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The Professor and the Christian
The Professor and the Christian
A fable of flawed understanding
Submitted by arthwollipot
13th May 2008
The Professor and the Christian

I was about to give up on my old hobby of arguing with creationists, but then I found this, and it affected me so much that I had to write something about it.

It takes a while to read, but it's well worth it to understand just how wrong it is.

Here is the passage in full. I found it on a website of jokes, but I don't think it's all that funny. At the end I will give my reasons for not liking it.

Quote:
Science vs. Christianity

This takes a while to read, but it's well worth it. May we be prepared always to give an answer to the reason for our faith...

"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."

"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. "Ahh! 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 them? Would you try?"

"Yes sir, I would."

"So you're good...!"

"I wouldn't say that."

"Why not say that? You would help a sick and maimed person if you could... in fact most of us would if we could... God doesn't."

No answer.

"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?" No answer.

The elderly man is sympathetic. "No, you can't, can you?" He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax. In philosophy, you have to go easy with the new ones. "Let's start again, young fella. Is God good?"

"Er... Yes."

"Is Satan good?"

"No."

"Where does Satan come from?"

The student falters. "From... God..."

"That's right. God made Satan, didn't he?" The elderly man runs his bony fingers through his thinning hair and turns to the smirking, student audience. "I think we're going to have a lot of fun this semester, ladies and gentlemen." He turns back to the Christian. "Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?"

"Yes, sir."

"Evil's everywhere, isn't it? Did God make everything?"

"Yes."

"Who created evil?"

No answer.

"Is there sickness in this world? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All the terrible things - do they exist in this world?"

The student squirms on his feet. "Yes."

"Who created them?"

No answer.

The professor suddenly shouts at his student. "WHO CREATED THEM? TELL ME, PLEASE!" The professor closes in for the kill and climbs into the Christian's face. In a still small voice: "God created all evil, didn't He, son?"

No answer.

The student tries to hold the steady, experienced gaze and fails.

Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace the front of the classroom like an aging panther. The class is mesmerized. "Tell me," he continues, "How is it that this God is good if He created all evil throughout all time?"

The professor swishes his arms around to encompass the wickedness of the world. "All the hatred, the brutality, all the pain, all the torture, all the death and ugliness and all the suffering created by this good God is all over the world, isn't it, young man?"

No answer.

"Don't you see it all over the place? Huh?" Pause. "Don't you?" The professor leans into the student's face again and whispers,

"Is God good?"

No answer..

"Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?"

The student's voice betrays him and cracks. "Yes, professor. I do."

The old man shakes his head sadly. "Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen your 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 felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus... in fact, do you have any sensory perception of your God whatsoever?"

No answer.

"Answer me, please."

"No, sir, I'm afraid I haven't."

"You're AFRAID... you haven't?"

"No, sir."

"Yet you still believe in him?"

"...yes..."

"That takes FAITH!" The professor smiles sagely at the underling. "According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn't exist. What do you say to that, son? Where is your God now?"

The student doesn't answer.

"Sit down, please."

The Christian sits...Defeated. Another Christian raises his hand. "Professor, may I address the class?"

The professor turns and smiles. "Ah, another Christian in the vanguard! Come, come, young man. Speak some proper wisdom to the gathering."

The Christian looks around the room. "Some interesting points you are making, sir. Now I've got a question for you. Is there such thing as heat?"

"Yes," the professor replies. "There's heat."

"Is there such a thing as cold?"

"Yes, son, there's cold too."

"No, sir, there isn't."

The professor's grin freezes. The room suddenly goes very cold. The second Christian continues. "You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat but we don't have anything called 'cold'. We can hit 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 458 - 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.

A pin drops somewhere in the classroom.

"Is there such a thing as darkness, professor?"

"That's a dumb question, son. What is night if it isn't darkness? What are you getting at...?"

"So you say there is such a thing as darkness?"

"Yes..."

"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 and give me a jar of it. Can you...give me a jar of darker darkness, professor?"

Despite himself, the professor smiles at the young effrontery before him. This will indeed be a good semester. "Would you mind telling us what your point is, young man?"

"Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with and so your conclusion must be in error...."

The professor goes toxic. "Flawed...? How dare you...!"

"Sir, may I explain what I mean?" The class is all ears.

"Explain... oh, explain..." The professor makes an admirable effort to regain control. Suddenly he is affability itself. He waves his hand to silence the class, for the student to continue.

"You are working on the premise of duality," the Christian explains. "That for example there is life and then here'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 cannot even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism but has never seen, much less fully understood them. 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, merely the absence of it."

The young man holds up a newspaper he takes from the desk of a neighbor who has been reading it. "Here is one of the most disgusting tabloids this country hosts, professor. Is there such a thing as immorality?"

