Chapter 1

 

 

           PHILOSOPHICAL MATERIALISM SHOULD BE ON ITS

                                        DEATH BED

 

 

Philosophical materialism, the foundation of Western academia, is showing ever-widening cracks.

 

 

              Materialistic evolutionists believe that life began and emerged on earth as a result of unguided purposeless processes.  It makes little difference whether we call them materialists or metaphysical naturalists.  To the materialist, only matter (with its governing laws) is real.  In other words, to the believer in philosophical materialism, reality cannot exist beyond physical objects in a space-time universe governed by the laws of science.  He allows no room for intelligent purpose, guidance, design, or final cause.  To a metaphysical naturalist, observable events are explainable only by natural causes that are, in principle, discernable using the scientific method –i.e. scientifically testable (or falsifiable).  This view has also been called “scientism”.  These philosophical positions are all similar, and all atheistic.  No supernatural agency is allowed.

              As the basic philosophical foundation for secular education and research in Western academia, philosophical materialism has reigned supreme for about 150 years.  If any academician working in a secular educational institution were to challenge this foundation, his challenge would be deemed unacceptable --a forbidden taboo --by most who hold the reigns of power in Western secular education at all levels.

              But philosophical materialism is now showing ever-widening cracks in its here-to-for monolithic foundation.  And there are good reasons why it should no longer reign supreme.  A little over a decade ago, it was discovered that distant galaxies are accelerating away from each other (and from our own Milky Way galaxy).  The only explanation for this is that there must exist something called “dark energy”.  “Dark Energy” has been calculated to be 72% of all the mass-energy in our universe –and yet all we know about it is that “it’s there”.  Astrophysicists also tell us that, in order for starlight to bend the way it does (according. to general relativity theory), there must exist something called “dark matter”.  All we know about “dark matter” is that it makes up 23% of the mass-energy of the universe, and that it must “be there”.

              The inescapable conclusion is that, so far, all we know about 95% of our physical universe is that it must exist.  What about the remaining  5%?  Oh, that’s the sum total of everything we can actually observe to exist: more than 100 billion galaxies, each with more that 100 billion stars.  And presumably, most of these 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars are surrounded by planets, asteroids, dust and gas.

              In space, we can detect “background  radiation” left over from the “big bang”.  It’s sources have been mapped,  (It’s called a “W map”.) Those sources radiate in the microwave region at a temperature only 3 degrees above absolute zero.  Knowing the rate of cooling of these cosmic sources, it has been calculated that the big bang  occurred 13.7 billion years ago.  But, using the best telescopes on earth (and now in space), astronomers have been able to observe galaxies  only a little more than 13 billion light-years away.  The conclusion is that we know almost nothing about more than 95% of our universe.

              This means that philosophical materialists know almost nothing about a rather large percentage of our universe, except that “it exists”.  At the present time, all they can do is speculate.  To assume that no reality exists beyond that which scientists can describe, when scientists have described less than 5% of what’s there, is very difficult to swallow.

In 1967 I obtained a tenure-track faculty position at California State University, Long Beach.  Let’s suppose that at that time, I went around saying that scientists only observe or investigate  5% of their universe.  The rest of it --95%-- is a complete mystery.  To astronomers it is “dark”, --and probably, as long as I live, scientists will be unable to discover anything about it.  I would have been ridiculed  by most of my faculty colleagues.  

Of course, there’s an important difference between what scientists may, in the future be able to observe, and what they, in principle, will never be able to observe.  But, nonetheless, philosophical materialism is a faith position –a faith position that has become, during the past two centuries, the bedrock of Western academia.

 

The scientific method has limits.

 

Materialistic scientists choose to limit their belief system to what is

knowable using the scientific method.  An ostrich with his head in the sand has willfully chosen to be blind to what he cannot see or experience.  Philosophical materialists do little better.  Philosophical materialists believe that what they cannot know, using the scientific method, doesn’t exist.

