The philosophy of materialism—the view that the physical world is the only thing that exists—pervades our era. Proponents of this philosophy often use the opinions of scientists to defend it. It isn’t surprising that some who devote their lives to the study of matter accept an idea that emphasizes its importance. However, the disregard for mystery in the materialist worldview undercuts and limits the findings of modern science.
In order to demonstrate the damage done by materialism, we must distinguish between two types of mysteries. The first type vanishes with a satisfactory explanation. Ancient people viewed lightning and eclipses as incomprehensible. Our modern understanding of electromagnetism and astronomy explains these phenomena in a way that leaves no room for doubt. Often, this type of mystery is explained with a “god of the gaps,” a supernatural explanation for the misunderstood natural phenomenon. As our knowledge of these subjects increases, the gods of the gaps die.
There is a second type of mystery, however, that cannot simply be resolved. For example, the question of why a young lover is enchanted with his beloved can be only partially answered. It is true that his genes have been selected by a process that perpetuates a desire to reproduce, thus he feels drawn to women in their fertile years who exhibit traits that are beneficial to bearing and raising children. However, it’s clear to anyone who has had this experience that the evolutionary explanation isn’t the whole story. Love cannot be fully articulated by biology, psychology, or any other field. What distinguishes this question is that the more a person studies it, the less he or she understands the answer and his or her wonder increases. The mystery of love, unlike the mystery of lightning, becomes more mysterious and more beautiful the more one searches for an explanation.