Skip to content

13.12 Neo-Creationism

Neo-Creationists intentionally distance themselves from other forms of creationism. Their goal is to restate creationism in terms more likely to be well received by the public, education policy makers and the scientific community. It aims to re-frame the debate over the origins of life in non-religious terms and without appeals to scripture, and to bring the debate before the public. Neo-creationists may be either Young Earth or Old Earth Creationists, and hold a range of underlying theological viewpoints. Neo-Creationism currently exists in the form of the Intelligent Design movement.

One of its principal claims is that orthodox science, with a foundation in naturalism, is a dogmatically atheistic religion. Its proponents argue that the scientific method excludes certain explanations of phenomena, particularly where they point towards supernatural elements, thus effectively excluding religious insight from contributing to understanding the universe. This leads to an open and often hostile opposition to what they term “Darwinism”, which refer to evolution, but may include abiogenesis, stellar evolution and the Big Bang theory.

Various neo-creationist groups claim to run scientific enterprises that conduct legitimate scientific research. Notable examples are the “Discovery Institute” and its “Centre for Science and Culture”. Neo-creationists have yet to establish a recognized line of legitimate scientific research and thus far lack scientific and academic legitimacy.

The main form of neo-creationism is Intelligent Design. A second form, abrupt appearance theory, claims that first life and the universe appeared abruptly and that plants and animals appeared abruptly in complex form, has occasionally been postulated. Unlike their scientific creationism forebears, neo-creationists largely do not believe in many of the traditional cornerstones of creationism such a young Earth, or in a dogmatically literal interpretation of the Bible.

13.12.1 Motivations

The neo-creationist movement is motivated by the fear that religion is under attack by the study of evolution. According to neo-creationists society has suffered “devastating cultural consequences” from adopting materialism and that science is the cause of this decay into materialism since science seeks only natural explanations. They believe that the theory of evolution implies that humans have no spiritual nature, no moral purpose, and no intrinsic meaning, and thus that acceptance of evolution devalues human life. The movement’s proponents seek to “defeat the materialist world view” represented by the theory of evolution in favour of “a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions”. Phillip E. Johnson, ‘father’ of the Intelligent Design movement, states the movement’s goal is to “affirm the reality of God.”

13.12.2 Tactics

Much of the effort of neo-creationists in response to science consists of polemics highlighting gaps in understanding or minor inconsistencies in the literature of biology, then making statements about what can and cannot happen in biological systems. Critics of neo-creationism suggest that neo-creationist science consists of quote-mining the biological literature for minor slips, inconsistencies or polemically promising examples of internal arguments. These internal disagreements, fundamental to the working of all natural science, are then presented dramatically to lay audiences as evidence of the fraudulence and impending collapse of “Darwinism”. Critics suggest that Neo-creationists routinely employ this method to exploit the technical issues within biology and evolutionary theory to their advantage, relying on a public that is not sufficiently scientifically literate to follow the complex and sometimes difficult details.

Neo-creationists generally reject the term “neo-creation” as any linkage of their views to creationism would undermine their goal of being viewed as advocating a new form of science. Instead, they identify themselves to their non-scientific audience as conducting valid science. This is rejected by the vast majority of actual science practitioners. Nevertheless neo-creationists profess to present and conduct valid science which is equal, or superior to, the theory of evolution. Instead, the preponderance of neo-creationist works are publications aimed at the general public and lawmakers and policymakers. Much of that published work is polemical in nature, disputing and controverting what they see as a “scientific orthodoxy” which shields and protects “Darwinism” while attacking and ridiculing alleged alternatives like Intelligent Design.