Creationism is the religious belief that humanity, life, the Earth, and the universe were created in their original form by a deity (often the Abrahamic God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam) or deities. In relation to the creation-evolution controversy the term creationism (or strict creationism) is commonly used to refer to religiously-motivated rejection of evolution as an explanation of origins.
Such beliefs include young Earth creationism, proponents of which believe that the earth is thousands rather than billions of years old. They believe the days in Genesis Chapter 1 are 24 hours in length, while Old Earth creationism accepts geological findings and other methods of dating the earth and believes that these findings do not contradict the Genesis account, but reject evolution. The term theistic evolution has been coined to refer to beliefs in creation which are more compatible with the scientific view of evolution and the age of the Earth. Alternately, there are other religious people who support creation, but in terms of allegorical interpretations of Genesis.
Creationism in the West is usually based on creation according to Genesis, and in its broad sense covers a wide range of beliefs and interpretations. Through the 19th century the term most commonly referred to direct creation of individual souls, in contrast to traducianism. However, by 1929 in the United States the term became particularly associated with Christian fundamentalist opposition to human evolution and belief in a young Earth. Several U.S. states passed laws against the teaching of evolution in public schools, as upheld in the Scopes Trial. Evolution was omitted entirely from school textbooks in much of the United States until the 1960s. Since then, renewed efforts to introduce teaching creationism in American public schools in the form of flood geology, creation science, and intelligent design have been consistently held to contravene the constitutional separation of Church and State by a succession of legal judgements. The meaning of the term creationism was contested, but by the 1980s it had been co-opted by proponents of creation science and flood geology.
When scientific research produces conclusions which contradict a creationist interpretation of scripture, the strict creationist approach is either to reject the conclusions of the research, its underlying scientific theories, and/or its methodology. For this reason, both creation science and intelligent design have been labeled as pseudoscience by the mainstream scientific community. The most notable disputes concern the effects of evolution on the development of living organisms, the idea of common descent, the geologic history of the Earth, the formation of the solar system, and the origin of the universe.
In a Christian context, many creationists adopt a literal interpretation of the Biblical creation narratives. This literal interpretation requires the harmonisation of the two creation stories, Genesis 1:1-2:3 and Genesis 2:4-25, which require interpretation to be consistent. They sometimes seek to ensure that their belief is taught in science classes, mainly in American schools (see Young Earth Creationism, for example). Opponents reject the claim that the literalistic Biblical view meets the criteria required to be considered scientific.
Many religious sects teach that God created the cosmos. From the days of the early Christian Church Fathers there were allegorical interpretations of Genesis as well as literal aspects. Most contemporary Christian leaders and scholars from mainstream churches, such as Anglicans and Lutherans, reject reading the Bible as though it could shed light on the physics of creation instead of the spiritual meaning of creation. According to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, "[for] most of the history of Christianity there's been an awareness that a belief that everything depends on the creative act of God, is quite compatible with a degree of uncertainty or latitude about how precisely that unfolds in creative time.
Leaders of the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches have made statements in favour of evolutionary theory, as have scholars such as John Polkinghorne, who argue that evolution is one of the principles through which God created living beings. Earlier supporters of evolutionary theory include Frederick Temple, Asa Gray and Charles Kingsley who were enthusiastic supporters of Darwin's theories upon their publication, and the French Jesuit priest and geologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin saw evolution as confirmation of his Christian beliefs, despite condemnation from Church authorities for his more speculative theories. Another example is that of Liberal theology, not providing any creation models, but instead focusing on the symbolism in beliefs of the time of authoring Genesis, the cultural environment, and comparison to non-Jewish "cosmologies" of that age. In fact, both Jews and Christians had been considering the idea of the creation history as an allegory (instead of an historical description) long before the development of Darwin's theory of evolution. Two notable examples are Saint Augustine (4th century) who argued on theological grounds that everything in the universe was created by God in the same instant (and not in seven days as a plain account of Genesis would require); and the 1st century Jewish scholar Philo of Alexandria, who wrote that it would be a mistake to think that creation happened in six days, or in any set amount of time.
In the United States, more than in the rest of the world, creationism has become centered in the political controversy over creation and evolution in public education, and whether teaching creationism in science classes conflicts with the separation of church and state. Currently, the controversy comes in the form of whether advocates of the Intelligent Design movement who wish to "Teach the Controversy" in science classes have conflated science with religion.
In such political contexts, creationists argue that their particular religiously-based origin belief is superior to those of other belief systems, in particular those made through secular or scientific rationale. Political creationists are opposed by many individuals and organizations who have made detailed critiques and given testimony in various court cases that the alternatives to scientific reasoning offered by creationists are opposed by the consensus of the scientific community.
