Creation vs. evolution controversy

Part of a series on
Creationism

History of creationism
Neo-creationism

Types of creationism

Young Earth creationism
Old Earth creationism
Gap creationism
Day-age creationism
Progressive creationism
Intelligent design

Theology

Genesis creation narrative
Framework interpretation
Genesis as an allegory
Omphalos hypothesis

Creation science

Baraminology
Flood geology
Creation geophysics
Creationist cosmologies
Intelligent design

Controversy

Creation myth
History
Public education
Teach the Controversy

Particular religious views

Hindu · Islamic · Jewish

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The creation–evolution controversy (also termed the creation vs. evolution debate or the origins debate) involves a recurring cultural, political, and theological dispute about the origins of the Earth, of humanity, of life, and of the universe.[1]

This debate rages most publicly in the United States of America, but to a lesser extent also proceeds in Europe and elsewhere,[2] often portrayed as part of a culture war.[3] Christian fundamentalists dispute the evidence of common descent of humans and other animals as demonstrated in modern palaeontology, and those who defend the conclusions of modern evolutionary biology, geology, cosmology, and other related fields. They argue for the Abrahamic religions' accounts of creation, framing it as reputable science ("creation science"). While the controversy has a long history,[4] today it is mainly over what constitutes good science education,[5][6] with the politics of creationism primarily focusing on the teaching of creation and evolution in public education.[7][8][9][10][11] The debate also focuses on issues such as the definition of science (and of what constitutes scientific research and evidence), science education, free speech, separation of Church and State, and theology.

Evolution is an undisputed fact within the scientific community and in academia, where the level of support for evolution is essentially universal.[12][13][14][15][16][17] The support for Abrahamic accounts or other creationist alternatives is very low among scientists, and virtually nonexistent among scientists in the relevant fields.[18] Unlike the scientific community, a 2012 Gallup survey reports, "Forty-six percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years. The prevalence of this creationist view of the origin of humans is essentially unchanged from 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question. About a third of Americans believe that humans evolved, but with God's guidance; 15% say humans evolved, but that God had no part in the process."[19]

The debate is sometimes portrayed as being between science and religion, but as the United States National Academy of Sciences states:

Today, many religious denominations accept that biological evolution has produced the diversity of living things over billions of years of Earth's history. Many have issued statements observing that evolution and the tenets of their faiths are compatible. Scientists and theologians have written eloquently about their awe and wonder at the history of the universe and of life on this planet, explaining that they see no conflict between their faith in God and the evidence for evolution. Religious denominations that do not accept the occurrence of evolution tend to be those that believe in strictly literal interpretations of religious texts.
—National Academy of Sciences, Science, Evolution, and Creationism[20]

Contents

History

The creation-evolution controversy began in Europe and North America in the late 18th century when new interpretations of geology led to various theories of an ancient earth, and the extinctions demonstrated in the fossil geological sequence prompted early ideas of evolution, notably Lamarckism. In England these ideas of continuing change were at first seen as a threat to the fixed social order, and were repressed by the church and state.[21] Conditions gradually eased, and in 1844 the controversial Vestiges popularised the transmutation of species. The scientific establishment at first 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 such laws.[22][23]

Contemporary reaction to Darwin

Template:Cquote

The 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 a respectable field of study.[22]

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, for instance, openly supported the idea of God working through evolution. Other Christians were opposed to the idea and even some of Darwin's close friends and supporters including Charles Lyell and Asa Gray initially expressed reservations about some of his ideas.[24] Gray later became a staunch supporter of Darwin in America, and collected together a number of his own writings to produce an influential book, Darwiniana. These essays argued for a conciliation between Darwinian evolution and the tenets of theism, at a time when many on both sides perceived the two as mutually exclusive.[25] Gray denied that investigation of physical causes stood opposed to the theological view and the study of the harmonies between mind and Nature, and thought it "most presumable that an intellectual conception realized in Nature would be realized through natural agencies".[26] 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,[24] but evolution was also taken up by prominent atheists including Edward Aveling and Ludwig Büchner and it was criticised, in the words of one reviewer, as "tantamount to atheism".[27][28][29][30] Following the lead of figures such as St. George Jackson Mivart and John Zahm, Catholics in the United States were accepting of evolution itself while ambivalent towards natural selection and stressing humanity's divinely imbued soul.[31] Though evolution was never condemned by the church, initially the more conservative leaning Catholic leadership in Rome held back but gradually adopted a similar position.[31][32]

