You Have an Eraser… Use It May 18, 2010

You Have an Eraser… Use It

David Hayward documents a conversation between someone who questions faith and someone who thinks “doubt” is a four-letter word:

(via nakedpastor)

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  • Alex

    I don’t get it.

  • Trace


  • Bob


    The implication is that if you have ‘faith’ in what you’ve written … you wouldn’t need an eraser.

    But the truth is that we all need an eraser, not as spiritual whitewash, but as the process of intellectual growth. Artists erase lines, painters rework areas, sculptors refine surfaces, scientists modify their equations. Hell, even cooks modify their recipes (or take a basic ratio and add to it).

  • I didn’t realize I had a finite ability to change my mind.

    I don’t get it.

  • Richard Wade

    I sometimes use a similar analogy when I talk to kids about science. I say,

    Science writes things in pencil and always has a big eraser handy, because science doesn’t say “This is the truth.” It says “This is the best explanation we have so far, given what we have seen. When we see more, we’ll use our eraser and change our explanation a little, or even a lot, to make it even better.”

    By the number of nodding young heads, it seems to work.

  • Bob


    You’re getting caught up in the pencil metaphor, when that isn’t the point. After all, while there’s a finite amount of eraser, there’s also a finite amount of lead/graphite. Would that mean there’s only a finite amount of truth, or that a given pencil geneates only that which is good and true?

  • sarah

    @ Richard

    That is a great way to explain Science to kids. 🙂

  • Trace

    “That is a great way to explain Science to kids”


  • Siamang

    If you’ve been following David Hayward, the meaning is quite plain.

    He’s been reexamining his old beliefs, and paring down the ones he no longer holds.

    During this process, people have been critical of him, and have called it “struggling with his faith.”

  • @Richard — NOW I get it. That’s a really good explanation!

  • I appreciate your comments. And thanks Hemant for using my cartoon to stimulate discussion. I’ve always seen the eraser as the enemy of dogma. That’s basically where the rubber meets the road.

  • @Bob, I understood the comic, what I didn’t understand is whether the artist was for or against questioning faith. The pencil is sad, I don’t understand why it would be sad. The only reason it would be sad is if (for some reason) the pencil (or people) had a finite amount of “faith doubting”.

    So again, I have no idea what the artist is trying to depict because it doesn’t fall in line with what Richard Wade stated (although I love his explanation).

  • Sandra

    I get it – erasers are meant to be used. If you go through a writing without making corrections then what good is the eraser, and if you go through life without using your head then what good is your head?

  • @ Richard…I love it! I’m definitely going to be re-using your quote. 🙂 It’s good not only for kids, but for adults who don’t seem to get that science isn’t some dogma competing with religion for our faith. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself beating my head against a wall when I’m told “I don’t believe in Evolution” or other such nonsense that tells me the person doesn’t have a clue about the PROCESS of science (and it IS a process…not a belief system).

  • Evangelicals often paint the following picture of a person’s development.

    1. seeking stage
    2. finding Christ moment
    3. serving Christ (further seeking not required nor encouraged).

    No need to use that eraser after you find Christ. Just concentrate on converting others.

    Perhaps the artist thinks that one should seek throughout their entire life… an idea that doesn’t sit well with evangelicals.

    Of course as others have said, science is a methodology of seeking in the natural world…

  • Richard Wade

    I’ve admired David’s candor and introspection, as well as his clever cartoons.

    I think the confusion about the cartoon’s meaning is because the faces personify the pencils, and we think of pencils as having come close to the end of their finite usefulness when their erasers wear out, or they’re just too short to hold. So the idea that the “person/pencil” has a finite limit to his ability to doubt and be circumspect comes in to confuse the message.

    If David had drawn two guys holding pencils and one was saying the remark to the other about his worn down eraser, the meaning might have been clearer, but it might not have had the same visual impact. We don’t think of people having a finite number of pencils or erasers. The more thoughtful, and by necessity, doubtful people just use up erasers faster than those who have little tolerance for doubt.

    The worst things in history have been done by people who were incapable of doubt. Beware those who have none. Absolute certainty is lethal.

  • @Richard “Absolute certainty is lethal.”

    Are you sure about that?

  • Richard Wade

    LOL! Well, while I’m pretty sure, I must admit, for safety’s sake, I could be wrong. 🙂

  • “Absolute certainty is lethal.”

    …but only maybe.

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