Do Away With Materialistic World View And Godless Cosmology
It's not an if. We're going to have to change. Oil is simply going to be gone. ~Dennis Weaver
Godless Science and Worldview Resource crisis is the direct outcome of over-consumption which in turn is the consequence of our excessive material pursuits. Up until a few centuries ago, people all over the world, including in progressive Europe, led a simple God-centred life wherein the main focus was spiritual elevation. Material progress was assigned a secondary place. This life style was in harmony with the available natural resources and it did not leave any destructive footprints on the natural world.
For the first time in human history, in preindustrial Europe of the Middle Ages, there was paradigm shift as far as purpose and destination of human life was concerned. This was also the turning point for the world ecology. The idea contained in the phrase “What profiteth a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul” began to fade away. As the human society began to move away from God-centredness, it became more and more callous to nature and life in general.
Faith in God necessitated faith in the ‘other’ world and therefore the earthly years were not taken to be-all and end-all. Some kind of ascetism was also associated with every religious practice and all this counted favorably for the natural resources and environment.
Indian civilization too shared the vision of a divine purpose in life. Srimad-Bhagavatam, a five thousand year old treatise, contains this passage about the ultimate purpose of human life: “The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendental Lord.” (SB 1.2.6)
Seed of modernization fructified in Europe and ‘American dream’ was the mature fruit of it. This fruit of American way of life has become the goal of the entire world. Unfortunately this way of life is not at all sustainable.
Materialism inflicts a heavy toll on limited resources like oil because materialism is the idea that everything is either made only of matter or is ultimately dependent upon matter for its existence and nature. It is possible for a philosophy to be materialistic and still accord spirit a (secondary or dependent) place, but most forms of materialism tend to reject the existence of spirit or anything non-physical.
Because materialists only accept the existence or primacy of material things, they also only accept the existence or primacy of material explanations for events. Whatever happens in the world, it must be explained and explainable by reference to matter. Materialism thus tends towards determinism: because there are material causes for every event, then every event follows necessarily from its causes.
Materialism is closely associated and aligned with the natural sciences. Modern science involves the study of the material world around us, learning about material events, and theorizing about their material causes. Scientists are materialists in that they only study the material world, although they may personally believe in non-material entities. Science in the past has tried to incorporate vitalist ideas and the supernatural, but those efforts failed and have since been discarded.
Atheists are usually materialists of some sort, rejecting the idea that there exists anything independent of the workings of matter and energy. Materialism often entails atheism unless a person believes in a purely physical god.
A Western History Of Materialism Root of petroleum crisis lies in advent of materialism and its important to understand the history of materialism.
We find that many early scientists were believers in special creation. Pasteur, Mendel, and Faraday are examples. We should examine the lives of these early scientists and their lives to recapture their spirit and curiosity about God's creation. About 96 percent of innovators from the mid-1500s to 1700 were believers. And the great majority of those, about 60 percent, led devout lives.
Newton saw God as the master creator whose existence could not be denied in the face of the grandeur of all creation. Although the laws of motion and universal gravitation became Newton's best-known discoveries, he warned against using them to view the universe as a mere machine, as if akin to a great clock. He said, "Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done." (Tiner, J.H., 1975. Isaac Newton: Inventor, Scientist and Teacher). Copernicus wrote that their orbits were an illustration of the “divine work of the Great and Noble Creator.”
Thus even as Europe entered the age of scientific discovery, many of the early scientists retained deep and profound conceptions of God as the ultimate controller and designer of the universe.
Renaissance and Enlightenment eras in Europe saw the growth of science but God was gradually moved out of the scene. What Newton cautioned against precisely came to be practiced. He had warned against using science to view the universe as a mere machine, governed not by divine arrangement but by precise, mathematically expressed physical laws. Thus was laid the foundation for materialistic modern science and Godless worldview. Descartes in 1637 introduced the idea of reductionism. Descartes argued the world was like a machine, its pieces like clockwork mechanisms, and that the machine could be understood by taking its pieces apart, studying them, and then putting them back together to see the larger picture. Reductionist thinking and methods are the basis for many of the well-developed areas of modern science, including much of physics, chemistry and cellular biology. Thus reductionism threw God out of the picture and reduced the universe, including all human experience, to measurable and predictable states or actions of matter (ultimately subatomic particles) and material forces (such as electromagnetism and gravity).
