27 June 2007

Propaganda email memes

My fiancée received the following forwarded email from a friend yesterday. It's not quite as bad as a certain Chick tract I've read, but it follows the same formula: an enlightened student outwits an aggressive, self-assured college professor, eventually convincing the professor of the power of faith in God.

Not one to let propaganda go unanswered, particularly from someone I like, I feel I have to respond. Here's the email in its entirety, with intermittent commentary by yours truly:

An atheist professor of philosophy speaks to his class on the problem science has with God, The Almighty.
He asks one of his new Christian students to stand.....
Professor: You are a Christian, aren't you, son?
Student : Yes, sir.

No professor I've ever known would ever put a student on the spot like that. Maybe some philosophy profs are crazy like that, but I doubt it. What this fictionalized setup does is poison the well against the professor. He isn't going to give a reasoned lecture on the conflict between science and faith, he's just going to persecute Christians and pick on the new kid!

Prof: So you believe in God?
Student : Absolutely, sir.
Prof: Is God good?
Student : Sure.
Prof: Is God all-powerful?
Student : Yes.
Prof: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to God to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But God didn't. How is this God good then? Hmm?
(Student is silent.)
Prof: You can't answer, can you? Let's start again, young fella. Is God good?
Student :Yes.
Prof: Is Satan good?
Student : No.
Prof: Where does Satan come from?
Student : From...God...
Prof: That's right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?
Student : Yes.
Prof: Evil is everywhere, isn't it? And God did make everything. Correct?
Student : Yes.
Prof: So who created evil?
(Student does not answer.)
Prof: Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don't they?
Student :Yes, sir.
Prof: So, who created them?
(Student has no answer.)

Here we have an actual issue in the teaching of religion, the trilemma of the three claims: "God is all-powerful," "God is all-good," and "Pain exists." Any two of those claims can be true without contradicting each other, but not all three at once (for instance, God can be all-good and pain can exist, if God isn't powerful enough to end all pain). But instead of being addressed academically, this issue is turned into an attack against the student, further indication that this is complete fiction. (Also, "young fella?" It's like they're not even trying to make this prof sound real.)

Prof: Science says you have 5 senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Tell me, son...Have you ever seen God?
Student : No, sir.
Prof: Tell us if you have ever heard your God?
Student : No , sir.
Prof: Have you ever felt your God, tasted your God, smelt your God? Have you ever had any sensory perception of God for that matter?
Student : No, sir. I'm afraid I haven't.
Prof: Yet you still believe in Him?
Student : Yes.
Prof: According to empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your GOD doesn't exist. What do you say to that, son?
Student : Nothing. I only have my faith.
Prof: Yes. Faith. And that is the problem science has.

If this is the best characterization of the scientific method this professor can come up with, then he has no business teaching this course. There's more to science than "Sniff, sniff... nope, don't smell no God." Direct observation with the senses is important evidence to consider, but it's not the only kind of evidence out there. I can't see or smell magnetic fields, but I can observe them by their interactions with moving charged particles, for instance. Now, there's none of this other kind of evidence for God's existence either, but you wouldn't know it from this dialogue.

Student : Professor, is there such a thing as heat?
Prof: Yes.
Student : And is there such a thing as cold?
Prof: Yes.
Student : No sir. There isn't.
(The lecture theatre becomes very quiet with this turn of events.)

Presumably all the other students were talking amongst themselves until this point, completely disinterested in their prof's "lecture." Well, buckle up, folks, because we're about to get an edge-of-your-seat lesson in semantics that--*gasp*--tries to make the professor look foolish:

Student : Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, 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. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.
(There is pin-drop silence in the lecture theatre.)
Student : What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?
Prof: Yes. What is night if there isn't darkness?
Student : You're wrong again, sir. Darkness 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? In reality, darkness isn't. If it were you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn't you?

Okay, granted, darkness and cold aren't measurable quantities, they aren't energy or matter. But what's the point of this exercise, apart from trying to make the professor look like an idiot?

Prof: So what is the point you are making, young man?

Precisely what I'm wondering. (Cripes, can this professor's dialogue get more stilted?!)

Student : Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.
Prof: Flawed? Can you explain how?
Student : Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is 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.

Um, when did the professor mention death? And no, death is not just the absence of life. There's a difference between "not alive" (i.e., a rock) and "dead" (i.e. roadkill, or Abe Lincoln). And what the heck is the rest of that gibberish supposed to mean?! Is that supposed to be some sort of rebuttal to the trilemma? "Q: Why would an all-powerful, all-good creator God allow pain to exist? A: God is infinite." Somehow, that isn't a satisfying answer.

Student (cont'd): Now tell me, Professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?

Oh Christ, here we go...

Prof: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course, I do.

Correct response: "No, I teach evolution by natural selection, which does NOT say that humans evolved from monkeys, but rather that humans and modern primates share a common primate-like ancestor." Extra credit: "Please let me continue my lecture, you can see me after class."

Student : Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?
(The Professor shakes his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument is going.)
Student : 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 not a scientist but a preacher?
(The class is in uproar.)

YES, WE HAVE OBSERVED THE PROCESS OF EVOLUTION AT WORK. ASSHOLES. (And is anyone else finding it a little unbelievable that the class is uniformly rallying behind the loudmouth, instead of throwing wads of paper at him and telling him to shut up?)

Student : Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor's brain?
(The class breaks out into laughter.)
Student : Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor's brain, felt it, touched or smelt it?.....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, sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir?

There you go, the problem with the earlier misconception of science. I have to wonder, are the authors deliberately being misleading, or do they really think that's the way science works? No, we can't see or smell the professor's brain, but that doesn't mean we have no evidence that it exists. We know from experience that people without brains can neither walk nor talk. The professor is walking and talking, so the evidence suggests he has a brain. (And is it just me, or is the student starting to sound like a Dr. Seuss character? "Look, sir. Look, sir. Mr. Knox, sir. Let's do tricks with bricks and blocks, sir.")

(The room is silent. The professor stares at the student, his face unfathomable.)
Prof: I guess you'll have to take them on faith, son.
Student : That is it sir.. The link between man & God is FAITH. That is all that keeps things moving & alive.

And so ends the Christian's wet dream. A fictional dialogue is established to make the Christian student sound smarter than the atheist professor and win everyone over to the side of faith. This is accomplished only by perpetuating complete ignorance of the scientific method. It sickens me that lies like these are propagated so easily by good, intelligent people.


I don't get a lot of forwarded emails, and so it's been a while since I've seen one of these. Have any of you had to put up with this sort of thing lately?

1 comment:

Freak-Y said...

just google socrates vs jesus and read the good stuff man!

one argument where logic rules over faith :-)