Young Earth creationism
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Young Earth creationism (YEC) is the belief that the Universe, Earth and all life on Earth were created by direct acts of God during a relatively short period, between 5,700 and 10,000 years ago. Its primary adherents are those Christians and Jews who, using a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation narrative as a basis, believe that God created the Earth in six 24-hour days. Young Earth creationists differ from other creationists in that they hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible regarding the age of the Earth. In contrast, old Earth creationists interpret the six creation days (yom) of the Book of Genesis metaphorically and accept the modern estimate of the ages of the Earth and of the universe.
Since the mid-20th century, young Earth creationists - starting with Henry M. Morris (1918-2006) - have promoted an alternative explanation called "creation science" as a basis for a belief in a supernatural, geologically recent creation. Modern science from numerous scientific disciplines calls Young Earth creationism into question, suggesting that the age of the universe is 13.8 billion years, the formation of the Earth as at least 4.5 billion years ago, and the first appearance of life on Earth as occurring at least 3.5 billion years ago.
Between 1982 and 2014, successive surveys have found that between 40% and 47% of adults in the United States inclined to the view that "God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years" when Gallup asked for their views on the origin and development of human beings. A 2011 Gallup survey reports that 30% of U.S. adults say they interpret the Bible literally. A 2009 poll by Harris Interactive found that 39% of Americans agreed with the statement that "God created the universe, the earth, the sun, moon, stars, plants, animals, and the first two people within the past 10 000 years", yet only 18% of the Americans polled agreed with the statement "The earth is less than 10 000 years old".
- 1 History
- 2 Characteristics and beliefs
- 3 Compared to other forms of creationism
- 4 Criticism
- 5 Adhering church bodies
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Biblical dates for creation
Biblical scholars today report evidence that the first major comprehensive draft of Genesis was composed by the Yahwist in the late 7th or the 6th century BC, during the Babylonian captivity, or at the court of Solomon, c. 950 BC, with later additions made by the priestly source.
The earliest post-exilic Jewish chronicle preserved in the Hebrew language, the Seder Olam Rabbah compiled by Jose ben Halafta in 160 AD, dates the creation of the world to 3751 BC, while the later Seder Olam Zutta (804 AD) dates it to 4339 BC. The Hebrew Calendar ascribed to Hillel II has traditionally since the 4th century AD dated creation to 3761 BC.
Young Earth creationists have held that their view has its earliest roots in ancient Judaism, citing, for example, the commentary on Genesis by Ibn Ezra (c. 1089–1164). Shai Cherry of Vanderbilt University notes that modern Jewish theologians have generally rejected such literal interpretations of the written text, and that even Jewish commentators who oppose some aspects of Darwinian thought generally accept that the Earth is much older.
Calculations based on the Septuagint have traditionally dated creation to around 5500 BC, while the Samaritan Torah produces a date around 4300 BC, and the Masoretic a date around 4000 BC. Many of the earliest Christians who followed the Septuagint calculated the date of creation to be around 5500 BC, and Christians up to the Middle Ages continued to use this rough estimate: Clement of Alexandria (5592 BC), Julius Africanus (5501 BC), Eusebius (5228 BC), Jerome (5199 BC) Hippolytus of Rome (5500 BC), Theophilus of Antioch (5529 BC), Sulpicius Severus (5469 BC), Isidore of Seville (5336 BC), Panodorus of Alexandria (5493 BC), Maximus the Confessor (5493 BC), George Syncellus (5492 BC) and Gregory of Tours (5500 BC). The Byzantine calendar has traditionally dated the creation of the world to 1 September, 5509 BC, María de Ágreda and her followers to 5199 BC, while the early Ethiopian Church (as revealed in the Book of Aksum) to 5493 BC. Bede was one of the first to break away from the standard Septuagint date for the creation and in his work De Temporibus ("On Time") (completed in 703 AD) dated the creation to 18 March 3952 BC but was accused of heresy at the table of Bishop Wilfrid, because his chronology was contrary to accepted calculations of around 5500 BC.
