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"Creationism" can also refer to creation myths, or to a concept about the origin of the soul. For the movement in Spanish literature, see creacionismo.
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The Creation of Adam.jpg

History of creationism

Types of creationism

Young Earth creationism
Old Earth creationism
Gap creationism
Day-Age creationism
Progressive creationism
Intelligent design

Mythology and theology

Creation myth
Genesis creation myth
Framework interpretation
Genesis as an allegory
Omphalos hypothesis

Creation science

Flood geology
Intelligent design


Public education
Politics of creationism
Teach the Controversy

Particular religious views

Deist · Hindu · Islamic · Jewish

Creationism Portal ·   

Creationism is the religious belief[1] that humanity, life, the Earth, and the universe were created in some form by a supernatural being or beings. The term is usually used to refer to the denial, on religious grounds, that biological processes (most commonly, evolution) can adequately account for the history, diversity, and complexity of life on earth—the creation-evolution controversy.[2] In the Jewish and Christian faith, such creationism is usually based on a literal reading of the Genesis creation myth.[3] Other religions have deity-led creation myths[note 1][4] [5] [6] which are quite different.

Since the end of the 19th century belief in creationism has decreased as scientific theories have been presented that support more naturalistic explanations for the universe and for life. While some have tried to refute these theories, others believe in types of creationism that do not exclude all of these theories. When mainstream scientific research produces conclusions which contradict a strict creationist interpretation of scripture, creationists often reject the conclusions of the research[7] and/or its underlying scientific theories[8] and/or its methodology.[9] Both creation science and intelligent design have been characterized as pseudoscience by the mainstream scientific community.[10] The most notable disputes concern the evolution of living organisms, the idea of common descent, the geological history of the Earth, the formation of the solar system and the origin of the universe.[11][12][13][14]


The history of creationism is part of the history of religions, though the term itself is modern. In the 1920s the term became particularly associated with Christian fundamentalist movements that insisted on a literalist interpretation of the Genesis creation myth and likewise opposed the idea of human evolution. These groups succeeded in getting teaching of evolution banned in United States public schools, then from the mid-1960s the young Earth creationists promoted the teaching of "scientific creationism" using "Flood geology" in public school science classes as support for a purely literal reading of Genesis.[15] After the legal judgment of the case Daniel v. Waters (1975) ruled that teaching creationism in public schools contravened the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the content was stripped of overt biblical references and renamed creation science. When the court case Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) ruled that creation science similarly contravened the constitution, all references to "creation" in a draft school textbook were changed to refer to intelligent design, which was subsequently claimed to be a new scientific theory. The Kitzmiller v. Dover (2005) ruling concluded that intelligent design is not science and contravenes the constitutional restriction on teaching religion in public school science classes.[16]


In Judaism and early and medieval Christianity

The Genesis creation myth appears in the Jewish Torah, and early Jewish teachers believed that the inspired biblical text contains layers of meaning, with the spiritual and allegorical interpretations of Genesis often being seen as more important than the literal. The first century Jewish writer Philo admired the literal narrative of passages concerning the Patriarchs, but in other passages viewed the literal interpretation as being for those unable to see an underlying deeper meaning. For example, he noted that Moses said the world was created in six days, but did not consider this as a length of time as "we must think of God as doing all things simultaneously" and the six days were mentioned because of a need for order and according with a perfect number. Genesis was about real events, but God through Moses described them in figurative or allegorical language. The tradition of such writers as Abraham ibn Ezra consistently rejected overly literal understandings of Genesis, and Maimonides described the story of Eve and the serpent as "most absurd in its literal sense; but as an allegory it contains wonderful wisdom, and fully agrees with the real facts".[17][18]

To a large extent, the early Christian Church Fathers read creation history as an allegory, and followed Philo's ideas of time beginning with an instantaneous creation, with days not meant literally. Christian orthodoxy rejected the second century Gnostic belief that Genesis was purely allegorical, but 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.[17]

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 not make absurd dogmatic interpretations of scripture which contradict what people know from physical evidence.[19]

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."[17]

