Articles Pertaining To Herbert W. Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong and The Worldwide Church of God
PT Home Page
Complete Articles Index
Read the Ambassador Report
Download the Ambassador Report (Right-click and choose "Save Target") 12.2 megabytes
Email The PT
Primary PT Sub-Pages
Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of
What About the Bible?
The Age of Reason
Acts of God
Alcoholism and the
Worldwide Church of God
Suicide and the Worldwide Church of God
411, Information Please
Death Notices For The Worldwide Church of God
You might have grown up in the Worldwide Church of God
if . . .11/27/06
Garner Ted Armstrong and Geraldo
Rivera Video Download
Stanley Rader on "Sixty Minutes" with
Mike Wallace Audio download
The Graveyard Church of God
Google Adwords for Herbert W. Armstrong
Herbert W. Armstrong’s
The Cosmic Clock
by Retired Prof
In his booklet
Does God Exist and in numerous sermons Herbert W. Armstrong told
us the universe is a much more precise timepiece than his expensive and
accurate railroad watch. He said the cycles of days, months, and years
repeat themselves with such exquisite precision that no fallible human
mechanism such as that watch could possibly match them. In fact, he
thundered in the concluding section of Does God Exist? (© 1957, 60, 70,
Yes, [the watch] is corrected by the MASTER CLOCK OF THE UNIVERSE - up
in the skies - by astronomers! Up there in the heavens is the great
Master Clock that NEVER makes a mistake - is always ON TIME - never off
a fraction of a second - the heavenly bodies coursing through the skies!
Pabco’s Homepage Accessed 11 Feb. 2007.)
Since a human mind obviously designed the watch, Armstrong declared that
some vastly superior mind must have designed the universe. A few lines
farther down, he sneered at the very idea that the perfection he
attributed to the cosmos could have arisen by chance instead of by
divine creation, and he rudely told any skeptic who might believe so, “I
do not respect your intelligence.”
Like Armstrong’s other “inspired revelations,” this claim was probably a
rehash of someone else’s ideas—specifically, an argument made by Bishop
William Paley in Natural Theology; Evidences of the Existence and
Attributes of the Deity. Collected from the Appearances of Nature
(1802). Paley too pointed out that if we found a watch in a field, we
would conclude from the intricacy and precision of its design that
someone made it; it could not possibly have arisen by random processes.
Paley’s analogy, however, involved not the cosmic dimension but the
biological. Since even the tiniest organisms are far more intricate than
a watch, they too must have arisen from rational design and careful
construction. Modern proponents of Intelligent Design (ID) theory depend
heavily on this biological argument. (See, for example, Ross A. Taylor,
The Creation Evolution Controversy .) Garner Ted Armstrong
used a generalized design argument as Proof Number Five in “Seven
Proofs God Exists,” Plain Truth Feb. 1960: 23.
As their main objection, ID opponents cite the idea that a person just
has to believe it, or not, purely on faith. They say it is not a fit
subject for scientific investigation because it cannot generate the
prerequisite, a testable hypothesis. This charge is not true. Starting
with some particular ID arguments, we can do what Albert Einstein called
“thought experiments.” That is, make a prediction suggested by the
theory and test it in the abstract by constructing a series of logical
In fact, in Does God Exist? Armstrong challenged skeptics to
perform just such an experiment. One of his boldface headings asked,
“Suppose you Were Creator?” He elaborated:
Suppose that you could add to your powers of reasoning, planning,
designing, the actual CREATIVE power, so that you could project your
will anywhere to produce and bring into being whatever your mind should
plan and desire. Then, suppose you undertook the designing, creating,
fashioning, shaping, and setting in motion a limitless cosmic universe -
with planets and suns and nebulae and galaxies in all their splendor,
each of these vast units being of such intricate and complex
construction as the existing universe.
. . . .
Do you think your mind would be equal to the task?
I accepted Armstrong’s challenge and thought about his question at some
length. Of course my mind is not equal to the task of making light shine
or bringing matter into being out of nothing or breathing life into that
matter. However, I can meet part of the challenge. Follow me; let’s go
through this together.
