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The creation–evolution controversy (also termed the creation vs. evolution debate or the origins debate) is a recurring theological and cultural-political dispute about the origins of the Earth, humanity, life, and the universe, between those who espouse the validity and/or superiority of literal interpretations of a creation myth, and the proponents of evolution, backed by scientific consensus. The dispute particularly involves the field of evolutionary biology, but also the fields of geology, palaeontology, thermodynamics, nuclear physics and cosmology. Though also present in Europe and elsewhere, and often portrayed as part of the culture wars., this debate is most prevalent in the United Statesmarker .

While the controversy has a long history, today it is mainly over what constitutes good science,See:



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 Christians and Christian denominations interpret the Book of Genesis).

Within the scientific community and academia the level of support for evolution is essentially universal, while support for biblically-literal accounts or other creationist alternatives is very small among scientists, and virtually nonexistent among those in the relevant fields.

The debate is sometimes portrayed as being between science and religion. However, as the National Academy of Sciencesmarker states:

History of the controversy

Controversies in the age of Darwin



The creation-evolution controversy originated from 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. 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":
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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. 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:
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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. 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.

Creationism

In the United States of Americamarker Creationism was widely accepted and was 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.

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 state 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 Tennesseemarker 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 minimum $100 fine instead of allowing the jury to assess the fine).

Although it overturned the conviction, the Court decided that the law was not in violation of the Religious Preference provisions of the Tennessee Constitution (section 3 of article 1), which stated that "that no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship." The Court, applying that state Constitutional language, held

The interpretation of the Establishment clause up to that time was that the government could not establish a particular religion as the State religion. The Tennessee Supreme Court's decision held in effect that the Butler Act was constitutional under the state Constitution's Religious Preference Clause, because the Act 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:


Epperson v. Arkansas

In 1968, the United States Supreme Courtmarker invalidated a forty year old Arkansasmarker statute that prohibited the teaching of evolution in the public schools. A Little Rockmarker high school biology teacher, Susan Epperson, filed suit charging the law violated the federal constitutional prohibition against establishment of religion as set forth in the Establishment Clause. The Little Rock Ministerial Association supported Epperson's challenge, declaring, "to use the Bible to support an irrational and an archaic concept of static and undeveloping creation is not only to misunderstand the meaning of the Book of Genesis, but to do God and religion a disservice by making both enemies of scientific advancement and academic freedom." The Court held that the United States Constitution prohibits a state from requiring, in the words of the majority opinion, "that teaching and learning must be tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogma." But the Supreme Court decision also suggested that creationism could be taught in addition to evolution.

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 Tennesseemarker'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, 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 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. During this time, Morris and others who supported flood geology adopted the terms scientific creationism and creation science. The flood geologists effectively co-opted "the generic creationist label for their hyperliteralist views".

Court cases

McLean v. Arkansas
In 1982 another case in Arkansasmarker 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 Louisianamarker 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 evolution or creationism as such, but did require that when evolutionary science was taught, 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.

In the similar case of McLean v. Arkansas (see above) the federal trial court had also decided against creationism. Mclean v. Arkansas however was not appealed to the federal Circuit Court of Appeals, creationists instead thinking that they had better chances with Edwards v. Aguillard. In 1987 the Supreme Court of the United Statesmarker ruled that the Louisiana act was unconstitutional, because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion. At the same time, however, it stated in its opinion 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.

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." It has been viewed as a "scientific" approach to creationism by creationists, but is widely rejected as unscientific by the science community - primarily because intelligent design cannot be tested and rejected like scientific hypotheses (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. 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. 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. 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". 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."

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 Topekamarker, Kansasmarker 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. 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, 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."

The Dover Trial

Following the Edwards v. Aguillard decision by the Supreme Court of the United Statesmarker, in which the Court held that a Louisianamarker 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 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 opinion of Kitzmiller v. Dover held that intelligent design was not a subject of legitimate scientific research, and that it "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and hence religious, antecedents".

Viewpoints

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-Creationism

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 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 a creator 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). A prominent proponent of this viewpoint is British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

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. 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.

Definitions

Limitations of the scientific endeavor

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:

Falsifiability

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:
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".

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. 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)."

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.

In fact, Popper wrote admiringly of the value of Darwin's theory. 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:


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."

Conflation of science and religion

See also: Objection to evolution that it is a religion

Appeal to consequences

See also: Objection to evolution's moral implications
A number of creationists have blurred the boundaries between their disputes over the truth of the underlying facts, and explanatory theories, of evolution, with their purported philosophical and moral consequences. This type of argument is known as an appeal to consequences, and is a logical fallacy. Examples of these arguments include those of prominent creationists such as Ken Ham"One thing we have come to realise in Creation Science is that 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.



It is also worth noting the comment in the book, ‘By Their Blood-Christian Martyrs of the 20th Century’ (Most Media) by James and Marti Helfi, on page 49 and 50: ‘New philosophies and theologies from the West also helped to erode Chinese confidence in Christianity. A new wave of so-called missionaries from mainline Protestant denominations came teaching evolution and a non-supernatural view of the Bible. Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Northern Baptist schools were especially hard hit. Bertrand Russell came from England preaching atheism and socialism. Destructive books brought by such teachers further undermined orthodox Christianity. The Chinese Intelligentsia who had been schooled by Orthodox Evangelical Missionaries were thus softened for the advent of Marxism.’ Evolution is destroying the Church and society, and Christians need to be awakened to that fact!" Ham, Ken. Creation Evangelism (Part II of Relevance of Creation). Creation Magazine '6'(2):17, November 1983. and Henry M. Morris."…I want to list seventeen summary statements which, if true, provide abundant reason why the reader should reject evolution and accept special creation as his basic world-view. …

13. Belief in special creation has a salutary influence on mankind, since it encourages responsible obedience to the Creator and considerate recognition of those who were created by Him. …

16. Belief in evolution and animal kinship leads normally to selfishness, aggressiveness, and fighting between groups, as well as animalistic attitudes and behaviour by individuals." Henry M. Morris, The Remarkable Birth of Planet Earth (Creation-Life Publishers, 1972), pp. vi-viii. Cited in Appeal to Consequences, Fallacy Files

Disputes relating to science

Many creationists strongly 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. 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.

