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Don’t Move the Goalposts, Again

Christian apologists often bring up unresolved scientific questions and usually conclude with, “Well, if you can’t answer that question, Christianity can! Clearly, God did it.”

Consider questions like: Why is there something rather than nothing? What came before the Big Bang? Why does the universe look fine-tuned for life? How did life come from nonlife?

If you can’t answer those, the Christian can.

Admittedly, there is no scientific consensus on these questions. But a century ago, Christian apologists pointed to different questions if they wanted to put science in the hot seat: Okay, Science, if you’re so smart, how could heredity be transmitted from just one tiny cell? What causes cancer? Where did the universe come from?

And centuries before that, the questions were: What causes lightning? Plague? Drought? Earthquakes? It used these questions to argue that Christianity had answers that science didn’t.

But not only is science the sole disciple that has ever provided answers to questions like these, increasingly only science can uncover the questions. That is, the apologist pretends to inform science of questions that science discovered itself.

If in hindsight “God did it” was a foolish response to the questions of previous centuries—the cause of lightning and disease, for example—why offer it now? Why expect the results to be any different? Wouldn’t it be wise to learn from the past and be a little hesitant to stake God’s existence on the gamble that science will finally come up short?

What’s especially maddening is science-y apologists like William Lane Craig putting on an imaginary lab coat and ineptly fiddling with beakers and turning dials, playing scientist like a child playing house. He imagines himself strutting into a community of befuddled scientists and saying with a chuckle, “Okay, fellas, Christianity can take it from here” and seeing them breathe a sigh of relief that the cavalry has finally come to bail them out of their intellectual predicament. He imagines that he can better answer questions that his discipline couldn’t even formulate.

This reminds me of the fable about Science scaling the highest peak of knowledge. After much difficulty, Science finally summits and is about to plant his flag when he looks over and sees Theology and Philosophy sitting there, looking at him. “What took you so long?” one of them says. “We’ve been here for centuries.”

Uh, yeah, Theology and Philosophy can invent claims, but Science does it the hard way—it actually uncovers the facts and makes the testable hypotheses. It gets to the summit step by careful step along the route of Evidence rather than floating there on a lavender cloud of imagination and wishful thinking. Religion is like the dog that walks under the ox and thinks that he is pulling the cart.

To the Christian who thinks that science’s unanswered questions make his point, I say: make a commitment. Publicly state that this issue (pick something—abiogenesis or the cause of the Big Bang or fine tuning or whatever) is the hill that you will fight to the death on. Man up, commit to it, and impose consequences. Say, “I publicly declare that God must be the resolution to this question. A scientific consensus will never find me wrong or else I will drop my faith.”

If the Christian fails to do this (or rather, when he fails to do this), he then admits that when his celebrated question du jour is resolved, he’ll discard it like a used tissue and find another in science’s long list of unanswered questions. He admits that his argument devolves to, “Science has unanswered questions; therefore, God.” He admits that this is just a rhetorical device, stated only for show, rather than being a serious argument.

He’ll just move the goalposts. Again.

In science it often happens that scientists say,
“You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,”
and then they actually change their minds
and you never hear that old view from them again.
They really do it.
It doesn’t happen as often as it should,
because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful.
But it happens every day.
I cannot recall the last time something like that
happened in politics or religion.
— Carl Sagan, 1987 CSICOP keynote address

(This is a modified version of a post originally published 11/16/11.)

Photo credit: George Hoffman

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Richard S. Russell

    “God” is just a nickname for a guy whose REAL name is “I don’t know.”

    • Bob Seidensticker

      I’ve heard it said that phlogiston was like this.

      Q: “Why do things burn?”

      A: “Well, things that burn have phlogiston in them, and when it’s used up, the fire goes out. Ashes are de-phlogistonated, for example.”

      (Uh, yeah. If you don’t know why things burn, then just say so!)

      God is like phlogiston.

      • Quintin

        Bob, I had hoped to see better from you. Phlogiston was a more than decent scientific theory up untill inconsistencies came to light which required phlogiston to have negative mass and remained at least an actual theory untill it was proven that this could not be true either by Lavoisier. Its replacement? Caloric theory, which was falsified later. Still this theory was accurate enough to be used to make the engine of the car that gets you to work every day (unless you live close enough to act environmentally conscious).
        We look back on phlogiston today like we do flat-earthism or creationism, and caloric theory like the idea that the earth is a perfect sphere or classical (pre-Mendellian) Darwinian evolution.
        We must recognize that past theories might be laughable to us today, they were still completely valid at the time. Undoubtedly, two centuries in the future people will think the same of some of our most cherished theories of today.
        God on the other hand was never in any way a valid theory of anything. God was purely what some people “felt” to be the case from their conscious experience. A conscious experience which we now know to be completely produced by the brain through evolutionarily explainable structures and mechanisms. God is an intuition, and therefore wholly invalid to science to begin with. God is not like phlogiston.
        And anyway, comparing God to any scientific theory, however long ago it has been falsified, cannot be right.
        So yeah, just wanted to clear that up.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          I haven’t researched the phlogiston theory. Thanks for the input.

          Is there a better outdated theory that amounts to little more than a renaming of “I don’t know”?

        • Quintin

          I suppose there is none by definition. A theory must explain something to some extent, even if that’s hardly anything to hardly any degree. I’d be delighted as much as you if anyone could point me to one though.

  • Arkenaten

    I shall pray for you, Bob. In a scientific way, of course. ;)

  • Robb Thurston

    Bob, don’t pin your hopes on Sagan, he’s ignorant. He goes, head for the bomb shelter. ““You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,”and then they actually change their minds
    and you never hear that old view from them again.They really do it.It doesn’t happen as often as it should,because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful.But it happens every day.
    I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.— Carl Sagan, 1987 CSICOP keynote address”
    Sagan never heard of the reformation of religion. Buddhism is Reform Hinduism, Christianity is a reformation of Judaism, and Protestants accept better arguments than Popes presented. IGNORANCE! Don’t subject us to ignorance. Please.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Robb: I’m missing your point.

      Beyond your not caring for Sagan (or at least this quote), I don’t know what you’re saying.

      • JohnH

        Robb is saying that reformations and schisms in religions due to better arguments are very common, contrary to what Sagan was saying.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          John: Yes, I agree. But Sagan is talking about self-correction. Admitting mistakes. That’s what science does that religion doesn’t do.

          Of course, outsiders to a particular sect can find errors, but that particular sect doesn’t say, “I was wrong.”

