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The Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 marked the downfall of the fundamentalist movement in the United States and the end of its efforts to pass laws forcing its religious opinions into science classrooms. However, the Scopes trial also had a negative effect on science education in the US, particularly as it related to evolution. Although the teaching of evolutionary theory was not illegal in every state, and the existing "monkey laws" were not enforced where they remained, the affects of these laws permeated biology education throughout the country. The textbook that Scopes had used in Tennessee, Civic Biology by George W. Hunter, had been adopted by the State Textbook Commission in 1919, and treated the subject of evolution in a fair amount of detail. In the wake of the Scopes trial, however, a new version, entitled New Civic Biology, appeared. In this version, evolution was not mentioned at all.
Other publishers bowed to economic realities and followed suit. As researchers Raymond Eve and Francis Harrold note, "Publishers are in business to make money. Books containing too much evolution might be rejected where the topic was illegal or unpopular. It was easier on the balance sheet to issue a simple nationwide edition of a book that contained material offensive to no one." (Eve and Harrold, 1991, p. 27) The effect on science education was profound. Almost overnight, evolution as a topic was banned from nearly every science textbook in the country. As Dorothy Nelkin points out, "Textbooks published throughout the late 1920's ignored evolutionary biology, and new editions of older volumes deleted the word 'evolution' and the name 'Darwin' from their indexes. Some even added religious material." (Nelkin, 1982, p. 33) Judith Grabiner and Peter Miller note, "It is easy to identify a text published in the decade following 1925. Merely look up the word 'evolution' in the index or glossary; you almost certainly will not find it." (Grabiner and Miller, "Effects of the Scopes Trial", Science, Sept 6, 1974, p. 833) While Darrow and the evolutionists had won the Scopes battle by discrediting the fundamentalists, they had lost the war. The creationist "monkey laws" had a chilling effect on biological education in the United States for several decades.
The results became apparent in 1957, when the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite, shocking the United States out of its intellectual complacency and dramatically illustrating the inadequacy of science education in the US. In response to the new "space race", Congress passed a number of laws like the National Defense Foreign Languages Act and the National Defense Education Act, instituting a crash program to bring American science education up to par. One of these new programs was the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, begun in 1959, to produce new up-to-date biology textbooks. Written by professional scientists in their fields, the BSCS texts prominently featured evolutionary theory as the foundation of all the biological sciences. Within a few years, nearly half the high schools in the country were using BSCS biology textbooks, despite the fact that anti-evolution laws were still on the books in a number of states.
Creationists were quick to respond. The Institute for Creation Research, in California, was formed by a group of anti-evolutionists including Henry Morris and Duane Gish, with money from several fundamentalist church groups. It quickly became the largest anti-evolution organization in the US. Smaller creationist groups included the Creation Research Society and the Creation Science Research Center.
In 1961, the Tennessee state legislature attempted to repeal the Butler Act (the law which had prompted the Scopes trial), but failed after an acrimonious debate, during which one legislator equated evolutionists with communists: "Any persons or any groups who assist in any way to undermine faith in the teachings of the Bible are working in harmony with communism." (W. Dykeman and J. Stokely, "Scopes and Evolution--The Jury is Still Out", New York Times Magazine, March 12, 1971, p. 72) In 1967, teacher Gary Scott of Jacksboro, Tennessee was fired for violating the Butler Act. He fought his firing in court and won, and the Butler Act was finally ruled unconstitutional by the Federal courts.
Shortly afterwards, Arkansas biology teacher Susanne Epperson filed a court challenge to the Arkansas monkey law. When the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the law, Epperson appealed to the US Supreme Court, which ruled in 1968 that all state monkey laws were unconstitutional, on the grounds that they served to establish a state-supported religion and eroded the separation of church and state. The anti-evolution laws, the Court decided, were nothing more than "an attempt to blot out a particular theory because of its supposed conflict with the Biblical account, taken literally." (US Supreme Court, Epperson v Arkansas, 1968)
In 1973, just six years after repealing the Scopes anti-evolution law, the Tennessee State Legislature passed a replacement for the Butler Act. The new law stated, "Any biology textbook used for teaching in the public schools, which expresses an opinion of, or relates a theory about origins or creation of man and his world shall [give] . . . an equal amount of emphasis on . . . the Genesis account in the Bible." (Public Acts of Tennessee, 1973, Chapter 377, cited in LaFollette, 1983, p. 80) Within two years, this law had also been struck down by the Federal Courts, which ruled that the Tennessee law was "a clearly defined preferential position for the Biblical version of creation as opposed to any account of the development of man based on scientific research and reasoning. For a state to seek to enforce such preference by law is to seek to accomplish the very establishment of religion which the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States squarely forbids." (US District Court, Daniel v Waters, 1975)
The creation "science" movement was a response to these Court decisions. Creationists from the Institute for Creation Research and Creation Research Society wanted, in effect, to turn the clock back to 1925, when evolution was illegal and the Biblical story of origins was mandated by law. As Henry Morris puts it, "A key purpose of the ICR is to bring the field of education--and then our whole world insofar as possible--back to the foundational truth of special creation and primeval history as revealed first in Genesis and further emphasized throughout the Bible." (Morris, Back to Genesis, July 1995) CRS co-founder Walter Lammerts echoes, "Our aim is a rather audacious one, namely, the complete re-evaluation of science from the theistic viewpoint." (Lammerts, 1975, p. 2)
The creationists cited several reasons why they believe creationism should be taught in the public schools, and one of these, they flatly admitted, was that it encouraged belief in a personal Deity and thus encouraged a "Christian lifestyle": "There is no greater stimulus to responsible behavior and earnest effort, as well as honesty and consideration for others, than the awareness that there may well be a personal Creator to whom one must give account." (Morris, Scientific Creationism, 1974, p. 14)
However, since the Supreme Court had now prohibited as unconstitutional the teaching of religious doctrines in the public schools, creationists were no longer able to make these religiously-based arguments in court, and instead had to resort to a new strategy -- arguing, in an inversion that would have made Orwell proud, that (1) creationism is science, not religion, and (2) evolution is religion, not science. As Morris summarizes, "Since creationism can be discussed effectively as a scientific model, and since evolution is fundamentally a religious philosophy rather than a science, it is clearly unsound educational practice and even unconstitutional for evolution to be taught and promoted in the public schools to the exclusion or detriment of special creation. . . . Creationist children and parents are thereby denied 'equal protection of its laws' and the state has, to all intents and purposes, made a law establishing the religion of evolutionary humanism in its schools." (Morris, 1975, p. 14) Therefore, in response to the Supreme Court decisions, the creationist movement made the strategic decision to downplay the religious aspects of creationism, and to argue that creationism could be supported solely through scientific evidence, without any reference to God or the Bible. Thus was born "creation science" -- it was nothing more than an attempt by the fundamentalists to dishonestly sneak their religious views into the classroom by pretending that they are really a "science". It was, in fact, a deception by design.
There have been a large variety of people who have claimed the mantle "creation scientists". As in any political and religious movement, there are several schools of creationist thought, separated by doctrinal differences in their interpretations of the Bible. (According to one source, there were in 1984 no less than 22 national creationist organizations in the United States, and at least 54 state and local organizations.)
The "day-age" faction of creationism argues that the "days" referred to in Genesis are really symbolic of enormous stretches of time, and not 24-hour days. Perhaps the best-known of the "day- age" groups today are the Jehovah's Witnesses. Another school of thought is that of the "gap" theorists, who argue that there is an unmentioned lapse of time between the first and second verses of Genesis, and that the six-day creation event did not happen until after a long period of time had already passed. Several of the televangelists were "gap" theorists. Finally, there are the "strict" creationists, who assert that creation happened as described in Genesis, and that the universe and all life was created within six days, several thousand years ago. The first two schools, the "day- age" and the "gap", accept the geological evidence of a very ancient earth (but not the evidence of evolution), and are usually referred to collectively as the "old earth creationists" or OECs. The strict creationists, however, assert that the earth is, based on the geneologies in Genesis, just 6,000 to 10,000 years old, and they are referred to as "young-earth creationists" or YECs.
