Creation-evolution controversy

The creation-evolution controversy (also termed the creation vs. evolution debate or the origins debate) is a recurring political dispute about the origins of the Earth, humanity, life, and the universe, [See harvnb|Hovind|2006, for example.] between those who espouse the validity and superiority of a particular religiously-based creation myth and the scientific consensus, particularly in the field of evolutionary biology, but also in the fields of geology, palaeontology, thermodynamics, nuclear physics and cosmology. [ [ "An Index to Creationist Claims"] , Mark Isaak, Talkorigins Archive,Copyright © 2006.] This debate is most prevalent in generally conservative regions of the United States. There is little serious debate on the subject outside the United States. It is often portrayed as part of the culture wars. [harvnb|Larson|2004|p=247-263 Chapter titled "Modern Culture Wars". See also harvnb|Ruse|1999|p=26, who writes "One thing that historians delighted in showing is that, contrary to the usually held tale of science and religion being always opposed...religion and theologically inclined philosophy have frequently been very significant factors in the forward movement of science."] While the controversy has a long history, [harvnb|Numbers|1992|p=3-240] today it is mainly over what constitutes good science, ["See: "
*harvnb|Peters & Hewlett|2005|Ref=CITEREFPetersHewlett2005|p=1;
] with the politics of creationism primarily focusing on the teaching of creation and evolution in public education. ["See: "
* [ "Battle on Teaching Evolution Sharpens"] , Peter Slevin, Washington Post, Monday, 14 March 2005, Page A01;
* [ "The Political Design of Intelligent Design"] , Russell D. Renka, 16 November 2005;
* [ "Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive"] , Jody Wilgoren, The New York Times, 21 April 2005
* [ "The Newest Evolution of Creationism"] , Barbara Forrest, Natural History, April, 2002, page 80;
*Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District, pages 7-9, also pages 64-90

The debate also focuses on issues such as the definition of science (and of what constitutes scientific research and evidence), science education (and whether the teaching of the scientific consensus view should be 'balanced' by also teaching fringe theories), free speech, separation of Church and State, and theology (particularly how different Christian denominations interpret the Book of Genesis).

Within the scientific community and academia the level of support for evolution is essentially universal, [harvnb|Myers|2006; harvnb|NSTA|2007; harvnb|IAP|2006; harvnb|AAAS|2006; and harvnb|Pinholster|2006; ] while support for biblically-literal accounts or other creationist alternatives is very small among scientists, and virtually nonexistent among those in the relevant fields. [harvnb|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." See also Harvnb|Martz & McDaniel|1987|Ref=CITEREFMartzMcDaniel1987|p=23, a Newsweek article which states "By one count there are some 700 scientists (out of a total of 480,000 U.S. earth and life scientists) who give credence to creation-science, the general theory that complex life forms did not evolve but appeared 'abruptly'."]

The debate is sometimes portrayed as being between science and religion. However, as the National Academy of Sciences states:cquote|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.|20px|20px|"Science, Evolution, and Creationism"|National Academy of Sciences [cite book
last = Committee on Revising Science and Creationism
first = A View from the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine of the National Academies
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Science, Evolution, and Creationism
publisher = National Academy of Sciences
date = 2008
location =
pages = p 12
url =
doi =
id =
isbn = 0-309-10586-2

History of the controversy

Ancient controversies

Lactantius (c.250 - c.330) in his Divine Institutes refutes rudimentary evolutionary thought by discrediting abiogenesis, specifically in regards to the origin of Man. "... Men were not born from the ground throughout the world...but one man (Adam) was formed by God and from that one man all the earth was filled with the human race, as again took place after the Deluge (Noah's Flood)." ["The Divine Institutes" 6.10-11, trans. W. Fletcher, in "The Ante-Nicene Fathers 7".]

Controversies in the age of Darwin

The creation-evolution controversy originated in Europe and North America in the late eighteenth century when discoveries in geology led to various theories of an ancient earth, and fossils showing past extinctions prompted early ideas of evolution, notably Lamarckism. In England these ideas of continuing change were seen as a threat to the fixed social order, and were harshly repressed. [Harvnb|Desmond & Moore|1991|Ref=CITEREFDesmondMoore1991|p= 34-35] Conditions eased, and in 1844 the controversial "Vestiges" popularised transmutation of species. The scientific establishment dismissed it scornfully and the Church of England reacted with fury, but many Unitarians, Quakers and Baptists opposed to the privileges of the Established church favoured its ideas of God acting through laws. Publication of Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection" in 1859 brought scientific credibility to evolution, and made it more respectable. ["See":
*Harvnb|van Wyhe|2006;
*Harvnb|Desmond & Moore|1991|Ref=CITEREFDesmondMoore1991|p=321-323, 503-505.

There was intense interest in the religious implications of Darwin's book, but the Church of England's attention was largely diverted by theological controversy over "higher criticism" set out in "Essays and Reviews" by liberal Christian authors, some of whom expressed support for Darwin, as did many nonconformists. The Reverend Charles Kingsley openly supported the idea of God working through evolution. However, many Christians were opposed to the idea and even some of Darwin's close friends and supporters including Charles Lyell and Asa Gray could not accept some of his ideas. [ AAAS Evolution Dialogues: Science, Ethics and Religion] study guide (pdf)] 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, and Darwin also took this position, but evolution was also taken up by prominent atheists including Edward Aveling and Ludwig Büchner and criticised, in the words of one reviewer, as "tantamount to atheism." ["See:
*Harvnb|Burns, Ralph, Lerner, & Standish|1982|Ref=CITEREFBurnsRalphLernerStandish1982|p=965;
] By the end of the 19th century Roman Catholics guided by Pope Leo XIII accepted human evolution from animal ancestors while affirming that the human soul was directly created by God.

