Atheism & Cool Latin Legal Terms

Not very long ago, any skilled attorney was well-versed in latin–the basic concepts and key phrases, at least. That tradition, however, has gone the way of all the earth. There is little need today to dress up a legal doctrine in an arcane language. There is one holdout, however. It is the magnificent term, res ipsa loquitor. Every law student knows it–and loves it. It just sounds cool.

Res ipsa loquitor, or res ipsa for the hip-wannabe legal personality, has its origins in 19th century England. A man was harmlessly walking down the street when a barrel of flour came crashing through a second story window and conked him on the head. In order for the gentleman to recover a remedy from the injury, he had to prove that someone had, in fact, been negligent. The problem was, no one would talk. Without evidence of negligence, the genteleman would have been out of luck. The jurist Baron Polluck came to the rescue, however. He put forward the notion that the very fact that a barrel of flour crashed through a second story window implies that negligence must have existed since that is the kind of thing that doesn’t normally happen otherwise. It’s a pretty basic concept. So basic that he needed to make it sound fancy. Hence, res ipsa. It literally means, “the thing speaks for itself.” Polluck was right to make up the term, though. I mean, which sounds better….to say, “I invoke the doctrine of ‘the thing speaks for itself’ or ‘I invoke the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor’? Exactly.

Which brings me to the existence of God. It seems just as reasonable to me to invoke res ipsa loquitor to establish the existence of God. Who among us, upon finding some organized structure [say a rocking chair] would assume that the rocking chair was a creation of happenstance? Of course, that would be absurd. It would naturally be inferred that some higher entity organized it. The order of the thing speaks for itself.

Why then do we stumble daily into evidences of organization and somehow are deaf to the message of so many creations around us. The things speak for themselves. To paraphrase an ancient prophet, the organization of the planets and the order of the universe manifest there is a God. In other words, res ipsa loquitor.

Published in: on July 10, 2006 at 7:48 pm  Comments (2)