Oil Crisis Founded on Disregard for Nature and Natural Living The scientific institution thus began to lose concern for God and concern for nature as well. The nature that was seen as a handiwork of God and to be revered, cooperated and preserved suddenly became a subject to be dominated and made a slave. Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), one of the main founders of the modern scientific method, viewed nature as a mysterious, wild woman, something to be exploited and plundered.
Francis Bacon set forth the empirical method. Bacon was the first to formulate a clear theory of the inductive procedure - to make experiments and to draw general conclusions from them, to be tested in further experiments - and he became extremely influential by vigorously advocating the new method. He boldly attacked traditional schools of thought and developed a veritable passion for scientific experimentation.
The “Baconian spirit” profoundly changed the nature and purpose of the scientific quest. From the time of the ancients the goals of science had been wisdom, understanding the natural order and living in harmony with it. Since Bacon, the goal of science has been knowledge that can be used to dominate and control nature, and today both science and technology are used predominantly for purposes that are profoundly antiecological.
Nature, in his view, had to be “hounded in her wanderings”, “bound into service”, and made a “slave”. She was to be “put in constraint”, and the aim of the scientist was to “torture nature’s secrets from her”.
The ancient concept of the earth as a nurturing mother was radically transformed in Bacon’s writings, and it disappeared completely as the Scientific Revolution proceeded to replace the organic view of nature with the metaphor of the world as the machine.
In 1626 Bacon wrote a utopian novel, The New Atlantis. It depicts a mythical land, Bensalem, to which he sailed, that was located somewhere off the western coast of the continent of America. He recounts the description by one of its wise men, of its system of experimentation, and of its method of recognition for inventions and inventors. The best and brightest of Bensalem's citizens attend a college called Salomon's House, in which scientific experiments are conducted in Baconian method in order to understand and conquer nature, and to apply the collected knowledge to the betterment of society. In this novel, Bacon listed some of the inventions he could foresee: “The prolongation of life ... means to convey sound in trunks and pipes in strange lines and distances ... flying in the air ... ships and boats for going under water.” Also in the list: “instruments of destruction as of war and poison” and “engines of war, stronger and more violent, exceeding our greatest cannons.”
Thanks to these developments, it did not take science and technology long to begin playing a primary role in people’s lives. Spiritual quest came to be assigned a secondary place. The consequences were devastating. Individuals and cultures were stripped of inner meaning and the external world (including the global ecology) was rendered into a set of things, mere resources. Consequently the world of modernity was built on an illusion: the illusion that only half of reality mattered: the external, objective, measurable part. The cry 'no more myths' led to the abandonment of any possibility of further development and to the 'disenchantment' of self and the world. Historian Lewis Mumford said, “Whatever their adhesion to the outward ceremonies of the Church . . . more and more people began to act as if their happiness, their prosperity, their salvation were to be achieved on the earth alone, by means they themselves would if possible command.”
Eighteenth and nineteenth centuries further saw the degradation of human spirit and further rise of materialism. Thus even greater thrust was laid into building the machines Bacon envisioned, vastly increasing human ability to exploit the earth’s resources. Thus began the industrial revolution, which is responsible for the energy crisis we face now.
The Onset of Mining Industry The story then begins with mining which had to face considerable resistance in the beginning. Not only medieval Europe was skeptical about the activity of mining but way back even Greek and Roman civilizations expressed their reservations on excavating earth for resources. Prophetic words of Pliny (A.D. 23-79), who wrote them in his work called ‘Natural History’, deserve a mention.
“For it is upon her surface, in fact, that she has presented us with these substances, equally with the cereals, bounteous and ever ready, as she is, in supplying us with all things for our benefit! It is what is concealed from our view, what is sunk far beneath her surface, objects, in fact, of no rapid formation, that urge us to our ruin, that send us to the very depths of hell. As the mind ranges in vague speculation, let us only consider, proceeding through all ages, as these operations are, when will be the end of thus exhausting the earth, and to what point will avarice finally penetrate! How innocent, how happy, how truly delightful even would life be, if we were to desire nothing but what is to be found upon the face of the earth; in a word, nothing but what is provided ready to our hands!”
Thus the medieval opponents of large-scale mining had a surprisingly prophetic view of its negative environmental effects.
