Mr Smith Buys A New Watch
Mr Smith just bought a new watch. His new purchase is a mechanical watch, a very fine work of Swiss craftsmanship. As he walks out of the shop with his new supertoy on his wrist, he can’t but think of the hundreds of tiny little parts, working together to create a little marvel of engineering: a machine able to accurately measure time without the use of any electric, electronic, or other help but the pure mechanical movements of the parts it contains. A work of beauty, and a mechanical wonder.
Mr Smith thinks of his little marvel as he walks. He does not doubt in the least that this machine is a manufactured product. It does not occur to him to think that the parts of the watch created themselves out of absolutely nothing, and – after having created themselves in this most absurd of ways – absurdly found themselves combined, by sheer coincidence, into the sophisticated machine he now proudly wears on his wrist; he knows it is not so, as he listens with childish but manly wonderment to the fascinating tiny movements coming from inside it.
No, Mr Smith does not think that his watch created itself by itself, out of nothing, by pure multiple coincidence, out of tiny parts equally created from nothing and marvellously put together, in some mysterious way, by the working of non-yet-existing chance, and made of non-yet-existing matter, through non-yet-existing physical laws. Even if he did not know that the watchmaker actually exists, he would consider the above mentioned reasoning utterly absurd. From nothing comes nothing. It’s blindingly obvious.
Nothing happens by itself, without a force or energy or work making it happen. Mr Smith knows this perfectly well. An effect must have a cause that originated it. The watch exists because skilled watchmakers created it, assembling hundreds of tiny pieces they crafted themselves on those wonderful tiny watchmaker’s benches, out of material that was already there, by applying a carefully planned master plan to every tiny part they have crafted. With this work, all the parts work in a complex but very efficient harmony. Without this work, the watch would simply not have come to existence. Mr Smith knows all this. ‘Course he does.
Mr Smith also knows that his new, fine watch cannot go on forever out of its own being. Its functioning requires energy that must be provided to the machine if the machine is not only to exist, but to work at all. He knows that the energy is given to the machine by winding a tiny spring by means of a little wheel or, as in his case, by letting a tiny, but extremely sophisticated rotor wind up the spring through the energy provided by Mr Smith’s own movements. In both cases, energy must be provided. In both cases, a provider of energy (himself) will provide the indispensable force necessary for the movement of the machine. In any case, there would be no movement without the energy required for it. Mr Smith knows all this. ‘Course he does.
All this is, then, perfectly clear to Mr Smith. He will explain it tonight to his five years old, as they sit at the living room table and papa explains to his sons the wonders of a mechanical watch. His son will, though only five years old, have no difficulty in understanding the basic concepts: the watch was crafted, which is why it exists; and the watch needs energy, without which it would not tick.
When his son is a bit older, papa will explain to him another basic concept: the universal application of the Laws of Physics. He will explain to him that light travels at the same speed all over the Universe; that the Law of Gravity is equally valid on the Moon or on Mars, and regulates the very structure of the Universe. At some point, though, he will have to explain something strange: that the planets all move without anyone “winding the spring”. He will, then, “explain” to his boy that, just like the watch, the planets are not able to generate the force necessary for their own motion. But unlike the watch, they (erm; cough) move.
“Why do they move?”, will the child ask. “Oh, they just do”, Papa will say.
“But who provides the energy, papa? How can they move without being, erm, wound up?”
“Erm, uh, well… they move! They just do!”
Poor, poor Mr Smith! He buys a fine mechanical watch, and he understands everything of its way of functioning. He knows the basic principles of physics, and he has studied at school that an inanimate body can only move if an energy is applied to it.
He knows all that. ‘Course he does. He considers all this basic knowledge. But he is utterly unable to use it. His intellect has grasped the watch in its intimate essence. He looks at the starry sky in a warm summer night, and knows very well what it is that he is seeing. He even knows that all those tiny light points obey in the end to the very same laws as his watch. But can he apply his knowledge beyond the watch? No, he can’t. He just does not get it. Better said, he refuses to do it.
Mr Smith is an atheist, you see. He knows all the rules. He merely refuses to apply them, if this is inconvenient to him.
When Mr Smith’s car was towed away for wrongful parking he saw an empty parking bay where his car was supposed to be. He did not think that the molecules of his car must have casually rearranged themselves in some strange way out there in the ether, for reasons no one knows, using energy come from no one knows where, out of blind casuality without any purpose. No! It was the thieves, or the road enforcement! Never the atoms casually rearranging themselves! Funny, isn’t it?
Mr Smith knew ( ‘course he knew…) that if the car was not there, it was because something or someone that is not the car had applied an energy to the car sufficient to remove it from its place: the towing truck, or perhaps a thief, or in extreme cases a flood or hurricane, all can do it. But out of itself, and with no energy or intervention, the car would not move, or change, or do anything.
Mr Smith is very logical in his daily thinking. He applies his knowledge with wonderful coherence. The world he sees around him perfectly squares with his own knowledge. It all makes irrefutable, inescapable sense.
But when Mr Smith looks above in a beautiful, warm, starry Summer night, he suddenly stops thinking. Basic logic, laws of physics, and the law of causality are suddenly suspended for reasons about which he never thinks, about which he refuses to think.
He believes in Gravity, and does not see it. He knows all of the workings of his watch, which nowadays he can’t even really open. He sees a documentary on Mars and the entire thing makes perfect sense to him. He learns about the vastness of the Universe, and knows the same rules apply to it as to his watch.
Still, he believes that the universe, for some reason, created itself out of nothing. The Universe, for some reason, created the energy for its movement by itself. The Universe, for some reason, arranged itself in a way infinitely more sophisticated than any conceivable watch, out of sheer luck, starting from a state of non-existence out of which, in force of some non-esistent event, suddenly a Universe existed, comprising an immense variety of life forms, and a vastness beyond imagination.
His tiny watch could never do it. His own car could never remove itself out of existence. Without energy, both of them would simply stand still. But the Universe, to which he knows the very same rules apply, escapes all of them!
Pity Mr Smith. His watch tells him every day that there is a God, and that this God must be clearly omnipotent. The starry sky positively shouts it to him. He has all the knowledge he needs. He considers himself a logical, mature, thinking man, with an inquisitive mind. And still, he is blind.
Mr Smith has blinded himself out of pride. He has refused to think when it was so important, and at the same time so easy, to do so. He is in great danger of paying a very dear price for it.
Pity the man: too deaf to listen to his watch, too blind to look at the starry sky and make 2+2, too arrogant to accept anything higher than himself. And he knows it all. He has all the knowledge he needs. His own child is very near to it. He would only needs a cool reflection, and the required dosis of humility. He refuses to provide either.
Pride is the sin of Lucifer.
Pity Mr Smith.