2.10 The “Problem of Evil”
Many philosophers, religious scholars, and critics have written about the problem of evil. For example, the ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus, wrote of this problem some time during the second century BCE. In the “Epicurean paradox,” Epicurus states:
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
These are important questions no religion can answer, and it is tragic that religion incites so much vile behavior when it is believed by most religious people that God and adherence to religion prevent evil from spreading.
Mark Twain’s impassioned, one-sentence polemic in The Mysterious Stranger made by the character, “Satan,” also illustrates the problem of evil very well:
“A God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice, and invented hell—mouths mercy—mouths Golden Rules and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, who mouths morals to other people, and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man’s acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites his poor abused slave to worship him!” — Mark Twain.
There are many undeniable inequities on Earth, some of which have already been discussed in this book. All kinds of terrible things are alive and well, but the causes are mostly man-made and they can be changed (the Earth has the resources), as long as we do not rely on God to fix them all or believe worship alone is the answer. Many religious people believe evil is something instilled in others by God or “Satan.” But the concept of innate evil is silly. There is no logical reason to make evil people just to punish them eternally. Evil is mostly created by humanity, not by anything ambiguous or mystical. Our environments and the people in them provoke behaviors that are considered evil or very wrong.
Generally, individuals are either taught to be “evil” or they decide to take “evil” actions due to environmental stress, trauma, entitlement, hate, or accumulated pain. The will to harm innocent people and ourselves is mostly created by either pain or entitlement, (or sometimes physical elements like DNA mutation, disease, and so forth). These conditions exist because there is no moral authority to ensure that people do not suffer, and in the absence of this and sustained, concerted resistance from common people, greedy rulers are free to take what they want and claim God is on their side. The universe acts in accordance with scientific law, regardless of the human impact. Our DNA tells us to survive, but we can only ensure order and everyone’s survival through equitable collaboration and cooperation.
Religious leaders and scholars have formulated different answers to the problem of “evil,” but most are not very logical. The New Testament addresses the problem of the evil in a somewhat ironic way. It states: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those of us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1:18 Corinthians. It says later in Corinthians that those who do not believe in God are the ones perishing. But this is not the case. No one is impervious to suffering or death, and most people perishing are decent people who deserve none of their suffering. The select few who believe they are “saved” or “chosen people” are only happy and healthy because they were fortunate enough to have come of age in the right circumstances and with the right given advantages. But any day tragedy can strike. I know this too well. No one is impervious. We’re all mortal. It is just convenient for the very fortunate to thank God for their own success, instead of acknowledging the actual people and events responsible, which are governed by unchanging scientific laws. When tragedy does come, people often fall back on their religions in seek of comfort, and the continues the cycle.
I believe the very idea of “being saved” is egocentric when there are so many innocent, moral people who are very clearly being allowed to suffer for no good reason. It is far more humble to look at the unknowns in the world and recognize no one may ever answer them all definitively. People who believe they are being “saved” often convince themselves that there is a reason so many people suffer, and that they (the chosen ones) deserve their fortunes. But they usually do not. It is up to human beings to prevent suffering, instead of just praying for it to stop or accepting it as “God’s will.” We ought to rely on ourselves and the people we love in our lives. We could easily make the world a better place if we stopped believing that things always happen for meaningful reasons. They do not always, unfortunately. The world is a chaotic place, but it is understandable and it can be improved by improving our understanding of it through science and by supporting and cooperating with one another.
It goes without saying that there are many honorable, religious people who do incredible humanitarian work, but they could still do this work without their faith in religious institutions, rulers, or their dogma. If you value worship very much, it could be helpful to worship selflessness and morally sound ideologies most of all, as opposed to religious texts or Gods. The ideology that all humans deserve the same basic rights is more valuable than the dogma, and even the Abrahamic Bibles tell us the Golden Rule to treat others as we wish to be treated. But we can take the Golden Rule and use it every day in our lives without implementing the other violent and patriarchal parts of the Bibles. As long as we strive to be good people every day of our lives, it ultimately shouldn’t matter whether or not there is a God or an afterlife or any truth to any religious myths.
