How to Protect Your Children from Materialism and Scientism
By Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher with Dr. Tom Snyder, Editor
Editor’s Note: The following is the third of many articles developed from my new book, THE SCREEN-WISE FAMILY, about protecting your children and grandchildren from non-Christian worldviews in movies and television programs. This article focuses on protecting families from positive portrayals of materialism and scientism in the mass media entertainment.
Materialism is the doctrine that matter is the only true reality and that everything in the world–including thought, will and feeling–can be explained only in terms of matter. Thus, there is nothing beyond what we can observe. Philosophy is a game of language. Since matter is all there is, power, comfort, pleasure, and wealth are the only or highest goals or values.
Materialism holds that matter is the final reality. Democritus, Epicurus and the stoics conceived of reality as material in nature. The theory was renewed and developed beginning in the 17th century, especially by Hobbes. This worldview was developed further from the middle of the 19th century, particularly in the form of dialectical materialism and logical positivism.
Movies reflecting a materialist philosophy tend to also reflect an atheist worldview or a hedonistic one.
For example, in atheist pundit Bill Maher’s documentary RELIGULOUS–which viciously attacks both Christianity and Islam–Maher presents a rather hysterical defense of his materialistic atheism that matter is all that exists. Maher claims that all supernatural beliefs are irrational, incoherent, silly, deceitful, and dangerous. However, he uses his materialist philosophy to just bash mercilessly Christian faith in God, Jesus and the Bible. Furthermore, in discussing God, Jesus, biblical passages, and Christian history, Maher’s movie doesn’t include any interviews with serious Christian scholars who can reply to and possibly refute his outrageous claims.
In the movie LAWLESS, starring Tom Hardy of the popular Marvel supervillain movie VENOM, the brother of Hardy’s character, a bootlegger, seduces an Amish girl and brings the girl into their world of hedonistic materialism, violence and corruption. Although the two brothers survive their fight with a ruthless sheriff and leave the illegal world of bootleg liquor, there’s nothing particularly religious or moral about their survival.
Movies with strong Christian worldviews, however, show biblical faith and morality overcoming materialist atheism or materialist hedonism. In the three filmed versions of the Grinch story by Dr. Seuss, for example, the hateful Grinch is moved by the people in Whoville when they don’t let the physical absence of all their Christmas gifts and decorations dampen their celebration of Christmas and its spirit of giving.
One philosophy that reflects a hyper-materialist worldview is scientism.
According to Dr. J. P. Moreland in SCIENTISM AND SECULARISM: LEARNING TO RESPOND TO A DANGEROUS IDEOLOGY, scientism is the belief that “the hard sciences are the only or at least a vastly superior knowledge of reality compared to other disciplines.”[i]
The statement that “science is the only reliable test for truth” refutes or contradicts itself, and is therefore necessarily or inherently false because the statement is itself not a scientific statement. It is a statement about science, and, hence, subject to the basic laws of logic, the study of which is epistemology, a major field of study and knowledge in philosophy and theology.
The belief that science is a “vastly superior” knowledge of reality, which Moreland calls “weak scientism,” is no better because it still contends that science is “the most authoritative sector of human knowing.”[ii] As such, it assumes, with no evidence (or at least no solid convincing evidence), that science by definition is more authoritative and more plausible than any other field of knowledge, especially philosophy, theology and biblical studies.
Ultimately, science can’t explain the origin of the universe, the origin of fundamental laws of nature, the fine-tuning of the universe, the origin of human consciousness and personality, or the existence of moral, rational, aesthetic, objective laws and values. Only philosophy, theology and (especially) the Bible, or biblical theism, can do that.
In the popular X-FILES television series, two FBI agents investigate possible examples of paranormal, occult and extraterrestrial phenomenon. One of the agents, Scully, is a skeptical medical doctor who believes that science is the ultimate test for truth. Eventually, however, she’s unable to sustain this rigid scientism and starts to believe in aliens like her partner, Agent Mulder, and even to return to her Catholic roots. Even so, she doesn’t totally reject her belief in using science to determine truth.
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, a 2014 movie about the life of the brilliant nuclear physicist Stephen Hawking, romanticizes Hawking’s atheist materialism and belief in pure scientism. However, Hawking’s faith in science, the laws of science and the ability of his own alleged “scientific” mind to use scientific methods, to discover the laws of science and to apply the laws of science is hollow.
For example, science has yet to support Hawking’s belief in the existence of multiple universes, much less tells us how such multiverses can form spontaneously through gravity. In fact, during his lifetime, Hawking never explained the origin of gravity or how these multiverses began. Also, Hawking’s faith in science and the laws of science fails to explain the origin of the fundamental laws of science. Nor does it explain the existence of scientific, moral, aesthetic, and objective laws and values. Nor can it explain the origin of human consciousness and personality.
Furthermore, when Hawking says science has discovered that the universe created itself from nothing, “he doesn’t really mean the universe came from nothing. It still came from something. Or Someone.”[iii] Hawking doesn’t define his “nothing,” nor does he explain its origin.
Finally, in talking about science, Hawking never seems to realize that science itself depends on the basic laws of logic. Science itself is based on these nonmaterial (or spiritual) laws, and these laws are more fundamental to human thought, knowledge, wisdom, and behavior than science. Thus, science is NOT the ultimate test for truth. The existence of a personal, eternal God or Eternal Mind/Spirit is the best explanation for the origin of these rational, nonmaterial, eternal laws and the pragmatic effectiveness of the science that Hawking admired so much.
[i] J. P. Moreland, SCIENTISM AND SECULARISM: LEARNING TO RESPOND TO A
DANGEROUS IDEOLOGY (Wheaton, Ill,: Crossway, 2018), p. 205.
[ii] Moreland, p. 71.
[iii] Tom Gilson, “The Grand Design (Book Review),” FIRST THINGS, September 28, 2010,