Tag Archive | Kalam

The Student and the Atheist Professor

The Student and the Atheist Professor

A professor of philosophy contemplates the lesson he is about to present as the students sit before him in the lecture hall. He turns, facing the students, and as his gaze falls upon a particular student the professor asks him:

Prof: So you believe in God?
Student: Absolutely, sir.

Prof: Is God good?
Student: Sure.

Prof: Is God all-powerful?
Student: Yes.

Prof: Here’s one for you. Let’s say there’s a sick person over here and you can
cure him. You can do it. Would you help them? Would you try?

Student: Yes sir, I would.

Prof: So you’re good…!
Student: I wouldn’t say that.
Prof: “Why not say that? You would help a sick and maimed
person if you could… in fact most of us would if we could… but God doesn’t.

[No answer.]

Prof: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to God to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But God didn’t. How is this God good then, hmm?

[No answer.]

Prof: You can’t answer, can you? Let’s start again. Is God good?

Student: Yes.

Prof: Is Satan good?

Student : No.

Prof: Where does Satan come from?

Student: From God…
Prof: That’s right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?
Student: Yes.

Prof: Evil is everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything. Correct?
Student: Yes.

Prof: So who created evil?

[No answer.]
Prof: Is there sickness? Immorality, hatred, ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don’t they?

Student: Yes, sir.

Prof: So, who created them?

[No answer.]

Prof: Science says you have 5 senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Tell me, son…Have you ever seen God?
Student: No, sir.

Prof: Tell us if you have ever heard your God?
Student: No, sir.

Prof: Have you ever felt your God, tasted your God, smelt your God? Have you ever had any sensory perception of God for that matter?
Student: No, sir. I’m afraid I haven’t.

Prof: Yet you still believe in Him?
Student: Yes.

Prof: According to empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your GOD doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?
Student: Nothing. I only have my faith.

Prof: Yes. Faith. And that is the problem science has.

Then the student asks the professor:

Student: Professor, is there such a thing as heat?
Prof: Yes.

Student: And is there such a thing as cold?
Prof: Yes.

Student: No sir. There isn’t.
(The lecture theatre becomes very quiet with this turn of events.)

Student: Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, mega heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat. But we don’t have anything called cold. We can hit 458 degrees below zero which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold. ‘Cold’ is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.
(There is pin-drop silence in the lecture hall.)

Student: What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?
Prof: Yes. What is night if there isn’t darkness?

Student:  Sir, darkness is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light….But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing and it’s called darkness, isn’t it? In reality, darkness doesn’t exist.
Prof: So what is the point you are making, young man?

Student: Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.
Prof: Flawed? Can you explain how?

Student: Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life: just the absence of it.

Now tell me, Professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?

Prof: If you are referring to the theory of evolution, yes, of course, I do.

Student: Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?

(The Professor shakes his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument is going.)

Student: Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavour, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you then not a scientist but a preacher?

(The class is in uproar.)

Student: Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor’s brain?

(The class breaks out into laughter.)

Student: Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor’s brain, felt it, touched or smelt it? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir?

(The room is silent. The professor stares at the student, his face unfathomable.)

Prof: I guess you’ll have to take them on faith, son.
Student: That is it sir… The link between man & God is FAITH. That is all that keeps things moving and alive.

This true story has been traced back to A.P.J. ‘Abdul Kalam, the third Muslim president of India. In an address ‘Abdul Kalam gave to the students of Thane Schools and Colleges 1st March 2011 he discussed how ‘Education Empowers the Youth’. The address went as follows:


Education empowers the Youth

Friends, very rarely any other race other than the human race are blessed with the capacity of learning. This capacity of learning is up to the age 17 years. That means up to the level of 10+2 school education. Of course, there are many opportunities in the higher education. But, the foundation of learning progresses up to the age of 17 years, as I said. It is essential that from age 6 to 12 years one has to take learning as a mission in life.

Friends, when I see you, I thought of sharing how my teacher influenced me when I was a ten year old boy. That teacher was a great learned personality and personified purity of life. When that teacher lectures, and walks inside the class room students witness a radiation of knowledge, and the radiation of purity of life. So friends, what we need is an integration of students who love learning and great teachers who love teaching.

