Righting America

A forum for scholarly conversation about Christianity, culture, and politics in the US
The Anti-Creationist Conspiracy? | Righting America

by Susan Trollinger and William Trollinger

As we indicated in our last post, Sue gave our second of four presentations at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Dayton, Ohio last Sunday. In the session, she talked about creation science and, in particular, the kinds of arguments young Earth creationists (like the folks at Answers in Genesis) make to “confirm” a biblical creation.

About halfway through the session, one of the men in attendance who hadn’t heard a lot about creation science before suggested that young Earth creationists should be deeply troubled by the fact that creation science never appears in mainstream science journals. He wondered aloud why that fact doesn’t raise profound questions for them as to the legitimacy of creation science.

A woman responded to him saying that she has a number of family members and friends who are young Earth creationists, and she knows exactly how they would reply to that. They would say that the reason creation science doesn’t appear in mainstream science journals is not because creation science isn’t good science. It’s because mainstream scientists are so biased on behalf of evolution and against creationism that creation science research never gets a fair shake. And she wanted to know if her friends and family were right about that. That’s a great question.

A bit of history helps out here.

In 1961, John C. Whitcomb (theologian and Old Testament professor) and Henry Morris (PhD in hydraulic engineering) argued in The Genesis Flood (1961) that a particular literal reading of Genesis (according to which the Earth was created in six twenty-four-hour days about 6,000 years ago) could be supported by an alternative to mainstream science. Dubbed “flood geology,” this science could explain how all of the appearances of an old Earth (like geological strata) were produced not by slow processes of change over millions of years but, instead, by a single and catastrophic year-long event spoken of in Genesis—Noah’s flood.

The response to The Genesis Flood was huge. Evangelicals in the 1960s were hungry for a way to legitimate their beliefs. And given the credibility that mainstream science (which was amazingly sending rocket ships into space) enjoyed at the time, grounding their literal reading in flood geology was just the ticket. Among those especially excited about that were young Earth creationists who were scientists. They were ready to get to work to produce more creation science. Organizations, like the Creation Research Society (CRS) and the Institute for Creation Science (ICR) emerged (CRS in 1963 and ICR in 1972) to take up the task.

It turns out that for all their efforts, CRS and ICR were unable to produce the scientific evidence that could pass muster in mainstream science journals. As the creationist research effort sputtered, Ken Ham (formerly of ICR) and Answers in Genesis (AiG; founded in 1994) focused their efforts on spreading a three-part apologetics message

that the teaching of evolution was evil and that it produced terrific cultural decay, that the first eleven chapters of Genesis spoke directly and literally about the origins of the universe as well as about the proper way to organize society, and that true Christians should join earnestly in an all-out culture war for the soul of America against atheistic humanism (“The Bible and Creationism,” Oxford Handbook of the Bible in America, 15/223 (online/print))

It turns out that AiG has been very successful in inspiring and preparing evangelicals for the culture war. And while scientific research is not a priority at AiG – and while there is very little science (even on their own terms) at the Creation Museum – AiG does maintain an online research journal. The Answers Research Journal (ARJ) is a peer-reviewed journal, but the peers doing the reviewing are “creationist researchers, scientists, and theologians.” “creationist researchers, scientists, and theologians.” Looking at the 2018 volume, one sees articles that suggest that ARJ is not a typical research publication, including “The Hermeneutics of Adam,” “Biblical Integration in Anatomy and Physiology,” and “Syntactical Features of Hebrew Genitive Clauses and Their lmplications for Translating Genesis 1:1.” Virtually all of the articles are written by folks from fundamentalist colleges (e.g., Missouri Baptist, Cedarville, Liberty), from creationist organizations (e.g., Logos Research Associates, Biblical Creation Trust, Bible Science Institute), and from AiG itself. And a number of authors contributed more than one article, and some of the authors have contributed ten or more articles over the eleven years that the journal has been operating.

All of this to say that ARJ is further evidence that when we look at the history of young Earth creationism it seems clear that it is much less the case that the editors of science journals are in cahoots against young Earth creationism and much more the case that creation scientists themselves have found it really hard to produce anything like a “creation science.”

But as we argue in Righting America, for AiG, it is not about science. It is not even really about the Bible. It is about culture war.