Materialism’s Straw Man — and a New Opponent Rising

In books such as The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins), Knocking on Heaven’s Door (Lisa Randall), and The Grand Design (Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow), our modern science writers set up an easy straw man when promoting materialistic orthodoxy.  Modern scientists believe that their only opponent to control the debate over the origin and evolution of the cosmos is organized religion.  They are wrong.  Another opponent is rising, and they will soon have to deal with it.

Materialism is the view that the entire physical universe can be reduced to mindless particles in motion.  It holds to the belief that there is an objective world, independent of perception and independent of mind.

The great mystery of materialism is how this material world sprang from the void and evolved itself into a picture-perfect universe.

Material scientists have the mathematical laws of nature, the scientific method, and a lock on all of the professorships in the leading universities to argue their case.

But their argument is made much easier because they believe they have only one opponent in the debate to control the discourse on the origin and evolution of the cosmos: organized religion.  In the standard religious worldview, God replaces the laws of nature as the source for the universe.  But the physical universe of religion is the same as the universe of modern science: it is a world of dead matter independent of the human mind.  Therefore, materialists ask the obvious question: what is the source of God and through what mechanism does it influence and create the world?

By a wave of the hand?  His daily whims? His great mind?  So religion cites to “God” as the ultimate explanation for the universe, order, and life, but what is the explanation for God?

Most western religions are themselves materialistic in that they accept part of the scientific story – such as the Big Bang, dark matter, and dark energy – but fall back upon God as the original and final cause.

Orthodox religion uses faith to make the final step in the explanation, but this sort of faith has no currency in science.

So modern scientists, propping up organized religion as the “usual suspect,” proceed to treat the religious worldview as a rag doll, beating its head upon the anvil of almighty Science.  Religion, scientists argue, relies ultimately upon childish myths and superstition: creation in 7 days; a 6000-year universe; a bearded father in the sky; a savior walking on water and healing the sick; and great religious texts channeled from God to wandering peasants.

Almighty methodical science vs. a child’s storybook; an MIT PhD vs. a matchbook GED; a Formula One car vs. a horse and buggy; Richard Dawkins vs. Jerry Falwell.

But there is another opponent rising to take up the challenge of materialism and of organized religion.  This opponent is of a different kind and is not so easily dismissed.

This new approach is based upon a radical re-orientation of how we look out at the world.  It treats the external world not as a foreign object created by happenstance in the Big Bang, but as a dream powered by the united unconscious mind; the one mind of what Indian philosophy calls Brahman, what new age thinkers call the Source, and others call God.

We see the same sky not because there is one sky resting independently of ourselves but because we are one mind and are participating in the same dream.  With this viewpoint, we find an explanation for how nothing came from something; the order in the universe; the fine-tuning of the fundamental constants and laws.  We see how reports and studies of the paranormal – how minds talk to each other, foretell the future, and see vast distances without a telescope – become part of our worldview.  We see why, when scientists peer into the core of the physical world, they find not tiny things, but the quivering wave function of quantum theory.

And we also find why, despite the overwhelming intellectual power of science, the mind of man will not easily give up its hold on this great being called God; the reason, in the end, will be because man cannot give up on himself, and the unlimited power we know rests inside. Another opponent is rising to accept the challenge of materialism, and this one will be around until the debate is finally over.



  1. david gilbert Says: April 29, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    Yes…organized religion is no match for material scientists. It has nothing to offer but silly faith, which is nothing but “fervent hope.” Neither does it make any gut sense.
    Might it be that brahman, in becoming everything else, in temporary surrender of its identity, dreams the universe through an actual big bang. I don’t think that all of sciences theories need be in conflict with the notion that “god is dreaming the universe, and we are the dream dreaming.” This is a trickster god that can do anything. The problem I have with science has more to do with the despair they invoke in some people, not so much their theories.
    Until now. I am certainly questioning their theories after reading your fine book.

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