Is materialism true

Materialism and belief : Reality halved

In architecture there are fashions that come and go and nobody knows why. Up until the 1960s, houses were only built with a pitched roof, whereas today it has to be a flat roof. Anyone who built a flat roof 50 years ago was an avant-garde in the wake of the Bauhaus or a madman, whereas today a house with a gable roof is considered old-fashioned. Unfortunately, such relationships exist in philosophy and science as well. For example, 200 years ago it was fashionable to be Hegelians. The Hegelian assumes that in truth there is only spirit and that nature down to crude matter is in truth nothing but spirit. On the contrary, a materialistic monism prevails today. It is assumed that the world consists mainly and exclusively of matter and that the higher forms - such as the living or the spiritual - are then only certain material configurations. In this reading the mind is the brain, the living are the genes, and morality is an invention of the kind of traffic rules, which are only conventions.

Today's materialism makes use of the good conscience of natural science. If you accept physics, chemistry, biology or computer science, then you also have to accept materialism, so the thesis. It can be shown, however, that materialism is not a consequence of natural science, but that it is wrongly used as an appeal body. This is evident from the fact that important natural scientists such as Max Planck or Albert Einstein were theists. But there are also Buddhists, agnostics, pantheists and all sorts of things among them. The reason is that science is ideologically neutral, or at least it should be.

Some, like Richard Dawkins, Bernulf Kanitscheider or Ulrich Kutschera, on the other hand, represent an aggressive materialism that is primarily directed against religion. One speaks in this context of "naturalism" or "physicalism", that sounds friendlier, but it is still an ideological materialism. This position was systematized in the mind-body debate of analytic philosophy. There you will find clearly presented the principles on which this worldview is based. There seem to be essentially three principles that concern 1. the basis, 2. the statics and 3. the dynamics of the world. It will be shown, however, that all three principles must be valid if materialism is to be true, but that they are not a consequence of natural science, but dogmas in which materialists believe more fervently than many religious people believe in Jesus Christ.

1. As the basis of the colorful phenomena of this world, the materialist naturally sets matter as the ultimate supporting ground of all things. That sounds more plausible than it is, because every time the physicists claimed they had stumbled upon the bottom line, someone came along who taught them better. There is nothing to suggest that the research process will ever come to an end. Physics is simply not designed to provide a final justification. This is due to their hypothetical nature. Physical statements are if-then statements. If this and the prerequisites are given, then this and that follows. But who explains the prerequisites to us? You can lay the foundations deeper and that is exactly what we mean by 'progress', but if, for example, we derive the principles of Newtonian physics from Einstein's equations, then we have to make the assumptions that we have again have not explained. We never come up with one last idea and that is why there is no unambiguous concept of matter in physics.

2. The statics of the universe is described by the so-called “supervenience principle”. In brief, it says that the material basis determines the superstructure, i.e. it relates to the statics and the hierarchical relationships in the universe. According to this principle, it can never happen that, for example, my mind changes from concept A to concept B without anything changing in my brain. The states of the mind compulsorily determine the states of the mind, and so it is with all higher qualities. Matter is the key to reality.

But there are serious objections to this principle. If, for example, the content of our ideas has a social component, then the case could arise that social conditions change and thus the content of our concepts, which could not be attributed to our brain states. Or if, for example, animals developed down feathers to regulate heat in the early days of evolution, then these down feathers were also useful to slow down a jump when an animal was being chased and jumped from a tree to save itself. So there was a change of purpose without an atom in the downy feathers changing. There are many such cases. The principle of supervision is therefore not a consequence of natural science.

3. The same applies to the causal principle or, as it has also been called, the principle of the causal closure of the world. The content of this is that a material world state 1 provides the sufficient conditions for world state 2 to occur. That means: The dynamics of the universe depend on a closed chain, in which one always necessarily leads to the other. If that were the case, then the spirit would have no chance, neither the human nor the divine spirit. The world itself, in terms of its material existence, would regulate everything. If, for example, I act of my own free will, then the matter has already done all the causal work and my thirst for freedom no longer has a chance. In such a world even God could not intervene. He would be doomed to inaction.

