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Wikipedia: Creationism
Creationism
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The neutrality of this article is disputed.

Creationism is a belief that the origin of the universe and everything in it is due to an event of creation brought about by the deliberate act of a creator god.

This article describes the spectrum of creationist arguments and beliefs, the role of creationism in society, and the parts that prominent individual creationists play in the creation science movement. For a detailed discussion of beliefs concerning the origin of the universe in various religions and cultures, see creation beliefs. For a discussion of creationism in the context of theology, see creationism (theology).

Variety of Creationist beliefs

Most religions have significant creation myths, but 'creationism' in its modern form is associated with the religious tradition of conservative Christianity which includes members of many groups and denominations. Fundamentalists are credited as the originators of the movement, but Creationists are also Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Wesleyan/Holiness and conservatives of mainline Protestant churches, such as the Confessing Movements, and some Roman Catholics and Jews.

Part of creationist expression is the 'creation science' movement. Advocates of this form of creationism attempt to offer scientific explanations for religious creation scenarios. However, creation science is well-known for its antagonism towards mainstream scientific theories of cosmology, human origins, the theory of evolution, and the theory of common descent. Other creationists resort to theological arguments for the existence of God and regard science itself, where it denies the existence of God or does not incorporate it into its hypotheses, as an organized, evangelistic religion.

Christian creationists (except for Deists) believe that a creator would logically attempt to communicate with intelligent members of his creation. This is known as revelation and considered a valid means of knowledge. Christian creationists accept the Bible as fulfilling this function, although there are some differences in interpretation, and how literally the Bible is to be taken.

Within the broader term Creationist, there is no single set of beliefs, but a few general categories exist.

  • Young Earth Creationists believe that the Earth was created by God around 6,000 years ago, generally following the dates of Archbishop James Ussher.
  • Old Earth Creationists includes a variety of beliefs, generally distinguished from Young Earth Creationism by adherents' acceptance that the Earth is millions of years old. Old Earth Creationism comes in four flavours:
    • Gap Creationism (or 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 unknown cataclysm. Some Gap Creationists identify this destruction with the fall of Lucifer.
    • Day-Age Creationism holds that the "six days" of Genesis are not ordinary 24-hour days, but rather much longer periods (for instance, each "day" could be the equivalent of a million years of modern time). This group notes that (the Christian) God is not bound by time.
    • Progressive Creationism - the view that new kinds of organisms are constantly being created to replace extinct ancient forms.
    • Intelligent Design - the view that life is too complex to have evolved without the intervention of an (unnamed) intelligent designer. The originator of this view is biochemist Michael Behe.

  • Evolutionary Creationism and Theistic Evolution accept the existence of biological evolution, but also hold that God controls apparently random events, or designed the fundamental physical laws that allow evolution in the first place. Process theology is also compatible with acceptance of evolution. French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was an advocate of this view.
  • Deism is the belief that the universe was created by a God who then made no further intervention in its affairs, often expressed by the metaphor of the "Divine Watchmaker" who created a mechanism so perfect as to be self-regulating. Deists do not believe in miracles or revelations. Because of their rejection of revelation, they attempt to infer their theology entirely from philosophical arguments.

Materialistic Evolutionism, often called Darwinism by Christians, accepts the theory of evolution and either denies the existence of any divine agency (atheism) or believes it to be unknowable (agnosticism). It is the opposite of Creationism.

Historical overview

The creation beliefs of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have their origins in the Hebrew Bible and classical Judaism. In the West, until the late 19th century, Jews and Christians believed that all things originated by an act of God, with the single exception of God who is said to have existed eternally. Religion greatly influenced life in Europe after the decline of the Roman empire, but the watershed of scientific discovery and progressive thinking unleashed by the Renaissance and the Enlightenment made explanations other than purely theological ones conceivable again, as they already had been in antiquity, when simple predecessors to the theory of evolution were developed.

Charles Darwin's famous work, The Origin of Species (1859) introduced the theory of evolution by natural selection, which did not require the careful work of a creator God to produce organisms well-adapted to their environment. At this point, however, evolution by natural selection was perceived as opposing not religious accounts of creation, but rather Lamarck's theory of evolution by inheritance of acquired characteristics. In his subsequent book The Descent of Man (1871), Darwin applied his theory to the origin of humankind, and put forth the hypothesis that humans were descended from ape-like creatures by the mechanism of evolution by natural selection. A monumental controversy ensued in Victorian Britain, as this theory apparently contradicted the accounts of the creation of man given in the Bible, which had so far been the primary source on the matter.