2.11 The Birth and Development of Science and Religion’s Effect on its Progress
Before the scientific method was invented, almost everything was explained by Gods and mythology. But a few people refused to attribute the cause of every event to mystical or supernatural forces. Many of these thinkers lived in modern day Greece and Turkey in ancient cities like Abdera and Miletus where religious and political oppression were less severe than in neighboring states at least for a period. In these places, religious myths weren’t accepted by everyone or enforced by many governments, and so scientific observation, testing, inquiry, and independent philosophy all thrived here.
Thales of Miletus, (624 BC–546 BC) one of the Seven Sages of Greece, could be called the father of science. He was the first known person to publish claims that events were not caused by supernatural forces but rather by physical laws. Thales believed the universe acted in consistent ways and that by knowing the nature of an object you could determine its future. (These ideas eventually led to the discovery of the laws of nature.) He also believed all matter consists of the same basic components. He didn’t specify what these components may be, but he was the first known person to suggest the idea. Thales may also have been the first to claim that life originated from water. Not all of his beliefs were correct. For example, he also believed that the Earth is a circular disk floating on waters that stretch the span of the universe. While this, of course, is not the case, his belief that the universe could be understood and that events could be predicted served as the foundation of the scientific method.1 The phrase “Know Thyself” is also attributed to Thales and it is engraved on his tombstone. This is one of the first known written philosophical statements that directly promotes self-awareness. Perhaps he knew self-awareness helped catalyze human progression and greater control over our own identities.
Pythagoras of Ionia (born around 572 B.C.) was another smart scholar, but he was not as open to scientific testing or inquiry as some of his predecessors. He created the Pythagorean Theorem, and he was the first to suggest that the Earth, stars, moon, and planets are all spheres.2 Pythagoras was a very logical, rational thinker. He and his predecessors believed everything in space happened for a scientific reason. The Greek word “cosmos” (or kosmos, as it was spelled then) means order. Cosmos is the word we now use for the entire universe because it is true that everything occurs for a reason, but not usually a meaningful one, as I have said. A better way to phrase this is that every action is a reaction governed by scientific laws. Pythagoras did not describe any of the laws of nature, but he believed that all events and interactions of matter could be explained by mathematical equations.
Socrates (470-399 BCE) was another philosopher and advocate of critical thinking and the scientific method. He seemed to be very self-aware and aware of what he did not know. He was also very outspoken about the rise and centralization of Athenian government. Although Athens called itself a democracy, it wasn’t fully democratic. (Slaves and all kinds of oppressive rules existed.) However, where he actually stood politically is hard to ascertain. In Plato’s dialogue, “The Republic,” Socrates favors a republic led by philosophers like himself over a democracy. However, in Plato’s “Apology of Socrates” he refuses to pursue politics because he says he feels unfit to tell others how to live their lives when he could not figure out how to live his own. Some very smart insights he made were that “No one desires evil,” and that “No one errs or does wrong willingly or knowingly,” and “Virtue is sufficient for happiness.” According to Plato, Socrates was found guilty of both “corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens” and of impiety. He was sentenced to death by drinking poison hemlock.
Plato, (424-348 B.C.) a Greek Philosopher and student of Socrates was also influenced by Pythagoras. However, he discouraged observation and testing because religious ideas were enforced much more strictly and severely at this time, and he did not want to share the same fate as Socrates. This did great harm to science. Philosophy and religion were essentially taking the place of the scientific method. Most of the thinkers who came after Socrates had to claim their work was purely philosophical, speculative, or simply science fiction if their ideas were even remotely in conflict with Greek religious beliefs. They could say nothing that would upset the religious powers and if they did, they could be killed. They were especially Draconian in their treatment of those with theories that were credible and supported by science.
Science can have a very strong impact on philosophies about life. To come up with a philosophy that withstands the test of time, it needs to have a strong scientific basis (or at least not contradict any scientifically proven facts). Current science is our best conception of reality so far, and it is constantly evolving. Many scientific discoveries also have a major effect on our own perception of our purpose and the importance of other people, so it is irrational to separate science from philosophy or religion. If a time-tested, proven scientific fact contradicts a philosophy or a religious ideology, everyone who wants their ideas to have any basis in reality must acknowledge this fact.
