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The meaning of life? Who cares?

By Stalyn in MLP
Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 02:30:45 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

In today's society the most fundamental questions about life are not only being ignored but are deemed unimportant. Why is that so? Are these questions even important? What should we do about it? And what does it say about a society who does not examine its moral values and shrugs off any serious questions about life itself?


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While reading the The Philadelphia Inquirer I found this article about a new book called Landscapes of the Soul written by Drexel professor Douglas V. Porpora. The article describes the book's focus; how American society has lost its spiritual vision and the major questions about life fall on deaf ears. Please read the article and post your own opinions about the ideas presented and if you have read his book your opinion of it as well.

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Poll
What is indeed the meaning of life?
o Find and enjoy pleasure. 15%
o Simply to procreate. 5%
o Contribute good works and help my fellow man. 13%
o Obtain material wealth. 0%
o To get into the afterlife. 1%
o 42. 31%
o All of the above. 12%
o Get high and play Tony Hawk 2. 19%

Votes: 115
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o The Philadelphia Inquirer
o article
o Landscapes of the Soul
o Also by Stalyn


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The meaning of life? Who cares? | 54 comments (51 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
One point that irks me a little (4.09 / 11) (#1)
by Tatarigami on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 06:47:19 PM EST

When discussing the meaning of life with agnostics and atheists, there still seems to be some consensus that the meaning of life is to help people and do good deeds -- a common creed is that we should leave the world in a better state than when we came into it.

But in the absence of a higher being investing it with purpose, why do people still look for a hidden deeper purpose behind their existance? If it's a purely material universe, isn't the meaning of life whatever we arbitrarily decide it to be, assuming life needs a purpose to begin with?

there IS no purpose (3.66 / 3) (#7)
by typhatix on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 08:52:18 PM EST

but what you make for it ourselves. You are correct in that (according to my agnostic belief structure). But I take the perspective that we're all people stuck in this big thing we don't really understand, and all we all really want is to be happy. Then you take that to a collectivist perspective where everyone working to make things better makes more overall happiness than everyone not.

Atleast it seems logical to me.



[ Parent ]
Cultural tradition, sort of. (4.20 / 5) (#8)
by danceswithcrows on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 09:03:38 PM EST

But in the absence of a higher being investing it with purpose, why do people still look for a hidden deeper purpose behind their existance?

It's probably instinctive. Spend any time with a 2-3 year-old child, and you'll find they're always asking "WHY?". Looking for the purpose of Existence is this same question, writ large.

Also, a lot of people feel really uncomfortable in completely unstructured environments. Going along with a mainstream cultural org's saying "The Meaning of Life is X" provides a big, safe, comforting box for people to spend their lives in, and they can get on with eating/ sleeping/ working/ fucking in whatever order the society around them has said is cool. Conversely, going along with a splinter group's "The Meaning of Life is not X, but Y," provides people with a different, possibly more vital/cool/nifty box, as well as a potential enemy in those people who believe X. People love to define themselves by saying "I oppose X!".

How about this: In the Clearing where the Path ends, I'll tell you what the meaning of Life was.

Matt G (aka Dances With Crows) There is no Darkness in Eternity/But only Light too dim for us to see
[ Parent ]

Why exactly does this irk you? (4.50 / 2) (#44)
by Rainy on Tue Aug 28, 2001 at 05:29:56 AM EST

A religious person will do good because of a direct order from his god. Do good. Okay, I will. Now, if you take a non-religious person, he has a whole host of reasons to do good - evolutionary instinct, the idea that if you do good onto others, they'll tend to be good with you, the idea that if you help out those having hard times they will get better and help _you_ out when you're having a hard time. Doesn't this make much more sense that an elaborate mythos that promises you heaven after you die if you follow the rules down here, offering no proof except for tales of miracles in the days of yore? I mean, all things considered, it should irk *us* that your morality rests on such contrived and potentially unstable grounds. What if your god didn't tell you to be good, would you be running around face awashed in blood, killing children and schoolteachers left and right? If you look at the facts, religious tolerance is still stuck with its roots in bible where sodom was destroyed for you-know-what (and similar examples in many other religions), while modern morality considers gay-bashing to be a bad thing, generally. Every christian seems to have an assumption that their moral rigidity is a good thing that even atheists and agnostics should like very much because they can rely on it. That's, of course, bogus because that same rigidity will turn an ugly side to you as soon as you break a taboo, and for a christian that's like, well, you're one of them now, of satan's lot, so it doesn't matter, but to a non-religious person it DOES matter because he sees these rules as contrived, so he always remembers that if he crosses *their* line in the sand (and there's thousands of lines.. ), he'll be persecuted.
--
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
Do good = Paradise? (none / 0) (#53)
by nibasm on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 12:27:09 PM EST

Unfortunately, you fall for the same trap that most 'religious' populations fall for. That is, not researching all the facts. The Bible clearly states that doing good is a reward in itself. There is no pay for play in the true Biblical sense. It is much the same in agnostic or atheistic circles. We do good because it feels right to do it and we get personal satisfaction in helping make the earth a better place.

The true Biblical philosophy is one of preparation not one of expectation of reward. In other words it's not like a person can be a 'bad' person and do good things and God admits you into heaven like you got a PHD in good. More like, if you live your life in a certain way, peaceful, full of love, beneficial to yourself and others, and loving your enemy and being humble (that you have courage to stand up for what you believe in when it's uncomfortable and courage to sit down and accept fate when something doesn't exactly go your way[see book of Job]), et alius

There is no bank account in heaven, but only the determination that you merit to live the kind of life that everyone wants to live.

Any Bible reader that tells you that doing good for the sake of reward is the sole purpose of man's existance has not understood the Bible. Any athiest that tells you this is a biased and uninformed character.



[ Parent ]
Proof? (none / 0) (#54)
by Rainy on Thu Aug 30, 2001 at 12:37:40 PM EST

This is not the impression I got from reading the bible. Remember the commandments? Most of them say "thou shalt not". You scoff at how "most religious people" misunderstand the message, but it seems to me that they understand the bible very well indeed - the main focus is on following the will of god, even when it seems to be in conflict with loving thy neighbour - as when the dude was asked to sacrifice his son, tribes that inhabited the lands given to jews by lord destroyed mercilessly, etc. But, I agree that some passages from bible support your view, it's just that they're in minority.
--
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
The nature of man (5.00 / 1) (#46)
by icarus major on Tue Aug 28, 2001 at 08:33:23 AM EST

is to seek meaning. If I present you with a piece of paper with Chinese, you will seek the meaning of it, either superficially or deeply. We see patterns in the almost random permutations of nature, and we seek to describe our world in the axioms of physics. Is it so very unnatural to seek meaning here, even without a higher being?

It's curious that most of the people here have immediately jumped to comments about higher beings without stopping between meaning, structure, and interpretation.

[ Parent ]
"Purpose of life"? Stupid question... (4.42 / 14) (#2)
by Hizonner on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 07:03:09 PM EST

So, the article asks this with a religious cast, so I'll answer it with a religious cast... but the answer is the same whether or not you believe in God, pixies, or any other supernatural being... or even if you make the equally unsupported act of faith involved in believing there is no God.

