Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

God vs Science: Nothing to do with Einstein, everything to do with an "Urban Legend"

My Dad has a Christian friend from his days in the Navy, whom he emails with. He forwards a lot of joke emails he gets, and some of the emails are from his Christian friend. This is one of those:

Subject: God vs Science

This has been around before, but worth reading again! Some of you may have not seen it a great arguement.


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 get 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. Everybody 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 every day. 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.

If you read it all the way through and had a smile on your face when you finished, mail to your friends and family with the title 'God vs. Science'

PS: the student was Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein wrote a book titled God vs. Science in 1921.


[END]

The whole thing seemed a bit "off" to me. Einstein was Jewish, and I never heard of him being a Christian, so I did some research. It turns out that Einstein never wrote a book called "God vs Science". He did not believe in a personal God, and was resentful of the stories being told by religious people, claiming that he did. This from Einstein's Wikipedia page sums it up:

Religious views

The question of scientific determinism gave rise to questions about Einstein's position on theological determinism, and whether or not he believed in God, or in a god. In 1929, Einstein told Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein "I believe in Spinoza's God, who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind."[94] In a 1954 letter, he wrote, "I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly."[95] In a letter to philosopher Erik Gutkind, Einstein remarked, "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."[96]

Repeated attempts by the press to present Albert Einstein as a religious man provoked the following statement:

It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.
—Albert Einstein[97]

Einstein had previously explored this belief, that man could not understand the nature of God, when he gave an interview to Time Magazine explaining:

I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
—Albert Einstein[98]

I also read other sources on line about this, belittling Christians for "knowingly spreading this lie around the internet, to advance their religion".

That may be too harsh an accusation. I suspect many Christians pass this on because they believe it, and are ignorant of the facts. Ideally they ought to check the facts first before passing it on, but that can be said about many things that get passed around through email. In the end, the reader must verify.

I'm sure lots of Christians liked this story too because, it let's God off the hook where evil is concerned, and argues for the existence of faith. Yet I think it's ironic, too. The argument by the Christian against the atheist is that the atheist is working from a premise of duality. Yet isn't much of conventional Christian doctrine also based on the belief in duality? The argument against duality actually sounds like an argument in support of Eastern religion.

Snopes.com says that this email is actually a variation of an urban legend, where a Christian student puts an atheist professor in his place:

Snopes.com: Einstein and the "Evil is the absence of God" argument

Snopes gives all the details, and similar popular arguments that are often used to bolster religious faith in the face of atheistic arguments. And explains why Einstein got pulled into the story.

Here is another post by a blogger about this email story:

God vs Evil: A Philosophical Chain Email

In the comments below it, someone quotes some excerpts from a paper by Albert Einstein, called “Science and Religion.” While Einstein was not conventionally religious, he wasn't an atheist either. If you follow the link, there are some interesting quotes from the paper, as well as some other quotes by Einstein.

According to Snopes, Einstein, as a "generic genius", got incorporated into this Urban Legend. I suspect that his paper then got referred to as a book, the title got changed slightly, and claims were made about the content and the author's beliefs that don't hold up to scrutiny.

It's interesting to see how facts over time can get distorted. And it's great that a bit of searching on the internet can explain it all, uncover the history and connect the dots, and set the record straight again.

     

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7 Comments:

At Tue Jul 19, 01:31:00 PM 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A wonderful blog. Great quotes, clear thinking. Thanks!

 
At Mon Mar 19, 02:21:00 PM 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This email, which comes around every year or so, has always irritated me. Anyone with only a passing knowledge of Albert Einstein knows he was born as, raised as, and lived his life as a Jew, and never would have said "yes" to the questions "Are you a Christian" and "do you believe in Jesus" and the whole concept of evil as Satan-derived is foreign to Judaism. Doubtful Einstein ever would have denied the evolutionary process, either, even as a young student.

Anyone who is amused by this tale could be amused by it without it ever having been attributed to one of the greatest scientists who ever lived. It's the addition of Einstein that pushes it over the edge.

 
At Wed Mar 21, 11:21:00 AM 2012, Blogger Chas said...

Yes, I agree completely.

 
At Tue Apr 17, 01:01:00 AM 2012, Blogger Roxanne said...

Thanks for you and your friends. One of my Christian friends posted the quote of Einstein today. At first glance, I knew it should be another rumor yet I couldn't point out where the problem was immediately. Now I know the very beginning was wrong already :D

 
At Wed May 30, 07:57:00 AM 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this. However, I take issue with your position that "I suspect many Christians pass this on because they believe it, and are ignorant of the facts. Ideally they ought to check the facts first before passing it on, but that can be said about many things that get passed around through email. In the end, the reader must verify."

To pass something along without making a reasonable attempt to verify its accuracy is no different than lying. Period. Christians ought not lie. If they forward this crap, they are liars. Plain and simple.

 
At Sat Jun 09, 02:25:00 PM 2012, Blogger Chas said...

Not verifying it before forwarding it could be described as careless, reckless, lazy, irresponsible, etc. But I would say it's only a lie, if the sender knew it was untrue, but forwarded it anyway. It's a matter of intention; the difference between telling a lie, and merely being misinformed.

That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it. If anyone wants to disagree with that, so be it. But I personally, am not interested in splitting hairs arguing about it.

 
At Mon Mar 04, 05:26:00 AM 2013, Blogger xyz said...

It is just a harmelss email, and if it gets people to stop for one second and mention the name God, then that is enought for me!

 

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