Not all science involves experimentation and testing. This is the scientific method, but some of the greatest scientific thinkers formulated their theories simply by using their imaginations and initially had very little scientific or mathematical basis to support their theories, (Albert Einstein often worked this way) and many of these theories were later proven to be true once the necessary equations were formulated.
Science influences philosophy, but philosophy and speculation also influence science. To be a successful scientist, one must constantly explore alternative possibilities. Most scientific findings are called theories because they are tentative. But many Athenian philosophers after Socrates became more rigid and less scientific and open to alternative possibilities. Most ignored the most obvious atrocities and examples of human suffering in society like the institution of slavery probably out of fear of reprisal from their government.
Philosophers didn’t stay out of government altogether. In fact, Plato, Aristotle (student of Plato) and Socrates all had roles in government, writing constitutions and other documents. But questioning something as profitable and integral to society as slavery could have easily resulted in their execution.
Plato and Aristotle may have avoided unpopular political and religious stances so that they wouldn’t share the same fate as Socrates, but they didn’t object to slavery in private either. In fact, they owned slaves. Aristotle referred to slaves as “living tools,” and Plato had similar views. Because slavery was commonplace and no one did or could question it without being punished, it seemed like a natural part of life. This hardly excuses their actions, however. What most accept today as commonplace is not right either.
Aristarchus of Samos (310 BCE – 230 BCE) was one of the first to claim that our solar system is sun-centered or heliocentric. Aristarchus also estimated the distances between the planets in our solar system, but his estimates were too modest. He was quite brilliant for his time period. However, his heliocentric model of the solar system was strongly opposed by religious authorities and he was ostracized for his beliefs. Seleucus of Seleucia was the only astronomer who agreed with him for quite some time. No one knows why Aristarchus believed the solar system is heliocentric because most his work (along with the works of many brilliant others) was destroyed in the burning of the Library of Alexandria. The only work of his that has survived is his book, On the Sizes and Distances of the Sun and Moon, which was written before he came to the conclusion that the solar system is heliocentric.
2.12 The Crusades and Science After the middle Ages
After the appearance of Jesus Christ in literature, very few individuals published scientific works for a long period. Religious (namely Christian) rule dominated the world and most “schools” were religious in nature as well. Many of the few scientific developments made during this period came from the Middle East where Roman Numerals were replaced by a decimal numeral system and algebra was invented. The only major scientific innovations from this time attributed to Europe were used for destruction, such as the invention of gunpowder and the cannon. Their focus was largely on destruction because of the ongoing religious wars, especially the Crusades.
The Crusades (1095 to 1291) were a series of religious wars fought by Roman Catholics from all over Europe mainly to regain control over Jerusalem, which was under Muslim control. An appeal by the Byzantine Emperor Alexius to Pope Urban II to help him resist Muslim invasions into Byzantine territory catalyzed the Crusades. Pope Urban II motivated many Christians to join the fight by offering them remission of their sins in exchange for their efforts in the war.3 The Pope also promised Crusaders material rewards, such as wealth, power, and land that belonged to the Turkish and Arab peoples. In the name of “God” and religion, the Crusaders massacred Muslims, destroyed mosques and villages, and killed many Jews and even some Christians under Muslim rule. Some even committed cannibalism in the Siege of Maarat of the First Crusade in 1098. Both pagan adults and children were eaten according to historian, Ralph of Caen who recruited for the crusade of 1107. Cannibalism was also recorded by Fulcher of Chartres, a priest who participated in the First Crusade.
After the First Crusade, the crusaders had regained control over the city of Antioch and Jerusalem. However, the Second Crusade ended in failure. The Third Crusade ended in a compromise that allowed Christians to visit the “Holy Land.” Constantinople was sacked in the Fourth Crusade. “Holy” Roman Emperor Frederick II made a ten-year peace treaty in 1229 with Ayyubid sultan, Al-Kamil, ruler of Egypt, which allowed Christians to rule over most of Jerusalem, but Jerusalem was sieged by Muslims in 1244 who regained control over the city. The fighting spread to Tunisia by the Eighth Crusade and final Ninth Crusade, both of which ended in failure.
