Around here the saying goes: If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.
That’s true most of the time.
A friend of mine puts it another way. He says that perception is reality.
That’s empiricism teamed with a bit of common sense. Sometimes it’s a good way “see” the world, excuse the pun.
There are those who would disagree. Many of the most fanatical conspiracy theorists wouldn’t agree with either of those sayings. Because they feel that they have been burned at some time or another by trusting someone or some government too much, they are bent the other way. Whatever is obvious, to them should be suspect. Logic trumps empirical evidence, they’d propose. They might say that if something is too good to be true, then it probably is. That version of rationalism is void of empirical evidence, or at least ignorant of it.
That kind of epistemological deficiency has perforated the culture. Postmodernity reeks with manifest mistrust. People don’t trust any part of the government. The newfound faith in technology is dissipating. No one joins anything, especially a church. Even science must be repeatable (over and over and over…).
Regardless, common sense still tells us a few things that our cultural denial of truth has a hard time muting. That’s the idea that a duck looks a certain way, walks a particular way, and makes particular sound. We may not be “certain” of a quacking, waddling, and feathered floating fowl’s duckiness, but we can at least make an empirical judgment that it’s PROBABLY A DUCK!
That’s the minimal assent I’m looking for from you in this article, PROBABLY…
How does the Universe look?
The Universe has an aesthetic quality that is universally accepted. Space is beautiful, seemingly infinite, and awe inspiring. Earth itself is a place that remains partially unexplored and inspires frontiersmen and artists alike to try and capture its essence. There’s something about it all that encapsulates us as humans. There’s something about this very big, yet very cozy place in which we live that doesn’t cause us to ask “how” as much as it does “why”. Although many would deny that there is any reason to believe that there is anything other than us in this massive Universe, almost none would deny its awesomeness.
That awesomeness makes the Universe at least seem like there’s more than just us here. To look at the expanse of the galaxies or to the ever-complex world of microbiology, causes each of us to at least entertain the idea that there must be a why to all of this, even if some of us won’t admit it.
The Universe sure does look like an apologetic duck.
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1, ESV)
How does the Universe walk?
Do you know how well the Universe seems to be specifically designed so that human life can not only exist, but flourish on this planet? With several anthropic principles in place that if any one of them fluctuated by a very, very small amount, we would cease to exist or would’ve never come into existence. In fact, if say the Universal expansion rate was any slower, it would’ve collapsed in on itself and would’ve never come to be. If the gravitational constant varied by an infinitesimally small amount, life could not exist. If the ozone was very slightly thinner, we would all die. If the tilt of the Earth on its axis varied we would either all burn up or freeze, depending on the direction of the tilt.
I could go on, but you get the point. There are over 100 anthropic principles and each of them seem to indicate that someone has toyed with the Universe so as to bring us into existence and keep us around.
“A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”– Fred Hoyle (British astrophysicist)
Nay-sayers would point out that “of course the Universe seems designed. We should expect to see a universe that would allow human life where human life exists.”
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s circular reasoning. In fact, it’s a pretty ironic claim from people who accuse theists of supplying a god of the gaps.
The Universe certainly, by the appearance of design, seems to walk like an apologetic duck.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:15–16, ESV)
Does the Universe quack?
The people in this Universe govern themselves fairly well. Although there are many failures on a grand scale, all in all, we know what is right and what is wrong. From the everyday factory worker, to the stay at home mom, to the Wall Street wizard, there is a common sense of what is right and what is wrong. Communist nations punish murderers just as free nations. Tribal people punish theft just as city dwellers. Ancient culture punished rape just as modern culture. There seems to be a universal standard of morality in this Universe.
When a nation gets out of line, others feel obliged to act. When a mother kills her children, the general public desires correction. When a man beats a woman, there is an established law that brings him to justice.
Where did this obvious moral code come from? Its transcendence screams of well, transcendence.
The Universe quacks like an apologetic duck. Quack, quack, quack!
But whence comes this law to mortals that they may by their own authority define what far surpasses the world? Or who could so acquiesce in decrees of his ancestors, or enactments of the people, as to receive without hesitation a god humanly taught him?-Calvin
I was delivering to a school the other day when the secretary’s phone went off. It was an iPhone and the ring tone was a quack, quack, quack. Did you know that not for one minute did I think it was a duck? I didn’t even look for a duck in the office. I immediately recognized that what was making the sound was not a duck. Why?
I see iPhones and they don’t waddle nor do they float. They do quack, but they’re not ducks. I am smart enough to figure that out.
I know a person who kind of waddles when they walk. They’re a bit overweight and that causes them to waddle. I am not fooled into thinking that they are a duck. They don’t have duck qualities like a bill or feathers. Even if they could swim, I would not somehow be tricked into saying, “Oh, they must be a duck. They’re swimming.”
Nope. I have common sense enough to know better.
A duck looks a certain way, walks a certain way, and makes a certain sound. That’s not what makes it a duck, but those things are the things that make me believe that it is a duck. I realize it almost intrinsically.
The Universe has qualities that make it seem pretty obviously created. Its beauty, its finite, and designed features, the laws that govern its inhabitants, all seem to indicate one thing…a Creator. The Universe is probably an apologetic duck.
Sure, technically, we can find some pretty outlandish explanations for some of these things. Many people do.
The beauty of the Universe does not indicate aesthetic proof for God, beauty is a physical reaction. The Universe came from another Universe in which the laws of logic don’t apply. Design is merely necessary for life. There is nothing wrong with killing and torturing innocent babies for fun, it’s merely preference.
These are some of the explanations that people come up with to explain away the duckiness of the Universe. I for one, don’t think that they rule out a duck.
It seems to me that most of the time the simplest explanation is the best one. I think that’s a pretty good rule most days.
So, what do you think? It looks like a duck to me. There’s a lot of waddling in its walk. Can you hear quacking? The Universe looks like it has purpose, along with us. The Universe acts like it is designed, especially for us. The Universe seems to be ruled, especially through us.
The old common sense saying seems to apply pretty well here. Perception is probably reality, at least this time…
The Universe is probably an apologetic duck.
 Hoyle, F. 1982. The Universe: Past and Present Reflections. Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics: 20:16
 Calvin, J. (2011). Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2. (F. L. Battles, Trans., J. T. McNeill, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 67–68). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.