Monday, 30 January 2012

"The Pianist" and Intelligent Design

Man is a musical composition, a wonderfully written hymn to powerful creative activity.
- St. Gregory of Nyssa (PG 44, 441 B)

Yesterday I saw "The Pianist" movie about an outstanding musician, Władysław Szpilman, struggling to survive  the atrocities of the Warsaw ghetto in 1939-44. You might wonder, how is it connected with ID?

The movie is based on a real life story. It is about the sufferings of a man who escaped from the hell of a World War II Jewish ghetto. Władek's family dies, and he hides in secret flats with the help of his friends. His life is constantly under threat but every time he is lucky to escape. Many months he roams without shelter trying to find food in abandoned and ruined houses in the city. Finally Władek gets to what once was a well off suburban area. He hides in the attick of the house that belonged to a Nazi officer. By coincidence, the officer decides to visit the ruines and sees that, surprisingly, his grand piano survived the allies' air raids. The Nazi encounters Władek, but deeply touched by his virtuosity, saves the life of the Jewish runaway. 

So, what is there in music that is able to call upon the conscience of someone who denies the name of a human under the "obligations of duty"? What is it that speaks directly to the Nazi's heart unchecked by reasoning darkened by the brutal ideology? Can we formulate this spiritual problem in scientific terms? I think that to an extent we can.

Music is deeply connected with life. ID maintains that music, complex artefacts and life are products of creativity and intelligence and because of that, they equally bear traces of intelligent agency. Appreciation of music was something that these two absolutely different men - the Nazi officer and the Jewish fugitive virtuoso - still had in common. Christian revelation witnesses to the human creative capacity being part of an innate image of God. So our creative faculty ontologically connects us with the Creative Intelligence that once called us into being.This is why I think music and art in general can work wonders.

Of course, it would be foolish to speak about measuring love, conscience or anything else that makes us human. Any scientific theory necessarily has limitations. It only scratches the surface of being, so to speak, as it cannot generate insights into spiritual reality that is beyond the laws of the material world. Nevertheless, the scientific perspective allows us in this particular case to see some important commonalities between life and art, albeit in very crude terms.

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