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published: 3/31/13
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What is Creationism?

Image from the Hubble Telescope

Most often associated with Christianity, creationism is the belief that the universe is the product of a supernatural being. Creationism has become a more pronounced worldview category since the late 1800's when Charles Darwin's theory of evolution gained scientific and cultural traction.

Today the term "creationism" is applied to a variety of views about the origin of the universe, all of which share the belief that a supernatural being is ultimately responsible for its existence.

By definition all creationists believe in a supernatural being who is often referred to as the "Creator." However, adherents sometimes take different paths to arrive at their affirmation of creationism. Some creationists indicate that the origin of their view is their belief in God and the Bible, which should be interpreted literally. Other creationists testify that scientific inquiry, and particularly evidence that the universe was "fine-tuned," led them to their beliefs in creationism.

What do Creationists Believe?

While different creationists, and schools of creationism, emphasize different components of their view, most adherents hold to the following core beliefs and so these may be called pillars of the position:

  • The Creator created ex nihilo, which is Latin for "out of nothing." This emphasizes that the Creator did not use any pre-existing materials to create the universe. Implied in this doctrine is that the material world is not eternal, but time and space were established at a specific point in the past. Bible verses used to support this idea include: Genesis 1:1; Psalm 33:6-9; John 1:3; and Revelation 4:11.
  • The Creator created an unseen realm, not just a visible, physical one. The unseen realm contains spiritual beings, such as angels, and places that are not directly accessible through the material world, such as heaven. Bible verses used to support this idea include: Nehemiah 9:6 and Colossians 1:16.
  • The Creator created the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve, directly. Implied in this is that Adam and Eve did not evolve from lower life forms nor did they have any earthly ancestry. When Adam and Eve were created they were "mature," meaning they were adults. Bible verses used to support this idea include: Genesis 2:7, 21-23 and 1 Corinthians 11:8-9.
  • The Creator created to demonstrate glory. It is often believed that the creation reflects the Creator, like a painting reflects a painter in the sense that even when the image is not a self-portrait, the piece can be said to reflect the artist's style, interests, and tastes. Bible verses used to support this idea include: Isaiah 43:7 and Psalm 19:1-2.

What are Arguments Creationists Use against Darwinism?

While different creationists, or schools of creationism, may emphasize different points for rejecting Darwinian evolution, the following reasons are commonly cited among various adherents. Phillip E. Johnson, in his book Darwin on Trial, articulates the following points of contention:

  • After a century of intentionally breeding animals and plants, the variation that has been produced is limited; for example, dogs that are selectively bred are still dogs. Furthermore, when allowed to return to a wild state, bred characteristics experience a reversion suggesting that natural forces are less progressive than Darwin posited.
  • Certain items in the universe, like the eye, could not have operated in a lesser form. To accept that the eye evolved would mean believing that for thousands of generations the individual parts that make up the eye as its now known continued to evolve into greater degrees of complexity although it was without function.
  • The absence of "intermediate types" of fossils pose a problem for Darwinian evolution according to many creationists. Darwin himself acknowledge this absence and believed it was because not enough fossils had been discovered yet. Creationists also believe that "statis" - the fact that fossils look essentially the same over long periods of time - argues against Darwinian evolution. Also, "sudden appearance" - the fact that species appear suddenly in certain areas, rather than gradual - is also believed to argue against Darwinian evolution.
  • Creationists do not believe adequate explanations have been given for the differences in molecular structures of living organisms. Furthermore, it's held that the argument of "similarities means common ancestry" has been overstated. While similarity suggests common ancestry to many Darwinian evolutionists, creationists argue that it could also mean the life forms have the same Creator.
  • The greatest problem for Darwinian evolution, according to many creationists, is that the theory does not explain how the universe began. Creationists often look to the metaphor offered by Fred Hoyle to articulate this argument: The chances that a living organism emerged by chance is the same as a tornado sweeping through a junk yard and assembling a Boeing 747." It is concluded that such a "chance assembly" is another way of saying "miracle."

What are the Different Types of Creationism?

There are different types of creationism. The links below take the reader to the main article for the view.

  • Young Earth Creationism: This view relies heavily on an interpretation of Genesis 1 where the word "day" refers to a literal 24-hour period of time.
  • Old Earth Creationism: This view relies on an interpretation of Genesis 1 where the word "day" means a time longer than 24 hours, often understood as thousands of years. Adherents often rely on current scientific opinion to determined the age of the earth.
    • Gap Creationism: This view argues that there is a "gap" of millions of years between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Proponents believe that God's first creation rebelled and was subsequently judged, which occurred during the "gap." What is read in Genesis 1:3 onward is the story of God's second creation.
    • Day-Age Creationism: This view argues that the "days" of Genesis 1 describe seven consecutive epochs of time, emphasizing that faith and science are not at odds.

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