Balance?BMJ 2010; 340 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c3367 (Published 23 June 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c3367
All rapid responses
Liam Farrell sends up creationism as ludicrously bad science,1 but it
derives at least as much from poor biblical scholarship. The
evolution/creation debate needs to be seen in context, as part of the
history of ideas, and museums and the media could contribute to public
education if they highlighted this perspective.
The two creation stories at the beginning of Genesis are clearly not
literally consistent. The first describes a six day creation (humans
appearing only on the sixth day), followed by a day of rest; this account
emanated in the sixth century BCE from the priestly writers of Judah who
had absorbed the Babylonian idea of the seven day week2 during their
exile.3 The second story describes first man, then plants, then animals,
then woman (from man’s rib) appearing in succession over an unspecified
time; this dates from around 950 BCE. The age and different provenance
of these accounts have been recognised since at least the later nineteenth
century, but unfortunately have not until recently been well communicated
Over the centuries, both literal and allegorical readings of the
Bible have found adherents. As well as challengers, Darwin had many
contemporary supporters in the churches, including clergy.5
Modern creationism has gathered momentum since the late nineteenth
century. In 1910 a group of American Christians issued a statement of
five fundamentals of faith (whence ‘fundamentalism’), which included their
belief in biblical ‘inerrancy’ (literal truth).3 It is within this
strand of thinking that present western biblical literalism sits.
Fundamentalism has never been universally supported across the Christian
1. Farrell L. Balance? BMJ 2010;340:c3367.
2. Duncan DE. The Calendar. Fourth Estate: London, 1998.
3. Akenson DH. Surpassing wonder: the invention of the Bible and
Talmuds. University of Chicago Press: Chicago and London, 2001.
4. Spong JS. Rescuing the Bible from fundamentalism.
HarperSanFrancisco: San Francisco, 1993
5. Desmond A & Moore J. Darwin. Michael Joseph: London,
Competing interests: No competing interests