materialism

This tag is associated with 14 posts

Materialists: Where is hope? Look to the stars!

“[T]he Universe may harbor civilizations more intelligent than our own. Perhaps one day, through interstellar communication, some advanced civilization will help us resolve such age-old problems as war, famine, disease, overpopulation, misuse of natural resources, and human aging.”- John Oró, “Historical Understanding of Life’s Beginnings” (40, cited below).

Such is the hope of materialism. I’ve argued elsewhere that if all we are is matter, then there is no meaning. The pervasive response was that “we make our own meaning.” Leaving questions over the tenability of such a view aside, I have turned to a different, and interesting phenomenon: Where is there room for hope, within materialism? 

It didn’t take long to dig up some quotes. One of the classes I’m taking this semester is on the Origins of Life. A few books we were assigned for this class were from a materialist perspective. The quote above is from one of those books. It resonated deeply with me. Consider this: If all we are is matter, having arrived here by unguided, biochemical processes, living on a dying planet in a dying universe–where is our hope? One cannot turn to transcendence with such a worldview, but one can attempt to emulate it.

Such is the case found in materialistic literature. Such is the grand materialist hope:

We can look hopefully for our saviors from the stars. There must be more intelligent life out there, and they will usher in a new era, a near utopia wherein disease, death, war, and hunger are all eliminated. Our alien saviors will rush to our aide once they’ve found us on this dying rock, and we will worship them as we used to worship the mythic gods of old. 

But it is not just hope for the future which must guide us. Our realization that we are but one among many (and many who are probably smarter than us) must lead us to a new set of ethics. Oró writes of new ethical principles we must embrace: “Humility: The life of all cells descends from simple molecules… Hope: Someday we may communicate with more advanced civilizations… Universality: We come from stardust and to stardust we shall return… Peace: We should change our culture of war into a culture of peace” (Oró, 40-41 cited below). Humility, hope, peace, universality–these are all things Christians embrace also, but the materialist has redefined them. Our hope is not int the transcendent but in the here-and-now. Our hope, again, reaches for the stars.

But is this really a hope? We know the universe is dying. We know that, even were we to escape death, eventually the cosmic heat death of the universe would occur, and our ultimate doom is sealed. Should we hope that our alien saviors are also inter-dimensional travelers? Should we hope that they transcend space and time? I leave these questions open.

But the most interesting phenomenon in all of this is that the materialist has abandoned their presupposition. Rather than hoping for what is they hope for what we know not. They look to the stars, grasping at things unseen. Iris Fry, a professor at both Tel Aviv University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and author of The Emergence of Life on Earth writes honestly and lucidly of the philosophical commitments of the materialist in this sphere:

[T]he realization that many non-empirical factors are involved in determining scientific positions and in the adoption of scientific theories leads to the notion of theoretical and philosophical decision, or commitment. Research into the origin of life and the search for extraterrestrial life are a clear case in point, because here the weight of the philosophical commitment is much greater than in more conventional scientific fields. As long as no empirical evidence of life beyond Earth has been found, and as long as no scientific theory has succeeded in providing a fully convincing account of the emergence of life on Earth, the adoption of an evolutionary point of view toward the question of life’s origin and the rejection of the idea of purposeful design involve a very strong philosophical commitment. -Iris Fry (283, Cited Below)

Ultimately, I think she is quite right. There is a philosophical commitment being espoused here, not a scientific commitment. Too often, materialists forget that, but kudos to Fry for honestly admitting it while also espousing the very commitment.

Where is our hope?

The materialist answers: The stars.

Is this really rational?

Sources:

John Oró “Historical Understanding of Life’s Beginnings” in Life’s Origin ed. J. William Schopf (Berkeley, CA: University of California, 2002).

Iris Fry The Emergence of Life on Earth (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers, 2000.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Cruel Logic: “Ideas have Consequences”

No Apologies Allowed” put a post up with a link to a YouTube video called “Cruel Logic.” In it, a serial killer debates a college professor about ethics and determinism in a materialistic universe. Check out the original post and discussion here. I recommend his site because it has tons of thought-provoking imagery and links to videos.

Watch the video below: WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS DISTURBING IMAGERY.

What do you think? Are these the implications of materialism? Are we merely matter, determined in motion and emotion?

Atheism’s Universe is Meaningless and Valueless

“‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’
says the Teacher.
‘Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.'” – Ecclesiastes 1:2

My most recent post on the problem of evil granting empirical atheism generated some thoughtful discussion. Most importantly, it lead me to the following argument:

1) On materialistic [I use materialism and physicalism interchangeably, as is common in philosophy today] atheism, all we are is matter in motion.

2) There is no objective reason to value matter moving in way A over matter moving in way B

3) Therefore, on materialistic atheism, there is no value or meaning

Premise 1 seems self-evident. Materialistic atheism, by definition, says that “everything is physical, or as contemporary philosophers sometimes put it, that everything supervenes on, or is necessitated by, the physical” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). The physical world is matter.