          The Great Disappointment (the Millerites’ failed end of the world prediction in 1844) is a good example.

        • JohnH

          “The Great Disappointment (the Millerites’ failed end of the world prediction in 1844) is a good example.”

          There are lots of more recent on going examples then that.

  • Caroline Reid

    So it seems to me that you are condemning Spirituality because it doesn’t do Science very well. Of course not, it’s Spirituality, it asks and answers different questions than does Science. The questions and answers that Science searches and examines so brilliantly do not exclude the presence of Spirit.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      I’m not sure I agree. I wrestled with that issue here.

      Science doesn’t prove that there is no god. But without evidence for a god, why believe it?

  • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

    Here you go, Bob. I’ll plant my flag in the ground. There will never be an explanation for meaning without God. Science will never provide a credible alternative explanation for meaning in the universe to the classical theistic explanation that meaning is the result of humans being image-bearers of God in a universe of God’s creation.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Thanks for not being ambiguous!

      The big problem in my mind is that you can give me your without-evidence meaning, the Muslim can do the same, and I can make up yet another explanation. But why accept any of those explanations?

      If you’re dissatisfied that science doesn’t answer a big question, do what I do: just label that question “not answered yet.” (You’re OK with God answering prayers with “not yet,” right?)

    • Quintin

      Might I suggest meaning be first defined? Let’s see what the dictionary offers.
      1.
      what is intended to be, or actually is, expressed or indicated; signification; import: the three meanings of a word.
      Linguists are perfectly capable of finding meanings without any god involved and it makes no sense to ask for the meaning of anything other than a word anyway so this isn’t it.
      2.
      the end, purpose, or significance of something: What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of this intrusion?
      So purpose. Let’s just call it that because it’s less ambiguous. Science is of course very capable of finding the purpose of things. However, for there to be any universal purpose the universe itself would have to be a necessity for some causally previous thing. In other words, for the universe to have a purpose, there’d have to be something we could probably safely call a god. However, the question of whether the universe has a purpose to begin with must be answered first, and this is something I think has yet to be established. In other words, if science can’t find a purpose, perhaps there just isn’t one.
      3.
      Linguistics .
      a.
      the nonlinguistic cultural correlate, reference, or denotation of a linguistic form; expression.
      b.
      linguistic content ( opposed to expression).
      This is a linguistic term, so I suppose this one doesn’t qualify either.

      All definitions taken from dictionary.com. If none of these actually are the meaning of meaning, please provide whatever meaning meaning has in your context.

      • JohnH

        You answered your own question with 2 and concluded that science, which is not designed to be able to find the purpose of things, not being able to find the purpose means that there isn’t one (assuming the conclusion (fallacy)). Bob’s “Not answered yet” works.

        • Quintin

          Who exactly are you to decide what someone else means by a word?
          Also, that is not at all what I meant. My argument is that if science cannot find a purpose, it just as much indicates the non-existence of such a purpose as it indicates science’s inherent inability to find it if it had existed. In addition I also intended to prove with that same argument that a purpose requires a god to exist in the first place. In other words, it should not be surprising to me or Bob that no purpose has been found and no purpose ever will be found: there is none.
          Perhaps my writing was unclear, perhaps you strawmanned me. I don’t know which, but both work.
          Also, how is science not designed to find the purpose of things exactly? I remember having to explain the purpose of many things in biology. I biology not science anymore?

    • Kodie

      What did it mean for billions of years before humans existed? Without a concept for meaning, it existed. “Meaning” is sort of gettin’ in your way, it pains you, well that’s what most people with a religion are taught, that without god, that means there is no meaning, therefore, lack of morality and swift descent to suicidal thoughts. While some people do feel empty, or think they would, without the answer to this question, I also find it strange that people believe there is an answer to it that someone else tells them. Make a wish on my invisible friend and he can be yours too. This nagging dread becomes a neurosis and then an obsession, like a guy who asks himself “why didn’t she want to go out with me anymore?” until he can’t help but begin a pattern of stalking. It just eats some people alive that it’s nothing they need to worry about and it’s ok to realize you’re an animal. Doesn’t mean you have to off yourself and it doesn’t mean you have a hole in you.

      If you feel a hole in you, and you’ve been told to have that hole without god, or you feel like that hole is something you can’t ignore specifically as a message from god, no, these are just obsessive quests with no answer. Just because you found an answer doesn’t prove the question is valid. If you suddenly realized there’s no meaning, do you really think you’d look at a sunset and think it was pukey now? Or your children? There’s no meaning, aw, crap, all I can think now is that I’m no better than an ant. Really? It nags at you, so you drive by her house a few times to see who she’s with. That’s the hole. That’s not a god-shaped hole, that’s a fixation of order you have that you fill with a comforting drug of an imaginary friend who made you and helps you make decisions and gives you the gift of deciding not to kill you almost every day. I won’t kill you almost every day either, +1.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        I often see the weird concept that there is no meaning without absolute meaning. Bizarre. Like if God didn’t exist, Christians wouldn’t be able to find a purpose in their lives–including things like, as you noted, sunsets, their family, pride in a job well done, and so on.

  • Arkenaten

    Apologies if this is off topic – I can’t find a suitable blog to post it on.

    One contemporary group that was around before and after the supposed ministry of Jesus was the Essenes.
    They, like the rest of Jewry at this time were hoping for the appearance of a Messiah to free them from the yolk of the Romans.
    Surely they would have been alert to claims made about Jesus?

    The biblical account of Jesus alone states that thousands followed him at one time of another – the feeding of the five thousand for one -.
    As isolationist as they were, it stands to reason any ‘messiah’ would have attracted attention from such a group, even if merely to dismiss and ridicule, as was claimed did the Pharasees and Sadducee s.
    And yet, although a fair amount of their writings exist (so I understand – Dead Sea scrolls etc) there is not a single mention of an itinerant preacher let alone a messiah; not even an allusion to Chrestus, Jesus or whoever.
    I have always found this a compelling argument that he did NOT exist, in fact, as such a group would have done whatever they could to preserve all and any documentation to show that the long awaited Messiah as promised by Yahweh had indeed arrived. Especially if he was one of their own. And especially in light of what the Tenth Legion did.
    In every investigation about the historicity and divinity of Jesus that I am aware of, from outright fundamentalist whack jobs to Bart Ehrman, the Essenes are only mentioned (if at all) in passing.
    If you were an Essene and lived just up the road from the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ wouldn’t you make sure you had a ticket or at least had someone to write about it?

    Most odd.

    • JohnH

      The Essenes where looking for a very specific type of Messiah which Jesus didn’t match.

