1.7 Two Ways of Perceiving the Universe, Part I

EPISODE SUMMARY:

In Season 1 Episode 7 of The Eudo Podcast, Dr. Paul M. Gould will talk about the two ways of perceiving reality – perceiving the universe as disenchanted (which is the dominant way) or perceiving the universe as enchanted. In part 1, Paul will discuss the disenchanted view and the philosophical assumptions undergirding this view. 


EPISODE NOTES:

How can different people look at the same thing and see it differently? How is that possible?

Individuals often see and understand the world differently and how we perceive things is influenced by the worldview we inhabit and the stories that narrate our lives.

Two Representative Example:

St. Augustine (354-430 AD): Since heaven and earth came into being and now undergoes change, writes Augustine, “they cry aloud that they are made.” They also cry aloud they there were not self-made. They were made by Another: “You, Lord, who are beautiful, made them for they are beautiful. You are good, for they are good. You are, for they are” [Confessions, XI. iv, 224].

Carl Sagan: “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” The physical universe “is rich beyond measure—in elegant facts, in exquisite interrelationships, in the subtle machinery of awe.” The order, beauty, and fittingness of the universe does not point to a God behind it all, however [Cosmos, 4]. Science has revealed that “we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost between two spiral arms in the outskirts of a galaxy which is a member of a sparse cluster in which there are far more galaxies than people” [Cosmos, 193]. Take comfort still, for we are “children of the Cosmos” even if the cosmos is a vast, horrible, awe-inspiring, purposeless, amalgamation of matter and energy expanding into the void.

The difference between to two has to do with the imaginative stories and philosophical assumptions they bring to their perceptual experience. In other words, if you imagine the world as a closed system of inert matter in motion and assume the universe is indifferent to our existence, then it is little wonder that God’s “dazzling theatre” (as Calvin famously describes it) is seen as a “Theater of the Absurd.”

What are the Imaginative Stories and Philosophical Assumptions that undergird these two ways of perceiving?

The two philosophical (and imaginative) ways of conceiving the cosmos are what I call the Neo-Humean Model and the Platonic-Aristotelian-Christian (or PAC) model (the PAC model will be discusses in the next episode).

The Neo-Humean Model

On this picture, gifted to us by David Hume (1711-1776 AD), the world is conceived as a vast mosaic of particles in motion. The world is regular—a grand mechanism—but there are no hidden dependencies to be found in the world; there is just one little thing followed by another

A number of philosophical commitments support The Neo-Humean picture:

  • Scientism– in its strongest form, it is the view that allknowledge comes from science.
  • Materialism– the view that everything that exists is material, made of stud we can inspect with our senses in one way or another.
  • Atheism – Alex Rosenberg believes that scientism entails materialism and materialism entails atheism.
  • Reductionism– the view that all of reality can be reduces to and understood in terms of microphysical parts.
  • Nihilism – the view that there is no objective meaning and purpose to life and the universe.

These philosophical theses are not commitments that are delivered to us from scientific discover; rather we bring these commitments to our theorizing about the world, and these commitments, in turn, shape how we interpret the data and shape how we view the world.


CONCLUDING REMARKS:

How we perceive things is influenced by the worldview we inhabit and the stories that narrate our lives. What stories are narrating your perception of the world? Have you been disenchanted by the cosmos? Tune in to the next episode of Eudo (Two Ways Of Perceiving The Universe, Part II) where Paul will unpack how we can learn to see the universe the way God intended.


RESOURCES MENTIONED:

  • Augustine,Confessions, trans. Henry Chadwick. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
  • Beckett, Samuel. Waiting for Godot. New York, NY: Grove Press, 2011.
  • Esslin, Martin. The Theatre of the Absurd. New York, NY: Anchor Books, 1961.
  • Lewis, David, “Introduction,” in Philosophical Papers, 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.
  • Moreland, J. P. and Garrett DeWeese, “The Premature Report of Foundationalism’s Demise,” in Reclaiming the Center, eds. Millard J. Erickson, Paul Kjoss Helseth, and Justin Taylor. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004.
  • Rieff, Philip. My Life Among the Deathworks. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2006.
  • Rosenberg, Alex. The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions. New York, NY: Norton, 2011.
  • Sagan, Carl. New York, NY: Random House, 1980.
  • Pale Blue Dot. New York, NY: Random House, 1994.
  • The Varieties of Scientific Experience, ed. Ann Druyan. New York, NY: Penguin, 2006.

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