Professor: Last week, in our introductory class, we had such an interesting discussion that I didn’t get around to a few housekeeping details that we need to take care of. Speaking of last week, at least one student went to the Dean of Letters and Science and lodged a complaint. I’m disappointed, of course that that student did not come to me.
Mr. Scott, I assume it was not you that lodged the complaint?
Student Scott: No, sir, it wasn’t.
Professor: Mr. Scott, class, is the avowed Christian gentleman with which I had the pointed discussion last week. He came to my office to withdraw from the class afterwards, but I have decided not to sign his drop card. Mr. Scott, you’ll be with us for the duration unless you can get your faculty advisor to drop you and I’m sure John will speak to me first. I think this class will turn out to be a real benefit to you.
Mr. Scott: Yes sir.
Professor: Returning to the subject of the Dean; he’s asked me to clarify that this class is not meant specifically to be an attack on Christianity—or God, or any religion for that matter. Christians can do fine in this class. However, we will be expecting to develop critical thinking in this class and we will challenge uncritical thinking, we will examine antiquated modes of thinking in the light of science and modern knowledge and in the process some of you students will likely have their feelings hurt. This however, is College—not high school-you'll not be coddled!.
Those like Mr. Scott who are holding on to some of these crutches as I refer to them, can be assured that you can do well in this class. Christians have received “A”s in this class and Atheists have failed. You’ll be graded exclusively on the two mid-terms and the final and they will be graded impartially. The testing will be on the basic philosophy of the textbook—but the real work will take place in the class discussions.
A student immediately raised his hand. When the professor nodded toward him he asked “Professor North, will we be marked down or will we receive extra credit if we do or do not take part in the discussions?”
Professor: Extra credit? I repeat, this is not high school!
The class laughed.
Professor: Again, you will be graded solely on the midterms and the final. Attendance will be noted and a significant number of missed classes will be a negative factor. Also, look around and take note of your surroundings. You have selected your seats for the entire quarter.
Now, are there any other questions? Good!
Now, to return to the problem of evil. There are some that would have us believe that Good things come from God, or that there is a God who is good and wishes nothing but good --and yet evil, unquestioned evil exists. On the other hand, I myself, an atheist, have expressed for example, that Christians can do as well in this class as anyone else. I’m kind to my neighbors, and to my parents and I don’t kick my dog. I’m even occasionally nice to students!
The class responds with laughter.
Professor: I’d like to hear from someone on this problem of evil in a universe supposedly created by a benevolent God. May I hear from someone other than Mr. Scott, who we all heard a great deal from last week.
A student began to speak.
Professor: Your name miss?
Student: Susan Miller.
Professor: Please proceed Ms. Miller.
Ms. Miller: I agree with your comments last week and today. The two concepts can’t exist simultaneously; an all knowing, all seeing God who is good and promotes good on the one hand, and evil and bad things existing on the other. In my opinion, there is no evidence for God, but plenty of evidence that evil exists. Either there is no God, or He does not care about good or evil or He is not omnipotent.
Professor: So, as I understand Ms. Miller, she’s saying that the fact that evil obviously exists is proof that there is no omnipotent, benevolent God. Anyone else? Mr. Scott put forth an argument that evil was the other side of good—that evil exists as a result of failing to do good—of not doing what “God” commanded. Who’d like to respond to that or to what Ms. Miller just said?
A student, raising and shaking his arm vigorously stands up before the professor can call on him. Professor. None of this junk is in the course syllabus!
Professor: What is your name sir? He asks ominously?
Student:Markie Jones, sir.!
Professor: Well, MARKIE, I think you'll find it there under whatever I darn well please! Now sit!- Mr. Jones and turn your syllabus over! It's no wonder you're sitting in the back!
The professor selected another student with upraised hand.
Professor: Your name please, making a note of the name on his seating chart.
James Anthony, sir. I’d like to ask whether or not the existence of good and evil is evidence that there is a God?
Professor: How so, Mr. Anthony?
Mr. Anthony: Well, um, if we are just the result of random chemical and biological processes, if we are just animals, there would be no concept of good or evil. No one accuses microbes or germs of being either good or bad. Animals kill for food—but that is not called evil. It just is. But when man kills we may call that evil, depending on the circumstances. The fact that we obviously have these concepts prove that we are something else—something more than mere animals, more than the results of random processes. There is no provision in evolution for the spontaneous creation of morality. Therefore, I conclude that someone higher than ourselves must have instilled this in us.
The professor: Hmmm. An example of uncritical thinking. You have failed to consider that perhaps morality evolved because things like cooperation helped us survive. The concepts of good and evil can quite evidently be developed by human culture—apart from any higher beings at all.
Mr. Anthony: So, you’re saying that morality is relative? That it comes from ourselves only?
Professor: In a word,Yes.
