The Christian religion has opposed every single advance in knowledge that it viewed as a threat to its orthodoxy, and it has lost every single one of those contests – the earth is round and not flat; the earth revolves around the sun and not vice versa; disease is caused by viruses, bacteria and other natural factors rather than by sin; weather is a natural event and not the weapon of an angry god; homosexuality is a natural variation found in all human populations and in many non-human animal species and not a sinful, unnatural choice. Evolution is another example. Clinging rigidly to religious dogma stops inquiry and the advance of knowledge. Whenever we face something we don’t understand, we can use scientific methods to explore further or we can say a god did it and stop asking questions. The second option would be a tragedy, and that is what many religionists imply we should do.
Evolution simply explains how living organisms change over time. Darwin and others presented hypotheses for how those changes take place, and then, over the past 150 years, thousands of scientists in dozens of fields of study have tested those hypotheses by examining tens of thousands of pieces of evidence. While many of the details of evolution have been revised and expanded, no evidence in all those years has disputed the most basic principles of evolution – the genetics of a species change over time, substantial change takes many generations, a species sometimes splits into two separate species that can no longer interbreed, closely related species have a common ancestor, a population becomes more suited to its environment over time because those organisms that survive and reproduce the most pass on their genes, and genetic changes always build on what is already there. [Why Evolution is True by Jerry A. Coyne]
The term “theory” in science does not mean speculation, as some religionists assert, it means a well-tested and verified group of propositions that explain facts about the natural world. When hypotheses prove to be valid, a theory is developed to explain those findings. The theory generates more hypotheses, more testing, and a more complete theory. A theory is considered a scientific truth when all reasonable people agree on it because so much evidence has accumulated in its favor and there is no decisive evidence against it. That does not mean it will never be corrected or changed. All scientific theories are subject to modification by new evidence. Evolution, heliocentrism and general relativity are scientific theories and truths.
A scientific law and a theory are two different things. A scientific law is simply a description of a phenomenon that holds true every time it is tested. It doesn’t explain why something happens the way it does. It just describes what happens. For example, Newton’s Law of Gravity describes mathematically the force of attraction between two different bodies. A scientific law does not require a law giver because it is not a rule handed down with a punishment for disobedience. It is simply a description of consistent observations.
Fundamentalist Christians do not put their faith in evidence because new evidence might be discovered. Faith means believing something without evidence. If you have evidence, you don’t need faith. Religion cannot compete with science on the basis of evidence, so fundamentalist religionists want to convince us that science is just as unsubstantiated as their religious beliefs. But religion wins that contest hands down. Science considers and adjusts to new evidence; religion does not.
Scientists don’t have “faith” in a theory. The hallmark of science is to disprove an idea presented by another scientist. That’s how scientists become famous. A scientific idea must be testable in a way that could disprove it. Religious beliefs are not testable or subject to being disproved.
Criticizing science by claiming it is faith-based is a dangerous idea because it could slow our progress in understanding our world and hamper our children’s education. All adults and children need a solid, accurate understanding of science. Without science, we get stuck with false beliefs and really bad ideas. “When religion ruled the world, it was known as the Dark Ages” – Ruth Hurmence Green.