It has been a very busy week digging out from under the pile of work that accumulated while I was on vacation (think of the Bride digging out of the grave in Kill Bill 2). Earlier I had time only to post a link to Mollie Hemingway’s take down of Frank Bruni’s genuflection before the alter of “science.” Today I want to revisit that topic. Before I do, a couple of definitions:
Reify: to regard (something abstract) as a material or concrete thing
Fealty: the obligation or the engagement to be faithful to a lord, usually sworn to by a vassal.
The money quote from Bruni’s piece:
And with the right fealty to science, this next Congress would be forced to accept the overwhelming consensus on climate change and take action.
Bruni reifies an abstraction called “science” and bids Congress (and presumably everyone else) to give “fealty” to his reification. It is one thing to honor a particular scientist, but Bruni urges us to genuflect before “Science” with a capital “S.” Why? Because, he feels an overwhelming need to serve something larger than himself, to place his life in a larger context, and to find meaning in his life. What in the world is going on here? As it happens, Bob Dylan has a keen insight into this phenomenon. He writes:
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Gotta Serve Somebody. As another song goes, “ain’t Bobby so cool”?
The idea that our life is completely meaningless, that the universe is indifferent to our existence, that literally nothing we say, think or do has any ultimate significance, is unbearable. No one is able to stare into the abyss without flinching. Even those who insist there is no meaning feel compelled to seek meaning. Consider these two quotations from Richard Dawkins:
[In the universe there] is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.
The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it.
In the first quote Dawkins stares into the abyss, and in the second he flinches away. Why? Because an intense longing for meaning is at the bottom of every human heart. Everyone, from fundamentalist Bible thumpers to militant atheists, searches for a greater context in which to situate their lives.
For theists the explanation for this longing is easy:
You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.
Confessions, Augustine of Hippo
The materialist insists there is no meaning to life. Therefore, he cannot admit that our longing for meaning is a response to the existence of real meaning. Like so many things (consciousness, the overwhelming appearance of design in nature, libertarian free will), he is forced to argue that the impulse to find meaning is the product of an illusion foisted on us by our genes, which in turn resulted from some evolutionary adaptation.
It is not my purpose in this brief post to argue for one view or the other. I only point to the reality of the impulse. Bobby is right. Ya gotta serve somebody.
36 Replies to “Gotta Serve Somebody”
Or another word, IDOLATRY.
The operational definition of Science is extremely simple.
Anything that will bring in more than a million from an agency or foundation is Science. Anything that won’t get you a million-dollar grant is Denialism.
(For some disciplines like physics, the threshold is closer to a billion. It depends on the size of the lab and the overhead of the assistants and equipment.)
Some idolaters of Science understand that they’re really worshipping plain old Greed. They won’t say it, but you can tell that they know. Not sure about Bruni; he sounds like he doesn’t understand.
The second definition that Merriam Websters’ site gives for fealty is “intense fidelity.” Under which, “fealty to science” wouldn’t reify science any more so than the phrase “fealty to reason” would reify reason.
Certainly abstractions can be raised to the level of deity. But the main problem with Bruni’s statement is that it’s a bald-faced lie.
The claim that a consensus among scientists is evidence of an intense fidelity to the scientific method is like claiming that the shared morals found among porn stars show their intense fidelity to the Virgin Mary.
I wonder if in the 1920’s the following sentence would have been feasible:
OT: If anyone is interested, Magnus Carlsen and Vishy Anand are now playing a rematch for the world chess championship. The first game is now over and was a draw.
Magnus Carlsen VS. Vishy Anand
Does The Universe Have A Purpose?
This is a very good question … a question often directed to religious people … and a question directed to me, a Christian, recently that gave me serious pause. Do I believe or even think much about the question? Do I even have an answer to the question?
My answer is here: http://ayearningforpublius.wor.....a-purpose/
Science is a process, not a canonical body of knowledge. Bruni’s talk about swearing fealty to science is nonsensical and logically absurd.
