Thursday, July 14, 2011

CWAS Excerpt Number Three

The Mover

On Wednesday, I went to the coffee shop at my usual time. I found the shop to be nearly as busy as the day before. My usual table was taken but I really didn’t mind. I didn’t want to make it easy for the stranger to find me again. I settled in at a table on the other side of the shop. I chose a chair facing the wall, thinking that he may not recognize me and move on to pester another patron. After patting myself on the back, I buttered my bagel, took a sip of coffee, and opened up my newspaper.

Before I got through the first paragraph of an interesting story, I heard a voice behind me saying, “Hello, friend. It’s so good to see you again. Do you mind if I join you?”

What luck! He had found me in spite of my efforts to hide from him. While mustering up a fake smile, I said, “Hello, sir. Have a seat.”

He didn’t waste any time getting right into conversation. “Well, friend, do you have any thoughts regarding the wager theory we talked about yesterday?”

“It was rather interesting, in a strange sort of way. Sure it caused me to think, but it doesn’t prove that God exists by any means.”

“You’ve made a fair assessment of the wager theory, my friend. I just wanted to begin our discussion with a thought-provoking theory developed by a great scientist who had a hand in the development of probability theory. Before we continue, I would like to interject one more thing for you to consider.”

“What is that, sir?”

“People use elements of that scientist’s probability theory every day in the arena of economics as well as gambling, but you’re having trouble being convinced to trust his wager theory.”

“You drive a hard bargain, sir. But I think I have good reasons for accepting his probability theory while rejecting his wager theory on God’s existence.”

“What is that, friend?”

“His probability theory actually works. It works both in theory and in practice. On the other hand, while his wager theory appears to be sound on paper, it cannot be proven in practice.”

“It looks like I am going to have to work hard to convince you that God exists.”

I felt a smug look creep across my face. Leaning back in my chair, I said, “Yes, sir, you’ve got your work cut out for you.”

Without appearing to be intimidated in any way he said, “If you don’t mind, we could continue today with the thoughts and ideas of another great person.”

I figured I might as well go ahead and listen to him one more time. “Okay, sir, let’s hear another one.”

He smiled again and began with a probing line of thought. “Would you agree that at this very moment things are in motion?”

“Sir, I don’t know what planet you are from, but on this planet there are things in motion, and there are also things that are not in motion.”

“Let’s talk about those things not in motion right now. Would you agree that most everything either has moved or could be moved at some point in the future?”

“Yes, sir, it is reasonable that most anything has moved or could be moved.” This stranger had a way of communicating thoughts and ideas without making me think I was being lectured to. It seemed as though he just asked questions and I ended up giving all the answers. His teaching methods were about as strange as he was.

“I suppose the same would apply to all matter that is out in the universe as well. Am I correct about that, my friend?”

“Yes, I suspect that everything out in the universe is moving, has moved, or can be moved. So it appears to me that everything, no matter what or where, is moving or can be moved.”

“Very good, friend. Can anything move its own self?”

I needed a little time to think. I didn’t want this guy trapping me, but so far, he seemed to be straight with me. Let’s see, I thought. Obviously a rock can’t move itself. First something or someone must put the rock in motion. A tree can’t move itself, but the wind can cause the leaves and limbs to move about; large earth-moving equipment could actually uproot the tree, putting it into motion. What else? A car won’t move until some outside source puts a chain of events together, resulting in the car’s movement. The planets move around the sun, but not due to their own power.

“Sir, I don’t believe any non-living object is capable of moving itself, and I suppose the same goes with plants. But the animal kingdom is a different matter. You asked me if anything can move itself. Well, I can move my own self, and most other animals are capable of moving themselves.”

“Friend, you said that you are capable of moving yourself. Is your body a single unit, or is your body an organism made up of many individual biological parts?”

“Sir, I’m not sure if I am following you.”

“That’s all right, my friend. We are exploring this idea together. Let’s see…okay, let’s try it this way. A person might consider his car as a single unit, but is it not actually an assembly of many individual parts?”

“Yes, sir, there are thousands of parts that make up the total assembly of a car.”

“Likewise, isn’t your body just an assembly of many biological parts?”

“Well…I suppose it is.”

“Can your fingers move on their own free will?”

“I don’t believe they can, sir.”

“Can your hands and arms operate as if they had a mind of their own?”

“No, they can’t.”

“And, before you begin walking, isn’t there something other than your legs that causes your legs to begin moving?”

“I hope you’re coming to a point, Sir.”

“Yes, friend, I am. Wouldn’t you agree that your brain must send certain signals to your various body parts before those parts are capable of moving?”

“Okay, sir. I give up. It appears that you’re right.”

“And then there is the brain itself. Can your brain send those signals without some outside influence?”