Natural theology

From 1517 the Protestant Reformation brought a new emphasis on lay literacy, with Martin Luther advocating the idea that creation took six literal days about 6000 years ago, and claiming that "Moses wrote that uneducated men might have clear accounts of creation", though a German peasant listening to a translation would have different perceptions from a Jew familiar with early Jewish language and culture, and Luther still had to refer to allegorical understandings such as the meaning of the serpent. John Calvin also rejected instantaneous creation, but criticised those who, contradicting the contemporary understanding of nature, asserted that there are "waters above the heavens".[17]

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.[20] 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 the biblical Deluge myth and story of Noah's Ark.[21]

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[21] and by 1850 all geologists and most Evangelical Christians had adopted various forms of old Earth creationism, while continuing to firmly reject evolution.[17]

Growing evidence for naturalistic explanations

From around the start of the nineteenth century ideas like Lamarck's concept of transmutation of species had gained a small number of supporters in Paris and Edinburgh, mostly amongst anatomists.[17] Britain at that time was enmeshed in the Napoleonic Wars, and fears of republican revolutions such as the American Revolution and French Revolution led to a harsh repression of such evolutionary ideas which challenged the divine hierarchy justifying the monarchy. Charles Darwin's development of his theory of natural selection at this time was kept closely secret. Repression eased, and the anonymous publication of Vestiges of Creation in 1844 aroused wide public interest with support from Quakers and Unitarians, but was strongly criticised by the scientific community, which emphasized the need for solidly backed science. In 1859 Darwin's On the Origin of Species provided that evidence from an authoritative and respected source, and gradually convinced scientists that evolution occurs. This was resisted by conservative evangelicals in the Church of England, but their attention quickly turned to the much greater uproar about Essays and Reviews by liberal Anglican theologians, which introduced into the controversy "the higher criticism" begun by Erasmus centuries earlier. This book re-examined the Bible and cast doubt on a literal interpretation.[22] By 1875 most American naturalists supported ideas of theistic evolution, often involving special creation of human beings.[15]

The rapid developments in scientific understanding have led to detailed scientific and naturalistic explanations for the properties of both living things and non-living matter (from the tiniest sub-atomic particles to the development of the planets, stars and galaxies) which do not require the detectable intervention of a creator.

Theistic evolution

Through the 19th century the term creationism most commonly referred to direct creation of individual souls, in contrast to traducianism. Following the publication of Vestiges there was interest in ideas of Creation by divine law. In particular, the liberal theologian Baden Powell argued that this illustrated the Creator's power better than the idea of miraculous creation, which he thought ridiculous.[23] When On the Origin of Species was published, the cleric Charles Kingsley wrote of evolution as "just as noble a conception of Deity".[24][25] Darwin's view at the time was of God creating life through the laws of nature,[26][27] and the book makes several references to "creation", though he later regretted using the term rather than calling it an unknown process.[28] In America, Asa Gray argued that evolution is the secondary effect, or modus operandi, of the first cause, design,[29] and published a pamphlet defending the book in theistic terms, Natural Selection is not inconsistent with Natural Theology.[24][30][31] Theistic evolution became a popular compromise, and St. George Jackson Mivart was among those accepting evolution but attacking Darwin's naturalistic mechanism. Eventually it was realised that supernatural intervention could not be a scientific explanation, and naturalistic mechanisms such as neo-Lamarckism were favoured as being more compatible with purpose than natural selection.[32]

Some theists took 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.[33]

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 myth; 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.

From a theistic viewpoint, the underlying laws of nature were designed by God for a purpose, and are so self-sufficient that the complexity of the entire physical universe evolved from fundamental particles in processes such as stellar evolution, life forms developed in biological evolution, and in the same way the origin of life by natural causes has resulted from these laws.[34]

In one form or another, theistic evolution is the view of creation taught at the majority of mainline Protestant seminaries[35] 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."[36] 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.[37] 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): America, creationism has come to mean some fundamentalistic, literal, scientific interpretation of Genesis. Judaic-Christian faith is radically creationist, but in a totally different sense. It is rooted in a belief that everything depends upon God, or better, all is a gift from God.[38]

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,[39] including atheists,[40] 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.

