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Don’t Believe in God? Then You Know Nothing!

Don’t Believe in God? Then You Know Nothing!

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.

Related posts:

Are Christian Proselytizers Taking Over Your Child’s School?

And On the Seventh Day God Created a Museum

Science Education without God? Inconceivable!

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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305 comments

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4:46PM PST on Feb 27, 2013

Science is not always right, but it IS always willing to make way for change, adjust itself, and move forward. Religion is stuck in its ancient goat herder rut. A being who can make the world better but chooses not to? Sadistic, cruel and obviously full of hate? No thanks. I will trust my facts and leave the ridiculous speculation to creationists

4:39PM PST on Feb 27, 2013

"God did it" is an explanation that simply makes it clear that a person is too mentally lazy to seek out true answers. Provable answers. Evidence. Why ask questions? God did it?! Really?!? Ignorance runs rampant

8:07AM PST on Feb 15, 2013

It’s kids like this who give me hope! :)

10:50PM PST on Jan 26, 2013

The sixth grader is at it again:
"Atheist 6th Grader asks Pastor about Noah's Ark "
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yAeUW8RisA

8:54PM PST on Dec 24, 2012

Wow, very controversial and interesting debate! Here's my two cents: I don't like sitting on the fence, but it seems that I'll appear that way as i agree with the 6th grader's arguments but not the writer's argument. Yes, science is important to prove a lot of things but at the same time it also seems relative to society's trends. For example, it was claimed by science that the size of one's brain determined how smart a person is or that the color of one's skin determined how much better off you are in society than others. Science claims that drinking 8 cups of water a day is now being claimed as not true. So which is it? I think science is evolving but it's not the be-all-end-all.

1:34AM PST on Dec 24, 2012

I think this debate is long due to be over.
Neither Science nor religion will be able to prove or disprove the existence of a godlike being by trying to input logic in christianity. That religion at least has been disproven by its own books long ago. But still, as with quantum mechanic, there may still be a place for hypothesis and theory about intelligent design.
What is missing most of the time in those debate is the probability that God is in fact something much more simpler than we are. God could in fact be the simple natural law that each void call for being filled. With this only thought and the incapacity to go the other direction, this first form of subjectivity alone could have been god. Thus, the "god" entity would in fact be a single-minded fool that once included in the origin of simple particles gave them movement.
You then have god creating the universe not by making it pop the universe out of nowhere, but simply by putting particles in movement.
God, in that way, would only be a natural law that we still have to decipher.
The equation of subjectivity more than a complete being.
Of course, nowaday's deist could be appaled at the tought that we are way more complicated than god ever will be, but this theory would at least be belivable by most. It also would explain the decrease of goddly intervention in our history with time. As we become more and more agitated socially and mentally, God become more and more of a starting point and less of a guidance to

4:51AM PST on Dec 11, 2012

God created the everything. We don't know how but He did it!

12:48PM PST on Dec 5, 2012

ummm.. did I read and view that right? No comment worth on this one.

12:13PM PST on Dec 5, 2012

Oy veh!

7:59PM PST on Dec 4, 2012

That's great a sixth grader cleaning that moron's clock!

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