The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

“Creationism Is True!” — Okay, Which Version of Creationism?

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 12, 2011

A recent conversation on the comments section of this blog has caused me to write about a question that often plagues me when discussing the whole issue of creationism: namely, if creationism were a true & accurate account of the universe, which version of creationism is true & accurate?

One of the biggest fallacies made by creationists seems to be that, in their apparent zeal to tear down the well-established science of evolution, they fail to realize that there are many different kinds of creationism out there.  Not only that, but many of these differing creationist views are not compatible with one another, a fact which makes certain creationist claims to be “the truth” rather embarrassing seeing as how they conflict not only with modern science but other kinds of “truthful” creationism.  And the fact that most of these people come to these conclusions through a supposedly “literal, inerrant and truthful” reading of the Bible opens up even more questions.

First, it should be noted that I am assuming, for the sake of this post, that we are discussing the version of creationism most dealt with in the United States: creationism from a Christian perspective.  There are, in fact, a lot of different non-Christian versions of creationism in the world. But, as you shall see, even within Christianity there’s creationism and then there’s creationism, depending upon whom you ask.  Let me reference the list of the variations on creationism as outlined by the Talk Origins website (quotes are taken from that site), starting with those views which are the most extreme and gradually progressing from there:

1. Flat Earth: These are people who, like the name implies, believe that their reading of the Bible teaches that the Earth is flat.

Flat Earthers believe that the earth is flat and is covered by a solid dome or firmament. Waters above the firmament were the source of Noah’s flood. This belief is based on a literal reading of the Bible, such as references to the “four corners of the earth” and the “circle of the earth.” Few people hold this extreme view, but some do.

2. Geocentrism: Essentially, this is the belief that the Sun, other planets, and basically the entire solar system (and/or universe) moves around the Earth, in stark contrast to the known facts of a Sun-centered solar system…

The basis for their belief is a literal reading of the Bible. “It is not an interpretation at all, it is what the words say.” (Willis 2000) Both flat-earthers and geocentrists reflect the cosmological views of ancient Hebrews. Geocentrism is not common today, but one geocentrist (Tom Willis) was intrumental[sic] in revising the Kansas elementary school curriculum to remove references to evolution, earth history, and science methodology.

3. Young-Earth Creationism: This is probably what most people in the United States think of when we speak of creationism, and it is the most common variant of creationism…

Young Earth Creationists (YEC) claim a literal interpretation of the Bible as a basis for their beliefs. They believe that the earth is 6000 to 10,000 years old, that all life was created in six literal days, that death and decay came as a result of Adam & Eve’s Fall, and that geology must be interpreted in terms of Noah’s Flood. However, they accept a spherical earth and heliocentric solar system. Young-Earth Creationists popularized the modern movement of scientific creationism by taking the ideas of George McCready Price, a Seventh Day Adventist, and publishing them in The Genesis Flood (Whitcomb & Morris 1961). YEC is probably the most influential brand of creationism today.

4. Old-Earth Creationism: These are, in general, creationists who disagree with their young-Earth brethren in that they believe the Earth & universe are very old (many billions of years).  However, they…

… still believe that life was specially created by God, and they still base their beliefs on the Bible. There are a few different ways of accomodating[sic] their religion with science.

5. Gap Creationism: This is the view that, in the Bible, there is a great gap of time in between the first two verses of Genesis…

… with God recreating the world in 6 days after the gap. This allows both an ancient earth and a Biblical special creation.

6. Day-Age Creationism: In this version of creationism, the question of a Biblical “day” is open to interpretation…

Day-age creationists interpret each day of creation as a long period of time, even thousands or millions of years. They see a parallel between the order of events presented in Genesis 1 and the order accepted by mainstream science. Day-Age Creationism was more popular than Gap Creationism in the 19th and and early 20th centuries.

7. Progressive Creationism: This is probably, among the old-Earth creationists, the most prevalent view currently…

It accepts most of modern physical science, even viewing the Big Bang as evidence of the creative power of God, but rejects much of modern biology. Progressive Creationists generally believe that God created “kinds” of organisms sequentially, in the order seen in the fossil record, but say that the newer kinds are specially created, not genetically related to older kinds.

8. Intelligent Design Creationism: Also known as “ID”, much of this version of creationism is a re-hashing of the old Watchmaker argument…

Intelligent Design Creationism descended from Paley’s argument that God’s design could be seen in life (Paley 1803). Modern IDC still makes appeals to the complexity of life and so varies little from the substance of Paley’s argument, but the arguments have become far more technical, delving into microbiology and mathematical logic.

In large part, Intelligent Design Creationism is used today as an umbrella anti-evolution position under which creationists of all flavors may unite in an attack on scientific methodology in general (CRSC, 1999). A common tenet of IDC is that all beliefs about evolution equate to philosophical materialism.

9. Evolutionary Creationism: By this point, we are moving along the creationist continuum to the point where the science of evolution is largely accepted, and the differences are essentially theological in nature…

Evolutionary Creationism differs from Theistic Evolution only in its theology, not in its science. It says that God operates not in the gaps, but that nature has no existence independent of His will. It allows interpretations consistent with both a literal Genesis and objective science, allowing, for example, that the events of creation occurred, but not in time as we know it, and that Adam was not the first biological human but the first spiritually aware one.

10. Theistic Evolution: Some people reconcile their religious beliefs with evolutionary science by maintaining that God creates through evolution…

Theistic Evolutionists vary in beliefs about how much God intervenes in the process. It accepts most or all of modern science, but it invokes God for some things outside the realm of science, such as the creation of the human soul. This position is promoted by the Pope and taught at mainline Protestant seminaries.

11. Methodological Materialistic Evolution: Almost a form of deism, this view removes the role of God as active in the process of evolution…

Materialistic Evolution differs from Theistic Evolution in saying that God does not actively interfere with evolution. It is not necessarily atheistic, though; many Materialistic Evolutionists believe that God created evolution, for example. Materialistic evolution may be divided into methodological and philosophical materialism. Methodological materialism limits itself to describing the natural world with natural causes; it says nothing at all about the supernatural, neither affirming nor denying its existence or its role in life.

For a much more thorough take-down and analysis of all of these various kinds of (Christian-oriented) creationism, I suggest looking at this article by Dr. Eugenie Scott over at the National Center for Science Education.

And the next time you find yourself engaged in conversation with a creationist, be sure to ask them: Which kind of creationist are you? That question alone will hopefully be enough to get them thinking :)

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4 Responses to ““Creationism Is True!” — Okay, Which Version of Creationism?”

  1. [...] Of course, there are many different kinds of Christian creationism – as evidenced in my post “Creationism is True!” – Okay, Which Version of Creationism?  But beyond that, there are versions of creationism which are rooted in Jewish and Islamic beliefs [...]

  2. [...] really genuine in their argument, then they would have no problem with “equal time” for a large variety of creationist ideas: old-Earth creationism, day-age creationism, gap creationism, flat Earth creationism, geocentrism, [...]

  3. […] part of creationists goes as follows: if we aren’t allowed to teach creationism, specifically one brand called young-earth creationism, then we’ll make it so that nobody can learn evolution, […]

  4. […] Nye chose to attack creationism as an extreme form of theology (especially Ham’s variation) which is only one kind of creationism among many, and he then went on to point out the fundamental flaws in Ham’s creationist model, namely […]

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