The modern creationist movement originated in the United States as part of fundamentalist Christianity, effectively as a reaction against the radical implications of Darwin's theory. The old belief in a literal (or divinely "revealed") interpretation of scripture was formalized and presented as being superior to scientific explanations. As more moderate branches of creationism appeared, "creationism" developed into an umbrella term for various creation beliefs, and for non-theological justifications thereof, although it is generally understood to refer to the fundamentalist variants.

In the United States, Christian fundamentalists are engaged in a long-running campaign to modify the primary or supplementary science curriculum of public schools, against the strong opposition of many involved in the teaching of science, including evolutionary biologists. The high point of the controversy occurred in 1925, during the Scopes Monkey Trial, when a teacher defied a Tennessee law forbidding the teaching of the theory of evolution. More recently, controversy has centered on attempts to either restrict the teaching of evolution or to provide "equal time" for creationism or creationist-inspired theories as well as evolutionary theories in science classes. The goal of this campaign is for science education to present evolution, creationism and related theories such as "intelligent design" on an equal footing. The majority of the scientific community opposes this, as it does not regard creationism or intelligent design as being viable scientific theories.

The two creation stories in Genesis

In considering Creationism, it makes sense to examine what the Book of Genesis says about creation and then consider how different people interpret what is written. This is important because many people are not aware that the Book of Genesis contains two distinct versions of the story of creation.

  1. The story of the creation in six days (Genesis 1:1 to 2:4a)
  2. The story of the day of creation (Genesis 2:4a-24)

These two stories have stood side by side ever since the book of Genesis was compiled. They are important not only as creation stories, but also because attempts to account for their differences helped to lead to documentary theories of the origin of various books of the Hebrew Scriptures.

The story of creation in six days

This account is of God (Elohim) creating the universe in six days and resting on the seventh day. (According to Strong's Concordance, Elohim is a plural form. Elohim is variously translated as God, gods or the magistrates, depending on the context.)

The order of creation in this story was as follows:

1. creation of the heavens and the earth, a formless void (1:2) and light (1:3)
2. a dome (firmament) to separate the waters from the waters (1:6,7)
3. dry land, vegetation and fruit trees (1:9-13)
4. lights in the dome of the sky , the sun, moon and stars (1:14-19)
5. living creatures in the waters and the sky (1:20-23)
6. living creatures on land: wild animals, cattle and creeping things (1:24-25)
7. mankind (in the image of Elohim, male and female) (1:26-31)
8. the Sabbath (2:1-4a)

The story of the day of creation

This story is an account of the day the LORD God (Yahweh Elohim) creating the earth and the heavens.

1. the man was formed (2:7)
2. the LORD God planted a garden (2:8)
3. the growth of trees (2:9)
4. the man put in the garden (2:15)
5. the creation of the animals and birds (2:19)
6. the creation of the first woman (2:21-2)

Comparing the two creation stories

The order in which the events of creation take place in the two stories are significantly different in each version. However, this anomaly is not immediately problematic for the casual reader, probably because each story is consistent within itself.

However, a second difference has troubled some people. The first creation story is about six days of creation (in Genesis 1:31); the second creation story talks about the day of creation (in Genesis 2:4b). This apparent contradiction in two verses that are so close together has troubled many commentators (see A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom by A.D. White, 1896, Dover Publications, 1960, page 5).

Of course, this difference is effectively concealed in many modern translations because they say 'when the LORD God created...' instead of the literal 'on the day that the LORD God created...'

Interpretation of Genesis

Some Creationists do not believe that the two accounts of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are compatible, and yet hold that the creation of Man is in some important sense the culmination of God's creating work, although neither account is taken as "history". Other Creationists harmonize the two accounts, as one version with two distinct emphases, historical but with some events arranged in non-chronological order.

Day-Age Creationism holds that the six days referred to are not ordinary 24-hour days, but rather much longer periods (of thousands or millions of years); the Genesis account is then interpreted as an account of the process of evolution. There are even some Christians who believe the six day period refers to the time spent by light traveling from the center of the universe at the time and point of creation.

Evolutionary creationists typically hold that the passages in Genesis are not to be interpreted literally, but are rather a symbolic or poetic account of the creation of the universe. Some believe that they are based on the prevailing knowledge of the physical world at the time that they were written, and that only the moral and religious, as opposed to the physically descriptive, content of the Bible is inspired.