After the Masoretic text was published, dating creation around 4000 BC became common, and was received with wide support. Proposed calculations of the date of creation, using the Masoretic from the 10th century – 18th century include: Marianus Scotus (4192 BC), Maimonides (4058 BC), Henri Spondanus (4051 BC), Benedict Pereira (4021 BC), Louis Cappel (4005 BC), James Ussher (4004 BC), Augustin Calmet (4002 BC), Isaac Newton (4000 BC), Johannes Kepler (27 April, 3977 BC) [based on his book Mysterium], Petavius (3984 BC), Theodore Bibliander (3980 BC), Christen Sørensen Longomontanus (3966 BC), Melanchthon (3964 BC), Martin Luther (3961 BC), John Lightfoot (3960 BC), Cornelius Cornelii a Lapide (3951 BC) Joseph Justus Scaliger (3949 BC), Christoph Helvig (3947 BC), Gerardus Mercator (3928 BC), Matthieu Brouard (3927 BC), Benito Arias Montano (3849 BC), Andreas Helwig (3836 BC), David Gans (3761 BC) and Gershom ben Judah (3754 BC).
Among the Masoretic creation estimates or calculations for the date of creation Ussher's specific chronology dating the creation to 4004 BC became the most accepted and popular, mainly because this specific date was attached to the King James Bible. The youngest ever recorded date of creation within the historic Jewish or Christian traditions is 3616 BC, by Yom-Tov Lipmann Heller in the 17th century while the oldest proposed date was 6984 BC by Alfonso X of Castile. However some contemporary or more recent proponents of Young Earth Creationism have taken this figure back further by several thousands of years by proposing significant gaps in the genealogies in chapters 5 and 11 of the Book of Genesis. Harold Camping for example dated the creation to 11,013 BC, while Christian Charles Josias Bunsen in the 19th century dated the creation to 20,000 BC.
Despite a long history of Christianity and Judaism, a number of prominent early Church Fathers and Christian writers, including Origen and Augustine, did not believe that the creation story in Genesis depicted ordinary solar days and read creation history as an allegory as well as being theologically true. Several early Jews also followed an allegorical interpretation of Genesis, including most notably Philo (On the Creation, III.13).
The Protestant reformation hermeneutic inclined some of the Reformers, including John Calvin and Martin Luther, and later Protestants toward a literal reading of the Bible as translated, believing in an ordinary day, and maintaining this younger-Earth view.
An Earth that was thousands of years old remained the dominant view during the Early Modern Period (1500–1800) and is found typically referenced in the works of famous poets and playwrights of the era, including Shakespeare:
...The poor world is almost 6,000 years old.
Scientific revolution and the old Earth
Support for an Earth that was created thousands of years ago declined among the scientists and philosophers from the 18th century onwards with the development of the Age of Enlightenment, the scientific revolution, and new scientific assessments. In particular, discoveries in geology according to these assessments suggested an Earth that was much older than thousands of years, and proposals such as Abraham Gottlob Werner's Neptunism attempted to incorporate what was understood from geological investigations into a coherent description of Earth's natural history. James Hutton, now regarded as the father of modern geology, went further and opened up the concept of deep time for scientific inquiry. Rather than accepting that the Earth was deteriorating from a primal state, he maintained that the Earth was infinitely old. Hutton stated that:
the past history of our globe must be explained by what can be seen to be happening now … No powers are to be employed that are not natural to the globe, no action to be admitted except those of which we know the principle.
Hutton's main line of argument was that the tremendous displacements and changes he was seeing did not happen in a short period of time by means of catastrophe, but that the incremental processes of uplift and erosion happening on the Earth in the present day had caused them. As these processes were very gradual, the Earth needed to be ancient, in order to allow time for the changes to occur. While his ideas of Plutonism were hotly contested, scientific inquiries on competing ideas of catastrophism pushed back the age of the Earth into the millions of years – still much younger than commonly accepted by modern scientists, but a great change from the literal view of an Earth that was only a few thousand years old.