Let us suppose that there is a God, in the good old Western Judeo-Christian sense of a single, infinite, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal Being, possessing awareness and capable of being personified, which Being created and/or sustains the Universe and everything in it. Let us further suppose that this Being created us for some purpose known to It and (perhaps somewhat heretically) discoverable by us, and that this Being wants us to play some active part in the achievement of that purpose. Still further, let us suppose that we know that this Being loves us, and that Its purpose includes our greater good, albeit perhaps in the collective sense, in the afterlife, or in some ineffable value system understandable only to Itself. Making yet another leap, let us assume that this Being has given us certain rules of conduct, the following of which will be of aid to Its great purpose.

Ignore all the obvious objections and logical contradictions in all that. Just take it as given... on faith if you will.

So what? Why should we care?

The idea that God can give us a purpose is bogus. God may have a purpose for us, but that's irrelevant to whether or not we choose that purpose for ourselves. If you believe in God, you still have to make an additional step... you have to decide that it's right to do what God wants you to do. God can't make that decision for us, not even if God knows in advance what decision we will make. Not even if God designed us with our making a particular decision in mind. It is still we who make the decision, not God.

We decide for ourselves what is right, what is important, what is moral, and what we will do. Delegating those choices to God (or anybody else) is still a decision that we make.

Notice that it doesn't matter whether you believe we are in some sense "free" to choose, or whether you believe that our choice is determined in advance. It is nonetheless we who make the choice... from our point of view, we are free, even though from some omniscient point of view, our choice may be predetermined. We have as much choice in one case as in the other. It also doesn't matter whether you get Heaven or Hell as a result of your choices... before you can care about that, you have to decide that Heaven is better.

At some point, you have to just pick something and say you think it's of value. For a religious person, that may be doing what God says, and the decision may be made as more or less part of the same process that makes that person believe in God. For those of us who don't believe in any God, it probably means picking things to care about at a bit finer granularity. In either case, it is, in the end, a matter of taste. Asking for purpose from anything outside yourself is silly. The meaning of life, for you, is what you choose it to be.

One reason I think religion is moral poison is that it encourages people try to dodge their responsibilities, by simply defining good as what somebody else wants. In its strongest, most simplistic form, as seen in certain fundamentalist types, it comes down to incredibly craven toadying... "I'll do what God says because God will torture me otherwise". Bleah. Great basis for a moral system.

I get this a lot. (3.83 / 6) (#3)
by RealObject on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 07:46:16 PM EST

I thought your comment was far more interesting than the original post. Still, for the purpose of fomenting discussion, I did vote it up.

It seems that everyone these days is ranting on about how "organized religiion leaves them cold". Well amen to that. It frosts me as well.

But that doesn't mean that God does not exist (as in the Christian God). It just means that people are imperfect, and create organizations that (sadly) frequently go astray.

But your comments about christian behavior, value judgements, and "do what I say or I send you to hell" seemed cliched. tho' the bit about God having plans for us, yet still giving us choices to make was good.

Have you ever bought a car? Did you test drive it first? Of course.

What about relationships? Do you marry someone on the first date? Nah. You try out the relationship first, get a feel for things (pardon the pun!), and then nuture it into maturity.

So why would we treat a relationship with God (and Jesus) differently? Where did the idea of BLIND faith ever come from anyway? Blind faith is something tyrants and cult leaders demand.

I've never seen my Lord ask for that.

Instead, faith is like a muscle, or, even better, like the trust that you build up over the years in a good relationship. You have faith because you have confidence. And that confidence is based on personal experience with the other person in the relationship.

IN the same way, faithfulness in a relationship with God is not about what you can do or not do, it isn't about what you believe. It's ALL about God doing what he said he would do.

Have you read the Bible? I mean, not as a text on "how to be good", but as a collection of personal examples of faithfulness (God's faithfulness, not man's) that you can use to form the basis of your own relationship with God.

Ever asked anything of God? Ever even talked to him? So try it. Nothing at all for you to lose.

And who knows, you might just find someone who will change your life.

Until you have....what weight should we give the arguments in your posting?

Regards!


[ Parent ]
Er... (5.00 / 7) (#4)
by Hizonner on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 08:13:11 PM EST

I don't believe I said anything that was specific to Christianity... I think you need to adjust your paranoia filter. I said some things that covered any religion with an omnipotent single God (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, prolly others), and some things that covered any religion, and some things that are applicable to anybody, with or without a religion. I guess I shouldn't have used the term "Judeo-Christian".

I also specifically did not argue against faith in general, although I admit that I did make a few snide side comments about it. My point isn't about whether or not you should believe in God. My point is that, no matter how strongly you may believe in God, you have to make a separate (admittedly usually connected) decision to consider God, and/or the things God says, does, or gives, to be good. Just believing God exists doesn't get you a purpose, or morality, or meaning.

Choosing what you believe to be good, whether it be whatever God says or something else, is related to faith, but it's not faith in the sense of believing something to be objectively true without evidence. It's a matter of choosing a value. It's almost an aesthetic thing.

I didn't use the phrase "blind faith"... although I have to tell you that, as far as I'm concerned, any experiences you may have had of God responding to your faith could easily be explained by saying that certain synapses fire certain ways when you get your brain into a certain state. People tend to have very similar experiences in "spiritual" states, even if the religious systems they're working in are completely different. Anyway, until you can prove that it's not just an entirely material neurological thing, it pretty much is blind faith. As, by the way, would be an atheist's saying that you were not in fact experiencing God.

I certainly didn't rant about how "organized religion [left me] cold". It does, but so does all religion. It's true that organized religion probably creates more moral problems than individualized, personal faith, but that's pretty much irrelevant to my argument. Once again, my point is that regardless of whether you believe in God, the meaning you assign to life is yours and yours alone.

I don't see what the Bible has to do with anything.

Ever asked anything of God? Ever even talked to him? So try it. Nothing at all for you to lose.
Actually, there is something to lose. Like almost anybody else, I am capable of brainwashing myself. It would take a lot more more than talking to God or asking something once or twice, but if I made a habit of it, and worked at it, I could easily create a delusional structure for myself. Of course, you'd say that what I'd done would be building faith. Same thing, I guess... but I'm pretty confident I could make myself believe in the Easter Bunny without much more work than making myself believe in God.

[ Parent ]
Proof of God? (none / 0) (#11)
by Dlugar on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 11:23:44 PM EST

People tend to have very similar experiences in "spiritual" states, even if the religious systems they're working in are completely different.

Sounds like a pretty decent explanation to me of a God who talks to His children whether or not they're of the "one chosen religion". Can you come up with an alternate explanation of why people would have these "spiritual" states? One that's less convoluted than "God is actually talking to them"? (I've never seen any actual "studies" nor even anecdotal evidence to back up what you're saying; I'm just kind of interested in it.)

Anyway, until you can prove that it's not just an entirely material neurological thing, it pretty much is blind faith. As, by the way, would be an atheist's saying that you were not in fact experiencing God.

Ok, so assume that there is really this God person ... that may be a big assumption for you, but I'm assuming you're used to playing "Devil's Advocate", so to (rather ironically) speak. If God really does exist, how would he communicate with us without it being a "material neurological thing"? And how on earth would you go about proving that it wasn't? Sounds impossible to me.