There is also another trend of thought, the "theistic evolutionists", who argue that evolution is simply the method which God used to create life, and that there is no conflict between science and the Bible. Nearly all mainstream religious denominations (as well as most scientists) are supporters of theistic evolution. Although they could be considered "creationist", since they do assert that the universe was made by God, theistic evolutionists are viewed by the fundamentalists as "the liberal enemy" who is doing the work of Satan. It would be more proper to view the fundamentalist creationists as "anti-evolutionists", since the one thing that unites them all is the belief that evolutionary theory is contrary to the tenets of Christianity. Since, on this matter, the theistic evolutionists are on the "wrong" side, they are not accepted as "creationists" by the fundamentalists.
It was the young-earth creationists who dominated the creation "science" movement and who headed all of the major creationist organizations, and it was the viewpoints of the young-earthers which found their way into the various anti-evolution or "balanced treatment" laws which they sought to pass. The pivotal Arkansas Balanced Treatment Act, for instance, defined "creation science" in terms of young-earth creationism:
" 'Creation-science' includes the scientific evidences and related inferences that indicate: (1) Sudden creation of the universe, energy and life from nothing, (2) The insufficiency of mutation and natural selection in bringing about development of all living kinds from a single organism, (3) Changes only within fixed limits of originally created kinds of plants and animals, (4) Separate ancestry for men and apes, (5) Explanation of the earth's geology by catastrophism, including the occurrence of a world- wide flood, and (6) A relatively recent inception of the earth and living kinds." (Arkansas Legislature Act 590, 1981)
Young-earth creationism (which later became "scientific creationism") can essentially be traced back to one man, George McCready Price, a fundamentalist Seventh Day Adventist who accepted the literal truth of the Bible as a matter of course. In 1923, Price published a book called The New Geology, in which he argued that all of the geological features we see today were the result of Noah's Flood, and not the slow geological processes described by scientists. The geological column, Price asserted, was nothing more than the deep sediments deposited by the Flood, while all of the various fossils were merely the dead bodies of organisms that had drowned in the Deluge. Conventional geology, Price asserted, was a fraud, fostered upon an unsuspecting public by scientists who were doing the work of the Devil: "Some of the tricky methods used by the Great Deceiver to befuddle the people of the last days". (cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 137) Price's ideas became known as "Flood geology".
While geologists dismissed Price as a crank and ridiculed The New Geology as being riddled with error and distortion, the book caused a sensation among religious fundamentalists, who cited it as the first book to use science to show that the Bible is literally correct. Price (who was not a geologist) was even cited during the Scopes trial as a scientific expert. For a time, he traveled to England, where a disciple of his, Douglas Dewar, enthusiastically echoed his mentor, saying bluntly, "The Bible cannot contain false statements, and so if its statements undoubtedly conflict with the views of geologists, these latter are wrong." (cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 146) Much of Price's "flood geology" can be found, nearly intact, in the writings of modern young-earth creationists.
In 1935, Price helped to form the Religion and Science Association, the first nationwide creationist organization. The RSA had as its acknowledged purpose that of using scientific data to support the Bible. Shortly after it was formed, however, the RSA was torn by an internal feud between those who accepted Price's Flood geology and those who rejected it. One of RSA's founding members, the Lutheran theologian Theodore Graebner (an old-earth creationist who taught biology in several fundamentalist universities) flatly declared that Flood geology had no supporting evidence: "In spite of all that I have read about the Flood theory to account for stratification, erosion and fossils, I cannot view the mountains without losing all faith in that solution of the problem." (cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 112) By 1937, the Religion and Science Association had collapsed under the weight of this feuding.
Shortly after the death of the RSA, the Price supporters formed their own organization, the Deluge Geology Society, with the specific purpose of supporting the theories of Flood geology. Price was a co-founder and the most illumined member. Another co-founder was fellow Seventh Day Adventist Harold W. Clarke, who had also been a founding member of the RSA while teaching biology at an Adventist college in California. Another person who joined the DGS was a grad student from the University of Minnesota named Henry Morris, whose name will crop up very often in later creationist history.
To prevent the kind of internecine fighting that destroyed the RSA, the Deluge Geology Society only admitted committed Flood geologists as members. Despite this precaution, however, internal feuding broke out anyway, over the question of the age of the solar system. The old-earthers argued that the scientific evidence which indicated a very old solar system did not conflict with Genesis, a position which the young-earthers found heretical. The organization collapsed in 1948.
During this time, a new creationist organization appeared, one which became much more influential than the oft-ignored DGS. This was the American Scientific Affiliation, which was formed in 1941 to explain how science supported the Bible. Unlike the RSA and DGS, which were more concerned with theology than science, the ASA required all of its members to have legitimate scientific credentials. It also required all members to sign an oath of membership, swearing:
"I believe the whole Bible, as originally given, to be the inspired Word of God, the only unerring guide of faith and conduct. Since God is the Author of this Book, as well as the Creator and Sustainer of the physical world about us, I cannot conceive of discrepancies between statements in the Bible and the real facts of science." (cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 159)
This tactic of limiting membership to scientists who already agreed to the literal truth of Genesis would later be repeated. In effect, by using scientific knowledge as an apologetic for Biblical truth, the ASA became the first "creation science" organization.
Although the ASA had no connections to the Deluge Geology Society when it was formed, it was quickly approached by the DGS, which wanted to publish a joint anti-evolution periodical. The ASA leadership, distrustful of the "strong Seventh-Day Adventist flavor" of the Deluge Society (cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 161), turned them down.
In the end, however, it was the ASA's insistence on a semblance of scientific respectability which proved to be its undoing. Once again, Flood geology was at the center of the dispute. Dr. J. Laurence Kulp, a chemist and geologist, flatly rejected Flood geology and pointed out that it was demonstrably untrue, and to insist upon it as Biblically-inspired would make a laughingstock out of creationism. "This unscientific theory of Flood geology," Kulp wrote, "has done and will do considerable harm to the strong propagation of the Gospel among educated people." (cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 167) Kulp was soon joined by biologist J. Frank Cassell, who presented a paper to the ASA in 1951 bluntly stating, "Evolution has been defined as 'the gradual or sudden change in animals and plants through successive generations' . . . Such changes are demonstrable. Therefore, evolution is a fact." (cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 174-175) Cassell argued that ASA's entire attitude on evolution had to change if it was to maintain any scientific respectability, and urged ASA to adopt an attitude of theistic evolution. (This effort was partially successful. ASA took no official position on the question of creation "science", and most of its members are theistic evolutionists--although the group did publish a booklet entitled Teaching Science in a Climate of Controversy, which defended old-earth creationism.)
The young earthers defended their "science" against the attacks of Kulp and Cassell. During the 1953 ASA annual convention, Henry Morris presented a paper entitled "The Biblical Evidence for a Recent Creation and Universal Deluge". Morris, a staunch Biblical literalist and young-earth creationist, had deliberately chosen to major in hydraulic engineering and minor in geology, so he could study the effects that flood waters would have on the earth. In 1946, the year he entered grad school at the University of Minnesota, he published a pamphlet called "That You Might Believe", which defended Flood geology. Morris joined the Deluge Geology Society while still a grad student.
At the 1953 ASA convention, Morris first met John C. Whitcomb, Jr., a theologian with an interest in Flood geology and young-earth creationism. In 1957, Whitcomb finished a ThD dissertation entitled "The Genesis Flood", which presented a detailed defense of the historicity and geological affects of Noah's Flood. Shortly afterwards, he decided to publish the thesis as a book, but thought it would have more impact if a geologist wrote the sections dealing with Flood geology. Whitcomb approached several creationist geologists for help in the book, but was turned down by all of them, who rejected Flood geology for various reasons. Finally, he approached hydraulic engineer Henry Morris, who, after some initial hesitation, agreed to co-author the book. The Genesis Flood was financed by a number of religious fundamentalists (including Rouas J. Rushdooney, who would go on to begin the Christian "Reconstructionist" movement). The book was published in February 1961.
