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Creationism

Creationism in its purest form refers to the belief that the universe and all forms of life were created directly by a supernatural being. The only form of evolution admitted in pure creationism is microevolution. Creationism is seen as contradicting the Darwinian theory of evolution which is at this time accepted by mainstream science though not proven.

In Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism there exist several distinct versions of how creation took place. See also creation myths and cosmogony).

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Creationism combined with Evolution

Some creationists believe that at various times evolution did occur but hold it to have been overseen, guided, and/or sustained by God. There is no consensus at this time of how this would occur, hence the lack of a popular name for this combination of creationism and evolution. Sometimes the term 'theistic evolution' is used.

Belief in creationism

According to a 1999 Gallup poll on creationism, evolution and public education, 47% 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 40% believe that God guided the development of human beings from less advanced forms of life over millions of years, and 9% believe that God played no part in the development of human beings.

A recent poll by People for the American Way [1] (http://www.pfaw.org/pfaw/general/default.aspx?oid=1903) used a different formulation of the question and showed lower support for creationism; another poll by Zogby conducted for the intelligent design think tank Discovery Institute found higher support for creationism.

Despite the significant number of people subscribing to creationist views in the USA, such views are generally much less common in other Western countries. In Catholic-majority countries, papal acceptance of evolution as worthy of study has essentially ended debate on the matter for many people.

The United States fundamentalist Christian community has no real parallels (in terms of numbers, prominence, and political influence) elsewhere in the Western world, and because most vocal creationists are from the United States, it is generally assumed that creationist views are not as common elsewhere. There is a Turkish creationist organization BAV, whose pseudonymous spokesman Harun Yahya puts an Islamic spin on familiar American creationism. There apparently are a number of Hindu creationists as well.

In 1987, Newsweek said: "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...". Among scientists who work in the field, therefore, only about 0.14% publicize that they hold the creationist view, no one knows how many actually hold it.

General acceptance of the theory of evolution by society as evidenced by scientists, schools and in the media is especially interesting in light of the polls above.

Creationism versus the theory of evolution

Creationism contradicts the theory that all life is derived from a single-celled ancestor, that mammals are descendants of reptiles, or that man and apes descended from common ancestors.

A common creationist argument is that examples of evolution are examples solely of microevolution. Though many varieties of reptile exist and many varieties of mammal, there is no record of an animal capable of bridging the gap between them. It is the existence of these 'missing links' in the fossil record where animals in between known species need to be discovered to support the gradual change of, for instance, reptiles into mammals. Scientists counter with the concept that the missing stages are due to the fast rate of evolutionary leaps when they actually occur, in contrast to the time in between where there is very little change.

Creationism and literalism

Creationism is often considered an expression of religious literalism. Literal-minded creationists oppose evolution on the grounds that it conflicts with the account of creation given in Genesis, where it is recorded that the Earth was created by God in six days. This adherence to six actual days comes from a more strict than usual belief in biblical inspiration.

Based on various interpretations of the Genesis accounts, "Young Earth" creationists believe that the account given is of the creation of the Earth, while "Old Earth" creationists believe it only refers to the creation of life on a pre-existing Earth. (Actually, the distinction between YECs and OECs is just as to the age of the earth; OECs divide among themselves about how to interpret Genesis 1, with such competitors as Day-Age theory and Gap theory and Ruin theory vying for supremacy.)

Other Christians hold that these passages 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 scientific ideas of the time they were written, and that only the moral and religious, as opposed to the scientific, content of the Bible is inspired.

Some, in an attempt to harmonize mainstream science with biblical literalism, hold 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 interpreted as an account of the process of evolution. There are even some Christians who believe 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.

Young Earth creationists who interpret the Bible literally believe that the Earth is somewhere around 6,000 years old (according to Bishop James Ussher's dating) and usually reject the Big Bang theory of creation.

Scientific creationism and intelligent design

Creationists put forth their views mainly on religious grounds but, with the rise of scientific creationism and intelligent design, sometimes attempt to defend them on scientific grounds as well. They point to scientific findings which contradict an old Earth and therefore evolution itself. Argue that some scientific evidence used to support evolution does not, and that creation of each species of life by God provides a more scientific explanation (Occam's razor). They may also posit theories such as the Omphalos theory of Philip Henry Gosse to explain why evidence supporting evolution may not be reliable. Many scientists reject this effort as not being a valid scientific hypothesis and often object to the term "scientific creationism" for that reason.

Philosophical aspects

The debate on creationism entails a debate on what constitutes scientific evidence, and what kinds of facts are acceptable as proof. Ultimately, the discussion rages with unverifiable assertions on both sides.

The reason for passionate debate on the matter is known however. Believers on both sides begin by accepting something on faith and build from there. Creationists believe in a creator and scientists believe in various dating techniques. The fact is neither theory can be scientifically proven, and due to the nature of the concept at this time there is no way to approach the problem with absolute certainty. For those who hold faith is not admissible there is no evidence to begin a debate.

Creationists


The term creationism can also refer to the belief that each soul is created individually by God, as opposed to traducianism, which holds that the souls of infants are derived from those of their parents. Another theory of the soul is known as Pre-existence.

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