Sep 28

Books on Science and Religion #17: Darwin and On the Origin of Species

SRFRIBERG-4a-WbNature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.

Bahá’u’lláh

Sept 28, 2014

In 1859 Charles Darwin (1809-1882) published On the Origin of Species – a greatly influential and widely read book arguing for a theory of evolution based on natural selection that is also one of the foundational texts of 19th century materialism. 1,170 copies were on sale for the first edition, but the numbers sold grew rapidly, reaching a phenomenal 108,000 by 1901.

The Guardian newspaper in England, echoing a widespread modern sentiment, considers On the Origin Species as “part of the literary canon: Darwin joins Aristotle and St Augustine, Shakespeare, Milton and Stuart Mill, Dickens, Dostoevsky and Balzac in that pantheon of texts that provide the foundations of western culture.” Darwin is now regarded as one of the greatest thinkers of all times.

PSM_V21_D154_Charles_DarwinWhy was it so influential, we must ask. After all, the book isn’t about proven scientific facts.  Scientific support for Darwinism – or more correctly, for neo-Darwinism – didn’t materialize until 70 years later (and didn’t snap fully into place until DNA was discovered by Crick and Watson). And the perspectives of Spencerian and Lamarck were as influential publicly – or sometime more influential – during much of those 70 years. The book, rather, is a long extended argument to persuade the general public – and the British scientific community – that evolutionary ideas (see Books on Science and Religion #16: The Evolution of English Evolution) and their implications could be put on a sound scientific basis. In this, Darwin succeeded brilliantly.

The Baha’i Faith on Evolution

What does the Baha’i Faith say about evolution? The short answer is that it endorses the scientific aspects of evolution and some of its metaphysical perspectives. Examples of the later include the idea of physical evolution and the idea that we come into being by the processes of natural law. But the Baha’i Faith rejects 19th century materialistic doctrines that are often conjoined with evolution. Example are ideologies that hold that humans are simply animals, that progress is by means of competition and conflict, that evolution and science obviate the need for religion, or that the races of man are separate and different species with some superior and some inferior. Interestingly, there is no direction mention of Lamarck, Spencer, or Darwin in the authenticated Baha’i Writings, only references to European philosophers and the like.

a-walk-at-dusk

A useful overview and analysis of what the Baha’i writings say – more specifically, what ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says – about evolution can by found in Religion and Evolution Reconciled: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Comments on Evolution (Courosh Mehanian and Stephen Friberg, The Journal of Bahá’í Studies 13, no. 1/4 (2003): 55-93).  Here is how they summarize it.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá espouses an evolutionary perspective as the framework for understanding the emergence of man. He describes man as evolving through stages, starting in the mineral kingdom, then moving through the vegetable and animal kingdoms before arriving in the human kingdom. He also describes life as developing from a single origin by a slow process over extremely long periods of time. Thus, he embraces an evolutionary viewpoint that is in broad general agreement with that of the biological sciences: the earth is very ancient, life evolved from simple origins, man evolved through the animal world, and man’s attributes are a consequence of his evolution.

Aspects of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s thought are at odds with certain conventional interpretations of evolution. He emphasizes that humans, while sharing characteristics in common with the animals, are in some fundamental ways distinct and different from them. He also emphasizes—repeatedly—that humans have always existed, either potentially or in actuality. He explains evolution by analogy with the development of an embryo or a seed. Much as a tree exists potentially in a seed or as an adult exists potentially in an embryo, man is present at the beginning in the evolutionary process. He thus describes evolutionary mechanisms of development not only as intrinsic to the growth of life on earth (and an essential aspect of spiritual development), but as the unfolding of God’s creation. He stresses that man—and all the rest of creation—is created by God.

abdul-bahaWhat does On the Origin of Species say?

On the Origin of Species, as is the case with the story of Charles Darwin, has been so eulogized and mythologized that it can be difficult to get straight what Darwin had to say, or to figure his theory. As a reliable resource, I usually recommend the National Center for Science Education (NCIS), although it mainly turns a blind eye to the substitute-religion aspects of Darwinism. NCIS’s Defining Evolution provides a reliable overview.

