Bertrand Russells deprimerende ateisme

Such, in outline, but even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world which Science presents for our belief. Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals henceforward must find a home. That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving ; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave ; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built. . . .

Brief and powerless is Man’s life ; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its relentless way j for Man, condemned to-day to lose his dearest, to-morrow himself to pass through the gate of darkness, it remains only to cherish, ere yet the blow falls, the lofty thoughts that ennoble his little day ; disdaining the coward terrors of the slave of Fate, to worship at the shrine that his own hands have built ; undismayed by the empire of chance, to preserve a mind free from the wanton tyranny that rules his outward life ; proudly defiant of the irresistible forces that tolerate, for a moment, his knowledge and his condemnation, to sustain alone, a weary
but unyielding Atlas, the world that his own ideals have fashioned despite the trampling march of unconscious power.
– Bertrand Russell, A Free Man’s Worship (1918)

Selv om det skal sies at Russell modererte seg litt utover karrieren, er sammenligningen til våre mer amatørslige ateister i dag slående. Ingen ting blir naturligvis heller usant bare fordi det er deprimerende, men Russell tar i det minste feil i at dette er en vitenskapelig virkelighetsforståelse. Om våre tanker bare er et resultat av a-rasjonelle kollisjoner mellom atomer, er det dessuten ingen grunn til å stole på vår egen fornuft, eller ha tro på verken vitenskapelige tolkninger eller Russells resonnement ovenfor.

For å gjenta mitt eget slagord: Enhver troverdig teori om virkeligheten må tillate for muligheten av de rasjonelle prosessene som kreves for å ytre den.

Russells virkelighetsforståelse faller slik på samme måte med en mer beundringsverdig nåtidig arvtaker – John Gray.

Men Russells måte å forstå verden på, er ikke en konklusjon av naturvitenskap i det hele tatt, men heller et motestyrt paradigmeskifte. Et resultat av å befinne seg et par århundrer etter menneskehetens største revolusjon, hvor følgene i 1918 hadde fått tid til å utfolde seg mot sine logiske endestopp. Et bilde vi som holder til et annet filosofisk utgangspunkt slipper å tro på.

Edwin A. Burtt kommenterer dette moderne perspektivet i sin mesterlige Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science:

But, and this is now the interesting point, when the question is
raised in just this form, one soon realizes that a study of modern philosophy that is, of the writings of those men whose names fill the histories of modern philosophy gives one little help in the attempt to answer it. For modern metaphysics, at least beginning with the work of Berkeley and Leibniz, has another
and more significant connecting thread than that of its epistemological interest ; it is in large part a series of unsuccessful protests against this new view of the relation of man to nature. Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, James, Bergson all are united in one earnest attempt, the attempt to reinstate man with his high spiritual claims in a place of importance in the cosmic scheme.

The constant renewal of these attempts and their constant failure widely and thoroughly to convince men, reveals how powerful a grip the view they were attacking was winning over people’s minds, and now, perhaps even more than in any previous generation, we find philosophers who are eager above all things to be intellectually honest, ready to give up the struggle as settled and surrender the field. A philosophy akin to Russell’s in the relevant essentials, ventures to-day to call itself by the name naturalism,’ implying the assurance that a frank facing of the facts by a normal mind, free from malicious inner distortions, will inevitably lead to acquiescence in his results.

Heldigvis finnes det en annen måte å kontre Russells forståelse på, annet enn å lete hos Hume, Kant, Berkeley eller Hegel. Man kan lete i de før-moderne virkelighetsforståelsene, som var dem som ga opphav til de vitenskapelige metodene i utgangspunktet – som eksempelvis thomisme.