Monday, August 08, 2005

On faith, science and the human mind...

I received this in a mail from a friend today. Very interesting, so please do read through it.

An atheist professor of philosophy speaks to his class on the problem science has with God, The Almighty. He asks one of his new students to stand and.....

Prof: So you believe in God?
Student: Absolutely, sir.

Prof: Is God good?
Student: Sure.

Prof: Is God all-powerful?
Student: Yes.

Prof: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to God to heal him.Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But God didn't. How is this God good then? Hmm?
Student: (Student is silent.)

Prof: You can't answer, can you? Let's start again, young fella. Is God good?
Student: Yes.

Prof: Is Satan good?
Student: No.

Prof: Where does Satan come from?
Student: From...God...

Prof: That's right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?
Student: Yes.

Prof: Evil is everywhere, isn't it? And God did make everything. Correct?
Student: Yes.

Prof: So who created evil?
Student: (Student does not answer.)

Prof: Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don't they?
Student: Yes, sir.

Prof: So, who created them?
Student: (Student has no answer.)

Prof: Science says you have 5 senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Tell me, son...Have you ever seen God?
Student: No, sir.

Prof: Tell us if you have ever heard your God?
Student: No , sir.

Prof: Have you ever felt your God, tasted your God, smelt your God? Have you ever had any sensory perception of God for that matter?
Student: No, sir. I'm afraid I haven't.

Prof: Yet you still believe in Him?
Student: Yes.

Prof: According to empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your GOD doesn't exist. What do you say to that, son?
Student: Nothing. I only have my faith.

Prof: Yes. Faith. And that is the problem science has.

Student: Professor, is there such a thing as heat?
Prof: Yes.

Student: And is there such a thing as cold?
Prof: Yes.

Student: No sir. There isn't. (The lecture theatre becomes very quiet with this turn
of events.)

Student: Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, 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. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.(There is pin-drop silence in the lecture theatre.)

Student: What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?
Prof: Yes. What is night if there isn't darkness?

Student: You're wrong again, sir. Darkness 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? In reality, darkness isn't. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn't you?
Prof: So what is the point you are making, young man?

Student: Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.
Prof: Flawed? Can you explain how?

Student: Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is 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?
Prof: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course, I do.

Student: Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?
Prof: (The Professor shakes his head with a smile,beginning to realize where the argument is going.)

Student: Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavour, are you not teaching
your opinion, sir? Are you not a scientist but a preacher?
Prof: (The class is in uproar.)

Student: Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor's brain?
Prof: (The class breaks out into laughter.)

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?

Prof: (The room is silent. The professor stares at the student, his face unfathomable.)
Prof: I guess you'll have to take them on faith, son.

Student: That is it sir.. The link between man & God is FAITH. That is all that keeps things moving & alive.

I enjoyed this tale, but I only pity the professor for not cultivating a sound rebuttal to a slightly flawed set of examples that the student provided, although what the student had to say had truth intact. But that is besides the point.
This mail reminded me of a conversation I had had with a friend into the night. We spoke long enough to exhaust the charge in her mobile! We were discussing purpose, destiny and the like, God not spared! Its not the content of the discussion and this mail that are similar but the whole nature of the human mind and the various things we have constructed for ourselves.
Man created a stream of scientific thought and pitted it against a creation of belief which stems from the same source of human creations - the brain. Countless men and women walk this earth and can swear by miracles that they have seen happen in front of their eyes, but are ridiculed because these miracles cannot be reproduced in vitro. We create a stream of thought and expect everything to be encompassed in it. The religious man wants the illness to be healed by a miracle, and the scientist wants to explain why every healthy member of the family died in the earthquake, save the 8 month old babe. Many philosophies were created and some got transformed into religions and soon we expect everyone to agree with "my religion". We create boundaries on undivided land and train our armies against each other. The natural phenomena would have existed without science and miracles would happen without religion and god. We push these to the extreme and create a little good and a lot of unacceptable results.
After the conversation with my friend, I tossed on my bed trying to figure out what was wrong. What she held as her belief didn't appeal to me and couldn't stand the onslaught of my barrage of questions, prepared of years of clever conversations and sophistry. I felt stupid at the end of it all. Simply stupid. To think that her belief, and her beat must stand true to the touchstone of my understanding was the most stupid thing I could ever indulge in. I spent another hour retracing the discussion and trying to figure out where I had broken away and took that stance. It helped, although it was very exhausting.
I don't think the entire world will ever agree about nearly anything and it takes a lot of discipline and tolerance to realise that and quit imposing our views and our beliefs on others. The popular sport of ridiculing another person's ideas or beliefs is best left as a sport to tease someone very close to you, who is aware of the prank you are playing on her/him. Science might insist that this is the best means of establishing the truth and thereby forcing empirical means of proving something on demand. I think the world does not go round because science is able to establish something or not. Science is still not able to predict natural calamities, and the world has been around for billions of years. We really think we and our beliefs are so important? To discuss is healthy when both parties are open to discussion, but establishing our point of view is not always essential. I was striving to do so over the conversation, although I was telling myself that all I was trying to do is help my sweet little friend understand what she was saying and see things from a different POV. It seems to have gotten her thinking!! :-D But...
The world really doesn't need me to establish anything nor is it looking towards me to provide any definitions and/or tenets.