Awesome albumn. Saw Dylan live in San Diego on the tour.
Slow Train Coming
I have, as has probably everyone else who has debated dogmatic Darwinists on the internet, noticed that many times atheistic Darwinists have an almost compulsive habit of equating the word ‘science’ with their foundational religious belief of atheistic materialism/naturalism. And labeling everyone who disagrees with their beliefs in Darwinism as ‘anti-science’.
This is interesting, since atheistic materialism was not at the founding of modern science, (Christian Theism was), and since atheistic materialism/naturalism has not been confirmed by advances in science.
If anything advances in molecular biology have shown the Darwinian mechanism of random mutation and natural selection to be grossly inadequate as to the generation of functional information, and advances in Quantum Mechanics have falsified claims that reality is materialistic in its foundational basis. As if that was not enough to disqualify atheistic materialism as being ‘science’, it is also found that atheistic materialism/naturalism leads to the epistemological failure of science.
But the question that arises for me in all this is, ‘why was it the Christian worldview that provided the correct epistemological basis for science and not some other Theistic worldview, such as Jewish or Muslim beliefs?’ Stanley Jaki provides a clue to that question,,,
Although other mono-Theists may object, I think it is clear that the remarkable success of science in modern times is certainly a very strong confirmation of the truth inherent in Christian theism that brought modern science to fruition in the first place. i.e. If Christianity was not a proper view of the world, how was it possible for that view of the world to succeed in understanding and subjugating the world?
In fact, not only can I point to the success of modern science as confirmation to the truth inherent in Christian Theism, I can also point to the fact that the resurrection Jesus Christ from death provides a very credible, empirically backed, resolution to the number one problem in science today. Namely, the resurrection of Christ from death provides a reconciliation of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics/Special Relativity, (i.e. Quantum Electrodynamics), into the long sought after ‘theory of everything’.
Slow Train is a great song: see lyrics at http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/slow-train
I also like the lyrics to Precious Angel. Dylan got flak from some for going through his “Christian phase”, but he did some great music then. For those interested, see especially, in my opinion, Watered Down Love and the bootleg I Ain’t Goin’ to Go to Hell for Anybody.
In and of itself the universe has no purpose. It’s the life that the universe supports that has purpose.
One of the interesting things about finding information to be ‘directing the show’ in life in DNA is that, in order for information to exist in the first place, it is necessary for the ability to assign meaning to first exist. There is not an alphabet, or book, or even a single sentence written on earth that was not written by someone who intended to convey a specific meaning with that information. Thus, for us to find information in life is equivalent to us finding that there is indeed meaning for life.
Another interesting point is that one thing that drastically separates man from animals, (i.e. part of the ‘image of God’ inherent to man), is our ability to communicate information.
In fact, the three r’s, ‘reading, writing, and arithmetic’, are the first things to be taught to children when they enter school. And yet at the heart of life, we find ‘reading, writing, and arithmetic’ (information processing) to be central to biological life:
In fact, not just life but reality itself is found to information theoretic in its foundational basis:
Also note this Bible verse that was written 2000 years ago:
The obvious question is, “how in blue blazes did they know 2000 years that life was, at its foundation, information?”
Moreover, if Christ really is the author of life, as I hold that He is, then everything in the universe and life finds its ultimate meaning and purpose in and from Him!
Why do you have to serve anybody? The American colonists who won independence from Great Britain didn’t feel they had to serve King George III. They believed they were better off deciding and running things for themselves. And they were right.
Absolutely right. And it’s why religions will continue to thrive for as long as human beings are as they are. Unfortunately, while it provides a good reason why people turn to religion, it doesn’t provide a good reason for thinking one, or indeed any, of the worlds faiths, great or small, are true.
Quite correct if the materialist “evolutionary adaptation” account is true. But false if there really is meaning and purpose toward which our longings point.
