26 November 2010


It seems to me that the empirical naturalists (other names can be assigned, but it is a hyper-rationality that posits that only what can be "seen," or measured scientifically, i.e., the physical universe, is the sum total of existence)--the best known are Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens, all of whom I disagree with, but admire, especially Hitches, who is now dying of cancer--persist in seeing the universe from the viewpoint of Enlightenment and Cartesian epistemology, in which the universe is "only" a structure, something like a machine (the "clockwork universe"), an object that is removed and independent from our interpretation of it. Twentieth-century science has now shown, I believe, that "reality" does not exist outside our interpretation and, importantly, involvement in it. Even rational empiricism is an interpretation (that truth can be known only through rationality).

From my view, "meaning" itself is the ultimate "meaning" of the universe, contra the empirical naturalists. This brings up the epistemological question, of course, of how to determine meaning. If one starts from the position of the universe as an organic whole, one in which humans are not removed, in which we are an dependent, organic part, in which we are not removed from creating its meaning--then, other metaphorical meaning-positions can be entertained, such as the universe as a song or dance in which we are involved, in which we participate as existential lyricists and choreographers.

Elsewhere I have written of the "Terpsichorean Universe" (my term), in which we are moving in intimate pas de deux with the Universe: the song-and-dance of the Universe is my (and your) created, embodied, Ultimate Meaning. We can sit on the side watching (and measuring!) the Big Dance and pretend we are not part of the event, or we can consciously jump into it and coordinate our bootie gyrations, both metaphysical and actual, with the reality in which we are partners in creating.

From my view presented above, perhaps the best theological statement re the biggest of questions is encapsulated in the title and lyrics of the jazz tune "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got that Swing)"--the universe has no meaning (at least any I can relate to), if it has no swing or meaning, like a song and/or dance in which we partner.

If the empirical naturalists do not hear the Tune, then theirs seems an impoverished view. My Universe is not so insipid. We do not have to ask, "May I have this Dance?" We are already in it.

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