  1. mailed u the comment

  2. One of the most difficult conversations would ensue disagreements, where in both are unwilling to change their "belief" system and at best can only respect and tolerate the others.

    but then, such conversations also make you think about your very own self, make you question your own beliefs and then when you come out of it - you are much clearer in what you believe in. otherwise, a paradigm shift with the hope that you have changed for the better.

    However, sticking to your beliefs inspite of knowing it is not truly correct just to appease the ego, would be stupid. btw, who is to define as what is "right" and "wrong".

    btw, i had received this mail a few months back. the student in question happened to be Albert Einstein. don't really know about the veracity of this statement. that's what that mail said.

    hmmmm... quite a long comment. :)

  3. "The world really doesn't need me to establish anything nor is it looking towards me to provide any definitions and/or tenets"

    This one made more sense to me than the rest of the exposition...

  4. Dear K,

    Dear R,
    I agree with you and that is why I feel that if both are participating in the conversation, then its fine, but to propagate beliefs... naah!

    Dear M,

  5. All human beings in this world have different perceptions. In order to avoid clash or confusions its always better to remain as an open book. Listen what others say and dont, never try to impose urs on others...
    grill and then filter others thoughts and accept what you feel is right to your conscience...Then wtever it may be we wont be having any confusion regrding any of ours or others thoughts...

  6. interesting post ;)

  7. I read somewhere the true test of a friendship is to disagree and hold hands. Such equanimity is perhaps hard to achieve...

  8. I think I didn't get the msg. across well enough. I wasn't talking about the conflicts that arise from such discussions as much as the futility in trying to play paladin for a philosophy/cause/belief...

    Dear V,
    Welcome to my blog. I agree with what you say. That seems to be the way towards it...

    Dear W,

    Dear A,

  9. The world doesn't needs you to provide definition. But do not confuse that with living a life without understanding and accepting the reality. Its difficult... but its worth it. And only when you accept reality, you can establish something. The world you see around yourself was established!! And not by simply accepting that it doesn't needs one or the other.

    We are caught in a chain of looking into the mind of other and convincing him/her. Start with self and use the only tool you created for yourself: your reason and your love for your life. Rest follows.

  10. Dear Crush,
    I think that confusion is a concern, yes. And as you rightly put it, it is difficult. But I am not sure with: only when you accept reality, you can establish something If reality is accepted that is the end of matter. There is nothing left to establish. Thanks for stopping by... :-)

  11. Why are you on earth? Who are you? What is your objective? All the interrogatives ... *I'm tired*

    Point is: What is it that keeps you going? I'm not interested in that objective on your Resume. Just tell yourself honestly - What do you want? Why are you breathing?

    Are you a better man than the one you were yesterday? If so, how? In what way? So, tomorrow - are you sure you'll be around?

    Its not about winning a point and losing a friend here, its about - just how important it is for me to feel arrogantly RIGHT that I am right. All of the above questions were a try at trying to PROVE some point which would have been of the remotest interest to u, but you'd have read through just because - I'm commenting after a long time and u wanna know -'What's the point?'

    The point is - for ages we've been trying to 'Control' wield power over all that we can. Right from controlling own children to trying to predict what is gonna happen in the next second ...

    Miracles too fall under the same category - the very nature of its upredictability and that the unexplained remain beyond man's control - God - He is not satisfactorily explained by anyone - WHY? Because each one has got to be right about his / her version / explanation of God - My God is greater than your God - why ? Because I'm more goody goody and better than you silly - I'm right ... ha ha ha - that's why you wanted to see it your way and your friend wanted to see it her way. I suppose you already knew it :-)

    *sigh* all of us going gol gol ... just because we cannot let go of that lili thign within which craves for 'Control' - not control over ourselves but over others!!! If only we learn to control ourselves - we'll know we are a handful!

  12. Parvati1:22 PM

    When we have an objective frame of reference like "Reality" as acknowledged and accepted by both the protagonists in a discussion, which can be used as a touchstone to constantly test our faith or belief or idea or thought, and accept that which embraces the maximum of Reality, then that enables the discussion to grow and grow and enables the final acceptance of the most comprehensive explanation (be it a faith, be it an idea,or a science)to Reality as perceived now..