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6.2 Creation Science

6.2 Creation Science

As biologists grew more and more confident in evolution as the central defining principle of biology, membership in American churches favouring increasingly literal interpretations of scripture rose, with the “Southern Baptist Convention” and “Lutheran Church” -Missouri Synod- outpacing all other denominations. With growth, these churches became better equipped to promulgate a creationist message, with their own colleges, schools, publishing houses, and broadcast media.

In 1961, the first major modern creationist book was published: Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb Jr.’s “The Genesis Flood.” Morris and Whitcomb argued that creation was literally 6 days long, that humans lived concurrently with dinosaurs, and that God created each ‘kind’ of life individually. Morris’ “Creation Science Research Centre” (CSRC) rushed publication of biology text books that promoted creationism, and also published other books such as Kelly Segrave’s sensational “Sons of God Return” that dealt with UfOlogy, flood geology, and demonology. Ultimately, the CSRC broke up over a divide between sensationalism and a more intellectual approach, and Morris founded the “Institute for Creation Research”. During this time, Morris and others who supported flood geology adopted the scientific-sounding terms “Scientific Creationism and Creation Science”.

“Creation Science or Scientific Creationism” is the movement within creationism which attempts to provide support for the religious Genesis account of creation, and disprove accepted scientific facts, theories and scientific paradigms on the history of the Earth, cosmology and biological evolution. Its most vocal proponents are fundamentalist and conservative Christians in the United States who seek to prove Biblical inerrancy and mount a challenge against historical geology, the antiquity of the universe, and the scientifically accepted theory of evolution. Key concepts in creation science include belief in “creation ex nihilo”; that the earth was created within the last several thousand years; that mankind and other life on earth were created as unique, fixed kinds; and the hypothesis that fossils found in geological strata are indicative of an historical flood which extended over the whole earth. Creation science has never been recognized by, or accepted, within the scientific community as a valid scientific method of inquiry.

Until the 1960s, “Creation Science” drew little notice beyond the schools and congregations of conservative fundamentalist and evangelical Christians. The first creation science texts and curricula focused upon concepts derived from a literal interpretation of the Bible and were overtly religious in nature, most notably linking Noah’s flood in the Biblical Genesis account to the geological and fossil record in a system termed “flood geology”. “Creation Science” came to the attention of the wider national and international public and scientific community when its followers launched objections to the teaching of evolution in public schools and other venues. Some school boards and lawmakers were persuaded that creation science deserved an equal amount of consideration in classrooms, alongside Darwinian evolution in the science curriculum.

The 1982 ruling at McLean v. Arkansas found that creation science fails to meet the essential characteristics of science and that its chief intent is to advance a particular religious view. The teaching of creation science in public schools in the United States effectively ended in 1987 with the United States Supreme Court decision in Edwards v. Aguillard. The court affirmed that a statute requiring the teaching of creation science alongside evolution was unconstitutional because its sole true purpose was to advance a particular religious belief.

6.2.1 Beliefs and Activities

Most “Creation Science” proponents hold fundamentalist or evangelical Christian beliefs in biblical literalism or biblical inerrancy. However, there are also examples of Islamic and Jewish scientific creationism that conform to the accounts of creation as recorded in their religious doctrines.

“Creation Science” rejects evolution’s theory of the common descent of all living things on the earth. Instead, it asserts that the field of evolutionary biology is itself pseudoscientific, or even a religion. Creation scientists argue instead for a system called “baraminology” which considers the living world to be descended from uniquely created kinds or “baramins”.

“Creation Science” incorporates the concept of catastrophism to account for Earth’s geological formations. Creation scientists employ the concept to attempt to reconcile current landforms and fossil distributions with Biblical interpretations, proposing the remains resulted from successive cataclysmic events, such as a world wide flood and subsequent ice age. It rejects one of the fundamental principles of modern geology: uniformitarianism, which means applying the same physical and geological laws observed on the earth today to interpret the earth’s geological history.

Sometimes creation scientists attack other scientific concepts, like the Big Bang cosmological model or methods of scientific dating which measure radioactive decay. The “Young Earth Creationist” branch of the creation scientists also rejects current estimates of the age of the universe and the age of the earth, arguing for creationist cosmologies with timescales much shorter than those determined by modern physical cosmology and geological science, typically less than 10,000 years.

The scientific community has overwhelmingly rejected the ideas put forth in “Creation Science” as lying outside the boundaries of a legitimate science. The foundational premises underlying scientific creationism disqualify it as a science because the answers to all inquiry therein are preordained to conform to Bible doctrine, and because that inquiry is constructed upon theories which are not empirically testable in nature.