Hutton's ideas, called uniformitarianism or gradualism, were popularized by Sir Charles Lyell in the early 19th century. The energetic advocacy and rhetoric of Lyell led to the public and scientific communities largely accepting an ancient Earth. By this time, the Reverends William Buckland, Adam Sedgwick and other early geologists had abandoned their earlier ideas of catastrophism related to a biblical flood and confined their explanations to local floods. By the 1830s, mainstream science had abandoned a young Earth as a serious hypothesis.
John H. Mears was one such scholar who proposed several theories varying from a mix of long/indefinite periods with moments of creation to a day-age theory of indefinite 'days'. He subscribed to the latter theory (indefinite days) and found support from the side of Yale professor James Dwight Dana, one of the fathers of Mineralogy, who wrote a paper consisting of four articles named 'Science and the Bible' on the topic. With the acceptance by many biblical scholars of a reinterpretation of Genesis 1 in the light of the breakthrough results of Lyell, and supported by a number of renowned (Christian) scientific scholars, a new hurdle was taken in the future acceptance of Developmentalism (based on Darwin's Natural selection).
Christian fundamentalism and belief in a young Earth
The rise of fundamentalist Christianity at the start of the 20th century saw a renewed interest in proposals that the Earth was thousands of years old, as a part of the movement's rejection of evolution. In 1923, George McCready Price, a Seventh-day Adventist, wrote The New Geology, a book partly inspired by the book Patriarchs and Prophets in which Seventh-day Adventist prophet Ellen G. White described the impact of the Great Flood on the shape of the Earth. Although not an accredited geologist, Price's writings, which were based on reading geological texts and documents rather than field or laboratory work, provide an explicitly fundamentalist perspective on geology. The book attracted a small following, with its advocates almost all being Lutheran pastors and Seventh-day Adventists in America. Harry Rimmer was another prominent exponent of similar views, at least during some of his evangelizing career (Rimmer appears to have also subscribed to "gap creationism", and a local flood, at least at some times).
In the 1950s, Price's work came under severe criticism, particularly by Bernard Ramm in his book The Christian View of Science and Scripture. Together with J. Laurence Kulp, a geologist and in fellowship with the Plymouth Brethren, and other scientists, Ramm influenced Christian organizations such as the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) in not supporting flood geology.
Price's work was subsequently adapted and updated by Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb Jr. in their book The Genesis Flood in 1961. Morris and Whitcomb argued that the Earth was geologically recent and that the Great Flood had laid down most of the geological strata in the space of a single year, reviving pre-uniformitarian arguments. Given this history, they argued, "the last refuge of the case for evolution immediately vanishes away, and the record of the rocks becomes a tremendous witness... to the holiness and justice and power of the living God of Creation!"
This became the foundation of a new generation of young Earth creationist thinkers, who organized themselves around Morris' Institute for Creation Research. Sister organizations such as the Creation Research Society have sought to re-interpret geological formations within a Young Earth Creationist viewpoint. Langdon Gilkey writes:
... no distinction is made between scientific theories on the one hand and philosophical or religious theories on the other, between scientific questions and the sorts of questions religious beliefs seek to answer... It is, therefore, no surprise that in their theological works, as opposed to their creation science writings, creationists regard evolution and all other theories associated with it, as the intellectual source for and intellectual justification of everything that is to them evil and destructive in modern society. For them all that is spiritually healthy and creative has been for a century or more under attack by "that most complex of godless movements spawned by the pervasive and powerful system of evolutionary uniformitarianism", "If the system of flood geology can be established on a sound scientific basis... then the entire evolutionary cosmology, at least in its present neo-Darwinian form, will collapse. This in turn would mean that every anti-Christian system and movement (communism, racism, humanism, libertarianism, behaviorism, and all the rest) would be deprived of their pseudo-intellectual foundation", "It [evolution] has served effectively as the pseudo-scientific basis of atheism, agnosticism, socialism, fascism, and numerous faulty and dangerous philosophies over the past century.
Young Earth creationism contradicts the scientific consensus of the scientific community. A 2006 joint statement of InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP) by 68 national and international science academies enumerated the modern scientific assessments that young Earth creationism contradicts, in particular that the universe, the Earth, and life are billions of years old, that each has undergone continual change over those billions of years, and that life on Earth has evolved from a common primordial origin into the diverse forms observed in the fossil record and present today. Evolutionary theory is the foremost explanation in modern science to account for the observations, measurements, data, and evidence discovered in the fields of biology, paleontology, molecular biology, genetics, anthropology, and others.
