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Creationism

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Creationism is the belief that the origin of the universe and everything in it is due to an event of creation brought about by the deliberate act of God.

This article focuses primarily on Christian creationist arguments and beliefs, the role of Christian creationism in society, and the parts that prominent individual creationists play in the creation science movement. For a detailed discussion of beliefs concerning the origin of the universe in various religions and cultures, see creation beliefs. For a discussion of creationism in the context of theology, see Creation (theology).

Table of contents
1 Historical overview
2 Types of creationist beliefs
3 Distribution of creationist views
4 The creation stories of Genesis
5 The creationism versus evolution debate
6 Creationism and philosophical naturalism
7 Creationism in public education
8 See also
9 External links and references

Historical overview

The creation beliefs of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (also known as the three Abrahamic religions) have their origins in classical Judaism and the Book of Genesis. In the West, until the late 19th century, most Jews and Christians believed that all things originated by an act of God, with the single exception of God himself, who is said to have existed eternally. This religious viewpoint was predominant in Europe during the Middle Ages. However, in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, scientific discoveries and new (along with the rediscovery of old) philosophical ideas led many to doubt the validity of these beliefs.

Charles Darwin's famous work, The Origin of Species (1859) introduced the theory of evolution by natural selection, a process which does not require supernatural acts to produce organisms well-adapted to their environment. Darwin's work was not intended to oppose religious accounts of creation, but rather Lamarck's theory of evolution by inheritance of acquired characteristics. Darwin's subsequent book The Descent of Man (1871) applied his theory to the origin of humankind, and put forth the hypothesis that humans were descended from ape-like creatures by the mechanism of evolution by natural selection. A monumental controversy ensued in Victorian Britain, as this theory apparently contradicted the accounts of the creation of man given in the Bible, which had until then been the primary source on the matter.

The modern creationist movement originated in the United States as part of Fundamentalist Christianity, which arose as a reaction to modernist Biblical interpretation. One of the corollaries of the modernist approach was their belief that evolutionary theory could not be reconciled with any appropriate interpretation of the Bible, and that therefore the Bible was in error as to scientifically verifiable facts. Fundamentalist Christianity, reacting against modernism, codified its own belief in the plenary and inerrant inspiration of the Bible, including the creation stories of Genesis.

While fundamentalists are credited as the originators of the movement, there are also creationists among Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Wesleyan/Holiness and conservatives of mainline Protestant churches, such as the Confessing Movements, and some Roman Catholics, Jews and many Muslims. Consequently, "creationism" has developed into an umbrella term for any belief about creation that requires the presence of God.

Types of creationist beliefs

Within the broader term creationist, there is no single set of beliefs, but a few general categories do exist. One classification is based on beliefs about the age of the Earth.

Another classification is by how organisms are believed to be created or have been created.

Part of creationist expression is the creation science movement. Advocates of creation science attempt to offer scientific explanations for religious creation scenarios. Usually these theories disagree with mainstream scientific theories of cosmology, human origins, the theory of evolution, and the theory of common descent. Not all Creationists accept creation science.

Many Christian creationists believe that a creator would logically attempt to communicate with intelligent members of his creation. Jesus and the Bible are taken to be the creator's attempt at communication. However, there is strong disagreement in interpretation and in how literally the Bible is to be taken.

Creationism is usually contrasted with evolution via natural selection shaped by mutations, sometimes referred to as Darwinism or Neodarwinism.

Distribution of creationist views

United States

In the United States, creationism remains popular among non-scientists. According to several evolution polls over the last decade, 60-65% of Americans believe that "God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years." About 10% believe that the evolution of species occurred without any divine intervention. The latter figure is higher among the upper class, Internet users and among college graduates, higher still among scientists (about 55% believe that evolution occurred without God over millions of years according to a 1997 Gallup poll [1]), and higher still among biologistss and geologistss. These data have remained relatively stable over time.