But then again, you say that the atheist is acting in blind faith, too. So is there anything at all in this world that we can know without taking it on, as you say, blind faith?


Dlugar

[ Parent ]
I don't Know... (4.00 / 2) (#20)
by Hizonner on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 03:16:52 AM EST

Can you come up with an alternate explanation of why people would have these "spiritual" states? One that's less convoluted than "God is actually talking to them"?
Well, it's not clear that parsimony gets you all that far in this sort of discussion, but I believe the standard materialist explanations would be that:

  1. One of the ways that the human organism has evolved to keep itself from panicking and freaking out in difficult situations is by deluding itself that there is a powerful, benevolent entity watching over it. One of the mechanisms that supports this delusion is a wired-in ability to "talk to God", thus receiving support for a survival-promoting, but otherwise insupportable, belief. OR

  2. You can train your brain to believe almost anything, and to experience a variety of sensations in response to a variety of triggers. It feels good to believe in God and to feel the sensation of God's presence (perhaps it triggers the same "circuits" that make children feel safe when watched over by their parents), so people learn to do it. OR

  3. You can easily throw your brain into a disordered state where you get a bunch of weird random synapse firings. More or less by luck, those synapse firings result in a "mystical" feeling which some people interpret as interaction with God.
I don't know if any of those is less convoluted than "God is talking to them". To buy any of them, you have to buy a lot of other evolutionary stuff and a certain view of how the mind works. On the other hand, to buy "God is talking to them", you have to buy a bunch of other God stuff, including often very convoluted explanations of why God doesn't communicate in some way a bit more related to consensus reality. It's your choice what you see as simpler.

There's an interesting site out there run by a guy called the Reverend Jim Huber, whom I'd describe as a "spiritual atheist". Check out his account of the mystical experience that made him an atheist. Also, for some good clean nasty amusement at the expense of Bible believers, check out his famous parable, Kissing Hank's Ass.

So is there anything at all in this world that we can know without taking it on, as you say, blind faith?
I guess it depends on whether you mean "know" or "Know". :-)

There are whole schools of philosophy that say you can't trust the evidence of your senses, and even that you can't trust your own logical thought processes. In the "Know" sense, they're largely right... how do you Know that I exist?

For something like the existence of God, it's even more complicated, since the only "sensory" evidence is those mystical experiences, and, although you and I may agree that we see a table, we can't really compare our mystical experiences. Of course, some people would say that we can't be sure we experience the table in the same way, either, but let's not get into that; it's not important here.

Personally, I tend to believe that, although I can't really claim to "Know" anything, that's all right, because I "know" lots of things. That is, from a practical point of view, I act as if the evidence of my senses were more or less reliable, I act as if I my thought processes were more or less reliable, and I act as if the people around me really did exist and really did have experiences much like mine. I try not to waste too much time philosophizing about what I don't "Know", since there's nothing I can do about it anyway. Call it "provisional faith" in the senses, or "practical faith", rather than "blind faith".

I don't "Know" if there's a God or not... I'm a philosophical agnostic. I do "know" that I haven't seen any evidence of a God, and that all the people who claim to have contradict each other about almost every aspect of God's nature, and that all the reasons that people use to excuse the lack of evidence sound like exactly that... lame excuses. So practically I act more or less like an atheist.

Now, let's see how many people try to use this to attack my original, independent-of-whether-you-believe-in-God-or-not, posting...

[ Parent ]

know you Know (none / 0) (#36)
by Dlugar on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 03:06:48 PM EST

Well, it's not clear that parsimony gets you all that far in this sort of discussion

I apologise; I didn't mean to be "parsimonious" in any sense of the word. I was simply looking for the precise explanations you gave. Thanks.

Looking back, however, on the histories of religions and such things, I don't think that these explanations get the whole thing. There are portions of religion that certainly do not support survival value, and other weird things that evolution doesn't quite explain. Of course, evolution has created some other very weird stuff, so who knows. Less convoluted? More convoluted? I agree with you: it's your choice which is simpler.

For something like the existence of God, it's even more complicated, since the only "sensory" evidence is those mystical experiences, and, although you and I may agree that we see a table, we can't really compare our mystical experiences.

One might argue that these mystical experiences are close enough to "sensory" evidence; various religions have different explanations for this, however. Several of them I find acceptable. Your mileage may vary.

I do "know" that I haven't seen any evidence of a God

I do "know" that I've seen quite a lot of evidence of a God, and ergo I'm a "believer". That, in my not-so-humble opinion, is the sole difference between atheists and theists. So why can't we all get along without trying to convince each other? Ah well.

Of course, that Reverend Jim Huber link was pretty interesting. Strange to me how you can rationalize being a "spiritual atheist", but whatever floats your boat!


Dlugar

[ Parent ]
simple explanation (4.50 / 2) (#27)
by prana on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 10:18:29 AM EST

People tend to have very similar experiences in "spiritual" states, even if the religious systems they're working in are completely different.

Sounds like a pretty decent explanation to me of a God who talks to His children whether or not they're of the "one chosen religion". Can you come up with an alternate explanation of why people would have these "spiritual" states? One that's less convoluted than "God is actually talking to them"?

People tend to have very similar experiences in general. We are built very similarly, with the same senses, and the same bases for perception.

I submit to you: a "spiritual" state is only referred to as such because it's an experience that isn't easily related to "normal" reality. So it falls into the same perceptual bucket as God--the mystical and unknown--and the two are illogically correlated. If I really believed UFOs were abducting me, I would likely attribute my "spiritual" states to episodes of alien experimentation.

Further illustration:

  • Hizonner: People tend to have very similar reactions to "emotions," even if their internal conceptions of the world widely vary.
  • Dlugar: Sounds like a pretty decent explanation to me of a God who talks to His children whether or not they're of the "one chosen religion". Can you come up with an alternate explanation of why people would have these "emotions"? One that's less convoluted than "God is actually talking to them"?
How about: because these are the common states which have arisen from an incredibly stable, complex self-organizing system, of which we are merely the current instantiation.

Protons, electrons, and neutrons organize themselves into an atom because, given their environment, it is the lowest-energy state. These atoms then form molecules, also governed by the forces of their environment. And so forth, through many orders of magnitude of complex interaction.

A complex system arising from many simpler systems is a far less convoluted explanation than a complex system conceived and put in motion by an even more complex system (namely, God).

But then again, you say that the atheist is acting in blind faith, too. So is there anything at all in this world that we can know without taking it on, as you say, blind faith?
"Blind faith" is a loaded term; its connotation is unnecessary baggage here. I think most people operate with basic faith in their senses (I see/smell/taste/feel shit; yup, it is shit!). Direct feedback solidly establishes faith. This basic faith is so taken for granted that most would recoil at the thought of "faith in reality." Similarly, if we were aware of God in a manner which allowed clear feedback, most would agree he exists ("is the sky blue?") and naturally bow to the Almighty One. But as it stands, we're stuck in this eternal guessing game, where God is as likely as alien captors.

[ Parent ]
Blind Faith (none / 0) (#47)
by priestess on Tue Aug 28, 2001 at 10:08:21 AM EST

Blind faith is something tyrants and cult leaders demand.

