Wednesday, August 08, 2007

History files: A materialist's view of science

A friend directs my attention to this:
"Such in outline, but even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world which Science presents for our belief. Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals henceforward must find a home. That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the d├ębris of a universe in ruins-all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built."

- Bertrand Russell, first published in a journal in 1903. Published in
Mysticism and Logic, Chapter 3, of "A Free Man's worship" (1929)

It is strange to think that tens of millions of people lived and died assuming that that vision of life was more or less true, that science's job was to confirm it, and that they somehow had to find love among the ruins.

The actual situation is pretty much the opposite. Whatever is true, that vision is not true. Time to wake up from the nightmare and see what really is true. It's not easy but it's not despair either.


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