Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Altar of Science

The Literature of the Heretics, pt. 8

“As a scientist, I am hostile to fundamentalist religion because it actively debauches the scientific enterprise. It teaches us not to change our minds, and not want to know exciting things that are available to be known. It subverts science and saps the intellect.” – Richard Dawkins

“Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They begin with the fact of sin—a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing.” – G.K. Chesterton

I find plenty to disagree with when reading the likes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens when it comes to their content. But there is also much that I disagree with in how their disagreeable content is expressed. It may seem trivial, but how an argument is presented is, in some respects, equal in importance with the validity of the argument—and in the case of these heretics (Dawkins in particular), his method does much to undermine the very points he is making.

Take, for example, Dawkins’ writings on science. What I mean by that, of course, is take almost everything he has written. Dawkins writes about science in the same way he writes about himself and all of mankind—with a purposeful, but insincere, subjectivity. Of course, he would say. Subjectivity is the one thing required of the scientist! He doesn’t realize that, while the scientific method may thrive on subjectivity, understanding human nature absolutely does not.

Dawkins seems to insist on keeping his explanations of every human decision, every human thought, every human quirk, firmly at arm’s length. He feels a desperate need to rationalize absolutely everything by way of natural selection—every action or thought a human could have can be rationalized as a self-evident quirk of genetics. When a poet describes happiness they might do so by employing the metaphor of a sunny day or the return of a long-lost love; when Richard Dawkins describes happiness he does so as a mixture of proteins that release dopamine into the brain so as to prolong the survival of the species by way of... and from the first word he demonstrates only that he has really never understood the meaning of happiness.

Science, to the heretics, too quickly ceases to be a method by which one looks at the world and instead becomes just as much a religion as the faith they deride. When Dawkins writes that, “...a widespread assumption, which nearly everybody in our society that religious faith is especially vulnerable to offence and should be protected by an abnormally thick wall of respect...” he is absolutely right (and this is something religions should seriously consider), but at the same time he does not seem to understand that he has not merely pulled religion down from its place above criticism, he has replaced it with his own altar of science! God forbid that any of us should second guess a scientific study!

I do try to avoid criticizing a healthy pursuit of science (because I have ventured down this road myself and found great joy here), but I cannot help but criticize the scientists for their utter failure to understand the very things they are so desperately trying to comprehend. An astronomer can become so lost in his telescope that he has forgotten to lie in a field at night and simply stare into the heavens; a biologist can become so lost in his microscope that he has forgotten that the cells he is studying actually make up a creature. Scientists have a tendency to sacrifice their own humanity for the sake of their discoveries. Men like Dawkins have become, for lack of a better (or more fitting) analogy—the extreme Calvinists of humanism. Just as Calvinism in its most extreme form rids humanity of both free will and, in effect, personal responsibility, so also is Dawkins quick ascribe an evolutionary explanation for every decision made by man, removing responsibility from all of us for our actions. Every action is biological; every decision is made with the intent of spreading our DNA, to ensure the survival of our genes.

My opposition to Dawkins in terms of science is not limited, however, to the cold, aloof tone it forces him to take when talking about things that are living and awesome—it has also become clear to me that I ought to no longer give him the benefit of the doubt when he is prattling on about how science frees us from religion, because whenever it proves convenient to do so, he seems willing to neglect the very scientific method he worships! So rigidly and worshipfully does Richard Dawkins view science—so low does he prostrate himself before that particular altar—that he has forgotten (or consciously abandons) one of the core principles of the scientific method. Specifically, he neglects to acknowledge that facts are notoriously difficult to come by, and that the very word—fact—is not a word to toy around with.

