Volume 7

Guests on Volume 7: Dean Kenyon, on his fight for academic freedom at San Francisco State University; Phillip Johnson, on scientists' intolerance toward theories about intelligent design; Jane Metcalfe, on technology and community; John Hodges, on sacred music by Ralph Vaughan Williams; Dominic Aquila, on the late cultural critic, Christopher Lasch; Robert Royal, on "Reinventing the American People," multiculturalism and the shaping of national identity; Ted Prescott, on the British realist painter Lucian Freud; and Drew Trotter, on Steven Spielberg's Oscar-winning Schindler's List.

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Part 1

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    Dean Kenyon on his fight for academic freedom at San Francisco State University

    Dean Kenyon co-athored a book that challenges evolutionary orthodoxy. It is called Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins (Haughton, 1993).

    In October 1992, Professor Dean Kenyon was censured by his departmental colleagues at San Francisco State University for allegedly teaching religion in his introductory biology course. Kenyon's battle to be reinstated (which he eventually won) raises questions not only about academic freedom, but also about the legitimacy of purely naturalistic evolutionary theory and about the definition of science itself. Kenyon discusses how his own research on the chemical origins of life and his examination of the fossil record caused him to question the naturalistic assumptions that allow most evolutionary scientists to ignore and reject all evidence of intelligent design in the universe. Kenyon explains that his colleagues' objections rest on a naive, positivist view of what constitutes legitimate science.

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    Phillip Johnson on scientists' intolerance toward theories about intelligent design

    Darwin on Trial (Regnery Gateway, 1991)

    Philip Johnson is a Berkeley law professor whose book, Darwin on Trial, exposes the philosophical presuppositions that undergird current scientific theories and practice. Johnson contends that most evolutionary theorists subscribe to a worldview which insists that science is the source of all legitimate knowledge and therefore that only scientific theories can accurately explain reality. Johnson argues that this line of reasoning is contradictory because scientific naturalism itself is a philosophy that both guides scientific inquiry and influences conclusions about data, rather than a scientific "fact." Johnson insists that the Dean Kenyon case reveals what is really at stake in the philosophy of science: the scientists' struggle to maintain an exclusive claim on cultural authority.

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    Jane Metcalfe on technology and community

    Wired magazine premiered in January 1993.

    Jane Metcalfe is the president and founder of Wired, a magazine designed to document and energize the "digital revolution." She explains that the fast-paced, visual world of television dominates the way people absorb information. Wired's "surreal and flashing" graphics are an attempt to bring the high-tech, visually stimulating images of television into the print medium. Metcalfe contends that technological developments are beneficial, rather than detrimental, to community. She also insists that the computer craze does not diminish the importance of local community: "The more time you spend on line, the more you need a hug."

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    John Hodges on sacred music by Ralph Vaughan Williams

    Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

    Music critic John Hodges introduces the work of English composer Ralph Vaughn Williams (1872-1958), who was considered England's foremost composer for many years. Hodges explores how Williams's study of English folk music and the harmonic language of impressionism influenced his compositions. Sancta Civitas, the oratorio featured on the tape, is based on the New Testament book of Revelation. In this piece, Williams uses rich, powerful, colorful chords that seem to shimmer with light in order to reflect the splendor of the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem.

Part 2

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    Dominic Aquila on the late cultural critic, Christopher Lasch

    Christopher Lasch's book The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations was published by Warner in 1979.

    Social critic Christopher Lasch was deeply concerned about the individual and social consequences of what he dubbed "the culture of narcissism." Professor Dominic Aquila, who studied with Lasch, explains how Lasch's concern about self-absorption informed his critique of the state of American art and music in America. Lasch argued that art lost its reference point when it became separated from work or craftsmanship. Now that the arts are funded by the government or corporations, artists are no longer artisans, and their work has become increasingly self-referential, according to Lasch. This minimalism represents the loss of an artistic vocabulary. The artist's inability to articulate anything of substance mirrors the widespread nihilism and faithlessness that troubled Lasch toward the end of his career.

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    Robert Royal on "Reinventing the American People," multiculturalism and the shaping of national identity

    Robert Royal, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, describes "The Unum Project," a program aimed to focus attention on what unifies Americans. The radical emphasis on multiculturalism in recent years has produced a national identity crisis. Royal discusses the important role churches, ethnic associations and local communities must play in reestablishing a sense of unity and the common good. These institutions also offer the best hope for saving America's crime-ridden urban centers. Royal argues that government programs and structural changes will not make a difference if people in the inner cities do not hold to basic ethical principles regarding work and personal responsibility. Local religious organizations are best equipped to help people in these crucial areas through character formation.

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    Ted Prescott on the British realist painter Lucian Freud

    Lucian Freud (1922-2011)

    Art critic Robert Hughes recently dubbed British artist Lucian Freud (Sigmund Freud's grandson) "the greatest living realist painter." What makes Freud's work so notable, sculptor Ted Prescott explains, is the startling scrutiny with which he portrays nude figures. The people in Freud's paintings are presented mercilessly—without empathy for frailty or weakness. As a result, the figures seem to be spiritually weary, as if they are locked within themselves. The fact that Freud is receiving so much attention from the art world betrays our culture's disbelief in human possibility. His scrutiny without dialogue or empathy aptly represents the historical moment.

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    Drew Trotter on Steven Spielberg's Oscar-winning Schindler's List

    Steven Speilburg's motion picture Schindler's List was released in 1993.

    Film critic Drew Trotter reviews Steven Speilberg's Schindler's List. In this film, the viewer encounters none of the technological display that dominated most of Spielberg's filmmaking. Instead, the film is replete with images that portray the senseless sufferings of the Jews in Nazi Germany. The script, cinematography, and score all contribute to the film's powerful narrative portrayal of the Holocaust. Trotter warns viewers not to confuse the emotional response this movie may evoke with the real suffering the Holocaust victims experienced. While movies may teach us about history, expose our prejudices, and even motivate us to action, they can never really tell the whole truth.