Monday, March 12, 2007

Chalk it up to utter idiocy

Someone recently forwarded the following to me. After reading it I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. "Lame" is too kind. And "stupid" doesn't capture the depth of its stupidity. Presumably the narrative is meant to be an argument of some sort to subscribe to one of the world's religion (or one of its denominations), its deity, and theology. But as you will see it is devoid of any (rational) argument. The climax of this "true story" (yeah right!) is so inane I'm appending the real ending to this true-to-life account.

This is a true story of something that happened just a few years ago at USC.

There was a professor of philosophy there who was a deeply committed atheist.

His primary goal for one required class was to spend the entire semester to prove that God couldn't exist.

His students were always afraid to argue with him because of his impeccable logic.

Sure, some had argued in class at times, but no one had ever really gone against him because of his reputation.

At the end of every semester on the last day, he would say to his class of 300 students, "If there is anyone here who still believes in Jesus, stand up!"

In twenty years, no one had ever stood up. They knew what he was going to do next. He would say, "Because anyone who believes in God is a fool".

If God existed, he could stop this piece of chalk from hitting the ground and breaking Such a simple task to prove that He is God, and yet He can't do it."

And every year, he would drop the chalk onto the tile floor of the classroom and it would shatter into a hundred pieces.

All of the students would do nothing but stop and stare.

Most of the students thought that God couldn't exist. Certainly, a number of Christians had slipped through, but! For 20 years, they had been too afraid to stand up.

Well, a few years ago there was a freshman who happened to enroll.

He was a Christian, and had heard the stories about his professor.

He was required to take the class for his major, and he was afraid. But for three months that semester, he prayed every morning that he would have the courage to stand up no matter what the professor said, or what the class thought.

Nothing they said could ever shatter his faith...he hoped.

Finally, the day came. ! The professor said, "If there is anyone here who still believes in God, stand up!" The professor and the class of 300 people looked at him, shocked, as he stood up at the back of the classroom.

The professor shouted, "You FOOL!!!

If God existed, he would keep this piece of chalk from breaking when it hit the ground!"

He proceeded to drop the chalk, but as he did, it slipped out of his fingers, off his shirt cuff, onto the pleat of his pants, down his leg, and off his shoe. As it hit the ground, it simply rolled away unbroken. The professor's jaw dropped as he stared at the chalk. He looked up at the young man, and then ran out of the lecture hall.

The young man who had stood, proceeded to walk to the front of the room and shared his faith in Jesus for the next half hour. 300 students stayed and listened as he told of God's love for them and of His power through Jesus.

And here's what happened next:
... It'd been half an hour since the professor ran out of the lecture hall. Just as the Christian freshman finished his spiel, the professor came back wheeling in a trolley filled with boxes and boxes of chalk. After regaining his breath, he opened a box and took out a piece. He held it up for everyone to see. He gazed into the eyes of each and every person in the room. Then he spoke. "If God exists, he could and would stop this piece of chalk from hitting the ground and breaking." He stretched out his arm and let go of the chalk. Sure enough it shattered as it hit the tiled floor. He took out another and declared at the top of his voice, "If God exists, he could and would stop this piece from hitting the ground and breaking." He let the chalk drop, and again it broke into pieces. He drew another ... and another... and another until he had gone through all the boxes in the cart.

The professor waited for a response, but not a word was forthcoming from the students, not even from the Christian freshman, who by now had buried his face in his hands. And so the professor said, "My dear students, it is a common mistake to cherry pick one instance that apparently substantiates our claim whilst turning a blind eye to the thousands of pieces of chalk that have shattered. This psychologists tell us is the error of confirmation bias--wherein we search for evidence that affirms our belief but then ignore or even sweep under the rug any and all the evidence that disconfirm it. It is also a common mistake to make an attribution error and to claim that some X is the cause when no causal link has yet been established. This is what is known as the non causa pro causa fallacy. In logic, if our premise is that 'If P then Q' and Q occurs, it is fallacious to then claim that P had occured. This is the fallacy of affirming the consequent. The onus is upon those who claim that X caused the chalk not to shatter to prove beyond reasonable doubt that in fact X is the causal factor."

"So please, my dear students, do not fall into the trap of self-delusion. If you value truth then you must not shrink from thinking deeply and clearly. May you have learned valuable lessons in critical thinking today. Class dismissed."