Dawkins claims that, “Creationists simply don’t realize that evolution is a fact! No, they don’t, but neither does the honest evolutionist. Time and again Dawkins refers to the “fact” of evolution, deriding the weak-minded zealots who refuse to believe. Surely Richard Dawkins—a man steeped in science throughout his adult life—is intelligent enough to know that there is something very significant and very special about calling something a “fact.” Richard Feynman—an atheist himself, and one of the greatest, most beloved scientists of the 21st century—loved to boast about how close his theories were to being facts, but consistently stressed the difficulty of facts: “You can see, of course, that...we can attempt to disprove any definite theory. If we have a definite theory, a real guess, from which we can conveniently compute consequences which can be compared with experiment, then in principle we can get rid of any thoery. There is always the possibility of proving any definite theory wrong; but notice that we can never prove it right. Suppose you invent a good guess, calculate the consequences, and discover every time that the consequences you have calculated agree with experiment. The theory is then right? No, it is simply not proved wrong.”

Human evolution is theory, not fact. We could literally watch a species evolve into another before our eyes and it still would not prove that this is how life came to be as it is. I realize that this sounds like nit-picking; like I am quarrelling over a simple matter of syntax or vocabulary, but it really is much more than that. It is indicative of an arrogant form of scientism that simply cannot be taken as gospel. It is evidence of a man so singularly focused on attacking something that he has forgotten the very laws he claims to live by. This is a common danger—our desire to destroy others getting in the way of positive affirmations of our beliefs—that we all must continually guard against. It is especially evident in political disagreements, where we are so quick to point out inconsistency and hypocrisy on the other side that we neglect to notice our own. Dawkins betrays the certainty of his own beliefs by being disingenuous about them.

One need only read the words of the most God-hating scientists to discover the fact that they seem to have universally missed something in their understandings of the universe. Perhaps their views are self-consistent, as an earthworm may be consistent in saying that the whole world is made of nothing but dirt, but they are incomplete. They consistently neglect a great portion of the man-beast they are so desperately trying to explain. It is terribly difficult, after all, to explain a thing that you have never properly understood. One could imagine trying to explain a camel without mentioning his hump or an elephant without mentioning his trunk. The explanation may be accurate and consistent, but few would defend it as complete, or even valuable.

The purely scientific view of man, quite simply, does not understand man. It may have an explanation as to why he has hands, but not why he should choose to use his hands to produce works of art rather than hunt or forage. It tells us why we have hair on our heads, but not why we should choose to shave our heads in solidarity with an illness or to join a monastary... it doesn’t—it simply can’t—tell us these things because it is likely to cause madness, like describing a rainbow to a man born blind.

Real hope cannot be found in science. This is not real evidence for God, of course, but nevertheless one should at the very least stop and consider what sort of hope or meaning they are looking for. If hope is the same thing as increased knowledge, then science may hold some very limited hope—but it is a hope that will fail the very moment one looks out into the abyss and recognizes just how little has actually become known by science. It is like the man who spends his life attempting to comprehend eternity, only to grow old and realize that he is no closer than he was when he began. As Chesterton said, “The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”

Real hope is found in embracing the eternal rather than trying to comprehend it. It is found in first understanding creation and then studying it; with much of science it is, tragically, the other way around.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Glory of Man

The Literature of the Heretics, pt. 7

“Probably the most daunting task that we face, as partly rational animals with adrenal glands that are too big and prefrontal lobes that are too small, is the contemplation of our own relative weight in the scheme of things. Our place in the cosmos is so unimaginably small that we cannot, with our miserly endowment of cranial matter, contemplate it for too long.” – Christopher Hitchens

“Of course, it could be argued that humans are more capable of, for example, suffering than other species. This could well be true, and we might legitimately give humans special status by virtue of it. But evolutionary continuity shows that there is no absolute distinction. Absolutist moral discrimination is devastatingly undermined by the fact of evolution.” – Richard Dawkins

“What is man that you are mindful of him?” asks King David in Psalm 8, “...and the son of man that you care for him?” These are questions that man has wrestled with for exactly as long as he’s existed as man. Where are we, as human beings, to be placed among the vast panoply of living creatures? Furthermore, who are we to even ask such questions as these?

