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Time + Matter + Chance?

December 8, 2011

In crossing a desert with a few friends suppose I trip over a rock and were asked how the rock came to be there. I might possibly answer with that as far as I know it has laid there forever or for at least a very long period of time. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground instead and was asked how the watch came to be there. For a watch to exist in a desert area it would be silly to think that I could answer this question the same as before – that for any thing I knew this watch has laid there forever or for at least a very long period of time.

Yet why should this answer not serve for the watch as well as for the rock? In other words, why is it not as acceptable logically in the second case as in the first? For the simple reason that when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive what we could not discover directly in the rock. Let me explain….

 Watches are different from rocks because they have several parts that are framed and put together for a very specific purpose. All watches are formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion regulated as to point out the minutes and hour of the day. If the many parts had been differently shaped from what they are, or placed in any other order than what they are, either no motion at all would have been produced in the machine, or none which would have been useful to tell time.

To begin to understand the complexity of a watch, we open it up and observe it’s basic parts and functions:

 First, we see a cylindrical box containing a coiled elastic spring, which by relaxing itself, turns round the box. We next observe a flexible chain communicating the action of the spring from the box to the fusee. We then find a series of wheels, the teeth of which catch in and apply to each other conducting the motion from the fusee to the balance and from the balance to the pointer. And at the same time, by the size and shape of those wheels, they are able to regulate a movement of an equable and measured progression (seconds, minutes, hours) and pass over a given space in a given time.

 We then take notice that the wheels are made of brass, in order to keep them from rust. The springs we notice are made of steel. Why? Because no other metal would be elastic enough for the cause. Finally over the face of the watch is placed a piece of glass; a material not used in any other part of the watch but had there been anything other than a transparent substance such as glass to cover the watch, the hour could not be seen without opening the case.

 Now after examining the complexities of the structures and function of the watch the inference is inevitable….That the watch must have had a maker—and there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an agent who caused it for the purpose in which we find it. In other words, behind this watch is a mind who comprehended its construction, and designed its use.

 In the scientific study of our physical Universe, many scientists and former atheists have come to believe that like the watch, it too must have had a maker or mind behind it.

Dr. Paul Davies, professor of theoretical physics at Adelaide University puts it this way, “You see, even if you dismiss man as a chance happening, the fact remains that the universe seems unreasonably suite to the existence of life – almost contrived – you might say a ‘put up job’.”

 What Dr. Davies and other scientists have been discovering about the Universe is that

from random quantum mini-particles to the composition of the atom;

from atoms to inorganic chemicals; from inorganic chemicals to organic chemicals;

from organic chemicals to complex DNA;

from DNA to proteins; from proteins to tissues; from tissues to organs; from organs to animals;

from animals to ecosystems; from ecosystems to planets;

from planets to ordered solar systems, from ordered solar systems to galaxies and billions and billions of stars……we see not a random uncaused universe from nothing. But an ordered, life permitting universe of immense power, structure, and complexity.

 Considering the overwhelming complexities of the Universe compared to the watch, can we explain it away as we did the rock? Is this Universe, which is magnitudes more complex than a wrist watch, due to pure chance? The non-believing atheists thinks so but I on the other hand find that difficult to believe.

 Like other theists, I believe that this awesome Universe must have a maker; an agent who caused it for the purpose in which we find it. That behind this Universe is a transcendent, super intelligent mind who comprehended its construction and designed its use for us so that we may live and have purpose in this life.

Adapted from William Paley’s piece on Natural Theology

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