      • Arkenaten

        I am aware of some of the ‘specs’, yet there is not even an allusion to him, even if such a hint was simply dismissive.
        And what of the belief that he was an Essene? If this were true there is also no mention or allusion, to him of John the Baptist.

      • Arkenaten

        to him …OR John the Baptist. Sorry.

        • JohnH

          Actually there is some debate on whether John the Baptist is mentioned by the Essenes; lots of figures are mentioned in the writings which as far as I am aware scholars are still not sure about who they are referring to.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      I’ve heard Bart Ehrman say that the early Christian church grew at about 40% per decade. Nice growth, but it’ll take a while to set the world on fire at that rate. Could be that the Essenes (deliberate hermits) weren’t in the loop. Or that “messiahs” were a dime a dozen at that time. And they referred to a Teacher–I’m not sure how this special person fits into their theology.

      Do you listen to the Bible Geek podcast? This would be a good question to submit. Let me know if you can’t find out how to do that.

      • Arkenaten

        I have little respect for Ehrman. He may consider himself atheist/agnostic but anyone who categorically preaches the veracity of an historical Jesus is going out on a very shaky limb.
        The Jesus Seminar have more credibility as far as I am concerned.
        Have no idea how to do the bible geek thing.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          It was more his attitude on this Jesus Myth issue that bugged me. Still, his popular books are a pretty valuable addition to the atheist’s library.

      • JohnH

        Messiahs were more then a dime a dozen even if one were to just use what is mentioned in the New Testament where in the three year period of Jesus’s ministry there is mentioned three other claimed messiahs that I am aware of and at least one more mentioned in Acts. Barabbas that was released by the Romans instead of Jesus was apparently a claimed messiah as well.

  • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

    Bob,
    I was approaching it on a more existential level, ie that we all as humans perceive and ascribe meaning to our existence, regardless of what the actual explanations are. Some explanations will be similar, and others less so, but that is beside the point. The key point is that we cannot avoid ascribing meaning to our existence and the universe.

    Kodie & Bob,
    Note that I’m not saying that only Christians have meaning. In fact, I’m saying something completely different – that everyone gives meaning to life, the universe, etc.

    Quentin,
    Are you sure you are not begging the question?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Karl:

      But this seems to contradict what you said before.

      There will never be an explanation for meaning without God.

      Doesn’t this preclude meaning to the atheist?

      • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

        Bob,
        It would preclude an atheist being able to give a good reason why meaning is a universal experience. I just want to be clear that I’m not saying you must find your life dull and pointless without God.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          I’m not sure what “universal experience” means. If you mean that an atheist can’t say that meaning is objective or transcendentally grounded, I agree. But neither can you. (I mean, yeah, you can handwave an answer, but there’s no compelling reason to believe you.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Bob,
          I think you’re still missing my point. Why does everyone seem to think there should be meaning to our existence? There aren’t any good scientific ones, and I don’t think ever will be. There are good theological answers, though.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          There’s obviously meaning to our existence–that meaning that we assign ourselves (or let others assign for us).

          Objective meaning is another story. I’ve seen no evidence of that.

          Good theological answers? Not in the sense that they’re compelling for anyone outside that religion. Or in the sense that they’re more compelling than the other guy’s religion.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Good theological answers? Not in the sense that they’re compelling for anyone outside that religion. Or in the sense that they’re more compelling than the other guy’s religion.

          If you grant that there is a God, then the theological answers for why we perceive meaning are coherent and there is an internal consistency. This is what I meant by a good theological answer. If you handicap yourself in solving this problem to only being able to use science you will not come up with a good answer.

          If you insist that there is no God and try to find an answer then the only answers that are available are ones that go against any meaning that you may personally give life.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          If you grant that there is a God…

          Yes, a lot of things change in that situation. But that’s just a random hypothetical until we have reason to imagine that he does, right??

          then the theological answers for why we perceive meaning are coherent and there is an internal consistency.

          “If you grant my presuppositions, I have a coherent worldview.” Uh, OK. Lots of religions could make the same claim. We could invent a religion that has that claim. But so what? There’s no evidence that it’s actually, y’know, true.

          This is what I meant by a good theological answer.

          And why pick your theological answer over the thousands of alternatives??

          If you insist that there is no God

          Not a worry since I don’t do this.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          And why pick your theological answer over the thousands of alternatives??

          Of which science has provided how many? And of what substance? Which is the point, not how many theological answers there are or why one is better than another.

        • Kodie

          What substance does the theological answers provide? A big pile of marshmallows and how many can you stuff in your mouth at the same time is what. You think there is something behind the curtain or else why would the curtain be there. You can’t look behind it but you expect it’s something important and it’s all for you. Religion provides an egotistical motivator to be better than other people. You may believe it’s a relationship but it’s a contest, even if it’s just a contest to be chosen to have a relationship. You have the best friend in the whole universe but he can’t come out to play with me, so you look down on people who don’t have it, you pity or scorn people who think you sound a bit crazy. Oh, the meaning, though! You’re not selling it.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          Of which science has provided how many? And of what substance?

          What’s your point? That religion has answers that science doesn’t?

          I acknowledge that, but so what? Why can we imagine that the religious answers are correct?

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          What’s your point? That religion has answers that science doesn’t?

          I acknowledge that, but so what? Why can we imagine that the religious answers are correct?

          Wasn’t this post about how science can answer any questions that theology or philosophy can, if you give it enough time? So if I have provided an example of something that science can’t answer, your “so what?” is a bit empty.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, religion can answer it, but there’s no confidence in the answer. It’s like “42″ as an answer–it’s made up.

          My “so what?” is completely on target because without any confidence in the answer, you might as well have not bothered giving one.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Yes, religion can answer it, but there’s no confidence in the answer. It’s like “42″ as an answer–it’s made up.

          Says who? And why should anyone pay any attention to what they say?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl: That’s my point. This religion says the meaning of life is X and that one says Y. Why should we pay attention to any of them? Science has shown why it’s worth paying attention to; religion hasn’t.

    • Kodie

      Karl Udy – Exactly what you said:

      I’ll plant my flag in the ground. There will never be an explanation for meaning without God. Science will never provide a credible alternative explanation for meaning in the universe to the classical theistic explanation that meaning is the result of humans being image-bearers of God in a universe of God’s creation.

