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August 2006
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Audition - Program 2 (30 Aug 2006)
This edition of Audition includes excerpts from five MARS HILL AUDIO interviews:

--- Russell Hittinger, on ways in which modern democracies exclude public discussion about the view of human nature and human personhood on which democracy is founded

--- Michael Aeschliman, on how C. S. Lewis opposed both subjectivism and scientism in arguing for the nature of the rationality of Creation

--- Sir John Polkinghorne, on how science and theology are both best pursued "from the bottom up," taking the reality of Creation and our experience of it seriously

--- Richard Gelwick and Thomas Torrance, on how Michael Polanyi's insights into the nature of scientific discovery provide a rich resource for theology

--- Vigen Guroian, reading from his book, Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening

Each of these interviews is part of much longer MARS HILL AUDIO programs which are now available as MP3 downloads.

Thanks for listening!

Direct download: MHA_Audition_002.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:04pm EDT

Sir John Polkinghorne on science and theology In his first book, The Way the World Is; The Christian Perspective of a Scientist, physicist John Polkinghorne makes the following observation: "If it is true, as I think it is, that intelligibility is the ground on which fundamental science ultimately makes its claim to be dealing with the way the world is, then it gives science a strong comradeship with theology, which is engaged in the similar, if more difficult, search for an understanding of God's ways with men." The Way the World Is was published in 1983, not long after John Polkinghorne was ordained as an Anglican priest.

Polkinghorne's first career was in science; he completed doctoral studies in theoretical physics at Cambridge in 1955. He went on to become a professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge and was involved in research that led to the discovery of subatomic particles, most notably the quark. He was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974, resigned from his position at Cambridge in 1979 to pursue theological study and eventually ordination. He served as a curate in a working-class parish at Bristol in Kent for several years, during which time he also wrote the first of many books that bring together his twin engagements with theology and with science.

In his 2004 Science and the Trinity: The Christian Encounter with Reality (Yale University Press), Polkinghorne was still reflecting on the significance of the intelligibility of the Universe. In a chapter that sketches an outline for a theology of nature, Polkinghorne writes: "Our scientific ability to explore the rational beauty of the universe is seen to be part of the Fathers gift of the imago Dei to humankind, and the beautiful rational order of the universe is the imprint of the divine Logos, 'without whom was not anything made that was made.' Whether acknowledged or not, it is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, who is at work in the truth-seeking community of scientists. That community's repeated experiences of wonder at the disclosed order of the universe are, in fact, tacit acts of the worship of its Creator."

I had the great good pleasure of talking with Sir John Polkinghorne about this book's principal arguments, a conversation which has just been released by MARS HILL AUDIO in a downloadable MP3 edition. "Science and Faith from the Bottom Up" is one of twenty or so MARS HILL AUDIO Conversations that will appear in download form in the next few months, along with our other series of Anthologies, Reports, and Audiobooks. Listeners to Audition will be informed as these are made available, or you may browse our online catalog for materials in a variety of audio formats.

Ken Myers

Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 10:36pm EDT

The Ultimate Victory Garden On a bright morning in the summer of 1999, I drove to Reistertown, Maryland, near Baltimore, to spend some time in Vigen Guroian's garden. I had read about this well-tended piece of ground in Guroian's book, Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening. The book is a delightful series of reflections which find in the disciplines of tending a garden rich analogies with the experience of grace. I received an intimate, personal tour of this place from Guroian, who, when he's not gardening, teaches theology and ethics at Loyola College in Baltimore. I took a digital tape recorder with me, and shared Guroian's comments with subscribers to the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal.

Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the book:

"We ought not to draw a line that neatly marks off nature from humankind. This is a modern heresy that we have inherited from the Enlightenment. Contrary to environmentalists' accusations of anthropocentrism, Christians believe that human beings are especially responsible for tending the creation. This is because God has endowed human beings alone among God's creatures with the rational and imaginative capacities to envision the good of everything and to see that that good is respected. This is no less a responsibility than the duty for care for our own bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. God has given human beings this responsibility as an emblem of his own great love for creation."

After my visit to Guroian's prolepsis of Paradise, I thought that Inheriting Paradise would work well as an audiobook. So I persuaded Vigen to go into a studio and record it. Until this week, that recording was available only on cassette tapes. But it's one of the first items we've made available for sale in downloadable MP3 format. It's a timely transition, since Vigen is a guest on Volume 80 of the Journal, talking about his second book on gardening, The Fragrance of God. (An extract from that interview will appear on next week's issue of Audition.)

If you'd like information about purchasing the MP3 edition of Vigen Guroian reading Inheriting Paradise ($8.00), look here. If you would rather order by phone, give us a call at 1.800.31.6407 during buinsess hours (M-F, 9-5 DST) to order this wonderful and thoughtful audiobook.

Ken Myers

Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 9:35pm EDT

Michael Polanyi on MP3 Twenty years ago, writing in The Wilson Quarterly, the literary critic Cleanth Brooks noted that: "A world reduced to hard facts would thereby become a dehumanized world, a world in which few of us would want to live. We are intensely interested in how our fellow human beings behave -- in their actions, to be sure, but also in the feelings, motives, purposes that lead them into these actions." Most of us don't believe in a world reduced to hard facts, but for some time, Western societies have found it virtually impossible to order public life around anything other than hard facts.