However for our purposes here the Stanford Philosophy Encyclopedia’s website on Darwinism provides a more precise and more concise overview. Here it is in a slightly condensed form:

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

  1. Species are comprised of individuals that vary ever so slightly from each other with respect to their many traits.
  2. Species have a tendency to increase in size over generations at an exponential rate.
  3. This tendency, given limited resources, disease, predation, and so on, creates a constant condition of struggle for survival among the members of a species.
  4. Some individuals will have variations that give them a slight advantage in this struggle, variations that allow more efficient or better access to resources, greater resistance to disease, greater success at avoiding predation, and so on.
  5. These individuals will tend to survive better and leave more offspring. Offspring tend to inherit the variations of their parents. Therefore favorable variations will tend to be passed on more frequently than others, a tendency Darwin labeled ‘Natural Selection’.
  6. Over time, especially in a slowly changing environment, this process will cause the character of a species to change.
  7. Given a long enough period of time, the descendant populations of an ancestor species will differ enough to be classified as different species, a process capable of indefinite iteration. There are, in addition, forces that encourage divergence among descendant populations, and the elimination of intermediate varieties.

Tree of Life

Notice that there are no claims here about man being just an animal, or that science disproves the existence of God and efficacy of religion, or that society advances by conflict and contention.

But, of course, evolution was already a highly popular and widely discussed topic by the time that Darwin published his theory, and the richness and variety of those views crowded over and around what is presented here in a restrained and scientifically clear formulation. Darwin’s theory – based as it was on the empirical facts of animal breeding as widely practiced in the United Kingdom with the animal breeder’s manipulations replaced by variation and natural selection – proved very satisfactory to evolution’s scientific critics and this let loose the floodgates of the public’s philosophical imagination and its thirst for a “scientific” replacement for religion. Darwin, as might be suspected, was himself susceptible to such popular enthusiasms, as was to become clear from his later publications.

Next Blog

In the next blog we talk about Darwin and his more radical enthusiasms – a discussion of The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. To quote Wikipedia:

Darwin applies evolutionary theory to human evolution, and details his theory of sexual selection, a form of biological adaptation distinct from, yet interconnected with, natural selection. The book discusses many related issues, including evolutionary psychology, evolutionary ethics, differences between human races, differences between sexes, the dominant role of women in choosing mating partners, and the relevance of the evolutionary theory to society.

Racy stuff. Will you be surprised if it turns out that Darwin was a male chauvinist?

…………………………

This is the 17th in a series of blogs on the modern science and religion literature. The author, Stephen Friberg, is a Bahá’í living in Mountain View, California. A research physicist by training, he wrote Religion and Evolution Reconciled: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Comments on Evolution with Courosh Mehanian. He worked in Japan for 10 years before joining the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley.


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Sep 26

First of All, Do No Harm

Maya Bohnhoff

Maya Bohnhoff

I frequently find myself involved in discussions about the role of religion and/or revelation in the world. It is assumed, on occasion, that when religious people talk about what their faith means to them or has done for them, they are saying that without religion, they would never have pondered those subjects at all, or would not consider the consequences of their actions.

To be honest, every day experience leads me to believe that not many people actually DO consider either the consequences of their actions or their impact on others. Still, I think every thoughtful person considers, to some degree, these consequences. Where religion or faith or spirituality makes a difference is in what factors you take into account, what premise you start from, or what you understand to be the goal of your behavior—or indeed your existence.

To illustrate, on an anti-theist site I once frequented, someone was celebrating having offended their Christian in-laws by replacing the baby Jesus in the nativity the in-laws had given them with a spaghetti noodle (a reference to the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” analogue for God). While this person, and most of the commenters on the thread, felt this was well within the realm of appropriate human treatment, the teachings of faith put that action out of bounds.