For geologists, The Genesis Flood was a yawn, merely an updated rehash of McCready Price's New Geology. The book also received criticism from the old-earth creationists, who argued that the very idea of a global Flood was not supported by any of the geological evidence. In response, Whitcomb and Morris answered simply that Genesis said there had been a global Flood, therefore there must have been one: "The real issue is not the correctness of the interpretation of various details of the geological data, but simply what God has revealed in His Word concerning these matters." (Whitcomb and Morris, 1961, p. xxvii) To the ASA Journal, which was vocal in its criticism of the book, Morris wrote, "The real crux of the matter is 'What saith Scripture?' " (cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 208)
The Southern Baptist Church where Morris taught apparently disagreed, and Morris left over theological differences concerning the Flood. Shortly afterwards, Morris formed his own College Baptist Church, and one of his guest pastors was Jerry Falwell, a then-obscure minister in nearby Lynchburg, Virginia. Since then, Falwell and Morris became (and have remained) silent partners-- Falwell's Moral Majority Inc. gave financial support to Morris's creationist institutions, and Falwell has plugged Morris's creationist books to his large television audience.
The dispute within the American Scientific Affiliation over Flood geology soon convinced the young-earthers that the ASA was getting "soft on evolution". In late 1961, the plant breeder Walter Lammerts, who had long been affiliated with creationist organizations, joined with Henry Morris and Duane Gish to form an "anti-evolution caucus" within the ASA. Lammerts was an extremist even for a creationist -- unlike most young-earthers, who accepted a limited form of evolution within "created kinds", Lammerts rejected even this and asserted that no speciation of any sort was possible. Gish, a Regular Baptist and a fundamentalist, had joined the ASA in the late 1950's, after getting his PhD in bio- chemistry from Berkeley. He worked as a protein researcher for the Upjohn Company. Together, the three formed a breakaway creationist organization called the Creation Research Committee in 1963. The Committee later changed its name to the Creation Research Society, the name it still bears today.
The CRS was the first national group to be headed by Henry Morris, the "Father of Creation Science", and it quickly came to reflect the views of its leader. The purpose of the CRS, it declared, is "to publish research evidence supporting the thesis that the material universe, including plants, animals and man are the result of direct creative acts by a personal God." (Creation Research Society, Articles of Incorporation, Lansing, Michigan, cited in Nelkin, 1982, p. 78) Morris had by this time decided that scientific data could be used as an effective tool for bringing people to Christ, and he began to point to his Flood geology model as an "alternative science", one that proved the literal correctness of the Bible. He also began to explore the possibility of using the state legislatures to have "Balanced Treatment" acts passed, mandating equal treatment of "evolution science" and "creation science" in biology classrooms.
To help legitimize this viewpoint, CRS maintained the old ASA tactic of admitting only credentialled scientists as members. And, in an effort to avoid the faction- fighting and ideological bickering that had marked the earlier creationist organizations, CRS also adopted a long, detailed oath which all members had to swear, which bound them firmly to a literal interpretation of Genesis, a young-earth outlook, and acceptance of the Flood geology model:
"(1) The Bible is the Written Word of God, and because it is inspired thruout, all its assertions are historically and scientifically true in all the original autographs. To the student of nature, this means that the account of origins in Genesis is a factual presentation of simple historical truths.
(2) All basic types of living things, including man, were made by direct creative acts of God during the Creation Week described in Genesis. Whatever biological changes have occurred since Creation Week have accomplished only changes within the original created kinds.
(3) The great Flood described in Genesis, commonly referred to as the Noachian Flood, was an historic event worldwide in its extent and effect.
(4) We are an organization of Christian men of science who accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The account of the special creation of Adam and Eve as one man and woman and their subsequent fall into sin is the basis for our belief in the necessity of a Savior for all mankind. Therefore, salvation can come only through accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior." (By- Laws of the Creation Research Society, cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 230-231)
It may seem strange for an institution which tried to present itself as "scientific" to require all of its members to swear an oath affirming their belief in certain specific conclusions, regardless of the scientific evidence, but clearly the purpose of the Creation Research Society had less to do with scientific investigation than it had in proselytizing people to fundamentalist Biblical literalism. In fact, a large number of creationists objected to the use of science at all, arguing that the religious message was weakened and cheapened by attempting to use scientific data to "prove" the act of creation. One of the most vociferous objectors was Morris's former co-author John C. Whitcomb, who complained that "One might just as well be a Jewish or even a Muslim creation scientist as far as this model is concerned . . . By avoiding any mention of the Bible, or Christ as the Creator, we may be able to gain an equal time in some schools. But the cost would seem to be exceedingly high, for absolute certainty is lost and the spiritual impact that only the living and powerful Word of God can give is blunted." (Whitcomb, Grace Theological Journal, 1983, cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 246)
In 1978, Walter Lang, the editor of the creationist Bible Science Newsletter, echoed the sentiments of many creationists who felt that scientific justification for creation was unnecessary and detracted from the spiritual message: "Only about five percent of evolutionists-turned-creationists did so on the basis of the overwhelming evidence for creation in the world of nature." (Lang, Bible Science Newsletter, June 1978, cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 233) Indeed, Lammerts, Gish and Morris had all been committed creationists before they had gained any scientific experience.
Morris, however, was completely committed to his strategy of using "creation science" to get around the Supreme Court's Epperson decision and win a place for Genesis in American science classrooms, and took steps to present creationism as a scientific, not a religious, outlook. "Thus," Morris explained, "creationism is on the way back, this time not primarily as a religious belief, but as an alternative scientific explanation of the world in which we live." (Morris, Troubled Waters of Evolution, 1974, p. 16) Morris's book Scientific Creationism was intended to be the definitive book on the science of creationism, suitable for use in public school biology courses.
In 1970, Morris and Christian fundamentalist preacher Tim LaHaye (of the Moral Majority Inc), working with the Scott Memorial Baptist Church, raised money and set up the Christian Heritage College in San Diego, an unaccredited Bible college. In its 1981 academic catalogue, the College offered several courses in science, all taught, it says, in a "consistently creationist and Biblical framework". As for evolutionary theory, the catalogue stated, "Biblical criteria require its rejection as possible truth." (1981-1982 General Catalogue, Christian Heritage College, p. 10, cited in LaFollette, 1983, p. 107) Morris himself was teaching a course in "creation science" at the College.
Working with fellow creationists Kelly and Nell Segraves, who had helped establish a local chapter of the Bible Science Association -- a hardline creationist organization -- Morris helped establish the Creation Science Research Center, for the specific purpose of producing "creation science" materials which could be used in public classrooms once the creationists succeeded in having creation "science" put into the schools. Morris also founded the Institute for Creation Research as a scientific laboratory for the Christian Heritage College, with the avowed purpose of attempting to scientifically "prove" the literal validity of Genesis.
Shortly afterwards, however, a power struggle broke out in the CSRC between Morris and the Segraves. The Segraves wrested control of the Center, and promptly disaffiliated it from the Christian Heritage College and from the ICR. ICR remained affiliated with the Christian Heritage College until the early 1980's, when it became expedient for the creationists to downplay ICR's religious connections and attempt to paint its Bible science research as a purely secular, scientific institution. ICR attempted to maintain the fiction that it was a scientific institute with no religious affiliations, but most ICR staffers, including Henry Morris and Duane Gish, were still adjunct professors at the Christian Heritage College. The ICR carried out no field research in any of the life sciences, and, despite its claim to be purely scientific, it maintained its tax-exempt status with the IRS on the grounds that it is a religious institution carrying out "non-scientific research".
A number of smaller creationist organizations also existed. The old Geoscience Research Institute was still active. It was based at Loma Linda University, a Seventh-Day Adventist college. For the most part, GRI avoided legislative or political work, and focused instead on providing creationist reference materials to biology and geology teachers. GRI adheres to old-earth creationism.
Another small organization which got some press occasionally was the Creation Evidences Museum near Glen Rose, Texas. The Museum is still run today by the Rev Carl Baugh, who has a PhD in anthropology from the College of Advanced Education, an unaccredited Bible college on the grounds of the Sherwood Park Baptist Church. (Baugh also claims several other doctoral degrees -- all of them come from diploma mills owned by either himself or his business partner). The primary attractions of the Museum are the so-called "man tracks" from nearby Dinosaur Valley State Park, along the Paluxy River. According to the creationists, the state park contains dinosaur tracks alongside those of modern humans, proving that the two lived together. Baugh has also claimed to have found a fossil human tooth buried among the dinosaur bones. Ever since his major claims (including the footprints and the "human tooth") have been debunked, Baugh is viewed as somewhat of an oddball by the major creationist groups.