Around the end of the Middle Ages, Copernicus (1473 –1543), a Polish astronomer, reintroduced Aristarchus’s heliocentric model of the solar system and published it anonymously since such works were considered heresy by the Catholic Church. His model used circular orbits, but it was rejected for 200 years until the telescope was invented by Galileo Galilei, (1564–1642).With the newly invented telescope, Johannes Kepler (1571 –1630) observed Jupiter and discovered it had many moons. This was direct, observable, and irrefutable evidence that every celestial object didn’t orbit Earth.
The use of the telescope also made many more stars visible, which made Kepler realize that there is much more to the universe than once thought. He also realized that the stars are much further away than they were believed to be, making stellar parallax unobservable from Earth without telescopic aid. Stellar parallax is caused by the Earth’s orbit around the sun, which changes our perspectives of the sky throughout the year and makes it appear as if the stars are moving. Our inability to see stellar parallax fueled much of the scientific argument against heliocentrism. Aristarchus was the first to suggest that the great distance of the stars is the responsible for our inability to observe stellar parallax without aid. Kepler wasn’t able to observe stellar parallax, but he did realize it would be possible with a more powerful telescope.4
Once Kepler modified Copernicus’s heliocentric model of the solar system slightly by changing the circular orbits to elliptical ones, his model matched the observed paths of the planets and their moons perfectly. (Most of this orbit data was gathered from Tycho Brae who owned a “naked-eye observatory” before the first telescope was invented.)
Many people at this time would not accept that the solar system isn’t geocentric (Earth centered) and that planets have oval orbits, even though there had been scientific evidence to support this for about 2000 years. Most humans wanted to be the most important beings in the observable world, so naturally they assumed humans are at its center and that there is nothing chaotic about the universe. The mere suggestions that the planetary orbits are oval and that the solar system is heliocentric were disturbing to many of the religious people of Kepler’s time. Religious persecution always impeded the progress and acceptance of these ideas.
Galileo was brought before a church acquisition in Rome and ordered to say the sun orbits the Earth. If he had refused, he would have been executed. For his beliefs he was forced to spend the last eight years of his life under house arrest. Even Kepler had difficulty accepting that the planets orbits are elliptical, even though he knew it was true and he was committed to science. When religious convictions become integral to our belief systems, they can become very hard to abandon, even when there is evidence showing us they are irrational.
Kepler formulated the first accurate laws of planetary motion, but he couldn’t identify the force that is responsible for planetary motion. He found that our solar system is heliocentric, the planets have elliptical orbits; and planets sweep out equal distances in equal times. He also believed the planets must orbit the sun because of the sun’s magnetic forces, an idea originally attributed to William Gilbert. It wasn’t until Isaac Newton (1642 –1726) introduced the universal law of gravitation that the planetary orbits were understood completely and could be predicted.
Newton claimed that gravitation makes every celestial object in the same vicinity attracted to each other, and that the strength of each attraction is dependent on the distance between them and their masses. The larger the objects and the closer they are in relation to each other, the stronger their gravitational attraction. Newton’s law of gravitation states that: “two bodies attract each other with a force that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.” Newton formulated precise mathematical equations that could predict the motion of celestial bodies based on their attraction towards each other. He also wrote three laws of motion (as Kepler did) that could predict the effects of gravity in space and on Earth.
Newton, Galileo, and Kepler reconnected the ‘heavens’ to the Earth in a metaphorical sense. They established that the same force that is responsible for the planetary orbits also keeps us from floating off of the Earth, and that the cosmos does live up to its Greek definition in a sense by confirming there is consistency and order in the universe.
