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Creationism

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This article deals mainly with the concept of creationism as found in the Abrahamic religions. Please refer to Origin beliefs for other stories of creation.
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Christianity, Islam and Judaism hold the belief that the universe was created by a Supreme Being.

Creationism or creation theology encompasses the belief that human beings, the world and the universe were created by a supreme being or deity. The event itself may be seen as either ex nihilo or order from preexisting chaos (see demiurge).

Many who hold such beliefs consider them to be compatible with science. They may say, for example, that a certain scriptural account of creation is a metaphor. Or they may say that scientific mechanisms were created by supernatural intervention (see evolutionary creationism).

It should be noted that many Christian churches, including the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran faiths have now rejected "Creationism" outright. Liberal theology considers Genesis a poetic work, that human knowledge of God expands over time and that the early biblical stories show only the most primitive understanding of what was to become known as the Christian deity. Indeed, comparing the God of the early Jewish tribes to the God revealed in the figure of Christ clearly depicts how much theological understanding evolved in between the writing of the various books that came to be collected in the Bible.

Many creationists adopt a literal interpretation of religious or supernatural creation accounts, and say that a particular one is a factual account that supersedes mainstream science (see Young Earth Creationism, for example). Such interpretations are rejected by scientists, who say that evidence from many scientific disciplines are the only empirical source for information on natural history, and literal interpretations of scriptures are not considered reliable forms of scientific evidence. (Refer to creation science).

Those holding these more literal views tend to be the ones who dispute scientific theories the most, and take particular issue with the implication from evolutionary biology of common descent -- that humans are descended from "lesser creatures". There are creationists who also dispute the scientific accounts of the initial creation of life, the geological history of Earth, the formation of the solar system, the origin of the physical universe, and a few even support such ideas as geocentrism and a flat earth.

Contents

Religious context

Template:Creationism2 The term creationism is most often used to describe the belief that creation occurred literally as described in the book of Genesis (for Jews and Christians) or literally as described in the Qur'an (for Muslims.) Although the Hebrew Bible does not provide an account of creatio ex nihilo and, according to scholars, may even suggest different accounts of creation, some Jews and Christians claim to use Genesis exclusively as a support of their beliefs about origins. Refer to creation according to Genesis.

In the secular sense, "creationism" refers to a political doctrine which asserts the validity and superiority of a particular religiously-based origin belief over those of other belief systems, including those in particular espoused through secular or scientific rationale—i.e. "creationism versus evolution." The meaning of the term "creationism" depends upon the context wherein it is used, as it refers to a particular origin belief within a particular political culture.

Theists believe that the universe and life was created by God. The idea could equally be applied by Deists, who believe that there was a God who originally created the universe, and that God then either ceased to actively interfere with its operation, or simply ceased to exist. Similarly, proponents of an alternative type of creationism might rely on a belief that the universe was created by many deities, in accordance with a polytheistic faith, or by Vishnu, the Titans of Greek mythology or any of the host of other such beings.

To distinguish the notion that the Universe as a whole (and hence all its contents) was created by God from the notion that individual species were created by divine intervention in the natural order, the latter view is sometimes referred to as special creation.

The terms creationism and creationist have become particularly associated with beliefs conflicting with the theory of evolution by natural selection. This conflict is most prevalent in the United States, where there has been sustained creation-evolution controversy in the public arena. On the other hand, many faiths which believe in divine creation accept evolution by natural selection as well as, to a greater or lesser extent, scientific explanations of the origins and development of the universe, the Earth, and life – such beliefs have been given the name evolutionary creationism, though others call them "theistic evolution".

Types of creationism

Creationism covers a spectrum of beliefs which have been categorised into the broad types listed below. Not all creationists are in dispute with scientific theories, though very few modern scientists are creationists.

