Challenges to religious belief started around the time of the renaissance, before this the Church had almost complete control over people’s views, although criticisms were present. Since the only literate people were generally monks or priests for a considerable amount of time, challenges to religion were dismissed. However gradually times changed and with them so did attitudes. Although there were other arguments of a more philosophical and theological nature beforehand Galileo’s idea of heliocentricity was one of the first arguments to challenge religion in a way it had never been challenged before; scientifically. The idea that our world was the centre of the universe that is to say the geocentric view had been held since the time of Aristotle. This idea implies that the world is not the most important thing, just another component in the vast universe; this was the beginning of science opposing religious ideas.
Presently there are many challenges to the existence of a creator specifically the Judeo Christian God who is responsible for the account of the creation of the world in Genesis. One of the major arguments against Genesis is Darwin’s theory of evolution. It says that contrary to the story of Genesis, humans evolved from apes and were not made, as we are now, on the 6th day of creation. Christians react very differently to this theory. Some choose to ignore it completely arguing that science can make mistakes and evolution is still only a theory. They might say that if God is all powerful, nothing is impossible and we cannot see the bigger picture. Other Christians present theories such as irreducible complexity and intelligent design; these are usually more liberal Christians. Some might say that the two ideas can be united saying that one asks how while the other, religion, asks why.
On the matter of Creation itself there are many controversies. A young earth creationist would believe that the account of Genesis is completely true and that the earth is between 6000 to 10,000 years old. They would dismiss any scientific ideas perhaps saying that they can’t disprove God or maybe choosing to remain ignorant of scientific theories. If a scientist challenged this view using fossils as evidence, a young earth creationist may argue that God had put them there deliberately to test our faith.
Some Christians and religious believers would say that we are not supposed to know everything because we wouldn’t understand and its part of God’s plan, they might say that if God had intended us to know then he would have included it in the Bible or the Holy Scripture belonging to the believer.
Religious believers that belong to Islam methodically reject Darwin’s theory of evolution and often refuse to discuss it. However Koran has a similar creation story to the Bible and therefore the same problem of days. Many Muslims claim this is figurative and that days is supposed to mean period of time and therefore wriggle out of one of the challenges to their belief.
Earlier while talking about evolution intelligent design and irreducible complexity were mentioned. These are popular responses by more liberal Christians to problems created by science. Intelligent design is a modern extension of the teleological argument; it argues that processes such as evolution are best explained by an intelligent cause and not just a random occurrence of mutations. It is therefore quite a popular compromise for Christians, it doesn’t contradict science and seems to unite the two; science is true but God made it happen.
Irreducible complexity is an idea by Michael Behe, an American biochemist. He says that certain organisms are irreducibly complex that is to say that if you follow the evolutionary chain back far enough, you come to a point where it cannot be broken down anymore, the whole thing, however simple, has to exist simultaneously. Behe uses the example of a mousetrap saying that without any one part it could not function. Behe is widely criticised and slated by scientist because he is filling gaps in scientific theory with God using little or no concrete evidence, some say he has created a “God of the gaps.”
Some more liberal Christians often present the Yom argument in the discussion of creation. The word day is used in Genesis but it was translated from the Hebrew word “Yom” which means any period of time from 24 hours to an indefinite span of time. Science clearly says that the entire universe was not made in an earthly week, using Yom as a period of time means that Genesis no longer has to say that the universe was made in a week, more just 6 stages. This can end the conflict of timescale to a certain extent.