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Creation–evolution controversy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A satirical cartoon from 1882, parodying Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, on the publication of The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms (1881)
A satirical cartoon from 1882, parodying Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, on the publication of The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms (1881)

The creation–evolution controversy (also termed the creation vs. evolution debate or the origins debate) involves an ongoing, recurring cultural, political, and theological dispute about the origins of the Earth, of humanity, and of other life. Species were once widely believed to be fixed products of divine creation in accordance with creationism, but since the mid-19th century evolution by natural selection has been established as an empirical scientific fact.

The debate is religious, not scientific: in the scientific community, evolution is accepted as fact[1] and efforts to sustain the traditional view are almost universally regarded as pseudoscience.[2][3][4][5] While the controversy has a long history,[6][7] today it has retreated to be mainly over what constitutes good science education,[8][9] with the politics of creationism primarily focusing on the teaching of creationism in public education.[10][11][12][13][14] Among majority-Christian countries, the debate is most prominent in the United States,[15] where it may be portrayed as part of a culture war.[16] Parallel controversies also exist in some other religious communities, such as the more fundamentalist branches of Judaism[17] and Islam.[18] In Europe and elsewhere, creationism is less widespread (notably, the Catholic Church and Anglican Communion both accept evolution), and there is much less pressure to teach it as fact.[19]

Christian fundamentalists repudiate the evidence of common descent of humans and other animals as demonstrated in modern paleontology, genetics, histology and cladistics and those other sub-disciplines which are based upon the conclusions of modern evolutionary biology, geology, cosmology, and other related fields. They argue for the Abrahamic accounts of creation, and, in order to attempt to gain a place alongside evolutionary biology in the science classroom, have developed a rhetorical framework of "creation science". In the landmark Kitzmiller v. Dover, the purported basis of scientific creationism was exposed as a wholly religious construct without formal scientific merit.

The Catholic Church now recognizes the existence of evolution (see Catholic Church and evolution). Pope Francis has stated: "God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life...Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve."[20][21][22] The rules of genetic evolutionary inheritance were first discovered by a Catholic priest, the Augustinian monk Gregor Mendel, who is known today as the founder of modern genetics.

According to a 2014 Gallup survey, "More than four in 10 Americans continue to believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago, a view that has changed little over the past three decades. Half of Americans believe humans evolved, with the majority of these saying God guided the evolutionary process. However, the percentage who say God was not involved is rising."[23] A 2015 Pew Research Center survey found "that while 37% of those older than 65 thought that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, only 21% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 agreed."[24]

The debate is sometimes portrayed as being between science and religion, and the United States National Academy of Sciences states:

Today, many religious denominations accept that biological evolution has produced the diversity of living things over billions of years of Earth's history. Many have issued statements observing that evolution and the tenets of their faiths are compatible. Scientists and theologians have written eloquently about their awe and wonder at the history of the universe and of life on this planet, explaining that they see no conflict between their faith in God and the evidence for evolution. Religious denominations that do not accept the occurrence of evolution tend to be those that believe in strictly literal interpretations of religious texts.

— National Academy of Sciences, Science, Evolution, and Creationism[25]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Evolution and Creationism as Science and Myth
  • ✪ Intelligent Design and Creationism/Evolution Controversy
  • ✪ The Great Debate: Creation, Evolution, or Both?
  • ✪ Creation & Evolution | Catholic Central
  • ✪ Does the Creation/Evolution debate really matter?