In response to the second century Gnostic belief that Genesis was purely allegorical, Christian orthodoxy rejected this interpretation without taking a purely literal view of the texts. Thus Origen believed that the physical world is ‘literally’ a creation of God, but did not take the chronology or the days as ‘literal’. Similarly, Saint Basil in the fourth century while literal in many ways, described creation as instantaneous and timeless, being immeasurable and indivisible.
Augustine of Hippo in The Literal Meaning of Genesis was insistent that Genesis describes the creation of physical things, but also shows creation occurring simultaneously, with the days of creation being categories for didactic reasons, a logical framework which has nothing to do with time. For him, light was the illumination of angels rather than visible light, and spiritual light was just as literal as physical light. Augustine emphasised that the text was difficult to understand and should be reinterpreted as new knowledge became available. In particular, Christians should make not make absurd dogmatic interpretations of scripture which contradict what people know from physical evidence.
In the thirteenth century Thomas Aquinas, like Augustine, asserted the need to hold the truth of Scripture without wavering while cautioning "that since Holy Scripture can be explained in a multiplicity of senses, one should not adhere to a particular explanation, only in such measure as to be ready to abandon it if it be proved with certainty to be false; lest holy Scripture be exposed to the ridicule of unbelievers, and obstacles be placed to their believing."
Discoveries of new lands brought knowledge of a huge diversity of life, and a new belief developed that each of these biological species had been individually created by God. In 1605 Francis Bacon emphasised that the works of God in nature teach us how to interpret the word of God in the Bible, and his Baconian method introduced the empirical approach which became central to modern science. Natural theology developed the study of nature with the expectation of finding evidence supporting Christianity, and numerous attempts were made to reconcile new knowledge with Noah's Flood.
In 1650 the Archbishop of Armagh, James Ussher, published the Ussher chronology based on Bible history giving a date for Creation of 4004 BC. This was generally accepted, but the development of modern geology in the 18th and 19th centuries found geological strata and fossil sequences indicating an ancient Earth. Catastrophism was favoured in England as supporting the Biblical flood, but this was found to be untenable and by 1850 all geologists and most Evangelical Christians had adopted various forms of old Earth creationism, while continuing to firmly reject evolution.
By the start of the twentieth century, evolution was widely accepted and was beginning to be taught in U.S. public schools. After World War I, stories that German aggression resulted from Darwinismus promoting "survival of the fittest" inspired William Jennings Bryan to campaign against the teaching of Darwinian ideas of human evolution. In the 1920s, the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy led to an upsurge of fundamentalist religious fervor in which schools were prevented from teaching evolution through state laws such as Tennessee’s 1925 Butler Act, and by getting evolution removed from biology textbooks nationwide. Creationism became associated in common usage with opposition to evolution.
In 1981 the state of Arkansas passed a law, Act 590, mandating that "creation science" be given equal time in public schools with evolution, and defining creation science as positing the “creation of the universe, energy, and life from nothing,” as well as explaining the earth’s geology by "the occurrence of a worldwide flood". This was ruled unconstitutional at McLean v. Arkansas in January 1982 as the creationists' methods were not scientific but took the literal wording of the Book of Genesis and attempted to find scientific support for it. Undaunted, Louisiana introduced similar legislation that year. A series of judgements and appeals led to the 1987 Supreme Court ruling in Edwards v. Aguillard that it too violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
"Creation science" could no longer be taught in public schools, and in drafts of the creation science school textbook Of Pandas and People all references to creation or creationism were changed to refer to intelligent design. Proponents of the intelligent design movement organised widespread campaigning to considerable effect. They officially denied any links to creation or to religion, and indeed claimed that "creationism" only referred to young Earth creationism with flood geology; but in Kitzmiller v. Dover the court found intelligent design to be essentially religious, and unable to dissociate itself from its creationist roots, as part of the ruling that teaching intelligent design in public school science classes was unconstitutional.
Theistic evolution is the general view that, instead of faith being in opposition to biological evolution, some or all classical religious teachings about Christian God and creation are compatible with some or all of modern scientific theory, including specifically evolution; it is also known as "evolutionary creation". In Evolution Vs. Creationism, Eugenie Scott and Niles Eldredge state that it is in fact a type of evolution.
It generally views evolution as a tool used by God, who is both the first cause and immanent sustainer/upholder of the universe; it is therefore well accepted by people of strong theistic (as opposed to deistic) convictions. Theistic evolution can synthesize with the day-age interpretation of the Genesis creation account; however most adherents consider that the first chapters of Genesis should not be interpreted as a "literal" description, but rather as a literary framework or allegory.