False. It obviously provides a reason if the longings point to something real. Certainly it is not a sufficient reason. But there are many other reasons, and together they are more than sufficient.
Barry – you are indulging in one of your favourite debating tactics – telling other people what their motives are. It generally takes the form of telling someone that their motives are the same as yours but they don’t realise it. Evidence, it appears, is not required for this assessment – just a certain amount of rhetoric.
For your information I find it quite bearable to believe “that our life is completely meaningless, that the universe is indifferent to our existence, that literally nothing we say, think or do has any ultimate significance. “
Me too. It’s enough that life has meaning and significance to us. No need for an imaginary source of “ultimate significance.”
Say two men come up to a panel painted black. The first one says to his friend, “that panel is black. I don’t like it.” His friend says, “I quite agree that it is painted black, and I don’t like it either. But so long as I pretend it is painted white, it is in fact white to me.”
Life has meaning or significance or it does not. It is incoherent to say “life has no meaning or significance but it has meaning and significance to me.”
Are you suggesting there is no evidence for a deep seated human longing for meaning and purpose? Wow.
But it’s not incoherent to say “life has no ultimate meaning or significance but it still has meaning and significance to me.”
Meaning is inherently subjective. An experience can be meaningful to one person while another sees it as utterly banal. There is no contradiction there.
I am content that my life has meaning to me and to the people I love. I don’t need a Big Meaner in the Sky to regard my life as meaningful.
Barry – I am suggesting there is no evidence that Bruni “feels an overwhelming need to serve something larger than himself, to place his life in a larger context, and to find meaning in his life.”
I certainly have no such overwhelming need.
The people that you love do not love you. Their love isn’t real. In fact, they quietly hate you. No worries. though. Their love seems real to you and that’s all that matters.
Let’s break it down:
FOR SOLID EVOLUTIONARY REASONS, WE’VE BEEN tricked into looking at life from the inside. Without scientism, we look at life from the inside, from the first-person POV (OMG, you don’t know what a POV is?—a “point of view”). The first person is the subject, the audience, the viewer of subjective experience, the self in the mind.
Scientism shows that the first-person POV is an illusion. Even after scientism convinces us, we’ll continue to stick with the first person. But at least we’ll know that it’s another illusion of introspection and we’ll stop taking it seriously. We’ll give up all the answers to the persistent questions about free will, the self, the soul, and the meaning of life that the illusion generates.
The physical facts fix all the facts. The mind is the brain. It has to be physical and it can’t be anything else, since thinking, feeling, and perceiving are physical process—in particular, input/output processes—going on in the brain. We can be sure of a great deal about how the brain works because the physical facts fix all the facts about the brain. The fact that the mind is the brain guarantees that there is no free will. It rules out any purposes or designs organizing our actions or our lives. It excludes the very possibility of enduring persons, selves, or souls that exist after death or for that matter while we live. Not that there was ever much doubt about mortality anyway.
Thinking about things can’t happen at all. The brain can’t have thoughts about Paris, or about France, or about capitals, or about anything else for that matter. When consciousness convinces you that you, or your mind, or your brain has thoughts about things, it is wrong.
Don’t misunderstand, no one denies that the brain receives, stores, and transmits information. But it can’t do these things in anything remotely like the way introspection tells us it does—by having thoughts about things. The way the brain deals with information is totally different from the way introspection tells us it does. Seeing why and understanding how the brain does the work that consciousness gets so wrong is the key to answering all the rest of the questions that keep us awake at night worrying over the mind, the self, the soul, the person.
Love is the solution to a strategic interaction problem.
As with a justification for core morality, when it comes to making life meaningful, what secular humanists hanker after is something they can’t have and don’t need. What they do need, if meaninglessness makes it impossible to get out of bed in the morning, is Prozac.
