April 30, 2012

Christian Student Vs. Atheist Professor -The Student's Concluding

I had intended for the concluding remarks to be one blog. However after I finished writing the about the Professor's concluding remarks two posts seemed to make more sense. So here we are to bring our discussion on the parable of the Christian Student vs. The Atheist Professor to a conclusion by looking at the student's concluding remarks;

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?

(The room was silent. The Professor stared at the student, his face unfathomable.)

Professor: I guess you’ll have to take them on faith, son.

Student : That is it sir … Exactly ! The link between man & GOD is FAITH. That is all that keeps things alive and moving.

This section of the story is so preposterous that it is almost painful to me. Let's start with the notion that unless we crack open the professor's skull that science concludes he doesn't have a brain. This conclusion has more in common with the quantum mechanics thought experiment Schr√∂dinger’s Cat or the philosophical concern that we might all be zombies than it does with more traditional scientific theory.

The problem with the student's argument is; even though no one in the class has directly observed the professor's brain they can rest assured that he has one.

Think of it another way. You likely have never seen your own lungs. But you are breathing at this very moment. We know that for a human to be able to breath baring massive medical intervention they need lungs. Therefore if I were to come up to you and tell you that I believed you had no lungs you don't need to subject yourself to surgery to prove me wrong, you just have to take another breath.

The argument holds true for the brain as well. Since at no time has a doctor preformed an autopsy on a recently deceased person only to discover that mysteriously they went thorough life without a brain we can safely assume every walking, talking, living individual has one without cutting their skull open.

No Matter How Stupid A Person Appears
If They Are Speaking To You They Have A Brain

Perhaps the worst part of this dialogue is where the student asks the professor,

With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir? 

Which the professor responds by saying,

I guess you’ll have to take them on faith, son.

I can honestly say I have never had a professor, whether it was when I was studying sociology or theology tell me to take their lectures on faith. They wanted me to gain knowledge on a particular topic, and if I thought they were wrong I was told to go and do my own research. I wasn't told to trust them, I wasn't asked to accept what I was being told by their authority alone, or even the book that they presented to me. If I wanted to truly challenge something that they were saying I had to descend into the bowels of the library and discover research that backed my argument.

Not to put to fine a point on it but the student's concluding remarks are both a gross misrepresentation of faith and a terrible oversimplification of science. Please do not use it.

I do want to conclude on a positive note. The student is very right when he says, the link between man and God is faith. It is my hope that as you have walked though this parable about the Christian student vs the Atheist professor that your faith was strengthened. By seeing where the student goes wrong, or where the professor misconstrues the normal atheist perspective I hope that you have had a chance to be challenged and grow. If I left you with any questions please ask. I want your faith to grow and develop. If you simply dismiss me the next person that you encounter that deconstructs this story for you may have a much different goal in mind.

Stay strong, and keep the well reasoned informed faith!