On Purpose

Question from Niki:
Hi there again, I have been reading the abiogenesis part of the site and there came into my attention the question of MEANING OF LIFE, ITS PURPOSE, without god.

I am aware of the fact that the religious folks think that if this is all there is, material life and then death once and for all, for good, then there is no meaning of life. I knew you would disagree and so do I.

I have been thinking about this, for a long time, after I had read a book titled PLEASURE, I don’t remember the name of the author that says we are tubes that get born, eat and die, so why then live, and the author says because there is pleasure in life, with which I agree, as the meaning of life and apart from our instinct that keeps us not want to die, thou life can be unbearable for some, I came to my understanding of meaning of life without god and having only this one life, agreeing with the author.

I would compare our life once and for all, with an excursion you have won at lottery or any other way, to which you will go once and that’s it. Never again. So our life would be an excursion from nothingness to life and death would be the return from this pleasant excursion back to ordinary not so nice life or not at all.

So in my view our life is coming from nothing, living, and then going back to nothing, but i have no problem of ‘lack’ of meaning of life, not more than i would have in going to the nice excursion once in my lifetime.

So, according to the thinking of the religious folks that there is no purpose and meaning in life, if it is all there is, once for good and then death, then no one would go to this once in a life time dream excursion, because it will be only once and then never again. And you know it in advance.

Yet you go on such trips once in a lifetime because they are NICE.

And so is life. NICE.

But, what about life which is not nice?

Well, in that case there is HOPE that one day life will be nice. if even that proves wrong and unlikely, due to the insurmountable obstacles, as is ill health or invalidity of one’s body, or other, even worse circumstances of one’s life, then there is the INSTINCT OF SURVIVAL, that had evolved in all living beings over millions of years of existence.

If however one is so unhappy, suicide is not so uncommon and i don’t think it happens in only psychologically ill people. It happens when life is unbearable for whatever reason…

I have a comparison for that one too, the instinct of survival. it is actually the physical ‘want’ of a UNION to stay so. So, what is it that keeps it whole, what keeps all the cells or our organisms together. I am not talking about the ‘glue’ that there is in between of our cells, but about the psychological so to say glue, so, my answer may sound and it probably is, naive.

Something like the COHESION force. because death, with its consequence of the union of cells that once was a body of a living organism, being that now that there is no more of metabolism keeping it going and striving to STAY TOGETHER AND ALIVE, SOMETHING WE CALL SURVIVAL, the forces of ADHESION come about, helped by other organisms that dissolve the body by eating it or otherwise, but if there are no bacteria nor worms there, the body will dissolve anyway, but in much longer time, so, after a time the ex-union of cells that was once our body, is reduced to a heap of minerals in the casket, sometimes not even that, because the worms and germs have eaten us almost all, together with our organic matter and minerals. Only bones will remain because no living organism eats raw calcium that are our bones.

What do you think of this as the answer to the question of

MEANING AND PURPOSE OF LIFE FOR ATHEISTS?

If you have answered this in another discussion, please refer me to it. I tried to find an article titled meaning or purpose of life, but there is nothing. You don’t have a list of articles in alphabetic order here, nor grouped otherwise, I suppose you thought about it but found it inconvenient or time consuming and/or expensive, because you would need a programmer, or maybe not, I am not sure what they do.

Thanks !!!

Answer by SmartLX:
We talk about meaning and purpose in life all the time here. Just put the word ‘purpose’ into the top right search field and you’ll get seven pages of headings, like this.

The basic answer has two parts. Firstly, religious people don’t know the purpose of their lives either, even if they think there is one. Gods are not keen on sharing their plans, and believers may accept literally anything that happens as part of the plan. The second part is that atheists choose their own purpose in life, since they don’t expect there to be a divinely conferred purpose, known or unknown. If life loses all purpose and joy, suicide may occur, but this is true of everyone. Religiosity is negatively correlated with suicide rate in general, but this may be simply because major religions threaten eternal punishment for suicide, rather than giving additional hope to life.

The survival instinct is mostly mental, but elements of it are built into our entire nervous system as reflex actions. Your hand will snatch itself away from a hot stove before the sensation of heat or pain gets from your fingers to your brain. It’s easy to explain from an evolutionary perspective: a greater will to survive results in a greater survival rate in general, and is therefore passed down to more offspring. A species of animal uninterested in surviving or procreating wouldn’t last long, in any era.

Into My Baths, O Lourdes

Question from Jacob:
Hey, have you ever heard of Lourdes, probably? In any case, how do you explain the alleged scientifically proven miracles that happen there every year?

Answer by SmartLX:
Yes, I know of Lourdes and its magical healing spring water. It is just that, relatively pure potable water that comes through in the grotto in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, France.