In one form or another, theistic evolution is the view of creation taught at the majority of mainline Protestant seminaries For Catholics, human evolution is not a matter of religious teaching, and must stand or fall on its own scientific merits. Evolution and the Roman Catholic Church are not in conflict. The Catechism of the Catholic Church comments positively on the theory of evolution, which is neither precluded nor required by the sources of faith, stating that scientific studies "have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man. Roman Catholic schools teach evolution without controversy on the basis that scientific knowledge does not extend beyond the physical, and scientific truth and religious truth cannot be in conflict. Theistic evolution can be described as "creationism" in holding that divine intervention brought about the origin of life or that divine Laws govern formation of species, though many creationists (in the strict sense) would deny that the position is creationism at all. In the creation-evolution controversy its proponents generally take the "evolutionist" side. This sentiment was expressed by Fr. George Coyne, (Vatican's chief astronomer between 1978 and 2006):
While supporting the methodological naturalism inherent in modern science, the proponents of theistic evolution reject the implication taken by some atheists that this gives credence to ontological materialism. In fact, many modern philosophers of science, including atheists, refer to the long standing convention in the scientific method that observable events in nature should be explained by natural causes, with the distinction that it does not assume the actual existence or non-existence of the supernatural.
Several attempts have been made to categorize the different types of creationism, and create a "taxonomy" of creationists. Creationism covers a spectrum of beliefs which have been categorized into the broad types listed below. As a matter of popular belief and characterizations by the media, most people labeled "creationists" are those who object to specific parts of science for religious reasons; however many (if not most) people who believe in a divine act of creation do not categorically reject those parts of science.
|Young Earth creationism||Directly created by God.||Directly created by God. Macroevolution does not occur.||Less than 10,000 years old. Reshaped by global flood.||Less than 10,000 years old.|
|Gap creationism||Directly created by God.||Directly created by God. Macroevolution does not occur.||Scientifically accepted age. Reshaped by global flood.||Scientifically accepted age.|
|Progressive creationism||Directly created by God (based on primate anatomy).||Direct creation + evolution. No single common ancestor.||Scientifically accepted age. No global flood.||Scientifically accepted age.|
|Intelligent design||N/A||Divine intervention at some point in the past, as evidenced by what intelligent-design creationists call "irreducible complexity"||Some adherents claim the existence of Earth is the result of divine intervention||Some adherents believe in the teleological argument, that the existence of Universe is the result of divine intervention|
|Theistic evolution||Evolution from primates.||Evolution from single common ancestor.||Scientifically accepted age. No global flood.||Scientifically accepted age.|
This view is held by many Protestant Christians in the USA. It is also estimated that 47% of Americans hold this view, and almost 10% of Christian colleges teach it. The Christian organizations Institute for Creation Research (ICR), El Cajon, California, USA, and the Creation Research Society (CRS), Saint Joseph, Missouri, USA both promote Young Earth Creationism. Another organization with similar views, Answers in Genesis (AIG) Ministries based in the Greater Cincinnati area, has opened a Creation Museum to promote Young Earth Creationism. Among Catholics, the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation promotes similar ideas.
Old-Earth creationism itself comes in at least four types:
Thus, the six days of creation (verse 3 onwards) start sometime after the Earth was "without form and void." This allows an indefinite "gap" of time to be inserted after the original creation of the universe, but prior to creation week (when present biological species and humanity were created). Gap theorists can therefore agree with the scientific consensus regarding the age of the Earth and universe, while maintaining a literal interpretation of the biblical text.
Some gap theorists expand the basic theory by proposing a "primordial creation" of biological life within the "gap" of time. This is thought to be "the world that then was" mentioned in 2 Peter 3:3-7. Discoveries of fossils and archaeological ruins older than 10,000 years are generally ascribed to this "world that then was", which may also be associated with Lucifer's rebellion. These views became popular with publications of Hebrew Lexicons such as the Strong's Concordance, and Bible commentaries such as the Scofield Reference Bible and the Companion Bible.
Strictly speaking, day-age creationism is not so much a creationist theory as a hermeneutic option which may be combined with theories such as progressive creationism.
This view of natural history runs counter to current scientific understanding, is unsupported by peer-reviewed articles in respected scientific journals, and is considered pseudoscience.
