Monday, November 10, 2008

The Oldest Argument

THE OLDEST ARGUMENT:

> "Let me explain the problem science has with Jesus Christ."
> The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks
> one of his new students to stand.
> "You're a Christian, aren't you, son?"
> "Yes sir," the student says.
> "So you believe in God?"
> "Absolutely."
> "Is God good?"
> "Sure! God's good."
> "Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?"
> "Yes."
> "Are you good or evil?"
> "The Bible says I'm evil."
> The professor grins knowingly. "Aha! The Bible!" He considers for a
> moment.
> "Here's one for you. Let's say there's a sick person over here and you can
> cure him. You can do it… Would you help him? Would you try?"
> "Yes sir, I would."
> "So you're good...!"
> "I wouldn't say that."
> "But why not say that? You'd help a sick and maimed person if you could.
> Most of us would if we could. But God doesn't."
> The student does not answer, so the professor continues. "He doesn't, does
> he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to
> Jesus to heal him How is this Jesus good? Hmmm?
> Can you answer that one?"
> The student remains silent.
> "No, you can't, can you?" the professor says. He takes a sip of water from
> a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax.
> "Let's start again, young fella Is God good?"
> "Er...yes," the student says.
> "Is Satan good?"
> The student doesn't hesitate on this one. "No."
> "Then where does Satan come from?"
> The student: "From... God…"
> "That's right. God made Satan, didn't he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in
> this world?"
> "Yes, sir."
> "Evil's everywhere, isn't it? And God did make everything, correct?"
> "Yes."
> "So who created evil?" The professor continued, "If God created everything,
> then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principle
> that our works define who we are, then God is evil."
> Without allowing the student to answer, the professor continues: "Is there
> sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do
> they exist in this world?"
> The student: "Yes."
> "So who created them?"
> The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question.
> "Who created them? There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer breaks
> away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized.
> "Tell me," he continues onto another student. "Do you believe in Jesus
> Christ, son?"
> The student's voice is confident: "Yes, professor, I do."
> The old man stops pacing. "Science says you have five senses you use to
> identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?"
> "No sir. I've never seen Him!"
> "Then tell us if you've ever heard your Jesus?"
> "No, sir, I have not."
> "Have you ever actually felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your
> Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for
> that matter?"
> "No, sir, I'm afraid I haven't."
> "Yet you still believe in him?"
> "Yes."
> "According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol,
> science says your God doesn't exist. What do you say to that, son?"
> "Nothing," the student replies. "I only have my faith."
> "Yes, faith," the professor repeats. "And that is the problem science has
> with God. There is no evidence, only faith."
> The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of his
> own. "Professor, is there such thing as heat?"
> "Yes," the professor replies. "There's heat."
> "And is there such a thing as cold?"
> "Yes, son, there's cold too."
> "No sir, there isn't."
> The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room
> suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain.
> "You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited
> heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don't have anything
> called 'cold'. We can hit up to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we
> can't go any further after that.
> There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than
> the lowest -458 degrees. Every body or object is susceptible to study when
> it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or
> transmit energy. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You
> see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot
> measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy.
> Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it."
> Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding
> like a hammer.
> "What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?"
> "Yes," the professor replies without hesitation. "What is night if it
> isn't darkness?"
> "You're wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of
> something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing
> light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it's called
> darkness, isn't it? That's the meaning we use to define the word. In reality,
> darkness isn't. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker,
> wouldn't you?"
> The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will be
> a good semester. "So what point are you making, young man?"
> "Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start
> with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed."
> The professor's face cannot hide his surprise this time. "Flawed? Can you
> explain how?"
> "You are working on the premise of duality," the student explains. "You
> argue that there is life and then there's death; a good God and a bad God. You
> are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can
> measure. Sir, science can't even explain a thought. It uses electricity and
> magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view
> death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot
> exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the
> absence of it..."
> "Now tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from
> a monkey?"
> "If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes,
> of course I do."
> "Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?"
> The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes where
> the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.
> "Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot
> even prove that this process is an on-going endeavour, are you not teaching
> your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?"
> The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion has
> subsided.
> "To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me
> give you an example of what I mean."
> The student looks around the room. "Is there anyone in the class who has
> ever seen the professor's brain?" The class breaks out into laughter.
> "Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor's brain, felt the
> professor's brain, touched or smelled the professor's brain?
> No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of
> empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain,
> with all due respect, sir. So if science says you have no brain, how can we
> trust your lectures, sir?"
> Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his face
> unreadable.
> Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. "I guess you'll
> have to take them on faith."
> "Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life,"
> the student continues. "Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?"
> Now uncertain, the professor responds, "Of course, there is. We see it
> everyday. It is in the daily example of man's inhumanity to man.
> It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world.
> These manifestations are nothing else but evil."
> To this the student replied, "Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does
> not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God.
> It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe
> the absence of God.
> God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does
> not have God's love present in his heart. It's like the cold that comes when
> there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light."
> The professor sat down.

