No Meaning for the Materialist

I was listening recently to an interview by Dr. Jordan Peterson of Dr. Lawrence Krauss. Peterson, as you likely know, is the professor of clinical psychology from Canada who made a big splash when he refused to submit to a law in Canada requiring that people employ the gender pronouns by which others self-identify. Peterson said it was the first time the state mandated speech and, thus, was inappropriate and worthy of dissent. Since then, Peterson has become something of a cultural and intellectual icon, especially among those who resist the pressure to conform to the cultural, social and political agenda being pushed by the hard left. Krauss is a theoretical physicist who has become famous (though somewhat less than Peterson) for his attempts to make physics accessible to the average man or woman on the street, as well as being something of a “fifth horseman” of the New Atheist movement. One of his more popular books is “A Universe From Nothing,” in which he attempts to explain how the universe could have emerged from nothing. He fails because his strategy is to change the definition of “nothing” from “nothing” to “something.” Basically, Krauss identifies “nothing” with what people thought was “empty space,” only to discover that empty space is not empty at all. “Nothing isn’t nothing, anymore!” Krauss claims in his lecture on the subject. Of course, when ancient and Catholic philosophers speak of “nothing” they don’t mean “empty space.” They mean nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Ex nihilo. It’s very difficult to wrap your mind or imagination around the idea of nothing because we’ve never experienced it, nor could we. So, Krauss wasn’t very persuasive with his universe from nothing argument.

Nevertheless, the conversation between Peterson and Krauss was quite interesting on several points. I was especially intrigued by Krauss’ explanation of how the universe is expanding at such a rate that galaxies we can see now we will not longer be able to see in the future. Eventually, all of the galaxies we can currently observe from Earth will be out of sight, beyond the horizon, and it will appear as if ours in the only galaxy in the universe. Now, by the future, Krauss means billions or even trillions of years from now, so it’s not something our generation will experience. Even still, it’s a fascinating prospect.

Another claim Krauss makes is that there is no meaning to the universe. Given that the universe came into existence through random processes and will, eventually, go out of existence, Krauss concludes that no meaning can be discovered for the universe. He feels, rather than this being a depressing prospect, it’s liberating, because it frees us from our fantasies and empowers us to give meaning to our lives, rather than conclude that there’s already a meaning given to us by another, such as God.

In his conversation with Peterson, Krauss explained that he was an empiricist. That is, he holds that if something can’t be measured, there’s no reason to conclude that it’s real. As such, he rejects all supernatural phenomena and, of course, rejects the existence of God. Krauss is, essentially, a materialist.

Here’s the problem: if nothing exists except matter, then we humans (and everything else that exists) are nothing more than the atoms that make us up. Even our thoughts are nothing more than the result of atoms randomly bouncing around in our brains. Given this, our thoughts, our perception of reality, our understanding of the world and universe in which we live, offer nothing in which we can have any confidence. They are, after all, nothing more than the result of atoms randomly bouncing around in our brains. We can have no confidence whatsoever that our perception of reality reflects actual reality, because our perception of reality is the random result of the movement of atoms. Should those atoms move in a different, also random, way then our perception of reality would be completely different. Even this thought, the thought that our thoughts are nothing more than the result of atoms randomly bouncing around in our brain, is nothing in which we can place any confidence. Given that, how can Krauss say that a meaningless universe empowers us to give meaning to our own lives? Any meaning we give is nothing more than the result of atoms randomly bouncing around in our brains, and so nothing that could have any legitimate claim to reality or true meaning.

Why would the movement of atoms have to be random? Because any ordered movement is impossible in a materialistic world. Order implies design, and design implies purpose, and purpose implies intelligence. So, you’re forced into one of two conclusions: either you recognize that there is no order, and your thoughts are nothing more than the result of atoms randomly bouncing around in your brain, or you assign intelligence to those atoms, … and you’re no longer a materialist.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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