Monday, February 15, 2010

A Rebuttal to a Poor Argument

A Rebuttal to a Poor Argument

This is a rebuttal to a very weak argument/fictional story sent out by one of my friends parents to him arguing for the existence of "God".

'Let me explain the problem science has with religion.'
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?'


Is God good?'

'Sure! God's good.'

˜Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?'


˜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.

Professor: 'Is Satan good?'

The student doesn't hesitate on this one. 'No.'

'Then where does Satan come from?'

The student falters. '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?'


'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.'

Again, the student has no answer. 'Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?'

The student squirms on his feet. '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 betrays him and cracks. '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 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?'


'According to the rules of empirical, testable, Demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn't exist. What do you say to that, son?'

First off the fictitious professor is defining good as something totally different than what the student views as being good and this distinction is not addressed. But, under the views of the professor God is not good and is the creator of all things evil. As for the professors last statement that science says your God doesn’t exist, this is a false statement, science does not say that this or that does not exist, science only says if there is any evidence for the existence of God, which there is none. The above statement about science “says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you” is a misclassification of the scientific method. The scientific method is separate from our five senses, we use our five senses to experience the world but scientific knowledge is gained by non-subjective means. First you may observe a phenomenon but that is not good enough to validate it’s “existence”, that phenomena must be tested for and reproduced, otherwise known as hypothesis testing and falsification. It is also possible to test for things with which we cannot see with our “five senses”, we have x-ray machines, microscopes, and various other indirect methods of observation available.

'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?'

'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.'

This is a misuse of the words heat and cold. While the student is correct by stating that we have a concept of what absolute zero is and is correct in his definition of what absolute zero is, he is wrong in his defining that there is no such thing as cold. Temperature is a function of the movement of particles, you can either get colder or hotter based upon what temperature you start with. While there is a absolute zero (which actually physicists don’t believe you can actually get to absolute zero), physicists also believe there is a limit to temperature on both ends, it is called the plank temperature 1.41679 x 10^32 Kelvins, this is the temperature at which space boils, and I will also say that these ideas are only theory that are applicable to our universe, we have no way of knowing at this moment what the laws of physics are if there are multiple universes or dimensions of space. But back to the definition of cold, the word cold being an adjective is widely used as a statement of low-temperature and since it is an adjective it is an arbitrary measurement of the amount of heat and object has. Heat is a noun defined as a form of energy that is produced by the movement of atoms. In no way is the word cold dependent on whether or not we can get past absolute zero on the temperature scale, neither is the word heat dependent upon whether or not we can get past the Planck temperature. The above paragraph shows a false dichotomy of the words cold and heat, then precedes to attacks a straw-man position which no sane person should hold. While yes it is true that we cannot “measure” cold that is because cold isn’t defined as a type of energy it is only defined as an amount of energy in comparison to another object or place.

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?'

Again the student thinks he is making a point but he isn’t. Darkness is a measure of the amount of light. You can have no light or light. Darkness is defined as the absence of light, the definition is not dependent on whether or not you can make darkness darker. Therefore Darkness is a quantity of light or it’s absence, it is an adjective.

'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 it 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.'

The student is actually using flawed logic here. The premise of the professor is not actually fully explained. But even so, within the limited definitions with which the professor used to define good and evil the students God actually falls under those categories. The professor also did not argue that there is life and death, but any sane person should know that there are things with which are alive and things with which are dead. Does the professor actually argue that “God” is measurable? I don’t see anything above that indicates this. The fact is that God is only measurable if he has effects on reality, if this theoretical God has no effects on reality he cannot be tested for and thus shall remain hidden and unknown, although one should keep in mind that this type of God is far removed from the God purported by the followers of the main Abrahamic religions. The student then makes a claim that science cannot explain a thought, actually science can explain a lot of things about a thought, science just doesn’t fully understand all of the mechanisms that go into producing a thought, but we do know bits and pieces of how thoughts are produced. Science also can explain the observed force of electro-magnetism, not to mention that electricity and magnetism are observable, so the student doesn’t make a point here. Now back to the skewed definitions and false dichotomy straw-man positions, death is the act of dying, life means that something is alive, what is the point of saying that they are not opposite?

'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 endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?'

