No Man Understands Iron by Arthur Brisbane

Story type: Essay

HOW CAN WE HOPE TO UNDERSTAND GOD?

Is there laughter in heaven–or can nothing move the eternal
heavenly calm?

If mirth exists among the perpetually blissful, how must the
angels laugh when in idle moments they listen to our speculations
concerning the Divinity? They peer down at us as we look at ants
dragging home a fragment of dead caterpillar. They hear us say
things like this:

If God exists, why does He not reveal himself to ME?

How could God exist before He created the world? Force cannot
exist or demonstrate its existence without matter. How could a
creator exist except with creation around him?

Where did He live before He made heaven?

If He is all-powerful, could He in five seconds make a six
months’ old calf? If He made it in five seconds it would not be
six months old.

Nonsense more subtle comes from the educated, from those who know
enough to be preposterous in a pretentious way.

Hear the wise man:

God does not exist, because I cannot prove His existence: I can
prove everything else. With my law of gravitation I point to a
speck in space and say: “You’ll find a new planet there,” and
you find it. If a God existed could I not also point to Him? If
I can trace a comet in its flight, could I not trace the comet’s
maker?

Huxley says: “The cosmic process has no sort of relation to
moral ends.” That’s a philosopher’s way of saying something
foolish. Lalande, the astronomer, remarked that he had swept the
entire heavens with his telescope and found no God there. That’s
funnier than any ant who should say: “I’ve searched this whole
dead caterpillar and found no God, so THERE IS NO GOD.” The
corner of space which our telescopes can “sweep” is smaller,
compared to the universe, than a dead caterpillar compared with
this earth.

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Moleschott, an able physiologist, believed that phosphorus was
essential to mental activity. Perhaps he did prove that. But he
said: “No thought without phosphorus,” and thought he had wiped
the human soul out of existence. Philosophers do not laugh at
Moleschott. But they would laugh at a savage who would say:

“I have discovered that there is a catgut in a fiddle. No fiddle
without catgut–no music without cats. Don’t talk to me about
soul or musical genius–it’s all catgut.”

We peek out at this universe from our half-developed corner of
it. We see faintly the millions of huge suns circling with their
planet families billions of miles away. We see our own little
sun rise and set; we ask ourselves a thousand foolish questions
of cause and Ruler–and because we cannot answer, we decry faith.

Wise doubter, look at a small piece of iron. It looks solid.
You suppose that its various parts touch. But submit it to cold.

You make it smaller. Then the particles did not touch. Do they
touch now? No; relatively they are farther apart than this
planet from its nearest neighbor.

That piece of iron, apparently solid, consists of clusters of
atoms wonderfully grouped, each cluster called a molecule. The
molecular cluster is invisible, millions of clusters in the
smallest visible fragment. The atom is accepted by science as
the final particle of matter. Its name indicates that it is
supposed to be indivisible. When science gets to the atom it
calmly gives up and says: “That is so small that it can no
longer be divided.” A reasonable enough conclusion on the
surface, considering that you might have millions of atoms of
iron in one corner of your eye and not know it.

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But why should the atom be incapable of further division? If it
is any size at all it can be thought of as split.

Where does the divisibility of matter end, if anywhere? What is
there SOLID about iron? Nothing in reality, except that it seems
to us solid. Already, with the X-ray, we can look through it.
Forces such as heat and electricity pass through it more readily
than through free air.

Science, which gradually finds things out, denying as it goes
along everything one step beyond, tells you truly that the
clusters of atoms in iron float in a sea of ether, just as do our
planets going round the sun. Heat the iron intensely. What
happens? You get what you call white heat. The white heat and
the white light come from the increase of wave motion in this
ether, and this ether, absolutely imponderable, of a tenuity
inconceivable, possesses elasticity greater and more powerful
than that of coiled steel. —-

So much for one small piece of iron, such as you would kick to
one side in a junk heap. If it interests you, read pages 159 to
162 of John Fiske’s admirable little book, “Through Nature to
God.” You will finish the book the day you get it.

If you are surprised to learn how much you did not know about
iron–after living near bits of iron all your life–is it not
just possible that your mind may be too feeble to conceive of
God?

For the fly buzzing about the edge of Niagara Falls, the falls do
not exist. The fly’s brain cannot grasp their grandeur. It can
understand only the speck of spray that falls on its wing.

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You live with God around you, hopelessly incapable of perceiving
His existence save through that faint spark of unconscious faith
that was mercifully planted in you. Snuff that out with dull
efforts at reason, and you have nothing.

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