Written by Vladimir Moss



     In his book The Age of Genius. The Seventeenth Century & the Birth of the Modern Mind (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), A.C. Grayling convincingly demonstrates that the real break between the medieval (religious) and the modern (secular) world-views took place when the use of the method of scientific empiricism began to be generally accepted in the seventeenth century. He illustrates the difference that the changes in this century made by comparing the world-view implicit in Shakespeare’s Macbeth (1606) with its witches and belief in hell and veneration for the sacred character of kingship, with the execution of King Charles I in 1649 for “treason”, implying a rejection of the Divine Right of kings, and with the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688, in which not only is a legitimate king, James II, removed, but the usurpation is given a rational justification by John Locke without any Scriptural or traditional foundation. Thus within the bounds of one century we see a massive transition, at least in the leading minds of one nation, England, “from magic to method”, from an essentially religious world-view to an essentially scientific one. And the proof, according to Grayling, that this transition is from error to truth, from superstition to real knowledge, is the fact that this same transition, repeated throughout the world, and with only a few regions as yet relatively untouched by it, has had massively positive results in terms of useful technological discoveries…

     Grayling’s argument at its simplest goes as follows. Science works; we see its success in all the wonderful technologies which we see all around us; therefore the modern scientific world-view that has develop in parallel with science’s advance since the seventeenth century must be true. 

     “If evidence were required for the success of science’s methods, one need only say, si monumentum requires, circumspice: look around at today’s world. The results of scientific endeavour are overwhelmingly endorsed by outcome. The application of science by means of technology is testimony to its success and – arguably – its advance towards truths about the world; even if, as must always be acknowledge, the benefits are not unmixed with problems that science and technology also bring.” (p. 241)

     “This transformation of world-view was not complete until after Darwin, of course, and its application via technology to the transformation of life in the world required the wider spread of literacy and education in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Moreover it is not by far the world-view of everyone even today – perhaps not even a majority of people today – but it is the world-view that drives almost everything of significance that happens in our world, from technologies to economies, with the resulting impact on the social and political organization of almost all societies, even the societies where the majority of people still hold a version of the pre-seventeenth century mind-set.” (p. 321) 

     However, there are powerful reasons for believing that, whatever the defects of the early seventeenth-century religious world-view in the West (and there were many), the modernists such as Grayling must be wrong, not in their devotion to empirical method as such, nor in their pointing to the detailed accumulation of knowledge in science and technology, which cannot be denied, but in the ultimate senselessness of the general secular world-view they seek to extract from this scientific success.

     In order to answer Grayling’s argument, let us first ask the question: does the religious world-view – which we shall identify from now on with Orthodox Christianity, the Christianity common to both East and West for the first thousand years of Christian history – necessarily reject the major discoveries and concepts that underlie the startlingly successful technologies of today? And the answer is: no. It is perfectly possible for an Orthodox Christian, such as the present writer, to believe in sub-atomic particles, gravity, bacteria, viruses, DNA, electricity, super-novas and black holes, without surrendering an iota of his faith. Nor are we required to reject the vast majority of scientific hypotheses of a lower- or middle-order complexity and scope that form the objects of study and verification of the vast majority of scientists in their everyday working life.  What we cannot accept, because it is directly contrary to the Orthodox Christian world-view, is the hypothesis of the very highest generality and scope, the over-arching myth of the modern secular-scientific world-view.

     This view can be summed up in the following propositions:-

(i)             That the whole universe came into being spontaneously, without a Creator, from nothing;

(ii)           That the whole consequent development of the universe after the “Big Bang” proceeded by chance;

(iii)          That the transition from inorganic to organic matter, that is, the formation of the simplest living cells, took place by chance;

(iv)         That the extraordinarily complex and abundant variety of life-forms, plants and animals, evolved from simpler organisms by chance and by a process of mutation and natural selection;

(v)           That man evolved from the apes by chance and by a process of mutation and natural selection;

(vi)         That man, having come into being by chance and by a process of mutation and natural selection, has no free will and no immortal soul and therefore no moral responsibility;

(vii)        That all the greatest cultural and scientific achievements of man, from the plays of Shakespeare and the symphonies of Beethoven to the theories of Einstein, took place by chance;

(viii)      That miracles – that is, events that cannot be explained by scientific theories – do not exist.

