Re:  The Masks of Materialism 

(Clarification to Ali Sina)

By Aparthib Zaman

E-mail: [email protected]  




I would just like to address Ali Sina's query as to how I can resolve what he thinks the inconsistency in my affirming that I am a rationalist and at the same time taking a materialistic position. Let me clarify again that I nowhere stated that I am a materialist, rather I suggested it was obsolete and not a meaningful term to use now. I will clarify further later.

First I wish to emphasize that it is a fallacy for a rationalist to debate whether "X" exists or not, when "X" is not even defined. To take a side in that (i.e to say that "X" does not exist) debate is to fall in a trap laid by the believer in "X". In other words, it doesn't make sense to say that "X" doesn't exist, when "X" itself is a vague and undefined word invented by believers in "X" to express certain emotional state of mind. To even argue that "X": does not exist is to grant legitimacy to the concept of "X" invented by the believer in "X". That's why I insist that a rationalist cannot be a hard atheist who says that "GOD" does not exist, rather a rationalist is forced to take a NONCOGNITIVE (i.e refuse to call "X exists/does not exist" as a genuine proposition, and thus refuse to engage in the debate about "X"'s existence) view of such undefined concepts.

Examples of X are:

A. God 
B. Soul 
C. Spirit 
D. Spiritual world

There is no way one can define any of these words that can pass strict logical scrutiny, without eventually ending up in a circular definition, or invoke yet another undefined terms somewhere in the chain of definition. They only reflect a state of human mind reflecting ignorance at the very fundamental level.

2. Let me stress to you again that "Materialism is not science", and "Science is not Materialism". Modern science (Physics in particular) now recognizes reality at a very fundamental level. This is the level of information. Matter is not the most fundamental level. The most fundamental level is that of information. Information being the laws of Physics (Quantum Cosmlogy/String Theory..). Matter is a manifestation of the curvature of space-time. Space-time can form from nothingness by pure Quantum process. This is known in popular parlance as "It from Bit" (It = matter, Bit = information). These insights of Physics were not known to classical philosophers who invented materialism. So it is out of date to insist on materialism with today's knowledge of science. So NO, I am not a materialist, in answer to your question, because I don't believe that matter is the basis for all existence, rather I believe that the laws of physics is the basis of all of existence, as far as the best evidence we have so far. I am a rationalist, and rationalism only relies on logic and evidence for FORMING ANY CONCLUSION about REALITY. Rationalism does not allow one to make any meaningful statement/conclusion outside reality, beyond the phenomenal (i.e the world of senses, albeit the senses now include sensitive scientific equipments) world. It doesn't make sense to talk about the "existence" or non-existence of anything not observable. Dark matter exists because we can observe it. Before it was discovered it would not make sense to refer to "Dark Matter", because it was not even a defined notion. Is it possible there may be entities like "dark matter" waiting to be discovered?. Absolutely. Physicists are waiting agog for any such new entities to be uncovered, even though they may remain unexplained. As I said existence and explanations are two independent aspects of any reality. But it doesn't make sense to refer to "Soul", "spirituality", "spiritual world" etc, because they are words without precise meaning to science and logic. Does that mean that nothing exists beyond what our logic and evidence can prove? Of course not. But we cannot claim something to exist which is not amenable to our senses. We can only say in a general way that there MAY BE entities "outside" our phenomenal world that can potentially become part of our phenomenal world if our sense perceptions are improved enough. But before they are perceived in the phenomenal world they cannot be referred to by any specific names and claimed to even "possibly" exist, because before it does not make sense to refer to anything that is not known to exist yet, hence their nature being not known. It does not make sense to say that "X" may possibly exist, when "X" is not a well-defined concept. That's why strictly speaking a rationalist cannot be an agnostic (God MAY possibly exist). But once something is perceived and becomes accepted as part of our phenomenal world, they can be referred to by specific names (dark matter, aurora borealis, etc), and then they are subject to the laws of the phenomenal world (Physics). Some of those phenomena are truly unexplained, as dark matter, others like Ganesh's oozing milk, is weel explained by Physics. Alien abduction, ghosts, souls etc are not yet part of phenomena. But talking about vague and undefined words like soul, spirit, spiritual world etc only reflect a sentiment that in turn reflects the sense of awe generated through ignorance about the ultimate reality of existence, i.e why the universe exists rather not, with the laws of physics governing the universe in such a way that we have these wonderful things like life, consciousness, stars etc. Let me tell you the greatest paranormal event of our world. THE LAWS OF PHYSICS. We know it exists. But we cannot explain why it exists. That satisfies the definition of paranormal perfectly. And it may well remain as paranormal. I don't see how the existence of the laws of physics can ever be explained, because we do not have the language to explain it.

Anything is possible that is dictated by the laws of Physics. Laws of Physics is certainly not known fully. So that leaves room for many phenomena to occur without explanation, i.e paranormal phenomena by definition. As I indicated dark matter is one example. Paranormal occurrences are possible IN PRINCIPLE. But anecdotes (individual or collective) are not considered the evidence for paranormal occurrence. This is a criteria of science. If you agree that science is not a dogma, then you also must accept that "not accepting anecdotes as the evidence for the occurrence of paranormal" is also not a dogma. But you seem to have indicated that it is dogma to reject the anecdotes as the evidence for the occurrence of paranormal (Specially if the anecdotes are by MANY people or reliable people like yourself). So you need to resolve this inconsistency in your position. 

That's all for now.

- Aparthib

Back to Rationalists' Debate

[Mukto-mona] [Articles] [Recent Debate] [Special Event ] [Moderators] [Forum]