Bad Science and The Flawed Myth of Materialism

An examined faith leads to a deeper faith

 

As readers of this blog know, I believe that a synthesis of sound science and ancient spiritual traditions (combined with a healthy dose of humility) is necessary to avoid the dangers of fundamentalism, whether it be religious fundamentalism or scientific fundamentalism.  One of the reasons I am a Catholic is because the Church has long supported science and the integration of faith and reason.

Dave Pruett had an excellent article in the Huffington Post this week what happens when this relationship between science and religion is severed.   The result is contemporary Western civilization with its reduction of human beings to GDP units, consumerism and ecological damage.  I encourage you to read the entire article (which references Teilhard de Chardin and Thomas Berry) but set forth below is an excerpt:

 [I]n The Power of Myth (1988), the late Joseph Campbell explored the vital ways in which mythology — the overarching story of our relationship to the creator, to one another, and to the earth — anchors the human soul to the cosmos. Without that anchor, or with an inadequate one, we lose our moorings. Which brings us to the present: “We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story,” wrote the eco-theologian Thomas Berry. “We are between stories.”

Berry refers to humanity’s modern dilemma which, particularly acute for Americans, lies at the root of the culture wars. From time immemorial we humans have derived our meaning largely from religion’s claims of our divine origins and exalted status. But the modern age is an age of science, and the scientific story has largely discounted the religious one. It is like having two parents, one who underscores our uniqueness and the other our commonness. Which are we to believe?

* * *

“Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), the French paleontologist-priest who first awakened us to cosmogenesis: the story of the universe as dynamic, unfolding, participatory, and spiritual. Teilhard also coined the term Noosphere — a generalization of “biosphere” — as the realm of collective consciousness encompassing the earth and her inhabitants.

Quantum physicist and Nobel laureate Wolfgang Pauli believed the quest to synthesize “rational understanding and … mystical experience … to be the mythos, spoken or unspoken, of our present age.” Why? Scratch the surface and one finds flawed mythology at the root of so many present ills: environmental crises, dysfunctional politics, and an economy that preys upon people rather than serving them, to mention just three. In each case, the myopia of parochial worldviews stymies creative problem solving and jeopardizes the future. America, in particular, is headed over a waterfall, but we don’t see it because of our myopia. And we are dragging much of the world along with us.

Consider the addict whose addiction is destroying not only his own life but the lives of all those engulfed in his personal chaos. The first step in kicking addiction is ending denial. Culturally, this requires that we unmask our dominant mythology and see it for what it truly is. I call the operative American myth — an unhealthy conflation of capitalism and Christianity — “Consuming our way into Heaven. (emphasis added).”

Read Entire Article Here

Other Resources:

Quantum Physics, Relationality and the Triune God
Why Bad Science is Like Bad Religion
Christians Must Confront Scientific Illiteracy
The Fallacy of Scientism
Are Christians Encouraging Mockery of Their Beliefs?
Famous Christian Scientists
Thomas Berry

About William Ockham

I am a father of two with eclectic interests in theology, philosophy and sports. I chose the pseudonym William Ockham in honor of his contributions to philosophy, specifically Occam's Razor, and its contributions to modern scientific theory. My blog (www.teilhard.com) explores Ignatian Spirituality and the intersection of faith, science and reason through the life and writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (pictured above).
This entry was posted in Reason and Faith and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Bad Science and The Flawed Myth of Materialism

  1. Lynda says:

    What an excellent article infused with so many words of wisdom – from Rabbi Abraham Heschel, “Forfeit your sense of awe and the world becomes a market place.” to the wisdom of Chief Seattle from 1854, “Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it.” Thank you very much.

  2. Ron says:

    Very true. I don’t know if you are familiar with Dr Bruce Charleton’s blog, but he had a post today saying nearly the same thing. I hope this truth becomes a good bit more prevalent since so many are infected with the materialistic atmosphere in our culture.

  3. ptero9 says:

    Yes, it’s great to see this message gaining traction William. But, it’s also difficult to see how we moderns can ever find ourselves in a story again when our modern myth is one that favors the notion of “reality” over myth, story and fantasy.

    I still think that the way we experience the world now, with a sharp separation between reality and fantasy is our story. The myths that live us are never seen or comprehended at the time they are present and have us in their sway. Our modern myth is Reality and we live with the belief that we can fully comprehend what that means.

    As long as we insist that we moderns have a reality-based consciousness, we will never allow ourselves to be understood as bing in any story and our focus remains on convincing ourselves that only “true” things have value.

    Great post and article. This topic is such a crucial one for our times.

    Peace!
    Debra

    • Debra:

      Thank you for the comments. You are certainly much more knowledgeable area the areas of mythos and culture than I am. However, it strikes me that modern Western culture of the last several hundred years is unique in history of discounting the deep mythology that is buried within our subconscious and what I would also argue reflects metaphysical dimensions of reality that we can partially access through our entire conscious and subconscious but not through our material bodies.