  • Flat Earth creationism — God created the world with a flat surface 6,000 years ago. All that modern science says about shape, size, and age of the Earth is wrong, and evolution does not occur. Very few people today maintain such a belief.
  • Modern geocentrism — 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. All scientific claims about the age of the Earth are lies; evolution does not occur. Very few people today maintain such a belief. See, for example, the Creation Science Association for Mid-America (http://www.csama.org/), in Cleveland, MO, USA.
Because Young Earth creationists believe in the literal truth of the description in Genesis of divine creation of every "kind" of plant and creature during a week about 6,000 years ago, they dispute parts of evolution (specifically Universal Common Ancestry) which describes all species developing from a common ancestor without a need for divine intervention over a much longer time. Different young-earth creationists offer different explanations for the fossil record, which gives the appearance that the Earth is much older:
  • God created the Earth only recently, but made it appear much older. This is the belief of a small subgroup of Young Earth creationists, which is sometimes termed the Omphalos hypothesis. This argument was first made by Philip Henry Gosse in 1857. He held that because the world operates in cycles (chicken to egg to chicken on so on), certain physical and biological processes need the appearance of age to function. It is termed the Omphalos hypothesis because it is based on the question of whether or not Adam had a belly button. Gosse postulated that Adam did have a belly button because it is how humans are formed. So the appearance of history (the belly button) is there, even though he was just created. He likewise postulated that for the earth to work, it must have been established with the appearance of age to function correctly. While many creationists hold this view for some smaller aspects of creation, for the existance of the fossil record the argument has been largely superceded.
  • God created the Earth only recently, and the fossil record is the record of the destruction of the global flood recorded in Genesis. The present diversity of land animals are all descendants of the animals on the ark, having heavily diversified after the flood. There are a variety of mechanisms believed to be involved, including genomic modularity -- the ability for animals to reorganize their genome in response to stress or other outside influence, heterozygous fractionation (heterozygous genes in parents can lead to speciation by having multiple homozygous genes in children), and standard evolution.
Old-Earth creationism itself comes in at least three types:
  • Gap creationism, also called Restitution creationism — the view that life was immediately created on a pre-existing old Earth. This group generally translates Genesis 1:2 as "The earth became without form and void," indicating a destruction of the original creation by some unspecified cataclysm. This was popularized in the Scofield Reference Bible, but has little support from Hebrew scholars.
  • Day-age creationism — the view that the "six days" of Genesis are not ordinary twenty-four-hour days, but rather much longer periods (for instance, each "day" could be the equivalent of millions of years of modern time). Another theory states that the Hebrew word was mistranslated, and it's supposed to be seven ages. Some adherents claim we are still living in the seventh age ("seventh day"), while opponents say that the seventh day of creation must be the same type of day as the Sabbath for the Sabbath command to make sense.
  • Progressive creationism — the view that species have changed or evolved in a process continuously guided by God, with various ideas as to how the process operates. This accepts most of modern physical science including the age of the earth, but rejects much of modern biology or looks to it for evidence that evolution by natural selection is incorrect.
  • Evolutionary creationism/Theistic evolutionism — the general belief that some or all classical religious teachings about God and creation are compatible with some or all of the scientific theory of evolution, It views evolution as a tool used by God and can synthesize with gap or day-age creationism, although most adherents deny that Genesis was meant to be interpreted as history at all. It can still be described as "creationism" in holding that divine intervention brought about the origin of life or that divine Laws govern formation of species, but in the creation-evolution controversy its proponents generally take the "evolutionist" side while disputing that some scientists' methodological assumption of materialism can be taken as ontological as well. Many creationists would deny that this is creationism at all, and should rather be called "theistic evolution", just as many scientists allow voice to their spiritual side. In particular, this view rejects the doctrine of special creation.
  • Intelligent Design movement — The main proponents of Intelligent Design have intentionally distanced themselves from other forms of creationism, preferring to be known as wholly separate from creationism as a philosophy. One of the chief websites of the movement defines it thus: "The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as [Darwinian] natural selection." Intelligent Design styles itself as a philosophical approach to the origin of information and complexity within nature, and, its adherents claim, is not concerned with religion, or the identity or nature, whether natural or supernatural, of any possible designer(s). In and of itself, Intelligent Design does not oppose the theory of evolution. However, many proponents of Intelligent Design are Christian theists who do oppose evolution leading critics to charge that the movement, despite the protestations of its adherents, is simply creationism in new clothing (see Wedge strategy).

Jewish creationism

Jewish creationism includes a continuum of views about creationism, on aspects including the origin of life and the role of evolution in the formation of species as debated in the creation-evolution controversy. In general, the major Jewish denominations accept evolutionary creationism or theistic evolution, with the exception of certain Orthodox Jewish groups. The contemporary general approach of Judaism, excepting some Orthodox traditions, is to not take the Torah as a literal text, but rather as a symbolic or open-ended work.

God as absolute origin

All denominations of Christianity assert that God is the origin, the first cause. The Roman Catholic Church holds as an unchangeable tenet of Christian faith, that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". Here, clearly, creation is described as an absolute beginning, which includes the assertion that the very existence of the universe is contingent upon a necessary higher being, a God who is not himself created. Therefore the doctrine of biblical creation places the knowledge of God central in the pursuit of the knowledge of anything, for everything comes from God. Nevertheless, this view does not mandate the concept of special creation; it says nothing about the mechanism by which any thing was created.

Although phrased differently, this doctrine of creation is common in many branches of other religions. The strictness to which adherents are required to accept these views, and the sense in which these definitions are official, vary widely.

Prevalence of creationism

United States

In the United States, creationism is popular among the general Christian population, but considered to be scientifically irrelevant in many academic and scientific communities. According to a 2001 Gallup evolution poll on the origins of humans, 72% of Americans believe in some form of creationism (as defined above). About 45% of Americans assented to the statement that "God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years."