Mr. Anthony: It seems to me that that is the reason you have things like Colombine. If morality is only that thing that comes from other animals like oneself, and if it is then relative, then each person defines what morality is for themselves. If that is the case, then there really is no good or evil—certainly no standard for it, since we each individually would decide for ourselves what good or evil is.
Professor: Son, morality is not defined on an individual basis. The combined culture decides what is good and what is evil for their society. That’s what society does today. It’s not a question of each man/woman for himself/herself—society sets the rules for morality and for good and evil. Can you see that? Man is capable of policing himself
Ms. Miller: I agree Professor. Man is the highest form of evolution on earth. Over time, we’ve developed these modes of living together that work best in living together cooperatively. These things have evolved and exist because without them we could not progress.
Professor: Exactly right, in my view, Ms. Miller.
Mr. Anthony: If you are merely an animal, there is only one way other animals can control your behavior—by force. Your world view is that we’ve all evolved as accidents from cosmic dust, and that ergo we have no purpose; that we live and die purposeless, accidental lives, and then that we die and that’s the end. There really is no good or evil—only that which the majority can impose. I believe that Morality is only that which is imposed on us from outside—from something or someone higher than us. Otherwise, it is as though everyone is a Captain and no one can tell anyone else what is wrong or right.
Further, doesn’t survival of the fittest work against morality? Morality might cause you to take care of the sick, rescue the aged or weak from danger. It might cause the strong to feed and clothe the weak—all this would work against natural selection, which is supposed to weed out the weak and disabled without pity or remorse. Morality, love and kindness is not recognized in any evolutionary scheme and in fact the presence of those things alone—among humans would render natural selection ineffective.
Natural selection should have bred out tendencies for love or sacrifice. What if the strong are killed altruistically trying to save the weak? The wrong genes would be preserved.
Professor: Obviously, ummm, obviously natural selection though weakened was still enough of a force to accomplish evolution. Look around, we are here. Obviously then the evolutionary benefits of love, caring and morality outweigh the negative impacts on evolution their existence would have.
Mr. Anthony: Professor, moving on, let me ask you. Was what Hitler did evil?
Professor: Yes, of course.
Mr. Anthony: What if everyone in Germany agreed with what he did, would it still have been evil?
Professor: Yes, it still would have been evil—and a benevolent God would have prevented it.
Mr. Anthony: Would it have still been evil if everyone else in the world agreed with what he was doing?
Professor: Yes, of course. Well, no not if…., hmmm
Mr. Anthony: You see that you want to say that even if everyone agreed it would still have been evil—yet by your definition, morality is determined only by man—so if all agreed with it—by your definition, it could not be evil.
No, I believe that this shows evil and good is not dictated by man but from God who is above man. Only someone above can dictate morality to all men.
Ms. Miller: I’m offended that the Colombine situation and materialism have been tied together and that Hitler was brought into this. I’m agnostic, but I reject the idea that I have no purpose or that because I don’t worship God that I’m going to shoot up a school. Not only that, don’t religious people do bad things? If there was a God, one who loves us, He’d make himself known—we wouldn’t be having this discussion, because everyone would know for sure that He exists. The fact that everyone doesn’t know is proof to me at least, that He does not exist. The fact that there is evil in the world is also proof.
Mr. Anthony: If you believe that the universe and man was created by naturalistic means and that we evolved as a result of random processes—you are De Facto stating that you have no purpose! You may have purpose—one that you set up for yourself in the few years of your life but—since no one created you and you exist as an accident of nature—I’m saying, clearly you as a human being have no purpose to fulfill—no reason to be.
Professor: I believe you’ll see that man does have purpose even though we are nothing more than cosmic accidents, Mr. Anthony. But I see Mr. Scott star of last weeks discussion smiling over there and I wonder if he has any comments? It seems Mr. Scott that your argument that God does exist even though evil also exists has not been received convincingly.
Mr. Scott: I would like to address Ms. Miller’s comment that if God exists we’d all know for sure; The Bible says “what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools”.
Professor: His face flushed—Mr. Scott, please refrain from quoting the Bible—or any other religious book for that matter. This is a public university and I will not be accused of promoting religion here. Make your points, if you can without reading or quoting from the Bible or the Koran or whatever, though I suppose a paraphrase on occasion would be permissible—if on point.
Mr. Scott: Yes sir. Well, may I ask if you’ve ever seen the movie “the miracle worker”, sir?
Professor: I’ve seen the movie and read the book, Mr. Scott, the Professor sniffed. The story of the blind and deaf mute girl, Helen Keller. You Can quote from that book if you’d like.
Mr. Scott: Well sir, it just reminds me of the world and some people in this class. Helen Keller was born blind and deaf and because of it was unable to speak. Yet she knew that she had parents who cared for and loved her. She was loved, she was warm, she was clothed, she was given water and food and everything else she needed. She knew enough to go to her parents and to cling to them when she was frightened.