As such, young Earth creationism is dismissed by the academic and the scientific communities. One 1987 estimate found that "700 scientists ... (out of a total of 480,000 U.S. earth and life scientists) ... give credence to creation-science". An expert in the evolution-creationism controversy, professor and author Brian Alters, states that "99.9 percent of scientists accept evolution". A 1991 Gallup poll found that about 5% of American scientists (including those with training outside biology) identified themselves as creationists. For their part, Young Earth Creationists say that the lack of support for their beliefs by the scientific community is due to discrimination and censorship by professional science journals and professional science organizations. This viewpoint was explicitly rejected in the rulings from the 1981 United States District Court case McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education as no witness was able to produce any articles that had been refused publication and the judge could not conceive how "a loose knit group of independent thinkers in all the varied fields of science could, or would, so effectively censor new scientific thought". A 1985 study also found that only 18 out of 135,000 submissions to scientific journals advocated creationism.
Morris' ideas had a considerable impact on creationism and fundamentalist Christianity. Armed with the backing of conservative organizations and individuals, his brand of "creation science" was widely promoted throughout the United States and overseas, with his books being translated into at least ten different languages. The inauguration of so-called "Young Earth Creationism" as a religious position has, on occasion, impacted science education in the United States, where periodic controversies have raged over the appropriateness of teaching YEC doctrine and creation science in public schools (see Teach the Controversy) alongside or in replacement of the theory of evolution. Young Earth creationism has not had as large an impact in the less literalist circles of Christianity. Some churches, such as the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches, accede to the possibility of theistic evolution; though individual church members support young Earth creationism and do so without those churches' explicit condemnation.
Adherence to Young Earth Creationism and rejection of evolution is higher in the U.S. than in most of the rest of the Western world. A 2012 Gallup survey reports that 46% of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years, a statistic which has remained essentially the same since 1982; for those with a postgraduate education, only 25% believe in the creationist viewpoint. About one third of Americans believe that humans evolved with God's guidance and 15% say humans evolved, but that God had no part in the process.
Reasons for the higher rejection of evolution in the U.S. include the abundance of fundamentalist Christians compared to Europe. A 2011 Gallup survey reports that 30% of Americans say the Bible is the actual word of God and should be interpreted literally, a statistic which has fallen slightly from the late 1970s. 54% of those who attend church weekly and 46% of those with a High School education or less take the Bible literally.
Characteristics and beliefs
The common belief of Young Earth Creationists is that the Earth and life were created in six 24-hour periods, 10,000–6,000 years ago. However, there are different approaches to how this is possible given the apparent geological evidence for much longer timescales. The Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College has identified two major types of YEC belief systems:
- Believers in flood geology attach great importance to the biblical story of Noah's Flood in explaining the fossil record and geological strata. Major American YEC organizations such as the Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis support this approach with detailed argumentation and references to scientific evidence.
- A less-visible form of YEC not seen as often on the internet is one which claims that there has been essentially no development of the Universe, Earth, or life whatsoever since creation — that creation has been in a steady state since the beginning without major changes. According to Ronald Numbers this belief, which does not necessarily try to explain scientific evidence through appeal to a global flood, has not been promoted as much as the former example given. Such YECs believe that fossils are not real and that major extinctions never occurred, so dinosaurs, trilobites, and other examples of extinct organisms found in the fossil record would have to either be hoaxes or simply secular lies, promoted perhaps by the devil.
View of the Bible
Young Earth creationists regard the Bible as a historically accurate, factually inerrant record of natural history. As Henry Morris, a leading Young Earth Creationist, explained it, "Christians who flirt with less-than-literal readings of biblical texts are also flirting with theological disaster." According to Morris, Christians must "either ... believe God's Word all the way, or not at all." Young Earth creationists consider the account of creation given in Genesis to be a factual record of the origin of the Earth and life, and that Bible-believing Christians must therefore regard Genesis 1–11 as historically accurate.
