A Brief History of the Modern American Creation Movement

Author: Jerry Bergman
Subject: Overview
Date: 1993

Contra Mundum
No. 7 Spring 1993

by Jerry Bergman

Copyright © 1993 Jerry Bergman


The creation-evolution controversy, often described as an issue that will be with us for some time, is a conflict essentially between naturalism, the position that life emerged out of mater and energy through natual forces, and the various theistic world views, all of which hold that the universe is a product of intelligence, order and control.

The history of the major modern creation movements, from the early 1900s’ work of George McCready Price to the most recent resurgence initiated by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb and their book The Genesis Flood, is reviewed. The social factors involved are also discussed, as are some of the main controversies and schisms. The various creation organizations were also reviewed, covering their history, the founderss backgrounds, and some of their major activities.

From its start, considerable diversity has existed in the movement, including the extent of historical evolution accepted, the explanatory value of macro versus micro evolution, the age of the earth and related issues. Many of the important persons involved in the movement were long-age creationists and a large number do not fit into the stereotype of creationists as often presented in the mass media today. The term progressive creationism would most accurately describe the view of most of those who have dominated the movement.

The influential education magazine Learning in its February, 1981 issue featured the creation-evolution controversy as the lead article, and was highlighted by a cover depicting a tombstone and the words “Creationism:” Died in 1925 — Reborn in 1981.” In the 1980s, thousands of articles have appeared on the controversy, and most every major science and education journal has contained a major write-up on the subject. Many journals have devoted an entire issue to the topic — the entire March 1983 issue of Journal of Geological Education was dedicated to debunking the creationists and, observed a recent issue of Bioscience (Dec., 1980), “The creation-evolution controversy is an issue that will be with us for some time.” Partly due to the unresolved issues raised in several recent court cases in California, Georgia, Louisiana and most recently the Professor Bishop Supreme Court case appeal (October term 1991, No. 91-286), continued attention will be given to this topic in the future (Garrison, 1991).

Creationism is the belief that the basic forms of life were intelligently designed by a being that is on a higher order than humans, and is thus transcendent to humans (Johnson, 1991). Until the middle of the nineteenth century, virtually all of the common people and most educated persons in the Western World believed that all living things were deliberately created according to the general outline found in Genesis (Numbers, 1991). Beginning primarily with the works of certain prominent philosophers in the late seventeen hundreds, this view has slowly changed. As King-Hele (1963, p. 75) concluded: “After 1794, statements of the principle of natural selection and theories of evolution come fairly thick and fast.” A crucial event was the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species (1859) which argued that the various forms of life had evolved naturally over long periods of time. After this book took the world by storm creationism “rapidly lost ground” (Numbers, 1991, p. 164). This was especially true among scientists, most of whom by the late 1870s embraced some form of biological evolution, first theistic evolution, and later, with few exceptions, naturalism or atheistic evolution (McIver, 1989). Conversely, among conservative and moderate Christians, Jews and Moslems, special creationism has remained strong (Morris, 1989; Overman, 1966; Neel, 1942; Kawaguchi, 1914). Studies consistently show that over half of all persons in America align themselves with special creationism, and most of the rest accept some form of progressive creationism or theistic evolution (Gallup poll 1992, Gallup and Poling, 1980; Bergman, 1980). As many as forty percent of high school teachers hold the creationist world view, and the number of college professors that accept the creationist label is between ten and twenty percent (Frair, 1991; Shankar, 1989; see also Affannato, 1986; Buckner, 1983; Elgin, 1983; Brown, 1947; Clark, 1953). Morris (1984, p. 258) notes that:

…one can now find a nucleus of genuine creationists on almost every college and university faculty in the country. They tend to be quiet about it or, if vocal, usually [are] persecuted for it, but they are there! Such a condition would have been unheard of 40 years ago, when I was almost alone as a creationist faculty member in the secular university world, so far as I could determine.

Nineteenth century ministers often criticized evolution from the pulpit, but only a few scientists became actively involved in the anti-Darwin movement until the early 1920s. Some, such as Presbyterian politician Williams Jennings Bryan and Baptist minister William Bell Riley, worked to ban the teaching of evolution in the public schools (Gatewood, 1966, 1969). Since this work directly challenged evolutionism, it was an important event in the “war” which continues today with full vigor (Garrision, 1991). Especially of concern was the evolution teaching of the “survival of the fittest” and the elimination of the weak, ideas that were perceived to be in direct contrast to Christianity which stressed helping the weak and the “meek shall inherit the Earth” philosophy (Gould, 1991; Shipley, 1927). Also important was the widespread belief of many Christian parents “that the teaching of evolution was destroying the faith of their children in the Bible” (Numbers, 1991, p. 64; see also Bevins, 1983; Cohn, 1907; Eggleston, 1934; Fung, 1944).

Some of the More Prominent Early 1900 Creationists

One of the most well known early Creationists of this century who had science credentials was Harry Rimmer, a Presbyterian minister who had attended Whittier College, The Bible Institute in Los Angeles and a small homeopathic medical school. He later became part of Riley’s World Christian Fundamentalist Association (McIver, 1988, p. 232). Rimmer believed that Genesis described two creations which were separated by a gap in time: the first occurred millions of years ago, the second about 6,000 years ago, and this is the creation to which the six days in Genesis refers. He taught that Genesis 1:2 to verse 3 refers only to God’s work of restoring the Earth for mankind, i.e., remodeling it for human habitation. He also believed that the original creation occurred ages before the six-day recreation in Genesis (McIver, 1988).

George McCready Price, a Seventh-Day Adventist science teacher who received a BA from Loma Linda College in 1912, for many years taught college level Latin, Greek, chemistry and physics. He wrote about 25 books that were published from 1902 to 1955, and most of them have sold very well (Morris, 1984, p. 80).He was probably one of the foremost expounders of the dual ideas that all life had been created only 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, and that the flood was responsible for much of the fossil and geological record. He believed, both early and again later in his career, that the so-called young earth position is a peripheral issue:

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; and that since this original Creation other and different forces and powers have prevailed to sustain and perpetuate the forms of life and indeed the entire world as then called into existence (Price, 1917, p. 8).