The famous German scholar of mining and metallurgy, Georgius Agricola, stated in his 1556 treatise “De Re Metallica” that :
“… the strongest argument of the detractors is that the fields are devastated by mining operations … Also they argue that the woods and groves are cut down, for there is need of an endless amount of wood for timbers, machines, and the smelting of metals. And when the woods and groves are felled, then are exterminated the beasts and birds, very many of which furnish a pleasant and agreeable food for man. Further, when the ores are washed, the water which has been used poisons the brooks and streams, and either destroys the fish or drives them away. Therefore the inhabitants of these regions, on account of the devastation of their fields, woods, groves, brooks and rivers, find great difficulty in procuring the necessaries of life … Thus it is said, it is clear to all that there is greater detriment from mining than the value of the metals which the mining produces.” (Emphasis added)
Next toll of declining God-centered world view and rising materialism was local and self-sufficient agricultural system. Between 1500 and 1700, market economy emerged signalling the demise of subsistence farming. Industrialization of agriculture set in motion a process that is even now destroying traditional village economies and the environment.
In the village communities of many areas of medieval Europe, land was managed in ways that were not very destructive to the environment. Out of numerous such healthy practices, one was three-field system wherein the peasants divided their farmland into three fields, one for winter crops, one for summer crops, and one to remain fallow. The use of the fields was rotated each year. A second part of the system, in order to prevent soil exhaustion, was to use different crops that took different nutrients from the soil. The winter crop typically would consist of winter wheat or rye, and the spring crop would be either spring wheat or legumes (beans or peas). The greater variety of crops provided people with a more balanced diet. Also an advantage of legumes is that they take nitrogen out of the air rather than the soil, and when buried, actually replenish the soil with nitrogen (the Romans referred to this as "green manuring"). Pastures, forests, and water resources were held in common, and their use was carefully regulated by village councils.
The impact of the new methods of commercial agriculture on North European ecology was profound. Inhabitants came to perceive of their physical surroundings in basically capitalist terms. Natural resources increasingly were viewed as commodities, articles of value capable of being exchanged for other goods or money. Though ecological consequences varied according to region, every colony touched by the growing commercialisation suffered deforestation, epidemics, soil exhaustion, and decreasing numbers of wild animals. Market forces would continue to transform the European environment. Trees were cut to expand farmland and pasture and to supply fuel and raw materials for factories. Deforestation resulted in a drier landscape more vulnerable to erosion from high winds. Beaver, fox, and lynx had grown scarce as trappers and traders sought valuable pelts.
Medieval era began to see the sad demise of subsistence farming and introduction of cash crops. Inland communities with little access to markets practiced traditional agriculture that aimed to feed, clothe, and reproduce the family. This form of subsistence farming was far more ecologically sensitive than farming for the market would later be. After clearing forest trees by cutting or burning, farmers used small lots for crops for just a few years, rotating corn, beans, and squash between three fields. Those fields then lay fallow (unused) or served as pastureland for up to eight years, then reverted to forest while a new lot was cleared for the growing of crops. Such methods worked effectively to preserve soil nutrients as mentioned earlier.
Single-crop fields were more vulnerable to pests including insects, squirrels, and crows. Deforestation altered the climate resulting in colder springs, warmer summers, and earlier frosts. Planters, slaves, and small farmers all suffered from changes in the disease environment. As the aedes mosquito found breeding grounds in new ditches and reservoirs, populous towns endured epidemics of yellow fever and malaria.
Construction of roads and canals provided backcountry easier access to markets. The transportation and market revolutions altered the environment in two kinds of ways. Direct consequences included disruptions to the fragile ecosystems of rivers and lakes by canal and dam construction and the burning of vast quantities of firewood aboard new steamboats. Indirect consequences were perhaps more profound. New forms of transportation helped create new regions and economic zones.
Oil Crisis- Gift of Un-Ecofriendly Science-Based Civilization Like any monoculture (an agricultural system dominated by a single crop), single-crop fields promoted the development of soil toxins and the rapid multiplication of parasites. With access to better transportation, farmers began to participate in the market economy in new ways, beyond raising cash crops, that the landscape could not long sustain.
The eventual ecological decline of farms helped set the stage for early industrialization, which in turn created new environmental challenges. As farms faltered, many landless sons and daughters turned to wage labor in new factories including textile mills and sawmills. This new source of cheap labor, combined with the introduction of the power loom fueled an explosive textile industry. Sawmills also expanded, depleting forests. Construction of dams for the new industries altered the ecology of rivers in which fish, including salmon, were blocked from upstream spawning grounds. By the late 18th century, the signs of modern industrial pollution were already evident. As textile mills turned to steam power, burning coal, smoke blackened the skies over fast-growing cities.
