REINVENTING THE SACRED
Denis Noble several years ago had a review ("For a Redefinition of God") of Stuart A. Kauffman's book REINVENTING THE SACRED: A NEW VIEW OF SCIENCE, REASON, AND RELIGION, in the 6-20-2008 issue of SCIENCE.
Well, if God is going to get a new definition let's see what it is. Those of us who are skeptical as to God's “is-ness” do not want to be doubting the “is-ness” of what isn't the “is-ness” we think it is but some other “is-ness” that is entirely different. Maybe we can even learn about God's relation to Marxism.
Kauffman, a theoretical biologist (there is an interesting Wikipedia article about him), argues that biology cannot be reduced to physics. This is anti-reductionist and Marxists could agree that there is a qualitative leap involved in the dialectics of emergent life. In biological evolution he says "ceaseless novelty" arises and "ceaseless creativity" takes place in nature. Is this a rehash of Henri Bergson's (1859-1941) creative evolution?
Because of this ceaseless creativity Kauffman wants to recreate or reinvent the concept of the "sacred." Noble doesn't say why. This is what Kauffman says, "Seeking a new vision of the real world and our place in it has been a central aim of this book-- to find common ground between science and religion so that we might collectively reinvent the sacred."
This will be a hopeless task since the new definition of God will be rejected by Christians, Muslims, and Jews, and most other people as well. No matter, as Noble quotes him as saying "we must use the God word, for my hope is to honorably steal its aura to authorize the sacredness of the creativity in nature."
Why must we use the "God" word this way? Why can't we use the "God" word this way? "There is no God." That is using the word and without "stealing" its "aura. "For Kauffman the "creativity of nature" = "God" or as Spinoza said "Nature" = "God".
How about this? History and the development of Marxism cannot be reduced to biology. Marxists are finding out, to their sorrow, the ceaseless novelty and creativity of history and Marxism. This makes Marxism, historical materialism, sacred due to its ceaseless creativity. I want to use the word "God", maybe even I must, so the "creativity of Marxism" = "God" and I will found the First Church of Marxism.
As for Kauffman, Noble asks, "So, could his concept of God as nature's ceaseless creativity be convincing?" You can pray to it (just don't expect any answer). You can love it if you want to but it doesn't concern itself about you so don't wait up for any calls, and don't overlook that lump. "God," Noble says, "is not even given the power that the Deists recognize." And that's not much compared to what traditional religious people expect. Maybe a few Unitarians here and there, and some Buddhists, will buy into this idea.
Noble concludes, "Bringing science and religion together globally in the way that Kauffman wishes is not going to be easy [do you think?] -- as other ecumenical movements have repeatedly found [including my First Church of Marxism]-- but it is necessary." Again with the "necessary." If something is necessary it will come about. I'm placing my money on the First Church of Marxism.
Thomas Riggins is a retired philosophy teacher (NYU, The New School of Social Research, among others) who received a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center (1983). He has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1960s when he was chairman of the Young People's Socialist League at Florida State University and also worked for CORE in voter registration in north Florida (Leon County). He has written for many online publications such as People's World and Political Affairs where he was an associate editor. He also served on the board of the Bertrand Russell Society and was president of the Corliss Lamont chapter in New York City of the American Humanist Association.