Volume 27

Guests on Volume 27: John Horgan, on whether or not we're coming to the end of the age of science; Keith Devlin, on the limits of logic; Robert Kanigel, on modern industrial efficiency; Kate Campbell, on music and memories; Patrick Samway, on Walker Percy: A Life; J. Budziszewski, on tolerance and the law “written on the heart”; Jeff Johnson, on composing music about Stephen Lawhead’s Arthurian legends; and Stephen Lawhead, on retelling the Arthurian legends.

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Part 1

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    John Horgan on whether or not we're coming to the end of the age of science

    The End of Science: Facing the Limits of Knowledge in the Twilight of the Scientific Age (Helix Books, 1996)

    John Horgan, author of The End of Science: The Limits of Knowledge in the Twilight of the Scientific Age, uses his own scientific background and interviews he has done with America's most prominent scientists to present an argument that science as a field of study does have limits. He examines how the increasing amount of knowledge concerning the universe leads people to believe that knowledge is without limits. Horgan also discusses a practice he calls "ironic science"; that is, the tendency of many scientists to postulate on matters which can never be proven.

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    Keith Devlin on the limits of logic

    Goodbye, Descartes: The End of Logic and the Search for a New Cosmology of the Mind (John Wiley and Sons, 1997)

    Keith Devlin, author of Goodbye Descartes: the End of Logic and the Search for a New Cosmology of the Mind, writes about the failure of logic to explain human thought and communication. Devlin argues that Cartesian science does not explain human thought because its explanation strips humans of their context of space, time, and history in a search for subconscious rules from which humans function. Devlin does not think that humans function according to any set of rules nor can scientists strip humans of their context without throwing the baby out with the bath water. This failure of science reconciles a four-hundred-year-old argument between Blaise Pascal, who argued for a superrational understanding of man, and the logical Rene Descartes.

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    Robert Kanigel on modern industrial efficiency

    The One Best Way: Frederick Winslow Turner and the Enigma of Efficiency (Viking, 1997)

    Robert Kanigel, author of The One Best Way: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency, speaks about Taylor's life and the significance of his achievements for American culture. Taylor transposed the role of efficiency in the American understanding of work; efficiency went from a merely good attribute to the highest good. Taylor did this through scientific scrutiny of task, in which he divided a task into its temporal components and strove to take time-consuming thought out of the industrial process. Taylor succeeded in increasing output, productivity, wages, and leisure time at the cost of a working environment which saw its laborer only as a body and had no place for beauty, human dignity, or love.

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    Kate Campbell on music and memories

    Songs from the Levee (Compass Records, 1995) was Kate Campbell's debute album.

    Singer and songwriter Kate Campbell says that memories from her Southern upbringing are a primary influence on the music she makes. Her art is not so much informed by nostalgia, Campbell suggests, as by an understanding of Southern history. She discusses "perspective" and "point of reference" as the primary elements shaped by a strong emphasis on memory, and laments the loss of community in our culture.

Part 2

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    Patrick Samway on Walker Percy: A Life

    Walker Percy: A Life (Farrar, Straus & Grioux, 1997)

    Father Patrick Samway discusses his biography of the Catholic novelist Walker Percy, called Walker Percy: A Life. He contrasts Percy's style of character development, which is less controlled, with that of another Southern Catholic, Flannery O'Connor, whose stories tend to be more "tightly knit." Samway says that Percy created characters with much freedom and responsibility-owing to existentialist influences such as Sartre and Camus-and allow them to develop on their own; Samway calls the writer a sort of "diagnostician" who diagnoses situations in his plots but permits them to unfold as they will. Percy usually managed to end a novel, however, on a distinctively Christian note.

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    J. Budziszewski on tolerance and the law "written on the heart"

    Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law (InterVarsity Press, 1997)

    Budziszewski, author of Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law, begins with the basic premise that there are things we "can't not know," and that these include the basics of the natural moral law. Postmodernists, he says, deny this. They vaunt tolerance as the supreme democractic virtue, interpreting it as moral "neutrality"—the suspension of judgment about what is good for human beings. However, he points out that if this were true, not even tolerance itself could be defended as good. True tolerance actually depends on judgments of good and evil, for we must make such judgments even to know what to tolerate.

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    Jeff Johnson on his recordings with flutist Brian Dunning

    For more than a decade Jeff Johnson (left) and Brian Dunning (center) have combined their musical talents to produce contemporary celtic music. All of their albums, including the most recent called Byzantium: The Book of Kells and St. Aidan's Journey, are carried on the Ark Music label. Stephen Lawhead (right) has been retelling old Irish tales for the same amount of time. His new series is called The Celtic Crusades.

    Composer Jeff Johnson, along with flutist Brian Dunning, composed music to accompany the Arthurian legends retold in the novels of Stephen Lawhead. The Celtic music, entitled The Songs of Albion, seeks to "capture the spirit of the story," according to Johnson. Johnson emphasizes the importance of having a love for the story one is attempting to tell either with words or through music. He believes in stories as preservers of a sense of community, and that modern culture's neglect of the practice of storytelling has led to a less meaningful existence.

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    Stephen Lawhead on retelling the Arthurian legends

    The fourth book of The Pendragon Cycle was published in 1995 by Avon.

    When novelist Stephen Lawhead decided to undertake the task of retelling the Arthurian legends, he researched pre-Dark Age Britain and all of its King Arthur tales. He sought to step back and take a broader look at the way Arthur's story has been told, and recover some of the themes that had been lost (especially those that were Christian). He states that his King Arthur is not symbolically messianic, but he and other characters, such as Merlin, embody characteristics of redemption which point to Christ. He also comments that Merlin was one of the toughest characters to write about, since he is almost always "on-stage" and almost completely good. Lawhead briefly describes some of the main themes of two of his novels, Pendragon and Grail, and closes with a reading of part of the tale.