(upbeat music) - Good afternoon, I'm Vince Resh and I'm chair of the Hitchcock Lecture Series and I want to welcome you to the second of two lectures that are going to be presented by our guest this year and we're very delighted to have her here. Dr. Eugenie Scott is a renowned anthropologist and science educator. She was the executive director for the National Center for Science Education since 1986 and until her retirement in 2014 and as many of you know, the center is a nonprofit organization based in Oakland whose stated mission is to defend the integrity of science education against ideological interference. And for those you that were lucky enough to hear the lecture yesterday, she talked very, very brilliantly about two topics which are always supposed to keep out of our conversations, how science and religion, sorry, politics and religion can influence science. And just a brilliant lecture. She received her BS and MS degrees from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee at a pHD in biological anthropology from the University of Missouri. She's taught at the University of Kentucky, University of Colorado, San Jose State and California State East Bay. Now, the National Center for Science Education, Dr. Scott's work centered on attempts to teach evolution as simply one of a series of hypotheses about human origins. Such as efforts to teach creation science, and intelligent design in American public schools. In 2005, Dr. Scott and her staff worked on the side of the plaintiffs in the well known Kitzmiller versus Dover Area School District case. And the court famously ruled that intelligent design was indeed a form of creationism and therefore it's teaching, violated the establishment clause of the first amendment of the US Constitution. Now, the Hitchcock Lecture Series is quite a well known series has gone on and there's a detailed history of it that I'd recommend that you look at. Likewise, there's a more detailed biography of Dr. Scott that you may want to read after the lecture is over. So I want to conclude with 2010, the National Academy of Science awarded Dr. Scott, the public welfare medal for extraordinary use of science for the public good. Her second lecture which will be given now is entitled Evolution and Creationism as Science and Myth. I also to thank Dr Bill Lineker who as he's done many times, explained the meaning of that second graph up there, which is one of Darwin's first attempts at drawing an evolutionary tree or what we now call today a phylogeny. So I wish you'd all join me in welcoming Dr. Eugenie Scott for her second lecture and certainly, we're very lucky to have her here. (applause) - Thank you. Thank you Vincent. It really is such a high honor to be invited to be a Hitchcock Lecture. When I got the letter, I was just blown away. My predecessors in this position have been such extraordinary scholars and internationally known brilliant minds. So because this is such a very high honor and because it's four o'clock in the afternoon, I'm going to read you a bedtime story. (laughs) Please do not fall asleep because I have a purpose in mind for this. Once upon a time, there was a steam engine. It was pulling a train full of toys and food for the good little girls and boys on the other side of the mountain. Then suddenly, the train stopped. Her wheels just wouldn't turn anymore. So the clown and the toys started looking for another engine to take them over the mountain. They asked a big passenger train, "Please, would you take us over the mountain "for the good little girls and boys?" "No," said the passenger train. "I am much too grand for the likes of you." Then they saw a powerful freight train. "Would you please pull us over the mountain "for the good little boys and girls?" "No," said the freight train. "I am much too powerful and important "to pull the likes of you." Then they saw a little old train and asked if it would pull them over the mountains. "No," said the little little train. "I am too old and tired to go over the mountain. "I cannot help you." The toys didn't know what to do. Then the little blue engine came up to them and asked, "What is the matter my friends?" "Oh, little blue engine, "would you please pull us over the mountain? "The good little girls and boys "won't have any toys to play with "or good food to eat if you don't. "Please help us." The little blue engine explained that she had never been over the mountain and usually, she was just asked to switch trains in the yard. "I'm not very big, but I will try "to take you over the mountain." So she hitched herself to the train. It was a very steep mountain but the little blue engine kept saying to herself, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. And slowly and with great effort, they started up the track and at last, they reached the top of the mountain. The little train did it. Down to the children in the valley, they went. Now the good little girls and boys would have toys and good food to eat. The little blue train saying to herself, I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could. And if you think the little engine that could is about talking steam engines, you're missing the point. The little engine that could is about the importance of perseverance, having confidence, being willing to give it your all. It's an American inculturation myth. It's a classic American myth. If the Hopis or the Iropish were writing a story for children about getting a train over a mountain, all the toys would get out of the train and collectively and cooperatively push the train over the mountains. This is an American enculturation myth. In the beginning, God created heaven and earth and the earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. And God saw the light that it was good. And God divided the light from the darkness, called the light day and the darkness he called night and the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, "Let there be a firmament "in the midst of the waters "and let it divide the waters from the waters," And God made the firmament and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament and it was so. And God called the firmament heaven and the evening and the morning where the second day. And God said, "Let the waters under the heaven "be gathered together into one place "and let the dry land appear," and it was so. And God called the dry land earth and the gathering together of the waters, he called seas and God saw that it was good and God said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, "the herb yielding seed and the fruit tree "yielding fruit after its kind," and it was so. And the evening and the morning were the third day. Well, I suspect you have a pretty good idea how this ends. Most Americans are quite familiar with the Genesis creation story. Day four, God creates the sun, the moon and the stars. Day five He creates sea creatures and birds. Day six he creates people and mammals. And all of creation is good. Things go okay for a while, but then Adam and Eve are tempted by the serpent and disobey God and they are driven from the garden of Eden. Now the Genesis story is no more about talking snakes than the Little Engine that could is about talking steam engines. Both are examples of what folklorists called myth and myths are really important. One dictionary definition of myth is falsehood, but it's not important whether myths are factual. In fact, most of the time they aren't which doesn't lessen their importance. Let me surprise you, as a scientist and a humanist, I will say that to a people, myths are more important than facts. And now I better explain what it mean by myth. The study of mythology crosses many borders. Folklore and literature certainly, but also sociology and anthropology. And popular speech again, the synonym of myth is falsehood. To a folklorist though, myths are the symbolic representation of important cultural values to a people. They are especially important in non literate cultures where cultural values have to be transmitted orally, but they also occur in modern industrial countries. They have many purposes. They might explain the origin of the people or establish rights to land or to objects or rituals for tribe or kin groups. Myths may be incorporated into rituals that remind people of the relationships of their group to other groups or relationships within the society. They may also be art forms. Beowulf, the Odyssey, the Norse editors. These are all art forms, but highly mythic. They represent values which are important to the people who have developed them. And they are a way of promoting the continuity of a culture. And of course, myths diffuse from group to group. They're taken apart, they're rearranged, they're synchrotized with a cultural elements just like every other aspect of culture. But the big takeaway here is that myths are not false. They are representative and they tell important truths about a people. Myths are not supposed to be taken literally. You're not supposed to believe that Ragged Dick was a real person. Ragged Dick is a character in a popular series of books written by the late 19th century author Horatio Alger. Who's heard of Horatio Alger stories? Practically every hand went up. Well, Ragged Dick and his fellow heroes were plucky poor boys who through their strong character and basic decency, managed to pull themselves up from poor levels of society to the middle class. The Horatio Alger myth symbolizes a very classic American secular myth, Rags to Riches. Anybody can succeed, anybody can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and this is a very, very powerful American myth. And there are individuals who succeed against very remarkably difficult odds. People like Ben Carson or people like George Soros. Actually the statistics will show that a movement in the United States from class to class, social mobility is actually less than it is in much of Europe, but it is nonetheless, an American myth that we can do that. Periodically over the years, the Horatio Alger myth influences American social welfare policy where poor and working class individuals are expected to bootstrap themselves up with minimal help from society and government. But no one thinks that Ragged Dick is a real person. Ragged Dick is symbolic. The power of myth is its symbolism. It's not true in the literal sense but it's true in the meaning that it conveys. The little engine that could and Horatio Alger stories are mythic narratives that illustrate American secular values, the value of individuality, hard work, perseverance and confidence on the one hand and the importance of individual character for success on the other. They're not factual, but they are true in that they reflect American values. Now, myths are not ordinary narratives. They themselves are ritualized. There's a number of language conventions associated with myths. There's often an introduction that tells you, oh, I'm in the land of myth now. I'm not supposed to believe that there's actually fairy godmothers. Once upon a time, in the beginning, long, long ago in a galaxy far away. (laughs) Myths usually have repetitive elements. The toys asked three engines and it's the fourth engine that manages to solve the problem. In the other children's book, The Little Red Hen, the hen asks the other animals, who will help me plant the wheat? Not I, said the pig, not I, said the cow, not I, said the dog. This repetition is something that's very common. And the morning and the evening were the first day and the morning and the evening were the second day. So there are linguistic conventions that signal that you are in the world of myth. Another characteristic of myth that sets it apart from other narrative is that it often deals with supernatural elements. Characters or circumstances that would not be typically encountered. Gods or demons or talking steam engines. Or as with the Horatio Alger myth, rich beneficiaries who appear (mumbles) To solve the problems for you. Until I was preparing this talk, I never actually looked at the Horatio Alger books. They're awful. (laughs) I can kind of see why nobody really reads them anymore but everybody knows the Horatio Alger myth because the mythical continues even without the representation in this series of books. But what usually happens in the Horatio Alger books is you have this plucky poor boy who's working very, very hard, but he's just a decent, honest, wonderful person and this rich man comes along and gives him a job and then he succeeds. Or the rich man comes along and marries Ragged Dick to his daughter or something. Yeah, like that's gonna happen real often, but so there are supernatural things that happen in myths. So since the topic of tonight is actually the Creationism and Evolution Issue, how does myth relate to creation and evolution? Well, Bible scholars have ascertained that the old testament was written over a period of centuries by many individuals and was influenced by many factors. The two major religions. There are two major religions that consider it sacred. Jews look at Genesis as establishing the descendants of Abraham as the chosen people and focus on the promise of restoration of the Jewish people to the promised land. Christians have a different focus, which I'll discuss in more detail later on in the talk. But what did Genesis signify to the ancient Hebrews rather than to modern Christians and Jews? Several Christian and Jewish theologians have considered what the Genesis creation story would have meant to the people who set it down 2,500 to 3000 years ago. Now, think about this. Who were the ancient Hebrews? They were a pretty small tribe in the middle of a very busy part of the world. After all, the geographically the Middle East is this crossroads of three continents. So there are a lot of other tribal groups around and the Hebrews were this little monotheistic dot in the middle of all these polytheistic religions. The Syrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Egyptians, and worst of all, all of these other, larger, more powerful entities periodically conquered the poor Hebrews. So you can imagine the pressure on the Hebrews to maintain their monotheism in the middle of all of this pressure from especially conquering nations to adopt their religion, to adopt their habits and so forth. Maintaining monotheism and avoiding syncretism was the issue for the Hebrews. And it's all over the Old Testaments. Moses's commandments begin, thou shalt have no other gods before thee. Well, this isn't a big issue in the 20th and 21st century. It wasn't even a big issue in the eighth century, but it was a real big issue for the ancient Hebrews. In the King James version, it's followed by, thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. Although we're not really big into graven images these days either, but historically from the standpoint of the ancient Hebrews, these were things that the neighbors of the Hebrews were doing, the whole business about the golden calf when the tablets were being brought down and so forth. Keeping their identity as the chosen people, as the Hebrews as opposed to adopting all of these cultural practices of their neighbors. This was the big issue for the Hebrews. Now, how do people do this? How do you keep your identity? Well, one way is through myth. One way is through having stories, having rituals, stories that are embedded into rituals that you can pass on to next generations that you can use to remind the people in your group, in your tribe that this is who we are and this is why we are important. How does the creation story in Genesis tell us what was important to the ancient Hebrews? The late Presbyterian theologian Conrad Hyres has I think, a very interesting perspective on what Genesis might have meant to the ancient Hebrews and he views it as a powerful myth in this symbolic sense that I've been talking about myth. To remind the Jews that they were people who were indeed different from their neighbors and better than their neighbors because their God was the superior God and they were this powerful God's chosen people. The ancient Hebrews distinguish themselves from the neighbors and kept their identity by stressing in Genesis the power of their God over other gods. So on day one, God creates light and separates light from darkness. Thus are the gods of light and darkness vanquished. On day two, God creates the heavens and the earth. Thus vanquishing sky gods and earth gods. On day three, God creates the oceans, lands and vegetation, thus making sea and vegetation divinities redundant. Day four, God creates the sun, moons and stars, therefore establishing his superiority over the deities associated with those heavenly bodies, which were of course widely worshiped by the people surrounding the Hebrews. Days five and six, he takes away the divinity of the animal kingdom, and by creating people specialty, he takes away the divine origin of kings and Pharaohs. Ramesses, you're not the son of Rah, God created you. So our God can whoop your God is kind of what this is all about. The sixth day creation story establishes Yahweh as the one true divinity, superior to all of the other gods. The rest of Genesis, which is largely the Abraham story, establishes the special relationship between the descendants of Abraham, the Jews and this very powerful omnipotent God. So the six-day Hebrew creation story also symbolizes the nature of God. The Hebrew God was ever present, unlike the Sumerians or Mesopotamian gods, Yahweh didn't originate from the actions of some other god or preexisting force. We're familiar with the Greeks whose gods had a lineage. Aronows begot Cronos, Cronos begot Zeus, Zeus begot Athena and all the rest of them. But the Hebrew God just is. He's been there since eternity. He doesn't have a genealogy. He doesn't even have a biography. He just is. He's this very powerful, omnipotent individual. He wills the universe into being unlike the Mesopotamian or Sumerian gods that require preexisting materials to be formed into the universe, God can just say poof, do it. God is moral. God knows good and evil. The neighboring gods, if you really take a look at the Greek gods, which is what we're most familiar with probably in our culture, we don't pay a whole lot of attention to Sumerian gods anymore, but we just study Greek mythology. The Greek gods really seemed to govern in a universe without purpose or meaning. But God is moral, he knows good and evil. The universe does have purpose and meaning to the Hebrews. God is not part of nature, but stands outside of it as its creator which again contest very strongly with the more animistic aspects of the neighboring polytheists. Genesis thus best reflects the Hebrew view of nature and of God, but it also represents a different view of humankind and that held by their neighbors. God specially creates Adam and Eve, male and female. He created them in his image. (mumbles) So people are special. They are moral beings like their creator. They have a purpose like their creator. They're not just random things at the whim of idiosyncratic gods and of course this is all tied in with the idea of the Jews being the chosen people. To the ancient Hebrews, then Genesis is about polytheism versus monotheism and religious syncretism versus cultural independence. Genesis is a powerful myth symbolizing issues of life and death, importance to the ancient Hebrews. It is this mythic symbolism for modern Christians and Jews. I'm sorry. Genesis has mythic symbolism for modern Christians and Jews for different reasons, which I will talk about a little bit later. It's not about talking snakes. It's not about... It's not meant to be taken literally. It's myth with all the power and truth to a people's culture that myth represents. Genesis certainly isn't about science and whether humans shared common ancestry with other organisms. But what about myth and science or myth and evolution? You often hear Phillip Johnson from Boalt Hall once said that evolution is the new myth of America. The new mythology or the myth of evolution has replaced the myth of Genesis or sciences is the modern mythology, etc. Well, what about sciences myth or evolution as myth. In the sense that I've been using myth obviously as a symbolic representation of the values of a people. Now, as I did with myth, I need to define science. So you at least know what I mean when I'm talking about science today. You may be surprised to hear a scientist say that science is limited way of knowing. It is limited in that we're only trying to explain the natural world. We're not trying to explain everything that human beings are interested in. I cannot prove to you scientifically that Mozart is better than Madonna or that the Beatles are better than Bieber. Those are not scientists... Questions of aesthetics are certainly not scientific issues and there are many other issues that need to be resolved, matters of opinion, dealing with values and ideologies. They're not going to be resolved by science either. Whether Mr. Kavanaugh should be confirmed as a supreme court justice isn't a matter of science. We could use logical arguments, we could talk about musical complexity when talking about the Beatles or talking about Bieber but that's not the same thing as science. We could look at Mr. Kavanauh's judicial record on some issue or another but that's not... The fact that you are using empirical evidence and logic doesn't mean you're using science because empirical evidence and logic is part of critical thinking in general. I like to think of science as the application of critical thinking, if you will, to explaining the natural world. So science is limited to explaining the natural world and there's a second limitation and that is that we're restricted to explaining the natural world through natural processes and unlike what many people think, this limitation of science to only using natural processes isn't because all scientists are atheists because they aren't. It's because the essence of science is testing our explanations against the natural worlds. And when you think about it, how do you test an explanation? Notice science communication fans. I don't use the word experiment because when people hear the word experiment, they think of somebody in a laboratory doing this and they don't think of these graduate students in IB out in the field who may also be doing experiments. So I talk about tests because there are a lot of different ways we can test our explanations. So the essence of testing an explanation has to do with holding constant some variables and then letting other variables go so you can see whether your explanation holds. Because science is about testing because testing is about holding constant variables, we're stuck with natural causes because those are the only kinds we can hold constant. My good friend Bill Thwait once suggested if we can only invent a theometer, then we can perhaps test supernatural explanations but we don't have a theometer so we're stuck with natural causes because those are the kinds that we can hold constant. So science turns out to be a method or procedure that one follows to find out how the natural world works. To operate as myth, science has to reflect important values or ideologies of a people. So does it? Well if you're a scientist, and there are some of us in the audience, you know that there are values within science. There are values you're supposed to reflect if you do science. You don't ignore the data that disagrees with your explanation. You have to be truthful in reporting your procedures and results so you have to be willing to change your mind with new data or theory and so on. But that isn't especially specific to science. I would expect the same kinds of values from an accountant, frankly. Those are values within science. They're not values that science can symbolize. There is another reason why I don't think science makes good myth and that is that science doesn't reflect any particular culture. When you think about it, science, this methodology, this practice of explaining the natural world through testing occurs in cultures and people all over the planet from individualistic cultures like the United States to more communitarian cultures like China or India, but they all do science the same way. Science doesn't reflect the culture. Well, okay. The science studies people will say, yes it does but remember, I'm speaking at a very general level here. In general, there are certain rules you have to follow. If you don't test your explanation, you're not going to get it published in Science Magazine and PNS and the other outlets. Your colleagues in science aren't going to trust your results if you don't follow the rules of collecting data, being honest about it, being open about it, etc, etc. Science has values itself but science is a very international kind of behavior, if you will. So it really doesn't reflect the values of a culture or there's no such thing as the values of all culture. So because science is a method, I don't think it makes very good myth. There is another reason why science doesn't make good myth and that is because science is, it's an open ended kind of explanation. There's a core group of scientific concepts that we've tested and tested and tested and tested and they're really not going to change. That the earth goes around the sun. Heliocentrism is here to stay. We're not really going to test that anymore. The earth is spherical regardless of what the flat earthers are saying these days. Living things have common ancestors, laws of thermodynamics. There are things that we don't change our minds about but there's a lot of things that we're still trying to figure out and it's perfectly acceptable within science to change our minds about our explanations. That's a feature, not a bug. A good friend of mine Met Kurtmel was once asked, why did you become a scientist? And he wrote, "As an adolescent, I aspired to lasting fame. "I craved factual certainty "and I thirsted for a meaningful vision of human life, "so I became a scientist." This is like becoming an archbishop so you can meet girls. So science is continually changing though again, that doesn't mean that it's unreliable because there are these core concepts of science that really don't change, but the open-endedness, the changeability of science, although it is very valuable for understanding the natural world, makes science very poor myth. Ashley Montagu once described science as truth without certainty, which I like that phrase a lot. The values and truths of a culture's myth, needs stability and continuity. Science doesn't give you that. So science really doesn't make good myth. So I would conclude that science is very good for explaining the natural world, but it's lousy myth. However powerful and inspiring science can be, it can't in itself produced culturally sustaining myths. Well, what about evolution? Is it mythical? Can evolution symbolize a worldview or values important to us? Let's take a look at evolution. Evolution is a three part idea. There's the big idea of evolution, which is that living things have common ancestors. We and all other living things on the planet have descended with modification from common ancestors. There's also the patterns of evolution. How did the tree of life split and branch and die through time? There's also the mechanisms or processes of evolution. The factors that bring about evolution and of course these are things like natural selection, nonselective methods, development and so forth and so on, speciation and the like. Now, evolution consists of the big idea, the pattern and the process. Let's take a look at each of these components in turn and consider how they work as myth or whether they could function as myth. Well, when we look at patterns of evolution, I think we see very little mythic inspiration. Whether pandas are bears or raccoons or whether the thanksgiving Turkey is descended from a dinosaur isn't going to be much use in symbolizing cultural values. So certainly the patterns of evolution isn't going to work. The mechanisms or processes of evolution, I think we have a little more possibility for myth here especially the concept of natural selection. There's a rather long history of ideology seizing on natural selection to support their views. Capitalists like Andrew Carnegie promoted evolution by natural selection to promote capitalism. Henry Russell Wallace was a socialist. He supported his views with natural selection. Peter Kropotkin argued for anarchy using evolution and natural selection and Vernon Kellogg argued for pacifism. Now think about that. Capitalism, socialism, anarchy and pacifism. These all are inspired by natural selection. It's kind of like the blind man and the elephant. They're sort of taking what they want to support their particular point of view. I think the ideology comes first and these men and others following them, are taking a powerful scientific idea and using it to support their particular ideological views. But I don't think there's anything inherent in natural selection that would lead you to either capitalism, socialism, pacifism or anarchy. So I would argue that despite efforts, natural selection, other mechanisms of evolution don't really work as myth either. Well, what about the big idea of common ancestry? Okay, here's where we get some mythic purchase. The idea that we and all living things have common ancestors is a very powerful scientific idea and it's also a very powerful philosophical idea. It also happens to be scientifically correct because given all the evidence that we have, I'd contend that the most powerful element in evolution as mythic is its ability to provide us a sense of place in the universe, a view of where we as human beings and individuals stand relative to everything else. On the other hand, myths are often reflective of moral values and ethical values in the society and common ancestry just like all the rest of science isn't very good as a moral guide. Science tells you that coyotes kill rats and house cats. It doesn't tell you whether that is good or bad. As Thomas Henry Huxley said, science tells you what is not what should be. If you believe that because something is natural, it is therefore good, you need to think that through a little further. Hueman said it even before Huxley. Ought does not follow from is. There are both theistic as well as nontheistic uses of evolution as myth. Let's look at some of the theistic versions. First beginning with the creationists. Now creationists follow a more conservative form of Christianity than do Catholics or mainstream protestants. Modern conservative Christians, don't look at Genesis like the ancient Hebrews did. To them, Genesis isn't about maintaining monotheism and identifying the Jews as the chosen people. Christianity in general is more concerned with the new testament and creationists look at the old testament as foreshadowing the appearance of Christ. To conservative Christians, God creates a perfect world