How can young-earth creationism maintain such traction?

Last Gallup poll puts 40% of Americans as agreeing with the statement the God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years. Although the number of people who believe that God did not guide evolution is increasing, so it seems the number of people who reject deep time is increasing as well. Why is the gulf widening? What gives?

I know why I believed creationism: I was steeped in it. But that’s not the case for most of the population. My theory, though cut from We Believe In Dinosaurs, is that the general lack of science education and science awareness allows science denial to prosper. I broke out and updated an older post:

Do you think that’s right? Or is there another reason that creationism maintains so much strength despite its absurdity?


You are working off the knowledge deficit model, but that doesn’t explain the data very well. The real problem is one of trust. There is a deficit of trust.


I’m going to split the difference and go with both. :grinning:

From my perspective as a science educator in Christian higher ed, here’s a few of my thoughts:

  • scientific literacy is pretty bad across the board (public, private, K12, higher ed). We simply aren’t producing citizens/employees/parents that can assess the quality of scientific-sounding information or distinguish between good science and bad science. Many many students, science majors included, just simply go with whatever they’ve heard on Facebook or YouTube that “sounds right”.
  • wealth of information available. Related to the point above, not only are people generally bad at telling good science from bad science, they also have a lot more of both coming at them via the internet.
  • polarization and pluralism/relativism in society has tended to develop ingroup/outgroup and shame culture behaviors. Since “truth” is used more as a way to keep group cohesion rather than as an independent goal, it’s more important to reinforce the group’s “truth” than to explore options.
  • politicization of science. This is similar to the previous point, but more specifically, political parties take on opposing sides in a number of scientific areas (climate change, vaccinations, GMO, etc.) in order to build voting blocks. This means positions are taken as a whole, to reinforce the group (party), rather than individually. You may not really know anything about evolution, but if you’re a Republican rejection of climate change and (to a lesser extent) evolution are part of the package. Scientists, along with most academics, are seen as extensions of the Democratic party.
  • the origins of the universe and life, as presented, are not interesting to most people. As much fun as we have here on PS, the vast majority of people probably haven’t given more than 30 min. of thought about how the universe and humans got here. They simply go with whatever they were told by parents, teachers, pastors, scientists, or social media.

Overall, I would say most YECs are YEC because that’s the way they were raised and they don’t feel the need to leave that culture. Secondarily, I would say that their theological commitments make YEC more appealing than the alternatives. While I think there are some differences, I’m not sure it’s all that different than the reasons why non-biologists affirm evolution.


This is definitely true. There’s a lack of interest, a lack of engagement…just a whole missing knowledge base.

For example, most people would laugh at the notion of multiple US presidents in office simultaneously…yet if you suggest that ancient Pharaohs could have ruled simultaneously rather than sequentially, no one has enough of a knowledgebase to tell whether it’s plausible.


But how seriously should we take that?

Yes, I have debated with some YECs, and they clearly believe that. But there are probably many who don’t really have a clear belief on the issue, so are just saying what they think their friends expect them to say.


The 10,000 year bit could include progressive creationists and gap theorists, yes.

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Yes, probably.

We had a Christian houseguest this last week who simply assumed that this was the Christian position and didn’t even realize that it contradicted modern science (the age aspect.) I think that there are many like her and that the young earth aspect is not necessarily the part that they are associating with.


A couple of years ago we had an active Christian missionary couple and a retired Christian missionary couple each over for a meal, a week apart. The husband in the first had come to an old earth perspective by his own study and we had an enjoyable discussion. The second was looking forward to visiting the notorious Ark. Constraint was moderately difficult and discussion went elsewhere. :slightly_smiling_face: The second is a pretty good match for your houseguest. Since YEC is seen as the Christian position, anything else is heresy, and haven’t we heard that before. :roll_eyes:


No, it was not really like you are imagining… It was actually more like she was oblivious to there being a difference. She didn’t feel strongly one way or another. I questioned her about what she believed and she really didn’t have any opinion. That’s what I was saying about the Christian position being articulated. I think that many might simply gravitate toward the sub-classification in the survey that mentions “God” and “The Bible” and the other details may be mostly meaningless. My position was not heretical as much as it was never considered at all. :slight_smile:

That may have actually been the case with our guests, too. It would have been too potentially volatile a subject to broach for as little time as we had. When they said they were going to be visiting the ‘ark’ the following week, I had to studiously avoid bringing up the controversy.

