Things changed drastically at the beginning of the 20th century. The first crack in the materialist philosophy came when Albert Einstein discovered that the mass, motion and speed of any object could be different for different observers. This may seem counter intuitive, but this conclusion follows from Einstein’s theory of special relativity. Prior to Einstein, it was always assumed that matter, space and time were predictable quantities. Now all of a sudden, they weren’t. Materialists didn’t realize it at the time, but ultimately, this was the beginning of the fall of the house of materialism.
While Einstein was busy wrecking our everyday understanding of time, mass and motion, another group of scientists from Denmark and Sweden discovered that the atoms that everyone thought were hard little billiard balls were really composed of particles which don’t exist unless a conscious person actually observes them. (This is called the Copenhagen Interpretation. It too may sound improbable, but it remains the simplest and most accepted interpretation for the incompatibility between quantum reality and our everyday reality.)
The reason for this was that Werner Heisenberg (a German who helped found the modern theory of quantum mechanics) found that no one can measure both the velocity and the position of these particles at the same time. This is known as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. This means that quantum objects like protons, neutrons and electrons are not “objects” in the same sense as the billiard balls in Newton’s classical clockwork universe, and they do not behave anything like them.
In fact, modern quantum theory has found that “particles” like electrons, protons and neutrons exist as different types of energy waves, and when not observed by a conscious entity, these subatomic particles behave like waves rather than little balls. Depending on the properties of the waves in question, two interacting waves might pass through each other, repel each other, or even annihilate each other. The existence of actual particles on that level is a sort of fiction. Subatomic “particles” only come into existence when observed by someone who designs an experiment to look for them.
Suddenly, not only do these tiny particles have a shadowy, nearly non-existence, but consciousness had somehow wormed its way back into the hallowed halls of physics. (Quantum “reality” is really quite weird!) The Horror! Einstein, Heisenberg and the Copenhagen scientists had literally demolished the solid foundations of both classical physics and materialist philosophy. They had also made consciousness a central feature of the material universe instead of just a useless byproduct of the human brain. Please see my companion book, Science, Math and God by Martin Spiller for a much more detailed explanation.)