Interpretations of Genesis
Young Earth creationists interpret the text of Genesis as strictly literal. Young Earth Creationists reject allegorical readings of Genesis and further argue that if there was not a literal Fall of Man, Noah's Ark, or Tower of Babel this would undermine core Christian doctrines like the birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The genealogies of Genesis record the line of descent from Adam through Noah to Abraham. Young Earth Creationists interpret these genealogies literally, including the old ages of the men. For example, Methuselah lived 969 years according to the genealogy. Differences of opinion exist regarding whether the genealogies should be taken as complete or abbreviated, hence the 6,000 to 10,000 year range usually quoted for the Earth's age. In contrast, Old Earth Creationists tend to interpret the genealogies as incomplete, and usually interpret the days of Genesis 1 figuratively as long periods of time.
Young Earth creationists believe that the flood described in Genesis 6–9 did occur, was global in extent, and submerged all dry land on Earth. Some Young Earth Creationists go further and advocate a kind of flood geology which relies on the appropriation of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century arguments in favor of catastrophism made by such scientists as Georges Cuvier and Richard Kirwan. This approach which was replaced by the mid-nineteenth century almost entirely by uniformitarianism was adopted most famously by George McCready Price and this legacy is reflected in the most prominent YEC organizations today. YEC ideas to accommodate the massive amount of water necessary for a flood that was global in scale included inventing such constructs as an orbiting vapor canopy which would have collapsed and generated the necessary extreme rainfall or a rapid movement of tectonic plates causing underground aquifers or tsunamis from underwater volcanic steam to inundate the planet.
Age of the Earth
The young Earth creationist belief that the age of the Earth is 6,000 to 10,000 years old is contrary to the currently accepted age of 4.54 billion years measured using geochronological methods including radiometric dating. Creationists dispute these and all other methods which suggests the modern timescale of geologic history regardless of what the scientific community sees as a lack of scientific evidence that there are any inconsistencies or errors in the measurement of the Earth's age.
Between 1997 and 2005, a team of scientists at the Institute for Creation Research conducted an eight-year research project entitled RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) to assess the validity and accuracy of radiometric dating techniques. While they concluded that there was overwhelming evidence for over 500 million years' worth of radioactive decay, they claimed to have found other scientific evidence to prove a young earth. They therefore proposed that nuclear decay rates were accelerated by a factor of one billion during the Creation week and at the time of the Flood. However, when subject to independent scrutiny by non-affiliated experts, their analyses was called into question.
Young Earth creationists generally do not accept the results of modern physical anthropology and human evolution and instead hold that Adam and Eve were the universal ancestors of every human to have ever lived. Noah's flood as reported in the book of Genesis is said to have killed all humans on Earth with the exception of Noah and his sons and their wives, so young Earth creationists also hold that all humans alive today are descended from this family.
Flood geology, the fossil record, and dinosaurs
Young Earth creationists don't accept the modern geologic position that the stratigraphic sequence of fossils proves the Earth is billions of years old. In his Illogical Geology, expanded in 1913 as The Fundamentals of Geology, George McCready Price argued that the occasionally out-of-order sequence of fossils that are shown to be due to thrust faults made it impossible to prove any one fossil was older than any other. His "law" that fossils could be found in any order implied that strata could not be dated sequentially. He instead proposed that essentially all fossils were buried during the flood and thus inaugurated flood geology. In numerous books and articles he promoted this concept, focusing his rebuttal on the sequence of the modern geologic time scale as "the devil's counterfeit of the six days of Creation as recorded in the first chapter of Genesis." Today, many young Earth creationists still hold that the fossil record can be explained by the global flood.
In The Genesis Flood (1961) Henry M. Morris reiterated Price's arguments, and wrote that because there had been no death before the Fall of Man, he felt "compelled to date all the rock strata which contain fossils of once-living creatures as subsequent to Adam's fall", attributing most to the flood. He added that humans and dinosaurs had lived together, quoting Clifford L. Burdick for the report that dinosaur tracks had apparently been found overlapping a human track in the Paluxy River bed Glen Rose Formation. He was subsequently advised that he might have been misled, and Burdick wrote to Morris in September 1962 that "you kind of stuck your neck out in publishing those Glen Rose tracks." In the third printing of the book this section was removed.
