A Meaningful World

How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature

Nearly 30 years ago physicist Steven Weinberg wrote that “[t]he more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.” But is our universe really just a meaningless accident? A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature, co-authored by Discovery Institute senior fellows Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt, makes the philosophical argument that the more we learn about our universe, the more it seems laden with meaning.

Wiker and Witt’s examples of design and beauty in nature are striking and varied, pointing to examples from many familiar subjects. Using a famous analogy about generating text from Shakespeare with a computer, they discuss the complexity of life and the impotent arguments Darwinists have put forward to explain it. They note that even more difficult than evolving Shakespeare’s writing would be evolving the Bard himself. Artful genius, they contend, would be expected only in a meaningful universe. Having covered English, they turn to mathematics, where they find elegant order. It is here that Wiker and Witt find Weinberg’s belief that the universe is “pointless” comes under heavy attack:

“The deep-down intelligibility of nature, of the cosmos, is reasserting itself ever more strongly and insistently, and scientists are the ones most filled with wonder (wonder mixed with a kind of gratitude that borders on religious awe) at the continual unveiling of its beauties. Mathematicians are ending up as mystics. Something has gone dreadfully right” (pg. 237).

Having discovered meaning in reading and ‘rithmetic, Wiker and Witt turn to more advanced subjects. An unexpected level of order and beauty is found in the organization of chemistry’s periodic table. The table itself, they argue, was crafted out of our love for beauty after we discovered intelligible order of the chemical elements. This order allowed chemists to geometrically organize the elements and even predict the properties of some elements before they were first physically detected. The intelligibility of chemistry confirms their suspicion that “beauty in nature is both a lure and a guide to truth” (pg. 117).

Finally, they turn to the very object which made Weinberg proclaim everything to be meaning-less: the universe. By reviewing recent scientific discoveries from physics and cosmology, Wiker and Witt come to the opposite conclusion: the universe was not only intelligently designed to house life, but also designed for discovery by its inhabitants. After reviewing the machine-like, language-based complexity of the cell, their case for beauty, design, and meaning in nature is well-established: the universe is intelligibly designed, and it communicates the message that it was intended for scientific discovery.

Darwinists have responded to A Meaningful World by simply charging that it is “silly” and by falsely alleging that one of the authors questions atomism. (This is a bizarre charge given that this book devotes two chapters to elucidating the beauty of the organization of atoms and the chemical elements.) Such weak and fallacious responses should tell you that this book contains arguments worth reading.

If you want an introductory overview of the many scientific arguments for design in nature and an interpretation of the philosophical implications, this book presents both with elegance and style. A Meaningful World is the perfect antidote to those who have swallowed Weinberg’s arguments for a meaningless universe.