Friday, July 24, 2009

Enthusiasm and Common Sense

Just a little something to stimulate your thought and your enthusiasm for our work. Every time I use that word, I feel a strong sense of awe, for I recall Chesterton's famous etymological aphorism about it:
I myself have little Latin and less Greek. But I know enough Greek to know the meaning of the second syllable of "enthusiasm," and I know it to be the key to this and every other discussion.
[GKC The Thing CW3:139]
In case you have even less Greek than GKC or me, I should tell you that its second syllable comes from the Greek word QeoV which means God.

Let us strive, then, to have more enthusiasm in our science, in our philosophy, in our daily work, and even in our daily play.

"Heart of Jesus, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,
have mercy on us." [See Colossians 2:3]

--Dr. Thursday

A little over half a century. ago Julian Huxley came forward with his Religion without Revelation, a book with a somewhat misleading title. What Huxley actually aimed at was to articulate a religion which not only was in no need of revelation but also excluded its very possibility by denying its rationality. The possibility and rationality of revelation rest on the existence of God, on his having made man to his own image the image of his own rationality - and on his having placed him in a rationally coherent world which evidences its own and man's createdness. On the contrary, 'religion without revelation' called for a creed whose first tenet is a self-making man in a self-making universe. More radical challenge than this is hardly conceivable to the first article of the Creed: I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

Such a challenge was not first posed by Huxley. He was merely an updated echo of a Renan, a Nietzsche, a Spencer, a Comte, and a Marx, relatively recent spokesmen of a tradition going much farther back in history. They all were at one in noting that nothing determines more decisively man's outlook on life than his facing up to the alternative: Existence, cosmic and human, is either dependent on a personal Creator or not. Needless to say, long after Huxley's writings had become dated, the tradition they represented kept producing further echoes. If an echo, usually a tease, comes with a fresh overtone, it can appear original enough to captivate the unwary. Jacques Monod's Chance and Necessity was certainly original as a title, but hardly as a message. All who before him did their best to exorcise the Creator from the scene, had no choice but to ascribe, in defiance of logic, everything to chance or/and necessity.

The most flagrant evidence of that defiance is the very activity which issues in a brilliant book or in a discovery worthy of a Nobel Prize. Neither books, nor scientific discoveries and awards can consistently be taken for a product of chance or of necessity, let alone of both. No wonder that in all such cases chance and necessity are furtively supplemented with that purpose and freedom which is certainly inherent in scientific research and philosophical reflection. The tactic is understandable, though wholly unjustified. It ushers in through the back door that common sense which gives meaning to any non-trivial, that is, well-reasoned use of the words chance and necessity. A religion which excludes the possibility of revelation cannot indeed be construed without falling back on such fairly transparent tactics. Their perennial popularity derives from man's longing for such a religion, hardly different from an aesthetic sentimentality, and from the sophistication of their construction and presentation. What makes some such tactics worth noting is the sense of urgency with which the self-anointed prophets of 'religion without revelation' reveal the vision of heaven on earth to each subsequent generation.
[SLJ Cosmos and Creator introduction]

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