Exam question: what would you have done?
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30-04-2011, 04:49 AM
Question Exam question: what would you have done?
When I did my final exams in high school a few years ago, I had to pass my 'religion' exam. It was a catholic school.

I had to prove the existence of God using Thomas Aquinas' laws. Even though I could debunk them with ease, it was mandatory to succeed. The teacher, a devout chrisian, knew I was an atheist and had a biiiiiiig grin on his face when I gave the "answer".

"You see you're wrong? God exists. You were the deluded one."
I hate him so much for it... I really do. But at that time I just tried to be a nice student. I wasn't yet the cynical a-hole I am now.

So, my question is: What would you have done/answered when confronted with this guy?
Not answering or giving a non-textbook answer would mean failing the course and not getting a degree.


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The "laws" (for those who are unfamiliar with them)

The First Way: Argument from Motion
Our senses prove that some things are in motion. Things move when potential motion becomes actual motion. Only an actual motion can convert a potential motion into an actual motion. Nothing can be at once in both actuality and potentiality in the same respect (i.e., if both actual and potential, it is actual in one respect and potential in another). Therefore nothing can move itself. Therefore each thing in motion is moved by something else. The sequence of motion cannot extend ad infinitum. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

The Second Way: Argument from Efficient Causes
We perceive a series of efficient causes of things in the world. Nothing exists prior to itself. Therefore nothing is the efficient cause of itself. If a previous efficient cause does not exist, neither does the thing that results. Therefore if the first thing in a series does not exist, nothing in the series exists. The series of efficient causes cannot extend ad infinitum into the past, for then there would be no things existing now. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.

The Third Way: Argument from Possibility and Necessity (Reductio argument)
W find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, that come into being and go out of being i.e., contingent beings. Assume that every being is a contingent being. For each contingent being, there is a time it does not exist. Therefore it is impossible for these always to exist. Therefore there could have been a time when no things existed. Therefore at that time there would have been nothing to bring the currently existing contingent beings into existence. Therefore, nothing would be in existence now. We have reached an absurd result from assuming that every being is a contingent being. Therefore not every being is a contingent being. Therefore some being exists of its own necessity, and does not receive its existence from another being, but rather causes them. This all men speak of as God.

The Fourth Way: Argument from Gradation of Being
There is a gradation to be found in things: some are better or worse than others.
Predications of degree require reference to the “uttermost” case (e.g., a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest).
The maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.

The Fifth Way: Argument from Design
We see that natural bodies work toward some goal, and do not do so by chance.
Most natural things lack knowledge. But as an arrow reaches its target because it is directed by an archer, what lacks intelligence achieves goals by being directed by something intelligence.Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.


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"Infinitus est numerus stultorum." (The number of fools is infinite)
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30-04-2011, 05:25 AM
RE: Exam question: what would you have done?
For what its worth, I would have done the test attempting to pass even though I would have known the arguments to be unsound, and said a veiled/sarcastic comment in response to what he said.

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use." - Galileo

"Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do." - Voltaire
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30-04-2011, 05:41 AM
RE: Exam question: what would you have done?
Pull a Governator and write an excellent, polite essay explaining why the argument is sound, and have the first letter of each like spell something this "This is fallacious", "I can't believe you believe this", or "what a load of bollocks."

I would have spent months perfecting that essay, probably to the detriment of my other classes =P
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30-04-2011, 08:06 AM
RE: Exam question: what would you have done?
I couldn't. I know this because whenever I'm asked to affirm my Christian beliefs, I cannot do it. I cannot take communion no matter how many old ladies glare at me, nor could I answer test questions that insinuate that god exists(I've sadly encountered a few in my public school). I've never had too much riding on it, the scorn of the little old lady from the down the street or the 97% in my class dropping to 96.5%. So if that question would have really hurt you and you chances of getting whatever you were aiming for after high school, it would have been a tougher choice, but I would have sacrificed my grade if it's just a little bit.

I don't believe Jesus is the son of God until I see the long form birth certificate!
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30-04-2011, 08:31 AM
RE: Exam question: what would you have done?
It's though. I probably would have done what you did at the time. I was very different when I was younger much quieter and didn't know much about the world.

If it happened today I would be able to answer the question. I'd just treat it as a thought experiment. Pretend to be a theist.

If the teacher said that to me i'd just answer honestly what I think about those arguments and why they fail.
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30-04-2011, 09:03 AM
RE: Exam question: what would you have done?
Back in high-school - and especially if i badly wanted out of there! - i would have done whatever was necessary to pass.

Even now, given the rules you cite, i couldn't do much more with the question than:
If everything we don't know is "understood" to be God,
and
there is much that we don't know
then
what is "understood" to be God exists.

If you pray to anything, you're prey to anything.
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30-04-2011, 09:54 AM
RE: Exam question: what would you have done?
You were asked to show an understanding of Thomas Aquinas' laws. You demnostrated that you understood it. I can explain how Pol Pot used charismatic leadership to take over Cambodia but it doesn't make me Khmer Rouge. The guy is an asshole. That's his shit, not yours. You know that you aren't a Catholic, you know you aren't "wrong" (that's as far as I can go being a subjectivist and cultural relativist ;^). The only other decision would be to walk away from the school and the degree and this asshole in protest to demonstrate your disagreement with TA's laws. You made your decision. Own it. Don't let this prick diminish you. He gets his kicks lording over high school kids that are under his control to begin with. He's beneath contempt.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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30-04-2011, 12:58 PM
RE: Exam question: what would you have done?
Switch schools?

Or write the teacher a nice little note (after you graduate) explaining you're still an atheist and Aquinas is full of shit? Oh- and asking him how much he'd like to be forced to explain that there is no God using logic and science, and then have some asshole say "See? I told you there was no God."

The way to see by Faith, is to shut the eye of Reason. - Ben Franklin
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30-04-2011, 06:05 PM
RE: Exam question: what would you have done?
Hard to know what I woulda done. I was did R.E for GCSE at school and was fortunate to have an Atheist teacher. I got great marks for picking Christianity to pieces Smile
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30-04-2011, 10:35 PM
RE: Exam question: what would you have done?
The teacher is an a--hole. You are a student that has a hard choice. Get the marks you came here for or sacrifice them on a principal. The bottom line is you won. You know the facts, he doesn't, and he is smug because he thought he pulled one over on you, when in fact you pulled one over on him, and he didn't even see it, not even in retrospect.

When I find myself in times of trouble, Richard Dawkins comes to me, speaking words of reason, now I see, now I see.
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