Materialism philosophy comes in two different brands. There is metaphysical materialism which is concerned with the nature of things that exist. There is also political materialism which is concerned with human behaviour and social organisation. This article is concerned only with the former type of philosophical materialism.
In recent decades there has been a massive growth in popular science books written by eminent scientists with the non-science specialist in mind. Some of the best known of these have been extremely careless in their philosophical presentations. Materialism is presented by some, as fact, when it is not fact. Indeed, it is false and has been discarded as a philosophical position by scientists approximately a hundred years ago.
The main proponent of a materialist philosophy in recent years has been Richard Dawkins. I can well understand him taking on the unscientific groups who seek to undermine rational understanding but to do so by presenting science wrapped in a materialist philosophy is to my mind a grave mistake. Quite simply materialism as a philosophy is dead and has been dead for a century.
I am all in favour of promoting science and the rational understanding of the world in which we live, but pretending that science and rationalism need to embrace materialist philosophy does not help. There are ways of viewing the world that do not entail a philosophical materialist interpretation and there are ways of understanding the world non-materially that do not contradict any known scientific facts.
Too frequently science is presented as materialist to counter some irrational position when materialism itself is equally objectionable. Dawkins speaks of evolutionary theory as an idea that refutes God. It does not. There may be arguments against the theist God but evolutionary theory is not one of them. Dawkins also presents life and human existence as a purely random and accidental occurrence. This may well be a true representation of the universe, but it is by no means clear that we are here by mere randomness. There is certainly no scientific evidence to believe such a proposition and it is equally valid to assume that the universe must be here in the way it is and could not exist in any other way. This is a philosophical question that science has been unable to answer. There are many scientists who would argue the point if were not for the fear of being grouped amongst the irrational.
Philosophical materialism is not a scientific fact and presenting it as such does not help. Materialism philosophy needs to be exposed for the redundant philosophy that it is. If we wish to argue for a rational and scientific understanding of reality then dropping the already discredited theories is important. Rant over.