Two Classic Poems about God in Nature


(system) #1
Is God an engineer or a poet?
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/jim-stump-faith-and-science-seeking-understanding/two-classic-poems-about-god-in-nature

(Doug B) #2

CS Lewis liked the creative singing idea: he had Aslan sing Narnia into existence in The Magician’s Nephew.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #3

@jstump

Jim,

Thank you for bringing up this topic.

Of course the answer to your question, is God an engineer or a poet? is God is both an engineer and a poet. Sadly given our w=either/or Western Mode of thinking, we feel the need to define God as one or the other.

Wordsworth was a Romantic which was a reaction against rationalism. It appears that he is willing to go back to the gods of Paganism because they brought life to nature against Rationalist Modernism who saw animals as machines. Dawkins has said that animals are survival machines.

I do not know if evangelicals have an engineer mentality, but I so know that Dawkins & Co. jumped all over Lovelock and Margulis when they suggested that the earth’s biosystem might be alive, the Gaia Hypothesis. While this thinking has contributed much to our understanding of ecology, the ideas that our biology is alive still seems verboten.

Science tries to reduce everything to the physical, even when it is not physical but organic. A big part of the problem is dualism, If everything is Natural or Supernatural, and Natural means unable to think, then humans must be Supernatural. Dogs and other creatures who have some ability to think are caught in the middle, but science logically reduces nature to the physical and dead. A triune model of Reality would give us the freedom to explore the full nature of life on earth as physical, rational, and spiritual.

As far as I san tell Richard Dawkins has been esp. negative against the ecology of Lovelock and Margulis. It would seem that a review and analysis of M. Ruse’s book The Gaia Hypothesis, which does suggest that the Biosphere is alive.

There are many problems here that need to be sorted out and discussed. I hope that you will endeavor to do so. God is a poet, an engineer, and a philosopher.


(Dr. Ted Davis) #4

@jstump,

Thank you for these lovely examples of early Romantic poetry. As you indicate, one result of growing confidence in the scientific view of the world in mechanical terms was to reject that picture of nature, in favor of something more intimate and personal. In the US a prominent form of that was the turn toward “transcendentalism,” as seen in authors like Emerson and Thoreau, American versions of Wordsworth you might say.

The larger phenomenon was brilliantly portrayed by art historian Kenneth Clark https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Clark in his TV series and book, The Romantic Rebellion, which I devoured in college and (along with his other wonderful pieces of work) gave me such a fascination with art history that I almost decided to take that route instead of going into the history of science. (I only learned last week that Clark became a Christian not long before his death, having been drawn to God by a deep longing to experience the grace he found in so much Christian art. But, that is not relevant here.)

Anyway, natural history was a big part of the Romantic movement. I talked about this in one of my columns last year http://biologos.org/blogs/ted-davis-reading-the-book-of-nature/the-romance-of-natural-history , and it was also important to Darwin, whose emotional and religious responses to his experiences in South America were partly shaped by his early reading of Alexander von Humboldt, a deeply Romantic writer whose vision of nature reminds me of James Fenimore Cooper (one of my favorite authors) in the American context. A leading Catholic historian of science, Phil Sloan, has shown that Darwin’s Beagle diary was basically a conversation with Humboldt. For more on this little-known aspect of Darwin, see http://darwin-online.org.uk/EditorialIntroductions/Chancellor_Humboldt.html .