One of its principal claims is that ostensibly objective orthodox science is actually a dogmatically atheistic religion. Its proponents argue that the scientific method excludes certain explanations of phenomena, particularly where they point towards supernatural elements. They argue that this effectively excludes any possible religious insight from contributing to a scientific understanding of the universe. Neo-Creationists also argue that science, as an "atheistic enterprise," is at the root of many of contemporary society's ills including social unrest and family breakdown.
The most recognized form of Neo-Creationism in the United States is the Intelligent Design movement. Unlike their philosophical forebears, Neo-Creationists largely do not believe in many of the traditional cornerstones of creationism such as a young Earth, or in a dogmatically literal interpretation of the Bible. Common to all forms of Neo-Creationism is a rejection of naturalism, usually made together with a tacit admission of supernaturalism, and an open and often hostile opposition to what they term "Darwinism", which generally is meant to refer to evolution.
Intelligent design (ID) is the claim that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.". All of its leading proponents are associated with the Discovery Institute, a think tank whose Wedge strategy aims to replace the scientific method with "a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions" which accepts supernatural explanations. It is widely accepted in the scientific and academic communities that intelligent design is a form of creationism, and some have even begun referring to it as "intelligent design creationism".
ID originated as a re-branding of creation science in an attempt to get round a series of court decisions ruling out the teaching of creationism in U.S. public schools, and the Discovery Institute has run a series of campaigns to change school curricula. In Australia, where curricula are under the control of State governments rather than local school boards, there was a public outcry when the notion of ID being taught in science classes was raised by the Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson; the minister quickly conceded that the correct forum for ID, if it were to be taught, is in religious or philosophy classes.
In the United States, teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools has been decisively ruled by a Federal District court to be in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. In Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, the court found that intelligent design is not science and "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.", and hence cannot be taught as an alternative to Evolution in public school science classrooms under the jurisdiction of that court. This sets a persuasive precedent, based on previous Supreme Court decisions in Edwards v. Aguillard and Epperson v. Arkansas, and by the application of the Lemon test, that creates a legal hurdle to teaching Intelligent Design in public school districts in other Federal court jurisdictions.
In general, many Hindus believe in biological evolution in some form, while others believe in puranic story of god Brahma being the creator. Some Hindu religious and political organizations have been charged with promoting creationism (or other pseudo-scientific ideas) based on interpretations of Hindu scriptures.
Judaism has a continuum of views about creation, the origin of life and the role of evolution in the formation of species. The major Jewish denominations, including many Orthodox Jewish groups, accept evolutionary creationism or theistic evolution. Many Conservative Rabbis follow theistic evolution, although Conservative Judaism does not have an official view on the subject. Conservative Judaism however, does generally embrace science and therefore finds it a "challenge to traditional Jewish theology. Reform Judaism does not take the Torah as a literal text, but rather as a symbolic or open-ended work. For Orthodox Jews who seek to reconcile discrepancies between science and the Bible, the notion that science and the Bible should even be reconciled through traditional scientific means is questioned. To these groups, science is as true as the Torah and if there seems to be a problem, our own epistemological limits are to blame for any apparent irreconcilable point. They point to various discrepancies between what is expected and what actually is to demonstrate that things are not always as they appear. They point out the fact that the even root word for "world" in the Hebrew language — עולם (oh•luhm) — means hidden. Just as they believe God created man and trees and the light on its way from the stars in their adult state, so too can they believe that the world was created in its "adult" state, with the understanding that there are, and can be, no physical ways to verify this. This belief has been advanced by Rabbi Dr. Dovid Gottlieb, former philosophy professor at Johns Hopkins University. Also, relatively old Kabbalistic sources from well before the scientifically apparent age of the universe was first determined are in close concord with modern scientific estimates of the age of the universe, according to Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. Other interesting parallels are brought down from, among other sources, Nachmanides, who expounds that there was a Neanderthal-like species with which Adam mated (he did this long before Neanderthals had even been discovered scientifically).
According to a 2001 Gallup poll, about 45% of Americans believe that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so." Another 37% believe that "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process." Only 14% believe that "human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process."
Belief in creationism is inversely correlated to education; of those with post-graduate degrees, 74% believe in evolution. A poll in the year 2000 done for People for the American Way found 70% of the American public felt that evolution was compatible with a belief in God..
In 1987, Newsweek reported: "By one count there are some 700 scientists with respectable academic credentials (out of a total of 480,000 U.S. earth and life scientists) who give credence to creation-science, the general theory that complex life forms did not evolve but appeared 'abruptly.'