Heavy smokers have an 80 percent chance of developing lung cancer

As plausible as it sounds, it is just as wrong, and for a very simple reason: We use the word 'causality' very differently in different contexts. Since Hume people have liked to talk about causality as the 'cement of the universe', but this cement crumbles because it is made up of very different components that do not make up a whole. It is true that the opinion is widespread that the necessary relationship between cause and effect is mediated by deterministic natural laws. Then the effect necessarily follows the cause. But there are also statistical laws, such as in medicine. Heavy smokers have an 80 percent chance of developing lung cancer in old age. But that means that smoking does not necessarily result in cancer, or conversely, someone who never smokes can get lung cancer. Here the necessity of the connection is removed and we can no longer speak of a 'causal closeness of the world'. Is it coincidences that are responsible for people getting lung cancer after all? Then coincidence would be a cause, and that's how we talk often enough. Mutations are the cause of the colorful diversity of natural forms or random fluctuations in microphysics are the reason that the Geiger counter makes a 'click'. But that is an exotic concept of 'cause', because it would not obey any natural law and in turn would not be an effect of an even earlier cause, which we would like to demand when we have the idea of ​​closed causal chains. In a word: we speak of 'cause and effect' in very different contexts and then have a completely different concept of 'cause and effect'. The materialistic-monistic idea of ​​a unified cement of the universe is an illusion.

If you take a closer look, then our primal experience of causality is the free intervention of humans in nature: We know what it means to be responsible for something, to initiate something, and this practical concept of causal effectiveness is like the basis that all the different concepts refer back to. Basically this is also the case with the term 'matter'. Strictly speaking, it does not appear in a single physical formula, but we still know what 'matter' is from everyday life. It is the resistance, the given, which enables our intervening action. Because we always deal with matter, we know what it is about.

The materialistic and spiritualistic extremes are pointless

With that we have an important result. It is not the case that natural science explains everything and everything, but rather it makes not only theoretical, but also life-world-practical preconditions. Our practical being-in-the-world is the basis of all science, not the other way around. Only when we have found our way in the surrounding nature can we begin to experiment and develop theories. Man is a central phenomenon, or as the philosopher Schelling said: “Man is the wandering problem of philosophy” - that is, its starting point.

Today's materialism suffers from the fact that it does not really take this natural being-in-the-world seriously. The fundamental being-in-the-world is neither materialist nor spiritualist understandable. In truth, man is a knot of being in which spirit and matter intersect. We are always both at the same time and also experience ourselves as such. When I've drank too much, the material substance of alcohol affects my mind, and when I'm in a good mood it may strengthen my immune system. Then the spirit acts on matter. That means: We are psychosomatic beings with two poles, one spiritual and one material. But then all forms of monism are wrong. The world is not made of matter and nothing but matter, nor is it a disguised, hidden spirit. Just as it is foolish to only build gable or flat roofs, the materialistic and spiritualistic extremes are also meaningless.

If so, the possibility of a religious world behavior opens up again to us. Materialism excludes such world behavior. But we have seen that it cannot rely on science. Materialism, in turn, is a belief and we could ask the question whether it turns out to be more convincing as a belief than religious belief. Such questions are no longer scientific questions and they cannot be answered by experiment. At this point we should rather ask ourselves which worldview is more suitable to provide the basis for a successful life. In this regard, materialism is extremely weak. Not only does it have no basis of legitimation in natural science, it also has nothing to say about the fundamental questions of human beings, about the questions of love, guilt, happiness, freedom, fulfillment. And as long as that is the case, the anti-religious affect of today's materialists can be met with great serenity. Since the 19th century and until now, no form of materialism has offered a convincing alternative to the traditional form of Christianity.

Hans-Dieter Mutschler has just published: "Reality halved. Why materialism does not explain the world" (340 pages, 24.95 euros).

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