How does the scientific method actually work?  Scientists often ponder a question or problem associated with an incomplete scientific explanation.  They plan new experiments or observations relevant to the question they’ve been pondering.  If their empirical results support an existing  theory, then more confidence is placed in it.  In other words the theory has not been weakened or falsified .  But if the existing theory is weakened by negative results, then it should be changed or replaced.  Further experiments or observations must then be planned in order to further test the theory. The results of science are always tentative.  The scientific method never ends with absolute truth.

 

Belief in philosophical materialism requires belief in virtually infinitesimal probabilities.

             

To believe  philosophical materialism is valid is to believe  in almost infinitesimal probabilities.  Let’s start with the physical constants associated with the strengths of the gravitational force, the electromagnetic force and the strong and weak forces that hold an atom together.  Going on to consider the masses of elementary particles, we run into a situation where the values of those physical constants cannot vary beyond super-tight tolerances in order for matter to exist at all.

Then let’s consider the origin of the first living organism on earth.  It must have had the ability to obtain, from its environment, at least the energy to reproduce itself using no other form of life.  How complex must this first living thing have been?  Those who know most about single celled organisms claim that over 250 different types of specific protein molecules must have been necessary.  Could the first living organism  have come to exist by “blind chance” ?  The probability is close to infinitesimal.  Here’s why.

Let’s assume that a very long time ago, there existed a pool on earth containing a concentrated mixture of 20 different kinds of L-type amino acids.   Assuming random collisions at a realistic rate, amino acids could have joined together to form peptide molecules (simple proteins).  It has been calculated that if these random collisions happened over a period of one billion years, then there’s a reasonable probability that a polypeptide with a specific sequence of 50 amino acids would have formed.(ref?)  But we would need each protein to be about eight times longer in order to function in that first living cell.  And we would need at least 250 protein molecules each with a specific structure.  That means that after a billion years we would only be about 1/2000th of the way toward the existence of the first living cell on earth.  Then consider the DNA sequence (with 500,000 nucleotide base pairs) required to make the second living cell (by cell division).  Now if we now consider the origin of the anything like a DNA code, the probability again gets vanishingly close to infinitesimal.

Compared to the complexity of complex organic molecules, the first living cellular organism (that could reproduce itself and obtain the chemical energy to do so), must have been exceedingly  complex.  But then to say that it evolved by chance is to beg the question.  The reason is that when the word “evolution” is used, the reader (especially a K-12 student reader) has no way of knowing whether the writer intended a definition that would allow the process to be providentially guided.  Of course, if the writer was a philosophical materialist, then his worldview would never allow a guided process anyway.

In the Spring of 2010, a Long Beach, Calif. high school student asked her biology teacher a question about the origin  of humans.  Her teacher responded by saying that humans (just as all other species of life) evolved by accident.  (This answer must have carried with it the assumption that natural selection can also involve chance events.)   Obviously that teacher responded in such a fashion because of her materialistic philosophical bias.  In the mind of that instructor, all forms of life on earth could only have appeared because of evolutionary processes involving chance events, no matter how improbable any of those events might have been.  She was constrained by her worldview to say no more.  With this mindset, chance events, even if they involve only vanishingly small (nearly infinitesimal) probabilities must still have occurred, because the living forms that came into existence as a result do exist.

However, any student or teacher, who holds a theistic worldview, would believe  that events involved in the origin and appearance of life were most likely guided by a supreme being .  This would make the appearance of the first living  organism  on earth just as miraculous  as the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.

Philosophical materialists say that homo Sapiens (or mankind. as we know him) evolved by unguided processes: natural selection, blind chance,  etc.  If that is the case, then how did consciousness evolve?   Some scientists (known as physicalists or functionalists) say that consciousness is an illusion because only physical activity of purely physical components can function in the brain.  Not only does that make us “robot-like”, but the human brain (the most complex functioning structure we know about in the universe)  must then have been the result of unguided, self-organizing  processes.  Again, the materialistic evolutionary processes of blind chance, natural selection, etc. must have done it all!  In summary, then, since philosophical materialists limit their belief system only to what science can know, they are stuck with a series of virtually infinitesimal  probabilities for events that have occurred in the 5% of the universe that scientists know about! 

