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Creation Vs Evolution Debate: Darwin or God.

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creation or evolution.
creation Vs evolution controversy. Does Lucy answer the question? Original find right, artist's interpretation left.

Creation or Evolution which created the universe? Did the universe begin through creation? Was the universe created by God? 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, between those who espouse the validity and superiority of a particular religiously-based origin belief (namely Creationism), and the scientific consensus, particularly in the field of Evolutionary Biology, but also in the fields of Geology, Palaeontology, Thermodynamics, Nuclear Physics and Cosmology. The level of support for evolution is overwhelming in the scientific community and academia, while support for creation based alternatives where evolution does not take place is minimal among scientists.

This debate is most prevalent in certain, generally more conservative, regions of the United States, where it is often portrayed as part of the culture wars. While the controversy has a long history, today it is mainly over what constitutes good science, with the politics of creationism primarily focusing on the teaching of creation and evolution in public education.

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).

History of the controversy of Creation or Evolution. Creation-evolution controversy 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 evolutionism, notably Lamarckism. In England these ideas of continuing change were seen as a threat to the fixed social order, and were harshly repressed. 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.

There was intense interest in the religious implications of Darwin's book, but Church of England 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. 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". By the end of the 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. 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. In the immediate post-Darwinian era, few scientists or clerics rejected the antiquity of the Earth or the progressive nature of the fossil record. 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.

Scopes trial.
Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan chat in court during the Scopes trial.

Creation or Evolution: The Scopes trial.

In the United States of America there was no official resistance to evolution by mainline denominations, and when Wallace went there for a lecture tour in 18861887 his explanations of Darwinism were welcomed without any problems. 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.

Most high school and college biology classes taught scientific evolution, but various factors including the rise of fundamentalist Christianity and a rapid increase in the numbers of children attending public schools led to the controversy becoming political after the First World War in reaction to these schools teaching that man evolved from earlier forms of life per Darwin's theory of natural selection. The State of Tennessee passed a law (the Butler Act of 1925) prohibiting the teaching of any theory of the origins of humans that contradicted the teachings of the Bible. This law was tested in the highly publicized Scopes trial of 1925 and in the ensuing appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court, being upheld in both cases and remaining on the books until it was repealed in 1967, with most public schools having by then dropped the subject of evolution from their textbooks. However, the next year, 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Epperson v. Arkansas 393 U.S. 97 (1968) that such bans contravened the Establishment Clause because their primary purpose was religious.

ICR and the co-opting of the creationist label.

As biologists grew more and more confident in evolution as the central defining principle of biology, 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. With growth, these churches became better equipped to promulgate a creationist message, with their own colleges, schools, publishing houses, and broadcast media.

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. On the strength of this, Morris became a popular speaker, spreading anti-evolutionary ideas at fundamentalist churches, colleges, and conferences. 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. 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 to be controlled and operated by scientists. During this time, Morris and others who supported flood geology adopted the scientific sounding terms scientific creationism and creation science. The flood geologists effectively co-opted "the generic creationist label for their hyperliteralist views".

Creation or Evolution: 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. Some see science and religion as being diametrically opposed views which cannot be reconciled (see section on the false dichotomy). 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.

More recently, the Intelligent Design movement has taken an anti-evolution position which avoids any direct appeal to religion. However, Leonard Krishtalka, a paleontologist and an opponent of the movement, has called intelligent design "nothing more than creationism in a cheap tuxedo", and, in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005) United States District JudgeJohn E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is not science, but is grounded in theology and cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents. Before the trial began, 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." Scientists argue that Intelligent design does not represent any research program within the mainstream scientific community, and is opposed by most of the same groups who oppose creationism.

Most recently the controversy which was previously centered mainly in the United States has become more prominent elsewhere such as in Islamic countries.

Creation or Evolution: 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 would not be ruled unconstitutional by the Court until the 1987 case Edwards v. Aguillard.

Creation or Evolution: 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.

Creation or Evolution: 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 Court 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.

Creation or Evolution: 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. This ultimately resulted in the "Dover Trial," Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, which went to trial on September 26, 2005 and was decided on December 20, 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 opinion of Kitzmiller v. Dover was hailed as a landmark decision, firmly establishing that creationism and intelligent design were religious teachings and not areas of legitimate scientific research.

Creation or Evolution: 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 candidates for the Board. On August 1, 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 Democats 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, 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.

Arguments relating to the definition, limits and philosophy of science. Definitions of the Creation or Evolution debate.

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 stated circumstances.
Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.

National Academy of Sciences, Science and Creationism

Creation or Evolution: Limitations of the scientific endeavor.

In science, explanations are limited to those based on observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Explanations that cannot be based on empirical evidence are not a part of science.