      Oh, you didn’t mean it like that? I thought you were planting your flag in the ground. Just because some people will always try to find meaning and the answers that science provides will forever be unsatisfying to them isn’t science’s fault. Compare the words you said before to “everyone gives meaning to life, the universe, etc.” You said it’s the result of humans being made in the image of god yesterday. Science can’t explain why humans tend to try to do this, or why they feel comforted by things they just made up in their head? Your apparent conclusion is not just that there can be no explanation other than god (and science doesn’t try to address it), but that there can be no explanation without god (in the classic theistic sense, which you defined so as not to be misunderstood). If that’s not exactly what you meant, your response seems to backpedal rather than illuminate.

      • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

        Kodie,
        My apologies. I was not very clear and consistent in my use of the words “meaning” and “explanation”. In answer to Bob’s comment

        The big problem in my mind is that you can give me your without-evidence meaning, the Muslim can do the same, and I can make up yet another explanation. But why accept any of those explanations?

        he seemed to conflate “meaning” and “explanation” and I responded using “explanation” where I should have said “meaning”.

        My intended original point was regarding why we give meaning, not what the meaning was. I interpreted Bob’s comment as asking me to explain why there are different “meanings”, and my intended response was supposed to be along the lines of “But why is there meaning at all?”

        Hopefully this clears things up a bit

        • Kodie

          Why do we imagine things that aren’t there? Why do we feel emotions like embarrassment or jealousy or wish things were different than they are or spend time wondering what our lives would be like if we had made a different decision? Are you suggesting that because we can come up with a question that seems deep that it must be because the answer to it is deep? Are you suggesting that because many people have arrived at a similar satisfying answer to the question of meaning, that must be that the meaning is coming from a source outside of all of them? Are you saying that because science can’t and doesn’t address what the meaning is that it can’t address human behavior regarding meaning?

          I think this “meaning” is a misdirection. Because someone asks “what is the meaning of life?” you may be thrown to believe there must be an answer, and that someone knows or can figure out the answer to that question, and you don’t know, so you have to think about it. Humans are animals that at times know their intellectual limitations and do not accept those limitations at the same time. Basically, “meaning” is baggage. Someone handed you a sealed case and said that it contains “meaning” and told you not to open it and it takes up space in your brain. Is that box even real?

          Why are we curious? Because we can be and it has been to our benefit to be. You also have the capacity to decide whether a question itself is valid. You don’t have to wonder everything, and you don’t have to despair that there’s no cosmic answer to a question you can answer yourself.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,
          My point is not that people come up with a similar answer, but that we all ask the same question. That, to me, is very compelling.

        • Kodie

          Compelling of what? Like I said, it’s a misdirection. Just because we can all ask a question and some of us need there to be an answer doesn’t mean there is an answer. Once you are distracted by the question, it can motivate you to seek out an answer. Maybe we need the question because just surviving long enough to propagate isn’t enough to motivate, but we are animals. Technological advancement and trade has afforded most of us the luxury of time to think that makes us more important just to be able to ask questions like that.

          If you get on a bus and transfer to another bus to arrive at your cubicle each day every day for the best and strongest and most vital years of your life, when you know you could ditch all your responsibilities to hang out at the beach, you probably don’t want to believe that’s all there is, but it keeps you in your seat even when you and they all know you can be replaced and the world won’t collapse if you decide to check out. Your more immediate responsibilities, for example, perhaps a family that relies on you should be enough, but you know you are not a squirrel; a squirrel can’t just choose not to collect nuts every day all day for the best and strongest and most vital year(s) of its life. A squirrel doesn’t ask about the meaning of all this unless you are reading The Far Side maybe. A squirrel doesn’t have dissatisfaction about its job or wonder what happens to it after it dies. Is a squirrel happy about its lot in life? Is a squirrel filling the void of not living as a beach bum by putting a large screen TV on its credit card so it can watch American Idol in hi-def? Think of all the things it could have been, dwell on bad choices it made? Wonder about it all? Nope.

          So why do you think humans ask this question compels you to assume that it makes us special in any way? Why is this a feature that teases that there’s an answer to the question? The same way you want to fill that hole with a big TV or something else from the store. I’m not trying to accuse you specifically of consumerism, but it’s a similar effect. Do you find it compelling that humans seem to buy a lot of stuff they don’t really need (if you’re the one judging them)? And furthermore, that humanity somewhat relies on them to want to, as you can see when people have to cut back, other people lose their jobs, and then they can’t buy stuff they want either. Filling the hole with a meaning, or even an unknowable potential for meaning is the same as looking forward to buying something you could do without because you have to have something to look forward to if this is all there is. It’s not all that bad, sometimes you get to spend time with your good friends and share a meal and maybe go dancing or something like that, go shoot darts or spend your free time writing poetry because it fills the hole. It’s not all about making money and buying stuff that we look forward to, a normal human desire for work to not be all there is, to not be like a busy squirrel who doesn’t go out on Saturday night.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Do you find it compelling that humans seem to buy a lot of stuff they don’t really need (if you’re the one judging them)?

          I find this a compelling reason that the things they are buying are not really satisfying them. If they were, then they would stop and simply enjoy what they have.

          So why do you think humans ask this question compels you to assume that it makes us special in any way?

          In the same way, the questions we ask indicate that the world is not enough to answer them. We have a craving for answers from beyond. Even those who refuse to believe there is a beyond still can’t help looking for the answers hidden somewhere in this world. Sure, there are some who cynically remark that there is no meaning to be found, but even these have the jaded demeanour of a jilted lover – one who cannot find what they desperately want.

          And I think you understand this. You say as much in your last post. This humanness seeps out of every pore. Why are there no animals making art? Telling jokes? Doing science? Yet these things are innately human, and they have been from the beginning. Contrary to what you say, it has not been only since we have reached this advanced stage of technology and leisure that we have started to ask these questions. From the earliest records of humans we can see that we were religious right from the start.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          Why are there no animals making art? Telling jokes? Doing science?

          One animal is tops in each category (best swimmer, fastest runner, best armor, and so on). There’s only one that’s smartest, and it happens to be us. It’s just one means of survival.

          (That may be off topic …)

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          One animal is tops in each category (best swimmer, fastest runner, best armor, and so on). There’s only one that’s smartest, and it happens to be us. It’s just one means of survival.

          Oh Bob, I love this! Let’s do inter-species Olympics!

          Fastest runner? And the cheetah takes the gold, just beating the gazelle, with the ostrich taking the bronze. Best armour? And it’s the tortoise with gold, and the armadillo in silver, with the clam in bronze. Best swimmer? It’s the shark with gold (he never stops!), and the orca in silver, with the squid in bronze.