I have a natural urge to be sarcastic (perhaps you’ve noticed), but because I’m also striving to live by the teachings of my faith and to internalize them (to write the law of God upon my heart, as the scriptures say), I may start my consideration of what is appropriate communication in a different place than someone who does not share my behavioral benchmarks. In simple terms, my anti-theist confreres on this particular forum did not share with me a common standard for how to communicate ideas to other human beings,

Let’s look at the noodle-tivity situation: my standard starts with the impact of my behavior on the other people involved—in this case, my spouse’s parents. Now perhaps this individual didn’t care much for her in-laws, but it’s more likely that the insult wasn’t aimed at them at all, but at their faith. As one of the correspondents put it: “Showing disrespect for people and showing disrespect for books of spurious origin are two very different things. Books and traditions are not humans, they don’t have unalienable rights or feelings.”

FsmThis begs the question of who, then, is the real target of the disrespect. Faith (or any other ideology) can’t be hurt or alienated by any amount of noodles or mockery. Only people can. So, what is the point of being unkind or hurtful to an ideology?

Let’s not be squeamish: the real goal is to affect the feelings of the person who holds the belief such that they will come to agree that their beliefs are worthy of being mocked. I have asked many times if the person doing the mocking has ever changed their deeply beliefs or worldview or even what they ate for lunch because someone they loved or respected (or whom they didn’t even know) mocked them. I have yet to receive an answer.

Jesus makes the point that it’s easy to love the people who love us and who treat us well. Where push comes to shove is when we’re dealing with people who don’t treat us well.

 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-36)

Jesus presses His followers to love even their enemies and to return evil with good. That’s hard to do—the history of the Christian church demonstrates that, graphically. Few people today seem to live by that dictum, but I think most readers would agree that a lot of grief could be avoided if they did. People fight and contend with each other continually. Some are willing to harm others in insidious ways out of antipathy and, regardless of where it comes from, the Golden Rule is trumped again and again by political, economic and personal considerations.

There are passages in the writings of Bahá’u’lláh in which He says when we feel antipathy for another person, we should “behold Me standing before your face” and love them for the love of God.

Here’s the passage in context:

It is Our wish and desire that every one of you may become a source of all goodness unto men, and an example of uprightness to mankind.  Beware lest ye prefer yourselves above your neighbors.  Fix your gaze upon Him Who is the Temple of God amongst men.  He, in truth, hath offered up His life as a ransom for the redemption of the world.  He, verily, is the All-Bountiful, the Gracious, the Most High.  If any differences arise amongst you, behold Me standing before your face, and overlook the faults of one another for My name’s sake and as a token of your love for My manifest and resplendent Cause. We love to see you at all times consorting in amity and concord within the paradise of My good-pleasure, and to inhale from your acts the fragrance of friendliness and unity, of loving-kindness and fellowship. Thus counselleth you the All-Knowing, the Faithful. (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah CXLV1)

Light bulb!

Light bulb!

I don’t expect everyone to relate to that, just understand that it’s more than a pretty sentiment. As I said, it’s easy to love people who are in your US group. In my experience, the teachings of my faith offer a catalyst to expand that group to include even “enemies.”

Taken to a wider stage, if I apply the teachings of my faith about human oneness to health care or immigration reform, say, or to how I would react to being terrorized or imprisoned for my faith (as are the Bahá’ís in Iran), I begin at a different starting point than most people I’ve observed. I begin from the premise that we really are one family, that there is no THEM and US but only US.

That changes the debate … or at least it should.

If I take seriously the idea that I can love people who wish me ill for the love of God, I stand a chance of not perpetuating the sort of tit for tat we see on a huge scale in places like Palestine or Iraq … or Facebook.


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Sep 21

Books on Science and Religion #16: The Evolution of English Evolution

SRFRIBERG-4a-WbNature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.

