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Three Things Materialists Can’t Do Without


A materialist picture of reality is riddled with vulnerabilities. Here are three things materialists must have.

Successful reproductive cloning. Writing over at Mind Matters, neuroscientist Michael Egnor has issued a gutsy challenge. See “Show Me the Human Clones.” The challenge is this: “If man is matter, and nothing more, man can be copied. If not, he can’t.” He is talking about “reproductive cloning, not therapeutic cloning.” 

This Much Is Certain

Materialists need reproductive cloning. And it must be successful in the sense that Michael Egnor defines it, including uniquely human attributes such as the “abstract immaterial ability to use language, to reason, to abstract general concepts from particular things, to use logic,” and more. Dr. Egnor is powerfully frank: “If man can be copied by a wholly material process, I need to rethink things. If he cannot be, materialists need to rethink things.” 

Man’s being “matter, and nothing more” is for materialists a chief article of faith. Therefore, they require reproductive clones, and the sooner the better. The delay in production is distressing. But cheer up: Chinese scientists are no doubt hard at work right now on solving the technical problems.

Extraterrestrial life. That’s not the only thing materialists need. In much the same way, the ongoing silence from the rest of the universe troubles them. If life generating itself is the predictable result, given a suitable planet, of mindless natural processes, then the cosmos should be abundant in life, including intelligent life. Carl Sagan assured us it is. Materialists need extraterrestrial life. That is why, undeterred by the lack of all evidence, they talk so much about it.

A multiverse. They need a multiverse for related reasons: to explain away the fact of astonishing cosmic fine-tuning. Again, this is why you hear so much about the multiverse, despite the impossibility of there ever being detectable evidence for it.

The Other Side of the Debate

What about those of us on the other side of this great debate? 

Taking these three things in reverse order: For those who recognize evidence of intelligent design in life and in the cosmos, multiple universes (in a hypothetical science fiction scenario where such could be confirmed) would pose no difficulty. As Stephen Meyer points out in Episode 4 of Science Uprising, a universe-generating mechanism, if that’s where baby universes spring from, would require ultra-fine-tuning. For the atheist cosmologist community of Lawrence Krauss, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and others, there is no avoiding the problem. Ultra-fine-tuning means intelligent design.

Alternatively, assume only one universe. Simple life or whole alien civilizations elsewhere (if their existence were somehow confirmed) would not disarray the known evidence for intelligent design by one bit.

What about successful reproductive cloning? Our friend Michael Egnor has a powerful case. But, setting aside the horror of manufacturing human beings, to me the nature of the soul is a mystery. What life itself is, as synthetic organic chemist James Tour says in a bonus Science Uprising video, eludes us. Could a reproductive clone have the rational powers that Dr. Egnor convincingly argues are limited to a human gifted with a soul? I honestly don’t know. But however morally disturbing that prospect, the scientific evidence for intelligent design, for mankind as a “privileged species,” and against unguided evolution would otherwise remain exactly as they are.

I wouldn’t limit myself to these three. Further requirements could be listed. They include some even more horrific than cloning. The lack of “human-monkey chimeras,” for one, is keenly felt. (“Yale University researchers say it’s time to explore.”)

Materialism is needy and fragile, like some people you probably know. That may explain why it snarls at us as it does.

Image: Atheist cosmologist Lawrence Krauss in a scene from Episode 4 of Science Uprising, “Fine Tuning: You Don’t Suck!