          Now we move on to best art. And I’m afraid we only had one entry in this field, and humanity takes it out. OK, next, best philosophy … and again, only one entry, and again, it’s humanity. Best science? Again only one entry,and again that entry is humanity. Best humour? Humanity again!? Where are the other contestants – sure the platypus looks funny, but that hardly qualifies as telling a joke. Wow, humanity seems to have found a whole range of activities to excel in that the other species just don’t seem to know a thing about it. It’s almost like they belong in a category all to themselves …

        • Kodie

          You know, that’s just a matter of perspective. You are so impressed with the feats of your species that you have to believe you were created by a deity and if you were created by a deity, he must have had a good reason for it, which you may not know but it’s your quest to find out.

          We’re just animals who are good at something. We push the limits of what we’re good at mostly to our benefit as a species, not always to our benefit as an individual or society. What can I do? What can’t I do? Most human beings are about as stupid (pardon me) as a busy squirrel. When I hear that meme that we only use x% of our brain capacity, I think it’s overall. Not all of us are astrophysicists or microbiologists or fine artists or great musicians. When the future anthropologists and archaeologists study our society’s cave paintings and find it littered with instagram pictures of burritos, it’s going to be hilarious. Most of us putter like animals, and only have a capacity to be entertained and not to educate. This “deep question” you keep insisting is exactly the same functionally as buying things and going on vacations. Neighbor-envy motivates in some of the most positive and negative ways, you know, if you wanted to slack but your neighbor just bought a luxury car, you want to make more money so you can buy one too. What do you need to make more money? Work harder and impress your boss so you might get a raise, or maybe take a second job, and buying things keeps people employed so they can buy things. Life obviously has no meaning except on a personal level. Getting together with friends, having a hobby, taking pride in things you know how to do and things you dare to try. It keeps the species going, because we are a species and that’s what we’re good at. Some are better at leadership and most are better at not knowing what the hell is going on unless someone else tells them or behaves a certain way. Watch the neighbor buy a boat, you want a boat. Watch the neighbor give to charity, and you don’t want to be thought a poor cheap scum, so you give to charity and everyone will know you’re a good person too. Watch the neighbor pray to a deity, and you think that’s a thing now so you try it, and when someone asks you what that is, you blah blah blah your way out of it, and now they pray too.

          In the ancient civilizations, though, I imagine some beings are confused and frightened and so try to appease things out of his control. He realizes to kill a beast, he might want to be farther away from it, throw straighter, and have a very sharp point. I can imagine that guy going, holy crap, I made tools. There must be a deity for me to be so smart. Animals are born with tools on their body, however, and don’t need to try, although their strategies do improve and they may adapt into a new animal. Trying makes us smarter and more technologically advanced, but we are exactly the same species as that spear hunter. We adapted from an ape, this is our strategy and we kept going with it because it’s good for our species. We do have too much time on our hands and extra thoughts rambling around our brains, imagination is good for us because some of it goes toward bettering our equipment.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,
          It appears we both can write imaginative prose. When you find an animal that can, then your case that humans are just smart animals might carry some weight. We are artistic. We are scientific. We are philosophical. We are humorous. And in these we differ from animals not in degree but absolutely.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Most genocidal? Humanity.

          Best able to plot revenge? Humanity.

          Most jealous? Humanity.

          Holds a grudge the longest? Best time waster? Most greedy? Humanity.

          Hmm. I’m beginning to see your point here.

        • Kodie

          @Karl Udy – that’s what I mean by being too impressed by the feats of your own species. Can you kill a gazelle just from running after it until it gives up and dies for you? Can you jump from the floor to the top of your kitchen cabinets? Can you fly? Can you clean an alligator’s teeth without getting killed? Can you chop down a tree with your teeth? I guess it depends on the age of the tree and whether you’ve been flossing regularly, so I’ll grant you that you’re just as good as a beaver if you wanted to be.

          The residual effects of our special intelligence tends to get distracted a lot more easily, we don’t have that much to watch out for anymore and we make up stuff which is mostly to our benefit. We aren’t prose writers because that’s our purpose. We’re good at inventing stuff, that’s our thing, that’s pretty much all of it. Most of us aren’t that great at it actually, but having the ability to imagine all sorts of things tends to produce imaginative non-true and impossible things, not just new inventions that are useful to us, but art and music and saying stuff to each other like right now and religion. We’re also aware of humanity’s scope (or can be) – the cultures, the dances, the conflicts, and sure that will make you feel pretty small. You know there’s an “everything” and you’re just a narrow sliver of it, not producing nearly anything as impressive as the Taj Mahal or bionic limbs or whatever, and you want to believe you’re still worth anything compared to that. That’s all that feeling is.

          I suggest that why we ask whether there’s a meaning or speculate what the meaning could be is a function of using our intelligence to seek out the limits and follow trails wherever they may go, but it’s all on us. If you can think of something to stop earthquakes or you can fill in a Henry Hook crossword with a pen (or even a pencil), it’s the same brain function that tends to recognize what appears to be a meaning for us to live, the cave of thoughts we conjure that can make anything possible, for ourselves and future selves (either generational or actually for yourself, in the future), for our home planet, for most of our neighboring life forms, if we’re not totally anthropomorphic science denialists, which is something some types of religious beliefs actually encourage. We have problems to solve here and it’s actually to our benefit that we are able to think and imagine as broadly as possible. Some of it belongs in the waste bin, but we don’t know until after we see it goes nowhere; some of it’s actually entertaining or comforting, and it benefits us to offset the brutality of life so we can persevere in our endeavor to stay alive. Painting a picture of a sunset is not going to cure cancer, but it can alleviate the stress of a research biologist and fix the traffic jam in their own thoughts so they can do their work without burning out or being disheartened. We’re all in this together. Who made the canvas, who built the easel, who is keeping the lab sterile, who is publishing the journals?

          When we collaborate on those solutions, some of it is financial and some of it is legwork in the brain – we keep each other living so we can live, but why do we need to live? Why, why, why?????? Would you rather we go extinct?

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Bob,
          I agree totally, and a lot of those are things that animals are not capable of in the least.

          Kodie,
          I could run off a whole list of things that show how plants are better than animals in certain things (resisting the elements, long life, size, photosynthesis). does this mean that there is no real difference between animals and plants, and that really, animals are just really mobile plants?

          But why stop there? Plants are just rocks that are really good at growing. So plants are rocks, animals are plants and humans are animals. There you go, we’re all rocks! But we are the cleverest rocks here :-)

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl: From the standpoint of survival (which is all that evolution cares about), subdividing the “biggest brain” category into “best at philosophy,” “best at art,” and so on is meaningless.

