[The following essay came across my e-mail yesterday. You know the type, it’s been forwarded around the world. I don’t know who wrote it, so I apologize to the unknown author for not giving him or her proper attribution. It is a wonderful discussion of God vs. science.]

***

God vs. Science

“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?’

‘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? 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 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?’

‘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.’

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?’

‘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.’

‘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 down 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 endeavor, 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 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?’

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.

 

3 Comments

  1. maxine bechtel on January 15, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    GOOD ONE! If I ever need a lawyer, I’d like to hire that student! What’s his name??

  2. Brian on January 16, 2011 at 2:19 am

    So, according to that story, do people die of cancer because they have an absence of God?

  3. bryan on January 28, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    With all due respect to believers, this story’s a bit contrived, no?

    If God created *everything*, then he created a universe that includes absence-of-God’s-love (ie, the story’s conception of evil). How is that not creating evil? And how is it in line with the idea of omnipresence?
    This isn’t really an argument against the existence of God – it’s more pointing out a problem with the concepts of omnipotence & omnipresence, like “Can God make a rock so heavy that He can’t lift it?” It’s really only relevant in the sense of pointing out that most believers’ concept of God carries with it some logical difficulties.

    And while there’s nothing illogical about it, I don’t understand what equating evil with cold and darkness does to prove the existence of God, either – it seems like just another way of thinking about the word “evil.” It’s certainly an interesting way to conceive of it, but I’m not sure what it proves, other than making a fictitious character – the character of an unbelieving strawman as drawn by a believer – look silly.

    The main problems with the student’s argument are these:

    1) When the professor says that darkness/cold exist, the student says “no they don’t” – which is basically true from a physics standpoint: cold and darkness aren’t physical things, they’re the absence of particular types of energy. But that doesn’t mean the professor believes in things that don’t exist – it merely means he uses his language’s words for absence of heat and light. Certainly the absence of light exists – it doesn’t take faith to believe it, it’s observable.

    2) The bigger point is that just because we can’t observe/touch/feel/smell/etc *everything* doesn’t mean that logically what a person believes may as well be a free-for-all.
    The problem comes when we say “You take the prof’s brain on faith, I take God on faith – see, you’re no more logical than I am.”
    But we presume the presence of the professor’s brain because other brains *have* been perceived, and we’ve never heard of a person *without* a brain being able to function at the professor’s level. If we opened his head and found it empty, we would have to incorporate that new information into our worldview; until that happens, however, it’s not “faith” to believe in his brain, it’s merely the simplest logical explanation for observed phenomena.
    Put another way, believing that my mom loves me doesn’t mean it’s also reasonable to believe in talking salamanders.
    An omnipotent creator is just one of a nearly infinite number of theories one could hold about the nature of existence and the universe. God – especially one as specifically described and understood as the conventional Christian god – is in fact an extraordinary idea , in that there’s no observable proof of His existence, while there is a multitude of examples of extremely similar beliefs throughout human history that we now reject as fables, as well as many solid, consistent, and logical sociological/psychological theories as to why we would embrace these beliefs and how they would flourish.
    God is (at least so far) no more proven than the existence of a penguin-deity, or a god made of magical colored toothpicks. Extraordinary theories call for extraordinary proof, and God only escapes seeming extraordinary because believing parents present His existence to us as Truth from our earliest conscious thought, the idea receives powerful social reinforcement throughout our lives, and believing satisfies numerous common and powerful psychological/emotional needs.

    I have tried to be reasonably respectful above to believers, inasmuch as I can while completely disagreeing with ideas that believers hold dearer than life; if I have failed, my apologies. My assumption is that ideas presented on the internet are open to challenge. I wish everyone happy and fulfilled lives, no matter what they choose to believe.

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