Following in this vein, many young Earth creationists, especially those associated with the more visible organizations, do not deny the existence of dinosaurs and other extinct animals present in the fossil record. Usually, they suggest that the fossils represent the remains of animals that perished in the flood. A number of creationist organizations further propose that Noah took the dinosaurs with him in the ark, presumably the smaller adolescents, and that they only began to disappear as a result of a different post-flood environment. The Creation Museum in Kentucky portrays humans and dinosaurs coexisting before the Flood while the California roadside attraction Cabazon Dinosaurs describes dinosaurs as being created the same day as Adam and Eve. The Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Texas, has a "hyperbaric biosphere" intended to reproduce the atmospheric conditions before the Flood which could grow dinosaurs. The proprietor Carl Baugh says that these conditions made creatures grow larger and live longer, so that humans of that time were giants.
As the term "dinosaur" was coined by Richard Owen in 1842, the Bible does not use the word "dinosaur". Some creationist organizations propose that the Hebrew word tanniyn (תנין, pronounced [tanˈnin]), mentioned nearly thirty times in the Old Testament, should be considered a synonym. In English translations, tanniyn has been translated as "sea monster" or "serpent", but most often it is translated as "dragon". Additionally, in the Book of Job, a "behemoth" (Job 40:15–24) is described as a creature that "moves his tail like a cedar"; the behemoth is described as ranking "first among the works of God" and as impossible to capture (vs. 24). Biblical scholars have alternatively identified the behemoth as either an elephant, a hippopotamus, or a bull, but some creationists have identified the behemoth with sauropod dinosaurs, often specifically the Brachiosaurus according to their interpretation of the verse "He is the chief of the ways of God" implying that the behemoth is the largest animal God created. The leviathan is another creature referred to in the Bible's Old Testament that some creationists suggest to be a dinosaur. Alternatively, more mainstream scholars have identified the Leviathan (Job 41) with the Nile crocodile or, because Ugarit texts describe it as having seven heads, a purely mythical beast similar to the Lernaean Hydra.
Some creationists say that living dinosaurs (as well as other extinct creatures, such as plesiosaurs), may still survive in isolated spots (see living dinosaur (cryptozoology)), accounting for alleged sightings of lake or sea monsters. Young Earth Creationists occasionally suggest that dinosaurs survived in Australia, and that Aboriginal legends of reptilian monsters are evidence of this, referring to what is known as Megalania (Varanus priscus). However, Megalania was a gigantic monitor lizard, and not a dinosaur, as its discoverer, Richard Owen, realized that the skeletal remains were that of a lizard, and not an archosaur.
Sentiments toward modern science
Young Earth creationism is most famous for an opposition to the theory of evolution, but believers also are on record opposing many measurements, and principles in the fields of physics and chemistry, dating methods including radiometric dating, geology,astronomy, cosmology, and paleontology deemed to be accurate by modern science. Young Earth creationists do not accept explanations for natural phenomena that deviates from the veracity of a plain reading of the Bible, whether it be the origins of biological diversity, the origins of life, or the origins of the universe. This has led some young Earth creationists to criticize other creationist proposals such as intelligent design, for not taking a strong stand on the age of the Earth, special creation, or even the identity of the designer.
Young Earth creationists disagree with methodological naturalism. Instead, they hold that the actions of God as described in the Bible occurred as written and therefore that all scientific evidence must be interpreted in a way that points to the Bible being correct. See Creation-evolution controversy for a more complete discussion.
Compared to other forms of creationism
As a position that developed out of the Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy in the early parts of the twentieth century, Creationists disagree on how or even whether there is any need to reconcile its adherents' acceptance of biblical inerrancy with modern science. Although Young Earth Creationism is one of the most literal positions taken among professed creationists, there is also a small minority of biblical literal adherents to both geocentrism and a flat Earth. Disagreements between different kinds of creationists are somewhat common, but three in particular are of particular relevance to YEC: Old Earth Creationism, Gap creationism, and the Omphalos hypothesis.