National Academy of Sciences, Science and Creationism

Creation or Evolution: Conflation of science and religion.

While the controversy is usually portrayed in the Mass media as being between creationists and scientists, in particular evolutionary biologists in fact very few scientists consider the debate to have any academic legitimacy. Many of the most vocal creationists rely heavily on their criticisms of modern science, philosophy, and culture as a means of Christian apologetics. For example, as a way of justifying the 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."

Creation or Evolution: Theory vs. fact.

The argument that evolution is a theory, not a fact, has often been made against the exclusive teaching of evolution. 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."

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.

Creation or Evolution: Philosophical arguments.

Critiques such as those based on the distinction between theory and fact are often leveled against unifying concepts within scientific disciplines. For example, 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 to atheism. 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. Creationists claim that supernatural explanations should not be excluded and that scientific work is paradigmatically close-minded.

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. Mainstream proponents accuse the creationists of conflating the two in a form of Pseudoscience.

Creation or Evolution: Falsifiability.

Philosopher of science Karl R. Popper's The Logic of Scientific Discovery 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. 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". However, in what one sociologist derisively called "Popper-chopping", 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. 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)."

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." 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.

Debate among some scientists and philosophers of science on the applicability of falsifiability in science continues. 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."

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."

Creation or Evolution: 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. However, almost universally these have been shown to be Quote mines (lists of out of context or misleading quotations) that do not accurately reflect the evidence for evolution or the mainstream scientific community's opinion of it, or highly out-of-date. 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.

Creation or Evolution: False dichotomy.

Many supporters of evolution (especially religious ones) disagree with the claim made by creationists and some scientists that there exists an inherent, irresolvable conflict between religion and evolutionary theory. Since many religious people do accept evolution (see theistic evolution), they argue that this is a false dichotomy. Views on this subject cover a very wide spectrum, from strict Biblical literalism (which implies Young Earth creationism) to atheism.

Strict (Intelligent Design, Old Earth, and Young Earth) creationists strenuously reject evolutionary creationism on two grounds:

  1. Strict creationists claim that "evolution" is an attempt to remove God from the natural world. "Evolution as understood by its ablest advocates is an inherently atheistic explanation," claims one. Such creationists claim that, because probability, chance, and randomness are used as explanations for Mutations and Genetic drift, God is necessarily excluded from the mechanisms of evolution. Creationists who are actively involved in the conflict tend to criticize those who advocate theistic evolution as having missed a claimed fundamental disparity between the naturalistic mechanisms described as explanations for the natural sciences and the theistic action inherent to the doctrine of creation.
  2. Strict creationists claim that there are two and only two positions that can possibly be correct: creation science (or Intelligent design) or the scientific mainstream (evolution). This automatically precludes discussions of other origin beliefs and allows such advocates to claim that the only plausible explanation of origins that permits God is that which they are advocating. On this basis they claim that science itself is inherently atheistic, and lobby for a reversion to faith-based natural philosophy.

A point concerning this apparent dichotomy is provided by some Christian apologists, notably Stanley Jaki and Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), that God in his omnipotence, is fully capable of creating a universe which would bring forth the desired result - that is, humanity - as a consequence of the Laws of Creation inherent in it. Also, the literal view of creationism therefore propounds a "small" view of God's greatness. They qualify this theory with the assumption that after evolution brought forth the biology of humans, God breathed the Spirit into them to give them Life in His image. Furthermore they promote the idea that there is no contradiction between the biblical account of creation and the latest scientific understanding.

In a book titled Creation and Evolution published on 11 April 2007, Pope Benedict XVI states that "The question is not to either make a decision for a creationism that fundamentally excludes science, or for an evolutionary theory that covers over its own gaps and does not want to see the questions that reach beyond the methodological possibilities of natural science," and that "I find it important to underline that the theory of evolution implies questions that must be assigned to philosophy and which themselves lead beyond the realms of science" In commenting on statements by his predecessor, he writes that "it is also true that the theory of evolution is not a complete, scientifically proven theory." Though commenting that experiments in a controlled environment were limited as "We cannot haul 10,000 generations into the laboratory," he does not endorse creationism or intelligent design. He defends theistic evolution, the reconciliation between science and religion already held by Catholics. In discussing evolution, he writes that "The process itself is rational despite the mistakes and confusion as it goes through a narrow corridor choosing a few positive mutations and using low probability.. This ... inevitably leads to a question that goes beyond science ... where did this rationality come from?" to which he answers that it comes from the "creative reason" of God.