Creationists during this period were largely a premillennialist minority, whose belief in Christ's imminent return depended on a quasi-literal reading of parts of the Bible.[28] They were not as concerned about the new findings in geology or biology, freely granting scientists any time they needed before the Garden of Eden to account for scientific observations, such as the fossil sequence and geological findings.[33] In the immediate post-Darwinian era, few scientists or clerics rejected the antiquity of the earth or the progressive nature of the fossil record.[34] Likewise, few attached geological significance to the Biblical flood, unlike subsequent creationists.[34] 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.[35]

Creationism in Theology

At the beginning of the 19th century most Europeans had accepted the Genesis creation narrative as true, but debate was developing in applying historical methods to Biblical criticism, suggesting a less literal account of the Bible. Simultaneously the developing science of Geology indicated the Earth was ancient, and religious thinkers sought to accommodate this by day-age theory or gap theory. The Neptunianist catastrophism that had earlier proposed that all geological features could be explained by a universal flood, had been replaced by a gradualism based upon the erosion and depositional cycle over millions of years, which gave a better explanation of the sedimentary column. Biology and the discovery of extinction challenged ideas of a fixed immutable Aristotelian "great chain of being". Natural theology had earlier expected that scientific findings based on empirical evidence would help religious understanding. These differences led some to increasingly think that science and theology were concerned with different non-competitive domains. When most scientists came to accept evolution by around 1875, European theologians generally came to accept evolution as an instrument of God. Pope Leo XIII, for instance, referred to longstanding Christian thought that scriptural interpretations could be reevaluated in the light of new knowledge, and Roman Catholics came around to acceptance of human evolution subject to direct creation of the soul. In the United States of America the development of the racist Social Darwinian eugenics movement led a number of Catholics to reject evolution.[24] 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.[36]

Development of Creationism in the USA

At first in the USA evangelical Christians paid little attention to the developments in geology and biology, being more concerned with the rise of Higher Biblical Criticism which questioned the belief in the bible as literal truth. Those criticising these approaches took the name "fundamentalist" which was originally coined by its supporters to describe a specific package of theological beliefs that developed into a movement within the Protestant community of the United States in the early part of the 20th century, and that had its roots in the Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy of that time.[37] The term usually has a religious connotation indicating unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs.[38]

Up until the early mid-20th century there was little official resistance to evolution by mainline denominations within the United States of America. 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. By then most U.S. high school and college biology classes taught scientific evolution, but several factors including the rise of Christian fundamentalism and social factors of changes and insecurity in more traditionalist Bible Belt communities led to a backlash. The numbers of children taking secondary education increased rapidly, and parents who were fundamentalist or opposed to social ideas of what was called survival of the fittest had real concerns about what their children were learning about evolution.[24]

British Creationism

The main British creationist movement in this period was the Evolution Protest Movement, formed in the 1930s[36] out of the Victoria Institute, or Philosophical Society of Great Britain, which was founded in 1865, as a response to the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species and Essays and Reviews. The Victoria Institute's stated objective was to defend "the great truths revealed in Holy Scripture ... against the opposition of Science falsely so called." Although it was not officially opposed to evolution, it attracted a number of scientists sceptical of Darwinism, including John William Dawson and Arnold Guyot.[39] It reached a high point of 1,246 in 1897, but quickly plummeted to less than one third of that figure in the first two decades of the twentieth century.[39] Though it was anti-evolution at first, the institute joined the theistic evolution camp by the 1920s, which led to the development of the Evolution Protest Movement in reaction. Amateur ornithologist Douglas Dewar was the main driving force within the EPM, publishing a booklet entitled Man: A Special Creation and engaging in public speaking and debates with supporters of evolution. In the late 1930s he resisted the American creationists call for acceptance of flood geology, which later led to conflict within the organisation. Despite trying to win the public endorsement of C.S. Lewis, the most prominent Christian apologist of his day, by the mid-1950s the EPM came under control of schoolmaster/pastor Albert G. Tilney, whose dogmatic and authoritarian style ran the organisation "as a one-man band", rejecting Flood Geology and unwaveringly promoting Gap creationism and reducing the membership to lethargic inactivity.[40] As a result of being captured by Young Earth Creationists in the 1970s it was renamed Creation Science Movement in 1980, under the Chairmanship of David Rosevear, who has a Ph.D. in organometallic chemistry from the University of Bristol. Today it has formally incorporated flood geology into their 'Deed of Trust' (which all officers were required to sign) and condemned Gap and Day-Age Creationism as unscriptural.