Anywhere associated with the Virgin Mary (“Our Lady”, owing to claimed visions of her in Lourdes in 1858) is miracle country for Catholics, so sick Catholics come in their thousands to bathe in the grotto. Some get better, and credit their holy bath. Others don’t, and generally keep their mouths shut about it. None of the recoveries are scientifically attributable to the Lourdes experience, because the water has no discernible effect besides cleansing and hydration (not to mention the possible transmission of viruses and bacteria from the thousands of other sick people) but correlation is as good as causation when you want something to be true badly enough. Scientific proof of any miracles is definitely only alleged at this point.

Comprehending Nothing Without God

Question from Topher:
First time asking here, so I have a lot of questions, and I apologize in advance…

[snip – SmartLX]

Thanks!

Answer by SmartLX:
I’ve moved your questions into my section for easy reading, without editing them. The answers will be the quick-and-dirty ones because we’ve covered them many times before. Search the site for keywords like “origins” for a lot more material.

How often do atheists doubt that God doesn’t exist?
Depends entirely on the atheist. Some never do, some occasionally do, some actively wish a particular God existed but can’t bring themselves to believe. I am fairly confident that there are no gods based on the conspicuous lack of good evidence, but I recognise it’s not intellectually defensible to be certain.

Do atheists believe nothing is self-existing?
Depends on the atheist but none of us have experienced true nothing, we’ve always been surrounded by something. It’s very hard to speculate on the nature of nothing when it’s never been observed.

If nothing is self-existing, why is there something?
If there was once nothing and now there’s something, it’s because “nothing” was unstable. Matter and antimatter can emerge from a space where neither previously existed, balancing each other out by keeping the net matter/energy at zero. That’s the best hypothesis so far, if a something-from-nothing scenario is considered.

Doesn’t anything require something?
Not based on the above phenomenon. Apart from that though, we are in no position to say what is required to create matter and energy because everything we see consists of matter and energy that has existed since the Big Bang, merely converting from one form to another over time. Perhaps it has been like that forever, even before the Big Bang.

At the very least the natural laws are self-existent, right?
We have no idea what they are contingent upon, if anything. If there are multiple universes the natural laws for each might be completely different. Every universal value we think of as constant might suddenly vary by 50% next week, for reasons we wouldn’t have time to discern before we were destroyed by the resulting cosmic upheaval.

If there was no time or space pre- Big Bang, how or why were there natural laws if there were?
Continuing the thought just above, perhaps there weren’t, and what you think of as natural laws are dependent entirely on (or emergent from) the presence of time, space, energy and matter.

Scripture gives you simple answers to questions like these, or at least gives you the confidence to assert certain answers. You have no assurance that your answers are correct except the insistences of the text itself and your fellow believers, so while you do not need to consider them further you are merely rolling their uncertainty into the all-encompassing assertion that God took care of everything. Atheists simply admit they don’t know, and are content from day to day with not knowing because as long as we don’t believe in creator gods the only alternative for us is self-deception.

Muslim Exorcism as Medicine

Question from Morrisozio:
Demon possession exists and it occurs. No doubt. There were and there are lots of people (personally known to me) who are ill, and blood used to come from ears and noses. Doctors were never able to cure these so called hidden diseases. They always stated they didn’t find anything. Everything seemed fine. While these poor patients keep suffering. However, when they have been religiously healed, all problems disappeared, since the demons inside were forced to leave. One of these healing was even done in hospital, without the permission of any doctors. Can you imagine that? The medical science has been challenged!!!

Some psychologists say that unknown powers exist which control human minds, which are beyond our comprehension.

In addition, Arab exorcists, since they are already rich, do healing for free. In fact exorcism is also used as something acceptable in these Muslim Sharia countries.

Could you give any reply? Please a proper reply, even short one is okay, but don’t reply with words like “coincidence”, “lucky”. How come that these type of physical and mental problems can be cured by religious healers or TRUE exorcists (not the fake ones) and not by physicians?

Thank you.

Answer by SmartLX:
I have only your word for any of this, so it’s not much to go on and it’s not very powerful as testimony given the extreme claims.

I find it hard to believe, first of all, that doctors were of the opinion that patients bleeding from the nose and ears without physical injury “seemed fine”. If a physical injury was present, on the other hand, everything might well be fine afterwards with or without an exorcism. But discussing the details is not very useful without specifics in the claim.

Generally speaking, a miraculous cure needs three things to be effective as evidence for a miracle:
1. evidence that the illness was present in the first place,
2. evidence that the illness is now gone, and
3. a consensus that no conventional medical treatment that was also given to the patient/victim could have treated the illness effectively.
In my experience, the one most often missing from these claims is #1.

