Here it is if you haven’t read it yet. The argument is between a Christian student and an atheist professor. It’s been spreading like wildfire on Facebook, Tumblr, and beyond once again. I know many see the flaws in the conversation’s argumentative structure, but I thought I would address a few factual and logical flaws that people have unfortunately failed to acknowledge.
1) Okay, let’s get the first “Are you a Christian?” line and the last “By the way, that student was EINSTEIN” line out of the way. Einstein wasn’t Christian…
- Einstein was raised Jewish. Later in his life he did read the Bible and admitted that he admired the Church for opposing Nazi Germany, but he never would have considered himself a Christian. Not even close. His ideas about a deity fluttered around agnosticism.
- The person who created this argument likely thought that if the student were a profound, established genius it would strengthen the argument.
2) The student is inconsistent when he attacks the professor’s “flawed premise of duality.”
- During his rebuttal, the student echoes many of Plato’s basic concepts, such as 1) death as the absence of life, 2) darkness as a mere absence of light, and 3) coldness as an absence of heat, or energy.
- And yet, when the student is first being attacked, the professor asks if the student agrees that evil exists. The student says he does. But if he followed the logic in his later arguments, then evil would simply be considered an absence of good, not an entity in itself.
- Also, the professor asks the student to confirm that immorality exists in the world. Again, immorality should be defined as the absence of morality if the student is being consistent in his argumentation.
3) The student leaps to the accusation that the professor cannot prove he has a brain because no one has seen it.
- This question of trust is incredibly prevalent and commonly misinterpreted. Look no further than Descartes’s Meditations to see how this can be pushed to the point where you can have doubts about whether any other perceived human is truly a human, like you. You are only familiar with your thoughts and you can trust only your own senses, so like everything else must be thrown into question in a Cartesian manner.
- The student finishes with the claim that “science says you have no brain.” Well, actually science states that all humans, if they are to be considered humans, have a brain, by definition. Within the student’s assertion is the idea that he cannot accept that his professor is a human unless he takes a leap of faith.
4) The student’s reasoning to take a supposed leap of faith is a classic example of false equivalence. Faith ≠ Probability.
- Some people believe that the world is not over 8,000 years old, which roughly falls in accordance with (interpretations of) the Bible. Yet these same individuals accept that there was a world before they were born.
- The difference between the two is not faith, it is a matter of probability, which is strengthened by continuity.
- The student cannot legitimately use reason to accept that humans lived in the past before he was alive, but not in the present alongside him.
- However, he insinuates this precisely when he questions the existence and trustworthiness of the professor, despite declaring himself a Christian earlier.
My final thought on this argument is that it is not necessarily one for religion. Rather, it is pro-agnosticism and anti-atheism, which can be both misleading but actually still in accordance with some of Einstein’s beliefs. To quote Einstein (no, the real Einstein) in an interview published in 1930 in G. S. Viereck's book Glimpses of the Great, he said:
"I’m not an atheist… We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. 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."
Anyway, I’d love to discuss this further. Comment, reblog, or find me on twitter.