Creationists during this period were largely premillennialists, whose belief in Christ's return depended on a quasi-literal reading of the Bible. [harvnb|Numbers|1992|p=14] However, they were not as concerned about geology, freely granting scientists any time they needed before the Garden of Eden to account for scientific observations, such as fossils and geological findings. [harvnb|Numbers|1992|p=14-15] In the immediate post-Darwinian era, few scientists or clerics rejected the antiquity of the earth or the progressive nature of the fossil record.harvnb|Numbers|1992|p=17] Likewise, few attached geological significance to the Biblical flood, unlike subsequent creationists. Evolutionary skeptics, creationist leaders and skeptical scientists were usually willing either to adopt a figurative reading of the first chapter of Genesis, or to allow that the six days of creation were not necessarily 24-hour days. [harvnb|Numbers|1992|p=18, noting that this applies to published or public skeptics. Many or most Christians may have held on to a literal six days of creation, but these views were rarely expressed in books and journals. Exceptions are also noted, such as literal interpretations published by Eleazar Lord (1788-1871) and David Nevins Lord (1792-1880). However, the observation that evolutionary critics had a relaxed interpretation of Genesis is supported by specifically enumerating: Louis Agassiz (1807-1873); Arnold Henry Guyot (1807-1884); John William Dawson (1820-1899); Enoch Fitch Burr (1818-1907); George D. Armstrong (1813-1899); Charles Hodge, theologian (1797-1878); James Dwight Dana (1813-1895); Edward Hitchcock, clergyman and respected Amherst College geologist, (1793-1864); Reverend Herbert W. Morris (1818-1897); H. L. Hastings (1833?-1899); Luther T. Townsend (1838-1922; Alexander Patterson, Presbyterian evangelist who published "The Other Side of Evolution Its Effects and Fallacy"]


In the United States of America Creationism was widely accepted and was even considered a foundational truth, but there was no official resistance to evolution by mainline denominations. 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. However, development of the eugenics movement led many Catholics to reject evolution. In this enterprise they received little aid from conservative Christians in Britain and Europe. In Britain this has been attributed to their minority status leading to a more tolerant, less militant theological tradition. The main British Creationist movement in this period was the Evolution Protest Movement, formed in the 1930s. [Numbers(2006) p161]

The Butler Act and the Scopes monkey trial

In the aftermath of World War I, the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy 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 passed in some states, such as Tennessee. 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 he confessed to teaching his Tennessee class evolution in defiance of the Butler Act. The textbook in question was "Hunter's Civic Biology" (1914). The trial was widely publicized by H. L. Mencken among others, and is commonly referred to as the Scopes Monkey Trial. Scopes was convicted; however, the widespread publicity galvanized proponents of evolution. When the case was appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Court overturned the decision on a technicality (the judge had assessed the fine when the jury had been required to). Although it overturned the conviction, the Court decided that the law was not in violation of the First Amendment. The Court 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." Scopes v. State 289 S.W. 363, 367 (Tenn. 1927).

The interpretation of the Establishment clause up to that time was that Congress could not establish a particular religion as the "State" religion. Consequently, the Court held that the ban on the teaching of evolution did not violate the Establishment clause, because it did not establish one religion as the "State religion." 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. ["See:
* [ Understanding the Intelligent Design Creationist Movement: Its True Nature and Goals.] (pdf) A Position Paper from the Center for Inquiry, Office of Public Policy Barbara Forrest. May, 2007;
* [ TalkOrigins Archive: Post of the Month: March 2006] , The History of Creationism by Lenny Flank.

Daniel v. Waters

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 of the US Constitution. Following this ruling, creationism was stripped of overt biblical references and renamed creation science, and several states passed legislative acts requiring that this be given equal time with teaching of evolution.

Creation Science

As biologists grew more and more confident in evolution as the central defining principle of biology, [Harvnb|Larson|2004|p=248,250, see also harvnb|Dobzhansky|1973] American membership in churches favoring increasingly literal interpretations of scripture rose, with the Southern Baptist Convention and Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod outpacing all other denominations. [Harvnb|Larson|2004|p=251] With growth, these churches became better equipped to promulgate a creationist message, with their own colleges, schools, publishing houses, and broadcast media. [Harvnb|Larson|2004|p=252]

In 1961, the first major modern creationist book was published: Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb Jr.'s "The Genesis Flood." Morris and Whitcomb argued that creation was literally 6 days long, that humans lived concurrently with dinosaurs, and that God created each 'kind' of life individually. [Harvnb|Larson|2004|p=255,Harvnb|Numbers|1992|p=xi,200-208] On the strength of this, Morris became a popular speaker, spreading anti-evolutionary ideas at fundamentalist churches, colleges, and conferences. [Harvnb|Larson|2004|p=255] Morris' Creation Science Research Center (CSRC) rushed publication of biology text books that promoted creationism, and also published other books such as Kelly Segrave's sensational "Sons of God Return" that dealt with UFOlogy, flood geology, and demonology against Morris' objections. [Harvnb|Numbers|1992|p=284-285] Ultimately, the CSRC broke upover a divide between sensationalism and a more intellectual approach, and Morris founded the Institute for Creation Research, which was promised to be controlled and operated by scientists. [Harvnb|Numbers|1992|p=284-6] During this time, Morris and others who supported flood geology adopted the scientific-sounding terms "scientific creationism" and "creation science". [Quoting harvnb|Larson|2004|p=255-256: "Fundamentalists no longer merely denounced Darwinism as false; they offered a scientific-sounding alternative of their own, which they called either 'scientific creationism (as distinct from religious creationism) or 'creation science' (as opposed to evolution science."] The flood geologists effectively co-opted "the generic creationist label for their hyperliteralist views". [Harvnb|Larson|2004|p=254-255, Harvnb|Numbers|1998|p=5-6]

