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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Fourth place — High school essay contest: Adam Pierce

Adam Pierce

The strength of science is in change

FFRF awarded Adam $2,000.

By Adam Pierce 

Both religion and science require one to defer to those with more knowledge about the world. I, for instance, do not have a working knowledge of orbital dynamics. However, I still know that the Earth revolves around the sun, not the other way around. Because of this, it is often argued that science and religion have the same epistemological validity. Both require “faith,” so why should one be trusted over the other? The answer is quite simple. Science is worthy of deference. Religion is not. 

A quote from the physicist Richard Feynman sums up the rationality behind this statement quite well: “Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.” Religion claims it has all the answers. Science knows it does not. It is this constant pursuit of self-correction and change in science that leads to true progress. When we blindly have faith in any ideas, progress halts. 

The quintessential example of religious faith stopping science is Galileo Galilei’s house arrest by the Roman Catholic Inquisition when he began supporting heliocentrism (the Earth revolves around the sun) instead of the geocentrist views supported by the church (the sun revolves around the Earth). Religious faith is an unreliable way to understand the world, as it is resistant to change, and correction. Galileo was officially prosecuted by the church in 1616. It was not until 1835 that the book in which Galileo promoted heliocentrism was unbanned by the church. 

Science freely admits that it does not have all the answers. This is why it should be trusted over faith. Science has room to grow, room to correct itself, and room to be further proven by the brightest minds of the world. Religion, on the other hand, often views any contradiction to its beliefs as an affront to its very nature. This is not conducive to any sort of system that can produce truths about the world. 

Religion can have value in providing a unifying spirituality to communities. But when religion is extended to anything other than one’s personal spirituality, problems occur. When societies rely on religion rather than science to guide them, wars occur, progress is stalled, people are oppressed, and diversity is undermined. Faith cannot adapt, so conflicts occur. Science, meanwhile, is based on change, and questioning, and doubt. It can be proven false to allow for new theories, it can provide meaningful and current analysis to guide society, and it can give accurate ways to predict the natural world. Science’s strength is religion’s downfall: the ability to adapt. 

Adam, 18, is from Camillus, N.Y., and attends the University of California-Berkeley. “In high school, I was an activist, advocating for increased staff diversity, increased anti-racist professional development, more districtwide support for students of color, and more,” Adam writes. “I was the salutatorian of my class, a member of the National Honor Society and the Spanish Honor Society, an AP Scholar with Distinction and the concertmaster of my high school’s symphony.”