Friday, October 27, 2006

A Meaningful World

I've just finished Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt's book, A Meaningful World. You can find another good review of it on Dave Heddle's blog.

The book's central thesis is that the whole universe is full of meaning, an idea which the authors say runs profoundly against the core materialist dogma that we are nothing more (ultimately) than atoms moving at random.

The most interesting science books I have read recently - well, ever, actually - have moved away from "reductionist" approaches (a focus on one small area) and towards crossing interdisciplinary boundaries, and "big pictures". The first was "Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" by Douglas Hofstadter: more recently, I have enjoyed both "Rare Earth" (Ward and Brownlee) and "Privileged Planet" (Gonzalez and Richards), which have drawn upon astronomy, biology, geology, cosmology and many other -ologies as well.

A Meaningful World crosses boundaries as well - and, like the Hofstadter book, even crosses the traditional art/science divide - the authors start by looking at genius in the work of Shakespeare. They then move on to look at geometry as presented by Euclid, then the development of knowledge that discovered the Periodic Table, before moving into the more familiar ID territory of biology. They argue that the characteristics of genius are depth, clarity, harmony and elegance - all are present in all of these areas.

The book is being gently pushed in some quarters as a highly significant - perhaps even defining - philosophical/religious work - and it certainly presents a substantive case in support of the central thesis. That may be the case, and it is certainly enjoyable, thought-provoking, literate and informative. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating - I am simply not technically equipped to say whether it will prove to be as significant as that. What will be interesting is to see what response is drawn from materialists. A Meaningful World makes more clear the philosophy underlying the gradual development of ideas amongst proponents of Intelligent Design, and articulates a case for (for want of a better phrase) the genius of God. It will be interesting to see what will be done in attempts to refute the case.