          But perhaps we’re on the same page.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Karl: From the standpoint of survival (which is all that evolution cares about), subdividing the “biggest brain” category into “best at philosophy,” “best at art,” and so on is meaningless.

          My point isn’t that humans are best at art, philosophy, etc. My point is that you won’t find any other creature on our planet who does these at all. All these other animals have brains, but you won’t find a philosopher, an artist, or a joker among them all. Ergo, we’re not philosophers, artists, etc because of the size of our brains, it’s because of something else. And I don’t think science can find it.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl: We have the biggest brains, so we can do thing that other animals can’t. Where’s the puzzle?

          And as John noted, we find examples of art in bower birds, humanity in chimpanzees, puzzle solving in crows, and so on.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          We have the biggest brains, so we can do thing that other animals can’t. Where’s the puzzle?

          Can you not see that there is a radical difference in the way that humans operate from the animals?

          And as John noted, we find examples of art in bower birds, humanity in chimpanzees, puzzle solving in crows, and so on.

          If you want to call what bower birds make art, then it is not the same as what humans do with art. Art is not simply “something pretty”, but it is a sensory depiction expressing reality (beauty, truth and goodness). When animals dance, it is always about sex, humans will dance about other things. When bower birds make pretty structures, it is about sex, humans will make pretty things that have other meanings. If your example of animals making art is “look at what some animals will do in order to mate” then I think you have missed the point of art.

          Some animals solve puzzles in order to eat. Humans set each other puzzles for fun. Again there is a fundamental difference. The crow does it for an appetite, the human does it for a completely different reason. If a crow did a study of which sort of car would best crack their nut and why, then maybe that would be science. Solving a puzzle to get fed (which lots of animals do) is not science. (I know you didn’t say science, but John did, and you referred to his comment.)

          We find humanity in chimpanzees? Just what are you saying. That chimpanzees are human? Or that we can find some ways in which they resemble us? I do not deny that they resemble us . The PG Tips ads were very funny. But call me back when the chimps start writing the ads for the humans to appear in.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          Can you not see that there is a radical difference in the way that humans operate from the animals?

          No. It’s a difference in degree only, not in kind. We have bigger brains. That explains what we see.

          Are you saying that this proves the supernatural?

          We find humanity in chimpanzees?

          I meant “morality.”

    • Quintin

      I’m pretty sure, but if anyone can show me the question and where I’ve begged it, I wouldn’t mind admitting the accidental use of that fallacy as well as the invalidity of my position.

      • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

        Quentin,
        As I took it, the OP is asking whether there are any questions that theology or philosophy can answer that science can’t. So when you say:

        In other words, if science can’t find a purpose, perhaps there just isn’t one.

        you are coming close to begging the question. The word “perhaps” here saves you. But your next quote has a stronger statement:

        My argument is that if science cannot find a purpose, it just as much indicates the non-existence of such a purpose as it indicates science’s inherent inability to find it if it had existed.

        At the very least you are simply restating the OP, but that should hardly be persuasive. What is your argument for why theology or philosophy can’t find meaning where science can’t, beyond simply saying that science can’t?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl: You’re saying that objective meaning exists? I’ve seen no evidence of this. Do you have any reason to favor objective meaning over a natural explanation (like: we all find meaning in our lives and, because we’re all the same species, much of that meaning is common among all people)?

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Bob,
          As I said to Kodie, it is the questions, not the answers that I find most persuasive in this case. The question, “Is there a natural explanation?” is enough to let us know that a natural explanation on its own is not enough, any natural explanation must import a philosophical or theological point of view as well, even if it is, “There is no God, and life is a series of meaningless events.”

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl: Yes, there is no God, but who could possibly conclude from that that life’s events are meaningless? You know as well as I do that people who don’t believe in God can have lives full of meaning.

          And you’ve lost me with your claim that a natural explanation must have a philosophical element as well.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Bob,

          Karl: Yes, there is no God, but who could possibly conclude from that that life’s events are meaningless? You know as well as I do that people who don’t believe in God can have lives full of meaning.

          I’m sure some people come to that conclusion, even if it is only those who commit suicide. In any case, a position on whether life is meaningless or not is a philosophical or theological position, not a scientific one. And that is what I mean by saying that there must be a philosophical element, because the answer is, “There is a natural explanation, therefore …” with the therefore being some philosophical or theological element.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          I’m sure some people come to that conclusion, even if it is only those who commit suicide.

          Suicide? What kind of non sequitur is that?

          I have no God belief, and yet I’m not near suicide. Ought I be?

          Have we now discarded the issue of life’s meaning? Are we on the same page here about objective meaning vs. meaning?

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Bob, I think you may have got the wrong end of the stick.

          Suicide? What kind of non sequitur is that?

          I thought you were indicating that you did not think that life was meaningless. I know that some people do – it is one of the main planks of nihilism. Most nihilists though are dinner party philosophers with no thought of putting their philosophy into action. Those who do, who really the believe that nothing in this world has meaning, often commit suicide. I don’t think you are a nihilist, nor do I think you should be one. Although I do notice there is a clear logical path from atheism to nihilism.

          Have we now discarded the issue of life’s meaning? Are we on the same page here about objective meaning vs. meaning?

          I’m talking about meaning on the meta- level. Not your personal meaning for living, but why do we as humans even consider it important for our lives to have meaning.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          I thought you were indicating that you did not think that life was meaningless.

          Correct–I find life meaningful, and billions of other people of all religious beliefs or nonbeliefs also find life meaningful.

          it is one of the main planks of nihilism

          OK, but atheism and nihilism aren’t the same things.

          there is a clear logical path from atheism to nihilism.

          I missed it. As you’re aware, millions of atheists are as far from suicide as their Christian neighbors.

          Have we discussed your views on objective moral truth? Do you believe that this exists? If so, do you have any evidence?

          why do we as humans even consider it important for our lives to have meaning.

          I’m not following the significance of this question. Seems a bit like wondering why humans consider it important that our bodies are mostly water. They just are; why would the average person puzzle over this? He’s just bored, maybe?

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Have we discussed your views on objective moral truth? Do you believe that this exists? If so, do you have any evidence?

          How is this relevant to the topic at hand. I feel I’m being led down a rabbit-trail here.

          I’m not following the significance of this question. Seems a bit like wondering why humans consider it important that our bodies are mostly water. They just are; why would the average person puzzle over this? He’s just bored, maybe?