I've never seen my Lord ask for that.
Oddly enough, if I did see God ask me to believe in him blindly I might be more inclined to do so, assuming the contridiction didn't make him disappear in a puff of logic.

Ever asked anything of God? Ever even talked to him?
Yeah, yeah, I used to pray every night for The Lord to keep my family safe and whatever and they're mostly still alive and (fairly) well to this day but I have no reason to think they wouldn't have been anyway. Oddly, it's the ones who have most 'faith' who seem to get screwed around with the most too, though I doubt that's a general rule.

I've thought for a long time that the main problem in life is the complete inability to ever do a proper control experiment. Did I do the right thing this weekend? Who knows, even if I can figure out what a good result is, I can't know how much of that result was caused by me.
So try it. Nothing at all for you to lose.
How many different God's have you tried praying to? Have you tried talking to Odin? Thor? Venus? Allah? Buddah? Dobbs?

Try it, maybe one of them is stronger than Jehova and can overrule him in a cosmic battle of intergalatic proportions which can determine the result of your football match or whatever.
Pre.........

----
My Mobile Phone Comic-books business
Robots!
[ Parent ]
Codicil (3.33 / 3) (#5)
by eLuddite on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 08:19:45 PM EST

"And to myself I bequeath as many bottles of sun factor 500 as will fit in my coffin."

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Nope. (4.66 / 3) (#10)
by Anonymous 6522 on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 10:57:05 PM EST

God can't make that decision for us, not even if God knows in advance what decision we will make. Not even if God designed us with our making a particular decision in mind. It is still we who make the decision, not God.

If you build a clock that will chime on the hour, who makes the decision when to chime, you or the clock? Who has the option to change that decision?

If you're given one option to choose from, then you aren't doing any choosing.

This brings me to one of my problems with the idea of an omnipotent, omniscient, creator god that punishes those who do not follow him. If he makes all the decisions, then what grounds does he have for punishing people? If he decided that Stan would murder Bob, why should Stan go to hell? Stan had no choice in the matter. It's like punishing the weapon instead of the person pulling the trigger.

That's not to say that I reject the idea of an omnipotent, omniscient, creator god existing, just one that punishes people for deeds that it is ultimately responsible for.

[ Parent ]

re: Nope. (3.00 / 1) (#12)
by Shovas on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 11:42:44 PM EST

Greetings,

I've had this discussion with a few other people before. Each brings up the point that we are created by God. He knows what will be. He made us the way we are, and the way we are decides how we will make our decisions in our life time.

The arguement, as you say, goes "How can a God create beings with supposed free will if he already knows how they will choose. That's obviously not free will." The fact is, though, whatever is thrown at us and given to us in this life, we make the decision. God may know what our decision will be before we're born, but that does not mean you do not have free will. You decide.

As God has demonstrated in the past, he has the ability to change the present. Whether through his believers, angels or his enemies. If someone where to make a "wrong" decision, God may or may not choose to take some direct/indirect action to sway that person away from such a decision.

This begs the question, given a Creator, would you rather have free will under an all-powerful, _not-so-all-knowing_ being? Or rather, an omnipotent being who knows all and can help if need be? The answer is slightly obvious. A creator who creates an entire universe without knowing EVERY SINGLE detail down to its finest element, is a ludicrous creator and does not truly love his creation(for how could he foresee problems in order to fix it before it went wrong?). Thus, we have a need for a Creator who knows all.

Which brings us back to your point. God created us and made us the way we are. The way we are influences the way we make decisions. Which is true. But, we are also what we make of ourselves. It is through _our_ actions that we develop ourselves into full human beings. If we choose to live a lifestyle which might lead us to make a wrong decision down the line, where does the fault lie? A quick answer would be humankind, as a whole. The idea that we have lead whole masses astray for generations upon end, which has finally lead up to our day and age. With their "help", we may make the incorrect decision at a key point in our life.

Your clock example leaves a little to be desired. There are only a set number of factors in a clock, all easily controllable at any moment. Imagine, however, that you left your clock running for a very long time without maintenance. Might it not stray from its regular beat? Perhaps a gear might break? A hand might stick. Many things could occur that would effect it's operation.

So it is with humans, but to an infinitely higher complexity than this clock. Primarily, a clock has but black and white choices. We have a myriad of greys with our values, morals and ethics. Our choice requires skill, intelligence, experience, foresight, "luck" perhaps, and whatnot.

A clock also can not learn. Humans, I'm sure you can agree, learn. We can also learn the right way to act in any given situation. The Bible, the Ten Commandments, etc. are from God . Since the earliest times, we've had literature to tell us the correct way. You can't say it's ignorance, in western culture, at least.

The fact that you're even here discussing the question of whether or not you have free will should be evidence enough of your self awareness that you do, indeed, have a choice that you can make on your own.

I hope this hasn't been too scattered of a reply. It's all over the place but I hope the meaning gets through.

Farewell,
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[ Parent ]
Hold on a second...ludicrous? (none / 0) (#15)
by JetJaguar on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 01:10:35 AM EST

Well, by and large, I don't have any major quibbles with the point you're trying to make, at least as far as they go... However, I'm not sure how you came up with this:

A creator who creates an entire universe without knowing EVERY SINGLE detail down to its finest element, is a ludicrous creator and does not truly love his creation(for how could he foresee problems in order to fix it before it went wrong?). Thus, we have a need for a Creator who knows all.

I don't think it necessarily follows that a creator that doesn't know every single detail about his creation doesn't truly love it. And ludicrous? You've just insulted just about every inventor that's ever lived! ;) Absolute knowledge is not the same thing as absolute love, and the two are not linked absolutely. You're saying that if God doesn't know everything that His love is somehow diminished. I don't buy it.

[ Parent ]

re: Hold on a second...ludicrous? (none / 0) (#16)
by Shovas on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 01:32:33 AM EST

Greetings,

Hm...point taken. I think I'm confusing two conditions here. Let's see if I can clarify: If a Creator has the power to create an environment like our universe, with the free thinking, free willed creatures which inhabit it, a Creator with this power and knowledge not knowing the dangers is risking his creation. In our situation, our Creator says he loves us. If he loved us, and didn't know _everything_, he would be putting us at some risk he can't foresee. If he can not foresee it, that would imply it might occur before he had a chance to prevent it, thus destroying some part of that universe. An ideal love would not even begin to think of putting a love one(s) in such a situation.

Human inventors are a different story altogether. :) Human inventors have not worked on the magnitude and significance that a god would work on. Much less, invent a free willed, living being with a soul to give and take.

Humans can have the greatest intentions, but still screw up and manage not to hurt people(if they do hurt someone, I would say they need to think about the effects on others). A God in charge of an entire universe, however, would not have that luxury.

Farewell,
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[ Parent ]
I'd like to answer this a little differently... (none / 0) (#18)
by Hizonner on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 01:50:50 AM EST

If you build a clock that will chime on the hour, who makes the decision when to chime, you or the clock?
The clock does not decide, because it is not built to decide. There is no process that happens in a clock that most people would call "deciding" to do anything. The clock does, however, chime... it's not me doing the chiming, even though I set the clock up to do it.