It is also possible to view Genesis as an allegory for the process of humankind's development of self-awareness and the emergence of human intelligence from a previous animal state. In this interpretation, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge is a key component as the Serpent claims it holds the power to impart understanding that would rival God's. The humans do take a bite and get the ability to understand (they do not eat the whole fruit, so get a partial understanding), but immediately become ashamed of their nakedness (presumably because it belies their animal nature) and get expelled from the Garden of Eden (representing a contented animal existence) to toil in the world and face strife and conflict.

It is the belief of many Christians that the Bible is the inerrant message of God to mankind, and therefore must be accepted as truth. It must be interpreted against itself, and to dismiss any part as not factually true is to cast its very authority into question. This principle can be summed up in the statement, "If one cannot believe part of the Bible, why should one believe any of it?" In fact, there are some Christians who believe that the facts of the creation story in Genesis are vital to the doctrines of Salvation and Grace in the New Testament.

Ongoing creation?

In the view of some creationists, the progress and differentiation of some kinds under the guidance of God has not ceased and is still ongoing today. Others argue that the creating work reached its culmination in the creation of mammals and Man, and has since ceased.

Creation science

Some creationists posit that certain assumptions, procedures, theories and findings of science—especially the theory of evolution through natural selection—are not only fundamentally incompatible with creation beliefs but are also scientifically incorrect. They propose alternative theories on scientific processes of creation, commonly known as creation science, that they consider to be more compatible with their religious beliefs. They believe that the explanation of origins, especially of Man and other living things, requires reference to a Creator.

Not all creationists claim to be creation scientists. Specifically, evolutionary creationists do not seek to challenge mainstream science, believing that science and religion can be reconciled. Other creationists view scientific truth as separate from spiritual truth and are unconcerned by apparent contradictions between the two. Some critics of creation science believe that all creation scientists are unethical and attempt to falsely disguise the Biblical story of creation as science. (Arthur, 1996.) This criticism has found accord in decisions made by federal courts in the United States that have overturned various state laws seeking to give creation science equal time with the theory of evolution in public schools, including a 1987 decision by the United States Supreme Court. (See, e.g., Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987); McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, 529 F.Supp. 1255 (1982).)

Common descent

Creationists who entirely reject macro-evolution naturally also reject common descent. However, amongst creationists who do accept the theory of evolution, there is debate over whether to accept or reject the theory of common descent, and in particular, the common descent of mankind and other species. Those who reject common descent argue that although other life on Earth evolved, Adam and Eve were fashioned and given life directly by God, unique in the creation. Evolutionary creationists and many advocates of Intelligent Design accept common descent. Michael Behe is one, stating "I dispute the mechanism of natural selection, not common descent".

Age of the Earth

There is a sharp distinction in particular between Young Earth Creationists and Old Earth Creationists who hold contradictory views regarding the age of the Earth. Young Earth Creationism is typically based on Jewish and Christian religious fundamentalism and holds that scientific findings simply conflict with the account of creation given in Genesis, where it is recorded that the Earth was created by God in six days. This adherence to six actual days comes from a strict belief in biblical inspiration. Young Earth creationists who interpret the Bible literally believe that the Earth is somewhere around 6,000 years old (according to Bishop James Ussher's dating) and usually reject the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe. Rather, they believe that all created existence began within a single terrestrial week, six to ten thousand years ago.

See creation beliefs for a more detailed discussion of theological views on creationism within different religious belief systems.

Distribution of creationist views

In the United States, creationism remains popular among non-scientists. According to several evolution polls over the last decade, 45-50% of Americans believe that "God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years." About 10% believe that the evolution of species occurred without any divine intervention. These numbers are higher among the upper class, Internet users and among college graduates, higher still among scientists (about 55% believe that evolution occurred without God over millions of years according to a 1997 Gallup poll [1]), and higher still among biologistss and geologistss. This data has remained relatively stable over time.

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 give credence to creation science, the general theory that complex life forms did not evolve but appeared 'abruptly.'". A 2000 poll by People for the American Way examined the question of popular support for evolution and creationism in schools, and showed that a majority of 83% supported the teaching of the theory of evolution [1].

The United States fundamentalist Christian community has no real parallels (in terms of numbers, prominence, and political influence) elsewhere in the Western world, and because most vocal creationists are from the United States, it is generally assumed that creationist views are not as common elsewhere. Statistics are not clear on the issue. According to a PBS documentary on evolution, Australian 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 a minority position in Western countries other than the USA.