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.'". A 2000 poll by People for the American Way examined the question of popular support for evolution and creationism in schools, and showed that a majority of 83% supported the teaching of the theory of evolution [1].

The western world outside the US

The United States fundamentalist Christian community has no real parallels (in terms of numbers, prominence, and political influence) elsewhere in the Western world (aside from possibly Canada), and because most vocal creationists are from the United States, it is generally assumed that creationist views are not as common elsewhere. Statistics are not clear on the issue.

According to a PBS documentary on evolution, Australian 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 other than the USA.

In Europe, creationism is a less well defined phenomenon, and regular polls are not available; however, the option of teaching creationism in school has not yet been seriously considered in any Western European country. In Roman Catholic-majority countries, papal acceptance of evolution as worthy of study has essentially ended debate on the matter for many people. Nevertheless, creationist groups such as the German Studiengemeinschaft Wort und Wissen [1] are actively lobbying there as well. In the United Kingdom the Emmanuel Schools Foundation (previously the Vardy Foundation), which owns two colleges in the north of England and plans to open several more, teaches that creationism and evolution are equally valid "faith positions".

Islamic creationism

In the Islamic world the theory of evolution has generally been ignored or condemned with purely religious arguments. However, liberal movements within Islam, which are generally partial to secular scientific thought, tend to be more accepting of evolution.

In recent years, however, the arguments of "Intelligent Design"-style creationism have fallen on fertile ground in parts of the Islamic world and among Muslim immigrants in the Western diaspora.

The centre of the Islamic creationist movement is Turkey. Its main exponent is the writer Harun Yahya (or. Adnan Oktar, b. 1956) who uses the Internet for the propagation of his ideas. His BAV (Bilim Araştırma Vakfı/ Science Research Foundation) organizes conferences with leading American creationists. Another leading advocate of Islamic creationism is Fethullah Gülen (b. 1941).

The movement seems to have a considerable following in Indonesia and Malaysia whereas interest seem to be low in the Arabic countries and Iran. As in the Western context, the theory of evolution is held responsible for a materialist worldview that is the alleged base of all kinds of societal problems and negative political developments.

The creation stories of Genesis

The Biblical story of creation occurs in the opening of Genesis. Many biblical scholars distinguish two separate creation stories:

  1. The story of the creation in six days (Genesis 1:1 to 2:3)
  2. The story of the day of creation (Genesis 2:4-24)

The two stories are not identical. There are arguments for and against their reconciliability.

The first story, Genesis 1:1-2:3

This story is an account of God (Elohim) creating the universe in six days and resting on the seventh day. The order of creation is:

The second story, Genesis 2:4-2:25

This story is an account of the day the God (Yahweh) created the world. It begins on the day of the creation (2:4) before plants, rain, and men (2:5).

Reconciling the two stories

The order in which the events of creation take place in the two stories are significantly different in each version. However, within themselves the stories are consistent. Some interpretors claim that the second story is an expanded version of the first that explains what happened in detail to the creation described in the first story. Others state that some of the events are arranged out of their chronological order.

Evolutionary creationists typically hold that the passages in Genesis are not to be interpreted literally, but are rather a symbolic or poetic account of the creation of the universe. Some believe that they are based on the prevailing knowledge of the physical world at the time that they were written.

It is possible to view Genesis as an allegory for the process of humankind's development of self-awareness and the emergence of human intelligence from a previous animal state. In this interpretation, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge is a key component as the Serpent claims it holds the power to impart understanding that would rival God's. The humans take a bite and get the ability to understand, but they do not eat the whole fruit, and so get only a partial understanding. Immediately they become ashamed of their nakedness, presumably because it belies their animal nature. God expels them from the Garden of Eden, which represents a contented animal existence, to toil in the world and face strife and conflict.

Some creationists do not believe that the two accounts of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are compatible. These take neither account as "history", but consider the creation of mankind to be the culmination of God's creating work.