              Given the above, where should a gambler put his money?  --on atheistic philosophical materialism, with its infinitesimal probabilities?   --on agnosticism (and be grouped with those who say they don’t know enough to make up their minds)?  Or should he bet on the likelihood that an intelligent designer somehow was behind it all?   Galileo and Newton, those who deserve the credit for ushering in the modern age of science, were Christians who believed in the intelligent design of the universe.

 

The enterprise of science requires presuppositions that philosophical materialism cannot validate.

 

Scientific conclusions depend entirely upon the certainty of presuppositions upon which the scientific method is based.  Galileo and Newton believed (by faith) in the following presuppositions:

 

1.       The external world is real and it exists.  (Also, there is only one

      way the world really is, and reality is language-independent.)

2.       The external world is uniformly and unchangeably orderly.

3.       Truth about the external world exists and is knowable.

4.       Laws of logic exist as universal invariant entities that apply to

      reality.

5.       Numerical and mathematical systems (including their associated

symbolic language) can be reliably used in scientific investigation.

6.      Human beings have the necessary reliable sensory and cognitive faculties to discover scientific truth and to form justified beliefs about it.

 

Most people in Western societies accept these presuppositions without question –without even thinking about them.(from Mo3, 152)  Where did the above presuppositions come from?  From European Christianity –the kind of Christianity that Galileo and Newton believed in.

Science did not begin in the Orient --and, for good reason.  In general, Eastern religions embrace far different presuppositions.  Buddism, for instance, holds that the material world is an illusion, and all particulars within it are constantly changing illusions.  Logical contradictions pose no problem, and the only universal is a universal spirit.(ref?)  It is fair to say that any attempt to discover scientific truth about the universe would never even occur to anyone with the presuppositions of eastern mysticism.

But, to the philosophical materialist, each of the above presuppositions necessary for scientific progress, has no source or reason to be true, except by an agreed-upon consensus among human beings.  Philosophical materialists have fallen into a trap.  They believe that for any statement to be true it must be testable using the scientific method.  If the philosophical materialist believes that matter and its governing laws are the sum total of reality, then he has just put himself on the horns of a very serious transcendental dilemma.  He cannot justify his belief that any particular scientific law is true or valid, other than to say that, as far as he knows, no evidence  to the contrary has ever been found.  To him no Biblical miracle could ever have happened because if it did, scientific law would have been violated.

How then can the scientist know for sure whether his scientific conclusions are true or not?  He can’t.  All he can do is believe  (by faith) that truth comes from using the scientific method.  But are any of the above six transcendental presuppositions (required to use the scientific method) empirically testable or falsifiable?  Absolutely not.

At this point, a philosophical materialist might decide to change his mind and choose another set of presuppositions (or laws of logic)  that he finds more appealing.  If he were to choose a set of presuppositions that allow rational contradiction, then why not?   Buddists do.  But if he chooses a system which allows x to equal non-x, then he should stay away from anything that requires mathematical reasoning.

“Postmodern” thinkers such as Neitzsche, Wittgenstein and Heidigger  have argued against  some of the above six presuppositions..  They have rejected what they call “metaphysical realism”.  They claim that laws of logic are only Western conventions, and that reality is language-dependent after all.  They have no problem with saying that God really exists for those who embrace monotheistic religions, but does not really exist for an atheist.  Doing science would be impossible for someone with a postmodernist worldview.  The postmodernist has a completely different view of what knowledge is and what counts as true knowledge.   The postmodernist would disagree with the above six propositions necessary to do science, as much as would the Eastern mystic.  Eastern mystics usually choose to embrace laws of logic  completely at odds with the laws of logic  derived from the Greeks –laws of logic that have been subsequently adopted by virtually the entire Western world.

The philosophical materialist says “truth can only be found by the application of reason and laws of logic to empirical experience”.  But he has no way to validate the very statement he has just made.  He is in no better shape than one who says “all metaphysical statements are meaningless,”  when he has just made a metaphysical statement. He is in no better shape than one who says “there is no absolute truth except the absolute truth that there is no absolute truth”.

But to the theist (and especially to the Christian) the existence of absolute truth is not an issue.  It is not an issue because the supreme personal God  he believes in is the source of all absolute truth.  This includes all metaphysical truth as well as the universal invariant laws of logic required to do science.