and perfect humans in the garden of Eden. People are special to God and are required to worship and obey him. The disobedience of Adam and Eve for eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil causes them to be sent out from the garden to make their own way, and that brings pain and suffering and death into the world, which of course were not present in the garden of Eden. The separation from God is felt to be the greatest punishment and it is only reversed according to conservative Christians, by the sacrifice of Jesus who dies to atone for the sin of Adam. In fact, Paul in the new testament refers to Jesus as the new Adam and the second Adam. To conservative Christians, the old testament is firmly connected to the new and events of the old testament are necessary for the coming of Jesus and of course with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, salvation is restored. So to Christians, Genesis is really important and it is mythic in a very different way than it was to the ancient Hebrews. As religiously conservative Christians creationists believed that the bible is not only true, but it is a unified whole. In this cartoon from answers in Genesis, the reader says, "The six day creation issue in Genesis "isn't important to scripture. "I'll just take the six days out." And finds that the whole bible unravels as a result. So anything that challenges Genesis, challenges the entire bible. Genesis to revelations is all one piece and evolution is incompatible with the literal reading of Genesis. That's just full stop. If an individual interprets the bible as six 24 hour days of creation, a short period of time ago, that cannot be accommodated with any science really, but certainly not with evolution, but that is not the mainstream Christian theology. So if evolution is true, believe conservative Christians, then Genesis and the entire bible have to be false. That means there's no God, and if there's no God, there is no salvation. There's a direct line from the creation to the sin of Adam to the death of Jesus on the cross, to the possibility of redemption and salvation and revelations. A child who accepts evolution is endangering his very soul. They will not be saved. So it's not difficult to see why parents object so strongly to evolution being taught in schools. In addition to the loss of salvation though, they believe that without religion to guide us, we will not behave morally with terrible consequences for society. Without God, there's no morality, they believe so people will not know how to act. The caption says, if this is what Johnny can read and write, then this news shows that Johnny really understands his lessons. Without the bible and God as moral rudder, they believe we will have no guidance. This is one of my favorite graphics from the creationist literature. It is from an old conference of younger creationists held in the 1990s and you can see here very dreadful things on the branches of this tree of evil. Racism, humanism, paganism, nazi-ism, abortion, euthanasia, drug culture, radical feminist movement. Terrible things. And evolution is the foundation for all of these terrible societal ills. And here's the creation science message that's going to get rid of evolution and therefore society will be restored to a more edenic, a more proper form. Henry Morris is the most important creationist of the 20th century, more so than William Jennings Bryan ever dreamed of becoming. And he has written, "Evolution is at the foundation of communism, "fascism, freudianism, social darwinism, "behaviorism, kinsism, materialism, atheism and in the religious word, modernism and neo orthodoxy. Now, nobody laughed. I once many years ago gave a talk at Lexington Theological Institute. Lexington Theological Seminary, which is a protestant seminary in Lexington, Kentucky and I showed this over the top graphic and I read that quote by Henry Morris and I got to the part about modernism and neo orthodoxy and they were on the floor. They thought that was the funniest thing they'd ever heard. I mean that has never been before or since a laugh line, but it was to these seminarians. They thought that that was the funniest thing that they heard in a long time. Now, modernism and neo orthodoxy refers to two schools of Christian theology, which religiously conservative Christians reject. Modernism arose out of 19th century biblical criticism where the bible was viewed as a text like any other. The bible had a history, it consisted of a series of manuscripts which were written by different people at different time. It was cobbled together, there were contradictions. There were conferences where they decided which books to leave in, which ones to leave out and once you understand that the bible has a history, it wasn't just dictated by the Almighty to ascribe, that makes you look at at your holy text quite differently. And of course this is true of seminary trained religious professionals in Christianity. The bible is a human document with a history and errors. You treat it differently than if you believe that every word was dictated by God. Now, like all academic disciplines, Christian theology has a very large number of intellectual movements of which modernism in the orthodoxy are only two. Very many postmodernists theological movements incorporate evolution and other sciences into their theology. Process theology is a view held by the catholic theologian, John Haught. Those of you who are Kitzmiller versus Dover fans might recognize a Jack Haught as the theologian that we brought in as a witness for the good guy side, if I may say so. He was incredibly articulate. He was very impressive and the judge mentioned, how enlightening he felt that John Haught's testimony was. A very famous geneticist named Theodocius Dbjohnski, a Russian man who came to the United States many, many years ago a wrote an article, the title of which has become an aphorism in biology. He said, nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. Well, Jack Haught has written that nothing in theology makes sense except in the light of evolution. Regarding creation and process theology, God did not create in six days and rest on the seventh rather than creatio ex nihalo rather than creation from nothing, they believe in creatio continuo, continuous creation. God continues to create through the process of evolution. So the world and the universe is expected to change rather than to remain static after six days. Process theology is quite accepting of evolution and here is where the mythic potential is well expressed among theorists. Lutheran, theologian, Philip Hefner, who is just as jolly as he looks in that picture. He's a delightful man also looks at human beings as having been created by God in the sense of having emerged through the process of evolution but that creation continues through the process of evolution. When Phillip talks about Imago Dei the image of God, he's expressing the idea that as God is creative, so are human beings. We creative creatures are made in the image of a creative God. So humans, thus are co-creators with God, which gives us considerable opportunity and consequent responsibility to affect both ourselves as well as the other organisms with which we share this planet. Ted Peters, who is a Lutheran theologian at the Lutheran School of Religion here in Berkeley and Martinez Hewlett share some of these views, especially that creation continues. It didn't stop after six days. They also contend that much as evolutionary biology has both adaptive evolution through natural selection as well as neutral evolution through genetic drift that God can create both through design as well as through chance, and they don't believe that God is controlling every single little random element in the universe. That God allows the universe to evolve along a path. At the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences around the corner from here, Robert John Russell also has written extensively of the role of chance in evolution and how it's compatible with this view of God. Now, these theologians take a very different view on subjects like sociobiology or stem cell or genetic modification research as God's created co-creators. We have the ability to affect evolution, hence, these theologians spend a lot of time talking about the moral and ethical issues regarding science and human responsibility. But they totally accept the science. There is no rejection of evolution of the science. A couple of interesting people are Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow who are the evangelists for evolution and that they are ministers. They deliberately take the sweep of the epic of evolution and turn it to theological purposes. Their position is that our common ancestry with all other human beings makes us indeed our brother's keepers and that we should be doing our utmost to make the lives of our fellow human beings healthier, more educated and more comfortable. Social justice issues also come into play. We need to live in a more just and peaceful world. The common ancestry of humans with all other creatures makes us kin to our fellow living organisms and gives us a responsibility to them and the planet on which we all depend. Evolution places humans in nature in a very different way than does the interpretation of Genesis called dominion theology. If you remember in genesis, God gives Adam and Eve, mostly Adam dominion over the animals but he also tells them to steward the garden and some Christians emphasize the stewardship theology, some emphasize the dominion theology. And theists are not alone in finding that evolution has a great deal to say about their faith tradition. There is a huge amount of Christian theology around evolution, compatible with their view of God and God's action in the world. Now, non theists, people who do not believe in God, materialists of various kinds have also used evolution from mythic representation at least as much if not more than have Christian theologians. Religious naturalism is one manifestation of how evolution is used to provide a sense of purpose and meaning and place in nature, but within a scientific rather than a theistic context. Religious naturalists often will embrace other human enterprises in addition to science such as literature, art or music in a quest for meaning and worldview. Biologists Ursula Goodenough's, Sacred Depths of Nature is an example of this and looks at the history of the universe chapter by chapter. She starts with the big bang and works all the way through formation of the planet, evolution of living things on earth and human evolution. And then in a separate section of the book, she talks about her personal interpretations in a spiritual sense of what this sweep of the epic of evolution means to her in terms of her view of her place in nature. As Darwin himself said, there is grand jury in this view of life which the religious naturalists embrace. Now, most religious naturalists are naturalists in the sense that they are not theists. They don't include the concept of the supernatural, although there are some theists within the movement. But the theists who are embracing religious naturalism tend to be from the deistic end of the spectrum. Their god is not god that interacts and intervenes very much in the world. Religious naturalists seemed to share certain values inspired by the epic of evolution. The common origins of all living things suggest that there is a unity to all of life. Religious naturalists rarely, I haven't seen one, embrace the idea of human exceptionalism. Humans are rather embedded within this matrix of other living creatures that are this product of evolution just as are we. Obviously there is a strong ecological component to most religious naturalism and of course, it grows out of this idea of common ancestry with all other things. Similarly, since all humans are closely related to one another and descended from common ancestors, relatively recently, we have a responsibility to our fellow human beings to indeed be our brother's keeper. For religious naturalists, I think the strongest expression of myth is to be provided again, providing a sense of place in the universe. Because of the epic of evolution, they believe you are a human being who is part of a web of connectedness with every other living thing and are composed of the same stardust that makes up the cosmos. Evolution does this for nonbelievers substituting for religiously based myths. The biologist E.O. Wilson has said the evolutionary epic is probably the best myth we will ever have and he's not using myth as a synonym for falsehood. So what does this have to do with the creation and evolution conflicts? That was a lot of stuff about myths, science and religion. So let's get back to what I promised you I would talk about eventually. First of all, there remains a lot of opposition to evolution by our fellow citizens. The science and engineering indicators is a national research council document that's put out every two years and they survey adult Americans and their views of a number of things including questions about evolution. They tested a revised version of the evolution question in 2012. First asking the traditional question, human beings as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals and they got the traditional response about 48%. Then in the same with another part of the sample, they inserted according to evolution human beings as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals, 72%. So this suggests that people know what evolution is but they're not buying it. The National Center for Science Education tracks anti-science legislation, anti evolution, anti climate change, legislation, science standard controversies every year. 2018 wasn't a real banner year. It's only a handful of bills and controversies. 2017 was a banner year, a whole lot longer list. Fortunately, only two of these past, although that's two, too many. Problems surrounding the teaching of evolution is a separate topic that I don't have time to go into it today, but suffice to say that NCSE continues to have its hands full coping with these challenges. If you ask creationists why they reject evolution, they'll give you one or more of three reasons. We call them the pillars of creationism. They don't believe it's supported by science, they don't believe that evolution is compatible with their religious views and it's only fair to teach evolution and creationism because so many people don't want evolution taught. A variant of the fairness argument is that it's good pedagogy. Give the students creation and evolution and let them decide. And this is a critical thinking argument. That's not a good argument. If we were going to try to persuade the creationists that their children should learn evolution in school, how would you go about it? Well, it's true that the science of creation science is really wrong. I mean I love talking about creation science because it is so broke and the science is just so zany. They believe that Grand Canyon, all 4,000 layers of sediment in Grand Canyon, sandstones, siltstone, limestone, mudstone, all kinds of different layers, 4,000 feet of layers, thousands of different beds that all of that was laid down by the receding waters of Noah's flood. And then this huge ditch of what, about 200 miles was cut catastrophically by a huge body of water that rushed through and miraculously cut all this wet sediment and left it standing as opposed to just sort of slumping over, which is what you'd expect wet stuff to do anyway. Anyway, the science is nuts. I mean there is no known geology that would fit this model of Grand Canyon and that would be true of their astronomy and everything else. NCSE has got lots of resources as to why creation science is bad. But you know, arguing factual information is not actually going to persuade a creationist that their science is bad because that's not the most important issue. There is considerable literature studying decision making that contends that factual information, while not irrelevant, is not primary and persuading people to change their minds. And I talked about this in more detail yesterday. If you were here yesterday, thank you. I'm not going to repeat it, but in general, for our purposes, lots of these concepts from the psychology of belief literature explaining why factual knowledge is rejected, they all deal with looking at factual knowledge through an ideological values or a group identification filter. And the filter comes first and usually, that keeps the correct information, shall we say, from being accepted. Values, ideology and identification are precisely the elements of myth. Myth is powerful and creationism is mythic in exactly this fashion. It reinforces the values, ideology and identification of conservative Christians. It's not a surprise then that creationists are resistant to accepting evolution. If evolution is true, they lose big. Obviously they're not going to just suddenly decide. Still, evolution needs to be taught so that students are scientifically literate. How can we make this happen? I see a short term solution and a longterm solution. The longterm solution relies on evolution, if you will, that like the rest of Christianity, conservative Christians will gradually moderate their views regarding evolution. The National Center for Science Education Voices for Evolution book lists statements from religious organizations and other institutions that encourage the teaching of evolution in schools. These are catholic and mainstream protestants and Jewish groups. Theistic evolution, the theological position that evolution occurred, it was part of God's plan, etc is the majority view in Christianity today. It's the theologically conservative denominations that have problems with evolution. Most Baptists, Pentecostalists, Holiness groups, Charismatics, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's witnesses, and the like. But this is not a solid block. There are evangelical Christians who have worked diligently to see that evolution gets taught in their local communities and some national evangelical organizations that are very friendly to evolution. Biologos is an online evangelical Christian organization and they discuss a variety of views of evolution, believing that it can be harmonized with their version of Christianity. They talk about the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God's creation. Another evangelical Christian organization is the American Scientific Affiliation which similarly supports the teaching of evolution in schools. The longterm solution to the anti evolution problem in the United States is for these organizations and others and individually evangelical Christians to influence their fellow conservative Christians and persuade them that one can be a faithful evangelical and still accept evolution. The way that Biologos or the ASA would phrase it, is that they take the bible seriously, but not literally. The short term situation. The short term solution is to call a truce. The big fear of conservative Christians is that when their children are taught evolution, they're taught therefore there is no God. A number of years ago, a friend of mine who was teaching biological anthropology at a community college in the southeast, we were talking on the phone and she said that she had these kids in her class. Young adults, these students that are undergraduates in her class had never learned evolution at all. Full stop. Their are teachers they'd just skip those chapters. These kids were tabula rasa. The only thing they knew about evolution was what they learned on the street, so to speak. This is college, this is physical anthropology, right? So day one you get evolution and so she just taught her class matter of factly, like she taught anyplace else and after a couple of weeks, a couple of these kids came to talk to her after class and they said, well, of course species change through time. You mean that's evolution? We thought evolution meant you can't believe in God. I have lots and lots of stories like that from high school as well as university teachers. So I would like to assuage the concerns of parents that when their kid walks into, especially a high school classroom, there is not a teacher there saying, okay, take your religion and shove it. This just doesn't happen. Survey research has shown that K-12 teachers show the same range of religious adherence as other Americans. In other words, they're highly religious about 80 plus percent of them believe in God, most of them are Christian. It's highly unlikely that high school teachers are telling kids that they have to choose between their faith and science. That just is something that they shouldn't worry about. The truce is that students, even those whose parents don't accept evolution, need to understand evolution in order to be scientifically literate and if we can assuage the concerns of conservative Christian parents that indeed, no one is telling their children that they have to give up their faith to study science, we may be able to teach evolution with reduced opposition. We teach good science at the college and high school level and we leave the door open to a believing student for that student to engage with that science however that student wishes. I was talking with a high school teacher today who was a graduate student here and he was mentioning, we were talking about how do you deal with the students who come into your class and the fingers are wedged tightly in the ear because they're afraid that they're going to have to believe in evolution when they hear you talk. And his solution was one that I've heard from many, many teachers and I think it's very effective. His solution was to say, okay, I just want you to learn it. You can accept it or reject it, that's your call but you need to learn it and you need to pass the test. And those weren't his words, but you basically can hear the fingers fly out of the ears with a loud popping noise because the students all of a sudden go, I don't have to believe. An interesting thing happens. The students find out that evolution doesn't actually hurt them. Of course, species change through time. They find that evolution doesn't mean you can't believe in God. Evolution means that living things have common ancestors. And look, we can show you the genetic and other evolutionary processes which bring this change about which is a very different view than they came in. But they can't listen to the science as long as they've got the fingers stuck firmly in the ears. Getting the fingers out of the ears is a major need. So we on the teaching side of things, whether college or K-12, teach good science, leave the door open to students of faith to continue believing if they choose. It's not the job of the K-12 or the college professor to change the religious views of students. That said, I've been in the creation and evolution business for long enough to know that there are no quick fixes. We are in this for the long haul. The longterm change is going to take a while and so will the short term change. And because there aren't any quick fixes, the National Center for Science Education is in it for the long haul too. Please do go to the website You're going to find a lot more information on the creation and evolution controversy as well as the parallel one over teaching climate change and you'll find some very good suggestions for what you can do about it, including joining the National Center for Science Education, which I hope you will do. Again, children's stories not withstanding, I was very highly honored this year to be a Hitchcock lecturer and I thank you very much for coming to hear me on this really quite lovely day. Thank you. (applause) - Unless you've been a biology teacher, subject to the pressures of parents and administrators, you could not truly appreciate what Eugenie Scott's NCSE has done for high school, public school science education. She deserves every accolade that she's received. (applause) - If I may, there is no way that I as one individual have been able to accomplish all the wonderful things NCSE has and there actually are some NCSE staff and former staff in this room as we speak and if you wouldn't mind raising your hand to identify yourself. And that means you Eric. Thank you NCSE staff. (applause) Garrett David, Susan Glen. - My special concern are the creationists who are professionals, particularly those in engineering and the medical professions. When they put forth in their communities against the teaching of evolution, they are respected simply because they're members of a respected profession. Unfortunately, those I have talked to and listened to, do not understand science. Many people think that engineering schools and medical schools teach science. That's becoming true, but traditionally that has not been true and they don't understand science and when you try to talk to them, even your approach, they don't give you enough respect to listen to you. So they become an impediment. A major impediment to the kind of reasoning that has worked on most lay people. What can we do about this impediment? - I always think of American Society as basically being divided into three parts, like goal I guess. There are people like me who are very convinced by the science of evolution and it takes a whole lot to shake that. I mean, we're pretty convinced. Probably most of the people in this room are in that category. There are those, like you were describing who are very committed anti-evolutionists for mostly well religious reasons of various kinds, but most Americans are in the middle. They don't think about science or religion very much but they don't belong to denominations that require them interpret the bible literally. That is really the target population. That is really the group I think that it is most useful to spend your time talking to because they are more open to understanding the science and understanding how science works and by the way, I agree with you. I concur with you completely on the difference between applied scientists like engineers and physicians versus research scientists. The concept of how science works is really quite different in both of those groups but let's keep that group from sliding down into the anti evolution side and help them understand what a really wonderful, life enriching phenomenon science is and evolution within sciences is a really fascinating field and communicating some of that excitement I think can help keep that middle group from absorbing some of the erroneous information that is being produced by this group down here. Yes sir. - I want to thank you, thank you, thank you for this very important presentation. One of the things that I'm not sure people are aware of is that right here in Berkeley and you mentioned the Ted Peters and others that we have in Berkeley, probably the largest group of theology schools in the country and we need to make these connections between the schools of theology and the universities. And so people who might be interested... So Ted Peters who you mentioned is going to be the main organizer of this coming summer's institute on religion in the nature of science meeting. It's gonna be him with some of the new genetics things that Ted Peters is gonna do. So that's IRIS, the Institute on Religion. Anybody who's interested in that can talk to me and the other one you mentioned Ursula Goodenough, is the main creator of a new organization. This is an online organization with lots of talk. Ursula's the creator of Religious Naturalism Association. So if anybody wants to join that email group, you can see me afterwards and I can add you to the list. So thank you, thank you. - Thank you for that information. Yes sir. - I'm Lawrence. I was expecting to speak a little more about the climate change issue and not totally about evolution, but that's fine. - I did more of that yesterday. - Yes. Well I'm thinking that there's a group for disrupting the whole concept of time which is shared by both the religionists and the scientists here, which is that causalities moves forward, things in the past cause things in the future. Once you get down into deep science, you can see that causality could go both ways and there's the deep question of consciousness and that once one gets into these deep philosophical scientific issues, it's going to provide a disruption completely to the common concept of time here. See some major changes in all this thing, but I really enjoy your covering it at this level of shared concept of time. - Thank you. Yes ma'am. - Thank you so much. It was really inspiring. My question is more how can we get scientists to do more to engage this middle group that you were talking about? I was on Sunday at an open house or whatever you want to call it, off the IGI, the Innovative Genomics Institute here in Berkeley and it was fascinating, absolutely fascinating how they did this in a way that engaged families even with small children, to show them how they could extract DNA from strawberries, for example, how they could build DNA with using little marshmallows and licorice strings and so on and toothpicks. And I thought, what a great approach. You know, they had planned for two lab tours. They had to organize nine within those two and a half hours or three hours that they were open. So what could the NCSE do to get more direct connection between these outstanding scientists and the public so that there isn't this barrier, this fear? Thank you. - Thank you. Yes I love the idea of scientists reaching out to the public and I think it's something that's increased. In the last 10 years has seen a huge change in precisely that The AAAS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science. They publish Science Magazine. The largest professional scientist organization in the world, probably 20,000 plus members. AAAS every year at its annual meeting has workshops and sessions for helping scientists communicate their ideas better with the public. They're really encouraging this kind of outreach and I'd love to see it expand. I will remind everybody that I'm retired. I no longer... I can promote NCSE certainly, but I am not a decision maker there. So I can't speak for what they might do to encourage scientists to do more. My feeling is that NCSE has always been the mouse that roared. It's a very tiny organization that has a hugely disproportionate effect, mostly because we work with lots of allies and get them to do all the work but we're very important. But it's also a pretty tiny organization with a pretty tiny budget and it's limited with how much it can do. For them to try to develop a scientist network to do the kind of very worthwhile thing you're suggesting would I think require new staff, new budgeting and something that probably is not actually on their to do list. But I can't speak for them. Retired but not expired, right? Thank you so much for coming to hear me. I appreciate it. (applause) (upbeat music)