I wonder how it is that we who are not blind, deaf and dumb cannot also see that we have a Father that loves us and provides us all those things and more? I think that’s what the verse I quoted earlier meant.
A protracted pause in the class ensued as it waited for the Professor to respond.
Professor: “I don’t know how to respond to that Mr. Scott except to say that it was not germane to the discussion. But let me quote from a piece of literature myself; from Shakespeare: From Midsummer’s Night Dream, Act 3 “ What fools these mortals be”.
Professor: Ms. Miller? Do you have something to add?
Ms. Miller: I thought the Helen Keller thing an interesting point. But he still has not responded to the question of why evil exists. If there was a God, He would not let evil triumph, ever. He would not let His followers do bad things, He would not ever let His followers suffer. This is not what we see, though. If there is a God, and He is good, He would not threaten people with going to hell. Again, He would make Himself known.
Now, I know the Christian argument for that is that He wants us to have free choice, but if He was omnipotent, He could create a world where there was free choice and the proof that He exists.
Professor: Thank you Ms. Miller. You are making some good points. Let’s see how the other side addresses them. Can’t God make a square circle? Couldn’t He give us choice and proof?
Mr. Anthony: I argue that He has given us both choice and proof. When you see a rock that has been sharpened at one end, you know a man shaped it. When you see the entire universe in front of you --you should know that someone much greater than yourself made it. Instead you say, “oh, a man shaped this rock but the whole universe –it created itself.
Mr. Scott: If I may, addressing myself specifically to what Ms. Miller asked about and even to most of what you have been saying about God. I saw a trailer for a Movie the other day, called “Heist”, I believe starring Gene Hackman.
There was a scene in the preview where someone asks Hackman’s character how he came up with such an ingenious plan for whatever robbery they were going to commit.
Hackman’s character sarcastically responded “I think of someone smarter than myself. And then I ask myself, what would he do”?
Professor, in my opinion, that’s what you’re doing, that’s what Ms. Miller is doing. That’s even what Christians often do to some extent unless God has explained it in His Word. But, by definition, inferior creatures cannot comprehend or figure out or outthink-outguess a superior being. If you could, then they would not be smarter or superior to you.
Another Pause. The professor seeing a raised hand, calls on a new entrant into the discussion. Your name Miss?
Professor: Go ahead Valerie, making a note of the name.
Valerie: I’d like to address the idea of the square circle.
Professor: Are you also a theist, Valerie?
Valerie: Yes sir, I’m a Christian, and I think some of us are speaking because we didn’t speak up last week. We’re used to getting dissed by the world and I usually keep my head down, but I wanted to make my presence known this week. Also, I’m the one that complained to the dean. She paused but the Professor did not respond. About the square circle. Atheists, even other Christians really used to get me with that one. If God is all powerful can He make a square circle and why does He allow evil to exist. I’d always have difficulty answering those questions even in my own mind.
Now, this may not mean much to you or to the class…
She paused but the Professor did not respond. About the square circle. Atheists, even other Christians really used to get me with that one. If God is all powerful can He make a square circle and why does He allow evil to exist. I’d always have difficulty answering those questions even in my own mind.
Now, this may not mean much to you or to the class…
Professor: interrupting.. and why is that? Valerie, are we incapable of understanding it—or does it make no sense?
Valerie: I think you are certainly capable, but spiritual things are spiritually discerned, she said with a smile. But anyway, Before Jesus went to the cross, He was praying to God, --if its possible, let this cup be taken from me—but your will be done. That meant if He didn’t have to do it, then He wouldn’t but if it was God’s will He would go through with it.
God still needed Him to go through it (the crucifixion) I mean and He did. When I thought about it, it answered a lot of questions for me.
The professor said nothing, so she continued.
If your son asks for something desperately, if it is in your power you do it—if you love him. And yet God did not save His Son. That tells me that God does not square the circle—if He did, He would have found another way to save us. But having made man and the universe as He did, He remained true to Himself. There was no other way to redeem man. There is no square circle (as though our minds could comprehend one). Also, it proved to me that there are no other religions because if anyone could be saved any other way, God was foolish for compelling His Son to die.
Professor: A little more Christianity than we were looking for Miss. Please remember that there are also Atheists, Buddhists and Muslims and Jews in this class.
Now, the Christians have had their say for a bit. Now, I know that the majority out there—there are some 250 students in this lecture, believe in Evolution. Where are those students? What have you to add to this discussion? “Yes sir, give us your name and make your case”, he said pointing to a student near the front.