     Now all of these eight propositions are unproven, unscientific assumptions of a philosophical or metaphysical, metabiological or metapsychological nature. They cannot be deduced from the mass of existing scientific knowledge based on the existence of such real things as sub-atomic particles, gravity, bacteria, viruses, DNA, electricity, super-novas and black holes; nor are they necessary axioms without which it is impossible to understand such things or use them in scientific investigations. In other words, they are beliefs that are strictly unnecessary for the conducting of the scientific enterprise. But showing that one does not have to believe these propositions in order to be a real scientist is not the same as demonstrating that they are false. So we shall now adduce some arguments to show that these philosophical assumptions are false.

1.     Nothing comes from nothing. The modernist view falls flat before the nihilism and nonsensicality of its initial assumption…

2.     Chance is the absence of law. A chance event, if such existed, would be an event that cannot be derived from any scientific law or lawgiver, human or Divine. (Let us remember Einstein’s dictum: “God does not play with dice.”) However, the universe clearly contains both laws and law-givers. The whole scientific enterprise is made possible as a result of this fact. If there were no laws, there would be no science, whose essence consists in searching out and discovering laws. So how did chance give birth to law? In other words, how did chance cease to be chance? Or to put it another way: how did lawlessness become lawful? The modernist world-view has no answer to these questions.

3.     Nobody has reliably produced even the smallest cell of living matter from inorganic matter. The physical difficulties involved are so great that the probability of its happening by chance are calculated to be infinitesimally small. On the other hand, the second law of thermodynamics, the best-tested law in physical science, says that there is an inexorable tendency for information to be lost – in other words, for death to triumph over life. And yet we are asked to believe that all the vastly complex forms of life come into being and replicate themselves by chance, contrary to the best-tested law in physics!  

4.     The processes of mutation and natural selection are essentially processes of death and destruction. Therefore they cannot explain the creation of new forms of life. Life can only come from life, not from death. In fact, we now know that the characteristics of all living things, down to the smallest physical detail, are encapsulated into the fantastically complex chemical information code known as DNA. But information codes require intelligence to create them and intelligence to decode them; so DNA can only be brought into being by a super-intelligent Being.

5.     The most that any scientist has demonstrated are similarities between apes and men. However, the attempts to demonstrate a mechanism by which an ape could become a man have met with universal failure. In order for an ape to become a man, vast numbers of changes in the DNA of both a male ape and a female ape – involving different, but precisely complementary changes in the male and the female – would have to take place simultaneously, in one generation. This simultaneous appearance of both a male and a female of the new species is necessary if the new species is not to die out after the first generation.Moreover, to prove such an hypothesis it would have to be demonstrated, first, why “Mitrochrondrial Eve”, the ancestor of our species according to modern geneticists, existed only about 6000 years ago, and secondly, why each one of these supposed changes in the ape pair was necessary for its survival. Evidently, however, not one of these changes is necessary, because apes have no difficulty in surviving as apes without feeling the necessity of turning into human beings.

6.     If all our thoughts and deeds are determined by scientific laws, there is no reason to believe our thoughts or evaluate our deeds. Why should we believe a proposition to be rational and true if it is the product either of purely chance processes or of deterministic laws of nature? And why should we judge a man’s deeds as good or bad if he can’t help committing them? Rationality and responsibility both presuppose that the governing spirit of man is above nature, is truly spiritual and free.

7.     Even the most complex machine cannot produce beauty. Indeed, the existence of beauty, both in nature and in the works of great artists, is one of the strongest arguments against atheism and materialism. The beauty of holiness is a still greater argument for the existence of a supranatural underpinning of the universe by the Holy One.

8.     By any definition of “miracle” the existence of the universe, supposedly out of nothing, is a miracle. However, while believing in this truly unbelievable miracle (but without, of course, calling it a miracle), the modernists refuse to accept the existence of smaller-scale miracles, insisting that they are impossible on principle. But no good reason has ever been produced for denying the possibility of miracles on principle. If we cannot explain how scientific laws come into being from chance processes (point 1), there is no way of excluding the possibility of exceptions to scientific laws. As a matter of fact, the recent hypothesis of the multiverse presupposes not only the possibility, but also the actuality, of every possible event – including, therefore, every possible miracle - taking place in some other universe than our own. However, this concept already undermines the very concept of a single reality…


      In conclusion, the modernist world-view undermines the concepts, not only of God, but also of reality, truth, beauty, rationality, freedom and responsibility. If we wish to hold on to these things – which we must do if we are not to lose our minds, as did Nietzsche, the author of the “God is dead” hypothesis – then we must reject the modernist world-view. Fortunately, this does not necessitate rejecting science, whose results remain true so long as they are attained by truly empirical methods, without flying into the metaphysical flights of fancy of our contemporary myth-makers, whose thoughts rest, not on rock, nor even on sand, but on literally nothing…


April 11/24, 2018.

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