People, on the other hand, are "built" to decide. There is a process that goes on in people that we call deciding, and we all do it. Whether or not God has already made a meta-decision about what we'd decide, we are still making decisions.

As a separate argument, from a practical and information-theoretic point of view, we have no access to God's information about what we'll decide. From our viewpoint, we definitely have free will, regardless of how it might look from God's point of view.

[ Parent ]

re: (none / 0) (#21)
by Anonymous 6522 on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 03:22:44 AM EST

The clock does not decide, because it is not built to decide. There is no process that happens in a clock that most people would call "deciding" to do anything. The clock does, however, chime... it's not me doing the chiming, even though I set the clock up to do it.

You missed my point. Who says the brain does any more deciding than the clock? If you only have one option, you cannot make a decision.

From our viewpoint, we definitely have free will, regardless of how it might look from God's point of view.

You don't have something unless you have it. Fool's gold may look like gold, but it's still not gold.

[ Parent ]

Definition issue, as usual... (4.00 / 1) (#30)
by Hizonner on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 11:29:39 AM EST

You missed my point.
I don't think I did. I think you missed mine.
Who says the brain does any more deciding than the clock? If you only have one option, you cannot make a decision.
OK, we're in the middle of a conflict over what the word "decide" means. I claim that the common, ordinary, and useful meaning of that word is "to go through a certain mental process and arrive at a conclusion from among a set of mutually exclusive options which are, from the point of view of the individual making the decision, all possible a priori". Your definition appears to be "to go through a certain mental process and arrive at a conclusion from among a set of mutually exclusive options which are, from an omniscient point of view, all possible a priori".

Why is my definition better, and closer to what people ordinarily mean when they say "decide"? Because--

  1. It is grounded in actual experience. There is an observable physical process of deciding, but omniscience is not observable. It is therefore a good idea to have a definition of deciding that does not refer to omniscience.

  2. It is a useful concept regardless of your view of the existence of God, predestination, probability, or whatever. To somebody who believes in an all-knowing God who has ordered all things to a Plan, your definition of "deciding" creates a useless concept... nobody can ever do it except for God, and since God is usually seen as outside time, it's not clear that God does it, either. With my definition, on the other hand, you can still talk about deciding to go eat a sandwich. Supposing for the sake of argument that everything is predestined, what would you call the process that's ordinarily called "deciding to eat a sandwich"?

  3. You can use it to analyze actual situations without yourself being omniscient.


[ Parent ]
yep (none / 0) (#35)
by Anonymous 6522 on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 02:20:33 PM EST

I don't think I did. I think you missed mine.

OK, we're in the middle of a conflict over what the word "decide" means.

I got your point the first time, but I still think that my definition is better for some situations. Yes, your definition is better for day to day use, but when an omipotent creator god enters the picture it seems kind of silly to use a definition that doesn't take it into account. The clock may think it's deciding not to chime at 11:48, and that it was it's choice to chime at 12:00, but you and I both know that it really didn't have any choice in the matter. It might be the same for humans. If you decide to complicate the picture with a god, then you can't go back to your day to day definitions of things like choice.

[ Parent ]

Consciousness... (none / 0) (#39)
by Canar on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 08:01:41 PM EST

Who says the brain does any more deciding than the clock?

Occam's razor. Why? Simple. The mechanisms of consciousness are presently unknown, nor do we have any theories to explain it. By nothing other than observation of people, it would seem as though, yes, we do have the ability to choose our paths in life.

Therefore, don't blame bad life choices on the fact that you had no choice.

-=Canar=-

[ Parent ]

*grin* (none / 0) (#13)
by NNland on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 11:54:58 PM EST

Hell yeah.
I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to quote you.

You've written fairly sussinctly what I've been trying to express for years.
Thanks yo,
- NNland

[ Parent ]
Heh... (3.00 / 1) (#14)
by Stalyn on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 12:52:53 AM EST

Asking for purpose from anything outside yourself is silly. The meaning of life, for you, is what you choose it to be.

Yeah... sure it is.

You know I didnt choose to be born. And when I was born I didnt get the chance to choose what I would look like or what my talents would be, or my weaknesses either.

When I was a young boy I wanted to become a MLB pitcher but you know what, my fastball is 75mph so there is no chance of becoming that. I dont get to really choose my purpose I'm pretty much handed it in a secret envelope that I cant open until the right time.

The cells in my body which allow me to live have some sort of design, a function, a purpose. They dont get to choose it, they are simply created with that purpose. Human beings are cells in a larger organism, the earth and in an even larger one, the universe. We have some sort of purpose that was intended for us. Nature does not create things for fun, they have a design and if they dont follow it they are gotten rid of. Nature does not waste.

There is some choice of course but its like buying a hat int a hat store with a million different variations. They are all basically the same being a hat however I can choose a style. So I say its pretty silly living life without a purpose outside myself or I'm just basically masturbating.

The unexamined life IS not worth living.



[ Parent ]

Misunderstanding on choice, but cells? Come on... (3.66 / 3) (#19)
by Hizonner on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 02:32:37 AM EST

You know I didnt choose to be born. And when I was born I didnt get the chance to choose what I would look like or what my talents would be, or my weaknesses either.
I didn't say that you get to choose what life will be. I said that you get to choose what meaning you attach to it, and what purpose you attach to it. You are not required to like life.

I also don't mean that you can just "choose to be happy", or "choose to be pleased with the way life is". You make a choice, but it's not that kind of completely unconstrained choice. Perhaps "choose" was even the wrong word for me to use. You attach values, positive or negative, to the things that happen to you, and you use values, positive or negative, to decide what to do. Those values arise out of the way you are, and you can't change them arbitrarily. They are, however, yours and yours alone. You pick them, even if you do so in a way constrained by your own nature.

When I was a young boy I wanted to become a MLB pitcher but you know what, my fastball is 75mph so there is no chance of becoming that.
What's "MLB"?

Whatever it is, it could still be your purpose. You would simply have failed in it. Life's tough sometimes. Of course, you do have some very real choice about picking purposes like careers, and you have presumably wisely chosen not to consider becoming an "MLB" pitcher to be the purpose of your existence.

The cells in my body which allow me to live have some sort of design, a function, a purpose. They dont get to choose it, they are simply created with that purpose.
You may see that as their purpose. If your cells had the cognitive ability, they might have a very different idea of what their purposes were... and they might have that idea even if they knew full well that they were parts of you.

By the way, people get themselves into all kinds of nasty errors in evolutionary biology by talking about "designs" and "purposes"... evolution doesn't work that way. And, if you're a creationist, how do you know what the purpose of your cells is? In God's eyes, the whole point of your cells might be to look cool individually, and their tendency to assemble themselves into you might be an unimportant side issue. You're in dangerous territory thinking that the purpose of your cells is to make you up.

None of which should matter to how important you think you are, which is my real point.

