This essay will examine how, and to what extant, religion influences the essential debate.
As an initial matter, it is necessary to define what is meant by creationism and by evolution. Both address the origins of life on Earth and both are intimately connected to the essential nature of life. The Creationist school of thought posits that an absolute creator decided of its own free will to create the Earth and all of its life forms. This traditional form of creationism derives much of its legitimacy from scriptures associated with the major religions; indeed, as pointed out by Ruse, "Christians, Jews, and Muslims are all Creationists in this sense. Generally they are known as 'theists,' distinguishing them from 'deists,' that is people who believe that there is a designer who might or might not have created the material on which he (or she or it) is working and who does not interfere once the designing act is finishing" (2007 n.p.). In addition to this traditional creationist approach there are today those that advocate a more limited type of creationism; this more limited type of creationism has been repackaged as "Intelligent Design" and modifies the older type of creationism by conceding that God may represent some type of external force rather than God himself as known in various religious scriptures. In the final, analysis, however, both traditional creationists and advocates of Intelligent Design subscribe to an external force to explain the origins of life.
Those subscribing to evolution, and following a more Darwinian mode of reasoning, argue instead that life is essentially a scientific phenomenon rather than a religious choice by a God acting pursuant to its own free will. "Biological evolution, simply put, is descent with modification. This definition encompasses small-scale evolution (changes in gene frequency in a population from one generation to the next) and large-scale evolution (the descent of different species from a common ancestor over many generations). Evolution helps us to understand the history of life" (Understanding Evolution, 2008: n.p.). Conflicts arise most notably in educational circles. Many citizens demand that creationism be taught to children whereas others demand that evolution be taught. It is here that religion becomes important because how one argues is heavily, thought not exclusively, influenced by their degree of religious faith.
Religion: Degree of Influence
Surveys by leading polling organizations demonstrate that religion does influence the creationism versus evolution debate. In one recent study, for instance the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life made a number of important findings. First, "about
half the public (48%) says that humans and other living things have evolved over time, while 42% say that living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time" (Public Divided on Origins of Life, 2005: 2-3). This disagreement, nearly straight down the middle, was heavily influenced by religious beliefs. To illustrate, evangelical Protestants, mainstream