6.2.2 History and Organization

The doctrine of creation is a fundamental and ancient precept of many religious faiths, including Christianity which holds beliefs founded on Creation according to Genesis. From the days of the early Christian Church Fathers there were allegorical interpretations of Genesis as well as literal readings.

After the Protestant Reformation, lay people began reading the Bible in translation with more literal understandings of creation than classical theologians. At the same time a new interest in natural history found that there were far more species of organisms than had been anticipated, and new findings in geology furnished the first strong scientific evidence that the earth was far older than the age of the Earth derived from the Biblical timeframe, as detailed for instance in the Ussher chronology. From the late seventeenth century through to the mid nineteenth century natural theology increasingly popularized the concept that Christian faith should be based on what can be rationally demonstrated, and the study of nature should reveal the intelligence, benevolence, and power of God.

Various ideas of transmutation of species were put forward. As they conflicted with the doctrine of fixity of species, they were condemned as a threat to the aristocratic social order and the established Church of England. However by the 1840s there was wide public acceptance of transmutation of the species. Liberal theologians, Unitarians and some Dissenters as well as Freethinkers and atheists agreed too. After Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” was first published in 1859, the scientific establishment came to accept the common ancestry of all species, and by the 1900s evolution through descent with modification was widely accepted as the unifying principle of biological development.

6.2.3 Twentieth Century Creationism

The teaching of evolution was gradually introduced into more and more public high school textbooks in the United States after 1900, but in the aftermath of the First World War the growth of fundamentalist Christianity gave rise to a creationist opposition to such teaching. Legislation prohibiting the teaching of evolution was passed in certain regions, most notably in Tennessee (Butler Act of 1925).

Creation science (dubbed Scientific Creationism at the time) that emerged during the 1960s was strongly influenced by Canadian armchair geologist and Seventh-day Adventist George McCready Price whose book “The New Geology” dealt with “new catastrophism” and disputed the current geological time frames and explanations of geologic history. Price’s book largely unnoticed until its revival with the 1961 publication of “The Genesis of the Flood” by Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb.  This book was readily adopted by the fundamentalist Christians. It expanded the field of creation science beyond critiques of geology into biology and cosmology as well.

6.2.4 Court Determinations

The various state laws prohibiting teaching of evolution were overturned in 1968 when the United States Supreme Court ruled in Epperson v. Arkansas that such laws were unconstitutional. The 1981 Arkansas Act 590 carefully detailed the principles of creation science that were to receive equal time in public schools alongside evolutionary principles. The act defined creation science as follows: “Creation science means the scientific evidences for creation and inferences from those evidences. Creation science includes the scientific evidences and related inferences that indicate:

1. Sudden creation of the universe, energy and life from nothing.

2. The insufficiency of mutation and natural selection in bringing about development of all living kinds from a single organism.

3. Changes only with fixed limits of originally created kinds of plants and animals.

4. Separate ancestry for man and apes.

5. Explanation of the earth’s geology by catastrophism, including the occurrence of worldwide flood.

6. A relatively recent inception of the earth and living kinds.”

This legislation was examined in McLean v. Arkansas, and the ruling handed down on January 5, 1982, concluded that creation-science as defined in the act “is simply not science”. The judgement defined the following as essential characteristics of science:

1. It is guided by natural law;

2. It has to be explanatory by reference to nature law;

3. It is testable against the empirical world;

4. Its conclusions are tentative, i.e. are not necessarily the final word; and

5. It is falsifiable.

The court ruled that creation science failed to meet these essential characteristics and identified specific reasons. After examining the key concepts from creation science, the court found:

1. Sudden creation “from nothing” calls upon a supernatural intervention, not natural law, and is neither testable nor falsifiable

2. Objections in creation science that mutation and natural selection are insufficient to explain common origins was an incomplete negative generalization

3. ‘Kinds’ are not scientific classifications, and creation science’s claims of an outer limit to the evolutionary change possible of species are not explained scientifically or by natural law

4. Separate ancestry of man and apes is an assertion rather than scientific explanation, and did not derive from any scientific fact or theory

5. Catastrophism, including its identification of the worldwide flood, failed as a science

6. “Relatively recent inception” was the product of religious readings and had no scientific meaning, and was neither the product of, nor explainable by, natural law; nor is it tentative

In its ruling, the court wrote that for any theory to qualify as scientific, the theory must be tentative, and open to revision or abandonment as new facts come to light. It wrote that any methodology which begins with an immutable conclusion which cannot be revised or rejected, regardless of the evidence, is not a scientific theory. The court found that creation science does not culminate in conclusions formed from scientific inquiry, but instead begins with the conclusion, one taken from a literal wording of the “Book of Genesis”, and seeks only scientific evidence to support it.