Human beings are cells in a larger organism, the earth and in an even larger one, the universe.
Please. Neither the Earth nor the Universe is an organism. Not every random aggregate of stuff is an organism.
We have some sort of purpose that was intended for us.
Evidence? And, if you had evidence, why should I care? Suppose that God or whatever did create me for some particular purpose. Why should I consider that important? Why should I dedicate myself to furthering God's purpose for me, rather than some other one I pick for myself?
Nature does not create things for fun, they have a design and if they dont follow it they are gotten rid of. Nature does not waste.
First, that's nothing but an unsupported assertion about something called "Nature", which I very seriously doubt you can even define in any clear way; it's certainly not what's meant by the standard Enlightenment definition of "Nature", which more or less means the automatic following of some set of laws. Second, even if it were true, it would be awfully arrogant for you to try to make any actual statements about what Nature's purpose was, and therefore very dangerous for you to try to guess what constituted "waste". Third, even if it were true, it would be irrelevant, because you still haven't given a reason that anybody should care about Nature's opinion (or opinion-equivalent) in the matter.
So I say its pretty silly living life without a purpose outside myself or I'm just basically masturbating.
I didn't say that you couldn't have a purpose outside yourself. I said that the choice (there's that nasty word again; sorry, I don't have a better one) of what your purpose is to be must come from inside yourself. Your purpose could be to dedicate yourself to saving starving children, but the choice to do that still comes from you.

As to whether that's masturbation, maybe it is. Unfortunately, it's all that's available. The Universe is not required to provide you with a purpose... nor could it, because "purpose" is a nonphysical, value-based, human-created idea. The concept of "purpose" is in our minds, and it's not really surprising that it doesn't relate to anything in the physical world, or that it has to be chosen by each of us.

If you find life unlivable without some externally imposed purpose, you have two courses of action: delude yourself or kill yourself. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

The unexamined life IS not worth living.
Huh? First of all, none of this discussion has anything to do with examined versus unexamined lives. I have been "examining" the issue of the basis of values, along with the rest of my life and my own moral stance, intensively off and on for about 25 years, and probably occasionally for years before that. I appear to have come to completely different conclusions from yours.

Second, although I've never tried it, and am not really constitutionally capable of trying it, I'm not sure the unexamined life wouldn't be better. Not every pithy quote is true.

[ Parent ]

Sigh. (3.50 / 2) (#22)
by Stalyn on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 04:10:17 AM EST

Where should I start. Hrm...

What's "MLB"?

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

You're in dangerous territory thinking that the purpose of your cells is to make you up.

Huh? What?! What do you think my cells do? Play in the NFL?! (You better know what the NFL is) I don't even know how to counter that one because it makes no sense. I'm not going to get into defining what purpose is, but come on. Its not their SOLE purpose of course but if isn't one of them I wouldnt be here writing this

Please. Neither the Earth nor the Universe is an organism. Not every random aggregate of stuff is an organism.

I don't know about that. The Earth is alive in a sense it will react when we do something to it. The Earth is filled with complex systems of life that interact with each other to promote life itself. The Earth is self-regulating and self-organizing. That sounds like an organism to me. It might not be conscious but the parts (life) on Earth maintain the whole. I wont even get into the Universe but I'm sure it can be extended

I think you basically missed my entire point and no I'm not a creationist. If you want to think that we have no "assigned" purpose or design but are simply here out of randomness then you should think about that. I can throw paint at my wall in random patterns for millions of years but I will never get a Van Gogh or I could pound on a typewriter for a million years and I will never get "Hamlet". Randomness explains a lot but it can not explain everything.

I think you just assumed I was some God-fearing creationist and attacked with that angle. You know there doesnt have to be a conscious being ruling things for there to be design. Think for a second, can't reality be self-organizing and self-regulating? Whats so strange about that? I mean atoms who have no conscious minds were able to form themselves into molecules, and then elements and elements formed into compounds and compounds into life. It seems to me if life was not a design of nature then how did an inanimate matter form into animate matter?

I didn't say that you couldn't have a purpose outside yourself. I said that the choice (there's that nasty word again; sorry, I don't have a better one) of what your purpose is to be must come from inside yourself.

So do I make this purpose up or what? Just because I make what seems to be an arbitrary life decision does not mean its not part of the greater scheme of things. Like I said before my fastball is 75mph tops so I'm not designed to be a baseball player. Therefore my purpose is not to become a baseball player. Did I choose not to have that purpose or was it predetermined? And if it was predetermined then could it be true that I have a predetermined purpose? I mean it does not to have to be ONE thing but can be a range of things my talents will allow. Also it seems to me not everyone can be born with great athletic talent, a determining factor to become a MLB pitcher. This must be a GOOD thing or if everyone had the same talents so who would fullfill the other roles in life? We would have a society of great athletes but such a society could not exist for long.It seems to me that talents are levied out in order for life to continue to exist. Looks like a design to me.

I have been "examining" the issue of the basis of values, along with the rest of my life and my own moral stance, intensively off and on for about 25 years, and probably occasionally for years before that.

You have only been examining your own life and not the world around you. Thats just an assumption but you conclude that purpose only comes from the mind well maybe thats the only place you have been looking. Insider your own mind.



[ Parent ]

Life, the Universe, and Everything (2.00 / 2) (#34)
by vectro on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 12:52:43 PM EST

You better know what the NFL is.
Not everyone lives in the US.

The Earth is alive in a sense it will react when we do something to it.
Too bad that's not the definition of alive. A ball bearing at the bottom of a bowl will react when I do something to it (return to the bottom of the bowl), but that does not make it alive. For that matter, my computer reacts when I type on the keyboard; it is also inanimate.

There is a difference between a system with feedback and life.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]

Gimmie a break (none / 0) (#37)
by Stalyn on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 03:55:22 PM EST

Not everyone lives in the US.

Well, maybe I was being a little US-centric there but still if someone used an UEFA example I would have known. Also the fact that he didnt even get the example and then used it in his argument is just plain ignorance. He could have popped up Google searched for MLB and discovered its meaning in 2 seconds. But he didnt even care.

There is a difference between a system with feedback and life.

First your computer is an inaminate object. The Earth may be in a sense inanimate but all of the stuff living on it is not. Maybe the huge rock called the Earth is not 'living' but the biota on it sure is.

[ Parent ]

Delegation of responsibility (none / 0) (#42)
by Pseudonym on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 11:44:49 PM EST

One reason I think religion is moral poison is that it encourages people try to dodge their responsibilities, by simply defining good as what somebody else wants.
I'll preface my remarks by noting that I take your point about fundamentalist types. They can justify almost anything by simply pointing to their interpretation of the concept of deity.

However, such people would have done that anyway, whether they followed a particular religion or not. Fact is, people who want to delegate responsibility will always find an excuse. Religion just happens to be a quite convenient excuse. Randite Capitalists justify being narcissistic arseholes by appeal to Reason and Objectivity instead of appeal to a deity. It's the same excuse, just a different scapegoat.

Choosing a religion as your moral code does not mean that you delegate your responsibility, no matter how much you may hope that it does. To have faith in some deity means much more than you believe in him/her/it. It means that you trust that deity, and if he/she/it has a moral code, you trust that that moral code is good thing. It's easy to say that you believe in some deity, but actually trusting that the deity is good, that its moral code is appropriate and so on is one step beyond. It means "I will follow this deity and I will accept the consequences".

