Materialism is also called physicalism, nowadays. This other name is more descriptive. It tells us, that physics (mathematics) should give us answer to every question. That every phenomenon can be fully described in the physical domain, only. This is the statement of faith for many people of the West. Yes. Physicalism IS a statement of faith. A blind faith, which contradicts reality. In this text, I’ll provide a more thorough explanation, why we cannot accept physicalism and stay on the ground of rigorous, rational reasoning.
Materialism (physicalism) pretends to be scientific. If science can explain everything, then physicalism is true. If it cannot – physicalism is false. This is our situation if we stay on the ground of rigorous, logical thinking – which is fundamental to science. From my text on science, we know already, that the statement: “Science can explain everything” is false. Q.E.D. – for anyone used to rigorous (scientific) thinking.
But my thesis is: “Physicalism is a statement of blind faith”. A reader deserves a little more than a simple conclusion from my previous texts. Especially, that this faith of materialists tells us a lot about people. It will be very instructive to analyze this pattern of behavior more closely, here. It repeats itself in many areas.
I admit, I’ve had a big problem with starting this text. The number of examples is overwhelming. One could write a book about failures of materialism. And I want to write a several pages text. The solution, I finally came up with, is to briefly enumerate the general areas of problems, along with the common mechanism of ‘answering’ them used by materialists from the very beginning. This ‘mechanism’ is a very simple one: contempt, sense of superiority, discarding everything that negates materialism as “stupid” and “ignorant”.
Arrogance and contempt for people thinking differently was the cornerstone of materialism from the very beginning. Successes of science in the Age of Enlightenment made it easy to think, that some day it will be able to explain everything. In a rational manner. Vast amount of knowledge gathered for centuries had been discarded as “the old superstitions”. “World is a mechanism and we will learn everything about it in the empirical, rational manner. A human being is just a part of the world, so it can be explained as everything else”.
Man was exploring the supernatural for millennia. One of the oldest professions, present in every (primitive) human community, was a “spirits caller”. A person able to see (or feel) the unseen; a person able to take advice from the supernatural – nonphysical world. Shamans of the American Indian tribes, witchcraft of Africa, yogis of Asia, witches of Europe, voodoo magic of islands. Different approaches, different techniques, different goals. And a common denominator: there IS a nonphysical reality – spiritual reality.
How could a rational person discard this objective (culture independent) knowledge? The answer is: a truly unbiased, rational person couldn’t do it. Only a very arrogant ‘superhuman’ of the Age of Reason could do it. Foundation of materialism is disdain of the enlightened, ‘civilized’ white people for the non-white, primitive savages. There were no reflection on it. It was an ideological choice, which is still vivid: “Either you are wise, rational, modern person, who accepts only real, observable facts; or you are ignorant, weak-minded person believing in daft non-existing things”. This is the persuasion of materialists. There is also a question of the attitude towards Christianity, but it deserves a separate text.
Let’s have a look at the “primitive savages”, who were stupid enough, as to not realize for centuries, that their believes, their rituals are empty and give nothing. The first materialists had only a disdain for them. What could savages know? Nothing. They were pure ignorance. Irony, as the real situation was exactly the opposite. But to realize this, one has to know a little, at least, about savages.
What’s the real picture, then? It’s a well known one, now. It has been described in many books, it has even made its way into movies. A savage finds a pistol, for instance. He looks very closely at it, he sniffs it, he tries to find a usage for it. As a tool, as a weapon, as a decoration, at least. What if he fails to find the pistol useful? He throws it away. Savages are extreme pragmatists. Their life is hard, they move often, they cannot afford to waste time or effort on useless things. What they have got, is really needed. Their survival depends on it.
Only an arrogant fool can believe, that savages could practice shamanism for generations, if it would bring no substantial benefit. People, who face death nearly every week; people who are not afraid to hunt dangerous predators – risking their lives; these people would be afraid to tell the powerless shaman: “Go away! We don’t need your useless tricks!”.
People who have to be very rational in their behavior, cause each mistake, each lack of preparation, each lightly taken decision can mean their death: death by starving, death by wounds, death by sickness; these people would rely on useless practices! They would seek pieces of advice, which are worthless and give no real benefit. When wounded or sick, they would seek help in rituals which efficacy is that of placebo, at most.