Old Earth creationism
Young Earth creationists reject old Earth creationism and day-age creationism on textual and theological grounds. In addition, they hold that the scientific data in geology and astronomy point to a young Earth, against the consensus of the general scientific community.
Young Earth creationists generally hold that, when Genesis describes the creation of the Earth occurring over a period of days, this indicates normal-length 24 hour days, and cannot reasonably be interpreted otherwise. They agree that the Hebrew word for "day" (yôm) can refer to either a 24-hour day or a long or unspecified time; but argue that, whenever the latter interpretation is used, it includes a preposition defining the long or unspecified period. In the specific context of Genesis 1, since the days are both numbered and are referred to as "evening and morning", this can mean only normal-length days. Further, they argue that the 24-hour day is the only interpretation that makes sense of the Sabbath command in Exodus 20:8–11. YECs argue that it is an exegetical fallacy to take a meaning from one context (yom referring to a long period of time in Genesis 1) and apply it to a completely different one (yom referring to normal-length days in Exodus 20).
Hebrew scholars reject the rule that yôm with a number or an "evening and morning" construct can only refer to 24-hour days. Hugh Ross has pointed out that the earliest reference to this rule dates back to young-earth creationist literature in the 1970s and that no reference to it exists independent of the young-earth movement.
The "gap theory" accepts a vast age for the universe, including the Earth and solar system, while asserting that life was created recently in six 24-hour days by divine fiat. Genesis 1 is thus interpreted literally, with an indefinite "gap" of time inserted between the first two verses. (Some gap theorists insert a "primordial creation" and Lucifer's rebellion into the gap.) Young Earth Creationist organizations argue that the gap theory is unscriptural, unscientific, and not necessary, in its various forms.
Many young Earth creationists distinguish their own hypotheses from the "Omphalos hypothesis", today more commonly referred to as the apparent age concept, put forth by the naturalist and science writer Philip Henry Gosse. Omphalos was an unsuccessful mid-19th century attempt to reconcile creationism with geology. Gosse proposed that just as Adam had a navel (omphalos is Greek for navel), evidence of a gestation he never experienced, so also the Earth was created ex nihilo complete with evidence of a prehistoric past that never actually occurred. The Omphalos hypothesis allows for a young Earth without giving rise to any predictions that would contradict the current scientific consensus of an old Earth. Although both logically unassailable and consistent with a literal reading of scripture, Omphalos was rejected at the time by scientists on the grounds that it was completely unfalsifiable and by theologians because it implied to them a deceitful God, which they found theologically unacceptable.
Today, in contrast to Gosse, young Earth creationists posit that not only is the Earth young but that the scientific data supports that view. However, the apparent age concept is still used in young Earth creationist literature. There are examples of young Earth creationists arguing that Adam did not have a navel.
Young Earth creationists adhere strongly to a concept of biblical inerrancy, and regard the Bible as divinely inspired and "infallible and completely authoritative on all matters with which they deal, free from error of any sort, scientific and historical as well as moral and theological". Young Earth creationists also suggest that supporters of modern scientific understanding with which they disagree are primarily influenced by atheism. Critics reject this claim by pointing out that many supporters of evolutionary theory are religious believers, and that major religious groups, such as the Roman Catholic Church and Church of England, believe that the concept of biological evolution does not imply a rejection of the scriptures. Critics also point out that workers in fields related to evolutionary biology are not required to sign statements of belief in evolution comparable to the biblical inerrancy pledges required by creationist organizations, contrary to the creationist claim that scientists operate on an a priori disbelief in biblical principles.
Creationists also discount certain modern Christian theological positions, like those of French Jesuit priest, geologist and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who saw that his work with evolutionary sciences actually confirmed and inspired his faith in the cosmic Christ; or those of Thomas Berry, a cultural historian and ecotheologian, that the cosmological 13-billion-year "Universe Story" provides all faiths and all traditions with a single account by which the divine has made its presence in the world.