It never ceases to surprise me that these sorts of questions can still incite such bitter disagreement; they are questions that prove almost endlessly divisive with certain audiences, and how they are answered reveals a great deal about a person’s preconceptions and prejudices.

I, for one, believe very strongly in the intrinsic glory of mankind. I believe, and not only because the Bible says so, that human beings hold a unique place, both among the creatures of the Earth, and in the universe at large. Man is the nothing less than the height of all creation; the apex of all that is and all that ever will be outside of heaven.

A small part of me can see why some would find this statement controversial (and, strangely, politically incorrect), but the rest of me understands that it is nothing more than the most natural belief in the world. It is a belief often (derisively) associated with faith, but it really is the very opposite of a statement taken on faith—it is the only conclusion backed up by tangible evidence. It is a thing that an innocent child, born into the world and not in any way predisposed to believe or not to believe in either science or religion, would automatically assume. An innocent could only look at the world and see the vast gulf between man and animal and it would take no measure of faith at all to assume that there was something unique about man. They would gaze into the heavens and they would find no evidence to suggest that the ground on which they stood was anything but the most remarkable place in the universe.

What requires faith is to take the opposite stance. The heretics go to great lengths to remind their readers that they (both author and reader alike) are nothing special; they are mere mammals communicating with other mammals. That they have evolved something like speech is nothing to be boastful about; it is simply what nature has accomplished. That they are able to sit in their studies behind their computer monitors and ponder the truth of their own existence is nothing at all to be boastful about. It is no different than a dolphin whistling a tune into the vast sea—well, different in degree, maybe, but certainly not in kind.

If ever one wants to truly rile a humanist, one need only tell them that there is something somehow important about their humanity. Christopher Hitchens calls it an “obvious” atrocity that the theist should believe in Himself as privileged among creation. He thinks it ignorant that we should believe there to be anything special about our planet. But why should anyone be so sensitive to humans being pleased by their humanity? Why should anyone treat it as if it were some great sin (if that word is appropriate) to believe in human uniqueness?

And this goes doubly so for those who believe that it is somehow in bad taste to indulge in a little “cosmic anthropocentrism”. Even at the risk of offending the undiscovered “other” beings on other worlds, perhaps in other galaxies (or other universes?), I have no problem stating emphatically that man is unique among the creatures just as the earth is unique among the planets. Man is unique among the creatures of the earth because he alone has stepped beyond reason and created art and mythology; the earth is unique among the planets because it has man (and cedar forests and rolling, lavender covered hills and a few other things that we have not yet found elsewhere).

Hitchens demonstrates a clear misunderstanding of history than when he says that, “We owe a huge debt to Galileo for emancipating us all from the stupid belief in an Earth-centered or man-centered (let alone God-centered) system. He quite literally taught us our place and allowed us to go on to make extraordinary advances in knowledge.” The truth is not nearly as dramatic as historians like to believe: Galileo did nothing more profound than provide evidence to confirm the existing theory that the earth revolved around the sun (something that would certainly have been determined within a few years even without him). Any impact beyond this is mere extrapolation by scientists and philosophers with agendas other than discovering truth.

The case of Galileo does present an interesting dilemma for the Christian, of course, and it really ought to be briefly dealt with, once and for all: The church (for reasons I have trouble fully understanding) once had a difficult time accepting the revelation that the Earth might revolve around another body. They thought it somehow harmful to the faith to discover that we were not a stationary body around which the universe rotated. This led, of course, to the famous Galileo incident, which the heretics bring up time and again, as if it somehow encompasses the absolute worst moment of the church’s history. Reading a humanist account of the “persecution” of Galileo (which consisted of a comfortable house arrest and a less-than-forceful denouncement) leads one to almost believe that the Crusades and Inquisition were summer picnics in comparison. Kill as many heretics as you want, but don’t touch the scientists. Nevertheless, it is worth admitting that the church was clearly in the wrong in the case of Galileo, but only because it is indicative of a greater problem: the church has long focused on things that really don’t matter. We should have had far more important things to think about than what some Italian astronomer was saying about the solar system, but we got bogged down by it and are still reeling from the effects today.

