18 Long-Held Religious Beliefs That Science Has Tried to Challenge

SharePinEmailScience and religion are no strangers to being at odds with one another. It doesn’t help when scientific discoveries challenge long-held religious beliefs that people have firmly embraced for years on end. Despite eye-opening, mind-bending evidence to the contrary, many people continue to hold onto these beliefs and refuse to shift from their position. For…

Science and religion are no strangers to being at odds with one another. It doesn’t help when scientific discoveries challenge long-held religious beliefs that people have firmly embraced for years on end. Despite eye-opening, mind-bending evidence to the contrary, many people continue to hold onto these beliefs and refuse to shift from their position. For some, no amount of evidence is enough to throw them off their religious trajectory.

The Earth is Flat

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A few years ago, the world was sent into a tailspin with newfound theories of the world being flat. Despite overwhelming evidence and the advent of space travel that undeniably proves the roundness of the globe, some people still believe in a flat Earth. Ancient religious texts often described the Earth as flat, so there’s no budging them despite a million photographs proving otherwise.

Humans Lived Amongst Dinosaurs

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Certain religious texts outline stories of humans and dinosaurs walking the Earth together. Archaeologists have proven that the last of the dinosaurs died out over 60 million years ago which is long before the earliest species of human evolved. It’s a good thing; we’ve seen how Jurassic Park played out.

Creationism

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The belief that the Earth and all life on it were created in six days is still held by many religious groups. That every organism we see today is the same as God created thousands of years ago is a push, but still believed by many. Scientific evidence supports the theory of evolution and an Earth that’s approximately 4.5 billion years old. It’s still not enough for Creationists.

Geocentrism

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Copernicus and Galileo debunked the idea that the Earth was the center of the universe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Modern astronomy confirms that Earth orbits the Sun, just one star in a vast galaxy. Catholics refuse to accept this theory, determined to hold onto the Earth’s powerful impact in its central position within the solar system.

The Great Flood

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Many cultures have flood myths, the most famous being Noah’s Ark. It’s a great story, even if not entirely believable. Geological and archaeological evidence shows that while regional floods have occurred, there is no evidence of a global flood covering the entire Earth. It still made for a great movie, however.

Miraculous Healing

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Some believe that prayer alone can heal serious illnesses, and that ranges from religious types and spiritualists to witch doctors. While the placebo effect is real, modern medicine, supported by scientific research, proves to be far more effective in treating diseases and injuries. In turn, many modern alternative medicine or healing practitioners refer to their therapies as a complementary treatment and not to be used as a replacement for more traditional routes.  

The Age of the Earth

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Bishop James Ussher calculated that the Earth was created in 4004 BCE, a belief still held by some. Radiometric dating and intricate examinations of rocks in the Earth’s ever-changing crust show the Earth is billions of years old, much older than a few thousand years. It’s more likely to be 4.54 billion years old as estimated by scientists.

Astrology

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The belief that the positions of celestial bodies influence human events is still popular. However, scientific studies consistently show that astrology has no basis in empirical evidence or predictive power. Spiritualists argue that modern horoscopes are designed to appeal to mass audiences and have been devalued, hence the new findings. There might still be a Mercury in retrograde after all.

Alchemy

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Medieval alchemists believed they could turn base metals into gold and find the elixir of life. Modern chemistry has shown that these transformations are not possible, and alchemy is considered a pseudoscience. There is no way of proving that such historical events occurred, making empirical evidence an impossibility, but divine spiritualists wholly embrace their beliefs.

Demon Possession

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In some cultures, mental illness and epilepsy are still attributed to demon possession, with exorcisms still widely carried out. Science has proved these conditions have biological causes and can be treated with medicine and therapy. The human mind is powerful, and the power of suggestion can go to great lengths in convincing an unwell individual that they’re possessed.

Faith Healing

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Faith healers claim to cure ailments through divine intervention. Scientific studies have repeatedly shown that faith healing lacks evidence and is no substitute for medical treatment. Modern reiki masters, whilst acknowledging the lack of scientific evidence to support their work, claim that hands-on reiki can reduce stress, anxiety, and minor ailments. How much of this healing is a placebo effect remains unknown.

Human-Animal Hybrids

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Myths of centaurs, mermaids, and other hybrids persist in folklore. Genetic science shows that humans and animals cannot hybridize in the ways described in these myths. The fact that humans are unable to breed with chimpanzees who share many of our DNA traits should be an example enough.

Young Universe

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Some religious beliefs hold that the universe is only a few thousand years old. The Big Bang theory and astronomical observations show that the universe is about 13.8 billion years old. Scientists are continuing to study a cosmic paradox that could add further layers to the Young Universe story, but it seems likely that affirmed findings will remain.

Immovable Earth

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Some religious texts describe Earth as fixed and immovable, the Bible being one of them. Modern science shows that Earth is in constant motion, orbiting the Sun and rotating on its axis. Religious populations refuse to accept alternative theories, firmly invested in early belief systems.

Vitalism

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The belief that living organisms are fundamentally different from non-living entities because they possess a life force has been debunked. Many continue to believe that vitality is far removed from the sum of our parts and we possess an additional life force. Biology shows that the same physical and chemical laws apply to all matter.

Biblical Giants

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Stories of giants like Goliath exist in many cultures. The Bible frequently mentions the presence of giants roaming the Earth before The Great Flood. While overly tall individuals do exist due to pituitary gland abnormalities and genetics, there is no evidence of a race of giants. Human growth is limited by biological and environmental factors.

Spontaneous Generation

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A belief that life can arise from non-living matter spontaneously was debunked by Louis Pasteur. Apostles’ early experiments and theories based on a belief that maggots could arise from rotting meat were later debunked and shown to be fake. Modern biology supports biogenesis, the principle that life arises from pre-existing life.

Sacred Geometry

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From The Seed of Life to The 64 Tetrahedron, the idea that certain geometric shapes have mystical significance is an ancient belief. While geometry is fundamental in math and science, no evidence supports the notion that shapes hold supernatural powers despite their appearance in nature.

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