"Of course there is, now look..."

"Wrong again, sir. You see, immorality is merely the absence of morality. Is there such thing as injustice? No. Injustice is the absence of justice. Is there such a thing as evil?" The Christian pauses.

"Isn't evil the absence of good?"

The professor's face has turned an alarming color. He is so angry he is temporarily speechless. The Christian continues. "If there is evil in the world, professor, and we all agree there is, then God, if he exists, must be accomplishing a work through the agency of evil. What is that work, God is accomplishing? The Bible tells us it is to see if each one of us will, of our own free will, choose good over evil."

The professor bridles. "As a philosophical scientist, I don't view this matter as having anything to do with any choice; as a realist, I absolutely do not recognize the concept of God or any other theological factor as being part of the world equation because God is not observable."

"I would have thought that the absence of God's moral code in this world is probably one of the most observable phenomena going," the Christian replies. "Newspapers make billions of dollars reporting it every week! 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 makes a sucking sound with his teeth and gives his student a silent, stony stare.

"Professor. Since no-one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a priest?"

"I'll overlook your impudence in the light of our philosophical discussion. Now, have you quite finished?" the professor hisses.

"So you don't accept God's moral code to do what is righteous?"

"I believe in what is - that's science!"

"Ahh! SCIENCE!" the student's face spits into a grin. "Sir, you rightly state that science is the study of observed phenomena. Science too is a premise which is flawed..."

"SCIENCE IS FLAWED..?" the professor splutters.

The class is in uproar. The Christian remains standing until the commotion has subsided. "To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, may I give you an example of what I mean?"

The professor wisely keeps silent. The Christian looks around the room.

"Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor's brain?"

The class breaks out in laughter. The Christian points towards his elderly, crumbling tutor. "Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor's brain...felt the professor's brain, touched or smelt the professor's brain?" No one appears to have done so.

The Christian shakes his head sadly.

"It appears no one here has had any sensory perception of the professor's brain whatsoever. Well, according to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says the professor has no brain."

The class is in chaos. The Christian sits...

Because that is what a chair is for.
OK, this is me back. This little scenario is all very well and makes the Christians all smug and self-satisfied, because the second Christian really put the old atheist professor in his place.

But let me tell you something. The professor must have been only newly converted to atheism, because he gave all the wrong answers! It's a good thing he was a philosophy professor and not a science professor, because with answers like that he would have flunked high school!

Let's have a look at this then shall we? I'm not a professor of any kind, but I'm going to elaborate here on the things that I would have done differently.

First of all, I feel that it is extremely rude to attack someone's religious faith in this manner, regardless of what you feel about what is true or not. The professor, having recently lost his brother to cancer, is lashing back at the Christians in the class because he feels that he was betrayed by God, and he is being inexcusably rude about it, too. It is a classic transferrence of anger, and the poor professor needs grief counselling. So in the first place I would not have begun a philosphy class with the express purpose of trying to destroy other peoples' faith. Their faith is not my concern. When they publicly preach falsehood, I tend to want to speak up. In this case, neither of the Christians were publicly preaching falsehood. In fact the second Christian probably had a better grip on reality than the professor did.

OK, so let's see where the professor went wrong after this. Any science professor should know that cold is an absence of heat and darkness is an absence of light. I knew that in third grade. For all his upholding of scientific principles, this professor also should have known that science relies as much on deduction and scenario-modelling as it does on direct observation. If observation were all there was to it, then the entire scientific corpus would consist of only what any particular student observed. I did not observe Vesuvius erupting. According to the Christian in this story, that means that it didn't. But someone did. His name was Pliny the younger, and he wrote down what he saw. I trust an eyewitness account.

Now, in science, the emphasis is on experiment. You don't just write down what you observe. You contrive a set of circumstances to answer a particular question about something you observe. Then you write down the results of your experiment, and (this is the crucial bit) see whether anyone else observes the same thing.

So in essence, the argument about not observing evolution and not observing the professor's brain is flawed, because science does not solely rely on direct observation. Of course, observation is an important part of science, and the position that only what can be observed exists is called positivism. The professor in this story is obviously a positivist, and the second Christian points out the flaws in this philosophy quite effectively. But positivism is not science.

Okay, next bit. The professor "goes toxic" when someone questions his philosophical standpoint. This is in a philosophy class right? Isn't part of the point of philosophy to question one another's worldview? This professor shouldn't be in science, and if he "goes toxic" at the first sign that a student can think independently, then he doesn't belong in philosophy, either! For me, that student would be well on the way to an 'A'.

