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Volume 10, Issue 1: Similitudes


Douglas Wilson

I was walking with a couple of friends down a deserted country road when suddenly my eye caught sight of an odd-looking object in the grass by the side of the road. I veered off to look at it and was surprised to find a large dictionary . . . it was an American Heritage. It was large, too, about the size of my head and had a hardcover.

"Look," I said. "Somebody lost a dictionary."
"I can't believe how gullible you are." It was my friend Samuel, looking over my shoulder.
"Gullible? What's with gullible?"
"That's not a dictionary."
"Well," I said, "it says dictionary on the front. Excuse me for jumping to conclusions."
"That is exactly what you have done, friendo, and it's probably the result of that church you go to." My other friend, Jocko, blushed and shuffled his feet a little.
I cocked my eyebrows at Samuel, but he did not notice and continued. For all intents and purposes, he was apparently not joking.
"They taught us about this phenomenon in Graduate School." He looked around until he saw a grove of trees about fifty yards off. "Ah," he said. "A textbook case."
My curiosity was up, so I bit. "Okay. What are you talking about?"
"Well, this is clearly no dictionary. You say someone lost a `dictionary,' but if they did, why is he nowhere in sight? Why isn't he here looking for it? Hmmm? Clearly this is the result of an explosion."
"Explosion?" said I.
"Explosion. Behind those trees over there I postulate the existence of a printing plant. Aeons ago, there was the explosion I mentioned a moment ago. That explosion occurred in that very plant."
"I see," I said, not seeing. "And then what?"
"Surely you have not forgotten what goes on in a printing plant? Surely you know what materials are found there? Paper, ink . . . all the ingredients we see in this, um . . ."
"Dictionary?" said I.
"No, not a dictionary. In this random collation of paper-related events."
"Okay. What happened in this explosion?" I was actually interested by now and was under no obligation to pay any Graduate School tuition fees.
"Well, all the paper in the factory flew up into the air, just the way paper always does in these situations. The ink was stored in barrels so it was airborn a few seconds later. The moveable type—you recall I told you this was aeons ago, back in the days when they used moveable type—was stacked in those wooden trays, and they all flew up there too."
"Whoa," I said.
"And then," Samuel said, "the paper was floating way up high, the ink was sloshing around in the middle there, and the moveable type just flew through the ink, and starting slapping the paper, leaving, of course, an imprint."
"You say that you learned all this in Graduate School?"
"That is correct," Samuel said.
"Whoa," I said again. "But how do you account for the alphabetization?"
Samuel shook his head, faintly peeved at having to deal with such a ninnyhammer. "Of course many of the pages were not alphabetized. Students are much less likely to use a dictionary that arranges the words in random order."
"What about Random House?" I said.
"Look, the bad dictionaries were not as equipped for survival, and so perished."
"In tar pits?" Jocko asked.
"Maybe," Samuel said.
"You just called them dictionaries," I said.
"That was just a figure of speech. They just look like dictionaries."
"They look a lot like dictionaries," I said.
My other friend, Jocko, had not said much this whole time. I turned to him and asked, "What do you make of all this?"
He scratched his head thoughtfully. "Well, Samuel's been to Graduate School. All I really care about is that we maintain that God built the printing plant, and set off the initial Big Bang. Everything else can happen just as he said as far as I'm concerned."
"Um . . .," I said, "why are you willing to concede so much to him?
"Look," Jocko said, "we are both your friends, and not many people would be willing to tell you this. We believers simply have to learn how to submit to a compelling argument. All truth is God's truth. God never intended Genesis to be taken as a science text."
I looked down at the dictionary again.

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