The creation–evolution controversy began in Europe and North America in the late 18th century, when new interpretations of geological evidence led to various theories of an ancient Earth, and findings of extinctions demonstrated in the fossil geological sequence prompted early ideas of evolution, notably Lamarckism. In England these ideas of continuing change were at first seen as a threat to the existing "fixed" social order, and both church and state sought to repress them.[26] Conditions gradually eased, and in 1844 Robert Chambers's controversial Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation popularized the idea of gradual transmutation of species. The scientific establishment at first dismissed it scornfully and the Church of England reacted with fury, but many Unitarians, Quakers and Baptists—groups opposed to the privileges of the established church—favoured its ideas of God acting through such natural laws.[27][28]

Contemporary reaction to Darwin

A satirical image of Darwin as an ape from 1871 reflects part of the social controversy over the fact that humans and apes share a common lineage.
A satirical image of Darwin as an ape from 1871 reflects part of the social controversy over the fact that humans and apes share a common lineage.
Asa Gray around the time he published Darwiniana.
Asa Gray around the time he published Darwiniana.

By the end of the 19th century, there was no serious scientific opposition to the basic evolutionary tenets of descent with modification and the common ancestry of all forms of life.

— Thomas Dixon, Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction[29]

The publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species in 1859 brought scientific credibility to evolution, and made it a respectable field of study.[30]

Despite the intense interest in the religious implications of Darwin's book, theological controversy over higher criticism set out in Essays and Reviews (1860) largely diverted the Church of England's attention. Some of the liberal Christian authors of that work expressed support for Darwin, as did many Nonconformists. The Reverend Charles Kingsley, for instance, openly supported the idea of God working through evolution.[31] Other Christians opposed the idea, and even some of Darwin's close friends and supporters—including Charles Lyell and Asa Gray—initially expressed reservations about some of his ideas.[32] Gray later became a staunch supporter of Darwin in America, and collected together a number of his own writings to produce an influential book, Darwiniana (1876). These essays argued for a conciliation between Darwinian evolution and the tenets of theism, at a time when many on both sides perceived the two as mutually exclusive.[33] Gray said that investigation of physical causes was not opposed to the theological view and the study of the harmonies between mind and Nature, and thought it "most presumable that an intellectual conception realized in Nature would be realized through natural agencies."[34] Thomas Huxley, who strongly promoted Darwin's ideas while campaigning to end the dominance of science by the clergy, coined the term agnostic to describe his position that God's existence is unknowable. Darwin also took this position,[32] but prominent atheists including Edward Aveling and Ludwig Büchner also took up evolution and it was criticized, in the words of one reviewer, as "tantamount to atheism."[35][36][37][38] Following the lead of figures such as St. George Jackson Mivart and John Augustine Zahm, Roman Catholics in the United States became accepting of evolution itself while ambivalent towards natural selection and stressing humanity's divinely imbued soul.[39] The Catholic Church never condemned evolution, and initially the more conservative-leaning Catholic leadership in Rome held back, but gradually adopted a similar position.[39][40]

During the late 19th century evolutionary ideas were most strongly disputed by the premillennialists, who held to a prophecy of the imminent return of Christ based on a form of Biblical literalism, and were convinced that the Bible would be invalidated if any error in the Scriptures was conceded. However, hardly any of the critics of evolution at that time were as concerned about geology, freely granting scientists any time they needed before the Edenic creation to account for scientific observations, such as fossils and geological findings.[41] In the immediate post-Darwinian era, few scientists or clerics rejected the antiquity of the earth or the progressive nature of the fossil record.[42] Likewise, few attached geological significance to the Biblical flood, unlike subsequent creationists.[42] Evolutionary skeptics, creationist leaders and skeptical scientists were usually either willing to adopt a figurative reading of the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, or allowed that the six days of creation were not necessarily 24-hour days.[43]

Science professors at liberal northeastern universities almost immediately embraced the theory of evolution and introduced it to their students. However, some people in parts of the south and west of the United States, which had been influenced by the preachings of Christian fundamentalist evangelicals, rejected the theory as immoral.[44]

In the United Kingdom, Evangelical creationists were in a tiny minority. The Victoria Institute was formed in 1865 in response to Essays and Reviews and Darwin's On the Origin of Species. It was not officially opposed to evolution theory, but its main founder James Reddie objected to Darwin's work as "inharmonious" and "utterly incredible", and Philip Henry Gosse, author of Omphalos, was a vice-president. The institute's membership increased to 1897, then declined sharply. In the 1920s George McCready Price attended and made several presentations of his creationist views, which found little support among the members. In 1927 John Ambrose Fleming was made president; while he insisted on creation of the soul, his acceptance of divinely guided development and of Pre-Adamite humanity meant he was thought of as a theistic evolutionist.[45]

Creationism in theology

At the beginning of the 19th century debate had started to develop over applying historical methods to Biblical criticism, suggesting a less literal account of the Bible. Simultaneously, the developing science of geology indicated the Earth was ancient, and religious thinkers sought to accommodate this by day-age creationism or gap creationism. Neptunianist catastrophism, which had in the 17th and 18th centuries proposed that a universal flood could explain all geological features, gave way to ideas of geological gradualism (introduced in 1795 by James Hutton) based upon the erosion and depositional cycle over millions of years, which gave a better explanation of the sedimentary column. Biology and the discovery of extinction (first described in the 1750s and put on a firm footing by Georges Cuvier in 1796) challenged ideas of a fixed immutable Aristotelian "great chain of being." Natural theology had earlier expected that scientific findings based on empirical evidence would help religious understanding. Emerging differences led some[according to whom?] to increasingly regard science and theology as concerned with different, non-competitive domains.

