Atheist Delusions: Materialism

There is, after all, nothing inherently reasonable in the conviction that all of reality is simply an accidental confluence of physical causes, without any transcendent source or end.

Materialism is not a fact of experience or a deduction of logic; it is a metaphysical prejudice, nothing more, and one that is arguably more irrational than almost any other. In general, the unalterably convinced materialist is a kind of childishly complacent fundamentalist, so fervently, unreflectively, and rapturously committed to the materialist vision of reality that if he or she should encounter any problem  – logical or experiential  –  that might call its premises into question, or even merely encounter a  limit beyond which those premises lose their explanatory power, he or she is simply unable to recognise it

Richard Dawkins is a perfect example; he does not hesitate, for instance, to claim that “natural selection is the ultimate explanation for our existence”. 1 But this is a silly assertion anad merely reveals that Dawkins does not understand the words he is using.

The question of existence does not concern how it is that the present arrangement of the world came about, from causes already internal to the world, but how it is that anything (including any cause) can exist at all.

This question Darwin and Wallace never addressed, nor were ever so hopelessly confused as to think they had. It is a question that no theoretical or experimental science could ever anser, for it is qualitatively different from the kind of questions that the physical sciences are competent to address.

Even in if theoretical physics should one day discover the most basic laws upon which the fabric of space and time is woven, or evolutionary biology the most elementary phylogenic forms of terrestrial life, or paleontology an utterly seamless genealogy of every species, still we shall not have hereby drawn one inch nearer to a solution of the mystery of existence.

No matter how fundamental or simple the level reached by the scientist – protoplasm, amino acids, molecules, subatomic particles, quantum events, unified physical laws, a primordial singularity, mere logical possibilities – existence is something else altogether. Even the simplest of things, and even the most basic of principles must first of all be , and nothing within the universe of contingent things ( nor even the universe itself, even it were somehow “eternal”) can be intelligibly conceived of as the source or explanation of its own being.

Pg 103 . Atheist Delusions.

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5 Comments on “Atheist Delusions: Materialism”

  1. This is a lavishly ornamented “God of the Gaps” argument. Dawkins himself has written in some detail about the misconception that evolutionary theory is somehow intended to explain the origin of the universe– as have others who understand either evolution or physics.

    It has also been frequently explained that the lack of a concrete explanation for the beginning of all existence (whatever that may mean) is in no way a supporting argument for any kind of deity. If we can posit an entity complex enough to create a whole universe, we can certainly inquire about its origins as well. The passage above is taking an argument against so-called intelligent design and attacking it as if it applied to cosmology instead.

    There are plenty of interesting and important arguments to be had on this subject, but the above is lazy at best and bears strong signs of being knowingly dishonest as well.

    • Thanks for your comment keyofatheist.

      I’m rather new to this blogging business so I got the shock of my life when I found your comment in my inbox this morning. 🙂

      1) I don’t think it’s a God of the Gaps argument. That argument postulates God is present in the things we do not know and understand in this world. As our knowledge of the mechanisms of this world increases, those areas of the unknown decrease and eventually God is entirely unnecessary in the equation.

      Which is rather the opposite of what Bentley Hart is saying.

      Personally, I do not hold to a Cartesian world view so I don’t ascribe to a God of the Gaps idea anyway.

      2) I haven’t read much Dawkins but I have come across alot of atheists (even Steven Hawking more recently) that think the laws of physics are all that is necessary to explain the existence of the Universe. Which ( I think Bentley Hart argues very convincingly here) is rather irrational.

      3) ” It has also been frequently explained that the lack of a concrete explanation for the beginning of all existence (whatever that may mean) is in no way a supporting argument for any kind of deity. ”

      Sounds like a problem with semantics in terms of “deity”. If you don’t call a creator of the universe a deity, what would you call it?

      4) ” If we can posit an entity complex enough to create a whole universe, we can certainly inquire about its origins as well.”