“Sir, I believe that the brain is the command center of all that goes on in the body.”

“Can the brain operate without an ample supply of blood and oxygen being sent to it by other parts of your body?”

He had me there. “Sir, I stand corrected. It appears that nothing, not even an animal, is capable of moving itself. And it appears that even my brain is dependent upon some outside influence. It sounds to me that some outside force is needed before anything is able to move.”

“I believe we are getting somewhere, my friend,” said the stranger. “Is there such a thing as perpetual motion?”

If this stranger wanted to push off his philosophies on me; he was going to have his hands full. I knew enough about how things work to ensure that he would not be able to pull the wool over my eyes. The concept of perpetual motion has intrigued mankind for ages. There is just one little problem that gets in the way. Friction cannot be eliminated. No matter how slight, friction will eventually stop anything that is in motion.

“No there isn’t,” I replied. “Perpetual motion is impossible. Eventually, everything put into motion will cease its motion without the continuing influence of some outside source.”

“Okay, friend, it appears that any object in motion had to have some other mover to put that object into motion. And, likewise, there had to be some other mover farther in the past to put that mover into motion. This sequence of moving and being moved goes farther and farther in the past. Now, friend, I think we are about to be confronted by a problem.”

“What is that, sir?”

“I can imagine the first object ever moved, but I’m having trouble figuring out what moved the first object.”

“Well, sir, the first object moved was moved by the first mover.”

“Friend, that sounds logical, but didn’t the first mover also need a mover?”

“Oh, now I see the problem.”

“Yes, friend, it looks like we’ve come up against a brick wall. We know that every object that moves needs a mover. We also know that every mover also needs a mover. Somewhere back at the beginning of time, there had to be a first object in motion. We know that to be a fact. But that first object in motion could not have begun moving without a mover moving it. We can imagine the first object in movement, but what about the mover of the first object in motion? What moved the first object? What was the first mover? How could the first mover move the first object if the first mover had to be moved itself?”

Now my head was spinning. It was simple enough to think that everything moving was caused to move by something else immediately in its past. But the complication arose as we looked farther and farther in the past. I retraced our conversation in my head. The more I thought about it, the more unsure I became. How can there be a first mover, if something was required to move it? If that were so, it would not be the first mover.

“Sir, I’m a bit confused. I guess I just haven’t had enough time to think about it. I agree with you that we’ve encountered a problem with the first mover, but there must be an answer. Tell me, what do you think caused the first object to move.”

“Friend, in the universe, everything that moves must have something other than itself to move it. Likewise, the first object to have ever moved, no matter how far back in the past, also had to have a mover that put it into motion. We know that perpetual motion does not exist. Nevertheless, there still had to be a first mover. So, whatever it was that put the first object in motion could not have been a part of the universe. The very first mover had to be something that did not have something farther in its past to cause it to move. What do you suppose that could be?”

Talk about mixed emotions! I had absolutely no desire to consider the existence of God, but somewhere in the dark corners of my scientific mind, I was enjoying this stranger’s tactics. Nevertheless, I had no idea what the answer to his question could possibly be. In exasperation I said, “Sir, the only conclusion left is that the first mover must be an unmoved mover. I don’t know how that can be, but it must be so.”

“I believe you are right, friend. The one and only conclusion is that there must be an unmoved mover.”

“Okay, sir, now what? Where does that leave us?”

“We have determined that the first mover is an unmoved mover. The unmoved mover cannot be a part of the universe. This unmoved mover is none other than God Himself!”

There it was! He told me that he thought he could prove that God exists. We walked through a series of logical conclusions and ended up with the ultimate conclusion that God must exist. This stranger was making me think of things I had never considered before. His logic seemed to be sound, but was it good enough to prove to me that there actually is a God? I still couldn’t see God. With all of his so-called proof, I still couldn’t bring myself to believe that there really is a God. There must be an objection to this conclusion, I thought.

Weakly, I argued back, “Sir, I think you’re making an assumption that the universe had a specific beginning. I’ve heard it said that the universe is infinitely old. What do you say about that?”

“You might have an argument there,” he said. “Why don’t we explore that idea together? After considering some facts we already know about the universe, perhaps we can come to a reasonable conclusion regarding its beginning.”

I seriously doubted that we could solve the mysteries surrounding the beginning of the universe while sitting at a coffee shop table. “Sir,” I replied, “this has been a most curious conversation and I would love to explore the beginnings of the universe. But, I need to leave for work before I get fired. That would cause my personal universe to fall apart. Perhaps we could talk more on this subject if we happen to meet on another day.”

“Friend, I am honored that you would like to continue discussing things with me. I’ll certainly look forward to it.”

With that, I excused myself and hurried off to work.

The above excerpt is from the copyrighted book Conversations with a Stranger by Larry Tate

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