Court cases

Epperson v. Arkansas

In 1928, Arkansas adopted a law which prohibited any public school or university from teaching "the theory or doctrine that mankind ascended or descended from a lower order of animals" and from using any textbook which taught the same, prohibiting the teaching of evolution in the public schools. During the forty years the Arkansas law was in effect, no one was ever prosecuted for violating it. In the mid-1960s the secretary of the Arkansas Education Association sought to challenge the law as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. In 1968 the United States Supreme Court invalidated the statute, ruling it unconstitutional because it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Mandates that creation science be taught were not ruled unconstitutional by the Court until the 1987 case "Edwards v. Aguillard".

McLean v. Arkansas

In 1982 another case in Arkansas ruled that the Arkansas "Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act" was unconstitutional because it violated the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution. Much of the transcript of the case was lost, 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 in Public School Instruction Act". The act did not require teaching either creationism or evolution, but did require that when evolutionary science was taught, the "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. The similar case in McLean v. Arkansas had also decided against creationism. Mclean v. Arkansas however was not appealed to the federal level, creationists instead thinking that they had better chances with Edwards v. Aguillard. In 1987 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the act was unconstitutional, because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion. At the same time, however, it held 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 came to be known as intelligent design. [, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District pp 7-9.]

Intelligent Design

In response to Edwards v. Aguillard, the Neo-Creationist intelligent design movement was formed around the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. Its goal is to restate creationism in terms more likely to be well received by the public, policy makers, educators, and the scientific community, and 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." [cite web|url=|title=Top Questions-1.What is the theory of intelligent design?|publisher=Discovery Institute|accessdate=2007-05-13.] It has been viewed as a "scientific" approach to creationism by creationists, but is widely rejected as unscientific by the science community (see for example, list of scientific societies rejecting intelligent design).

Controversy in recent times

The controversy continues to this day, with the mainstream scientific consensus on the origins and evolution of life 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 explicitly Christian, and more than one sees the debate as part of the Christian mandate to evangelize. [harvnb|Verderame|2007,harvnb|Simon|2006] Some see science and religion as being diametrically opposed views which cannot be reconciled. More accommodating viewpoints, held by many mainstream churches and many scientists, consider science and religion to be separate categories of thought, which ask fundamentally different questions about reality and posit different avenues for investigating it. [Harvnb|Dewey|1994|p=31, and Harvnb|Wiker|2003, summarizing Gould.] Public opinion in regards to the concepts of evolution, creationism, and intelligent design is fluctuating.

More recently, the Intelligent Design movement has taken an anti-evolution position which avoids any direct appeal to religion. Scientists argue that Intelligent design does not represent any research program within the mainstream scientific community, and is essentially creationism. [harvnb|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." See also Harvnb|Martz & McDaniel|1987|Ref=CITEREFMartzMcDaniel1987|p=23, a Newsweek article which states "By one count there are some 700 scientists (out of a total of 480,000 U.S. earth and life scientists) who give credence to creation-science, the general theory that complex life forms did not evolve but appeared 'abruptly'."] Its leading proponent, the Discovery Institute, made widely publicised claims that it was a new science, though 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". [ [ "Statement from the Council of the Biological Society of Washington"] ] President 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." [harvnb|Bumiller|2005, harvnb|Peters & Hewlett|2005|Ref=CITEREFPetersHewlett2005|p=3]

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 5 May to 12 May 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 candidates for the Board. [ [ Some question group's move with elections nearing] 6News Lawrence, Lawrence Journal-World. 7 July 2006.] On 1 August 2006, 4 of the 6 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, [ [ Evolution’s foes lose ground in Kansas] MSNBC, 2 August 2006.] and on 13 February 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." [ [ Evolution of Kansas science standards continues as Darwin's theories regain prominence] The Associated Press, via the International Herald Tribune, 13 February 2007.]

The Dover Trial

Following the Edwards v. Aguillard trial in the Supreme Court of the United States in which the Court ruled 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 an unnamed and undefined intelligent designer, as opposed to God. [ [ The "Evolution" of Creationism] Timeline: how creationism has "evolved". People for the American Way.] 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 139 page was hailed as a landmark decision, firmly establishing that creationism and intelligent design were religious teachings and not areas of legitimate scientific research.


Young Earth creationism

Young Earth creationism is the 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 as the Earth. Creationist cosmologies are attempts by some creationist thinkers to give the universe an age consistent with the Ussher chronology and other Young-Earth timeframes. This belief generally has a basis in a literal and inerrant interpretation of the Bible.

Old Earth creationism

Old Earth creationism holds that the physical universe was created by God, but that the creation event of Genesis is not to be taken strictly literally. This group generally believes that the age of the Universe and the age of the Earth are as described by astronomers and geologists, but that details of the evolutionary theory are questionable. Old Earth creationists interpret the creation accounts of Genesis in a number of ways, that each differ from the six, consecutive, 24-hour day creation of the literalist 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. Their goal is to restate creationism in terms more likely to be well received by the public, education policy makers and the scientific community. It aims to re-frame the debate over the origins of life in non-religious terms and without appeals to scripture, and to bring the debate before the public. Neo-creationists may be either Young Earth or Old Earth Creationists, and hold a range of underlying theological viewpoints (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, also known as "evolutionary creationism," 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 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 account; however 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 does not generally exclude the viewpoint of methodological naturalism, a long standing convention of the scientific method in science.

