“The Parable of the Boulder”
A mighty man once moved a boulder that his people had deemed immovable. For this feat, he was made leader.
During his lifetime, other individuals tried unsuccessfully to prove their strength by moving the boulder. Witnessing the futile attempts eventually convinced the people that the leader was the only person on Earth who could move the boulder and that he must be a deity. Once the leader was deified, the boulder became a monument to his divinity, touching the boulder became a crime punishable by death, and guards were set to watch the boulder night and day.
For centuries, no one was allowed to touch the boulder, and suggestions that someone should try to move it were met with outrage and accusations of impiety; the would-be boulder-movers were scorned for having the arrogance to mistrust hundreds of years of testimony and tradition testifying to the boulder’s immovability, and they were called heretics for believing that they or others might be able to perform an act achievable only by their deity.
One day—when his colleague fell asleep—a guard, overcome by curiosity, decided to give the boulder a try. To his surprise, he moved it quite easily. Once aware of the situation, and after overcoming his initial outrage, the colleague tried and found that he too could move the boulder without great difficulty.
On being informed of the feat, the guards’ superior had them executed after demonstrating their guilt with the following syllogisms:
Minor Premise: Neither of the guards is the Deity or His reincarnation.
Major Premise: A person who is not the Deity or His reincarnation could not move the boulder; in other words, a person cannot do the impossible.
Conclusion: Therefore, the guards could not move the boulder; in other words, they cannot do the impossible.
Minor Premise: The guards are people who claim to have done the impossible.
Major Premise: All people who claim to have done the impossible are lying, suffering from delusions, or producing unholy illusions.
Conclusion: Therefore, the guards are lying, suffering from delusions, or producing unholy illusions.
Minor Premise: The guards are people who are lying, suffering from delusions, or producing unholy illusions.
Major Premise: People who are lying, suffering from delusions, or producing unholy illusions are possessed by demons and must be put to death.
Conclusion: Therefore, the guards are possessed by demons and must be put to death.
Centuries later, an archaeological dig revealed that most of the deified man’s contemporaries had brittle bones and were far smaller than him. The researchers discovered that the ancient leader was what some might call an average-sized man living among pygmies.