Russell and Duenes

Paragraphs Change People: None of Them is a Psychopath

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Books don’t change people, paragraphs do. – John Piper

Weekly Standard columnist, Andrew Ferguson, wrote a piece entitled The Heretic, wherein he reviews Mind and Cosmos, the recent book by atheist philosopher, Thomas Nagel. The reason Ferguson’s piece is called “The Heretic” is because Nagel dissents from the orthodoxy of the materialist naturalism that characterizes the neo-Darwinian position on evolution. In other words, the evolutionary view of the cosmos is that material beings and processes are all that exists, and thus, there can by definition be no God, no soul, no eternity, no morality, no human will, no anything that we take for granted as human beings. Yet Nagel is villified by his neo-Darwinian peers for pointing this out, and finding such a worldview to be untenable. More popularly, this materialistic naturalism that has taken over the sciences is called “scientism,” and I have sought to expose it and its logical consequences in great detail on this blog. Yet Ferguson says something better in a paragraph than I have been able to in almost all of my writing on the topic. He concludes:

You can sympathize with [materialists] Leiter and Weisberg for fudging on materialism. As a philosophy of everything it is an undeniable drag. As a way of life it would be even worse. Fortunately, materialism is never translated into life as it’s lived. As colleagues and friends, husbands and mothers, wives and fathers, sons and daughters, materialists never put their money where their mouth is. Nobody thinks his daughter is just molecules in motion and nothing but; nobody thinks the Holocaust was evil, but only in a relative, provisional sense. A materialist who lived his life according to his professed convictions—understanding himself to have no moral agency at all, seeing his friends and enemies and family as genetically determined robots—wouldn’t just be a materialist: He’d be a psychopath. Say what you will about Leiter and Weisberg and the workshoppers in the Berkshires. From what I can tell, none of them is a psychopath. Not even close. Applied beyond its own usefulness as a scientific methodology, materialism is, as Nagel suggests, self-evidently absurd…Materialism can only be taken seriously as a philosophy through a heroic feat of cognitive dissonance; pretending, in our abstract, intellectual life, that values like truth and goodness have no objective content even as, in our private life, we try to learn what’s really true and behave in a way we know to be good. Nagel has sealed his ostracism from the intelligentsia by idly speculating why his fellow intellectuals would undertake such a feat.

Materialist naturalism is the gaping abyss of atheism which no one owns up to. It’s all well and good to hear Carl Sagan on NPR today, “waxing poetical” about the universe and man’s place in it, but given Sagan’s atheism, there’s no waxing about anything. His awe is nothing of the sort. He is simply uttering noises because his body has reached a certain temperature and the atoms in his brain are moving around, firing neurons mechanically, as they are wont to do under such biochemical conditions. Thus, even Sagan is not consistent in his atheism. It entails too many things which common sense says are intolerable. Closer to consistency were the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Bertrand Russell, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Friedrich Nitzche. They at least spoke as though their existence and that of everything else was a senseless void and a howling wilderness of nothingness, even if their lives betrayed such a belief.

There is no law requiring one to be consistent in what he thinks, says and does. No one, short of our Lord Jesus Christ, does it close to perfectly. Yet we serve ourselves well to think about what our worldview entails, to see what it entails when truly carried out and lived. We may even come to see that much of what we hold to is our attempt to suppress the truth of God in our unrighteousness (Rom. 1), and we may ultimately come to bow the knee to the One who holds out for us the world as it is, and we as we are, and offers us the path to everlasting life.


Written by Michael Duenes

July 24, 2013 at 7:26 am

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