Theistic evolutionists have frequently been prominent in opposing creationism (including intelligent design). Notable examples have been biologist Kenneth R. Miller and theologian John Haught (both Catholics), 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).

Naturalistic evolution

Naturalistic evolution is the position of acceptance of biological evolution and of metaphysical naturalism (and thus rejection of theism and theistic evolution).

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. [harvnb|Johnson|1998, harvnb|Hodge|1874|p=177, harvnb|Wiker|2003, harvnb|Peters & Hewlett|2005|Ref=CITEREFPetersHewlett2005|p=5--Peters and Hewlett argue that the atheism of many evolutionary supporters must be removed from the debate] 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. [harvnb|Lenski|2000|p=Conclusions] Creationists claim that supernatural explanations should not be excluded and that scientific work is paradigmatically close-minded. [harvnb|Johnson|1998]

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. [harvnb|Einstein|1930|p=1-4] Mainstream proponents accuse the creationists of conflating the two in a form of pseudoscience. [harvnb|Dawkins|1997]


quotation|Fact: In science, an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as "true." Truth in science, however, is never final, and what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow.

Hypothesis: A tentative statement about the natural world leading to deductions that can be tested. If the deductions are verified, it becomes more probable that the hypothesis is correct. If the deductions are incorrect,the original hypothesis can be abandoned or modified. Hypotheses can be used to build more complex inferences and explanations.

Law: A descriptive generalization about how some aspect of the natural world behaves under statedcircumstances.

Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that canincorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.|National Academy of Sciences|Science and Creationism [ "Free Executive Summary"] , "Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences", Second Edition, Steering Committee on Science and Creationism, National Academy of Sciences, 1999,ISBN 978-0-309-06406-4.]

Limitations of the scientific endeavor

quotation|In science, explanations are limited to those basedon observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Explanations that cannot be basedon empirical evidence are not a part of science.|National Academy of Sciences|Science and Creationism

Theory vs. fact

The argument that evolution is a theory, not a fact, has often been made against the exclusive teaching of evolution. [Harvnb|Johnson|1993|p=63, Harvnb|Tolson|2005, harvnb|Moran|1993 ; [ "Selman v. Cobb County School District] ". US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia (2005); Talk. Origins; Bill Moyers "et al", 2004. " [ "Now" with Bill Moyers] ." PBS. Accessed 2006-01-29. Interview with Richard Dawkins] 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. However, in science, "theory" usually means "a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena." [Merriam-Webster online dictionary.]

Exploring this issue, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote: [harvnb|Gould|1981]

: "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."


Philosopher of science Karl R. Popper set out the concept of falsifiability as a way to distinguish science and pseudoscience: Testable theories are scientific, but those that are untestable are not. ["See:
*Wilkins, John S, [ Evolution and Philosophy: Is Evolution Science, and What Does 'Science' Mean?] , TalkOrigins Archive
] However, 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". [harvnb|Popper|1976|p=168 and 172 quoted in harvnb|Kofahl|1981]

In what one sociologist derisively called "Popper-chopping," [Unknown sociologist quoted in harvnb|Numbers|1992|p=247] 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. [harvnb|Kofahl|1989 as quoted by harvnb|Numbers|1992|p=247] 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. While many Creationists claim creation is a scientific theory other Creationists have stated that neither creation nor evolution is a scientific theory (and each is equally religious)." [harvnb|Lewin|1982] Fact|date=September 2008

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." [Numbers(2006) p274] However, 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. [harvnb|Kofahl|1981|p=873]

In fact, Popper wrote admiringly of the value of Darwin's theory. [ [ Talkorigins summary of Karl Popper attitudes towards evolution] ] Only a few years later, Popper changed his mind, and later wrote, "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". ["See:
*"Natural selection and the emergence of mind", Karl Popper, Dialectica 32(3/4): 339—355, 1978
* [ "Did Popper refute evolution?"] , Massimo Pigliucci, Skeptical Inquirer, Sept-Oct 2004

Debate among some scientists and philosophers of science on the applicability of falsifiability in science continues. [harvnb|Ruse|1999|p=13-37, which discusses conflicting ideas about science among Karl Popper, Thomas Samuel Kuhn, and their disciples.] However, 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." [As quoted by harvnb|Wallis|2005|p=32. Also see harvnb|Dawkins|1986 and harvnb|Dawkins|1995] [harvnb|Wallis|2005|p=6 Dawkins quoting Haldane]

Falsifiability has also 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." [harvnb|Dorman|1996]

Conflation of science and religion

Many of the most vocal creationists blur the boundaries between criticisms of modern science, philosophy, and culture. They often conjoin their arguments focused on the science of evolution with doctrinal statements or evangelistic attempts. This can be a central focus of apologetics. For example, in explanation for his "struggle" against evolution, prominent creationist Ken Ham has declared "the Lord has not just called us to knock down evolution, but to help in restoring the foundation of the gospel in our society. We believe that if the churches took up the tool of Creation Evangelism in society, not only would we see a stemming of the tide of humanistic philosophy, but we would also see the seeds of revival sown in a culture which is becoming increasingly more pagan each day." [ [ Ham, Ken. Creation Evangelism] (Part II of Relevance of Creation). "Creation Magazine '6'"(2):17, November 1983. ] Ham teaches that a rejection of the biblical creation history undermines the relevancy of the Christian gospels and derivatively weakens the moral foundations of society.