How could it possibly have hurt the church to learn that the sun is at the geographic center of our solar system? What do we lose when the Earth moves out of the center and we are made smaller and (seemingly) more insignificant in relation to the size of the universe?

Nothing at all is lost. In fact, much truth can be gained by this understanding. The church ought to have been wise enough to see the benefit of what Galileo was demonstrating: that we, the glory of God’s creation, are but atoms in relation to the universe. But we do not need to be great or geographically centered, for when we are made less, God is made more (John the Baptist was on to something with his beautiful statement, “He must increase and I must decrease”). The size of the universe makes it all the more remarkable that He should care anything at all for us.

So, on the cosmic level, we may not be at the center of things, but we remain unique and privileged. Telescope after telescope continue to be built to scan the heavens for planets outside of our solar system, and scores have been found already, the result being that we remain unique. Dead planet after dead planet is discovered and catalogued; we land rovers on dead planets in our own solar system that may have once been covered in water, and yet we remain unique, for water is not the thing that makes the earth unique. Man is.

I’ve heard countless accusations of “human arrogance” or “anthropocentrism”—but the reality is that there are really few things more beautiful than anthropocentrism. There are few things more comforting than the knowledge that we, the highest of creation (to say otherwise requires a particularly blind sort of faith) hold a special place in the universe. The sun may not revolve around the Earth, but there is nothing on the sun, nor on any other planet in our solar system, that has ever taken the time to understand this. Like it or not, we are the center of the solar system, and we are the center of the known universe.

How is the Christian to respond to this? To many, anthropocentrism is akin to pride, and that is what must be guarded against. The most perfect response comes, as it often does, in the Psalms, reflecting, not the small, human-centered universe that the heretic believes was taught by the early church, but a vast, awesome place:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
And crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
The birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is your name in all the earth!

What is this but a perfect statement of a perfect paradox: the glory and the humility of man? Our true place in the universe can only ever be understood in our relationship with God; and because I believe in this, I have no problem reaffirming that science alone cannot capture the awe and splendor of creation. And that’s a pity.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Evolution of Fallen Man

The Literature of the Heretics, pt. 6

“The human brain runs first-class simulation software. Our eyes don’t present to our brains a faithful photograph of what is out there, or an accurate movie of what is going on through time...I say all this just to demonstrate the formidable power of the brain’s simulation software. It is well capable of constructing ‘visions’ and ‘visitations’ of the most utmost veridical power. To simulate a ghost or an angel or a Virgin Mary would be child’s play to software of this sophistication.” – Richard Dawkins

“Religion is not provided to us by revelation, it doesn't come from the heavens, it doesn't come from the beyond, it doesn't come from the divine. It's man-made. And it shows. It shows very well - that religion is created, invented, imposed by a species half a chromosome away from the chimpanzee.” – Christopher Hitchens

First, I should mention a source of agreement I have with both Hitchens and Dawkins: we share at least one foundational premise when discussing humanity. We can all agree that humanity falls short of perfection, and that any human claiming otherwise has not thought to look at the world around him before making his claim. I, like the world I live on, am far from perfect; I sometimes mistakenly believe things that are lies, I sometimes tell lies myself, I am selfish, proud, angry, arrogant, etc. The one thing that allows me to live with these truths is the knowledge that everyone else is in the same boat.

Now, the difference (which is of immeasurably greater consequence than the agreement): I see these imperfections as a consequence of sin, while the heretics as genetic malformations brought on by incomplete evolutionary processes. Furthermore, they tend to believe the very idea of sin to be depraved (“What kind of ethical philosophy is it that condemns every child, even before it is born, to inherit the sin of a remote ancestor?”-Dawkins), while I would only go so far as to say that their evolutionary answer to be fundamentally wrong-headed.

