Marilynne Robinson is a Christian and a deep thinker (this very conjunction may shock some). She is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist (Gilead, Home) and leader in that great thrumming Midwestern engine of the American fiction scene: the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. She has taken to heart the traditional Christian insistence that we have been given minds, the faculty of reason, as God’s highest gift, and that we must thus steward them well–see this post, point #6. Now she is training her focus on the mind itself, against certain reductionistic genetic approaches (she calls these “parascientific.”) I link here a recent article in Commonweal, which is taken from her new book, Absence of Mind (which is now Amazon’s #3 “religious nonfiction” book).
A mentor sent me this same link, saying in his email “If you set out to read this, disconnect the phone, sit up straight, and lock the door.” Indeed. She traverses rocky philosophical terrain in engaging the “parascientists.” But she does it with tremendous beauty and potency. Though I have a PhD (granted it’s in one of those fuzzy-headed humanistic disciplines), I had to “blip” through parts of this, as one of Charles Schulz’s characters once said he had to with the Russian names in a Dostoevsky novel. But it was worth the extra time and thought.
A few tastes of the essay follow, but I recommend you simply disconnect the phone, etc., and then click the link above and read the whole thing for yourself:
The strangeness of reality consistently exceeds the expectations of science, and the assumptions of science, however tried and rational, are inclined to encourage false expectations. Continue reading