Let me share with you one experience that happened on 1st January 2011. On New Year Day, as a normal practice, I contacted my physics teacher Rev Fr Chinnadurai, who is 90 years and living in Dindigul in the state of Tamil Nadu. After receiving his New Year blessings, I told my teacher that I am going to meet a large number of students and teachers at a conference. What message can (my) teacher give to the teachers, students and parents. Telephonically, Rev Fr Chinnadurai, gave a message to the students:

“Dear young friends, I am glad to send my message to you all through my student Kalam – dear young friends, remember when you are studying, the period of education, is the most important mission during the time of school or college and every one of you have to excel on education and do not get involved any other activities. If you excel in education, you will excel in your life career. The message I would like to give you young friends and students, it is essential to know that human life, particularly age 6 to 23 is the most important period where the learning process takes place. You should concentrate learning and acquire great ethical value. If we miss this life, the purpose of life is lost.”

So, dear young friends, remember learn and learn, acquire the knowledge.

Friends, my teacher gave the following message to the teachers.

“Remember for young students, great teaching is important. That means the teacher has to continuously acquire the knowledge. But the most important aspect the students learn during education is the way of life of teacher and teacher’s purity of life.”

Let me now discuss that how can fly and fly and fly.

Every one of us is born with potential which are to be nurtured and grown. In this connection let me recall the famous verses of 13th century Persian Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi:

Wings to Fly
“You were born with potential.
You were born with goodness and trust.
You were born with ideas and dreams.
You were born with greatness.
You were born with wings.
You are not meant for crawling,
so I don’t, I have wings.
I will Learn to use them to fly.”

– Jalaluddin Rumi

My message to you, young friends, is that education gives you wings to fly. Achievement comes out of fire in our sub-conscious mind that “I will win”. So, each one of you assembled here and elsewhere, will have “Wings of Fire”. The Wing of Fire will indeed lead to knowledge which will make you to fly as a Doctor, or an Engineer, or a scientist, or a teacher, or a political leader, or a bureaucrat or a diplomat or anything you want to be.

How does achievement come? There are four proven steps; having an aim in life before 20 years of age, acquiring knowledge continuously, hard work towards the aim and perseverance to defeat the problem and succeed. If you acquire these four proven steps then you will succeed in your life. The mission of education is to impart knowledge in the minds of the youth.

What is knowledge?

Knowledge gives wisdom and clears the ignorance.

Knowledge Equation: Now I am going to explain about the knowledge equation. Knowledge = Creativity + Righteousness + Courage

“Learning gives creativity
Creativity leads to thinking
Thinking provides knowledge
Knowledge makes you great”
The next component of knowledge is righteousness. Righteousness is described in a divine hymn.
Where there is righteousness in the heart
There is beauty in the character.
When there is beauty in the character,
there is harmony in the home.
When there is harmony in the home.
There is an order in the nation.
When there is order in the nation,
There is peace in the world.

Now the question is: How do we inculcate the righteousness in the heart. In my opinion, there are three sources which can build a youth with righteousness in the heart. One is mother, second is father in a spiritual environment, and the third and the most important is the teacher, particularly primary school teacher.  The third component is courage, which is defined as follows:

Courage to think different,
Courage to invent,
Courage to travel into an unexplored path,
Courage to discover the impossible,
Courage to combat the problems and succeed,
are the unique qualities of the youth.

As a youth of my nation, I will work and work with courage to achieve success in all the missions.

Where from will you acquire knowledge? Home, good books, teachers and teaching environment, coming into contact with good human beings, teaching websites in internet. When the schools teach the students to use the knowledge with creativity, righteousness and courage, nation will have large number of empowered and enlightened citizens, which is vital for the growth of the individual, growth of the family, growth of nation and promotion of peace in the world.

Dear friends, I would like to share with you an incident about how the right education can nurture the spirit of I can do it.When I was the President of India, I met a group of tribal students from Lead India 2020 movement, on 28 Aug 2006. I asked all of them one question: “What you want to become?” Out of many responses, one visually challenged boy studying IX class got up. His name is Srikanth, he answered me “I will become first visually Challenged President of India”. I was very happy to see his vision and ambition. Small aim is a crime. Hence, I congratulated him to realize his vision and told him to work for realizing the vision.