As human understanding of science and the universe became more sophisticated and broader, God became smaller. Science hasn’t yet disproved the existence of God, however. Newton was very religious like many of his predecessors and contemporaries, and he believed that while God was not holding up the planets, he must have set them in motion at the beginning of time. He reasoned something or someone had to begin the universe, and a God that designed the universe with sensible, calculated laws was more comforting than a God who could do whatever he pleased, even to those who were very religious. Some people were also fed up with the hierarchy of the Church and even some very religious people embraced Newton’s conception of God, including orthodox preachers and Latitudinarians.5
Most of the Ancient Greek philosophers believed that the universe had no beginning and will have no end. It is comforting to believe the universe and life will exist forever. But life does currently have an inevitable end, and we know now there was a beginning or a birth of this universe, but we do not currently know what (if anything) preceded the Big Bang. Cosmogony is currently outside of the realm of science.
The Big Bang singularity had to exist for some period of time, and it had to come from somewhere, unless it was born spontaneously out of nothing along with time. It doesn’t seem likely that it came from nothing. “Nothingness” is also hard to define. There are atoms everywhere, even in the dark empty stretches of space, so if nothingness does exist or did, we will not likely observe it or be able to define it.
Theories that speculate another parallel universe or a universe in a different dimension is responsible for the presence of this universe only create more questions about those universes and their sources. But we know the universe had a beginning from observations of cosmic microwave background radiation, and it is certainly possible that one day we will discover the origins of the singularity.
Edwin Hubble was the first to prove the universe is expanding by analyzing the light spectrum of stars.6 As a light source pulls away from us, the wavelengths of the light get longer and the light appears to be a different color. (This is called the Doppler Effect.) Hubble noticed that all of the stars that are farthest away from us appear red because they are being pulled away from us.
When Hubble released his findings, there were very few people who were willing to accept that the universe is not static. Most of us still prefer comforting, unchanging ideas over scientific ones. However, while our universe is constantly changing, physical laws make the universe behave predictably and consistently, so science can be more grounding and comforting than religious convictions.
Even a brilliant scientist like Albert Einstein believed in God, though he was not religious. He also had a few erroneous convictions because they were of comfort to him. For example, he felt more comfortable believing the universe is static, even in the face of scientific evidence that disproved this. As a solution, he came up with a theory called the cosmological constant to add to his theory of relativity. This theory explains that the universe has an inherit tendency to expand, but that a force called anti-gravity cancels out this tendency, resulting in a static universe. But this theory was proven to be incorrect. When Hubble released his findings Einstein immediately retracted his theory of the cosmological constant, calling it the biggest blunder of his life and showing his dedication to science and truth over his comforting belief.
Gods were of comfort to humans for a long time, but the secular population is growing as people see the deception and manipulation of religious institutions and their dogma. Science can be more of a comfort now because it can tell us so much about our place in the universe. Instead of believing everything occurs due to the will of some elite, all-knowing being, or many of them who cannot be questioned, we can collectively control the fate of the world and our own lives by recognizing there is consistency and scientific laws that the universe obeys. We can give ourselves back control. We can live in a world in which right and wrong are open to interpretation. We can let go of our destructive behaviors and help others do the same, instead of mindlessly judging and punishing those we believe to be “evil.” The potential for this world is immense. But without freedom, collaboration, solidarity, justice, and resistance to all forms of tyranny, these tools of control will overcome us.
2.13 Religion’s Effect on Recent History in the Presence of Scientific Knowledge
By the latter part of the 20th century, humanity had come a long way from the Aristotelian theory that our Earth is at rest in the center of the universe. Not only did we learn that the Earth spins on its axis and orbits the sun, we learned that it moves with the rest of the Milky Way Galaxy and away from other solar systems in our galaxy as the universe expands. We also learned from the theory of relativity that absolute time and space don’t exist. Rather, time and space are connected and warped by gravity and speed. We also learned that objects appear to shorten when they are moving with respect to an observer, and that simultaneous events will not look simultaneous to someone who is moving. Despite how much was discovered, however, basic, scientific information is still not available everywhere. It is restricted to those who can afford it and seek it out. And some simply refuse to believe it. This contributes to a massive lack of understanding of science, as does religious, corporate, and political misinformation. The inspirational scientist, Carl Sagan, explained this problem beautifully in his book, The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark:
“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge — even to ourselves — that we’ve been so credulous.
