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Darwinian philosopher on finding meaning in life without God.

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Wintery Knight summarizes the most recent episode of Unbelievable, with host Justin Brierley, discussing how atheists find meaning in life with apologist Andy Bannister, author of The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist: Or the Dreadful Consequences of Bad Arguments, and Darwinian philosopher Michael Ruse:

Bannister: (to Ruse) what do you think would follow next if you got new information that caused you to believe in God?

Ruse: I’d feel scared, I’d think of all the reasons that God would dislike me, rather than any reasons why God would save me

Bannister: according to the Bible, God is not so much interested in mere belief, but in active trust in him

Ruse: without being smug, I just completed 50 years as a college professor of philosophy, and I have a sense of worth from that

Ruse: if God turns up, and says that 50 years of being a professor is not good enough, well, I don’t know God, I’m sorry, I did my best…

Ruse: “obviously, someone like myself cannot have meaning with a capital M in that sense”

Ruse: the real question is and atheist can find a sense of self-worth, “I find that I’m happier within myself, I can find meaning”

Bannister: what would you say to someone who drinks away the family inheritance and gets the same sense of happiness you have?

Bannister: what would you say to all the people who are unable to get “a sense of self-worth” from their career, because of where they are born, sickness, etc.

Ruse: I have nothing to offer them, some people are born into such awful situations that they are bound to be bad people

Ruse: these unfair accidents of birth, etc., fits with atheism better

Ruse: what we should do is change society so that more people can build a sense of self-worth through achievements

Ruse: that way, they can say to God “I used my talents” so they can create feelings of self-worth and happiness (apart from God) “ Andy Bannister and Michael Ruse Discuss How Atheists Find Meaning in Life ” at Wintery Knight

We are learning something about Darwinian atheism here but it doesn’t sound very inspiring

Hat tip: Wintery Knight

See also: At Unbelievable: Fun with Scooby Doo and the Silly Sceptics

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9 Replies to “Darwinian philosopher on finding meaning in life without God.

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    later on in the interview,,,

    Brierley: (to Ruse) are you saying that you have searched for ultimate meaning, and you are settling for subjective meaning?
    Ruse: my subjective meaning is not second class to objective meaning,

    Yeah right, and monopoly money is not second class to a real money. i.e. In effect he is saying that the illusory meaning he has invented for himself is not second class to the real meaning for life that is inherent in Theism.

    Is There Meaning to Life? – Dr Craig videos (animated video)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKGnXgH_CzE

    The Absurdity of Life without God – William Lane Craig
    Excerpt: Meaning of Life
    First, the area of meaning. We saw that without God, life has no meaning. Yet (atheistic) philosophers continue to live as though life does have meaning. For example, Sartre argued that one may create meaning for his life by freely choosing to follow a certain course of action. Sartre himself chose Marxism.
    Now this is utterly inconsistent. It is inconsistent to say life is objectively absurd and then to say one may create meaning for his life. If life is really absurd, then man is trapped in the lower story. To try to create meaning in life represents a leap to the upper story. But Sartre has no basis for this leap. Without God, there can be no objective meaning in life. Sartre’s program is actually an exercise in self-delusion. Sartre is really saying, “Let’s pretend the universe has meaning.” And this is just fooling ourselves.
    The point is this: if God does not exist, then life is objectively meaningless; but man cannot live consistently and happily knowing that life is meaningless; so in order to be happy he pretends life has meaning. But this is, of course, entirely inconsistent—for without God, man and the universe are without any real significance.
    https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/popular-writings/existence-nature-of-god/the-absurdity-of-life-without-god/

