There Will Never Be Another

There Will Never Be Another May 15, 2014

I like this quote from the Doctor Who episode “The Rings of Akhaten.” It illustrates many things – that one can find meaning in telling the story of the universe in a scientifically-informed way, that discussion of natural processes does not have to lead to the conclusion that life is meaningless rather than incredibly precious. But whichever stories people tell, the meaning they take from them is created by humans.

I am sure most readers have seen this photo somewhere online by now:

As has been pointed out time and time again, there is nothing inherent in “religion,” nor even in most specific religions, that requires the negative view above, and most religions have been appealed to and utilized at some point to emphasize the inherent value of human beings. And as has been pointed out time and time again, there is nothing in science that inevitably produces the view attributed to “science” here.

Humans tell stories and make meaning. It is up to us to treat others as precious beyond price. Your worldview, if you are alive today, is shaped by both religion and science, whether you know it or admit it or not. And so within your very self you bring the two strands, and both the positive and negative stories one can use them to tell, together in a unique life.

Whether there will ever be another you depends on whether you think that the universe or multiverse is infinite. But that doesn’t matter. As you, the you that you are, please choose to value others, and to use the elements of your worldview to ascribe meaning and worth.

Others can do that, but no one else can do that as you. The stories you choose to tell, and the value you choose to place on others, can only be done by you.


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  • David Evans

    True, there is nothing in science that inevitably produces that view. But a person who did not value the attributes on the right would be unlikely to become a scientist (except maybe for Beauty. But according to Keats, Beauty = Truth)

    • arcseconds

      Well, they’re very likely to value those things in themselves, if not in others, at any rate.

      You’ve worked in science, have you not? A lot of scientists are wonderful people, of course, but then you pick most any group of people (except for ones dedicated to highly selfish or otherwise vile pursuits) and there will be wonderful people amongst them. But there are also a number of arrogant and difficult people amongst them, again like any group of people, but particularly areas that value ‘winners’. There’s plenty of famous examples, and plenty of anecdotes from scientists about more mundane cases they’ve had to deal personally with, too.

      • Bethany

        Yeah, all you have to do is look at the history of unethical human subjects research to see that there have been plenty of scientists whose value for humanity didn’t exactly extend to all of humanity.

  • Dan McClellan

    The Dr.’s story also quotes the walrus from Through the Looking Glass.

  • Bethany

    Speaking as a religious person and a scientist, that sign strikes me as a ridiculous caricature of both religion and science.

    As for which is more damaging… I can’t answer that one, but I will say that I think neither embracing your flaws without acknowledging your wonderfulness, NOR embracing your wonderfulness without acknowledging your flaws, is a good thing.

  • Bethany

    Aside: This would appear to be a data point for the question about “what would it even mean to raise one’s children as atheists” from a few posts back. 🙂