Materialism vs anti-materialism deserves serious debate

Gerald R. Baron
12 min readNov 24, 2023
Paul Davies in a physicist who writes popular books on science. His “unconventional” religious views should not lead us to dismiss his philosophical and metaphysical ideas.

Paul Austin Murphy writes frequently on science and religion. That’s a good thing. But the subject deserves in-depth analysis rather than merely raising questions about one’s religion or political stance.

It doesn’t take too long reading philosopher Paul Austin Murphy’s posts on Medium or on his philosophy blog that he is very interested in the connection between science and religion. Since that is a primary interest of mine as well, I have read much of what Murphy has written on this. We don’t agree, at least not on much.

I’ve started a few posts in the past intending to point out some areas of disagreement, but when I found myself featured in a recent post on Wolfgang Pauli, I decided it was time to air my thoughts.

Simply put, where I look for the integration of science and faith (religion, spirituality, transcendence, etc.,) his focus is on denigrating any real attempt at integration. He focuses attention on those scientists and philosophers whose views support in some way a scientific basis for belief in any religion or transcendence. Paul Davies draws particular attention, but Philip Goff also is prominently featured. John Eccles is mentioned and what drew me into this is my writing about Wolfgang Pauli and his association with Carl Jung.

It’s about materialism

I have written extensively about what I call physicalism, the belief system that says all that all there is is explained by causes within a closed universe — no external causes allowed and certainly nothing supernatural or transcendent. I believe this is a faulty belief system. Murphy refers to it as materialism so I will follow his lead. The thinkers he exposes all would, in one form or another, open the door to non-materialistic ideas or theories. It is quite clear that Murphy does not want that door opened, and certainly not by highly regarded physicists like Pauli or Davies, or philosophers like Goff.

His attitude toward those who argue against materialism is clear in some of the careful, but still revealing, terms he uses. For example, in the article on Wolfgang Pauli, he begins:

“‘Religious/“spiritual’ commentators, New Age ‘scientists’, and self-described ‘anti-materialists’ often cite the case…

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Gerald R. Baron

Dawdling at the intersection of faith, science, philosophy and theology.