Jay B Gaskill

Friday, April 26, 2013

SPOILER ALERT: This is NOT a political piece.

Last evening, I conducted a group discussion on the subject of creation and creativity held in a Berkeley, CA church library across the street from UC. For a discussion starting point, I posed –

“If creativity is the answer, what is the question?” [1]

We had all noticed the prevalence of atheist materialism among modern philosophers, and in most of the rest of the Academy these days. For the spiritually receptive among us, this is a hostile work environment.

I used an article, The Heretic, by journalist Andrew Ferguson[2] who described a meeting of academic atheists in the Berkshires last fall in which luminaries like Daniel Dennet and Richard Dawkins expressed their shock and dismay that one of “theirs”, professor Thomas Nagel, a prominent American philosopher, a fellow atheist who had dared to take on the materialist doctrine. Materialism or naturalism is the new orthodoxy, holding that there is nothing under the sun, in or outside our heads that is not just matter and energy. Nagel’s book, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, was a secular heresy.

Nagel: “The world is an astonishing place. That it has produced you, and me, and the rest of us is the most astonishing thing about it. Materialists are in the business of banishing astonishment.” In a recent review of Where the Conflict Really Lies by the Christian philosopher, Alvin Plantinga, Nagel revealed how he and other are deeply afraid of “cosmic authority.”

Nagel: “I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear. I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” Nagel calls this the intellectual’s “fear of religion.”

One of our number, Bruce A, shared insights from a fascinating – but technical book, “About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang” by Adam Frank. Science, it seems, is now having huge difficulties selling materialism even to itself. Bruce, who took classes from Professor Nagel at Princeton in the day, and has met Daniel Dennet, took away the insight from Franks’ book and his own reflections, that we find our relationship with God in human time (my paraphrase); this is where, when and how we can find our connections to other persons and to God.

Toward the end of our discussion, the group agreed that the Achilles Heel of the materialist conceit is that it cannot account for creativity. The materialist, scientific project is all about reduction, control and the pursuit of the comprehensive mechanical explanation of what the late author of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, whimsically called ‘Life, the Universe and Everything”[3]. Creation, by its very nature, works with found materials to surprise us with something that just did not exist before.

In an earlier meeting of the same study group, we had a discussion centered on the writings of the late Jewish historian, Ellis Rifkin. I noted that that the oral tradition of the Pharisees of the first century can be understood as a creative development in Judaism, and that Christianity can be understood as a creative development in the Pharisees’ tradition.

For those of us who are still embedded within the Judeo-Christian tradition, it is almost impossible to ignore the signature of the Ruach/Holy Spirit from the benign creative developments that are taking place in our lives and in history. The ongoing power of creation – as an action in the world – has profound implications that will take more than a pleasant evening on a full moon Thursday to unpack.


Note two related articles by the author:

Angry Atheists, Cruel God http://jaygaskill.com/AngryAtheismCruelGod.htm

Divine Template http://jaygaskill.com/DivineTemplate.pdf

Copyright © 2013 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Contact information at The Policy Think Site { www.jaygaskill.com } and via email < law@jaygaskill.com> .

[1] Q: What is the most obvious failure in the naturalist/materialist view of reality? A: The obvious reality and relevance of creation and creativity in the human experience.

[2] http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/heretic_707692.html

[3] Adams’ fans will recall that the computer, Big Thought, commissioned by intelligent rats to find the answer, came up with the number 42.

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