Scientific empiricism, or logical positivism, became a regular movement in the second quarter of the 20th century, but as a trend of thought, it had already – long before – taken hold of people’s minds. From Hume and Mill up to the time of Bertrand Russell, many philosophers have been its proponents, and it has now become the most important contemporary trend of thought, buttressed as it is by numerous centres of research and propagation all over the world. A dictionary of philosophy published in New York gives the following definition of logical positivism:
All knowledge that is factual is connected with experiences; in such a way that verification or direct or indirect confirmation is possible (p. 285).
Anti-religionists feel, therefore, that man’s recent mental evolution is the very antithesis of religious thinking. Modern, advanced knowledge has it that reality is only that which can stand up to the tests of observation and experience, whereas religion is based on a concept of reality which cannot, in this way, be subjected to analysis and scientifically proved: it follows then that it has no basis in actuality. In other words, religion gives an unrealistic account of real events. Since man’s knowledge was limited in ancient times, the correct explanations of natural phenomena were bound to elude him. This being so, the suppositions he made which hinged on religion were distinctly far-fetched and, at best, tangential. But, thanks to the universal law of evolution, man has at last emerged from the darkness in which he was engulfed, and now, in the light of modern knowledge, it is possible for him to discard odd, conjectural beliefs and arrive at the true nature of things by purely empirical methods.
T.R. Miles writes:
It might be said that metaphysicians of the past have done something comparable to writing a cheque without adequate funds in the bank. They have used words without proper ‘cash’ to back them; they have been unable to give their words ‘cash-value’ in terms of states of affairs.
‘The Absolute is incapable of evolution and progress’ is a grammatically correct sentence; but the words are like a dud cheque, and cannot be ‘cashed’.
All those things, which were formerly attributed to supernatural forces, are now wholly explainable in terms of natural causes, modern thinking having it that the “discovery” of God was a mere assumption arising from ignorance. With the spread of knowledge, this belief has automatically disappeared. Julian Huxley writes:
Newton showed that God did not control the movements of the planets. Laplace in a famous aphorism affirmed that astronomy had no need of the god hypothesis; Darwin and Pasteur between them did the same for biology; and in our own century, the rise of scientific psychology and the extension of historical knowledge have removed gods to a position where they are no longer of value in interpreting human behaviour and cannot be supposed to control human history or interfere with human affairs.
Physics, psychology and history have proved conclusively that all those events which man explained in terms of the existence of a God or gods, or some abstract ‘Power’ had entirely different causes, but that man, steeped in ignorance, continued to speak of them in terms of religious mystery.
To be continued, Insha Allah…