I saw a tweet today from @DiscoveryCSC regarding thisarticle. The tweet said it would be nice if there was a list of myths most scientists believe.
Ask, and you shall receive.
With no further ado, Reboot Christianity’s 10 myths scientists believe:
Copernicus invented the heliocentric model and was punished by Christians: This is just wrong all the way around. First of all, Copernicus was a Christian himself—a Catholic priest. He was urged to publish by his bishop. We know for a fact he was never punished because he was already dead before he published. Oh and it wasn’t his idea, either: Greek philosopher Aristotle considered the heliocentric system centuries earlier, but rejected it because it would predict stellar parallax and he could not observe this. (Aristotle was right, by the way: stellar parallax would later be observed as technology improved.) So Copernicus did not invent the heliocentric model, he was just the first to make it mathematically plausible. And in no way can anyone say he was punished for it.
Galileo’s brilliant theory resulted in his torture by the Catholics: Again, not even close. First of all, Galileo was himself a Catholic and many of his theories were based not on science, but on interpretations of Scripture and Catholic thinkers like Thomas Aquinas. Secondly, Galileo’s theories were widely acclaimed by the Pope (who was an old friend before becoming Pope) as well as many others. It was the secular professors—not the Christian ones—who disliked his theories. Why? Because he actually had no proof of most of them. He was on the right track in general, but could not provide evidence for many of his theories, and his popularity in spite of this fact was irritating. He was never tortured, never beaten, never burned, etc. For twenty-one years he was a darling of the Pope and Catholicism, until eventually publishing a story in which he put common arguments of the Pope in the mouth of a character called “The Fool.” That resulted in a house arrest, but even then he was allowed to continue his work. He actually used this time to write his magna opus, which he was allowed to publish.
Ernest Haeckel’s embryo drawings: Every evolutionary biology textbook reproduces Haeckel’s drawings of embryonic development. It is an icon of evolutionary teaching. Haeckel proposed that at various stages of development the embryo looked like its evolutionary ancestors. He produced a series of drawings which were very detailed and certainly seemed to show this. There is only one problem: it isn’t true. Depending on how harsh the critic, Haeckel either exaggerated or outright faked all of his drawings. He omitted things which didn’t agree with his theory, added things that did, and generally fudging the data. Embryologist Wilhelm His went as far as to say, “[he has] relinquished the right to count as an equal in the company of serious researchers.” Science magazine in 1997 said that it was, “one of the most famous fakes in biology.” Yet if you grab a high school biology textbook today, chances are you will see his drawings reproduced within it, and his theories presented without the following controversy.
Most Christians believe the earth is 6,000 years old: Okay, this one is only partially a myth—because many Christians do believe exactly that. However, the National Science Board has been conducting polls on continental drift since the 1980s, and consistently find that 80% of Americans firmly believe that the continents have drifted apart over millions of years, 10% are unsure, and 10% firmly reject it. How then do pollsters like Gallup find such a high percent of Young Earth Creationism? Well, it’s all in how you word it. The question generally asked is something like, “Do you accept the Biblical account of creation as literally true?” then almost every Christian will say, “Yes.” But some do not think that the Bible literally interpreted indicates a young earth. Most Old Earth Creationists also consider themselves Biblical literalists—they simply have a different interpretive method. But the National Science Board polls seem to indicate that no more than 10% of the population is convinced that the earth is definitely young—so obviously, this is not “most” Christians.
The Big Bang Theory is anti-Christian: Quite the opposite, in fact. The Big Bang model was hated by most scientists when it was developed. It was developed by a Catholic priest, Georges Lemaitre, and he was often accused by his scholarly enemies of trying to bend the facts to be pro-Genesis. Beforehand, most cosmologists and evolutionists believed in the Steady State Model, which argued that the universe was not expanding, was steady state for eternity and (therefore) there was no creation event. As Nobel prize winning physicist Arno Penzias once said, “The best data we have [on the Big Bang model] are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.”
