Monday, December 18, 2006

CopyCats

Look around you. Everything you see: Space Shuttles, computers, DVDs, cell phones, automobiles, skyscrapers ... the physical materials needed to make those things has always been laying around in the very fabric of the very earth beneath our feet …
  • Noah could have built an aircraft carrier.
  • Joshua could have used his cell phone to let the boys in Jericho know their time was up.
  • Paul could have emailed his letters to the churches at Ephesus and Corinth.
  • Shakespeare could have marketed his work as a reality TV show.
  • Christopher Columbus could have taken the red-eye from Rome to New York.

... the potential for each of these people to have done each of these things has always existed – in someone’s untapped imagination. None of those things was made manifest until it first popped into the mind of someone just like you ... as a thought.

Most of us never consider the profound and powerful nature of our thoughts. Thoughts are the fountainhead of human creativity. Once you do consider it however, the concept should not be terribly controversial. It is not even very profound – unless you subscribe to the naturalistic paradigm. In that case you have to explain how non-physical things can give rise to physical manifestations. It is naturalism’s greatest challenge.

Human creativity is grounded in the thought process – in the imagination of each and every one of us. But there is no physical explanation for the existence of this process. Inanimate electrons pinging around in the synapses of our gray matter offer us no physical explanation for the ethereal existence of abstract ideas, let alone how it is that those ideas can lead us to construct physical creations. Though naturalism claims that our thoughts somehow “emerge” from the actions of electrons, the claim is inconsistent with the parallel claim that non-physical entities don’t even exist. If hardcore Darwinian evolution is true, it is relegated to act on random variations in physical properties. Such a process offers no credible justification for the “emergence” of non-physical imaginings about physical entities that do not even exist in the “real” world!

So where would such a thing as “creativity” come from? In her new book, The Creating Brain: The Neuroscience of Genius, neuroscientist Nancy Andreasen describes the source of creative genius as:

the process that starts with a person – an artist, musician, inventor or even someone who's trying to figure out a better way of doing a task at work or at home ... the process can go by in a flash or it can take years.

Agreed. But defining creativity as a “process” does nothing to identify the source or trigger mechanism that serves as the impetus for the process. What would prompt an irrational, undirected batch of neurons in my brain to suddenly want to find a “better way” of doing something?

I don’t know Andreasen’s philosophical point of view (I haven’t read her book) so I have no intention of disparaging her well-established expertise. I simply read her interview and found it to be a good example of the nearly universal mindset that prevails in our society – a mindset that assumes everything can, and must, be reduced to a scientific explanation.

Maybe creativity is swimming around in your gene pool? Andreasen notes that Johann Sebastian Bach was only the most famous member of a family of more than 20 other eminent musicians. Fascinating. But, in the next paragraph, Andreasen admits that:

…creativity is not limited to the masterpiece work of art but can be found in everyday tasks such as cooking or gardening

In other words, every one of us shares some degree of creativity. It is a common human trait. Not everyone is a creative master but every one of us creates. And, therefore, every human being possesses the mind-blowing, naturalistically-inexplicable, easily-taken-for-granted, potential to imagine things which don’t yet exist in the material world and find a way to bring them to manifestation.

Creativity is a reflection of the Creator – a small but not insignificant trait He has allowed us to share. He creates a universe. We create a tossed salad. He creates real things out of nothingness. We make copycat representations and call it talent (even genius!). In our own pipsqueak way, our creativity is one aspect of our being made in the image of God (imago dei). We should honor that capacity within us, hone it, and recognize it for what it is to every one of us – an unimaginably generous gift.

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