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


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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.

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Ruse, Michael(Oct 2014) Creationism. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005867.pub3]