My name is Matthew Dickinson. I’m a PhD student from London, England in my late 20’s working in evolutionary ecology. My knowledge of the subjects of the human brain, politics, religion and atheism is not based on my work. I have no formal training in these area, merely that of a (hopefully well-)educated layman. In 2008 I began a journey of avid reading of scientific research, in both popular and peer-review sources, as well as of sacred and philosophical texts that lead to my current convictions. I say this not as a way to show off that I have good knowledge, rather that I have very limited knowledge; I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination I have all the answers. Everything I say, particularly when it comes to scientific research is said with great caution and great humility. Much of that research comes from the fledgling neurosciences, which are more likely to be misinterpreted by myself and others. Being the nature of science it all comes with the expectation that any of it could be overturned.
Spiritual Materialism is the term I use for my conviction based on science that:
- Materialism and spirituality are not inconsistent with one another.
- Some aspects of spirituality are important for human health and well-being.
- These should be practised regardless of belief system.
I do not mean to tell anyone what to believe, and I will not instruct people how to be spiritual. My aim with this blog is to convince two groups of one thing each:
To show atheists that subjective “religious” experience should not be dismissed out of hand. From our point of view the experiences themselves need explaining, just like everything else in the religious world. Without that explanation there is a gap in our scientific, materialist worldview. These experiences do happen, based on our knowledge and understanding, and they do make changes in some part of the physical world; the human brain. We should be interested in and dismissive of spirituality relative to the extent that it is demonstrated to aid mental health in the same way people are interested in medicine to the extent that it is demonstrated to aid physical health (e.g. we reject alternative medicine because it is not demonstrated to aid physical health). We can then separate the desirable from the unbelievable.
To show the religious that atheists can have the same powerful experiences they treasure, there is no deficiency in our experiential worldview, and there is no relation between them and the beliefs you hold. Essentially I want to bring an end to this argument.
These ideas are based in the fact that both the spiritual and materialists have the same brains and same bodies and they can use this to find a common ground and a different kind of dialogue.
This is also my personal blog; I won’t be limiting myself to only discussing atheism and belief, I also talk about psychology in general, politics and the spiritual inspiration I get from science and other things. I hope you find something to entertain, inspire, intrigue or enjoy.
– The Spiritual Materialist