Re-emergence of creationist thought in the United States

In the United States, some religious communities have refused to accept, as theistic evolutionists have accepted, naturalistic explanations, and tried instead to counter them. In the United States the term started to become associated with Christian fundamentalist opposition to human evolution and belief in a young Earth in 1929.[41] 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 judgments.[16] 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.[41]

Such beliefs include Young Earth creationism, proponents of which believe that the earth is thousands rather than billions of years old. They typically 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 myth, but reject evolution. The term theistic evolution has been coined to refer to beliefs in creationism which are more compatible with the scientific view of evolution and the age of the Earth. Alternately, there are other religious people who support creationism, but in terms of allegorical interpretations of Genesis.

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, popular belief that German aggression resulted from a Darwinian doctrine of "survival of the fittest" inspired William Jennings Bryan to campaign against the teaching of Darwinian ideas of human evolution.[15] 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,[42][43] and by getting evolution removed from biology textbooks nationwide. Creationism became associated in common usage with opposition to evolution.[44]

In 1961 in the United States, an attempt to repeal the Butler Act failed.[16] The Genesis Flood by the Baptist engineer Henry M. Morris brought the Seventh-day Adventist biblically literal flood geology of George McCready Price to a wider audience, popularizing a novel idea of Young Earth creationism,[17] and by 1965 the term "scientific creationism" had gained currency.[45] The 1968 Epperson v. Arkansas judgment ruled that state laws prohibiting the teaching of evolution violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which prohibits state aid to religion.[46] and when in 1975 Daniel v. Waters ruled that a state law requiring biology textbooks discussing "origins or creation of man and his world" to give equal treatment to creation as per Book of Genesis was unconstitutional, a new group identifying themselves as creationists promoted a "Creation science" which omitted explicit biblical references.[16]

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".[45] 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.[45] 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.[43]

"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.[43] 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;[47] 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.[43]

Creationist movements

Creationist movements exist among peoples with various religions perspectives such as Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam.

Judaism and Christianity

Many Christians around the world today accept evolution as the most likely explanation for the origins of species, and do not take a literal view of the Genesis creation myth. The United States is the exception where belief in religious fundamentalism is much more likely to affect attitudes towards evolution than it is for believers in Europe. Political partisanship affecting religious belief may be a factor because whilst political partisanship in the U.S. is highly correlated with fundamentalist thinking this is not so in Europe.[48]

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 (and I think this is fair enough) 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."[49]

Leaders of the Anglican[50] and Roman Catholic[51][52] churches have made statements in favor 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,[53] 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 a historical description) long before the development of Darwin's theory of evolution. Two notable examples are the first century Jewish neoplatonic philosopher Philo of Alexandria and Saint Augustine of the late fourth century who was also a former neoplatonist. Philo wrote that it would be a mistake to think that creation happened in six days, or in any set amount of time.[54] Augustine argued that everything in the universe was created by God at the same moment in time (and not in six days as a literal reading of Genesis would seem to require);[55] It appears that both Philo and Augustine felt uncomfortable with the idea of a seven day creation because it detracted from the notion of God's omnipotence.

However, in the United States, an inversion has happened. Few Jews today (17%) are likely to accept the Biblical literal interpretation of the creation and favor an alternative explanation. However evangelical Christians have continued to believe the literal claims of Genesis. Members of Protestant (70%), Mormon (76%) and Jehovahs Witness (90%) sects are those most likely to reject the evolutionary interpretation of the origins of life.[56]

The historic Judeo-Christian literal interpretation of creation requires the harmonization of the two creation stories, Genesis 1:1-2:3 and Genesis 2:4-25, for there to be a consistent interpretation.[57][58] 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.[17]

Types of Biblical creationism

Several attempts have been made to categorize the different types of creationism, and create a "taxonomy" of creationists.[59][60][61] 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.

Comparison of major creationist views
Humanity Biological species Earth Age of Universe
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 Proponents hold various beliefs. e.g. Behe accepts evolution from primates 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 Scientifically accepted age
Theistic evolution Evolution from primates. Evolution from single common ancestor. Scientifically accepted age. No global flood. Scientifically accepted age.
Young Earth creationism

Young Earth creationism is the belief that the Earth was created by God within the last ten thousand years, literally as described in Genesis creation myth, within the approximate time frame of biblical genealogies (detailed for example in the Ussher chronology). Young Earth creationists often believe that the Universe has a similar age as the Earth. Creationist cosmologies are attempts by some creationist thinkers to give the universe an age consistent with the Ussher chronology and other Young-Earth time frames. Other Young-Earth creationists believe that the Earth and the universe were created with the appearance of age, so that the world appears to be much older than it is, and that this appearance is what gives the geological findings and other methods of dating the earth and the universe their much longer timelines.

