Young earth creationism

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Young earth creationism (often referred to as "Biblical creationism", or simply creationism) is the name given to a set of beliefs espoused by some fundamentalist Protestants who assert that God created the universe in six 24-hour days. Using literal hermeneutics to approach the Bible, particularly the book of Genesis as well as the genealogy of Matthew chapter 1, proponents assert that the earth is only 6,000 – 10,000 years old.

While other cultures and religions may hold similar views of a young Earth, the term "young Earth creationism," coined in the late 20th century, refers to the fundamentalist Protestant view.


The most popular creationist chronology was originally developed in 17th century England by Archbishop James Ussher, an Anglican, in 1651. (Many other dates had been calculated by similar methods.) Ussher calculated, using the chronologies given in the books of the Bible, that the first day of creation occurred on October 23, 4004 BC. His chronology appeared in the margins of English Bibles starting in 1701; however, the year 4004 BC was already well known among theologians.[1]

The Biblical story was not a contentious issue until the 19th century, when theologians started reinterpreting the Bible as a historical document (rather than divine revelation), and geologists such as James Hutton and Charles Lyell developed evidence, based on their analysis of geological processes and formations, the earth was not a few thousand years old but, in fact, several millions of years old. The appearance of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species in 1859 and the associated Theory of Evolution, provided evidence that life was much older than 6,000 years. Most Protestant theologians by 1900, including those opposed to the theory of evolution, rejected the 4004 BC model and argued the earth was very old. Many evangelical theologians adopted a figurative interpretation of the first two chapters of Genesis.[2]

The Scopes trial

By 1910 a new theology of "fundamentalism" had emerged among conservative Protestants, especially in the Southern Baptist church in the U.S. The theory of evolution had no role for God, and fundamentalists saw this as a threat to their core beliefs, and launched a campaign in the 1920s to stop the teaching of evolution, a campaign that continues into the 21st century.

They revived the 4004 BC dating and organized political opposition to the teaching of Darwinism in the public schools. The Scopes trial took place in Tennessee, in 1925 and was seen as a watershed event in the creation-evolution controversy.[3]

A law passed in March 1925 in Tennessee made it unlawful for any teacher in any of the public schools of the state to teach any theory that "denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals." The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) began a campaign to challenge this law and sought someone who would be prepared to admit to teaching evolution in a state school and stand trial so that the law could be challenged in court. John T. Scopes volunteered to play that part. William Jennings Bryan, three-time presidential nominee dominated the prosecution, while famed criminal lawyer Clarence Darrow dominated the defense. Reporters from across the world covered the sensational trial, especially when Darrow made Bryan a witness and questioned him about Biblical stories, such as Jonah and the whale. Although Scopes lost the trial (his conviction was reversed), the resulting publicity brought the issue to the forefront of the minds of the American people and fundamentalists saw it as a humiliating set-back for their campaign.[4]

Modern-day young Earth creationism

The modern resurgence of young Earth creationism was due to two American theologians, John C. Whitcomb, Jr. and Henry M. Morris, and their book The Genesis Flood (1961). They in turn borrowed heavily from George McCready Price, a self-taught Seventh-day Adventist author of The New Geology (1923). (They borrowed Price's theory about Noah's flood, but rejected his theology which downplayed the importance of the date of creation.) [5]

Several organisations promote the idea of young Earth creationism. Some of the most prominent ones are Answers In Genesis[8], Creation Ministries International[9] and the Institute for Creation Research[10]. Although many organizational efforts have been undertaken in the last 80 years, especially by the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, they have always collapsed in the face of bitter internal disputes among creationists. There are multiple "Noah flood" theories (none of which are supported by published scientific research.) As one creationist laments, "Unfortunately the situation in astronomy is not as good. As with biology and geology, astronomy has become permeated with evolutionary assumptions and conclusions. Unlike those other disciplines, there is no overall theory or, if you will, paradigm, of astronomy from a creationist perspective. Part of the problem has been the lack of researchers in the field."[6]


There is no single, agreed viewpoint of young earth creationism (YEC) or single source of authority for YEC doctrine. There can be found a variety of viewpoints among believers which may or may not be supported by those who are considered to be authorities on the subject. Furthermore, no theories have been published in peer-reviewed journals in support of young earth creationism. As such, it is difficult to define precisely what young earth creationism is. However, a number of themes and ideas have commonly surfaced in writings on the topic; a few of these are addressed below.

