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Widely-accepted scientific theories which were once controversial

by Raul Buman

Science seeks to resolve questions regarding the natural world and universe by systematically testing and measuring observations. Scientific findings are said to be well-supported when the majority of known evidence corroborates them. Although scientific findings do not constitute philosophical truth claims, there are certain theories which carry with them extraordinarily large amounts of certainty. Even these “factual” theories, however, have been in the past met with much controversy when social progress has lagged behind scientific knowledge.

The Theory of Evolution

The theory of Evolution may be one of the most divisive, yet well-supported scientific theories in more contemporary times. One of the most famous instances in which this controversy reared its head was the Scopes Monkey Trial. This court case involved a school teacher being fined money for teaching evolution to the students in his class. Although the ruling was overturned on a technicality, the case is generally remembered as a reflection of the public controversy over Charles Darwin’s theory. Although immense amounts of evidence supports the theory today, such as knowledge of fossil record, genetics, and variation among species, evolution still remains a somewhat controversial topic in the United States.

Global Warming

More recently, the theory of global warming has been met with much political opposition. This opposition asserts that the notion that the current rising of the earth’s temperatures is largely a man-made phenomenon. Although the vast majority of scientists agree upon the nature and causes of global warming, the “controversy” over it has become a largely politicized one in contemporary times.

Heliocentric Theory

Controversy over scientific theory is hardly a new phenomenon. Even facts we take for granted today were once highly controversial when initially theorized by scientists. When Nicholas Copernicus boldly proclaimed that the earth revolves around the sun during the renaissance, his claims were met with much social resistance. Being that Copernicus’ claims were in conflict with those presented in the Bible, they were considered to be heretical at the time. Although his claims were eventually corroborated and expanded upon by Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, they were once an objects of great controversy.

The Big Bang

One particularly controversial theory is the Big Bang theory. This theory asserts that space, time and matter all came into existence simultaneously after originating from a single point. Creationists have argued that this theory is incomprehensible due to the idea that everything has a previous cause, and therefore, that something cannot come from nothing. The majority of theoretical physicists, however, have accepted the Big Bang as the prominent theory of the origin of existence, despite some questions as to how exactly it occurred. Being that time theoretically came into existence at the moment of this event, many scientists see no need to extrapolate a “cause” for the Big Bang.

Theory of Relativity

Although it was not widely accepted at the time of its conceptualization, Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is considered today to be one of the main pillars of modern Physics. The theory states that the way observers perceive amounts of objects is relative to their velocity at the time. This theory ultimately had major implications pertaining to the nature of space and time.