Time in the creation stories

One difference between the two stories is that the first is about the six days of creation, while the second is about the day of creation. This apparent contradiction in two verses that are so close together has troubled many commentators (see A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom by A.D. White, 1896, Dover Publications, 1960, page 5). The distinction is concealed by some translations, such as the New International Version. One explanation for this difference is given by the documentary hypothesis.

There is a sharp distinction between Young Earth Creationists and Old Earth Creationists who hold contradictory views regarding the age of the Earth. Young Earth Creationism holds to the wording of the first story, where the Earth was created in six days. Young Earth Creationists usually date the Earth at somewhere around 6,000 years old using the genealogies and other details in the Bible; the Ussher-Lightfoot Calendar of Bishop James Ussher presents one famous interpretation of these details). Young Earth Creationists usually reject the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe.

Old Earth Creationists do not hold to the wording of either story and claim that the Earth is millions of years old. For example, Day-Age Creationism holds that the six days referred to are not ordinary 24-hour days, but rather much longer periods (of thousands or millions of years); the Genesis account is then sometimes interpreted as an account of the process of evolution. Some believe that the six day period refers to the time spent by light traveling from the center of the universe at the time and point of creation.

The creationism versus evolution debate

Most creationists reject the theory of gradualism, viz. that life gradually evolved over millions of years from simple to increasingly complex forms only by means of mutation and natural selection. Evolutionary scientists hold that, on the contrary, there is abundant evidence in favour of evolution over time from sciences such as geology, paleontology and physics.

The "creationism vs. evolution" debate began when evolution by natural selection was proposed by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace in 1858. Darwin's (1859) The Origin of Species became the focal point of creationist debate at a time when universities were still dominated by religious thought. Darwin was well aware of the likely implications of his work for people with strong religious beliefs (such as his own wife) and delayed its publication until he became aware that Wallace was about to publish similar views. Darwin's book sparked an immediate and furious controversy on both sides of the Atlantic, dividing not just secular and religious but also literal and non-literal theists. One of the most famous incidents in the debate was the Oxford Meeting of 1860, when T.H. Huxley, Darwin's self-appointed "bulldog", publicly debated Darwin's theory with the Bishop of Oxford, "Soapy Sam" Wilberforce. Darwin's ideas continued to arouse controversy in Europe for years afterwards, but by the 1930s it had become the accepted popular explanation for the modification of organisms over time. (see modern evolutionary synthesis)

By contrast, the stronger presence of Christian fundamentalism in the United States meant that while academic opinion was generally in favour of Darwinism, public and legislative opinion, especially in the Bible Belt states of the South, was strongly pro-creationism. The clash between academia and legislatures came to a head in 1925, when the famous Scopes Trial tested a law that forbade the teaching of evolution in Tennessee public schools. The law was not repealed until 1968, when it was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The debate has intensified in recent years with the growing involvement of the Christian right in U.S. politics, which has seen the creationism vs. evolution debate taking on increasingly partisan political overtones.

Creationism has shifted over the past century as the advance of scientific knowledge and growing judicial strictness in the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution have squeezed out the more overtly religious or unscientific creationist forays into the classroom. In recent times, Christian creationism has been a driving force of the intelligent design (ID) movement. Advocates of ID never explicitly name God as their intelligent designer. Opponents of ID criticise its theories as pseudoscientific and accuse the movement of attempting to introduce a disguised version of creationism into the classroom. Although the ID movement is well-organised and well-funded by Christian conservatives, it has so far achieved relatively few endorsements.

Creationism of any variety has also made little headway against mainstream scientific opinion; the vast majority of scientists accept the theory of evolution through mutations and natural selection. While many scientists believe in God, probably the reason for rejection of creationism or Intelligent Design is the need to have a God or an Intelligence to do the design, and to date no scientific experiments or observations support the hypothesis that such a being exists. However, perhaps as a result of resurgent Christian fundamentalism gaining converts among well-educated right-wing Americans, a small but vociferous number of academics have come out in favour of creationist ideas.