In Europe specifically, creationism is a less well defined phenomenon, and regular polls are not taken; however, the option of teaching creationism in school has not yet been seriously considered in any Western European country. In Roman Catholic-majority countries, 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 [1] are actively lobbying there as well. There is a Turkish creationist organization BAV, whose pseudonymous spokesman Harun Yahya puts an Islamic face on familiar American creationism. There are a number of Hindu creationists as well. In the United Kingdom the Vardy Foundation, which owns two colleges in the north of England and plans to open several more, teaches that creationism and evolution are equally valid "faith positions".

Creationism in public education

The Supreme Court of the United States interprets the First Amendment to the United States Constitution as prohibiting public schools from teaching religious beliefs as facts and has ruled that a government-funded science curriculum should not support the teaching of religious beliefs in science classes. It has specifically ruled in Epperson v. Arkansas and Edwards v Aguillard that creationism, even when referred to as a science, is such a religious belief. Creationists claim that this position does not consider the possibility that humankind and other living creatures were in fact created by God. They also claim that this viewpoint has been used to squelch classroom discussion by students who insist that their faith in creationism is relevant to the origins controversy. Supporters of evolution claim that the teaching of evolution is not necessarily incompatible with a belief that God is the ultimate creator of the universe, and therefore of all life. This is a position that is widely adopted by many, if not most, mainstream Christian denominations.

Despite the Supreme Court rulings, Boards of Education and local communities continue to struggle with controversy when scientific creationism is raised as an argument in opposition to the teaching of evolution. For example, supporters of intelligent design, who typically seek to differentiate ID from faith-based creationism, argued in December 2002 for the inclusion of the hypothesis that life had an intelligent designer in the Ohio Board of Education standards for science education.

In the UK, one of the few countries in which teaching religion in public schools is a legal requirement, there is an agreed syllabus for religious education with the right of parents to withdraw their children from these lessons. [1]

The prescribed UK national curriculum for science includes the theory of evolution; a creationist teacher who insisted on teaching creationism instead of evolution was disciplined and eventually dismissed.

Creationism and naturalism

The following tenets of creationism inherently contradict philosophical naturalism and materialism:

  1. There was an origin of the universe for which the direct intervention of God was required.
  2. The origin of life required the direct intervention of God.
  3. Sentience, perception, self-awareness, and the capacities for knowledge and understanding, are not reducible to physical processes alone, but were granted to living and intelligent creatures by the direct intervention of God.
  4. These capacities, and more basically life itself, are not possible to describe in terms of physics alone.

A general response to the modern creationism controversy has been articulated by creationist Phillip E. Johnson, Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, who argues that the entire issue of biological origins has been framed in terms of naturalism, and that natural science per se is not identical with naturalism. According to him, the statement, "Science has nothing to say about whether or not there exists a supernatural realm" is true and based on the fact that rigorous physical science is naturalistic, but the statement, "Science holds that there is no supernatural realm" is false because it is beyond the scope of natural science to make such an assertion, but is instead a philosophical position. According to Johnson, this distinction opens the possibility of natural science and creationism being non-contradictory. However, such an assertion becomes problematic in light of very specific creationist claims that pertain to the natural realm, and also does not answer the question whether creationism in the form of creation science has a place in public schools.

Creationism and the origins of life

While the Bible makes no distinction between the origins of life and the origins of humans - both are said to have been created by God over a period of six days - science does make this distinction. The question of the origins of life is known as abiogenesis and is treated by science as being quite distinct from the question of evolution. The two subjects are also quite different in terms of scientific maturity and testability. Although scientists disagree about the fine details, the overwhelming majority regard Darwin's principle of natural selection as the best explanation for the observable process of evolution. By contrast, there is no single widely accepted theory of abiogenesis and the process itself does not appear to be ongoing today, nor has anyone found a way (yet) of making it happen in the laboratory. This does not invalidate the concept of evolution, because it only addresses the way life develops, not how life originates.

Creationists often elide the questions of evolution and abiogenesis, arguing that because neither the origins of life nor the course of human evolution can be reproduced experimentally, they fall outside the scope of empirical science and into philosophy. As such, they say, the full range of opinions - including creationism and related theories of divine intervention - should at least be discussed on an equal basis. Supporters of evolution reject this and point out that evolution can be observed experimentally, both in the laboratory and in the field. Although the actual creation of life has not yet been observed experimentally, much experimental work into the necessary conditions has been carried out (for instance, research into the formation of long proteins or into molecule formation in different atmospheres). By contrast, proposed explanations involving divine intervention are either impervious to scientific verification in principle, or have so far proven to be so.

