Materialism and faith

Interesting piece by Paul Campos in the site, challenging the aggressive faith of materialists that only materialists aren’t, in their beliefs, deranged.

I have said it before, and will repeat it again.  Today’s intolerance emanates largely from those who, for strange reasons of their own, loathe religion, and spend great energy heaping endless abuse on it (Richard Dawkins, who is sane only on the subject of natural selection, is a cardinal of this church).

One wonders why.  If materialism is so invincibly true, why not let its truth do the work of persuasion?  If religion is false, what harm to the believers?  They are no different from the materialist’s fathers and their father’s fathers, going back in time to the caves of Lascaux and Altamira.  Nothing defines homo sapiens sapiens more than his religion, his faith in things unseen.  Even a dog has reason enough to beg, but it will never pray.

Campos provides a fairly subtle take on materialism:  it requires, he notes, a leap of faith just as immense as what is expected of religious believers.

Consider three statements: 1. Torturing a child for one’s own sexual gratification is evil. 2. Shakespeare is a better writer than George Lucas. 3. Human beings have free will. An intellectually honest materialist must reject all these claims. At most, he can recharacterize them in much weaker forms. So, for example, he can observe that in our society sadistic pedophilia is considered evil, and that it’s this social judgment that determines the content of morality.  [. . .]

Materialism, as a philososphical doctrine, has the great advantage that it reduces the catalog of things that actually exist to those which can be investigated by science. It has the great disadvantage that it requires treating as illusions morality, art, free will, and much else that most people call “reality.” That, of course, does not make it false. It does, however, make it literally incredible to anyone who hasn’t made the leap of faith materialism requires.

Of course, most materialists live perfectly conventional lives, and even, like Dawkins, occasionally preen about their moral superiority.  Which goes to prove that scientists are no freer from human vanity and contradiction, in their thought and in their lives, than the rest of us mere mortals.


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