A LOOK BEHIND THE “NATURAL LAWS” (C. 1958)

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Excerpted from The Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe, edited by John Clover Monsma. New York: G.P. Putman’s Sons, 1958

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A LOOK BEHIND THE “NATURAL LAWS”

By Edwin Fast, Physicist

A.B. in science, Friends University, M.Sc, Ph.D., University of Oklahoma. Formerly on staff of University of Oklahoma, Department of Physics; since 1945 with Phillips Petroleum Company. Presently engaged in atomic energy work—in charge of low power test reactor, the R M F, at M T R site. Specialist in spectroscopy, radioactive tracer work, atomic energy generally.

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In this writer’s opinion an answer to the all-im­portant question proposed by this volume does not require a lengthy and involved discourse. The answer can be concise, and at the same time—at least in the writer’s view—adequate.

In the realm of physical science the most nearly correct explanation of a phenomenon is usually taken to be the simplest one which adequately accounts for experimental observations. A set of assumptions may be accepted because they aid in promoting a theory and because they seem obvious or reasonable. Using these as foundation stones the structure is built. If these are found erroneous or inadequate the structure falls.

The theory of probability is well developed mathematically and finds considerable application in physics. If no outside influences affect the experiment, a flipped coin tossed a suffi­ciently large number of times should show heads as often as tails. A die when cast should rest so that each of its six faces are up an equal number of times. A predominance of heads in the tossed coin might be observed with practice in flipping it from a set initial position and with a studied uniform snap of the thumb. Similarly the die, skillfully thrown or weighted, can be made to show one number predominantly.

The differ­ence in the two cases is that the first is purely one of unbiased chance, whereas the latter has behind it an intelligence direct­ing the action and consequently influencing the outcome.

These rather naive, simple examples may be extrapolated to those of increasing complexity. Let ten, a hundred, or a million units act simultaneously to establish a pattern of behavior. Any deviation from a completely random result leads one to look for some cause or directing influence. A description of such “directed” behavior is usually designated as “natural laws.” If, for example, one considers the behavior of neutrons, electrons or protons in an electric and magnetic field, each behaves in a way which can be described ade­quately and hence predicted on the basis of “natural laws.” Their properties (characteristics) are such that they behave in a predictable manner. Or if light from a sodium electric arc is passed through a narrow slit and a triangular prism, two closely spaced orange-yellow lines appear. The energy re­leased as light comes from the transition of an electron from a higher to a lower energy state in the atom. This can be described in precise terms of a mathematical expression.

 

But—and here is the important point; the core of the question —”natural laws” are merely a description of what has been observed and not intelligent, regulatory legislation. In itself this description is not a fundamental reason or explanation of a phenomenon.

In seeking to find the origin of the universe science has shown how, on the basis of present knowledge of nuclear physics, interactions of fundamental particles can explain the build-up of all the known elements. Starting with the proton and its properties, and some force to bring the par­ticles together, all known elements of our present universe can eventually be produced. The origin of the proton, how­ever, and why it has its specific properties is not explained.

Regressing far enough one must finally reach the conclu­sion that the existence of “natural laws,” which describe systematics in the universe, is evidence of an Intelligence who chose to establish the operation of the universe as we observe it. Once the electron, proton and neutron were created, with definite properties, their behavior patterns were established.

Our finite minds, in trying to go back to —o in time, demand that there must have been a beginning—a time when the ultimate particles composing matter were first formed. With the formation or creation of these physical entities must have come the properties which determine their behavior. The Cause which created the particles logically also deter­mined the properties they were to have. If the brightest scientific minds through the centuries have studied to learn, by observations of great complexity, the existence and behavior of the various entities, it must follow that the intelli­gence of the One who designed these in the first place sur­passes the integrated value of human intelligence to date.

The best perceptive minds of today will readily admit that man has scarcely begun to learn what there is to know about natural phenomena.

When we turn to the organic realm, the complexities of behavior increase enormously, and hence the rationalization of such behavior on the basis of pure chance becomes infinitesimally small. The principal building blocks of organic matter are hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon, with smaller amounts of nitrogen and other elements. Millions of these atoms come together to form even the simple forms of life. As one considers larger and more complex species, the proba­bilities of definite combinations on the basis of pure chance are inconceivably small.

Coming to higher forms of life, there are those which exhibit intelligence in plotting and carrying out a course of action which may be contrary to “natural law.” That such should appear on the basis of a chance coming together of elements, that these should in turn develop, reproduce in kind, exhibit reason and intelligence without a creative act of One who designed and established such beings, is very highly improbable—is accepting a hypothesis that for all practical purposes is impossible, while rejecting a simple, adequate one. In the unaffected words of the writer of Genesis: “In the beginning God. . . .”

Simple words, aren’t they?

But there is majesty in their simplicity—the majesty, in this writer’s belief, of Truth Divine.

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