Whether in science, politics, or religion, one of the qualities most lacking in modern culture is breadth of vision. This is the gift of being able to see and express the whole, not merely a part. In the fields of thought and endeavor that matter most, too many of our leading figures are caught up and blinded by the narrow view of their little area of interest. Such narrowness breeds timidity and a suffocating orthodoxy.
All too painfully, we were reminded of this with the passing of our friend David Medved, a model of broadmindedness, in Jerusalem on Wednesday. He was 83 and, last time we saw him, admirably vigorous in mind and body. Scientist, entrepreneur, and man of faith, father of radio host and Discovery Institute senior fellow Michael Medved, who is no less a dear friend, Dr. Medved was an amazing gentleman.
Accompanied by Michael and Michael’s wife Diane, David visited our Seattle offices last May to speak about his recent book, Hidden Light: Science Secrets of the Bible. A particular moment in his lecture seemed to crystallize much of what made him so special. There he was, tall and lean, standing in front of a map of the universe, displayed on the wall by a projector at the back of the room — the famous WMAP picture of the cosmic microwave background radiation. What could be a more appropriate image, symbolizing breadth of thought?
DI president Bruce Chapman was standing to one side and gestured with a pointer to a spot in the upper left hand corner, noting dryly, “Seattle is right here.” Dr. Medved smiled indulgently and carried on, mapping his own vision of the oneness of Biblical and scientific wisdom, hints of which he found scattered through the Hebrew Scriptures. You didn’t have to agree with every detail of his interpretation to appreciate the major thrust of his perspective on the world.
That perspective was, in the words of the central Jewish prayer Sh’mah, that “the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4). For David Medved, there were no separate “magisteria,” in Stephen Jay Gould’s phrase, dividing religion from science. Ultimately, both describe the same reality, even if they use different vocabularies to do so. Coordinating the one with the other, encouraging mutual intelligibility, was Dr. Medved’s spiritual and intellectual passion. The Lord is One.
That kind of vision, increasingly rare today, is just part of what made David so unusual and so valuable. More personally, he was an exceptionally warm and charming man. A hero to his four sons — Michael, Jonathan, Benjamin, and Harry — he reminded other, younger fathers of the way we should hope to be regarded by our own sons and daughters some day.
He was a most kind and generous friend to the Discovery Institute. On trips to Israel, where he lived and worked, groups of DI-affiliated visitors sought to win allies among Israeli scientists and businessmen. Our success was thanks in large part to Dr. Medved. On these trips, he was our tireless guide, councilor, and chaperone. He seemed to know absolutely everyone, by whom he was held, without exception, in high and affectionate esteem.
David was, finally, an Orthodox Jew. From his viewpoint now in the supernal world, the Garden of Eden, he would no doubt be gratified if those he left behind would, according to Jewish custom, bless God in his merit with the brief prayer Baruch Dayan Ha’Emes, said upon hearing the news of a loved one’s death: “Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, the true Judge.” May his family be comforted.