Is Life Meaningful, and Does it Matter?

May 15, 2010 at 7:49 pm (By Realpc)

If you are an atheist, then you believe each person’s mind is physically separate from all others. And you believe there is no inherent meaning or purpose in life. Whatever meaning we experience is created by ourselves. This is because an atheist’s view of the world is based on a certain way of defining “matter.” For an atheist, matter is something that exists because of what the laws of physics happen to be, and those laws have no reason for existing. They just are. The laws of physics, or of nature, just happen to be there. And matter, which results from those laws, just happens to be here. There is no need to question why any of it is here, since it started for no reason and it continued for no reason.

Atheism is considered scientific now days. But is there any real connection between science and atheism? I am not talking about Intelligent Design versus neo-Darwinism right now, although that is also relevant. For now, I want to just talk about matter and meaning, on the most basic level.

It might be interesting to note, first of all, that the words “matter” and “meaning” are used similarly. We say “it doesn’t matter” to indicate that something is not meaningful, is not relevant. We also say “it makes no difference” to express the same thing as “it doesn’t matter.”

And this is my central point — matter is made out of differences, relationships, vibrations. See what I mean? Physicists now know that they don’t know what matter is made out of. Strings? Matrices in eleven dimensions? What is all that about? No one knows.

But we do know that it’s all waves, vibrations. And what is a vibration? It is simply a pattern of differences in time. High-low, off-on, etc.

There is a philosophy called “digital physics” which is based on the idea that the universe is some kind of infinite multidimensional computer program. Something like this was expressed in the “Matrix” movies, but the idea goes back at least to the 1960s and the early days of computer science.

Of course no one knows what the universe really is and whether it’s like a computer program. The idea seems reasonable to me however. People who believe in digital physics are not usually the same people who believe the universe is Infinite Intelligence — the two groups don’t seem to communicate. But I see obvious connections between them.

Let’s say the universe is ultimately made out of information, and information processing. Well what is “intelligence” if not information and information processing?

I will leave it at that for now, and hopefully it all makes sense and everyone who reads this will say yes of course. If not, we can have fun arguing in circles.

Where I am coming from, by the way, and what I’m getting at, is the idea that religion and science are perfectly compatible. I am a skeptical scientific person, a computer scientist. And I believe that everything is made out of relationships, differences, meaning, and everything is connected.

So I believe that meaning created us and we are meaningful. There is no possibility of anything being meaningless in a universe that IS meaning.

So I am a theist.

Advertisements

20 Comments

  1. Jason (the commenter) said,

    If you are an atheist, then you believe each person’s mind is physically separate from all others. And you believe there is no inherent meaning or purpose in life.

    I think it is established that all it takes to be considered an atheist is to doubt the existence of a God/Gods. The statements being made by Realpc may apply to some atheists, but not all of them, and perhaps none of them.

    Concerning the title of the post and how it relates to atheism, I would say that atheists either don’t need life to have meaning, or don’t need to believe in God for life to have meaning.

    I think the existence of atheists disprove Realpc’s argument, and the existence of God if the underlying theories Realpc is relying on are true.

  2. realpc920 said,

    Ok Jason it looks like you’re taking the arguing in circles option. I am saying that what we call “matter” is made out of information, information is inherently meaningful, and therefore everything we are and are part of is meaningful. Now most atheists would disagree with all of that. We don’t need to use the word “God,” and we should avoid using it because we would have to define it first.

    “I think the existence of atheists disprove Realpc’s argument”

    Huh?

  3. realpc920 said,

    Jason: “atheists either don’t need life to have meaning, or don’t need to believe in God for life to have meaning.”

    Me: ” Whatever meaning we experience is created by ourselves [according to atheists].”

    You just repeated what I said. Atheists believe meaning is created by humans. They do not believe we are part of something greater and more intelligent than ourselves. They do not believe our individual separateness is a kind of illusion, or that we are actually all connected on a deeper level.

    So if we agree about this, why not acknowledge that we agree about it? The point I was making is something else. I am saying that from a scientific perspective we have no good reason to deny the universe is made out of meaning, and is therefore inherently meaningful.

