Why materialism is the cause of the catastrophic state of the world and humanity, and what to do about it
At the start of my course in Quantum Physics and Consciousness for students of the Academy of Spiritual Sciences in Utrecht, I made the above statement. At the end of the course, the last lesson, an explanation of that statement was asked – rightly so. This led to a heated discussion that ended not entirely satisfactory because of time constraints, after which I decided to explain my position in much more detail in this blog.
That materialism is leading us to the abyss is my personal conviction. In these times there are many outspoken supporters of hard materialism influencing public opinion on the issue. By hard materialism, also called physicalism, I mean the deep conviction that the world can be fully explained with just matter and all interactions between matter. To avoid misunderstanding, this does not mean that I think that those with such a matter-only view are people with bad intentions. Most materialists are certainly not people harboring malicious intent, but mostly – in my opinion – misinformed. They may very well be very nice, empathetic, responsible and honest people. However, their belief is leading the world in a catastrophic direction.
I will explain below in a number of logical steps where materialism is leading us and why I consider it disastrous.
The materialistic postulate and its conclusions about the world
Pure materialism is based on the postulate that the world can be fully explained with matter and all interaction between matter. This is a postulate that leads us step by step to the following logical conclusions:
- Consciousness can only be a product of matter because there exist only matter. Consciousness is therefore an emergent property of a complex brain.
- From this follows that a complex material brain is needed for our experience of having a consciousness. Everything that does not have a complex brain, therefore, has little or no consciousness. The less complex the brain, the less consciousness. Man has obviously the most complex brain (on earth) and therefore also the most complex consciousness and is therefore superior to all other forms of life.
- Consciousness, being a product of a complex brain, ends with the death of the physical body and its brain.
- All interactions of matter are mechanical and without purpose. Each outcome is basically unintentional and therefore purely coincidental.
- Life, including consciousness, can only have arisen through purely coincidental combinations and interactions of matter. Life and consciousness are therefore ultimately accidental phenomena in an indifferent universe.
- Life is therefore, in principle, a purely mechanically explicable phenomenon.
- Heredity, a characteristic of life, is a mechanically explainable phenomenon. Changes in the hereditary properties are only the result of accidental mutations.
- Evolution, the gradual emergence of increasingly complex organisms, occurs through mechanical random effects. The best adapted organism has the best chance of passing on its, sometimes altered by chance mutation, hereditary characteristics to the next generation. The hereditary mutations that are less fit for survival do not survive and won’t be passed on to the next generation.
- Although very complex organisms can arise in this way, possibly with consciousness, this must ultimately be based on blind chance. There is no other explanation and we don’t need another.
- Blind chance, along with the basic properties of matter, are therefore the only real elements in the universe.
- Free will is an illusion because each action is the result of mechanically explainable interactions of matter.
- There is therefore no purpose in the universe. It’s pointless.
- There is also no good and evil in the universe since good and evil are not properties of matter and cannot be derived from it. Ethics, ideas of good and evil, have no material basis.
I hope that you understand that the above statements are contrary to my beliefs. They are logical derivations from the materialistic postulate. The same beliefs can be found in the publications of Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene) and Daniël Dennet (Darwin’s Dangerous Idea). You will also find them in the beliefs of many neuroscientists like Dick Schwaab (We Are Our Brains) and Sebastian Seung (Connectome).
Everything is allowed – in the materialistic perspective
From the last three statements – 11, 12 and 13 – which are fully endorsed by the said adherents of the materialistic view of the world – I then deduce:
- Each individual organism is therefore completely free to determine and achieve its own goal. However, if other organisms get in the way, bad luck for them.
- In other words: everything is allowed. If other organisms suffer as a result, it is only important for the organism that causes their suffering when itself suffers a disadvantage as a result of the suffering of its victims.
- Love, empathy are nice but not necessary, they are just a luxury.
- Rampant sociopathy, lust for power, greed, depletion of natural resources, wars, oppression, exploitation, exclusion of the other and even the torture or the killing of the other organisms are all justifiable from the above explained purely materialistic perspective. Matter is indifferent to suffering.
These conclusions may well disappoint you. Good thing, too. But are they not illogical from the materialistic viewpoint? They do, in my opinion, support the rampant greed that is increasing and causing social inequality and the concentration of capital in the world and that is becoming increasingly alarming.
The Matter with Things – Materialism is no good
The business of life then becomes like a dance watched by a deaf person: puzzling, pointless and somewhat absurd. Death becomes just the meaningless end of a life itself without meaning. Goodness becomes mere utility, and suffering just frustration of utility. Eros becomes just lust; longing just want; sleep and dreams an inefficiency that we should do away with if we could; art a toy; the natural world a heap of resource; and wonder merely a measure of our failure, rather than, as I believe it to be, a measure of our insight.
Therefore: Materialism is no good.
Above that: It has not been demonstrated experimentally. It’s a dogma. An unproven belief.
It is not only a belief, but it is also severely shortsighted. Materialism offers no credible explanation for quantum phenomena such as the observer effect at the double slit, entanglement demonstrated in all Bell experiments and the influence of the mind on quantum random generators (QRNG) by the observer’s intention. Anyone who reflects on hypotheses such as decoherence, multiversa, superselection and spontaneous collapse with an open mind, and is willing to let go of the materialistic view of the world, will be able to see that none of these are very credible attempts to save the materialistic view. Incidentally, the materialistic view has also no real explanation for the evolution of life, which is becoming increasingly painful in view of the recent discoveries in heredity research where organisms, unicellular and multicellular, appear to adapt actively and intelligently their own hereditary properties, their own DNA, in response to the challenges of their environment.
Again, that doesn’t mean that materialists are bad. Most people are good, even when they cherish materialistic views. But this does say something about what this image of the world invites to. Is it any wonder, then, that we are on the brink of catastrophe today, despite all the good intentions of most people?
But isn’t primary consciousness also just a hypothesis?
Indeed. The assumption of primary consciousness is also a hypothesis and because it cannot be proved experimentally it is as much a postulate as the postulate of materialism. However, consider that the postulate of primary consciousness offers excellent explanations for quantum physical effects that are incomprehensible by the materialist view. That’s why it’s my preference. A hypothesis that offers no understandable explanations for experimentally observed effects is, in my view, a poor hypothesis.
Quantum physics has repeatedly confirmed that the information that an experiment can provide determines where the object under investigation will appear, how it behaves and how it has behaved. Reality does not act materially in its fundaments but much more like a dynamic and interactive field of potential. Information including its meaning is typically something that resides in consciousness. That effect, the observer manifests the observed by his observation, can only be properly explained if consciousness is much more than an emergent phenomenon of matter.
When we assume that consciousness is primary and that matter is very probably an expression of that consciousness, a very different picture emerges. Materialism loses its current persuasive power and hopefully we can start to create a world that is not – as it is doing at the moment – crashes into the abyss.
Paul J. van Leeuwen graduated in applied physics in Delft TU in 1974. There was little attention to the significance of quantum physics for the view on reality at that time. However, much later in his life he discovered that there is an important and clear connection between quantum physics and consciousness.
What he learned between then and today resulted in a post academic course in quantum physics for non-physicists. A little bit later he decided to put the contents of that course, and more, in a book published in Dutch: Kwantumfysica, Informatie en Bewustzijn – and started a website on the subject. He translated the Dutch version of his book in English, titled: ‘Quantum Physics is NOT Weird’.