      One of the reasons I am interested in learning more about psychology (and especially the Jungian school that you are an expert in) is that I believe he was very insightful in his treatment of the collective unconsciousness. (Most of my information on Jung is from secondary sources but I am starting to read more primary sources). I find his treatment of religious archetypes as fascinating and largely accurate, although I find his metaphysical view as too limiting (i.e. these myths reflect actual dimensions of reality beyond the psyche). It is unfortunate that there is not a broader dialogue among Jung and religious spiritual directors, although that may be changing. Fr. Richard Rohr has done an outstanding job of integrating Jung in his writings. James Arraj and his outstanding site, Inner Explorations, has some wonderful resources on the dialogue between Jung and Christianity, especially the relationship between Jung and Fr. Victor White.

      I would love to hear your thoughts on any of this 🙂

      Peace,
      W. Ockham

      • ptero9 says:

        Hi William,
        Thanks so much for the links and for sharing your thoughts on this most difficult topic of conversation.

        What I am trying to get at, perhaps clumsily, is a consideration of the nature of consciousness, more specifically, our awareness and especially our culturally shared framing of what we now refer to as “reality.”

        I believe that we humans always live through myth, but us moderns have forgotten that, primarily because science has given us the idea that we know things as they truly are. This is a modern Western perspective that would be lost to the anyone who lived prior to 1600.

        Myth in this sense refers to the filtering and framing of how we make sense of the world through publically held views and assumptions. When we discovered that the planets revolved around the sun and science began its quest to know the world through empirical evidence, we began to speak of objective knowledge which brings about the notion that there is a knowable reality, which for us moderns has become the baseline to which all else is compared to.

        We can’t see that we still see mythically, meaning, that we can’t not see without using an imaginitive lens, regardless of what truth lies beyond our imaginings.

        We can’t acknowledge the limitations of our knowing without science admitting how human limits interfere with what they call empirical evidence.

        The cultures of the past whose mythology we now study, are used to bolster our belief that we now live closer to what we call reality. This perspective is what keeps us from seeing through to the myths of our time.

        As long as we insist that we now live in a world we see as real, compared to the ancients who lived in myth, we will never be able to admit to, let alone see through the myths of our time.

        Peace,
        Debra

      • Debra:

        Thank you so much for your thorough and insightful reply. I was especially struck my these statements:

        “I believe that we humans always live through myth, but us moderns have forgotten that, primarily because science has given us the idea that we know things as they truly are. This is a modern Western perspective that would be lost to the anyone who lived prior to 1600. . . The cultures of the past whose mythology we now study, are used to bolster our belief that we now live closer to what we call reality. This perspective is what keeps us from seeing through to the myths of our time.”

        I was having a conversation with a Jungian analyst and she made almost exactly the same point. As Michael points out, there are several cross-currents in modern Western society that are unique compared to all of the other cultures in human history, namely the strong sense of individualism and material wealth is the substitute for the sign of an advanced civilization. This combination tends to cut us off from the source of a deeper reality, whether it be God, the collective unconsciousness or other belief in transcendent dimensions of reality.

        Perhaps for this reason I have always been drawn to good Science Fiction. I am currently re-watching Battlestar Galactica and re-reading The Galactic Milieu series by Julian May. Both of these series do an excellent job of weaving together psychology, philosophy and theology to highlight these issues.

        Peace,
        W. Ockham

      • ptero9 says:

        Hi William,
        Yes, Sci-Fi and fantasy are very good at playing with these deeper meanings through stories that involve us in the bigger questions of life.

        Have you watched the tv series Lost?

  4. Pingback: Bad Science and The Flawed Myth of Materialism | The Green Hills Philosopher

  5. Michael says:

    This subject of a marriage between science and religion is fascinating to me, largely because I guess I’m fascinated by the process of coming to know in general, and the way asking questions and seeking truth has profoundly enriched my life. I would agree with you that to move towards a healthier mythology, and avoid either scientific materialism or religious fundamentalism, one needs a union between science and religion, but I might propose massaging this language a bit to say an open mind and a loving heart. The practice of science (in my opinion) too often falls down on its mandate to embody the former, and the practice of religion to embody the latter.

    I’m not sure we know yet, culturally or mythically, how to tie these two great threads together. I think the underlying myth of the current time is not so much consumerism, as suggested by the article you referenced, as much as it is individualism, achievement as measured in worldly terms, and the idea of being a ‘self-made’ man. Ultimately, these are nurtured by a worldview based in separation, and the rift between science and religion, between mind and heart, between left and right, between quantum mechanics and relativity, between creationism and evolution are all equally active and viable offshoots of this worldview. We see fractured and polarized segments everywhere we look.