Since World War II, Japan has spawned enormous numbers of new religions featuring the supernatural…. In Thailand, diseases are treated with pills manufactured from pulverized sacred Scripture. ‘Witches’ are today being burned in South Africa…. The worldwide TM [Transcendental Meditation] organization has an estimated valuation of $3 billion. For a fee, they promise to make you invisible, to enable you to fly.
When asked merely if they accept evolution, 45 percent of Americans say yes. The figure is 70 percent in China. When the movie Jurassic Park was shown in Israel, it was condemned by some Orthodox rabbis because it accepted evolution and because it taught that dinosaurs lived a hundred million years ago–when, as is plainly stated at every Rosh Hashanah and every Jewish wedding ceremony, the Universe is less than 6,000 years old.”7
Conservative, religious fundamentalist thinktanks like the Heartland Institute contribute heavily to humanity’s regression and ignorance of science. The Heartland Institute has worked with tobacco giant Phillip Morris (from which it received funding) to deny the health-risks of secondhand smoke and deny global climate change. They have received nearly $800,000 from ExxonMobil alone to peddle their anti-science, “climate skepticism” nonsense. Their own propaganda book Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming was sent by the Institute to all 200,000 K-12 science teachers in the entire country. Despite the fact that 97% of scientists agree climate change is man-made, their book asserts there is “deep disagreement among scientists” about climate change” and that the sun’s impact on climate change “could be equal to or greater than the effect of CO2 in the atmosphere. Melissa Hellman of Yes! Magazine reported in April 2017 that “Nationwide, teachers generally only spend an average of one to two hours teaching climate change in an academic year, according to a national survey of classroom science teachers conducted by researchers from Penn State University and the National Center for Science Education. The same survey found that only about 37 percent of teachers taught that burning fossil fuels primarily causes global warming, although that is the consensus among climate scientists.” This demonstrates most teachers in America are less focused on teaching evidence based information than they are on indoctrinating students.
Despite the many groundbreaking, scientific discoveries made in the 20th century, the religious population grew enormously over the century mainly due to widespread proselytization. (The 21st century, however, is seeing a small decrease in religious convictions, despite continued proselytization.) Even when individuals have access to stellar, peer-reviewed scientific information, many do not want to make the connection between science and their religion. Science has not told us there is an afterlife, and this may be the primary reason most people have held onto their religious convictions. The fear of death is very real and it motivates people to believe in anything they think could help. But science has not disproved the existence of an afterlife. Scientists have demonstrated that it is rather implausible. Bodies decompose, and consciousness only exists so long as we are alive. But this is no reason to believe science is inherently cynical or negative or to abandon science. Religious clergy usually know far less about reality, life, and death than the smartest scientists do because science is built on compiled evidence and testing and religion is not. (Scientists are often more moral too.)
It is not logical to assume one’s eternal fate will be determined by adherence to one religion or another. The whole concept of heaven and hell is also archaic. Life is not a test. Some people just take immoral actions because they have been pushed too far. They don’t deserve to be punished eternally when they have already been so punished in their lives. We ought to be moral because it is right, not because we believe we will be rewarded in an afterlife if we are or punished if we are not. Even if there is an afterlife or a heaven and hell, does that mean we should neglect the Earth we leave behind for future generations of humans and other animals, fungi, and plants? I do not believe so. Every day we make choices that affect future generations. If we say we don’t have to worry about our fellow human beings because all things happen for a reason and even future generations will be granted access to an afterlife, we will never change the world. We will continue to be ruled. It is best just to avoid obsessing about death and focus on living. Every day can be used for something meaningful, gratifying, and helpful to others.
