I regularly do not think much about the current "evolution vs. creationism" debate, however, there have been several instances when I have stopped to wonder which side of the "general question" I am on.
The "general question" being independent thought vs. establishments (AKA authority). At the current time, some have equated this question with the "science vs. religion" discussions but most of us know that this is an over-simplification.
Within my life, some have accused me of having an "aversion to authority". In each instance, I replied, "I do not dislike authority in general, only ignorant and/or arrogant authority." I normally respect authority that has some kind of progressive vision, rather than an authority with a "do as I say or else" mentality with very little reasoning behind it.
I guess that this is the reason why I never thought much about religion and loved science. I don't remember saying that I hated religion, but I actually never really considered it as a path in my life. Science always seemed much more accessible and free. Religion often reminded me of church, which I always found boring, especially as a young child.
Astronomy seemed to me the freest and most accessible science to be interested in. It is, after all, right up in the sky and easily viewed (except when the clouds decide to ruin my night). You didn't require any special certificate, diplomas or degrees to see and enjoy the originals. I have always enjoyed introducing others to the heavens because I know that they will discover something that they will find awe-inspiring. The planet Saturn instantly comes to mind.
I rarely get into a discussion about religion vs. science because I avoid them at all costs. I know that such a discussion is worthless to both myself and my adversary because neither side will win such an argument.
Thankfully, others regularly do enter discussions (AKA arguments) with theologians about that very topic. This most likely began centuries ago with the first atheists (who were put to death), Martin Luther (who would have been put to death if it wasn't for his friends and supporters), Galileo Galilei (who challenged catholicism's "faith" in the Earth-centred universe), etc. up to the present day. Today, science has generated the "anti-theists" such as Dr. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and, more recently and to a lesser extent, Bill Maher.
The picture above says it all. The four men at the top, Galileo Galilei, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein are the greatest scientists of their respective times. Of course, you can also mention many more, such as Johannes Kepler, Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss, Marie Curie, Pierre Simon Laplace, Stephen Hawking, etc. However, the four I had originally mentioned were the pioneers.
I am suspecting that the four men at the bottom of the image are the most controversial with respect to this article. Of course they are controversial: they are most recent. All new ideas are crazy at first. Carl Sagan began the new scientific revolution by popularizing it amongst the masses like never before (Stephen Hawking, as good as he is, did not start that movement). Richard Dawkins reinforces the Darwinian theory of evolution and "Natural Selection" as a backlash against "creationism". Christopher Hitchens communicates his loathing of religion and its practices as tyrannical, and the antitheses of women's rights and human freedoms. Bill Maher became the fourth member of this troupe when he released his highly controversial film "Religulous". Of course, there are many others that I can mention here (George Carlin, Jon Stewart, Denis Leary, etc.), but these four are (and were in the case of Dr. Sagan) the most outspoken and focussed by far.
Science has been in a constant battle with religion and vice-versa ever since Galileo first peered through his telescope (and probably earlier). Some would say that it is the classic struggle between the independent human spirit and the powerful and inflexible theocratic institutions. The battle was won for me when I first heard of Galileo's ordeal with the church. As young as I was, I still had ideas of freedom and independence (as do we all at first) and so the lines were drawn in my head. Science was the innocent and religion was the guilty in that one specific case.
All four of these men have one common link: they all question authority, no matter what its status or power. These men symbolize a growing backlash against "ignorant and arrogant authority". Of the four, Hitchens most effectively sums up the arrogance of authority with his own brand of "intellectual bravado". A great example of such bravado came in late 2010 when he was diagnosed with the potentially terminal esophageal cancer. When asked if he had "changed his stance" when his health was seriously compromised, he simply said "No".
Although there are specific beliefs of each that I find incorrect, I do not think that they would mind as long as I can express my opposition succinctly, intelligently and to the point. They talk very calmly and carefully and do not "fly off the handle" at the slightest provocation. Unfortunately, the religious seem to spout the same tired dogma that normally is associated with religion: "Jesus performed miracles, religion saves people's souls, religion does good deeds, religion is what we are all about.", etc.
Science can claim the same, but without the "unconditional faith" part. Science (and therefore humanity) has performed its own miracles, such as going to the Moon (Jesus never did that apparently), remotely visiting all of the planets of the Solar System (Jesus never did that either, although it is believed by some that his father created them) and giving us the ability to talk to nearly anyone on the planet within seconds (Jesus didn't do that either). Science has certainly saved many people's lives. Science has done extraordinarily good deeds, the best being to feed our intellectual curiosity about our natural world and how it works. Science (in the forms of physics, chemistry and biology) are truly what we are all about, since we use it and benefit from it every single day.
It seems that as science's lists of explanations and discoveries become larger, religion's lists seem to remain static and unchanging. Although this had served religion very well in the past, this does not serve it very well today, especially since the ability to control people's lives goes way beyond the church. Today's telecommunications infrastructure enables people to share every moment of their lives (some in very boring detail) every second of every day. When once religion could censor anyone it liked, today that is nearly impossible to do so because of the ability to communicate with anyone in seconds anywhere in the world. This is what science has done to finally free our lives from isolated tyranny.
