Sample Sociology Essay on What is materialism

Part A

  1. What is materialism?

Materialism is a form of metaphysics that asserts that matter is the universe’s fundamental reality and that the actions of material components are the only rational explanations for all phenomena in the universe (Barbour 66). In this perspective, spirituality and religion are considered unable to explain fundamental phenomena in the universe. Religious beliefs are unacceptable from the materialism perspective because religion has no public data, experimental testing protocols, or criteria for evaluation (Barbour 12). As such, various forms of materialism can be applied including scientific, reductionism, or metaphysical.

  1. What is biblical literalism?

Biblical literalism describes the interpretation of the Bible through its literal rather than figurative or metaphorical meaning (Falkenberg par. 1). This concept is founded on the arguments of many traditionalists who emphasize the centrality of Christ without insisting on the infallibility of the Bible (McGrath 14). However, the principles shared under this concept include the argument against the teaching of evolution in schools on the basis that evolution contradicts the scripture (McGrath 15). It also promotes the consideration of creation science as equal in significance to evolution science, and the need for creation science to be accorded equal attention in school.

  1. Why is indeterminacy in nature important for science and religion?

Indeterminacy is a concept related to quantum mechanics and is used to describe various physical happenings that are uncertain. The principle further explains that the uncertainties experienced in the world of subatomic particles cannot be explained merely by the limitations in human knowledge of the natural events that are strictly determined and that God is the ultimate authority in determining the uncertainties in quantum level events without violation of natural laws (McGrath 32). No single unified spatial and temporal model specification can explain these indeterminacies as they are constrained by natural laws.

  1. What is the limit question?

Limit questions in the religion-science conflict refer to the boundary questions that are raised by science but whose answers are not given by science. These boundaries can be conceptual or methodological; temporal or spatial. These questions are raised by the combination of intelligibility and contingency, which is aimed at providing a new rational order (McGrath 24). Science on the other hand shows a rational and contingent order, whose laws and initial conditions were unnecessary.

  1. What is telos?

Telos is described as the ultimate or goal of everything ever possessed by humans or created by nature. The origin of the telos starts from a general description of the particular subject and concludes with the presentation of specific natural evidence for the existence of that subject. Everything in nature has a purpose or a goal.

  1. What is the connection between the falsification principle and arguments for the possible existence of God?

The falsification principle is an argument that any empirical scientific system should be possible to refute by experience. In this way, the falsification principle provides a criterion for demarcation that can be used to counter-argue against the verification principles previously recommended. While the general description of the falsification principle relates to empirical scientific systems, it could be applied to religious systems (McGrath 32). In particular, the falsification principle would aim to present experiential evidence that contradicts the argument for the possible existence of God, something that may be difficult to achieve.

  1. Why did Galileo really get into trouble?

The problems that Galileo experienced with the Roman Catholic Church were based not on the religious-science conflict but on the implications of Galileo’s arguments. Galileo’s science, in spite of not being self-evidently correct, resulted in I meanings and implications that may not have been intended (Brooke 10). The acquired meanings and implications countered previous perceptions of the relationship between science and religion as determined by social and political factors (Brooke 11). Furthermore, the boundary/interface itself was too superficial to effectively address the problem at hand.

Part B

  1. Differences between the Kalam Argument and Aquinas’s Argument

The teleological cosmological argument proposed by Aquinas and the Kalam argument, are similar fundamentally in the conceptualization of God as the cause of all things that exist. The Kalam argument asserts that everything that exists has both a beginning and a cause. As such, the universe, having a beginning, must also have a cause (McGrath 61). The cause, in this case, is none other than God since no other probable cause can be cited. The cosmological argument similarly recognizes God as the cause of the universe. However, the two arguments differ in that the cosmological argument further avers that things are not just caused, but are designed to serve a particular purpose (McGrath 62). The designs fit the goal or purpose of the objects for which they are caused. God is the master designer for all things as per the cosmological argument.

Besides the argument in support of the design of all things, the mention of the purpose of anything that exists. While the Kalam argument only focuses on the actual cause and existence, the Cosmological argument mentions that the existence is for a specific purpose (McGrath 61-62). This implies that nothing can exist without a purpose, including the universe. The two arguments are however similar in their portrayal of the end of all things as inevitable. The two arguments also differ in their conceptualization of time. In Aquinas’s version of the cosmological argument, the essential ordering of the causes of the existence of things is independent of time concerns (Reichenbach, 2017). In this regards, the relationship between the cause of existence and its effects is not temporal but is real. As such the first cause is not by virtue of temporal occurrence but just a sustaining cause. The Kalam argument on the other hand considers the temporal ordering of causal events as consequential.

The differences between these two cosmological versions affect the relationship between religion and science. For one, their agreement that God is the cause of everything confirms the concept of indeterminacies and can be used to deduce that questions with no answers in science can be addressed in religion. Furthermore, the inconsequential time argument in Aquinas’s version points out the relevance of the creation theory regardless of the temporal sequence in which the universe was formed. On the other hand, the time-definite conceptualization by the Kalam argument fosters the understanding that both science and religion may provide viable arguments on the cause of specific outcomes depending on the purported timelines of the occurrences.

