When it comes to science, religion is always wrong

science vs. religion

 Over the last two millennia, religion has opposed science on many different occasions. And every time religion has opposed science, regardless of the topic, religion has been spectacularly wrong, every single time. Evolution is no different.

There is no one who is more completely convinced of the validity of evolution than creationists. That’s why they argue against it passionately. That’s why they tie themselves into knots trying to come up with bizarre criticisms of evolution. They know two things beyond a shadow of a doubt. Evolution is assuredly true, and evolution is incompatible with a literal reading of the Bible. It doesn’t take a great logician to see where that leads you. If evolution is true, then the Bible is not.

For those of us who see the Bible as a founding religious document, no different from the Greek myths, the Bhagavad Gita or ancient Egyptian beliefs, it is difficult to understand what all the fuss is about. However, for those who believe that the Bible is a privileged document that represents the literal “word of God,” evolution is bound to cause serious psychic distress. For those people, religious belief is a first principle. They start with the premise that religion is true, particularly their own subset of religious belief, and that everything else must be evaluated with reference to the truth of religion.

Religion fills important psychological needs. It is a defense against the unpleasant reality that there is no meaning to life, no plan, no justification for our suffering. In the immortal words of folk wisdom, “Shit happens.” There’s no reason for it, no purpose to it, it is entirely random, and most importantly, there is nothing that can be done to prevent it. No amount of propitiating a “Creator” makes any difference, because there is no one running the universe and no one you can turn to for help. No one loves you, except your family (if you are lucky), and you are navigating this harsh world alone.

Simply put, religion isn’t truth. It is a made up story we tell ourselves to feel better in a lonely, dangerous world.

Evolution, on the other hand, is obviously true. We see the evidence all around us, and there is much more evidence buried in the ground. When we worry about drug resistant bacteria, we acknowledge evolution; when we perform scientific research on primates, we acknowledge evolution; when we search for genetic causes of disease, we acknowledge evolution.

Creationists are utterly convinced of the truth of evolution. That’s why they are trying so desperately to keep it out of the public schools and far away from children. It is so obviously true that anyone who learns about it will assuredly recognized that it is true. And if children will inevitably conclude that evolution is true, they might also conclude that religion is false. That must be prevented at all costs. The only way to do that is to prevent the teaching of evolution in school.

If evolution were “just a theory,” an equal among many competing theories, there wouldn’t be a desperate attempt to keep it secret from children. All the different “theories” could be presented and children (and older people) could judge for themselves. Creationists know that evolution is the only possible explanation for the world as it exists. No other “theory” can compete with it, and religious explanations sound foolish. Hence they fight strenuously to keep evolution out of school, and inevitably lose.

This is not the first time that this has happened. The “debate” over evolution is almost an exact recapitulation of the “debate” over Galileo’s demonstration that the sun is at the center of the solar system, not the earth. The Bible had located the earth as the center of the entire universe, to literally represent the role of man as the center of God’s concern. When it became apparent that the earth wasn’t even the central planet in our little solar system, religious authorities felt compelled to prevent anyone from learning the truth.

If it became widely known that the Bible was wrong about something as straightforward as the location of the earth within the universe, then it might be wrong about anything. Church leaders reacted as conservatives often do; they attempted to suppress knowledge. They tried to suppress Galileo (and Copernicus and others) not because they knew he was wrong, but specifically because they knew he was right.

Creationists have reacted in exactly the same way. They, too, are religious conservatives and they are attempting to suppress knowledge of evolution, not because they believe that Darwin was wrong, but specifically because they know he was right.

There have been many other, minor skirmishes between religion and science over the years. In every disagreement, religion has been wrong, usually spectacularly wrong. Every single time. Religion has never vanquished science and it isn’t about to start now. No one understands this better than creationists. Evolution is dangerous knowledge because it is true and that’s why they fight against it with all their strength. If evolution is true, then the Bible is false, and they will not, they cannot, acknowledge that.

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