Then, after going toxic, he also bridles. "As a philosophical scientist," he says, "I don't view this matter as having anything to do with any choice; as a realist, I absolutely do not recognize the concept of God or any other theological factor as being part of the world equation because God is not observable."

Here his stance is also deeply flawed. He describes himself as a "philosophical scientist". This is a delusion. For reasons discussed above he cannot call himself a scientist in any sense of the word, philosophical or not. He claims to be a realist, but describes a positivist. He should also deny the existence of electrons and protons, because they are not observable either. Recently we have been able to observe atoms (with scanning tunneling electron microscopes), but never their constituents. However, the theory predicts certain things, and what can be observed supports the results that are predicted. The theory agrees with observation. To doubt the existence of electrons because they can't be observed casts doubt on a large number of scientific principles, some of which agree with observation to a startling degree.

Here's another way to look at it. Can you observe air? No. This doesn't mean that air doesn't exist. You can't smell sarin gas, either. But sarin gas can kill you.

So far I have been kind of supporting the Christian against the professor, because to me the Christian's stance makes more sense than the professor's. However, the Christian makes one major fundamental mistake, which tells me that he really has absolutely no understanding of what science is or what it is about. The professor's answer to this loaded question is wrong in every significant detail.

The Christian asks "Tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?"

This is such a tired old argument that all Christians should know it by now if they didn't choose to see evolution in a flawed light. The 'correct' answer (which the professor failed to provide) is "No, I do not teach my students that they evolved from a monkey. I teach my students that they and monkeys had a common ancestor, which was neither a monkey nor a student. The observed evidence supports this."

But Christians (not all Christians mind you) do not accept the true definition of evolution, and continue to argue against the principle that people are descended from monkeys. They ask "if people evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?"

The Christian in the story asks "Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?" and again, the professor answers the question badly (as of course suits the Christian author of the scenario).

The 'correct' answer to this question is "Have you ever observed love with your own eyes? Have you ever observed faith? Have you ever observed the Resurrection with your own eyes? Just because we don't observe something with our own eyes doesn't mean that we can't accept evidence from other sources. Your Bible tells you that the Resurrection occurred. The fossil record, amongst other evidence, tells us that evolution occurred."

This will only get the Christian going though. If you ever answer this question in this way, be prepared to answer all of the other questions that invariably follow about transitional fossils, polystrate fossils, and if it gets that far down the track, radiometric dating.

The Christian in the story states "Sir, you rightly state that science is the study of observed phenomena" then goes on to 'disprove' the existence of the professor's brain. The professor is dumbstruck in the light of the Christian's brilliant observation. Yet more evidence that he is not fit to be a science professor, since he doesn't have the answer to the obvious ploy which is provided as a clinching argument.

The 'correct' answer is: "Okay, so you hypothesise that my brain doesn't exist. How are you going to go about proving it? Hypothesis without experiment is not science. The best way to prove your hypothesis would be to open up my head and have a look. But that would in all likelihood kill me, which is against the law and against your Christian ethic. So you'll have to find another way to prove it. But before you spend a lot of time (and probably money) doing so, I might point out that in dissecting cadavers, surgeons and anatomy students have never opened up the head of a dead human and found no brain. So Occam's Razor tells us that your hypothesis is incorrect to the point of reasonable doubt. The counter-hypothesis that I do in fact have a brain fits the observed reality (that I am here, walking, talking, breathing and speaking to you) much better than your hypothesis does."

This clearly demonstrates that while science is correctly described as the study of observed phenomena, it doesn't work just to draw direct conclusions from what directly hits your senses. You have to question what you observe. Although science is the study of the observed phenomena, the Christian in the story stops at 'observed phenomena' and skips the 'study' part. If science could be reduced to a single question, it would not be "what?" as the Christian in the story seems to think. It would be "how?"

Science cannot disprove God. The mistake (or rather, one of the mistakes) that the professor made in the story is in assuming that because God cannot be observed, God doesn't exist. This is not a good basis for atheism, because as you can clearly see from this story, it is a very weak foundation. It is indeed a flawed philosophy. The basis for atheism is much more complex and subtle.

The Christian in the story falls into massive overgeneralisation by his statement "Science too is a premise which is flawed..." No. What is flawed is the professor's stance on science. The reason the professor's stance on science is flawed is that the whole story was written by a Christian, whose own stance on science was flawed. Just like the second Christian in the story, the author overgeneralises his/her own belief in science as the real thing, and sets up a massive strawman which of course is only too easy to defeat. It was designed to be argued against, so of course it is. If the author had understood science better, the story could never have been written in this form.

All of the characters in the story are reflections of the author's self. The first Christian is the author at a young age, looking for affirmation of his or her faith and not receiving it from an uncaring, antagonistic world.
The professor is the personification of all these doubts. He is the personification of the author's own flawed understanding of science and its purpose.

