Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Laws of Nature

'Poor woman,' said my friend. 'One hardly knows what to say when they talk like that. She thinks her son survived Arnhem because she prayed for him. It would be heartless to explain to her that he really survived because he was standing a little to the left or a little to the right of some bullet. That bullet was following a course laid down by the laws of Nature. It couldn't have hit him. He just happened to be standing off its line' [...]

The laws of physics, I understand, decree that when one billiards ball (A) sets another billiards ball (B) in motion, the momentum lost by A exactly equals the momentum gained by B. This is a
Law. That is, this is the pattern to which the movement of the two billiards balls must conform. Provided, of course that something sets ball A in motion. And here comes the snag. The law won't set it in motion. It is usually a man with a cue who does that. But a man with a cue would send us back to free-will, so let us assume that it was lying on a table in a liner and that what set it in motion was a lurch of the ship. In that case it was not the law which produced the movement; it was a wave. And that wave, though it certainly moved according to the laws of physics, was not moved by them. It was shoved by other waves, and by winds, and so forth. And however far you traced the story back you would never find the laws of Nature causing anything.

The dazzlingly obvious conclusion now arose, in my mind: in the whole history of the universe the laws of Nature have never produced a single event. They are the pattern to which every event must conform, provided only that it can be induced to happen.[...]The laws are the pattern to which events conform: the source of events must be sought elsewhere.

This may be put in the form that the laws of Nature explain everything except the source of events. But this is rather a formidable exeption. The laws, in one sense, cover the whole of reality except--well, except that continuous cataract of real events which makes up the actual universe. They explain everything except what we should ordinarily call 'everything'.
~C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, "The Laws of Nature" (1945)


During this month:

1960 Following the death of his wife, Joy in July 1960, Lewis writes A Grief Observed.

2 Comment(s):

At Tue Aug 02, 09:24:00 AM EST, Blogger Sandicomm said...

I never really thought about it that way before. Leave it to Lewis to brilliantly illuminate things.

At Tue Aug 02, 06:18:00 PM EST, Blogger Roger Parkinson said...

...and the laws of nature are evidence of the constancy of God.


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