The Black List: A Parable
An unemployed biology professor heard that there was a position available at ACME University. He sent in a resume, but it was rejected. Hoping to get a second chance, he arranged to meet with the Dean and the following conversation took place.
Professor: Thank you, Dean, for agreeing to see me.
Dean: Certainly! What can I do for you?
Professor: Well, I applied for the open position as professor of biology, but my application was rejected without even a chance to interview. I know my degree isn’t in biology, but otherwise my credentials are top-notch and I’d only be instructing first-year students, so I couldn’t imagine what the problem might be. I thought I should speak to you to make sure that there was no misunderstanding.
Dean: I reviewed your resume myself, and I don’t think there is any misunderstanding. You certainly have significant experience as a professor and you have a number of degrees from impressive accredited universities, but unfortunately you have some views that are not compatible with the function of this institution.
Professor: What views? What are you referring to?
Dean: Well, frankly, from what I can tell of your published papers, you are a creationist. We have no room in our biology department for conclusions that are based on religion instead of science.
Professor: But I am not basing my views on religion! I’m not a young-earth creationist, and I don’t deny that evolution occurs, at least within a species. I don’t even insist that the existence of the Christian God is supported by science. But after years and years of research, I have reached the reasoned conclusion that the possibility of life arising from non-life or of complex creatures evolving once life began is so small that it is actually more reasonable to believe that an intelligent creator is behind it all. I do not assume religion to be true — rather, I have concluded that a creator exists through a rational process of elimination.
Dean: I’m sorry, but you are, at best, fooling yourself. You know in your heart that you are drawing conclusions from an assumption that God exists. All the rest is just hand waving and blather.
Professor: Not at all! I am willing to be convinced that I’m wrong. Since my degrees are in earth science, perhaps there is some aspect of this that I’ve overlooked. Give me compelling evidence that I am wrong and I swear to you I’ll consider it honestly.
Dean: That really won’t be necessary. You have already decided that science is wrong and will simply deny any argument I bring up. I don’t see why I should waste my time. Any child can see that, for example, an infinite God couldn’t exist because he would have to be able to make a rock so heavy he couldn’t move it, and that would prove he isn’t infinite.
Professor: But that’s a terrible argument. It’s not only a straw man, but it doesn’t correctly define —
Dean: See what I mean? You’ve already reached your conclusion. Reason is pointless. Here, let me show you something.
Professor: What a huge book! What is it? An illuminated manuscript?
Dean: No, this is The Master List. About half of it is blank, but if I turn to — let’s see here — ah, yes, just past the middle, the most recent page with writing on it. See? Here is where I’ve added your name to the list of those blinded by theism.
Professor: What? What does that mean?
Dean: It means that we will never hire you, not for this position, not for any position. In fact, no reputable university anywhere in the world will hire you now that your name is in this book.
Professor: How can you do that? How will I get a job?
Dean: You won’t. You will have to spend the rest of your life poor and miserable because you threw away your education when you decided to believe in God.
Professor: But I didn’t decide to believe in God! It was a conclusion I reached.
Dean: And you reached it by willfully ignoring the obvious truth. You have to understand, I don’t like putting people’s names in this book, but you’ve left me no choice. You’ve practically begged to be thrown out of academia.
Professor: This makes no sense! Is there any way for me to get my name erased?
Dean: Certainly. Believe in evolution.
Professor: I can’t just choose to believe in evolution, I need evidence.
Dean: And that resistance is why your name is in the book. You are lost to science. I think we are done here. Good day.
Professor: No! I will not let this end here! What you are doing is monstrous! How can you take away someone’s livelihood, condemn him to an existence of misery, just because he has reached a different conclusion than you? Is being wrong really deserving of such punishment?
Dean: Frankly, yes. Your views are so reprehensible that the university can’t even tolerate being in their presence.
Professor: But at worst, all I am is mistaken!
Dean: You are willfully mistaken. You choose to deny science so that you can be comforted by the dream of a creator overseeing your life, relieving you from responsibility and guaranteeing justice.
Professor: But I’m not! I just haven’t heard any argument that —
Dean: It doesn’t matter. Unless you open your mind and accept determinism as your personal philosophy, you are doomed.
Professor: But determinism makes no sense to me!
Dean: Then you’re lost and deserve to be eternally indigent.
Professor: This is an outrage! It is the most egregious miscarriage of academic freedom I have ever heard! It borders on pure, vindictive evil! How can you sleep at night? You’d better pray that —
Dean: I do not pray, sir.
Professor: Wait, what?
Dean: I am an atheist. I do not pray.
Professor: Well, that explains a lot, doesn’t it! No wonder you’re so immoral!
Dean: Actually, one of my degrees is in moral and religious philosophy. I believe I’m quite moral and well grounded.
Professor: Ridiculous! There is no morality without God. And after all this blathering about my religious beliefs, you come right out and deny that God even exists? The audacity!
Dean: There is no reason to believe God exists. I wrote a doctoral thesis surveying arguments for the existence of the Christian God and found them all sorely lacking.
Professor: That’s baloney and you know it! You’re spitting in God’s eye! Your name will be erased from the book of life and you’ll have plenty of time to scream for forgiveness you won’t get while you spend an eternity in Hell!
Dean: You’re saying God will punish me forever because I’m not convinced he exists?
Professor: Don’t twist my words! You refuse to believe in God, and if dishonoring a person is a sin, then dishonoring an infinite being is an infinite sin and deserves nothing less than eternal punishment!
Dean: And it’s moral of God to punish someone that way?
Professor: It would be immoral for God not to! Eternal punishment for an infinite sin the only option for a good, loving, all-powerful, all-just, infinitely compassionate being!
Dean: Even though my only “sin” is, at worst, ignorance!
Professor: Willful ignorance! You could believe in God if you wanted to!
Dean: No I couldn’t — not without compelling evidence, and I’ve reviewed all the evidence and found it wanting. On the other hand, you could read the literature and understand that a creator isn’t necessary for life and speciation.
Professor: I don’t need to! The arguments for creation are enough for me.
Dean: And that’s why your name is in this book.
Professor: And that’s why you’re going to Hell!