4 comments:

scotterb said...

Why are professors always stereotyped as closed minded and arrogant ;-)

The professor made a fundamentally flawed argument when he said that science says that God doesn't exist because God has not been found. Science cannot make that claim. A God hypothesis is unfalsifiable, and science can only try to disprove falsifiable hypotheses. God hypotheses are therefore outside science, unless they make a specific testable claim (e.g., God will end the world on December 12, 2012).

In philosophy, there are also no ways to prove core assumptions around which a case against God or for God can be built. For a long time enlightenment scholars were convinced that the "first mover" argument was absolute proof for God -- or at least some kind of first mover. But now with relativity and quantum mechanics, that no longer is as persuasive.

I think the bottom line is that science and philosophy cannot answer fundamental questions about why the universe exists -- why is there something instead of nothing? That always leaves an opening for religion. Science and philosophy can always ask "why this religion and not another, why this book and not that book," and "would a loving God really damn a good person because he happened not to believe in a particular, unprovable story?" Religious believers will never be able to prove their particular beliefs scientifically and philosophically.

So each side can believe what they wish and neither can really defeat the other unless they make an error like the professor did and claim that science proves that God doesn't exist. Science cannot do that.

Mookie said...

Scott-
Thanks for stopping by. I guess to answer your first question, (rhetorical or not)
While it is not limited to professors, many of the highly intelligent "intellectuals" are often far more closed minded. Part of it is because in most demonstrable areas of education they excel far beyond their peers, therefore they are reluctant to accept anything outside their beliefs from anyone they may consider intellectually inferior to them. As for the sterertyping, as with most instances of this, there is more than just a little grain of truth to it. While I would say the majority of professors worldwide are humble, down-to-earth people by nature, the one's you hear about most are those brazenly loud-mouthed individuals, who often arrogantly and openly challenge and ridicule members of the student body who believe the opposite of thier own enlightened status.
See the Ivy Leaguers for instance...almost all were originally founded as a religious school that also offered secular instruction at the higher levels. Nowadays, most professors you here about from there would be hesitant to acknowledge the concept of God as credible, even if he showed up with a birth certificate and had coffee with them while performing miracles all around.

While I consider myself a christian, I also have much family and friends who do not believe in such sources of external authority like religion. I merely thought this was a nice two way street type of conversation regarding religion which I lifted from another network's blogger. I personally see it less as an argument for God, and more an argument for our ability to reason, even from a seemingly inferior position in relation to the authoritative professor, leading to, if nothing else, a good exchange of ideas and thought processes.
Again, thanks for stopping by!

-Mike

americanelephant said...

I love this piece! I'm printing it out for future reference.

Mookie said...

AE-
Thanks for stopping by, and glad you enjoyed this post! Feel free to come back more often, when I have something intelligent of my own to offer!