Monday, January 03, 2005

Creationism Is Not Science Part 3

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The following web site presents a broad definition of Creationism:

Creationism by Keith Matthews

This is the easiest of the ‘fringe’ areas to deal with, as it is the one that early archaeologists had to deal with. Creationism, in its broadest sense, is the belief that the entire universe was created by a divine being. The term covers a wide range of convictions, although it is most often used in a restricted sense to refer to the beliefs of protestant fundamentalist Christians, especially in the United States of America. The full gamut of creationist beliefs cannot be described here and most are mutually exclusive (it is a peculiar arrogance of the protestant fundamentalist Christian creationists that they have set the agenda for the debate to be between their version of creationism and science). Creationist beliefs range from the frankly bizarre (one example of ancient Egyptian cosmogeny has the creation of the world proceeding from the masturbation of the god Atum) to the charmingly naive (a Finnish legend has it that a teal built her nest on the Mother of the Primeval Water’s knee and when one of her eggs broke after the Mother twitched, the earth formed from one half of the shell, and the sky from the other). There are few people today who would demand that these sorts of accounts ought to be taught in schools as part of a science lesson, yet the Christian fundamentalists have occasionally been able to persuade various American state legislatures to accept that their particular creation story should be taught in this way.

Protestant fundamentalist Christian creationism is the most prominent form in the western world (and in particular, the USA), because of the privileged position held by the numerous different forms of Christianity in these states. In some Middle Eastern states, fundamentalist Islamic creationism is also a major force (in Taleban-ruled Afghanistan, for instance, it was the only permitted account of the origins of the world), but elsewhere, it is not an important phenomenon (something that may surprise many Americans).

The more extreme creationists believe that divine creation took place as little as 6000 years ago (following the chronology established by James Ussher (1581-1656; Archbishop of Armagh, 1625-56), who calculated the date of creation as 4004 BC); so-called ‘scientific creationism’ has grown up in an attempt to provide evidence that this account is correct. Other creationists are more subtle; some allow the earth to be considerably older than 6000 years, even as old as 4.3 billion years—which is what conventional science says—and restrict their beliefs to a denial that the universe can exist without a creating god. The question of creationism is something that has exercised American educators for many years, with numerous controversies about what can and cannot be taught in schools; it is not taken quite so seriously on this side of the Atlantic.


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