The real onset of industrialization would have to await the railroad and textile boom of the Early nineteenth century.
During the seventeenth century, England, faced with a shortage of wood, had switched to coal as an energy source for industry. “Whereas the medieval economy had been based on organic and renewable energy sources-wood, water, and wind-the emerging capitalist economy taking shape over most of western Europe was based not only on the non-renewable energy source - coal - but on an inorganic economic core - metals: iron, copper, silver, gold, tin, and mercury - the refining and processing of which ultimately depended on and further depleted the forests,” says Carolyn Merchant. Thus intensive agriculture began to destroy medieval field systems as well as the hedgerows and field trees.
The interaction between humankind and the environment was reciprocal: short-term effects of weather and longer-term climatic change, had profound consequences for medieval economies, societies, and cultures.
This un-ecofriendly science-based civilizational model that originated a few centuries ago in Europe would eventually spread all over the world in the form of ‘American dream’ and threaten the very existence of life on this planet. We can clearly see this happening now.
From A Sensate Culture To Ideational Culture Godless materialism of medieval and Renaissance Europe eventually gave rise to a civilization which was mad for maximum exploitation of matter. This paradigm owes the first and foremost responsibility for the oil crunch we face now. Therefore solution also lies in reducing the material fever of human society.
Unfortunately, this culture teaches an entirely different set of virtues. It emphasizes a self-centered, consumption-oriented lifestyle, which works directly against a nature friendly life style. It also places an unhealthy emphasis on living within the moment, rather than committing to long-term projects of personal discipline and learning.
In 1941, Harvard sociologist Pitirim Sorokin wrote a book entitled The Crisis of Our Age. In it Sorokin claimed that cultures come in two major types: sensate and ideational. A sensate culture is one in which people only believe in the reality of the physical world we experience with our five senses. A sensate culture is secular, this-worldly, and empirical. It believes that beyond the reality and values which we can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste there is no other reality and no real values. By contrast, an ideational culture embraces the physical world, but goes on to accept the notion that a non-physical, immaterial reality can be known as well, a reality consisting of God, the soul, immaterial beings, values and purposes. Sorokin claimed that a sensate culture will eventually disintegrate because it does not have the intellectual resources necessary to sustain a public and private life conducive to human flourishing. After all, if we can’t know anything about values, life after death, God, and so forth, where can we find solid guidance toward a life of wisdom and character?
Proverbs tells us that we become the ideas we cherish in our inner being and we transform our lives accordingly. Scripture is quite clear that our worldview will determine the shape of our cultural and individual lives. Because this is so, the worldview struggle raging in our modern context has absolutely far-reaching and crucial implications.
Sorokin further said that sensate society “intensely cultivates scientific knowledge of the physical and biological properties of sensory reality.....Despite its lip service to the values of the Kingdom of God, it cares mainly about the sensory values of wealth, health, bodily comfort, sensual pleasures, and lust for power and fame. Its dominant ethic is invariably utilitarian and hedonistic.”
“The inevitable result, is the exceptional violence we have experienced in the twentieth century. And we may include in this category violence against the planet itself, brought on by the increasing destructiveness of the morally irresponsible, sensate scientific achievements ... invented and continuously perfected by the sensate scientists.”
5000 years ago, Bhagavad gita defined this phenomenon as demonism, “They say that this world is unreal, with no foundation, no God in control. They say it is produced of sex desire and has no cause other than lust. Following such conclusions, the demoniac, who are lost to themselves and who have no intelligence, engage in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world. (Bhagavad-gita 16.8-9)
Focus On Interior Life In the last few decades people have become far more concerned about external factors such as the possession of consumer goods, celebrity status, image, and power rather than the development of what is called an interior life. It wasn't long ago that people were measured by the internal traits of virtue and morality, and it was the person who exhibited character and acted honorably who was held in high esteem. This kind of life was built upon contemplation of what might be called the "good life." After long deliberation, an individual then disciplined himself in those virtues most valued.
Paul reminds us of the dangers of over-emphasizing personality ethics as opposed to character ethics when he writes, "Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.
