Young Earth Creationism

Few proponents of young-Earth creationism interpret the flat Earth and geocentric passages of the Bible literally. They accept heliocentrism but reject the conclusions of modern physics, astronomy, chemistry, and geology concerning the age of Earth, and they deny biological descent with modification. Earth, in their view, is between 6,000 and 10,000 years old. They reject the Big Bang theory and postulate catastrophic mechanisms as the cause of most of the world's geological features. The Flood of Noah, for example, is allegedly responsible for carving the Grand Canyon and other geological features.

Figure 3.3

Humphreys's model of the universe. The young-Earth creationist Russell Humphreys envisions the cosmos as spherical, with galaxies and all other phenomena surrounded by a layer of water. This view is derived from the biblical reference to "waters above the firmament." Courtesy Sarina Bronson.

Figure 3.3

Humphreys's model of the universe. The young-Earth creationist Russell Humphreys envisions the cosmos as spherical, with galaxies and all other phenomena surrounded by a layer of water. This view is derived from the biblical reference to "waters above the firmament." Courtesy Sarina Bronson.

Young-Earth creationists (YECs) reject the inference that earlier forms of life are ancestral to later ones. Instead, they embrace the special creation of separate "kinds" of plants and animals, as stated in Genesis. The definition of kinds is inconsistent among YECs but usually refers to a higher taxonomic level than species. Most YECs accept that God created creatures possessing at least as much genetic variation as occurs within a biological family (for example, the cat family Felidae, the cattle family Bovidae) and then considerable evolution within a kind occurred. The created cat kind thus would have possessed sufficient genetic variability to differentiate into lions, tigers, leopards, pumas, bobcats, and house cats, through the normal microevolutionary processes of mutation and recombination, natural selection, genetic drift, and speciation. Most YECs view the basic body plans of major phyla that appear in the Cambrian explosion as evidence of special creation.

The term young-Earth creationist is often associated with the followers of Henry Morris, founder of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and arguably the most influential creationist of the second half of the twentieth century. He and John C. Whitcomb Jr. published The Genesis Flood, a seminal work that claimed to provide a scientific rationale for young-Earth creationism (Whitcomb and Morris 1961). As the title suggests, the authors read Genesis literally, including not just the special, separate creation of humans and all other kinds of plants and animals but also the historicity of Noah's Flood. Whitcomb and Morris proposed that there is scientific evidence to demonstrate the truth of special creationism: Earth is young, the universe appeared in essentially its present form about 10,000 years ago, and plants and animals appeared in their present forms as created kinds rather than having evolved over millions of years through common ancestors. Although efforts were made during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to claim that a literal interpretation of the Bible is compatible with science, The Genesis Flood was the first twentieth-century effort to attract a large following. Religious antievolutionists were greatly encouraged by the thought that there might be evidence that evolution was not only religiously objectionable but also scientifically flawed. Creation science has been augmented by hundreds of books and pamphlets written by Morris and those inspired by him (Mclver 1988). More on Morris and young-Earth creationism can be found in Chapter 5.

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