Ethos Education

Argo: How do people decide who and what to trust?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Understand some of the reasons for believing (or not believing) in the existence of God.
  • Knowledge of the ways in which, according to believers, God can be known.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect on the difficulty of determining truth when there is limited¬†evidence.
  • Reflect on how people decide who and what to trust.
  • Reflect on what evidence they would require to come to a decision about whether or not to trust evidence used to support belief in the existence of God.
  • Evaluate the roles of evidence and experience in exploring¬†the notion of truth.
  • Analyse the basis for Christian claims for the existence of God.
  • Synthesise learning by compiling lists of reasons to believe or disbelieve Christian arguments for the existence of God, and then by writing a short statement based on those lists.

STARTER:

Play ‘No-clue Cluedo’. Display a list of the Cluedo suspects, weapons and rooms at the front. This game is based on the original version of the classic board game, not the recently revamped one. In case any students have never played the original form of the game, explain that in it, players gather clues to solve a murder, attempting to identify the murderer, the murder weapon and the place where the murder took place. No-clue Cluedo works in exactly the same way, but there are no clues – simply a list of possible suspects, weapons and places. For your references, here is the full list of official Cluedo clues:

Suspects

  • Colonel Mustard
  • Miss Scarlet
  • Professor Plum
  • Reverend Green
  • Mrs White
  • Mrs Peacock

Weapons

  • Dagger
  • Revolver
  • Lead Piping
  • Candlestick
  • Rope
  • Spanner

Rooms

  • Hall
  • Lounge
  • Dining Room
  • Kitchen
  • Ballroom
  • Conservatory
  • Billiard Room
  • Library
  • Study

In advance of the lesson, prepare an envelope with the correct solution (one suspect, one weapon, one location) inside it. Ask the students to write down which cards they think are inside the envelope, then swap their answers with another student. You could offer a prize for the correct answer if you wanted to (the chances are that you won’t have to give it out to anyone, but only offer something that you are prepared to give away, just in case). Reveal the solution and find out whether anyone has won. Point out that it is impossible to work out the right answer without any clues (if anyone did happen to get the right answer, make the point that they didn’t work it out, they just got lucky and had no more insight than anyone else in the class). Ask the students what kind of evidence would have helped them to guess the solution more accurately.

Explain that in this lesson you will be considering how we know what is true and what helps us decide whether to believe in something.

MAIN ACTIVITIES:

Introduce the first clip from the film Argo (Warner Bros, 2012, certificate 15). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Explain that the film is set in 1980, when revolutionary students in Iran seized the American Embassy, taking hostages that they then held for over a year. A group of six embassy workers escaped and hid in the home of the Canadian Ambassador for several months. When the government finally decides to rescue the six, CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) is dispatched to bring them home. His plan is to fly them out of the country posing as crew members of a science-fiction movie called Argo. In this scene, Tony receives a letter informing him that the crew are to meet an Iranian official at the Grand Bazaar, forcing him to change his plans. He discusses it over the phone with his boss, then breaks the news to the six. One of them in particular is hostile and unwilling to trust Tony.

  • Start time: 0.57.32 (beginning of chapter 7 of the DVD)
  • End time: 1.01.08
  • Clip length: 3 minutes and 36 seconds

The clip begins with the Iranian Minister for Culture and Guidance being brought a copy of the script for Argo. It ends with Mark (Christopher Denham) telling Tony, ‘So we’ll see you at two.’

Remind the students of the comments about trust (Tony: ‘I’m asking you to trust me.’ Joe: I don’t trust you.’) Ask them to suggest reasons for Joe’s distrust of Tony and his plan. Possible reasons might include the risky and far-fetched nature of the plan, the level of danger the plan exposes the six to, and the fact that Joe doesn’t know Tony. Now ask them to think about counter-arguments, reasons why he should trust Tony. Possible answers here include the fact that they aren’t safe even if they don’t follow Tony’s plan, Tony has experience of this kind of mission (even if he hasn’t used the fake-film method before) and there is no alternative escape route available.

Ask the students how they decide who and what to trust. Ask them to give examples of some of the trust decisions that people have to make. If they need prompting, you might like to suggest some of the following:

  • Deciding which political party to vote for – who do you trust to keep their election promises and to make wise decisions about running the country?
  • Deciding whether or not to share important secrets with friends.
  • Deciding who’s career advice to take.
  • Deciding whether or not to believe the claims of a particular religion.

Put the students into small groups and ask each group to discuss what evidence might be required to persuade them to put their trust in claims supporting the existence of God. Give them a few minutes to discuss, then allow the groups to feed their conclusions back to the whole class.

If it comes up naturally, point out that some people might say that they would believe in God if he actually made himself known to them, rather than being an unseen, unfelt presence (or, depending on your point of view, absence). Explain that many Christians would argue that their claims about the existence of God are based, at least in part, on personal experience. For the rest of this lesson you are going to help the students to explore those claims.

Get the students to read John 1:14 and 18. Explain that ‘the Word’ is Jesus, who Christians believe is God come to earth as a human. Discuss what implications these verses have for what Christians understand to be true about God.

Hand out the worksheet and ask the students to consider why Dr William Lane Craig decided to believe in God. (Dr William Lane Craig is a respected philosopher and Christian speaker whose work is part of the WJEC Philosophy and Ethics ‘A’ level syllabus. The story on this worksheet is taken from www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/craig-curley08.html where it is part of a larger debate between Dr Craig and Dr Edwin Curley on the existence (or otherwise) of God. You could refer more able students to the full transcript of the debate to provide differentiation within this lesson.) Ask the students to write down the main reasons why experience might prompt people to believe something is true, as well as writing down any objections they can think of to these arguments.

SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:

Ask the students to prepare a list of reasons for trusting the evidence cited by Christians for believing in the existence of God, and a parallel list of reasons to not trust that evidence. Students should use their lists to write a short statement about the merits of believing (or not believing) in God. They can choose to let this statement reflect their own personal point of view, or to generally address the issue of weighing evidence and coming to a decision without nailing their own colours to the mast. You might want to remind them that they won’t be marked for coming to the ‘right’ conclusion (whatever you deem that to be), only for demonstrating their understanding of the relevant issues.

YOU WILL NEED:

  • A list of Cluedo clues and a pre-prepared envelope with one suspect, weapon and location sealed inside it.
  • A copy of the film Argo and the means to play it.
  • Bibles.
  • William Lane Craig worksheet.

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