I have no doubt that Islamic exorcism or ruqya is popular and encouraged in countries with self-proclaimed Sharia law, even if it performs no better than a placebo. Muslims are subject to fear campaigns trying to convince them that Western medicine aims to poison or defile them, and choosing Islamic spiritual treatments is touted as a way to demonstrate one’s faith and also support fellow Muslims financially.

The Cosmological Axis of Evil: not nearly as awesome as it sounds

Question from James:
Has there been any discussion on here about what’s known as the cosmological “Axis of Evil” which shows that earth’s ecliptic plane is aligned at the center of the universe and therefore contradicts the Copernican Principle? Isn’t this phenomenon well documented by scientific data?

Answer by SmartLX:
Not until now, but I didn’t have to look far to get the general idea. Some data suggests that there is something very special about the way the Solar System is aligned, perhaps even put-there-deliberately level special. That data is suspect, and ambiguous even if accurate. So…documented, yes, established, no.

The Divisible Brain

Question from Ratburn:
In 2017, two scientists did tests with split brain patients, and even with the left and right hemisphere severed, there still seemed to be a unified consciousness. Here is the actual study:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/28122878/

Here is an article which elaborates on it:

http://theweek.com/articles/728869/medical-mystery-splitbrain-patients

Would love to get some insight.

Answer by SmartLX:
The implication here is that split-brain subjects behaving more normally than first thought possible may contradict materialism, as two separate halves of the brain are still somehow communicating and functioning as one consciousness. Red flag right off the bat: this is an argument from ignorance if one were to make it directly, because the mere absence of an explanation is used to assert the influence of the supernatural. Even if it sounds convincing subjectively (not to everyone, by the nature of subjectivity) it can’t be called logical until every natural possibility is ruled out. In this way it’s similar to the mysteries of consciousness itself.

That said, here are some points that make it sound less convincing.
– From the article: once the main link is severed, “the hemispheres have virtually no means of exchanging information” (emphasis mine). If there is any means at all, it will be working overtime to compensate for the lost connection as much as possible. This is what the brain does to cope with any injury, as described in this article from Carnegie Mellon University.
– The classic experiment is to put objects in different hands for the subject to describe. A lot of the writing is ambiguous about whether the opposite eye is blocked off for this; if the side of the brain that controls talking gets any information for itself it may be able to learn to process it independently.
– See this response from Neuroskeptic: the subjects had been brain-split for decades, giving every opportunity for the brain to knit itself back together, functionally or structurally, any way it can. The author of your article is one of the authors of the study, which admits this.

A Scattershot Against Science

Question from A:
“science is religion… people think gravity is proven, it has never been proven, and name the experiment that “proved” it, or at the very least, wasn’t disproven…… as nikola tesla said “science has substituted experiments for math, and it has no relation to reality”…. then u have things like cancer, that have easy cures…..

and the earth is flat……. i suggest u all thoroughly look into it, science is satanism… funny how the quantum physicists say we r in a simulation now, due to experiments like the delft quantum entanglement experiment or the double slit anomaly…. “future humans put us in a simulation” they try everything to take god out.. they admit (orion missions, 2013) we can’t get by the thermosphere or the vab.. the wires alone get fucked by heat and radiation.

chicago skyline from 60 miles away? not possible on a 24901 mile round ball….. seeing from end to end on a 100 mile salt flat? not possible…. v2 rocket from white sands new mexico, 65 miles high, no curve, yet in 1935, explorer 2, 13 miles high was the first picture of the curve………eh?

u think they r using science to just lie about stupid shit? nooooo….. they warped ur perception. the greatest deceiver in the world convinced us the world was different itself. ptolemy and copernicus r still being argued over int he science world lol…. waka that lying jap physicists says “we look like we r the center, BUT I CHOOSE NOT TO BELIEVE THAT” WATCH THE PRINCIPLE, he says that in that documentary lol”

Can someone explain?

Answer by SmartLX:
Yes I think I can explain. You have a deep mistrust (possibly even paranoia) of science in all its forms, and have chosen to accept and disseminate the specific material which purportedly discredits science to attempt to persuade people to abandon their confidence in science and trust only in God. This leads you through multiple pseudosciences and conspiracy theories, from easy (but supposedly suppressed) cancer cures to the simulated universe to the flat Earth to geocentrism. This journey arms you with multiple reasons to trust God over science which are good enough for you but not nearly good enough for others who see the issues with your material, so you remain resolutely reassured while failing to persuade anyone else, most or all of the time. This must be terribly frustrating for you, whenever it actually registers.

High Heaven

Question from Vlad:
This is a video which uses the bible to try and justify belief in heaven. It is a 20 min film, and most of the facts presented are of little value, but the first two min and forty five seconds make an interesting argument, I would love your opinions of it, just watch to 2:45 and I would like to know if you ever came across this argument. How would people at the time that the bible was written have known that we live in a vast universe? The scripture basically states that God and heaven exist outside our universe. Even today, a person trying to say heaven exists would say that “God and heaven exist outside the universe”. Whether that is true is one thing, but it is interesting that people of that period could come up with that. I would love your opinions. Thanks

Answer by SmartLX:
Before I start, the visuals in this first part of the video contain CGI footage from the film Men in Black in a way I do not think constitutes “fair use”, so if anyone wants to file a takedown request I think they might be justified.