He felt that the universal flood was far more important to believe than the short-age creation world view. Numbers (1992) stated, “Price for years accepted an ancient but lifeless earth.”

John Ambrose Flemming (1849-1945), was one of the fathers of modern electronics and is most known for developing the first workable electronic vacuum tube. He studied under James Clark Maxwell at Cambridge and served as a consultant for both Marconi and Edison. A former president of the Victoria Institute, he wrote many creationist books including The Intersecting Spheres of Religion and Science, and Evolution or Creation. He was also a long-age creationist and accepted microevolution.

Charles Piazzi Smyth was the Astronomer-Royal of Scotland and a professor at the University of Edinburgh in the late 1800s. Smyth was a major pioneer of the modern pyramidology movement which is still strong today. He is most well known for his mammoth tome entitled Our Inheritance In the Great Pyramid (1877) in which he argued that God directed its construction, and its dimensions revealed much about His plan for the universe. For example, Smyth concluded that one inch in the pyramid equaled a year, thus the pyramid taught that creation occurred in 4004 BC., although it is not clear if this date of 4004 BC refers only to the Biblical creation or the physical creation of the entire universe. He also concluded that the great pyramid taught that the tribulation would begin between 1892 to 1911. The whole area of pyramidology is today labeled foolishness by most scientists, and many conservative Christians have concluded that it is part of the so-called new-age movement or even viewed as demonism by some (McIver, 1988, p. 56; Gardner, 1957). Smyth’s writing style was such that it is not easy to figure out what he is saying, partially because he equivocates so much. Unless his works are studied carefully, it is hard to determine what he is advocating versus what someone else is discussing and which he simply notes.

Other scientists or college professors of this period who were also formally involved in the debate as creationists include the following:

  1. Frank Lewis Marshwas a Seventh-day Adventist (SDA), earned a Ph.D. in botany from the University of Nebraska, and was a biology professor at several SDA colleges. From 1944 on he wrote dozens of books supporting creation, and was a major writer and leader of the movement for two decades.
  2. Ernest S. Boothwas a Seventh-Day Adventists and head of the department of biology at Walla Walla College in the state of Washington. He published Biology-The Story of Life (1950), edited a biology periodical titled The Naturalist, and wrote many bird and animal field guides (McIver, 1988)
  3. Byron Nelson,a Lutheran, in 1931 published The Deluge Story in Stone, then After Its Kind in 1932, and Before Abraham in 1948, a creationist book covering anthropology. Nelson was a long-age creationist advocating a gap in the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11.
  4. TheodoreGraebner, a Lutheran who taught at Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Lewis, published Essays in Evolution (1925), Evolution: An Investigation and a Criticism (1929), God and the Cosmos (1943), and numerous other works. He was not a young-earth creationist, and never argued for this view in his major works.
  5. Harold Clark, aSeventh-Day Adventist, taught biology at SDA colleges for thirty-five years. A young earth creationist, he published his first book in 1929 (Back to Creation), then The New Diluvialism in 1946, and Fossil, Flood and Fire in 1968, plus about a dozen other books.
  6. Alfred M.Rehwinkel was a Lutheran and published The Flood (1951) which was close to Price in geological interpretation. He was a theology professor at Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis, had an MA in geology from the University of Alberta, and focused on flood geology in his writings.
  7. TheodoreHandrich, a Lutheran high school teacher in Minnesota, wrote Everyday Science for the Christian (1947), and in 1953 Creation-Facts, Theories and Faith.
  8. JohnKolz, a Lutheran seminary professor with a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Pittsburgh wrote Genes, Genesis and Evolution among other works.
  9. Paul A. Zimmerman,a chemist and former president of Concordia Lutheran College in Ann Arbor, Michigan was a Lutheran and edited Darwin, Evolution and Creation (1959) and several other books, including Creation, Evolution and God’s Word (1972).
  10. Alfred McCann, a Catholic writer, in 1922 publishedGod and Gorilla in which he focused primarily on critiquing the various fossils which were then used to support the ape-human evolution scenario.
  11. George Barry O’Toole, a Catholic biologist, was professor of animal zoology at Seton Hall College (where StanleyJaki now teaches). He published The Case Against Evolution in 1926 partly in response to the Scopes trial.
  12. Arthur Isaac Brown, a practicing physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, published many anti-evolution books, includingFootprints of God (1943), Miracles of Science (1945), and others. He was a Baptist, a long age creationist, and accepted the gap theory (Morris, 1984).
  13. Louis T. Morea Protestant Christian and Professor of Physics at the University of Cincinnati, wrote the classic The Dogma of Evolution, published by Princeton University Press in 1925. Primarily critical of mechanistic evolution, he was not a biblical literalist, and did not accept Genesis as history.
  14. George FrederickWright, was a geologist who slowly moved from theistic evolution to creationism (Numbers, 1988). He was later professor of Harmony of Science and Revelation at Oberlin College in Ohio, and was editor of Bibliotheca SacraSunday School Times and Homiletic Review.

Elements of the Movement

Many writers today dichotomize the controversy enormously, ignoring all of the numerous different creation positions, and assuming that most of those involved in the creation movement were fundamentalists, specifically involved in denominations such as Southern Baptist (Ecker, 1990, p. 58). Ecker even claims that most mainline Protestants are not creationists, indicating very superficial research in this area (1990, p. 37). As Nelkin (1977) points out, the creation movement is widely diverse, and many of the founders and leaders of some of the larger creation groups, such as the Creation Research Society, were Lutherans, Presbyterians, Seventh-Day Adventists and other mainline denominations.

The few short-age creationists that wrote during the 1900 to 1960 period include L. Allen Higley, author of Science and Truth, and a science professor at Wheaton College during the 1930s. The religious backgrounds of those prominent in the creation movement included primarily main-line Protestants, especially Lutherans, Presbyterians, Seventh-Day Adventists and some Baptists (the most liberal of the so-called fundamentalist denominations).

