Sunday, January 13, 2008

Response to Student vs Professor;

Response to Student vs Professor by Todangst.


"Dialogue with a young theist." by Todangst.

A philosophy professor challenged his students with a form of the Euthyphro dilema: Did 'God' create everything that exists?" A student replied, "Yes, he did!" (The 'bravely' part is removed, seeing as civil disagreement is the very point of philosphy courses, no bravery is required for dissent. In fact, civil dissent is often rewarded in a philosophy class.)

"God created everything?" the professor asked. "Yes," the student replied. (The 'sir' part is removed, as no student in the 21st century addresses a college professor in this fashion, and the use of 'sir' is just a pretense of 'respect' from the theist mouthpiece who's actually feeling little more than contempt for the professor.'

The professor answered, "Well then, here's a logical puzzle for you: If God created everything, then God created evil; since evil exists and, according to the principal that our works define who we are, then God is evil."

The student became silently enraged over his worldview being 'attacked'. He began to project out his feelings of inadequecy as smugness coming from the professor.

The student then said: "Can I ask you a question professor?"

"Of course," replied the professor. That's the point of philosophical discourse. (The writer of the original story clearly has little experience with a real college classroom. The whole point of a philosophy or theology course is to foster discussion.)

Student: Is there such thing as heat?"

Professor: Yes, the professor replies. There's heat.

Student: "Is there such a thing as cold?"

Professor: "Yes, there's cold too."

Student: "No, sir, there isn't"

The professor doesn't grin or frown or react with any emotion other than curiosity. (The desire to see the professors 'smug smile wiped off his face' is just another projection of the feelings of inadequecy found in theists who argue like this sort of pablum...)

The student continues. You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat but we don't have anything called 'cold'. We can hit 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 458, 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"

Professor: (Nodding his head in dismay, and working out how many times he's heard this bad logic by now). Do you remember the section in your workbook on semantic fallacies? By your "logic" we could also say there is no 'heat', only differing degrees of cold.

Student: ( gives a confused look a dog might make)

Professor: Your choice of 'heat' over 'cold' was arbitrary. In reality, both 'heat' and 'cold' are subjective terms... what the philosopher John Locke properly called "secondary qualities". The secondary qualities refer to a very real phenomena: the movement of atomic and sub atomic particles. We refer to their different rates of movement as 'temperature.' So what we 'really' have is temperature.... the terms 'heat' and "cold' are merely subjective terms we use to denote our relative experience of temperature. So your entire argument is specious at best. You have not 'proven' that 'cold' does not exist, what you have done is shown that 'cold' is a subjective term. Removing the term we use to reference the phenomena does not eradicate the phenomena.

Student: (a bit stunned) "Uh... Ok.... Well, is there such a thing as darkness, professor?"

Professor: You are still employing the same logical fallacy. Just with a different set of of secondary qualities.

Student: "So you say there is such a thing as darkness?"

Professor: "What I am telling you is that you are repeating the very same error. "Darkness exists as a secondary quality.

Student: "You're wrong again. 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 and give me a jar of it. Can you give me a jar of darker darkness, professor?

Professor: Sure, right after you give me a jar of light. Seriously, what we call 'light' is actually a reference to photons. You've confused a secondary quality with an attribute again. "Light and dark' are subjective terms we use to describe a measure of photons. The photons actually exist, the terms 'light' and 'dark' are just subjective, relative terms... Doing away with a subjective term does not eradicate the actual phenomena itself - the photons.

Student: (gives a look not unlike a 3 year old trying to work out quantum physics)

Professor: I see your still struggling with the fallacy hidden in your argument. But let's continue, perhaps you'll see it.

Student: Well, you are working on the premise of duality", the christian explains.

Professor: Actually, I've debunked that claim two times now. But carry on.

Student: "Well, you assume, for example, that there is a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure.

Professor: And here, my class, we have a special plead fallacy. Be careful, my student. If you want to place your god beyond the grasps of reason, logic, and science and make him 'unmeasurable', then you are left with nothing but a mystery. So if you use this special plead to solve the problem, you can't call your god moral either. You can't call him anything. You can't say anything else about something beyond reason. So your solution is akin to treating dandruf by decapitation.

Student: (Gulps. Continues on, oblivious to what was just said) Sir, science cannot even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism but has never seen, much less fully understood them.

Professor: You just said that science cannot explain a thought. I'm not even sure what you mean by that. I think what you mean to say is this: there remains many mysteries in neuroscience. Would you agree?

Student: Yes sir.

Professor: And, along the same line of thought, we accept that there are things like thoughts, or electricity or magnetism even though we have never seen them?

Student: Yes!