I understand that these authors believe the evolutionary imperfections of man have led to all of the great evils of the world (in my last post I gave an example of Hitchens relating wars with the fact that we have not yet “evolved” into fully rational beings), and that religion is a mere symptom of our mind’s ability to play tricks on us (as Dawkins implies in the quote at the beginning of this post). That much is easy enough to understand, but it leads me to a bit of an impasse: I have reason to say that man is imperfect because I am aware of a standard of perfection. God. I am aware that I am fallen because I am aware of the heights to which I am called. The other side is not afforded such perspective. The heretic, though blessed with a common grace he may never understand, is aware that there is something wrong, yet he cannot possibly define it, as he believes in nothing that can be used in comparison. He thinks war and murder are wrong because he knows in his heart that life is valuable, but he cannot offer a convincing argument as to why. He believes we just need to evolve further, but evolve into what? Into Nietzsche’s “√úbermensch”? A genetically pure, physically perfect superman? I know it is in bad taste to do so, but how can one avoid making comparisons here with Naziism when one speaks of the evolution of man? After all, would humanity really sit idly by and allow itself to progress naturally when we have the means to help nature along? Hitchens even comes dangerously close to a wholesale endorsement of Eugenics: “Sad though (abortion) is, it is probably less miserable an outcome than the vast number of deformed or idiot children who would otherwise have been born, or stillborn, or whose brief lives would have been a torment to themselves and others.” I have tried hard (and done a good job, I think) of keeping civil in my discourse so far, but how can one not be driven to anger at such a sentiment? It is a statement of pure evil. Evil in the truest, most objective sense of the word. And yet, that is how the heretic believes that the human species might one day evolve itself free from sin.

To put it bluntly: The facts show otherwise. History has capably demonstrated that we cannot simply “evolve” into perfection (not that such a being, to the heretics, can objectively exist). Even if we were to systematically abort all of the potentially weaker members of our species (something that I am not sure is not already happening to some extent), survival of the fittest will never successfully weed out the things that make us human, either for better or for worse. It will never rid us of our pride or selfishness just as it will never rid us of our love or our need to worship. We simply cannot transform ourselves into anything either more or less than human.

At least the heretics admit that we are not perfect; that our minds play tricks on us; that reason and logic cannot always be trusted.

...and yet, they seem perfectly willing to do just that.

Both Hitchens and Dawkins demonstrate an exceptional willingness to believe in their own exceptional logic, while simultaneously admitting that mankind has been “hoodwinked” for thousands of years and tricked into believing in religions. They do not seem to understand that they are, as we all are, looking at the world and seeing only those things that support what they hope to be true. It does not mean that their words are all lies (though they are not immune to lying, as I could easily point out); it means that they are selective and they apply the reasoning that best confirms previously-held beliefs. This is the fundamental undercurrent of all human thought that ever was or ever will be (including my own)—and it really ought to be stated aloud every now and then. None of us are free of bias; no author of an historical work can fully remove himself from his text; no debater can avoid making the evidence support him.

It is easy for the undiscerning reader to be puzzled by reviews of Biblical history by historians claiming to be either impartial or merely skeptical. We place far too much weight in the words of those who declare themselves experts, who comb the scriptures for any apparent anachronism; who scour the linguist anomalies of the authors, seeking some slight oddity to which they can grab hold. It is easy to forget that when we are reading commentaries and criticism we are only reading the words of men just as error-prone and biased as we are, and they need to be accepted as such.

It is even easier, perhaps, to accept the word of the scientist, who is merely trying to pull back the veil of nature—what could be more objective than that? But the truth is very different. Science is not immune from bias; in fact, one could argue that science is more blatantly prone to bias than most professions, as a great portion of modern science lies in interpretation rather than empiricism, and a great majority of scientists believe that one of their tasks is to throw God (and believers in God) for a loop.

