In Defense of the Faith |

Dave Hunt

The Collapse of Scientific Materialism

Question: I need no further argument against the existence of Satan and demons than the fact that no one in the history of the world has ever seen such creatures. They exist only in mythology. The Bible tries to get around this obvious problem by claiming that they are not physical and are thus invisible spirit beings. Wasn’t this old-fashioned superstition about “spirits” abandoned long ago by thinking people? Surely if Satan existed there ought to be some scientific proof. Where is it?

Response: Belief in “spirits” has not been abandoned. Instead, the scientific community is now endorsing it. Materialism is dead. No longer do the great thinkers imagine that this physical universe is all there is or that everything, including human consciousness, can be explained in physical terms. In his book Quantum Questions: The Mystical Writings of the World’s Great Physicists, Ken Wilbur has compiled statements made by the greatest physicists of all time that show that they all believed in a spiritual dimension of existence. In full agreement, Sir John Eccles, Nobel Prize winner for his research on the brain writes:

If there are bona fide mental events—events that are not themselves physical or material—then the whole program of philosophical materialism collapses. The universe is no longer composed of “matter and a void” but now must make (spaceless) room for (massless) entities [i.e., minds].

Ideas are obviously not physical. Evil itself is not physical. It may involve physical acts, but it begins in the mind with non-physical thoughts. Morals and ethics are nonphysical things. It would be folly to ask someone to describe the texture, color, or taste of truth or how much one would have to pay for a pound of justice or mercy. As Sir Arthur Eddington said, “‘Ought’ takes us outside chemistry and physics.”

All purposeful acts begin with a thought that does not exist as a physical part of a bodily organ, the brain. Ideas are held in the mind. The brain is physical, but the mind is not. Quite clearly, thoughts precede and cause neural activity in the brain. They do not result from anything happening in the physical brain, nor can thinking be explained on that basis. Thoughts about truth or justice, for example, could not originate through any physical stimulus (and thus could not result from any evolutionary process), because they are totally unrelated to any physical quality such as weight, texture, taste, or smell.

The human brain does not initiate thoughts, decisions, or plans. If it did, we would be the prisoners of this bit of matter in our skulls. Moreover, if evolution were true and our brains the result of random, impersonal chance processes over billions of years, then our thoughts could only be the result of the same random processes and would thus be meaningless. The same would apply to the theory of evolution, which by its own affirmations could only be the result of chance motions of atoms in the brain. Expressing logic’s necessary rejection of materialism and evolution, C. S. Lewis wrote:

If minds are wholly dependent on brains and brains on biochemistry,

and biochemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of the atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance than the sound of the wind in the trees.

Spirit Beings?

Based upon years of brain research, world-famed neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield declared, “The mind is independent of the brain. The brain is a computer, but it is programmed by something that is outside itself, the mind.” The brain is a computer of such complexity that the human genius cannot duplicate; and, like any computer, it requires someone to operate it. That is the function of the human spirit, which uses this “brain/computer” to interface with the physical dimension of life in which our bodies function.

Inasmuch as our own minds are nonphysical, how foolish to deny the possibility of the existence of other minds or even to insist that they must all be attached to physical bodies! Robert Jastrow, one of the world’s leading astronomers, and certainly highly regarded by his colleagues in that field, suggests that evolution could have been in process on other planets 10 billion years longer than here on earth and may have produced beings as far beyond man on the evolutionary scale as man is beyond a worm. We are not promoting the false theory of evolution but simply observing that Jastrow sees nothing about this materialist theory that would deny the existence of spirit beings. In fact, Jastrow suggests:

Life that is a billion years beyond us may be far beyond the flesh-and-blood form that we would recognize. It may . . . [have] escaped its mortal flesh to become something that old-fashioned people would call spirits.

And how do we know it’s there? Maybe it can materialize and then dematerialize. I’m sure it has magical powers by our standards.

That spirit beings, whatever their origin, do exist has been acknowledged by many other top scientists in addition to Jastrow, Eccles, and Eddington. Among them are not a few Nobel Prize winners: Nobelist Eugene Wigner, one of the greatest physicists of this century; Sir Karl Popper, the most famous philosopher of science of our age; mathematician John von Neumann, who has been called “the smartest man who ever lived”; and many others. So the skeptics’ derisive accusation that only uneducated and superstitious people believe in spirits is nothing more than the bluster of wishful thinkers.

