Driving down to South Carolina for a long 20 hour road trip, my wife and I invested in audio CD’s. In particular, we listened Douglas Adams Hitchhiker guide to the Universe, as well as his Life, Universe, and Everything.
The story begins as Arthur Dent was trying to stop his house from being demolished so a freeway can be built through his property. Unknown to Dent and other earthlings, Earth was about to be destroyed to make way for a super expressway through the universe. Dent’s friend, Ford Prefect, saved him and they began their journey as hitchhikers throughout the universe.
Adams uses his books as a satire on society and religion but yet, behind the humor and satire lays a man eternal search for the ultimate answer. One of the more hilarious moments was when the computer Deep Thought was created with the idea of searching for the ultimate answer to everything. During the debate on building of the super computer, philosophers opposed the idea of Deep thought since there would be no need for philosophers if the ultimate answer is discovered. Deep Thought told the philosopher that it going to take 7.5 million years before he came up with the answer. That would have give them enough time to argue about what the ultimate answer was. And when the ultimate answer came up, it was the number 42. While the ultimate answer had been found, the problem was that no one knew the ultimate question. The irony was that the Planet Earth was designed as computer to find the ultimate question to the ultimate answer but its destruction happened five minutes before the question was to be exposed.
Dent and Ford teamed up with Zaphod Beeblebrox, the president of the galaxy and his girlfriend, Trillion (formerly Tricia, a woman that Dent tried to pick up at a party on earth.) as they went through many different adventures while searching for ultimate answer. (Zaphod desire centered on fame and money, so not everyone search for the ultimate answer was sorely based on knowledge alone.)
In his book, Life, Universe, and Everything, Dent and his friends were trying to save the universe and again, everything was not what is appeared but the behind the adventures, the search for the ultimate answer and question continued.
Was Adams, an atheist, telling us that the mystery and secret behind the universe was beyond human understanding? If so, he was not much different from his religious brethren. Saint Paul wrote that what we understand dimly now, we would understand fully when faced with God. John Wesley had a debate with a fellow pastor, George Whitfield about a theological matter. At the end of the debate, Wesley simply told Whitfield that they are not going to agree on a solution and they will have to wait till they face God to gather the answer. There are some things that may be beyond human understanding.
In an interview, Douglas Adam stated, “God used to be the best explanation we’d got, and we’ve now got vastly better ones. God is no longer an explanation of anything, but has instead become something that would itself need an insurmountable amount of explaining. So I don’t think that being convinced that there is no god is as irrational or arrogant a point of view as belief that there is. I don’t think the matter calls for even-handedness at all.” Yet, Adams own satire shows that maybe man was incapable of finding all the answers. A few years back, a woman told me of a discussion she had with her son. In a debate on creation, she told her son, “Create a flower.” Her son responded, “Give me a seed.” She responded, “You create the seed.” He had not answer for that last response. He nodded and smiled. The woman told me, “At that point, he understood my point.” The more that we learn about the universe, the more we realize how much we don’t know. The moral of Douglas Adams story may be that simple. Adams considered religion something to be dispensed with but he had no more answers than his religious counterpart.
Adams book is on one level humorous satire that will have you chuckling all the way through the book and yet, you will find yourself asking, is there an ultimate answer that explains everything?