The New Creationists

The foremost student of a belief held by nearly half of all Americans traces its history from Darwin’s bombshell through the storms of the Scopes trial to today’s “scientific creationists”—who find William Jennings Bryan too liberal

The year 1963 brought the death of George McCready Price, whom the science writer Martin Gardner described as “the last and greatest of the anti-evolutionists.” The greatest perhaps, but certainly not the last. That year also witnessed the birth of the Creation Research Society and—more generally—the age of scientific creationism. By the end of the decade battles were being waged over including creationism in public school curricula; the fight culminated in the 1981 court challenge to the Arkansas creationist law. If the proceedings lacked the carnival atmosphere of the 1925 Scopes trial, they compensated by attracting an impressive list of expert witnesses from the ranks of scientists, philosophers, and theologians. Unfavorable court decisions have settled for the moment the issue of equal-time state laws, but creation science as a movement has hardly slowed. Several creation research institutes continue seeking evidence to confute evolution, and the theory’s proponents have evolved new tactics for including special creation in public school curricula. The phenomenon of scientific creationism has evoked a cottage industry of analysts: journalists, sociologists, philosophers of science, theologians, and particularly scientists, who believe they have the most to lose from a theory that denies Darwin. The call to arms that went out among various scientific groups characterized creationists almost uniformly as dangerous quacks who were gulling the public with a specious science.