When most scientists came to accept evolution (by around 1875), European theologians generally came to accept evolution as an instrument of God. For instance, Pope Leo XIII (in office 1878–1903) referred to longstanding Christian thought that scriptural interpretations could be reevaluated in the light of new knowledge,[citation needed] and Roman Catholics came around to acceptance of human evolution subject to direct creation of the soul. In the United States the development of the racist Social Darwinian eugenics movement by certain[which?] circles led a number of Catholics to reject evolution.[32] In this enterprise they received little aid from conservative Christians in Great Britain and Europe. In Britain this has been attributed to their minority status leading to a more tolerant, less militant theological tradition.[46] This continues to the present. In his speech at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 2014, Pope Francis declared that he accepted the Big Bang theory and the theory of evolution and that God was not "a magician with a magic wand".[47]

Development of creationism in the United States

A Fundamentalist cartoon portraying Modernism as the descent from Christianity to atheism, first published in 1922.
A Fundamentalist cartoon portraying Modernism as the descent from Christianity to atheism, first published in 1922.

At first in the U.S., evangelical Christians paid little attention to the developments in geology and biology, being more concerned with the rise of European higher Biblical criticism which questioned the belief in the Bible as literal truth. Those criticizing these approaches took the name "fundamentalist"—originally coined by its supporters to describe a specific package of theological beliefs that developed into a movement within the Protestant community of the United States in the early part of the 20th century, and which had its roots in the Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy of the 1920s and 1930s.[48] The term in a religious context generally indicates unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs.[49][need quotation to verify]

Up until the early mid-20th century[when?], mainline Christian denominations within the United States showed little official resistance to evolution. Around the start of the 20th century some evangelical scholars had ideas accommodating evolution, such as B. B. Warfield who saw it as a natural law expressing God's will. By then most U.S. high-school and college biology classes taught scientific evolution, but several factors, including the rise of Christian fundamentalism and social factors of changes and insecurity in more traditionalist Bible Belt communities, led to a backlash. The numbers of children receiving secondary education increased rapidly, and parents who had fundamentalist tendencies or who opposed social ideas of what was called "survival of the fittest" had real concerns about what their children were learning about evolution.[32]

British creationism

The main British creationist movement in this period[which?], the Evolution Protest Movement (EPM), formed in the 1930s[46] out of the Victoria Institute, or Philosophical Society of Great Britain (founded in 1865 in response to the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species in 1859 and of Essays and Reviews in 1860). The Victoria Institute had the stated objective of defending "the great truths revealed in Holy Scripture ... against the opposition of Science falsely so called".[citation needed] Although it did not officially oppose evolution, it attracted a number of scientists skeptical of Darwinism, including John William Dawson and Arnold Guyot.[50] It reached a high point of 1,246 members in 1897, but quickly plummeted to less than one third of that figure in the first two decades of the twentieth century.[50] Although it opposed evolution at first, the institute joined the theistic evolution camp by the 1920s, which led to the development of the Evolution Protest Movement in reaction. Amateur ornithologist Douglas Dewar, the main driving-force within the EPM, published a booklet entitled Man: A Special Creation (1936) and engaged in public speaking and debates with supporters of evolution. In the late 1930s he resisted American creationists' call for acceptance of flood geology, which later led to conflict within the organization. Despite trying to win the public endorsement of C. S. Lewis (1898–1963), the most prominent Christian apologist of his day,[citation needed] by the mid-1950s the EPM came under control of schoolmaster/pastor Albert G. Tilney, whose dogmatic and authoritarian style ran the organization "as a one-man band", rejecting flood geology, unwaveringly promoting gap creationism, and reducing the membership to lethargic inactivity.[51] It was renamed the Creation Science Movement (CSM) in 1980, under the chairmanship of David Rosevear, who holds a Ph.D. in organometallic chemistry from the University of Bristol. By the mid-1980s the CSM had formally incorporated flood geology into its "Deed of Trust" (which all officers had to sign) and condemned gap creationism and day-age creationism as unscriptural.

United States legal challenges and their consequences

In 1925 Tennessee passed a statute, the Butler Act, which prohibited the teaching of the theory of evolution in all schools in the state. Later that year Mississippi passed a similar law, as did Arkansas in 1927. In 1968 the Supreme Court of the United States struck down these "anti-monkey" laws as unconstitutional, "because they established a religious doctrine violating both the First and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution."[52]

In more recent times religious fundamentalists who accept creationism have struggled to get their rejection of evolution accepted as legitimate science within education institutions in the U.S. A series of important court cases has resulted.

Butler Act and the Scopes monkey trial (1925)

Anti-Evolution League at the Scopes Trial
Anti-Evolution League at the Scopes Trial

After 1918, in the aftermath of World War I, the Fundamentalist–Modernist controversy had brought a surge of opposition to the idea of evolution, and following the campaigning of William Jennings Bryan several states introduced legislation prohibiting the teaching of evolution. By 1925, such legislation was being considered in 15 states, and had passed in some states, such as Tennessee.[53] The American Civil Liberties Union offered to defend anyone who wanted to bring a test case against one of these laws. John T. Scopes accepted, and confessed to teaching his Tennessee class evolution in defiance of the Butler Act, using the textbook by George William Hunter: A Civic Biology: Presented in Problems (1914). The trial, widely publicized by H. L. Mencken among others, is commonly referred to as the Scopes Monkey Trial. The court convicted Scopes, but the widespread publicity galvanized proponents of evolution. Following an appeal of the case to the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Court overturned the decision on a technicality (the judge had assessed the minimum $100 fine instead of allowing the jury to assess the fine).[54]

Although it overturned the conviction, the Court decided that the Butler Act was not in violation of the Religious Preference provisions of the Tennessee Constitution (Section 3 of Article 1), which stated "that no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship".[55] The Court, applying that state constitutional language, held:

We are not able to see how the prohibition of teaching the theory that man has descended from a lower order of animals gives preference to any religious establishment or mode of worship. So far as we know, there is no religious establishment or organized body that has in its creed or confession of faith any article denying or affirming such a theory.... Protestants, Catholics, and Jews are divided among themselves in their beliefs, and that there is no unanimity among the members of any religious establishment as to this subject. Belief or unbelief in the theory of evolution is no more a characteristic of any religious establishment or mode of worship than is belief or unbelief in the wisdom of the prohibition laws. It would appear that members of the same churches quite generally disagree as to these things.

... Furthermore, [the Butler Act] requires the teaching of nothing. It only forbids the teaching of evolution of man from a lower order of animals.... As the law thus stands, while the theory of evolution of man may not be taught in the schools of the State, nothing contrary to that theory [such as Creationism] is required to be taught.

... It is not necessary now to determine the exact scope of the Religious Preference clause of the Constitution ... Section 3 of Article 1 is binding alike on the Legislature and the school authorities. So far we are clear that the Legislature has not crossed these constitutional limitations.

— Scopes v. State, 289 S.W. 363, 367 (Tenn. 1927).[56]

The interpretation of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution up to that time held that the government could not establish a particular religion as the State religion. The Tennessee Supreme Court's decision held in effect that the Butler Act was constitutional under the state Constitution's Religious Preference Clause, because the Act did not establish one religion as the "State religion".[57] As a result of the holding, the teaching of evolution remained illegal in Tennessee, and continued campaigning succeeded in removing evolution from school textbooks throughout the United States.[58][59][60][61]

Epperson v. Arkansas (1968)

In 1968 the United States Supreme Court invalidated a forty-year-old Arkansas statute that prohibited the teaching of evolution in the public schools. A Little Rock, Arkansas, high-school-biology teacher, Susan Epperson, filed suit, charging that the law violated the federal constitutional prohibition against establishment of religion as set forth in the Establishment Clause. The Little Rock Ministerial Association supported Epperson's challenge, declaring, "to use the Bible to support an irrational and an archaic concept of static and undeveloping creation is not only to misunderstand the meaning of the Book of Genesis, but to do God and religion a disservice by making both enemies of scientific advancement and academic freedom".[62] The Court held that the United States Constitution prohibits a state from requiring, in the words of the majority opinion, "that teaching and learning must be tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogma".[63] But the Supreme Court decision also suggested that creationism could be taught in addition to evolution.[64]

Daniel v. Waters (1975)

Daniel v. Waters was a 1975 legal case in which the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck down Tennessee's law regarding the teaching of "equal time" of evolution and creationism in public-school science classes because it violated the Establishment Clause. Following this ruling, creationism was stripped of overt biblical references and rebranded "Creation Science", and several states passed legislative acts requiring that this be given equal time with the teaching of evolution.

Creation science

Detail of Noah's Ark, oil painting by Edvard Hicks (1846)
Detail of Noah's Ark, oil painting by Edvard Hicks (1846)

As biologists grew more and more confident in evolution as the central defining principle of biology,[65][66] American membership in churches favoring increasingly literal interpretations of scripture also rose, with the Southern Baptist Convention and Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod outpacing all other denominations.[67] With growth and increased finances, these churches became better equipped to promulgate a creationist message, with their own colleges, schools, publishing houses, and broadcast media.[68]

In 1961 Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing released the first major modern creationist book: John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris' influential The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications. The authors argued that creation was literally 6 days long, that humans lived concurrently with dinosaurs, and that God created each "kind" of life individually.[69][70] On the strength of this, Morris became a popular speaker, spreading anti-evolutionary ideas at fundamentalist churches, colleges, and conferences.[69] Morris' Creation Science Research Center (CSRC) rushed publication of biology textbooks that promoted creationism.[71] Ultimately, the CSRC broke up over a divide between sensationalism and a more intellectual approach, and Morris founded the Institute for Creation Research, which was promised[by whom?] to be controlled and operated by scientists.[72] During this time, Morris and others who supported flood geology adopted the terms "scientific creationism" and "creation science".[73] The "flood geology" theory effectively co-opted "the generic creationist label for their hyperliteralist views."[74][75]

Court cases

McLean v. Arkansas

In 1982, another case in Arkansas ruled that the Arkansas "Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act" (Act 590) was unconstitutional because it violated the Establishment Clause. Much of the transcript of the case was lost,[by whom?] including evidence from Francisco Ayala.

Edwards v. Aguillard

In the early 1980s, the Louisiana legislature passed a law titled the "Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act". The act did not require teaching either evolution or creationism as such, but did require that when evolutionary science was taught, creation science had to be taught as well. Creationists had lobbied aggressively for the law, arguing that the act was about academic freedom for teachers, an argument adopted by the state in support of the act. Lower courts ruled that the State's actual purpose was to promote the religious doctrine of creation science, but the State appealed to the Supreme Court.

In the similar case of McLean v. Arkansas (see above) the federal trial court had also decided against creationism. Mclean v. Arkansas was not appealed to the federal Circuit Court of Appeals, creationists instead thinking that they had better chances with Edwards v. Aguillard. In 1987 the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Louisiana act was also unconstitutional, because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion. At the same time, it stated its opinion that "teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to school children might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction", leaving open the door for a handful of proponents of creation science to evolve their arguments into the iteration of creationism that later came to be known as intelligent design.[76]

Intelligent design

The Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture used banners based on The Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel. Later it used a less religious image, then was renamed the Center for Science and Culture.[77]
The Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture used banners based on The Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel. Later it used a less religious image, then was renamed the Center for Science and Culture.[77]

In response to Edwards v. Aguillard, the neo-creationist intelligent design movement was formed around the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. It makes the claim that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."[78] It has been viewed as a "scientific" approach to creationism by creationists, but is widely rejected as pseudoscience by the science community—primarily because intelligent design cannot be tested and rejected like scientific hypotheses (see for example, List of scientific bodies explicitly rejecting intelligent design).

Kansas evolution hearings

In the push by intelligent design advocates to introduce intelligent design in public school science classrooms, the hub of the intelligent design movement, the Discovery Institute, arranged to conduct hearings to review the evidence for evolution in the light of its Critical Analysis of Evolution lesson plans. The Kansas evolution hearings were a series of hearings held in Topeka, Kansas, May 5 to May 12, 2005. The Kansas State Board of Education eventually adopted the institute's Critical Analysis of Evolution lesson plans over objections of the State Board Science Hearing Committee, and electioneering on behalf of conservative Republican Party candidates for the Board.[79] On August 1, 2006, four of the six conservative Republicans who approved the Critical Analysis of Evolution classroom standards lost their seats in a primary election. The moderate Republican and Democrats gaining seats vowed to overturn the 2005 school science standards and adopt those recommended by a State Board Science Hearing Committee that were rejected by the previous board,[80] and on February 13, 2007, the Board voted 6 to 4 to reject the amended science standards enacted in 2005. The definition of science was once again limited to "the search for natural explanations for what is observed in the universe."[81]

Dover trial

Following the Edwards v. Aguillard decision by the United States Supreme Court, in which the Court held that a Louisiana law requiring that creation science be taught in public schools whenever evolution was taught was unconstitutional, because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion, creationists renewed their efforts to introduce creationism into public school science classes. This effort resulted in intelligent design, which sought to avoid legal prohibitions by leaving the source of creation to an unnamed and undefined intelligent designer, as opposed to God.[82] This ultimately resulted in the "Dover Trial," Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, which went to trial on 26 September 2005 and was decided on 20 December 2005 in favor of the plaintiffs, who charged that a mandate that intelligent design be taught in public school science classrooms was an unconstitutional establishment of religion. The Kitzmiller v. Dover decision held that intelligent design was not a subject of legitimate scientific research, and that it "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and hence religious, antecedents."[83]

The December 2005 ruling in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial[84] supported the viewpoint of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and other science and education professional organizations who say that proponents of Teach the Controversy seek to undermine the teaching of evolution[3][85] while promoting intelligent design,[86][87] and to advance an education policy for U.S. public schools that introduces creationist explanations for the origin of life to public-school science curricula.[84][88]

Texas Board of Education support for intelligent design

On March 27, 2009, the Texas Board of Education, by a vote of 13 to 2, voted that at least in Texas, textbooks must teach intelligent design alongside evolution, and question the validity of the fossil record. Don McLeroy, a dentist and chair of the board, said, "I think the new standards are wonderful ... dogmatism about evolution [has sapped] America's scientific soul." According to Science magazine, "Because Texas is the second-largest textbook market in the United States, publishers have a strong incentive to be certified by the board as 'conforming 100% to the state's standards'."[89] The 2009 Texas Board of Education hearings were chronicled in the 2012 documentary The Revisionaries.

