MARS HILL AUDIO Journal

Volume 45

Guests on Volume 45: Jeff Speck, on how suburban sprawl prevents the formation of real neighborhoods; Victor Davis Hanson, on the demise of family farms and what it means for American democracy; Allan C. Carlson, on the contributions (and weaknesses) of 20th century agrarian thinkers; Paulina Borsook, on how Silicon Valley enshrines libertarian values; John F. Kilner, on possible strategies for rejecting cloning in the courts; Robert E. Webber, on Ancient-Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World; and Christoph Wolff, on how J. S. Bach used music to pursue an understanding of God through creation.

Part 1

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    Jeff Speck on how suburban sprawl prevents the formation of real neighborhoods

    Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, & Jeff Speck, Suburban Nation: the Rise and Decline of the American Dream (North Point Press, 2000)

    Jeff Speck, co-author of Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream and a proponent of the "New Urbanism" movement in town planning, argues that sprawl can be avoided if developers and planners think about the neighborhood as a comprehensive unit of residential, commercial, and civic life, rather than creating patchworks of single-use zones tied together by a wasteful and frustrating road system. New Urbanist planning also reinforces the public importance of certain institutions, such as churches or schools, and they "take seriously the notion of human embodiment."

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    Victor Davis Hanson on the demise of family farms and what it means for American democracy

    The Land Was Everything: Letters from an American Farmer (Free Press, 2000)

    Victor Davis Hanson, a farmer in California and the author of The Land Was Everything: Letters from an American Farmer, maintains that the purpose of democracy as it was developed by the Greeks was not to design an equalizing system but rather to create a method of creating virtue among citizens. This system is inherently tied to the farmer, who viewed virtue as a concrete idea and not an abstraction, according to Hanson. Though he does not suggest that everyone should be a farmer, Hanson believes that family farms had a leavening effect on American society that promoted the development of virtue. There exists another purpose to the soil, according to Hanson, other than the growing of fruits and vegetables; the growing of citizens was an equally important idea to Greeks and early Americans.

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    Allan C. Carlson on the contributions (and weaknesses) of 20th century agrarian thinkers

    The New Agrarian Mind: The Movement toward Decentralist Thought in Twentieth-Century America (Transaction Publishers, 2000)

    Allan C. Carlson, author of The New Agrarian Mind: The Movement Towards Decentralist Thought in Twentieth Century America, is generally sympathetic to twentieth-century agrarian thought, but also finds many points of contention. Looking beyond the Southern agrarians, Carlson attempts in his book to pull together the thoughts of twentieth-century agrarian thinkers including Liberty Hyde Bailey, Carl Zimmerman, Andrew Lytle, and Wendell Berry. The complexity of agrarian thought, according to Carlson, springs from a basic discontent with the ideological choices manifested in political parties that do not speak adequately to the concerns of agrarian thinkers.

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    Paulina Borsook on how Silicon Valley enshrines libertarian values

    Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High-tech (PublicAffairs, 2000)

    Paulina Borsook, author of Cyberselfish, discusses the style of politics and community involvement in the high-tech world of Silicon Valley. Borsook reports that many residents of Silicon Valley maintain an active attitude of contempt for government, and also a basic indifference to public life (evidenced by the lack of attention given to philanthropy). Borsook connects these libertarian views to the selfishness that results from a lack of a sense of belonging somewhere.

Part 2

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    John F. Kilner on possible strategies for rejecting cloning in the courts

    The Reproduction Revolution: A Christian Appraisal of Sexuality, Reproductive Technologies, and the Family (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000)

    John Kilner, co-editor of The Reproduction Revolution, is involved in exploring a host of bioethical issues, from birth to death and beyond. Kilner is eager to understand from a Christian point of view what we should and should not do. The entrenched commitment to individual liberty and individual rights so prevalent in modern culture makes it very difficult to legally prohibit a private act that doesn't obviously harm someone, according to Kilner.

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    Robert E. Webber on Ancient-Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World

    Ancient-future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World (Baker Book House, 1999)

    Robert Webber says although he can't accept many of the claims of the champions of postmodernity, he does believe that the cultural and social forces that configure postmodernity are moving history in a new and challenging direction. Webber, professor emeritus at Wheaton College, currently Myers Professor of Ministry at Northern Seminary, and best known for his writings on worship, says that even in the midst of a pluralistic society, Christians cannot abandon the idea that their "metanarrative" is true for the whole world.

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    Christoph Wolff on how J. S. Bach used music to pursue an understanding of God through creation

    Christoph Wolff's Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician was published by W. W. Norton in 2000.

    Christoph Wolff, one of the foremost Bach scholars and author of a much-praised biography of Johann Sebastian Bach, suggests that composition for Bach was a kind of science, a pursuit of knowledge about the nature of created sound. Bach viewed art as a way of knowing and imitating nature, which made him into a kind of musical Newton, an analogy that was recognized soon after his death in 1750.