          Do humans really consider it important that their bodies are mostly water? To me, that seems to be an incidental fact. Does my life have meaning? Now that’s not something I consider incidental, more fundamental, really. Now, that to ask this question seems to be innate to humans seems to tell us something about what it means to be human and what our universe is like.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Were we not talking about objective moral truth?

          I find this interesting because I see the claim for its existence made often but no evidence. I thought you might be able to clarify.

          Do humans really consider it important that their bodies are mostly water?

          Of course not; that’s the point. And I wonder how often someone asks, “Hmm–life with meaning and life without meaning … I wonder why we have the former and not the latter.” Not many people spend time with a philosophical question that has no bearing on their lives, it seems to me.

          Does my life have meaning?

          Uh … yeah. Is this a trick question? Does anyone’s life not have meaning?

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Does my life have meaning?

          Uh … yeah. Is this a trick question? Does anyone’s life not have meaning?

          And you don’t think “why?” is a relevant question here? This is the crux of my argument. Theology and philosophy have good answers to this “Why?” question. Science never will.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl: Your original question was: “why do we as humans even consider it important for our lives to have meaning?”

          Maybe the phrasing needs to be tweaked, but I’m simply saying that this is a boring question. Do you mean “Why do human lives have meaning?” That sounds more interesting, though it seems like “because evolution discovered that it was advantageous” is answer enough.

          And again, what is the grounding for your saying that theology and philosophy have good answers? Who says they’re good?

          Science delivers. It’s tangible. Not so much theology and philosophy.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Bob,
          try to think through the implications of what you are saying. If, as you say …

          Maybe the phrasing needs to be tweaked, but I’m simply saying that this is a boring question. Do you mean “Why do human lives have meaning?” That sounds more interesting, though it seems like “because evolution discovered that it was advantageous” is answer enough.

          … then any meaning we have is totally arbitrary. It is all down to chance and time. Any meaning that you have is ultimately meaningless. You are simply deceiving yourself. And yet you are not a nihilist, and have no desire to be.

          Read Farris Johnson’s description of how atheism was for him …
          As an atheist, I realized my claims about God, immortality, and morality was rendering a certain meaninglessness over life – however this is certainly not how I lived. I lived for political and social projects, I used language like “progress” and “injustice” while simultaneously knowing that if I were pressed to provide a definition to such things, I couldn’t give an honest answer for why I believed they existed or even what they meant. Life was lived in two realms: 1) I knew their was a meaninglessness, non-absolute, subjective, and as far as I knew, possibly incoherent habitat for my ‘existence,’ but 2) I put this knowledge in a box in order to proceed with my own personal meaning. I realized that essentially, I was using some Grand Lie which ascribed unintelligible significance to my relationships and passions and work. As unstoppable meaning-makers, I think a secular person’s difficulty is in eventually accepting that any meaning they create is nothing more than a very serious game of make-believe.

          Make-believe isn’t very difficult in itself, but it is very tiring to continue to realize that your whole life is inconsistent – this was the state of exhaustion I found myself at. I found myself very disillusioned by the intellectual and moral incoherence within my own thinking. I thought it would help to backtrack and be more careful in my rationale, become a more solid atheist, but came to a conclusion that it would be an impossibility for me to be completely consistent.

          There are answers out there that don’t require us to play make-believe about meaning. But science doesn’t have any.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          my claims about God, immortality, and morality was rendering a certain meaninglessness over life

          Sure, meaninglessness in an absolute sense. But not in any practical sense.

          however this is certainly not how I lived.

          Of course. Few of us have any problem finding our own meaning for life.

          I couldn’t give an honest answer for why I believed they existed or even what they meant.

          He’s worried about an honest answer? If he needs to find an answer to the question, “Why is there absolute meaning in your life?” then I see the problem.

          But why not answer a sensible question instead: “Why do you have meaning in your life?” or “What meaning have you found for your life?”

          I put this knowledge in a box in order to proceed with my own personal meaning.

          Why put it in a box?? What’s he ashamed of? (What should I be ashamed of?)

          There’s no evidence for absolute meaning in life. So what? Where’s the problem? Where’s the inconsistency or incoherence?

          This dude’s lament certainly doesn’t match mine.

        • Kodie

          … then any meaning we have is totally arbitrary. It is all down to chance and time. Any meaning that you have is ultimately meaningless. You are simply deceiving yourself. And yet you are not a nihilist, and have no desire to be.

          So you are not deceiving yourself? What purpose do squirrels serve? When you start conjecturing about human purpose you have to answer all the questions of why anything exists that doesn’t serve a purpose to us, or how it may serve a purpose to this god you are guessing about. Why does ebola exist? I still ask you whether you would rather go extinct. I don’t think there is any getting around your fixation with the question of meaning because you are unsatisfied by any other situation of meaninglessness. Once you have this unfilled hole, you are pretty much satisfied to fill it with anything, and then insist we all have this hole. The problem is that to explain what you put in the hole, you only make more unanswered questions and whatever you say to cover the new holes is only satisfying to you because you cling to the idea that it has to satisfy the unanswerable but vital question and unsatisfying to us because they sound like obvious patches and don’t reconcile once you persist in this line of reasoning.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,
          It is a fact that humans seem to have a real desire for their lives to have meaning.

          Science alone cannot provide a basis for meaning for our lives

          I don’t think there is any getting around your fixation with the question of meaning because you are unsatisfied by any other situation of meaninglessness.

          Absolutely. My perception that my life should be meaningful is (to me, at least) a powerful existential persuasion that any explanation that says my life is meaningless does not match the facts. If you tell me to just bite the bullet and accept the meaninglessness of the universe, I simply can’t. It would be like telling me to study for an exam that will not count. I can’t deceive myself in that way.

          Atheism bases our existence entirely on chance. If atheism is true, our lives, ultimately, are meaningless. We have a desire for our lives to have meaning so we find something within a meaningless universe to attach meaning to. But isn’t this just a cosmic Ponzi scheme? And one you are pulling on yourself?

          Theism states that our universe is infused with meaning, it was created with meaning and so were we. Which gives us a basis for finding meaning. So theists are not deceiving themselves in giving meaning to their lives.

          I’m not arguing that atheists don’t find meaning in their lives. I’m just asking atheists to go a step or two further and ask “Why is it important for me to have meaning in my life, if the universe is ultimately meaningless?” and “Is my attaching meaning to this life consistent with the meaninglessness of the universe?” Having asked questions like that, I cannot just forget about them and “try to find meaning of my own somewhere.”

          If someone is in a state where they believe nothing really matters (ultimately) and act as though it really does, are they not deceiving themselves?

