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The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, Expanded Edition Paperback – October 24, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Pious charlatans, firebrand demagogues and scientific cranks stalk the pages of this scholarly, thoroughgoing, at times plodding history of the modern revival of creationism. Unlike 19th-century creationists, who rejected Darwinian evolution but acknowledged that life on earth has spanned millions of years, today's creationists believe that God made woman and man in a single act of creation within the last 10,000 years. They draw inspiration for their beliefs from George McCready Price, a Seventh-day Adventist who in the 1920s pioneered "flood geology," which traces most fossils back to Noah's flood and its aftermath. Numbers, a professor of the history of science at the University of Wisconsin, unravels the tangled religious roots of creationism. His evenhanded treatment incorporates a quietly devastating critique of the modern creationist movement and its efforts to influence school curricula. He reveals creationists to be a divided and contentious lot, squabbling fiercely with one another. Illustrated.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Numbers tells the fascinating story of how Creationism has mutated, adapted, and evolved in a changing social and scientific environment. From the diverse range of Creationist ideas that competed with each other at the time of the Scopes Trial, to the creation of Scientific Creationism, to Intelligent Design theory, and then to the spread of Creationism from the United States to the rest of the world, the history is full of surprises, curiosities, and ironies. Those who wish to understand current opposition to Darwinism, and the larger question of how science and religion interact, must read this book. (Elliott Sober, Hans Reichenbach Professor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin, Madison)

Historians of science and religion have long recognized The Creationists as the finest historical examination of the intellectual origins and development of anti-evolutionism in America. In this expanded edition, Numbers has brought this important book up-to-date by recounting the rise and influence of Intelligent Design and its proponents, and documenting the spread of a new global creationism. The Creationists will remain the benchmark book in its field. (Edward J. Larson, author of Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory, and winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History)

Ronald Numbers's book, The Creationists, is a modern classic. Deep sympathy combined with critical objectivity gives great insight into the thinking of those who reject evolution in favor of a narrow, literalist reading of Genesis. Now Numbers has updated his work, discussing the new approach of so-called Intelligent Design Theory and again showing how it is that so many continue to reject basic science. Ending with a frightening survey of the world-wide success of Creationism, this work is as important as it is a sheer delight to read. (Michael Ruse, Florida State University, author of The Evolution-Creation Struggle)

A classic text, now updated and expanded to take into account the latest trends among anti-evolutionists, Numbers's carefully researched history is required reading to understand the current controversy. (Alan Cane Financial Times 2006-12-09)

Ronald Numbers is in a unique position to offer some answers. His 1992 book, The Creationists, which Harvard University Press has just reissued in an expanded edition, is probably the most definitive history of anti-evolutionism. Numbers is an eminent figure in the history of science and religion--a past president of both the History of Science Society and the American Society of Church History. But what's most refreshing about Numbers is the remarkable personal history he brings to this subject. He grew up in a family of Seventh-day Adventists and, until graduate school, was a dyed-in-the-wool creationist. When he lost his religious faith, he wrote a book questioning the foundations of Adventism, which created a huge rift in his family. Perhaps because of his background, Numbers is one of the few scholars in the battle over evolution who remains widely respected by both evolutionists and creationists. In fact, he was once recruited by both sides to serve as an expert witness in a Louisiana trial on evolution. (He went with the ACLU.) (Steve Paulson Salon.com)

[An] informative, well-researched intellectual history of the origins of the contemporary creation science movement...Numbers offers a historical analysis of the various permutations in creation science thought, starting with the original response in 1859 to Charles Darwin's Origin of Species and ending with creationism's spread across the globe during the 1990s. (Pius Charles Murray Library Journal 2007-01-15)

This book is an intellectual history of religiously inspired anti-evolutionism, primarily in the US, since the latter 19th century. It is a meticulous work by a distinguished historian--with 431 pages of text, followed by 133 pages of detailed notes on sources. Some readers might find it heavy going, but Numbers writes in an engaging style and keeps the narrative moving briskly, writing about the human qualities as well as the theology of leading creationists. (Francis B. Harrold Reports of the National Center for Science Education)

A great reference work. (Ian Hacking The Nation 2007-10-08)