Scripture says God and Jesus are above, or higher than, the sky or heavens. It says nothing about the size of the universe, only that God is physically above all known space. Specifically above in every passage quoted, not outside or beyond. This makes no sense in the context of a universe, which has no up or down outside of an individual’s position relative to the specific gravity of a large body like a planet.

So without any reference to how big the universe is (though one look at the night sky will give anyone the impression that it’s big, even if you try to condense it into arbitrary “spheres” like early astronomers did) there’s not much here in terms of divine knowledge of scientific fact. All that remains is an assertion that God is too high in (or above) the sky to see. That seems intuitive, since none of us can see Him when we look up. Scripture carefully places God and Jesus somewhere we can’t easily check for them, making it very difficult to prove the negative and letting believers imagine them being just past the reach of their eyes.

0 = 1 + -1

Question from Herman:
Hello!
For so long I have tried to understand the atheistic theory of the creation of “everything”.
I get the answer that before the big bang there was this waves/energy/*something about density I am too much of a aesthete to understand * or that there is negative matter so that it is really zero matter, but there still is something here right? I guess my question is the ultimate “what happened before that”.

My thinking goes thus:
Energy can’t be created, just altered. Therefore either we believe in eternity and something that has existed without ever being created. Or something outside of the laws of physics must have started it, that in turn must be able to create itself.

Help me understand!
Best regards and holiday greetings!
The Deist from Sweden

Answer by SmartLX:
Holiday greetings to you too Herman.

The idea of the “negative matter” is antimatter, which has been observed and even generated and “captured” in labs. It really is the negative of matter; when it comes into contact with matter the two annihilate one another. If there is as much antimatter as there is matter in the universe then it all comes to zero in a very real sense; it just hasn’t recombined to level out, so there are local positives and local negatives.

Regarding the origin of this system, the answer to the question, “Why did something come from nothing?” in this context is, “because ‘nothing’ is unstable.” Quantum fluctuations can apparently cause matter and antimatter to spontaneously emerge or erupt from an area of zero matter, which violates no laws because the total matter is still zero. This is what has been caused in labs on a very small scale to produce detectable antimatter. This on a large scale can produce a universe’s worth of matter, and if it happens quickly then there’s your Big Bang.

This is of course one theory of many. Another is that, as you say, matter has always existed in some form without ever needing to be created. As for something outside the laws of physics, that’s another possibility but it may only be outside our laws of physics, e.g. another “progenitor” universe in a larger multiverse with its own separate physics (and possibly in an infinite series).

I’ve written a lot about this over the years; search the site for the keyword “origins” to find most of it.

There Will Always Be an Argument About Information

Question from Sam:
Hi, so I was casually surfing the web when I came across a video in “Answers in Genesis” which was basically said it could disprove evolution in 3 minutes with two simple facts. The second fact, which they championed, made the claim that it was impossible (there are no possible means by which this can occur) to add to genetic code in any way, meaning there was no possible way for an aquatic creature to create genetic code to grow legs, etc. (Disproving evolution) Of course, I questioned this bold claim, especially since they were extremely vague about their sources and provided no sources or further material for study. As such, I haven’t a clue how they came upon this claim, or the legitimacy of it, could you lend some further insight into this?

Answer by SmartLX:
I’m assuming the first of the two facts didn’t do anything for you, which does not surprise me.

The source of the claim amounts to “it stands to reason” which is what people say when they don’t want to bother reasoning through something. It’s one variant of the argument from ignorance I’m always pointing out, specifically, “I personally don’t know how additions can be made to a genome, therefore there is no way.” People don’t know this because they literally have not checked at all, because the relevant material can be found online in seconds.

This TalkOrigins article from 2001 fits the bill nicely. The mechanisms by which information is added to the genome are quite simple, for instance gene duplication, or essentially random noise from mutations. What’s harder to comprehend is how this information proves useful, and particularly allows new features to emerge.

The answer to this is straightforward though the detail is immense if you drill into it: natural selection helps to eliminate the information which is not useful, leaving that which is. There are countless analogies for this, so to pick one arbitrarily, genetic material is thrown into an arena and under constant attack, so whatever survives does so because it makes a difference to the fight.

The true difficulty is in convincing creationists that this kind of argument doesn’t convince anybody, which does seem to be true in my experience; its purpose nowadays is instead to reassure creationists. Or perhaps they know this already, but it doesn’t stop them from using it to reassure each other.