Another scientific theory that is continually ignored by the religious is evolution. In fact, most of the world still believes in creationist myths. In a 2014 Gallup poll, a shocking 42% of the Americans polled said they believe God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago. 31% said they believe humans evolved but that God “guided” the process, and only 19% polled believe humans evolved without the assistance of God. 8 However, most people in Western countries aside from America believe in evolution. The majority of people in Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, France, Japan, the UK, Norway, Belgium, Spain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Hungary, Luxembourg, Ireland, Slovenia, and Finland all believe in evolution.9 Some religious individuals believe the world is so young because biblical scholars have added up the ages of everyone in Genesis to calculate the time of “creation.” Most biblical literalists believe the universe is between 4000 and 10,000 years old. (The most common estimate is 6000 years.) These estimates are made from various religious texts. However, there are more scientific ways to prove that the Earth is billions of years old than are worth even listing like carbon dating stone, fossils, and other material.
In another survey conducted in 1999 by a fundamentalist Christian agency called Focus on the Family, only one percent of the Christians polled said they believe life evolved on its own, and 43% said they believe God created the universe a few thousand years ago. 46% of those polled were not sure when God created the universe. As stated, science does not rule out the possibility that the universe was designed by a creator, and it may never do so. But if a God did design the universe then we at least know that is all God did.
The evidence for evolution is virtually endless, and it can be very dangerous to reject science when almost everything in the world only functions because of our understanding of science. It is also dangerous to believe God can affect our world in any way God pleases. Scientific realities affect everyone, regardless of our personal beliefs. In a similar way, we are greatly affected by our religious convictions whether they are right or wrong, because they still exist either way.
I believe the reason there has been such a small, but rapid decline in the religious population over the past decade is that scientists have never able to explain so much. As stated there was empirical evidence to support heliocentrism and the existence of elliptical, planetary orbits about 2000 years before the majority finally accepted these ideas about 300 years ago largely because of the power of the Churches and rulers who upheld these ideas. The secular (agnostic, atheist, unaffiliated, etc.) population will likely continue to grow as long as we fight for free speech and try to make information and education freely available for everyone without censorship.
2.14 Scientific Knowledge, Copyright Laws, and Their Effect on the Spread of Power
Humanity’s incredible advances in scientific knowledge in recent history have certainly brought us much good. But there is also a downside to this knowledge, which is that it is often contained by the rich and for the rich. Knowledge is power and when information and education are only allowed to reach the minds of upper-class citizens, this creates great danger, because they often use this information to acquire more power and centralize it further among the rich. Scientific knowledge can be just as dangerous as religious mythology for this reason. The rich withhold this information from the general public primarily via intellectual property right laws and copyright laws, which are the glue holding together capitalist, hegemonic, imperialist societies. They undermine those who most need life-saving information: those who can’t afford it.
Ivy League institutions like MIT guard their studies and information from the poor, but students can change that if they circumvent copyright law and intellectual copyrights and freely (and anonymously to prevent being punished) distribute the information they are being taught along with their textbooks. I believe publishing every book, song, and piece of art relevant to human and ecological rights for free is essential to establish human and ecological equity and freedom. Something can’t be stolen that belongs to everyone, unless one tries to keep it from everyone else via private ownership. Authors, artists, and inventors ought to always be acknowledged for their works and no one should pretend to have authored something they didn’t produce, especially for the purpose of making a profit, but life-saving information always needs to be accessible to everyone.
Right now how much one knows is usually a reflection of two factors: how much access the person has had to scientific information and how much desire that person has had to absorb and understand that information. We may have to rethink our definition of intelligence because of this. Unfortunately, many people who have been granted access to institutes with a wealth of information feel more important than those who haven’t. But most formally uneducated people simply lack the access to information and education, even though they have great will to learn. Highly educated people are rarely special or important. Many were just fortunate enough to have been able to afford great access to information, but what we do with this information is most important.
Most autocratic rulers inherit special knowledge, and this knowledge gives them the ability to both mentally and physically control people. The wealthiest people are often fostered in the most prestigious schools so that they can become politicians, judges, lawyers, CEOs, or assume other positions of power to maintain the status quo. Unwilling geniuses are often manipulated by governments to use their knowledge to create monopolies. Smart engineers, for example, can get pushed into the weapons technology sector by large weapons manufacturers and artists who find themselves struggling financially are sometimes encouraged to “get a real job” and join the workforce that benefits the very rich. Albert Einstein wrote a letter encouraging the government to do more research on nuclear fission as a source of energy, but the unwanted result was the development and widespread proliferation of nuclear weapons. So even Einstein was used by the powers that be.