My point is simply this: Both Hitchens and Dawkins spend a tremendous amount of time and effort in assuring their readers that much of religion can be reduced to “trickery” of the brain, and yet both men admittedly worship at the altar (a phrase chosen particularly because both men would find it distasteful) of human reason, a thing (as I previously explained) that is very nearly a myth itself.

Now, what are we to do with these imperfections if we cannot simply breed it out of our species? What are we to do with sin if we cannot simply make ourselves into better people? The short answer is that we can do nothing at all, which makes it all the more fortunate that there is a God who can. Humanity is at its best when it is seeking after the God of the Bible (note that I did not write, “when it is seeking after religion”—the difference is crucial); sin is at its least when we are attempting to imitate Christ. The point of Christianity, no matter what the heretics might claim (over and over and over) is not to belittle us by pointing continually to our sin, but to free us of sin. The book of Romans states very explicitly that we were once slaves to sin but now we are free. We are already free; we do not have to wait to advance to our next evolutionary state; we do not have to wait until the universities learn how to better indoctrinate us or the government learns how to better control us. If we are in Christ we are free from sin.

That is my point.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Myth of Pure Reason

The Literature of the Heretics, pt. 5

“Reason has built the modern world. It is a precious but also a fragile thing, which can be corroded by apparently harmless irrationality. We must favor verifiable evidence over private feeling. Otherwise we leave ourselves vulnerable to those who would obscure the truth.” – Richard Dawkins

“Past and present religious atrocities have occurred not because we are evil, but because it is a fact of nature that the human species is, biologically, only partly rational.” – Christopher Hitchens

Our (biological) inability to be entirely rational prevents humans from achieving perfect peace with one another. It is this irrationality, surely a vestigial trait not (yet) weeded out by the process of evolution, that causes strife and chaos and, perhaps most importantly, blindly guides us toward religion.

But for the general tone of negativity, I can almost agree with that sentiment. We are, in fact, only partly rational; and our utter inability to act entirely according to reason is, indeed, a defining factor in who we are as humans. It is the thing that carries us toward religion; the thing that makes us quarrel and either agree or disagree. But my disagreement is in this: I strongly believe that our not-all-there rationality is perhaps the single most beautiful element of humanity. It is our most defining characteristic and the one we should be the most grateful for. It is not erroneous or vestigial—it is purposeful and beneficial.

As for the two quotations above, therefore, I partially agree with the latter, but disagree almost entirely with the former. Reason, no matter what Dawkins may believe, has hindered as much as it has helped in building the modern world; and those who have chosen to look beyond reason have brought us the invaluable spark that makes us human in the first place. As for Hitchens, I agree with his statement, but for the implication that our inability to reason fully is a hurdle over which we must jump. In fact, pure reason is perhaps the one thing that, when obtained, can actually steal the humanity from a human.

Pure reason is no more an evolutionary leap than would be growing a second appendix. To become creatures of pure reason we would become mere creatures; our great leap would actually prove a tremendous and tragic fall.

This is a significant truth missed almost entirely by the heretics, and only rarely considered by those of us to whom it should be the most important: reason is absolutely not the thing that makes us human. It is not the thing that turns a civilization into an advanced civilization, or a world into a modern world. The truth is exactly the opposite: what makes us human is that we are not saddled with the burden of pure reason.

The man of pure reason, by definition, thinks that all men must strive toward reason as the next step in his advancement, but they forget that it is only by transcending reason that we are human in the first place. It is not our scientific achievement that brings us beyond the apes, nor our understanding of mathematics, but our ability to see that reason is not a thing to be worshipped, but to be transcended.

Want to see a creature of pure reason? Observe an earthworm. Pure reason means nothing more than survival; it cannot, by definition, mean anything more than that. It means responding instinctively to stimuli and nothing more; the earthworm is hungry, so it eats dirt; it is full, so it excretes; it has an instinct to reproduce, so it finds a lady earthworm.