Bahá’u’lláh

Sept 21, 2014

The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th Century is one of those wide-ranging and fascinating books of history that British writers do particularly well. Its author – Peter Watson – tells us that The modern mindevolution is not only one of the dominant topics of modern thought, but that it gives us the needed framework for understanding that thought:

Our century has been dominated intellectually by a coming to terms with science … various fields of inquiry [physics, cosmology, chemistry, geology, biology, paleontology, archaeology, psychology, mathematics, anthropology, history, genetics, and linguistics] are now coming together powerfully, convincingly, to tell one story about the natural world.This story, as we shall see, includes the evolution of the universe, of the earth itself, its continents and oceans, the origins of life, the peopling of the globe, and the development of different races, with their different civilisations.

Underlying this story, and giving it a framework, is the process of evolution. As late as 1996 Daniel Dennett, the American philosopher, was still describing Darwin’s notion of evolution as “the best idea, ever.” Read the rest of this entry »


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Sep 14

Books on Science and Religion #15: Great Britain, The Industrial Revolution and Capitalism

SRFRIBERG-4a-WbNature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.

Bahá’u’lláh

Sept 14, 2014

Our last several blogs looked at 19th century developments in the relationship between science, scientism, materialism and religion in France and Germany as outlined in Richard Olson’s historical overview of the 19th century origins of modern scientism, Science and Scientism in Nineteenth-Century Europe.

France and Germany were transformed by the French revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars, radically changing to focus on education, science and technology. Accompanying these changes in focus were the emergence of social and cultural movements that exalted science and claimed it to be a replacement for religion as the guiding light Polytechnique_seal.svgfor society. The influential French intellectual Auguste Comte, for example, argued that societies go through three stages of development with religion as the most primitive (the three stages are the religious or theological stages, the intermediary philosophical or metaphysical stage, and finally the advanced and mature scientific stage). Germany – or more specifically, Prussia – invented the modern research university and the compulsory modern education system. And then several of its philosophers and radical thinkers invented two of the most influential forms materialism – the “scientific” materialism of Büchner and Vogt, and the “historical” materialism of Marx and Engels.

England was spared direct attack during the Napoleonic wars where it emerged as the victor. As a consequence, it became the predominant world military power. A contributor to its victory and increasing influence was the British industrial revolution and the emergence of modern capitalism, which we review next. But before doing so, we review the Baha’i approach to material progress and capitalism. Read the rest of this entry »


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Sep 01

Books on Science and Religion #14: Marxism and Dielectical Materialism

john_kenneth_galbraithUnder capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it’s just the opposite.

John Kenneth Galbraith

August 31, 2014

Materialism in the 19th century materialism came in many forms and guises. Already, we’ve reviewed several of them already in our series of blogs on Richard Olson’s book Science and Scientism in Nineteenth Century.

Perhaps the most famous – and certainly the most notorious – of those 19th century materialisms is what later came to be called dialectical materialism. Developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, it became the basis for communism and systems of government around the globe. Like the scientific materialism of Vogt, Moleschott, and Buchner that we reviewed last week, dialectical materialism portrayed itself as based on a true scientific understanding of reality. In actuality, like scientific materialism, it was based on French ideas about socialism and on positivist thinking, on 19th century German philosophical arguments of Hegel and Feuerbach, and on various other social and intellectual developments of the time.
Read the rest of this entry »


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Aug 24

Books on Science and Religion #13: Scientific Materialism in 19th Century Germany

SRFRIBERG-4a-WbNature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.

Bahá’u’lláh

August 24, 2014

What is scientific materialism?

Is it more than just materialism? Is it proof from science that – despite our stubborn belief that we have minds and our fullest reality is our thought – everything is just matter?

The Baha’i point of view is that we fall into “the despairing slough” of materialism when we try to make progress on the basis of science alone.  This is one of the meanings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s analogy in Paris Talks (p. 143):

Religion and science are the two wings upon which man’s intelligence can soar into the heights, with which the human soul can progress. It is not possible to fly with one wing alone!

wm-blake-out-of-slough-of-despondShould a man try to fly with the wing of religion alone he would quickly fall into the quagmire of superstition, whilst on the other hand, with the wing of science alone he would also make no progress, but fall into the despairing slough of materialism.

I see this, among other things, as saying that a preoccupation with matter – an unbalanced focus that ignores crucial spiritual, ethical, and moral aspects of reality – is like driving your car and only taking left turns. Soon you are off the road.

Materialism surrounds us, according to the Century of Light (commissioned by the Baha’i Universal House of Justice). Baha’is and others daily are

… struggling against … the pressure of a dogmatic materialism, claiming to be the voice of “science”, that seeks systematically to exclude from intellectual life all impulses arising from the spiritual level of human consciousness. (p.135).

In the following, we look at the rise of scientific materialism in mid-19th century Germany. We are following Richard Olson’s historical overview on the 19th century origins of modern scientism called Science and Scientism in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Writers like Steven Pinker, Victor Stenger, A.C. Grayling, or Richard Dawkins claiming that science shows religion to be false are parroting the views we discuss in the following. Read the rest of this entry »


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Aug 19

Increase in arrests highlights continuing persecution of Baha’is in Iran

From the Bahá’í World News Service:

 — The arrest last week of five Baha’is in Tehran signals a rising tide of detainments and imprisonments of Baha’is in Iran in recent months.

Since June, at least 14 Baha’is have been arrested, a trend that exemplifies a pattern of systematic persecution of Iranian Baha’is by the government, this despite its claims to uphold international standards of human rights. In Yazd, 20 Baha’is who had originally been acquitted of charges leveled against them in 2012 learned in August 2013 that their cases had been re-opened and all 20 sentenced to prison, notwithstanding the judge’s admission that they were being treated unjustly. The Baha’is appealed the case and, in a flagrant miscarriage of justice, the sentences against all 20 were upheld. The deputy head of the Justice Administration told the lawyers of the Baha’is that: “The accused are members of a hostile sect who have no citizenship rights.”

More than 100 Baha’is are currently in prison on false charges related entirely to their religious beliefs, while thousands more are subjected to various forms of discrimination and harassment, including denial of access to university and increasingly severe economic repression.

Bahá'í arrestsThe latest arrests in Tehran, for example, appear to be related to ongoing efforts to prevent Baha’is from earning an adequate living. The five were arrested after agents from the Ministry of Intelligence raided the optical shop where they work on 11 August 2014. In February 2014, an optical shop owned by a Baha’i in Tabriz was closed down by the authorities on the grounds of “market saturation”, but Muslim owners of optical shops in the same location experienced no such difficulties. It is understood that “market saturation” has only been used in the cases of Baha’is. Clearly the government is disallowing Baha’is in some cities to own certain types of business on the grounds that too many Baha’is are engaged in it. Read the rest of this entry »


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Aug 17

Books on Science and Religion #12: The Foundations of German Materialism

SRFRIBERG-4a-WbNature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.

Bahá’u’lláh

August 18, 2014

Materialism – the word – means several things.

It can mean, for example, the pursuit of material wealth – fancy cars, expensive clothes, a beautiful house, a big TV, those kinds of things. People get caught up in it, pursuing wealth to the disadvantage of everything else. It is a hugely disturbing world trend today, growing in the United States, China, and throughout the third world. It is highly disruptive – and is probably one the greatest contributors to the impoverishment of a large cross-section of the world’s peoples.

2010-10-12 016Materialism can also mean the doctrine that material things are all that there is. There is – this kind of materialism holds – no God. Thought, perception, consciousness, and our minds are simply the consequences of material configurations of atoms, molecules, biological entities, fields, forces, those kinds of things. It is sometimes called physicalism, metaphysical naturalism, or scientific materialism. Closely related, but different, are the Marxist versions of materialism – historical materialism and dialectical materialism.

Materialism of all kinds are related. If you believe that material things are all there is, then it is easy to consider satisfaction of material desires and/or an exclusionary focus on material progress as all there is.

German science and scientism – along with social movements like Marxism that owe it substantial debts – are discussed in Chapters 4, 5, and 6 of Richard Olson’s excellent Science and Scientism in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Before diving into those chapters, we briefly review the Baha’i teachings on the topic. Read the rest of this entry »


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Aug 11

Books on Science and Religion #11: The Beginnings of German Materialism

SRFRIBERG-4a-WbNature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.

Bahá’u’lláh

August 10, 2014

Why are so many scientists and intellectuals so critical of religion?

The Baha’i Faith tells us that religion – or more precisely – true religion, is essential to humankind’s progress:

[The Baha'i Faith] … enjoins upon its followers the primary duty of an unfettered search after truth, condemns all manner of prejudice and superstition, declares the purpose of religion to be the promotion of amity and concord, proclaims its essential harmony with science, and recognizes it as the foremost agency for the pacification and the orderly progress of human society.

If religion is “the foremost agency for the pacification and the orderly progress of human society”, then bypassing it or undermining it would have disastrous consequences as it loses strength, vitality, and relevance. And it is hard to not see those disastrous consequences.

This doesn’t weigh into the criticisms of Steven Pinker – the Harvard experimental psychologist. He completely rejects religion, saying that science shows “that the belief systems of all the world’s traditional religions and cultures – their theories of the origins of life, humans, and societies – are factually mistaken.”

free-vector-mathematician-scientist-clip-art_108774_Mathematician_Scientist_clip_art_hightMy guess is that this is not the real reason for his critique. For one thing, it is mainly untrue.

Simply put, religion is not about theories of the origins of life, humans, and societies – and its description of those things are mainly metaphorical in nature. Rather, it focuses on the spiritual, moral, and ethical dimensions of life. It may be that Pinker is thinking of theories opposed to Darwinian evolution. But those are invariably ad hoc and taken seriously only as a polemic. It is Newton’s laws of motions, of course, that are the religious theories of the universe par excellence, given Newton’s strongly religious character and their central place in English religious life in the 18th century. But I doubt that they are recognized by Pinker as such. Read the rest of this entry »


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Aug 03

Books on Science and Religion Books on Science and Religion #10: Richard Olsen’s Science and Scientism in 19th Century Europe

SRFRIBERG-4a-WbNature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.

Bahá’u’lláh

August 3, 2014

Steven Pinker – the highly capable experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist, popular science writer, and Harvard professor – tells us that

… the findings of science entail that the belief systems of all the world’s traditional religions and cultures—their theories of the origins of life, humans, and societies—are factually mistaken.

The moral worldview of any scientifically literate person—one who is not blinkered by fundamentalism—requires a radical break from religious conceptions of meaning and value. … the worldview that guides the moral and spiritual values of an educated person today is the worldview given to us by science.  (Pinker, Steven. “Science Is Not Your Enemy.” The New Republic, August 6, 2013).

ArtificialFictionBrainThis, of course, is pure belief – the findings of science tell us no such thing. That doesn’t prevent this belief from being widely shared or being seen by the masses as true. Materialism and scientism are ideologies – and they are not just believed by this or that college professor. In one form or another, they are the accepted views of the age. One Common Faith, written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, puts it this way:

Early in the twentieth century, a materialistic interpretation of reality had consolidated itself so completely as to become the dominant world faith insofar as the direction of society was concerned. … For many in the West, the Divine authority that had functioned as the focal centre of guidance … seemed simply to have dissolved and vanished. … The experience of the peoples of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific … [were] effectively marginalized …

Where do these scientistic beliefs – these remarkably narrow, constricted, and corrosive materialistic interpretations of reality – come from? Clearly, the aging of the world’s religious traditions and their loss of vitality explains much. But, also a goodly part of the answer lies in the various forms of scientism and scientific materialism that developed in 19th century Europe and spread across the world through conquest, colonialism, and trade. Richard Olson’s historical overview on the 19th century origins of modern scientism – Science and Scientism in Nineteenth-Century Europe – gives us a readable and compelling picture of how modern scientism originated, bringing into play often ignored developments of science and religion in France and Germany, and describing some of the surprising ways they still affect us today. Read the rest of this entry »


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