Knowledge is often used by the institutions that control us to gain social and economic control. Indoctrination, propaganda, disinformation, censorship, and intellectual copyright laws are all mechanisms that help maintain undemocratic governments and workplaces. Socially useful forms of information like research on medical science, plant science, biochemistry, climate science, agroforestry, Earth science, and all forms of information that help sustain Earth and life have been kept from cultures that live more simply and suffer without them to benefit of those who profit from environmentally destructive business. They make “modernization” about their own economic and cultural dominance and narrow, capitalist lifestyles.
A country doesn’t have to be capitalist or even contribute to the world economy to have basic forms of information that sustain life there. From all that history tells us, there is no evidence to demonstrate governments developed out of necessity. Organized, brutal, tyrannical governments only developed where people discovered how to implement natural resources to make the most efficient instruments of production, destruction, and transportation and where large organized religions developed almost simultaneously. Most cultures that haven’t pursued advanced technology, especially the destructive kind, don’t have brutal governments or violent religions. Most of the few that have been left alone by imperial powers are generally far more ethical and their (usually tribal) religions are far more benign.
Centralized, authoritative governments only supposedly became “necessary” where technology and “knowledge” were greatest. But the politicians and rulers who were supposed to protect humanity against the threat of certain forms of knowledge and technology only made this threat greater by building weapons and pursuing destructive technology, instead of spreading the most socially and environmentally useful information freely, resulting in extremely unequal socioeconomic conditions.
Empires fueled by religion and greed drove most wars. The Egyptian Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, the Spanish Empire, the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonian Empire, the Roman Empire, the British Empire, and the Ottoman Empire and most others were born primarily out of religious extremism and greed. The very idea of creating an empire is misanthropic because it assumes that a few people ought to be much more powerful and wealthy than the rest of the world. It is true that some of the most impressive structures humans have built in history were created largely due to the ability of leaders to organize and control people, but this, of course, doesn’t mean they were right in doing so. We could have produced the same structures without tyrannical leaders through peaceful collaboration. The Egyptian pyramids are impressive, but they are just stacks of stone, and the suffering that the builders endured ought to be considered more significant than the pyramids themselves.
The spread of power is often called colonialism. This word is occasionally used interchangeably with imperialism, but these two words have very different origins and they do mean different things. The next section will explain exactly what the difference is between them. It will then discuss their history and how the invention of corporations and electronic media contributed to the spread of modern imperialism.
1 Tassoul, Jean-Louis & Monique: A Concise History of Solar and Stellar Physics. 2004. Print.
2 Tassoul, Jean-Louis & Monique: A Concise History of Solar and Stellar Physics. 2004. Print.
3 Bull “Origins” Oxford History of the Crusades. pp. 32-34. Print.
4 The first successful observations of stellar parallax were made by Friedrich Bessel in 1838. He measured the parallax of a distant star (about 11 light years away) known as 61 Cygni. He was able to measure stellar parallax because telescopic technology had vastly improved by this time. Even though we had more than enough evidence by then to prove our solar system was heliocentric and we knew why we didn’t see stellar parallax, it was an important observation nonetheless.
5Jacob, Margaret C.: The Newtonians and the English Revolution, 1689-1720. 1976. Print.
6White light consists of waves of many different lengths. Different wavelengths of light appear as different colors. If you shine sunlight through a prism (a pyramid shaped piece of glass) the light will split into its component colors. These colors are called the color spectrum. The longest wavelengths of visible light appear red.
7 Sagan, Carl: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Pg. 325. Print.
8 Newport, Frank: In US, 42% Believe Creationist View of Human Origins. Gallup, June 2nd 2014.
9 John Miller, et. al. “Public Acceptance of Evolution” Science Magazine. Volume 313, 2006. <<https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6885439_Public_Acceptance_of_Evolution>>