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William Lane Craig, Jordan Peterson, and Rebecca Goldstein on the meaning of life

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Here. Readers will recall William Lane Craig and Jordan B. Peterson. They may not know of Rebecca Goldstein but, by way of brief introduction, she is Steven Pinker’s wife and he has been on our radar a few times. Enjoy!

On January 26th at the University of Toronto 1500 people packed into Convocation Hall to watch a fascinating dialogue on the meaning of life featuring philosopher William Lane Craig, psychology professor Dr. Jordan Peterson, and philosopher and author Dr. Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

See also: New Scientist vs. William Lane Craig on infinity explanations

Canadian psychologist takes on the howling post-modern void, largely alone

and

Steve Pinker on faitheism

Hat tip: Ken Francis, journalist and author of The Little Book of God, Mind, Cosmos and Truth

10 Replies to “William Lane Craig, Jordan Peterson, and Rebecca Goldstein on the meaning of life

  1. 1
    J-Mac says:

    Without watching the 2 hour symposium, I can say it with certainty that none of the speakers knows what the meaning of life is…

  2. 2
    c hand says:

    That wasn’t the question posed.

  3. 3
    JDH says:

    Why does Rebecca Goldstein not understand that her talk is riddled with self-contradiction?

  4. 4
    Latemarch says:

    JDH@3

    Why does Rebecca Goldstein not understand that her talk is riddled with self-contradiction?

    I find she has a chirpy optimism.
    Somehow, if she says that her life is meaningful with enough emotion, enough sincerity, it will somehow be meaningful.

  5. 5
    jstanley01 says:

    Peterson’s ongoing YouTube series on “The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories” is well worth checking out. Even atheists like it, LOL…

    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL22J3VaeABQD_IZs7y60I3lUrrFTzkpat

  6. 6
    JDH says:

    Peterson makes an interesting comment decrying the use of large time scales to declare something meaningless. But I disagree with him. Unless I am mistaken, the question being asked for this debate was not, “Can we find any meaning in life?” but “Does life have meaning?” He fairly objects to the question, “Does life have meaning?” only in the context of his goal as a clinician to adequately answer the pain of an ailing child. (And it is significant that he chooses a child with all his inability to understand anything except the immediate concern ). Craig is right that inherent meaning depends on infinite time scales.

    Even Peterson admits the need for some time scale. His love of Beethoven’s 9th is not about a single harmonious chord that lasts forever, but about the progression of the music in and out of discordant and harmonious strains. The joyousness of the music is not just one good sound, but the tension produced by the expectation of chordal resolution. This is meaningless without some time passing. The fact that the symphony has an end does not make the symphony devoid of meaning, but it does make it unable to stand in as a proxy for the consideration of the life itself.

    His story about the ailing child is poignant because at a later time the suffering will be appeased. Everywhere suffering is highlighted, the duration of the suffering is a major factor in how bad it is.

    So, none of Peterson’s examples make sense without some time. How much time do we need to infer meaning then? The question is whether we want an short impulse of the meaningful experience or the absolute question about whether life has intrinsic meaning. Peterson’s problem is that he conflates the idea that one can have a meaningful experience — and indeed life is better when full of meaningful experiences— with the idea that life has meaning. An obvious mistake when you remember that the first thing he objected to was the question as asked.

    Peterson speaks so well and so seemingly off the cuff that it is sometimes hard to fight against him. He does adequately answer the question of “Can one find a portion of life that feels meaningful?” with his appeals to non-infinite time scales. However, Craig is correct that for life to have INTRINSIC meaning the time scale in question has to be infinite.

  7. 7
    JDH says:

    To me the more interesting comment, is the question, “Does God have to be eternal to be God?” “Couldn’t he just be God if he lasts longer than the lifetime of the universe?” The fact that Gen 1:1, John 1:1 and I John 1:1 and Revelation 1:8 all point out the eternal character of God as an important part of His identification of himself, strongly suggests that intrinsic, ETERNALITY is an important part of qualifying as GOD.

  8. 8

    JDH @ 3: “Why does Rebecca Goldstein not understand that her talk is riddled with self-contradiction?”

    I was wondering the same thing. Loved watching her squirm when Dr. Craig read the Steven Pinker quote at the 156:45 mark. She stammered for awhile and then mumbled a very weak response.

    Goldstein was out of her league for sure. Well done Dr. Craig!

  9. 9
    J-Mac says:

    It looks like Dr. Goldstein knows the naturalist fundamentals of her faith very well, mainly common descent. At 2:00 mark she steins:

    “…the chimps we descended from…”

    By looking at her face I didn’t know who to believe, her version of descent from chimp or Dawkins’ from UFO via panspermia…

    Instead, I decided to let my wife watch her face and intelligence to prove it to her what the side effects of plastic surgery could be, including sewing the excess face skin to the brain causing partial or total malfunction…

  10. 10
    john_a_designer says:

    Here is a key question: How can a purposeless, mindless process, like Darwinian or any other kind of naturalistic evolution, accidentally “create” biological beings with consciousness and minds that compels them to seek purpose and meaning?

    Another question: Isn’t it self-evidently true that an eternally-existing transcendent mind (God) is not merely a possible explanation but is the only real explanation, because naturalistic evolution cannot possibly explain why as humans we are so compelled to seek purpose and meaning? In other words, theism provides an explanation, atheistic naturalism/materialism does not– or if there is an explanation for why we are compelled to seek purpose and meaning the explanation is God.

    If you can answer the first question I’d like to hear your answer.

    Again, I’m going to argue it is self-evidently true that God is the explanation of not only how but of why we seek purpose and meaning but how we can really find purpose and meaning. Can you refute that?

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