The Christian organizations Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and the Creation Research Society (CRS) both promote Young Earth Creationism in the USA. Another organization with similar views, Answers in Genesis (AIG) Ministries based in both the US and United Kingdom, has opened a Creation Museum to promote Young Earth Creationism. Creation Ministries International promotes Young Earth views in Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand. Among Catholics, the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation promotes similar ideas.

Modern geocentrism

Modern geocentrism holds that God recently created a spherical world, and placed it in the center of the universe. The Sun, planets and everything else in the universe revolve around it.

Omphalos hypothesis

The Omphalos hypothesis argues that in order for the world to be functional, God must have created a mature Earth with mountains and canyons, rock strata, trees with growth rings, and so on; therefore no evidence that we can see of the presumed age of the earth and universe can be taken as reliable.[62] The idea has seen some revival in the twentieth century by some modern creationists, who have extended the argument to light that appears to originate in far-off stars and galaxies (see Starlight problem).

Creation science

Creation science is the attempt to present scientific evidence interpreted with Genesis axioms that supports the claims of creationism. Various claims of creation scientists include such ideas as creationist cosmologies which accommodate a universe on the order of thousands of years old, attacks on the science of radiometric dating through a technical argument about radiohalos, explanations for the fossil record as a record of the destruction of the global flood recorded in Book of Genesis (see flood geology), and explanations for the present diversity as a result of pre-designed genetic variability and partially due to the rapid degradation of the perfect genomes God placed in "created kinds" or "Baramin" (see creation biology) due to mutations.

Old Earth creationism

Old Earth creationism holds that the physical universe was created by God, but that the creation event of Genesis is not to be taken strictly literally. This group generally believes that the age of the Universe and the age of the Earth are as described by astronomers and geologists, but that details of modern evolutionary theory are questionable.

Old-Earth creationism itself comes in at least three types:

Gap creationism

Gap creationism, also called "Restitution creationism", holds that life was recently created on a pre-existing old Earth. This theory relies on a particular interpretation of Genesis 1:1-2. It is considered that the words formless and void in fact denote waste and ruin, taking into account the original Hebrew and other places these words are used in the Old Testament. Genesis 1:1-2 is consequently translated:

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Original act of creation.)
"And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."

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 according to the Genesis creation myth (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.[63] 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.

Day-Age creationism

Day-Age creationism states that the "six days" of Book of Genesis are not ordinary twenty-four-hour days, but rather much longer periods (for instance, each "day" could be the equivalent of millions, or billions of years of human time). This theory often states that the Hebrew word "yôm", in the context of Genesis 1, can be properly interpreted as "age." Some adherents claim we are still living in the seventh age ("seventh day").

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.

Progressive creationism

Progressive creationism holds that species have changed or evolved in a process continuously guided by God, with various ideas as to how the process operated—though it is generally taken that God directly intervened in the natural order at key moments in Earth/life's history. This view accepts most of modern physical science including the age of the earth, but rejects much of modern evolutionary biology or looks to it for evidence that evolution by natural selection alone is incorrect[citation needed]. Organizations such as Reasons to Believe, founded by Hugh Ross, promote this theory.

Progressive creationism can be held in conjunction with hermeneutic approaches to Genesis chapter 1 such as the day-age theory or framework/metaphoric/poetic views.


Neo-Creationists intentionally distance themselves from other forms of creationism, preferring to be known as wholly separate from creationism as a philosophy. Its goal is to restate creationism in terms more likely to be well received by the public, education policy makers and the scientific community. It aims to re-frame the debate over the origins of life in non-religious terms and without appeals to scripture, and to bring the debate before the public.

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

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".[64] All of its leading proponents are associated with the Discovery Institute,[65] 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.[43][66] It is widely accepted in the scientific and academic communities that intelligent design is a form of creationism,[67][60][61][68] and some have even begun referring to it as "intelligent design creationism".[69][70][71]

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.[16] 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.[72]

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.[43][73]

Hinduism and creationism

Some Hindus find support for, or foreshadowing of evolutionary ideas in scriptures, namely the Vedas.[74] An exception to this acceptance is the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), which includes several members who actively oppose "Darwinism" and the modern evolutionary synthesis[75].

