Creationism is the belief that all species of living organisms were created individually and purposefully by God or another intelligent being, not by evolution. The majority of creationists are Christians, but creationism includes a variety of religious, scientific, and political views. The one thing they share in common is their rejection of the theory of evolution.
The theory of evolution, the idea that species develop and change over time, was first advanced by naturalists Lamarck, Darwin, and Wallace in the 19th century. Those ideas have been been adjusted and expanded by new scientific discoveries ever since. Today, evolution is the established scentific consensus and a foundational concept of modern biology. As such, it is taught in public schools and textbooks throughout the developed world.
Some creationists simply disregard scientific findings that contradict their beliefs, but most believe their position can be supported by modern science. These creationists argue that there are many problems with evolution that are frequently ignored, and that creationism is an equally valid theory. They therefore advocate for their views to be included alongside evolution in secular public schools. Non-creationists object to this on the grounds that creationism is "pseudo-scientific" and ultimately religious in nature, and therefore has no place in public education.
It is this issue of public policy that makes creationism more significant than most minority religious doctrines. Especially in the United States - which combines an especially religious population with especially strong laws on religious freedom - the question of what should be taught in public schools about science has brought creationism out of a purely religious context and into politics, the media, multimillion-dollar policy campaigns, and even courtrooms.
While there are advocates on both sides that are cordial, the debate can become emotionally charged as individuals and institutions locate this subject within a worldview they are passionate about and seek to defend. This passion also frequently leads to misunderstandings, propaganda, and even willful ignorance of the other side's perspective.
This section of ReligionFacts is intended to introduce the reader to the history, concepts, arguments, and varieties of creationism. As always, our goal is to cut through propaganda and unsupported claims to focus on the known facts as objectively as possible.