Thereafter he worked hard, got 90% in 10th class and 96% in intermediate and he set a goal to study Engineering in MIT, Cambridge USA. His relentless hard work not only secured seat, but he got full fee waiver from MIT, Cambridge.

Srikanth’s achievement has brought changes in many change agents of Lead India 2020 and inspired to set high vision. Lead India 2020 training has set a high vision for every student who undergoes the training process. Seeing this impact of Lead India 2020 training, GE volunteers have funded Mr. Srikanth for his travel to USA. Today he is pursuing his studies at MIT, Cambridge. When the GE offered him a job on his completion of graduation, he told them that he would certainly come back to GE, if I couldn’t become the President of India. What a confidence that boy has amidst of difficulty and the challenges in his life by being visually challenged. What a great transformation that has brought into a visually challenged boy’s life by value based education intervention. The whole education system should be shaped in such a way that every student must be able to say “I can do it”.

My perceptions of teachers with myself as a student and teacher

Friends, the relationship between teacher and student is very unique. A teacher lives through the entire life journey of a student. A teacher inspires students by his role model behavior. A teacher enjoys the success of the student even more than his own. A teacher is inspired by the curiosity and creativity of the student and learns more and more to help the student.

Giving an aim at right age

When I think of my childhood days, I am reminded of Shri Sivasubramania Iyer who taught me when I was studying in 5th class at the age of 10. He was the great teacher in our school. All of us loved to attend his class and hear him. One day he was teaching about bird’s flight. He drew a diagram of a bird on the blackboard depicting the wings, tail and the body structure with the head. He explained how the birds create the lift and fly. He also explained to us how they change direction while flying. Nearly for 25 minutes he gave the lecture with various information such as lift, drag, how the birds fly in a formation of 10, 20 or 30. At the end of the class, he wanted to know whether we understood how the birds fly. I said I did not understand how the birds fly. When I said this, the teacher asked the other students whether they understood or not. Many students said that they also did not understand. Our response did not upset him, since he was a committed teacher.

Our teacher said that he would take all of us to the seashore. That evening the whole class was at the sea shore of Rameswaram. We enjoyed the roaring sea waves knocking at the sandy hills in the pleasant evening. Birds were flying with sweet chirping voice. He showed the sea birds in formations of 10 to 20 numbers. We saw the marvelous formations of birds with a purpose and we were all amazed. He showed us the birds and asked us to see that when the birds fly, what they looked like. We saw the wings flapping.

He asked us to look at the tail portion with the combination of flapping wings and twisting tail. We noticed closely and found that the birds in that condition flew in the direction they desired. Then he asked us a question, where the engine is and how it is powered. Bird is powered by its own life and the motivation of what it wants. All these aspects were explained to us within Fifteen minutes. We all understood the whole bird dynamics from this practical example. How nice it was?

Our teacher was a great teacher; he could give us a theoretical lesson coupled with a live practical example available in nature. This is real teaching. I am sure many of the teachers will follow this example.

For me, it was not merely an understanding of how a bird flies. The bird’s flight entered into me and created a special feeling. From that evening, I thought that my future study has to be with reference to flight and flight systems. I am saying this because my teacher’s teaching and the event that I witnessed decided my future career. Then one evening after the classes, I asked the teacher, “Sir, please tell me, how to progress further in learning all about flight.”

He patiently explained to me that I should complete 8th class, and then go to high school, and then I should go to engineering college that may lead to education on flight. If I complete all my education with excellence, I might do something connected with flight sciences. This advice and the bird flying exercise given by my teacher, really gave me a goal and a mission for my life. When I went to college, I took Physics. When I went to engineering in Madras Institute of Technology, I took Aeronautical Engineering.

Thus my life was transformed as a rocket engineer, aerospace engineer and technologist. That one incident of my teacher teaching the lesson, showing the visual live example proved to be a turning point in my life which eventually shaped my profession and flying my friends.

Friends, teachers create beautiful minds. Beautiful minds are creative and many times with indomitable spirit. Our nation was fortunate to have beautiful minds in science, humanities, law, industry and political leadership right from our pre-independent period who were created by great teachers and due to whose efforts, we are experiencing the freedom and growth of our country today. I was also enriched by my teachers at various phases of my life.