Perhaps some mention should be made of the fringe creationist groups which even the ICR and CSRC acknowledged were a bit loony. The best known of these has to be the Flat Earth Society, which argues on both scientific and religious grounds that the earth is really flat, and that geological and astronomic data, if properly interpreted, prove this to be true. (The Flat Earthers were featured a few years ago in a television special aired by the Discovery Channel cable network.) Another fringe group is the Tychonian Society, which, unlike the Flat Earth Society, accepts that the earth is round, but which argues, on scientific and religious grounds, that the earth is at the center of the universe and the sun revolves around it.
ICR, however, was (and still is) the shining star of the young-earth creationist movement, and is responsible for most of the creationist literature that is available. The ICR makes a lot of self-congratulatory noise about its "scientific credentials". Members of the ICR, it proudly declares, are required to have an advanced degree in at least one of the sciences. They usually fail to mention, however, that, like the CRS, all of its members must sign an oath affirming their belief in a literal interpretation of Genesis and their acceptance of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and any other non-fundamentalist creationists are not allowed membership in the ICR unless they renounce those beliefs and sign the ICR's oath of Biblical infallibility.
Not all of the young-earth creationists are scientists. One of the creationist witnesses at the Arkansas trial was Dr. Norman Geisler, a fundamentalist theologian at the Dallas Theological Seminary. During his pre-trial deposition, Geisler was asked if he believed in a real Devil. Yes, he replied, he did, and cited some Biblical verses as confirmation. The conversation then went:
"Q. Are there, sir, any other evidences for that belief besides certain passages of Scripture?
GEISLER: Oh, yes. I have known personally at least 12 persons who were clearly possessed by the Devil. And then there are the UFOs.
Q. The UFOs? Why are they relevant to the existence of the Devil?
GEISLER: Well, you see, they represent the Devil's major, in fact, final attack on the earth.
Q. Oh. And sir, may I ask how you know, as you seem to know, that there are UFOs?
GEISLER: I read it in the Readers Digest." (Trial Transcript, US District Court, McLean v Arizona, 1981, cited in Gilkey, 1985, p. 76)
At trial, Geisler testified under oath (apparently with a straight face) that flying saucers were "Satanic manifestations for the purposes of deception". (Trial transcript, US District Court, McLean v Arkansas, 1981, cited in Gilkey, 1985, p. 77, LaFollette, 1983, p. 114 and Nelkin, 1982, p. 142)
Geisler also testified that the Arkansas creationism bill did not introduce religion into the schools for the simple reason that God is not a religious concept. "It is possible," Geisler intoned, "to believe that God exists without necessarily believing in God." In support of this idea, Geisler argued that the Devil acknowledged the existence of God but did not worship Him, and therefore treated God as a non-religious concept. (Trial transcript, McLean v Arkansas, 1981, cited in Berra, 1990, p. 134) Judge Overton rather politely concluded that Geisler's notion "is contrary to common understanding". (Overton Opinion, McLean v Arkansas, 1981)
Recently, ICR's dominance of the young-earth creationist movement has been challenged by two others. The first (and probably the looniest) is "Dr" Kent Hovind, a Florida preacher who is perhaps best-known for his "challenge" offering $250,000 to anyone who can prove (to him, anyway) that evolution happens. "Dr" Hovind (the "doctoral degree" comes from an unaccredited diploma mill) seems to be an unabashed "militia" type. He has faced several years of legal problems for his refusal to pay taxes (Hovind claims that he doesn't actually own anything or make any income -- it all belongs to God instead), and has spouted all sorts of looney "government conspiracy" theories, including "the government is watching us through our TV sets", "the US government carried out the Oklahoma City bombing so they could blame the militias", and "AIDS and the West Nile virus are the products of American biological warfare labs". Hovind also thinks that flying saucers come from the Devil. Most other creationist organizations view Hovind as an embarrassment.
The biggest young-earth challenger to ICR, though, is Answers in Genesis, led by Carl Weiland and former ICR staffer Ken Ham. Unlike the creation "scientists", AIG is openly adamant about the religious basis of its opposition to evolution, and makes no attempt to hide the fact that it is a "Christian apologetics organization". In general, AIG's theology and "science" are much the same as ICR's. AIG's significance, however, comes from the fact that it is much more active in supporting international efforts to expand creationism than is ICR (AIG funds anti-evolution movements in Russia, South America and elsewhere). AIG has also distinguished itself by publishing a long list of "arguments creationists should not use", concluding that "Persisting in using discredited arguments simply rebounds -- it is the truth that sets us free." (AIG website). Many of the arguments that AIG cites as "discredited" are some of the old staples still being used by other young-earthers, such as "Darwin recanted on his deathbed", "moon dust proves the earth is young", "Archaeopteryx is a hoax", "the Paluxy tracks prove men lived with dinosaurs", "c-decay proves a young earth", and "anything from Carl Baugh". In response, AIG has drawn criticism from other young-earthers (including Hovind) for "fragmenting" the Christian movement. Historically, fundamentalists have never been very good at tolerating any criticism or dissent, particularly from within their own ranks.
The young-earth creationists, while dominating most of the creation "science" movement, are opposed by the "old-earth" groups. The old-earthers accept that the earth is billions of years old and that the young-earth "flood geology" is largely wrong, but agree with the young-earthers that evolution is wrong, false and anti-Christian. The largest and best-known of the old-earth creationist groups is Reasons to Believe, founded by astronomer Hugh Ross. The very name of the group makes its aim apparent. Ross's credibility is perhaps best illustrated by his recent book (co-authored with two other fundamentalists) entitled Lights In the Sky and Little Green Men: A Rational Christian Look at UFO's and Extraterrestrials (NavPress, Colorado Springs CO, 2002). Over several chapters, Ross dismisses, on scientific and Biblical grounds, the existence of any life other than terrestrial. But, he declares, there are so many reliable UFO reports that they can't all be mistakes or hoaxes (he calls the remaining reliable reports "Residual UFO's"). His "rational Christian" conclusion is something he calls the "trans-dimensional hypothesis" -- flying saucers are actually entities that come from "beyond our space and time dimensions" and which, although real entities, are not physical beings. OK, so what are the flying saucers, then? According to Ross: "It can now be determined who is behind the RUFO experiences. Only one kind of being favors the dead of night and lonely roads. Only one is real but nonphysical, animate, powerful, deceptive, ubiquitous throughout human history, culture, and geography, and bent on wreaking psychological and physical harm. Only one entity selectively approaches those humans involved in cultic, occultic or New Age activities. It seems apparent that residual UFO's, in one or more ways, must be associated with the activities of demons." (pages 122-123).
Furthermore, Ross declares, "The conclusion that demons are behind the residual UFO phenomenon is a testible one." (p. 124) Ross points out that "according to the Bible" demons only can attack people who dip into the occult and make themselves vulnerable. Ross declares, "All that is necessary to further prove the conclusions of demonic involvement, therefore, is to continue surveying people to ascertain who has encounters with residual UFO's and who does not. If the demonic idenficiation of the RUFO phenomenon is correct, researchers should continue to observe a correlation between the degree of invitations in a person's life to demonic attacks (for example, participation in seances, Uija games, astrology, spiritualism, witchcraft, palm reading, and psychicreading) and the proximity of their residual UFO encounters." (Ross of course neglects to mention another possible reason for these "correlations" --- people who believe one goofy thing are more prone to believe other goofy things as well.) And why is that scientists and other researchers decline to study Ross's demonology? Well, because they're all atheists: "One reason why research scientists and others may be reluctant to say that demons exist behind residual UFO's is because such an answer points too directly to a Christian interpretation of the problem." (page 125)
Ross is not the only creationist who seems to be obsessed with flying saucers. As we have already seen, Dr Norman Geisler testified at the Arkansas trial that flying sacuers come from the Devil, an opinion echoed by "Dr" Kent Hovind. In my years of online discussions with creationists, I have had three different creationists, at different times, tell me in all apparent seriousness that flying saucers are actually time machines that are used by atheistic scientists to travel back into the past and plant fake fossils as evidence for evolution.