Disputes relating to science

Many creationists vehemently oppose certain scientific theories in a number of ways, including opposition to specific applications of scientific processes, accusations of bias within the scientific community, [Harvnb|Johnson|1993|p=69 where Johnson cites three pages spent in Issac Asimov's "New Guide to Science" that take creationists to task, while only spending one half page on evidence of evolution.] 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, and/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

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 last universal common ancestor, that is, the most recent common ancestor of all currently 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 Fact|date=September 2008.

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

Human evolution

Human evolution is the part of biological evolution concerning the emergence of humans as a distinct species.

Molecular evidence indicates that the lineage of gibbons (family Hylobatidae) became distinct between 18 and 12 Ma, and that of orangutans (subfamily Ponginae) at about 12 Ma; we have no fossils that clearly document the ancestry of gibbons, which may have originated in a so far unknown South East Asian hominid population, but fossil proto-orangutans may be represented by "Ramapithecus" from India and "Griphopithecus" from Turkey, dated to around 10 Ma. Molecular evidence further suggests that between 8 and 4 mya, first the gorillas, and then the chimpanzee (genus "Pan") split off from the line leading to the humans; human DNA is 98.4 [ Chimps are human, gene study implies] New Scientist, website, 19 May 2003] percent identical to the DNA of chimpanzees. We have no fossil record, however, of either group of African great apes, possibly because bones do not fossilize in rain forest environments.

Thereafter, paleoanthropology traces human evolution, via fossil hominid evidence through genus Homo to modern Humans.

Creationists have argued that these fossils are either of apes (e.g. that Java man was a gibbon [ [ "Was Java Man a gibbon?"] , Jim Foley, TalkOrigins website, 30 April 2003.] ) or humans, with no intermediates between the two. However Creationists frequently disagree on where this gap lies. [ [ "Comparison of all skulls"] , Jim Foley, TalkOrigins website, 8 August 2005.] 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.


Creationists have long argued against the possibility of Macroevolution. Macroevolution is defined by the scientific community to be evolution that occurs at or above the level of species. Under this definition, Macroevolution can be considered to be a fact, as evidenced by observed instances of speciation. Creationists however tend to apply a more restrictive, if vaguer, definition of Macroevolution, often relating to the emergence of new body forms or organs. The scientific community considers that there is strong evidence for even such more restrictive definitions, but the evidence for this is more complex.

Recent arguments against (such restrictive definitions of) macroevolution include the Intelligent design arguments of Irreducible complexity and Specified complexity. However, 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.

Transitional fossils

It is commonly stated by critics of evolution that there are no known transitional fossils. ["Scientific Creationism", Henry M. Morris, 1985, pp. 78-90] ["Life--How Did It Get Here?", Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1985, pp. 57-59] 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, however, that a complex feature with one function can adapt a wholly different function through evolution. The precursor to, for example, a wing, might originally have only been meant for gliding, trapping flying prey, and/or mating display. Nowadays, wings can still have all of these functions, but they are also used in active flight.

As another example, Alan Haywood stated in "Creation and Evolution" 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." [Haywood, Alan (1985) "Creation and Evolution".Triangle Books, London. Quoted in " [ Hooking Leviathan by Its Past] ", Stephen Jay Gould] The evolution of whales has however been documented in considerable detail, with "Ambulocetus", described as looking like a three-metre long mammalian crocodile, as one of the transitional fossils.

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. However, 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, however, pertains only to well-documented transitions within taxa or between closely related taxa over a geologically short period of time. 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.Fact|date=April 2008


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). [ Biblical chronogenealogies] ] [ [ The Meaning of the Chronogenealogies of Genesis 5 and 11] ] They believe that God created the universe approximately 6000 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 hypotheses. 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. However, 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 organisations worldwide is that no scientific evidence contradicts the age of approximately 4.5 billion years. [ [ "IAP Statement on the Teaching of Evolution"] , Interacademy Panel on Global Issues, 21 June 2006.] Young Earth creationists reject these ages on the grounds of what they regard as being tenuous and untestable assumptions in the methodology. Apparently inconsistent radiometric dates are often quoted 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.

Creationists do not claim to have a scientifically verifiable method for dating the Earth, and instead rely solely on Biblical chronologies.

Other sciences


Whilst Young Earth Creationists believe that the Universe was created approximately 6000 years ago, the current scientific consensus is that it is about 13.7 billion years old. The recent science of nucleocosmochronology is extending the approaches used for Carbon-14 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 between 8.3 ± 1.8 billion years ago.cite journal | author = Del Peloso, E.F. | coauthors = Da Silva, L.; De Mello, G.F.P.; Arany-prado, L.I. | year = 2005 | title = The age of the Galactic thin disk from Th/Eu nucleocosmochronology | journal = A&A | volume = 434 | pages = 301–308 | doi = 10.1051/0004-6361:20047060]

Many other creationists, including Old Earth Creationists, do not necessarily dispute these figures.

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 of time, 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. [ [ "Nuclear Decay: Evidence For A Young World"] , D. Russell Humphreys, Impact, Number 352, October 2002.]

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. [ [ "Young-Earth Creationist Helium Diffusion "Dates" Fallacies Based on Bad Assumptions and Questionable Data"] , Kevin R. Henke, TalkOrigins website, Original version: 17 March 2005, Revision: 24 November 2005.] [ [ "R.A.T.E: More Faulty Creation Science from The Institute for Creation Research"] , J. G. Meert, Gondwana Research, The Official Journal of the International Association for Gondwana, 13 November 2000 (updated 6 February 2003).]

