God Vs Science: a frustrating fable
The other day a friend sent me a link to a story entitled “God vs. Science,” which is supposedly a transcript of a conversation between an atheist professor and a religious student about the existence of an omnipotent God and the philosophy of evil. I won’t repost the story, as it is quite long, but you can find it here (there is one important difference between the version I was sent, and the one at that link: the version my friend sent me made the claim that the student was, in fact, one Mr. Albert Einstein). My friend said that reading the story made her “blood boil”, but she wasn’t sure exactly why it was so frustrating.
Below is the (unedited) response I sent, with thoughts on what the story gets wrong, and why it may be so frustrating for people who disagree with its intended lessons.
Wow, it sure is arrogant.
The professor (i.e. ‘science’) is a weak and desperate man who really isn’t using any science at all – his arguments are all bad philosophy and rhetoric. There’s a lot of messing with word definitions, as if the way the english language is set up has anything to do with reality (‘faith’ in brain ownership = ‘faith’ in Jesus? ‘existence’ of a concept = ‘existence’ of a physical object?). That’s one of my biggest frustrations with religious apologetics; so much of it seems deliberately confusing, with the same words being used in different ways without ever being strictly defined. Presenting the professor like that makes the assumption that science and religion are on the same intellectual level, which of course we know they aren’t, and that they both use the same kinds of arguments, which of course we know they don’t.
By the end of it, there isn’t really any logical argument or specific claim being made, so there’s no way to respond to it. The person who posts that story can sit back smugly, and the only thing you can really do is start arguing semantics, which isn’t very satisfying. Maybe that’s the source of the frustration? I guess you could say that a good God wouldn’t make a universe whose neutral state is evil, but that would be sinking down to their level and giving them undue credibility.
Of course, the line at the end about the student being Albert Einstein is just ridiculous. That claim alone forces the story to have happened at a specific university during a brief period of time. If it were true, we would be able to identify the exact professor! Not to mention that Einstein as a student was average at best, and wouldn’t have been going around challenging his teachers. The story would also have to have been told originally by one of a small number of classmates Einstein had, yet of course no sources are given. I wonder if the semantic arguments even make sense in German. Einstein was also Jewish (at least culturally – he was openly atheist as an adult), and the theology in the story is distinctly Christian.
I found this on Snopes, which discredits the Einstein connection, but also has some good points on why the story itself is appealing to the religious, and why it might be particularly maddening for the non-religious:
Can anyone else offer further insight into why the story might raise the temperature of one’s blood? Or perhaps I’ve made an error myself, and someone wants to defend the arguments of the apocryphal student?