This is, of course, the sort of creature that Richard Dawkins takes great pains in proving man to be—a creature of pure instinct; exactly the sort of creature evolution has produced. Religion? It is a biological necessity. Love and charity? Genetic modifications evolved to create more stable colonies, like so many ants on a hill.

When I say, therefore, that stepping beyond reason is the thing that separates us from the animals, Dawkins and Hitchens might, in fact, agree; because to them we are no different. Dawkins makes this point while offering the evolutionary argument in favor of abortion-on-demand: “The humanness of an embryo’s cells cannot confer upon it any absolutely discontinuous moral status. It cannot, because of our evolutionary continuity with chimpanzees and, more distantly, with every species on the planet.” A human life, he therefore argues, cannot be differentiated from the life of any other creature. This is the danger (one of many) of a pure reason; it demands that we refuse to honor thoughts of human uniqueness; it bogs us down into an ethical mire necessitated by utter dependence on evolutionary explanations; it opens the door for social darwinism and every evil associated with it.

Those are the negative arguments; the arguments against pure reason. But the negative should never be the most important argument. The most important must always be the positive; the argument in favor of transcending reason. This is the most important argument, and it is merely this: man’s ability to glance, even if only partially, beyond the veil of reason, is the first step in the direction of worship. I have argued before—and I think that it is one of the most perfect arguments in favor of God if rightly understood—that man is a creature made to worship, and we are only enabled to do so because we are not dominated by the burden of pure reason. This is not a flaw, it is a magnificent element of perfectly executed design. If we were creatures of pure reason we would certainly be able to create shelters, but never architecture. We might draw pictograms, but we could never create art. We might write rational correspondence, but never literature. We might make use of tools, but we would never use those tools to satisfy our wholly irrational curiosity; we would never build particle accelerators or blast rockets into space.

Indeed—the very same irrationality that leads us to worship is the irrationality that makes us curious about our world; the irrationality that enables our species to become scientists in the first place is the drive that pagan scientists hope to root out and destroy. When Hitchens says that, “We are not immune to the lure of wonder and mystery and awe: we have music and art and literature, and find that the serious ethical dilemmas are better handled by Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Schiller and Dostoyevsky and George Eliot than in the mythical morality tales of the holy books...” he is only saying that he himself has not yet succumbed to pure reason. To sit in awe of the universe is to feel the throbbing, pulsing need to worship. To appreciate the artistic qualities of literature is to throw off the shackles of reason and exist, for at least a moment, as a transcendent being. Hitchens may openly deride the Christian’s “resistance of the rational,” but he is just as prone to this resistance as I am; he simply has not learned to enjoy it as I have.

One needn’t worry about those who would seek to destroy the imagination in favor of pure reason. I am confident that such a thing is impossible; it is chasing after the wind. Man can suppress himself all he likes, but he can never truly steal his own humanity.

One final note on this subject: Reason, it must be remembered, is not a bad thing. Reason is what keeps us alive while our ability to transcend reason makes life worth living. What makes us human is that we have transcended reason while not doing away with it altogether. And what makes Christians unique is that we, alone, seem to have understood this. As Chesterton explained, “The substance of all paganism is that it is an attempt to reach the divine reality through the imagination alone; in its own field reason does not restrain it at all... But in reality the rivers of mythology and philosophy run parallel and do not mingle till they meet in the sea of Christendom. Simple secularists still talk as if the Church had introduced a sort of schism between reason and religion. The truth is that the Church was actually the first thing that ever tried to combine reason and religion.”

To the heretics, the ideal is a man of pure reason, which robs him of his humanity. To the pagan, the ideal is a man entirely divorced from reason; who lives only in the heights of heaven and never lets his feet down to earth. To the Christian, the ideal is a man to whom reason is a gift, but the ability to see beyond reason a far greater gift; a man who at once seeks rational truth about the world created for him and who falls to his knees in worship of He who created it.