The Canadian philosopher George Parkin Grant, in an essay written in the 1960s, commented on the widely held assumption in modern societies that the only knowledge that is properly considered objective and public is scientific knowledge, that is, knowledge of hard facts. Grant posed three questions that flowed from this assumption: "(a) whether there is any knowledge other than that reached by quantifying and experimental methods, (b) whether, as such methods cannot provide knowledge of the proper purposes of human life, the very idea of there being better and worse purposes has any sense to it, (c) whether, indeed, purpose is not merely what we will in power from the midst of chaos. The effect of these questionings on the humanities could not but be enormous." The work of Michael Polanyi is a valuable resource in combatting the assumptions about the unique worth of scientific knowledge. Polanyi, who lived from 1891 to 1976, was first a scientist (an accomplished physical chemist) who turned to philosophy later in his life in order to address some of the social crises prompted by the misleading ideals of objectivity derived from science.

In 1999, MARS HILL AUDIO produced a two-and-one-half-hour long audio documentary about Polanyi's life and work, called Tacit Knowing, Truthful Knowing: The Life and Thought of Michael Polanyi. For years, it was available only on audiocassette, and more recently, on MP3 CD. This MARS HILL AUDIO Report is one of a number of products which have just been released for distribution as downloadable audio (information about that Report is on this page). The download (which costs $9.00) is formatted to facilitate easy transfer to conventional audio CDs.

We'll feature an excerpt from that Report on our August Audition, which will be posted next week.

Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 5:48pm EDT

I can remember the first time I saw an audiocassette. They were invented by Philips in 1963, and trademarked in the U. S. the next year as Compact Cassettes. Initially used principally for low-fidelity dictation recorders, by the late 1960s, 3M and BASF developed higher quality tape stock which (combined with improvements in recording electronics) permitted cassettes to be attractive for music recordings, thereby guaranteeing the doom of the 8-track tape.

My first encounter with a cassette was through the father of a high school friend who had done some professional recording work. He showed us a Compact Cassette while driving us to school (I can still remember him mentioning the fact that they were developed by Philips), and then told us that this little assembly of plastic had a big future (shades of The Graduate!). This was at least a decade before Sony invented the Walkman, by means of which this piece of plastic produced a minor cultural revolution, inaugurating a new way of relating to music (and to the people around the listener).

When MARS HILL AUDIO first began in 1992, our principal product was distributed exclusively on cassettes (and thus called the MARS HILL Tapes) since few cars had CD players and CD duplication was quite a bit more expensive than it is now. To speak then of "burning some CDs" may have conjured up images of angry fundamentalists rendering mute some of the devil's troubadours. But around the turn of the millennium, when we were certain there were enough listeners interested in CDs, we eventually began offering the Tapes on CDs, as the newly christened MARS HILL AUDIO Journal.

We're now commencing another big transition, which will no doubt be much more momentous than our change six years ago. Beginning with volume 81 of the Journal, listeners have the option of subscribing to a downloadable MP3 edition. We'll continue offering cassettes, as long as we can find suppliers with tapes of sufficient quality (which is getting a lot harder).

I have to confess that the technophiliac in me (I owned one of the first iPods) is delighted, but the more sober cultural critic, suspicious of gnosticizing tendencies, is more ambivalent. I think there is an advantage to having around us objects, like books, tapes, and CDs, which retain knowledge and are not re-programmable. We need the presence of substantial and fixed things in our lives, to testify against the suspicion of the unbearable lightness of being. That's why I still like hymnbooks. Their weight and texture bears existential witness to the Church's existence in space and time in ways a projected image does not.

So we're providing MP3 subscribers with instructions on how to burn CDs (the creative kind of burning), and with templates for labels and jewel case liners. We'd like these more accessible products not to be regarded as eminently disposable. Besides, we realize that most people are more likely to have CD players than MP3 hardware available while they drive.

One of the greatest advantages for us in this new format is the ability to produce programs that may be of interest to a smaller audience. Right now, given the economies of scale, it doesn't make sense for us to offer Conversations or Anthologies that aren't of potential interest to most of our subscribers. But because we aren't paying a printer or media duplicator for set-up costs and a minimum run, we can make available interviews without the necessity to liquidate a large inventory of stuff. When I was starting MARS HILL AUDIO, I toyed (briefly) with calling the company HAND CRAFTED AUDIO, and this new technology makes certain ideals of craftsmanship available to us for the first time.

Finally, this technology is a great boon for overseas subscribers and would-be subscribers (not to mention the overland subscribers in Canada, eh?). By eliminating extraordinary shipping costs, customs forms, and (in some instances) repressive postal representatives, MARS HILL AUDIO can reach wider to extend the sort of conversation about Christian faithfulness in contemporary culture that will remain our deepest commitment.

If you're new to with the work of MARS HILL AUDIO, find out more about us at

-- Ken Myers
    Producer & Host

Category:MHA info -- posted at: 11:45pm EDT