One thing I’ve always liked about science is that it allows you to answer a lot of silly questions, as well as lofty ones.
I don’t remember where, but I recently ran across the question of what would happen if you put a kitten in the Large Hadron Collider and accelerated it to some fraction of the speed of light. While that’s a very silly question, it’s easily answerable: the LHC uses magnets to accelerate charged particles; but since you can’t ionize a kitten, there’s no way to accelerate it using magnets. (Also, I haven’t checked, but I think the inner ring where the particles actually spin and do their thing is too small for a kitten to fit.) If you came up with some other way of accelerating a kitten to .5c, you could also pick up any textbook on relativity to find out how it would be flattened, how time would slow down for it, and all that other fun stuff.
(For other answerable questions, see this list of
(Update, Jan. 25: For a perfect example of what I’m talking about, see this video of the Mythbusters exploring whether it’s true that you can’t polish a turd. I’m guessing that the measuring device seen at the end is used to tell shit from Shinola.)
Compare that to how religion deals with similar questions. Everyone’s heard stories of the “troublemakers” who ask questions in Sunday school, like “If I get eaten by a cannibal who then converts to Christianity, and the second coming comes and the dead get their bodies back, will the various atoms become part of my body, or the cannibal’s?” Or “Assuming everyone in my family goes to heaven, which is perfect, will my grandmother be the baby girl that her parents first loved, the young woman who my grandfather fell in love with, the middle-aged mother that my father remembers, or the old woman whom I loved?”
Too often, kids are told not to ask such questions, or are given entirely unsatisfactory answers (“It just is, okay?”). But if a belief is so weak that it can’t withstand honest questioning by children, is it worth holding on to?