The second Christian is the author after going out and reading some books by Kent Hovind and Phillip Johnson. The author after reaffirming his/her faith, who now has all the answers. Unfortunately he only has the answers to the questions he himself poses. The professor knows no more about science than the author does - how could he? This is why the professor is ultimately humbled and embarrassed in front of the whole class. It is satisfying to Christians because they see their attacker fall and crumble like the walls of Jericho.

Perhaps the whole story is part autobiography, part wish-fulfillment. It is possible that the first half of the story actually happened to the author, and the second half is what the author would have said and done had he/she had the answers at that stage of life. Perhaps. If so, the two halves of the story probably occurred years apart in the author's life.

It seems more likely to me that it was a Christian trying to teach other Christians how to have more faith in their beliefs, despite having them attacked mercilessly. It does that, at the expense of flawed argument and flawed understanding. The purpose behind telling the story is sound - Christians should indeed be prepared to defend their faith and provide reasons for it. But the reasons given in the story are not good ones.

The story perpetuates the myth that science is bunk. That science is somehow contrary or opposed to faith. That all of science is built on a flawed philosophy.

The first thing that some Christians seem to be unable or unwilling to understand is that science cannot disprove anything. It can only prove things. And it can only prove things on a provisional basis. Nothing is final, because it's always possible for more evidence to come in.

Christians always try to attack science by asking for certain, definite proof that God doesn't exist. Science cannot provide that, and they then leap on that inability as evidence that science is flawed. Well, that's just comparing apples and oranges. It is like relying on the Bible to tell you how to service your car. The Bible can't show you how to change a spark plug? Aha! The Bible is built on a flawed premise!

They also leap on the incompleteness of science. Since science does not have all the answers, it can't possibly be right. The more amazing belief among some Christians I have encountered is the more epistemological view that science simply has it wrong. It asks the wrong questions and comes to the wrong conclusions. It makes a flawed basis for understanding the world because it is simply erroneous. This is totally weird to me, because at its basis, science is built upon finding verifiable explanations for observed phenomena. The Scientific Method is the closest we can come to finding the truth about something.

I hope you can see now why I don't like this story. It perpetuates a flawed and incorrect stereotype - that of the atheist who constantly attacks the faith of good Chrisians - and demonstrates an insufficient method of defence against it. It was written by a Christian for other Christians, but the author's understanding of the subject matter is so incomplete that all it does is perpetuate the incompleteness to others. It does not teach anything of worth, except for the fundamental purpose - to encourage Christians to be able to justify their faith.

The moral of the story - always have an understanding of what you are arguing against, or be prepared to accept when someone points out the flaws in the understanding you do have.
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  #1  
By QBinBee on 19th June 2008, 02:56 PM
Very nice analysis.

I do however have to nitpick just one point.

You state toward the bottom that "science cannot disprove things [...] it only proves things."

Technically this is incorrect. The scientific method is set up in such a way as to only DISPROVE hypothesis. Science is not in the business of proving things true. The more and more a hypothesis is NOT disproved, it will be elevated to the status of a theory. No matter how often a hypothesis (or a theory) is not disproved, you can never ever truly say that it has been proved true, only that it has not been proved false (I tend to make an analogy to the US legal system when explaining this. Verdicts are always rendered as guilty or NOT guilty, but a person is NEVER found to be 'innocent').

This then is what opens the floodgates of Christian "just a theory" arguments against certain scientific theories.

Anyway, job well done!
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  #2  
By arthwollipot on 22nd June 2008, 06:09 PM
Originally Posted by QBinBee View Post
You state toward the bottom that "science cannot disprove things [...] it only proves things."
You appear to have missed the next bit: "...And it can only prove things on a provisional basis."

Technically, though, you are correct. Paraphrasing Stephen Jay Gould, something is not "proved", it is merely "confirmed to such an extent that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent."

Thanks for your comment!
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  #3  
By arthwollipot on 25th November 2008, 03:51 AM
I just stumbled upon this page, which makes largely the same arguments as my own, but in a slightly different style:

The Atheist Professor With No Brain.
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  #4  
By Zurack on 31st December 2008, 11:11 AM
Thumbs up

Great "review"!

I saw this history some months ago in a comment in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster site. I think the commenter was using it as the "ultimate argument" against the non-believers. The "we cannot see your brain" part is really bad!
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  #5  
By Stout on 2nd February 2009, 07:27 AM
Cheers arthwollipot..an excellent analysis.

I followed a link here from the really funny jokes thread.

I had several of the same views of the professors competency, but my analysis was quite a bit cruder than yours.

