I don’t believe in randomness. Without a plan, I’m a basket case. I tried living the free life of self-indulgence and ended up drunkenly climbing an eight foot, chain-link fence to retrieve my shoe, leaving much of my wrist caught in a bloody mess at the top when I jumped. I told my family that I’d just taken too much ginseng from the health food store. They believed what they wanted to believe.
When writing a novel I allow for randomness, but only as an exercise. The rough draft can have its self-indulgent freedom, but as the creator I know that at some point there’s something more purposeful going on–even if it takes me a bit of time to find it (after a while you know a writer’s style. Their fingerprints are all over it–intelligent design).
Randomly (or not) I came across two books that all at once have given me a deeper context for my favorite fictional twins–Fred and Buck Crenshaw. The two books have nothing to do with the Gilded Age and everything to do with how we view our lives in the 21st century. I don’t mind cliches if they’re useful. The notion of Fred and Buck moving into opposing philosophical camps didn’t come to me immediately. I was more going for strong twin leading weak twin, but Buck broke free (sort of) and now, upon second reading of book two, I have so much more juicy stuff to throw in. Fred is a modernist and Buck is a throwback to Christendom. Is one thing better than the other? As creator I have my suspicions, but here’s a few juicy quotes to ponder from one of the books I’ve read:
“Before Darwin, we thought that a benevolent god had created us. No intervening spirit watches lovingly over the affairs of nature. No vital forces propel evolutionary change. And whatever we think of God, his existence is not manifest in the products of nature.” Stephen Jay Gould
“Genocide, of course, is merely a shocking name for the process of natural selection by which one gene pool replaces another. Darwin himself explained this in The Descent of Man, when he had to deal with the absence of ‘missing links’ between ape and human. Such gaps were to be expected, he wrote, in view of the extinctions that necessarily accompany evolution. He coolly predicted that evolution would make the gaps wider in the future, because the most civilized (that is, European) humans would soon exterminate the rest of the human species and go on from there to kill off our nearest kin in the ape world.
“Modern Darwinists do not call attention to such passages, which make vivid how easily the picture of amoral nature inherent in evolutionary naturalism can be converted into a plan of action. Darwin’s foremost original disciple, T.H. Huxley, also had no sentimental illusions about the moral meaning of Darwinism. When he had taken a deep enough bath in the implications of the Darwinian worldview, Huxley emerged with the conclusion that morality consists of opposing nature rather than imitating it.”
“Even the nihilistic position that morality is an illusion and law should therefore concern itself solely with utility is a statement about “how things really are” and therefore a proposition of natural law.”
“The Christian story is one of human beings who are created by God, but who are separated from God by their own sin and must be saved from that sin to become what they were meant to be. the Enlightenment rationalist story is one of human beings who escape from superstition by mastering scientific knowledge and eventually realize that their ancestors created God rather than the other way around.” Reason in the Balance by Phillip E. Johnson
So I’m all ears. I’d love to know what people find the most appealing and/or appalling about either modernist or ancient theist thinking. Gut reactions are useful and no opinion is too shocking. What do you think?
And don’t forget to enter. 🙂 Don’t worry. The winner gets the new cover and new edition.(Goodreads is taking it’s time fixing the mistake of posting my new cover under a different author’s list of freezer meal books!) Random craziness.
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9 responses to “Search For Meaning In A Random Universe (Fiction)”
For the moment I believe that the focus here is on ‘western’ thinking and that other view points might also be included in the question. My answer does not necessarily agree with any of them. Perhaps the answer of the diests would be closest. Yet for slightly different perspectives.
Yes, I’m totally thinking as a western Christian here and as such I feel compelled to think about the end results of the 20th century political experiments based on Darwinist, rational, natural ideas that led to massive slaughters of people in Germany, Russia and China. My personal feeling is that without God we are doomed and no amount of human social engineering will ever be able to truly solve the problem of evil.
So what do you believe in? I welcome differing perspectives.
Reblogged this on Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained–Where Past Meets Present at Middlemay Farm and commented:
Throwback post as I hang with my nieces on spring break.
Er… My dear Adrienne you have set the bar very high. That is Philosophy 501 material at least.