Who is a bigger fool here: these savages, or those who see them like that? Can anyone (apart from people blinded by ideology) really think, that people of every culture, every continent, had been practicing spiritual (magical) rituals, if they would give nothing? (As materialists think). How could these rituals survive for hundreds of centuries if they would give no substantial benefit? If they would not help in healing or finding answers?
I know, there had been many attempts to somehow “embrace the supernatural” in physicalism. “The power of the human brain (mind)”, “the undiscovered (yet) energies”, and so on. The first such attempt had happened at the very dawn of Enlightenment, and resulted in a renaissance of occultism in the XVIII century. Materialists truly believed that if they examine occultism rationally and empirically, they will find it is nothing more, than a part of the physical reality, disguised as “magic” by the jealously guarding their secrets occultists.
Thousands of people had tried to describe spiritualism, mediumism and other supernatural phenomena, just like Newton described the laws of motion. They all failed. (If anyone would succeed, we would have a supernatural science, just as we have chemistry.) This was a painful blow to the proud people of the Age of Reason. Their expectance, seen as obvious, had proved wrong. “If it has no physical explanation, it must be nonexistent, then” – this was their conclusion. And so, the “myth-busters” (“miracle-busters”) had started their quests.
Scientists or skilled illusionists travelled the world in search for miracle workers to show them as mountebanks. The scenario here is always the same; the miracle-buster is present during the miraculous performance and he exposes tricks. Simple and convincing. Unless we ponder it for a while. The way of reasoning here is as follows: “Being present at several performances, I found them all based on cheating with nothing supernatural. Therefore I conclude, the miracle worker is a cheat. Everything he/she does, is trickery”.
What’s the problem with such reasoning? It’s like spying on someone for several afternoons, to discover that she/he spends only forged dollars. And conclude: “This person always pays with forged dollars. Through his/her entire life”. Problematic, isn’t it? How do we know, that such conclusion is problematic? Cause we have some common knowledge about forgers. Enough, at least, to know that they use real money, sometimes.
The problem here is that we assume the black and white approach: either the miracle worker speaks truth and nothing but the truth, or everything is a lie. A childish approach. Unfortunately, a successful one. It is successful, because people usually know nothing real about the supernatural, and therefore they can be easily duped into believing such ‘research’; especially when it is called “impartial” or even “scientific”.
Let’s suppose for a while, that using such supernatural ‘gifts’ is very costly. It requires time, effort and devotion. It exhausts. But the public expects a performance two or even three times a week. Each time an hour, at least. If someone wants to earn for living as a “professional” medium, he/she cannot give a spectacle once a month or more rarely. What’s the solution, then? Pretty obvious one: cheating. One performance real and 3 or 5 tricks.
But what if it is still too much? Or if ‘the gift’ for some reason ‘evaporated’? Temporarily, at least? You can cancel one performance. But not a dozen. A dozen means, that someone else takes your place; and returns are hard. And so, the ‘miracle-buster’ comes and shows the performance is a trick. Nothing supernatural. An easy job.
We see here lack of the methodological rigor: false, unjustified presumptions; checking several examples, but concluding about all. Unacceptable faults in case of the rational, scientific reasoning. It’s no surprise that the real scientists keep distance from such ‘research’. Nowadays, it is a domain of the wannabe scientists and several antitheistic celebrities like Dawkins, Hawking or Penrose.
There are popular TV series continuing the job of the XVIII-XIX century miracle busters. The fact, that after 200 years it is still needed to ‘prove’ the supernatural nonexistent, is truly remarkable. Even more remarkable is the quality of these quasi-scientific research. I remember one episode dealing with a youtube video showing a teenager performing a cataleptic bridge: he leans back so, that his entire body (torso, hips, legs) is behind his feet, on which he still stands. No additional support point. Physically impossible.
The myth-busters were unable to provide any rational explanation. Stunts, gymnasts, parkour masters - they all were totally unable to replicate what they saw. No sign of editing or photomontage. The final answer was that the teenager must have had his feet anchored to the ground. But we all saw, he didn’t. The myth-busters smoothly moved to the next ‘myth’ showing some primitive photomontage.