Another active old-earth creationist organization is the Foundation for Thought and Ethics. The FTE produced a proposed creationist biology textbook, Of Pandas and People, which had not been approved by any state education boards but occasionally turned up in local school districts. Although FTE claims it is a scientific group, on the tax exemption forms it files with the IRS, it states that the organization's purpose is "proclaiming, publishing and preaching . . . the Christian gospel and understanding of the Bible" (cited in Eve and Harrold, 1991, p.131) Pandas lists two authors, Percival Davis and Dean Kenyon. Davis later co-wrote a book titled Case for Creation with young-earth creationist Wayne Frair (Frair testified for the creationists during the Arkansas trial), in which he wrote: "We accept by faith the revealed fact that God created living things. We believe God simultaneously created those crucial substances (nucleic acids, proteins, and so on) that are so intricately interdependent in all of life's processes, and that He created them already functioning in living cells." (cited in NCSE's review of Pandas and People,) In 1994, Davis was asked by the Wall Street Journal if he had religious motives in writing Pandas. "Of course my motives were religious," Davis replied. "There's no question about it." (Wall Street Journal, cited in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jan 9, 2005) As for Dean Kenyon, he was one of the creation "scientists" who testified during hearings on the Louisiana "balanced treatment" bill that creationism was science and had no religious basis whatsoever. Kenyon is now a Fellow at the Discovery Institute, the leading proponent of Intelligent Design "theory". His Pandas book, ironically, would serve as the instrument of death for ID "theory".
A Short History of Christian Fundamentalism
By Lenny Flank, BCSE member
Lenny Flank is an American ordained Buddhist Minister. In this long essay he details the history of religious fundamentalism. Within the USA creationism is synonomous with fundamentalism.
Christian fundamentalism is almost uniquely an American phenomenon. Although most of the history of fundamentalist thought occurs in the United States, however, this phenomenon was itself, originally, a reaction to a series of intellectual trends that happened in Europe.
From the time of the earliest Christian church in the first century CE, to the time of the European Enlightenment, the dominant view was that the Bible had been directly revealed by God to a small number of authors. The first five books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), were, according to tradition, all written by Moses during the 40 years of wandering in the Sinai desert.
One of the first criticisms of the traditional view of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch was made in Germany in 1520, when the Reformation scholar Carlstadt wrote an essay pointing out that the description of Moses's death (Deuteronomy 32:5-12) shared several literary characteristics with portions of the rest of Deuteronomy. Since, Carlstadt pointed out, Moses could not have written of his own death, he concluded that the same person had written both sections of the book, and that person could not have been Moses. In 1651, Thomas Hobbes, in his book Leviathan, also concluded that several portions of the Pentateuch could not have been written by Moses. In support of his hypothesis, he cited several Biblical verses which referred to events that happened after Moses's death. Twenty-five years later, the Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza concluded that not only had Moses not written the Pentateuch, but much of the rest of the Old Testament was not written by a single person either, and was probably edited together from pre-existing manuscripts.
The first serious attempt to examine the matter happened in 1753, when a French doctor, Jean Astruc, published a pamphlet (anonymously) titled Conjectures on the Original Documents That Moses Appears to Have Used in Composing the Book of Genesis. Astruc pointed out that many of the incidents and events described in Genesis were "doublets", that is, they often were described twice in back-to-back accounts that differed in details. There are, for instance, two different accounts of the creation story in Genesis 1 and 2, and two different accounts of the Flood story in later chapters. The presence of these repeated but different accounts, Astruc concluded, didn't make sense if, as tradition held, Genesis was a single narrative written in complete form by a single author.
To explain the presence of these doublets, Astruc proposed what later became known as the "Documentary Hypothesis". Using the techniques of literary and textual analysis that had already been used for secular literature, Astruc compared the wording and style of various passages in Genesis and concluded that there were two distinctly different accounts in Genesis which, based on differing literary conventions, were written by two different authors at different times, and then later combined into one book. One of these accounts consistently referred to God as "Elohim", or "The Lord", while the other account consistently referred to God by the name "Jehovah". Astruc labeled these two different sources as "A" and "B".
Within a short time, a group of German scholars expanded upon Astruc's ideas, and produced a school of Biblical study that became known as "Higher Criticism". By taking the linguistic/textual analysis done by Astruc and applying it to the rest of the Old Testament (which also contained doublets or even triplets -- there are for instance three different versions of the Ten Commandments in Exodus and Deuteronomy), the German scholars Eichhorn, Ewal, DeWette, Graf and Wellhausen identified four different sources for the Old Testament. One of these source documents always referred to God by the name "Jehovah", and therefore was labeled the "J" source. The J source was also distinguished by the particular words it used to describe the pre-Israeli inhabitants of the Promised Land, and tended to depict God in anthropomorphic terms. From implicit political assumptions made in the descriptions, it is apparent that the J source was identified with the Aaronid priesthood which was centered in Judah. The second identified source always referred to God as "Elohim", and was called the "E" source. The E source used different words to describe the pre-Israeli inhabitants of the Holy Land, and also tended to avoid anthropomorphic depictions of God. The political opinions implied in the account suggest that this source was allied with the Shiloh priesthood in Israel. The book of Deuteronomy had linguistic styles and topics that did not match either the J or E source, and thus was identified with a different source "D". Literary similarities led to the conclusion that the D source had also written the books of Joshua, Judges, First and Second Samuel, and First and Second Kings. Since the D source makes references to material found in both the J and E source, it was concluded that it had been written later. Finally, there is a fourth source text that seemed to be most concerned with details of rituals and the conduct of priests, as well as a penchant for long lists of dates and geneologies. This has been labeled the "P" source (for "priestly"). This is the source for the detailed laws of Leviticus. The P source is generally held to have been the most recent, chronologically. All of these varying sources were later edited together into their final form by an unknown person or persons known as the Redactor, who probably performed this task in about 400 BC. This view, known as the Documentary Hypothesis, is still held today by most Biblical scholars.
When the Documentary Hypothesis entered the United States during the late 19th century and became widely accepted (under the name "Modernism"), it exploded like a bombshell among the conservative elements of the Protestant churches. Not only did the German school reject the traditional idea that the Pentateuch was the work of a single author who had recorded the words dictated by God, but it concluded that the Bible itself was a collection of different documents by different authors, each with differing theologies and motives. The American conservatives flatly rejected the idea of a Bible that was pieced together years after the events which it describes. William Jennings Bryan, one of the most prominent Christian conservatives, thundered, "Give the modernist three words, 'allegorical,' 'poetical,' and 'symbolically,' and he can suck the meaning out of every vital doctrine of the Christian Church and every passage in the Bible to which he objects."
In response to the Modernist Higher Criticism, conservative Protestants in the United States met, in the Niagara Bible Conference in 1897, to hammer out a counter-theology, a process continued at the 1910 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. The conservative traditionalists settled on a set of five principles which, they argued, defined Christianity. These were (1) the inerrancy of the Bible, (2) the Virgin Birth and the deity of Jesus, (3) the belief that Jesus died to redeem mankind's sin and that salvation resulted through faith in Jesus, (4) the physical resurrection of Jesus, and (5) the imminent Second Coming of Jesus. Between 1910 and 1915, a series of twelve booklets were published, titled The Fundamentals; A Testimony to the Truth, containing 94 articles by 64 authors, setting out and defending these principles. The introduction to the first volume declared, "In 1909 God moved two Christian laymen to set aside a large sum of money for issuing twelve volumes that would set forth the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and which were to be sent free of charge to ministers of the gospel, missionaries, Sunday school superintendents, and others engaged in aggressive Christian work throughout the English speaking world." From these booklets, the conservative Christians became known as "the fundamentalists". Financed by the wealthy oil businessmen Milton and Lyman Stewart, some 3 million copies of The Fundamentals were printed. In 1919, the World Conference on Christian Fundamentals met in Philadelphia. At around the same time, the Moody Bible Institute was formed to publish fundamentalist defenses of Biblical inerrancy, and fundamentalist theologian Cyrus Scofield published an annotated Reference Bible, with margin notes defending literalist interpretations of Biblical passages. The fundamentalist conviction that they alone were the True Christians led to a long series of bitter fights with other Christians, as fundamentalists sought to take over as many theological institutes as they could in order to purge them of "modernists" and "liberals".