Proponents of young Earth creationism are regularly accused of quote mining, the practice of isolating passages from academic texts that appear to support their claims, while deliberately excluding context and conclusions to the contrary. For example, scientists acknowledge that there are indeed a number of mysteries about the Universe left to be solved, and scientists actively working in the fields who identify inconsistencies or problems with extant models, when pressed, explicitly reject creationist interpretations. Theologians and philosophers have also criticized this so-called "God of the gaps" viewpoint.
In defending against young Earth creationist criticism of "evolutionism" and "Darwinism", scientists and skeptics have offered rejoinders that every challenge made by YECs is either made in an unscientific fashion, or is readily explainable by science.
Few modern theologians take the Genesis account of creation literally. Even many Christian evangelicals who reject the notion of purely naturalistic Darwinian evolution, often treat the story as a nonliteral saga, as poetry, or as liturgical literature.
According to skeptics Genesis contains two accounts of the creation; in particular, in chapter 1 they argue that man was created after the animals (Genesis 1:24-26), while that in chapter 2 man was created before the animals (Genesis 2:19). The creationist defense against this allegation is that they were two separate events. Proponents of the Documentary hypothesis suggest that Genesis 1 was a litany from the Priestly source (possibly from an early Jewish liturgy), while Genesis 2 was assembled from older Jahwist material, holding that, for both stories to be a single account, Adam would have named all the animals, and God would have created Eve from his rib as a suitable mate, all within a single 24 hour period. Creationists responding to this point attribute the view to misunderstanding having arisen from poor translation of the tenses in Genesis 2 in contemporary translations of the Bible (e.g. compare "planted" and "had planted" in the King James Version and New International Version.
Certain Christians hold that the Bible is free from error only in religious and moral matters, and that, where scientific or historic questions are concerned, the Bible should not be read literally. This position is held by a number of major denominations. For instance, in a publication entitled The Gift of Scripture, the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales comments that, "We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision". The Bible is held to be true in passages relating to human salvation, but, "We should not expect total accuracy from the Bible in other, secular matters." By contrast, young Earth creationists contend that moral and spiritual matters in the Bible are intimately connected with its historical accuracy.
Aside from the theological doubts voiced by other Christians, young Earth creationism also stands in opposition to the creation stories of other religions (both extant and extinct). Many of these make claims regarding the origin of the universe and humanity that are incompatible with those of Christian creationists (and with one another). Marshaling support for the Judeo-Christian creation story versus other creation stories after having rejected much of modern science is largely, then, done on the basis of accepting on faith the veracity of the biblical account rather than the alternative.
Criticism from the scientific community
Around the start of the 19th century mainstream science abandoned the concept of an Earth with an age younger than millions of years. The six-orders-of-magnitude difference between YEC estimates of the age of creation and the measurements of the various biological, geological, and astronomical timescales provide for a stark contrast in possibilities. For example, all YEC estimates for the age of creation are younger than modern measurements of the age of the most ancient pottery discovered, the year-by-year accounting of the record of tree rings, the age of ice cores, the age of fresh water lake varves, and the observation of any star more distant than 10,000 light years.
Spokespersons for the scientific community have generally regarded attempts to argue that young Earth creationism has a scientific basis as being little more than religiously motivated pseudoscience because young Earth creationism starts from the premise that their interpretation of the Bible is a literal description of the development of the universe, and only then proceeds to adopt corroborating evidence to fit their perspective. In 1997, a poll by the Gallup organization showed that 5% of U.S. adults with professional degrees in science took a young Earth creationist view. In the aforementioned poll, 40% of the same group said that they believed that life, including humans, had evolved over millions of years, but that God guided this process, a view described as theistic evolution, while 55% held a view of "naturalistic evolution" in which no God took part in this process. Some scientists (such as Hugh Ross and Gerald Schroeder) who believe in creationism are known to subscribe to other forms, such as Old Earth creationism, which posits an act of creation that took place millions or billions of years ago, with variations on the timing of the creation of mankind.
Adhering church bodies
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- Evangelical Reformed Presbyterian Church
- Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
- Seventh-day Adventist Church
- Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
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