This is exactly the pattern of behavior I mentioned: “In advance, we assume that everything is physical. Then, we easily deal with a bunch of simple tricks. This experience strengthens our believe (conviction) that we are right, that everything is physical in its nature. And then, we encounter something that we cannot explain. But wait! We know it must have a physical nature, too! We’ve seen too many tricks to believe, that this case could be something different. Even, if we cannot find any rational (physical) explanation right now, there surely IS such an explanation. It must be! We cannot be wrong!”. At this stage, it is not a rational reasoning anymore. It’s a faith.
The other episode was about ghosts. The authors pretending the scientific approach were explaining tricks in pictures of wraiths. One picture showed a nearly transparent figure sitting on a grave stone at night. What was the explanation of the wannabe scientists? “The figure casts a shadow on the grave stone. So, it must be a fake since ghosts do not cast shadows.”
Impressive. They ‘prove’ that ghosts are nonexistent, yet they ‘know’ what the real (existent) ghosts look like. And based on this very ‘knowledge’ they discard this picture as a fake. What is the source of such ‘knowledge’ about the nonexistent? Fairy-tales? Horror books and movies? This is the biased approach at its greatest.
I do not know, if this picture was a trick or not. But I can say, that ghosts (whatever they are) must cast shadows. How do I know this? It is very simple: I use the Ockham’s razor.
Basically, there are two possibilities: either ghosts exist in our minds only, or not. If ghosts exist only in our minds, then they are nothing more but a hallucination. Like pink elephants and other things seen in fever or dreams. But one cannot make a photo of a dream. If there is a photo, then there must have been something existing physically. Namely, a source of (reflected) light. A camera needs light to register anything. That’s the physics of photography.
At this point, we do not have to know, what exactly is (or happens) in the space in which we see a ghost. It is secondary. It doesn’t matter if it is plasma, small particles, difference in temperature, or something else; or several such elements at once. It does not matter if it emits its own light, or shines with reflected light, or both. Everything that is objectively visible (can be photographed) casts a shadow. Always. A candle flame casts a shadow, a glowing light bulb casts a shadow, a pane of glass casts a shadow, even hot air casts shadows. This is physics of light.
If someone claims that there are “things” (whatever they are) which are visible, yet do not cast shadows; then such person postulates a new physics. ‘A special physics’ - ‘a physics of ghosts’. One could go a step further and claim that ghosts are painted in space by invisible elves, that use a miraculous ink, which glows, yet does not cast shadows. Or that it involves unicorns. Or whatever else. If we leave the land of physics once, we can say anything. This is irrationality.
If we encounter something objectively physical – like a phenomenon which can be photographed – the rational approach is to consider this phenomenon as physical. At least, in its observable, physical manifestation. Even if we assume the source (the reason) of the phenomenon being supernatural (non-physical). It is unreasonable to introduce ‘a fantasy physics’ to ‘explain’ the unexplained.
What we have here, is fighting one ‘irrationalism’ (ghosts) with another irrationalism (daft explanations). I hope, I’ve showed it clearly enough.
What’s the use of such myth-busting? It is aimed at convincing the already convinced materialism zealots. It is to give them the feeling that everything is OK: if something looks supernatural, it is just a fake. Physicalism stands strong!
It is funny to observe, how materialists fight superstitions for more than 200 years, now. Either by ‘proving’ them nonexistent or trying to explain them physically. On one side we have the mind control, psychotronics, dowsing, homeopathy – one by one discarded by science. On the other end: claiming that the phenomena experienced by many people are nonexistent. That these people are simply ignorant, weak-minded, manipulated, or that they are cheaters themselves.
No wonder that this fruitless struggle of materialists results in frustration and annoyance. And daft bons-mots like the Hawking’s answer to the question what was before the Big Bang: that it is like asking “What is north of the North Pole?”
At first, this may seem wise and witty. But if we really think about it, we will find it deceiving, as many other such bons-mots. What is deceiving in this case? The context. Such argumentation is valid in one situation only: when a physicist discusses physics with other physicists. But, even then: no physicist asks such out of context questions like what was before the Big Bang. In the domain of science such question is simply daft.
