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  Science & the Myth of Progress—the quantification of nature Back to the List of Slideshows
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
slide 15 of 16

In his essay "The Act of Creation: Bridging Transcendence and Immanence," William Dembski argues that creativity is a gift from a transcendent source, and gives plenty of examples to show the imprecise nature of neurophysiology’s and neuropsychology’s understanding of creativity:
…The act of creating poetry is a divine gift, one that derives from an otherworldly source and is not ultimately reducible to this world. This conception of human creativity as a divine gift pervaded the ancient world, and was also evident among the Hebrews.

The idea that creative activity is a divine gift has largely been lost these days. To ask a cognitive scientist, for instance, what made Mozart a creative genius is unlikely to issue in an appeal to God. If the cognitive scientist embraces neuropsychology, he may suggest that Mozart was blessed with a particularly fortunate collocation of neurons. If he prefers an information processing model of mentality, he may attribute Mozart’s genius to some particularly effective computational modules. If he is taken with Skinner’s behaviorism, he may attribute Mozart’s genius to some particularly effective reinforcement schedules (perhaps imposed early in his life by his father Leopold). And no doubt, in all of these explanations the cognitive scientist will invoke Mozart’s natural genetic endowment. In place of a divine afflatus, the modern cognitive scientist explains human creativity purely in terms of natural processes.

Who’s right, the ancients or the moderns? My own view is that the ancients got it right. An act of creation is always a divine gift and cannot be reduced to purely naturalistic categories.
Dembski also shows how the use of language by neuroscientists can obscure the fact that their explanations and reasoning are often woefully lacking. He demonstrates that brain science can never yield the real key to creativity and that we need to look to the Divine to truly understand creativity.
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