Have we evolved from Monkey’s? That depends on whether or not you call the clade which gave rise to primates Monkeys, if you do than we did evolve from monkeys, as we did evolve from reptiles, amphibians, fish. Creationists often think that because the progeny of ancestral Monkey’s still exist and since we call them Monkeys, it is impossible for humans to exist at the same time. Evolution is not a ladder, monkeys do not need to go extinct in order for apes to evolve, two monkey populations can be separated and one population can evolve into a different species by natural selection, all the while the other population due to low selective pressures and high genetic variance can remain “resistant” to evolution. Also Evolution is observable, we can artificially select for many traits in animals and plants, even to the point of evolving different species, this has been done in the lab and on the farm, for as long as the domestication of plants and animals by humans. There is also extensive literature on the evolution of organisms observed within our life-times in scientific journals, through various methods most commonly though natural selection.

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 smelt 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?'

Actually science can say if the professor has a brain or not. You can do this by various methods i.e. X-ray, cut his head open…. This goes back to the general misunderstanding of what science is. Science is not equal to the human five senses and does not in any way prove that the professor does not have a brain.

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?'

Actually no one has to take it on faith that the professor has a brain. This is another problem with word use in this lame story. Faith when used by those who are religious is used to delineate a belief in which there is no substantial evidence, an untestable belief, and a belief in which if there is evidence to the contrary should still be believed. While obviously the question of whether or not the professor has a brain is a testable hypothesis and requires no faith, it is simply a reasonable belief. As for the existence of faith, yes there are people who have and use the above definition of faith in their lives, while thinking people who are moral, honest with themselves and open-minded should try to minimize “faith” as much as possible.

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.

The student makes the same error again. Evil as defined by the professor is based upon a simplified utilitarian viewpoint, which states that evil constitutes crime and violence (while I do find this definition lacking it still is a definition). Why would the student claim that evil does not exist, then in the next sentence state that it does exist? Then the student defines evil as the absence of God, as if this definition is a priori correct and better then the simplified utilitarian definition put forth by the professor. So if evil is the absence of God and is analogous to cold and darkness then it is a measure of how much God there is in a system? Lol!? It baffles me to think that the person who wrote this does not consider mindless acts of violence as evil. This has to be one of the most depressing things I have read in quite a while. Why can’t people just be honest with themselves and admit that their God is immoral and evil by any sane usage of the word?

PS: the student was Albert Einstein

Actually, no, the student was probably not Albert Einstein. Einstein would never have argued for such bad arguments based upon misused words, straw-man fallacies, false facts, and poor logic.

The following is an actual statement from Einstein, with which I have posted in the past. It comes from a letter from Einstein that was auctioned off for ~200,000$

The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. ... For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstition. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong ... have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything “chosen” about them.

1 comment:

Paul Harris said...

God is not good (Part I)

There is a general misconception about God that He is good, but actually He is not. God is neither good, nor evil, He is beyond good and evil. If God is the ultimate being, then that God cannot be good. When we are saying that God is good, we are passing some judgment on God, we are saying that He is good. But by what standard of goodness are we judging him good? From where has it originated? As believers say that their God is the all-thing and everything that was there, therefore this standard of goodness could have originated from God only, and not from any other source, because except that God there was no other source from which it could have originated. So we are judging God good by His own standard of goodness. But this is a dangerous principle. Because if this principle is being followed in other cases also, then there will be complete chaos. Then everybody will start claiming that he should be judged for his action by his own standard only, and not by the standard of other people, society, or state. And he can legitimately claim this, because he will say that God has made man in His own image. So the principle that is followed in case of God should also be followed in case of each and every single human being. Why should there be any deviation from that principle in case of man? Is he not created in God’s own image? So, after killing six million Jews Hitler will claim that he is innocent, because he thought it absolutely necessary to efface their race from the surface of earth, in order to save mankind from future disasters. Therefore by his own standard of goodness and badness he has done nothing wrong.
Therefore the above principle will have to be abandoned and we will have to seek for some other principle. In that case if we say that God is good, then we will have to admit that the standard by means of which we judge God good has not originated from Him, but from some other source. Here there are two possibilities:
1) This standard is prior to God,
2) It is coeternal with, but not originated from, God.
In none of the two cases above, God is the all-thing and everything that can be there. So believers cannot claim that their God is the all-thing and everything that is there, and at the same time claim that He is good.
Bertrand Russell, although an atheist, has already shown that God cannot be good, for the simple reason that if God is good, then there is a standard of goodness which is independent of God’s will. Here Russell is also admitting that if God is to be judged good at all, then He will have to be so judged by a standard that should not, and must not, have originated from God. In Hindu mythology, Brahma (Supreme Being) is said to be beyond good and evil. He is neither good, nor evil. But both good as well as evil have originated from Him, who is neither good nor evil.