Creationism and the origins of life

While the Bible makes no distinction between the origins of life and the origins of humans — both are said to have been created by God — science does make this distinction. The question of the origins of life is known as abiogenesis and is treated by science as being quite distinct from the question of evolution. The two subjects are also quite different in terms of scientific maturity and testability. Although scientists disagree about the fine details, the majority regard Darwin's principle of natural selection, combined with the discovery of genetic mutations, as the best explanation for the observable process of evolution. By contrast, there is no single widely accepted theory of abiogenesis and the process itself does not appear to be ongoing today, nor has anyone so far found a way of making it happen in the laboratory. This does not invalidate the concept of evolution, since it only addresses the way life develops, not how life originates.

Creationists often answer both the question of evolution and of abiogenesis by arguing that because neither the origins of life nor the course of human evolution can be reproduced experimentally, they fall outside the scope of empirical science and into philosophy. As such, they say, the full range of opinions — including creationism and related theories of divine intervention — should at least be discussed on an equal basis. Supporters of evolution reject this and claim that evolution can be observed experimentally, both in the laboratory and in the field. Although the actual creation of life has not yet been observed experimentally, much experimental work into the necessary conditions has been carried out (for instance, research into the formation of long proteins or into molecule formation in different atmospheres). By contrast, proposed explanations involving divine intervention are either impervious to scientific verification in principle, or have so far proven to be so.

Creation science

Some creationists posit that certain assumptions, procedures, theories, and findings of science, particularly the theory of evolution through natural selection, are scientifically incorrect. Creation science is a modern movement that attacks these ideas on ostensibly scientific grounds and proposes alternative theories that are more compatible with creationism. The term "creation science" covers a broad spectrum of beliefs. Some creation scientists do not seek to challenge mainstream science, while others go so far as to deny the applicability of the scientific method or Occam's razor to religiously-inspired beliefs about the physical world.

Not all creationists are creation scientists. Some creationists view scientific truth as separate from spiritual truth and are unconcerned by apparent contradictions between the two.

Creation science has been criticized by many mainstream scientists for making fundamental scientific errors and misstatements in its assertions. For instance, some creation scientists claim that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics, but mainstream scientists see no contradiction. Consequently most mainstream scientists regard creation science as, at best, a pseudoscience.

Many critics of creation science believe that all creation scientists attempt to falsely disguise the Biblical story of creation as science (Arthur, 1996). United States federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court, have been receptive to this argument, and have overturned various state laws seeking to give creation science equal time with the theory of evolution in public schools. See, for example, Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987) and McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, 529 F.Supp. 1255 (1982); also Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 US 602 (1971).

Intelligent design

The above-mentioned intelligent design movement allows for macroevolution but denies the theory of natural selection as a probable mechanism, arguing that God has guided the evolution. Most scientists argue that intelligent design is not scientific because it is unfalsifiable. Another argument is that the possibility of an intelligent designer is real, but substantially more complex than alternative possibilities, such as a modified theory of evolution, or even the possibility of extraterrestrial origin. As such, the theory falls foul of the well-tested scientific principle of Ockham's Razor. If God, or an unspecified "designer", guided the process, this raises further questions, such as:

A further problem is presented by the essential unprovability (or disprovability) of the Designer's methodology. Dr. Duane Gish, a prominent advocate of intelligent design, highlights this issue in his 1978 book Evolution? The Fossils Say No!: "We do not know how the Creator created, what processes He used, for He used processes which are not now operating in the natural universe [italics as in original] ... We cannot discover by scientific investigation anything about the creative processes used by the Creator."

Irreducible complexity

Irreducible complexity is the assertion that some structures, such as rotary flagella and eyes, could not have developed gradually, because the necessary intermediate steps would be completely nonfunctional and maladaptive; therefore, such organs must be the work of an intelligent designer. This perspective has been extensively presented by biochemist Michael Behe in the book "Darwin's Black Box".