    “There is no self in, around, or as part of anyone’s body. There can’t be. So there really isn’t any enduring self that ever could wake up morning after morning worrying about why it should bother getting out of bed. The self is just another illusion, like the illusion that thought is about stuff or that we carry around plans and purposes that give meaning to what our body does. Every morning’s introspectively fantasized self is a new one, remarkably similar to the one that consciousness ceased fantasizing when we fell sleep sometime the night before. Whatever purpose yesterday’s self thought it contrived to set the alarm last night, today’s newly fictionalized self is not identical to yesterday’s. It’s on its own, having to deal with the whole problem of why to bother getting out of bed all over again.”
    – A.Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, ch.10

    Atheistic Materialism vs Meaning, Value, and Purpose in Our Lives – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqUxBSbFhog

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    Yeah right, and monopoly money is not second class to a real money. i.e. In effect he is saying that the illusory meaning he has invented for himself is not second class to the real meaning for life that is inherent in Theism

    I assume that, in your mind, God is an individual being, a singular intelligence like a human being rather than an impersonal property like “love” or an amorphous energy field or a Borg-like hive-mind? That being the case, my question is: in what way is any meaning or purpose in the mind of God any less ‘subjective’ or ‘illusory’ than that in the mind of a human individual like Michael Ruse?

  3. 3
    AaronS1978 says:

    If god Is the beginning of all things and the judge of all things then the only meaning that exists that is worth a damn at all is that which is god’s

    By the way to a Catholic got is a trinity And that Trinity encompasses all things and it is something that mere human minds cannot fathom and should not be trying to put rules upon. Furthermore as human beings we only know what has been revealed to us and that is it we know nothing more

    And if God is truly the admin of reality then God can be whatever God wants to be whether wants to be 1 billion humans, or a singular person. And the idea that God created us out of love comes from the fact that God doesn’t have to create us at all and there is no purpose for our existence other than what God wishes it to be. God could be made Neverland and torturous every single day and do terrible horrible things every single day and anything that you could possibly imagine can be done every single day for all eternity and infinitely and it can all be infinitely worse than anything that you can imagine or any other mortal mind can imagine

    But things seem neutral and if God wanted us to understand the difference between eternal paradise and actually being able to appreciate it by giving us something that’s not exactly paradise but isn’t exactly hell then God can do whatever God wishes to do if this is what God wants us to learn

    And if God wanted to torture us day in and day out you can complain about it all you want, it’s still god there’s not much you can do about it, And if God wants to give us free well and wants us to choose to love him then God can do that and if God wishes to give you eternal paradise think God can do that as well. God can love you even though you don’t love him guy can do pretty much whatever God wants to do

    The nice thing is the one thing that God does is let us exist and God doesn’t metal in our lives unless we really want God to do that and even then we are still not sure but it’s the fact that God gives us that freedom when other people can conceive of that god being a malevolent monster constantly torturing you

    Point being God writes the rules of the universe God writes the rules in general if God’s will is what keeps us into existence as well as everything else then gods meaning is the only meaning that exists and it is the only meaning that matters

  4. 4
    AaronS1978 says:

    That was the last time I use talk to text, I technically did that while driving and didn’t really read that till now. It is possibly the worst dictation program I’ve ever used. I apologize for the horrible continuity and grammatical errors of that last message.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Seversky asks,

    “in what way is any meaning or purpose in the mind of God any less ‘subjective’ or ‘illusory’ than that in the mind of a human individual like Michael Ruse?”

    Well for starters, by definition under atheistic materialism life can have no real purpose, meaning, or value. Atheistic materialism holds that life is just an accident, i.e. a cosmic fluke in the random concourse of atoms that was not intended. In fact, under atheistic materialism, teleology, i.e. goal directed purpose of any sort, is resolutely denied. And since life, under atheistic materialism, was not purposely intended, but is just a cosmic fluke in the random concourse of atoms, then, by definition, life can have no purpose, meaning, or value.

    Moreover, it takes an immaterial mind in order to have purpose, meaning and value in the first place. Yet atheistic materialism denies the reality of the immaterial mind (as well as denying the reality of the immaterial realm altogether). As Michael Egnor points out in the following article, “”It is purpose that must be denied in order to deny design in nature. So the (immaterial) mind, as well as teleology, must be denied. Eliminative materialism is just Darwinian metaphysics carried to its logical end and applied to man. If there is no teleology, there is no intentionality, and there is no purpose in nature nor in man’s thoughts.”