Creationism vs. evolution debate

Historically, the "creationism vs. evolution" debate began when Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace published their independent observations on evolutionary mechanisms in 1858 and 1859 respectively. Darwin's The Origin of Species became the focal point of creationist debate, at a time when universities were still dominated by religious thought. Darwin was well aware of the likely implications of his work for people with strong religious beliefs and delayed its publication until he became aware that Wallace was about to publish his similar views. Darwin's book sparked an immediate and furious controversy on both sides of the Atlantic, dividing not just secular and religious but also literal and non-literal theists. One of the most famous incidents in the debate was the Oxford Meeting of 1860, when T.H. Huxley, Darwin's self-appointed "bulldog", publicly debated Darwin's theory with the Bishop of Oxford, "Soapy Sam" Wilberforce. Darwin's ideas continued to arouse controversy in Europe for years afterwards, but by the 1930s had become the accepted explanation for the modification of organisms over time.

By contrast, the much stronger culture of religious literalism in the United States meant that while academic opinion was generally in favour of Darwinism, public and legislative opinion—especially in the "Bible Belt" states of the South—was strongly pro-creationism. The clash between academia and legislatures came to a head in 1925, when the famous Scopes Trial tested a law that forbade the teaching of evolution in Tennessee public schools. The law was not repealed until 1968, when it was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The debate has intensified in recent years with the growing involvement of the Christian right in U.S. politics, which has seen the creationism vs. evolution debate taking on increasingly party political overtones. Christian fundamentalists continue to seek the restriction or dilution of the teaching of evolution in the classroom, lobbying for changes to school curriculums and textbooks to give equal time to creationist views or to ban the teaching of evolution altogether.

Creationism has, ironically, undergone something of a process of evolution over the past century as the advance of scientific knowledge and growing judicial strictness in the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution have squeezed out the more overtly religious or unscientific creationist forays into the classroom. In recent times, Christian creationist views have been appearing in the form of a movement called intelligent design (ID). Advocates of ID take care to never explicitly name God as their intelligent designer. Opponents of ID criticise its theories as pseudoscientific and dismiss the movement as putting a quasi-academic gloss on a disguised version of creationism—in effect, a covert attempt to smuggle religion into the classroom. Although the ID movement is well-organised and well-funded by Christian conservatives, it has so far achieved relatively little success in obtaining educational endorsement of its theories.

Creationism of any variety has also made little headway against mainstream scientific opinion; the vast majority of scientists accept the theory of evolution through natural selection. However, perhaps as a result of resurgent Christian fundamentalism gaining converts among well-educated right-wing Americans, a small but vociferous number of academics have come out in favour of creationist ideas.

Arguments against evolution

Creationist arguments against evolution tend to rely either on theological arguments or, increasingly, on claims based on scientific concepts. This section discusses creationist claims made under the latter rubric.

Creationists reject the theory that life gradually evolved over millions of years from simple to increasingly complex forms only by means of mutation and natural selection (gradualism). The most common argument is that there is insufficient evidence for this proposition, or that existing evidence is flawed or misinterpreted.

Evolutionary scientists hold that, on the contrary, there is evidence in favour of evolution over time and that most types of creationism are in direct conflict with findings of empirical sciences like geology, paleontology and physics.

Many creationists posit what they claim are scientific arguments against the theory of evolution. Evolutionists often respond that these are attempts to "mask" creationism as a science, and that so-called creation science is pseudoscience. Biologists respond to claims by creationists, and have frequently expressed frustration that claims that they consider debunked are repeated, which they interpret as evidence that creationists have no interest to engage in a scientific debate (Arthur 1996, see references below). Creationists say that evolutionists have been ignoring blind spots or faulty evidence in their theories for many decades.

The primary line of scientific argument against evolution currently centers around the notion that many biological systems have irreducible complexity in terms of intermediate forms. That is, organs such as the human eye do not have stepwise functional iterations that can be adequately explained by evolution, as necessary intermediate steps would be completely nonfunctional and maladaptive. This perspective has been extensively presented by biochemist Michael Behe in the book "Darwin's Black Box". While a common counterargument is that organs do in fact have less-complex predecessors, some see this as a straw man argument in that the actual criteria that must be met is for all intermediate steps to be demonstrable as being both statistically explainable by genetic mutation, and individually functional and adaptive concurrent with this process.