A common counterargument is that such organs do in fact have less-complex predecessors. Some see this as a straw man argument in that the actual criteria that must be met is for all intermediate steps to be demonstrable as being both statistically explainable by genetic mutation, and individually functional and adaptive concurrent with this process.

The advent of computers has, to a limited extent, made claims of irreducible complexity testable through simple mathematical models. Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden (1995) gives an example of a simulation where multiple independent organisms all showed a steady progression from a light-sensitive spot to a complex eye with a lens focus.

Macroevolution vs. microevolution

Creationists often make a distinction between macroevolution — any evolutionary change at or above the level of species — and microevolution — any evolutionary change below the level of a species. They often cite Genesis 1:21,24-25 as evidence that each distinct type of creature is its own "kind", and cannot be changed into another "kind". For example, a man and a dog represent two different species, and so it is impossible to turn a man into a dog or vice versa. On the other hand, a poodle and a Great Dane are two breeds or varieties of the same species, in this case the common dog Canis domesticus, and it is clearly possible to effect change at the microevolutionary level by interbreeding them.

Most creationists accept the observable evidence of microevolution in the light of examples such as Darwin's finches on the Galapagos islands evolving from one original base form into a variety of different forms adapted to the circumstances peculiar to their home islands. Similar examples are found in the fossil record and are commonly encountered in studies of organisms with a high rate of reproduction, particularly bacteria and insects. However, creationists treat macroevolution with considerably more skepticism and suggest that if it occurred at all — which some deny — it probably did not occur solely by the reasons proposed by advocates of evolution.

With the rise of modern taxonomy, the concept of species became distinct from and more well-defined than that of a kind, and it became possible to clearly define what was meant by these claims. As late as the 1700s, speciation was thought impossible; Linnaeus expressed the conventional view when he opined that "there are as many species as the Creator produced forms in the beginning." But since the rise of evolutionary theory, almost all scientists have said that speciation is an ordinary event and that cases of speciation have been clearly documented. Creationists, however, counter that such apparent speciation is on the microevolutionary level and that the new organisms are still of the same kind.

Fossils and macroevolution

Creationists claim that though many varieties of reptiles and mammals exist, there is no record of an animal capable of bridging the gap between them, and that "gaps in the fossil record" reveal "missing links" between different species which refute the idea of gradual transitions.

Fossil finds are generally restricted only to the extremely small amount of sedimentary rock that is exposed on the surface of the Earth at any one time. The vast majority of actual fossils remain concealed within the rock strata. Scientists contend that new fossils are constantly being found and that we have thousands of fossil examples for many species showing transition states from one form to another. Creationists suggest that this evidence only shows examples of microevolution.

In recent years, the theory of punctuated equilibrium has suggested that there might be unevenness in the rate of evolution. It claims that rapid speciation happens in small populations which are cut off from others of their species, and that evolution in these small groups may occur too quickly for any significant number of fossils to be deposited and survive to the present day. The fossil record would thus show an abrupt transition from one form to another. This view has gained significant support among scientists, but it is still somewhat controversial. Creationists counter that punctuated equilibrium is an attempt to dodge the question of gaps in the fossil record by moving the action of evolution into a timeframe when it is impossible to prove or disprove.

Some supporters of evolution say that creationists often query whether a claimed transitional fossil truly represents a transition. According to these supporters of evolution, when a fossil is found that appears to lie in between two existing fossils, instead of representing a transition between them, a creationist will say that this discovery creates two new gaps that need to be explained. But this effectively demands an unbroken family tree of fossils, and since fossilization of organisms is a rare and exceptional event, not the norm, most scientists consider this an unreasonable standard. As a reasonable standard, scientists point to the fossil record of animals such as the horse, whose fossil record is so complete that it is generally agreed not to have any missing links.