        • Kodie

          A) Would you rather go extinct?
          B) Theism can assert all it wants, but it doesn’t have the stuff to back up the claims. File under “wishful thinking,” which you represent. You wish to have a larger meaning, you choose to see everything within such a framework. Atheism doesn’t assert there is no meaning and you should just get over it, but I guess that’s the other choice then. It just doesn’t satisfy me to wonder about meaning as much as it does for you. I have wondered why would god even exist? Because he loves us and wants us to love him is kind of a weird thing to get on board with, something I can’t see, and I don’t mean I can’t see god (I don’t), but I don’t see humans as drastically different from other living creatures as you do. I don’t feel lonely without god, or desperate of meaninglessness. I like it here, but I won’t miss it when I’m gone. Opening up this “meaning” question, whatever answer I’d think of would open up more questions, the answers to would have to necessarily get weirder and less convincing.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl: Kodie already addressed this, but I’ll toss out a few more thoughts.

          It is a fact that humans seem to have a real desire for their lives to have meaning.

          Sure. Gotta have a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

          So assign some meaning to your life. Where’s the problem?

          any explanation that says my life is meaningless does not match the facts

          I don’t even know what we’re talking about. Your life has meaning that you assign to it, but it doesn’t have any absolute meaning. Does that not match the facts?

          If you tell me to just bite the bullet and accept the meaninglessness of the universe, I simply can’t.

          It troubles you that no one will give a damn whether you existed or not in a billion years? Yeah, just bite the bullet. It’s not that big a deal. (Or am I missing something).

          Theism states that our universe is infused with meaning,

          But why imagine that its claims are based on anything? Why imagine that it’s not just wishful thinking to put your fevered brain to rest?

          Why is it important for me to have meaning in my life, if the universe is ultimately meaningless?

          Is this a hard question for anyone to answer? Family and friends don’t do it for you? Do you need a hobby?

          If someone is in a state where they believe nothing really matters (ultimately) and act as though it really does, are they not deceiving themselves?

          Sure, but what atheist does this? Yeah–there is no ultimate meaning in life. And I’m not a billionaire. Neither is a tough observation to get over.

  • smrnda

    I’ve never understood the connection between the existence of god and whether or not life has any meaning. Let’s take something like film. What’s the meaning of film? Ask anyone who watches movies and anyone who makes them and they’ll all give you a bunch of different answers. To me, the ‘god provides meaning’ argument would be like saying that the true meaning of movies is defined by what the inventor of the medium decided was its ultimate purpose.

    The ultimate meanings I’ve heard from religious people tend to be just a bunch of vague platitudes. Life is about “knowing god.” Okay, I don’t know my neighbors and we talk about 3 times a week. Knowing someone requires a bit more than you can get with someone who you can’t see, can’t talk to directly, and where the most recent reports of this person saying and doing anything are thousands of years old.

    My own opinion is that if we’re stuck with what god means and intends for us, then there’s less meaning to life and not more, since we may find things meaningful that god views as irrelevant since they don’t adequately pad his ego.

    • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

      smrnda,
      I think you’ve chosen a poor example. When talking about the medium of ‘film’ there are not that many different meanings given. “Telling stories through series of connected images” would be one that is commonly affirmed, and difficult to refute. The meaning of individual films, well, that’s a different story, but can you say that the meaning the writer or director gives is not relevant?

  • Selah

    smrnda , you live in a physical material world. You can’t know God , you can’t sense God and you receive not he things of the Spirit of God ( 1 Corinthians 2 : 14 ). I can give you a Bible to read and you can’t understand it , it’s foolishness to you right now because it is spiritually evaluated, spiritually appraised and spiritually discerned. You , my friend , are just plain spiritually dead !
    God’s Holy Spirit has to ” illuminate ” your mind. Just like the blind man can’t see the sun , the deaf man can’t hear sweet music , you can’t know the truth ( Jesus Christ ) unless you become ” born again ” ( John 3 >Nicodemus ).

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Selah:

      You , my friend , are just plain spiritually dead !

      And this is the “Good News”? That, in addition to all the other problems in the world, God has invented a “hell” where people who don’t believe the right thing here on earth go to burn forever?

      You can’t just “become born again.” Give me evidence and I’ll believe. I won’t be able to help it.

      • Selah

        Bob , a little story with you as Nocodemus ! taken from John 3 : 1 -18. You ,Bob , the teacher of the Atheist Nation , do not understand these things. The Holy Spirit wind blows where it wills, and although you hear it you do not know where it is going.You reject the testimony of Jesus and all those who are ” born again ” ( example – Chuck Colson – Watergate scandal- author of
        ” Born Again ” and founder of the largest Christian prison ministry in the world ).Bob, ( Nico ), if I have told you of things that happen here on earth and you do not believe, how can I tell you of heavenly things ? I leave you with one of the greatest turn arounds in the New Testament and that has to be the Apostle Paul.( Acts 8 :1-3).Paul went from a great persecutor of the Church to one of the greatest preachers of the ” Good News ” , yes Bob, it is Good News to those who believe but ” bad news ” for those who reject it. Bob , to read more about the remarkable Paul, check out Acts 26:8-19 as Paul stands before King Agrippa.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Selah:

          the teacher of the Atheist Nation

          Awesome! I’m going to change my business cards to say that.

          if I have told you of things that happen here on earth and you do not believe

          Such as … ? (Or does the analogy break down there?)

          check out Acts 26:8-19

          Am I persecuting the church like Paul did?

          I don’t think so. Paul (Saul) killed people. I’m simply encouraging Christians to think. Now, yes, I’ll agree that considering the tough challenges can be a painful process, so perhaps that’s some sort of persecution. But if the Christian teachings are true, I think it pays them a great compliment to question them to see if they can withstand the challenge.

  • John

    From my observations and readings, I would say humans ask questions like ‘why am I’ and ‘what am I for’ is an extension of the fact that we are wired to ask those questions of everything in our environment as a survival adaptation. Upon finding a dismantled bicycle in a box in the middle of the forest, our brains immediately jump to ‘why is that there?’ and ‘of all things, why a bicycle, and why boxed?’. This arises from earlier questions like ‘will this help me get food?’ and ‘does this mean a predator is nearby and plans to eat me?’ We are predisposed to search for relations and causes.

    We search for meaning because it is advantageous to do so.

    Also, re: animals that create art. Bower birds.
    Animals that do science: Ravens and crows. (learning to use traffic and pedestrian crosswalks to shell nuts).

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