Our book takes on materialist reductionism, which tries to reduce everything
to mere matter and energy, and defines everything strictly according to its
smallest parts--cells, atoms, quarks. On this view, a human being is just
an accidental assemblage of subatomic particles, nothing more. Materialist
reductionism leads to nihilism, the view that life is pointless. It sucks
the meaning out of life, flattens reality like a steamroller.
We counter this by showing that the world is meaning-full, a work of genius
far beyond any work of human genius. In doing so, we're trying to help restore
our culture's sense of the richness of everyday reality.
Our book expands the intelligent design argument from the evidence of design
to evidence for ingenious design. We argue that nature is a work of genius,
like a Shakespearian play is a work of genius--both are rich, deep, and complex,
full of meaning at every level.
Reductionism tears down human genius as unreal, as reducible to mere chemistry
or biology. We argue that our experience of genius is real. The genius of
Shakespeare or Euclid or the chemist Lavoisier is something that should be
explained--not explained away. And the same applies to the evidence of genius
we find in nature.
By denying genius at the level of nature, materialist reductionism eventually
denies it at the level of human culture as well. This view is poisonous.
We also describe it as a spell cast over all too many people in our culture.
Our book is written to help break that spell.
Our culture still has tremendous things going for it, in part because the
average person rejects nihilism. But the signs of nihilism are all around
us. In the book, we begin in Shakespeare and show how there are prominent
literary critics bent on explaining away the genius and worth of Shakespeare,
critics who claim that Shakespeare is just a dead white male trying to propagate
the patriarchy, or just the product of Darwinian sexual selection. This attack
on artistic genius is widespread. Materialism denies genius and, in the process,
levels our culture. One university, for instance, offers a choice between
studying Shakespeare or Tupac Shakur. This should give us pause, even those
of us who never understood Shakespeare. In certain quarters we're seeing
a slide into a kind of barbarism tarted up as nihilistic sophistication.
Throughout. Historical scientists look for something in the present with
the demonstrated power to produce an event from the past. Take the origin
of life. We now know the first self-reproducing cell not only required an
elaborate and intricate structure, but a tremendous amount of new information
in its DNA. As design theorists we ask, "What in the present produces new
information?" Our uniform experience tells us that there is only one type
of thing that does this--intelligent agents. But we also have uniform experience
at detecting a high category of intelligence, genius. In the book we apply
that experience to the evidence of creative genius we find throughout nature.
Yes, but it's not a simple answer. You'll have to read the book.
Reductionists strive to describe wholes strictly according to their parts,
to identify ultimate reality with smaller and smaller parts, all the way
down to the atomic and subatomic levels. We argue that reductionist science
is misguided. As the best biologists now realize, the living wholes are just
as real as their parts. And as we demonstrate in our treatment of the history
of chemistry, the best science has always assumed that nature was a work
of genius possessing an underlying elegance and harmony.
Reductionism is being overturned in a variety of fields by the latest evidence
in favor of a kind of wholism--the living cell over the parts; the living
animal over its material parts. And stepping back further, we find that the
fine tuning of the physical constants of physics and chemistry find their
greatest meaning in the drama of biology.
The book would make an excellent resource for a capstone course, pulling
together the arts and sciences to demonstrate the rich interconnectedness
of our world. Since we cover so many different fields, we strove to make
every chapter readily accessible to non-experts.