MAD About You
There is an ideology in our contemporary debates about philosophy, theology and science that coheres remarkably well, but is not often examined as a coherent ideology.
That coherent ideology wraps together materialism, atheism and Darwinism. M-A-D. They form a triad with an internal dynamic that sustains the ideology. For brevity, I'll call the ideology by the acronym MAD.
Materialism is the metaphysical view that the only existent is matter in motion, and that the natural world is merely the physical world, which is causally closed. Materialism is essentially physicalism and naturalism, and for purposes of the contemporary debate can be considered interchangeable. The triad of physicalism-atheism-Darwinism ("Ph-A-D") provides an acronym barely less amusing than that of materialism-atheism-Darwinism , proving again the bottomless well of humor that is materialist ideology.
Atheism is of course the view that no gods exist. It rescues materialism from the quasi-materialist deities of Mt. Olympus, which some early materialists accepted but which would prove embarrassing to materialist cognoscenti today.
Darwinism is the view that life arose by a process of natural selection -- the relative reproductive profligacy of matter bumping into matter. MAD philosophers and cosmologists have even proposed an Anthropic-Darwinian model of a "Multiverse," in which "survivors" are those universes that become self-aware. Darwinism is materialism's creation myth.
In the particular debates in which MAD proponents participate, materialism, atheism and Darwinism play their respective roles, depending on the philosophical, theological or scientific issue at hand. But we must not forget that the ideologies in the MAD triad explain and reinforce each other, and each is only understandable in light of the others.
Yet there is a hierarchy in MAD. Materialism is the core of MAD ideology. Atheist theology and Darwinist creation mythology sustain materialism in the minds of those with faith in it. The belief that the only reality is matter in motion is hardly new; it is perhaps the oldest purely metaphysical stance still held by a significant number of people today, having originated in the Axial Age in the 5th century BC with Democritus and Epicurus.
Yet materialism is probably the least defended redoubt of MAD. Books and blogs abound on atheism and Darwinism, but only a few intrepid MAD'ers actually venture a sustained defense of materialism. The reason probably has less to do with materialism's prodigious susceptibility to critique than to materialism's transparency to ridicule.
In sum: Materialism is the belief that the only reality is matter in motion. Atheism is materialism's theology, and Darwinism is materialism's creation myth. They have risen, and will fall, together.