Sunday, December 13, 2009

Three Misconceptions

Over my many years observing the atheist vs. theist debates on the internet and on television, I have heard many statements involving misconceptions about either scientific theories or about atheists themselves.

1. “Atheists believe in nothing.”

Atheists believe in nothing supernatural, and still look at the world with a sense of wonder, still experience love and emotions, still have ethics, and still strongly believe that the universe and the life in it has value. Atheists are real people, and the phrase “atheists believe in nothing” treats them like they are inhuman scoundrels. There is a different term for believing in nothing, and it is called nihilism.

If you think that disbelief in the supernatural makes the world worthless, you are essentially saying that the world, in and of itself, is not good enough. You believe that it needs something more; you cannot be happy with it as it is. If this is what you believe, then I think you are taking it all for granted. As an inhabitant of this planet, you really have a lot to be thankful for.

2. “Atheists think that everything came from nothing.”

This statement stems from a misconception of the big bang theory. If you look at the trajectories of all the galaxies in the universe, then rewind time, everything was in the same miniscule point 14 billion years ago. No one knows what happened before that. Anything mentioned before that point is pure speculation. Also, the big bang was not an explosion of matter in an already-existing infinite space. It was an expansion of the universe (matter, space, and time), as if the entire universe were an inflating balloon.

3. “I didn’t come from a monkey!”

Evolutionary biologists agree! Humans did not descend from apes, but instead are related to them, like distant cousins. Humans and apes are modern animals, and share a common ancestor from millions of years ago, an ancestor that was neither human nor ape. This one species diverged into two separate lines, one leading to the apes of today, and one leading to humans.

- Evan

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