Among the scientific community, the Big Bang, abiogenesis, and biological evolution are generally considered to be the correct description of the origins of the universe and life on Earth. According to a 1997 Gallup poll, 55% of scientists ascribe to a completely atheistic evolution, with a total rejection of any deistic involvement. 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 ascribed to Biblically literal creationism". However, science is not established by public opinion polls but rather by consistency and explanatory ability.

In 2000, a People for the American Way poll found that:

20% of Americans believe public schools should teach evolution only;
17% of Americans believe that only evolution should be taught in science classes — religious explanations should be taught in another class;
29% of Americans believe that Creationism should be discussed in science class as a 'belief,' not a scientific theory;
13% of Americans believe that Creationism and evolution should be taught as 'scientific theories' in science class;
16% of Americans believe that only Creationism should be taught;

Less-direct anecdotal evidence of the popularity of creationism is reflected in the response of IMAX theaters to the availability of Volcanoes of the Deep Sea, an IMAX film which makes a connection between human DNA and microbes inside undersea volcanoes. The film's distributor reported that the only U.S. states with theaters which chose not to show the film were Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina:

We've got to pick a film that's going to sell in our area. If it's not going to sell, we're not going to take it," said the director of an IMAX theater in Charleston that is not showing the movie. "Many people here believe in creationism, not evolution." [1] (http://www.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/Movies/03/23/volcano.movie.ap/index.html)

The western world outside the United States

Most vocal creationists are from the United States, and creationist views are much less common elsewhere in the Western World.

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." 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.

In Europe, creationism is a less well-defined phenomenon, and regular polls are not available. However, evolution is taught as scientific fact 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. Nevertheless, creationist groups such as the German Studiengemeinschaft Wort und Wissen (Study group 'word and knowing')[2] (http://www.wort-und-wissen.de/) are actively lobbying in Germany. In the United Kingdom the Emmanuel Schools Foundation (previously the Vardy Foundation), which owns two colleges in the north of England (out of several thousand in the country) and plans to open several more, teaches that creationism and evolution are equally valid "faith positions". In Italy, the prime minister Silvio Berlusconi wanted to retire evolution from schools in the middle level; after one week of massive protests, he reversed his opinion. [3] (http://www2.onnachrichten.t-online.de/dyn/c/19/01/33/1901336.html)

Of particular note for Eastern Europe, Serbia suspended the teaching of evolution for one week in 2004, under education minister Ljiljana Colic, only allowing schools to reintroduce evolution into the curriculum if they also taught creationism. [4] (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/09/09/wdarw09.xml&sSheet=/news/2004/09/09/ixworld.html) "After a deluge of protest from scientists, teachers and opposition parties," says the BBC report, Ms Colic's deputy made the statement, "I have come here to confirm Charles Darwin is still alive," and announced that the decision was reversed. [5] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3642460.stm) Ms. Colic resigned after the government said that she had caused "problems that had started to reflect on the work of the entire government". [6] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3663196.stm)

Criticism of creationism

Scientific critique of creationism

Creationism was never based primarily upon scientific findings or upon a scientific approach to uncovering the origins of life. Many modern forms of creationism, particulary Young Earth Christian creationism, were created to defend the literal interpretation of the biblical account of creation in genesis, when evolution started to become scientific orthodoxy. Many modern creationists are widely regarded as 'anti evolutionists' rather than as people putting forward an honest alternative to explain the origins of life. Indeed, many creationist and anti-evolutionist arguments are directed in the form of attacks towards evolutionary theories.

Creationists sometimes minimize the explanatory power and validity of evolution theory by criticizing it as being "just a theory" implying that the word "theory" is synonymous with "conjecture" or "speculation", instead of the technical, scientifically accepted use of the word "theory" to mean a model of the world (or some portion of it) from which falsifiable hypotheses can be generated and be verified through empirical observation. In this sense, evolution is a very powerful theory.

Critics charge that Creationism is not a theory that has come about through a similar systematic accumulation of evidence. It is based on a literal interpretation of religious scripture and the emphasis of scripture over other sources of knowledge. Young Earth Creationism also fails the criteria of falsifiability and parsimony. While the hypothesis that the Earth is only a few thousand years old allows many predictions, evidence which refutes these predictions cannot invalidate creationism, because creationism itself is a belief and not a scientific theory. The belief can persist in spite of evidence to the contrary.

There is a fundamental difference between the scientific approach and the approach used by creationist advocates. The scientific approach uses the Scientific Method as a means of discovering information about the natural world. Scientists use observations, hypotheses and deductions to propose explanations for natural phenomena in the form of theories. Predictions from these theories are tested by experiment. If a prediction turns out to be correct, the theory survives. This is a meritocratic form of systematic enquiry, where the best ideas supported by evidence and positive experimental results survive. Science does not seek answers that fit a certain theory.