    And if everything is information, then things cannot really be separate. Things can only really be separate in the pre-relativity mechanistic world view. And they certainly cannot be separate if digital physics is valid.

    And I am not saying digital physics is valid, only that it seems valid and reasonable to me. Much more so than the mechanistic pre-relativity perspective of atheism.

  4. Jason (the commenter) said,

    I am saying that what we call “matter” is made out of information, information is inherently meaningful, and therefore everything we are and are part of is meaningful.

    Random numbers.

    Now most atheists would disagree with all of that.

    Most theists would disagree with all of that.

    We don’t need to use the word “God,” and we should avoid using it because we would have to define it first.

    In a universe composed of information something without a definition does not exist.

    You are an atheist.

  5. Jason (the commenter) said,

    Jason: “atheists either don’t need life to have meaning, or don’t need to believe in God for life to have meaning.”

    Me: ” Whatever meaning we experience is created by ourselves [according to atheists].”

    You just repeated what I said.

    Good, you agree that my statement is a correct representation of what you are claiming.

    Meaning and God are superfluous in your system.

  6. reader_iam said,

    This is because an atheist’s view of the world is based on a certain way of defining “matter.”

    This does not suffice as a definition of a term.

  7. Jason (the commenter) said,

    Just to clarify for everyone, as a scientist, I don’t follow materialism or idealism. Scientists consider both our senses and our reasoning as imperfect and seek to improve them.

  8. reader_iam said,

    If you are an atheist, then you believe each person’s mind is physically separate from all others.

    Is that so? Is it true for all atheists? Are you 100% of that if p, then q construction, much less the content?

    And you believe there is no inherent meaning or purpose in life.

    OK, now I’ll concede the former demonstrates a minor logic problem–but only because this sentence demonstrates a major one.

    Whatever meaning we experience is created by ourselves.

    How, exactly, is this sentence sufficiently antithetical to the Christian experience, for example? I’ll go further: How, precisely, is it necessarily out of line with what Jesus the Christ taught?

  9. reader_iam said,

    People who believe in digital physics are not usually the same people who believe the universe is Infinite Intelligence — the two groups don’t seem to communicate.

    I have no way of knowing if that’s true, generally speaking, much less universally speaking. I do know I’ve known a significant, even if small in other terms, number of people–in context of my own, of course small (in terms of the universe of people, of whatever type) life and experience, going back decades, a rather generous number of people who not just straddle those groups, but actually communicate–back and forth, even. A significant, if small, number even manage not to be insulting, while they’re at it.

  10. reader_iam said,

    Realpc: What is it about groups and the grouping of people [and groups of people and groupings of people] that attracts you so much? That’s a serious question, not snark: I’m curious, and I’d like to know. (Understanding does matter to me.)

  11. reader_iam said,

    I think it is established that all it takes to be considered an atheist is to doubt the existence of a God/Gods.

    Heh. Recent times are notable for their extreme blurring of almost everything into black/white sharp absolutes. You are clever for implying the obvious, Jason.

    Let’s, by God and even by golly, get rid of all the agnostics!!!!

  12. reader_iam said,

    You are clever for implying

    As opposed to hitting with a blunt object.

    ***

    Alas, I’m not that good of a person. Despite my not being an atheist.

  13. Jason (the commenter) said,

    reader_iamHeh. Recent times are notable for their extreme blurring of almost everything into black/white sharp absolutes. You are clever for implying the obvious, Jason.

    Let’s, by God and even by golly, get rid of all the agnostics!!!!

    Thank you for mentioning agnostics. The thing is though, some people who could classify themselves as agnostic look at the effort which has been put into proving God’s existence and lump themselves in with atheists; that is the reason for the expansiveness of my definition. Also, the historical use of the term, where Protestants might call Catholics “atheists” and vice versa.

  14. Jason (the commenter) said,

    reader_iam: Alas, I’m not that good of a person. Despite my not being an atheist.

    But you are good enough for me to lump you in with people classified as “a good person”.

    Now that you benefit from my position, perhaps you will endorse it!