Recent developments

The scientific consensus on the origins and evolution of life continues to be challenged by creationist organizations and religious groups who desire to uphold some form of creationism (usually Young Earth creationism, creation science, Old Earth creationism or intelligent design) as an alternative. Most of these groups are literalist Christians who believe the biblical account is inerrant, and more than one sees the debate as part of the Christian mandate to evangelize.[90][91] Some groups see science and religion as being diametrically opposed views that cannot be reconciled. More accommodating viewpoints, held by many mainstream churches and many scientists, consider science and religion to be separate categories of thought (non-overlapping magisteria), which ask fundamentally different questions about reality and posit different avenues for investigating it.[92]

Studies on the religious beliefs of scientists does support the evidence of a rift between traditional literal fundamentalist religion and experimental science. Three studies of scientific attitudes since 1904 have shown that over 80% of scientists do not believe in a traditional god or the traditional belief in immortality, with disbelief stronger amongst biological scientists than physical scientists. Amongst those not registering such attitudes a high percentage indicated a preference for adhering to a belief concerning mystery than any dogmatic or faith based view.[93] But only 10% of scientists stated that they saw a fundamental clash between science and religion. This study of trends over time suggests that the "culture wars" between creationism against evolution, are held more strongly by religious literalists than by scientists themselves and are likely to continue, fostering anti-scientific or pseudoscientific attitudes amongst fundamentalist believers.[94]

More recently, the intelligent design movement has attempted an anti-evolution position that avoids any direct appeal to religion. Scientists argue that intelligent design is pseudoscience and does not represent any research program within the mainstream scientific community, and is still essentially creationism.[5][95][citation not found] Its leading proponent, the Discovery Institute, made widely publicized claims that it was a new science, although the only paper arguing for it published in a scientific journal was accepted in questionable circumstances and quickly disavowed in the Sternberg peer review controversy, with the Biological Society of Washington stating that it did not meet the journal's scientific standards, was a "significant departure" from the journal's normal subject area and was published at the former editor's sole discretion, "contrary to typical editorial practices."[96] On August 1, 2005, U.S. president George W. Bush commented endorsing the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution "I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught ... so people can understand what the debate is about."[8][97]


In the controversy a number of divergent opinions can be recognized, regarding both the acceptance of scientific theories and religious practice.

Young Earth creationism

Young Earth creationism is the religious belief that the Earth was created by God within the last 10,000 years, literally as described in Genesis, within the approximate timeframe of biblical genealogies (detailed for example in the Ussher chronology). Young Earth creationists often believe that the Universe has a similar age to the Earth's. Creationist cosmologies are attempts by some creationist thinkers to give the universe an age consistent with the Ussher chronology and other Young-Earth timeframes.[98]

This belief generally has a basis in biblical literalism and completely rejects science; "creation science" is pseudoscience that attempts to prove that Young Earth creationism is consistent with science.[99][100][101][102][103]

Old Earth creationism

Old Earth creationism holds that the physical universe was created by God, but that the creation event of Genesis within 6 days is not to be taken strictly literally. This group generally accepts the age of the Universe and the age of the Earth as described by astronomers and geologists, but that details of the evolutionary theory are questionable. Old Earth creationists interpret the Genesis creation narrative in a number of ways, each differing from the six, consecutive, 24-hour day creation of the Young Earth creationist view.


Neo-creationists intentionally distance themselves from other forms of creationism, preferring to be known as wholly separate from creationism as a philosophy. They wish 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 (e.g. on the interpretation of the Bible). Neo-creationism currently exists in the form of the intelligent design movement, which has a 'big tent' strategy making it inclusive of many Young Earth creationists (such as Paul Nelson and Percival Davis).

Theistic evolution

Theistic evolution is the general view that, instead of faith being in opposition to biological evolution, some or all classical religious teachings about God and creation are compatible with some or all of modern scientific theory, including, specifically, evolution. It generally views evolution as a tool used by a creator god, who is both the first cause and immanent sustainer/upholder of the universe; it is therefore well accepted by people of strong theistic (as opposed to deistic) convictions. Theistic evolution can synthesize with the day-age interpretation of the Genesis creation myth; most adherents consider that the first chapters of Genesis should not be interpreted as a "literal" description, but rather as a literary framework or allegory. This position generally accepts the viewpoint of methodological naturalism, a long-standing convention of the scientific method in science.

Evolution has long been accepted by many mainline/liberal denominations, yet is increasingly finding acceptance among evangelical Christians, who strive to keep traditional Christian theology intact.[104]

Theistic evolutionists have frequently been prominent in opposing creationism (including intelligent design). Notable examples have been biologist Kenneth R. Miller and theologian John F. Haught, who testified for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. Another example is the Clergy Letter Project, an organization that has created and maintains a statement signed by American Christian clergy of different denominations rejecting creationism, with specific reference to points raised by intelligent design proponents. Theistic evolutionists have also been active in Citizens Alliances for Science that oppose the introduction of creationism into public school science classes (one example being evangelical Christian geologist Keith B. Miller, who is a prominent board member of Kansas Citizens for Science).

Agnostic evolution

Agnostic evolution is the position of acceptance of biological evolution, combined with the belief that it is not important whether God is, was, or will have been involved.[105]

Materialistic evolution

Materialistic evolution is the acceptance of biological evolution, combined with the position that if the supernatural exists, it has little to no influence on the material world (a position common to philosophical naturalists, humanists and atheists).[106] It is a view championed by the New Atheists, who argue strongly that the creationist viewpoint is not only dangerous, but is completely rejected by science.

Arguments relating to the definition and limits of science

Critiques such as those based on the distinction between theory and fact are often leveled against unifying concepts within scientific disciplines. Principles such as uniformitarianism, Occam's razor or parsimony, and the Copernican principle are claimed to be the result of a bias within science toward philosophical naturalism, which is equated by many creationists with atheism.[107] In countering this claim, philosophers of science use the term methodological naturalism to refer to the long-standing convention in science of the scientific method. The methodological assumption is that observable events in nature are explained only by natural causes, without assuming the existence or non-existence of the supernatural, and therefore supernatural explanations for such events are outside the realm of science.[108] Creationists claim that supernatural explanations should not be excluded and that scientific work is paradigmatically close-minded.[109]

Because modern science tries to rely on the minimization of a priori assumptions, error, and subjectivity, as well as on avoidance of Baconian idols, it remains neutral on subjective subjects such as religion or morality.[110] Mainstream proponents accuse the creationists of conflating the two in a form of pseudoscience.[111]

Theory vs. fact

The argument that evolution is a theory, not a fact, has often been made against the exclusive teaching of evolution.[112] The argument is related to a common misconception about the technical meaning of "theory" that is used by scientists. In common usage, "theory" often refers to conjectures, hypotheses, and unproven assumptions. In science, "theory" usually means "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses."[113] For comparison, the National Academy of Sciences defines a fact as "an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as 'true'." It notes, however, that "truth in science ... is never final, and what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow."[113]

Exploring this issue, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote:

Evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from ape-like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered.

— Stephen Jay Gould, Evolution as Fact and Theory[114]


Karl Popper in the 1980s.
Karl Popper in the 1980s.

Philosopher of science Karl R. Popper set out the concept of falsifiability as a way to distinguish science and pseudoscience:[115][116] testable theories are scientific, but those that are untestable are not.[117] In Unended Quest, Popper declared "I have come to the conclusion that Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory but a metaphysical research programme, a possible framework for testable scientific theories," while pointing out it had "scientific character."[118]

In what one sociologist derisively called "Popper-chopping,"[119] opponents of evolution seized upon Popper's definition to claim evolution was not a science, and claimed creationism was an equally valid metaphysical research program.[120] For example, Duane Gish, a leading Creationist proponent, wrote in a letter to Discover magazine (July 1981): "Stephen Jay Gould states that creationists claim creation is a scientific theory. This is a false accusation. Creationists have repeatedly stated that neither creation nor evolution is a scientific theory (and each is equally religious)."[121]

Popper responded to news that his conclusions were being used by anti-evolutionary forces by affirming that evolutionary theories regarding the origins of life on earth were scientific because "their hypotheses can in many cases be tested."[122] Creationists claimed that a key evolutionary concept, that all life on Earth is descended from a single common ancestor, was not mentioned as testable by Popper, and claimed it never would be.[123]

In fact, Popper wrote admiringly of the value of Darwin's theory.[124] Only a few years later, Popper wrote, "I have in the past described the theory as 'almost tautological' ... I still believe that natural selection works in this way as a research programme. Nevertheless, I have changed my mind about the testability and logical status of the theory of natural selection; and I am glad to have an opportunity to make a recantation." His conclusion, later in the article is "The theory of natural selection may be so formulated that it is far from tautological. In this case it is not only testable, but it turns out to be not strictly universally true."[125]

Debate among some scientists and philosophers of science on the applicability of falsifiability in science continues.[126] Simple falsifiability tests for common descent have been offered by some scientists: for instance, biologist and prominent critic of creationism Richard Dawkins and J. B. S. Haldane both pointed out that if fossil rabbits were found in the Precambrian era, a time before most similarly complex lifeforms had evolved, "that would completely blow evolution out of the water."[127][128]

Falsifiability has caused problems for creationists: in his 1982 decision McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, Judge William R. Overton used falsifiability as one basis for his ruling against the teaching of creation science in the public schools, ultimately declaring it "simply not science."[129]

Conflation of science and religion

Creationists commonly argue against evolution on the grounds that "evolution is a religion; it is not a science,"[130] in order to undermine the higher ground biologists claim in debating creationists, and to reframe the debate from being between science (evolution) and religion (creationism) to being between two equally religious beliefs—or even to argue that evolution is religious while intelligent design is not.[131][132] Those that oppose evolution frequently refer to supporters of evolution as "evolutionists" or "Darwinists."[130]

This is generally argued by analogy, by arguing that evolution and religion have one or more things in common, and that therefore evolution is a religion. Examples of claims made in such arguments are statements that evolution is based on faith, that supporters of evolution revere Darwin as a prophet, and that supporters of evolution dogmatically reject alternative suggestions out-of-hand.[133][134] These claims have become more popular in recent years as the neocreationist movement has sought to distance itself from religion, thus giving it more reason to make use of a seemingly anti-religious analogy.[135]

In response, supporters of evolution have argued that no scientist's claims, including Darwin's, are treated as sacrosanct, as shown by the aspects of Darwin's theory that have been rejected or revised by scientists over the years, to form first neo-Darwinism and later the modern evolutionary synthesis.[136][137]

Appeal to consequences

A number of creationists have blurred the boundaries between their disputes over the truth of the underlying facts, and explanatory theories, of evolution, with their purported philosophical and moral consequences. This type of argument is known as an appeal to consequences, and is a logical fallacy. Examples of these arguments include those of prominent creationists such as Ken Ham[138] and Henry M. Morris.[139]

Disputes relating to science

Many creationists strongly oppose certain scientific theories in a number of ways, including opposition to specific applications of scientific processes, accusations of bias within the scientific community,[140] and claims that discussions within the scientific community reveal or imply a crisis. In response to perceived crises in modern science, creationists claim to have an alternative, typically based on faith, creation science, or intelligent design. The scientific community has responded by pointing out that their conversations are frequently misrepresented (e.g. by quote mining) in order to create the impression of a deeper controversy or crisis, and that the creationists' alternatives are generally pseudoscientific.


Disputes relating to evolutionary biology are central to the controversy between creationists and the scientific community. The aspects of evolutionary biology disputed include common descent (and particularly human evolution from common ancestors with other members of the great apes), macroevolution, and the existence of transitional fossils.

Common descent

[The] Discovery [Institute] presents common descent as controversial exclusively within the animal kingdom, as it focuses on embryology, anatomy, and the fossil record to raise questions about them. In the real world of science, common descent of animals is completely noncontroversial; any controversy resides in the microbial world. There, researchers argued over a variety of topics, starting with the very beginning, namely the relationship among the three main branches of life.

— John Timmer, Evolution: what's the real controversy?[141]

A group of organisms is said to have common descent if they have a common ancestor. A theory of universal common descent based on evolutionary principles was proposed by Charles Darwin and is now generally accepted by biologists. The most recent common ancestor of all living organisms is believed to have appeared about 3.9 billion years ago. With a few exceptions (e.g. Michael Behe) the vast majority of creationists reject this theory in favor of the belief that a common design suggests a common designer (God), for all thirty million species.[142][143][144] Other creationists allow evolution of species, but say that it was specific "kinds" or baramin that were created. Thus all bear species may have developed from a common ancestor that was separately created.

Evidence of common descent includes evidence from genetics, fossil records, comparative anatomy, geographical distribution of species, comparative physiology and comparative biochemistry.

Human evolution
Overview of speciation and hybridization within the genus Homo over the last two million years.
Overview of speciation and hybridization within the genus Homo over the last two million years.

Human evolution is the study of the biological evolution of humans as a distinct species from its common ancestors with other animals. Analysis of fossil evidence and genetic distance are two of the means by which scientists understand this evolutionary history.