Assume our turn has come around to set the earth and nearby heavenly
bodies in motion; remember, this is a thought experiment that doesn’t
require us to physically create or twirl stars, planets, and moons. Want
to bet you and I can think up a solar system that would point to an
intelligent designer much more clearly than the one we’ve got now? Let’s
Another name for such a thought experiment is modeling, and it is one
way scientists try to make sense out of the universe. They begin with a
hypothesis about principles governing some phenomenon such as the
weather or economic trends and use it as the basis for a picture or
story—the model—showing how things ought to work. Then they hold up the
model against reality to see if they match. If they do, the hypothesis
is good; it approximates a truth. If they do not, the hypothesis needs
to be revised, or perhaps rejected outright. To handle the massive sets
of numbers needed for testing hypotheses about hurricanes or economic
cycles, scientists have to resort to computer modeling, but Einstein
worked out details in his thought experiments with a pencil and paper.
Fortunately, the “universe as a perfect clock” idea can be modeled in
this simple way.
Look at timekeeping principles. Any intelligently designed clock divides
days into hours, hours into minutes, and minutes into seconds in whole
numbers. No fractions. The clock that almost all human societies have
settled on divides the day by 24, the hour and the minute each by 60,
and the second (avoiding awkward fractions by switching to the decimal
system) into tenths, hundredths, thousandths, and so forth. Though it
would be smarter to keep the same divisor all the way through than to
shift as we do between dozens and tens, the plan shows at least moderate
Let’s improve on it and extend it in the other direction: toward weeks,
months, and years. First task is to eliminate the numerical shifts and
pick a consistent number for a base. The dozen is a good one, and (at
least partway through the system) our clock already uses it. Two dozen
hours from sunset to sunset, five dozen minutes in an hour, and five
dozen seconds in a minute. Furthermore, this system can connect with the
dozens we use in the calendar: 12 months in the year, 12 signs in the
You might well ask, “Why not design a decimal clock? The decimal system,
base 10, gives us a regular set of multiples that make calculations
easy.” That’s perfectly true, if we’re talking multiples of ten. Going
the other way, to fractions of ten, it’s wrong. Half works out fine,
because 5 is a whole number. But divide 10 into thirds and quarters, and
you get fractions: 3 1/3 and 2 ˝. Actually, human beings just fell into
base 10 through a sort of accident: that’s how many fingers we count on.
To build an intelligent design from scratch, we want something smarter
than a mere ad hoc choice. The duodecimal system, based on the dozen,
qualifies because 12 multiplies as easily as 10 and divides much more
neatly: half is 6, a third is 4, a quarter is 3, and a sixth is 2—all
So to design a cosmic clock intelligently, we should place the sun and
moon in the sky and set the earth spinning at just the right rate to
make the month last a multiple of 12 days and make the month fit exactly
12 times into the year. Let’s see, the moon has four phases (the basis
for weeks). I suggest we make it simple: let the moon orbit the earth in
48 days, so that each phase, each week if you will, lasts a dozen days.
If we then adjust the clock to give 12 orbits of the moon in the time it
takes for the earth to orbit the sun once, we’ve got our 12-month year,
which amounts to four dozen weeks, or 48 dozen (4 x 12 x 12) days.
Spring, summer, fall, and winter—each season is 12 dozen days long.
That’s an even gross. And of course, as careful clockmakers we’ll adjust
the orbits so that each unit fits into the next larger unit precisely,
to the millisecond (or whatever the duodecimal equivalent is called.)
We’ll make the system constant, so it never slows down or speeds up.
Any rational being contemplating such a clock would have no doubt
whatsoever. This outfit was put together by an intelligent designer. A
person would also know it was given as a sign; the designer intended for
creatures to recognize and acknowledge their creator.
All right, I have to admit that my suggestion to base the clock on
nested series of dozens is arbitrary—it’s a good choice, but not an
inevitable one. So, how else could some omnipotent omniscience certify
to us rational beings that it was responsible? Well, supernatural claims
require supernatural evidence. Any system that so clearly violated laws
of probability that no creature could possibly mistake it for a natural
phenomenon would do. It would need to be astonishingly regular—though
not necessarily perfectly so. Perhaps a creator would be wise to let the
system slip slightly out of sync from time to time. The miracles
required to readjust it would remind us periodically who was in charge.
As we know from our own counting system, the decimal system actually
works out quite well and would do nicely. Another way an intelligent
designer could eliminate randomness is by choosing a series of prime
numbers, as the aliens did in Carl Sagan’s Contact. The point is, any
creator bent on constructing a clocklike universe to proclaim to
rational creatures, “I AM WHAT I AM!” would need to provide signs that
could never be misinterpreted as a result of random chance.
You already know that the real cosmic clock does not match our
hypothetical base-12 model, but let’s check the details. Keep alert,
though; remember that other nonrandom systems might exist.