    I think perhaps de Chardin’s Omega Point is a shift towards unity. What is Christ Consciousness if not unity consciousness? In wholeness we could craft a working myth deep and vibrant enough to serve our science and our religion. I think as well that there is a necessary and proper hierarchy of levels in putting together a healthy myth or worldview that neither science nor religion can pull off independently, or as awkward dance partners, however politely they interact. I think, as you are inclined to do here, we must recognize that physical reality flows from Spirit, if we are to assemble a healthy picture, as this alone can free us from the separation so obviously manifest in the physical to a fundamental recognition of our unity in the spirit. Our spirit in other words, the Christ within us, cannot derive its existence from anything material, or we have a problem of mythic proportions… 🙂

    I am intrigued by Debra’s points of discussion as well, and the notion that “reality” is a myth. Your blog is a rich and fertile soil. Thank you for letting me ramble…

    As an aside, are you familiar with the Jose Arguelles’ work and his writings about de Chardin? I am only marginally familiar with them, but find them intriguing as well. (http://www.lawoftime.org/noosphere/theoryandhistory.html)

    Michael

    • Michael:

      Thank you so much for your detailed reply. I agree with your sentiments. That is one of the reasons that I am so drawn to Teilhard de Chardin as he lived in both worlds of spirituality and science and spent his life trying to reconcile them. Your pessimism on this endeavor was evidenced by the fact that Teilhard was marginalized by both worlds for his efforts and died virtually alone. Fortunately, his writings survived and his ideas are arguably more relevant today than during his lifetime.

      One contemporary author who has done an outstanding job in synthesizing science and spirituality is Peter Todd in his book “The Individuation of God” or what he calls a Spirituality for the 21st century.

      Thank you for the reference to Jose Arguelles’ site. I was vaguely familiar with it but I will definitely spent more time exploring his writings. Thank you again for your kind words and excellent thoughts.

      Peace,
      W. Ockham

      • Michael says:

        I can see how he could have been perceived as losing his way by both camps. Such a difficult balance to strike. I hope I didn’t seem to pessimistic about all this, as I am all for an expanded worldview capable of synthesizing spirituality and science.

        Thank you for the link. At some point I hope to check it out. I read a bit about it on Amazon and resonated with one of the reviews or descriptions which called Dawkins’ description of an anthropomorphic God in the God Delusion as simplistic. I have about fifteen pages of a “book” I had once thought to write out of disbelief in the lack of imagination in Dawkins’ thinking as evidenced in that work that was based on just that sentiment. Science to me is about asking the questions, plumbing the unknown, and I felt Dawkins’ set up a straw man. I believe in God, but is is a God I feel awkward about reducing to a three letter word, and it certainly is not the God Dawkins set up to knock over. I’m glad a book like this exists. I decided my role is not to argue, however… There is so much philosophical debate… So many fine points to be made…

        Is Love not enough?

        Michael

      • “Is Love not enough?” LOL as my wife often says this when she accuses me of getting overly analytical. I agree with you on Dawkins and would love to read your writings. I also agree with you that the nature of the Divine is far beyond our current human ability to understand. The ancient Hebrews were on to something when the refused to pronounce the name of God as it would be too limiting.

        Peace,
        W. Ockham

  6. Reblogged this on The Hunt FOR Truth and commented:
    There can be no balance of science and religion. There can be a give-and-take relationship that recognizes this. The scientist must seek empirical evidence. The faithful must seek absolute knowledge. Teilhard was the imbalance in one man. A biological approach for understanding life that seeks the absolute knowledge — lofty. That science/faith investigation must rearrange perception and place all levels of perceptions into most-true perspectives, sort this about, reorganize,sift and categorize, expand and reduce, adjust and test and dialog. The evolution of this is for me impossible to see. The process is not. I worked at it for many yeas, I see the process clearly.

    This new emergence of a global Internet and of communication is essential. A process for evolution is necessary too. Teilhard, I think, viewed this process evolving from democratic global leadership.

    Interestingly, this too is occurring and the ultra fast Internet is stimulating this. The balance too is virtually impossible to maintain of authoritative and individualist interests.

    So, Teilhard went further too and he predicted trans-humanizing biology — enhancing humans.

    All this and more is in the present happening.

    ~ Eric

  7. Pingback: Toward a Post-Materialistic Science | Teilhard de Chardin

  8. Noah says:

    Sorry I’m late in coming, only recently hit on “Laudato Si” via Denis Edwards, long a consumer of those who consumed Fr. Teilhard de Chardin’s work.

    Wolfgang *Smith*, also a physicist, was a published opponent of Teilhard de Chardin, from a theological perspective (not the usual scientific ‘invectives’). I’d love to see a treatment of his particular opprobrium. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s