Professor: You are a Christian, aren’t you, son?
Student: Yes, sir.
Professor: So, you believe in God?
Student: Absolutely, sir.
Professor: Is God good?
Professor: 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 God good, then? Hmm?
(Student was silent)
Professor: You can’t answer, can you? Let’s start again, young fella. Is God good?
Professor: Is Satan good?
Professor: Where does Satan come from?
Student: From.. God.
Professor: That’s right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?
Professor: Evil is everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything. Correct?
Professor: So who created evil?
(Student didn’t answer)
Professor: Is there sickness? Immortality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don’t they?
Student: Yes, sir.
Professor: So, who created them?
(Student had no answer)
Professor: 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.
Professor: Tell us if you have ever heard your God.
Student: No, sir.
Professor: 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.
Professor: Yet you still believe in Him?
Professor: 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.
Professor: Yes, Faith. And that is the problem Science has.
Student: Professor, is there such a thing as Heat?
Student: And is there such a thing as Cold?
Student: No, sir, there isn’t.
(The Lecture Theatre became 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 was a pon-drop silence in the Lecture Theatre)
Student: What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?
Professor: 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 is, You would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?
Professor: So what is the point you are making, young man?
Student: Sir, my point is, your Philosophical Premise is flawed.
Professor: 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?
Professor: 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?
(The professor shook his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument was 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 endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you not a Scientist but a Preacher?
(The class was in uproar)
Student: Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor’s brain?
(The class broke 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 and Demonstrable Protocol, Science says that you have no brain, sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures?
(The room was silent. The Professor stared at the student, his face unfathomable)
Professor: I guess you’ll have to take them on Faith, son.
Student: That is it, sir.. exactly! The link between man and God is Faith. That is all that keeps things alive and moving!
That student was Albert Einstein.
No, actually, that student WASN’T Albert Einstein. In fact, there never WAS a student; this whole conversation is a creationist myth, and a very poorly structured argument. From http://www.vexen.co.uk/religion/theodicy_absence.html
1. The Problem of Evil
“If God is all-powerful and all-good, it would have created a universe in the same way it created heaven: with free will for all, no suffering and no evil. But evil and suffering exist. Therefore God does not exist, is not all-powerful or is not benevolent (good). […] A theodicy is an attempt to explain why a good god would have created evil and suffering.”
The Absence Theodicy is the argument that as God is “goodness”, anything not good such as evil and suffering, is simply the absence of God. Therefore, the absence theodicy (attempts) to excuse God’s responsible for evil. There are some serious flaws with the absence theodicy however.
2. Putting Good and Evil on a Scale, We See that the Absence Theodicy Fails
We define many scales as part of our experience. From “hot” to “cold”, from “rich” to “poor”, we measure all kinds of things. What these have in common is that God created them. It created heat and cold, created the “ups” and “downs” and created every little in-between bit of all those scales. Likewise, God created the scale of good and evil. God could have created a scale of “amazing goodness” through to “medium goodness” down to “amateur goodness”, and therefore let all beings experience no evil or suffering. That God decided to create evil, suffering and pain and put them on the scale is an inexplicable act for a supposedly all-good god. The explanation that suffering is the absence of good is not sufficient to explain why God created suffering in the first place. Either God is evil or it does not exist.
The absence theodicy does not explain why god created the scale of good and evil. We only experience any of these varying things because God created the scales in the first place, and created the extent of either end of the scale. By creating scales of heat and chill, good and evil, god makes it possible for us to experience them. If God chose not to create the scale of good and evil, then experience of evil would not be possible, only the experience of good. Not all experiences exist on scales; for example the Universe exists. Its existence and our experience of its existence is not on a scale, it absolutely exists. God could have made happiness or goodness an absolute, not part of a scale. But God instead created evil by creating the good/evil dichotomy.
All the various attempts to explain why God created evil do not make sense and we are therefore left with the truth that either God is evil or does not exist.
