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Jon Cleland Host

  Duane wrote:

My understanding of a “materialist” view of the universe is summarized in the following propositions (which I understand may not reflect your own):

• 1 Measurable matter is the only reality and is essentially mechanical in its workings.
Is someone claiming that nothing else could exist?  I think you might be taking the fact that scientists talk about measurable matter when they study it as a statement that nothing else exists.   Do you have statements from scientists that nothing else could possibly exist?  Also, what do you mean by “measureable”?  Dark matter, love, and qualia are all things that are difficult or impossible to measure, yet scientists don’t claim they don’t exist.  Or do you mean “detectable”, in which case how could anyone claim something non-detectable exists?  Even with “detectable”, we are back to the fact that scientists study detectable things – they may or may not, as individuals, think that other things exist.
On the “mechanical” part – again, I don’t know what you are claiming, since many things are not “mechanical”, and I don’t know of any declaration from a scientific group, or other claim, that everything is “mechanical”.  It sounds, again, like matter without consciousness is somehow “bad” or “evil”, as with the ancient Gnostic view of the world – along the lines of Ursula’s “grunge” approach to matter.
• 2 At the foundations of existence, matter is without consciousness or subjectivity.
I think a lot of scientists, as people, would agree with this as a guess – but again I don’t see where this is being made as a claim.  I think that the most common position here is that “we simply don’t know”.  After all, it’s very different for one to say “my best estimate is that sub-atomic particles aren’t conscious”, for one to say “I know for a fact that sub-atomic particles aren’t conscious”.  Do you see the difference between those two statements?
•3 Because there is no underlying “presence” or awareness, nature has no purpose and evolution has no inherent meaning.
I don’t know where you are getting the idea that “science” is making that claim.  Is there a group that has issued a statement on that?  I think this goes back to the reminder that “I don’t know” is a common answer, and one which is not an assertion in either direction.  Also, and perhaps just as importantly, the idea that there is no evidence that the tiniest bits of matter are conscious doesn’t, in itself, lead to the conclusion that nature has no purpose or meaning.  Is not a universe without aware particles still able to be one filled with meaning?  I guess I don’t see a reason for the “Because” above – like if I said “Because my cell phone works, Alexander the Great didn’t conquer the Aztecs.” , you could point out that B doesn’t follow from A.  in the case above, I don’t see why you see B (lack of meaning) as following from A (unaware particles).
• 4 Consciousness is largely unique to humans, is a by-product bio-chemistry and is confined within the brain.

 Like 2, I think that most scientists would guess that this is the case, but that most would say they really don’t know, and I would wonder what evidence one could have that this is incorrect.  Again, it sounds like one is taking the fact that scientists avoid stating things without evidence as evidence that they assert those things are non-existent, which are two very different things.  


In contrast, a living universe is itself a vast story continuously unfolding with countless characters playing out gripping dramas of awakening.

Again, I don’t see how B follows A here either.  Would not a Universe which contains both living and non-living things be capable of being a vast story continuously unfolding with countless characters playing out gripping dramas of awakening?  I think so.  I don’t see how the removal of all non-living things is a requirement for a vast story continuously unfolding with countless characters playing out gripping dramas of awakening.


These premises (which, as I understand it, are at the foundations of scientific materialism) do suggest the very limited “story of the universe” that I described. 

  I wonder if it is possible that some of this is a caricature of “scientists” – a picture formed by what others have said are “assumptions” of scientists, when many of these are not things that scientists (nor science organizations) are claiming as positive assertions?