Thanks for the link to the rewrite too, it's saved for future reference

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  #6  
By Eyeron on 12th September 2009, 03:04 PM
Do you have one that addresses the popular story of Einstein vs the atheist where he supposedly proves God exists and puts the atheist down?
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  #7  
By arthwollipot on 13th September 2009, 11:54 PM
No, but if you can provide me a link to the story I'll see what I can do.
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  #8  
By Mashuna on 15th September 2009, 04:25 AM
Is this the one you were thinking of?
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  #9  
By arthwollipot on 15th September 2009, 05:33 AM
If that's the one, I think Snopes did quite an admirable job of it. There's not much more that I can add.
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  #10  
By Snixtor on 23rd September 2009, 07:02 PM
On my first read through of this story, I felt it had "strawman" written all over it. A classic example, the second Christian is "winning" the argument by creating a misrepresentation of the perspective of atheists, agnostics and science.

But on closer inspection I see some even more fundamental issues with the second Christians argument.

He posits that evil is not, as the professor proposes, a substantiave quality, but simply the lack of good. His basis for this argument is that darkness is only the abscence of light, cold is only the abscence of warmth. But how does he know this? By science. Science has shown us that light is essentially photons. No photons? No light. Heat is energy, no energy? no light. He then jumps to the conclusion that because of those two examples, evil is only the abscence of good. But what quantifiable element composes this good? He offers no such explanation, so his rationale could just as easily be used to claim that good is the abscence of evil, not the other way around.

So, Isn't he trying to discredit science, by using science?

Furthermore, even if evil is only the abscence of good, how does this discredit the professors starting position that God permits evil and is omnipotent, therefore God is evil? It doesn't, in fact the second Christian even concedes that God uses Evil:
"If there is evil in the world, professor, and we all agree there is, then God, if he exists, must be accomplishing a work through the agency of evil. What is that work, God is accomplishing? The Bible tells us it is to see if each one of us will, of our own free will, choose good over evil."
If evil is the abscence of good, and God created everything, then he didn't "put enough good into it" did he?

So yes, he's arguing against a strawman, but I don't think he's even doing a particularly good job of it.
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  #11  
By Elizabeth I on 27th September 2009, 11:47 AM
Quote:
So, Isn't he trying to discredit science, by using science?
Well, Christians frequently try to prove the Bible is true by quoting the Bible, so it probably seems like a legitimate tactic.
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  #12  
By Snixtor on 28th September 2009, 02:33 AM
Originally Posted by Elizabeth I View Post
Well, Christians frequently try to prove the Bible is true by quoting the Bible, so it probably seems like a legitimate tactic.
Maybe, but at least the end of their reasoning doesn't totally discredit the start of their reasoning. Discrediting science by means of science is like saying "science is true, therefore science is false".
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  #13  
By Bob from NJ on 6th October 2009, 11:37 AM
I'm glad for your critique on this. At first I thought "Oh no- please tell me this is NOT how people on the JREF forum think!" (all the weak circular arguments against faith AND against science)
When I was a believer I had this same argument with people, parts of it word-for-word. A teacher once "discredited" my whole faith because I said "monkey" instead of "common ancestor" and refused to listen to any further points about anything, end of discussion, as though that one error discredited ALL my views....

Well, that sort of blunt-edged argument from a representative of Science pushed me further into faith, fueled the notion that scientists are really just white-robed "priests" of some anti-god Cult.

Science isn't always taught as it should be. It's often taught dogmatically, as revealed Truth rather than critical thinking and the scientific method.

So why does a good Creator allow evil? Yeah, we're supposed to have a short snappy answer to one of The Great Questions. That was one of my mistakes as a believer, I fabricated quick answers to all of the Big Questions, till it all fell apart.

Bob's Snappy Answers to Big Questions:

Does God exist? Yes
Which religion is right? Fundamentalist Protestant of course.
What about other religions? All devil-worshippers but they don't know it.
Why does God allow evil? So the results of man's sin can come to fruition.
What about Dinosaurs? Oh, they were sculpted by Paleontologists in order to deny God.
Why doesn't God heal the sick? Cause we don't believe strong enough when we pray.

etc etc

These kinds of answers make life simpler, but it's toxic.
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  #14  
By Paradox74 on 8th October 2009, 07:02 AM
No to mention that this story can be adjusted to fit the world views of fundamentalist Muslims.
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  #15  
By pnerd on 10th October 2009, 01:24 PM
Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I just stumbled upon this page, which makes largely the same arguments as my own, but in a slightly different style:

The Atheist Professor With No Brain.
Thanks for the link, arthwollipot.
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  #16  
By Norm Breyfogle on 11th October 2009, 03:18 PM
simple

