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Book Review: A Meaningful World

                  The authors of A Meaningful World are a powerful tag team, both bringing significant experience into their book. Dr. Benjamin Wiker has three degrees: a BA in political philosophy, an MA in Religion, and a PhD in Theological Ethics. He has taught a vast collection of university courses including philosophy, theology, history, mathematics, and most relevant to this book, the history and philosophy of science. He is currently a senior fellow at the Veritas Center for Ethics and Public Life, as well as director of Human Life Studies. He is the author of twelve books.[1]

                  Dr. Jonathan Witt is a senior contributor and managing editor at The Stream and a senior fellow with the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He is a established author, both in academic journals and scripts for documentaries. He was the lead writer for the award winning film Poverty Inc.[2] Dr. Witt’s experience and writing skills are brilliantly melded with the experience and all around knowledge of Dr. Wiker to produce an amazing book. Their incentive is to defeat this poison of purposelessness that has welled up in our culture.

                  A Meaningful World is a targeted attempt to prove that nature is overflowing with value and meaning. All too often, reductionism and materialism steal the depth of richness originally understood to exist. In an attempt to combat the desire for immediate, straightforward answers stemming from a reductionist mentality, the authors take their time and lay out each and every proof before hitting home with the punch line. Instead rushing through their proofs, they make sure the beauty and purpose shine through in each situation. This is clearly one of the books strengths, though it is sure to annoy those who desire instant gratification.

                  Wiker and Witt begin their adventure with the basic outline of what it means to have meaning and how our culture has wandered away from finding value or purpose in the things around us. Our culture has become so calloused to the meaning in things that even the brilliance of Shakespeare is undermined and taken for granted.  Even Richard Dawkins, with all his education and knowledge, takes a quote from Hamlet and fails to comprehend that its meaning far surpasses its immediate words, but instead is an integral part of the entire play.

                  After playing with Shakespearian brilliance, Wiker and Witt turn to the meaningful nature of mathematics. A quote from Einstein encapsulates the chapter incredibly well: “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.”[3] Mathematics is an immaterial concept that humans can use to explain or describe mechanisms and processes or even probabilities in nature. Of all things, mathematical equations are some of the best descriptions for understanding the universe beyond all else. Why should such an immaterial concept be able to explain things so well? Why do we find pleasure in the harmony and orderly nature of math? It is because it shows meaning. A purposeless conglomeration of matter and energy need not be comprehensible like we see it, but we do see it in incredibly organized ways.

                  Once the reader finishes reading about the wonderful simplicity in geometry, Wiker and Witt turn to chemistry for one of the most underrated, yet most incredible descriptions of order and purpose in the world: the periodic table of elements. Students and adults alike may see it and glaze over it all the time, but it contains some of the most orderly collection of data about the physical world that has ever been discovered. Brilliant minds in history gained understanding of the atomic nature of matter, and men like Mendeleev took that and found the reoccurring patterns of atomic mass and atomic behavior. He understood this so much that he could predict the mass and nature of an undiscovered element! Why would the universe have such meaning and order without a purposeful existence?

                  A Meaningful Worldmoves on into the field of cosmology. In cosmology, they weigh similar arguments as Gonzales and Richards in their book Privileged Planet, where they conclude that the factors that make a planet habitable also make it perfect for discovery. From the perfect size and alignment of our moon to help us discover the composition of the sun via perfect solar eclipses, or the healthy positioning of the solar system in the galactic habitable zone, or even the clear atmosphere that allows for the perfect vantage point for discovery, the cosmos are overflowing with hints that we are  put here to be able to see the rest of the universe. Yet again, we see intention and order where so many claim there is only chaos and chance.

                  The authors wrap up by bringing their book home to us: life based upon cells. Reductionism has been attacking the incredible complexity and purpose in living things. DNA, Proteins, RNA, and life itself is threatened with being downgraded to being defined by its abiotic parts and chemical reactions instead of being shown to have incredible complexity and purpose all the way through.

                  I highly recommend this book to any who are tired of the nihilistic outcome of modern scientific reductionism. The writing is easy enough for a high school student to understand, yet rich enough for a literary expert to find artistic. We need more people to realize how the universe is overflowing with meaning and purpose. There is only so much that mankind can take of this mentality of worthlessness before we begin to treat, not only ourselves, but also others as being of little to no value. Dr. Wiker and Dr. Witt have turned on a bright light in the midst of such dreary darkness. This book, like life itself, is meaningful.



[3] Albert Einstein, quoted by Wiker and Witt, A Meaningful World, page 83


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