In the US, Darwinists and Creationist are engaged in a hostile and emotional clash. Christian Creationists claim that there is no basis within materialistic evolutionism for protection of the weaker members of society, opening the door for (abortion, euthanasia, and racism, and even genocide. This is not to accuse all Darwinists to be proponents of these, but that the potential is inherent within the philosophy. It is also claimed that moral relativism is inherent in materialistic evolution.

Macroevolution vs. microevolution

Creationists often make a distinction between macroevolution (any evolutionary change at or above the level of species) and microevolution (any evolutionary change below the level of species). It used to be thought that species were fixed and immutable; Linnaeus expressed the conventional view when he opined that "there are as many species as the Creator produced forms in the beginning." However, creationists have long made a distinction between a species and a variety, in other words a subset of a species. Hence a man and a monkey represent two different species, whereas a poodle and a Great Dane represent two varieties of the same species, in this case the common dog Canis domesticus. It was clearly possible to effect change at the microevolutionary change, for instance by interbreeding two varieties of dog to produce a new breed. However, the "basic kind"—the dog, the monkey or the man—was deemed to be immutable, with no possibility of turning a monkey into a man (not least because interbreeding was not possible).

Such arguments have persisted to this day. Most creationists accept the observable evidence of microevolution in the light of examples such as Darwin's finches on the Galapagos islands evolving from one original base form into a variety of different forms adapted to the circumstances peculiar to their home islands. Similar examples are found in the fossil record and are commonly encountered in studies of organisms with a high rate of reproduction, particularly bacteria and insects. However, creationists treat macroevolution with considerably more skepticism and suggest that if it occurred at all—which some deny—it probably did not occur solely by the reasons proposed by advocates of evolution.

Fossils and macroevolution

Creationists claim that though many varieties of reptiles and mammals exist, there is no record of an animal capable of bridging the gap between them, and that "gaps in the fossil record" reveal "missing links" between different species which refute the idea of gradual transitions.

Fossil finds are generally restricted only to the extremely small amount of sedimentary rock that is exposed on the surface of the Earth at any one time. The vast majority of actual fossils remain concealed within the rock strata. Scientists contend that new fossils are constantly being found and that we have thousands of fossil examples for many species showing transition states from one form to another. Creationists suggest that this evidence only shows examples of microevolution.

In recent years, scientists have debated whether the gaps in the fossil record are purely the result of patchy fossilization, or whether they represent in part a genuine unevenness in the rate of evolution. A theory known as punctuated equilibrium suggests the latter. It suggests that rapid speciation happens in small populations which are cut off, possibly geographically, from others of their species, and which develop independently. Evolution in these small groups may occur relatively quickly, perhaps over only a few thousands of years—a timeframe which may be too small for any significant number of fossils to be deposited (and more importantly, to survive to the present day). Later the isolated population reenters the wider geographical area and supplants its closest relatives. The fossil record would thus show an abrupt transition from one form to another. This view has gained significant support among scientists, but it is still somewhat controversial.

Supporters of evolution have noted that creationists often query whether a transitional fossil truly represents a transition. According to the argumentation of Creationists, when a fossil is found that appears to lie in between two existing fossils, instead of representing a transition between them, this discovery creates two new gaps that need to be explained. Scientists have uncovered millions of fossils, most of which fit together in a coherent evolutionary tree. Some exceptions do exist, but the ongoing discovery of new fossils eventually allows those currently incertae sedis (in an unknown place) to be slotted into the right place in the tree.

While it is certainly true that there are gaps in the fossil record, transitions between any two forms of a life-form are inherently more difficult to find than other fossils. Indeed, there will always be gaps in the fossil record, no matter how many separate species are discovered, as it is unreasonable to demand that one can dig up a continuous chain of millions of fossils for each and every life-form. Many transitional forms are missing only because, for whatever geological reason, they failed to be fossilized.

Considering that fossilization of organisms is actually an incredibly rare and exceptional event rather than the norm, this is a likely explanation. For one thing, the vast majority of fossils involved deposition in an aqueous environment where they are then covered by sediment in a progressive way so that they are not re-exposed to the elements. It is known from direct observation that this is a rare process, especially considering that most organisms become food for other organisms.

