Concluding Reflections: Dover Beach Revisited

Mary Midgley

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science

Published in print April 2008 | ISBN: 9780199543656
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

 Concluding Reflections: Dover Beach Revisited

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Using a passage from Matthew Arnold's poetry which writes sadly of the receding Sea of Faith, this article holds that the loss of Christian metaphysics drained away all the normal meaning from life, leaving people desperately trying to make sense of a dead, empty world. The nihilistic message draws its power from exploiting the unreal split that Descartes introduced between human minds and the rest of nature. We ourselves are unearthly, supernatural entities, God's colonists sent to supervise the Earth. The Newtonian age could use this crude dualism because the Christian God still kept the two elements together. The inert particle model itself no longer makes any sense because it is contrary to modern physics. The behaviourists, misguidedly obsessed with parsimony, had tried to explain human life entirely from the outside, ignoring the inner experience that lies at the heart of all human action.

Keywords: Christian metaphysics; Matthew Arnold; realism; parsimony; pluralism; Newtonian age; Descartes; behaviourists

Article.  7601 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religion and Science

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