Always Defeats Religion
Coalition of Reason
178, 2018 January)
The historic war
between science and religion began in Ancient Greece, and it still
roils more than two millennia later. Science has won every encounter,
yet supernatural believers won’t surrender.
Classical Greece teemed
with magical faith. Multitudes of animals were sacrificed to a bizarre
array of invisible gods who supposedly lived
atop Mount Olympus. Throngs gave money to oracles who
allegedly conveyed messages from the gods. Even "sacred wars" were
fought over wealth accumulated by oracle shrines.
Amid all this
mumbo-jumbo, a few wise thinkers began seeking natural explanations,
not supernatural ones. It was the birth of science—but it was risky,
because believers killed nonbelievers.
(500-428 BCE) taught that the sun and moon are natural objects, not
deities. He was sentenced to death for impiety, but escaped into exile.
(490-420 BCE) said he didn’t know whether gods exist—so he was banished
from Athens. His writings were burned, and he drowned while
fleeing at sea.
The most famous
martyr was Socrates (470-399 BCE), who was sentenced to death for
offenses including "not worshiping the gods worshiped by the state."
centuries, believers often killed scientific thinkers, but science
always proved correct.
(c.360-415 CE), a brilliant woman who headed Alexandria’s famed
library of knowledge, was beaten to death by Christian followers of St.
Michael Servetus (c.1510-1553)—the first to learn that blood flows from
the heart to the lungs and back—was burned in John Calvin’s Puritanical
Geneva for doubting the Trinity
(1548-1600) was burned by the Holy Inquisition for teaching
that Earth circles the sun, and the universe is infinite. Galileo
narrowly escaped the same fate for the same reason, but was sentenced
to house arrest for life.
By the time that
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) perceived evolution, western religion mostly
had lost the power to kill nonconformists. His great breakthrough
unleashed a religion-vs.-science battle that still rages today. It
caused the notorious “Scopes Monkey Trial” in Tennessee in
1925, and still flares when fundamentalists try to ban evolution from
public school science courses. They contend that a supernatural
father-creator made all species in modern form about 6,000 years
ago—while science proves that life goes back vastly further, and that
new species evolved from former ones. Evolution has become the bedrock
of modern biology.
between science and religion also arises when some strong believers let
their children die because—trusting promises by Jesus that prayer will
cure disease—they refuse to get medical help.
everyone realizes that science is a colossal boon to humanity, curing
disease, eliminating drudgery, advancing knowledge, opening worldwide
communications and generally making life better. In 1900, the average
lifespan was just 48 years, but now it’s near 80, thanks mostly to
medical improvements. In contrast, religion gives the world little, and
Islamic extremism causes constant slaughter.
every showdown, constantly undercutting religion’s supernatural dogmas.
World-renowned biologist Richard Dawkins says faith “subverts science
and saps the intellect.” Luckily, it’s still losing the war between
science and religion.
Haught is editor
emeritus of West Virginia’s largest newspaper,
The Charleston Gazette-Mail, and is writer-in-residence for
the United Coalition of Reason.
He may be reached by e-mail,
Does Science Always Defeat Religion?
(Investigator 179, 2018 March)
In 2017 a former Olympic gymnastics doctor was sentenced to 175 years in prison for the sexual abuse of female athletes. Wikipeda says: "It is one of the biggest abuse scandals in sports history."
have abused children, or committed rape, murder or other crimes. Josef
Mengele (1911-1979) and Eduard Wirths (1909-1945) of Germany are
It would be easy
to list more evil doctors and portray doctors as the most morally bad
profession on Earth and, by listing primitive medical practices of
previous centuries, as always defeated by science.
We could do
similarly with any group whether teachers, politicians, students,
atheists, etc. The bigger the group the more examples of horrid conduct
and unscientific beliefs we'll find.
That's James Haught's first error, the group he considered in Investigator 178, i.e. religion, is very big.
What do we see if out of all religion we zoom down to just the Bible?
anticipated various biological facts about lions, hyraxes, ants,
crocodiles and other animals, facts that science confirmed in the 20th
century. In other words science was wrong until it caught up to the
happened in many other areas of science besides biology. For example, I
found out from the Bible in the early 1970s about the threat of
asteroids to civilization when almost no one else knew about it.
As regards science itself, I've shown in Investigator
that modern science began in Christianity: Church-attending scientists
blazed the trail for centuries and founded electronics, genetics,
archaeology, oceanography and other sciences.
Science may defeat religion generally, but when it comes to the Bible they work together.
Lifton, R.J. 1986 The Nazi Doctors, Macmillan, London, p. 6