PM5392: Concerning Creationism

Some definitions:
  • creationist: one who believes that a deity created life and the universe, in a manner contrary to that supposed by mainstream scientific theories (such as evolution or the Big Bang)
  • old Earth creationist: a creationist who believes that the universe itself is of a similar age to that predicted by mainstream scientific theories, but insists that some major aspect of our universe (such as life) is much more recent than predicted by those theories
  • young Earth creationist: a creationist who believes that the universe is much younger than predicted by mainstream scientific theories - several orders of magnitude younger
  • Abrahamist creationist: a creationist who believes that the Abrahamic God is the creator. An Abrahamist creationist could be either an old earth or young earth Abrahamist creationist
  • Biblical creationist: an Abrahamist creationist who believes that the Bible contains an accurate account of creation, could be either old earth or young earth
  • Quranist creationist: an Abrahamist creationist who believes that the Quran contains an accurate account of creation, could be either old earth or young earth
  • non-Abrahamist creationist: a creationist who believes in creation by a deity other than the Abrahamic God. Again, could be either old earth or young earth
  • scientific creationism: a creationist who believes that creationism is a scientific theory
  • non-scientific creationism: a creationist who does not consider creationism to be a scientific theory, but rather to be some other type of theory which lies outside the proper bounds of science

Maratreanism is broadly sympathetic to creationism, but belief in creationism is not an absolute requirement of the Maratrean religion. Maratreanism does not claim that creationism is absolutely certain - evolution is still a possibility - just that creation is more likely. More precisely, Maratreanism endorses Young Earth Creationism rather than Old Earth Creationism.

However, Maratreanism rejects scientific creationism, it does not see creationism as a scientific theory. In terms of a scientific explanation of life, it is willing to accept semi-omphalist evolutionism - the theory that life appears to have evolved, but which is agnostic as to whether it actually has - evolution as a useful myth, whose actual truth is scientifically irrelevant.

Maratreanism is also not a form of Biblical creationism. It does not believe in the literal truth of the Bible. It is willing to accept that some parts may be divinely inspired, but other parts definitely are not. For example, Maratreans generally don't believe in a global flood in Noah's time for instance - maybe there was a flood in Noah's day, but it was probably a local flood that got exaggerated by storytellers into something much bigger than it actually was.

Biblical Young Earth Creationists are quite attached to a figure like 6000 years. The Maratrean position is more flexible - estimates are generally somewhere between 10,000 years on the low end, and 10 million years on the high end, but no one claims to exactly know - probably closer to 10,000 than 10 million, but both are possibilities; but it is doubtful that it is much less than 10,000 years. The Biblical creationist claim of 6000 years is not impossible from a Maratrean perspective, but rather doubtful.

Rather than only one past, it is possible the universe has multiple simultaneous pasts, if our universes is the product of the merger of multiple universes with convergent histories. In which case, the question of how old the universe is might not have one single answer.

Creationism is the belief that the universe was created by God (or a god or gods). In the broadest sense, it includes anyone who has that belief. In a narrower and more common sense, however, it is restricted to those who believe that God created the universe in a way which contradicts some of the conclusions of contemporary secular science.

The Biblical understanding of creation is creatio ex nihilo (creation from nothing); but the term creation is also taken to include ideas in other cultures of creation from pre-existent matter.

In terms of its relationship to the Bible, we can divide creationism into three varieties:

  • fully biblical creationism bases its views on the Bible alone. The Bible only supplies a framework however, so science is needed to fill in the gaps. From its own viewpoint, the plain meaning of the biblical text must always take priority over scientific theories; at the same time, it looks to science to help answer the objections of those who do not share the same presupposition of Biblical authority.
  • partially biblical creationism tries to harmonize the Biblical text with extra-Biblical ideas, such as the beliefs of contemporary secular science. There are many variants, depending on exactly how that balance is made
  • non-biblical creationism does not base itself on the Bible, but on other sources. For example, Islamic creationism (based on the Quran and Hadith), Aboriginal creationism (based on traditional stories), etc.

Key elements of the fully biblical view:

  • God created the heavens and the earth, over a period of seven days, roughly six thousand years ago
  • All life on earth belongs to fixed kinds created by God. Microevolution within those kinds may take place, but macroevolution from one kind to another does not occur
  • God created Adam, the first man, and then created Eve from a rib taken from his side; all humanity is descended from them
  • A global flood, around four thousand years ago, destroyed all human and non-aquatic animal life on earth, save for Noah, his family, and the animals aboard his ark

A common division is between young earth creationism and old earth creationism:

  • young earth creationism believes the universe is much younger than that claimed by contemporary secular science. Generally speaking, young earth creationists are fully biblical creationists, who believe the universe to be six thousand years old based on the plain meaning of the biblical text. By extension, the term can also be used to refer to partially biblical or non-biblical creationists who believe in a roughly similar age for the earth.
  • old earth creationism accepts that the universe as a whole is as old as it is claimed to be by contemporary secular science, without however accepting all aspects of that science's claims. Old Earth creationism exists in a number of variants, including:
    • gap creationism believes there is a temporal gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2, which could be several billion years in its extent. Adherents of this view accept mainstream scientific views about the origins of the universe as a whole, and the galaxies, stars and planets; but they believe that life, rather than being a product of abiogenesis and biological evolution, was created by God as described in Genesis
    • progressive creationism accepts the broad evolutionary account in terms of timeframes, but believes that evolution from one species to another was only possible due to direct divine intervention