The oil crisis is there because we’re conditioned to see the earth and its resources and creatures as things to be exploited unlimitedly for personal gratification. And this is so because we have forgotten our connection with the transcendental reality.
Attitude Towards Nature There is a growing understanding that addressing the global crisis facing humanity will require new methods for knowing, understanding and valuing the world. Narrow, disciplinary, mechanistic, and reductionist perceptions of reality are proving inadequate for addressing the complex, interconnected problems of the current age. The currently dominant worldview of scientific materialism, which views the cosmos as a vast machine composed of independent, externally related pieces, promotes fragmentation in our thinking and perception. The materialist view of natural systems as commodities to be exploited coupled with the ethos of consumerism and social Darwinism has encouraged widespread destruction of our natural life support systems. The cancerous spread of nihilism and dehumanization are driving the decay and disintegration of techno-industrial culture.
The paradigm of reductionism gave human society increased ability to exploit matter. But this viewpoint has cost us a lot - a planet threatened with ruination, and depletion of the human spirit.
In Vedic literatures like Bhagavad-gita, material nature has been described as God’s inferior energy and living entity, the soul as God’s superior nature. Vedic literatures do not approve the idea that life can originate from chemicals and neither does empirical science has any proof to support this idea. By portraying life forms to be mere biological machines, science has done tremendous damage. This godless perspective lies at the heart of all the maladies including environmental ones. True God consciousness inspires one to treat environment as one of the God’s manifestations and act responsibly towards it. Godless worldview has produced an extremely callous attitude towards ecology and world resources.
Ideas or thoughts do manifest as our destiny as reflected in the adage, "Sow a thought to reap an act, sow an act and reap a habit, sow a habit and reap a character, sow a character and reap a destiny."
The Western civilization is a nasty civilization, artificially increasing the necessities of life. For example, take the electric light. The electric light requires a generator, and to run the generator you need petroleum. As soon as the petroleum supply is stopped, everything will stop. But to get petroleum you have to painstakingly search it out and bore deep into the earth, sometimes in the middle of the ocean. This is ugra-karma, horrible work. The same purpose can be served by growing some castor seeds, pressing out the oil, and putting the oil into a pot with a wick. We admit that you have improved the lighting system with electricity, but to improve from the castor-oil lamp to the electric lamp you have to work very hard. You have to go to the middle of the ocean and drill and then draw out the petroleum, and in this way the real goal of your life is missed. ~ Srila Prabhupada (Room Conversation, June 24, 1976, New Vrindaban)
Bhagavan : Objection is that the people have become so impatient for sense gratification, they have no patience anymore. They can't wait... There was some story. In the United States, there has been this trouble with petrol, and... All over the world, there's been this trouble with petrol, gasoline. So there was rationing. That means people could only get a little gas. So the cars would line up for a great distance in the gas station, and they'd wait for a long time. And sometimes the gas station would run out of gas. And the people would get so angry that they killed the gas station attendant...does not teach anyone to be austere or patient. Prabhupada: But human life is meant for austerity and patience. Tapo divyam [SB 5.5.1]. Austerity, penance, that is human life. Otherwise, it is animal life. Simply animal civilization. (Conversation, June 12, 1974, Paris)
The fact is, we cannot drill our way to oil independence. ~ Carl Pope
Human life is never meant for sense gratification, but for self-realization. Srimad-Bhagavatam instructs us solely on this subject from the very beginning to the end. Human life is simply meant for self-realization. The civilization which aims at this utmost perfection never indulges in creating unwanted things, and such a perfect civilization prepares men only to accept the bare necessities of life or to follow the principle of the best use of a bad bargain. Our material bodies and our lives in that connection are bad bargains because the living entity is actually spirit, and spiritual advancement of the living entity is absolutely necessary. Human life is intended for the realization of this important factor, and one should act accordingly, accepting only the bare necessities of life and depending more on God's gift without diversion of human energy for any other purpose, such as being mad for material enjoyment. The materialistic advancement of civilization is called "the civilization of the demons," which ultimately ends in wars and scarcity. ~ Srila Prabhupada (Srimad Bhagavatam 2.2.3)
...increasing the problem! They have to dig out petroleum oil from the midst of the ocean. Is it easy job? Jayatirtha : No. Prabhupäda: But they will do it because they have got motorcars, they must find out petrol. (Morning Walk, September 28, 1972, Los Angeles)