I found the ratios of our actual “clock” in Eric Weisstein’s
Astronomy ( accessed 13
Feb. 2007), though many other encyclopedic references would work just as
well. Start with the day: in a month there are slightly more than 29.53
of them, meaning that each lunar phase (the basis for our week) lasts
about 7.3825 days. The number of days in the year amounts to 365.2425.
That means there are, on average, 12.3685 months in the year, or
something very close to 49.5 lunar phases. Just look at that: every
ratio is fractional; not one thing divides evenly into anything else. No
formula connects the units in any regular mathematical series.
Intelligent? Nah. Random. Therefore dumb.
If our cosmic clock really was designed that way intentionally, the
designer must have intended to mimic blind chance. What’s the point of
that? Any human clockmaker who built such a mechanism would be
considered at best a practical joker and at worst a victim of dementia.
It gets worse. In his definition of lunation, Weisstein reveals that
cycles don’t repeat themselves with such exquisite precision as
Armstrong maintained: “[A]s a result of torques from the Sun, the actual
time interval between consecutive new moons varies greatly. Meeus (1988)
gives a table of the shortest (29 days 06 hours 35 minutes) and longest
(29 days 19 hours 55 minutes) lunations from 1900 to 2100.” What
intelligently designed clock marks time with units that stretch and
Even worse: remember in the first quotation above, where Armstrong said
the universal clock “is always ON TIME - never off a fraction of a
second”? Not so. The clock is gradually slowing down. The earth, being
slightly out of round, is putting gravitational torque on the moon’s
orbit, causing the moon to slow in its orbit and gradually drift away,
so that the month is getting slightly longer all the time. So is the
day. Friction from the tides impedes the earth’s rotation enough to
require the addition of a leap second every 450 to 500 days.
Now if we felt generous, we might concede that months of varying lengths
are a lot like the lengthening days and shortening nights as spring
approaches (to be balanced out as fall comes on). Engineers shake their
heads in despair at this irregularity, but some of us artistic types
might even feel that it enriches the clock, spices it up with a sort of
mischievous whimsy. Besides, if lunations can be predicted through the
year 2100, they’re at least not random.
The slowing down is different. Those leap seconds have to be allocated
ad hoc, based on measurements of how much the earth’s rotation has
actually slowed. It varies. Any clock that drifts inexorably but
unpredictably farther and farther out of adjustment is a bad clock, and
whimsy be damned.
The flaws don’t prove there was no creator, of course. On the other
hand, in no way do they provide us a sign there was one.
Armstrong preached that unity pervades the cosmos; every part
participates in the design of the whole. If that is so, then the
demonstrable randomness in the cosmic clock implies that, possibly, our
human existence in the universe is also random. The hypothetical creator
could easily have cleared up the ambiguity by building a miraculously
regular clock. As I mentioned before, any numerical basis would work, as
long as the clock was regular and consistent, but any omnipotent
designer that did use base 12 could have given us six fingers on each
hand. By counting on our fingers, we would naturally have adopted the
convenient base-12 system of arithmetic, the same one governing the
If the cogs and ratchets in such a cosmic clock really did produce no
random ratios among our days, lunar phases, months, and years, and if
the timing really were reliably precise, the evidence would be
incontrovertible. We would, as Herbert W. Armstrong liked to shout,
“TRULY KNOW!” Then, seeing that our bodies and minds obviously
participated in the same consistent and easy-to-factor system of dozens
that ruled the cosmos, we would stand in awe of the thematic unity of it
all. We could rest easy, secure in the knowledge that we got here by
design and not by accident.
We would then have a way to put apparent catastrophes into perspective.
For example, during the great Sumatra-Andaman earthquake of 26 December
2004, displacement of mass in the earth’s crust altered the length of
the day by a few milliseconds. If the universe really were a (mostly)
perfect clock, we would realize that the suffering of all those human
beings drowned or rendered homeless by the ensuing tsunami, though
regrettable, was necessary to preserve the grand design. We could have
perfect faith that the clock needed a tiny miraculous adjustment to
bring everything back into perfect synchrony, and we could appreciate
the wisdom of the appalling carnage.
As things stand now, we are left in doubt. Deep and abiding doubt.
If you have anything you would like to
submit to this site,
or any comments,
email me at:
CLICK HERE FOR EMAIL ADDRESS.
Back to Painful Truth menu
The content of this site, including but not limited to the text and images herein and their arrangement, are copyright © 1997-2013 by The Painful Truth. All rights reserved.
Do not duplicate, copy or redistribute in any form without prior written consent.