Creationism is a belief that the universe and all it contains has been created by a supernatural being or beings. Although you don't need to be a religious person to believe in creationism, many religious people do believe in creationism because most religions have doctrines that explain how the universe, the world and humans came to existence by the design of a god or gods. Of recently, creationism (also known as intelligent design) is more often portrayed by Christian fundamentalists, especially in the US, as a theory that contradicts the theory of evolution.
Creationism is a belief that the universe or part of it has been created by supernatural beings, namely divine beings or gods. Creationist beliefs stand in stark contradiction to the theory of evolution (e.g. as proposed by Darwin), whereas the universe and all that it contains has evolved in time.
At the time being, creationism (or intelligent design) is a belief rather than a theory per se. That is, the main basis for creationism are either religious texts or personal beliefs, or both, rather than theoretical models based on induction or deduction. Creationist beliefs can also go from believing everything has been created by one god in recent times, to other beliefs that may accept evolution as part of god's design. Thus, a tenet of creationist ideas is the existence of individual faith or beliefs, or trust on religious texts.
A second tenet of creationist ideas is the existence of supernatural beings who are, or have being, active architects of the universe o part of it. For example, the idea that extraterrestrial beings have come to Earth and "engineered" primates to evolve intelligence, for example, can also be considered creationism. These supernatural beings are, typically, divine and eternal, single entities (so, a unique god, but not the same god workshipped by other faiths) and actively concerned with humanity's affairs.
From these two tenets, the rest of the creationist beliefs unfold, namely that the universe has been created by god (or gods, or supernatural beings), that Earth has being created as described in religious texts, that the different species on Earth have being designed rather than evolved, and that humans have, thus, also being designed.
Arguments and hypotheses
Beliefs typically rests on the following arguments:
- Beliefs are personal and idiosyncratic, not dependent on proof or verification (and, in the case of certain beliefs, being explicitly contrary to any proof or verification). Only the person concerned can know whether he believes in creationism or not, and how strong his belief (or disbelief) is. The most science can achieve from beliefs is measuring the degree of consensus among people. However, given the resistance of people to verify creationist beliefs, then any consensus is probably biased towards the positive end of the spectrum: i.e. people who believe in creationism will tend to give stronger measures than people who do not believe in it.
Another threat to the validity of beliefs to support creationism is that creationism is typically indoctrinated by parents and clerics since an early age. These beliefs are indoctrinated in the same way than beliefs in Santa Claus or the Three Wise Men. The latter beliefs, however, are, in time, discredited either by de-indoctrination (now we tell you that they do not really exist) or by personal experience (you discover your father under the Santa costume), together with a growing array of observable evidence: all Santas are people in disguise, you can put on such a disguise yourself, the presents are bought by real people in known shops, etc. Creationist beliefs, on the other hand, cannot be directly experienced or validated. This makes it difficult to consider these beliefs as something both independent from social indoctrination (i.e. you reflect a social belief rather than a personal one) and of real substance (i.e. unlike believing in Santa, creationism cannot be disproved, thus it may be difficult to disentangle these beliefs from mere superstition).
Creationism, as a theory, is defended on the depiction of it in religious books. In principle, thus, this is also susceptible to empirical analysis. Several interesting arguments are the following:
- How many creators are there? Each religion portrays a single god, others a number of gods, and yet others talk of extraterrestrial beings. Even in monotheistic religions, god is different from than of other religions. Thus, perhaps only one god exist, but this god has been messing around with different groups (maybe he or she is an experimenter, simply sampling different group of people for whatever purpose). Or else, there are different gods who may reveal themselves either as groups or as unique beings to their followers. Another hypothesis is that it is a god that evolves (e.g. the god in Jew Old Scriptures may have evolved in to the god of the Christian New Testament, and this into the god of the Muslim Qu'ran), or several gods in a power struggle of some sort: in ancient times there were many gods, but somehow they have been eliminated or subdued by a single entity.
- How many creations have been? As each religion portrays a different origin to the universe and the world, these also begs for which one is the correct model (incidentally, it also may inform how many gods are there, as either there is only one god giving different versions of the same event -maybe he or she did not create the universe, thus is not sure of how it was done-, or different gods have existed or still co-exist, or no god exist).
- Although many religions proclaim the existence of god on faith, the natural world (once created) can be nonetheless be considered evidence of creation. That is, evidence from the natural world should support the most accurate creationist model (in the same way that, for a child, red-clad humanoids and real presents are evidence of the existence of Santa Claus…and, later on, evidence of their non existence).
- Up until now there has been no observable and independent corroboration of the existence of supernatural beings or a god or gods, who may have designed the universe or part of it. There may be plenty of religious or other arguments, but neither sustainable theories nor empirical data that can prove (or disprove) the existence of a supernatural being or beings).
- The lack of evidence on supernatural designers rests support to the "theory" that the universe,or part of it, has being thus created. Yet, even if we were going to ignore such "failure" in the theory, the assumption that the universe, the Earth, and life itself has being created (in a relatively short span of time) also lack observable and independent corroboration.
Way forward (to do list)
Want to know more?
- These two pages in Wikipedia offer an introduction to creationism, intelligent design and and creation myths.