Relativism and Materialism

8 Sep

Relativism can be defined as, “any theory holding that criteria of judgment are relative, varying with individuals and their environments” and of course my contention cannot be complete without reference to wikipedia, where moral relativism is defined as, “the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect objective and/or universal moral truths.

In a nutshell, relativism means that everybody is right and no one is wrong – that one can say what they like but that they can also pass it off as truth.

But does that make sense? the problem with relativism, in particular moral relativism is more clearly seen in how people expect others to behave. a true relativist would agree that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. if that is so, then they would also agree that someone could do anything they wanted and not have anyone else tell them it was wrong.

What’s more, relativism is an absolute in itself! relativism imposes the absolute that all truths are valid, so it’s a paradox.

Likewise, so many people think that all religions are equally valid, that you can take bits and pieces of different faiths and weave them together to find a perfect compromise. one such thinking is the Baha’i faith, which bases its beliefs on the “unity of religions”. but how can they be united in belief if they differ from each other? how can you make a Jew believe that the Islamic Mohammed was a prophet? or how do you reconcile that Christians believe the Messiah has already come, when Jews are still waiting? faiths can’t be equal when they are mutually exclusive and preclude another from being correct.

The implications are mind-boggling; a child consistently lies – “I’m allowed to lie because I believe it’s right.” a thief steals – “no one can tell me otherwise because everyone’s entitled to their beliefs.” a murderer kills – “i take life because i want to and i believe there’s nothing wrong with it.” this means that no one can say that Hitler was evil and that the holocaust was justified because it was just his point of view. as we know though, that argument is utter rubbish – what Hitler did was wrong.

But how do we know this? what is it that makes us know that murder is abhorrent behaviour? where did our sense of justice come from? people say it was taught to us from birth. true, but then where did our ancestors get it from? im sure evolutionists will argue it’s due to survival of the species, that it’s in our genes to want to keep others alive but there is inconsistency in that argument from them.

If we truly did evolve as a fish out of water, an organism by chance, then we are purely material. that in the big scheme of things we dont have “souls”, we just exist purely due to chance. that we don’t have a reason for living and while our actions affect those around us, who cares? a good analogy i heard was if there was a plant, rabbit and child on the road, if you were an evolutionist you wouldn’t try to avoid any of them in particular because you would believe they are all equal creations due to chance. “does it matter that the child is a human? they evolved as a result of a sperm and ovum just like the rabbit, no more, no less.”

So I come back to what i mentioned earlier, that we “feel” that murder is bad because it negatively affects the continuation of the species. but as an evolutionist, why would you care if the species survived or not? aren’t we just creations of chance, with no personal or intrinsic values at all, purely material? and even if for some “unexplained scientific reason” we wanted our species to surive, we’d all be racists. why would a caucasian want to help prolong the survival of asians? aren’t we somewhat biologically different and therefore have a desire to perpetuate the survival our own race to the detriment of other races?

Richard Dawkins, a well-know atheist writes in his book, A River Out of Eden;

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no other good. Nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. And we dance to its music.

If our actions are dictated by our DNA, true materialism, then anyone who has ever murdered has a right to say they were merely “dancing to their DNA” and not at fault, just like if a rabid dog who mauls someone to death.

C.S. Lewis, Christian and well known author argues against this;

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how have I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? … Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies.1

A lot of people tend to have the answer stare them right in the face but they refuse to accept, whether by stubborness, arrogance, or both. take Dr. George Wald for instance, a Nobel Prize winner for Medicine and a professor at Harvard University who said;

When it comes to the Origin of Life there are only two possibilities: creation or spontaneous generation. There is no third way. Spontaneous Generation was disproved one hundred years ago, but that leads us to only one other conclusion, that of supernatural creation. We cannot accept that on philosophical grounds; therefore, we choose to believe the impossible: that life arose spontaneously by chance!2

By his own admission, it makes more scientific sense to believe in intelligent design , that we were created by a higher being, who created us with a sense of purpose in our lives. but he specifically chooses to believe the opposite of the results of research, that of the impossible. what does that tell you about the objectivity of science?

Anyway hopefully i’ve generated some food for thought and that you might invest some time yourself to read up about this. because it matters.

Greg Wong

1. Tinker, M. “Evil, Evangelism and Ecclesiastes” Themelios 28.2 (Spring 2003): 4-15

2. “The Origin of Life,” Scientific American, 191:48, May 1954


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