Professor: Recall the section in your textbook concerning fallacies of false presumption. Turn to the entry on 'Category error'. You'll recall that a category error occurs when an inappropriate measure is used in regards to an entity, such as asking someone what the color a sound is. Asking someone to see magnetism commits such an error. However, there is yet another error in your argument: it assumes that empiricism relates to vision alone. This is false. Sight is not the sole means of knowing the world. We can use other senses to detect these phenomena. And we can view their effects upon the world. Furthermore, Again, you are conflating the fact that science is incomplete with the ridiculous implication that science knows 'nothing' about these phenomena... so you'll also want to review the section on 'arguing from ignorance.' Do you have more to say?

Student: (The student, continues, mainly unfazed, due to the protection his shield of ignorance affords him.) .... Um....... 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, merely the absence of it"

Professor: You are really in love with this secondary quality fallacy, aren't you? You are again confusing a secondary quality with the phenomena in of itself. "Death" and "life" are subjective terms we use to describe a more fundamental phenomena - biology. The phenomena in question, however, does exist. Biological forms in various states exist. Doing away with the subjective term does not eradicate the existence of death.

Nonplussed, the young man continues: "Is there such a thing as immorality?"

Professor: (Reaches for an asprin in his desk) Son... you're not going to again confuse a secondary quality for an attribute, are you? Please... what can I do to help you see this problem?

Student: (Continues on, fueled by ideology and oblivious to reality) You see, immorality is merely the absence of morality. Is there such thing as injustice? No. Injustice is the absence of justice. Is there such a thing as evil?" The christian pauses. "Isn't evil the absence of good?"

Professor: So, if someone murders your mother tonight, nothing happened? There was just an absence of morality in your house? Wait, I forgot... she's not dead... she's just experiencing an absence of life, right?

Student: Uh.....

Professor: You're beginning to see that something is missing in your argument, aren't you? Here's what your missing. You are confusing a secondary quality... a subjective term that we can use to describe a phenomena, for the phenomena itself. Perhaps you heard me mention this before? (The class erupts in laughter, the professor motions for them to stop laughing.) 'Immorality' is a descriptive term for a behavior. The terms are secondary, but the behaviors exist. So if you remove the secondary qualities, you do nothing to eradicate the real behavior that the terms only exist to describe. So by saying that 'immorality' is a lack of morality, you are not removing immorality from existence, you are just removing the secondary attribute, the term. And notice how dishonest your argument is... in that it speaks of morality and immorality devoid of behavior, but 'evil' exists as a behavior, evil is an intent to do harm. By the way, are you really trying to imply that immorality or evil are merely subjective qualities?

Student: Gulp! (Reeling from the psychological blows to his corrupt worldview....) Sir, Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?"
The professor soothes his aching forehead, and prepares for the 1 millionth time that he will be subjected to the 'can you see the wind' argument.

Professor: What an interesting turn this conversation has taken. Can I advise you to read Brofenbrenner's suggestion against arguing over subjects over which you are uninformed? It's in your textbook.

Student: "Professor, 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 priest?

Professor: Interesting indirect comment on the priesthood. But let's leave that aside... We do observe the process of evolution at work, for the process works at this very moment. As for the implication in your argument that one must 'be there' to observe a process at it occurs, surely you realize that we can infer the process through examining the evidence that these processes leave behind? In a sense, we 'are there' when we observe artifacts. Consider for example the science of astronomy. How do we know about super novas? Because we can observe diferrent supernovas in different stages of super nova, by observing their 'artifacts' in the night sky. The same stands for any historical science. Your mistake here is that you think science is merely observation, and 'real-time-observation' at that...This is a strawman of science. Science is both direct and indirect observation... it also allows for inference.

Student: "But sir! You stated that science is the study of observed phenomena.

Professor: No, this is a strawman of what science is... Science is more than just real time observation, we also make inferences. But continue....

Student: (Responds to this as a goat might respond to a book on calculus) May I give you an example of what I mean?"

Professor: Certainly.

Student: "Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen air, oxygen, molecules, atoms, the professor's brain?"

The class breaks out in laughter. The christian points towards professor, "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", The christian shakes his head sadly. "It appears no one here has had any sensory perception of the professor's brain whatsoever. Well, according to the rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science, I declare that the professor has no brain!"

Professor: You mean, according to your strawman view of science. I am glad that you are here in my class so that I can help you better understand what you criticize. Science is not merely 'looking' at things. Science is empirical, but also rational. We can make inferences from evidence of things that we do see, back to phenonema that we might not be able to directly see. And one inference I can make from observing your behaviors here today is that you've wasted the money you've spent on your logic textbook so far this year. I strongly advise, for your own sake, that you crack open that book today, and start reading


Powerfan5000 said...


Paul said...

Hello. I just thought you might like to read this article:
"A Christian Answer to the Euthyphro Dilemma" (link).