No Empiricist can be a Materialist

I’m posting this video clip as an addendum to my “Classical Arguments for God” series of posts because of some of the comments I’m getting. I’ve been accused of presenting false equivalencies and presenting “word games” with my logical arguments for God as opposed to science that’s based on “real evidence.” While I believe the accusation itself self is bogus based on a materialist or physicalist presupposition, Keith Ward also points out the irony of this sentiment. He says a committed materialist cannot be an empiricist. Here are a couple of quotes from the video. 

“So I think materialism is the opposite of empiricism. I think empiricism should lead you to some sort of idealism, but the fact that it doesn’t these days just shows how hypnotized people are by science. So people actually have a conflicting view, a very paradoxical view. On the one hand all knowledge begins with experience, that people say, yeah, that’s true, on the other hand science tells you truths about the world, they say, yes, that’s true, but they don’t see that these two views are in total conflict. Empiricism doesn’t tell you that we live in an 11 dimensional, hyper-spatial world, but science does.”

“I think we’re in a very funny cultural situation in our world where people think science is giving us the goods, it must be true, but most people don’t know what science is saying anymore, they don’t realize how very weird a lot of science is, how far from common sense and from empiricism.”

The video clip is short and well worth watching if you’re interested in such things.

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 37 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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8 Responses to No Empiricist can be a Materialist

  1. sklyjd says:

    A play on a couple of words only. “How hypnotized people are by science”?? It is impossible to experience everything in life. You can go through life doubting and not believing in scientific discoveries, however this just makes you a conspiracist due to the fact the main stream top scientists are basically the most advanced intellectual people on Earth even though occasionally they have had to adjust or change the interpretation of their results as further experimentation and knowledge is obtained. A person must leave their mind open when science is involved, however this is totally different from automatic scepticism and disbelief.

    Who has given us progress socially, medically and technologically and found all the answers so far that humans have been asking for thousands of years in materialistic terms? This is obvious; therefore, people are materialist by default even if they may reject the term, and therefore can be both Empiricist and a Materialist if they choose an ideology.

    • Mel Wild says:

      I agree. Science does give us the goods. It’s brilliant for what it can do. But you still can’t be an empiricist and be a materialist. Not possible anymore (or only possible with some of science).

      The problem is materialism goes beyond science and into scientism. It’s a worldview that’s untenable.

      • sklyjd says:

        “The problem is materialism goes beyond science and into scientism. It’s a worldview that’s untenable.”

        I find it difficult to find areas where science does not have some application albeit a minor role.

        Scientism must be the rare ideology of a few people as it involves the improper usage of science or scientific claims in areas where science does not apply and without sufficient empirical evidence or an uncritical enthusiasm to accept any result described as scientific. This strongly suggests creationist views.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I find it difficult to find areas where science does not have some application albeit a minor role.

          Science definitely has a role where its methodology can be used, like in testing, observing all natural phenomenon. Its effectiveness is precisely because of this limitation. But science cannot give us a worldview tell us why there is science. It cannot explain existence or metaphysical things that are just as much a part of our reality as the physical things. Science cannot help us there.

          Scientism must be the rare ideology of a few people as it involves the improper usage of science or scientific claims in areas where science does not apply…

          Rare? Few people? Ah…your scientism is showing! I believe it’s pervasive! So much so that we often confuse it with science. This is where it seems to me you don’t realize how deeply entrenched you are in this ideology. It’s the fishbowl many atheists and skeptics swim in. You are positing a perhaps mild form of scientistic views. Science does not and cannot apply in the areas I mentioned. As long as we know it’s limitations, science can serve us well.

          …and without sufficient empirical evidence or an uncritical enthusiasm to accept any result described as scientific.

          But, as Ward said, there are a lot of areas in advanced science where there is no empirical data. It’s purely theoretical, like by saying there are 11 dimensions, multiverses, and a lot of quantum mechanics. So, is that not scientific then? These areas of science are in the purely mathematical realm. That doesn’t mean those things aren’t real but they certainly aren’t empirical, and some never will be empirical, even when the theorems work. So, you could not be an empiricist and embrace them.

          I agree we shouldn’t be uncritical, but the same applies to scientistic claims and the materialist worldview. We should be very skeptical when someone claims that science gives us the only real evidential knowledge there is. That is a faith-based view not a scientific one.

        • sklyjd says:

          “But science cannot give us a worldview tell us why there is science. It cannot explain existence or metaphysical things that are just as much a part of our reality as the physical things. Science cannot help us there.”

          Metaphysical things are of course supernatural, speculative and philosophical etc. And of course, it is not just science that cannot find all the answers but nothing else can either. Science has also made many inroads into neuroscience and other related fields and it is likely science is expanding its limitations and is closer to answering many of the questions associated with metaphysical phenomena.

          “Rare? Few people? Ah…your scientism is showing! I believe it’s pervasive! So much so that we often confuse it with science. This is where it seems to me you don’t realize how deeply entrenched you are in this ideology. It’s the fishbowl many atheists and skeptics swim in. You are positing a perhaps mild form of scientistic views.”

          I am of the strong opinion that the brain is where many of these answers to the supernatural world exist and science has undertaken many experiments that have had positive results that initially support my views. This is completely different from where science does not apply or without sufficient empirical evidence, nor am I uncritically accepting any results described as scientific from unrecognised unpublished pseudoscience from fringe scientists. Therefore, I do not fit into your atheistic categorisation called scientism.

