Anyone who has sat through (or maybe suffered through) one of my lectures knows that I am a devoted admirer of Isaac Newton. Even now, I am tempted to stray from the purpose of this article and begin to describe the man in terms of his mathematical and scientific greatness. When I am addressing a class and mention his name, I usually pause and then add the words “the greatest of all of us.” As an epitaph for Sir Isaac, Alexander Pope, the great English Poet, wrote “Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night: God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.” Contrary to many lightweight scholars of today’s world, Newton was a firm believer in God and Creation.
Not every person of science contemporary with Newton was a believer in God. But then too, no one else had his talent, perception, and absolute genius.
A story is told of a discussion between Newton and a fellow scientist, who happened to be an atheist. It is said that Newton had a skillful mechanic construct a replica of our solar system in miniature. Newton placed the model in his study. One day, the atheist called upon Newton and was immediately drawn to the model. The atheist said “My! What an exquisite thing this is! Who made it?” Without looking up from his book (which was customary), Newton answered, “Nobody!” This exchange was repeated several times, and each time Newton assured him that nobody made it but that the material making up the model just formed itself.
The atheist finally said, “You must think I am a fool! Of course, somebody made it, and he is a genius, and I’d like to know who he is.” Laying his book aside, Newton said, “This thing is but a puny imitation of a much larger system whose laws you know, and I am not able to convince you that this mere toy is without a design and maker; yet you profess to believe that the great original from which the design is taken has come into being without either designer or maker! Now tell me by what sort of reasoning do you reach such an incongruous conclusion?”
Some care should be taken when repeating the above story, since it is based largely on secondhand accounts. Some claim that the atheist was Robert Hooke, but that is highly unlikely, since Hooke was a member of the Anglican denomination. The story was, however, published in the journal of the University of Minnesota Institute of Technology.
Whether or not the exact exchange between Newton and the atheist is fully recorded does not diminish the point made. A design requires a designer, and a structure requires a builder. This is customarily referred to as the Intelligent Design argument for the necessity of the existence of God the Creator. Why would anyone deny such a simple and powerful argument?
Most who know me also know I love the music of Frank Sinatra. For a gift last year, my wife bought me a pocket watch commemorating Old Blue Eyes’ one hundredth birthday. The watch came in a case bearing the name of the manufacturer. If anyone looks at the watch, and wants to know who made it, I can say “The British Gold Company.” No one would deny that. The watch was obviously manufactured, and the name of the company is plainly on the box: evidence of its origination. Yet, when it comes to something myriads of times more complex than my watch, people will just agree that nobody made it, despite the Creator having left plain and easy-to-understand evidence.
In the previous article, I referred to the book written by Margaret Heffernan titled “Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril.” In the book, Heffernan states:
“[Humans] have a tendency to remain unseeing in situations where we could know, and should know, but don’t know because it makes us feel better not to know.”
Focusing on the last part of this observation (“because it makes us feel better not to know”), Heffernan elaborated:
“Whether individual or collective, willful blindness doesn’t have a single driver, but many. It is a human phenomenon to which we all succumb in matters little and large. We can’t notice and know everything: the cognitive limits of our brain simply won’t let us. That means we have to filter or edit what we take in. So, what we choose to let through and to leave out is crucial. We mostly admit the information that makes us feel great about ourselves, while conveniently filtering whatever unsettles our fragile egos and most vital beliefs.”
In the last article I wrote that people who fail to recognize God do so because of a choice. This is essentially what Heffernan means when she states that “people choose to let through and to leave out.” She is also correct when she observes that this is crucial. The question can be asked again: If what we choose to filter or to accept is crucial, why would we choose to ignore something so obvious as Creation?
This question is not new. It has been around for thousands of years. It is the heart of the passage written by the Apostle Paul when he stated:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” Romans 1:18–20.
Here Paul was echoing the words found in Amos:
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11 KJV).
The famine referred to was of NOT hearing the word. In Romans, Paul explained that unrighteous men suppress the truth because they are not thankful to the Creator for creation nor revelation. Subsequently, they lose whatever truth they might have held.
God’s response to these individuals is the same as to that of Israel. God’s grace includes the freewill of mankind, so He does not force His truth on them. Instead, Paul describes that God gave them up to uncleanness. He gave them up to vile passions and a debased mind, which tends to focus on self rather than God. In his commentary on Romans, David Grabbe wrote:
“It is as if God gives them exactly what they seek, and they do not realize that it is a curse.”