  1. Ecclesiastical Authorities’ Responses to Copernicus and Galileo

While both Copernicus and Galileo were considered sinners by the ecclesiastical authorities due to their stand regarding the origin of the universe. However, the manner in which their arguments were received were different hence warranting different treatments by the authorities. For Copernicus, the arguments were presented in a manner that suggested uncertainty. Copernicus argued in a manner that suggested lack of conviction with his position and that he was open to further ideas on the cause of the universe (McGrath 20). On the other hand, Galileo’s arguments gave the impression of his definite conviction in the rotation of the earth. By this definite argument, Galileo’s theories shed doubts on the conviction of the church on the creation theory. Furthermore, the implications of Galileo’s arguments may have been outside the intended impacts but were influenced by the social and political factors at the time (McGrath 22). Because of these differences and the fact that Copernicus died soon after the publication of his book and thus avoided the aftermath of its implications, Galileo was treated more harshly. He was persecuted more compared to Copernicus who presented an almost similar argument.

  1. Importance of Indeterminacy in the Science-Religion Conflict

The concept of indeterminacy, which relates to the inability to describe the exact position or velocity of a quantum particle with precision, has strong relevance in the conflict between science and religion (McGrath 87). Science raises limit questions whose answers are not available in science. The link between indeterminacy and the limit questions is such that the subject of quantum mechanics and the positions of particles implies that there has to be another explanation for those positions, and a force that can determine those positions and velocities with accuracy.

The conflict between religion and science is escalated further with respect to the concept of indeterminacy by virtue of the principle of faith through which religion describes God as the cause and designer of everything. In this respect, faith implies belief without any proof, a principle through which it can be deduced that the quantum mechanics concepts, which cannot be explained by science, can be explained by religion. In this way, indeterminacy escalates the conflict between religion and science.

Part C

Question 2

Isaac Newton is one of the most renowned people in the world of quantum physics. Prior to the extensive work on terrestrial motion done by Newton, Kepler’s laws on planetary motion were considered deficient for explaining the motion of planetary bodies due to their reliance on a single principle (McGrath 26). The questions raised in both science and religion concerning those planetary bodies could not be addressed based on Kepler’s laws. Newton, therefore, emerged as a rare monument of cosmic order and rationality. The studies by Newton initially focused on the laws regulating the motion of bodies on the ground, and he came up with the three laws of motion. These same laws were adopted and modified for planetary motion. The laws were founded on measurable concepts such as space, mass, and time and on the assumption that the same force that aids in the fall of an apple from a tree to be responsible for holding the moon and other planetary bodies around the earth (McGrath 27). Newton’s laws also fostered the development of the mechanistic universe perspective in that they demonstrated the ability to explain a wide range of observational phenomena based on a common set of universal principles (McGrath 27). Furthermore, his successes in explaining both terrestrial and celestial phenomena pushed the development of the perspective that the universe and nature, in general, could be considered to behave like a machine.

In the discourse on the conflict between science and religion, one of the issues of divergence is that of the existence of God. Aquinas’s cosmological argument and the Kalam argument posit that God is the cause of everything. The Aquinas cosmological argument further states that the universe and nature (everything), was not just caused but was designed by God (McGrath 62). Newton’s laws and their fit with the theory of the mechanistic universe confirm the argument for the design of the universe and the role of God in it. Another feature of Newton’s work that seems to be aligned to the concept of religion and Deism is that of the universe’s regularity (McGrath 28). Through indigenous religions, the commonly shared image of God is that of a clockmaker with a clear understanding of the positions and locations of all the natural features he created (McGrath 28). The concept of celestial mechanics goes further to support this consideration of God as a clockmaker albeit in a different perspective, namely that He created everything within a set of rules in which he has no continuing role to play. Newton’s laws suggest the continuity of natural phenomena without the need for continuous intervention by God. This however does not refute the existence of God but rather portrays God as the master of regularity, giving rise to the concept of Deism.

By an understanding of the role Newton’s laws have played even within the religious context and the fact that they have acted as a confirmation of the already suspected religious perspective, it becomes possible to see the interconnection between science and religion, a position that is further explained by McGrath in his YouTube video (min. 9:12). Religion provides beliefs in the existence of God and his role in controlling nature and the universe, and science confirms that the happenings in the universe were actually designed based on the principle of regularity, a concept that could only be applied by a master designer, God.

Works Cited

Barbour, Ian G. Chapter 1: Four Views of Religion and Science. In When Science Meets Religion. Harper Collins Publishers, 2000, pp. 65-89.

Barbour, Ian G. Chapter 3: The Implications of Quantum Physics. In When Science Meets Religion. Harper Collins Publications, 2000, pp. 1-38.

Brooke, Hedley John. Interaction between Science and Religion: Some Preliminary Considerations. Cambridge University Press.

Falkenberg, Steve. “Biblical Literalism.” New Reformation, Accessed 8 Feb 2020.

McGrath, Alister E. “Conflict or Mutual Agreement? Why Science and Theology Need to Talk to Each Other.” YouTube Video, Accessed 7 Feb 2020.

McGrath, Alister E. Debate 1: Copernicus, Galileo, and the Solar System. In. McGrath (Ed.). Science and Religion: A New Introduction. Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2010, pp. 17-25.

McGrath, Alister E. Debate 2: Newton, the Mechanical Universe, and Deism. In. McGrath (Ed.). Science and Religion: A New Introduction, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2010, pp. 26-32.

Reichenbach, Bruce. “Cosmological argument.” Stanford Encyclopedia or Psychology, 2017, . Accessed 7 Feb 2020