Until recently people believed the Earth was flat: It is completely false that the Scientific Revolution in the Middle Ages of Europe (and Columbus’ trip) proved the Earth not to be flat. In fact, very few scholars believed in a flat Earth even by the time of Jesus. The spherical Earth was shown at least by the time of Pythagoras (6th century BC), was clearly taught by Aristotle (c.330 BC), the size of the Earth’s circumference was calculated by Erastosthenes (c. 240 BC), and by the time of Christ Pliny the Elder stated that everyone in the world agreed on the round shape of the Earth. Christian writers such as Augustine clearly discuss the widespread view of a spherical Earth.
The Library of Alexandria was burned by Christians and set science back years: The Library was burned on several occasions. When Julius Caesar was being attacked in 48 BC, he set fire to his ships and it burned a huge section of the library down (ancient sources say it was basically completely destroyed). A smaller section of the library survived until 270-275 AD, when Emperor Auerlian was invading and the fighting damaged most of the remaining works. Both events preceded the large-scale spread of Christianity into the Roman Empire.
Giordano Bruno expanded Copernicus’ theory and was killed for it: I had not heard this one until it popped up on Cosmos a few weeks back. Bruno argued publicly that the Sun was just another star in an infinite universe, saying to those who disagreed, “Your God is too small!” He was killed by the Church for these beliefs. Well…hold on that quaint little story, Cosmos. You left a few details out. First of all, Bruno did not come to this conclusion based on any evidence or science…it came to him as a vision, not as a scientific inquiry. He was killed by the Catholic Church, this is (sadly) true: but not due to his scientific beliefs. In fact, Copernicus’ theories at this time were not considered heretical at all. No, Bruno got on the wrong side of Catholicism for the following reasons: he said Jesus played a trick on everyone and was not God; denied the Virgin Birth; denied the Catholic faith; claimed that there were other worlds that lasted for eternity (no creation); practiced astrology; and taught reincarnation. As a Catholic monk. So you can see why they might have some problem with one of their own teaching that the entire faith was false; and while they certainly were wrong in their reaction, they couldn’t have cared less about his scientific viewpoints.
Stanley Miller proved that life could form spontaneously: The Miller-Urey experiments of 1953 have long been held up as proof that life can spontaneously form in the early Earth’s history. They created a simulation of the early atmosphere of the Earth, subjected it to electrical sparks, and then extracted amino acids to demonstrate that the building blocks of life could have formed spontaneously. There are only a few problems with this nice story: (1) their experiment wasn’t based on the correct atmospheric composition (they had to leave out oxygen and nitrogen to make it work, even though those are major atmospheric components in the early earth); (2) the amount of yield produced was miniscule (only one molecule per 10,000 liters of raw material, not nearly enough yield to allow the proteins to come in contact); (3) no left-handed amino acids were able to be created, even though those are the ones important for life; and (4) the instability of the atmosphere would immediately destroy the few acids produced so they had to cease the experiment and “cold trap” the amino acids…the environment wouldn’t allow them to continue. So basically, this famous experiment proves almost nothing; it was cleverly set up, but all it really shows is that if you have an atmosphere alien to Earth, you can in some situations create an exceptionally small amount of material that is useless for building life forms. Not all that encouraging.
The useless appendix (and other vestigial organs): Most scientists accept that the body is full of vestigial organs—organs which had uses in prior evolutionary forms but not in our modern bodies as humans. They are just “left overs”. The appendix is the most famous; frequently doctors speak of removing them because they can only do harm, “they provide no real purpose anymore.” However, now we know that the appendix plays a critical part of the immune system in the fetus, infant, and toddler years—so while it may be harmless to remove from a child or teenager, that does not mean it served “no purpose” at a younger age. Likewise, other organs considered at one time to be vestigial have been found to be important: tonsils help protect the pharynx, the pineal gland secretes a hormone that regulates circadian rhythm, the thymus is an important part of the immune system (one attacked by HIV). All of these have at one time been called “vestigial” or useless organs. The reality is that just because you don’t know yet why an organ is there doesn’t make it useless! And likewise, just because you can survive without it doesn’t make it useless: you can amputate an arm and still survive, but that doesn’t mean the arm was a purposeless byproduct of evolutionary randomness.