Creationism - Creationism Internationally - Americas - United States

United States

See also: Intelligent Design and Creation science

In the United States some religious communities have refused to accept naturalistic explanations and tried to counter them. The term started to become associated with Christian fundamentalist opposition to human evolution and belief in a young Earth in 1929. Several U.S. states passed laws against the teaching of evolution in public schools, as upheld in the Scopes Trial. Evolution was omitted entirely from school textbooks in most of the United States until the 1960s. Since then, renewed efforts to introduce teaching creationism in American public schools in the form of flood geology, creation science, and intelligent design have been consistently held to contravene the constitutional separation of Church and State by a succession of legal judgments. The meaning of the term creationism was contested, but by the 1980s it had been co-opted by proponents of creation science and flood geology.

Such beliefs include Young Earth creationism, proponents of which believe that the Earth is thousands rather than billions of years old, and typically believe that the days in chapter one of Genesis are 24 hours in length. While Old Earth creationism accepts geological findings and other methods of dating the earth and believes that these findings do not contradict Genesis, but reject evolution. The term theistic evolution refers to beliefs in creationism which are more compatible with the scientific view of evolution and the age of the Earth. There are other religious people who support creationism, but in terms of allegorical interpretations of Genesis.

By the start of the 20th century, evolution was widely accepted and was beginning to be taught in U.S. public schools. After World War I, popular belief that German aggression resulted from a Darwinian doctrine of "survival of the fittest" inspired William Jennings Bryan to campaign against the teaching of Darwinian ideas of human evolution. In the 1920s, the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy led to an upsurge of fundamentalist religious fervor in which schools were prevented from teaching evolution through state laws such as Tennessee’s 1925 Butler Act, and by getting evolution removed from biology textbooks nationwide. Creationism became associated in common usage with opposition to evolution.

In 1961 in the United States, an attempt to repeal the Butler Act failed. The Genesis Flood by Henry M. Morris brought the Seventh-day Adventist biblically literal flood geology of George McCready Price to a wider audience, popularizing the idea of Young Earth creationism, and by 1965 the term "scientific creationism" had gained currency. The 1968 Epperson v. Arkansas judgment ruled that state laws prohibiting the teaching of evolution violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which prohibits state aid to religion. and when in 1975 Daniel v. Waters ruled that a state law requiring biology textbooks discussing "origins or creation of man and his world" to give equal treatment to creation as per Book of Genesis was unconstitutional, a new group identifying themselves as creationists promoted "creation science" which omitted explicit biblical references.

In 1981 the state of Arkansas passed a law, Act 590, mandating that "creation science" be given equal time in public schools with evolution, and defining creation science as positing the "creation of the universe, energy, and life from nothing," as well as explaining the earth’s geology by "the occurrence of a worldwide flood". This was ruled unconstitutional at McLean v. Arkansas in January 1982 as the creationists' methods were not scientific but took the literal wording of the Book of Genesis and attempted to find scientific support for it. Louisiana introduced similar legislation that year. A series of judgments and appeals led to the 1987 Supreme Court ruling in Edwards v. Aguillard that it too violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

"Creation science" could no longer be taught in public schools, and in drafts of the creation science school textbook Of Pandas and People all references to creation or creationism were changed to refer to intelligent design. Proponents of the intelligent design movement organised widespread campaigning to considerable effect. They officially denied any links to creation or religion, and claimed that "creationism" only referred to young Earth creationism with flood geology; but in Kitzmiller v. Dover the court found intelligent design to be religious, and unable to dissociate itself from its creationist roots, as part of the ruling that teaching intelligent design in public school science classes was unconstitutional.

The percentage of people in the USA who accept the idea of evolution declined from 45% in 1985, to 40% in 2005. A Gallup poll reported that percentage of people in the US who believe in a strict interpretation of creationism had fallen to 40% in 2010 after a high of 46% in 2006. The highest the percentage has risen between 1982 and 2010 was 47% in 1994 and 2000 according to the report. The report found that Americans who are less educated are more likely to hold a creationist view while those with a college education are more likely to hold a view involving evolution. 47% of those with no more than a high school education believe in creationism while 22% of those with a post graduate education hold that view. The poll also found that church attendance dramatically increased adherence to a strict creationist view (22% for those who do not attend church, 60% for those who attend weekly). The higher percentage of Republicans who identified with a creationist view is described as evidence of the strong relationship between religion and politics in the United States. Republicans also attend church weekly more than Democratic or independent voters. Non-Republican voters are twice as likely to hold a non-theistic view of evolution than Republican voters.

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