School boards in an uproar. Parents protective of their children. Teachers defensive. Students confused. The furore over creation versus evolution has been going on for almost a century and a half since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species (1859).
Recently, Gallup reported that a quarter of Canadians continue to believe that God created human beings in our present form within the last 10,000 years and referred to that belief as “creationism.” And more than a third of Canadians think that creationism should be taught in schools.
The crucial thing to get straight here is that the apparent battle of “creation versus evolution” is, in most respects, nonsense.
Belief in creation means simply to believe that a deity, or several deities, brought the cosmos into being. It is a core belief of many religions: Judaism, Christianiy, and Islam, of course, but also certain varieties of Hinduism and Buddhism and of tribal religions around the world. That God (or the gods) created the world is what ought to be meant by “creation” and “creationism.”
How God (or the gods) did this creating is the open, scientific question.
Nowadays, however, many people assume that belief in creation (= “creationism”) means a very particular set of beliefs: that the Biblical God created the world in six 24-hour days; that the earth is less than 10,000 years old; and that the planet appears older because a global flood in Noah’s time laid down the deep layers of sediment that evolutionists think took billions of years to accumulate.
These beliefs are not, in fact, traditional Christian beliefs, but a particular, and recent, variety of Christian thought, properly known as “creation science” or “scientific creationism.” Creation science was popularized in a 1923 book called The New Geology by amateur U.S. scientist George McCready Price. A Seventh-Day Adventist, Price learned from Adventism’s founder Ellen G. White that God had revealed to her that Noah’s flood was responsible for the fossil record.
Price didn’t influence the popular mind much, however. It remained for a 1961 book called The Genesis Flood, largely an academic dressing-up of Price’s work by engineer Henry Morris and theologian John Whitcomb, to disseminate the creation science scheme. A variety of organizations (such as the Institute for Creation Research in Texas) have so energetically propagated these ideas that some polls show they are believed by more than 40 per cent of the American population and, as Gallup recently confirmed, by a considerable fraction of Canadians.
This version of creation, however, is but one of four different understandings of creation held by Bible-believing, church-going Christians.
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