, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 145-162,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The Evolution of Creationist Movements


Every discipline has its hazards, and for evolution scientists and educators, a major hazard consists of encounters with creationists, their rhetoric, and their attempts to insert antievolutionism into public education. Preparation for this hazard should be a standard part of the background of professional evolutionists. One important piece of this preparation involves understanding the historical origins of creationism within the wider history of western Christianity, especially evangelical Protestantism and its development in the United States. Here, I place the standard histories of “creation science” by Numbers and Larson (covering primarily the early 1900s to the 1980s) into this larger context (going back to the evangelical split over slavery before the Civil War and during), and then show how the “intelligent design” movement (from the 1980s until the present) fits squarely within the long history of primarily evangelical, biblicist opposition to evolution. The major creationist movements and slogans are identified and also placed into this historical picture. In summary, while creationism has evolved diverse labels and strategies for legal and rhetorical purposes, its fundamental essence remains unchanged. That essence is advocacy of miraculous divine intervention, i.e., special creation, in the history of life, and the claim that science must acknowledge special creation or dire consequences for society will follow.