    Teleology and the Mind – Michael Egnor – August 16, 2016
    Excerpt: From the hylemorphic perspective, there is an intimate link between the mind and teleology. The 19th-century philosopher Franz Brentano pointed out that the hallmark of the mind is that it is directed to something other than itself. That is, the mind has intentionality, which is the ability of a mental process to be about something, rather than to just be itself. Physical processes alone (understood without teleology) are not inherently about things. The mind is always about things. Stated another way, physical processes (understood without teleology) have no purpose. Mental processes always have purpose. In fact, purpose (aboutness-intentionality-teleology) is what defines the mind. And we see the same purpose (aboutness-intentionality-teleology) in nature.
    Intentionality is a form of teleology. Both intentionality and teleology are goal-directedness — intentionality is directedness in thought, and teleology is directedness in nature. Mind and teleology are both manifestations of purpose in nature. The mind is, within nature, the same kind of process that directs nature.
    In this sense, eliminative materialism is necessary if a materialist is to maintain a non-teleological Darwinian metaphysical perspective. It is purpose that must be denied in order to deny design in nature. So the mind, as well as teleology, must be denied. Eliminative materialism is just Darwinian metaphysics carried to its logical end and applied to man. If there is no teleology, there is no intentionality, and there is no purpose in nature nor in man’s thoughts.
    The link between intentionality and teleology, and the undeniability of teleology, is even more clear if we consider our inescapable belief that other people have minds. The inference that other people have minds based on their purposeful (intentional-teleological) behavior, which is obviously correct and is essential to living a sane life, can be applied to our understanding of nature as well. Just as we know that other people have purposes (intentionality), we know just as certainly that nature has purposes (teleology). In a sense, intelligent design is the recognition of the same purpose-teleology-intentionality in nature that we recognize in ourselves and others.
    Teleology and intentionality are certainly the inferences to be drawn from the obvious purposeful arrangement of parts in nature, but I (as a loyal Thomist!) believe that teleology and intentionality are manifest in an even more fundamental way in nature. Any goal-directed natural change is teleological, even if purpose and arrangement of parts is not clearly manifest. The behavior of a single electron orbiting a proton is teleological, because the motion of the electron hews to specific ends (according to quantum mechanics). A pencil falling to the floor behaves teleologically (it does not fall up, or burst into flame, etc.). Purposeful arrangement of parts is teleology on an even more sophisticated scale, but teleology exists in even the most basic processes in nature. Physics is no less teleological than biology.
    https://evolutionnews.org/2016/08/teleology_and_t/

    So Seversky, you want to hold that the meaning and purpose that you invent for yourself is just as valid as the meaning and purpose that God has for you, but your atheistic materialistic worldview, by definition, denies that your life can have any meaning or purpose. PERIOD!

    Whereas under Theism, by definition, our lives were purposely intended from the start of creation, and are not an accident, and therefore can be, and actually are, truly meaningful and purposeful.

    Ephesians 1:4
    Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.

    Moreover, with the advance of modern science, my claim that God purposely intended our lives, and that our lives can therefore be truly meaningful and purposeful, is not merely some type of game with semantics that I am using in some philosophical debate, but is, in fact, an established empirical fact.

    I will not list all the empirical evidence for that claim at this time, but I will re-reference this video. The later half of this video goes over many lines of empirical evidence from modern science that firmly establish that our lives truly have meaning and purpose.

    Atheistic Materialism vs Meaning, Value, and Purpose in Our Lives – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqUxBSbFhog

    But I will list this one line of evidence though. The words that biologists themselves are forced to use when they are doing their research proves that life has a purpose behind it and is therefore meaningful.