Premise 2 also seems like it should need little defense, yet atheists continually come up with ideas to try to get around it. For example, one may argue that the subjective suffering of persons should matter. Yet I fail to see how this argument succeeds. Pain and suffering, on materialism, at most supervenes upon neurons firing in the brain (along with chemical reactions and other physical phenomenon). My question for the materialist is: What reason can be provided for favoring matter moving in way A (call it, the way neurons fire when someone is in a state of bliss) over matter moving in way B (neurons firing in the way which causes pain)?

One answer which may be forthcoming is that creatures and persons tend to try to get away from things which cause B. This argument fails to provide an answer to the question, because all it does is push the question back to a higher level. It would change to: Why should we favor physical observable phenomenon which don’t cause avoidance over those that do? Again, the avoidance of B would simply be matter moving in a different way. In order to make a judgment between them, one would have to reach beyond the material world and into the world of objective meaning and value; this is, necessarily, a world which is nonexistent on materialism. Even if one could provide an answer to this second question, say “We tend to not like B. Things we don’t like are bad”, then we would have a purely subjective reality. What of the serial killer who delights in torturing himself, causing things to B? What reason do we have for saying what he is doing is wrong, because, after all, he likes B?

Ultimately, on materialism, everything boils down to matter in motion. Making value judgments about matter in motion is meaningless.

But if everything is matter in motion, then there doesn’t seem to be any way to make value judgments. How does one value a rock over a stick? They’re both just stuff. But then, on materialism, people are just stuff too; albeit more complex. However, if you were to break us down into our ultimately realities, we are no different than the rock. We are matter organized in a different way. Why value us?

There is no objective reason to do so. Therefore, there is no objective meaning or value. Life is purposeless, meaningless, valueless. Atheistic materialism demands this bleak view of the universe. I’m not saying it’s a good reason to abandon that [un]belief. I’m merely saying that those who hold such a view must be consistent.

“Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.” -Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

[In the comments, I have suggested that on materialism, there is no such thing as a subject. The claim has proven highly contentious, so I have created a post to clarify my position: https://jwwartick.com/2011/12/05/subjects-materialism/.]

Check out my post on the Ontology of Morality: Some Problems for Humanists and their friends

SDG

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation and provide a link to the original URL. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.


Process Philosophy and Nonsensationalism

This post is part of a series on Process Philosophy. View other posts in the series here.

Process Philosophy is meant to be appealing due to its integration of science and religion. This, in some ways, means concessions on both sides. Process Philosophy sacrifices some truths of religions in order to make it more appealing to science, while also denying some of the dogmatics of materialism in order to allow for religious truth.

One way it denies materialism is through its adherence to nonsensationalism. Nonsensationalism is the view that the kind of experience which is most basic to our human existence and knowledge is not that which we know through our 5 senses. Whitehead, for example, wrote that “science conceived as resting on mere sense perception, with no other source of observation, is bankrupt” (quoted in Griffin, 54). Furhtermore, philosophy “went wrong epistemologically… in holding that all… perception had to be sensory perception” (Griffin, 55).

Process Philosophy favors a “more fundamental mode of perception” (Griffin, 60). This form of perception is, to put it simply, experience or”prehension.” Part of this experience is being able to perceive causal links around us, despite not having sensory data to confirm the causal chain (60). One example of this nonsensory perception is the perception of one’s own body. There is a kind of immediacy to the awareness of one’s hands which does not involve any of the senses. Rather, one simply knows they are there and is able to experience them nonsensationally. We get sensations from the parts of our body, but this is not what grants us awareness; that which grants us awareness is more fundamental than, for example, touch (61-63).

Another example is the awareness of one’s own past. This is a continual problem with materialistic naturalism, and Process Philosophy presses this problem home. How does one use sensation to “remember” their past? The answer is that they don’t; rather, one is aware of the past with a kind of immediacy not provided by sensation. Yes, there are sensations which accompany memories, but they do not provide sense data to justify memories epistemically (64ff).

This doctrine of nonsensationalism is perhaps one of the most friendly parts of Process Philosophy to the Christian. While Process Philosophy explicitly denies substance dualism, I think its ideas about nonsensational awareness of things provides solid evidential basis for dualism. Furthermore, this doctrine of nonsensationalism as the more fundamental aspect of reality allows for religious experience to be a very real and evidential experience, for people perceive many of these religious experiences without sensation, but with the kind of immediacy that overcomes sensation totally (Griffin, 76ff). Therefore, it seems to me that at least this aspect of Process Philosophy is worth adopting by the classical theist. Next time, we’ll examine a doctrine which is not so friendly.

Source:

Griffin, David Ray. Reenchantment Without Supernaturalism: A Process Philosophy of Religion. Cornell University Press. 2001.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation and provide a link to the original URL. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,641 other followers

Archives

Like me on Facebook: Always Have a Reason