In refutation of young-Earth claims of inconstant decay rates affecting the reliability of radiometric dating, Roger C. Wiens, a physicist specialising in isotope dating states:quotation|There are only three quite technical instances where a half-life changes, and these do not affect the dating methods [under discussion] [Dating methods discussed were potassium-argon dating, argon-argon dating, rubidium-strontium dating, samarium-neodymium dating, lutetium-hafnium, rhenium-osmium dating, and uranium-lead dating.] ":
#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.
# ... 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. ...
#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 [ [ Radiometric Dating, A Christian Perspective] , Roger C. Wiens, American Scientific Affiliation, p20-21]

Misrepresentations of science

Quote mining

As a means to criticise mainstream science, creationists have been known to quote, at length, scientists who ostensibly support the mainstream theories, but appear to acknowledge criticisms similar to those of creationists. [harvnb|Dobzhansky|1973] However, 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 highly out-of-date. harvnb|Pieret|2006] [
*cite web | url = | title = Index to Creationist Claims: Claim CA113 | publisher = |accessdate = 2007-12-27 | last = Isaak | first = Mark | year = 2004
*cite web | url = | title = A new (mis)take on an old paper (and other posts) | publisher = | accessdate = 2007-12-26 | last = Dunford | first = Mike | date = 2007-07-02
] 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.

Public policy issues

Science education

Creationists promote that evolution is a theory in crisis "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." [ AAAS Statement on the Teaching of Evolution] American Association for the Advancement of Science. 16 February 2006 (PDF file)] [] with scientists criticizing evolution ["That this controversy is one largely manufactured by the proponents of creationism and intelligent design may not matter, and as long as the controversy is taught in classes on current affairs, politics, or religion, and not in science classes, neither scientists nor citizens should be concerned." [ Intelligent Judging — Evolution in the Classroom and the Courtroom] George J. Annas, New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 354:2277-2281 25 May 2006] 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, [See: 1) List of scientific societies rejecting intelligent design 2) . The Discovery Institute's [ Dissent From Darwin Petition] has been signed by about 500 scientists. The AAAS, the largest association of scientists in the U.S., has 120,000 members, and [ firmly rejects intelligent design and denies that there is a legitimate scientific controversy] . More than 70,000 Australian scientists and educators [ condemn teaching of intelligent design in school science classes] . [ List of statements from scientific professional organizations] on the status intelligent design and other forms of creationism. ] reply that there is in fact no scientific controversy and that the controversy exists solely in terms of religion and politics. "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." [ AAAS Statement on the Teaching of Evolution] American Association for the Advancement of Science. 16 February 2006 ] ["That this controversy is one largely manufactured by the proponents of creationism and intelligent design may not matter, and as long as the controversy is taught in classes on current affairs, politics, or religion, and not in science classes, neither scientists nor citizens should be concerned." [ Intelligent Judging — Evolution in the Classroom and the Courtroom] George J. Annas, New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 354:2277-2281 25 May 2006] The American Association for the Advancement of Science and other science and education professional organizations say that Teach the Controversy proponents seek to undermine the teaching of evolution "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." [ AAAS Statement on the Teaching of Evolution] American Association for the Advancement of Science. 16 February 2006 (PDF file)] ["In summary, the disclaimer singles out the theory of evolution for special treatment, misrepresents its status in the scientific community, causes students to doubt its validity without scientific justification, presents students with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory, directs them to consult a creationist text as though it were a science resource, and instructs students to forgo scientific inquiry in the public school classroom and instead to seek out religious instruction elsewhere." Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.] while promoting intelligent design, ["ID's home base is the Center for Science and Culture at Seattle's conservative Discovery Institute. Meyer directs the center; former Reagan adviser Bruce Chapman heads the larger institute, with input from the Christian supply-sider and former American Spectator owner George Gilder (also a Discovery senior fellow). From this perch, the ID crowd has pushed a "teach the controversy" approach to evolution that closely influenced the Ohio State Board of Education's recently proposed science standards, which would require students to learn how scientists "continue to investigate and critically analyze" aspects of Darwin's theory." Chris Mooney. The American Prospect. 2 December 2002 [ Survival of the Slickest: How anti-evolutionists are mutating their message] ] [ [ Teaching Intelligent Design: What Happened When?] by William A. Dembski"The clarion call of the intelligent design movement is to "teach the controversy." There is a very real controversy centering on how properly to account for biological complexity (cf. the ongoing events in Kansas), and it is a scientific controversy."] [Nick Matzke's analysis shows how teaching the controversy using the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" model lesson plan is a means of teaching all the intelligent design arguments without using the intelligent design label. [ No one here but us Critical Analysis-ists...] Nick Matzke. The Panda's Thumb, 11 July 2006] and to advance an education policy for US public schools that introduces creationist explanations for the origin of life to public-school science curricula. ["has the effect of implicitly bolstering alternative religious theories of origin by suggesting that evolution is a problematic theory even in the field of science." . . . The effect of Defendants’ actions in adopting the curriculum change was to impose a religious view of biological origins into the biology course, in violation of the Establishment Clause. ] "ID's backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the "controversy", but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID."] This viewpoint was supported by the December 2005 ruling in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial.

