Throughout history, people have held many religious beliefs. Beliefs that seemed unexplainable by any other method than a divine creator. However, as time has progressed, and technological and scientific advances have occurred, the human race has found many other explanations for events. Religion in modern day society holds true for many people, not through actual experience of God, but through a common, shared belief. However, many previous common beliefs have been proven wrong through scientific research, evidence, and eventually proof.
One main common belief that was held for centuries, was the belief that the world was flat. Many people believed that the world was flat, and if someone were to sail to the edge of the world, they could drop off into nothingness. The first piece of evidence, which began to build up the argument that the world was in fact spherical, was Christopher Columbus’ trip around the world. If the world was in fact flat, Columbus, when he sailed into the horizon, would simply drop off the edge of the world, and never return.
However, since Columbus set sail into the horizon in August 1492, sailed straight ahead, around the world, and returned to Spain in March 1493, people could begin to believe that the world was not actually flat. Paul Walorski, B. A. , Part-time Physics/Astronomy Instructor, states that “One of the oldest proofs of the Earth’s shape, however, can be seen from the ground and occurs during every lunar eclipse. The geometry of a lunar eclipse has been known since ancient Greece. When a full Moon occurs in the plane of Earth’s orbit, the Moon slowly moves through Earth’s shadow. Every time that shadow is seen, its edge is round.
Once again, the only solid that always projects a round shadow is a sphere. “1 Also, in more recent years, it has been possible to send spacecraft into orbit, to take digital photographs of the Earth. (see fig. 12) From looking at, and analysing these images, it becomes clear that the world is, in fact, spherical. All of this evidence, put together, builds a strong argument in favour of the Earths shape being sperical. The common belief that the Earth was flat, was proved to be a misconception through experimentation, such as Columbus’ journey, and visual evidence, such as photographs, as seen in figure 1.
And so, much like the theory of the Earths shape, Religious beliefs can be disproved, or at least given an alternative explanation, by science. Similarly to the flat Earth theory, religion is not particularly based on experience. Many religions are based on stories from thousands of years ago, and in the modern day, we are expected to rely on accounts of events written perhaps hundreds of years after a particular event. Also, there is the possibility that the way in which the events were written were propagandised.
People may have romanticised and exaggerated on certain facts, or even invented events, to add weight to their beliefs. For example, the feeding of the five thousand was a lot more likely to have been the feeding of fifty, or less, however, it was exaggerated to make Jesus look more powerful. Also, the lack of proof of Jesus’ existance, ie, lack of a body, also discredit stories about him. There were many arguments about the romanticism of the Bible, both in the old and new Testaments. For example, in the Old Testament, it is claimed that God created the world in six days.
On the first day, it is said that God created light. However, God did not create the sun, stars and moon until the fourth day. The lack of proof of Christ’s miracles, or even the existence of Jesus Christ, discredit Christianity, Judaism and Catholocism quite a bit. However, on the other hand, science in itself is based on providing hands on factual evidence through experience, imagery, investigation and repeated experimentation. This allows people to base their belief in science on their own experience. Science allows people to experience the truth for themselves, and make their own conclusions.
This in itself adds considerable strength to anything deduced through scientific methods, as the second actual physical proof is available, the conclusion no longer becomes guesswork based on ancient manuscript, but rather a posteriori. This means people do not have to wait until they die, or hope for a unique religious experience, they can actually see the evidence, evidence which is available to the masses, with physical proof, unlike the Bible. One of the most major conflicts between science and religion, is creation. In the Bible, Genesis, states that God created the Earth in six days.
First day: The universe is created (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”). Light is created. (“Let there be light. “) This light is not the sun or stars, as these are created later. It is described by some as a primordial light. The light is divided from the darkness, and called good by God. Second day: The firmament of Heaven is created. The waters above it is separated from the waters below. Third day: Land is created, separated from the waters, and named. The water is also named. Grass, herbs and fruit-bearing trees are created.