People who stay in bed all day or who engage in self-destructive behavior or commit suicide don’t do it because their lives lack meaning or even because they think their lives lack meaning. They commit suicide because the neural circuitry in their brain responds to intractable pain, feelings of depression, and all the other slings and arrows flesh is heir to. Often the circuitry responds by producing suicide notes along with and prior to the fatal act. These last gasps may even complain of the meaninglessness of the victim’s life. Scientism assures us that such notes, as well as the conscious introspections they may report, are just by-products, side effects, produced by the brain, along with the self-destructive act itself.
[comments from: ‘The Atheist’s Guide to Reality’ by Alex Rosenberg.]
That our lives have real meaning, purpose, and significance is revealed by modern astronomy, chemistry and physics.
The main reason why atheists think it is ‘scientific’ to say that their lives have no real meaning, purpose, and significance is because of what is termed the Copernican principle, also known as the ‘principle of mediocrity’.
,,, With the removal of the earth from the center of the solar system, people generalized it to mean that their personal lives had no real meaning, purpose, and significance. Here is a quote attesting to that belief,,
,,,But both these beliefs, about the earth and about humans not being significant in the universe, are now being overturned by recent discoveries in modern science.
First as to the earth, as our science has advanced, and as our view of the universe has expanded with advances in telescopes, we now know that the earth has a surprising special position in the universe,,,
Of note: The preceding article was written before the Planck data (with WMPA & COBE data), but the observations were actually verified by Planck.
In fact, a movie has been recently been released, in limited distribution thus far, announcing, as far as I can tell from not personally seeing the movie yet, that the Copernican principle is being overturned by recent discoveries in astronomy:
Moreover, there are many independent characteristics required to be fulfilled for any planet to host advanced carbon-based life. Two popular books have been written, ‘The Privileged Planet’ by Guillermo Gonzalez and ‘Rare Earth’ by Donald Brownlee, indicating the earth is extremely unique in its ability to host advanced life in this universe. The ‘Rare Earth’ hypothesis has been now extended by Dr. Hugh Ross and his team:
In the following video, Dr. Hugh Ross reveals that the conditions neccesary for advanced life to exist in the universe occur during a narrow window during the universe’s history,,,
At the 38:10 minute mark of the following video, Dr. Huterer speaks of the ‘why right now? coincidence problem’ for dark matter and visible matter:
The Privileged Planet by Gonzalez, which also holds that any rare life supporting planet in the universe will also be ‘privileged’ for observation of the universe, has now been made into a excellent video,,,
The Privileged Planet hypothesis has now been extended by Robin Collins PhD.,,,
Moreover, a recent video based on Michael Denton’s work has also been recently released, in limited showings thus far, showing that chemistry is of maximum benefit ‘for warm-blooded, air-breathing organisms such as ourselves’.
Dawkins once made this interesting quote in regards to our significance in the universe,,,
And although Dawkins wasn’t specifically talking about General Relatvity and Quantum Mechanics in that quote, but about the argument from evil, the physics of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics reveal that, far from what Dawkins believes about pitiless indifference in the universe, that ‘at bottom’ the universe reveals there is a design, purpose and surprising significance.
In what I consider an absolutely fascinating discovery, Einstein’s General Relativity has shown that 4-dimensional (4D) space-time, along with all energy and matter, was created in the ‘Big Bang’ and continues to ‘expand equally in all places’:
Thus from a 3-dimensional (3D) perspective, any particular 3D spot in the universe is to be considered just as ‘center of the universe’ as any other particular spot in the universe is to be considered ‘center of the universe’. This centrality found for any 3D place in the universe is because the universe is a 4D expanding hypersphere, analogous in 3D to the surface of an expanding balloon. All points on the surface are moving away from each other, and every point is central, no matter where you live in the universe. This centrality for each 3-D point in the universe is highlighted in the first few minutes of the following video:
In trying to understand how it can be possible that each 3-D point in the universe may be considered central in the universe, it is important to learn that General Relativity is based on higher 4-Dimensional (4-D) math.