The young earth creationist interpretation of Genesis 1 is the most straightforward, and the only which is based purely on the plain meaning of the text; the others are attempts to interpret the text in such a way that harmonizes the Biblical text with extra-Biblical ideas. Such approaches to Genesis 1 include:

  • gap creationism, discussed above
  • day-age view, which holds that each day in Genesis 1 refers to an arbitrarily long period, of millions or billions of years, rather than a 24 hour day
  • framework view, which holds that the days of Genesis 1 do not refer to temporal periods at all, but are an allegorical or symbolic reference to something non-temporal, such as the structure of creation
  • partial inspiration view, some but not all of the Bible is inspired; those aspects of Genesis 1 which disagree with the conclusions of contemporary secular science are not inspired

These approaches are adopted by both Old Age creationists, and by Christians who accept contemporary secular science. These approaches are partially biblical views.

Another view is the omphalos hypothesis — that the universe looks old, yet is actually young - God created it to look that way. This view was proposed as a way of harmonizing the Biblical text with the claims of secular science; yet most Christians reject it on the grounds that it implies God is a deceiver, which contradicts the clear teaching of the Bible otherwise. From a philosophical perspective, it can be criticized as having Last Thursdayism as its logical conclusion.

Creationists differ in their attitude to science. On the one hand, scientific creationism sees creationism as a scientific theory, of equal worthiness of consideration as theories such as the Big Bang or biological evolution. They see contemporary secular science as failing to properly follow its own methods, having been led astray by ideological commitments. Other creationists take a different approach, and are not as willing to identify creationism as a form of science. Some biblical creationists see scientific creationism as placing science as an authority above or independent of the Bible; as such, they do not see creationism as demonstrable on scientific grounds independently from the Bible, rather they take a more presuppositionalist approach. An adherent of the omphalos hypothesis may hold that science has reached the correct conclusion given the evidence it has before it, even though further evidence that it may not be proper for science to consider (such as special revelation) leads to the conclusion that the conclusion of science is actually wrong.

There are two views which are sometimes labelled as creationist, and although they are certainly so in the broader sense, they are not or may not be in the narrower sense:

  • deistic evolutionism holds God created the universe and caused the Big Bang; but the universe since then has evolved as contemporary secular science claims. This is a form of creationism in the broader sense above, but not in the narrower sense, since it does not disagree with any of contemporary secular science's claim. Its claim that God caused the Big Bang does not contradict that science, since such science ends at the beginning of the Big Bang, and hence such a claim is beyond the proper domain of science. Despite its label as deistic, it can be accepted by theists also — to be a theist rather than a deist, one must believe that God intervenes in history; but a theist who adheres to deistic evolution may believe that God after creating the universe left it alone to evolve under its own devices, and did not intervene in it until relatively recently
  • theistic evolutionism holds that God created the universe and caused the Big Bang; it accepts that abiogensis and biological evolution occurred as contemporary secular science claims, but believes that God intervened supernaturally to guide the process of evolution. However, theistic evolutionists differ in how significant that guidance was — at one extreme, it may have been subtle, which makes theistic evolutionism not substantially different from mainstream evolutionism in practice; at the other extreme, it may have been substantial, significant and decisive, which makes theistic evolutionism a form of old earth creationism (similar to progressive creationism) and contrary to the secular scientific theory of evolution

The intelligent design movement is often linked to creationism, but it does not necessarily imply creationism. Intelligent design argues that life on earth must have been designed by a designer; but while most intelligent design proponents believe that designer to be God the creator, it could have instead been some other form of intellgience, such as intelligent extraterrestrial life. The Raëlian religion in particular has supported intelligent design, since they view life on earth as having been created by intelligent aliens.

An element that both creationism, and contemporary secular science, have in common is the belief that the universe has a finite age. The other major alternative is that the universe is infinitely old and has no beginning. This used to be a common view among cosmologists before Big Bang theory became widely adopted — steady state theory. It was also a common view among ancient pagans, is generally held by Hindus and Buddhists — with the added idea that the universe undergoes endless cycles of growth and decay — and is also held by the Raëlian religion. Some have proposed ideas implying an infinite universe within the confines of Big Bang cosmology — the oscillatory universe model (an infinite succession of Big Bangs followed by a Big Crunch followed by another Big Bang), and the daughter universe model (a black hole in one universe results in the formation of a daughter universe; thus there is a beginningless and endless tree of universes) — but these ideas have not received widespread acceptance. Another, less common, position is that of eternal reccurence — time is circular, repeating endlessly, not new and differently in each cycle (as in the Buddhist or Hindu views) but every cycle exactly the same as the last — the most famous proponent of this view was Friedrich Nietzsche.

Unrelated theological use

Unrelated to the above, creationism refers to the theory in theology that God creates a new soul for each child at its conception (or possibly later, depending on one's views as to when the child gains a soul). The contrary view, traducianism, holds that the soul of the child is not directly created by God from nothing, but rather is derived from the souls of one or both of its parents. Traducianists see the soul of Adam alone being directly created from nothing, and subsequent souls derived from his soul - in the case of Eve by direct divine intervention, but in the ordinary case by normal natural processes.