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YEC is simple. Most people in the states are…simple.

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But since they were going to the ark, they would have had to have had some prior exposure to some of Ham’s rhetoric, I would think.


It would be interesting to know… some may not realize that there’s another way.


Well your side does a bad job, despite all the advantages, because people like you accuse others of SCIENCE DENIAL. Why pretend to not understandin if you accuse a majority/large minority of science denial. thats your answer. THEY DENY SCIENCE.
Obviously this is dumb and sour grapes.
nobody denies science. they deny what some humanoids conclude has been proven by way of science.
organized creationism is based upon doing science, dame better too, and saying we ain’t if we don’r agree with our opponents is just a reflection on the side most likely wrong.
We don’t say evolutionists etc deny science. They just do a bad job.
People are more intelligent and more science savvy today then ever before. Even in thirld world nations.
i agree most peoples, o both sides, never seriously weigh the facts.
I think if they did creationism would gain more people. yet possibly also lose superficial fence sitters etc.
if evolutionism etc was true then prove it. worthy of adult intelligence.
Why do you believe it? whats the top three persuasive points??
indeed name three biological scientific evidences for evolution!!
i betcha can’t do it. this because there are none. its a humbug largely to justify rejection of the historic western opinion based on christianity.
In fact these polls are worse for your side when all power, money, anything that reaches large audiences is a long rant for evolutuonist presumptions.
Imagine if it was equal or the other way!
Its like in Vietnam and creationists are the vietkong/North vietnam fighters. all your bombs don’t make a dent.

Does that make Ken Ham the Ho Chí Minh of Young Earth Creationism?


Sort of. I think it has more to do with your surroundings. We all grow up mostly in a bubble of people who are like us, and it’s really rare for someone to fully break out of the mold. When young Earth creationism is able to sustain it’s level of support among it’s followers it’s mostly because people remain in their bubbles and are shielded from outside information.

In this last respect I think you’re right about trust but it’s just one aspect of the reason why YEC traditions persist. Young Earth creationists are taught to distrust, if not outright fear secular or less literalist Christian interpretations and organizations. But mostly religious people grow up in surroundings of people with similar mindsets and are raised to have certain religious viewpoints even from before they go to elementary school. Of course, there’s also a tradition of homeschooling among YECs which helps to maintain the bubble and the tradition, which is in part because of those trust-issues.
YEC parents don’t trust the public school system to give their children a YEC-focused education. In some respects they’re right not to, the public school system shouldn’t teach young Earth creationism as that would be unconstitutional.


Off the top of my head:

  1. Vestigial structures.
  2. Vestigial DNA (pseudogenes)
  3. Nested hierarchies found in genomic studies.
  4. Nested hierarchies found in fossil studies.
  5. The large-scale agreement between nested hierarchies discovered by different methods.
  6. Observations of contemporary speciation.
  7. Observations of linkage between alleles, phenotype, and selection pressures.

I have accepted Christ as my savior.
I believe in the infallibility of the canonical Scriptures.
I believe in the ancient creeds of the church.

Warm regards,

P.S. This thread is a meta-discussion about opinion. I wrote the post to give evidence regarding knowledge and motivations regarding the acceptance of evolution. I do not want to kick off a discussion in this thread about the merits of any of the 7 evidences. Anyone who wants to discuss the merits is welcome to initiate a new thread, subject to the usual forum rules.


Hi everyone,

The discussion topic, “How can young-earth creationism maintain such traction?”, is a very interesting one, because everything I’ve read suggests it shouldn’t be possible. From what I’ve read, over 50% of children raised in religious households in America end up falling away from their faith (usually at university - see here for instance), while very few children raised in non-religious households (I’m not just talking about atheists here, but nones in general) later convert to a religious faith. Consequently, it follows that unless the fertility rate of religious American parents is at least double that of non-religious parents, America will eventually become a secular country. (Immigration could theoretically change that, of course, but again, from what I’ve read, immigrants give up their old beliefs and values and take on those of their new host country within the space of a single generation.) For these reasons, I had (in my own mind) pretty much written off North America, Latin America and Europe (yes, even Poland). Even in Africa the signs are not looking good. I’m therefore surprised to hear that YEC is still alive and kicking.

The following article by former atheist J. Warner Wallace (who is now a minister) is well worth reading:

Updated: Are Young People Really Leaving Christianity?


7 posts were split to a new topic: Greg and the Scopes Trial Redux