Thursday, December 23, 2010

God's Quality Control 3.16

Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. In this video we'll cover the "Student Questions" section that is geared toward younger students, which presumably means kids as young as 12 or 13 years old. Today's honorary author will be Mr Ken Griffin, Prestonwood's Director of Major Gifts. I invite you to share this video with Mr Griffin, on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Mr Griffin's pockets. Join me in telling these people that their predations on children are unacceptable.
  • p.25 "An atheist is a person who claims that God doesn’t exist." This is a lie. An atheist is a person who finds no reason to believe that any gods exist. Some atheists do in fact make the positive claim that there are no gods, but they are rare, and most atheists are open to being shown facts that would cause us to reconsider. In other words, most atheists aren't religious; despite what Dan Panetti tells you, most of us don't cling to atheism as a world view. Atheism is simply a state of mind in which you let the facts guide your thinking, nothing more.
  • p.25 "How can a person really know something exists or not?" Let's look at this in two ways. Do you claim that Zeus doesn't exist? If you do make that claim, then how do you support it? If you don't make that claim, then you are an atheist with respect to Zeus, just like most of us are atheists with respect to Yahweh. You know exactly how an atheist's mind works, because your mind works in the same way, at least until Yahweh comes into the picture.
  • p.25 "How do you know that the chair you are sitting on exists?" Mr Griffin asserts that the basis of our claim to know that the chair exists is personal experience. But that's not true at all. Many people see things that aren't really there. A few years ago, Russel Crowe portrayed a famous mathematician named John Nash in a movie called "A Beautiful Mind". Mr Nash was schizophrenic, and he saw non-existent people all the time. A fundamental basis for knowing that the chair exists is confirmation by other observers. We don't think about this, but it's always there. Mr Nash finally learned that he had to ask someone else whether their observations matched his. You don't have to do that, but only because you have a lifetime of experience in which your observations about chairs match the observations made by other people. Think it's extreme to bring schizophrenia into the discussion? How about color-blindness? My color-blind friend knows from long experience that he can't trust his own vision when he sees something that looks brown. He must ask someone else whether it's really brown, or a shade of green. We might think that we're relying only on our own senses, but it's clear that we rely on the senses of others in a very fundamental way.
  • p.25 "Just because science can’t explain or demonstrate that God exists, does that mean He doesn’t exist?" Can I just be a grammar Nazi for a minute? You guys, stop constructing sentences that say, "Just because 'A' doesn't mean 'B'." It's totally nonsense. People know what you mean, but only because they're used to hearing it. The phrase "just because" is not a noun. Stop it! I mean it you guys. Don't make me come over there. Instead, say, "The fact of 'A' doesn't necessarily mean 'B'." The word "fact" is a noun.
  • So let's start over: according to Mr Griffin, does the fact that science can’t explain or demonstrate that God exists necessarily mean that it doesn't exist? That's much better. The answer is obviously "No." But then, if Zeus were real in the same sense as Yahweh, could science explain or demonstrate that Zeus exists? No. Kids, your so-called teachers are failing to teach you how to think. If you take all of these questions that could be asked about Yahweh, and you ask them about Zeus, and you get the same answers, then the existence of Yahweh is no more and no less likely than the existence of Zeus. Part of thinking critically is recognizing and discarding such questions, and attempting to find questions whose answers for Yahweh differ from the answers for Zeus.
  • p.25 "...when you look at the world, do you see order or chaos? If there were no God, would you expect to see any order at all?" There are certain indigenous tribes in the world who, every morning, perform rituals to make the sun rise. They could ask their children, "If we didn't perform the ritual, would you expect to see the sun rise?" The children would of course say no. Why? Because they've grown up being told, directly or indirectly, that their ritual is connected to the rising of the sun. They have absolutely no facts to support their belief; they believe simply because the people they trust to tell the truth have told them so. Your answer to Mr Griffin's question is probably "no" also. Why? Because you've grown up being told, directly or indirectly, that Yahweh is associated with order. You have absolutely no facts to support this belief; you believe simply because the people you trust to tell the truth have told you so.
That's 3.16. Thanks for watching.

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