* Age of the Universe: Some proponents hold to the view that the Universe appears older than it is because the creator created the Universe with the appearance of age; for example, light from stars billions of light-years away created in transit so as to be visible to the first humans on the relevant day of creation. Physicist and creationist Russell Humphreys attempted to provide an alternative explanation for this problem in his book "Starlight and Time" by combining ideas from Einstein's Theory of Relativity and Biblical descriptions of God's creative works in Psalm 104:2[7]. This view gained much support from YEC organisations, though it was not without much opposition from other (mostly old earth) creationists.

* Age of the Earth: YEC geological hypotheses tend to rest heavily on the global flood referred to in Genesis 6-8.[8] Processes such as fossilization, the order of fossil layers, the formation of coal and discrepancies in radiocarbon dating are often attributed to the presence and pressure of the many tons of water that would have existed during such a cataclysmic event. Geological features such as the Grand Canyon, rather than being formed in a slow process over millions of years, are said to have formed much more quickly because of the forces resulting from the movement of these very large bodies of water.

* The vapor canopy: A hypothetical "vapor canopy" is proposed as one source of water for the global flood (the other being water under the ground). This idea is based on statements made in Genesis 1:6-8[9] and Genesis 7:11[10] and the belief that above the Earth's surface within the atmosphere a large amount of water could have existed in vapor form and that these waters were the source of the rainfall that preceded the flood of Genesis 7. This canopy has also been proposed as an explanation for the extraordinary longevity of the early Bible characters, attributing their long lifespans to the more favorable conditions of a higher atmospheric pressure, stable tropical weather system and resultant lack of disease. The vapor canopy hypothesis, however, has since been rejected by several prominent YEC organizations and figures.[11][12]

Creation Museum

In 2007, Answers In Genesis opened the Creation Museum [11] near Cincinnati, Ohio. The museum generated much interest and controversy in the press and media.[13]. The museum was designed by Patrick Marsh, who also designed the Jaws and King Kong exhibits at Universal Studios, Florida [14]

Other groups in the United States have announced similar museums. The Creation Discovery Museum[12] was opened by the Creation Studies Institute[13], a Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based ministry that promotes young Earth creationism. [15]


Scientists reject young Earth creationism, which it sees as a religious doctrine.[16] Religious creationists who believe in old Earth creationism also reject the assertion that the Earth is only approximately 6,000 – 10,000 years old.

Popular support

Despite the fact that creationism has been rejected by scientists, it has a strong following within the United States and many Muslim nations. Two Gallup polls conducted in 1991 and 1997 in the United States found that approximately 45% of the population believed in a form of young earth creationism, and approximately 40% of the population supported the notion of a God-guided process of evolution (commonly referred to as theistic evolution).


  1. J. G. C. M. Fuller, "A date to remember: 4004 BC," Earth sciences history 2005, vol. 24, no1, pp. 5-14
  2. Numbers (2000)
  3. Numbers (2006)
  4. Larson (2006); State v. John Scopes ("The Monkey Trial") by Douglas O. Linder, [1]
  5. Price wrote in 1917, "The question of how much time was occupied in the work of Creation is of no importance, neither is the question of how long ago it took place. The one essential idea is that in its nature Creation is essentially inscrutable; we can never hope to know just how it was accomplished; we cannot expect to know the process or the details, for we have nothing with which to measure it. The one essential thing in the doctrine of Creation is that the origin of our world and of the things upon it came about at some period of time in the past by a direct and unusual manifestation of Divine power; " (quoted in [2]); Numbers (2006)
  6. Danny R. Falkner, "The Current State of Creation Astronomy." (1998) online at [3]
  7. 104:2
  8. [4]
  9. [5]
  10. [6]
  13. Associated Press, "New Bible-Based Museum Has Dinosaurs," in New York Times May 26, 2007.
  14. [7] (accessed on 8th August 2007).
  15. Creationism 'Lite': 'Intelligent design' proponents marry God and evolution. wire service dispatch in The Record (Bergen County, NJ), August 28, 2005
  16. Numbers (2006)