Some generalizations about the 1900-1970 creation-science writers and leaders include: the range of theological opinions as well as the beliefs about creationism that these individuals held was enormous, and very few of them fit into the stereotype of a conservative, short-age creationist world view (Wirth and Bergman, 1993). Virtually all were long-age creationists — and many of the few short-agers only dabbled in this view, or advocated it as one possibility. As Morris (1984, p. 61) summarizes, “the majority of fundamentalist creationists (the most conservative camp) continued to accept the geological ages, differing among themselves only as to whether they could be handled better in terms of the gap theory or the day-age theory.” Morris, as Schadewald (1985, p. 291) in a review of Morris’s History of Modern Creationism notes, “knows everybody who was anybody in creationism, and he knows who did what to whom.” An excellent summary of this issue concluded:

It is also important to recognize that the early fundamentalists were not, by and large,arguing for a literal six- day creation about six thousand years ago. Many, like Wright, tended to favor the progressive creationism taught by Guyot and Dana, in which a relatively small number of creative acts punctuated an otherwise natural developmental process. The views of George McCready Price, who was already laying the foundation for “scientific creationism” by advocating a recent special creation in six days and a worldwide deluge that buried the fossils, enjoyed only limited circulation, mostly among his fellow Seventh-day Adventists. In 1910 the Bible Student and Teacher accepted one of Price’s early essays, but Wright apparently vetoed its publication (Numbers, 1988, p. 640).

The views held by many persons in the modern creation movement are not known, partly because they have not commented on certain topics in print. For example, most of them were not geologists, and thus it often cannot be determined what they believed as to flood geology. Many likely recognized that they could not comment on this topic because the field was outside of their training.

The second major element perennially involved in the movement was controversy. Shadewald (1985) notes events such as Morris’s departure from Virginia Polytech Institute, and his “stormy split with the Segraves clan and the Creation Science Research Center.” The controversy was not only between, for example, the American Scientific Affiliation and The Creation Research Society, but also within both the CRS and ASA. An example of this involved Plymouth Brethren J. Laurence Kulp, an alumnus of Wheaton who earned a doctorate from Princeton, and then joined the department of geology at Columbia (Numbers, 1982, p. 541). Kulp in a Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation article (June, 1949, p. 27 and also 1950) argued that limited evidence exists in the geological record for great catastrophes, a view that was then, and still is, very controversial both in and outside of the ASA. These debates are critically important for intellectual growth and scientific progress, and demolish the stereotype that most non-Darwinists dogmatically accept one view. A similar recent controversy involves the popular creationist Hugh Ross who has been condemned by certain creationist groups (Stambaugh, 1991).

Thus, no single united creationist front existed. As Nelkin (1982, p. 79) notes “religious groups concerned with doctrinal purity are characterized by schisms. Creationists are no exception…” The numerous schisms within the various creation groups and their inability to cooperate with each other is one reason why creationism has achieved such dismal success among both the educated public-at-large as well as in the courts (Wonderly, 1990). The bewildering variety of sects and cults in Christendom (Gordon Melton in his The Encyclopedia of American Religion estimates almost 2,000 in the United States alone) likewise is reflected in the creation movement. Each sect has their own version of creation, often differing in only minor details which insiders believe are of salvation level significance. The whole history of Christianity also shows that from the very beginning there existed a wide variety of views on the age question, and especially the length of the days of creation (Lewis 1989; Fisher, 1989; Kelley, 1977; McIver, 1989; O’Toole, 1944).

Because creationism is most often associated with the fundamentalist movement, a review of the movement’s background and beliefs is necessary to understand the development of creationism. The term fundamentalist came from the publication of a series of pamphlets entitled The Fundamentals. The editor, A.C. Dickson, pastor of the Moody Church of Chicago, in looking for someone to prepare a chapter on evolution from a Christian point of view, considered two people: Luther T. Townsend who wrote The Collapse of Evolution, and a Scottish theologian, James Orr. He finally selected George Frederick Wright because he “possessed a scientific reputation” (Numbers, 1988, p. 641). Wright was an Oberlin College professor for many years, and had published widely in the mainline scientific literature. In Wright’s widely circulated volume of The Fundamentals, Numbers (1988, p. 641) notes he

lashed out at contemporary evolutionists while emphasizing the creationist elements in Darwin’s own early writings. Unlike his modern disciples, who are irresponsibly teaching that all forms of life had arisen by natural processes from one primordial speck of life, Darwin, said Wright, had postulated a creator who breathed the force of life into several forms of plants and animals, “and at one time endowed them with the marvelous capacity for variation which we know they possess.”

Wright added that since man differed so greatly from all animals, it was necessary to conclude that he came into existence by special creation. Allowing for considerable evolution, Wright would at the minimum be labeled a progressive creationist. Wright, it must be remembered, was a major leader of the movement which is today labeled ultra-right by its critics to the degree that the very term fundamentalist is now seen as a disparaging term. It is applied only to the most extreme of fanatics, from Moslems to atheists, who are not only militant about their beliefs, but both unreasoning and unyielding. Nor were Wright’s views seen as radical by most early fundamentalists. As Numbers (1988, p. 640) notes:

Most early fundamentalists accepted a long earth history and…some even embraced a nonliteral reading of Genesis, it is also not surprising that they looked to Wright as an authority on matters pertaining to evolution and Christian faith.

The Religion and Science Association

One of the first American creationist organizations was the Religion and Science Association (RSA) organized in the middle 1930s by Dudley Whitney, a long-time editor of various agriculture journals. He was quite knowledgeable in geology and was heavily influenced by George McCreadyPrice and Byron Nelson, who both assisted him in founding the RSA. The organization was committed to a six-day creation, flood geology, and explicitly repudiated both the gap theory and the day-age theory (Morris, 1984). One of the directors and first president was L. Allen Higley, then chair of the department of chemistry and geology at Wheaton College. Nelson was the vice president, Whitney the secretary treasurer, and Price, evidently because of his visibility which resulted from the controversy over his open stand for creationism, thought it best for the organization that he serve only as a director.