May I go in yet another direction? I am not very interested in the opposition of Darwinism vs. Creation(ism). I was raised in East Africa not far from where the Leakeys worked and I think there is enough supporting evidence for evolution vs. creation. That being said, if we go back and back and back, the question remains: who ignited the first spark? 🙂 And there, everybody is free to put a name or not.
So, the other direction may be the randomness which you touch upon. (Not sure how it relates). And I am having considerable difficulty lately to think clearly. The randomness of evil? And that evil is built in the human race. e.g. Paris, Brussels, Bamako, etc. And that particular evil infuriates me. It has nothing to do with God, and all to do with our… miserable faults.
I envy those who can turn to God for solace. I find it hard. 🙂
To put it differently, there are three possibilities:
“God is dead” (Nietsche I believe?)
God has lit the first spark and has gone.
Or, the last one, a musing of my mother’s which I have turned into a short story:
God is in prison, locked up somewhere.
Hmmm. Thank you for “sparking” those thoughts.
And have a lovely week-end. Chocolate cake with goat milk again?
(That must be Heavenly)
I’ve been thinking about this comment all week but had family here. 🙂 In a way I’m not sure if I turn to God for solace in the sense that everything seems peachy with God in the picture. It’s more that the Biblical view of human nature is so dead on. For all of the utopian ideology of the last hundred years without God we haven’t been able to prevent some of the biggest mass slaughters of all time. I see evil as coming from pride of one sort or another. I did the most evil when I elevated myself to a god without realizing it. 🙂
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Utopian pride? Quite correct. A french saying goes: “L’enfer est pavé de bonnes intentions”. Hell’s pavement is built with good intentions. Roughly. And the Utopian ideologies you mentioned are testimony to that. Unfortunately. (When and how did you elevate yourself to “Godness”? 🙂 And why did you “resign”?)
A very thoughtful and deeply considered post !!!
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“Joshua fit the battle of Jericho and the walls come a-tumbling down”. The poor wandering Jews found the promised land, but there were already people there. So they slaughtered every man, woman, child, and animal there. Does this fit with the message of Jesus, the supposed Son of God? Hmmm. Problem. At least for me. How to reconcile?
How weird. I just read that passage of the Bible a few minutes before reading your comment, Charles. I struggle with this too. But then I do believe in evil. How can I not? Sex trafficking, regime change, abuse, etc. These things happen. Evil things are done by people in nice suits and in dark alleys.
Yesterday I spoke with my foster daughter’s lawyer about the kid’s birth mother who subjected her kids to every type of abuse imaginable. Eventually she terminated her rights when she realized she wouldn’t get her girls back but her kids are really, really damaged. I asked the lawyer if the mother was mentally handicapped or something. The lawyer insisted that she was just very stubborn and evil. I was surprised since most people think criminals just need counseling and rehab (this mother has no drug or alcohol issues). She’s now got 2 more babies in the system. The courts are trying to get the two away from her now. She’s young enough to have more kids.
Maybe some societies are producing more evil than good–by a long shot. Maybe in the long run beyond our understanding there’s justice and at times justice looks bad. Our foster kid’s grandmother refused to believe her daughter was harming her grandkids–I assume she still believes her daughter was wrongly punished, but our soon-to-be-adopted daughter has told us stories so horrifying and sick you would not believe.
I guess the only way I can reconcile the Joshua thing is that in most places in the Bible non-Jews who are God fearing and trying to live by God’s commandments (basically loving God and others) are given the chance for escape–think about the Ninevites.
When I think about the atrocities human commit and the perversions we allow to be acted upon innocent children (and animals) I think sometimes we’re quite lenient on our fellow man. Maybe God in his wisdom saw the evil of certain societies and wanted them gone. We all die eventually.
The whole story of the Bible is about God calling us to him and us saying maybe later 🙂 We follow our own perversions and screw things up. In the end God himself came to take it all upon himself.
To me especially in creation I see evidence of God. I used to hate God. I had a conversion experience that I won’t bore you with here. 🙂 But Jesus insisted that the scriptures were true. He also spoke a lot about justice and judgment. If we believe in a creator than I think we can believe he has a right to judge.
yet, like you I struggle.