Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The creation-evolution controversy (also called the creation vs. evolution debate and the origins debate) is a disagreement over the origin of the universe, life, and humanity. The controversy erupted early in the 19th Century when geological discoveries implied that the earth is much older than was suggested by the contents of the Judeo-Christian Bible. The profound impact of this early debate upon the popular mind was directly responsible for the 1857-1860 Revival in protestant religious enthusiasm.
It continues to be actively promoted and maintained by a number of creationist organizations and religious groups who desire to uphold creationism or a creation science alternative to the mainstream scientific community's description of the origins. The respondents in the controversy are amateurs and professionals who support the mainstream scientific theories and are often referred to as "evolutionists" by their opponents. Active conflict occurs in the United States, to a much greater degree than elsewhere. The conflict has become political in regards to the role of religion in public schools.
- 1833 - Charles Lyell finished his multi-volume Principles of Geology which supported the then-controversial idea of uniformitarianism. The concept that the Earth was shaped by slow processes over long periods of time influenced Darwin.
- 1859 - The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin is published on the theory of evolution after being worked on by Darwin for over 20 years. An essay sent from Alfred Russel Wallace independently summarizing Darwin's theory prompted him to publish. Evolution challenged the widely accepted theory of catastrophism.
- 1860 - At the Oxford University Museum of Natural History there was a debate of Darwin's theory with Thomas Huxley defending it from Samuel Wilberforce, the Bishop of Oxford. Later accounts indicate Sir Joseph Hooker was most vocal in defending Darwinism.
- 1925 - The Scopes Trial in Dayton tested the Butler Act enacted that same year which made it illegal to teach that man descended from animals in public schools. Scopes was found guilty and fined $100; prosecution lawyer William Jennings Bryan offered to pay it, but it was later set aside on a technicality after appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court.
- 1950 - Pope Pius XII issued a letter "Humani Generis" stating that evolution was compatible with Christianity insofar as to discover "the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter," but to apply evolution to matters of spirituality was innappropriate. Since then the Roman Catholic Church has advocated that Genesis should be interpreted symbolically.
- 1958 - Biological Sciences Curriculum Study was started by the National Science Foundation which emphasized evolution in high school biology textbooks. This was part of a broad based improvement of education in the U.S. in response to the launch of Sputnik.
- 1960 - The Genesis Flood by Henry Morris and John C Whitcomb, Jr. reinvigorated the creationist movement.
- 1968 - A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in an Arkansas case repealed all remaining creationist laws.
- 1973 - Tennessee passed a law requiring textbooks with a theory of origin must give equal emphasis to the Genesis account of Creation. In 1975 it was ruled unconstitutional because it violated the separation of church and state.
- 1991 - Darwin on Trial by Phillip E. Johnson popularized the intelligent design movement.
- 1996 - Michael J. Behe wrote Darwin's Black Box which proposed that some biological systems are irreducibly complex.
- 1996 - On October 23, Pope John Paul II sent a formal statement to the Pontifical Academy of Science stating that "fresh knowledge" requires one to realize that evolution is more than "just a hypothesis".
- 1999 - On August 11, the Kansas State Board of Eduction deletes discussion of evolution and the Big Bang from standards relating to state assessments. Two years later, the standards were reinstated after removal of three of the board members.
- 2002 - After much debate the Ohio's state board of education partially adopted the new "teach the controversy" initiative of intelligent design activists. In 2004 the board created a "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan for teachers.
- 2004 - In Italy the minister of education Letizia Moratti outlined that children do not need to be taught evolutionary theory, but they should learn about creationism. The minister revised her position after top Italian scientists wrote in an open letter it would sacrifice the "scientific curiosity of youth", and it was signed by more than 50,000 citizens in a petition.
Conflict occurs mostly in the public arena rather than through academic channels or through scientific journals, as creationists have been unwilling or unable to publish their ideas in those places. Popular-level books and articles by creationists attacking mainstream science and by proponents of mainstream science attacking creationism have been published and numerous public debates have been put on by churches, universities, and clubs. With the advent of the Internet the battle between proponents has also been waged on-line. To this end, one of the first usenet newsgroups to be created was a proving ground for the controversy. Over a 19-year history, the Talk.origins newsgroup has allowed for multiple discussions of nearly every topic and issue ever developed in the controversy. In 1994, an archive of the mainstream science responses to creationist objections was created as a website (referenced below). Various creationists followed suit with their own clearinghouses, the most famous of which are Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis and the internet pages of the Institute for Creation Research. Chatrooms, message boards, and blogs have continued to promote the controversy with many arguments printed and reprinted to the effect that, by some estimates, nearly one out of every hundred websites is in some way connected to the controversy.
