I’ve decided that, in order to better represent the position of science and skepticism, to create a series of standard responses to the most common attacks from the anti-science, anti-thinking crowd. This came about because a local pastor was published in the Austin-American Statesman recently. There were many things wrong with what he said. It was just another Gish Gallop. Throwing stuff at a wall and hoping some will stick.
My response, while moderately satisfactory, was spur of the moment and less than ideal. I realize that there is no such thing as an “ideal” response. However, I want to try to create one with some in-depth thought and support. Response that is both simple and directly explains why things are the way that they are.
With these goals in mind, I present the first draft for the first topic here. Materialism. I realize that this topic is huge and there have probably been books written about it. What I’m going for here is a response to someone that claims that materialism is somehow defunct, inappropriate, or unsupported as an idea.
Standard Response: Materialism
Materialism, the philosophical principle, holds that the only matter and energy exist. Everything is composed of matter and energy and everything that happens is a result of matter and energy interactions. This should not be confused with economic materialism or dialectical materialism. This is about science.
Science focuses on the idea of materialism because it works. There is nothing in the world that has been learned through consideration of anything other than the materialistic world. There is no product, no process, no knowledge that is not a direct result of materialism.
The cars we drive, the medicines we take (those that work at least), the food we eat (and not just GMOs), the computers that are used to type anti-science, anti-materialistic screeds, and everything that we see from our comfortable suburban or urban homes are the direct result of the use of the materialistic philosophy.
Science acts using the idea of materialism not as an assumption, but as a tested and supported methodology. Why? Because it works. The scientific notions of repeatability, falsifiability, and parsimony are rooted in materialism. If you have ever played a game invented by a four-year-old, you know how capricious they can be. Science isn’t like that because the materialistic universe isn’t like that. Science is about discovering the rules of interaction between matter and energy. Those rules are always the same (with the understanding that our knowledge of those rules is subject to change).
There has never even been a case where a non-material cause has ever been identified. And yes, science can examine the effects, if not the cause of these kinds of events. In the same way that wind affects the trees, a non-material cause will affect the material world. That can be examined and tested.
I’m not a philosopher, so I take a very pragmatic view of materialism. It works. It has worked in the past and it continues to work now. There is no indication that the use of materialism as a foundational idea will change.