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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series

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For The Strength of Youth

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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
Submitted by Steven ODell on 12 January 2009 - 4:31pm.

Too Much Faith
Steven G. O'Dell © 2008

The man walked calmly into the University science building, entered the lecture hall and took a seat in the back row, without being noticed or questioned by anyone. For all they knew, he was a student, just as any of the others who were attending this lecture. He had no paper or pen to take notes, but he paid close attention to every word that was spoken by the lecturer.

“And before I close, let me add this one thing. You are in this course because you are presumably serious about science. This is the 21st Century and there is no room in my class for superstition, myth or flights of fancy. There will be no relying on opinion or religious faith. Such things are nonsense and I will not tolerate them in the least degree. They are indefensible and without substance. Do I make myself clear?” He then waited for the students to look cowed and nervous, as all of his students had in previous years. When he was just about satisfied that he had shown them who was boss, a voice in the back of the room called out for his attention.

“Professor Novacek?”

“Yes, who is it?” He peered about until a hand was raised to identify the speaker.

“My name is Kumen, Professor.”

“Ahhh...like the spice.” His smug smile caused a wave of chuckling to go through the room and ease the tension to some degree.

“Yes, exactly. And I trust that I will spice up many of your classes in the near future.” His manner was one of complete confidence and comfort. Here was not the average student, it appeared.

“What is it, young man? Your question, please.” He was all business again.

“Yes. I beg to differ with you, Professor, in regards to the question of defensibility of opinion and matters of faith. They may indeed be far more defensible than you have assumed.”

A hushed gasp now took the place of the previous humor and heads whipped around to either capture the look on the face of the challenger or the contempt of the Professor, who now smiled condescendingly, his body language showing his total disdain for the comment. He had not lied—there would be no tolerance for certain subjects.

“It is not a matter of whether I have assumed, young man. I never assume anything, but in this one instance I will make an exception. I 'assume' you are prepared to defend the indefensible and be humiliated in the effort. Am I correct?” His hands were clasped arrogantly behind his back, his chest out and his head held high in defiance of this young upstart.

“You are only partially correct, sir. I am prepared to defend my position, but I will not be humiliated. In fact, I propose that we might come to an amiable agreement before your course is far passed.” The confidence was still there, not ruffled in the slightest. Something about him disturbed the professor slightly.

“We shall see, young man. We shall see. I will give you adequate rope to hang yourself, if that is what you desire. Class dismissed!” And with that, he gathered his materials and headed toward the door. The class was stunned and few moved from their seats, turning instead to study this man who presumed to know more than his University Professor. The young fellow stood calmly, smiled at a few that met his eye and proceeded from the lecture hall himself.

One young man nearly jumped over others to catch to this overly-confident individual who had openly challenged such authority. He darted in and out of the bustling students in the hallway and finally caught up.

“I just want to know—are you crazy or do you really know what you are doing?”

“We shall see, young man—we shall see,” Kumen said with a smile. He reached to shake the hand of his pursuer. “And what is your name?”

“Mel Hales, at your service.” He happily offered his own hand in return.

“So, you want to know if I am crazy, is that right? I have been accused of far worse, I am afraid. But I do intend to illustrate how inaccurate Professor Novacek's beliefs are.”

“How are you going to do that? Forgive me if I say I believe you have bitten off more than you can chew.”

“Thank you for your confidence and faith in me, Mel. May it be well rewarded.” He laughed and turned on his heel to leave Mel standing and staring after him until he disappeared around the corner.”

There was a feeling in the air as if it were an electric charge. The students all knew there would be fireworks and each had picked their champions, whether they had openly declared their allegiances or not. Furtive glances shot back and forth around the room, between one student and another and to and from the 'young upstart' and the Professor. A loud rapping of knuckles was heard on the desk at the front of the room, bringing everyone to immediate attention.

“Today, class, I intend to forego my usual planned course material and immediately dispense with an issue that I feel needs attention. If one has a boil that is causing discomfort, one should lance that boil as quickly as possible and then go about one's life again. Therefore, I will now allow my young adversary the opportunity to make his case, embarrass himself and revert to reason and common sense.” He waved his hand in the direction of Kumen by way of invitation. “Mr. Kumen,...if you please.”