Partly because very few scientists of the time were willing to openly identify with the creationist movement, the organization never grew beyond sixty or so members. It is likely that many scientists did not want to jeopardize their careers by joining, and of these involved, very few were active (Morris, 1984). Only one convention was held, in March 27-28 in 1936 at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. The speakers at the well attended conference were mostly professors from secular schools, and ranged from theistic evolutionists to conservative creationists. The papers were never published, and the conflicts evident at the meeting caused the organization to disband in 1938. Some of the main contentions by members were the validity of the gap theory, concern relative to a literal six-day creation, flood geology, and the interpretation of the geological record. Another reason for its failure was that the organizers were up in years and felt they could pursue other activities more fruitfully.

The Creation-Deluge Society

Several of the framers of the Religion and Science Association such as George McCready Price, Dudley Whitney, and Harold Clark in 1939 formed The Society for the Study of Deluge Geology and Related Sciences, often just called the Deluge Society. They published the Bulletin of Deluge Geology and Related Sciences from 1941 to 1944 (a total of twenty bulletins were printed). The society also held occasional meetings, usually in the Los Angeles area. The majority of its members were Seventh-Day Adventists, and most of the members and papers that were published in the bulletin were by Adventists. By 1945 it had grown to over 600 members, mostly scientists. Although the acceptance of a literal six-day ex nihilo creation and the view that the deluge was responsible for much of the geological record was required of voting members, some of the leaders later rejected these views, causing conflicts in the organization. The society disbanded in late 1945, again partially as a result of conflicts between recent and old age creationists. The old age creationists were convinced that radioactive dating had proved the earth to be two-billion years old (the date accepted now is closer to 4.6 billion years). Morris (1984) claims a major reason for the demise of the society was the embarrassment that its name and beliefs caused its members in the outside scientific community. As today, opposing certain ideas held by the scientific establishment is met with resistance, and can cause both derision and, not uncommonly, repercussions in one’s academic career. Then as now a scientist can lose credibility by espousing unorthodox positions. Especially unpopular were ideas which indicated that one was trying to “bend science” conclusions to fit the Biblical record or theology. It was decided by the board to establish a new society that had no references to the Bible, the deluge, creation, evolution or origins and call itself The Society for the Study of Natural Science. The activities of this organization were limited to publishing a journal entitled The Bulletin of Deluge Geology, later called The Forum which was published from 1946 to 1948, missing a number of issues.

The Seventh-Day Adventists involved with this organization also from 1942-1967 published The Naturalist, a journal whose focus primarily was the study of nature. It included only a few articles that dealt with creation topics but, although most of the writers implied a designer, the magazine was principally informative leisure reading such as found in Discover today. The organization soon disbanded for a variety of reasons, mostly internal dissension, lack of finances and interest, and the attention of its members to other projects. Always faced with financial problems, it nonetheless managed to survive for twenty-five years.

Creationism as a Modern Social Movement

The many different modern “creation science” associations differ in both their goals and philosophy. The American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) one of the larger organized groups of American Christian scientists, was formally founded in 1941 at the instigation of Dr. Wil Houghton, then president of Moody Bible Institute. The original founders were very concerned about the increasing atheistic emphasis and orientation of science, especially the uncritical acceptance of Darwin and evolution as a whole (Nelkin, 1977). The first president was F. Alton Everest and the first secretary was Wheaton College biologist Dr. Russell Mixter (Hartzler, 1991). Part of the ASA preamble states that it is an “evangelical organization of men and women who share a common fidelity to the word of God and to Christian faith.”

As is true of most creationist groups, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Seventh-Day Adventists have all played a prominent role in the ASA, whose membership now approaches several thousand. Their 1990 total special projects income was $312,600. Most ASA members have Ph.D.s from secular universities in science, and many teach in large colleges and universities. Several of their members have come close to a Nobel Prize, and many work with Nobel laureates.

The ASA does not align itself exclusively with any specific religious orientation, and claims that they are willing to go “anywhere research leads them.” Nelkin (1977, p. 65) concluded that ASA members “believe that evolutionary concepts are misleading and have serious [i.e., undesirable] moral and social as well as theological implications.” She adds (1977, 65) that the ASA has “avoided taking a position that advocates teaching creation theory in public schools,” although many ASA members criticize the current evolutionary emphasis in most biology and related textbooks, arguing that “evolution is taught in a far too dogmatic way, that the theory is extended beyond what is scientifically appropriate and that it unnecessarily excludes consideration of alternative theories” (Nelkin, 1977, p. 66). Although many ASA members are theistic evolutionists, large numbers are conservative progressive creationists. The literal six-day, twenty-four hour creation for both the heavens and earth, and all that is in them, and the universal deluge (otherwise known as flood geology) views are also well represented. Many members, though, stress only that biology “must avoid implying that evolution is the only acceptable theory” of origins (Nelkin, 1977, p. 66). Their middle of the road approach, though, has not always been well received by the science community:

… a group of evangelical scientists last month passed a resolution that calls on teachers to define evolution in a “scientific manner” and promote a “candid discussion of unsolved problems and open questions.” “We want to help teachers sort out the religious issues from the science,” says Walter R. Hearn, a retired biochemist and newsletter editor for the American Scientific Affiliation. Hearn believes that there are enough unanswered questions about the birth of humankind to allow a supernatural creation and evolution to coexist. And he says: “I think there are a lot of people using science to promote a secular or atheistic view.” Promoters of evolution education aren’t buying the argument, however. They bristle at the suggestion that teachers are trying to force-feed students with a ‘religious’ form of evolution — called evolutionary naturalism by the creationists. “In my experience, that’s just not happening,” says Eugenie Scott, director of the Berkeley- based National Center for Science Education. To Scott, the far more worrisome problem is that “there’s an awful lot of teachers who don’t teach evolution because they don’t want to take the flak for it” (Stone, 1992, p. 282).

