The Empire State Building

[This story is fiction, of course, and is a tad long. However, if you stick with it, a wonderful conclusion awaits – a golden nugget.]


New York City resident Jim Nigh rode the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building. He carried a small cardboard box. At the top, he was allowed to throw the contents of the box over the side. He then rode the elevator down to the street level. He walked over to a spot on the sidewalk and found what he had hoped to find. A 100-piece jigsaw puzzle lay assembled. He looked at the image of two horses grazing in a pasture and he mumbled, “Perfect! Just like I hoped it would be.”
     A stranger came walking by and saw the puzzle. He walked over to Mr. Nigh and asked, “Uh, hey guy, what’s with the jigsaw puzzle? An odd place to work one, wouldn’t you say?”
     “I didn’t work it,” said Nigh. “I took the pieces to the top of the Empire State Building here, and threw them over the side. They landed assembled, by themselves.”
     “No way, man.”
     “I kid you not. That’s what happened.”
     “That’s impossible. Besides, puzzle pieces snap together, and you have to press the pieces into place.”
     “Not this kind of puzzle. There’s only 100 pieces and they just lay next to each other, without the need to snap into place.”
     The stranger, his lips twisted, just stared at Nigh. “Let me get this straight. You took the puzzle to the top of the building, threw it over the side, and it landed assembled? Like, right here? On the sidewalk? Come’ on, man. That’s not possible.”
     “On the contrary, Sir, it’s not impossible”
     “Well, maybe not impossible, but certainly improbable. Right?”
     “OK, then. Let’s see you do it again. I’ll stay down here and watch, while you go up there to the top of the building and throw the pieces over the side again.”
     “My friend, I could do it every hour on the hour for the next million years, and the puzzle falling assembled on the ground probably wouldn’t happen again for a long long time. Just because it happened on the first try today, doesn’t mean it will ever happen again in our lifetime and beyond.”
     “So then, what’s the point?” asked the stranger.
     “That highly improbable events happen every day.”
     “O…K. That is true. I’ll concede that,” said the stranger. “About every week or so someone in the world wins a big lottery – though you have a better chance of getting hit by lightning, or being elected President. However, you’re right. Highly improbable events happen every day. But forgive me, I guess I’m a bit dense. I still don’t see the point of your little puzzle…drama.”
     Nigh grinned. “I want to suggest that even life itself could have arisen by a chance event. Highly improbable, true enough. But here we stand, talking about it – so the first life actually materialized, somewhere, sometime. Oh, oh, here comes the Channel 3 TV truck. And they’re stopping. They probably want to put me on the evening news. Anyway, do you see my point?”
     “Humph. I’ll think about it – but, sorry to say, I must reserve judgment. I think that life coming into existence by some kind of accident has worse odds than your puzzle drop thing.”
     The stranger walked away, shaking his head. Jim Nigh began running to the TV truck. But then, a young boy ran up, holding something in his hands. When Nigh saw what the boy had, he stopped, gritted his teeth and mumbled, “Oh, nuts.”


Bill Bright sat at his desk, his work computer displaying a detailed diagram of a nut/bolt/washer combination. “This hardware should do the job,” he mumbled.
     Bill worked as part of a team designing automobiles for a big Detroit manufacturer. Thousands of precision parts had to be assembled in just the right way for the specified automobile to become a functioning vehicle. Put a part in the wrong place, and the car would not work right – maybe not at all. In fact, realizing this, Bill had set aside some time to think about just what an automobile actually is, so after some serious consideration and editing he wrote the following sentence on his grease board.

     “A working automobile is a functioning integrated system of subsystems, powered by a source of energy, and controlled by information processes.”

