Science And Religion In The Late 1800s Sociology Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Charles Darwin challenged the creation story that is depicted by the Genesis book of the Bible. Darwin challenged creation because he believed that all evidence of life on earth could be proven by natural selection. Darwin challenged religion arguing that the development of life on earth was not caused by a creator, but that living things evolved over time to adapt to new environments. Darwin based his arguments on the variations seen within species. Some of these variations are better suited to survive as opposed to the other variations. Natural selection therefore favors the well evolved and stronger variation and gets rid of the injurious and weaker variation. With this mechanism of survival of the fittest, the variations within a species turn out to become permanent and independent species.

Charles Darwin pointed out that this process of natural selection takes time. Over this long time, the new species that has evolved is more specialized in both its physical structure and habits. The new species is better adapted than its earlier ancestors. Darwin admitted that he once entertained the notion of a creator. However, Darwin changed his mind after deliberately and objectively studying natural selection. Darwin admitted that natural selection is by no means the only way by which life on earth has modified, but is it the main contributor. According to Darwin, the view that species were created independent of each other is a wrong (Darwin, 14). In contrast, species of the same genera are dependent on either their extinct ancestors or a closely related species.

Darwin illustrated that a bear that catches fish by swimming in water with its mouth open the entire time would adapt and become more aquatic. For instance, the bear would develop a bigger mouth. The bear's habits and structures would evolve until a creature as big as a whale was produced (Darwin 170). Darwin pointed out that if a creator did in fact make all living things, the creator would have to use intellectual powers similar to those of man (Darwin 173). Darwin stated that the creator would have to watch every small accidental alteration in the species. The creator would then have to preserve the alterations until a better alteration was produced. Then the creator would have to decide which alterations to keep and which to destroy. Darwin commented that if such a creator would be shown to exist, his theory of natural selection would break down.

Darwin challenged the creation theory when discussing variation within genera. In a group containing many species, one would find several variations of the species. In contrast, a group containing fewer species would have just a few variations of species. Darwin argued that if indeed creation was responsible for life, there is no way to explain why larger varieties are present in the group with more species. Furthermore, Darwin went on to classify the plants and animals with similar traits into groups. Darwin argued that if species were independently created, there would be no classes of the plants and animals. Darwin attributes the classification of the organic beings to the process of natural selection (Darwin 121).

Karl Marx

According to Karl Marx, religion was a false consciousness that helped the capitalists to gain social and economic control. For instance, exploited human workers provided the motive power for turning the cranks of mills. These human workers were serfs, the lowest level of laborers (Eldred 37). These serfs worked for feudal lords who were wealthy German Christian philanthropists. As much as the serfs were not slaves, they were not allowed to leave the land. The serfs worked under inhuman conditions for these Christians. The serfs provided the motive power for the machines that ground floor. While working, the serfs had wooden boards fastened around their necks. The boards were meant to inhibit the serfs' capability to put the flour they were grinding in their mouths.

In Marx's understanding, Christianity and capitalism have a high affinity for each other. Karl Marx reacted to the behavior of the Christian philanthropists by quoting Moses of the Bible, who said that a muzzle should not be tied around an ox's mouth as it treads out the grain (Marx 496). Therefore, Marx showed that the laborers deserved to eat, drink and rest without being taken advantage of. Despite Moses being a key figure in the Bible, the Christian philanthropists did not abide by his teachings. Marx believed that religion was caused by inhuman class conditions among the working class in the society. Marx argued that the working class alienated itself on the basis of its poor economic and social level. The same religion kept the working class from realizing that they were being exploited.

Machinery was created that could save the capitalists the money they would use on wages. As a result, human workers had to compete with the machines (Marx 500). The capitalists benefited from this because the price of labor went down. Karl Marx disputed the source of religion, claiming that religion was made by man. Marx was an atheist, believing that there is no true reality attached to the human existence. Marx argued that religion was a social function that is used by the powerful capitalists to oppress the working class. Marx believed that religion was two sided. On one hand, if man had the right interpretation of religion, then his human existence was not alienated. On the other hand, religious illusions caused life to be worthless, unsatisfying and alienated. The process of production caused man to lose himself. Therefore man resulted to religious illusions for comfort and consolation (Musto 41).

According to Marx, the only process that can free man from the misery brought along by religion is economic transformation. Marx argued that only material things can free man from the ideology brought by religion. Karl Marx made methodological reflections that hugely suggest his understanding that religion is both historical and materialistic. Marx incorporated this historical and materialistic religious phenomenon with the social emergence of real concepts (Marx 494). Marx's critique of religion was vigorous and undeterred. He did not give religion any fundamental autonomy. He opposed the complacent reduction of religion by the state, the capitalists and workers into a secular notion. This criticism of religion was mainly associated with the social and economic conditions. Marx did not at any time regard to religion as a result brought about by man's fear of his finite nature or the projection into other worldliness.