In time, some members concluded that the ASA had become too “liberal” and had deviated somewhat from its original purpose. These persons also came to believe that many ” members uncritically accepted certain unproved hypotheses, especially those that related to Darwinism. Some of these persons later formed the Creation Research Society (Rusch, 1983) discussed below.

One of the most influential modern creation scientists was Henry M. Morris, a Southern Baptist who holds a doctorate in hydraulic engineering from the University of Minnesota. As the founder and president of the Creation Research Society, and later the president of the Institute for Creation Research, he is one of the chief theoreticians behind the modern conservative short-age creation-science movement. A theistic evolutionist in undergraduate college (Rice University) Morris was influenced away from this view by Rimmer, Price and Irwin A. Moon (a founder of the American Scientific Affiliation, and the founder of the Moody Institute of Science in 1945). His publication of The Genesis Flood with John C. Whitcomb (a theologian with a Master’s from Princeton University) is the most recent “revival” of the modern creation movement (Nelkin, 1982). According to Schadewald (1985, p. 291) his 1961 Genesis Flood is the book “that crystallized…the creationist movement.” Among the beliefs that Morris stressed in his creation model include:

  1. A recent creation of theentireuniverse.
  2. Adam’s fall from grace triggered the second law of thermodynamics.
  3. A world-wide flood that in one year laid down most of the present day geological strata (Numbers, 1991, p. 165).

It is not accurate to state that a “revival” of creationism occurred with either Price or Morris as is often claimed: Morris himself lists dozens of scientists, many prominent, from Darwin’s day to today, that were active in support of creationism. A few of these early active creationists include:

  1. ProfessorLewisVialleton, professor of medicine at Montpelier, France.
  2. PaulLeMoine, director of the National Museum in Paris, editor of the French Encyclopedia, and President of the Geographical Society in France.
  3. Albert Fleischmann, professor of geology and comparative anatomy at the University Erlangen.
  4. ProfessorCarazzi, professor of zoology at the University of Padera in Italy.

The Creation Research Society

The first recent major creation organization in America, the Creation Research Society (CRS) was formed as a result of the correspondence between ten scientists, most who met formally in June of 1963 at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky to discuss the formation of a new organization to exist solely to critique evolution. The founders, including Drs. John W. Klotz, Frank Marsh, Wilbert Rusch, George Howe, Henry Morris, Walter E. Lammerts, Wilbert H. Rusch, John J. Grebe, Donald Acrey, and Duane Gish, were all science professors or practicing scientists. Although most were Lutheran and several taught in Lutheran colleges, Marsh was a Seventh-Day Adventist and Morris taught at a secular state university. Some of the original leaders in the Creation Research Society included Drs. John N. Moore, R. Laird Harris, Edwin Monsma, Clifford Burdick, George Mulfinger, Clifford Wilson, and William J. Tinkle. Wilbert H. Rusch, one of the original founders of the organization, identifies the impetus for the group as follows:

From their correspondence with each other, reinforced by their discussion at the Wilmore meetings, it became apparent that the group had experienced one common problem. This was that not one of the individuals present seemed to be able to get any articles that were at all favorable to creation accepted for publication in a scientific journal. Therefore, the group felt that the only solution to this problem was to publish their own journal. These individuals all believed that they had acquired scientific information that was worthy of publication. Hence this became the primary aim of the group as well as the society which they founded (Rusch, 1983, p. 2).

Although Nelkin alleges that CS was formed primarily due to an ideological split from ASA, an important major reason was to form a new organization that focused on the origins question. Many of the founding members were not ASA members, and no one resigned from ASA when CRS was formed. Most of those who were affiliated with ASA continued to be active in both organizations, and many persons are still actively involved in both groups including the President of CRS, Dr. Wayne Frair, author of the highly successful A Case For Creation (1983). The CRS was, and still is, concerned specifically with the creation-evolution issue. In contrast, the ASA is interested in the relationship of Christianity with all of the sciences, including psychology, sociology, and biology as well as the other non-creation science-religious issues.

The CRS has no formal affiliation with any other organization, scientific or religious, and most of its members also belong to other groups. To date, the objectives pursued by the Society are focused primarily in the areas of publishing the CRS Quarterly Journal, textbooks, and monographs (Moore, 1982). Most of those active in CRS reject macro-evolution and have concluded that the scientific evidence is strongly against this position. Most of their about 600 voting members have a Ph.D. in one of the sciences, and many are professors at state universities.

Other Creationist Groups

The Bible-Science Association. In 1959, the hundredth year anniversary of Darwin’s Origin of Species, occurred much publicity about Darwin and his theory, and a great deal of emphasis on its acceptance by the major body of scientists as a “fact” of science. Opponents of the theory were generally labeled by the press as ignorant, foolish or both. At this time Walter Lang, a Lutheran pastor in Nebraska, began doing much reading in this area. His research culminated in the founding of the Bible-Science Association (BSA) in 1963.

The 1959 anniversary year of Darwin also saw the start of the polarization of a number of attitudes between many scientists and theologians. Lang published an essay against evolution which was so well received that he printed several others. These papers eventually became the Bible-Science Newsletter and now has a circulation of 7,000. Lang has since become extremely active in the so-called anti-evolution movement, speaking throughout the United States and Europe (Lang and Lang, 1984). The well attended Bible-Science conventions have been held in various cities since 1971.

Soon many Bible-Science branch organizations were formed. The first one in California, the Creation-Science Research Institute (CSRI) was founded in 1970 by Kelly Segraves whose orientation was more on religion topics than science. For about two years, he and associate editor Dr. Robert Kofahl published and edited Science and Scripture Journal. The magazine was originally founded in 1971 by Michael Leon Trapasso and was purchased in February of 1973 by Segraves. Financial problems caused the magazine to go defunct in the latter part of 1974. In addition, the center has produced numerous books authored by Kofahl and Segraves, including Science and Creation a series of eight student and teacher books each with a teacher’s handbook. The series was “designed to provide balance texts for use along with the standard evolutionary science books, in order to achieve a non-dogmatic, philosophically balanced treatment of the subject of origins” (Kofahl, 1982).

