- What is the "atheist professor myth" about?
- Helge Kåre Fauskanger
- Updated Fri
- Especially among American evangelicals, there is seemingly a widespread notion that professors at colleges and universities are typically hardened, vicious, aggressive atheists who hate God and will instantly try to destroy the Christian faith of any students that may profess such.
There are some tiny kernels of truth here, of course. Generally, religious faith does correlate inversely with the level of education. Also, there will be the occasional case where (say) a snotty young creationist “boldly” stands up in Biology 101 and starts telling his professor how totally wrongheaded he is. Of course, our young creationist hero may then discover the hard way that the anti-evolution arguments he thought sounded so good when he picked them up in church basement will quickly be torn to shreds by a competent professor.
A pretty humiliating affair … which as retold back at church becomes the story of the vile atheist professor who viciously and arrogantly attacked and ridiculed the Christian faith of an innocent young student who just gave a witness for the truth.
Here is how the late Jack Chick imagines things will play out when the Atheist/Evolutionist Professor (or just Teacher) encounters the slightest disagreement:
And when the lone dissident (a blond, handsome, youthful Christian) only mentions the Bible, Mr. Atheist is about to burst every blood vessel in his body:
The footnote is based on information Chick got from “Dr. Dino”, better known as Kent Hovind. Armed with information from Hovind (!), the young Bible-believing Christian of course totally dismantles evolution, not only converting the whole class to creationism but ultimately convincing even the ill-tempered teacher, who shamed and dejected has to seek out the principal and tell how he can’t teach evolution anymore. (He is then treated just like he himself treated the student at the beginning of the story.)
This was one frequent variation of the story: the “atheist professor” who tried to kill the faith of his students was somehow challenged by a Christian and totally defeated and humiliated at the end. You may read the whole sorry tract here: Big Daddy?
This basic plot has in recent years been used in at least two movies aimed at the American faithful. In God’s Not Dead, the Atheist Professor teaches philosophy in general and insists that his students must agree in writing that “God is dead” to even pass his course. A complete and utter jerk, he is then challenged by the heroic Young Christian Student much as in the Chick tract discussed above.
At the end, the Atheist Professor dies in a car accident, but hangs on just long enough to establish that he really just hated God instead of disbelieving in him, and apparently he got to accept Jesus before he expired. I guess this is what counts as a Happy Ending in this kind of movie.
Further Fundiesploitation arrived in the movie A Matter of Faith, where for once the Atheist Professor is actually not a jerk. In fact, biology professor “Marcus Kaman” is remarkably likeable, though he has the strange idea that an egg turning into a chicken is an excellent example of evolution.
(Yeah, this is what happens when clueless evangelical script-writers try to imagine what a professor teaching evolution might say. Just go with it and think of it as a place-holder for actual evolutionary science.)
But don’t be fooled by Kaman’s charisma. The whole point of the movie is that a young Christian woman among the students begins to lose her faith just because the professor teaching evolution is so darn nice.
In this version, it is not the actual student that stands up to the Atheist Professor, but her father, who challenges him in a public debate. Daddy actually doesn’t do too well at first, but he soon receives the help of a Christian ex-professor that Kaman once got fired because the refused to teach “evolutionary lies” (there you see, Kaman isn’t so nice after all!) Once again, the Atheist Professor is soundly defeated, as the Christian Ex-Professor “demonstrates” that all views of origin are just “a matter of faith” (hence movie title). Yup, Young Earth Creationism is every bit as plausible as mainstream geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology; it is supposedly just a matter of what assumptions you start with.
You could say the Atheist Professor myth reflects the profound distrust many evangelicals have in science and scholarship, their stereotypical notions of the seeming intellectual superiority (and often perceived haughtiness) of the eggheads, but also a deeply cherished notion that it just takes a sufficiently well-informed believer to silence and shame the “know-it-all” unbeliever.
- Marco Kuis
- Mon ·
- 2 upvotes including Helge Kåre Fauskanger
- Heavily featuring one of the most common logical fallacies, the strawman. Favorite of politicians left and right!
- Helge Kåre Fauskanger
- Mon · 1 upvote
- Somebody ought to produce a parody of the movies above, featuring the famous atheist Professor Strawman.
- Hans-Georg Lundahl
- I’d like you to do so - if I may spice it with some real either Atheist or at least Evolutionist professors who avoid some of the real discussions - as well as comment on your examples of “strawmen”.
- Kim E Ellingsen
- Tue · 1 upvote
- Fundiesploitation. If this isn’t a recognised term yet it needs to be.
- Hans-Georg Lundahl
- “Of course, our young creationist hero may then discover the hard way that the anti-evolution arguments he thought sounded so good when he picked them up in church basement will quickly be torn to shreds by a competent professor.”
I happen to recall Swedish schools.
I happen to recall a science teacher in grade nine.
I happen to recall how he gave me one “replik” [line?] to argue, argued back, and refused me the “replik” I needed to disprove him.
Btw, what is “replik” in English? I’m sure Norwegian is the same as Swedish.
I am also nearly sure neither of us has been in a University class on sciences, we both did lit and lang, so neither of us has first hand experience from what happens when a creationist biology student meets a competent professor in biology.
B u t you might know some of the “arguments that sounded so good” and exactly how they are torn apart by the competent professor?
- Hans-Georg Lundahl
- Just read Big Daddy.
"Richard Leakey found a normal human skull under a rock dated at 212 million years"
"Details, watch video seminar part 7 by Dr Kent Hovind."
Do you know the details? His video seminars are often over an hour long, and much as I enjoy them, I find the references somewhat small lettered at times.
Putting Heidelberg man between Lucy and Peking (with frauds Piltdown and Nebraska between, Peking also a possible fraud) is of course inaccurate. Heidelberg is supposed to be latest common ancestor of H. sapiens sapiens and H. [sapiens] neanderthalensis - after H. erectus (to which belongs the dubious Peking man), except some include H. heidelbergensis in H. erectus.
Haeckel's fraud ... a reference that is readable. New Scientist, Sept. 6 (not sure if that is an ordinary or "hors série" issue) p. 23.
"Gluons are a made up dream" ... actually, so is the problem, in a way, since protons and neutrons and electrons also have not been directly observed. The closest you get is radiating electrons (or a ray supposed to consist of them) instead of light towards, for instance water molecules, and find they consist of one bigger ball with two smaller ones in a 60° angle.
- Hans-Georg Lundahl
- And much as I’d like to approve of your discernment of the “Atheist Professor myth”, some do in fact live up to it.
Jerry Coyne and P Z Myers have turned off my ability to comment under:
- Evolution is True (in general)
- at least a certain post on Pharyngula, where I was challenging P Z Myers on his model for “chromosome fission”.
For details on P Z Myers’ model of chromosome fission, see here:
Basics: How can chromosome numbers change?
For details on the geometric problem he circumvents by not marking telomeres and centromeres on his diagram, see my own post here:
Fission de chromosomes: Diagramme de PZM corrigé - et refuté.
And if you like more information on the issue, how about reading the links I included in a Letter to Nature Genetics, so far not published:
Letter to Nature on Karyotype Evolution in Mammals
I wonder if the question coming up could have sth to do with my standin "user name" "angryatheist" in the standin dialogue illustrating how I redacted some:
What kind of editing I did ... and what kind of copy-pasting
Be it noted, I have seen several angry atheists over the web - but usually not professors, as far as I could tell. Or has AronRa been promoted to one? He has his angry moments. As has thunderf00t./HGL