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The Devil’s party over: “Satan cast out of Heaven”  by Gustave Doré, 1866, one of his illustrations to “Paradise Lost”


In a recent BBC interview Pullman declared that he couldn’t believe in God because of the theory of evolution he had learnt at school. This kind of naive scientism ill becomes someone who has been voted the 11th most influential person in British culture. Is he aware, for example, of Fr Teilhard de Chardin, who not only made hugely significant contributions in palaeontology but set his understanding of development in the universe in an explicitly Christian setting? For him, the emergence of complexity and of consciousness alerts us to the special destiny of humans. In agreement with St Paul, he sees Christ as the origin, centre and goal of the cosmic process.

Similarly, Simon Conway Morris, the palaeobiologist, has called our attention to the phenomenon of convergence in widely different creatures and to the implications of this for the inevitability of the emergence of intelligence. Intelligence itself is a signal of transcendence and reminds humans not to regard themselves as cosmic accidents, but as stewards who will have to account for their stewardship. Robert Asher, also a palaeontologist, declares roundly that the mechanics of biology do not address the “who” or the “why” behind it. We could mention Frank Collins, the former director of the Human Genome Project, or Denis Alexander of Cambridge, or Paul Davies, who is not a conventional Christian but believes that science provides a surer path to the existence of God than religion, and many others. The point is that atheists, like Pullman, have some obligation to understand what it is they are rejecting, just as believers have a responsibility to understand atheism before engaging in apologetics in response to it.

While the Inklings invented imaginary worlds like Narnia or Middle Earth, Pullman uses the pseudo-scientific notion of parallel universes. This is a last desperate throw of the dice for those seeking to avoid the conclusion that the remarkable expansion, balance and laws of the universe, to say nothing of the right amount of materials for the emergence of life, the miracle of consciousness and of creatures able to study the universe from which they have emerged, calls for an explanation. Thus, if an infinite number of universes is posited, then the existence of this one is a necessity but an unremarkable one. That there is no evidence of such universes and, in any case, how could we know whether they existed since we are limited in our observation to this universe, seems not to deter the advocates of this view. A properly scientific view would take this universe seriously and attempt to explain its remarkable nature. If mythic worlds are to be created for the sake of the story, let us be clear that is what they are rather than confusing them with pseudo-science. 

Pullman admits that he is superstitious in his daily habits, but perhaps the most egregious example of this is his borrowing from his own fantasy regarding final accountability after death. In his BBC interview he tells us that he is looking to give a truthful and worthwhile account of his life, not to the Almighty but to the “Harpies”, after which he will be allowed to atomise back into the universe. There is here an astonishing syncretism of the biblical idea of judgment, Greek myth, Vedantic monism and sheer materialism. It is precisely from such pagan notions that the Bible frees us, with its teaching of a just God and the requirement of justice in us. In spite of the claim to biblical inspiration, there is no such Being in Pullman, but the Harpies abound.
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AnonymousAlicia Sinclair-Portland
April 11th, 2018
5:04 PM
I don`t need to bother with Pullman except to remark that he`s clearly a succesful, good writer who will have truths in what he says. His notion of the Jesus as opposed to the Christian "Christ" deserves deeper study, and has many points I`m sure. But I am reminded of Jesus mocking the blind guides and proselytes who will go a long way to make a convert, at no end of inconvenience. Pullman is without excuse by now, let Jesus judge him. Nazir Ali is a hero to many of us, and really should be targeting his Islamic spikings of popular culture-who knows. Pullman might agree with us on that? At Easter, we go to the Cross and return to the empty tomb. After that-and after we`ve got all that that means to us-we are free in Gods love, in Jesus example and our faith in Him to do as we will-as opposed to what "thou wilt".

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