Segraves also worked to implement policy changes in the California Board of Education Science Framework. CSRI has continued to follow a program of effecting change “by influencing the actions of government at the legislative and judicial levels” (Kofahl, 1982). In January of 1979, Dr. Segraves filed suit against the State of California in which he called for an injunction against the printing and distribution of the 1978 Science Framework which had been revised so radically that Segraves felt it could no longer accommodate the creationist-oriented student (Vivian, 1981). The Science Framework, originally published long before the trial began in March of 1981, was later revised so that many of the major points in Segraves’s original argument were dropped. The decision of Judge Irving Perluss was seen as a “victory” for both the state and the creationists; the state was ordered to redistribute its existing anti-dogmatism policy to all school districts, all science textbook publishers, and each science teacher in California. As of 1992, the state has almost totally again reversed this position, requiring atheistic evolution to be taught dogmatically as fact, and excluding by law all theistic world views (Hartwig, 1990). A lawsuit by the Institute for Creation Research that successfully overturned the state’s attempt to close the school may change this. Specifically the court in this case ruled:

That defendant Louis (“Bill”) Honig agrees that until his present term of office expires on January 20, 1995, that he and his designee to the council for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education will abstain from voting on ICRGS’s application for approval to grant science degrees [and]…that a private postsecondary educational institution may specify a statement of belief and a statement of purpose for both faculty and students that complies with a national accrediting association recognized by the United States Department of Education. [and]…that a private postsecondary educational institution has First Amendment rights of free speech, religious freedom, and academic freedom. Defendants further acknowledge that a private postsecondary educational institution’s First Amendment rights must be considered during the institution’s approval review [and] that a private postsecondary educational institution may teach the creation model as being correct provided that the institution also teaches evolution.

The Institute for Creation Research (ICR). Henry Morris, who has done a prodigious amount of writing on creationism in general and especially flood geology (his Ph.D. is in hydrophysics with honors) also felt some dissatisfaction with the BSA and the other existing creation organizations. Morris concluded that a need existed for a more research- oriented organization and consequently, in April of 1972, with a group of other scientists, he formed the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) located in California. The Institute for Creation Research was for several years a research division of Christian Heritage College, a liberal arts college formally founded in 1970 which has a full undergraduate curriculum leading to degrees in many areas, including biology, physics, and education (Morris, 1984, p. 236). The formation of ICR involved Kelly Segraves and the Bible-Science Radio board separating from Christian Heritage College. When this occurred Segraves

… took with them essentially all the assets of the Creation Science Research Center, including its name, its copyrights, its inventory, and its mailing list. But we retained a most important asset — the small but dedicated staff… [who resigned] from the CSRC and stay[ed] with the college research division…. We didn’t ask anyone else on the staff to take a reduction, since their salaries were already quite low anyhow, but they were all stepping out on faith that they could be paid at all! The day after Board meeting at which the vote was taken to separate the CSRC from the College…. It was out of that meeting that the Institute for Creation Research was born…. Until such time as we could develop a regular flow of income, the College would lend us money from its own operations. This had to be done for several months, but the College itself was operating on a shoestring, so it was difficult (Morris, 1984, p. 236).

The first science staff consisted of Drs. Henry Morris, John Moris, Duane Gish and Harold Slusher, soon followed by Drs. Richard Bliss, Theodore W. Rybka, Steven A. Austin, Kenneth B. Cummings, and Gary Parker (Bliss, 1992).

ICR scientists, through their publishing houses Creation- Life Publishers and Master Books have produced scores of books, a monthly newsletter ACTS and FACTS, and a weekly radio program Science, Scripture and Salvation which is aired on ninety-two radio stations in five nations (Bliss, 1992). The activities of ICR have been so effective that it has become the most generally well-known of all of the creationist groups. Achieving necessary financial support has always been a problem which was dealt with, as Morris discusses, as follows:

…salaries, which constitute the largest single item of cost, are kept sufficiently high to support a respectable standard of living for the staff, but also always somewhat lower than comparable salaries for the same type of job…ith the same qualifications, in the secular world. The later criterion assures us that no one will join the ICR staff simply for the money involved — the motivation should be spiritual, not carnal.

Contributions through the Act & Facts mailing list typically have provided about 75% of the necessary support. The rest has come from such items as honoraria, royalties, book sales, and tuitions. The staff agreed right from the start that all receipts from speaking honoraria and book sales at meetings would go to ICR. Some tuition income has been received from our summer institutes and, more recently, from the graduate school. As far as royalties are concerned, these are from books written by ICR scientists. The first such book, published immediately after ICR was organized, was my little book, The Remarkable Birth of Planet Earth. As the book had been written entirely on my own time (nights and weekends), I was therefore entitled to donate the royalties and profits on it to ICR, which I chose to do. Later, however, we worked out an equitable royalty-sharing arrangement between ICR and its various authors. This allocation is based on the relative amount of ICR-paid time, as well as ICR facilities (secretarial, art, etc.) used in preparing a book to the personal time (nights, holidays, vacations) spent by the author. This seems to be an eminently fair arrangement, since it does provide an incentive for our scientists to spend more of their outside time and effort in writing books. This is important in view of the critical need to produce good creationist books, and in view of the difficulty of finding time for writing in the typical work- day of an ICR staff scientist (1984, p. 218).

In 1972, a monastery and thirty acres in San Diego were purchased for ICR, and they later constructed their own building. The ICR now has a graduate program that offers a Master’s degree in geophysics, science education, biology and geology (Morris, 1990).

