Modern Materialism

“Modern Materialism

Alongside the answers from traditional religions come distinctly modern answers, especially answers that build on and appeal to the findings of modern science. One dominant influence is what we might call modern materialism. Materialism is a worldview that offers answers to the basic questions about the meaning of life. According to materialism, the world consists in matter and energy and motion. The world is physical in its most basic and deepest structure. Everything else is built up from complex combinations and interactions of matter and energy and motion. Elementary particles form into atoms; atoms form into molecules; molecules form into larger structures like crystals and living cells; cells form organs and organisms; and each one of us is such an organism. The structure of our brains leads to complex human actions and thoughts, and these lead to human meaning.

According to this view, the world has physical meaning that derives from matter and energy and motion. Everything else is added human meanings that we ourselves create in the process of interpreting what we experience.

According to materialism, the universe as we know it originated in the big bang. Human beings are random products of biological evolution, so we have no particular distinct significance except what we create for ourselves. The goal of living is whatever each of us as an individual chooses. But the cosmos as a whole has no goal, no purpose. And it looks as though life itself is only temporary, because the winding down of the amount of free energy in the universe will eventually make it impossible for life to exist. The universe will end up cold and inert.

According to this view, there is nothing wrong with the world—the world simply is. There is no afterlife. Morality is a by-product of the human brain in its biological structure and human social interaction.

When considered in its totality, the materialist worldview is bleak and forbidding in comparison to human spiritual aspirations. We may meet people who try to hold to it consistently. But we meet many more who are influenced by it without swallowing every piece of it. They long for human significance. They find ways of adding more comfortable extra stories onto the materialist substructure of matter and energy and motion. Some people may add a religious dimension of a pantheistic sort. They may postulate a kind of spiritual “energy” in the cosmos, with which they can commune. Nature becomes “Mother Nature.” There are variations on this theme. As a society, we become pluralistic in our views of human significance, just as we are pluralistic in many other respects. We autonomously choose which ideas we wish to embrace, even when those ideas are at odds with reality.”

(Poythress, Inerrancy and Worldview)

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