          It does not matter which subject you decide to engage in, science will not be far away and even though the etymology of the word has been much disputed it covers almost all subjects, and even philosophical issues are often based on science.

          “But, as Ward said, there are a lot of areas in advanced science where there is no empirical data. It’s purely theoretical, like by saying there are 11 dimensions, multiverses, and a lot of quantum mechanics.”

          Granted, however scientific investigation has to start somewhere. Smart brains will speculate exactly like the rest of us and they readily adapt their prognosis as further evidence is discovered, they often also have extensive background knowledge and experiences to support their theories that most of us do not have.

          “We should be very skeptical when someone claims that science gives us the only real evidential knowledge there is. That is a faith-based view not a scientific one.”

          Scientific evidential knowledge is fundamental, mostly accepted when reviewed and published, whereas a lot of non-scientific knowledge is based on ideologies, doctrines, conspiracies, personal ideals etc. For example, the Earth is revolving while rotating around the sun, and all rational people will agree because it is a basic scientific fact proven beyond any doubt, even by most religions. On the other hand, ghosts and the Lochness monster are not proven to exist beyond doubt even though a lot of people believe they exist through various means, however whichever way you look at it, these phenomenon lack evidential knowledge.

          People who follow scientific progress generally understand what is not accepted by peer reviews and publicised in a scientific journal is only speculation. It is difficult with all the tripe on the internet to find the genuine science web sites but nothing truly scientific is never based on faith such as what is expressed in religious terms.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Metaphysical things are of course supernatural, speculative and philosophical etc.

          The metaphysical simply deal with the non-material world. Supranatural, actually. The philosophical looks at our paradigm and helps us see if its coherent. This is the problem many atheists have. Since they reject philosophy they end up adopting an incoherent ontology. And metaphysical and the philosophical is just as valid for evidence, to say otherwise is a naturalist bias since it only accepts physical evidence as valid.

          I am of the strong opinion that the brain is where many of these answers to the supernatural world exist and science has undertaken many experiments that have had positive results that initially support my views.

          That’s funny. Actually, neuroscience is still infinitely far away from beginning to prove consciousness is in physical matter. Yours is a faith statement, not a scientific one. The logical evidence is actually pointing in the opposite direction. It’s only naturalist dogma that won’t accept it or consider it.

          Scientific evidential knowledge is fundamental, mostly accepted when reviewed and published, whereas a lot of non-scientific knowledge is based on ideologies, doctrines, conspiracies, personal ideals etc.

          Again, more scientistic nonsense. Not that science isn’t all those things, but you are comparing applies to oranges. Well, anyway, you’ve proven Ward right. You are hypnotized by science. And, again, science has the goods when it comes to physical phenomenon. But to force it into a worldview or replace metaphysics or explain consciousness, or dismiss philosophy, like you are trying to do so you don’t need a non-material explanation IS the dogmatic religion of scientism.

          I guess we’ll just have to disagree.

        • sklyjd says:

          I have not said that I reject philosophy Mel. I do believe science is the ultimate answer to man’s existence and survival as much as it can be destructive of everything that exists if uncontrolled.

          Neuroscience is advancing further and faster than ever and even if you reject everything due to the consciousness issue you mention you do yourself a great disservice. Yes, if you must call my prediction that neuroscience will explain a lot of things as we move into the future as a “faith” so be it. I must say it is far more secure than faith in a creator.

          “The logical evidence is actually pointing in the opposite direction. It’s only naturalist dogma that won’t accept it or consider it.”

          What opposite direction or logical evidence are you on about? Many of the younger generation are naturalist inclined these days.

          “Well, anyway, you’ve proven Ward right. You are hypnotized by science.”

          Yes ok, science achieves remarkable results and that you cannot deny, and if I do dismiss metaphysics as real because it involves abstract theories with no basis in reality and as a realist who can blame me? I do however understand that great ideas have to come from somewhere and I have always considered that philosophy does have its place.

          “you don’t need a non-material explanation IS the dogmatic religion of scientism.”

          Technically science is not a religion. It is a methodology of investigation through experimentation, evidence and inquiry to arrive at logical conclusions as you well know, therefore science is an accumulation of many tools. Pseudoskepticism I might add can inhibit research progress.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I do believe science is the ultimate answer to man’s existence and survival as much as it can be destructive of everything that exists if uncontrolled.

          I agree with the second part, but you cannot say science has the ultimate answer to man’s existence. It cannot even explain man’s existence at all. It can only explain how man exists. Science is the best method of explaining natural phenomenon but it cannot address ontological issues that are just as valid in discovering our reality.

          Yes ok, science achieves remarkable results and that you cannot deny, and if I do dismiss metaphysics as real because it involves abstract theories with no basis in reality and as a realist who can blame me?

          I agree that science achieves remarkable results, but to say metaphysics involves abstract theories with “no basis in reality” is not only absolutely false, it’s a perfect example of scientism! For instance, the classical arguments I’ve been posting are based on logical deduction from our everyday experience. To reject them as having no basis in reality would be like rejecting mathematics and our everyday experience. Yet, as mentioned in the post here, much of advanced science, like multiverses, etc., are not based on empirical evidence at all.

          So, yes, I totally blame the naturalistic bias and prejudice in our culture for their narrow-minded thinking.

          Technically science is not a religion. It is a methodology of investigation through experimentation…

          Yes, of course, and I never said it was. I said that scientism (and materialism) are worldviews that are much like a religion, based on faith. In fact, ironically, the idea that science can give us “the ultimate answer to man’s existence” cannot be proven by scientific methodology.

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