Agency Is Not God… at least not entirely

Michael McAlister Blog Leave a Comment

Over at Salon, Steve Paulson writes about biologist Stuart Kauffman’s new approach to God in his recent book, “Reinventing the Sacred”.

Atoms and Eden[Kauffman] seeks to formulate a new scientific worldview and, in the process, reclaim God for nonbelievers. Kauffman argues that our modern scientific paradigm — reductionism — breaks down once we try to explain biology and human culture. And this has left us flailing in a sea of meaninglessness. So how do we steer clear of this empty void? By embracing the “ceaseless creativity” of nature itself, which in Kauffman’s view is the real meaning of God. It’s God without any supernatural tricks.

He goes on to poke holes in the reductionist, or flatland approach, as Ken Wilber has spent so many pages doing.

It’s comforting in that the entire universe is seen to be lawful; we can understand everything, from societies to quarks. Yet a number of physicists, including Nobel laureates Philip Anderson and Robert Laughlin, feel that reductionism is not adequate to understand the real world. In its place, they talk about “emergence.” I think they’re right.

Here’s where it gets a little sticky for me. With all due respect for Dr. Kauffman and his attempts to realign spirituality into something more relevant, I worry that he’s confusing the Universe’s creativity with creativity’s source. That source, or Source, literally has “no thing” to it, and yet it gives birth to “some thing” in every moment. The agentic value of all somethings isn’t deniable, nor is agency separate from the Source. But agency isn’t God. The Source of agency, on the other hand, gets us closer to the substrate of all things that spontaneously bridges Itself with and into all things as a divine and messy creativity… in each moment.

Bows to Andrew Sullivan for the heads up.

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