    In the following article, Stephen Talbott points out that it is impossible to describe the complexities of biological life without Darwinists illegitimately using language that directly implies “agency, cognition, and purposiveness” (i.e. teleology):

    The ‘Mental Cell’: Let’s Loosen Up Biological Thinking! – Stephen L. Talbott – September 9, 2014
    Excerpt: Many biologists are content to dismiss the problem with hand-waving: “When we wield the language of agency, we are speaking metaphorically, and we could just as well, if less conveniently, abandon the metaphors”.
    Yet no scientist or philosopher has shown how this shift of language could be effected. And the fact of the matter is just obvious: the biologist who is not investigating how the organism achieves something in a well-directed way is not yet doing biology, as opposed to physics or chemistry. Is this in turn just hand-waving? Let the reader inclined to think so take up a challenge: pose a single topic for biological research, doing so in language that avoids all implication of agency, cognition, and purposiveness 1.
    One reason this cannot be done is clear enough: molecular biology — the discipline that was finally going to reduce life unreservedly to mindless mechanism — is now posing its own severe challenges. In this era of Big Data, the message from every side concerns previously unimagined complexity, incessant cross-talk and intertwining pathways, wildly unexpected genomic performances, dynamic conformational changes involving proteins and their cooperative or antagonistic binding partners, pervasive multifunctionality, intricately directed behavior somehow arising from the interaction of countless players in interpenetrating networks, and opposite effects by the same molecules in slightly different contexts. The picture at the molecular level begins to look as lively and organic — and thoughtful — as life itself.
    http://natureinstitute.org/txt.....ell_23.htm

    As well, Denis Noble also notes that “it is virtually impossible to speak of living beings for any length of time without using teleological and normative language”.

    “the most striking thing about living things, in comparison with non-living systems, is their teleological organization—meaning the way in which all of the local physical and chemical interactions cohere in such a way as to maintain the overall system in existence.
    Moreover, it is virtually impossible to speak of living beings for any length of time without using teleological and normative language—words like “goal,” “purpose,” “meaning,” “correct/incorrect,” “success/failure,” etc.”
    – Denis Noble – Emeritus Professor of Cardiovascular Physiology in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics of the Medical Sciences Division of the University of Oxford.
    http://www.thebestschools.org/.....interview/

    This working biologist agrees with Talbott and Noble’s’s assessment and states, “in our work, we biologists use words that imply intentionality, functionality, strategy, and design in biology–we simply cannot avoid them.”

    Life, Purpose, Mind: Where the Machine Metaphor Fails – Ann Gauger – June 2011
    Excerpt: I’m a working biologist, on bacterial regulation (transcription and translation and protein stability) through signalling molecules, ,,, I can confirm the following points as realities: we lack adequate conceptual categories for what we are seeing in the biological world; with many additional genomes sequenced annually, we have much more data than we know what to do with (and making sense of it has become the current challenge); cells are staggeringly chock full of sophisticated technologies, which are exquisitely integrated; life is not dominated by a single technology, but rather a composite of many; and yet life is more than the sum of its parts; in our work, we biologists use words that imply intentionality, functionality, strategy, and design in biology–we simply cannot avoid them.
    Furthermore, I suggest that to maintain that all of biology is solely a product of selection and genetic decay and time requires a metaphysical conviction that isn’t troubled by the evidence. Alternatively, it could be the view of someone who is unfamiliar with the evidence, for one reason or another. But for those who will consider the evidence that is so obvious throughout biology, I suggest it’s high time we moved on. – Matthew
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....nt-8858161

    Therefore Seversky, contrary to what your atheistic materialism holds to be true, every purposeful action of every one of the billion-trillion molecules in your body testifies to the fact that your are purposely intended by God and that your life can be, and is, truly meaningful:

    Jeremiah 29:11
    For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

    Why you would fight tooth and nail against such a wonderful truth, i.e. that you were intended by God, I have no idea Seversky, but it it is my firm hope and prayer that you will open your eyes and get right with God someday soon and that you will stop fighting tooth and nail against the One that gives you your ‘meaningful’ life in the first place, and even fighting the One from Whom “Every good gift and every perfect gift” comes.