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. [ [ AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion] , 20 April 2006, Emmett Holman, Associate Professor of Philosophy from George Mason University, retrieved 2007-04-29]

Freedom of speech

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

Issues relating to religion

Theological arguments

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. [harvnb|Woods|2005|p=67-114, Chapter Five: The Church and Science] To that end, Institute for Creation Research founder Henry M. Morris has enumerated scientists such as astronomer and philosopher Galileo, 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. [harvnb|Morris|1982]

This argument usually involves scientists either who were no longer alive when evolution was proposed or whose field of study didn't include evolution. The argument is generally rejected as specious by those who oppose creationism. [ [ Index to Creationist Claims - Claim CA114] edited by Mark Isaak. 2005]

Many of the scientists in question did some early work on the mechanisms of evolution, e.g., the Modern evolutionary synthesis combines Darwin's 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. 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. [ [ Index to Creationist Claims - Claim CA114.22] edited by Mark Isaak. 2005]

The relationship between science and religion 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. [ [] Science and religion:Conflicts & occasional agreements] 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.

Some extensions to this creationist argument have included the incorrect suggestions that Einstein's deism was a tacit endorsement of creationism or that Charles Darwin converted on his deathbed and recanted evolutionary theory.

Forums for the controversy


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. [ [,119,Why-I-Wont-Debate-Creationists,Richard-Dawkins "Why I Won't Debate Creationists"] , Richard Dawkins, Reason : In the News,, the official Richard Dawkins website, Monday, 15 May 2006.] For example, in May 2004 Dr. Michael Shermer debated creationist Kent Hovind in front of a predominately 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."Clarifyme|date=March 2008cite news | url= | title=Then a Miracle Occurs: An Obstreperous Evening with the Insouciant Kent Hovind, Young Earth Creationist and Defender of the Faith | publisher=eSkeptic Online | date=2004-05-10 | first=Michael | last=Shermer | accessdate = 2007-02-11] 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." (see: scientific method). 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." [Massimo Pigliucci. "." (Sinauer, 2002): ISBN 0878936599 page 102.] Clarifyme|date=March 2008

Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education, a non-profit 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. 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. Similarly, Stephen Jay Gould took a public stance against appearing to give legitimacy to creationism by debating its proponents. He noted during a Caltech lecture in 1985: [Shermer, Michael. 'Why People Believe Weird Things', Owl Books, 2002. Paperback ed, p. 153. ]

Political lobbying

A wide range of organisations, on both sides of the controversy, are involved in lobbying in an attempt to influence political decisions relating to the teaching of evolution, at a number of levels. These include the Discovery Institute, the National Center for Science Education, the National Science Teachers Association, state , and numerous national science associations and state Academies of Science. [ [ Statements from Scientific and Scholarly Organizations] , NCSE]

In the media

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" and Coral Ridge Ministries' "Darwin's Deadly Legacy"). 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. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and writer Edward Humes states: [ [ Unintelligent designs on Darwin] , Edward Humes, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]

cquote|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.

Outside the United States

While the controversy has been prominent in the United States, it has also flared up in other countries as well.cite journal |last=Pitock |first=Todd |year=2007 |month=06 |title=Science and Islam |journal=Discover |volume= |issue= |pages=36–45 ] cite news |author=Gregory Katz |title= Clash Over Creationism Is Evolving In Europe's Schools|url= |publisher=Associated Press |date= 2008-02-16|accessdate=2008-02-17/] cite web |url= |title= Cloning Creationism in Turkey |accessdate=2008-02-17 |author=Taner Edis |work=RNCSE 19 (6): 30-35 |publisher=National Center for Science Education]

Islamic countries

In recent times, the controversy has become more prominent in Islamic countries. [cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Evolution and religion: In the beginning | work = | publisher = The Economist | date = 2007-04-19 | url = | format = | doi = | accessdate = 2007-04-25 This article gives a worldwide overview of recent developments on the subject of the controversy.] Currently, in Egypt evolution is taught in schools but Saudi Arabia and Sudan have both banned the teaching of evolution in schools. Creation science has also been heavily promoted in Turkey and in immigrant communities in Western Europe, primarily by Harun Yahya.


Europeans have often regarded the creation-evolution controversy as an American matter. However, in recent years the conflict has become an issue in a variety of countries including Germany, The United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Serbia. [cite news |title=Serbia reverses Darwin suspension |url=|publisher=BBC |date=2004-09-09 |accessdate=2008-02-17 ] [cite news |author= Roger Highfield |title=Creationists rewrite natural history |url= |publisher=The Telegraph |date=2007-02-10 |accessdate=2008-02-17 ]

On 17 September 2007 the Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe 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 creationism are out to replace democracy by theocracy." [New Scientist 10 November 2007, p. 72]


With declining church attendance, there has been some growth in fundamentalist and pentecostal Christian denominations. [ [ Christianity – Pentecostalism] Australian Broadcasting Corporation] Under the former Queensland state government of Joh Bjelke-Petersen, in 1980 lobbying was so successful that Queensland allowed the teaching of creationism as science to school children. Public lectures have been given in rented rooms at Universities, by visiting American speakers, and speakers with doctorates purchased by mail from Florida sites. [Plimer, Ian "Telling lies for God- Reason versus Creationism", (Random House)] 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 Melbourne University, against an ordained minister, Dr. Allen Roberts, who had claimed that there were remnants of Noah's Ark in eastern Turkey. Although the court found that Dr Roberts had made false and misleading claims, they were not made in the course of trade or commerce, so the case failed. [ "Telling Lies for God"? - One Man's Crusade] , accessed 2008-02-05, Quantum. See transcript link for detail.]