Moreover, Quantum Mechanics, which notoriously refuses to be mathematically unified with General Relativity, reveals a surprising centrality, not for just any 3-D position in the universe, but centrality specifically for ‘conscious observers’ in the universe.
The conclusion of all this is summed up here:
Thus, far from what atheists would prefer to believe, i.e. that their lives have no real meaning, purpose, and significance in the universe, the fact of the matter is that the universe itself, due to seemingly miraculous advances in science, reveals that each of us has a profound significance in the universe.
Moreover, from a slightly different angle, ‘Life’, with a capital L, is also found to be central to the universe in that Christ’s resurrection from the dead provides a very credible reconciliation to the most profound enigma in modern science. Namely the unification of General Relativity with Quantum Mechanics/Special Relativity (Quantum Electrodynamics) into a ‘Theory of Everything’:
Verse and Music:
Supplemental note: The following site is also very interesting to the topic of ‘centrality in the universe’:
The preceding interactive graph and video points out that the smallest scale visible to the human eye (as well as a human egg) is at 10^-4 meters, which ‘just so happens’ to be directly in the exponential center of all possible sizes of our physical reality (not just ‘nearly’ in the exponential center!). i.e. 10^-4 is, exponentially, right in the middle of 10^-35 meters, which is the smallest possible unit of length, which is Planck length, and 10^27 meters, which is the largest possible unit of ‘observable’ length since space-time was created in the Big Bang, which is the diameter of the universe. This is very interesting for, as far as I can tell, the limits to human vision (as well as the size of the human egg) could have, theoretically, been at very different positions than directly in the exponential middle.
Eric Metaxas’s video interview with Dick Cavett on Socrates In The City, about his new book, ‘Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life’, is now uploaded, and can be viewed, as of now, freely. You may watch the interview, after a short registration, here:
The Miracles Event with Eric Metaxas and Dick Cavett – video
Of note: He touches on ‘meaning’ for our lives
It is interesting to me that the contentment with hopelessness, as staked out by the Darwinists on this thread, is a contentment that they unknowingly (I’m assuming) share with most of history’s most profoundly religious peoples (surprise, surprise).
In the below video, Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart debunks the schools of thought, including the Marxist and Freudian, which, based on Darwinian assumptions, have claimed that religion originated as an antidote to human beings’ fear of death by offering myths about life and rewards beyond the grave.
Hart cites the historical and archeological evidence which shows that humankind’s religious impulse has no clear connection at all with hope in an afterlife.
Death, Sacrifice, and Resurrection
markf @ 19 says there is no evidence that Bruni feels a need to serve something larger than himself.
Let’s take a look. First, as I noted above, Bruni has reified science. He then says the following regarding his reified god:
I “fervently hope” that they “show more respect for” my god.
He is “enraged” by those who “disregard” his god.
It is “maddening” when people do not give proper deference to the pronouncements his god’s priests, because his god’s priests are “happy to share their wisdom” if we will but heed them.
His religion even has a sort of eschatology. Listen to my god’s priests and there will be plenty and peace. Refuse to heed them and there will be “food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, mass extinctions of plants and animals, and a climate so drastically altered it might become dangerous for people to work or play outside during the hottest times of the year.”
Congress has been “largely useless,” because it’s “relationship to science” [really, you can have a “relationship” with science”] has been either unduly neglectful or they have even outright contemptuous of his god.
Americans have shown “woefully insufficient gratitude” for the blessings bestowed upon them by my god.
On the one hand he is glad that Americans are “enthralled” by the romance of his god and that they “revere” the brainpower of his god’s priests. Indeed, one of his god’s priests has even “become a veritable cultural icon.”
But he is beside himself with contempt for those heretics who deny the power and wisdom of his god. In strangely apt phrasing he more or less says “there is only one God [science] and Darwin is his prophet.” If you do not bend the knee to his god it is because you choose to remain in the darkness (“elect mysticism”) instead of revel in his god’s marvelous light (“empiricism”).
