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Friday, April 15, 2011

The Saving Grace of "Saving Leonardo" by Nancy Pearcey

Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning"Science yields facts but not 'value judgments;' religion expresses values but cannot 'speak facts.'" - Albert Einstein

Most "modern" people would agree with the aforementioned quote by Albert Einstein because it singularly embodies the general filter through which we've come to view our lives and the very concept of truth.

However, in "Saving Leonardo," best-selling author and scholar Nancy Pearcey questions the validity of that filter because it incorrectly splits our everyday reality into two separate parts - facts and values.

Using the illustration of a two-story building, Pearcey states that the "facts" form the lower level foundation that supports the upper level "values;" however, the problem is that global secularism seeks to keep facts and values separate. 

Pearcey notes that under global secularism, "values" are defined as changeable, private opinions that are relative to a given situation with the most notable examples being personal preferences, tastes, styles and religious claims.

Conversely, "facts" have the honored distinction of being viewed as unimpeachable, undeniable and widely accepted views of what actually exists. The implication of the global secular worldview captured within Einstein's quote above is that "facts" are unquestionable and far superior when compared to values, while "values" are merely quaint, ever-changing opinions that are tolerated.

Pearcey challenges that widespread philosophical construct with the following assertion:

"Because all things were created by a single divine mind, all truth forms a single, coherent, mutually consistent system. Truth is unified and universal.....The only hope lies in a worldview that is rationally defensible, life affirming, and rooted in creation itself."

After establishing this premise, she goes on to explain how our bifurcated view of the world came to be, primarily driven by the Romantic movement and the Enlightenment period respectively.

The Romantic movement was driven by a strong reliance on imagination, creativity and mythology - spawning a variety of worldviews including idealism, existentialism, Marxism and pantheism. This created the "values" portion of the split.

On the other side, the Enlightenment is credited with a focus on observation, intellect, rationalization and the scientific method. It birthed worldviews such as empiricism, utilitarianism, pragmatism, materialism and Darwinism, which all comprise the "facts" side of the equation.

Pearcey masterfully distills each stream of thought down to its respective elemental base, while proposing a reunification of facts and values beneath the banner of a Christian worldview. She postulates that both facts and values are critical to living a worthwhile existence, because neither view on its own adequately addresses the challenges, beauty, triumphs, mystery and diversity of life.

The saving grace of Pearcey's Saving Leonardo is that if you view the "fact-values split" as a broken bone that has hobbled humanity, she convincingly offers Christianity as the metaphorical splint to provide the necessary healing.

So if you're looking for an accessible, expertly-crafted dissertation on the history of Western thought (and why that current fractured thinking needs to change) Pearcey has written the definitive book on the subject - literally.


  1. Great review. The book sounds very interesting!

    I like how you put "facts" in quotes. Because what is being doled out as facts/truth is very misleading. All of Darwin's theories were basically formed looking through a glass darkly; for Darwin had no idea of the intricate complexities of the cell. Microbiology has basically shown how misguided his ideas were concerning cell-complexity, and life.

    I just got through reading Stephen Hawking's the Grand Design where Hawking has taken it upon himself to dismiss God from the creation of the universe. This is the problem when men of science make statements, for the public automatically assumes these statements are scientific facts.

    Thanks again for your post. God bless you and yours...


  2. Very interesting analysis, Tor. It is that "splitting" effect that gets us in trouble in so many ways. Love this quote - it is the essence of everything: "The only hope lies in a worldview that is rationally defensible, life affirming, and rooted in creation itself." I'm not even sure it needs to be rationally defensible (or can be), but life-affirming and rooted in creation - the glory of life itself - definitely.
    Cheers, Dolly

  3. @Mark, thanks for the insight and feedback! Pearcey's book was the best I read in 2010. However, I did want to read Grand Design - in reviews I've read Hawkings embraces the idea that aliens seeded life on this earth correct? It amazes me that there's less evidence for extra-terrestrial life than God, but many within the science community readily adopt such science fiction as truth. Thanks for popping by!

  4. @Dolly, I really appreciate you taking the time to read the review and post a comment. I've read two of Pearcey's other books "Total Truth" and "Dance With Deception" - both were very good but "Saving Leonardo" is the best. Interestingly, Pearcey was an avowed agnostic - I think it's important to listen to such intellects who are honest enough to change their entire worldview. Pearcey definitely has something worthwhile to say!

  5. Tor - great review. These are such important things. We rarely think about the worldview filter that shapes how we see everything else.

    I am an admirer of Nancy Pearcey - she seems to be having a real impact on American culture. As a scientist I loved reading her book Soul of Science.