Fourth day: Lights are made in the firmament of Heaven, to appear regularly, aiding time-keeping. Two particularly large lights are made, the lesser one the Moon and the greater one the Sun. Fifth day: Air and sea creatures are created, including “great sea-monsters”. They are commanded to “be fruitful and multiply. ” Sixth day: Land animals are created, and God calls them good. Man and woman are created in God’s image. They are told to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it. ” Humans and animals are given plants to eat. The totality of creation is described by God as “very good”. 3
One major flaw with this argument is that it appears that God created the Earth in six twenty-four hour days. This seems a little far-fetched, even for an almighty creator. To sidestep this fact, religious leaders came up with the theory of ‘Day-Age Creationism’. This holds that “the six days referred to in the Genesis account of creation are not ordinary 24-hour days, but rather are much longer periods (of thousands or millions of years).
The Genesis account is then interpreted as an account of the process of cosmic evolution, providing a broad base on which any number of theories and interpretations are built. 4 However, even with all of this speculation from Holy texts, and the ‘Day-Age Creationism’ theory, there is still no solid proof of anything. It may be physically possible to simply talk to God, and ask him about how he made the Earth, and if the stories are in fact true, but it is extremely impossible that he will answer your question. An alternative theory as to the creation of Earth, is the Big Bang theory. The Big Bang is the scientific theory that the universe emerged from a tremendously dense and hot state about 13. 7 billion years ago.
The theory is based on the observations indicating the expansion of space as indicated by the Hubble redshift of distant galaxies. 5 (redshift occurs when the visible light from an object is shifted towards the red end of the electromagnetic spectrum. More generally, redshift is defined as an increase in the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation received by a detector compared with the wavelength emitted by the source. 6 Monitoring these wavelengths can help monitor the distance from Earth of a particular galaxy, and thus monitor the expansion of the universe.
It is quite obvious that science, thus far, has seemingly replaced religion in explaining creation. This can be drawn from the fact that science offers physical evidence, and is based on centuries of research, which appears to have been proven. The next major debate is how we arrived on Earth. For those who believe in Creationism, the standard belief is that God fashioned Adam in his own image, and then created Eve from the rib of Adam. As far as Creationism is concerned, God placed all living things on Earth in the same form which they exist in today.
However, Creationism was replaced by Darwins theory of evolution. Darwinian theory says that humans evolved from bacteria in the primordial soup, created during the big bang. We evolved and adapted to our environment, through genetic mutation, and passing on that mutation to our offspring, to allow ourselves the best chance of survival. For example, let us assume that giraffes naturally had short necks millions of years ago. If giraffes eat all of the vegetation within reach, eventually, giraffes will need longer necks to reach food.
If one giraffe was born with a genetic mutation which meant it had a longer neck, it would have a better chance of survival. This mutation would be passed on to its offspring, which would then be born with the same genetic mutation as its parent, thus allowing the survival advantage to be passed through the generations. Over millions of years, animals with the advantageous mutations would live longer, and have a better chance of breeding, until eventually, almost all of the species would have the advantage, as those that didn’t would have died out.
This is Darwins theory of ‘Survival of the fittest’. This was proved by the findings of fossils from millions of years ago. Fossils that are similar to modern day animals have been found, but there are slight, but noticeable differences between them over different periods of time. This is almost like a timeline of evolution, showing the gradual adaptation of creatures to their environment. However, eventually, religious leaders noticed how seemingly infallible this evidence was, and decided to come up with their own version of evolution:Intelligent Design.
Intelligent design basically agreed with evolution, however, it stated that evolution was caused by God, and that God caused and monitored evolution to ensure the world stayed in harmony. However, many atheists believed that this was just the Church trying to explain scientific proof, using God, and many atheists rejected the idea of intelligent design. Intelligent design also lost a lot of credibility due to the fact that it was a theory created by religious leaders, and seemed like a last attempt to cling on to a failing religion.
Overall, it can be seen that science is beginning to disprove religion. Over the last few centuries, scientists have discovered physical proof to back up their theories, while religion still hangs behind, hoping that proof will not overcome belief. I personally believe that science has made its first steps towards eliminating God as the ultimate answer to everything, and given a long enough time, eventually religion will disprove the existance of God, and explain everything without the need for guesswork, or belief in an unproven deity.