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Third place (tie) — High school essay contest: Elizabeth Getty

Elizabeth Getty

Truth and consequences

FFRF awarded Elizabeth $2,500.

By Elizabeth Getty

Truth. The desire for a universal truth, the yearning for answers to the unknown is a deeply human affliction, and people have found different ways to satisfy this gnawing hunger. 

I, for one, subscribe to science, as it has provided me not only with rational explanations to my queries, but also peace of mind, since the doctrines of science are universal and adaptable, unlike the strict, autocratic tenets of religion. 

We need only look to the Scientific Revolution to see the intellectually stifling nature of religion. At the forefront of scientific discovery and innovation was Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, who, with his letters on “the little creatures,” became known as the “father of microbiology.” His discovery of bacteria and protozoa was not accepted during his lifetime due to existing religious beliefs on the origins of microbes. Credence was given to the idea that disease was caused not by these unviewable specks, but by God’s wrath following sinful activities. 

Thus, Leeuwenhoek’s incredibly important discovery was dismissed, and it would take centuries for his work to be praised. If this scientific breakthrough had been lauded appropriately during the late 17th century, we likely would have seen further developments in the study of germ theory, with great benefits to humankind, like the earlier implementation of sterilization and bacterial vaccination. But religion stood in the way. 

The Catholic Church desired to remain in power, and that meant the defenestration of potential threats, one of the biggest threats to religious sanctity being the emergence of scientific pioneers. 

Rhazes (854-925 AD) was among the first to question the Church’s teachings and suffer the consequences. Persecuted and beaten to blindness for his medical teachings, Rhazes died disreputable and penniless. Similar abuse would be inflicted upon other scientists, including Ibn Zuhr, Andreas Vesalius and Michael Servetus. History is oftentimes cyclical, and there have been many instances of scientific discoveries being spurned by religious officials to keep the status quo. But I believe that in the modern world, power should be vested in the hands of those who have proven themselves time and time again — the scientists. 

From the discovery of bacteria to the shift from geocentricity to heliocentricity, the hard work of researchers has provided veracity in a world filled with unanswered questions. If we are to progress as a society, we need to put our trust in science, not the people that have violated their own commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” in order to silence the truth. 

Elizabeth, 18, is from Minneapolis and attends the University of Minnesota. Elizabeth intends on pursuing a double major in history and political science before moving on to law school. Among her many hobbies are playing the cello, cycling with her dog, and rock climbing.