    John 15:25
    But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.

    James 1:17
    “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

  6. 6
    tjguy says:

    Ruse: if God turns up, and says that 50 years of being a professor is not good enough, well, I don’t know God, I’m sorry, I did my best…

    It’s interesting to me that these atheists think they know what is right and what God should do! Ruse thinks that serving as a professor for 50 years should be enough for him to get in to heaven. And if God doesn’t agree, then well, he’s at a loss and doesn’t know what else he could have done.

    Try believing in Him? Try following Him? Try recognizing and repenting of your sins? etc etc etc.

    The Bible is quite clear on what he should do if he would only read it. He thinks it is simply a matter of trying to do your best. How many people in this world have been duped into thinking that giving it your best shot is all it takes to get to heaven? It’s like you have to try to impress God with your good works or something. But even if that is all it takes, who can really honestly say that they always gave it their best shot? No one. Even our best shot is far short of God’s standards. The Bible is clear that salvation is by faith and not by works. Works come naturally as a result of genuine faith. There are a lot more important works than just teaching as a professor for 50 years. God is not concerned about our works as much as our heart, our thoughts, our motives, our heart idols, etc.

  7. 7
    ScuzzaMan says:

    in what way is any meaning or purpose in the mind of God any less ‘subjective’ or ‘illusory’ than that in the mind of a human individual like Michael Ruse?

    If you built something for yourself, say a rockingchair, because you wanted to spend your last decades rocking gently on the porch in the evening sunshine, what is the meaning of the chair?
    Its meaning is a function of its purpose (as already discussed by others above).
    That purpose is rooted in your will.
    That will is expressed in your creative/formative act of making the chair.
    What meaning does the chair have for or to a rock?
    If you answer “whatever meaning the rock wants to give it” then I hope you realise you are conceding the entire argument?

  8. 8
    tjguy says:

    @3 Aaron S1978

    “And if God wanted to torture us day in and day out you can complain about it all you want, it’s still god there’s not much you can do about it, And if God wants to give us free well and wants us to choose to love him then God can do that and if God wishes to give you eternal paradise think God can do that as well. God can love you even though you don’t love him guy can do pretty much whatever God wants to do
    The nice thing is the one thing that God does is let us exist and God doesn’t metal in our lives unless we really want God to do that and even then we are still not sure but it’s the fact that God gives us that freedom when other people can conceive of that god being a malevolent monster constantly torturing you
    Point being God writes the rules of the universe God writes the rules in general if God’s will is what keeps us into existence as well as everything else then gods meaning is the only meaning that exists and it is the only meaning that matters”

    Two things:
    1) If God created us, then He created us for a reason. Therein lies the meaning for our lives. It’s God’s meaning? Yes, because He gave our lives meaning. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that our lives do have intrinsic meaning because we are not accidents, but have been created for a purpose.
    2) You said that God can do whatever He wants to. In some ways, that is true because He is omnipotent, but even the Bible tells us that there as some things that God cannot do. It tells us that it is impossible for God to lie for instance. God is not able to commit sin or to commit evil or to break His word, etc. He cannot violate His own character. This is one reason He sent Jesus to die on the cross. If He could do anything – like act in an unjust way and just ignore everyone’s sin and let them all come to heaven – then He clearly would not have sent His Son to die in our place on the cross. This shows that clearly there are constraints on what God can and cannot do. And actually this is a good thing because we can trust God. We can believe Him. We know He will be faithful and keep His promises and won’t turn on us on a bad day.

  9. 9
    GCS says:

    AaronS1978,
    Just one addition to your dictation.
    Because God is a Trinity we know that God is Love.
    Love can never do something ultimately wrong.
    Love can be “tough love” though, so do not think it will necessarily be easy.
    God Bless

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