Some supporters of evolution also say that creationists misinterpret the classification of intermediate fossils. For example, no fossil has ever been classified as a "reptile-bird", and some creationists cite this as evidence that there have been no transitionary fossils between reptiles and birds. Evolutionists say that adding a separate "reptile-bird" class would only make classification more complex, and that instead fossils are classified according to the characteristics they display the most. Additionally, say the evolutionists, there is lively debate about how many of these intermediate fossils should be classified, and that classification is often difficult even for specialists—thus proving that some fossils are not clearly either reptile or bird, but are intermediate.

Differences in scale

Most biologists consider the difference between microevolution and macroevolution to be relative. Creationists who reject Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection argue that the difference is absolute. They have proposed that microevolution always takes the form of destructive genetic mutations, which happen to confer an advantage to individuals in a specific environment. Because macroevolution requires many constructive genetic changes, they argue that microevolution cannot lead to macroevolution. One example of a destructive mutation that conferred a competitive advantage under a specific situation occurred in Streptococcus pneumoniae, some strains of which are resistant to penicillin. But this resistance requires the bacterium to expend extra resources that the nonresistant bacteria do not, and so it does not compete well with them in the absence of penicillin. Competitive advantage is the driving force behind natural selection, so the relevance is unclear to evolution advocates.

More specifically, the contention of creationists is that the observed and verified process of microevolution does not lead to increasingly complex species. When the mutations occur, they lead to the elimination of certain useless genetic traits, decreasing the genetic complexity and diversity of the affected species. Creationists claim proponents of macroevolution accept that increases in genetic complexity are brought about solely through improbable major mutation.

Supporters of evolution respond by saying that the mechanisms of mutation show no preference for simplification. Furthermore, if the mutation were disadvantageous, it would probably die out, leaving diversity unchanged, and if the mutation were neutral, it would coexist with the original form, increasing diversity. Lastly, a series of advantageous simplifying mutations could produce a new species.

Creationists claim that although helpful mutations have been observed, mutations that increase genetic complexity have not. This claim does not, however, appear to be borne out by recent evidence from comparative genomics, since larger-scale genetic rearrangements other than mutation, such as gene duplication and chromosome duplication do lead to increased genetic complexity.

Common descent

Creationists who entirely reject macroevolution also reject common descent, the idea that all life on Earth is descended from a common ancestor. Amongst creationists who do accept the theory of evolution, there is debate over whether to accept or reject the theory of common descent, and in particular, the common descent of mankind and other species. Those who reject common descent argue that although other life on Earth evolved, Adam and Eve were fashioned and given life directly by God, unique in the creation. Evolutionary creationists and many advocates of Intelligent Design accept common descent. Michael Behe is one, stating "I dispute the mechanism of natural selection, not common descent".

Further arguments

Other arguments against materialistic evolution, together with common rebuttals, include:

  1. Rock strata
    • Rock strata have in some places apparently been laid down out of order. Creationists say that this contradicts the idea that the depth of strata indicates the age of the rock. Geologists say they expect the strata to be out of order in places. They are sometimes visibly folded or overthrust, with adjacent layers remaining adjacent in all but the border zones.
    • Creationists suggest that the existence of strata and fossils mean they were laid down catastrophically. Paleontologists say that is highly improbable that fossils were laid out catastrophically, since fossils of different types occur only in specific strata, with almost no exceptions among billions of samples.
  2. Inaccuracy of radiometric dating
    • Creationists say that calculating the date of crystallization of a rock from the concentration of a decay product, such as argon, will be unreliable because some of the decay product may have been in the melt from which the rock crystallized. Chemists say that when rocks are heated to the melting point, any argon contained in them is released into the atmosphere. When the rock recrystallizes, it becomes impermeable to gases again. As the potassium K-40 in the rock decays into argon A-40, the gas is trapped in the rock and accumulates until the time the chemist measures its concentration. [1]
    • Creationists say that radiocarbon dating makes assumptions about the conditions present in and around an object throughout history. Chemists say that the dating techniques have been confirmed extensively on artifacts from known times in history, and have shown a high degree of success.
    • Creationists claim that the speed of light may have changed over time, thus changing the speed of radioactive decay. While there is some recent, controversial evidence that the speed of light might have changed in the very early universe, physicists say that the possible change is too small to create the claimed effects.
  3. Relativity and time measurement
    • The theory of relativity implies that the passage of time on Earth may have been different from the passage of time in the wider universe. Creationists state that while a few thousand years elapsed on earth, millions of years may have elapsed in the wider universe. Physicists say that for time to be warped on Earth enough to cause such an effect would cause a gravitational distortion large enough to destroy the planet.