United States legal challenges and their consequences

The modern struggle of religious fundamentalists accepting creationism, to get their rejection of evolution accepted as legitimate science within education institutions in the USA, has been highlighted through a series of important court cases.

Butler Act and Scopes monkey trial

Main article: Scopes Trial


In the aftermath of World War I, the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy had brought a surge of opposition to the idea of evolution, and following the campaigning of William Jennings Bryan several states introduced legislation prohibiting the teaching of evolution. By 1925, such legislation was being considered in 15 states, and had passed in some states, such as Tennessee.[41] 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 Tennessee 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 but 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).[42][43]

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 no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship."[44] The Court, applying that state Constitutional language, held

We are not able to see how the prohibition of teaching the theory that man has descended from a lower order of animals gives preference to any religious establishment or mode of worship. So far as we know, there is no religious establishment or organized body that has in its creed or confession of faith any article denying or affirming such a theory.... Protestants, Catholics, and Jews are divided among themselves in their beliefs, and that there is no unanimity among the members of any religious establishment as to this subject. Belief or unbelief in the theory of evolution is no more a characteristic of any religious establishment or mode of worship than is belief or unbelief in the wisdom of the prohibition laws. It would appear that members of the same churches quite generally disagree as to these things.

... Furthermore, [the Butler Act] requires the teaching of nothing. It only forbids the teaching of evolution of man from a lower order of animals.... As the law thus stands, while the theory of evolution of man may not be taught in the schools of the State, nothing contrary to that theory [such as Creationism] is required to be taught.

... It is not necessary now to determine the exact scope of the Religious Preference clause of the Constitution ... Section 3 of Article 1 is binding alike on the Legislature and the school authorities. So far we are clear that the Legislature has not crossed these constitutional limitations.
Scopes v. State, 289 S.W. 363, 367 (Tenn. 1927).[45]

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".[46] 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.[47][48][49][50]

Epperson v. Arkansas

Main article: Epperson v. Arkansas

In 1968, the United States Supreme Court invalidated a forty-year-old Arkansas statute that prohibited the teaching of evolution in the public schools. A Little Rock 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."[51] 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".[52] But the Supreme Court decision also suggested that creationism could be taught in addition to evolution.[53]

Daniel v. Waters

Main article: 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 Tennessee'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 the teaching of evolution.

Creation Science

Main article: Creation Science

As biologists grew more and more confident in evolution as the central defining principle of biology,[54][55] American membership in churches favoring increasingly literal interpretations of scripture also rose, with the Southern Baptist Convention and Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod outpacing all other denominations.[56] With growth and increased finances, these churches became better equipped to promulgate a creationist message, with their own colleges, schools, publishing houses, and broadcast media.[57]

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.[58][59] On the strength of this, Morris became a popular speaker, spreading anti-evolutionary ideas at fundamentalist churches, colleges, and conferences.[58] Morris' Creation Science Research Center (CSRC) rushed publication of biology text books that promoted creationism.[60] Ultimately, the CSRC broke up over 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.[61] During this time, Morris and others who supported flood geology adopted the terms scientific creationism and creation science.[62] The "flood geology" theory effectively co-opted "the generic creationist label for their hyperliteralist views".[63][64]

Court cases

McLean v. Arkansas
Main article: McLean v. Arkansas

In 1982 another case in Arkansas 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
Main article: Edwards v. Aguillard

In the early 1980s, the Louisiana 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 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 States ruled that the Louisiana act was also unconstitutional, because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion. At the same time, it stated 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 later came to be known as intelligent design.[65]

Intelligent design


Main article: 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."[67] 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).