6.2.5 Intelligent Design Splits Off

In 1984, The “Mystery of Life’s Origin” was published. It was co-authored by chemist and creationist Charles B. Thaxton with Walter L. Bradley and Roger L. Olsen. It was sponsored by the Christian based “Foundation for Thought and Ethics” (FTE). The work presented scientific arguments against current theories of abiogenesis and offered a hypothesis of special creation instead. This book asked whether science reveals that even the simplest living systems were far too complex to have developed by natural, unguided processes.

Kenyon with creationist Percival Davis wrote a book intended as a “scientific brief for creationism” to use as a supplement to public high school biology textbooks. The book, originally titled “Biology and Creation” but renamed “Of Pandas and People”, was released in 1989. It was the first published work to promote the anti-evolutionist design argument under the name “Intelligent Design”.

By the mid 1990s, “Intelligent Design” became a separate movement. The “Creation Science Movement” is distinguished from the “Intelligent Design Movement, or Neo-creationism”, because most advocates of creation science accept scripture as a literal and inerrant historical account, and their primary goal is to corroborate the scriptural account through the use of science. In contrast, as a matter of principle, “Neo-Creationism” avoids references to scripture in its polemics and stated goals. By so doing, “Intelligent Design” proponents have attempted to succeed where “Creation Science” has failed in securing a place in public school science curricula. However, the “Intelligent Design” curriculum was struck down as a violation of the “Establishment Clause” in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, the judge in the case ruling “that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism”.

Today, “Creation Science” as an organized movement is primarily centred within the United States. However, creation science organizations are known in other countries, most notably “Creation Ministries International” which was founded in Australia. Proponents are usually aligned with a Christian denomination, primarily with those characterized as evangelical, conservative, or fundamentalist. While creationist movements also exist in Islam and Judaism, these movements do not use the phrase creation science to describe their beliefs.

6.2.6 Issues

Creation science has its roots in the ongoing effort by young-earth creationists to dispute modern science’s description of natural history, particularly biological evolution, but also geology and physical cosmology. It also attempts to offer an alternative explanation of observable phenomena compatible with the Biblical account.

The proponents of creation science often say that they are concerned with religious and moral questions, as well as natural observations and predictive hypotheses. Many state that their opposition against scientific evolution is primarily based on religion.

The overwhelming majority of scientists are in agreement that the claims of science are necessarily limited to those that develop from natural observations and experiments which can be replicated and substantiated by other scientists, and that claims made by creation science do not meet those criteria.

6.2.7 Metaphysical Assumptions

“Creation Science” makes the a priori metaphysical assumption that there exists a creator of the life whose origin is being examined. “Christian Creation Science” holds that the description of creation is given in the Bible and that empirical scientific evidence corresponds with that description. Creation scientists also view the preclusion of all supernatural explanations within the sciences as a doctrinaire commitment to exclude the Supreme Being and miracles.

Creation science advocates argue that scientific theories of the origins of the universe, Earth, and life are rooted in a priori presumptions of “Methodological Naturalism and Uniformitarianism”, each of which is disputed. Traditionally, creation science advocates have singled out the scientific theories judged to be in conflict with held religious beliefs.

6.2.8 Religious Criticism

Fideists criticize creation science on theological grounds, asserting either that religious faith alone should be a sufficient basis for belief in the truth of creation, or that efforts to prove the Genesis account of creation on scientific grounds are inherently futile because reason is subordinate to faith and cannot thus be used to prove it.

Many Christian theologies, including Liberal Christianity, consider the Genesis narrative to be a poetic and allegorical work rather than a literal history, and many Christian churches –including the Roman Catholic, Anglican and the more liberal denominations of the Lutheran, Methodist, Congregationalist and Presbyterian faiths– have either rejected creation science outright, or are ambivalent to it.

Theistic evolution and evolutionary creationism are theologies that reconcile belief in a creator with biological evolution. Each holds the view that there is a creator but that this creator has employed the natural force of evolution to unfold a divine plan. They believe that a creator is not inconsistent with the acceptance of evolutionary theory. The Catholic Church has specifically criticized biblical creationism for relying upon literal interpretations of biblical scripture as the basis for determining scientific fact