Creationism and philosophical naturalism

Certain tenets of creationism are opposed to philosophical naturalism and materialism:

  1. There was an origin of the universe for which the direct intervention of God was required.
  2. The origin of life required the direct intervention of God.
  3. Sentience, perception, self-awareness, and the capacities for knowledge and understanding, are not reducible to physical processes alone, but were granted to living and intelligent creatures by the direct intervention of God.
  4. These capacities, and more basically life itself, are not possible to describe in terms of physics alone.

A general response to the modern creationism controversy has been articulated by creationist Phillip E. Johnson, Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, who argues that the entire issue of biological origins has been framed in terms of naturalism, and that natural science per se is not identical with naturalism. According to him, the statement, "Science has nothing to say about whether or not there exists a supernatural realm," is true and based on the fact that rigorous physical science is naturalistic, but the statement, "Science holds that there is no supernatural realm," is false because it is beyond the scope of natural science to make such an assertion, but is instead a philosophical position. According to Johnson, this distinction opens the possibility of natural science and creationism being non-contradictory. However, such an assertion is problematic when trying to reconcile natural science with certain types of creationism that do make specific claims about the natural realm.

Creationism in public education

In the United States, creationists and evolutionary scientists are engaged in a long-running battle over the primary and supplementary science curriculum of public schools. The high point of the controversy occurred in 1925, during the Scopes Monkey Trial, when a teacher defied a Tennessee law forbidding the teaching of the theory of evolution. More recently, controversy has centered on attempts to either restrict the teaching of evolution or to provide "equal time" for creationism or creationist-inspired theories as well as evolutionary theories in science classes. The goal on both sides is to eliminate the other side's viewpoint from the public school curriculum; currently, evolutionary scientists seem to be winning.

The Supreme Court of the United States interprets the First Amendment to the United States Constitution as prohibiting public schools from teaching religious beliefs as facts and has ruled that a government-funded science curriculum should not support the teaching of religious beliefs in science classes. It has specifically ruled in Epperson v. Arkansas and Edwards v Aguillard that creationism, even when referred to as a science, is such a religious belief.

Creationists claim that this position does not consider the possibility that humankind and other living creatures were in fact created by God. They also claim that this viewpoint has been used to squelch classroom discussion by students who insist that their faith in creationism is relevant to the origins controversy. Supporters of evolution claim that the teaching of evolution is not necessarily incompatible with a belief that God is the ultimate creator of the universe, and therefore of all life. This is a position that is widely adopted by many, if not most, mainstream Christian denominations.

Despite the Supreme Court rulings, Boards of Education and local communities continue to struggle with controversy when creation science is raised as an argument in opposition to the teaching of evolution. For example, supporters of intelligent design, who typically seek to differentiate intelligent design from faith-based creationism, argued in December 2002 for the inclusion of the hypothesis that life had an intelligent designer in the Ohio Board of Education standards for science education.

In the UK, one of the few countries in which teaching religion in public schools is a legal requirement, there is an agreed syllabus for religious education with the right of parents to withdraw their children from these lessons. [1]

The prescribed UK national curriculum for science includes the theory of evolution; one creationist teacher who insisted on teaching creationism instead of evolution was disciplined and eventually dismissed.

See also

External links and references

Young Earth Creationism

Old Earth Creationism

Intelligent Design

Evolution