Teachers who love teaching

Friends, I just see a scene in a school having about 50 teachers and 750 students headed by a Principal. It is simply a place of beauty for creativity and learning. How is it possible? It is because the school management and the Principal selected the teachers who love teaching, who treat the students as their sons, grandsons or granddaughters. The children see the teacher, as a role model in teaching and how always they look pious through their daily way of life.

Above all I see an environment in which there is nothing like a good student, average student or poor student. The whole school and teacher system is involved in generating students who perform the best. And above all what should be the traits I should possess based on teachers life both inside the class room and in the village. When my class room students in primary school and secondary school observed and learn a unique experience. When certain teachers walk, students saw the radiation of knowledge of the teachers and the purity life from the teachers’ lives. This race of teachers should multiply.

Teacher as a facilitator of innovation

Friends, teachers have to emerge as facilitator of new ideas and lead to lifelong innovative thinking in the young minds. This reminds me of a poem “The Student’s Prayer” by a Chilean biologist Maturana. I will narrate a few lines from the poem.

“The Student’s Prayer”
Show me so that I can stand
On your shoulders.
Reveal yourself so that I can be
Something different.

Don’t impose on me what you know,
I want to explore the unknown
And be the source of my own discoveries.
Let the known be my liberation, not my slavery.

I am sure; the teachers assembled here would be great facilitator of learning and innovation.

Teacher’s mission

Friends, I myself am a teacher and I work with teachers and students. Based on great teachers, I would like to share some thoughts on a teacher’s mission.

… the teacher’s tasks transform all the students to be creative and excel. In the class, there is nothing like the average student. Every student reaching the peak should be the mission. The teacher’s noble life becomes a message of medium to the students. Above all, a teacher continuously builds the capacity of learning in knowledge and noble life. If you develop the students with quality education with nobility, then that citizens will the foundation for creating the developed India vision 2020

Student and Youth Community

The student and youth community in front of me along with your friends across the country would determine the future of the country. Your big aims, your acquiring knowledge, your hard work and your perseverance will be vital for country to be developed as a peaceful, prosperous nation. You will learn from past; you will carry the heritage of the past and will not carry the hatred. You will transform the present and leave a legacy for the future. You will anticipate the future and prepare for future challenges.

With this background let me give the visualization of India in the year 2020.

1. A Nation where the rural and urban divide has reduced to a thin line.

2. A Nation where there is an equitable distribution and adequate access to energy and quality water.

3. A Nation where agriculture, industry and service sector work together in symphony.

4. A Nation where education with value system is not denied to any meritorious candidates because of societal or economic discrimination.

5. A Nation, which is the best destination for the most talented scholars, scientists, and investors.

6. A Nation where the best of health care is available to all.

7. A Nation where the governance is responsive, transparent and corruption free.

8. A Nation where poverty has been totally eradicated, illiteracy removed and crimes against women and children are absent and none in the society feels alienated.

9. A Nation that is prosperous, healthy, secure, devoid of terrorism, peaceful and happy and continues with a sustainable growth path.

10. A Nation that is one of the best places to live in and is proud of its leadership.

Many of you in the gathering directly or indirectly may be involved in one or the more of the mission which I have given above.

To achieve the distinctive profile of India, we have the mission of transforming India into a developed nation. We have identified five areas where India has a core competence for integrated action

(1) Agriculture and food processing

(2) Education and Healthcare

(3) Information and Communication Technology

(4) Reliable and Quality Electric power, Surface transport and Infrastructure for all parts of the country. (5) Self-reliance in critical technologies. These five areas are closely inter-related and progressed in a coordinated way, leading to food, economic and national security.

Conclusion: what I will be remembered for?

Friends, finally I would like to ask you, what would you like to be remembered for? You have to evolve yourself and shape your life. You should write it on a page. That page may be a very important page in the book of human history. And you will be remembered for creating that one page in the history of the nation – whether that page is the page of invention, the page of innovation or the page of discovery or the page of creating societal change or a page of removing the poverty or the page of fighting injustice or planning and executing mission of networking of rivers. I will be happy if you could write this page and mail it to me (apj@abdulkalam.com).

My greetings and best wishes to all the students of Thane schools and colleges assembled here for success in their educational mission.

May God bless you.


See More Moral Tales

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