Scientific Materialism

by Dr. Allah Bakhsh

The Light (Pakistan), 16th December 1976 Issue (Vol. 56, Nos. 46–47, pp. 18–19 and 23)

The spirit of scientific materialism of this age has reached its culmination. Numerous discoveries and numberless inventions are the result. Its origin can be traced to Dalton’s Atomic theory which conceived matter as imperishable, immutable and dynamic. According to it even the soul is the outcome of the working of chemical and physical laws. With the death of the machinery of the body, the soul also perishes. It believes that apart from the physical needs and animal urges, human nature possesses no higher instincts, so much so that according to some, man is exactly on par with the beasts; hence the creed that the strong should devour the weak as the bigger fish swallow the smaller ones. Thus the law of the jungle should rule human affairs and relationships. Man’s purpose in life is to satisfy his physical wants, to the utmost of his powers. Anything which bars his way to its attainment must ipso facto be avoided. Obviously moral and spiritual values which necessitate to a smaller or greater extent the sacrifice of the self, have no place in the life-programme of a materialist. Acquirement of pelf and power and more pelf and power thus become the be-all and end-all of his activities. Besides possession of better and better material equipments, another great impetus is the question of higher rank and status in the society. As this is also judged by better material equipment and possession of more money, the man of materialistic civilisation is automatically driven to adopt a competition in order to excel his neighbours. Pelf and power are interrelated. Therefore, the two become his prime motive force. There ensues a keener and still keener competition for their possession. As a matter of fact, this competition soon takes the form of a race and a mad-rush in individuals and amongst nations. The creed of materialism also teaches to believe that all happiness, progress and peace vests in material and greater material possessions. It is thus evident that pelf and power become the god of the materialistic civilisation which man in all earnestness worships in his heart of hearts. Two methods are employed for attaining the materialistic objective. Superior force as well as deceiving and duping the weaker fellows—the unfortunate weak in power and inferior in intellect.

Any causal and impartial observer would be struck to find baser motives reign supreme instead of the development of intended traits of tranquillity, serenity, contentment, happiness, peace, real sympathy, fellow feelings, service and the like. Hardly any conscience feels any qualms at defrauding, and even destroying the weaker persons and nations. This has become the policy of the present civilisation. Rather it has become the routine practice and regime of our prevailing social conditions.

The baneful effects of a materialistic concept, the competition to excel in pelf and power, are not only confined to cultivation of baser passions and inferior sentiments but the race and mid-rush after them has proved positively injurious to man’s physical health and life also. Man’s soul and body are not separate entities but are part and parcel of a single being. On the contrary, they are closely and mutually inter-dependent. The damage done to the one is bound sooner or later, to react and produce its ill-effects upon the other.

It is now a well-recognised medical fact that physical diseases affect the psyche or soul while the converse is equally true. Not a few strong and continued emotional impulses lead to physical ailments. As a matter of fact, the previous medical attitude of regarding body and mind, in case of disease, as separate has given place to a wholly new concept called the psycho-somatic medicine. It is now regarded as a proven fact that many long-standing emotions produce ulcers of the stomach and intestines as well as some skin and respiratory diseases. Despite the marvellous progress of the medical sciences, why are certain diseases on the increase, for instance, diseases of heart, blood-vessels, head, pancreas and the alimentary tract, etc.? Most of these have their origin in our modern but wrong ways of eating, working, thinking, feeling and behaving. It is not very difficult to visualise that our modern ways of hurrying and scurrying as well as of worrying; of excessive eating of too tasty and rich dishes, our lessening tendencies to physical exercise because of our dependence on automobiles, our excessive ways of loves and hates, are mostly responsible for the increased rate of diabetes, serious heart and head diseases, of high blood-pressures, of insomnia and insanities, etc. A detailed discussion of this subject requires a separate article.

Thus such a vast and world-wide experiment of the past thousand years has proven beyond the least doubt that scientific materialism has signally failed to lead mankind to its desired destiny of attaining peace, happiness and real collective progress. There is no greater proof of the truthfulness of a problem than the results obtained by its experimentation. The failure of modern civilisation to usher in an era of harmony and good-will, of sympathy and welfare in the human society having been totally unsuccessful, is it not high time to consider if there is any other source besides the conquest of natural elements through the human intellect, and reasoning that can certainly guide a sinking mankind to its desired destiny of peace, progress, prosperity, security, happiness and unity? This we shall discuss in our next.