Now here's the crucial point which I want to make: Intelligient followers of religion know this, and as a result, question their deity. Indeed, the Bible (being the holy text with which I am most familiar) is full of examples of people, prophets mostly, actually questioning whether or not God is good. That's quite remarkable when you compare that to modern trendy Christian culture or other fundamentalist religions, where God's goodness is taken as an axiom.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Unimportant? Unexamined? (3.14 / 7) (#6)
by finial on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 08:51:07 PM EST

You say:

In today's society the most fundamental questions about life are not only being ignored but are deemed unimportant.

I don't know where you live, but around here, the newspapers are constantly full of the abortion debate, cloning, stem cell research, and on and on. That sounds like a pretty vigorus, ongoing debate and what is and isn't important about some of the most basic tenets of life.



Well, yes and no... (4.00 / 3) (#9)
by JetJaguar on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 10:15:44 PM EST

The things you point out are good examples, but topically they are very narrow, and as a result, the big picture is usually lost in those kinds of debates...the people involved see the issues in too black and white a fashion for any kind of sensible debate to occur.

What the article was getting at was more spiritual questions about who we are, where are we going, what is our purpose. Those sort of questions do come up in abortion debates, but usually the deeper issues tend to get short shrift in favor of almost "dogmatic" responses.

[ Parent ]

Not really. (2.50 / 2) (#31)
by jd on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 11:58:07 AM EST

Those are specific cases of specific situations. If we had all the underlying principles sorted out, most of these issues wouldn't exist, as we'd know what was important and what wasn't, 99% of the time.

Stem cell research is a classic example of a very bad debate. It focusses on a single source of stem cells (neglecting all other possibilities) and pits values against values.

In reality, sciectists already know how to create stem cells from bone marrow cells, and a few other cell types. If they used those, there would BE no debate. There would also be a much higher success rate in the research, too, as somebody is much less likely to reject cells from their own body.

Abortion is tougher, but the same idea applies. The "heated debates" exist only because people want them to, not because they're inherent. The arguments aren't designed to pursue "The Truth", they are designed to create hostility and sell papers.

Cryogenics is NOT a new field. We know plenty about how to suspend and revive life, provided it isn't too complex. (I believe Russian scientists have managed to freeze and revive a cat's brain, and show "normal" EEG activity afterwards.)

At least -some- cases of abortion =could= have been handled much the same way, with the foetus being given a water-substitute, to prevent cell rupture, and then being frozen. The mother-to-not-be is unlikely to give a damn, but it could produce some fierce competition with the infertility clinics.

Another aspect is that many abortion clinics are cold, sterile places, with minimal to zero information on options. In other words, they want your money, and they know damn well how to get it. And the majority of people who go to such places are unlikely to have the state of mind to think things out themselves.

(To complicate matters, the pro-lifers outside just intensify the shame and guilt these people feel, making any kind of thought process nearly impossible. If I were running a place like that, I'd probably =hire= the protestors to be as cruel and verbally abusive as possible. It would make customers much less likely to change their minds.)

The important questions of life have nothing to do with "what do I do today", "is what I'm doing -right-", or any other such bullshit. That's just your ego talking. You're one peon out of six BILLION peons. The difference your opinions will ever make are worth less than the edible components of a Big Whopper.

The fundamental questions of life underlie all of that. They have nothing to do with individuals, with "free choice", with current affairs, or anything like that. The fundamental questions, if they are truly fundamental, address timescales that are unimaginable, over populations uncountable, and thereby guide a finite person in the here-and-now.

But people don't like being guided. They like being "right" and righteous. They like being angry, dominating, controlling and manipulative.

IMHO, the fundamental questions have nothing to do with life and death, because those exist at a much more concrete level. The fundamental stuff is infinitely more abstract.

The best I can get to the "Meaning Of Life" is to point to the 12-step programs. These, in a nutshell, state that your real power extends no further than your skin, and that anything outside of that is not your problem; that by making it your problem, you WILL end up losing all control entirely.

That tells me that the meaning of life, the questions and answers, everything, comes from within. What you think of me really is none of my business. Your issues are not my problem. Therefore, you cannot be a part of the meaning of life. You can only be a consequence of that meaning.

[ Parent ]

Uh, whatever. (2.33 / 3) (#33)
by ell7 on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 12:07:00 PM EST

In reality, scientists already know how to create stem cells from bone marrow cells, and a few other cell types. If they used those, there would BE no debate. There would also be a much higher success rate in the research, too, as somebody is much less likely to reject cells from their own body.

Are you a microbiologist? No? Then shut up. The scientists have already said that non-embryonic stem cells don't work as well, and are less flexible then embryonic. I'm sure they know what they're talking about...

[ Parent ]
Meaning (3.81 / 11) (#17)
by hoskoteinos on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 01:46:22 AM EST

There isn't a meaning of life. Life is meaning--it's like streams of meaning pouring out into consciousness every moment. Every single instant, if I'm there, has something novel to offer. The times when life seems dreary is when I'm not really there, when I'm wrapped up in my own psychological bullshit, just pretending to be alive. If I'm humble and ready to learn, life serves it up aplenty.

It's also wholly individual: the meaning of my life isn't the meaning of your life (get yer own meaning, moocher). So stop asking other people for answers. It's right here--just pay attention.



bah! I have stuff (2.22 / 9) (#24)
by buridan on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 08:18:31 AM EST

who needs a spiritual vision when you can buy stuff...

Forty Two (2.11 / 9) (#25)
by wiredog on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 08:41:18 AM EST

;^)

If there's a choice between performance and ease of use, Linux will go for performance every time. -- Jerry Pournelle
This is... (none / 0) (#43)
by driptray on Tue Aug 28, 2001 at 04:00:30 AM EST

...the 43rd comment. I just couldn't stand seeing the "The Meaning of Life" followed by "42 comments".


--
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]
More 42 fun (none / 0) (#45)
by wiredog on Tue Aug 28, 2001 at 08:13:42 AM EST

In the story on the death of Doug Adams I managed to get comment #42

If there's a choice between performance and ease of use, Linux will go for performance every time. -- Jerry Pournelle
[ Parent ]
My take... (3.50 / 2) (#26)
by Elkor on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 09:19:13 AM EST

Well, leaving aside the presupposition that a lack of religous focus is a bad thing, my issue with what he has done is that he took a sampling of individuals from Pennsylvania and used that to establish a base line for our entire society (US society, I imagine).

Leaving aside that 40 individuals barely account for a respectable population for statistics, they were all taken from one geographic locale. That only establishes the distribution inside that locale, he shouldn't try to predict behavior in a different/larger environment.

My suggestion to him would be:
1) Establish a larger population size (at least 200pp)
2) Perform each study in a different state (hey, he gets 50 books instead of 1!)
3) Broaden the concept. If they aren't interested in why they are here, what ARE they interested in?

As far as what life is about, I posted that here.

Regards,
Elkor


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
Meaning. (4.20 / 5) (#28)
by Farq Q. Fenderson on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 10:37:54 AM EST

Religion aside (or you'd have me babbling on about Discordianism), meaning and purpose are quite different. Meaning is a case of attributed value. Purpose implies that we live as a means to an end.

Purpose is not inherently relevant. If the purpose (supposing there is one, which I doubt, for the record) is meaningless to to the participants, then who cares?