Islamic creationism

Islamic creationism is the belief that the universe (including humanity) was directly created by God as explained in the Qur'an. While contemporary Islam tends to take religious texts literally, it usually views Genesis as a corrupted version of God's message. The creation myths in the Qur'an are more vague and allow for a wider range of interpretations similar to those in other Abrahamic religions. Several liberal movements within Islam generally accept the scientific positions on the age of the earth, the age of the universe and evolution.

Islam also has its own school of Evolutionary creationism/Theistic evolutionism, which holds that mainstream scientific analysis of the origin of the universe is supported by the Qur'an. Many Muslims believe in evolutionary creationism, especially among Liberal movements within Islam.

Khalid Anees, president of the Islamic Society of Britain, at a conference called 'Creationism: Science and Faith in Schools', made points including the following:[76] There is no contradiction between what is revealed in the Koran and natural selection and survival of the fittest. However, some Muslims, such as Adnan Oktar, do not agree that one species can develop from another.[77]

But there is also a growing movement of Islamic creationism. Similar to Christian creationism, there is concern regarding the perceived conflicts between the Qur'an and the main points of evolutionary theory.

There are several verses in the Qur'an which some modern writers have interpreted as being compatible with the expansion of the universe, Big Bang and Big Crunch theories:[78][79][80]

"Do not the Unbelievers see that the skies (space) and the earth were joined together, then We clove them asunder and We created every living thing out of the water. Will they not then believe?"[Qur'an 21:30]

"Then turned He to the sky (space) when it was smoke, and said unto it and unto the earth: Come both of you, willingly or loth. They said: We come, obedient."[Qur'an 41:11]

"And it is We Who have constructed the sky (space) with might, and it is We Who are steadily expanding it."[Qur'an 51:47]

"On the day when We will roll up the sky (space) like the rolling up of the scroll for writings, as We originated the first creation, (so) We shall reproduce it; a promise (binding on Us); surely We will bring it about."[Qur'an 21:104]

Jewish creationism

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."[81] 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 (Olam) — means hidden — נעלם (Neh-Eh-Lahm). 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).[82][83][84][85]


Views on human evolution in various countries.[86][87]

Most vocal strict creationists are from the United States, and strict creationist views are much less common in other developed countries. According to a study published in Science, a survey of the United States, Turkey, Japan and Europe showed that public acceptance of evolution is most prevalent in Iceland, Denmark and Sweden at 80% of the population.[88]


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." [89] A 2009 Nielsen poll showed that almost a quarter of Australians believe "the biblical account of human origins" over the Darwinian account. Forty-two percent believe in a "wholly scientific" explanation for the origins of life, while 32 percent believe in an evolutionary process "guided by God".[90]


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."[91]


In Europe, strict creationism is less well accepted, though regular opinion polls are not available. Most people accept that evolution is the most widely accepted scientific theory as taught 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. Exceptionally, 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) 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.[92] 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.[93]

There continues to be scattered and possibly mounting efforts on the part of religious fundamentalists throughout Europe to introduce creationism into public education.[94] 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,[95] reinforced by a further proposal of banning it in schools dated October 4, 2007.[96]

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.[97] "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.[98] Čolić resigned after the government said that she had caused "problems that had started to reflect on the work of the entire government."[99] 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.[100]

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, views the idea of teaching creationism in schools as a mistake.[101] 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 evolutionary theory, and the rest did not know.[102][103]

United States

Anti-evolution car in Athens, Georgia

According to a 2001 Gallup poll,[104] 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",[105] and 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".[104]

Belief in creationism is inversely correlated to education; of those with postgraduate degrees, 74% accept evolution.[106][107] 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.'"[108][109]

A 2000 poll for People for the American Way found 70% of the American public felt that evolution was compatible with a belief in God.[110]

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%).[88]

Education controversies

The Truth fish, one of the many creationist responses to the Darwin fish.