Those who fail to obey his god are “ignoring” or “defying” the “ironclad” pronouncements of the priesthood.
If we had a “proper regard” for his god we would fund his priesthood more lavishly then we already do (I wonder if a tithe would be enough) and we would not irresponsibly smear” the pronouncements of the priesthood.
And finally, with “the right fealty to” his god, we would be “forced to accept” the pronouncements of his priests.
No evidence Mark?
Barry – a masterpeice of rhetoric and quote-mining – cleverly interspersing phrases calling for people to take science more seriously with the word “God” supplied by you.
All the guy is saying is that people should stop ignoring what the scientists say (given scientists quite extraordinary track record in discovering things that are indisputably true with massive impacts on our welfare that seems rather good advice). There is no call for anyone to serve science or worship anything. No suggestion that science provides any kind of ultimate meaning to life. And above all there is nothing in the piece about Bruni’s motives or personal situation. There is no reason to suppose he is making this call to respect science for any reason other than he thinks it is true. Zero reason to suppose it is anything to do with his need to serve something larger than himself.
There is no such thing as meaning, and I have to say, that’s quite meaningful to me!
That is not what markf, keits, et al are saying. They (and I’ll include myself here) are saying that the universe as a whole has no purpose nor does it add an external meaning to our life. Human beings, as a species, as cultures and communities, and as individuals create meanings that help us navigate the world we live in. That is not the same as “there is no such thing as meaning.)
 You agree that, just as I said, the materialist must say that ultimately “our life is completely meaningless, the universe is indifferent to our existence, and literally nothing we say, think or do has any ultimate significance.”
 You agree that, just as I said, idea  “is unbearable. No one is able to stare into the abyss without flinching. Even those who insist there is no meaning feel compelled to seek meaning.”
 Either there is ultimate meaning or there is no ultimate meaning. It is a discrete function. All you are saying is, (again, just as I said) the materialist must say he believes an evolutionary adaptation of some kind compels him to avert his gaze from  and “make believe.” I am not the one who says “there is no such thing as meaning.” Materialists are. Then, as you have just demonstrated, unable to bear that thought, they equivocate on the word “meaning.’ “Sure,” they say, “there is no meaning, but we can pretend there is. And why do we pretend? Because we are unable to look into the abyss without flinching.”
We are in fundamental disagreement about how materialists cope with the bleak conclusions compelled by their premises.
Barry your conclusion 2 simply does not follow from anything Aleta wrote or anything Bruni wrote. I suggest less rhetoric and more logic.
Mark, I often respect what you have to say in these pages and enjoy the challenges you raise. Then, there are other times, such as in this thread, when you convert to “full on denial mode” and substitute mere contradiction for argument.
Trying to argue with someone who merely contradicts is boring.
Mark’s anticipated response. “No it isn’t.” 🙂
Hi Barry. First, although I worry this will lead us away from the main topics, I don’t consider myself a materialist. As I discussed a bit in a previous thread, I don’t believe we can really know the nature of the metaphysical foundation of the universe, but I’m inclined to believe that it is most likely some set of impersonal principles rather than a personally involved being. But for the sake of discussion, I’ll accept the “materialist” designation, because I agree with the materialist on the point in question, which is that the “universe as a whole has no purpose nor does it add an external meaning to our life.”
In responding to me, you read more into what you think I mean than I mean: starting a response with “You agree that …” is sort of annoying because in fact I don’t agree with all you say about me. A better discussion technique, one which would facilitate a constructive discussion rather than just denial, would be to start by saying, “Do you agree …” or “It seems to me your belief implies …”
With all that said, when I wrote that “the “universe as a whole has no purpose nor does it add an external meaning to our life,” I did not say, or mean, that, as you say I agree to, ““our life is completely meaningless.” In fact I went on to explain a bit about how our life comes to have meaning.