      Not sure the first part of this sentence logically follows the next. But we certainly can inquire about God. It’s called Theology. It’s what I do. 🙂

      • 1) The claim that evolutionary theory’s lack of relevance to universal origins is a deficit, and that a religious explanation is more capable in this regard follows the basic form of god of the gaps. It remains just as fallacious and ill-informed by any other name.

        2) You might want to at least skim the source material before posting a critique. The scientists to which you refer aren’t in the business of claiming to explain everything. The laws of physics are in fact the best means of explaining those things which we can explain at all. The things they can’t explain remain unknown for the moment.

        3) I’m using deity to mean an intelligent actor that deliberately sets the universe in motion and (usually) has some concern for the progression of events thereafter. If we’re talking about an agency less concrete than that, I see no reason to use the words “god”, “deity”, or “creator” for that matter. This is a problem of metaphysical minimalism, not semantics.

        4) I’m saying that if we do talk a bout god, it’s not unreasonable to talk about a god-maker. This is one argument that Dawkins makes quite well: If you have posited a being complex enough to conceive of and create the whole universe, this being is complex enough that its origin also demands an explanation. Hence the theological approach actually increases the burden to explain rather than relieving it.

  2. 1) The religious explanation is more capable in that there IS a creator and sustainer of the universe. It is more credible than the argument of materialistic atheism in which there is no such thing. That’s all I’m arguing and all that the post I have quoted is arguing.

    e.g. To not posit a source or a beginning is irrational
    https://falsedichotomie.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/the-rational-atheist/

    This has been my experience with the Atheists I have dealt with.

    2) I have skimmed the source material. Stephen Hawkins says no such thing. He says God is unnecessary to explain the universe. Which, as I have said above, is irrational.

    Now that’s cool, but all the Atheists that have challenged me as a woman of faith have told me I’m irrational for positing a source for life itself.

    3) Fair definition. That’s what I believe. Except I believe the source of creation is also within and sustains all creation. Like I said, I’m not a Cartesianist.

    4) That’s a very good point. If we look to the beginning of creation and what sustains all life and call it God, where did God come from? Who made God?

    Like you say, that also demands an explanation. But it does not demand more of an explanation than Atheism does. Atheism posits no creator. In my experience of Atheists, materialism is supposed to be sufficient to explain the existence of the universe.

    In my opinion, that’s much harder to explain than the origins of a Creator.

    At least, in our current thought processes of how things work.

    Not many people I know (Atheists or Theists) think about what came before God. If anything did at all.

    Yet we are limited by space/time wot?

    What happens outside space/time? An entirely different dimension we have absolutely no idea about even thinking about?

  3. Oscar Rivera says:

    Two things (and, unfortunately, I think I’m just going to be re-articulating keys):

    1. This absolutely reeks of intellectual dishonesty. ‘Existence’, as Dawkins was using it, surely did not mean cosmic existence. He is an evolutionary biologist and it is quite reasonable to assume that he was referring to the existence of homo sapiens from the induction of life on Earth. Furthermore, even if Dawkins was referring to our cosmic origins, Hart should know that Dawkins is not a physicist and, as such, has no business speaking on the matter. Why quote Dawkins, then, if physics is not his area of expertise? This a common tactic used by many theists: Either discredit the atheist scientist or quote-mine the scientist to give the impression that the science comport with theology.

    2. I agree with keys when he says that this a God of the Gaps argument. Hart says:

    “Even in if theoretical physics should one day discover the most basic laws upon which the fabric of space and time is woven, or evolutionary biology the most elementary phylogenic forms of terrestrial life, or paleontology an utterly seamless genealogy of every species, still we shall not have hereby drawn one inch nearer to a solution of the mystery of existence.”

    Even if science discovers everything there is to know, there can still be a god? Remember that God, if we are referring to any of the monotheistic gods here, is supposed to be a personal god, as well. The way Hart is describing God is relegating Him into the abstract, into the non-physical non-overlapping magisteria realm – which the God of the Bible is not. If we want to talk about God through merely Deistic terms, then Hart is correct. But this is not the God that He purports to believe in.


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