If the Biblical God really existed and he wanted to know whether we'd choose evil (presumably, any non-Biblical thought) or good (presumably, Biblical religion), why wouldn't he make the decision more clear? A bunch of unprovable fables from thousands of years ago isn't the basis for an informed decision.
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  #17  
By sonofgloin on 17th October 2009, 07:25 PM
Originally Posted by Norm Breyfogle View Post
If the Biblical God really existed and he wanted to know whether we'd choose evil (presumably, any non-Biblical thought) or good (presumably, Biblical religion), why wouldn't he make the decision more clear? A bunch of unprovable fables from thousands of years ago isn't the basis for an informed decision.
This is my first post guy's.

That just about covers it when encapsulating the sum of the theists foundation for their belief. There is no base for constructive discussion when one party is looking for repeated physics defying events and the other discounts physics, chronology, and experience. But the subject is good as a talk fest, it divides us, although it shouldn't.

Why I mention this is in regard to the terms atheist and agnostic. If you are agnostic you are employing the same logic as the theist. That is "I have CHOSEN to believe what I do believe and will not accomodate contrary views". Whereas the agnostic is open to input, it is not a idle position it is one that is primed for adjudication should the need arise, although the physics defying event has not happened to humanity as yet. But that does not mean that other dimensions do not exist. Consider a universe where the solar systems are the conscious creations of a supreme being and we are the bacteria that inhabit that consciousness, why not? it's possible, anything is possible when you look away from physics, but sadly physics is the only thing we can rely on.
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  #18  
By arthwollipot on 19th October 2009, 02:03 AM
Originally Posted by sonofgloin View Post
Why I mention this is in regard to the terms atheist and agnostic. If you are agnostic you are employing the same logic as the theist. That is "I have CHOSEN to believe what I do believe and will not accomodate contrary views". Whereas the agnostic is open to input, it is not a idle position it is one that is primed for adjudication should the need arise...
I think you meant "atheist" in place of the bolded word above, and if that is the case, I absolutely disagree.

Atheism (speaking only for myself, of course!) is not a position that is adopted by choice. I can be no other way! I never chose to adopt the position of atheism. It was something I discovered about myself.

Furthermore, I also don't see the word "agnostic" the way you do. Agnosticism is not something that can be swayed one way or the other. You're thinking about undecidedness, which is not the same thing. I don't think there's a word for someone who can't decide whether to believe in a god or not - because I'm not at all certain there are actually people like that. In my experience, people either believe, or they don't believe, or they just don't care one way or the other (apatheism).

Some people say "I don't know" - and that is agnosticism. But it's not likely that those people will suddenly be swayed in one direction or another. Knowledge is not a choice either - either you know something or you don't. If you don't, you're agnostic.
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  #19  
By sonofgloin on 19th October 2009, 09:57 PM
Norm, thanks for that, yes the word should have been atheist and not agnostic, thankfully I expanded on it further on and you got the drift.
Without going to the Websters my usage of the word atheist describes an individual who has chosen not believe in a single or multiple god. While an agnostic doubts the existance of god, or gods.
The atheist has made a decision, while the agnostic is doubtful. there are two words because ther are two outcomes, one decided, one undecided but doubtful.

The premise to my post was how can you make a decision on, "to god or not to god" given that the subject matter is etherial so all aguements on both sides can only be esoteric, un qualifiable opinions if you will. That is why it is logical to be agnostic rather than atheist.
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  #20  
By arthwollipot on 20th October 2009, 04:00 AM
While I agree that agnosticism is a rational position, I disagree with your definition - no definition I have seen in any dictionary (and I don't have a copy of Websters to hand) involves choice. The definition of "atheism" runs along the lines of "lack of belief in deities" (depending on the dictionary).
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  #21  
By skeptic griggsy on 6th November 2009, 12:14 PM
Science shows no teleology and thus exhumes the question of God as contradictory to our teleonomical Cosmos. Stenger presents arguments from science, casting doubt on His existence.
What a straw man indeed, but that bespeaks the incredulity of many theists about atheism. They use that silly non-argument about no atheists in fox holes.
What are other nonsensical non-arguments do they make about us?
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  #22  
By justcharlie09 on 10th November 2009, 02:37 PM
Ouch. I hate it when I see this kind of thing. Similar to the concept of "debating" God. It really is a worldview issue. I can't, and won't, say atheists are wrong. I will say, that for me, in my experience, I do feel there is a God. Not necessarily of the robed and bearded sort, but something there.

It boils down to the way we answer question of the origin of life:

Is there a reason?

A Christian says yes. There is a reason, and there is a God, something beyond experience that created that reason and exists for the purpose of relationship between the creator/the created.