In addition to the five Biblical "fundamentals", the conservative Protestants also came to largely accept and embrace a number of other concepts that had not previously been a tenet of any of the major Christian denominations. These included (1) exclusivity, the idea that only the fundamentalists are able to authoritatively interpret the "true meaning" of the Bible, and thus are the only legitimate "True Christians", and (2) separation, the idea that not only are any other Christian interpretations (Catholic, liberal churches) utterly wrong, but it is the duty of fundamentalists to oppose and overcome them, while remaining apart from their corrupting influence. These characteristics, indeed, have today come to be almost the defining characteristics of any "fundamentalist" church.
The majority of the essays included in The Fundamentals were attacks on Higher Criticism, and defenses of an inerrant Bible that was to be taken as literal history and revelation. Other essays attacked the idea of the "Social Gospel", in which many liberal Christians asserted that Christians should ally with other social groups and become active in political movements to improve the living conditions for all humans. The fundamentalists rejected this idea, arguing instead that, since the Second Coming was imminent, the only task of the church should be to save as many souls as possible in the short time left before the world came to an end. The fundamentalists also did not want to associate with what they viewed as heretical and apostate liberal Christians.
It was the third major target of the fundamentalists, however, which ignited a conflict that continues to this day and is the direct ancestor of the creationist/intelligent design movement -- the political campaign targeting science, and, in particular, evolution.
In the years after Darwin first published On the Origin of Species, there was, as Darwin had expected, a storm of criticism from religious figures who viewed the idea that humans had descended from animals as a direct attack on the Bible. Anglican Bishop Sam Wilberforce, in a public debate with evolution-supporter Thomas Huxley, famously asked if it was on his father's side or mother's side that Huxley claimed descent from apes. In a remarkably short time, however, religion had made its peace with Darwin, and by 1900, nearly every religious authority in Europe accepted the conclusions of science, just as it had accepted the conclusions of the Bible's literary scholars concerning the Documentary Hypothesis.
In America, however, the situation was quite different. The fundamentalists rejected evolution and the scientific outlook with all the fervor and vitriol that they had aimed at the German Biblical scholars. Princeton theologian J. Gresham Machen declared, "The root of the movement (liberalism) is one; the many varieties of modern liberal religion are rooted in naturalism--that is, in the denial of any entrance of the creative power of God (as distinguished from the ordinary course of nature) in connection with the origin of Christianity . . . our principle concern . . . is to show that the liberal attempt at reconciling Christianity with modern science has really relinquished everything distinctive of Christianity, so that what remains is in essentials only that same indefinite type of religious aspiration which was in the world before Christianity came upon the scene. In trying to remove from Christianity everything that could possibly be objected to in the name of science, in trying to bribe off the enemy by those concessions which the enemy most desires, the apologist has really abandoned what he started out to defend...The plain fact is that liberalism, whether it be true or false, is no mere 'heresy' -- no mere divergence at isolated points from Christian teaching. On the contrary it proceeds from a totally different root, and it constitutes, in essentials a unitary system of its own . . . It differs from Christianity in its view of God, of man, of the seat of authority and the way of salvation . . . Christianity is being attacked from within by a movement which is anti-Christian to the core." Tent revivalist Billy Sunday referred to evolution as a "bastard theory" which was supported only by "hireling ministers".
Fundamentalist religious organizations formed alliances with conservative lawmakers to pass "monkey laws" -- laws which made it illegal to teach evolution -- in almost half of the states. In 1928, for instance, the state of Arkansas passed a law (by referendum) making it illegal to teach "the theory or doctrine that mankind ascended or descended from a lower order of animals." (Arkansas Initiated Act 1, 1928, cited in Eldredge 1982, p. 15 and LaFollette, 1983, p. 5) Another such law was the Butler Act, approved by the Tennessee state legislature in March 1925. The Butler act stated: "It shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds 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." (Butler Act, Tennessee State Legislature, 1925)
The American Civil Liberties Union decided to challenge the constitutionality of the new Tennessee law, and announced that it would defend any teacher who would intentionally violate the Butler Act to produce a test case. In Dayton, Tennessee, biology teacher John T Scopes volunteered, probably with the encouragement of local officials who wanted to generate some publicity. William Bell Riley, the founder and president of the World Christian Fundamentals Association, asked William Jennings Bryan to join the legal team defending the Butler Act, which in turn led Clarence Darrow, one of the most prominent lawyers in the US, to join the Scopes defense team. The result was the Scopes Monkey Trial, perhaps the most famous court proceeding in American history. Amidst the carnival-like atmosphere (aided by the acid commentary of widely-read journalist HL Mencken), the trial degenerated into an attack and counter-attack concerning the influence of fundamentalism on science and education. Bryan himself took the stand as an "expert witness on the Bible", and was grilled by Darrow for two hours concerning his fundamentalist interpretations:
DARROW: "I will read it to you from the Bible: "And the Lord God said unto the serpent, because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life." Do you think that is why the serpent is compelled to crawl upon its belly?"
BRYAN: "I believe that."
DARROW: "Have you any idea how the snake went before that time?"
BRYAN: "No, sir."
DARROW: "Do you know whether he walked on his tail or not?"
BRYAN: "No, sir. I have no way to know." (Laughter in audience). (Scopes trial transcript)
Bryan thundered that Darrow's only purpose was "to cast ridicule on everybody who believes in the Bible", leading Darrow to shoot back, "We have the purpose of preventing bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States." (Scopes trial transcript)
Although Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution and was fined $100, the case was overturned on appeal due to a technicality, robbing the ACLU of its chance to take the matter to the Supreme Court. For the fundamentalist movement, however, the Scopes trial was a disaster. Sarcastic newspaper articles, by Mencken and others, as well as novels such as Sinclair Lewis's Elmer Gantry, depicted fundamentalists as uneducated hicks and backwoods country bumpkins. The political victories won by the fundamentalists, including the monkey laws, died within a few years. The infighting within seminaries and theological institutes between fundamentalists and modernists led to a steep decline in students training for the clergy, and a sharp decrease in church memberships. By the time of the Great Depression in 1929, fundamentalism was all but dead as an effective social or political movement.
The beginning of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, after the end of World War II, revived the fundamentalist's fortunes. The atheistic Leninists who ran the USSR were a convenient enemy for the fundamentalists, and they quickly entered into alliances with right-wing anti-communist political figures. In an era of rampant McCarthyism, it was a fertile breeding ground for fundamentalist theology, and gave them a measure of political influence that they had not enjoyed for decades. It was not until the mid-1970's, however, that the fundamentalist wing of Christianity began to make political influence an aim in itself, and actively sought to use the power of right-wing politicians to enforce their fundamentalist religious and social opinions onto the rest of society. This marked the rise of the Religious Right, the immediate ancestors of the ID/creationists.
Like the fundamentalist movement of the 20's, the Religious Right was a reactionary response to social changes which they found religiously objectionable and intolerable. The late 1960's were a time of intense and far-reaching social change in the US. Within the space of ten years, a new generation had placed all of the traditional American social structures under critical examination, and found them wanting. The civil rights movement broke down traditional social roles and also led to the renewed rise of the Social Gospel advocates; anti-war and human rights movements led to questions about patriotism and the role of the US in world affairs; participatory democracy movements challenged traditional political authority; women's liberation and gay rights movements challenged sexual mores and family structures; interest in Eastern religious traditions led to skepticism about the role of traditional Christianity in society. All of these were anathema to the fundamentalists.
