Creationism

Abstract

Creationism is the product of US evangelical religion. Formulated in the American South in the years after the Civil War, it is opposed to evolutionary ideas, and indeed to all forms of modernistic thinking. Creationist efforts to promote the doctrine have made their ways into courts of law, most notably in 1925 when the school teacher John Thomas Scopes was prosecuted for teaching evolution in a high school in Tennessee. After the World War II, the creationist work Genesis Flood (1961) had much effect in turning people to Young Earth Creationism – the belief that the earth is only 6000 years old – and this led to another court case, in Arkansas in 1981. The judge ruled firmly that Creationism taught in schools violates the US constitutional ban on the entwining of state and religion. However, a new mutant, so‐called Intelligent Design Theory, has been formulated, which continues to attract the support of many American evangelical Christians.

Key Concepts:

  • American evangelical religion often supports an antievolutionary doctrine known as Creationism.

  • Based on a literal reading of the Bible, Genesis in particular, Creationism has been the subject of continued court cases and thrives today under the name of Intelligent Design Theory.

  • Much of the difference between Creationists and their opponents has more to do with moral and social values rather than religion narrowly conceived.

  • Creationism is very much an American phenomenon with roots back to the years following the Declaration of Independence.

  • The key work, Genesis Flood, was written during the cold war and reflected tensions about nuclear war.

  • Courts have again and again declared the teaching of Creationism in state‐supported schools to be unconstitutional.

  • Intelligent Design Theory is smoother than Creationism but shares the same ends, especially with respect to moral and social values.

Keywords: Scopes trial; intelligent design; fundamentalism; biblical literalism; Darwinism

References

Behe M (1996) Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. New York, NY: Free Press.

Dembski W (1998) The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gilkey LB (1985) Creationism on Trial: Evolution and God at Little Rock. Minneapolis, MN: Winston Press.

Johnson PE (1991) Darwin on Trial. Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway Publishers.

Johnson PE (1995) Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law and Education. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Larson EJ (1997) Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion. New York, NY: Basic Books.

McMullin E (ed.) (1985) Evolution and Creation. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

Miller K (1999) Finding Darwin's God. New York, NY: Harper and Row.

Moore J (1979) The Post‐Darwinian Controversies: A Study of the Protestant Struggle to Come to Terms with Darwin in Great Britain and America, 1870–1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Plantinga A (2011) Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Richards RJ (2013) Was Hitler a Darwinian? Disputed Questions in the History of Evolutionary Theory. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Ruse M (2001) Can a Darwinian be a Christian? The Relationship between Science and Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ruse M (2005) The Evolution‐Creation Struggle. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Ruse M (ed.) (2009) Philosophy after Darwin: Classic and Contemporary Readings. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Shapiro A (2013) Trying Biology: The Scopes Trial,Textbooks, and the Antievolution Movement in American Schools. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Weikart R (2004) From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Whitcomb JC and Morris HM (1961) The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and its Scientific Implications. Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.

Further Reading

Forrest B and Gross PR (2004) Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Numbers RL (1992) The Creationists. New York, NY: Knopf.

Pennock R and Ruse M (eds) (2008) But is it Science? The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy, 2nd edn. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus.

Ruse M (2009) The Evolution Wars. Millerton, NY: Grey House Publishing.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Ruse, Michael(Oct 2014) Creationism. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005867.pub3]