“Thank you, Professor. I hadn't expected an opportunity so soon, but I am sincerely grateful for the chance to exchange ideas with you. After all, is that not what a University is about—the exchange of rational ideas?” The Professor was unmoved and Kumen continued.

“I received the distinct impression that you had a complete contempt and disregard for religion in any way, shape or form. I would surmise that your reasoning is that it is all based upon superstition, fable and myth, as you so eloquently put it. I offer an opinion counter to that view. I propose that many of the accounts that you deem to be fables are indeed rooted in truth and can be defended via scientific reasoning and argument.”

“I see. So, you accept without question such tales as a parting of the Red Sea, the worldwide flood and the walking on water by Jesus, called the Christ?”

“Yes, sir, I do. Those and more.”

“Young man, this is going to be a quicker victory than I had anticipated. Alright, I am certainly anxious to know how you can think for one moment that an inland sea would part and allow several thousand individuals to supposedly cross through on dry ground. Proceed, if you will.” The Professor crossed his arms and leaned back against his desk, obviously expecting to be amused and already showing it.

“Thank you. You said we shouldn't assume anything, so I intend to show by fact that these things are possible. Let us first start with the evidence from sonar. Sonar shows that the Red Sea has a ridge across it, from one side to the other, that is very shallow by comparison to the rest of the floor of this body of water. This place would be a reasonable location for a crossing, provided the waters could be abated long enough to allow it. If you read the account of that crossing, you will note that it says the winds blew continuously from one direction and caused the waters to withdraw. If the waters were to withdraw, would they not first withdraw from the shallowest portion of the Red Sea? And if you add into this mix the effect of lunar tides, it would be even more pronounced, would it not?”

“Are you saying, sir, that this is how it happened?”

“I am saying nothing of the sort. I am merely offering a reasonable scientific theory as an alternative to claiming that it could never have happened at all. I believe you said that the position was completely indefensible by scientific means, did you not?”

The Professor was beginning to fume a bit, but kept it in check. “Yes, I did. I would concede that you have offered a plausible alternative, based in reasonable and probable cause.”

“I am not finished, Professor. If you will pardon me, you will be interested in noting that recent diving expeditions in the Red Sea have shown a band of debris across the floor of that body of water and reaching from side to side, that is consistent with the remains of chariots and weapons of the era that is recorded in the work in question. The band of debris is located exactly in this shallow area of which I have spoken.”

There was a mild quaking in the Professor now that disappeared as quickly as it had come. “Alright, young man. Not bad. Not bad at all. Now, how would you explain where all that water went after the flood that is recorded in this Bible of yours? After all, if it was enough water to cover the tops of all the mountains of the earth, it should still be here, don't you think?” There were a few snickers at this comment and all eyes turned to Kumen in expectation.

“Professor, I fear that you have made the same mistake made by too many others in the academic world today. They jump to confusions without knowing and examining the full text of the event. If you will examine the text carefully, you will notice a few details that are very important. One is that the 'fountains of the deep broke forth' and the other is that the waters 'continually came and went.' A third might be that it rained for forty days and nights and it should be noted that it had never previously rained upon the earth at this time. I ask you, Professor, what is inferred in a phrase that describes waters that continually come and go? What does this remind you of?”

“It would seem to describe tidal actions...but tides alone would not be enough to cover the mountains with standing water.”

“Where does it say it was standing water? There is no such account. I would ask you, Professor, what single event might trigger the breaking forth of vast amounts of underground water and would also cause tidal events of such magnitude that they would crash above and over the mountain ranges of the world?”

The Professor was no longer on the offensive as he had planned. He was now in the unenviable position of being the object of attack, or so he thought. But he must maintain dignity and control at all times, being patient and knowing his opportunity for victory would come.

“The only event that I can think of which would cause such repercussions would be the close passing of an exceptionally large astral body. I know of nothing else that might have such effect.”

“Very good, sir.” Kumen had somehow become the teacher and Novacek the student, a state that was unfamiliar and extremely uncomfortable for one used to being the unquestioned authority. “You are exactly correct. In fact, the tidal repercussions would be of such magnitude that they could easily last weeks on end, traveling around the earth many times before finally coming to a state of rest. And the canopy of water that had previously surrounded the earth in the atmosphere would have become so disrupted that rains would ensue, aided by the spewing forth of vast quantities of highly pressurized ground water, perhaps reaching heights of many miles into the atmosphere. In fact, sir, the range of mountains that is described from the southern American continent to the far northern American continent is indicative of just such an object passing from south to north and disrupting the crust of the earth to the point of failure and upwelling.”

