It’s kids like this who give me hope.
To the uninitiated, Eric Hovind is a young Earth creationist. The video supposedly depicts a confrontation between Hovind and a 6th grade atheist. The young student easily sees through Hovind’s argument for God, namely that you can’t know anything without God.
What I’m struck with when watching the video is the how self-possessed the 6th grader is. Much more than I would have been at that age. I’m also struck by how unprepared Hovind seems when confronted with contrary logic.
Hovind’s argument for God — that it must exist because we can know nothing without it — reminds me of an exchange between two titans of physics, Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. Einstein and Bohr had a series of debates on quantum mechanics, specifically the Copenhagen interpretation. The Copenhagen interpretation tells us that quantum mechanics doesn’t provide an objective description of reality; it can only work in probabilities of measuring little packets of energy called quanta. Einstein had a problem with this and famously said, “I, at any rate, am convinced that He (God) does not throw dice,” to which Bohr replied, “Einstein, don’t tell God what to do.”
You see, despite being the grandfather of particle-wave duality (a central tenet of quantum mechanics), Einstein couldn’t quite accept quantum mechanics. It doesn’t fit with our knowledge of classical mechanics. Einstein couldn’t accept what was right in front of him, even after other physicists of the time found it to be true. And Einstein is possibly the brightest human being to ever live. But he wouldn’t believe what was in front of him, despite the mounting evidence.
You don’t have to know anything about quantum mechanics to see that this is analogous to what Hovind is asking us to do when he says that we can’t know anything without God. Einstein denied the theory that explains the totally weird behavior of very small particles, and by doing so he missed out on a universe that is even more crazy and beautiful than we can possibly imagine.
This is what Hovind is asking us to do when he says we cannot know anything without God. He’s asking us to ignore our objective measurements. He’s asking us to ignore the very knowledge that makes our iPhones work and planes fly and hearts transplantable. There are a great many things we don’t understand about the universe, but we know many things and we’re learning more all the time. The fact that we have unanswered questions doesn’t mean we have no knowledge. It means we are another generation of humans seeking to quench the thirst for knowledge.
Science is our best method of knowing things we have, and it has nothing to do with God. Humans are smart. We built the sky crane, for crying out loud! And it had nothing to do with God. Science dispels myths. Science tells us that the Earth wasn’t created in six days. Science tells us that the Earth is not the center of the universe. Science tells us that we evolved from ape-like ancestors.
Science dispels myths. Even when those myths are supposedly divinely revealed. This is what separates science and religion. The minute a scientific theory stops working, it’s abandoned for something better. Religion refuses to be budged, no matter how much evidence piles up. Hovind must think we’re pretty stupid if he wants us to give up the best, most dynamic way of knowing we have.
Actually, he really must think we aren’t very bright because his logic is circular. We can’t know anything for sure without God. Then we know that God exists because…it tells us so? Uh…how do we know God exists then? Logic, how does it work?
People like Hovind are dangerous because he asks us to abandon this quest in favor of easy answers (that don’t make much sense upon inspection). If we become a society who chooses this path, we can expect fewer innovations and advances that make our lives better. But if kids like the one featured in the video are more common than not, we have every reason to hope.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons