Thursday, August 04, 2011

A. N. Wilson on materialism


I've been working on this piece, "C. S. Lewis and Science" (or whatever it'll eventually be called), and I ran across a somewhat recent quotation from A. N. Wilson, the brilliant, but cranky biographer of Lewis and, for quite a while, committed atheist. Just a few years ago, he changed his mind. Wilson points to "great saint Thomas More, Chancellor of England":
Our bishops and theologians, frightened as they have been by the pounding of secularist guns, need that kind of bravery (like Sir Thomas More’s) more than ever. Sadly, they have all but accepted that only stupid people actually believe in Christianity, and that the few intelligent people left in the churches are there only for the music or believe it all in some symbolic or contorted way which, when examined, turns out not to be belief after all. As a matter of fact, I am sure the opposite is the case and that materialist atheism is not merely an arid creed, but totally irrational. Materialist atheism says we are just a collection of chemicals. It has no answer whatsoever to the question of how we should be capable of love or heroism or poetry if we are simply animated pieces of meat.
I think that's fairly provocative stuff. What do you think? 

3 comments:

John said...

At first, I thought this quote was say, 40 years old. But as I re-read your post, I'm under the impression it is a recent quotes.

That matters because only in the past 10 years or so, there has been some new research into altruism, co-operation, and even love as evolutionary adaptations that promote survival of a species or group.

GCootsona said...

Not everybody's caught up....

M Fitzpatrick said...

Well, evolutionary biology and psychology have attempted answers to "how" we should be capable of love or whatnot. But the "why" question is what I think A.N. Wilson really gets right. "Why" should a mere collection of chemicals (actually, quarks and gluons, etc) care? It is the fact that we care about ourselves, each other, the world, God, that is the biggest mystery of all. Materialism can only offer a descriptive account of the world. But humans live in the world of norms and truth. We don't just say, "Hey, this is a collection of chemicals called Greg." We say, "I care about Greg." Why should a collection of chemicals want to preserve itself, survive, and assist in the preservation of others? It seems, quite surprisingly, that those things which "mean" something to us, are rather quite real.