Fossil evidence suggests that humans' earliest hominid ancestors may have split from other primates as early as the late Oligocene, circa 26 to 24 Ma, and that by the early Miocene, the adaptive radiation of many different hominoid forms was well underway.[145] Evidence from the molecular dating of genetic differences indicates that the gibbon lineage (family Hylobatidae) diverged between 18 and 12 Ma, and the orangutan lineage (subfamily Ponginae) diverged about 12 Ma. While there is no fossil evidence thus far clearly documenting the early ancestry of gibbons, fossil proto-orangutans may be represented by Sivapithecus from India and Griphopithecus from Turkey, dated to around 10 Ma. Molecular evidence further suggests that between 8 and 4 Ma, first the gorillas, and then the chimpanzee (genus Pan) split from the line leading to the humans.[146] We have no fossil record of this divergence, but distinctively hominid fossils have been found dating to 3.2 Ma (see Lucy) and possibly even earlier, at 6 or 7 Ma (see Toumaï).[147] Comparisons of DNA show that 99.4 percent of the coding regions are identical in chimpanzees and humans (95–96% overall[148][149]), which is taken as strong evidence of recent common ancestry.[150] Today, only one distinct human species survives, but many earlier species have been found in the fossil record, including Homo erectus, Homo habilis, and Homo neanderthalensis.

Creationists dispute there is evidence of shared ancestry in the fossil evidence, and argue either that these are misassigned ape fossils (e.g. that Java Man was a gibbon) or too similar to modern humans to designate them as distinct or transitional forms. Creationists frequently disagree where the dividing lines would be. Creation myths (such as the Book of Genesis) frequently posit a first man (Adam, in the case of Genesis) as an alternative viewpoint to the scientific account. All these claims and objections are subsequently refuted.[151][152][153]

Creationists also dispute science's interpretation of genetic evidence in the study of human evolution. They argue that it is a "dubious assumption" that genetic similarities between various animals imply a common ancestral relationship, and that scientists are coming to this interpretation only because they have preconceived notions that such shared relationships exist. Creationists also argue that genetic mutations are strong evidence against evolutionary theory because, they assert, the mutations required for major changes to occur would almost certainly be detrimental.[62] However, most mutations are neutral, and the minority of mutations which are beneficial or harmful are often situational; a mutation that is harmful in one environment may be helpful in another.[154]


A phylogenetic tree showing the three-domain system. Eukaryotes are colored red, archaea green, and bacteria blue.
A phylogenetic tree showing the three-domain system. Eukaryotes are colored red, archaea green, and bacteria blue.

In biology, macroevolution refers to evolution above the species level while microevolution refers to changes within species. However, there is no fundamental distinction between these processes; small changes compound over time and eventually lead to speciation.[155] Creationists argue that a finite number of discrete kinds were created, as described in the Book of Genesis, and these kinds determine the limits of variation.[156] Early Creationists equated kinds with species, but most now accept that speciation can occur: not only is the evidence overwhelming for speciation, but the millions of species now in existence could not have fit in Noah's Ark, as depicted in Genesis.[157] Created kinds identified by creationists are more generally on the level of the family (for example, Canidae), but the genus Homo is a separate kind. A Creationist systematics called Baraminology builds on the idea of created kind, calling it a baramin. While evolutionary systematics is used to explore relationships between organisms by descent, baraminology attempts to find discontinuities between groups of organisms. It employs many of the tools of evolutionary systematics, but Biblical criteria for taxonomy take precedence over all other criteria.[158] This undermines their claim to objectivity: they accept evidence for the common ancestry of cats or dogs but not analogous evidence for the common ancestry of apes and humans.[158]

Recent arguments against macroevolution (in the Creationist sense) include the intelligent design (ID) arguments of irreducible complexity and specified complexity. Neither argument has been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, and both arguments have been rejected by the scientific community as pseudoscience. When taken to court in an attempt to introduce ID into the classroom, the judge wrote "The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory."

Transitional fossils

It is commonly stated by critics of evolution that there are no known transitional fossils.[159][160] This position is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of what represents a transitional feature. A common creationist argument is that no fossils are found with partially functional features. It is plausible that a complex feature with one function can adapt a different function through evolution. The precursor to, for example, a wing, might originally have only been used for gliding, trapping flying prey, or mating display. Today, wings can still have all of these functions, but they are also used in active flight.

Reconstruction of Ambulocetus natans
Reconstruction of Ambulocetus natans

As another example, Alan Hayward stated in Creation and Evolution (1985) that "Darwinists rarely mention the whale because it presents them with one of their most insoluble problems. They believe that somehow a whale must have evolved from an ordinary land-dwelling animal, which took to the sea and lost its legs ... A land mammal that was in the process of becoming a whale would fall between two stools—it would not be fitted for life on land or at sea, and would have no hope for survival."[161] The evolution of whales has been documented in considerable detail, with Ambulocetus, described as looking like a three-metre long mammalian crocodile, as one of the transitional fossils.[162]

Although transitional fossils elucidate the evolutionary transition of one life-form to another, they only exemplify snapshots of this process. Due to the special circumstances required for preservation of living beings, only a very small percentage of all life-forms that ever have existed can be expected to be discovered. Thus, the transition itself can only be illustrated and corroborated by transitional fossils, but it will never be known in detail. Progressing research and discovery managed to fill in several gaps and continues to do so. Critics of evolution often cite this argument as being a convenient way to explain off the lack of 'snapshot' fossils that show crucial steps between species.

The theory of punctuated equilibrium developed by Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge is often mistakenly drawn into the discussion of transitional fossils. This theory pertains only to well-documented transitions within taxa or between closely related taxa over a geologically short period. These transitions, usually traceable in the same geological outcrop, often show small jumps in morphology between periods of morphological stability. To explain these jumps, Gould and Eldredge envisaged comparatively long periods of genetic stability separated by periods of rapid evolution. For example, the change from a creature the size of a mouse, to one the size of an elephant, could be accomplished over 60,000 years, with a rate of change too small to be noticed over any human lifetime. 60,000 years is too small a gap to be identified or identifiable in the fossil record.[163]

Experts in evolutionary theory have pointed out that even if it were possible for enough fossils to survive to show a close transitional change critics will never be satisfied, as the discovery of one "missing link" itself creates two more so-called "missing links" on either side of the discovery. Richard Dawkins says that the reason for this "losing battle" is that many of these critics are theists who "simply don't want to see the truth."


Many believers in Young Earth creationism – a position held by the majority of proponents of 'flood geology' – accept biblical chronogenealogies (such as the Ussher chronology, which in turn is based on the Masoretic version of the Genealogies of Genesis). They believe that God created the universe approximately 6,000 years ago, in the space of six days. Much of creation geology is devoted to debunking the dating methods used in anthropology, geology, and planetary science that give ages in conflict with the young Earth idea. In particular, creationists dispute the reliability of radiometric dating and isochron analysis, both of which are central to mainstream geological theories of the age of the Earth. They usually dispute these methods based on uncertainties concerning initial concentrations of individually considered species and the associated measurement uncertainties caused by diffusion of the parent and daughter isotopes. A full critique of the entire parameter-fitting analysis, which relies on dozens of radionuclei parent and daughter pairs, has not been done by creationists hoping to cast doubt on the technique.

The consensus of professional scientific organizations worldwide is that no scientific evidence contradicts the age of approximately 4.5 billion years.[2] Young Earth creationists reject these ages on the grounds of what they regard as being tenuous and untestable assumptions in the methodology. They have often quoted apparently inconsistent radiometric dates to cast doubt on the utility and accuracy of the method. Mainstream proponents who get involved in this debate point out that dating methods only rely on the assumptions that the physical laws governing radioactive decay have not been violated since the sample was formed (harking back to Lyell's doctrine of uniformitarianism). They also point out that the "problems" that creationists publicly mentioned can be shown to either not be problems at all, are issues with known contamination, or simply the result of incorrectly evaluating legitimate data. The fact that the various methods of dating give essentially identical or near identical readings is not addressed in creationism.

Other sciences


While Young Earth creationists believe that the Universe was created by the Judeo-Christian God approximately 6000 years ago, the current scientific consensus is that the Universe as we know it emerged from the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. The recent science of nucleocosmochronology is extending the approaches used for carbon-14 and other radiometric dating to the dating of astronomical features. For example, based upon this emerging science, the Galactic thin disk of the Milky Way galaxy is estimated to have been formed 8.3 ± 1.8 billion years ago.[164]

Nuclear physics

Creationists point to experiments they have performed, which they claim demonstrate that 1.5 billion years of nuclear decay took place over a short period, from which they infer that "billion-fold speed-ups of nuclear decay" have occurred, a massive violation of the principle that radioisotope decay rates are constant, a core principle underlying nuclear physics generally, and radiometric dating in particular.[165]

The scientific community points to numerous flaws in these experiments, to the fact that their results have not been accepted for publication by any peer-reviewed scientific journal, and to the fact that the creationist scientists conducting them were untrained in experimental geochronology.[166][167]

In refutation of Young Earth claims of inconstant decay-rates affecting the reliability of radiometric dating, Roger C. Wiens, a physicist specializing in isotope dating states:

There are only three quite technical instances where a half-life changes, and these do not affect the dating methods [under discussion]":[168]

  1. Only one technical exception occurs under terrestrial conditions, and this is not for an isotope used for dating.... The artificially-produced isotope, beryllium-7 has been shown to change by up to 1.5%, depending on its chemical environment. ... [H]eavier atoms are even less subject to these minute changes, so the dates of rocks made by electron-capture decays would only be off by at most a few hundredths of a percent.
  2. ... Another case is material inside of stars, which is in a plasma state where electrons are not bound to atoms. In the extremely hot stellar environment, a completely different kind of decay can occur. 'Bound-state beta decay' occurs when the nucleus emits an electron into a bound electronic state close to the nucleus.... All normal matter, such as everything on Earth, the Moon, meteorites, etc. has electrons in normal positions, so these instances never apply to rocks, or anything colder than several hundred thousand degrees....
  3. The last case also involves very fast-moving matter. It has been demonstrated by atomic clocks in very fast spacecraft. These atomic clocks slow down very slightly (only a second or so per year) as predicted by Einstein's theory of relativity. No rocks in our solar system are going fast enough to make a noticeable change in their dates....
    — Roger C. Wiens, Radiometric Dating, A Christian Perspective[169]

Misrepresentations of science

The Discovery Institute has a "formal declaration" titled "A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism" which has many evangelicals, people from fields irrelevant to biology and geology and few biologists. Many of the biologists who signed have fields not directly related to evolution.[170] Some of the biologists signed were deceived into signing the "declaration."[citation needed] In response, there is Project Steve.

Quote mining

As a means to criticize mainstream science, creationists sometimes quote scientists who ostensibly support the mainstream theories, but appear to acknowledge criticisms similar to those of creationists.[66] Almost universally these have been shown to be quote mines that do not accurately reflect the evidence for evolution or the mainstream scientific community's opinion of it, or are highly out-of-date.[171] Many of the same quotes used by creationists have appeared so frequently in Internet discussions due to the availability of cut and paste functions, that the TalkOrigins Archive has created "The Quote Mine Project" for quick reference to the original context of these quotations.[171] Creationists often quote mine Darwin, especially with regard to the seeming improbability of the evolution of the eye, to give support to their views.[172]

Public policy issues

The creation–evolution controversy has grown in importance in recent years, particularly as a result of the Southern strategy of the Republican Party strategist Kevin Phillips, during the Nixon and Reagan administrations in the U.S. He saw that the Civil Rights Movement had alienated many poor white southern voters of the Bible Belt and set out to capture this electorate through an alliance with the "New Right" Christian right movement.[173]

Science education

Creationists promoted the idea that evolution is a theory in crisis[3][84] with scientists criticizing evolution[174] and claim that fairness and equal time requires educating students about the alleged scientific controversy.

Opponents, being the overwhelming majority of the scientific community and science education organizations,[175] reply that there is no scientific controversy and that the controversy exists solely in terms of religion and politics.[3][174]

George Mason University Biology Department introduced a course on the creation/evolution controversy, and apparently as students learn more about biology, they find objections to evolution less convincing, suggesting that "teaching the controversy" rightly as a separate elective course on philosophy or history of science, or "politics of science and religion," would undermine creationists' criticisms, and that the scientific community's resistance to this approach was bad public relations.[176]

Freedom of speech

Creationists have claimed that preventing them from teaching creationism violates their right of freedom of speech. Court cases (such as Webster v. New Lenox School District (1990) and Bishop v. Aronov (1991)) have upheld school districts' and universities' right to restrict teaching to a specified curriculum.

Issues relating to religion

Religion and historical scientists

Creationists often argue that Christianity and literal belief in the Bible are either foundationally significant or directly responsible for scientific progress.[177] To that end, Institute for Creation Research founder Henry M. Morris has enumerated scientists such as astronomer and philosopher Galileo Galilei, mathematician and theoretical physicist James Clerk Maxwell, mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal, geneticist monk Gregor Mendel, and Isaac Newton as believers in a biblical creation narrative.[178]

This argument usually involves scientists who were no longer alive when evolution was proposed or whose field of study did not include evolution. The argument is generally rejected as specious by those who oppose creationism.[179]

Many of the scientists in question did some early work on the mechanisms of evolution, e.g., the modern evolutionary synthesis combines Darwin's theory of evolution with Mendel's theories of inheritance and genetics. Though biological evolution of some sort had become the primary mode of discussing speciation within science by the late-19th century, it was not until the mid-20th century that evolutionary theories stabilized into the modern synthesis. Geneticist and evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky, called the Father of the Modern Synthesis, argued that "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution," and saw no conflict between evolutionary and his religious beliefs.[180] Nevertheless, some of the historical scientists marshalled by creationists were dealing with quite different issues than any are engaged with today: Louis Pasteur, for example, opposed the theory of spontaneous generation with biogenesis, an advocacy some creationists describe as a critique on chemical evolution and abiogenesis. Pasteur accepted that some form of evolution had occurred and that the Earth was millions of years old.[181]

The Relationship between religion and science was not portrayed in antagonistic terms until the late-19th century, and even then there have been many examples of the two being reconcilable for evolutionary scientists.[182] Many historical scientists wrote books explaining how pursuit of science was seen by them as fulfillment of spiritual duty in line with their religious beliefs. Even so, such professions of faith were not insurance against dogmatic opposition by certain religious people.