Fundamentalist hostility was particularly marked towards a number of Supreme Court decisions during the period. The first of these was the 1954 Brown v Board of Education decision, which outlawed segregated schools. Southern fundamentalists in particular viewed segregation as Biblically-approved, and bitterly fought desegregation and the civil rights movement. In response to the 1954 decision, many fundamentalist churches set up their own private schools, which were not subject to the Court's decision and were therefore free to continue to practice segregation. (The fundamentalist Bob Jones University would later sue the Federal government in an effort to be allowed to continue to ban Black students; after losing, BJU banned inter-racial dating among its students, a policy that was only withdrawn in the face of public disapproval in the wake of a visit by President George W Bush in 2000.) In 1961, the Supreme Court dealt the fundamentalists another blow when, in the Engel v Vitale case, it outlawed government-sanctioned prayer in schools, saying, "We think that, in this country, it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a part of a religious program carried on by government." (US Supreme Court, Engel v Vitale, 1961) In 1968, the Court ruled, in the case of Epperson v Arkansas, that all of the various anti-evolution "monkey laws" were unconstitutional. Finally, in 1973, the Roe v Wade decision legalized abortion in the United States.
The fundamentalists saw their views as coming under attack on nearly every front. In response, as they did in the 20's, fundamentalists in the 1970's sought to gain political influence by allying themselves with right-wing politicians. As it happened, the right wing of the Republican Party was also looking for allies to help it defeat not only the Democrats, but the moderate and traditional-conservative elements within their own party. The marriage was made. After the 1976 elections, Robert Grant formed a group called Christian Voice to channel fundamentalist money and votes to right-wing Republican candidates, including Ronald Reagan and Dan Quayle. One of Christian Voice's most effective members was Richard Viguerie, who turned direct-mail marketing into an astoundingly effective method of raising money and informing supporters which candidates were "godly" and which weren't. After a falling-out with Grant in 1979, Viguerie left and, working together with conservative political figure Paul Weyrich and televangelist Jerry Falwell, formed the first effective national fundamentalist political organization, Moral Majority Inc. Over the next decade, under a number of organizations such as Christian Coalition, Concerned Women of America, Focus on the Family, Coalition for Traditional Values, and Eagle Forum, fundamentalist Christians gained unprecedented political power and influence -- which they continue to exercise under the Presidency of George W Bush.
The Religious Right was also quick to take up the anti-Darwin crusade. In late 1981, Falwell telecast an appeal for money to help defend the anti-evolution law in Arkansas -- using as the backdrop for his appeal the very same Dayton, Tennessee, courthouse in which the original Scopes trial was held. Moral Majority also ran a number of ads in various magazines to publicize the trial and raise money. One of the ads took the form of a "survey", which asked the reader (with all the appropriate catch words emphasized) to mail in a "ballot":
"Cast your vote for creation or evolution. Where do you stand in this vital debate?
1. Do you agree with 'theories' of evolution that DENY the Biblical account of creation?
2. Do you agree that public school teachers should be permitted to teach our children AS FACT that they are descended from APES?
3. Do you agree with the evolutionists who are attempting to PREVENT the Biblical account of creation from also being taught in public schools?" (TV Guide, June 13, 1981, p. A-105)
Those who sent in their "ballot" (with the proper answers checked) were put on Moral Majority's mailing list for fundraising and further anti-evolution mailings.
Falwell also turned the resources of Liberty University, a large Bible college which was wholly funded by Moral Majority, towards the fight against evolution. All students at Liberty University, regardless of major, were required to take a semester-long course in creationist biology. The state-approved teacher training program at Liberty was heavily focused on creationism. As a symbol of the close affinities between the creationists and the Moral Majority, Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell himself awarded an honorary doctorate to Institute for Creation Research founder Henry Morris during commencement exercises in 1989.
As researcher Philip Kitcher points out, both the creationists and the fundamentalists gained benefits from this partnership. "Jerry Falwell's Old Time Gospel Hour offers a forum for broadcasting creationist ideas. On the other hand, Falwell needs concrete issues around which to build his movement." (Kitcher, 1982, p. 2) The televangelists recognized the creation "scientists" as powerful apologetic tools to bring new people into the Christian political movement, while the creationists came to depend upon the Religious Right as a powerful political and economic ally.
Moral Majority co-founder Tim LaHaye (he later became the author of the fundamentalist Left Behind series of books) had close ties to the creationists. In his influential fundamentalist manifesto Battle for the Mind, LaHaye put the fight against evolution squarely in the middle of the evangelical Christian world-view. The basic enemy of the Christian Right is something they refer to as "secular humanism", which seems to be a catch-all term for any outlook or philosophy which they find religiously offensive - everything from pornography to feminism to socialism to evolutionary science. "Most of the evils in the world today," says LaHaye, "can be traced to humanism, which has taken over our government, the UN, education, TV and most of the other influential things in life." (LaHaye, 1980, p. 1)
And a major component of this "secular humanism", LaHaye asserts, is evolutionary theory: "The humanistic doctrine of evolution has naturally led to the destruction of the moral foundation upon which this country was originally built. If you believe that man is an animal, you will naturally expect him to live like one. Consequently, almost every sexual law that is required in order to maintain a morally sane society has been struck down by the humanists, so that man may follow his animal appetites." (LaHaye, 1980, p. 64) LaHaye's book depicts a diagram of "secular humanism", which shows a pyramidical construction in which "evolution" rests on the base of "atheism", in turn supporting "amorality" and, at the top, the "socialist one world view" (LaHaye, 1980, p. 63)
Some of the statements made by creationists reveal the underlying connection between creation "science" and LaHaye's religious crusade against "secular humanism". "Since animals are indiscriminate with regards to partners in mating," said Henry Morris, "and since men and women are believed to have evolved from animals, then why shouldn't we live like animals?" (Morris, Troubled Waters of Evolution, 1974, p. 167) Morris declared that evolutionary theory is literally the work of the Devil - given to Nimrod at the Tower of Babel -- and that most scientists refuse to accept creationism solely because they are atheists. Ken Ham, formerly of the Institute for Creation Research and now leader of the Answers in Genesis organization, says, "As the creation foundation is removed, we see the Godly institutions also start to collapse. On the other hand, as the evolution foundation remains firm, the structures built on that foundation--lawlessness, homosexuality, abortion, etc--logically increase. We must understand this connection." (cited in Eve and Harrold, 1991, pp 58-59) The Creation Science Research Center blamed the scientific model of evolution for "the moral decay of spiritual values, which contributes to the destruction of mental health", as well as "a widespread breakdown in law and order" (Creation Science Report, April 1976, cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 285). Evolutionary theory, the CSRC pontificated, is directly responsible for "divorce, abortion, and rampant venereal diseases." (Segraves, The Creation Report, 1977, cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 285)
The creationists and the Religious Right thus shared a world-view, a world-view that revolves around the supposed evils of evolutionary theory. Both groups see evolution as a major pillar which supports Satanic "secular humanism", and both are determined to do away with that pillar and substitute a "Godly" outlook instead--creationism. "Although they make every effort to be diplomatic about the subject," notes writer Perry Dean Young, "the religious-right leaders are not speaking of teaching the story of the creation in Genesis alongside Darwin's theory; they want it taught instead of evolution. A headline in Religious Roundtable's newsletter that read 'Get Evolution Out of Our Schools' let that fact slip." (Young, 1982, p. 73) The creationists also occasionally let their ultimate goal slip in print too; while pushing the Arkansas "Balanced Treatment Act" through, creationist Paul Ellwanger, who drafted the original bill, wrote to a supporter, "Perhaps this is old hat to you, Tom, and if so, I'd appreciate it your telling me so and perhaps where you've heard it before--the idea of killing evolution instead of playing these debating games that we've been playing for nigh over a decade already." (Attachment to Ellwanger Deposition, McLean v Arkansas, 1981, cited in Overton Opinion)