Differences in scale

Most biologists consider the difference between microevolution and macroevolution to be relative. Creationists who reject Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection argue that the difference is absolute. They have proposed that microevolution always takes the form of destructive genetic mutations, which happen to confer an advantage to individuals in a specific environment. Because macroevolution requires many constructive genetic changes, they argue that microevolution cannot lead to macroevolution. One example of a destructive mutation that conferred a competitive advantage under a specific situation occurred in Streptococcus pneumoniae, some strains of which are resistant to penicillin. But this resistance requires the bacterium to expend extra resources that the nonresistant bacteria do not, and so it does not compete well with them in the absence of penicillin. Competitive advantage is the driving force behind natural selection, so the relevance is unclear to evolutionists.

More specifically, the contention of creationists is that the observed and verified process of microevolution does not lead to increasingly complex species. When the mutations occur, they lead to the elimination of certain useless genetic traits, decreasing the genetic complexity and diversity of the affected species, creationists say. Creationists claim proponents of macroevolution accept that increases in genetic complexity are brought about solely through improbable major mutation. An evolutionist response might be:

  1. The mechanisms of mutation show no preference for simplification.
  2. If the mutation were disadvantageous, it would probably die out, leaving diversity unchanged.
  3. If the mutation were neutral, it would coexist with the original form, increasing diversity.
  4. A series of advantageous simplifying mutations could produce a new species.

Creationists claim that although helpful mutations have been observed, mutations that increase genetic complexity have not. This claim does not, however, appear to be borne out by recent evidence from comparative genomics, since larger-scale genetic rearrangements other than mutation, such as gene duplication and chromosome duplication do lead to increased genetic complexity.

Intelligent design

The above-mentioned intelligent design movement allows for macroevolution but denies the theory of natural selection as a probable mechanism, arguing that God has guided the evolution. One argument against this view is that the possibility of an intelligent designer is real, but substantially more complex than alternative possibilities, such as a modified theory of evolution, or even the possibility of extraterrestrial origin. As such, the theory falls foul of the well-tested scientific principle of Ockham's Razor. If God, or an unspecified "designer", guided the process, this raises further questions, such as:

  • What designed the Designer(s)? (see first cause)
  • What is the Designers' motivation for guiding an evolutionary process?
  • Who or what is the Designer(s)?
  • What is the evidence for the existence of the Designer(s)?
  • Which methods did the Designer(s) use to "guide" the process?
  • What is the evidence for the use of such methods?
  • Did or does the Designer also do this on other planets, or only on Earth?
  • Why did the Designer(s) not choose to create a process that does not require further intervention, e.g. did God lack the competency to create a system in which natural selection can operate?

A further problem is presented by the essential unprovability (or disprovability) of the Designer's methodology. Dr. Duane Gish, a prominent "scientific creationist", highlights this issue in his 1978 book Evolution? The Fossils Say No!: "We do not know how the Creator created, what processes He used, for He used processes which are not now operating in the natural universe [italics as in original] ... We cannot discover by scientific investigation anything about the creative processes used by the Creator." A theory that cannot be tested is essentially unscientific, at least by the widely accepted criteria set out by the late philosopher Karl Popper. Not coincidentally, although proponents of intelligent design have highlighted what they see as many flaws in evolutionary theory, they have conspicuously omitted to define the processes necessary for the creation of a designed ecosystem.

Further arguments

The argument from irreducible complexity is that some structures, such as rotary flagella could not have developed gradually, and have no precursor forms. However, other structures that were once thought unexplainable have since been explained. For example, in The Origin of Species, Darwin showed how a structure as complex as the eye could evolve. The advent of computers has enabled the evolutionary process to be modelled though simple mathematical models, invariably showing a steady progression from a light-sensitive spot to a complex eye with a lens focus. (See Richard Dawkins, River Out Of Eden (1995) for a detailed explanation of the simulation and the multiple independent evolutions of the eye by numerous different organisms.)

Other arguments proposed by creationists include:

Arguments creationists use Scientists counter each of these
1. That rock strata have in some places apparently been laid down out of order. Geologists actually expect the strata to be out of order in places. Strata are never randomly arranged, but in locations are visibly folded or overthrust, with adjacent layers remaining adjacent in all but the border zones.
2. That the existence of strata and fossils suggest that they were laid down catastrophically. For fossils to have been laid out catastrophically, it would necessitate some sort of sorting process that laid down fossils of different types in specific strata, with almost no exceptions among billions of samples.
3. That the speed of light has changed over time, thus changing the speed of radioactive decay. There is some recent, controversial evidence that the speed of light might have changed in the very early universe. However, the upper bound on how much the speed of light may have changed is insufficient to have created the effects necessary for the creation science argument.
4. That radioactive dates may be thought unreliable if they assume that certain isotopes were not present in the rock when formed. Different minerals have different chemical properties, and tend to form crystals or other shapes with their own kind (thus excluding others). Additionally, it would be unreasonable to expect that a measurable quantity of many of the decay products even could exist in the same mineral as the parent on formation (such as the gas argon occurring in a potassium-bearing salt of a size that indicates slow cooling).
5. That while a few thousands of years elapsed on earth, millions of years may have elapsed in the wider universe. The passage of time, according to special relativity, varies with gravitational potential as well as motion.