A welcome addition to the burgeoning scholarship on contemporary interactions between science and religion. Since the first edition of The Creationists was published fourteen years ago, conflicts involving evolution have continued to make news; so much has happened, in fact, that a new edition is sorely needed. (Stephen P. Weldon Isis 2007-12-01)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Expanded ed. edition (November 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674023390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674023390
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #424,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is an astonishingly evenhanded, objective history of the scientific creationist movement. As Numbers points out, this is one of those areas where it seems very difficult to carry on a rational discussion.
Despite how many fundamentalist creationists and humanists view the controversies over creation and evolution, the issue is not either a simple religion vs. humanism or religion vs. science struggle. As the author points out,
"Rather than finding clerics arrayed in simple opposition to scientists, we discover conflicts of a different sort: psychological, as creationists struggled to reconcile the apparently conflicting claims of science and Scripture; and social, as they quarreled with one another over competing scientific and biblical interpretations or contested the boundaries of science and religion with evolutionists in courthouses, legislative halls, and school-board rooms." (p. 10)
And, despite the ad hominem arguments employed by some earlier customer reviews, that is what Numbers deals with in an objective, historical fashion. He seldom betrays his own sympathies, and has received compliments from eminent creationists as well as historians and scientists.
It is eminently clear that the creationists have never been able to agree on their interpretations of the first creation story in Genesis. These disagreements between the young earth and old earth creationists are delineated in great detail. From my point of view, I should also point out that they do not agree with competent biblical scholars, either, who will place Genesis in the cultural context of the ancient Middle East. The first creation story in Genesis is fairly obviously a religious counterstatement to other ancient myths, not a scientific treatise.
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Originally published in 1992, this superb history of the evolution of creationism, mostly in the United States, by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Ronald L. Numbers fills a major gap in the literature on the subject. The landscape of the evolution/creationism debate is filled with polemical works attacking evolution and advancing the cause of creationism/intelligent design, or vice versa, but there are few serious, sophisticated, and dispassionate histories of the debate. "The Creationists" is the gold standard if one is seeking to understand the history of the interplay between competing world views--evolutionary biology versus Judeo/Christian understandings of human origins--rather than learn arguments for the polemical battles currently taking place. While complete objectivity is beyond the capability of anyone, Numbers seeks to tell the story of this debate impartially as possible. To a very great degree he succeeds, and we all benefit.

In "The Creationists" Numbers pulls back the curtain beyond the high-profile Scopes Trial of 1925 and the recent textbook battles to focus on a less well-known but a remarkably interesting and complex story of how those firmly believing in the inerrancy of the Bible sought to deal with Charles Darwin's evolutionary theory. There is an extraordinary cast of characters in this effort ranging from George Frederick Wright, who published "Man and the Glacial Period" in 1892, to Wendell R. Bird who developed a political strategy to demand the teaching of creationism alongside evolution in the public schools in the 1970s. These divergent characters, the organizations they created, and the religious traditions they represented all competed amongst themselves on how best to counteract the effects of evolution.
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Format: Paperback
A previous reviewer stated that this work focused too much on the "personalities and politics of creationism." However, that is the way the book was intended. It is a history, not so much, of creationism, but of creationists (thus the title of the book). And knowing that, I found it to be an information-laden investigation of the people behind creationism. The book chronicles the rise of creationism following Darwin's discoveries (for the first 50 years after Darwin the move to evolution was so overwhelming that, so it seems, Christianity had no effective response) up until the beginning of the nineties. Though the book does not detail much in the way of creationist "research" it does detail some of the the scientific problems that Old-Earth creationists had with Young-Earth creationism and vice versa. And even though, a previous reviewer wrote that the book is too biased against creationism, it's interesting to note that on the back of the book is a recommendation from Henry M. Morris, one of the biggest names in YEC.
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By A Customer on December 27, 1996
Format: Paperback
A superb, comprehensive, and magisterial presentation of the history (and evolution) of the creationist movement in America by a noted historian of science. Professor Numbers is not unsympathetic with creationists, in spite of the fact that he knows better than to believe what they believe. He tells us that, in the interests of humility, he keeps on his desk an announcement of an anti-evolution speech that his father, a Seventh-Day Adventist preacher, gave some six decades ago.
For anyone who wants to know about this peculiarly American movement, Numbers is the place to start. Extensive bibliography for further reference
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