In the United States, 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.[73]

People for the American Way polled 1500 Americans about the teaching of evolution and creationism in November and December 1999. They found that most Americans were not familiar with Creationism, and most Americans had heard of evolution, but many did not fully understand the basics of the theory. The main findings were:

Americans believe that:[110]
Public schools should teach evolution only
Only evolution should be taught in science classes, religious explanations can be discussed in another class
Creationism can be discussed in science class as a 'belief,' not a scientific theory
Creationism and evolution should be taught as 'scientific theories' in science class
Only Creationism should be taught
Teach both evolution and Creationism, but unsure how to do so
No opinion

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.[111][112]

Christian critique

Many Christians disagree with the teaching of creationism. Several religious organizations, among them the Catholic Church, hold that their faith is not in conflict with the scientific consensus regarding evolution.[113] The Clergy Letter Project is an "endeavor designed to demonstrate that religion and science can be compatible."

In the article "Intelligent Design as a Theological Problem", George Murphy argues against the view that life on Earth in all its forms is direct evidence of God's act of creation (Murphy quotes Phillip Johnson's claim that he is speaking "of a God who acted openly and left his fingerprints on all the evidence."). Murphy argues that this view of God is incompatible with the Christian understanding of God as "the one revealed in the cross and resurrection of Jesus." The basis of this theology is Isaiah 45:15, "Truly, thou art a God who hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior."

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,

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.

Murphy concludes that,

Just as the son of God limited himself by taking human form and dying on the cross, God limits divine action in the world to be in accord with rational laws God has chosen. This enables us to understand the world on its own terms, but it also means that natural processes hide God from scientific observation.

For Murphy, a theology of the cross requires that Christians accept a methodological naturalism, meaning that one cannot invoke God to explain natural phenomena, while recognizing that such acceptance does not require one to accept a metaphysical naturalism, which proposes that nature is all that there is.[114]

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.[115]

Scientific critique

Science is a system of knowledge that is based on empirical evidence and testable explanations. Natural causes can be reproduced so that they can be tested by other scientists. Explanations based on purported forces outside nature, such as supernatural intervention, cannot be confirmed or disproved by scientists as these explanations cannot be tested.[116] Stephen Jay Gould considered science and religion to be two compatible, complementary fields, whose authority does not overlap (Non-overlapping magisteria)[117] For these reasons some claims of Creationism cannot be evaluated by science, such as the idea of a divine being as a first cause. Other, more specific claims can and have in many instances been tested and disproved by science.[118][119] The non-overlapping magisteria has been rejected by some scientists such as Richard Dawkins, who hold that scientific methods disprove religion as an idea whilst disproving creationism. The scientific consensus is that any attempt to teach creationism as science should be rejected.[120][121][122]

See also

Notes on terminology

  1. ^ While the term myth is often used colloquially to refer to "a false story", this article uses the term in the academic meaning of "a sacred narrative explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form."