But "killing evolution" is not their only goal. The Christian Right is defiantly open about its ultimate aims. As Bob Werner, a leader of the "Christian shepherding" movement, bluntly put it, "The Bible says we are to . . . rule. If you don't rule and I don't rule, the atheists and the humanists and the agnostics are going to rule. We should be the head of our school board. We should be the head of our nation. We should be the Senators and Congressmen. We should be the editors of our newspapers. We should be taking over every area of life." (cited in Diamond, 1989, p. 45) Paul Weyrich, a co-founder of Moral Majority and director of the fundamentalist Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, declared, "We are no longer working to preserve the status quo. We are radicals, working to overturn the present power structures of this country." (cited in Young, 1982, p. 321 and Kater 1982, p. 7) Weyrich added, "We are talking about the Christianizing of America." (cited in Vetter 1982, p. 5) Operation Rescue founder Randall Terryput it, "I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good... Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a biblical duty, we are called on by God to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism." (The News Sentinel, Ft. Wayne, IN., August 16, 1993) "This is God's world, not Satan's," declared leading fundamentalist political figure Gary North. "Christians are the lawful heirs, not non-Christians . . . . The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church's public marks of the covenant--baptism and holy communion--must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel." (Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism, Institute for Christian Economics, 1989, p.87, p. 102) North continues, "So let us be blunt about it: We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will be get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God." ("The Intellectual Schizophrenia of the New Christian Right" in Christianity and Civilization: The Failure of the American Baptist Culture, No. 1, 1982, p. 25)
Televangelist and former Presidential candidate Pat Robertson echoed, "We have enough votes to run the country. And when the people say 'We've had enough', we are going to take over (cited in Boston, 1996, p. 29). Robertson told his supporters that his presidential bid was a direct command from God: "I heard the Lord saying, 'I have something else for you to do. I want you to run for President of the United States'". (Washington Post, Feb 15, 1988, cited in Boston, 1996, p. 39)
In a fundraising letter for the Christian Coalition in July 1991 (Robertson founded the Coalition and served--along with his son--as one of the four members of the Board of Directors), Robertson asserted: "We at the Christian Coalition are raising an army who cares. We are training people to be effective--to be elected to school boards, to city councils, to state legislatures and to key positions in political parties. . . . By the end of this decade, if we work and give and organize and train, the Christian Coalition will be the most powerful political organization in America." (cited in Boston, 1996, p. 85) Ralph Reed, who served as Robertson's front man in the Christian Coalition, said: "What Christians have got to do is take back this country, one precinct at a time, one neighborhood at a time and one state at a time . . . I honestly believe that in my lifetime we will see a country once again governed by Christians." (cited in Boston, 1996, p. 90)
As the fundamentalists pointed out, one of the most important areas in which "Christians" must "govern" are the local school districts--and they make it clear that creationism is the issue which provided them with the opportunity to do this. As Tim LaHaye bluntly put it, "The elite-evolutionist-humanist is not going to be able to control education in America forever." (LaHaye 1980, p. 3) Pat Robertson said, "Humanist values are being taught in the schools through such methods as 'values clarification'. All of these things constitute an attempt to wean children away from biblical Christianity". (cited in Boston, 1996, p. 168)
Other fundamentalist apologists were just as clear about their ultimate goals for public education:
"To abandon public education to Satan is to compromise our calling. The attitude and approach of Christians should be that they never expose their children to public education, but that they should work increasingly to expose public education to the claims of Christ. Certain specially suited Christians, in fact, should pray and work tirelessly to obtain teaching and school board and even administrative positions within public education. The penultimate goal of these Christians should be the privatization of these larcenous institutions, and the ultimate aim the bringing of them under the authority of Christ and His word." (Rev. Andrew Sandlin, Chalcedon Report, March 1994)
"One day, I hope in the next ten years, I trust that we will have more Christian day schools than there are public schools. I hope I will live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them." (Jerry Falwell, America Can Be Saved, 1979)
There are 15,700 school districts in America. When we get an active Christian parents' committee in operation in all districts, we can take complete control of all local school boards. This would allow us to determine all local policy; select good textbooks; good curriculum programs; superintendents and principals." (Robert Simonds, Citizens for Excellence in Education, undated letter, 1984)
"The Christian community has a golden opportunity to train an army of dedicated teachers who can invade the public school classrooms and use them to influence the nation for Christ." (D. James Kennedy, Education; Public Problems and Private Solutions, Coral Ridge Ministries, 1993
A fundraising letter sent from the Creation Science Research Center echoed these sentiments: "We already have a state-mandated religion of atheism -- of Godlessness -- of Satanism -- and no church training of one hour a week will overcome this onslaught of anti-God teachings in the classroom. The Church must get involved." (Letter from CSRC, cited in LaFollette 1983, p. 126) Gary North frankly pointed out, "Until the vast majority of Christians pull their children out of the public schools, there will be no possibility of creating a theocratic republic." (cited in Blaker, 2003, p 187)
The fundamentalists found willing allies for their crusade, in the form of the right-wing elements of the Republican Party. The creationists found powerful allies on the political Right--a partnership which benefited both. The political right needed issues to organize around and foot soldiers to help carry out its campaigns -- which were provided in droves by the fundamentalists. And the GOP was quick to attempt to tap this resource.
Creationists were very active in state textbook committees and curriculum boards, where they attempted to pressure various states into dropping biology textbooks which feature evolutionary theory. In June 1996, three families in Cobb County, Georgia asked that the Cobb County Board of Education remove a chapter from a fourth grade science textbook. The offending chapter discussed the age and formation of the universe. In late May, the Ohio House Education committee rejected (by a margin of just 12-8) a proposed bill that would require that "scientific arguments . . not in support" of evolutionary theory be taught whenever evolution is mentioned. Most members of these state education boards are political appointees, and the fundamentalists found willing allies in the state and local Republican Party. In the late 1980's, bowing to creationist pressure, the state of Texas mandated that all biology textbooks carry a disclaimer stating that evolution is "only a theory" and "not established fact". In March 1996, Alabama Governor Fob James announced that the ID/creationist book Darwinism on Trial would be sent to all of the state's 900 science teachers, at a cost of almost $3,000. The book was, James declared, "an attempt to improve science education by encouraging healthy and constructive criticism of evolutionary theory."
A few months later, Ohio State Representative Ron Hood introduced Bill 692, which mandated: "Whenever a theory of the origin of humans, other living things, or the universe that might commonly be referred to as 'evolution' is included in the instructional program provided by any school district or educational service center, both evidence and arguments supporting or consistent with the theory and evidence and arguments problematic for, inconsistent with, or not supporting the theory shall be included." State Republican Parties in Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa all adopted platform planks which advocate teaching creationism in schools.
Even the national Republican leadership demonstrated a willingness to kowtow to the creationists. In its "Contract for America", the GOP asserted, of its proposed "Family Reinforcement Act", that it "will strengthen the rights of parents to protect their children against education programs that undermine the values taught at home"--a code word for removing evolution, sex education, and other things which offend fundamentalist sensibilities. During the campaign, Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan appealed to fundamentalist support by attacking Darwin. When asked by a commentator if he favored the teaching of creationism in public schools, Buchanan replied, "You may believe you descended from monkeys--I don't believe it. I think you're created--I think you're a creature of God." When asked, "Do parents have the right, in your judgment, to insist, if they believe in creationism, that it also be taught in public schools?", Buchanan declared, "I think they have a right to insist that godless evolution not be taught to their children, or their children not be indoctrinated into it."
Several days later, fellow GOP candidate Alan Keyes was asked about creationism and its critics. "I think they ought to take a look at our country's founding document," Keyes replied. "It says, 'All men were created', and 'endowed by their creator with inalienable rights'. . . I don't think it is only a question of Judeo-Christian beliefs. It is of American beliefs."
Apparently, to Keyes, Christian religious tenets and American political programs are one and the same. To the initiated faithful, the creationists also make no secret of their political goals. As Henry Morris of the Institute for Creation Science admited, the ultimate goal of the creationists is to bring first science, then the rest of society under Biblical proscriptions: "A key purpose of the ICR is to bring the field of education--and then our whole world insofar as possible--back to the foundational truth of special creation and primeval history as revealed first in Genesis and further emphasized throughout the Bible".
In essence, the fundamentalists and their creationist allies want to do for the United States what the fundamentalist Taliban did for Afghanistan and the Ayatollahs have done for Iran--they want to run the country in accordance with their interpretation of "God's will". As they make clear, they are perfectly willing to dismantle most of American democracy in order to save us all from Satan. Rev. James Robison put it like this, "Let me tell you something else about the character of God. If necessary, God would raise up a tyrant--a man who might not have the best ethics--to protect the freedom and the interests of the ethical and the godly." (cited in Vetter 1982, p. 6) And there seem to be no dearth of fundamentalists willing to volunteer to become that "tyrant".
© Lenny Flank 2005