Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Are there atheists on mountains in New Guinea?

I'm reading EO Wilson's autobiography, Naturalist.  He's a wonderful writer.  A decided atheist, but
then he looses this passage, from New Guinea.  It is so beautiful, I just thought I'd share it, without any commentary or argument on my part:

A day's walk farther south, the two rivers converge to form the greater Mongi, which runs on to the sea at Butala.  As  I strolled back at dusk one day at the end of one of my final excursions, I watched the clouds clear over the entire Bulum Valley below me.  I could then see unbroken forest rolling down to the river and beyond for fifteen kilometers to the lower slopes of the Rawlinson Range.  All that domain was bathed in an aquamarine haze, whose filtered light turned the valley into what seemed to be a vast ocean pool.  At the river's edge 300 meters below, a flock of sulfur-crested cockatoos circled in lazy flight over the treetops like brilliant white fish following bottom currents.  Their cries and the faint roar of the distant river were the only sounds I could hear.  My tenuous thoughts on evolution, about which I have felt such enthusiasm, were diminished in the presence of sublimity.  I could remember the command on the fourth day of Creation, 'Let the waters teem with countless living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of heaven.' (191-2)


Crude said...

Are you sure EO Wilson is an atheist? Wikipedia lists him as calling himself a 'provisional deist'.

David B Marshall said...

Hmmn. That would be welcome news. Likeable guy.

Crude said...

It apparently comes up in the very book you read, so there you go.

You realize he also crossed swords with Dawkins recently, in a high-profile way? Flat out said that Dawkins wasn't even a scientist, and thus had no real standing to be arguing with him about a topic of evolutionary biology.

David B Marshall said...

Great! Let me recommend the book to you; it really is charming. One of the best I've read in years. Wilson "gives the goods" on his colleagues, but not in a mean way -- though James Watson comes across pretty badly. I think I'll post a review in a week or two; about 2/3rds of the way in.

As for Dawkins, he doesn't have much of a serious publishing record, nor does he seem to spend much time doing science. I can see why Wilson would find his grand-standing annoying. Though he does show up in one of the photos in Naturalist.

BeingItself said...

Q. And so is it correct that you consider yourself neither atheist nor agnostic?

E.O. Wilson: That's correct. I'm not an atheist, because who am I to say there is no such thing as a supervalance? I just think that most of what we think about God is something we've invented for the benefit of humanity. I'm not agnostic, someone who believes the truth is unknowable. Who am I to say we will never know the truth? I have called myself a provisional deist. That is to say I'm willing to consider the possibility of an ultimate cause. But we haven't really come close to grasping what that might be.