Yes Sir, my name is Richard Morrisey. I’m fed up with this entire discussion. There is no God. The theory of Evolution has been proved. Everyone knows this. Even some Christians recognize it as fact. The Pope says its true. Why are we wasting time discussing whether or not there is a God? We know evolution is true—it’s not up for discussion. There are some people who refuse to believe in what science teaches us and they’ll never be convinced.
Mr. Anthony: May I ask a question? May I interrupt? Assume for a minute that there really is a God. If He in fact created the earth—would that be –“scientific” in your mind, he asked looking back at Mr. Morrisey?
Mr. Morrisey: No! That would be theological, not scientific.
Professor: What’s your point, Mr. Anthony?
Mr. Anthony: It’s just that my definition of science would be something like -an organized search for the truth, I suspect that Mr. Morrisey’s definition and perhaps yours is :that organized search for the “truth” that tends to prove God does not exist.
Ms. Miller: As the professor quoted previously from Shakespeare” “What fools these mortals be”. Science is not concerned with myth or speculation, but with hard testable facts. If God existed, science would have proved it.
Valerie: Professor, must we Christians continue to be saddled with the notion of being unscientific? The first law of physics—that matter can neither be created nor destroyed—guess what? I believe that—but you guys, you atheists don’t. You can’t because you believe despite science that it happened anyway.
You guys think that life can come from non-life despite the fact that science has shown that it cannot. Show me one case where it has. So, again. I believe the science—you do not.
You would laugh at the idea that rats spontaneously generate from oily rags, moisture and darkness as the scientifically ignorant once believed—but you accept the idea that the entire universe spontaneously generated from even less than that. Why don’t materialists learn the science?
Professor: Whoa! young lady. We are not ignoring the science. It’s these same physicists and other scientists that you are the one misrepresenting here. Surely they know more about the science than you or I do-and they are evolutionists. They are materialists. Science is on the side of rational thought—not myth and conjecture. Given the billions of years that the universe has existed it was probable that life would come into being and evolve. Clearly, that has happened here. Not only that, if God created the universe, then who created God? What was before God?
Mr. Anthony: Professor, actually, scientists believe in God in roughly the same proportions as the general population in this country—over 50%. As for the question of who created God or what was before God, I believe here that many are guilty of Hackmanization. The thing Mr. Scott described of trying to outthink someone superior to oneself.
I believe that God created time. Before God created the universe, no matter existed and thus no matter for time to act on. God is spiritual and timeless while matter had to have been created outside the known laws of the universe. Until this moment, science has not been able to create additional matter—or to destroy any that has been created. God keeps that ability to Himself.
Professor: Harrumph! Given enough time the universe was a virtual certainty!
Mr. Scott: Dumb and Dumber.
Professor: I beg your pardon Mr. Scott, he said with a dangerous edge in his voice?
Mr. Scott: In the Jim Carey Movie, Dumb and Dumber, Carey’s character asks Lauren Holly’s character what the chances were for them to get together and she says “about a million to one” –meaning no chance-- and he says, hugging himself and looking heavenward “so you’re telling me there’s a chance?”
That’s what evolutionists do. They think that simply if odds can be given or imagined—then that means given enough time that it will happen. Statisticians will tell you that these impossible odds mean just that: impossible. But if an evolutionists hears that the odds of a single protein forming are 1 in 2 million billion, he will hug himself, look heavenward and say “so you’re telling me there’s a chance!”
Professor: Okay, I believe the theists have given us their best shot today. Next Thursday, I want to hear from the entire class. This class will eventually move on to other topics but as I say, I believe it is important at the outset to begin honing our critical thinking skills. Obviously, that will be more of a problem for some than for others.
Professor: If there was a God, I’d believe in Him. However, the evidence that we all came about from fully natural means is persuasive. My eyes are opened and I see no evidence of God. To the contrary. But I do see the overwhelming proofs of rational minds and science for evolution. The implication of these truths in terms of morality, philosophy etc. will be subjects for future discussions. Frankly, as educated as this country is it’s a little embarrassing that so many continue to cling to myths, ignorance and crutches. No offense. Let’s try to dispel a little foolishness from these mortals in lectures to come.
I’ll take one more comment. Put your hand down, Mr. Scott. Let’s see. Is Valerie the only one with an additional comment? Very well, go ahead.
Valerie: Mr. Scott will like this. Another pop=culture reference It’s from an old song my father likes by the Doobie Brothers. I thought of it because of the word “fools” which is in your Shakespeare Quote and also in the Bible verse that was quoted.
It’s why atheists place their faith in evolution, a theory in search of facts to support it. They have to believe in something if not in God. They have to have some alternative explanation for our existence-no matter how illogical. Anyway, the lyric goes
What a fool believes.. he sees
“No wise man has the Power
to reason away
What seems ... to be
Is always better than nothing
C.St. James, Copyright 2003
See Also: Mr. Scott's Biology 103 Exam