However, this communications utopia can go both ways. The religious can communicate their message just as quickly as Dawkins, Hitchens and Maher can, and does so on a regular basis. These same forces can conspire to indoctrinate people quickly, as we are now seeing. The result is a massive battle between the forces of religion and the forces of anti-theism, of which true scientific pursuit is a part.
The new "science revolution" began with scientists such as Sagan and Dawkins, but will end with people like Hitchens and Maher; those who rail against static beliefs in favour of truth-seeking endeavours, such as science. Although Hitchens and Maher are certainly not scientists in the academic sense, they choose to defend science in their own fashions. Every little bit helps.
People will soon have to choose their sides and fight for one or the other. In my case, science has to be my first choice, since it treated me very well, has given me many hours of discovery and excitement and, most importantly, did not expect me to believe in it under penalty of eternal damnation. I'm fussy that way.
I am doubtful that religion will ever truly fade away, however it might undergo a major metamorphosis and emerge as a kinder and more private belief system that believes in truth as science does, but does not force itself on others. I believe that it will soon have no choice in the matter. I do believe that science will win out and become the new "religion", where faith is based on tested and proven fact and not "divine hearsay".
Galileo's books were banned for up to 200 years after he wrote them. The vatican finally exonerated him in 1992, nearly 400 years after he first peered through his telescope. This one fact showed me how inflexible the catholic church really was. Science (not religion) proved that Galileo was right all along. Imagine a nearly 400 year old grudge: would science ever be this petty? We have to think about this now because there are some on both sides of the argument who are not giving us a choice.
As a final thought, in my opinion, the greatest statement uttered about this "war" came from Bill Maher on "Real Time":
"You know, it's funny how people can fly on a plane, write a sermon on a laptop, listen to gospel on an iPod, touch down via radar, walk through automatic doors into an air-conditioned mega-church where they can stand on a hydraulic stage beneath 1,000 electric lights, and then give a speech sceptical of science."
|Galileo Galilei practically invented physics, pioneered telescopic astronomy, discovered Jupiter's four largest moons, discovered Saturn's rings, discovered Venus' phases, discovered sunspots and finally proved through direct observation that everything does not orbit the Earth. Despite all of this amazing discovery, he was condemned as a heretic for publishing his works and imprisoned in his own home for the remainder of his life.|
|Isaac Newton revolutionized physics and invented its principal language: calculus (in parallel with Gottfried Liebnitz), developed the first laws of gravitation and pioneered the idea of "orbits".|
|Charles Darwin pioneered the modern theory of how human beings evolved from the "lower species", pioneered the idea of "Natural Selection" and began the revolutionary idea that humans were not created for a "divine" purpose.|
|Albert Einstein pioneered relativistic physics, discovered the photoelectric effect and pioneered our nuclear age (for better or for worse). He proved that not everything about physics was known through Newtonian physics alone. He subsequently inspired many other revolutionary scientists such as Bohr, Planck, Schrödinger, Heisenberg, Dirac and de Broglie.|
|Carl Sagan encapsulated, in his brilliantly eloquent words, what science was all about: the thirst for truth, the quest for the meaning of our existence and the wonders of nature; on Earth and in the heavens. He pioneered the art form of communicating the wonders of science to the masses. In my view, nobody has come close to his kind of "scientific everyman" charisma.|
|Richard Dawkins refutes all explanations by theologians of how humanity came to be on this planet. He represents the academic part of "anti-theism", the part which lends a scientific and cultured tone to the discussion. He also does what Sagan once did: he explains very carefully to the masses why he thinks "creationism" is wrong and "evolution" is right. He is the consummate scientist: taking the theory of "creationism" and applying the scientific method to reach the conclusion that it is totally wrong, despite the often repeated "faith-based" arguments.|
|Christopher Hitchens represents the journalistic side of "anti-theism". Highly cultured himself, he regularly publishes articles for periodicals such as Vanity Fair, gives numerous talks about how religion is evil and regularly debates religious figures. If you hear him speak, he is definitely not a scientist like Sagan and Dawkins, but he certainly extols the virtues of science: truth, logic, curiosity and facts. He mentions the wonders of the Hubble Space Telescope and the science of astronomy in his talks, as examples if not critical arguments themselves.|
|Bill Maher is a recent recruit to the "anti-theist" movement. Although he is best known as a stand-up comedian, and host of such shows as "Politically Incorrect" and "Real Time", his recent film "Religulous" solidly placed him within the ranks of the "anti-theists". Maher represents the "celebrity" or "popularist" side of "anti-theism". Unlike Sagan, Dawkins and Hitchens, who could not be called "celebrities", Maher has had the nearly constant television presence, in which he routinely questions "authority gone crazy", such as politicians (on all sides), celebrities, religious entities (all of them), financial institutions and the corporate elite.|
Revolutions of Science and the (New) Science Revolution Was Last Modified On February 17, 2011