All Great Truths Begin As Blasphemies

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw defined education as “A succession of eye-openers each involving the repudiation of some previously held belief.” From his perspective, for an individual to learn, it isn’t enough to merely stack new knowledge on top of old knowledge, because new information can destroy old ideas that had been constructed with incomplete knowledge.

There is always more to learn, of course, and so ideas must be subject to revision – if we are open to education, and to progress.

Of course, not everyone is open to education and progress. Those people who hold power through their link to a particular ideology, and the social structures associated with it, will often do whatever they can to prevent new knowledge and new ideas from being shared.

all great truths begin as blasphemies“All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship,” Shaw explained.

Some people believe that, for something to be sacred, it must be untouchable and unquestionable. They protect their old ideologies fiercely, but they make their sacred treasures dead. Believing that they hold certain truth, they suffocate the curiosity necessary for education.

Progress depends upon learning, and learning is possible only when blasphemy is permitted. After all, as Shaw is purported to have said, “All great truths begin as blasphemies.”