  15. realpc920 said,

    “What is it about groups and the grouping of people [and groups of people and groupings of people] that attracts you so much?”

    There is no other way of talking about people, or anything, without considering groups, (sets, categories). This is how we reason.

  16. realpc920 said,

    “In a universe composed of information something without a definition does not exist.”

    I said we would have to define it before talking about it. I didn’t say it doesn’t have a definition.

  17. realpc920 said,

    Me: “If you are an atheist, then you believe each person’s mind is physically separate from all others.”

    reader_jam: “Is that so? Is it true for all atheists? Are you 100% of that if p, then q construction, much less the content?”

    By definition, that’s what an atheist would believe. But it depends on exactly how you would define “atheist.” And since I don’t think any of us has an infinite amount of time to spend on this, I am using the common definitions. I am not interested in expanding every statement into thousands of pages of definitions and clarifications.

    No one has bothered to comment on what were obviously the main points of my argument.

  18. realpc920 said,

    “Meaning and God are superfluous in your system.”

    You may feel that any sense of meaning in your life is generated by your own brain. But maybe that is just an illusion. Maybe you have a sense of meaning because the universe is meaningful and life is meaningful.

    You can insist that there is no meaning outside your brain and other human brains, but you have no logical or scientific reasons for your belief.

    I am suggesting a different way of looking at it, which I think is more reasonable than yours. If mine is true — and we don’t know — it would not be superfluous. It would mean that you are wrong, that your insistence that meaning is only created by human brains is wrong.

  19. wj said,

    Atheism is considered scientific now days. Realpc originally

    Not by anyone who understands science. Because atheism is a belief system.

    Now an agnostic, that would be a different matter. Because an agnostic is not subscribing to a belief one way or the other, just looking at the question and saying “not proven.” Which is, in fact, a scientific attitude in the absence of substantial evidence. (You can argue whether or not there is sufficient evidence to warrant a conclusion. But that is a different issue.)

    I would also take exception to Jason’s contention (at 5:11) that agnostics lump themselves with atheists. No agnostic that I know does so. Again, the scientific attitude: absence of evidence (no matter how much effort has been put into looking for it) is not evidence of absence. A scientist might (or might not) say: “there is not sufficient evidence to establish the existence of God.” But no scientist worthy of the name would say: “the existence of God has been disproven” — which is the position of the atheist. Granted, it is extremely hard to prove this kind of negative. But that is the nature of proofs.

    Just a side note: my personal position is that there is enough evidence for a tentative conclusion in favor of the existence of God. Get your prayers answered often enough, and other positions become hard to sustain. But that is not the same as proving the validity of any particular theology.

    I could, an do, content that most of the (fairly large number of) polytheistic religions that I am aware of run pretty much counter to what evidence we have amassed to date on how the universe has developed. Which pretty much disproves their versions of what anthropologists call their “creation myth.” If not, necessarily, the rest of their theology — unless you insist that accepting the tenets of any particular religion is an all-or-nothing proposition.

    I could even note that the account in Genesis conforms (in overview, if not in timing) to what science currently believes was the order in which the universe developed. Right down to the part of the Big Bang theory which notes that initially everything was dark, because the universe was too dense for light. Then, after some expansion, the density of matter dropped below that threshold . . . “and there was light.” Odd that more Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theologians don’t point that out….

  20. realpc920 said,

    wj,

    Every human culture had a mixture of true and false beliefs. This is because human knowledge is always extremely limited, and we tend to fill in the gaps in our knowledge with mythology. So if a primitive tribe believes the world was created by the Great Grasshopper, or whatever, that does not mean all of their beliefs are wrong. It’s just that they need some kind of explanation for the beginning of life.

    Now atheists have their own creation myth — the neo-Darwinist hypothesis about how evolution works. They are certain it is true because it must be true within their ideology.

    As for agnostics being more scientific than atheists — they are, because atheists have complete faith in an unproven ideology. But to be an agnostic you would have to ignore an awful lot of evidence against materialist atheism. So agnostics are usually sympathetic with materialism.

    In general, people who want to be considered intelligent and scientific now days tend to ignore or despise religion. It is more about status than truth.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: