Dialogue with an atheist - Part 9 - Talking to God

Dialogue with an atheist - Part 9 - Talking to God

GLC         Do you think that inanimate things have souls - or can feel emotion - or can understand something?
Atheists:  Of course, I believe in it. That is what Darwinism is all about. Darwinism posits that the tiny cells, even in inanimate things, steers the course of evolution in a random way. And if you did not know, electrons which are totally inanimate know their way around an atom's nucleus. This has been determined by our brilliant scientists. In fact, we do not believe in any external meta-physical influences on such an electron. It knows by itself and the nuclear forces acting on it, what it should do, and it does it every-time without fail.

GLC:        That's a sweeping statement, but this scorpion will get back at you and sting you with its deadly poisoned tail. You will later have to explain to me why an inanimate thing can think and act, whilst a living thing like God cannot think or act.
               I enjoy your story about the electron - I also find it unbelievable and incredible that it has this instinct to do that.
Atheist:   No, no! - It is not instinct. It exactly follows predetermined physical laws.
GLC:        But why do cars make accidents when they follow those same predetermined physical laws, being driven by humans who have been programmed deterministically to do that?
Atheist:   It just happens - that's the way things are.
GLC:        And I hope that you have just seen that your theory of absolute determinism has been totally annihilated by the reality of free will, which reigns absolute in the Universe.
             Can I tell you a story of an inanimate thing that can help you in times of crisis?
Atheist:   Yes, I like stories.
GLC:        I wish to quote from 'a Gift of Wings' by Richard Bach - a short story called 'Steel, aluminium, nuts and bolts'. (I only quote parts of it):
               An airplane is a machine. It is not possible for it to be alive. Nor is it possible for it to wish or to hope or to hate or to love. There is no secret, no dark magic, there are no incantations said over any airplane in order to make it fly. It flies because of known and invariable laws which cannot be changed for any reason. An airplane is not a creature. It is a machine: blind, dumb, cold, dead.
               The take-off performance of any aircraft depends upon wing-loading, power-loading, air-foil coefficients, density altitude, wind, slope and runway-surface type. All these are things that can be measured with tape measures and test machines, and when they are run through charts and computers, they give us an absolutely minimum take-off distance.
               I give you an example. I give you a pilot. Let's say that his name is ... oh ... Everett Donelly. Let's say that he learned to fly in a 7AC Aeronca Champion. N2758E. Then later, let's say that Everett Donelly became a first officer with United Airlines, and then a Captain, and that for fun he began looking for that same old Aeronca Champ. Let's say he asked questions and wrote letters and searched for a year and a half across the country, and that at last he found what was left of it, smashed under a fallen hangar. Let's say he spent just over two years rebuilding the airplane.
               Now let's say that one day he landed in a high mountain field with a broken oil line. Let's say that he fixed the line, added some oil, which he always carried with him, and was ready for take-off. Let's say that if Everett Donelly does not take off at this time, he will be buried in the blizzard of 8 December 1966. Let's say that there is no road to this mountain field, no civilization nearby. And let's say that there is a stand of sixty-foot pines all around the field and that there is no wind yet.
               I then set these figures into a computer. The final sum is a minimum distance of 1594 feet. This means nothing. The field is 407 feet too short, assuming perfect pilot technique. Everett Donelly, not knowing as precisely as a computer, but knowing that the take-off will not be an easy one, paces the distance at 1180 feet from the start of the roll to the base of the pine trees facing him.
               And now I give you some facts that cannot possibly make any difference in the take-off roll of the Aeronca. Let's say that Everett Donelly thinks of the blizzard on its way, of his cold death and the destruction of his airplane if he does not fly out of this field at once.
               And he swings the propeller of his machine and he steps into the cockpit and pushes the throttle all the way forward and the Champ begins to move towards the trees at the other end of the field, because it is time to go home.
               The computer gave the answer and that was final. The Champ could not possibly clear those trees. It was impossible for it to do so. By precise calculation, it must hit the trees twenty eight feet above ground level at a true airspeed of fifty one miles per hour. The impact, centred upon the right main wing spar, seventy-two inches from the wing-fuselage attach fittings, would be of sufficient force to collapse the main and read spars. The inertia of the remaining aircraft weight, acting through a new centre of gravity, would whip the aircraft to the right and toward the ground. Impact with the ground would cause stress on the engine mount in excess of the design load factors. The engine would move backward through the fire-wall and fuel tank. Gasoline sprayed across the exhaust manifold would make a flammable vapour that would be ignited by exhaust flame from the broken cylinders. The basic structure of the aircraft would be consumed by fire in four minutes thirty-seven seconds, which may or may not be sufficient time for the occupant to recover and leave the machine.
               It is not possible for me to have seen Everett Donelly this morning shooting landings in his Champ and taxiing in for gas.
               I couldn't have said,"Everett, you're dead!"
               He couldn't have laughed at me "You gone crazy? I'm no more dead than you are. Tell me how did I die?"
               "You died in the mountains, forty-two miles north of Barton's Flat and the field was only 1187 feet long and the density altitude was 4530 feet and your wing-loading was 6.45 pounds per square foot."
               "Oh, that? Sure, I was down. Oil line broke. But I put a hose clamp on it and added some oil and took off again and flew home before the storm. Couldn't very well stay there, could I?"
               "But the take-off roll ..."
               "You better believe it! I had pine needles in the landing gear when I got home. But the old Champ will do nice things once in a while, if I'm good to her.
               What a beautiful and inspiring story. It was probably in the genes of the aircraft.
Atheist:   I don't believe it!
GLC:        But that is not strange. Everywhere in the world people are talking to machines - I mean people with smart phones talk to web servers. What is so strange about it?
Atheist:   It is not the same. One needs an electronic device to talk to those machines.
GLC:        Yes presently, but we have not discovered how to talk to those machines directly, although we have been talking to machines for a long time, take your own GPS navigation and car phone system. It can recognize your voice.
               In fact, the latest interview which Charlie Rose had with Paul Jacobs of Qualcomm, revealed that laboratory studies are presently underway in which electronic devices can talk to each other without out us knowing it or intervening with it. In one such case, a television screen will sense the presence of a smart phone nearby, and start to tell it how it can be used by the smart phone, sending the smart phone its properties like resolution, protocol etc.. The smart phone will then reply that it has content which can be displayed on such a screen device and here is how the screen can gain access to its content. (Wow!)
               So if two machines can talk unhindered to each other, why do you find it so strange to talk to God? Have you tried? Or are you waiting for some scientific breakthrough here as well?
               I can let you in on a secret. Moses talked to God who appeared in the form of a burning bush some three and a half thousand years ago. But we have to take a few steps back.
Atheist:   I am all ears.
GLC:        This is my own true story.
               I once took the President of a Pentecostal church, with two of his executive members, to a small town, in my aircraft recently. The small town had a short gravel runway, with mountains at the take-off side.
               We flew there; I inspected the runway by flying at a height of two hundred feet above it, and made a perfect landing in good weather conditions.
               After their meeting the afternoon, it was time to go home to Johannesburg. We arrived at the airfield, this time with a very strong and gusting westerly wind blowing across the runway. The runway was soft gravel, and I knew the take-off would be horrific. I have done about three thousand take-offs in this type of aircraft, and I knew it well, and I knew that the take-off was technically impossible. I did not tell them that, but hinted at the severe adverse weather conditions - and I knew that they would send up a prayer.
               I taxied out to the threshold of the runway and checked the wind and the overshoot area. The overshoot area was a wire fence, some telephone poles, a rivulet slightly to the left and mountains a bit further away. My plan was to decide three quarters though the take-off roll whether I would abort it, and in case I went on with it, I would turn slightly to the left to follow the low ground of the rivulet, try and gain some altitude before I start to make slow upward spiralling turns before I fly over the mountains.
               Of course, I did not know, as well as the computer does, how long my take-off roll would be and it was difficult on a strange airfield to judge distances to the end of the runway. Knowing the aircraft, I thought that if I tucked the wheels into the wheel wells just after take-off, I would probably make it at one meter above the fence. It was time to go and I have faith.
               At three quarters towards the end, I was still not certain whether I would make it or not. It looked very marginal, but possible. I lifted the nose, it took off, I quickly tucked in the wheels, and I went over the fence at one meter, I turned slightly to the left for the rivulet. At that stage the stall warning went off, which I expected due to the banking angle of the aircraft increasing its stall speed and the gusting wind, but I also know it goes off some five knots before the stall. I therefore had a good indication of the airflow regime on the aircraft wings. When the stall warning went off, I see the President, sitting next to me and watching this process in anguish, giving a quick glance at me, to see whether I was scared or panicked. Having done this thousands of times before, I give no indication of any emotion. I have learned to be calm and calculated in such situations.
               When I got home, I took out all my books and charts and determined that such a take-off cannot be done under those conditions.
               You could have told me, when you saw me again shooting landings at my home airfield, that I was dead - that I died in Burgersdorp by  taking-off from a field that was shorter than the graphs showed. I would have told you that God answers prayer.
               So who is right? Everett Donelly or I - you decide.
Atheist:   I don't believe it!
GLC:        Rest assured that God talks to us in numerous ways, but we need to start to hear it.