For time to be warped on earth due to known spatial relativity would require a huge gravitational distortion that would have destroyed the planet. Additionally, no evidence of such effects exists.
6. Scientists claim mammals are an evolution of reptiles, but the differences between them are so significant and numerous that an entire class of animals would be needed to fill the gap. The lines of transitions outlined on the right hand side are not sufficient because they contain huge gaps. The evolution of reptiles is well known. See evolution of reptiles.
7. Dating techniques of all types are based on assumptions about the conditions present in and around an object throughout history. Most dating techniques have been confirmed extensively. For example, carbon dating has been used on artifacts from known times in history, and has shown a high degree of success. Both radioactive decay and mineralization are well documented processes that are both confirmable in theory and in practice. Many millions of fossils have been categorized, and there have been only a handful of "misfits", of which explanations are present. The fact that different methods confirm each other provides a very high degree of confidence in those methods.
8. Genetic research, through forced mutation, has found no evidence that DNA is capable of creating a 'sliding scale' of creatures. On the contrary, mutations always fit into recognizable forms. Creationist argue that changes do not go beyond microevolution. They would say that the counter-argument on the right-hand side is a typical situation of microevolution. It is a case of parameter variation and not an example where actually new features are developed. Genetic research has found a huge degree of change in organisms. Since the speed at which changes occur is relative to how fast the organism reproduces, changes are most observed among small organisms. By inducing selective factors on the common fruit fly, one can vary the size, shapes, and other traits of the flies. Using selective factors on bacteria and viruses, virtually any trait of the organism can be modified in a matter of weeks.
9. If macroevolution by gradual changes and selection of the fittest organism really took place a great number of misshaped fossils should be found to account for this. This is not a necessary indication. And there are some fossils which show unnecessary features.
10. The "equation" for intelligent life is
IL = information + matter + energy.
For intelligent life to develop outside information is not necessary
IL = matter + energy + a stochastic process
11. Nearly all mutations are destructive. Biochemical processes are reversible. The gradual mutations and the selection process were sufficient.

Do arguments against evolution support creationism?

Suppose one accepts that:

  1. Evolution is a counter-argument against the teleological argument (argument from design).
  2. The teleological argument is an otherwise convincing argument for a creator God.

In this case, convincing arguments against evolution would support the existence of a creator God. However, not everyone accepts these premises. In particular, the teleological argument has been criticised on other grounds than evolution.

From a scientific point of view, theories are judged on many criteria, such as falsifiability, Ockham's Razor, and explanatory power, as well as the degree to which their predictions match experimental results. The following table tries to summarize the positions.

Criteria Creationist view View of Scientists
falsifiability Neither the creationist views nor evolutionist views are fully falsifiable because they involve philosophical decisions. However conclusions may be derived from both views which are testable and therefore falsifiable. Some creationists argue that the theory of evolution is already falsified. In case of falsifications evolutionists normally come up with helper hypotheses like punctuated equilibrium which basically move an important parts of the theory into a place, where they are not falsifiable anymore. The theory of evolution is of course falsifiable. However, while it is often refined and occasionally even revised on minor points (as any other scientific theory), no convincing conflicting evidence has been found. The arguments of the creationists, on the other hand, are inaccurate, self-contradictory and wrong. Creationists ignore refutations of their arguments and keep repeating the same ones (cf. Arthur).
Ockham's Razor The theory of evolution urges people to believe things which are very unlikely (cf. natural theology); people have to swallow propositions presented in a matter of fact way which would not be tolerated in other fields of science. This violates the principle commonly called Ockham's Razor. Natural causes suffice to explain the evolution of animals and the descent of man. The hypothesis of God is no longer needed.
Explanatory power Postulating that god has created the universe has no predictive power, since we cannot predict god's will. The theory of evolution has good explanatory power. The theory is a more useful scientific paradigm than creationism.

See also

External links and references

Creationism

Evolution


  

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Modified by Geona