  1. ^ Evolution Vs. Creationism, Eugenie Scott, Niles Eldredge, p. 114
  2. ^ "NCSE : National Center for Science Education - Defending the Teaching of Evolution in Public Schools.". Creationism. 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  3. ^ Ronald L. Numbers. "Creationism History: Topic Index". Counterbalance Meta-Library. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  4. ^ Dundes, Alan (Winter, 1997). "Binary Opposition in Myth: The Propp/Levi-Strauss Debate in Retrospect". Western Folklore (56): 39–50. 
  5. ^ Dundes, Alan (1984). Introduction. Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth. Ed. Alan Dunes.. University of California Press. 
  6. ^ Dundes, Alan (1996). "Madness in Method Plus a Plea for Projective Inversion in Myth". Myth and Method. Ed. Laurie Patton and Wendy Doniger.. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. 
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  8. ^ Isaak, Mark (2005). "CA215: Practical uses of evolution.". Index to Creationist Claims. TalkOrigins Archive. Retrieved 2009–08-20. 
    Isaak, Mark (2005). "CH100.1: Science in light of Scripture". Index to Creationist Claims. TalkOrigins Archive. Retrieved 2009–08-20. 
  9. ^ Isaak, Mark (2004). "CA301: Science and naturalism". Index to Creationist Claims. TalkOrigins Archive. Retrieved 2009–08-20. 
  10. ^ "Statements from Scientific and Scholarly Organizations". National Center for Science Education. Retrieved 2008-08-28. 
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  44. ^ TalkOrigins Archive: Post of the Month: March 2006, The History of Creationism by Lenny Flank.
  45. ^ a b c McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, Decision January 5, 1982.
  46. ^ Edwards v. Aguillard
  47. ^ Evolution News & Views: Dover Judge Regurgitates Mythological History of Intelligent Design, Discovery Institute, Posted by Jonathan Witt on December 20, 2005 4:43 PM. Retrieved 2007-07-01
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  49. ^ Archbishop of Canterbury, Transcript of interview with the Guardian
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  51. ^ What Catholics Think of Evolution? They don't not believe in it, Keelin McDonell, Explainer, Slate Magazine, July 12, 2005.
  52. ^ See also the article Evolution and the Roman Catholic Church.
  53. ^ see eg John Polkinghorne's Science and Theology pp6-7
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  56. ^ Pugh Forum findings Page 95
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  58. ^ "The Creation Myths: Internal Difficulties". Retrieved 2007-05-23. 
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  62. ^ Gosse, Henry Philip, 1857. Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot. J. Van Voorst, London
  63. ^ "The Holy Bible, King James Version". Retrieved 2006-12-31. 
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  65. ^ Kitzmiller v. Dover Testimony, Barbara Forrest, 2005.
  66. ^ Wedge Strategy, Discovery Institute, 1999.
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    • "Creationists are repackaging their message as the pseudoscience of intelligent design theory." Professional Ethics Report, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2001.
    • Conclusion of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District Ruling
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  70. ^ "Dembski chides me for never using the term "intelligent design" without conjoining it to "creationism." He implies (though never explicitly asserts) that he and others in his movement are not creationists and that it is incorrect to discuss them in such terms, suggesting that doing so is merely a rhetorical ploy to "rally the troops". (2) Am I (and the many others who see Dembski's movement in the same way) misrepresenting their position? The basic notion of creationism is the rejection of biological evolution in favor of special creation, where the latter is understood to be supernatural. Beyond this there is considerable variability...", from Wizards of ID: Reply to Dembski, Robert T. Pennock, p. 645-667 of Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives, Robert T. Pennock (editor), Cambridge, MIT Press, 2001, 825 p., ISBN 0262661241; Pennock, R.T., 1999, Tower of Babel: Evidence Against the New Creationism, Cambridge, MIT Press, 440 p.
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  98. ^ Serbia reverses Darwin suspension
  99. ^ 'Anti-Darwin' Serb minister quits
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  101. ^ Archbishop: stop teaching creationism-Williams backs science over Bible, Stephen Bates, religious affairs correspondent, The Guardian, Tuesday March 21, 2006.
  102. ^ Britons unconvinced on evolution
  103. ^ BBC Survey On The Origins Of Life
  104. ^ a b Majority of Americans Doubt Theory of Evolution
  105. ^ Substantial Numbers of Americans Continue to Doubt Evolution as Explanation for Origin of Humans
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  117. ^ Gould, Stephen Jay (1997). "Nonoverlapping Magisteria". Natural History 106 (3): 16–22. 
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Further reading

  • Adams Leeming, David (1996). A Dictionary of Creation Myths. OUP. ISBN 978-0195102758. 
  • Anderson, Bernhard W. (editor) Creation in the Old Testament (ISBN 0-8006-1768-1)
  • Anderson, Bernhard W. Creation Versus Chaos: The Reinterpretation of Mythical Symbolism in the Bible (ISBN 1-59752-042-X)
  • Ian Barbour When Science Meets Religion, 2000, Harper SanFrancisco
  • Ian Barbour Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues, 1997, Harper SanFrancisco.
  • Stephen Jay Gould Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the fullness of life, Ballantine Books, 1999
  • Aryeh Kaplan, Immortality, Resurrection, and the Age of the Universe: A Kabbalistic View, Ktav, NJ, in association with the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists, NY, 1993
  • Stuart Kauffman Reinventing the Sacred, 2008
  • Numbers, Ronald (November 30, 2006). The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, Expanded Edition. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674023390. 
  • Joel R. Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams In a Beginning...: Quantum Cosmology and Kabbalah, Tikkun, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp. 66–73

External links


Young Earth Creationism

Old Earth Creationism

Intelligent design



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