An atheist says no. Everything is random. WYSIWYG.

... Neither position can be verified as accurate in some quantifiable way. I know what is part of me, personally, and beyond that, I can't say. I don't see how these two viewpoints can "debate". Discuss, maybe, but there isn't much room for debate. Neither side will EVER see it the same way...both could talk til' they're blue in the mouth.

Insults like the OP with the so-called "wit" about the "stupid-atheist-professor" do nothing positive for either side and only further divide people who might otherwise be able to have an interesting chat. Frankly, it bums me out.
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  #23  
By jadey on 19th November 2009, 04:35 PM
Originally Posted by justcharlie09 View Post
Ouch. I hate it when I see this kind of thing. Similar to the concept of "debating" God. It really is a worldview issue. I can't, and won't, say atheists are wrong. I will say, that for me, in my experience, I do feel there is a God. Not necessarily of the robed and bearded sort, but something there.

It boils down to the way we answer question of the origin of life:

Is there a reason?

A Christian says yes. There is a reason, and there is a God, something beyond experience that created that reason and exists for the purpose of relationship between the creator/the created.

An atheist says no. Everything is random. WYSIWYG.

... Neither position can be verified as accurate in some quantifiable way. I know what is part of me, personally, and beyond that, I can't say. I don't see how these two viewpoints can "debate". Discuss, maybe, but there isn't much room for debate. Neither side will EVER see it the same way...both could talk til' they're blue in the mouth.

Insults like the OP with the so-called "wit" about the "stupid-atheist-professor" do nothing positive for either side and only further divide people who might otherwise be able to have an interesting chat. Frankly, it bums me out.
The highlites above are mine.
I think it would be more accurate to say:
Is there a reasonor?
An atheist says "not until I see some evidence/rationale indicating a reasonor." An atheist will presume everything is natural until we find some evidence of anything that is unnatural, subnatural, supernatural.

Also, don't mistake atheism as an opposing position, its just a non-belief or skeptical position. A person who has never heard/experienced the concept of God is an atheist, but you could hardly say that they are opposed to God. Everyone is born an atheist, and many people convert at some point in their lives (and may convert back and forth as well). These people have chosen to embrace a belief, while the atheist simply hasn't.
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  #24  
By justcharlie09 on 20th November 2009, 10:20 AM
Quote:
The highlites above are mine.
I think it would be more accurate to say:
Is there a reasonor?
An atheist says "not until I see some evidence/rationale indicating a reasonor." An atheist will presume everything is natural until we find some evidence of anything that is unnatural, subnatural, supernatural.

Also, don't mistake atheism as an opposing position, its just a non-belief or skeptical position. A person who has never heard/experienced the concept of God is an atheist, but you could hardly say that they are opposed to God. Everyone is born an atheist, and many people convert at some point in their lives (and may convert back and forth as well). These people have chosen to embrace a belief, while the atheist simply hasn't.
Sometimes it is an opposing position--about as varied as the individuals who claim it as a worldview. It isn't fair to say that atheism is *always* in opposition, but to say it never is...not totally accurate. Also, that atheism is the default position of the human mind is a little presumptuous. There is some thought that some really are more predisposed than others to "spiritual" leanings.

Atheism always struct me as a position of certitude: "There is no god(s)."

vs.

Agnosticism (the very appropriate term coined by Aldous Huxley) which is a true position of skepticism: "There may be a god, but lacking evidence I doubt there is one."
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  #25  
By jadey on 20th November 2009, 11:28 AM
Originally Posted by justcharlie09 View Post
Sometimes it is an opposing position--about as varied as the individuals who claim it as a worldview. It isn't fair to say that atheism is *always* in opposition, but to say it never is...not totally accurate. Also, that atheism is the default position of the human mind is a little presumptuous. There is some thought that some really are more predisposed than others to "spiritual" leanings.
I think when people describe it as the default position, it basically says that you weren't born believing in it. Whether "it" be god, santa, ghosts, or quantum physics for that matter. So, non-belief is the default position, whether you want to call that atheism or agnosticism.
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  #26  
By justcharlie09 on 28th November 2009, 07:08 PM
Originally Posted by jadey View Post
I think when people describe it as the default position, it basically says that you weren't born believing in it. Whether "it" be god, santa, ghosts, or quantum physics for that matter. So, non-belief is the default position, whether you want to call that atheism or agnosticism.
An infant may not be able to formulate words, or think in the same manner that adults do, but it is presumptuous to assume they lack any sense of God or spirituality of any sort--just because we can't prove it.