     ‘Certainly it functions’, thought Bill. ‘If it didn’t function it would be, well, ‘dead’ – just a conglomeration of parts that accomplished nothing. In addition, it’s certainly an integrated system. We have subsystems such as a motor, a transmission, wheels, dashboard, lights, a chassis, seats, and so forth – all put together in just the right way, so the end result is a functioning automobile. And the whole thing is powered by the energy contained in the gasoline consumed by the engine. Also we have on-board computers, cams, valves, timing belts, and of course the driver too, all of which together constitutes the information processes that make the hardware do what it’s supposed to do.’
     Jack Kaplan, a team-member of Bills’, walked up behind Bill and said, “Interesting expression on your grease board there, Bill. What’s the deal?”
     Bill answered, “I was just doing a bit of theorizing about the car and truck design we do here. We take the process through the basic steps of initial concept, followed by imagination and brainstorming, then a specification, a list of parts and finally assembly instructions. And we end up with a machine, which is defined by that very statement there on the grease board.”
     “I like it. That statement is quite comprehensive. It would apply not only to cars, but also to airplanes, computers, trains, and ships, even things like microwave ovens, clocks, and refrigerators. Now here’s an interesting thing, Bill. It would also apply to you and me, and to the folks in that picture you have on your desk of your wife and daughter holding your pet kitty cat.”
     “Uh-oh. I think I know what you are going to say next,” said Bill, with a raise of his eyebrows. “You’re going to use this opportunity to transition into one of your pet subjects, ‘Intelligent Design.’
     Jack responded, “Well, it takes intelligence to design a machine like a car, or an airplane, etc. It makes sense that the designer of the car or airplane, who is also a machine – a biological one, that is – is also designed. It seems odd that an engineer like you, who can design machines and is intimately familiar with the design process, would himself be produced by some random mindless process like spontaneous generation and Darwinian evolution. Does that make sense?”
     “Well, I see your point. But Intelligent Design sounds a lot like religion. As you know, Jack, my wife and I are not religious people. Besides, most of the big-shot scientists have declared evolution to be a ‘fact’. I don’t have enough expertise in the fields of biology and so forth to offer a challenge. So I tend to go along with them.”
     “The truth is, Bill, that most of the big-shot scientists who spout evolution are in fact scared to death of Intelligent Design. I can picture a pack of yelping drooling dogs running about with their tails between their legs, trying to escape this monster who is chasing them with a whip.”
     Bill gritted his teeth and said, “I’m sure the big-shot scientists would be extremely offended if they heard you characterize them with such a gross image.”
     Jack just grinned and said, “I admit it’s a little strong. But much of the science community absolutely HATES Intelligent Design and they jump up and down and rail against it in their books, and in the press and on TV. They use terms like ‘bunkum’, ‘cop-out, ‘junk-science’, ‘pseudo-science’, and other more expletive language. They even call it ‘biblical creationism in disguise’ – which is a major misnomer because it is neither biblical or in disguise. It’s understandable that they hate the concept of Intelligent Design because it destroys their preferred worldviews such as atheism, agnosticism, and evolutionism. They even warn their children not to study it, fearing that it would contaminate their impressionable little minds. And Intelligent Design gets in the face of those who are indifferent and blank-faced towards anything to do with God, because it challenges them to notice his finger-prints evident in living things, and even the Earth itself. As for you, my friend, you are an engineer. For you not to believe in Intelligent Design is a serious inconsistency, since you know the design process up close and personal. You must accept that the chance of life molecules arising by random processes is highly improbable. There hasn’t been enough time since the origin of the universe for even one life molecule, like DNA or some complex protein, to get assembled by a chance process.”
     “But improbable things do happen, don’t they?” said Bill. “Remember the story on TV the other day? About the guy who threw a jigsaw puzzle from the top of the Empire State building, and have it land assembled on the sidewalk below? Improbable things do happen.”
     “Obviously you didn’t watch the whole story. That stunt proved to be a hoax. Yea, the guy threw the puzzle pieces over the side of the building all right, but the wind caught them and blew them hither and yon, just like you would expect. The guy had an accomplice below who laid an assembled puzzle on the sidewalk, and then the two tried to convince people along the street that the pieces assembled by chance. And when the TV guys came, some kid ran up with a bunch of pieces in his hand that he had found lying about. The kid wanted to know if they belonged to the puzzle on the ground. Poof! There went the stunt.”
     “No, I hadn’t heard about that,” said Bill, as he huffed a quick laugh. “Not surprising, really. But most scientists still maintain that life originated by normal chemical and physical imperatives and slowly evolved over millions of years into what we see today.”
     “Yea, I know what they claim. But Intelligent Design shoots all that down. The chances of life originating by a some random mindless process is even less than the puzzle thrown from the Empire State building falling assembled on the ground below. Life on this world, even the Earth itself, is the work of a master engineer. An engineer like us, Bill, but many orders of magnitude greater.”
     “Well…if I was a hot-shot scientist I could debate with you better. Now here’s a question for you. Just who is your master engineer? What does Intelligent Design have to say about that?”
     “That’s right. Nothing. To identify the master engineer is a step into religion. In the Christian faith, which I belong to, the master engineer is the God of the Bible. As per Genesis 1:1, ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” But as for the secular concept of Intelligent Design itself, it is quite incapable of identifying the designer. For example, if you find an arrowhead in the forest, you know it’s the product of an intelligent designer, but you have no idea who the designer is.”
     Bill just took a wistful look at the statement on his grease board. Then he asked, “What about Albert Einstein? What did he believe about all this? After all, he knew more about physics and science than all the present day hot-shots combined.”
     “Indeed. Sadly, many talented scientists live their whole lives without opening their eyes. Not so with Mr. Einstein. Very simply, he believed in Intelligent Design, but a limited version of it. Albert was convinced that the universe and all of its laws were the creation of a great mind. However, Albert did not believe in a personal creator God, such as Jehovah or Allah. And even though he claimed to respect Jesus, he did not accept him as the Son of God, raised from the dead, and so forth. Instead he was a determinist, and did not accept free will, or reward and punishment for the decisions one might make.”
     “A determinist, huh? That would imply that all the life on this world was the direct result of the laws of physics doing their thing. Right?”
     “So it would seem – but there’s a big problem with that. The laws of physics and chemistry, by themselves, could never design a machine. They can only serve to be a backdrop, a ‘stage’, if you will, on which the actual design process can take place. The basic rule of machine design will always hold, namely, ‘it takes an engineer, who is a machine, to make another machine’. No one has ever observed an exception. But hey, buddy. I’m late for a meeting. However, I must say that I like your definition of a machine. Hits the nail, it does. Goodbye for now.”
     “See you later, Jack. Good conversation.”
     Jack walked off. Bill turned to face his grease board, took a long look at the statement on it, and mumbled, “I guess I know more about Intelligent Design than I realize.”

So what’s the golden nugget in this story? This: we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalms 139:14). “Made” – as in “designed by a master engineer”. Somebody once said, “God don’t make no junk.” You and I, and all human life were crafted by the Maker of All Things, and we are of great value, and we are part of His grand master plan.”


About Paul Arthur Strom

Retired Electrical Engineer. Graduate of University of Illinois and California State Univ. Love writing, travel, music, trains, family, and church activities. Been a Christian most of my life, as I now believe that Jesus is the 'real deal'. Born in the thirties back in Central Illinois. Married. Two children. Have lived many years in both Northern California and Arizona.
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