EXPLAIN THE BOOK’S TITLE: A MEANINGFUL WORLD.
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.
TELL ABOUT THE SUBTITLE: HOW THE ARTS AND SCIENCE REVEAL THE GENIUS OF NATURE.
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.
AT THE END OF THE PROLOGUE (INVOLVING A FICTIONAL SPACE ALIEN!), YOU DESCRIBE YOUR BOOK AS AN ANTIDOTE? WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?
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.
CAN YOU OFFER SOME EXAMPLES OF MATERIALISM POISONING OUR CULTURE?
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.
DOES THE BOOK OFFER ANY POSITIVE EVIDENCE FOR INTELLIGENT DESIGN?
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.
DO YOU DEAL WITH THE PROBLEM OF SUFFERING AND APPARENT BAD DESIGN?
Yes, but it’s not a simple answer. You’ll have to read the book.
DOES A MEANINGFUL WORLD SUGGEST A RESEARCH PROGRAM?
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.
WHERE WOULD IT FIT IN A COLLEGE CURRICULUM?
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.