Novacek now paused for an uncomfortably long period of time, unable to determine what he might say to recapture the dominant position he had lost. Finally, with all eyes on him, he spoke in a softer voice and with a sense of barely controlled anger.

“You seem well versed in geological events and probable theories, young man. I wonder if you might explain to me how anyone, mortal or deity could walk upon the surface of water.” He waited in anticipation of the answer that he knew...no, he hoped would come. He had somehow lost two rounds with this intruder and now he was anything but convinced he would win the third, regardless of how illogical such an event might be.

“Certainly you have heard of ice, Professor.” He waited a moment for effect. It came in the form of a laughter that crossed the room in wild abandon. When it had died down, he added, “and perhaps you are somewhat familiar with Quantum Physics, as well.”

Confusion was apparent in the Professor's countenance. How was he to answer this one? He desperately tried to think ahead of and outflank this enemy who would have him believe in the supernatural against his will. But no answers came.

“I have a passing acquaintance with it. Surely you don't profess to be an expert on the subject, do you?”
“Certainly not, Professor. I simply provide a reasonable and scientific alternative to myth and fable. I believe that is the goal of this course.”

Novacek felt a sudden sense of his own intellectual demise. His arrogance and pride had not saved him from defeat. His academic stature and position had not spared him a very public humiliation. He felt with exquisite pain the fact that the tide of student opinion had turned away from him. They were no longer afraid and intimidated. No longer would they be bullied. But worse than that, no longer would he be so sure of himself and his position. There would always be that little doubt that would creep in and stab at him when he least expected it. Always the wonder if another bright student would challenge him and win.

“Yes, that is the intent of this course. Pray tell, what does Quantum Physics have to do with walking on water?” He tried without success to maintain an attitude of detached arrogance, but knew he was failing miserably. Were his knees really shaking or was it his imagination? He felt as exposed as one does in that dream where you discover yourself in a public place without benefit of clothing.

“Why, it has everything to do with it, sir. Surely you are aware of the experiments that have been done with fine matter and the effect of human thought on that matter? As you must know, it reacts to predetermined conclusion. In other words, it obeys our biases. Matter is evidently capacitated to receive intelligence and respond in an intelligent manner to our wishes and opinions of how it should behave. Several scientists have shown this under laboratory conditions.”

Professor Novacek figuratively felt the last nail pierce his skin as it was pounded into the coffin.
He knew what was coming and there was no arguing with the science he had attached himself to so faithfully. His world was shaking at the core and there was nowhere to hide.

“So, Professor, if this matter can be affected by such puny minds and efforts as our own, what might a sufficiently advanced race be capable of doing in this regard? Might we not, by comparison with our seemingly insignificant abilities, refer to such an advanced race as 'gods'?” Kumen waited patiently for an answer. He waited a long time before it came. Such a silence enveloped the lecture hall this day as had never been known since it was first filled. One could have heard the proverbial pin drop. Professor Novacek began a false start, cleared his throat and began again, in a quiet and humbled tone.

“Mr. Kumen, you have given me many new things to consider. I am not certain how I will bring to conformity my beliefs to date with what you have just presented. I have a feeling that you hold in reserve much more knowledge that might astound me, as well. You have not proven anything beyond a doubt, but I asked only that you provide rational and reasonable alternatives, did I not? You have done that admirably. I wonder, sir, if you might honor me with a private meeting to discuss further the implications that I feel this knowledge will have in my life hereafter.”

Mouths hung open in amazement throughout the classroom. Silence still reigned as Kumen and the Professor gathered their belongings and Novacek quietly dismissed the assembled body.

“Young man, I have spent years thinking that no rational being could have faith in such tales as the religious world presented. Now, with what you've presented, I must wonder if the only rational beings are the ones who can accept their word. It adequately encompasses and meshes both world views.”

“Professor, I don't have enough faith to write God out of the equation—it's as simple as that.”

“And I'm not certain that I do anymore, either. Won't you come to my office for a visit, please?”

“It would be my pleasure and an honor, sir. Thank you.”

And with that, the two walked together toward a common purpose at last.

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