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
November 1994 | Volume 45, Issue 7
Certainly the publication of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Studies (BSCS) textbooks, which brought evolution back into the public schools in the 1960s, influenced the timing of the creationist counteroffensive. But unfortunately we know very little about the social characteristics of American creationists. The Gallup poll I mentioned earlier showed that creationism attracted more women than men, more blacks than whites, more persons with incomes under twenty thousand dollars than persons with incomes over fifty thousand dollars, and more persons with no high school diplomas than persons with college degrees. Yet I’m convinced that socioeconomic considerations tell us little about why some creationists, especially fundamentalists, have opted for young-earth creationism, while others, such as the Pentecostals, seem to remain comfortable with old-earth creationism. The socioeconomic differences between fundamentalists and Pentecostal are slight; and the religious differences, great.
Does there appear to be any resolution, easy or otherwise, to the ongoing conflict between creationists and evolutionists in terms of public education?
One puts down your book sensing an affection on your part for your subject. Is that an accurate reading, and how have you avoided the antipathy and judgmentalism that pervade so much scholarship on the creationists?
If you define my subject as creationism, then I have little sympathy for it. If you define my subject as the title does, as The Creationists , then you’re right to see some sympathy. I have sympathy for the people but not for the message. And that stems from very personal reasons. My family, many of my former teachers, and many of my friends remain creationists. They’re decent people. I love them. I know that they are not creationists because they’re stupid. Many of them are brighter than I am. They’re creationists because of deeply felt religious values. And that’s one of the points I try to get across in my book.
As a historian I also happen to think that my primary goal is not to judge the validity of their purportedly scientific beliefs but to try to understand why this community of individuals views the history of the world in a way so fundamentally different from that of the dominant scientific community.