"Science does not produce evidence against God. Science and religion ask different questions," according Martin Nowak, a self-described person of faith as well as a professor of mathematics and evolutionary biology at Harvard. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the leader of the world's Anglicans, comes to a similar conclusion, albeit from a completely different perspective. In March 2006, he stated his discomfort about teaching creationism, saying that creationism was "a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories." He also said: "My worry is creationism can end up reducing the doctrine of creation rather than enhancing it."

Creation or Evolution: Disputes relating to science. Biology.

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, Macroevolution (and particularly Human evolution from common ancestors with other members of the Great Apes), and the existence of Transitional Fossils.


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 in the Creation or Evolution debate.

It is commonly stated by critics of evolution that there are no known transitional fossils. 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.

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.

Creation or Evolution: Geology.

Most believers in Young Earth creationism a position held by the majority of proponents of Flood geology accept 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 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 theories. 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. 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.

Creation or Evolution: Other sciences including cosmology and nuclear physics.

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.

Creationists point to experiments they have performed, that they claim demonstrates that 1.5 billion years of nuclear decay took place over a short period of time, from which the infer that "billion-fold speed-ups of nuclear decay" have occurred, a massive violation of the principle that Radiometric dating in particular.

The scientific community point 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.

Although scientists have demonstrated that the decay rates of isotopes which decay by an electron capture mechanism can be varied slightly, these variations are of the order of 0.2 percent, far below a level that would give support to the Creationist results, and at a level that it is argued that they would not invalidate radiometric dating, nor is there any evidence of a variation in decay rates or physical constants over time. The consensus of professional scientific organisations worldwide is that no scientific evidence contradicts the age of approximately 4.5 billion years. It is further argued that "(i)t is unlikely that a variable rate would affect all the different mechanisms in the same way and to the same extent. Yet different radiometric dating techniques give consistent dates."

Creation or Evolution: Issues relating to religion and public policy. Science Education.

Creationists promote that evolution is a theory in crisis with scientists criticizing evolution and claim that fairness and equal time requires educating students about the alleged scientific controversy. The advocates then offer Creationism as an alternative to science.

Opponents, comprised of the overwhelming majority of the scientific community and science education organizations, reply that there is in fact no scientific controversy and that the controversy exists solely in terms of religion and politics. 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 while promoting intelligent design, and to advance an education policy for US public schools that introduces creationist explanations for the origin of life to public-school science curricula. 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.

Creation or Evolution: Free 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) have upheld school districts' right to restrict teaching to a specified curriculum.

Theological arguments for the Creation or Evolution debate. 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. 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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

Miscellaneous arguments concerning the Creation or Evolution debate.

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, 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.

Debates on Creation or Evolution.

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. 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." 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." 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. Stephen Jay Gould took public stances against appearing to give legitimacy to creationism by debating its proponents. He noted during a Caltech lecture in 1985:

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 have mastered. 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. We destroyed them in Arkansas. On the second day of the two-week trial we had our victory party!

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Published books and other resources of the creation evolution debate.

  • Burian, RM: 1994. Dobzhansky on Evolutionary Dynamics: Some Questions about His Russian Background. In The Evolution of Theodosius Dobzhansky, ed. MB Adams, Princeton University Press.
  • Samuel Butler, Evolution Old and New, 1879, p. 54.
  • Darwin, "Origin of Species," New York: Modern Library, 1998.
  • Dobzhansky, Th: 1937. Genetics and the Origin of Species, Columbia University Press.
  • Henig, The Monk in the Garden: The Lost and Found Genius of Gregor Mendel, the Father of Genetics, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.
  • Kutschera, Ulrich and Karl J. Niklas. 2004. "The modern theory of biological evolution: an expanded synthesis." Naturwissenschaften 91, pp. 255-276.
  • Mayr, E. The Growth of Biological Thought, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1982.
  • James B. Miller (Ed.): An Evolving Dialogue: Theological and Scientific Perspectives on Evolution, ISBN 1-56338-349-7.
  • Morris, H.R. 1963. The Twilight of Evolution, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
  • Numbers, R.L. 1991. The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism, Berkely: University of California Press.
  • Pennock, Robert T. 2003. "Creationism and intelligent design." Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics 4, pp. 143-163.
  • Carl Sagan. The Demon-Haunted World. New York: Ballantine Books, 1996.
  • Scott, Eugenie C. 1997. "Antievolution and creationism in the United States." Annual Review of Anthropology 26: 263-289.
  • Maynard Smith, "The status of neo-darwinism," in "Towards a Theoretical Biology" (C.H. Waddington, ed., University Press, Edinburgh, 1969.
  • D.L. Hull: The Use and Abuse of Sir Karl Popper. Biology and Philosophy 14:4 (October 1999), 481504.
  • Strobel, Lee. 2004. The Case for a Creator. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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