Science in Christian Perspective



The Watchmaker
Paul Adams
Biology Department The University of Michigan - Flint 
Flint, Michigan 48503

From: JASA 33 (December 1981): 243-244.

In the l8th century the English theologian William Paley likened the Creation to an intricate watch and the Creator to the watchmaker. Here is a 20th century version of that analogy.

The watch was a very fine instrument indeed. At least that's what John tried to reassure himself after buying it on impulse that morning. It was not that he really questioned its quality, but for a poor college student, any purchase of that magnitude was hard to justify. His father nodded his head approvingly as he handed it back to John.

"It's the most beautiful watch I've ever seen," his father said.

The only inscription on the watch face was "Made by Wort," but in the box was a brochure that gave more information and which was signed, "Herr Wort." In the brochure Wort explained how he loved to make watches and how he loved people. He hoped that people everywhere would enjoy, appreciate, and take good care of his watches. He also mentioned that all the watches were made by him with very special care.

During the next several weeks, John's appreciation of the watch increased, for it was not only beautiful, but also ran with the highest precision and was very durable. Many other people in the city purchased Wort watches and a good number of them along with John and his father began to regard Wort as a very special person. Their admiration of Wort was based on more than just his ability to make fine watches, for in the brochure he presented a view of life that gave it deep meaning and purpose. Soon those committed to his teachings began to call themselves Wortists and meet together periodically in Wort Clubs.

One day the following article appeared in the New York Times:


"Last month a shipment of watches arrived in New York City from Switzerland. Since then, the watches have been praised for their excellence, and the watchmakerphilosopher known as Wort has received a surprising degree of popular support. Wort himself remains quite a mystery, however. No one in the International Association of Watchmakers seems to know who he is, where in Switzerland he works, or how he is able to make watches of such superior quality."

On campus several weeks later a friend tossed on John's desk an issue of Newsweek open to the science section. "Take a look at this," He said. "Your Mr. Wort is amazing!"

The article read as follows:

"The location of the master watchmaker Wort has finally been discovered in an alpine valley in Switzerland. For the past few months the watches and teachings of Wort have captured the admiration of people throughout the country. This report will do little to diminish the interest in this remarkable man.

The watchmaker's shop was closed tightly when I arrived, but from inside came the unmistakable sound of machinery. Since no one would answer the door, I climbed onto some boxes to look through the only window in the building. In the room was a large machine, and Wort could be seen maintaining it and checking the dials. On the top were cone-shaped hoppers, along one side were a series of conveyer belts carrying various watch parts, and on one end
complete watches would periodically leave the machine for packaging. Apparently Wort had built a machine that can take the individual watch parts and assemble them into a watch of very high quality."

John quickly called his father and read him the article. They could hardly believe it; Wort clearly had a greater creative intellect than they had ever imagined. But before they could fully comprehend the meaning of this latest discovery, the following article appeared in Time the next week.

"The recent discovery of the watchmaker shop of Herr Wort has further increased the public fascination with this brilliant man. During the past week, I apparently became the first reporter to meet Wort in person. As he was leaving the shop, I asked him who he was and why he made the watches. Without looking up he handed me the brochure that comes with the watches. When I pressed him further for some information on how the watches were made, he gave me a wry smile and glanced over his shoulder at his shop. It was clear that he was not going to answer that question directly, but he seemed almost to invite me to enter the shop for a closer look.

Inside the shop the watchmaking machine was truly awesome. It filled nearly the whole room and contained a multitude of moving parts and dials. Probably more out of frustration than curiosity, I climbed onto a chair to peer into the hoppers. Incredibly, the hoppers did not contain the assorted wheels and screws of a watch but a range of various pulverized metals and minerals. As I left the shop, I realized that I had witnessed one of the greatest engineering achievements in history."

When John and his father read the latest account, they laughed with delight. "It seems there is no end to the accomplishments of this man," John's father said.

Returning to campus on the bus later that day, John happened to sit among a group of particularly vocal non-wortists, who were discussing the recent news reports about the watches.

"I knew there had to be a machine making those watches," one said.

"Yes," laughed another, "just a machine-it's probably been there all along. I guess we can finally throw out the myth of Wort once and for all."

"I wonder who the guy was that the reporter spoke to."

"Probably just the delivery man," joked one. "Maybe the nice one who is sending us all the watches. He sure fooled that reporter. "

When John got home that evening and related this occurrence, his father shook his head sadly. "It's very unfortunate, but hardly surprising. "

"But how can they possibly believe that such a complex machine was not made by a person of superior intellegence?" said John.

"I'm sure I don't know. Sometimes I wonder if they really believe what they're saying. Anyway," continued his father, "tomorrow night we can forget about the incident and recognize Wort's accomplishment properly. Our Wort Club has called a special meeting to discuss the recent events. It should be a wonderful time."

The next evening, of all times, John's father had to work late. By the time they got to the meeting, it had already started. As soon as they entered, they realized something was wrong as they an attitude of bitterness and antagonism.

"There can be no machine," someone said. "I think we protest this outrage by cancelling all subscriptions to Time Newsweek."

"That's right," said another. "It's clear that those reporters allies of the non-wortists. It's a scandalous job of biased and subjective reporting."

"Even if there was something that looked like a machine, reporters did not see the watches actually being made. Wort have assembled the various parts by hand some place else."

"Whatever the reporters claimed to see," said the leader, know the machine did not make the watches. After all Wort's in the Brochure that he made the watches. There obviously be no machine."

It was hard for John and his father to believe what was place. It wasn't long before the group had branded all people looked favorably on the machine as Machinists, and soon som stated that no good Wortist could possibly be a Machinist. Finally John's father could remain silent no longer.

"Why are we talking like this?" he said. "Why do you find machine so threatening? I thought we would all be thrilled at new and even greater evidence of Wort's creative ability. How this discovery possibly lessen someone's esteem of Wort? Furthermore, I find no conflict whatever in the machine and Wort's statement in the Brochure."

"What's wrong," someone shouted, "don't you believe W could have made the watches without the machine?"

"But if he made the machine, of course he ..." John's father was interrupted by someone in the next row.

"No Wortist should believe in the machine! Those that do compromising the truth stated by Wort. They are collaborating with the enemy."

The ride home was the saddest of trips for John and his father especially when they realized what a joyous meeting it could been.

"I never would have guessed the degree of hostility that Wortist friends have for the machine," the father said. "I particularly don't understand why the machine issue should be made matter of such importance-the watches were made by Wort either case. Why can't we unite and concentrate on the really important issues in the Brochure?"

They rode the rest of the way in silence. As they reached home, John said, "You know, I've been thinking. In the Brochure where Wort says that we should appreciate his watches, doesn't that also imply that we should appreciate his machine that the watches."

"It would seem that way to me," his father answered. "the amazing part of this whole sad event is how some people can the beauty and wonder of his watches but not of his machine.