Indeed, it is more than merely true; it is an inexorable logical certainty if the premises of the theorists are true. That is the question I will address in this post.
Before we go on, we need to understand what ‘critical theory’ is. Wikipedia has a good summary:
In sociology and political philosophy, the term Critical Theory describes the Western-Marxist philosophy of the Frankfurt School, which was developed in Germany in the 1930s and draws on the ideas of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. . . . Postmodern critical theory analyzes the fragmentation of cultural identities in order to challenge modernist-era constructs such as metanarratives, rationality, and universal truths, while politicizing social problems ‘by situating them in historical and cultural contexts, to implicate themselves in the process of collecting and analyzing data, and to relativize their findings.’
Allow me to boil this down. Critical theory is applied metaphysical materialism. Materialism posits that the physical is all there is. Its central premise is this: In the beginning there were particles, and the particles were in motion, and in the entire universe there is and never has been and never will be anything other than particles in motion. This means that human beings are not special. You and your family and your friends are also merely particles in motion, reducible to the chemicals that make up your bodies. Humans are clever hairless apes with no more ultimate significance than rocks. Yes, they have come up with this thing called “morality.” But morality is an illusion foisted on us by material evolutionary forces because it gives us a reproductive advantage. Morality in any objective transcendent sense of the word not only does not exist, it cannot exist. There are no moral or immoral rocks. And humans – in their essence – are in the same category as rocks. Both rocks and humans are mere amalgamations of burnt out star dust.
If this is true, it has profound implications for just about everything. One of those implications is that there are no universal truths guiding our relations in society. There is only power and those who have it and those who do not. This is why progressives, who many times take their cue from critical theory, often assert mutually contradictory positions without a hint of irony. For example, it was not that long ago that progressives were the great champions of freedom of expression. Now those same progressives want to stifle all dissent. For progressives, this is not a contradiction. When it suited their purpose to gain power, they championed freedom. Now that they have power, they crush their opponents. Freedom of expression is not a universal principle to be upheld for its own sake. It is a tool to be used in the power game, and when that tool has served its purpose it is put on the shelf like a wrench after the bolt is tightened.
Now let’s step back. If materialism is true, its entailments – such as the non-existence of universal truths governing human relations – follow as a matter of logic. The overwhelming majority of the intellectual elite in our county (and indeed the world) are thoroughgoing materialists. To them it is obvious. Whether it is true is no more up for debate than the heliocentric theory of the solar system. Our universities, our legal institutions, the media, and just about every other institution in our country are now dominated by people who take materialism for granted. For them, it is hardly even a philosophical theory; it is a settled fact known for certain by all intelligent people.
This is why progressives have not lifted a finger to stop the political violence we have seen in recent weeks. For them there is no such thing as a universal truth. Murder, mayhem, riots, burning, and looting are not in any real sense evil. They are just things that happen in an amoral universe. And if the violence is useful in advancing their goals – by, for example, reducing the chances of the bad orange man getting reelected – they not only tolerate it, they encourage it. For a materialist progressive the end (more power for materialist progressives) justifies everything (including murder).
There is, of course, a competing view – the view expressed in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights . . .” The Declaration derives its logical force from the fundamentally Christian idea of the equality of all men as image bearers of God. This is another one of those universal truths materialists reject. In his international bestseller Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, materialist Yuval Noah Harari puts it this way:
[T]he American Founding Fathers . . . imagined a reality governed by universal and immutable principles of justice, such as equality or hierarchy. Yet the only place where such universal principles exist is in the fertile imagination of Sapiens, and in the myths they invent and tell one another. These principles have no objective validity.
It is easy for us to accept that the division of people into ‘superiors’ and ‘commoners’ is a figment of the imagination. Yet the idea that all humans are equal is also a myth. In what sense do all humans equal one another? Is there any objective reality, outside the human imagination, in which we are truly equal? . . . According to the science of biology, people were not ‘created’. They have evolved. And they certainly did not evolve to be ‘equal’. The idea of equality is inextricably intertwined with the idea of creation. The Americans got the idea of equality from Christianity, which argues that every person has a divinely created soul, and that all souls are equal before God. However, if we do not believe in the Christian myths about God, creation and souls, what does it mean that all people are ‘equal’? Evolution is based on difference, not on equality. Every person carries a somewhat different genetic code, and is exposed from birth to different environmental influences. This leads to the development of different qualities that carry with them different chances of survival. ‘Created equal’ should therefore be translated into ‘evolved differently’.
Just as people were never created, neither, according to the science of biology, is there a ‘Creator’ who ‘endows’ them with anything. There is only a blind evolutionary process, devoid of any purpose, leading to the birth of individuals.
Harari’s analysis is remarkably candid. He admits that under materialism, human dignity does not exist; universal principles of justice and equality do not exist; human rights do not exist; liberty does not exist. All of these things are social constructs resulting from entirely contingent physical processes.
For a couple of centuries, we in the West have enjoyed a polity based on an attempt to infuse Christian doctrines like the equality of all men before God into our political practice. While the result has been far from perfect, compared to the great mass of men over the long stretch of history, that effort has produced a civilization that has been, by far, the freest, most prosperous, and most democratic the world has ever known. Is that civilization sustainable when its Christian foundations are crumbling under a relentless onslaught of metaphysical materialism?
Probably not. And that is why it is incumbent upon all men of good will to fight materialism with all their might. Fortunately, there is very good reason to believe that the metaphysical premises of Critical Theorists are not true. Indeed, if materialism is true, it destroys the very concept of truth and is therefore not only not true but incoherent. In a famous passage C.S. Lewis put it this way:
If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents—the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts—i.e. of materialism and astronomy—are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milkjug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.
Go back to the summary of Critical Theory at the start of this post. One of the things the theory rejects is “rationality.” But isn’t Critical Theory itself the product of rationality? And by rejecting rationality has it not sawn off the branch upon which it is sitting?
This is just one obvious line of reasoning that undermines materialism. There are many others, including the fact that the universe had a beginning which points to Something that caused that beginning; the obvious fine-tuning of the universe for the existence of life; the digital code inside every living cell; the irreducible complexity of all living things; the self-evident existence of transcendent moral truth; the existence of mathematics as immaterial truth . . . I could go on and on.
In sum, there is certainly no reason to take materialism for granted, and there are many reasons to believe it is a false – indeed a self-referentially incoherent – account of reality.
I take hope in the fact that many millions of people in this country are not as foolish as the so-called elites. There is still time to take our country back from them. But the window is closing. Soon, I fear, it will be too late. And if we allow the materialist and their fellow travelers to gain full control of all of the levers of power, look out. It will make the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the French Terror look like a walk in the park. You think the blood that has been spilt in recent weeks is terrible? You’re right. It has been. But as the graves of one hundred million victims of materialist systems in the twentieth century bear witness, there is hardly any limit to the violence materialists are willing – indeed eager – to inflict in their pursuit of power.