It would only be logical that nonphysical beings, if they did exist, could think and even communicate with our brains by the same means that our own spirits use. C. G. Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist, had a personal spirit guide, Philemon, which seemed to demonstrate the powers of materialization suggested by Jastrow and with whom he had lengthy and very real conversations. Jung wrote:

Philemon represented a force which was not myself . . . . It was he who taught me . . . the reality of the psyche . . . he seemed quite real. . . .  I went walking up and down the garden with him.

Jung wanted desperately to believe that Philemon and other entities who literally appeared to him and conversed with him were nothing more than psychic extensions of his subconscious mind. Eventually, however, the mounting evidence forced Jung to conclude that they were independent beings. He confessed, “On the basis of my own experience . . . I have to admit that the spirit hypothesis yields better results in practice than any other.”

The Case for Evil Spirits

In view of the evil of which our own minds are capable, it would be extremely naïve to imagine that all other minds in the universe must be benevolent. Some of Jung’s experiences were so terrifying that he became convinced that at least some of these entities were exceedingly evil. Jung discussed his topic at length with James Hyslop, Columbia University professor of logic and ethics. Hyslop expressed his own convictions:

If we believe in telepathy [which Hyslop considered fully demonstrable], we believe in a process which makes possible the invasion of a personality by someone at a distance.

It is not at all likely . . . that sane and intelligent spirits are the only ones to exert [such] influence . . . there is no reason why others cannot do so as well.

In view of the above conclusion based upon evidence that convinced Jung, Hyslop, and many other investigators, there is no reason for rejecting the idea that a being of such evil genius as Satan could exist. Indeed, there is much experimental verification of the existence of demons and of Satan, evidence that has been accepted by non-Christian psychiatrists and scientists not because the Bible said so but on the basis of their own experience. Many examples could be given, but let us conclude with the experience of someone who in recent years has become known as an expert on the subject of “evil,” psychiatrist M. Scott Peck.

While Peck was Assistant Chief of Psychiatry under the Army Surgeon General, he served as chairman of a special committee of psychiatrists appointed by the Army Chief of Staff to study the “psychological causes of [the massacre in Vietnam at] My Lai, so as to prevent such atrocities in the future.” In the process, Peck became involved in attempted exorcisms. He refers to two specific cases that convinced him of the reality of demonic possession. He even declared with awe that he had “personally met Satan face-to-face.” Peck writes:

When the demonic finally spoke clearly in one case, an expression appeared on the patient’s face that could be described only as Satanic. It was an incredibly contemptuous grin of utter hostile malevolence. I have spent many hours before a mirror trying to imitate it without the slightest success.

When the demonic finally revealed itself in the exorcism of [another] patient, it was with a still more ghastly expression. The patient suddenly resembled a writhing snake of great strength, viciously attempting to bite the team members.

More frightening than the writhing body, however, was the face. The eyes were hooded with lazy reptilian torpor—except when the reptile darted out in attack, at which moment the eyes would open wide with blazing hatred. Despite these frequent darting moments, what upset me the most was the extraordinary sense of a fifty-million-year-old heaviness I received from this serpentine being.

Almost all the team members at both exorcisms were convinced they were at these times in the presence of something absolutely alien and inhuman. The end of each exorcism proper was signaled by the departure of this Presence from the patient and the room.

The conclusion arrived at by Peck and his team is not a matter of “scientific proof” but an intuitive conviction of conscience arrived at by careful observation. Nor could it be otherwise when one confronts the spirit realm. Eddington points out that if a physicist should try to apply scientific methods to the study of thought by examining the brain, “all that he discovers is a collection of atoms and electrons and fields of force arranged in space and time, apparently similar to those found in inorganic objects . . . [and thus] might set down thought as an illusion.”

Human personality surely exists, yet it cannot be defined or demonstrated scientifically. So it is with the manifestation of demonic power. Unfortunately, although increasing numbers of psychologists and psychiatrists are now acknowledging the reality and horror of demonic possession, their attempt to discover a “scientific” explanation undermines their understanding of evil. If there is psychological explanation for evil, then moral choice and personal responsibility are no longer involved. Furthermore, if evil can be explained as psychologically programmed behavior, then what was the presence that Peck said he and his team could palpably “feel” and whose exit could be felt as well?