In 2000, a poll by People For the American Way estimated that:
According to a study published in Science, between 1985 and 2005 the number of adult Americans who accept evolution declined from 45% to 40%, the number of adults who reject evolution declined from 48% to 39% and the number of people who were unsure increased from 7% to 21%. Besides the United States the study also compared data from 32 European countries, Turkey, and Japan. The only country where acceptance of evolution was lower than in the United States was Turkey (25%). (See the chart)
Less-direct anecdotal evidence of the popularity of creationism is reflected in the response of IMAX theaters to the availability of Volcanoes of the Deep Sea, an IMAX film which makes a connection between human DNA and microbes inside undersea volcanoes. The film's distributor reported that the only U.S. states with theaters which chose not to show the film were Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina:
According to a PBS documentary on evolution, Australian Young Earth Creationists claimed that “five percent of the Australian population now believe that Earth is thousands, rather than billions, of years old.” The documentary further states that “Australia is a particular stronghold of the creationist movement.” Taking these claims at face value, Young Earth Creationism is very much a minority position in Western countries.
A 2008 Canadian poll revealed that "58 percent accept evolution, while 22 percent think that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years.
In Europe, strict creationism is a less well-defined phenomenon, and regular polls are not available. However, evolution is taught as scientific fact in most schools. In countries with a Roman Catholic majority, papal acceptance of evolution as worthy of study has essentially ended debate on the matter for many people. In the United Kingdom the Emmanuel Schools Foundation (previously the Vardy Foundation), which runs three government-funded 13 to 19 schools in the north of England (out of several thousand in the country) and plans to open several more, teaches that creationism and evolution are equally valid “faith positions”. One exam board (OCR) also specifically mentions and deals with creationism in its biology syllabus. However, this deals with it as a historical belief and addresses hostility towards evolution rather than promoting it as an alternative to naturalistic evolution. Mainstream scientific accounts are expressed as fact. In Italy, prime minister Silvio Berlusconi wanted to retire evolution from schools in the middle level; after one week of massive protests, he reversed his opinion.
There continues to be scattered and possibly mounting efforts on the part of religious fundamentalists throughout Europe to introduce creationism into public education. In response, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has released a draft report entitled The dangers of creationism in education on June 8, 2007, reinforced by a further proposal of banning it in schools dated October 4th, 2007.
Of particular note for Eastern Europe, Serbia suspended the teaching of evolution for one week in 2004, under education minister Ljiljana Čolić, only allowing schools to reintroduce evolution into the curriculum if they also taught creationism. "After a deluge of protest from scientists, teachers and opposition parties" says the BBC report, Čolić's deputy made the statement, "I have come here to confirm Charles Darwin is still alive" and announced that the decision was reversed. Čolić resigned after the government said that she had caused "problems that had started to reflect on the work of the entire government. Poland saw a major controversy over creationism in 2006 when the deputy education minister, Mirosław Orzechowski, denounced evolution as "one of many lies" taught in Polish schools. His superior, Minister of Education Roman Giertych, has stated that the theory of evolution would continue to be taught in Polish schools, "as long as most scientists in our country say that it is the right theory." Giertych's father, Member of the European Parliament Maciej Giertych, has however opposed the teaching of evolution and has claimed that dinosaurs and humans co-existed.
In the United Kingdom, it is notable that the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, Rowan Williams views the idea of teaching creationism in schools as a mistake.. A 2006 poll on the "origin and development of life" asked participants to choose between three different perspectives on the origin of life: 22% chose creationism, 17% opted for intelligent design, 48% selected evolution theory and the rest did not know.
Murphy observes that the execution of a Jewish carpenter by Roman authorities is in and of itself an ordinary event and did not require Divine action. On the contrary, for the crucifixion to occur, God had to limit or "empty" Himself. It was for this reason that Paul wrote, in Philippians 2:5-8,
Murphy concludes that,
I still do not demonstrate God's existence from [the natural] order of things, and even if I began I would never finish and also would be obliged continually to live in suspenso lest something so terrible happen that my fragment of demonstration would be ruined.
Kierkegaard rejects the idea that the existence of God could be derived from a proof or an appeal to the 'order of things', since such proof could not answer the necessity of commitment, faith and free will to religion, as everyone would be compelled to accept the existence of God on the basis of the proof.
Other Christians have expressed qualms about teaching creationism. In March 2006, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the leader of the world's Anglicans, stated his discomfort about teaching creationism, saying that creationism was "a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories." He also said: "My worry is creationism can end up reducing the doctrine of creation rather than enhancing it." The views of the Episcopal Church, the American branch of the Anglican Communion, on teaching creationism are also the same as Williams.
Young Earth Creationism|
Old Earth Creationism