Additionally many churches and denominations make statements about what is appropriate or inappropriate in terms of scientific theories. Almost every Christian denomination have made statements about the controversy. Most Christian fundamentalist denominations unapologetically promote creationism and attack evolution from the pulpits as well as sponsor lectures, and debates on the subject. Some of the denominations that have explicitly advocated for creationism and against evolution include Assemblies of God, Church of Christ, Church of Christ, Scientist, Church of the Nazarene, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Free Methodist Church, Jehovah's Witness Churches, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, Pentecostal Churches, Seventh Day Adventist Churches, Southern Baptist Convention Churches, and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.
Accusations of misleading definition of terms abound in this controversy. For example, proponents of evolution often claim that abiogenesis is not a part of evolutionary theory. In retort, creationists say that the origin of life must be explained by evolutionary science, as for life to evolve, life must first begin. On the other side, Young Earth Creationists, such as Kent Hovind, say that there are six different aspects to evolution. These aspects, as defined by Dr. Hovind, are:
- Cosmic evolution — the origin of time, space and matter. Big Bang.
- Chemical evolution — the origin of higher elements from hydrogen.
- Stellar and planetary evolution — Origin of stars and planets.
- Organic evolution — Origin of life from inanimate matter.
- Macroevolution — Origin of major kinds.
- Microevolution — Variations within kinds.
Evolutionists retort that the first four of the above definitions are taken from many disparate fields of science, including cosmology, astronomy, geology, and chemistry, and have little to do with their more restrictive definition of evolution as per the modern synthesis pertaining to biological or organic evolution. They also dispute that there is any meaningful difference between the last two.
Theory vs. Fact
An ofen contentious definitional conflict that occurs in the context of the controversy is the accusation by creationists that proponents of mainstream science inappropriately conflate scientific theory with fact. While certain creationist organizations have distanced themselves from this claim, various levels of incredulity about scientific conclusions is a nearly universal component of creationist argumentation. In particular, creationists are very wary about scientific arguments involving events that happened in the distant past. Some creationists have even called into question whether it is philosophically tenable to make any claims about the past at all. Oftentimes, these critiques are leveled against unifying concepts within scientific disciplines such as uniformitarianism, Ockham's razor, the Copernican principle, and parsimony that are claimed to be the result of a bias within science toward philosophical naturalism. The paradigmatic nature of scientific work in also criticized by the creationists as being too closeminded.
Mainstream proponents who respond to these criticisms tend to criticize the creationists' understanding of the scientific method and the nature of scientific investigation. In particular, the proponents claim that the mainstream scientific endeavors rely on more basic assumptions than their creationist counterparts. The universal nature of science, it is proposed, means that the same principles that allow for investigation of any natural phenomena are relied upon across the board and the rigorous vetting by the scientific community of observations and theory provide a measured safegaurd against dogmatism. Because modern science tries to rely on the minimization of a priori assumptions, error, subjectivity, and the Baconian idols it remains neutral on highly personal subjects such as religion or morality. Mainstream proponents accuse the creationists of conflating the two in a form of pseudoscience.
Views beyond the creation-evolution dichotomy
Creation and evolution are a false dichotomy of views on origins. These two views are in no way jointly exhaustive. The following list gives an idea of the many diverse views on origins beyond the creation-evolution dichotomy:
- With Zen, everything and nothing are all interconnected, inseparable, a made whole. Zen denies that the person is the first cause.
- Theogony by Hesiod is a poetic rendering of the Greek myth that the Cosmos was created through sexual intercourse.
- Panspermia is a theory explaining the existence of life on the Earth as a result of fertilization by germs coming from outer space.
- Norse mythology says that Odin and his brothers used Ymir's body to create the universe.
Even the two alternative points of view, creation and evolution are not black and white options. There is a spectrum of views on these topics ranging from a belief in young earth creationism and disbelief in evolution to a belief in both atheism and evolution. Neither are these views necessarily mutually exclusive as shown by the belief in evolutionary creationism.
Conflation of science and religion
The creation-evolution controversy involves the conflation of disparate ideas. Following are some examples of well known participants in the debate who conflate science and religion:
- Henry Morris, a young earth creationist, says: "Divine revelation from the Creator of the world states that He did it all in six days, several thousand years ago. The Bible is a book of science! It contains all the basic principles upon which true science is built".
- Julian Huxley, a British biologist and author, says: "The truth will set us free. Evolutionary truth frees us from subserviant fear of the unknown and supernatural, and exhorts us to face this new freedom. It shows us our destiny and our duty. The evolutionary vision is enabling us to discern the outline of the new religion that will arise to serve the needs of the coming era".
The above examples illustrate the conflation of creation with science and the conflation of evolution with religion. Conflation of science and religion is an underlying theme in the creation-evolution controversy.
Participants in the debate
Henry Morris and John Whitcomb in the early 1960s co-authored The Genesis Flood, the book credited with reviving interest in creation as an alternative to evolution. Dr. Morris is considered the "father" of modern creationism.
The Creation Research Society, founded in 1963 by a number of creationists including Henry Morris, is a membership organisation with voting membership limited to holders of an earned postgraduate degree. CRS has a voting membership of about 650, and a total membership of 1700 people. It publishes the CRS Quarterly, a peer-reviewed journal for creationists, conducts research, and operates a web-site.