Meaning, however, can be of any (seemingly arbitrary) attributed value. Even, while most fulfilling when it relates accurately with reality, may even be valid in a case of misattribution.

A case of misattribution doesn't actually dilute the meaning any, not inherently. When reading into misattributed meanings, the case is, essentially, misinterpretation. That doesn't change the interpretation any, hence the meaning stays the same.

The point here is that if misattributed meanings didn't actually mean anything, then misinterpretation would be, by necessity, impossible - which is obviously not the case.

Humans desire meaningfulness for their personal fulfillment. It's not rational, but who the hell cares? If it feels good, do it, eh?

The big point is that any meaning your life has is completely dependant on whomever ascribes it. Presumably, the most important such case is the meaning you ascribe to your own life, or life in general. Said meaning doesn't need to be in terms of a purpose, but if it's purpose that makes you happy... as you like it. It's your life.

farq will not be coming back
Well, obviously you care. (2.40 / 5) (#29)
by plutarch on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 10:50:11 AM EST

Or else you wouldn't have taken the time to submit this.
Leftism is the ideology of resentment. It is is the ideology of the frustrated will to power. It matters not how much or how little power the Leftist has at the moment. The point is, he wants more, and he can't get it.
meaning implies something higher (5.00 / 1) (#38)
by ooch on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 05:53:38 PM EST

I had a similar discussion with a friend some time ago, and he said that meaning always implies the existence of something higher. Some higher goal for instance, or some higher being. But when you do not believe there is such a thing, life has no meaning. For example, eating something has the higher goal of keaping an organism alive. But the life of the organism self has no meaning, there is no higher goal for it. When you believe in god, life has the meaning of getting into heaven. But for us poor souls who no longer feel the need to believe in some supernatural being, or some higher goal to which humanity should evolve, life has no meaning.

Still, I acknowledge the existence of happiness and sadness, and I regard the first better then the latter, so I try to shift the balance of the world towards happiness.

I wouldn't agree... (5.00 / 2) (#41)
by John Miles on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 08:57:18 PM EST

But for us poor souls who no longer feel the need to believe in some supernatural being, or some higher goal to which humanity should evolve, life has no meaning. Read some philosophy, especially Nietzsche. The betterment of the human species can be considered a source of meaning for those who aren't religious. ("Dead are all gods; now we will that Superman live.")

Think of all the perks you enjoy as a card-carrying member of the human race. Isn't humanity's future on this planet (and ideally others as well) "meaningful" to you? If not, aren't you showing a lack of respect for those who lived before you and built the civilization that supports you?

For so long as men do as they are told, there will be war.
[ Parent ]

That was Nietzsche running from his conclusions (none / 0) (#48)
by sisyfus on Tue Aug 28, 2001 at 12:04:56 PM EST

I'm afraid that: "The betterment of the human species can be considered a source of meaning for those who aren't religious" solves absolutely nothing.

Who is the moral arbiter that Nietzsche uses to back up this statement? Himself. The fundamental problem facing those of us that do not believe in god is that there is no moral arbiter beyond ourselves. This is what makes the concept of meaninglessness so bloody depressing.

To address your other point. Well yes! The danger (and it's one that Nietzsche fell into) is that being ones own moral guardian can lead you to all sorts of unsavoury conclusions. For example that on a fundamental level, you have no responsibility to your fellow human being whatsoever. Again, this is instinctually a deeply depressing idea.

How do I get around it and function as a productive member of society (something that while fundamentally meaningless, gives me pleasure for what it's worth)? I work bloody hard and try not to think about the all encompassing grimness of the universe. Self delusion as a way of life, I love it.

And yes, that is an unprincipled thing to do but the alternative is simply to give up (not kill oneself, just give up). After all, there is no meaning to pleasure or anything else.

Finally, I really shouldn't talk about things like this, it just gets me down ;-).Sorry to ramble.

S

[ Parent ]
so the meaning of life is the betterment of life? (none / 0) (#49)
by ooch on Tue Aug 28, 2001 at 01:05:06 PM EST

But if that is the case then life is it's own meaning. But another question: What is the meaning of this 'better life'? Is it even more betterment of the already better life? And so ad finitum? Again, I think from this follows that life is it's own meaning. And even if you are right, who is to decide which lifeform is 'better'? Something supernatural? Oh wait, that cannot be, so it would have to be you who decides what is better. So again it is you, i.e. life, which gives life it's meaning.

But from my own subjective perception of reality I can tell pleasure from pain, and believe the first is better then the latter. I still believe it is a good goal, and something to ascribe to to try to fill the world with pleasure and safe it from pain. But that still doesn't give any meaning to life it self.

[ Parent ]

so the meaning of life is the betterment of life? (none / 0) (#50)
by ooch on Tue Aug 28, 2001 at 05:59:33 PM EST

But if that is the case then life is it's own meaning. But another question: What is the meaning of this 'better life'? Is it even more betterment of the already better life? And so ad finitum? Again, I think from this follows that life is it's own meaning. And even if you are right, who is to decide which lifeform is 'better'? Something supernatural? Oh wait, that cannot be, so it would have to be you who decides what is better. So again it is you, i.e. life, which gives life it's meaning.

But from my own subjective perception of reality I can tell pleasure from pain, and believe the first is better then the latter. I still believe it is a good goal, and something to ascribe to to try to fill the world with pleasure and safe it from pain. But that still doesn't give any meaning to life it self.

[ Parent ]

The meaning of life (none / 0) (#51)
by nibasm on Tue Aug 28, 2001 at 07:58:57 PM EST

Speaking from a purely evolutionary sense, the meaning of life is to continue life.

Humans have a special ability to develop their own evolutionary traits and and change their own environment.

The ultimate goal of biological existence is to pass on one's genes.

The question is, who do we want to evolve?

The choice right now is pretty simple at who is winning the evolutionary war

The traits that humans desire most are prevalent in who reproduces successfully! That doesn't nessecarily mean who produces more, but who produces the most viable offspring.

So for those who say that there is no meaning to life, probably are thinking in a spiritual perspective (which by no means is an invalid meaning for humans. For bacteria, maybe, for humans, no). But there is an absolute meaning of life in the sense that it makes good biological sense to have a family that teaches nurturing, intelligence, physical acheivements and social and spiritual mores, simply because of the high degree of biological success these organisms demonstrate.

So even in a strictly evolutionary perspective, the meaning of life is to be good, have good kids and stay healthy and active and do something worthwhile for mankind.



It is what you make of it. (none / 0) (#52)
by Tapestry on Tue Aug 28, 2001 at 08:53:15 PM EST

doThe person asked only defines the meaning of life. Everyone will give you answer, whether it be similar or not.

Some use religion to give them the meaning or purpose of life. Some believe that God has things already planned for every individual person. This may be true, but I believe that you have to keep up with that plan. He knows what is going to happen in your life, but you are the one to make the choices. He gives you options, in which you choose from. His plan isn't totally outlined; He works parallel to what you do.

The meaning of Life is Life itself.

As for the article I agree with what some of the following replies say. He needed to do more research. Forty ppl isn't good number to use for a summary of a population over 275 million ppl.
~Estry

The meaning of life? Who cares? | 54 comments (51 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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