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 (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.

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 study of the biological evolution of humans as a distinct species from its common ancestors with other animals. Analysis of fossil evidence and genetic distance are two of the means by which scientists understand this evolutionary history.

Fossil evidence suggests that humans' earliest hominoid ancestors may have split from other primates as early as the late Oligocene, circa 26-24 Ma, and that by the early Miocene, the adaptive radiation of many different hominoid forms was well underway. Evidence from the molecular dating of genetic differences indicates that the gibbon lineage (family Hylobatidae) diverged between 18 and 12 Ma, and the orangutan lineage (subfamily Ponginae) diverged about 12 Ma. While there is no fossil evidence thus far clearly documenting the early ancestry of gibbons, fossil proto-orangutans may be represented by Sivapithecus from India and Griphopithecus from Turkey, dated to around 10 Ma. Molecular evidence further suggests that between 8 and 4 Ma, first the gorillas, and then the chimpanzee (genus Pan) split from the line leading to the humans. We have no fossil record of this divergence, but distinctively hominid fossils have been found dating to 3.2 Ma (see Lucy) and possibly even earlier, at 6 or 7 Ma (see Toumaï). Comparisons of chimpanzee and human DNA show the two are approximately 98.4 percent identical, and are taken as strong evidence of recent common ancestry. Today, only one distinct human species survives, but many earlier species have been found in the fossil record, including Homo erectus, Homo habilis, and Homo neanderthalensis.

Creationists dispute there is evidence of shared ancestry in the fossil evidence, and argue either that these are misassigned ape fossils (e.g. that Java man was a gibbon) or too similar to modern humans to designate them as distinct or transitional forms. However Creationists frequently disagree where the dividing lines would be. 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 also dispute science's interpretation of genetic evidence in the study of human evolution. They argue that it is a "dubious assumption" that genetic similarities between various animals imply a common ancestral relationship, and that scientists are coming to this interpretation only because they have preconceived notions that such shared relationships exist. Creationists also argue that genetic mutations are strong evidence against evolutionary theory because the mutations required for major changes to occur would almost certainly be detrimental.

Macroevolution

Many creationists now accept the possibilities of microevolution within "kinds" but refuse to accept and 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. 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." 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.

Geology

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). 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 idea. 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.

Other sciences

Cosmology

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 8.3 ± 1.8 billion years ago.

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.

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.

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:

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. 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. 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 with scientists criticizing evolution 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, 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 Universitymarker 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.

On March 27, 2009, the Texas Board of Education, by a vote of 13 to 2, voted that at least in Texas, textbooks must teach intelligent design alongside evolution, and question the validity of the fossil record. Don McLeroy, a dentist and chair of the board, said, "I think the new standards are wonderful ... dogmatism about evolution" has sapped "America's scientific soul." According to Science magazine, "Because Texas is the second-largest textbook market in the United States, publishers have a strong incentive to be certified by the board as 'conforming 100% to the state's standards'."

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. 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.

Forums for the controversy

Debates

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 predominantly 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", with scientists arguing from "an impregnable fortress of evidence that converges to an unmistakable conclusion", whilst for creationists it is "a spiritual war". 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. Similarly, Stephen Jay Gould took a public stance against appearing to give legitimacy to creationism by debating its proponents. He noted during a Caltechmarker lecture in 1985:

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 Citizens Alliances for Science, and numerous national science associations and state Academies of Science.

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:

Outside the United States

Views on human evolution in various countries.


While the controversy has been prominent in the United States, it has flared up in other countries as well.

Europe

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 Germanymarker, The United Kingdommarker, Italymarker, the Netherlandsmarker, Polandmarker and Serbiamarker.

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."

Australia

With declining church attendance, there has been some growth in fundamentalist and Pentecostal Christian denominations. Under the former Queenslandmarker 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. 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 Universitymarker, against an ordained minister, Dr. Allen Roberts, who had claimed that there were remnants of Noah's Ark in eastern Turkeymarker. 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.

Islamic countries

In recent times, the controversy has become more prominent in Islamic countries. Currently, in Egyptmarker evolution is taught in schools but Saudi Arabiamarker and Sudanmarker have both banned the teaching of evolution in schools. Creation science has also been heavily promoted in Turkeymarker and in immigrant communities in Western Europe, primarily by Harun Yahya.

See also



Footnotes

References



Published books and other resources

  • Burian, RM: 1994. Dobzhansky on Evolutionary Dynamics: Some Questions about His Russian Background; in
  • Maynard Smith, "The status of neo-darwinism," in "Towards a Theoretical Biology" (C.H. Waddington, ed., University Press, Edinburgh, 1969.


External links

Creationism as social policy



Creationist beliefs



Scientific rebuttals



Evolution versus creationism debates

Location and link Year Pro-evolution Pro-creationism
Stanford University 1994 Will Provine Phillip E. Johnson
Nova on-line 1996 Kenneth R. Miller Phillip E. Johnson
Firing Line 1997 Kenneth R. Miller, Michael Ruse, Eugenie Scott & Barry Lynn Phillip E. Johnson, Michael Behe, David Berlinski & William F. Buckley
University of London ( transcript) 2007 Lewis Wolpert Steve Fuller



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