CirclesHave you wondered why there are less people practicing religion each year? Some of it may have to do with the absence of new miracles in the modern age. In ancient times, rumors spread in small pockets of people until they were turned into myths. These myths traveled by word of mouth until they became legend — and eventually transformed into magical Gods.

However, with science, many of the great mysteries are reduced to fairytales — with no greater example than Africa’s “fairy circles.” According to the New York Times:

The reddish barren spots, thousands of them, are called fairy circles, the name itself an invitation to try to solve the mystery of their origins. They dot a narrow belt of desert stretching from Angola through Namibia into northern South Africa. For no obvious reason, the round patches of sandy soil interrupt the arid grassland, like a spreading blight on the land.

To the Himba people who live in the region, however, there is nothing to explain. That’s just how it is, they tell anthropologists; the circles were made by their “original ancestor, Mukuru,” or more poetically, they are “footprints of the gods.”

New research may now have yielded a more credible explanation for the fairy circles as examples of natural ecosystem engineering by a particular species of sand termites, Psammotermes allocerus. A German scientist reported on Thursday that most likely these industrious termites were the agents for making much of their desert home an oasis of permanent grassland.

This example, in a roundabout way, explains the Religious Right’s hostility towards science. Evolution has revealed that “sacred” man is merely a specialized monkey — and sometimes a mighty God is just a termite. This is not to demean non-fundamentalist faiths that appear to help people and teach ethics. However, in the age of microscopes and camera phones, don’t expect to see mystical deities that can’t be easily debunked. More than ever, faith will be held accountable by fact-checkers.