrate that 1.5 billion years of nuclear decay took place over a short period of time, from which they infer that "billion-fold speed-ups of nuclear decay" have occurred, a massive violation of the principle that radioisotope decay rates are constant, a core principle underlying nuclear physics generally, and radiometric dating in particular.
The scientific community points to numerous flaws in the creationists' experiments, to the fact that their results have not been accepted for publication by any peer-reviewed scientific journal, and to the fact that the creationist scientists conducting them were untrained in experimental geochronology.
The constancy of the decay rates of isotopes has been well supported in science. Evidence for this constancy includes the correspondences of date estimates taken from different radioactive isotopes as well as correspondences with non-radiometric dating techniques such as dendrochronology, ice core dating, and historical records. Although scientists have noted slight increases in the decay rate for isotopes subject to extreme pressures, those differences were too small to significantly impact date estimates. The constancy of the decay rates is also governed by first principles in quantum mechanics, wherein any deviation in the rate would require a change in the fundamental constants. According to these principles, a change in the fundamental constants could not influence different elements uniformly, and a comparison between each of the elements' resulting unique chronological timescales would then give inconsistent time estimates.
In refutation of young-Earth claims of inconstant decay rates affecting the reliability of radiometric dating, Roger C. Wiens, a physicist specialising in isotope dating states:
In the 1970s, young Earth creationist Robert V. Gentry proposed that radiohaloes in certain granites represented evidence for the Earth being created instantaneously rather than gradually. This idea has been criticized by physicists and geologists on many grounds including that the rocks Gentry studied were not primordial and that the radionuclides in question need not have been in the rocks initially.
Thomas A. Baillieul, a geologist and retired senior environmental scientist with the United States Department of Energy, disputed Gentry's claims in an article entitled,"Polonium Haloes" Refuted: A Review of "Radioactive Halos in a Radio-Chronological and Cosmological Perspective". Baillieul noted that Gentry was a physicist with no background in geology and given the absence of this background, Gentry had misrepresented the geological context from which the specimens were collected. Additionally, he noted that Gentry relied on research from the beginning of the 20th century, long before radioisotopes were thoroughly understood; that his assumption that a Polonium isotope caused the rings was speculative; and that Gentry falsely argued that the half-life of radioactive elements varies with time. Gentry claimed that Baillieul could not publish his criticisms in a reputable scientific journal, although some of Baillieul's criticisms rested on work previously published in reputable scientific journals.