“If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.”
With great relief I discovered that the man who uttered this statement, Mr. Penn Jillette, is not a scientist. That’s what I thought originally when reading this quote, it must be from a scientist. I also have to admit that I am not so much into celebrities, and never can remember their names. So the Penn Jillette didn’t ring a bell.
Anyway, for anyone like me, here’s what I now know of Mr. Jillette: he is an illusionist (you know, pulling rabbits out of a hat,) comedian, and actor. And a convinced atheist.
Well, a scientist worth his or her salt would probably never say something like this. Because, for it to become scientifically true, one would actually have to prove it in a randomized test, with a control group and such. Without that, it’s just one of about five billion opinions in the world, and not well thought through at that.
Sure, if one would wipe out science, people would probably eventually get back to describing the world in scientific terms again, and maybe even in exactly the same terms. What does that say about science, though? That it is so simple and its findings so apparent that there is only one way to talk about it? I concur with the Pope on this and would say, “Who am I to judge?”
Oh, talking in scientific language is so helpful, though. Is there anything better then a father telling his children to not sit under an apple tree in the fall, because s(t)=1/2g*t² and that this can hurt pretty bad? Well try that, and don’t be surprised if the kids run to their mom or other dad complaining that dad is being weird again.
But what about religion (which I am not a big fan of either, but for entirely different reasons?)
Here is where Trayvon Martin’s tragic death comes in.
I recently used this incident to explain to my kids, who are growing up without being connected to any particular religion (yet exposed to many,) the concepts of guilt within and outside the law, and of consequences.
What I used to make my point was that it’s no only me saying that the shooter, Mr. Zimmerman, will eventually face the consequences of his action, albeit not the ones provided by man-made US law. Because if just I, dad, said so, it wouldn’t mean much, because I, dad, have no clue about anything anyway.
So I told my kids that there is quite a number of different religions all over the planet that say the same thing like me, dad. That seemingly made an impression, got them to listen.
The kids knew of Jesus, and when I reminded them that when he said that “whatever one does to someone else, they do it unto him” it means that Zimmerman, in killing Martin, hurt Jesus just as much. They have also heard of the term Karma, although they didn’t know exactly what it means. About two billion people, Hindu, Buddhist and others do know, though, and now my kids do, too. Same with Chief Seattle’s metaphor of everyone being connected with each other like in a great spider web. When you touch it on one end, everyone feels it, even those on the other end. And man, did Mr. Zimmerman shake that web. Or, even simpler, the Wiccan rule of “Do no harm.” Although they don’t say it directly why, they do mean that it turns against you, that harm you did. And man, did Zimmerman harm Trayvon Martin. Last but not least, we Bards, Ovates and Druids. We also know, and try to live by, that general concept, which we call “The Law of the Harvest.” I.e. you get what you sowed. And if you sow violence…you know the end of this saying.
Well, my kids got this spiritual principle after my little lecture, even though (and maybe exactly because) it is expressed in so many different and un-scientific ways.
So, Mr. Jillette, what can I say? I guess, being an atheist and a celebrity alone shouldn’t prompt one to issue statements like the one above to the public, maybe? Or something along that line…
But being caught up in atheism may prevent one from realizing that not only did very different cultures all over the world develop a common principle thousands of years ago, I would also argue that, if you wiped out the knowledge of it entirely, people would come up with exactly the same principle again and again. You just have to recognize it, and not be side-tracked by the choice of words.