Students for Origins Research (SOR) was formed in 1977. Members of this group were originally primarily graduate students in the life and physical sciences who were interested in the field of biological and physical origins. Their work and projects cater to students and professors, encouraging dialogue via a biannual publication called Origins Research and a recently developed computer-managed reference tool known as the Creation-Evolution Information Manage-ment System (CREVO/ IMS) (Wirth, 1992). Most of the writers for Origins Research favor a creationist interpretation, but they champion a variety of positions and many are long age creationists. The journal has a circulation approaching 6,000 and is used in many evolution, anthropology and other science- related classes at the university level. It is received regularly by about 2,000 science departments (Wirth, 1992; Wagner, 1992). In 1991 the group, now headed by Mark Hartwig, a Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Barbara, broadened their scope and changed their name to Access Research Network. They are now headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The Creation Social Science and Humanities Society (CSSHS) was founded in 1977 in Wichita, Kansas by Dr. Paul Ackerman, a Ph.D. from the Kansas University (1968) in social psychology and a psychology professor at Wichita State University. The focus of CSSHS is on creationism and its relationship to psychology and the behavioral sciences in general. The group consists of over 600 members, holds conferences, seminars, and publishes the CSSHS quarterly journal and occasionally monographs (Ackerman, 1992). The journal focuses on the “destructive effects of Darwinian dogma on the social sciences and humanities” (Eve and Harrold, 1992, p. 27).

Creation Science Association formed in the early 1960s in Madison, Wisconsin. This was one of the first groups to avoid the use of the world “Bible” in their name because they felt that it tended to detract from the scientific concerns of the organization. Since then, many other creationist organizations have dropped religious terms from their organizational name. For example, a group in Milwaukee which for some time was the Bible Science Association of Milwaukee is now the Creation-Science Association of Milwaukee. This action was viewed by some anti-creationists as evidence of dishonesty by creationists who were attempting to present their “religious” views in the guise of “science.” Creationists who took this action often maintain that they did so, not to disavow the theological beliefs held by most members of their groups, but to emphasize that their concern was with the scientific aspects of the controversy.

Creation Science Filmstrip Organization. Mirian Mirchem concluded that a more effective technique was needed to present creation-science ideas and thus established the Creation- Science Filmstrip Organization in 1973. The first set that they produced featured the Monarch Butterfly, and many other filmstrips soon followed. Also in 1973, the Lutheran Science Institute was established for pastors, teachers, laypersons and students in the Wisconsin Synod of Lutheran Schools. This organization produces a creation newsletter and operates a creation library in one of their theological schools.

Non-American Creationist Groups

The Evolution Protest Movement consists primarily of long-age creationists and was formed by ornithologist Douglas Dewar, Sir Ambrose Fleming, the inventor of the vacuum tube that started the modern electronics revolution, Dr. Basil Atkison (underlibrarian at Cambridge University) and Colonial Skinner. The society was initially proposed in 1932, and the first meeting was held in Captain Acworth’s office with Sir Ambrose Fleming as the first president. Also involved were Dr. James Knight, vice president of the Royal Philosophical Society, and Reverend Dinsdale Young, a Methodist minister of West Master Central Hall. Douglas Dewar, who wrote over 22 books on India and birds, although an evolutionist for much of his career, later became a creationist, and was a major author for the group. Sir Cecil G. Wakeley Bart, professor of surgery at the University of London and a past President of the Royal College of Surgeons, was also a very active creationist then. The current president is Professor Verna Wright, chair of department of rheumatology at the University of Leeds. Also, prominently involved is H. Enoch, professor of zoology at Madras University, and, Dr. D. B. Grower, a biochemist at Garth Hospital, a London teaching hospital.

The Korean Association of Creation Research now has an active membership of over 100,000, including 300 scientists with Ph.D. degrees and 400 with MS degrees. They have conducted creation seminars throughout Korea and are now completing a new multi-million dollar creation education center (Morris, 1991). The Moscow Creation Science Fellowship was formed in June of 1990 with 12 creation scientists as charter members, and by April of 1991 had grown to 108 scientists. Creationism is now taught in many state universities in Russia and other republics of the former Soviet Union.

Jewish and Catholic Groups

Although most creationist groups are Protestant in orientation, a number of Jewish and Catholic groups also exist. The Catholic Center for Creation Research in Louisville, Kentucky, published a monthly newsletter for several years. It focused on applying and discussing creationism and Catholic theology, but also discussed works by the Catholic fathers on evolution as well as current teaching, focusing on some of the biological problems of the theory. The group tended to rely heavily upon creation materials written by Protestant groups. Some well-known Catholic creationists are Dr. Roberto Fondi, professor of paleontology at the University of Siena, microbiologist and geneticist Dr. Giusepe Sermonti, geneticist Dr. Macie J. Gioertych, quantum chemist Dr. Edward Boudreaux and scientist Guy Bertault.

Another Catholic anti-evolutionism group located in Great Britain is the Teilhard Center for the Future of Man established for the study, dissemination and development of the ideas of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Catholic priest. It focuses on the philosophical implications of Tielhard’stheory as opposed to the biological and scientific data and the problems of evolution. The current president is Dr. Joseph Needham, F.R.S., the Isaac Asimov of philosophy. Since the summer of 1966 they have published a journal called The Teilhard Review which includes such articles as “Evolution: Blind Chance or God?” “Alternatives to Biological Reductionism”, and “On Human Nature: Social Biology, Natural Theology and the Future of Man”. The journal is highly regarded and a number of eminent scientists regularly contribute articles. The general position the group takes is progressive creation to theistic evolution, but many aspects of modern evolution philosophy are questioned.

