Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Parable

The experiment was a shambles.

"We'll just have to let God sort it out," said the Professor.  I laughed.

"What's so funny?" He was looking at me with an expression I didn't recognize.

I stammered, "Well, it was just... funny, I guess. I mean, you're a scientist, and... uhm..."

"And I shouldn't be calling on God, is that what you mean?"

"Well... it was a joke... right?" Nobody seriously believed in those dusty old myths anymore, did they?

"It's because of my studies that I believe in God," he began. "What do you think sets Man apart from the animals? Intelligence? Tool usage? Language? Nothing? When I was an atheist, all of those were reasonable answers. Then I realized that all other animals, though they lack intelligence, are born with a great deal of knowledge. Animals do complex things... amazing things for which there's no easy explanation, and we wave a hand and call it instinct. No one teaches the tailor-bird how to weave, or why. No one tells a sparrow where or when to migrate. No one teaches a bear to hibernate. No one teaches an ant how to build a city. On the whole, animals are not self-destructive; they do not wage war (except maybe some of those ants). They know their place in the world. They're born stupid, but wise.

"We humans are entirely different. By comparison we're brilliantly intelligent, but we're born completely ignorant. Why, we can barely procreate without someone more experienced to teach us how. Archaeology reveals that we started with nothing, and what learning we have survives only so long as we tell others. And we have to work very hard for that information. Numerous times we gained astonishing insights, only to lose them in a generation. How do you build a pyramid? I don't know either. You'd think we'd be smart enough to just look at one and see; but we're not. And it seems to me sometimes that the more we learn, the more we lose. Even as we put men in orbit, we kill our progeny and deny our true nature. We seem destined not only to be born ignorant, but to remain that way. Understanding this opened my mind to belief in God."

I cocked my head in confusion. The Professor noticed, and smiled kindly.

"Oh, don't you see, boy? What more fitting punishment could there be for a people who stole from the Tree of Knowledge?"

Photo of Magnolia Plantation & Gardens by F. Everett Leigh