All scientific theories are falsifiable; that is, if evidence that contradicts any given theory comes to light, or if the theory is proven to no longer fit with the evidence, the theory itself is shown to be invalid. Evolution is a theory that its supporters say fits in with all known biological evidence, fits in with all known genetic evidence, and is backed up by overwhelming evidence in the fossil record. Contrary to some claims, transitional fossils exist that show a gradual change from one species to another. Because of this and other evidence, there is little debate within scientific circles as to whether evolution is a fact or not. It is mainly in the public sphere, where young Earth creationists (especially in America) have fought for recognition of their world view, that the debate about creationism and evolution rages.

The Christian critique of creationism

Many Christians support evolutionary creationism rather than young earth creationism. In "Intelligent Design as a Theological Problem," Episcopalian theologian George Murphy argues against the common 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." This verse inspired Pascal to write, "What meets our eyes denotes neither a total absence nor a manifest presence of the divine, but the presence of a God who conceals himself." In the Heidelberg Disputation, Martin Luther referred to the same Biblical verse to propose his "theology of the cross": "That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened ... He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross."

Luther opposes his theology of the cross to what he called the "theology of glory":

A theologian of glory does not recognize, along with the Apostle, the crucified and hidden God alone [I Cor. 2:2]. He sees and speaks of God's glorious manifestation among the heathen, how his invisible nature can be known from the things which are visible [Cf. Rom. 1:20] and how he is present and powerful in all things everywhere.

For Murphy, Creationists are modern-day theologians of glory. Following Luther, Murphy argues that a true Christian cannot discover God from clues in creation, but only from the crucified Christ.

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.

According to theologian Emil Brunner, "God does not wish to occupy the whole of space Himself, but that He wills to make room for other forms of existence ... In so doing, He limits Himself." It is where God has limited Himself that humans must use their own intelligence to understand the world — to understand the laws of gravity as well as evolution – without relying on God as an explanation. It is only through the cross and the resurrection that one may find God.

Plea to reject nonsense

In his work The Literal Meaning of Genesis (De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim), Saint Augustine (354-430), embarrassed by Christians who would not accept this implication of the Doctrine of Creation, wrote against them. This translation is by J. H. Taylor in Ancient Christian Writers, Newman Press, 1982, volume 41.

"Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, [..] and this knowledge he holds as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?" [1 Timothy 1.7]

History of the concept of creation

Main article: History of creationism


Creationism and naturalism

Creationists believe that a divine power created life, sometimes believing that every "kind" of living thing was separately "created", while naturalists believe life came into being or developed into different species through natural means. This spectrum of opposing views has led to the debate commonly known as the creation evolution debate.

Etymology

Template:Wiktionary The word creation comes from the Latin word, creatio.

See also

References

  • Ian Barbour When Science Meets Religion, 2000, Harper SanFrancisco
  • Ian Barbour Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues, 1997, Harper SanFrancisco.
  • Stephen Jay Gould Rock of Ages: Science and Religion in the fullness of life, Ballantine Books, 1999
  • Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham Leading scientists still reject God in Nature, Vol. 394, No. 6691 (1998), p. 313. Online at http://www.freethought-web.org/ctrl/news/file002.html
  • Scott, Eugenie C., 1999 (Jul/Aug). The creation/evolution continuum. Reports of the National Center for Science Education 19(4): 16-17,21-23.

References (historical)

  • Gosse, Henry Philip, 1857. Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot. J. Van Voorst, London

References (Christian)

  • Murphy, George L., 2002, "Intelligent Design as a Theological Problem," in Covalence: the Bulletin of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Alliance for Faith, Science, and Technology 4(2)

References (Jewish)

  • Aviezer, Nathan. In the Beginning: Biblical Creation and Science. Ktav, 1990. Hardcover. ISBN 0-881253-28-6
  • Carmell, Aryeh and Domb, Cyril, eds. Challenge: Torah Views on Science New York: Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists/Feldheim Publishers, 1976. ISBN 0873061748
  • 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
  • Joel R. Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams In a Beginning...: Quantum Cosmology and Kabbalah, Tikkun, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp. 66-73
  • Schroeder, Gerald L. The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom Broadway Books, 1998, ISBN 0-767903-03-X
  • Jeffrey H. Tigay, Genesis, Science, and "Scientific Creationism", Conservative Judaism, Vol. 40(2), Winter 1987/1988, p.20-27, The Rabbinical Assembly

External links

Websites supporting creationism

Websites opposing creationism

de:Kreationismus es:Creacionismo fi:Kreationismi fr:Crationnisme he:בריאתנות ja:創造論 nl:Creationisme no:Kreasjonisme pl:Kreacjonizm pt:Criacionismo ro:Teoria creaţionistă ru:Креационизм sv:Kreationism

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