One of the better known Jewish organizations that publishes creationist material is the National Conference of Synagogue Youth. One of their publications, A Science and Torah Reader (a special issue of Jewish Youth Monthly) was written by several prominent Jewish scientists who are not associated in the public mind with the creationist ideology or movement. While they evidently eschew any formal creationist affiliation, they clearly have major reservations about evolution. For example, Morris Goldman wrote in his article “A Critical Review of Evolution” that Jewish youth,

raised in traditional Judaism, may well ask two questions in this regard: first, is it reasonable to question the validity of a belief [in evolution] so widely and so firmly held by so many knowledgeable professionals and second, what, if anything, is so terribly wrong with this doctrine from a Jewish point of view? … The mere fact that lots of people believe in a particular hypothesis does not automatically make it true. Every scientific theory, every scientific doctrine, must be examined and checked relentlessly in the light of information gathered constantly by reliable investigators. Thus, to question acceptable doctrine is to act in the best traditions of scientific research (1970).

After establishing that Darwinism is incompatible with Orthodox Judaism, he then proceeds to critically analyze “from a strictly scientific view” the evidence for Darwinian evolution as presented in one of the most commonly used high school biology textbooks, the blue version of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS). Other articles in this journal include “Genetics versus Evolution” by Dr. Edward Simon, “Science vs. Evolution?” by Robert Perlman, “Geophysics or Faith?” by Manachem M. Schneerson and “Science vs. Scientism” by Carl N. Klahr. In addition, the journal Intercom, the organ of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists in America, regularly publishes articles critical of evolution and naturalism.

Another organization of Jewish professors and physicians recently printed an advertisement in the Jewish Press (the largest independent Anglo-Jewish weekly newspaper in America) signed by 49 Jewish medical doctors which espoused creationism and concluded that “the form and function of every organ of the human body testifies that they are the handiwork of a divine creator.

Creation in Academia

The decade of the seventies and eighties saw the emergence of a “creation-conscious” public, thanks in large part to the numerous and legendary debates (or infamous debates, depending on your point of view) on college campuses, many by Gish and Morris against a host of evolutionary scientists and educators. The growing popularity and apparent success of those debates came as an unanticipated surprise to many in the American mainstream scientific commu-nity, most of whom had not heretofore regarded creationists views seriously. The late seventies and early eighties also saw the formation of several secular anti-creationist groups which were often spearheaded by atheists, freethinkers or secular humanists of various stripes which attempted to counter the creationist impact by taking a strong stand for naturalistic evolution and attacking creationist arguments and persons wholesale, often unscrupulously (See Cavanaugh, 1983; Lewin, 1980). Included among these are The American Atheists, The Committees of Correspondence, The Bay Area Skeptics, and the largest group, The National Center for Science Education in Berkeley, California.

The 1980 Legislation History of Creationists

One of the activities supported by many creationists in the 1980s was legislation requiring some type of “balanced” or at least what they feel is a less biased presentation of the evidence for the origin of the universe, life and mankind (Sparks, 1982). Although many prominent creationists oppose this tactic because they believe that the state should not regulate science instruction in this way, most agree that science is being inaccurately portrayed in the classroom when atheistic evolution is taught, as it often is, as the only or by far the “best” answer to the question about how life began and developed. They believe that a sizable amount of scientific evidence exists which contradicts evolution and supports the concept of a creator or designer of the universe (Johnson, 1991). One group involved in this effort is the Citizens for Fairness in Education (CFE) headed by Paul Ellwanger, a Roman Catholic. The two-model bill which was passed by the state of Arkansas in March and by Louisiana in July of 1980 and introduced in nineteen other states, was essentially the bill that they developed. Ellwanger (1984) concluded that:

…the concept of “balanced treatment” (presenting oth evolution and creation science) in K-12 public schools is considered by legal and scientific professionals as the only constitutional way to achieve a fair hearing of the powerful scientific case for creation in our pluralistic society. This balanced treatment on origins can be attained by only two methods — the voluntary (by resolution) route or the mandatory (by legislation) route. CFE is in favor of both but we accentuate the latter method for reaching the most schools in America in the shortest possible time…. Our balanced treatment bill leaves the religious [philosophical] aspects on origins for the homes, synagogues, temples, churches, and philosophy courses. Their newsletter also noted that CFE is not a creationist or religious group, nor are we affiliated with any such group. We are national in scope, are in favor of academic freedom and opposed to the suppression of scientific information on the subject of origins, whether that information happens to contradict either evolution or creation. We do not poll our supporters on their creed, race, or political affiliation (Ellwanger, 1984).

The last bill, the Louisiana effort, was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1987 (Edwards versus Aguillard et al.) and has for now at least effectively ended this approach. The controversy has not died down, though, but will certainly continue for decades, if not far longer (Grine, 1985).


One of the main concerns of the scientific community as a whole is that the creationists are attempting to inject religious thought and dogma into the teaching of science. Scientists are well aware of the case of Galileo, and other attempts of the non-scientific community to control and influence science (Draper, 1875; White, 1955; Simpson, 1926; Anderberg, 1953). Modern examples of the state controlling science to the detriment of both include Nazi Germany and the Stalinist government (the Lysenko affair). Many scientists are puzzled over the apparent resurgence of creationism since it seemed to them that the issue was settled after the 1925 Scopes Trial (Walker, 1990). However, there also appears to exist a wide-spread ignorance among many scientists relative to modern religious thought, especially in the area of origins (Moore, 1979; Toumey, 1987).

Creationists, on the other hand, often conclude that their ideas are being rejected, not on their merits, but because their conclusions are highly critical of a world view that they have concluded rests far more on belief than fact or reason, specifically naturalistic evolutionary theory (Johnson, 1990). Creationists point out that their journals and books are usually not found in public or university libraries and that their research, no mater how well done, is rarely published in secular journals (Numbers, 1982). Many evolutionists, on the other hand, believe that creationist ideas have already been scrupulously examined well over a hundred years ago, and have been found wanting by the scientific community. Having thus been discarded, it is reasoned that there is no need to renew such discussions. And many church people agree with this conclusion (Morgan, 1983; Morrison, 1951). There is, though, as the existence of the many groups reviewed here illustrate, clearly compelling evidence that demands further examination of the origins issue and its connections with scientific and religious beliefs (Johnson, 1991; Seachord, 1984; Bates, 1976; Neville, 1963). CM