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Durham University

Department of Theology and Religion


Publication details for Professor Mathew Guest

Guest, Mathew (2009). The Plausibility of Creationism: A Sociological Comment. In Reading Genesis After Darwin. Barton, Stephen & Wilkinson, David Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 217-236.

Author(s) from Durham


This chapter considers the significance of creationist belief in the contemporary Western world. The history of creationism is traced from the roots of fundamentalist Protestantism, and twentieth- and twenty-first-century sympathy for creationist beliefs is measured via attitudinal survey data from the United Kingdom and the United States. What follows is an analysis of creationism as a sociological phenomenon. Drawing from empirical examples and the work of scholars such as Peter Berger and Nancy Ammerman, the chapter discusses how creationist ideas function within the social contexts in which they are affirmed, debated, and challenged, paying particular attention to how they acquire plausibility among those who hold them. It concludes by arguing that contemporary creationism may be understood as an expression of what Christian Smith calls "engaged orthodoxy," i.e., the evangelical tendency to engage combatively with the challenges of the modern world and to draw strength and cohesion from the resulting sense of conflict.