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A meditation on Democritus and materialism

From: Dr. Norman R. W.
Sent on: Friday, February 3, 2012 7:05 AM
Democritus, the Greek philosopher, is said to have said,

"There is only atoms and void, everything else is just opinion".

This is a summary of naturalism or materialism. Now the opinions include all explanations of the atoms and the void. Every thought we think about the atoms and the void is also just an opinion. From a naturalistic/materialistic perspective love, justice, good, and bad are just meaningless opinions that are not "real'. Reality just is made up only of atoms and the void randomly interacting and accidentally forming themselves into the universe. Logic is just another "opinion" that strives to make sense of the atoms and the void and reason is just another story we have made up to develop meaning of chaos. All the thoughts of humanity are nothing but empty opinions about atoms and the void but are not real. Only atoms and the void are real.

It is hard to be a consistent naturalist or materialists for even the arguments used to defend it are just the empty opinions of beings whose consciousness itself is just an accident in a chaotic universe without explanation or meaning. In many ways the best response to such a reality would just be silence and surrender. To listen to the sounds of silence and surrender to the the reality of nothingness. No meaning, no words, no thoughts, no ideas, nothing but atoms and the mindless void. The only way to escape from the illusions of opinions is to not add to them with empty words or thoughts.

But we know that there was a day before the first atom existed. Before the "big bang". The universe is not eternal or infinite. It is dependent and growing.

At least this is what our scientific opinion would tell us. Just another opinion in our observations of the atoms and the void. But our reason, that other accidental development that allows us to think leads us to this conclusion. So is the void the ultimate reality? Do all things from nothing come? That does not fit well with our logic. Yet, another struggle with not remaining silent before all things.

The other explanation is that there is an eternal mind who has an eternal power. This eternal mind and power is the one who made the atoms and designed them into a functioning universe. This mind is the source of logic, reason, math, justice, good, and bad. These are not illusions but eternal realities. In that sense more real than atoms.

In this view our lesser experience of these non-physical things is but a reflection of something greater for which we strive. We study the atoms of this physical world in confidence that they will make sense and be guided by rational laws because behind it all is a rational and eternal mind. This is another opinion different than the opinion of materialism.

There are good reasons and logic to think that there is more than just atoms and the void. I would recommend "How to Think About God" by Mortimer J. Adler as one example of how to handle to find a reason to think that there is more than just the material universe. What he sets forth of course is just an opinion.

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