Granted, it is unlikely that a newborn holds a specific belief in a specifically named deity or creed, but I don't see the complete absence of a spiritual nature in that.
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  #27  
By Dene on 4th December 2009, 08:15 PM
I have a quick point to make regarding the point that humans and monkeys have a common ancestor that is neither monkey nor human:
I'm pretty sure it is accepted that humans did evolve from monkeys. The humans closest relative is thought to be the chimps, which we are thought to have evolved from.
Of course, as to the question "if humans came from monkeys then how come there rest of the monkeys didn't evolve?", the answer is simply "some of the chimps went to a different climate where they were 'forced' to evolve" (put in teleological terms to make it easier).
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  #28  
By arthwollipot on 5th December 2009, 09:58 PM
No. None of our ancestors was a chimpanzee. Our most recent common ancestor with the chimpanzee probably looked more like a chimpanzee than it looked like a human, but it was not a chimp.

For more information, see Richard Dawkins' The Ancestor's Tale.
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  #29  
By Dene on 7th December 2009, 06:14 PM
I am always keen to read something by Dawkins, so I will definitely check that out!
However I must still contest; even if the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees was not the chimpanzee, it would still be completely foolish to believe that the common ancestor of human and chimpanzees was not a monkey of some sort, even if that monkey did not resemble any monkey around today.
According to wikipedia (I hope wiki isn't frowned upon around here >.<) the primates date back 50-60 million years. Due to a lack of evidence of humans dating back further than about 7 million years, and due to the strong evidence that humans and the monkeys around today have a common ancestor, I think that the safest deduction to make is that humans evolved from some form of monkey.

(Sorry to harp on about this point, I love evolutionary discussions ).
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  #30  
By arthwollipot on 9th December 2009, 07:26 PM
And again, to be thoroughly pedantic, although the ancestor would have been monkey-like, it would not have been a monkey. Monkeys are a modern taxon, with just as much evolutionary history as we do. The only reason I harp on about this is that the "descended from monkeys" argument is so commonly used by creationists, and based entirely on a complete misunderstanding of evolution. I believe that it's important to make it completely clear.
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  #31  
By Dene on 14th December 2009, 06:14 PM
Oh jolly good, I understand where you are coming from now. Thanks for bearing with me .
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  #32  
By FuriousFunk on 8th March 2010, 04:45 PM
This same argument is used in one of the Christian lie Youtube things where they make up crap and present it to Christians to make scientists look silly and inspire themselves with their lies. Check on Youtube for "Einstein + Light+Cold" and "USC Professor Atheist" for some more propaganda that will really p*ss you off.
Why do Christians have to resort to lies in order to inspire themselves?
It's always easier to lie about reading one book than it is to actually read thousands of others to find real answers. People joke about it but in Christian Schools they actually have science tests where every answer is "God Did it". It's sad that this childish religion continues to strangle our society 2000 years after this Jesus dude supposedly lived.
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  #33  
By arthwollipot on 9th March 2010, 04:02 AM
Originally Posted by FuriousFunk View Post
People joke about it but in Christian Schools they actually have science tests where every answer is "God Did it".
I require evidence to support this claim.
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  #34  
By sphenisc on 9th March 2010, 05:01 AM
Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
And again, to be thoroughly pedantic, although the ancestor would have been monkey-like, it would not have been a monkey. Monkeys are a modern taxon, with just as much evolutionary history as we do. The only reason I harp on about this is that the "descended from monkeys" argument is so commonly used by creationists, and based entirely on a complete misunderstanding of evolution. I believe that it's important to make it completely clear.
No, it would have been a monkey. The argument it was monkey-like is based on a complete misunderstanding of evolution.
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  #35  
By arthwollipot on 9th March 2010, 05:28 AM
Originally Posted by sphenisc View Post
No, it would have been a monkey. The argument it was monkey-like is based on a complete misunderstanding of evolution.
I'm not sure where you get this idea from. Modern classifications rarely apply to extinct species.
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  #36  
By sphenisc on 9th March 2010, 08:37 AM
Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I'm not sure where you get this idea from. Modern classifications rarely apply to extinct species.
"Monkeys" is not a modern classification - it's 16thC word.

Can you provide an example of a modern classification which doesn't apply to at least one extinct species?
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  #37  
By arthwollipot on 10th March 2010, 05:57 AM
Only if you can demonstrate that the 16thC word was as rigorously defined as today.
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  #38  
By sphenisc on 10th March 2010, 06:04 AM
The claim was yours - the onus lies with you. If you've no evidence to support it feel free to retract.
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  #39  
By Cainkane1 on 10th March 2010, 06:20 AM
http://www.facts4u.com/OffSite_Store...iles/wyd04.htm

Here's a nice parody of a jack Chick tract.
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