3. Albert Einstein and the Absence Theodicy
3.1. An Urban Myth
This page was written as an online response to an evangelizing Christian who sent me an email about the problem of evil. The following text is a standard text that some Christians insert into arguments, often not researching its legitimacy or analysing its logic.
“The professor of a university challenged his students with this question. “Did God create everything that exists?” A student answered bravely, “Yes, he did”.
The professor then asked, “If God created everything, then he created evil, so God is evil. The student couldn’t respond to that statement causing the professor to conclude that he had “proved” that “belief in God” was a fairy tale, and therefore worthless.
Another student raised his hand and asked the professor, “May I pose a question?” “Of course” answered the professor. The young student stood up and asked: “Professor does cold exist?” The professor answered, “What kind of question is that?…Of course the cold exists… haven’t you ever been cold?” The young student answered, “In fact sir, cold does not exist. According to the laws of physics, what we consider cold, in fact is the absence of heat. Anything is able to be studied as long as it transmits energy (heat). Absolute Zero is the total absence of heat, but cold does not exist. What we have done is create a term to describe how we feel if we don’t have body heat or we are not hot.” “And, does dark exist?”, he continued. The professor answered “Of course”. This time the student responded, “Again you’re wrong, Sir. Darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in fact simply the absence of light. Light can be studied, darkness can not. Darkness cannot be broken down. A simple ray of light tears the darkness and illuminates the surface where the! light beam finishes. Dark is a term that we humans have created to describe what happens when there’s lack of light.” Finally, the student asked the professor, “Sir, does evil exist?” The professor replied, “Of course it exists, as I mentioned at the beginning, we see violations, crimes and violence anywhere in the world, and those things are evil.”
The student responded, “Sir, evil does not exist. Just as in the previous cases, evil is a term which man has created to describe the result of the absence of God’s presence in the hearts of man.”
After this, the professor bowed down his head, and didn’t answer back.
The young man’s name was ALBERT EINSTEIN.”
The absence-of-God theodicy doesn’t work for reasons already discussed, and I am sure that from the knowledge of religion and philosophy that Einstein displayed during his life, he would also have known the historical reasons why the absence theodicy was abandoned. The words and comments of Einstein are highly documented and very well known. No historians of Einstein testify that the above quote is valid, Einstein’s religious views were clearly written down by himself as we shall see later. So, was that really Albert Einstein? With this doubt in mind, I searched a few urban-myth websites to find out the source of the story.
- www.truthorfiction.com states:
“There is no evidence that this exchange ever took place. This eRumor has circulated without Einstein’s name and someone added it to a version that started circulating in the summer of 2004. Also, it is not likely that young Einstein would have presented this argument. In his Autobiographical Notes, he states that even though his Jewish family was not religious, he developed a “deep religiosity” as Jewish child that came to an end when he was 12. He says he developed a skeptical attitude that never left him. He made reference to “God” on many occasions but also said he did not believe some of the stories in the Bible and did not believe in a personal God.”
- www.snopes.com (Urban Legends Reference Pages © 1995-2004 ) states
“Claim: While a student, Albert Einstein humiliated an atheist professor by using the “Evil is the absence of God” argument on him.
Although 2004 tellings of the legend name Albert Einstein as the faith-driven student, there is no reason to suppose the renowned physicist had anything to do with the fictive incident. Biographies of the man are silent on his having dealt one of his teachers such a comeuppance. Moreover, this famous scientist gets used in legends whose plots call for a smart person, one whom the audience will immediately recognize as such (i.e.; modern tellings of an ancient legend about a learned rabbi who switches places with his servant feature Albert Einstein in the role of esteemed scholar). This venerated cultural icon has, at least in the world of contemporary lore, become a stock character to be tossed into the fray wherever the script calls for a genius.”
This story of an atheist professor is old, but it has only recently had Einstein’s name added to it. It is mythical.
3.2. Einstein Did Not Believe in God
Aside from urban myths, Einstein did write the following in response to comments made about him during his lifetime:
“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”
“The Human Side" by Albert Einstein (1981)