See also

* Articles related to the creation-evolution controversy
* Allegorical interpretations of Genesis
* Anti-intellectualism
* Clergy Letter Project
* Creation science
* Creationism
* Evidence of common descent
* Evidence of evolution
* Evolution and the Roman Catholic Church
* Evolution Sunday
* Evolutionary origin of religions
* Hindu views on evolution
* History of the creation-evolution controversy
* Intelligent design
* Jainism and non-creationism
* Jewish views on evolution
* Level of support for evolution
* List of participants in the creation-evolution controversy
* Mormonism and evolution
* Natural theology
* Objections to evolution
* Politics of creationism
* Project Steve
* Relationship between religion and science
* Teach the Controversy



* Harvard reference
Surname = AAAS
Given = American Association for the Advancement of Science
Authorlink = American Association for the Advancement of Science
Year = 2006
Date = 2006-02-16
Title = Statement on the Teaching of Evolution
Publisher =
format = pdf
accessdate = 2007-01-14

* Harvard reference
title=Bush Remarks Roil Debate on Teaching of Evolution
periodical=The New York Times
accessdate = 2007-02-03

* Harvard reference
Surname1 = Burns
Given1 = Edward M.
Surname2 = Ralph
Given2 = Philip Lee
Surname3 = Lerner
Given3 = Robert E.
Surname4 = Standish
Given4 = Meacham
Year = 1982
Title = World Civilizations Their History and Their Culture
Edition = Sixth
Publisher = W.W. Norton & Company
isbn = 0-393-95077-8

* Harvard reference
Surname = Dawkins
Given = Richard
Authorlink = Richard Dawkins
Year = 1986
Title = The Blind Watchmaker
Publisher = W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
isbn = 0-393-31570-3

* Harvard reference
Surname = Dawkins
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url =
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* Harvard reference
Surname = Dewey
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Authorlink = John Dewey
Editor = Martin Gardner
Year = 1994
Title = Great Essays in Science
Chapter = The Influence of Darwinism on Philosophy
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isbn = 0-87975-853-8

* Harvard reference
Surname = Dobzhansky
Given = Theodosius
Authorlink = Theodosius Dobzhansky
Year = 1973
Date = March, 1973
Title = Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution
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url =
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url =
accessdate = 2007-01-31

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accessdate = 2007-01-30

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* Harvard reference
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Surname = IAP
Given = Interacademy Panel
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Authorlink = Phillip E. Johnson
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Edition = 2nd
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* Harvard reference
Surname = Kofahl
Given = Robert E.
Year = 1981
date = 22 May 1981
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Given = Robert E.
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Surname = Larson
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url =
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Authorlink = PZ Myers
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* Citation
surname = NSTA
given = National Science Teachers Association
author-link = National Science Teachers Association
year = 2007
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[ Archive link]

* Citation
last = Numbers
first = Ronald L.
author-link = Ronald L. Numbers
year = 1992
title = Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism
publisher = Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
pages = 224
isbn = 0-679-40104-0

*cite book
last = Numbers
first = Ronald
authorlink = Ronald Numbers
coauthors =
title = The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, Expanded Edition
publisher = Harvard University Press
location =
pages = 624 pages
url =
doi =
id =
isbn = 0674023390

* Harvard reference
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format = pdf
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* Harvard reference
Surname = Popper
Given = Karl
Authorlink = Karl Popper
Year = 1976
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isbn = 0-87548-366-6

* Harvard reference
Surname = Popper
Given = Karl
Authorlink = Karl Popper
Year = 1980
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Journal = New Scientist
Volume = 87

* Harvard reference
Surname = Ruse
Given = Michael
Authorlink = Michael Ruse
Year = 1999
Date = 1999-04-30
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Pages = 320
isbn = 0-674-46706-X

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Given = Stephanie
Year = 2006
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Periodical = Los Angeles Times
Issue = 2006-02-11
url =
accessdate = 2007-02-03

* Harvard reference
Surname = Tolson
Given = Jay
Year = 2005
Date = 2005-09-05
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chapter = Religion in America
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Given1 = John
Year = 2006
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url =
accessdate = 2007-01-24

* Harvard reference
Surname = Verderame
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Year = 2007
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url =
accessdate = 2007-02-07

* Harvard reference
Surname = Wallis
Given = Claudia
Title = The Evolution Wars
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Year = 2005
Date = 2005-08-07
url =,9171,1090909-1,00.html
Retrieved on 2007-01-31

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Given = Benjamin D.
Year = 2003
Date = July/August 2003
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url =
accessdate = 2007-01-21

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Authorlink = Thomas Woods
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Published books and other resources

* Burian, RM: 1994. "Dobzhansky on Evolutionary Dynamics: Some Questions about His Russian Background"; in cite book |author=Adams, Mark A. |title=The Evolution of Theodosius Dobzhansky: essays on his life and thought in Russia and America |publisher=Princeton University Press |location=Princeton, N.J |year=1994 |pages= |isbn=0-691-03479-6 |oclc= |doi=
* Maynard Smith, "The status of neo-darwinism," in "Towards a Theoretical Biology" (C.H. Waddington, ed., University Press, Edinburgh, 1969.

External links

* [ Gallup public opinion poll in regards to the concepts of Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design as of May 2007]
* [ Data by country regarding the percentage of the population that believes in evolution]

Creationism as social policy

* [ Isaac Asimov, The "Threat" of Creationism.]

Creationist beliefs

* [ Answers in Genesis] , Young Earth Creationism
* [ Reasons to Believe] , Old Earth Creationism

cientific rebuttals

* [ "Index to Creationist Claims"]

Evolution versus creationism debates

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