Sunday, November 16, 2003

Faith in science

I've been having a very interesting email exchange with a self-professed Christian about various theological and philosophical issues, so when my wife discovered an odd message on our answering machine yesterday I briefly entertained the possibility that this was a Sign from God. The message was garbled and barely understandable, but still unmistakably my voice. Trick is, I was absolutely 100% sure that I hadn't left any messages on the machine.

What is interesting is that even before I figured out what had happened I was very confident that I would figure it out despite the fact that I was seeing with my own eyes (or at least hearing with my own ears) a situation that on its face had no logical explanation. I have faith in science. I believe in science even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

The difference between my faith and religious faith, I think, is that my faith in science is only temporary. Sooner or later a logical explanation has to present itself. If I am ever faced with a situation that stubbornly resists all attempts at a logical or scientific explanation then I might discard my faith in science. But so far nothing has even come close, not even my own voice on an answering machine with no memory of my having put it there.

The crucial clues to figure out the puzzle turned out to be these:

1. Not only was the message garbled, but it was also very long, about ten minutes, most of which was just silence.

2. My wife noted that she hadn't heard the phone ring, and indeed, she thought the ringer was broken. It wasn't.

3. The answering machine is mounted on the wall above a small counter in the kitchen where we keep our cat's food dish.

(Getting good, isn't it?)

4. The answering machine keeps a time stamp, and the message was recorded at about the time I left for work.

So what happened was that our cat somehow managed to push the "memo record" button on the machine and record me saying goodbye to my wife as I left for work that day. It took about half an hour to figure this out. It was an interesting half hour.

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