The Institute for Creation Research is based in San Diego and was founded in 1970 by Henry Morris, and is now led by his son, John Morris. ICR publishes a number of books and newsletters, as well as producing radio spots and operating a web-site and a small museum.
The Discovery Institute is a Seattle-based intelligent design think-tank whose members include Michael Behe and William Dembski. It has a stated goal of introducing intelligent design into the scientific community and society by a wide range of methods as described on its web site and in the Wedge strategy document.
Simon Conway Morris is an evolutionary biologist who is also a Christian, and who has publically supported the acceptance of evolutionary biology by moderate Christians.
Duane Gish is a creationary scientist who has become well-known for debating evolutionists across America and in other countries. He is also Senior Vice President of ICR.
The True.Origins Archive is a web-site set up to respond to claims made on The Talk.Origins Archive.
Reasons to Believe is a progressive-creationist organisation founded in 1986 by Hugh Ross. It publishes a number of books and operates a web-site. He opposes biological evolution but accepts astronomical and geological evolution.
Arthur N. Strahler , author of the 1987 book Science and Earth History: The Evolution/Creation Controversy. Duane Gish's Creation Scientists Answer Their Critics was a creationist response to Strahler's book and many other anti-creationist books.
Public education in the United States
Main article: creation and evolution in public education.
The status of creation in public education in the United States is the subject of contention between creationists and other members of the community. The history extends back to the Scopes trial and locally controlled school boards in ares of the country dominated by creationists have made numerous and varied attempts over the years to remove or undermine discussion of biological evolution in science classrooms. Along with legal challenges to such actions, controversy surfaces frequently in school textbook/curriculum reviews. Creationists lobby for equal time or replacement of science curriculum with creation science or intelligent design and allege textbooks are biased, out of date and contain factual errors.
In a 2001 Gallup poll on the origin and development of human beings  a sample of about one thousand Americans were asked which statement came closest to their views on the origin and development of human beings. Of those polled, 45% chose "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so", 37% chose "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process", 12% chose "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process", and the remainder (6%) either volunteered a different response or had no opinion. The Religious Tolerance website claims that the poll also found that 5% of American scientists (not necessarily working in fields connected with evolution) believed in biblically literal creation, 40% believed in "theistic evolution", and 55% believed in "naturalistic evolution" .
However, following another opinion poll by DYG Inc., it seems that such results may reveal a false dichotomy. According to the DYG poll, about 70% of Americans indicated that they did not see the theories of evolution and creation as in conflict .
- Burian, RM: 1994. Dobzhansky on Evolutionary Dynamics: Some Questions about His Russian Background. In The Evolution of Theodosius Dobzhansky, ed. MB Adams, Princeton University Press.
- Samuel Butler, Evolution Old and New, 1879, p. 54.
- Darwin, "Origin of Species," New York: Modern Library, 1998.
- Dobzhansky, Th: 1937. Genetics and the Origin of Species, Columbia University Press
- Henig, The Monk in the Garden: The Lost and Found Genius of Gregor Mendel, the Father of Genetics, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.
- Kutschera, Ulrich and Karl J. Niklas. 2004. "The modern theory of biological evolution: an expanded synthesis." Naturwissenschaften 91, pp. 255-276.
- Mayr, E. The Growth of Biological Thought, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1982.
- James B. Miller (Ed.): An Evolving Dialogue: Theological and Scientific Perspectives on Evolution, ISBN 1563383497
- Morris, H.R. 1963. The Twilight of Evolution, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
- Pennock, Robert T. 2003. "Creationism and intelligent design." Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics 4, pp. 143-163.
- Carl Sagan. The Demon-Haunted World. New York: Ballantine Books, 1996.
- Scott, Eugenie C. 1997. "Antievolution and creationism in the United States." Annual Review of Anthropology 26: 263-289.
- Maynard Smith, "The status of neo-darwinism," in "Towards a Theoretical Biology" (C.H. Waddington, ed., University Press, Edinburgh, 1969.
- Archive of the Talk.Origins usenet newsgroup
- Description of modern synthesis of evolution
- 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution by Douglas Theobald, Ph.D.
- A response to Ashby's critique of above article (see link to Ashby's article below.)
- An Index to Creationist Claims - attempts to maintain a complete list of creationist claims leveled against evolution, with rebuttals and references from the scientific community
- Criticism of creationism
- Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences
- Frequently Encountered Criticisms in Evolution vs. Creationism
- Creationism versus Science
- Some creationist hypotheses
- Answers in Genesis, one of the largest Creationist organizations.
- Loopholes in the evolutionary theory of the origin of life: Summary, an article on abiogenesis by Answers in Genesis' Dr. Jonathan Sarfati
- A Bahai perspective on the development of theories of origins
- The True.Origin Archive
- A Critique of Douglas Theobald's "29 Evidences for Macroevolution" by Ashby Camp (see link to Theobald's essay above)
- Institute for Creation Research
- Creation Insights
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