Against fatalism and hedonism

In June 2015, Peter Thiel wrote:

The history of the twentieth century is a history of this loss of hope in the future. With the benefit of hindsight, the dawn of the nuclear age and the Manhattan Project may appear to have been a key turning point, a great achievement that led to tremendous disillusionment. This disillusionment hit with full force in the 1970s, when the successor Apollo program collapsed and the baby boomers redirected their energies toward interminable cultural wars. Whether by chance or design, scientists were placed on a short leash and made to spend their time writing grant applications for modest extensions of existing paradigms. The reign of science foretold in New ­Atlantis culminated and terminated at Los Alamos.

The optimism of Bacon and Hobbes belongs to a bygone era. And perhaps there always was something profoundly contradictory in optimism and atheistic materialism. In the nineteenth century, Engels could still finesse matters by noting the apparent discrepancy between the never-ending progress of dialectical materialism and the heat death foretold by the second law of thermodynamics, but then reassure his readers that such a decline was far in the future and could therefore be ignored! If atheist optimism meant an escape from nature, then today’s atheist pessimism means an acceptance of nature, and of the many gruesome accidents and the terrible rule of chance that that entails. The physical theories of our age resemble the Epicurean accounts of the atoms randomly moving through the void, and it should be no wonder that quasi-Epicurean physics naturally lead to Stoicism and Epicurean hedonism.

Fatalism on the one hand and hedonism on the other are not wholesome choices. In turning back to God, we have the chance to recover the sort of hope and dynamism necessary not only for relationship with God in eternity but also for thriving in this life.