The manipulation here, is that Hawking uses strictly physical argumentation in general context. Implicitly assuming that science is everything. It might had been for him. But not for the majority of people. In general, it is a frog in a pond argumentation. The pond is the frog’s world – asking what is outside, is ludicrous. For Hawking, his pond was physics. But not everyone has to have a frog perspective. The question: “What was before the Big Bang?” is a perfectly reasonable one. In philosophy, in speculative thinking. Without such questions we would have no notion of infinity, for instance. In the physical domain there is no infinity. Everything is finite: space, time, matter. Everything.
Or Penrose’s sticking to the AI inevitability, while he dedicated his life to futile attempts in creating one. So, currently he tries to convince us that we need “quantum processors”. And what will he tell us, if they arrive during his life? Probably, that we need the ‘hyper-quantum’ processors. Such people are too famous and proud to accept a failure. And draw conclusions.
Materialists’ failure is overwhelming. “We shall explain the human being, just as we shall explain the material universe”. While the work on explaining the universe goes pretty well, the first question failed totally. The queen of the ‘social sciences’ - economics drifts away from logic and reason. It provides contradictory hypotheses to freely choose from.
The rest of ‘social sciences’ is no better. And this mess lasts for more than 100 years, already. With no hope for getting any better. Instead of admitting that empirical, law-based science is unable to explain a human being, the science definition is altered and becomes illogical and daft.
Physicalism is a faith. A very stupid one. It sets logic and reason as one and only source of answers, but refuses to accept them if they falsify physicalism. Materialists are eager to find ‘logical contradictions’ in religious believes and call religious people weak-minded ignoramuses. At the same time, they refuse to acknowledge the obvious contradictions and absurdity resulting from their own ideology (belief).
Has anyone scientifically explained and duplicated the Turin Shroud? It seems our current technology isn’t sophisticated enough. But materialists say the Turin Shroud was forged a thousand years ago. Funny explanation. A typical one.
Every now and then happen things unexplainable in the realm of physics. Clairvoyance, firewalking, etc. Has anyone ‘explaining’ firewalking ever tried to do it himself? "Modern physics has explained the phenomenon, concluding that the amount of time the foot is in contact with the ground is not enough to induce a burn" [source: Wikipedia]. I’d like to see the explainer proving his thesis empirically. Using his own bare feet. If you still believe the “modern physics” explanation, try it yourself. But don’t forget to call an ambulance, first.
The waves of the occult practices in the Western civilization come and go every few decades. The real, powerful gurus live among us. Morihei Ueshiba, Shoko Asahara are the widely known ones. But there are hundreds of local gurus, which gather zealot believers. Sometimes among people with a university degree. It is impossible to explain all these examples with purely psychological tricks.
Why the tales of unicorns, dwarves and elves or good-fairies lack the same power of attracting and subduing people as magic (spiritualism)? According to materialists they are exactly the same – no substantial difference.
As I mentioned in the beginning, the materialists’ claim: “Everything is physical, there is no supernatural”, treated as a scientific (logical) statement, requires only one exception to be shown false. Just like the statement: “Every natural number is bigger than 7”. You point to 3, which is a natural number and less than 7, and voilà! Nothing more is needed. The statement is falsified.
In case of materialism we have tons of exceptions. The economic science, founded on the assumption that people’s behavior can be modeled mathematically as the matter behavior, failed and reached absurdity. In logic and mathematics (science) this is a proof that the assumption was false. It’s the classic Reductio Ad Absurdum. Nevertheless, proud materialists still think that nothing has happened and look at religious people with contempt. Because “science” is on their side. Irony.
Let’s summarize the failures of materialism, briefly:
There are two possibilities now: either you stick to materialism (physicalism) as your faith (religion), or you ask yourself a question: “Is there a way to describe (explain) the world using logic and reason, so that everything fits together?”. Without any biases, ideological assumptions, with an open mind seeking for truth. Is it possible? “Well, if not I can always return to materialism or whatever else fitting my worldview”.