Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Legacies don't come from one person, usually. They come from a collective mass of unknowns and the forgotten, where one person or representation gets the collective credit. But the vast majority of our benefit comes from the dead even before them. I can understand the ancestor worship, the praying for the dead, and the making divine of ordinary human beings who persisted and had some talents. I can see this as a source of reverence. Those we never knew gave us a bit of a better shot, bit by bit, then died. What do you owe to freethought pioneers?
Dr. Herb Silverman: Isaac Newton in 1675 said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Newton produced a mathematical understanding of motion, making the workings of the cosmos intelligible without any reference to supernatural belief. Yet he misguidedly said, “This most elegant system of the sun, planets, and comets could not have arisen without the design and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being.” Religious or not, scientists like Newton and Galileo contributed an enormous amount to the freethought movement before the Enlightenment. As Galileo learned, scientists often diverge from scripture at their peril. Scientific contributions have spread disbelief throughout the world because scientific arguments are settled through experimentation and evidence, not through authority or unproved claims of miracles found in so-called holy books. Scientists may not directly attack religious creeds, but they have undermined religious foundations. Nobody anymore believes that the earth is the center of the universe or that a deity made stars as an afterthought after creating the sun and the moon.