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 Topeka, Kansas, 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.[68] 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,[69] 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."[70]

Dover trial

Following the Edwards v. Aguillard decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, in which the Court held that a Louisiana 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 to an unnamed and undefined intelligent designer, as opposed to God.[71] 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 Kitzmiller v. Dover decision 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".[72]

The December 2005 ruling in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial[73] supported the viewpoint of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and other science and education professional organizations that Teach the Controversy proponents seek to undermine the teaching of evolution[74][75] while promoting intelligent design,[76][77][78] and to advance an education policy for US public schools that introduces creationist explanations for the origin of life to public-school science curricula.[73][73][79][80]

Texas Board of Education support for intelligent design

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'."[81] The 2009 Texas Board of Education hearings were chronicled in the 2012 documentary The Revisionaries.

Recent developments

The controversy continues to this day, with the mainstream scientific consensus on the origins and evolution of life continuing to be challenged by creationist organizations and religious groups who desire to uphold some form of literal creationism (usually Young Earth creationism, Creation Science, Old Earth creationism or intelligent design) as an alternative. Most of these groups are literalist Christian, and more than one sees the debate as part of the Christian mandate to evangelize.[82][83] Some groups see science and religion as being diametrically opposed views that cannot be reconciled. More accommodating viewpoints, held by many mainstream churches and many scientists, consider science and religion to be separate categories of thought (non-overlapping magisteria), which ask fundamentally different questions about reality and posit different avenues for investigating it.[84] Public opinion in regards to the concepts of evolution, creationism, and intelligent design is fluctuating.

More recently, the intelligent design movement has attempted an anti-evolution position that avoids any direct appeal to religion. Scientists argue that intelligent design does not represent any research program within the mainstream scientific community, and is still essentially creationism.[85][86] Its leading proponent, the Dominionist funded 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".[87] 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."[88][89]

Viewpoints

In the controversy a number of divergent opinions can be recognised, regarding both the acceptance of scientific theories and religious practice.

Young Earth creationism

Young Earth creationism rejects completely the conventional scientific approach and argues for 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 to the Earth's. 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

Main article: Old Earth creationism

Old Earth creationism holds that the physical universe was created by God, but that the creation event of Genesis within 6 literal days is not to be taken strictly literally. This group generally accepts the age of the Universe and the age of the Earth as described by astronomers and geologists, but that details of the evolutionary theory are questionable. Old Earth creationists interpret the Genesis creation narrative in a number of ways, that each differ from the six, consecutive, 24-hour day creation of the Young Earth creationist view.

Neo-creationism

Main article: 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

Main article: 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 myth; 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 generally accepts 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, 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).

Agnostic evolution

Agnostic evolution is the position of acceptance of biological evolution, combined with the belief that it is not important whether God is, was, or will have been involved.[90]

Materialistic evolution

Materialistic evolution is the position of acceptance of biological evolution, combined with the position that the supernatural does not exist (a position common to philosophical naturalists, humanists and atheists).[91] It is a view championed by what have been called "The New Atheists", who argue strongly that the creationist viewpoint is not only dangerous, but is completely rejected by science.

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.[92] 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.[93] Creationists claim that supernatural explanations should not be excluded and that scientific work is paradigmatically close-minded.[94]

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.[95] Mainstream proponents accuse the creationists of conflating the two in a form of pseudoscience.[96]

Definitions

Fact: In science, an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as "true". Truth in science, however, is never final, and what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow.

Hypothesis: A tentative statement about the natural world leading to deductions that can be tested. If the deductions are verified, it becomes more probable that the hypothesis is correct. If the deductions are incorrect, the original hypothesis can be abandoned or modified. Hypotheses can be used to build more complex inferences and explanations.

Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.
—National Academy of Sciences, Science and Creationism[97]
Law: A descriptive generalization about how some aspect of the natural world behaves under stated circumstances.

Limitations of scientific endeavor

In science, explanations are limited to those based on observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Explanations that cannot be based on empirical evidence are not a part of science.
—National Academy of Sciences, Science and Creationism[97]

Theory vs. fact

Main article: Evolution as theory and fact

The argument that evolution is a theory, not a fact, has often been made against the exclusive teaching of evolution.[98] 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. In science, "theory" usually means "a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena".[99]

Exploring this issue, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote:

Evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from ape-like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered.
—Stephen Jay Gould, Evolution as Fact and Theory[100]

Falsifiability