You also draw an erroneous conclusion in your numbered : When I wrote,
“Human beings, as a species, as cultures and communities, and as individuals create meanings that help us navigate the world we live in,”
you said that therefore “I agree that the indifference ““is unbearable. No one is able to stare into the abyss without flinching. Even those who insist there is no meaning feel compelled to seek meaning.”” I don’t agree with that at all.
It is your  that really helps explain what the issue is here. You say “Either there is ultimate meaning or there is no ultimate meaning.” I’ll agree with that as a logical truism. But then you say that my understanding of meaning is
The problem here is that the only kind of meaning you accept as really qualifying as meaning is “ultimate meaning”, and so, to you, if I don’t accept that defintion of meaning, I really have no real meaning at all. But making someone else (me) responsible for holding your beliefs, and then saying my beliefs really don’t count because they aren’t the same as yours, is unjustifiable.
You are absolutely convinced that there is ultimate meaning, and if you contemplate the absence of that meaning, all you can see is that you would despair. But I don’t even consider ultimate meaning a possibility, so there is nothing to feel despair about: why should I despair over something I don’t believe in even though it causes you to feel potential despair when you contemplate it’s absence?
I am not “equivocating” about the word meaning: I am using it in reference to a human activity that all people engage in in order to understand a whole multitude of types of things, and there is nothing that says the word has to refer to an “ultimate meaning.” Just because, to you, meaning isn’t significant – isn’t “really meaningful – unless it has some external, ultimate source or referent doesn’t mean that I am obligated to accept your meaning of meaning.
I do believe that humans do engage, and have engaged in “make believe” about some things that we really don’t know much, if anything about: I think most metaphysical religious beliefs fall into this category. But we have all sorts of other beliefs about how to treat our fellow man (or at least those that we include in our understanding of our community/society), about how to contribute to the well being of our society, how to spend our time in what various human activities are possible, and so on. Many of these beliefs are cultural: the fact that many people are brought up in them as children and that most of society supports them gives those beliefs a sense of being bigger than the individual. Human belief and meaning systems are human inventions. They are based on a mixture of empirical knowledge (confirmed beliefs) and agreements within the culture to see the world a certain way (affirmed beliefs). Calling then “make believe” devalues both them and the human beings for whom they are important.
And last, given that we are social animals, virtually all people grow up feeling a part of and a responsibility to a larger body of people. (Those that don’t we see as pathological.) To return to the Dylan song, most people do indeed need to “serve somebody”, be it their family, their community, their profession, their nation, or whatever. Those who have religious beliefs often feel that they are serving a God or a principle of some sort. For everyone, all these beliefs about how we are to behave and feel, and how that behavior and feelings fit into our place in a larger entity than just ourselves, are what constitute our “meaning of life.” While some might have a religious component that posits an ultimate meaning, others don’t (and of course there is a wide variety in religious beliefs as well as non-religious one.) But all these people, you included, Barry, are finding meaning in the same human way. You include a religious belief in your meaning and I don’t in mine, but the religious belief is not necessary: my world of meaning is not inferior to yours just because you believe that yours is connected to some universal ultimate meaning.
Mark, regarding my comment at 33, consider the difference between your 31 and Aleta’s 34.
I’m interested in whether keiths and Mark F agree with you.
But that’s just silly, and not believable, on a number of levels.
How do they, and you, determine that the universe as a whole has no purpose?
How does a universe that has no purpose just happen to give rise to meaning and purpose?
In what sense is there meaning and purpose in their lives, and yours, without external meaning? If that which is external to you, the universe outside, provides nothing meaningful to your life, what’s the point?
Sure it is.
First, are you saying that meaning and purpose are a singular human construct?
Humans are in fact different from plants and other animals? We’re unique?
Second, if each individual gets to define what is meaningful and purposeful, then in what sense is anything meaningful or purposeful?
What is it that is common to each individual definition of what is meaningful and purposeful? If there is nothing common, then how is it that there is anything at all definable about those terms?