Many creationists and scientists engage in frequent public debates regarding the origin of human life, hosted by a variety of institutions. However, some scientists disagree with this tactic, arguing that by openly debating supporters of supernatural origin explanations (creationism and intelligent design), scientists are lending credibility and unwarranted publicity to creationists, which could foster an inaccurate public perception and obscure the factual merits of the debate.[183] For example, in May 2004 Michael Shermer debated creationist Kent Hovind in front of a predominantly creationist audience. In Shermer's online reflection while he was explaining that he won the debate with intellectual and scientific evidence he felt it was "not an intellectual exercise," but rather it was "an emotional drama," with scientists arguing from "an impregnable fortress of evidence that converges to an unmistakable conclusion," while for creationists it is "a spiritual war."[184] While receiving positive responses from creationist observers, Shermer concluded "Unless there is a subject that is truly debatable (evolution v. creation is not), with a format that is fair, in a forum that is balanced, it only serves to belittle both the magisterium of science and the magisterium of religion."[184] (see Non-overlapping magisteria). Others, like evolutionary biologist Massimo Pigliucci, have debated Hovind, and have expressed surprise to hear Hovind try "to convince the audience that evolutionists believe humans came from rocks" and at Hovind's assertion that biologists believe humans "evolved from bananas."[185]

Bill Nye in 2014.
Bill Nye in 2014.

In September 2012, educator and television personality Bill Nye of Bill Nye the Science Guy fame spoke with the Associated Press and aired his fears about acceptance of creationist theory, believing that teaching children that creationism is the only true answer and without letting them understand the way science works will prevent any future innovation in the world of science.[186][187] In February 2014, Nye defended evolution in the classroom in a debate with creationist Ken Ham on the topic of whether creation is a viable model of origins in today's modern, scientific era.[188][189][190]

Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit organization dedicated to defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools, claimed debates are not the sort of arena to promote science to creationists.[184] Scott says that "Evolution is not on trial in the world of science," and "the topic of the discussion should not be the scientific legitimacy of evolution" but rather should be on the lack of evidence in creationism. Stephen Jay Gould adopted a similar position, explaining:

Debate is an art form. It is about the winning of arguments. It is not about the discovery of truth. There are certain rules and procedures to debate that really have nothing to do with establishing fact—which [creationists] are very good at. Some of those rules are: never say anything positive about your own position because it can be attacked, but chip away at what appear to be the weaknesses in your opponent's position. They are good at that. I don't think I could beat the creationists at debate. I can tie them. But in courtrooms they are terrible, because in courtrooms you cannot give speeches. In a courtroom you have to answer direct questions about the positive status of your belief.

— Stephen Jay Gould, lecture 1985[191]

Political lobbying

On both sides of the controversy a wide range of organizations are involved at a number of levels in lobbying in an attempt to influence political decisions relating to the teaching of evolution. These include the Discovery Institute, the National Center for Science Education, the National Science Teachers Association, state Citizens Alliances for Science, and numerous national science associations and state academies of science.[192]

Media coverage

The controversy has been discussed in numerous newspaper articles, reports, op-eds and letters to the editor, as well as a number of radio and television programmes (including the PBS series, Evolution (2001) and Coral Ridge Ministries' Darwin's Deadly Legacy (2006)). This has led some commentators to express a concern at what they see as a highly inaccurate and biased understanding of evolution among the general public. Edward Humes states:

There are really two theories of evolution. There is the genuine scientific theory and there is the talk-radio pretend version, designed not to enlighten but to deceive and enrage. The talk-radio version had a packed town hall up in arms at the Why Evolution Is Stupid lecture. In this version of the theory, scientists supposedly believe that all life is accidental, a random crash of molecules that magically produced flowers, horses and humans – a scenario as unlikely as a tornado in a junkyard assembling a 747. Humans come from monkeys in this theory, just popping into existence one day. The evidence against Darwin is overwhelming, the purveyors of talk-radio evolution rail, yet scientists embrace his ideas because they want to promote atheism.

— Edward Humes, Unintelligent Designs on Darwin[193]

Outside the United States

Views on human evolution in various countries (2008)[194][195]
Views on human evolution in various countries (2008)[194][195]

While the controversy has been prominent in the United States, it has flared up in other countries as well.[196][197][198]


Europeans have often regarded the creation–evolution controversy as an American matter.[197] In recent years the conflict has become an issue in other countries including Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey and Serbia.[197][198][199][200][201]

On September 17, 2007, the Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) issued a report on the attempt by American-inspired creationists to promote creationism in European schools. It concludes "If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights which are a key concern of the Council of Europe... The war on the theory of evolution and on its proponents most often originates in forms of religious extremism which are closely allied to extreme right-wing political movements... some advocates of strict creationism are out to replace democracy by theocracy."[202] The Council of Europe firmly rejected creationism.[203]


Under the former Queensland state government of Joh Bjelke-Petersen, in the 1980s Queensland allowed the teaching of creationism in secondary schools.[204] In 2010, the Queensland state government introduced the topic of creationism into school classes within the "ancient history" subject where its origins and nature are discussed as a significant controversy.[205] Public lectures have been given in rented rooms at universities, by visiting American speakers.[206][page needed] One of the most acrimonious aspects of the Australian debate was featured on the science television program Quantum, about a long-running and ultimately unsuccessful court case by Ian Plimer, Professor of Geology at the University of Melbourne, against an ordained minister, Allen Roberts, who had claimed that there were remnants of Noah's Ark in eastern Turkey. Although the court found that Roberts had made false and misleading claims, they were not made in the course of trade or commerce, so the case failed.[207]

Islamic countries

In recent times, the controversy has become more prominent in Islamic countries.[208] In Egypt, evolution is currently taught in schools, but Saudi Arabia and Sudan have both banned the teaching of evolution in schools.[18][196] Creation science has also been heavily promoted in Turkey and in immigrant communities in Western Europe, primarily by Harun Yahya.[198] In Iran, traditional practice of Shia Islam isn't preoccupied with Qur'anic literalism as in case of Saudi Wahhabism but ijtihad, many influential Iranian Shi'ite scholars, including several who were closely involved in Iranian Revolution, are not opposed to evolutionary ideas in general, disagreeing that evolution necessarily conflicts with the Muslim mainstream.[18] Iranian pupils since 5th grade of elementary school learn only about evolution, thus portraying geologists and scientists in general as an authoritative voices of scientific knowledge.[18]


South Korea

In South Korea, most opposition to teaching evolution comes from the local evangelical community. As part of these efforts, the Korean Association for Creation Research (KACR) was established in 1981 by evangelical pastors Kim Yŏnggil and Ch‘oe Yŏngsang. In South Korea, according to a 2009 survey, about 30 percent of the population believe in creation science while opposing the teaching of evolution.[209]

See also


  1. ^ IAP Statement on the Teaching of Evolution Joint statement issued by the national science academies of 67 countries, including the United Kingdom's Royal Society (PDF file)
  2. ^ a b IAP Member Academies (June 21, 2006). "IAP Statement on the Teaching of Evolution". IAP. Trieste, Italy: The World Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 2014-08-27.
  3. ^ a b c d "Statement on the Teaching of Evolution" (PDF). Washington, D.C.: American Association for the Advancement of Science. February 16, 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-02-21. Retrieved 2014-07-31. Some bills seek to discredit evolution by emphasizing so-called 'flaws' in the theory of evolution or 'disagreements' within the scientific community. Others insist that teachers have absolute freedom within their classrooms and cannot be disciplined for teaching non-scientific 'alternatives' to evolution. A number of bills require that students be taught to 'critically analyze' evolution or to understand 'the controversy.' But there is no significant controversy within the scientific community about the validity of the theory of evolution. The current controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution is not a scientific one.
  4. ^ Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 04 cv 2688 (M.D. Pa. December 20, 2005). Whether ID Is Science, p. 83.
  5. ^ a b Larson 2004, p. 258: "Virtually no secular scientists accepted the doctrines of creation science; but that did not deter creation scientists from advancing scientific arguments for their position."
  6. ^ Numbers 1992, pp. 3–240
  7. ^ Montgomery, David R. (November 2012). "The evolution of creationism" (PDF). GSA Today. 22 (11): 4–9. doi:10.1130/GSATG158A.1. Retrieved 2016-01-28.
  8. ^ a b Peters, Ted; Hewlett, Martinez (December 22, 2005). "The Evolution Controversy: Who's Fighting with Whom about What?" (PDF). Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. Berkeley, CA: Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. Evolution Brief E2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 November 2010. Retrieved 2014-08-27.
  9. ^ Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 04 cv 2688 (M.D. Pa. December 20, 2005). Context, p. 20.
  10. ^ Slevin, Peter (March 14, 2005). "Battle on Teaching Evolution Sharpens". The Washington Post. p. A01. Retrieved 2014-08-27.
  11. ^ Renka, Russell D. (November 16, 2005). "The Political Design of Intelligent Design". Renka's Home Page. Round Rock, TX. Retrieved 2014-08-27.
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  14. ^ Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 04 cv 2688 (M.D. Pa. December 20, 2005). Introduction, pp. 7–9, also Whether ID Is Science, pp. 64–89, and Promoting Religion, p. 90.
  15. ^ Miller, Jon; Scott, Eugenie; Okamoto, Shinji (2006-09-01). "Public Acceptance of Evolution". Science. 313 (5788): 765–6. doi:10.1126/science.1126746. PMID 16902112.
  16. ^ Larson 2004, pp. 247–263, Chapter 11: "Modern Culture Wars"
    • Ruse 1999, p. 26: "One thing that historians delighted in showing is that, contrary to the usually held tale of science and religion being always opposed [Conflict thesis] ... religion and theologically inclined philosophy have frequently been very significant factors in the forward movement of science."
  17. ^ Cantor, Geoffrey and Marc Swetlitz, (editors). Jewish Tradition and the Challenge of Darwinism. University of Chicago Press. 2006. ISBN 978-0-226-09276-8
  18. ^ a b c d Burton, Elise K. (May–June 2010). "Teaching Evolution in Muslim States:Iran and Saudi Arabia Compared". Reports of the National Center for Science Education. 30 (3): 25–29. ISSN 2158-818X. Retrieved 2014-01-13.
  19. ^ Curry, Andrew (February 27, 2009). "Creationist Beliefs Persist in Europe". Science. 323 (5918): 1159. doi:10.1126/science.323.5918.1159. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 19251601. News coverage of the creationism-versus-evolution debate tends to focus on the United States ... But in the past 5 years, political clashes over the issue have also occurred in countries all across Europe. ... 'This isn't just an American problem,' says Dittmar Graf of the Technical University of Dortmund, who organized the meeting.
  20. ^ Welsh, Teresa (October 28, 2014). "Pope Francis Says Science and Faith Aren't At Odds". USA Today. Retrieved 2017-10-20.
  21. ^ McKenna, Josephine (October 28, 2014). "Pope says evolution, Big Bang are real". USA Today. Tysons Corner, VA: Gannett Company. Religion News Service. Retrieved 2016-01-28.
  22. ^ Gordon, Kara (October 30, 2014). "The Pope's Views on Evolution Haven't Really Evolved". The Atlantic. Washington, D.C.: Atlantic Media. ISSN 1072-7825. Retrieved 2016-01-28.
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  25. ^ NAS 2008, p. 12
  26. ^ Desmond & Moore 1991, pp. 34–35
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  28. ^ Desmond & Moore 1991, pp. 321–323, 503–505
  29. ^ Dixon 2008, p. 77
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    It is also worth noting the comment in the book, 'By Their Blood-Christian Martyrs of the 20th Century' (Most Media) by James and Marti Helfi, on page 49 and 50: 'New philosophies and theologies from the West also helped to erode Chinese confidence in Christianity. A new wave of so-called missionaries from mainline Protestant denominations came teaching evolution and a non-supernatural view of the Bible. Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Northern Baptist schools were especially hard hit. Bertrand Russell came from England preaching atheism and socialism. Destructive books brought by such teachers further undermined orthodox Christianity. The Chinese Intelligentsia who had been schooled by Orthodox Evangelical Missionaries were thus softened for the advent of Marxism.' Evolution is destroying the Church and society, and Christians need to be awakened to that fact!" [emphasis in the original]

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    13. Belief in special creation has a salutary influence on mankind, since it encourages responsible obedience to the Creator and considerate recognition of those who were created by Him. …

    16. Belief in evolution and animal kinship leads normally to selfishness, aggressiveness, and fighting between groups, as well as animalistic attitudes and behaviour by individuals." — Henry M. Morris, The Remarkable Birth of Planet Earth (Creation-Life Publishers, 1972), pp. vi–viii

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